I’m completing a Sons of the American Revolution Application. Do I turn in original copies of my documents?

Absolutely not! Whether the application is for the SAR, the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, or another lineage society or heritage organization, DO NOT turn in original copies of your records.

There are two reasons for this. First, they’re not required. Second, some societies now scan the documents and shred the packet. Not only will you not get the original documents back, but they’ll end up getting destroyed in the process. Everyone is much better off if you submit a copy.

Better yet, make two. Make a copy of your entire packet to submit and one for your records. This second copy can help you provide a back up if your paperwork gets misplaced. Or it can help you start an application for another society.


I’m doing a Mayflower Society application. Should I mark off what’s important on the document?

It can be really tempting to underline or highlight important facts on your documents when you’re doing a lineage society application. After all, you’re trying to make it easy for the registrar or genealogist. Don’t! At least, don’t do it yet.

Why not? Societies are increasingly scanning documents for storage, and marking on the paper interferes with scanning quality. The vast majority of societies no longer want you marking the paper.

There are exceptions. But those societies have explicit instructions for what they want you to mark and how they want you to complete the marking. Follow the instructions carefully. Never mark your originals. Copies are much easier to replace if you mess up.

In short:

  1. Don’t mark until explicitly told to. If you’re not sure, ask.
  2. Follow the society’s direction.
  3. Never mark your originals!

I’m working on a lineage society application. What’s the best way to organize my paperwork?

Are you part way through a Daughters of the American Revolution or Colonial Dames application and struggling to figure out how to handle a pile of paperwork?

Here are a few hints that might help:

  1. You’ll need to know where everything came from. Don’t just print out the document from Ancestry and add it to the stack. Be sure to print out the cover page that includes the name of the collection and paperclip it to the document. That way you won’t be struggling to retrace your steps.
  2. The genealogist will want everything organized by generation. That means the best way for you to sort your files is by generation.
  3. For most societies, you’ll want to work backwards. You are generation 1; your parents are generation 2, etc.
  4. In most cases, if a record covers more than one generation, it should be listed in the most recent. Are you using the same will to prove son, grandson, and great-grandson. Add it to the pile for great-grandson.
  5. The exception to 3 and 4 is Mayflower Society. The GSMD starts with the pilgrim and works down. So oldest records go first, not last.


I’m starting a lineage society application. What do I need to do first?

When you’re trying to gather dozens of records for a lineage society applications, it can be hard to know where to start. There are two steps that can save you time, effort, and stress:

  1. Verify that you can make all parent-child connections. Try to find documents tying the parents and children together, because if you can’t make those connections, the line won’t be usable. This is the number one reason people get stuck part way through the process. Once you have that confirmation, you can fill in the gaps.
  2. Order all vital records. Births, deaths, and marriages can take a while to arrive. Get the applications started as early as possible. That way you can have them ready to go once you’ve succeeded in documenting the rest of the line.

Need help? Contact Charter Oak Genealogy.

Lineage Society

Am I allowed to join a lineage society with a new ancestor?

There are many incorrect answers to this question floating around…

In most cases, the answer is yes. The Daughters of the American Revolution and Sons of the American Revolution prefer that you use someone who is already on file. It’s simply for ease of verification, as it gives the verifying genealogist less to review. They will allow you to add someone new as long as you can document that person to meet their standards.

There are some societies that believe they’ve identified all qualifying ancestors. If you want to add a new ancestor to one of those society’s rolls, be sure you can thoroughly document that the person meets their standards. Otherwise, focus on connecting to an identified ancestor.

Lineage Society

Do I need to have an identified ancestor before joining a society?

If you’ve been invited to be considered for lineage society membership, it can be tempting to jump in feet first – but that’s not always a good idea. You may want to take some time to learn your family history and/or identify likely lines before proceeding. Here’s why.

Some societies, such as the Society of the Cincinnati, limit membership to one member per qualifying ancestor. If you want to have a true chance at membership, you need to have identified a likely ancestor. That way, it’s possible for the society to confirm if the line is or is not available. If not, you’ll be able to look for other options without wasting too much time.

Others simply require an ancestor meet specific qualifications. That being said, no matter how much you want to join the society, they can’t accept you if your family doesn’t meet those qualifications. It’s better to know that before you’ve spent time, money, and energy.

Need help tracing your history? Contact Charter Oak Genealogy.

Lineage Society

What’s the etiquette for joining an invitation only lineage society?

While some lineage societies welcome applications from any interested individual who meets their requirements, many require that an invitation be extended before they will consider an individual for membership.

How do you proceed if you’d like to be considered?

  1. First, be aware that there is a process for consideration and not everyone is accepted. Patience makes the process much easier.
  2. Next, talk to your friends and network. If you know someone who is already a member, they can initiate the review process. A network approach is ideal, as some local organizations are overwhelmed with requests and will not accept direct approach.
  3. If you don’t know an existing member, it is acceptable to contact the organization’s public email or phone, explain your interest, and ask how you might be considered for membership. Many organizations have a method to add “direct approach” prospective members.
  4. Whatever procedure you are given, follow it. It may require that you submit a biography, meet with members individual or attend a large group meeting. Each organization has a set procedure to deal with the volume of requests. Adherence to that procedure makes everyone’s life easier.

Do you need help navigating the process? Contact us.

Lineage Society

Was your ancestor an officer? More resources for researching the American Revolution in France.

If your ancestor was an officer, consider reviewing the site of the Society of the Cincinnati in France. With officer biographies, histories of the Revolution and more, the Society’s website can be an aid to your research. And who knows – if you’re a male descendant from a French officer, you may even be eligible for membership!

Lineage Society

Researching Revolutionary Service in France

The American Revolution wasn’t just fought in the boundaries of the modern United States. It was truly fought around the world. The Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution recognize that fact by allowing membership based on ancestor’s support of the American cause, no matter where they were located. That includes France.

How did France support the American cause? The country did so politically, militarily, and economically. A treaty was signed between France and the new United States in 1778. A 1936 article indicates 2112 French soldiers died in the support of the American cause. As the US State Department notes, France also kept the Continental Army supplied between 1778 and the end of the War. Ancestors who offered support through any of these efforts would qualify for the Revolutionary War lineage societies.

Where do you begin finding evidence? The Daughters of the American Revolution and the French Society of the Cincinnati both keep extensive records. So to do the publications contained in the National Library of France. It’s worth beginning with this one:

Happy hunting!


Common Mayflower Society Questions: Why Hire a Professional Genealogist?

Thanks to the “Silver Books,” the Mayflower Society has a ton of information easily accessible. Most historians prefer to fill out the application forms themselves. Is there value to hiring help?

While you can definitely try to do an application yourself, there are a few reasons you might need or want to hire help. First, unless you connect to a very recent applicant, you are going to need to provide a number of birth, marriage, and death certificates. Do you know how to locate and order your grandfather’s birth certificate? A professional genealogist can be a huge time saver. Second, tracing a Mayflower family’s movements can involve multiple states or multiple countries. Some Massachusetts families ended up in Nova Scotia. Unless you have wide research experience, a professional genealogist will likely be able to trace the family far more quickly and easily than you could. In short, help can save you time – and often money, by avoiding the waste of going down the wrong line.

Want help? Contact us.