Professional v. Volunteer: Do I need to hire help with my lineage society application?

Another one of those questions no one wants to ask: “Do I need to hire professional help with my lineage society application?”

First of all, what’s a lineage society? A lineage society is a membership based organization that determines membership based on the activities of an applicant’s ancestor. These societies are also referred to as hereditary societies.

As part of confirming that the applicant is in fact related to the ancestor, the societies typically request genealogical documentation of the family line. Generally that means vital records where they exist and other supporting documents – such as probate files, land records, and more – where they do not. Avid genealogists will often do the applications themselves.

What if you’re just getting started, don’t have time, or have hit a roadblock? You generally have one of two options: you can ask for assistance from the society’s volunteers or you can hire a professional genealogist. For example, more information on the volunteer options of the Sons of the American Revolution can be found here.

What are the common situations in which you should consider hiring a professional to assist with your application?

  • You don’t have time to finish your paperwork. This is the biggest reason I see people hire, and it’s an incredibly valid one. Researching your family and acquiring the documentation takes time and money. It’s a lot to ask of a volunteer. Smaller societies may not have the resources to do the application for you. A professional can.
  • You want to join multiple societies at once. It is possible to join multiple societies using the same ancestor. But that, at minimum, requires figuring out how to meet the requirements of those societies. A professional can help you streamline the process.
  • You’re stuck. Professionals often have significant training in the genealogy of a specific time period, region, or ethnic group. Think of the appropriate genealogist as the “expert” in that subject. Sometimes you just need an expert.

When do you not need a professional?

Some societies accept applications from other societies as supporting documentation. For example, SAR generally accepts DAR applications approved after 1 Jan 1985. (See, p. 16.) If you join using a parent’s or sibling’s application, you often only need an acceptable copy of their application and the documents for your generations. There’s no need to bring in help.

Questions? Contact us.

Connecticut Census Enumerations

To apply to a Revolutionary War era lineage society, the applicant needs to document not only the ancestor’s service but also the ancestor’s residence during the War.

For Connecticut ancestors, there are four sources typically used to “prove” residence:

  • a marriage record for a spouse; a birth or baptismal record for a child.
  • payment of taxes
  • office holding
  • land transactions

One could add a fifth: census enumerations. Even though few survive, there are scattered records of the 1776 or 1779 census enumerations. The State Library has a finding aid describing what records were available in print. The census of Newington has been transcribed online. The Connecticut Archives collection is now available on FamilySearch but must be accessed through an affiliate library.

A substitute for Lyme, Connecticut’s missing records?

Lyme, Connecticut’s town meeting records for the Revolutionary era are missing, making it a challenge to document the activities of town residents in that period.

The records of the Lyme Public Hall Archives may offer resources to help fill in the gaps. Housed in the Lyme Public Library, the collection includes several manuscripts that appear to date from the Revolutionary War period, including a record of oaths of allegiance. It’s not clear from the catalog whether the manuscript is an original or a transcription of another source. To schedule a visit, visit

My lineage society says I need vital records from NY. Do I need a court order?

I’ve heard this come up as a point of confusion often recently…

New York State has restrictions on the access to vital records. (NY City has its own records system.) A lineage society requires that vital records be provided for the applicant, their parents, and their grandparents. The parents are deceased. The applicant is told that they need a court order to get records.

It’s not true. The State of New York has a policy that allows for time period waivers of genealogical copies of vital records for direct descendants. The application has to be made by the direct descendant. (If you’re hiring a professional genealogist, they cannot do it for you.) The applicant has to document the decease of the subject(s) of the birth or marriage record (for marriage, both spouses), and their relationship to that subject or subjects. In many cases, this means submitting copies of the grandparents’ death records, a parent’s record naming their parents, and an applicant’s record naming their parents.

If there is any confusion, refer the clerk’s office to the page referenced above.

Revolutionary War taxes, Boston

The Boston Public Library has digitized tax lists for 1780, 1782, and 1783.

Although these tax lists are from the Revolutionary War period, they can’t automatically be used as “proof” of service for the Sons or Daughters of the American Revolution. Why? Because we don’t know when and how the tax money was employed. To be considered “service,” the tax money needs to have gone towards the support of the cause.

Town meeting records may provide evidence as to how the money was used.

America250 prep: Resources on the American Revolution in Connecticut

This list will be updated. Check back for changes. I welcome suggestions and additions!


Anderson, Virginia DeJohn. The martyr and the traitor : Nathan Hale, Moses Dunbar, and the American Revolution. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. A dual biography, this text examines the Revolution and its impact from both sides.

Baker, Mark Allen. Connecticut Families of the Revolution: American Forebears from Burr to Wolcott. Charleston: The History Press, 2014. Who were the major players in Connecticut’s American Revolution? This text dives into the personal history of those who appear only by name in other texts.

Baker, Mark Allen. Spies of Revolutionary Connecticut: From Benedict Arnold to Nathan Hale. Charleston: The History Press, 2014. A lighter adult read, Spies of Revolutionary Connecticut introduces the topic of spying during the American Revolution. The text discusses the process of spy craft, famous spies, and more.

Lefkowitz, Arthur S. Bushnell’s Submarine: The Best-Kept Secret of the American Revolution. N.p.: Scholastic Non-Fiction, 2006. A history of America’s first submarine, the text studies the work of a Connecticut resident. It’s a young adult text and a fairly easy read.

Mullens, Jolene Roberts. Connecticut Town Meeting Records in the American Revolution. Westminster, MD: Heritage Books, 2011. An abstract of the town meeting minutes, this two volume set can help you discover how your ancestor was involved in their town’s governance.

Museums and Historic Sites:

Connecticut River Museum: Across the street from the site of the shipyard that built the Oliver Cromwell, the Connecticut River Museum hosts a full sized model of the Turtle.

Research and resources on Connecticut’s patriots of color

This list will be updated. Please check back for updates!

“Jack Congo,” E Pluribus Unum ( accessed 10 March 2023).

Jamie H. Eves, ““Faithfully to Serve”: Jesse & Job Leason, African American Soldiers in the Revolutionary War,” Windham Textile and History Museum ( accessed 10 March 2023).

Mary Harrell-Sesniak, “Hammet Achmet: Washington’s Waiter & Revolutionary War Patriot,” 18 February 2014, GenealogyBank ( accessed 10 March 2023).

Michelle Tom, “Glimpses of Windsor’s Black Patriots,” 30 September 2022, Windsor Historical Society ( accessed 10 March 2023).

Pauline C. Merrick, “The Real Sam Huntington: Black Governor, American Patriot,” 12 February 2022, The Atlantic Black Box Project ( accessed 10 March 2023).

Todd Jones, “Black Soldiers in the Nation’s Wars,” Salmon Brook Historical Society ( accessed 10 March 2023).

What’s America250?

April 18, 2025 marks the 250th anniversary of the start of the American Revolution. American250 is the name being used for the overarching efforts to commemorate that event. Many states have their own commissions planning local commemorations. For Connecticut, see

If you’re interested in the Revolutionary War in your community or have ancestors involved in the Revolution, it’s worth keeping an eye on the activities of America250. Some commissions are actively looking for volunteers or are still trying to decide what the commemorations should contain. As they go forward, they may be able to offer programs and resources that can help you learn more about your ancestors.

Resources for tracing patriots of color

This list is a work in progress and will continue to be updated!

Rees, John U. ‘They were Good Soldiers’: African-Americans Serving in the Continental Army, 1775-1783. Warwick, England: Helion & Company, 2019. One of the best studies of patriots of color in recent years, the text bookends chapters on the soldiers from each state with more comprehensive surveys on the function of the Army, racism, body servants, and more.

Heinegg, Paul. List of Free African Americans in the American Revolution: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, and Delaware. Baltimore:Clearfield, 2021. Organized by surname, the list provides brief descriptions of what is known about each soldier with source citations.

White, David O. Connecticut’s Black Soldiers, 1775-1783. N.P.: Globe Pequot, 2017. An introduction to the service of veterans of color from Connecticut.

Why does my ancestor’s residence matter?

Most Revolutionary War companies were recruited locally. Although a regiment may have contained companies from multiple towns or counties, a company was generally organized from residents of one locale. This makes knowing your ancestor’s residence key…

Why? If your ancestor didn’t reside in the county or town from which the company was recruited, it’s unlikely the military service actually belongs to them. Same name mix ups are common with Revolutionary War service, as company records may provide no details beyond their name. The residence and name should both match your ancestor.

To determine where a company was recruited, check the residence of the officers. Since they had to organize and train the unit, they typically wanted to stick close to home while doing so. They lived where they recruited or with in a few towns.