New Year’s Resolution to finally do that lineage society application?

You know you qualify for the DAR, the Mayflower Society, or another lineage society and have always wanted to join – even though you never seem to get there. Is one of your resolutions to make this the year? Here’s how to get started.

(We’re assuming you know your qualifying ancestor or a family member who joined.)

  1. Contact the society to see what’s already on file. (Please note: if you are considering membership in an invitation only society, please refrain from making a request until you have become a candidate.)
  2. Search your home for any birth, death, and marriage records you might have. As a rule of thumb, you’ll need to provide them for at least you and your spouse; your parents; and your grandparents on that line.
  3. Order your own certificates if you cannot locate them. They’re usually not available online due to privacy concerns and can be hard for someone else to order. Don’t know how? Records are usually held by the town or county clerk where you were born or married.
  4. Decide if you’d like to do your own application; if you want professional help; or if you’d prefer a mixture. Most lineage societies are set up for you to do your own application. DAR, SAR and GSMD can all offer some degree of help with locating a difficult to trace ancestor or getting a specific record. If you’d like extensive assistance with an application, you generally will need to hire professional help.

Have questions? Contact us.


My application has been verified. What documents do I need to keep?

After a crazy year, many of us want to start 2021 with a clean slate. That means sorting through and discarding papers. If you’ve had a lineage society application verified in 2020, you can discard some of your paperwork but not all.

Here’s a list of what you should keep (and why):

  1. A copy of the verified application: Your verified application can come in handy in multiple ways. If you do a supplemental for the same organization, you’ll need to be able to refer to the original application including notes made by the genealogist. If you have a family member join, they may need your application for the same reason. Finally, some societies take verified copies of the applications from other societies as supporting documentation. Saving the papers can save time and money.
  2. A copy of the supporting documentation: Are you sure you’re just interested in one society? Many ancestors will qualify the applicant for multiple societies. A Mayflower passenger would qualify a female applicant for at least four societies. If you save the paperwork, you’ll have what you need for the next application.

Here’s what you can discard:

  1. Preliminary applications. These won’t be necessary for supplementals and will be easy to rebuild if needed.
  2. Drafts of the application (unless you have the computer file). Discard paper copies of the application draft. The verified application “replaced” them. If you are thinking about doing supplementals, you may want to save the computer file of the most recent draft. It will save you some typing when preparing supplementals.
  3. Any random notes. We tend to save everything when preparing the application. Once the packet has been verified, you can discard the tree you may have filed out for a registrar or any other random notes.

One last suggestion: store everything where you can find it again. Having this material in an easy to locate file folder can save you significant time and stress.


Avoid Common Lineage Society Mistakes: Plan for How You Spend Your Money

Almost no one goes in with a good understanding of the cost of the lineage society application process. That confusion leads people to one of two extremes. Either they assume the process should be free or they spend far too much money buying records they don’t necessarily need. Planning ahead can help you spend your money effectively.

  1. Know from the beginning the process isn’t going to be free. Even if your family saves everything, you’ll have the application review fee (which can be anywhere from $15-$500). Most families don’t keep copies of vital records in the house. Those run around $20 and can be more.
  2. Use the path of least resistance. If your goal is membership and not documenting a specific ancestor, use the easiest to document line. Some societies will allow you to reference paperwork already on file. If you have industrious cousins, that may mean you need to document only three to four generations instead of eight or more.
  3. Don’t order certified copies unless necessary. Sometimes you’ll have to no option but to order the certified copies – especially for recent births, deaths, and marriages. Many older records are available without charge somewhere online. (FamilySearch is a great resource for this.) Save the money.
  4. Know when you’re stuck. Yes, hiring help can get expensive. But your money and your time both have costs. If you’re having a hard time proving a line, ask for help before you spend any more money. Often we get “tunnel vision” when trying to do an application and can end up spending time and money on a line that doesn’t work, while an easily provable line still is awaiting research.


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.


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.