My lineage society says I need a birth, marriage or death certificate. What do I do now?

Whether you hope to join the Daughters of the American Revolution or the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, you’ve probably been asked to provide some birth, marriage or death records or certificates. You don’t have them in the house. How do you proceed?

Here are a few hints to get you started:

  1. You need to start by identifying the exact date and location of the event. Items you already have in the house, such as a family Bible, an obituary, or a death certificate may provide you with more information. If you know the state, check Ancestry, FamilySearch and the archives or library of that state for an index.
  2. Once you have at least an approximate time period and a location, you can begin looking for a record. For pre-1900 records, start by checking FamilySearch. For pre-1950, check the state archives and/or the state health department. Post-1950, the state health department should have copies.
  3. Beware – you may be restricted by processing speed and privacy laws. New York State, for example, generally has a processing time of over a year for state level requests. It’s faster to contact the town where the event occurred (and cheaper than using “rapid” online ordering). If your grandparent’s birth occurred less than 100 years ago in Connecticut, you won’t be able to get a copy unless you are a member of an approved genealogical society. It’s best to be aware of each state’s regulations and best practices.

Questions about a specific state? Want help ordering records? Contact Charter Oak Genealogy.

What documents do you need to provide for a National Society of the Colonial Dames of America application?

Interested in joining NSCDA (The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, also known as “the Dames”)?

Here’s what you’ll need to provide:

  1. For any generations that might have them, birth, death and marriage certificates.
  2. Alternate documentation for generations prior to vital records. Generally those born or died before 1900. This documentation should include church records, probate files, gravestones, deeds, newspaper articles, or military records. It may include family histories or genealogies, but only with other supporting documentation.
  3. For the qualifying ancestor, you’ll need to document their service if it is not already on file with NSCDA. What qualifies as service depends on the colony. Be sure to ask for the list!

To inquire about NSCDA membership, contact the email address listed on this page. This is a great project to do while you’re on quarantine! NSCDA is still processing applications.

Questions? Concerns? Contact us.

What documents do I need to provide for a Sons of the American Revolution application?

Are you busy trying to prepare an SAR application? Here’s what you need to know.

  1. You’ll need to provide documents for all generations unless there is a DAR application on this line that meets specific criteria.
  2. For the first three generations, you’ll need to provide birth, marriage, and death certificates for the person the line runs through (the line “carrier”). The registrar may require you to provide certificates for all spouses as well.
  3. For generations 4 and beyond, you’ll need to provide documentation of birth, marriage, and death dates and places for the line carrier. This should not include family histories without citations. If vital records exist, you should plan to provide them. The registrar may require you to provide documentation for all spouses as well.
  4. For the patriot, you’ll need to provide the source of service and documentation of residence in addition to birth, marriage, and death documentation.

Questions? Contact us.

I want to join SAR (The Sons of the American Revolution). How do I begin?

The Sons of the American Revolution is open to men 18 and older (younger men can be non-voting junior members in some locations) who are descended from individuals who supported the American Revolution. The requirements for ancestral service are similar to those of DAR: signing of the Declaration of Independence; patriotic service, such as giving money to support the cause; military service, including being a soldier; and civil service, including holding political office.

Like DAR, SAR does not require an invitation. You can express your interest in membership through a four step process outline on their website. You’ll note that step one is to determine eligibility.

What does that mean? You’ll need to be able to document births, marriages, deaths, and the connections between generations from yourself back to the ancestor. Unlike DAR, SAR only requires that this documentation be provided for the person through whom the line runs (“line carrier”). So, if the line is through your mother’s father, you’ll need to document her birth, death, and marriage, but not your father’s. You’ll also need to document the ancestor’s service and their residence during the War. Be aware: some registrars may insist that you follow the more stringent DAR documentation guidelines.

Are there any shortcuts? Yes, SAR is unique among the major lineage societies in that it accepts DAR “record copies” (copies of the verified application that can be ordered using DAR’s GRS) as documentation under certain limited circumstances. So if your mother just applied for DAR, you might be able to use her papers to join SAR.

What does the process look like? Once you have your paperwork together, it’s reviewed by the chapter registrar, who forwards the documents to the state registrar for review. Once the state registrar has completed review, it is forwarded to national for verification. If you can’t reach the local registrar for some reason, many state registrars can assist in completing the first steps.

Sound overwhelming? We can help. Contact us.

I’d like to join The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America (NSCDA). How do I start?

The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America (NSCDA) honors ancestors who supported the founding of the United States. Like other Colonial Dames societies, it requires both an invitation and documentation supporting the relationship between you and the ancestor in question. Yet, the unique structure of NSCDA means that the application process works a little differently than that of other societies.

In all cases, your first step will be to obtain an invitation. If you happen to have a friend or acquaintance that is a member, contact them directly, as they’ll be best able to proceed. If you do not, contact the local society. They may be able to invite you to a meet and greet and help to establish relationships.

Once that invitation is received and you have become a candidate, you’ll be expected to complete two forms. The first is called the “Line of Ascent.” The Line of Ascent lists all generations between you and the ancestor, allowing the society to quickly confirm that the line does or does not seem possible. From that Line of Ascent, the genealogist will create a draft application (often called the “blue papers” ). Plan to fill in that draft with your full ancestral line, including birth, death, and marriage, and resubmit it to the genealogist along with the documentation supporting that line.

While the paperwork is the same no matter where you apply, the NSCDA application process varies slightly by location. If you join from one of the original thirteen colonies, your application will be processed in house by that colonial society’s genealogist. If you join from another society, your line of ascent and application will be sent to your ancestor’s home colony for review. These different review methods mean that the speed of processing can vary.

Questions? Contact us.

I want to join The Colonial Dames of America. How do I start?

The Colonial Dames of America (CDA), one of the three groups referred to as “Colonial Dames,” is based in New York but has chapters in locations as diverse as Melbourne, FL and Rome, Italy. To see if there’s a chapter near you, visit https://cda1890.org/cda-chapters/. Although all chapters support the mission of the organization, each chapter has its own historic preservation activities and goals. Visit the chapter pages to learn more.

Membership in CDA is officially invitation only. If you know members, they become your first point of contact. If you do not have an acquaintance among the CDA membership, contact the chapter directly. They may be able to arrange a “meet and greet.”

Once you’ve obtained an invitation, you will need to complete a preliminary form describing your intended ancestor, followed soon after by a full application with supporting documentation. For this reason, it is best to have all paperwork in order before applying or as soon as possible upon receiving an invitation.

CDA does not accept paperwork from other lineage societies. Expect to need to document all births, deaths, and marriages up to the ancestor using vital records (where possible) and other appropriate sources.

Questions? Contact us.

I want to join the Society of the Cincinnati. How do I start?

Unlike the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution, the Society of the Cincinnati does not accept just any ancestor with Revolutionary War military service as qualifying descendants for membership. For your ancestor to qualify you for the Society of the Cincinnati, they cannot have served in the militia or held a non-commissioned rank. They must have been commissioned, served in the Continental Army or Navy, and in most cases, have served for at least three years.

So, how do I know if my ancestor qualifies?

  • You know that you are either a direct descendant or a niece or nephew.
  • You’ve determined that they were of age to serve in the American Revolution. An officer is generally between their 20s and 50s. 30s and 40s is most likely.
  • You know that they lived in that area and that there is not another man of the same name who may have served instead.
  • You know that they served. Check Fold3 for Revolutionary War service records and pension files.
  • You know that they were an officer and served for the required period. Heitman’s Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army can help you confirm.

All conditions met? Contact the constituent society to see if the line is available.

I just found a Mayflower passenger in my tree. How do I join the General Society of Mayflower Descendants?

Step one: slow down! Unfortunately, a lot of people want to be Mayflower descendants. So there are a lot of wrong trees.

Your next step is to check the older generations and see if they’re accurate. You can likely do that for free at your local library. The General Society of Mayflower Descendants (or connected family groups) publishes a collection called the Silver Books, which compiles all the known information on the first few generations of Mayflower descendants. Some go up only to five generations. Others – in progress – may go much further. If your line doesn’t match what’s in the book, it’s likely not correct. (There may be people missing from the Silver Books, but that chance isn’t high.)

If you’ve confirmed the first few generations, your next step is to see what Mayflower has on file. Yes, there’s a fee – but it’s cheaper than buying a bunch of certificates you won’t need. We discussed Lineage Match in a previous post.

And then it’s time to contact the historian in your state and begin ordering what you need…

What documents will I need to provide to join a lineage society?

Because lineage society membership is based on ancestry, all societies require applicants to document their relationship to the qualifying ancestor. But what does this actually mean?

You’ll need to document the births, marriages, deaths, connections between parents and children, and connections between spouses in every generation back to the qualifying ancestor.

What documents can you use to do so?

  • For the first three generations (you, your parents, and your grandparents), most societies will require that you provide civil birth, marriage and death certificates. If there were multiple marriages, documentation of those may also be required. (The General Society of Mayflower Descendants requires documentation of all marriages of the person the line runs through.)
  • Beyond that, requirements depend on the society. After the third generation, The Daughters of the American Revolution will allow the use of church records, probate files, or gravestone images (provided they are “period”) to document birth, marriage or death. Mayflower Society will generally require vital records as long as they exist. As long the source is original – ie. deeds, pension files, probate – it can generally be used in some capacity. Just be aware of what the source actually says: the 1850 census cannot be used to document relationships – as it doesn’t list them!

What documents can you not use?

  • With some rare exceptions, you cannot use the lineage society papers of another society to support an application in a new one. For example, the Daughters of the American Revolution does not take the papers of the Sons of the American Revolution. (That being said, under certain circumstances, SAR will take DAR’s applications.)
  • Most societies do not accept older local history books or family genealogies unless they are used in conjunction with original sources.
  • You cannot – in any circumstances – use family trees or family group sheets. If you have them, find the original sources.

Need help documenting a line? Contact us.

I used “lineage match” or another website to verify my lineage – and my ancestor’s not listed. Now what?

Don’t give up!

When the societies verify a lineage, they’re checking the family tree against the information that they already have on file from members who have completed applications. This means that certain lines will be very well documented. Others will have absolutely nothing none on file. Simply put, the fact that your ancestor isn’t listed only means that no one has applied using their qualifications – yet.

And you should be proud to be the first! Some societies – The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) being the most notable – offer special documentation when the applicant documents a new ancestor or in some cases a new child of an ancestor. The extra effort will earn you the joy of seeing your ancestor’s contribution recognized but also recognition from the society.