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.

How do I find out if I qualify for a lineage society?

Do family stories say that you qualify for Daughters of the American Revolution, the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, the Colonial Dames or another lineage society?

While they won’t identify every qualifying line – and may identify a few that no longer meet the society’s requirements – a few societies have systems set up to check.

  1. The Mayflower Society: “Lineage match” allows you to check your ancestry against what the society already has on file. After review, GSMD will send you a list of what they’ve found and an explanation of what you’ll still need to document.
  2. DAR: The “GRS” (“Genealogical Research System”) will allow you to search through previously submitted applications and, theoretically, check to see if your ancestry is already on file. BEWARE – many of the applications in the system no longer meet the society’s standards. Although someone familiar with the society can “read” the site well enough to tell if a line still qualifies, that is not a judgment you want to make on your own.
  3. SAR: Still being built, the “Patriot Research System” will eventually allow you to search through SAR applications and to identify what is already on file. At this point, only a small number of applications have been attached. BEWARE – currently, this system is underdeveloped and should only be used for hints.