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 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

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

How do you document Revolutionary War service for a Rhode Island ancestor?

If you’re in the process of completing an application for the Colonial Dames of America, the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, the Society of the Cincinnati, the Sons of the American Revolution, the Daughters of the American Revolution or one of the other lineage societies for whom an ancestor’s service in the Revolutionary period for qualifying, you may need to document that the service. So, how do you begin with an ancestor from Rhode Island?

Keep in mind that you’ll need to check a variety of sources and not every ancestor will qualify for every society.

DAR’s extensive resources may provide some hints as what’s available. Review their files at https://services.dar.org/Public/DAR_Research/search/?Tab_ID=1. Most societies will not accept DAR’s files – DAR and SAR will provided they meet certain standards – so plan to locate the original source of the documents and provide copies to your society as part of an application.

Starting from scratch? Deb Duay has a wonderful bibliography as part of her “Sources of Revolutionary War Service.” The Rhode Island State Archives and the Rhode Island Historical Society have some manuscript collections. And there’s a new publication in the works, as Jolene Mullen works to expand her town meeting series.

A word of warning: Southern Rhode Island was on a migration or trade route that included New London County, Connecticut and Long Island, NY. You may need to check all locations to full document your ancestor’s service.

Questions? Contact Charter Oak Genealogy.

Lineage Society

How do I document Revolutionary War service for an ancestor from Quebec?

Two societies – the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Sons of the American Revolution – permit applications from prospective members whose ancestors did not live in the (now) United States, provided those ancestors demonstrated support for the American cause. This includes ancestors from Quebec, some of whom sided with the Americans during the attempted invasion of Quebec City. If your ancestor is among those individuals, be prepared to document their residence and service, as many are new ancestors.

Deb Duay has provided an index that can help you find the documentation you need to support your ancestor’s service. Alphabetical by ancestor’s last name, it includes the individual’s name, date and location of birth, residence during the War, spouse, and the source of service. Some sources can be submitted directly, while others are really indexes for which you’ll need to find the original documentation.

Be aware: it’s best to confirm the translation of any entries in French language sources about your ancestor. In at least one instance, we found that the French language record and the English translation did not agree – and that the difference would cause at least one of the societies to disallow descendants of this ancestor based on the society’s “last act” policy.

For more on French-Canadian patriots and the “Last Act” policy, see our articles on the subject in the NGS Magazine.

Questions? Contact Charter Oak Genealogy.

Lineage Society

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.

Lineage Society

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…