Lineage Society

What does a lineage society application cost?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a straightforward answer to that question. The cost depends on what society you join, where you join that society, and what portion of the lineage you need to document to complete your application.

Smaller societies may charge you only a lifetime application fee of several hundred dollars or less. Essentially, they’re charging you to review the application and to off set their activities fee by a small amount.

Larger, decentralized societies (the Mayflower Society is a prime example) vary their fee by the location you apply. Even though they may send the application to one place to be reviewed, these societies hold their resources locally. As a result, the fee you pay will vary based on local needs.

Larger centralized societies generally have a standard application review fee but will also charge local dues. This allows them to standardize where they can and then still meets the needs of the local organizations.

And then there’s the cost of the documents for your application. (More to follow…)

What does this mean for you? If there’s a budget concern, it’s best to ask about fees going in. Most societies are glad to clarify. They don’t want to shock you – or put in the time only to find you can’t pay the necessary fees to complete your application.

Lineage Society

I’m working on a Sons of the American Revolution Application. My ancestor’s records aren’t in English. What do I do?

Whether you’re working on a General Society of Mayflower Descendants application or a Society of Cincinnati application, it’s very possible that you’ll run into records that aren’t in English. Most lineage societies are based in the United States. Do you need to have the records translated?

Not necessarily, but it’s a good idea. While many of the larger genealogy departments have staff members that read multiple languages, there’s no guarantee that they’ll read the language your ancestor’s records are in. The smaller societies may only have one person on staff, who may or may not be able to read that language. You can definitely ask, though.

If they say no, you’ll need to plan to have the record translated. A larger organization may be able to find a volunteer who reads the language and can assist. If you need to hire help, a genealogical translator (a translator who specializes in working with genealogy related documents) will be your best option. You can find translators through the American Translators Association or through the Association of Professional Genealogists.

Be aware that genealogical translating is a “buyer beware” market right now. Many genealogists who advertise language skills only have “high school level” training in that language, while many translators who advertise that they work with genealogists may not have the training in history needed to fully work with your documents. Ask questions.

Need help? We offer French translation and can assist in connecting you with other translators. Contact Charter Oak Genealogy.

Lineage Society

Paper or not? Do I really need to print out all of the paperwork for my lineage society application?

When you’re used to researching online, organizing your application on paper can seem a little traumatic. Do you really need to print out everything?

Maybe. While societies are transitioning to digital submission, the vast majority aren’t there yet. The first step in your application process should always be to ask what system your chapter/local society uses. Even when societies have a digital application system in place, many local groups aren’t using it.

No matter what, plan to create an organization system to store your digital files. In most cases, a folder for the society that contains a draft of the application and subfolders for each generation with the supporting documents will be “good enough.” Plan to scan and add anything that was “born digital.”

Why take the time? First of all, it’s a great way to ensure you can actually find these papers again. If you want to join a new society or just print out someone’s birth certificate, you’ll have easy access to what you need. Second, it can provide the basis for doing an electronic submission.

Electronic submission currently comes in three forms. The first is a submission system completely hosted by the organization. That system will allow you to upload documents directly to it but won’t necessarily give you a back up. (Hence the digital files.) The second is a shared cloud drive system, in which you’re asked to copy documents to a registrar or historians cloud drive. The third is a “email by generation” system. No matter which system your society uses, you’ll need to have documents organized.

While you may still need to use paper, take the time to scan and organize your documents. You won’t regret it.


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!