Lineage Society

I’ve finished all my paperwork. I’m about to turn in my Sons of the American Revolution Application. What else should I do?

It can seem like a huge relief. You’ve done the hard work of locating your documents, filling out the application, and signing the check. You’re done, right? Technically, yes.

But there are things you can do now that will save you time down the road. Applications do get misplaced, as much as we’d like to claim otherwise. You may decide you want to join a different society using the same line or submit a supplemental application that includes some of the same people. Make the right choices will cut your long term stress.

  1. Make copies of everything. Make a copy of your application form file. Make copies of all supporting documentation. (If you don’t want to keep paper, scan them.) This will save you from hunting down documents later if something disappears.
  2. Organize everything by generation. You are generation 1 in most societies; your parents are generation 2. If you store your paperwork by generation, it’s just a matter of recopying the file, rather than organizing everything again.
  3. Store it someplace you can find it again! This work will do you no good if you misplace your files. Be sure to store your work someplace that you can locate it again.

Need help organizing? Contact Charter Oak Genealogy.

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 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.