If your ancestor was an officer, consider reviewing the site of the Society of the Cincinnati in France. With officer biographies, histories of the Revolution and more, the Society’s website can be an aid to your research. And who knows – if you’re a male descendant from a French officer, you may even be eligible for membership!
Documenting a new ancestor can be one of the more challenging – but also most fascinating – parts of completing a lineage society application. Many societies prefer that you use an ancestor who is already on file for ease of review. However, most will allow you to add someone if you do not have an established ancestor in your line or you are determined to use a specific person. So, how do you document that individual?
The first step is identifying service that meets the society’s qualifications. A number of societies consider activities around the Revolutionary period to be “qualifying” for descendants of a specific ancestor, including The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, The Colonial Dames of America , The Sons of the American Revolution, The Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Society of the Cincinnati. The requirements for the type of service and the time period during which it must have occurred vary by the society. Read the requirements carefully and discuss with the registrar or your genealogist!
For ancestors from Connecticut, there are some wonderful resources that can assist in your search. Debbie Duay’s “Revolutionary War Service” page lists many of the places in which documentation of an ancestor’s Connecticut service may be found. To determine if an ancestor was an officer, Heitman’s Historical Register of Officers of the Colonial Army may also be of use.
A few additional points to consider:
For those applying to DAR and SAR, the payment of taxes may qualify your ancestor as a “patriot”. However, since Connecticut’s taxes never went straight to the military effort and instead were paid to the town who then sent them on, tax payments are not automatically accepted. Plan to document both that your ancestor paid taxes and where those taxes were sent before attempting to use taxes as a source of service. Tax payment has yet to be used as a source of service, so published resources are few.
The closest point of military activity to your ancestor may not have been in Connecticut. Don’t forget to check the neighboring states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York.
Questions? Contact Charter Oak Genealogy.
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.
Founded in 1783, The Society of Cincinnati is America’s oldest lineage society, and one of its least known. Per the Society’s “History” page, it was created to serve as support of the commissioned officers of the Continental Army. Since 1854, it has welcomed descendants of those who joined the society in 1783 and those who did not join but met the society’s standards for qualification.
Per the Society, qualifications are as follows:
The basic qualifications of membership are defined in the Institution of the Society of the Cincinnati, adopted in 1783. The Institution provided for the admission of commissioned officers in the Continental and French service who had served to the end of the war and those who had resigned with honor after a minimum of three years’ service as a commissioned officer. The Institution also provided for the admission of commissioned officers who had been separated from the army in a reorganization involving the merging of two or more units. The contemporary term for this was “derangement.”
In short, the following basic requirements must be met for an individual to considered a qualified.
- The individual must descend from a commission officer.
- That officer may not have served in the militia.
- They must have either served to the end of the War or resigned after three years service.
The most constituent societies have an additional qualification: the line must be available. Membership in the Society generally passes by primogeniture, from eldest son to eldest son. If the line dies out or a descendant chooses not to pursue membership, a new line in the direct descent may lay claim to the line. If they do not, it becomes available to nieces or nephews of the qualifying ancestors. As a result, the Society remains competitive to join.