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How to Join a Lineage Society or Heritage Organization

What is a Lineage Society and How do I Join?

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Do you descend from a Revolutionary War patriot, a Mayflower ancestor, or one of the first families who settled in Western Pennsylvania? Proving descent from a distinguished ancestor is the reason many people first get involved with genealogy research. It not only offers a source of pride, but may also qualify you to join a lineage society, an organization whose members have proven descent from a specific ancestor. By joining a lineage society you can share your famous ancestors with the world. It also offers you the opportunity to connect with genealogists who share your interests, plus other perks such as access to the organization's library.

Qualification for membership in a lineage society may be determined by a variety of credentials, including:

  • military service (i.e. Daughters of the American Revolution)
  • a passenger on a specific ship (i.e. Mayflower passenger)
  • an early settler in a specific area (i.e. First Families of Virginia)
  • period of residence in a particular area (i.e. Order of Descent of Ancient Planters)
  • ethnic/religious background (National Huguenot Society)
In order to join a lineage society, you must carefully document your ancestry back to the person in your family who fits the particular criteria for membership in the society. The amount of documentation required, as well as what is considered acceptable as documentation and proof, will vary by society. There is generally a considerable amount of detailed work and time involved in completing an application for membership. Some lineage societies will also require that you be 'sponsored' by another member - contact your local or state chapter of the society for more details.

To document your proof of lineage, you will customarily begin with yourself and create what is known as a family group sheet for your immediate family (your parents and siblings) with names, dates and places for each event (birth, marriage, death). Each of these events in a person's life will need to be documented with records such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, land records, military records, wills/probate records, etc. You then continue the process of creating family groups sheets for your ancestors back in a line to the ancestor who provides your qualification for membership. Many societies have such strict membership requirements that each sibling in each family will require a separate family group sheet. This can literally mean 100s of group sheets worth of info, plus all of the required proof by the time you are done!

Next > Tips for a Successful Application

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