Should I join a lineage society?

should i join a lineage society 1

#52Ancestors: Hezekiah Stowell, Revolutionary War veteran [Tweet this]

I should be honest. My first thought upon discovering a Revolutionary War ancestor was NOT to ask myself, “Should I join a lineage society?” and lay a reasoned list of pros and cons. Nope, it was more along the lines of, “Awesome! I can join DAR!”

Of course, the Daughters of the American Revolution is just one such society. As I began putting together resources for this post, I discovered that the list of heredity and lineage organizations and societies in the United States alone is extensive.

If you suspect or confirm that you are a Mayflower descendant, or have a Revolutionary ancestor, or that your people were pioneers of a specific celebrated locale, you may want to think through your decision to pursue membership in a lineage society.

Or not. We can’t all be that mature. 😉

Consideration #1: Can I meet the membership requirements?

First things first. Download that membership application and put on your researcher hat!

According to Stowell genealogy: a record of the descendants of Samuel Stowell, of Hingham, Mass., written by William Henry Harrison Stowell, my 7th great-grandfather was Hezekiah Stowell. It claims he served as a Captain in Ephraim Doolittle’s regiment as of May 20, 1775, and was also a Captain of the Guilford Co. in Col. William Williams regiment as of May 7, 1778.

I discovered Hezekiah Stowell by working through the pages of the aforementioned book, a published genealogy, which presents the first problem with my idea about joining DAR. Literally every scrap of information I have on him comes from a derivative source full of undocumented facts, and the book alone won’t be sufficient proof for membership. Considering the impressive resume attributed to him, it stands to reason that I should be able to locate at least some primary sources to back up the claims in the book, but will I be able to find admissible sources for every link in the chain? (Next month, I’ll share a post about vetting the quality of your sources. Subscribe and you won’t miss it!)

If you think you may be interested in joining one of these organizations, look into the eligibility requirements and figure out if you can meet them.

Consideration # 2: Why do I want to join?

Once you know you can join the organization, it’s worth thinking about why you want to. Some possible thoughts:

  • Is this organization’s mission statement closely aligned with my priorities?
  • Do they offer a unique service opportunity?
  • Do the membership benefits appeal to me? (Publications, networking outlets, resource access?)
  • Does an active role in a group such as this one support my personal, educational, or professional goals?
  • Is there a prestige factor? (You can admit it. We’re all friends here.)

You’ll want to request a brochure, scope out their calendar for interesting events, and talk to one or two current members to find out whether the realities of membership are in line with the marketing.

Entrance to the Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall during Christmas in Washington D.C.

Entrance to the Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall during Christmas in Washington D.C.
© Shootalot | – DAR Constitution Hall Christmas Photo

Consideration #3: Do the logistics of a lineage society membership work for me?

Now that you’re eligible to join your heritage society and you’re pretty sure you want to, check in from the practical angle.

  • Is there an application fee? A membership fee? If so, can I afford it? What auxiliary costs are involved? How often will they ask me to donate, and will I plan to contribute?
  • How do I participate actively? (Email groups, forums, Facebook, in-person meetings?) Does the group’s preferred mode of communication fit into my lifestyle? If not, can I make room, and do I want to?
  • If there is a local chapter, when, where, and how often do they meet? Can I make the meetings? Realistically, will I?

Weigh logistical factors according to their importance to YOU, and decide accordingly!

Other views

Still undecided? Here are some more perspectives to consider!

What about you?

Are you a member of one or more lineage societies? If so, would you recommend the experience? If not, have you ever considered it or looked into it? Do you have advice or cautions to add to the conversation?

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Next week’s topic will be “Building an Ancestor Profile.” See you then!

5 Replies to “Should I join a lineage society?”

  1. Hi, Brandy,

    One of my great-aunts was active in the DAR–and I was a little envious. But, as far as I know, my ancestors weren’t in America for another 100 years or so after the Revolutionary War. 🙁

    Deb Watley

    1. Hi Deb!
      Awww, boo! 🙁 But maybe you’ll have an easier time locating where they came from. I’ve had not-so-good luck finding which countries certain lines of my family originated from because they came to the USA long before the most accessible records started.

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