Should You Join a Lineage Society?

Should you join a lineage society? There’s no easy answer as the costs to join most lineage societies include a lot more than the annual membership dues. I have belonged to several lineage societies over the years. Unless you count my lifetime membership to a local historical / genealogical society –  Midwest Historical and Genealogical Society (MHGS):, I am not a member of any lineage society. How much proof each lineage society requires can vary a lot.

I have not tried to join the Sons of the American Revolution (S. A. R.) – as the membership costs, plus the cost of finding all the documentation needed to verify a qualifying ancestor, far exceeds my limited budget. From what I have seen, I would need to connect to a 6th great-grandparent that is listed on the Daughters of the American Revolution (D. A. R.) and S. A. R. websites as I haven’t run across any closer relatives who have been accepted into either society.

There are a large number of lineage societies* (see the link’s definition below) – out there. The rules and requirements to join vary greatly. I will expand my definition** of a lineage society to include auxiliary branches of groups that are indirectly lineage societies or that may not be considered lineage societies.

*When people get involved in genealogy, a lot of them will eventually become interested in lineage societies. What are lineage societies? They are clubs, groups, and organizations that you are allowed to join (or not) based on your ancestry. For example, Daughters of the American Revolution (one of the better-known lineage societies) accepts applications for membership from women who can prove they are descended from someone who fought or provided assistance to the colonial cause in the American Revolution.

**my definition includes organizations that have auxiliary or associate memberships. While some of these organizations don’t meet the basic definition of a lineage society, they would meet my definition.

Most lineage societies fall into one of two restricted categories – 1) direct ancestor (you can trace a direct parent to child link between you and them); 2) collateral ancestor. A society may or may not accept adoptions to count towards membership.

  1. Direct ancestor – you have to trace your lineage to a direct ancestor.
  2. collateral ancestor – this can be a non-direct ancestor, usually a sibling of your direct ancestor where your direct ancestor isn’t a qualifying ancestor.

Starting with adoption, this is an adoption anywhere in the chain between you and the qualifying ancestor, regardless of where in the chain the adoption occurred. Some lineage societies allow adoptions to count for membership purposes; others do not. If you don’t agree with the society’s decision to not allow adoptions to count, there isn’t much you can do about it. A potentially expensive solution would be to find a bunch of other people who faced the same rejection and start your own version of a lineage society that allows adoptions to count.

Going with direct ancestor using myself as an example, my great-grandparents are my direct ancestors. The siblings of my great-grandparents are collateral lines. It gets interesting when sibling organizations (Sons of American Revolution, Daughters of American Revolution, etc.) have different rules on what counts as a qualifying ancestor. In my case, one lineage society I joined allowed me to count a collateral relative (great-grandfather’s brother), but its sibling organization wouldn’t allow my daughter to join because they require a direct ancestor. No doubt if I dug deep enough into the family tree, I would probably find a direct ancestor that would qualify my daughter to join.

Some lineage societies accept certain types of genealogical DNA testing as additional proof, but I don’t believe any yet accept it as standalone proof. Where it will become a problem is when genealogical DNA testing disproves a relationship.  don’t think it has happened yet, but it’s only a matter of time before it does.

About Wichita Genealogist

Originally from Gulfport, Mississippi. Live in Wichita, Kansas now. I suffer Bipolar I, ultra-ultra rapid cycling, mixed episodes. Blog on a variety of topics - genealogy, DNA, mental health, among others. Let's
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2 Responses to Should You Join a Lineage Society?

  1. chmjr2 says:

    The cost has stopped me from joining a lineage society also. I just do not see the benefits being worth the cost.

    Liked by 1 person

    • In many cases, it’s not worth the cost. I have belonged to some of the cheaper lineage societies when I had the extra money. I would love to start a reasonably priced lineage society that wasn’t so expensive to join. No doubt in a few decades, it would probably skyrocket out of reach for most.

      The problem tends to be the start-up costs for a new lineage society although with crowdfunding like Kickstarter, it might be much easier to get the seed money needed to get one up and running.

      Liked by 1 person

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