What is a Lineage society?
Updated on March 1, 2024
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What is a Lineage society?

A lineage society, also known as a hereditary society, is a membership group that people can join depending on their ancestry.1

A lineage society can be likened to an exclusive club where members must meet specific genealogy requirements to be included—DNA testing can be used as significant proof for them to join. This is so the societies can bring together people of specific ancestry, such as the descendants of immigrants on the Mayflower, among others.

What is a Lineage society? 4

If you want to join one, the basic steps include:

  • Filling out an application
  • Paying a fee
  • Providing proof of your family tree

The application can be meticulous and may differ depending on the organization.

For instance, American lineage societies may require a detailed family tree that proves your ancestry to the important ancestors that society recognizes. This process is called “proving the line.”

It’s not just about providing the names of your ancestors. A lineage society you’re joining will need you to show strong evidence and historical records, such as birth, marriage, and death certificates, to prove the connections between you and your ancestors.

Some lineage societies now include DNA requirements in their application process.2 If you’re joining one that involves this, you must get a DNA test done.

What Is a Lineage Society?

A lineage society is a group that grants membership based on a person’s proven descent from a qualifying ancestor.1

Some lineage societies celebrate ancestors who played crucial roles in historical events. To join, you must prove lineal descent.

These include the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and the General Society of Mayflower Descendants (Mayflower Society).

DAR is a women’s service organization whose ancestors played essential roles in the American Revolution. The group focuses on historic preservation, education, and patriotism.

The Mayflower Society is a group for the descendants of the passengers on the Mayflower. They aim to further genealogical research, educational outreach, and preserve Pilgrim heritage.

There are also lineage societies that cover a wide range of interests. These societies may be connected to military and war, early immigrants, colonial, ethnic, religious, royal, and even specific people like ancestors accused in the Salem witch trials.

People enter a lineage society for various purposes, such as:

  • Exploring your family history
  • Enjoying the prestige of proving your pedigree
  • Connecting with historical events
  • Celebrating heritage and ancestry
  • Gaining access to various genealogical resources
  • Networking with other people of the same ancestry
  • Discovering and sharing information with genetic relatives

Benefits of Joining a Lineage Society

Joining a lineage society has many benefits, such as significantly boosting your relationship with your family’s history and giving you a sense of ancestral pride.

The advantages of becoming a member include:

  • Recognizing and honoring ancestral legacy – Membership in a lineage society is often a source of personal prestige since you can establish a link to historically significant people or events. It can be a source of recognition and honor among your family and friends.
  • Celebration of history – Lineage societies actively participate in celebrating and preserving history. Joining a group allows you to support different events, some of them being historic preservation projects, exclusive parties, or even archaeological digs, depending on the society.
  • Access to educational resources – Most lineage societies maintain libraries and hold events that give exclusive access to members. Members can access documents, records, and research materials to help explore your family’s past.
  • Community and networking – Being part of a lineage society connects you with people who share your ancestry and interests. This community can be an effective channel for exchanging information and insights.
  • Getting to know genetic relatives – Membership may result in interactions with genetic relatives—people you share a common ancestor with. You can exchange genetic information, learn hidden stories, and find new family records or photos.
  • Advocate for easy access to historical records – Members can participate in digitizing historical records by joining lineage societies.

How Can Membership Enhance Your Understanding of Family History?

Membership in a lineage society can enhance your understanding of family history in several ways, such as:

  • In-depth research and documentation – Joining a lineage society requires providing proof of your ancestry. This encourages you to investigate your family’s history thoroughly.
  • Getting a fuller picture of your family history – Membership in a lineage society connects you with resources and people who have a direct link to your ancestry. You might discover historical documents and stories contributing to a more detailed family history.
  • Getting to know your ancestors more – By researching and proving your connection to them, you learn more about their roles, achievements, and the historical context in which they lived.
  • Stronger sense of identity – As a member, you develop a stronger sense of identity and connection to your family’s roots. Learning about your ancestors’ challenges, triumphs, and contributions can promote a deeper appreciation for your heritage.
  • Health awareness – Knowing more genetic relatives lets you learn about your family’s health history. This can help identify a chance of having certain diseases, make better health choices, and seek preventative measures.

Steps to Join a Lineage Society

Joining a lineage society involves a thorough application process of proving your ancestry. These steps are:

  1. Determining eligibility
  2. Documenting your ancestry
  3. Selecting the right society
  4. Applying for a lineage society

Read on to learn in detail about these steps you need to take when applying for a lineage society membership.

Determine Eligibility

The first thing you must establish when joining a lineage society is your eligibility.3 Here’s how.

How Do You Know if You’re Eligible for Membership?

There are several ways to determine eligibility, such as:

  • Ancestral connection – Identify a direct lineage connection to an ancestor recognized by the lineage society you want to join. This ancestor could have served in a specific war, been part of a particular group, or lived in a specific place at a certain time.
  • Research for documentation – Prove your relationship to the qualifying ancestor using documentation such as birth, marriage, and death certificates. In-depth research may be needed where you search through libraries and online resources to build a complete family history.
  • Sponsorship – Some lineage societies require a current member to sponsor your application. The member, usually a blood relative, will vouch for you and support your application.

What Are the Common Requirements for Joining?

Here are the typical requirements for joining a lineage society:

  • Application form – Filling out an application form is a basic requirement and serves as a formal request for membership. Your application form should include personal information, lineage evidence, and documentation sources.
  • Application fee – Most lineage societies require an application fee to cover administrative costs. Typically, it is non-refundable and separate from other fees asked of you when you become a member.
  • Age requirement – Most lineage societies require applicants to be adults. In some cases, junior membership is given to younger applicants. For instance, DAR requires members to be at least 18 but has a youth organization that it supports.
  • Adherence to society’s goals – You should show an interest in and commitment to the lineage society’s goals, including historical preservation, education, and patriotism.
  • Character references – Prove that you have good moral character and can support the lineage society’s values.

Document Your Ancestry

Documenting your ancestry is necessary when applying to join a lineage society. In this process, you must collect and verify information proving your relationship with a notable ancestor.

What is a Lineage society? 5

Some documents accepted as proof of lineage are:4

  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage licenses
  • Death certificates
  • Baptismal and other religious certificates
  • Census records
  • Newspaper clippings
  • Wills and probate records
  • Land titles
  • Military records
  • Immigration records
  • DNA test results

How Do You Gather and Organize Evidence of Lineage?

Here are some tips for gathering and organizing evidence of lineage:

  • Start with yourself – Begin your documentation with your details. Record your vital information. This serves as the foundation for tracing your lineage. Work backward through each generation.
  • Find sources at home – Search for pertinent documents at home. Some personal records that your family keeps can provide valuable details about your ancestors.
  • Talk to relatives – Some family members might provide you with personal anecdotes not found in official records. They can even point you to other family members who can be helpful in your search.
  • Verify information – Double-check your collected information and cross-reference records to guarantee accuracy.
  • Arrange documents chronologically – Create a timeline of events using pedigree charts, family records, and research logs to organize your files more efficiently and create a complete picture of your ancestry. This can also help you identify gaps in your research.
  • Keep a master file – Store a copy of all digital or physical documents for easy access and reference. Remember, when it comes to essential files, if you have one, you have none; if you have two, you have two.

Selecting the Right Society

Selecting the right lineage society to join demands that you take into account your ancestral background, interests, and values.

Find out if your ancestors played significant roles in the past. Find societies that honor your ancestors.

Familiarize yourself with the geographical roots of your ancestors. Take into consideration particular historical events connected to your family history.

Identify your interests to know if they align with certain lineage societies. These include military history, immigration, significant time periods, or royal people. Search the websites of different lineage societies to understand their focus and requirements.

Look at whether a lineage society engages in charitable efforts or community service. See if these endeavors resonate with your values.

What Are Some Examples of Lineage Societies?

What is a Lineage society? 6

Some examples of lineage societies are:

  • Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) – Lineage society for women whose ancestors supported the American cause during the Revolutionary War.5 The organization concentrates on promoting patriotism and preserving American history.5
  • Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) – Similar to DAR but for men whose ancestors supported the American cause during the Revolutionary War.6
  • General Society of Mayflower Descendants (Mayflower Society) – This group is for men and women who are descendants of the passengers of the Mayflower, a ship that carried 102 people in search of a better life.7 The society is dedicated to genealogical research, education, and maintenance of historic properties.
  • Jamestowne Society – This society is for people who can trace their lineage back to the first permanent English settlement in America, Jamestowne.8 Its mission is to unite Jamestowne descendants and support educational and historical activities, including archaeological excavations and preservation of historical documents.
  • Colonial Dames of America (CDA) – For women whose ancestors were part of the founding of the American colonies.9 Its purpose is to promote historic preservation, education, patriotism, and fellowship among its members.
  • Order of the Crown of Charlemagne – For people who are descendants of Charlemagne, a medieval emperor. This society focuses on the historical significance of his legacy.10
  • Order of the First Family of Virginia (FFV) – This society is for the descendants of the first settlers of the Colony of Virginia.11 The society is committed to honoring the memory and heritage of their ancestors.

Application Process

The application process to a lineage society demands skillful research, careful attention to detail, and rigorous documentation.

The steps for applying are:

  1. Learn about the lineage society’s requirements – Explore the group’s website to see if you can apply.
  2. Collect evidence – Do your research to obtain and organize the necessary documents to prove your lineage to a particular ancestor.
  3. Fill out an application – The application form is your request to apply as a member. Provide personal details, lineage information, and sources of documentation.
  4. Attach supporting documents – Include relevant documents in your application.
  5. Review your application – Double-check it to ensure it is complete and not returned to you.
  6. Submit your application and pay the fee – Submit your completed form along with the payment for your application. Follow the payment instructions of the lineage society.
  7. Wait for review – The review time and process may vary. Depending on the group’s procedures, the process may take several weeks or months.
  8. Receive acceptance notification – After reviewing, you will receive a notification of acceptance or additional instructions if any requirements are missing.
  9. Pay the membership dues – If accepted, pay any required dues to finalize your membership in the lineage society. Some require a monthly fee, while others only request a one-time payment for a lifetime membership.

Tips for a Successful Lineage Society Application

Follow the following tips for a successful lineage society application:

  • Confirm eligibility – You should meet all eligibility criteria before submitting your application. Validate that your lineage or interests coincide with the organization’s focus.
  • Accurate record-keeping – Check and double-check your facts. Keep your documentation correct, consistent, and complete. Ensure it follows the requirements of the lineage society.
  • Communicate clearly – Using the application form, communicate all necessary information. Finish your application so that it is easy to review and approve.
  • Defend your research – If you are presenting new information to the lineage society, be ready to defend and explain your material.
  • Give proper sourcing – Use creative ways to find sources for evidence, especially for older generations where traditional documents may be in short supply or unavailable.
  • Seek professional help if needed – If your research has gaps and you need more difficult-to-find information, consider getting help from a genealogist or lineage society expert.
  • Consider the fees – Joining a lineage society usually requires an application fee. Once you become a member, the group may request potential lifetime fees.

Common Questions About Lineage Societies

What is the Most Prestigious Lineage Society?

There is no simple answer for the most prestigious lineage society.

It depends on many factors, such as historical significance, recognition, exclusivity, and personal preferences. Some prominent lineage societies are the DAR and SAR, the Mayflower Society, the Order of the Crown of Charlemagne, and the CDA.

Are Most People Descended From Notable Ancestors?

Based on genealogical research, most of the world’s population descended from royalty or notable historical figures.

Experts claim that most people have some royal ancestry. For example, millions of people can prove that medieval monarchs like England’s Edward III are their ancestors. An estimated 80% of the current English population are his descendants.

Why Do People Care About Lineage?

People care about lineage for reasons like connection to family history, identity and self-discovery, sense of belongingness, preserving the family legacy, social status and prestige, inheritance, access to educational resources, genetic insights, and health concerns.

Updated on March 1, 2024
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11 sources cited
Updated on March 1, 2024
  1. 1) “Lineage Societies.” Genealogy.

  2. 2)  “On gene-ealogy: identity, descent, and affiliation in the era of home DNA testing.” ResearchGate.

  3. 3) “Lineage Societies – Are You Eligible?” University of Wisconsin Whitewater.

  4. 4) “Start Your Genealogy Research.” National Archives.

  5. 5) “National Society Daughters of the American Revolution.” Daughters of the American Revolution.

  6. 6) “National Society Sons of the American Revolution.” Sons of the American Revolution.

  7. 7) “General Society of the Mayflower Descendants.” The Mayflower.

  8. 8) “Jamestowne Society.” Jamestowne Society.

  9. 9) “The Colonial Dames of America.” Colonial Dames of America.

  10. 10) “Order of the Crown of Charlemagne.” Order of the Crown of Charlemagne.

  11. 11) “Order of the First Family of Virginia 1607-1624/5.” Order of the First Family of Virginia.

Katrina Canlas
Katrina Canlas
Content Contributor
KC Canlas is an experienced content writer for Know Your DNA. She combines her passion for storytelling with a deep understanding of DNA and genetics. She creates engaging content that can empower readers with knowledge about their genetic makeup, promoting a greater understanding of the role DNA plays in their lives.