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 Tracing Immigrant Origins

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While at first it may not be obvious why one would seek out the records of a lineage society in order to trace colonial immigrant origins, several reasons for doing so will be pointed out in this lesson. A lineage society (sometimes called an hereditary society) is an organization whose membership is limited to persons who can prove lineal descent from a qualifying ancestor. There are hundreds of lineage societies in North America, each celebrating a different group of historical individuals, such as those who fought in the American Revolutionary War, or those who arrived on the Mayflower. Indeed, many different historical groups are represented today by descendants who belong to a specific lineage society.


By far the most well-known and popular of all the lineage societies is the National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). For the first hundred years of American genealogy (about 1850 to 1950), lineage societies, such as the DAR, were at the forefront in developing this new interest called genealogy. They continue today to be an important aspect of family history. Their devotion to accurate, well-documented lineages is an example to all family historians.

Going Beyond the DAR

Because membership in lineage societies requires documented descent from a specific individual whose presence or actions qualifies his descendants for membership, there is significant genealogical information in the files of lineage societies. Of course, many lineage societies, including most of the largest, do not deal with immigrants, and are therefore outside the scope of the current discussion. This includes the DAR, and all other societies whose membership depends on an ancestor who served in a war, or who simply lived in the colonies prior to a certain date. However, the records of this group could help speed up your research between the present time and that of the Revolutionary War.

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