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.