Most genealogists will come across the term “lineage society” at some point in their research, and it can help to understand what they’re all about. You may even be lucky enough to qualify for membership, if your family tree has the right branches.
A lineage society is a group of people who can document their personal ancestry back to a particular and relevant place, event or group of people in history. Some are small and mainly unknown, but some are social powerhouses.
All of these groups are going to need you to prove whether or not you can be accepted as a member. Complete documentation will be required, though the specifics will vary from one group to the next. You must have the right paperwork because they won’t just accept you based on your word. Vital records are usually the best (birth, death or marriage records) but some societies will accept other types of documentation such as census records, newspaper entries, court records, land deed or others. Ask before you put your papers together so you don’t waste any time with the wrong documents.
So what is the benefits of being part of a lineage society? If nothing else, is can be satisfying to have your family connections validated by a third-party. But a more concrete benefit is that many large lineage societies maintain their own private genealogical library of material. You may get access to all kinds of private documents from other members that you won’t find anywhere else.
There are too many of these societies out there to make a complete list, but here are some of the major ones that you might be interested in. Even if you aren’t eligible to become a member, they may be of use for other genealogical studies.
Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) – This is a large and well-known group in the USA, though it is only open to women. The requirements are that you have to be a female descendent of an early American “patriot” from the Revolutionary period. Considering how many potential patriots are in history, that means you have a large group of people to work with. The DAR has nearly 170,000 members and its continually growing.
Jamestowne Society – This is another group from early American history, specifically the descendants of the original Jamestowne settlers. Jamestowne is the first permanent settlement in the United States in 1607. There were about 1,500 people, so you have to make a family tree connection to one of them.
The Society of Mayflower Descendants – One more American group that is made up of people who can trace their ancestors back to the original 102 passengers of the Mayflower, the ship that brought the first colonists to America.
The National Society Magna Charta Dames and Barons – I figured I should list at least one non-American group. This is a society made up of the “twenty-five Sureties for the Magna Charta or from a Baron, Prelate, Knight or other influential person present on the field of Runnemede in June 1215 on behalf of the Charter”. This group has about 16,500 members, and they can all trace their lines back to the historic signing of the Magna Carta in England. I believe I have connections to this group, and may consider joining. I’ll report on that process if I do.