Over a lifetime, you may discover a great deal of information about your family. How are you going to preserve it? We can post our trees online, but will that information still be there in many years? You can ask your family to donate it, but will a library or society want what you have in its current form? One option is to write about your family, in books or articles. Another is to apply to a lineage society.
Recently I read Professional Genealogy, edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills. There is a chapter on “Lineage Papers.” There Mary McCampbell Bell and Elizabeth Whitman Schmidt write, “Cases are legion in which years of research are abandoned by those who conducted it or discarded by their heirs. Yet much of that work has been preserved for posterity simply because the researcher or some relative used part of it to apply for membership in a lineage society” (p. 528).
I joined a lineage society, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), partly to preserve my research. This society was founded in 1890 and has a fantastic library in Washington, D.C. To apply to the DAR, you document your lineage to a Revolutionary War-time individual who supported the war effort. Both those who fought in the war for the colonies and many others who supported in other ways, like serving on certain committees or furnishing supplies to support the war, qualify. All categories of acceptable service are listed here. Of course, there are many other lineage societies; a list of societies active in the United States is listed here.
In addition to preservation, applying to a society also makes you look over your research carefully. You need to submit evidence for every vital statistic and for the link between generations. Your research must meet the standards of the society. Preparing an application helps you evaluate whether you research withstands the scrutiny of others.
In some societies, like the DAR, you can document one line on your application, and then multiple other lines through supplemental applications. That is what I have begun to do with my family. I documented my mother’s direct paternal line with my application. Then I filed a supplemental for my father’s most direct paternal line that qualifies for the society . Spouses along the line are documented as well. Next I will turn to other family branches.
A lineage application can also serve as a memorial of sorts to parents or grandparents, as you record their vital statistics and know your work will be preserved for generations.
Of course there are other benefits of joining a lineage society, including meeting others who also appreciate history and family history. But do think about how you will make sure your family is able to access your research many years from now.