Joining With Hereditary Societies


Many people become interested in genealogy because they wish to join a hereditary or lineage society, while others discover after researching their family tree that they are eligible to join certain societies.

There are six kinds of hereditary societies:

* war

* early settlers and ships

* Colonial

* nationality (ethnic)

* religious

* royal and baronial

Prospective members complete an application showing descent, with documentation, from a qualifying ancestor for that society. Many do not publish their mailing addresses and most societies are “by invitation only.”

To join a hereditary society, talk to members of your city, county or state genealogical society to learn who are members of a particular organization and how you may be invited to join. Most hereditary societies promote historical awareness, offer scholarships, inventory cemeteries, place markers on graves and publish genealogical and historical material; some have monthly meetings; others only annual ones. Some restrict membership to men, others to women, some are open to both.


Among the oldest, largest and best-known hereditary societies are those with membership based on the military service of an ancestor. These include:

* The Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts, founded in 1637;

* General Society of Colonial Wars

* Ancient and Honorable Order of the Jersey Blues

* Society of the Cincinnati

* National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR)

* Sons of the Revolution

* Descendants of the Loyalists and Patriots of the American Revolution

* Society of the Descendants of Washington’s Army at Valley Forge (for descendants of a soldier serving in the Continental Army at the Valley Forge encampment in 1777-78)

* Whiskey Rebellion of 1794

* General Society of the War of 1812

* Daughters of 1812

* Aztec Club of 1847--The Military Society of the Mexican War, 1846-48

* San Jacinto Descendants

* Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War

* Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War 1861-65

* Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic

* United Daughters of the Confederacy

* Children of the Confederacy

* Sons of Confederate Veterans

You also may be eligible to join a society based on an early settler of a town, state or geographical area or an ancestor who arrived on a specific ship. Among these are:

* St. Nicholas Society of the City of New York

* Daughters and Sons of the Republic of Texas

* New England Women

* Founders and Patriots of America

* General Society of Mayflower Descendants

* Daughters of Founders and Patriots of America

* Daughters and Sons of Utah Pioneers

* Founders of Norwich, Conn.

* Sons and Daughters of Oregon Pioneers

* Piscataqua Pioneers

* The Welcome Society of Pennsylvania

* Sons and Daughters of the Pilgrims

* Old Plymouth Colony Descendants

* Society of the Ark and the Dove

* First Families of Virginia

* Indiana Pioneers

* Louisiana Colonials

* Sons and Daughters of the First Settlers of Newbury, Mass.

* Descendants of the Founders of Hartford

* The Jamestowne Society

* First Families of Ohio

* First Families of Mississippi, 1699-1817

Colonial societies require you prove descent from an ancestor active during the Colonial period; generally the cutoff date is July 4, 1776. These include:

* Colonial Dames of America

* Colonial Order of the Acorn

* Colonial Society of Pennsylvania

* Colonial Daughters of the 17th Century

* Descendants of Colonial Governors

* Order of Americans of Armorial Ancestry

* Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence

* Colonial Lords of Manors in America

* Colonial Dames of the XVII Century

* Daughters of the American Colonists

* Dames of the Court of Honor

* Descendants of the Colonial Clergy

* Southern Dames of America

* Flagon and Trencher--Descendants of Colonial Tavernkeepers

* Descendants of Colonial Physicians and Chirurgieons

Some nationality (ethnic) societies are:

* Welsh Society of Philadelphia

* St. Andrew’s Society

* St. George’s Society

* Holland Society of New York

* Swedish Colonial Society

* Dutch Settlers Society of Albany

Religious societies whose memberships are based on descent from French Huguenot ancestors include:

* National Huguenot Society, a federation of state societies

* Huguenot Society of the Founders of Manakin in the Colony of Virginia

* Huguenot Society of South Carolina

Royal and baronial societies require the tracing of an immigrant ancestor to his or her native country until noble or royal ancestry is reached. These include:

* Order of the Crown in America

* Baronial Order of Magna Charta

* Americans of Royal Descent

* Magna Charta Dames

* Daughters of the Barons of Runnemede

* Military Order of the Crusades

* Order of Three Crusades, 1096-1192

* Order of the Crown of Charlemagne

* Descendants of the Illegitimate Sons and Daughters of the Kings of Britain--which has approved only about 200 lineages.