Lineage Applications

Grant Woods’ satirical painting,
Daughters of the American Revolution

Why should we bother to make lineage applications? In 2015, hereditary societies are often seen as irrelevant or even politically incorrect.

My long-time impression of the DAR is that it is composed of haughty, self-important, wealthy old white women, living off the earnings and property of their now deceased husbands, who spend all their time looking down on persons less fortunate than themselves. –posted by a (sounds pretty haughty) old white guy on Wikipedia Talk.

Or here’s one I’ve heard: Do you really want to join an organization that Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from in protest? Oh good grief. Some people just can’t get over themselves. Whether it’s the Daughters of the American Revolution or the Descendants of the Illegitimate Sons and Daughters of the Kings of Britain, heredity societies provide a huge service for genealogists.

One of the best reasons to complete lineage papers is for the purpose of preservation of the work. I had a genealogical friend (I call her that because I didn’t know her in any other context), married to a cousin of my mother’s, who had been working on the family tree for years. She made the trip to Salt Lake City faithfully, twice a year. She was a very smart woman and really knew what she was doing, and I’m grateful to her for saving me about twenty years of research. She was my role model of the kind of amateur genealogist I wanted to become. One day I was surprised to learn that she had moved out of her home and into independent living. With that move, her life changed a lot. I didn’t hear from her for awhile, so I called her and learned that her computer had died. Her son kept telling her he would get her records off of the computer, but he always had something else to do. I will always regret not getting on a plane and going to her home and doing it myself. Then her husband died, and she moved in with her daughter. Her children had always been exasperated with “Mother’s hobby,” so her papers went into boxes in her daughter’s garage. Then my friend became ill; within three months of being diagnosed with her last illness, she died. Her daughter never answered the emails that I sent her, so finally I called her and asked about her mother’s genealogy work. “Oh that stuff,” she said. “We got rid of it.”

Research is intoxicating; the paperwork can be tedious. But unless we want to risk losing a lifetime of work, then we ought to think about the things we can do to preserve our research. Hereditary societies and lineage papers are one answer to the question, “What happens to this stuff when I’m gone?”

I have a resource that I rely on when creating a lineage application. It’s found in Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians. Ed. Elizabeth Shown Mills. Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, 2001.

The pertinent chapter is “Lineage Papers,” by Mary McCampbell Bell and Elizabeth Whitman Schmidt, 477-484. The chapter includes an excellent bibliography of resources for further study.

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One Response to Lineage Applications

  1. Pingback: 52 Ancestors: #2 of 52 – Jeremiah Campbell, Sr. (1762-1843) | The Shoebox Under the Bed

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