Being a genealogist I started looking at joining various hereditary societies over the years. I am honored to be a life member of the New Hampshire Society of the Cincinnati; Massachusetts Sons of the Revolution; as well as recently joining as a member of the Boston Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution via the service of my 4th great-grandfather Capt. Jonathan Poor (1737-1807) of Newbury, Massachusetts. Occasionally at gatherings of these various organizations I ask the following question of a member – “So tell me about your ancestor and their service in the war?“. In most cases I get the general answer of where, when and what battles they fought in. But a handful of times I get the answer – “I don’t know anything about him. I paid a genealogist find me a connection for me to join”.
This brings me to my next question for this member wearing countless medals, society pins, and no doubt having certificates of membership on their office wall – “Have you visited the veteran’s grave site, or to the battlefields they fought so bravely at?“. The answer is often again sadly in the negative. As a reader I am compelled to your opinion as a genealogist or member of one of these societies. Who really are you honoring here by your membership? You or your ancestor?
As we approach the USA 250th anniversary of the celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence the patriotic curiosity of Americans will again be ignited. Individuals will begin to want to join up organizations such as the Sons of the American Revolution and the Daughters of the American Revolution. Both organizations want to dramatically increase membership for 2026 which is a wonderful thing indeed.
So I ask the genealogist when you are hired to help someone gain knowledge of their ancestors service – please help educate them as well. Besides giving them their lineage and proofs for membership give them the details of the who, what and where. Send them links to the Findagrave.com entry for their ancestor. Give them hyperlinks to National Park sites with battle maps, etc. Or perhaps as you read this you recognize that you may have added supplemental lines for your SAR or DAR recently. Instead of simply photocopying your proofs of service – investigate them. Read a book or find a webpage that discusses the battles, etc. Learn about your ancestor and you will gain a better understanding of what they fought so dearly for.
Recently I have finished completing the research to add my first supplemental for the SAR. Col. Joseph Huse (1739-1811) of Newburyport does not have a gravestone after over 200 years. My fourth great-grandfather perhaps lies next to his wife Abigail who died April 20, 1775 the day after Lexington and Concord. Besides working on his application I will be petitioning Newburyport’s Veterans Agent to have a military gravestone erected finally for him to memorialize his life and service to our young nation. So when I look down on this metal star on my lapel – I will gladly tell Joseph’s story to anyone who asks “What is this for?”.
So please take the time before joining any hereditary organization to honor an ancestor to find out who they were. You better honor them by learning their stories and becoming their voice so they will never be forgotten. And if you are a member it’s never to late to learn something about your ancestor. Genealogy is a never ending research adventure!