Introduction: Below is a combination of several posts made on 5 April 1993, by Cheryl Singhal, to the defunct FidoNet National Genealogical Echo.
As all genealogists know, the LDS church has the world's largest collection of Genealogy materials. Most would agree that the DAR library in Washington, DC, is their nearest competitor.
Among the DAR's holdings are original Bible records (sometimes pages from the Bible itself were torn out and submitted); transcripts of county records, cemetery readings, extracts of old newspapers, county histories, and many other resources. Also available for use as a research tool are the Application Papers of all the women who belong or belonged to the DAR.
These papers have been the source of much genealogical discussion lately for several reasons. First, women applying to the DAR for membership use them to buttress their claims to descent; second, since they list all known children of the Revolutionary ancestor, anyone wishing to confirm ancestry for any reason use them.
Recently, a number of people have found errors in these applications, which has caused some hostility and no little consternation. There is, however, a perfectly logical explanation for the entire situation and an explanation, moreover, that all genealogists will support — in principle.
Before I go into that explanation, however, let me stress that I have picked up this information over the course of 15 years of membership and a year's worth of application procedures. I hold no official position in NSDAR, and my comments should be considered "informed opinion." All questions should be directed to the Registrar of the Chapter you wish to join. The paragraphs below, marked with a [bullet] at the beginning, summarize my main points.
Any DAR application submitted before 1976 should be treated as inconclusive. Any DAR application accepted before 1976 is no longer acceptable "proof" on a new application and should not be cited as "proof" in any other context.
Any DAR application submitted after 1990 may be regarded in the same light as the Rock of Gibraltar. Each fact stated has been backed up with primary evidence, including the marriage of the applicant.
The many-volumed Lineage Books have not been considered reliable sources for over 15 years and DAR does not accept them as sufficient citation/proof on any line.
The exceptions to the above mainly consist of a genealogical anomaly . . . the information contained on pre-1976 applications was proven by the standards in force when the application was submitted. The fact that those standards are no longer acceptable is, in some limited contexts, irrelevant.
When DAR was first organized in 1892, people were still living who had KNOWN a veteran of the Revolution. It was an era when ladies lied no more than gentlemen and certainly not about something as easily checked as their gentility. Further, as a new organization, there was only a little prestige attached to DAR membership. Any lady whose father or brother was eligible for the Society of the Cincinnati was presumed eligible for DAR. Asking for proof was tantamount to accusing the applicant of lying, and thus was, by and large, not done.
The mechanics of joining DAR have remained essentially unchanged since 1892, and they begin by the woman indicating to DAR her interest. After some time, the woman arrives at filling out her membership application, which requires her to state her ancestry in an unbroken straight line (maternal or paternal) to her Revolutionary Ancestor. Until about 1990 (+/- 2 years), it was possible for her to use a different application, if she had a lineal relative within four generations who belonged to DAR (an aunt, a grandmother, a great-grandmother or great-grandaunt).
Each applicant was (and is) required to provide proof of descent. This is where the difficulties arise today. "Proof" had a somewhat less strict definition than it does today, and each applicant supplied the proof required at the time of her application.
No one's ancestress deliberately lied. Along with the explosion of interest and upgrading of standards about 1976, we also had an amazing explosion of information retrieval techniques: to name only the most prominent, microfilming improved and grew less expensive; personal computers reduced the likelihood of typographical errors; printing processes changed to make publishing and duplicating fast, easy, and inexpensive; Bulletin Board Services allow any of us to ask a "buddy" in any place to double-check a fact for us; CD-ROMs give us entire encyclopedias in a space somewhat smaller than an old 45 RPM record.
However, back in 1923, if the ladies of Yahama Chapter DAR in West B'gawd, AZ were willing to sign a piece of paper that said their friend Susan Jones was a direct descendant of John Paul Jones, no one — not Susan, not Yahama, not DAR HQ, not you — could prove whether it was false. Microfilming of old records was not yet popular, there were no electronic bulletin boards, no huge network of genealogists communicating freely, only a few printed sources (and those usually unindexed!). One simply accepted that Susan was telling the truth. The most recent census available was 1850, and it was housed in Washington, DC.
In 1940, a lady who wished to join the DAR could not find documentation on her father's parents. DAR accepted the man's handwritten letter that stated his name, his age, and the names of his parents. In 1940, the most recent census available was 1860, available in Washington, DC.
By 1976, all applicants were asked to provide official documentation for each relationship given on their application. I was even asked to prove my marriage — my eyewitness account was insufficient. And by now (1993), the "short form" (four-generation) application has been discontinued, as the generations submitted earlier have not been proven by today's standards. The most recent census is 1920, available nationwide at Regional Archives and through the LDS Family History Centers.
Most pre-1976 genealogy was done under the edict that, to be valid, it had to be independently reproducible by a disinterested third party. This meant only the most cursory of citations (i.e., Wyoming County, MI, birth records), rather than the detailed citation now considered minimal (i.e., Wyoming County, MI, Birth Records, Vol. B, 1845-1900, pg. 436, line 17). This detailed citation leads the reviewer directly to the information being used, but virtually precludes any independent verification.
In our Bicentennial Year, the source story was different. The LDS church had engaged in massive microfilming efforts, nearly every large city had an LDS Branch Library, [the book] Roots had made [author] Alex Haley famous and encouraged nearly everyone to dig for their own ancestors. Genealogy suddenly attained enough respectability that you could walk into a county courthouse and say you were hunting your grandfather's marriage record without feeling guilty about it.
DAR and its companion, Sons of the American Revolution, and their off-spring, the Children of the American Revolution, were overwhelmed by applications, all trying to attach to previously proven work.
So, when you find something in the DAR application papers that strikes you as absurd (my favorite is the man born 10 or 12 years after his mother's death), don't grind your teeth, mutter vile imprecations, or throw books through marble walls . . . check the date on the application. If you're looking at a paper dated before 1976, and it isn't what you want to see, use it as a jumping-off point for your own further digging. If it is what you want to see . . . ask if you can talk to one of the DAR's lineage researchers.
Is there a later application on this soldier that confirms what's here? Has the line been proven since 1976? If you write to DAR for information, be sure to ask for the latest application tied to this Patriot.
There is one other item that researchers who use DAR HQ Library know about that others may not. The widely-available Patriot Index was complete at the time of its publication, now some twenty years ago, I believe. In the interim, annual indices to proven patriots have been kept by the DAR, to facilitate their own research. I doubt DAR would search these by hand for mail inquiries, but as far as I know they are available for on-site use by any researcher.
Just to keep things in perspective, forty years from now, researchers are going to wonder why no one made video tapes instead of super 8-mm; and forty years after that, no one's going to know how to use a camcorder, everyone'll have holo-cams. Lord only knows what they'll want as documentation and proof!
DISCLAIMER: Except for John Paul Jones, AZ, MI, DAR, DC, and similar historically recognizable names, all names of places and people are fictious.
In a post made to the GEN-NYS-L@rootsweb.com mailing list on 26 Jun 2002, the poster advised that you go to web site at
"One can go here and put in information about an ancestor they believe was in the Rev. War. If anyone in the past had used this particular patriot for their membership, then you will get a positive response. I would advise using this first, prior to ordering any paperwork on a patriot. It is currently taking longer than 6 weeks to get a response. I'm still awaiting one from about 9 wks ago."
"[A]pplication papers of deceased, resigned, or dropped DAR members may be requested from the
Office of Registrar General
for a fee of $4.00, check payable to
"The Treasurer General, NSDAR."
"If the record is not available, the fee is not refunded.
"By a 1976 Executive Committee ruling, papers of active members may be requested by the following:
Members of NSDAR (give DAR National Number).
Prospective member of NSDAR (give name of chapter).
Genealogist of C.A.R.
Official registrar and/or official Genealogist of SAR.
Official registrar of S.R.
"According to the DAR handbook, a person who is not a member or a prospective member may order application papers of deceased, resigned or dropped DAR members but not the papers of active members.
"Request for record copy must be brief. State concisely what is needed. Type or print the name of the Revolutionary ancestor, and when asking for a specific copy paper, the full name and DAR National Number of member or former member. You may request the most recent paper on the Revolutionary service of a specific person. You may name the ancestor's child through whom the applicant descends, if known.
"Photocopies furnished are the best available. If the original copy is poor, the duplicate will be poor. Do not include a request for any other information with an order for application papers. The NSDAR cannot assume responsibility for the completeness of any paper."
Caution: It is very possible that the fee for getting copies of DAR applications has risen since 1994 due to inflation, so it would probably save time if you call the office of the organization and find out what the current fee is now before mailing your request.
Also of interest is the following information from an Oct., 2002 email message:
The DAR booklet, "Is that Lineage Right," item #1060, selling for $2.25 is available. It is brand new and a 2002 addition.
You may purchase it through the mail. You may send in your request with your payment made payable to: Treasurer General, NSDAR.
Or you may place a credit card order over the phone, fax or internet. Only accepted with a minimum order of fifteen dollars or more. Call us toll free at: 1-888-673-6732, fax at
(202) 638-6793, or over the internet directly at:
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