Who are Patriot Ancestors?
Generally, qualifying ancestors for SAR membership are men or women who
rendered military or civilian service to the Revolutionary Cause between
the Battles of Lexington & Concord (April 19, 1775) and the signing of the
Treaty of Paris formally ending the War (September 3, 1783). You must be a
bloodline descendant from the Patriot Ancestor. "Collateral descendants"
(descendants of siblings of the Patriot) or descendants by adoption are not
eligible for membership. Full membership is open to males age 18 or older who
can document their lineal descent from a Patriot Ancestor. There is also a
Junior membership available for those under 18 years of age.
Examples of acceptable service include: Regular Army; Militia; Navy;
Minuteman. Examples of patriotic civilian service include: providing supplies
to troops; giving or lending money for military needs; clergy preaching
against Great Britain; signing oaths of allegiance to the new country.
A more detailed enumeration of acceptable service can be found on the
National SAR web site, "Membership Process, Are You Eligible".
Descent from the Patriot Ancestor may be through either the mother's
or father's side of the family. Direct-line descent is not necessary:
the line may zigzag through the various generations, where the
surname changes. The goal is to document the linkage between each
generation. Many men have more than one Revolutionary ancestor.
Once you are a member, you are encouraged to submit "supplemental"
applications for those additional ancestors: by doing so, you are
potentially opening up membership to relatives of yours through that
How do I identify a Patriot Ancestor?
In some families, there is already a tradition of descent from
one or more Revolutionary ancestors. Talk to your oldest
living relatives to see if they can help. In other cases,
you will identify a Revolutionary ancestor in the course of
doing your own genealogy research. Published genealogies or
family histories may also help.
How do I document my lineage to the Patriot Ancestor?
As with all genealogical research, we work backwards from
ourselves through the previous generations, being careful to
document births, deaths and marriages, so as to provide an
unbroken chain of descent. Never skip over a generation that
you happen to be stuck on: if you are at the proverbial "brick wall,"
try researching the siblings of the individuals in that generation for clues to
their common ancestry. Both the SAR and the DAR have all old applications
on file: these can be obtained from the respective organizations, and may
provide part of the road map back to your ancestor.
You may find a genealogy computer program to be helpful in
organizing and recording your information. These programs also
allow you to print out charts of direct descent from any ancestor
to yourself. Doing this with your Patriot Ancestor will give
you a clear picture of which individuals you must document.
You can obtain an Application Worksheet from us by sending a request to our
or you can download a Lineage Worksheet
from our Forms and Brochures area.
You can, of course, just do your charts by hand on pre-printed pedigree
charts, or use an online genealogy program such as found at Ancestry.com.
Online genealogy sites can be very helpful in providing you with
clues to connecting generations. These sites contain family trees
done by others and contributed for the benefit of researchers.
Be aware: this information does not suffice to document your
lines of descent, but, again, it can provide you with a "road map"
back to your Revolutionary ancestor. The Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), for whom genealogy is a part of
their religious beliefs, has put its largest databases online for
use by anyone free of charge: www.familysearch.org. A good subscription
site can be well worth the expense: more and more, these sites are
posting scanned images of valuable reference sources, fully searchable.
In addition to Ancestry.com,
Genealogy.com, the site for the providers
of the popular Family Tree Maker software, has thousands of scanned
books available for research. Be sure to check
out the large, free sites that have compiled much useful information:
and Cyndi's List.
Revolutionary War military and pension files for many of the
states were long ago turned over to the National Archives and
Records Administration (NARA). These files can be obtained from
NARA via mail, or examined personally on microfilm at a regional
branch of the Archives. Original document files are at NARA
headquarters in Washington, DC. Check their web site for details:
In other cases, the files remain with the states
and can usually be researched at the state archives or at larger
Don't overlook your local libraries. These repositories may
contain county or regional histories, family histories, census
records, etc., all of which can be of help to you in your research.
It may be necessary to retain professional genealogical researchers
in a particular locale to help if you are stuck at a particular
point in your lineage.
Retaining a genealogical researcher requires you to do a bit of
homework first. Be sure to ask for references. National genealogical
publications contain advertisements for researchers around the country,
some of whom specialize in helping with lineage society applications.
It is essential for you and the researcher to agree on just what the
goal of the research is, how much time you are authorizing, and what
the cost will be.
What type of proof and documentation is acceptable?
For yourself, your parents and your grandparents, you should be
able to provide birth, marriage and death certificates. For
generations earlier than your grandparents, such vital records
should also be obtained if they are available for the particular
area where those persons lived. For example, in most of New England,
vital records exist back to the 1600's. In other areas, vital records
are a fairly recent innovation. In New York State, for example,
there was no statewide requirement for filing death certificates
until 1882; for birth certificates, 1910.
Once you have moved back earlier than vital records are
available, then other records may be used as substitutes.
For example, baptismal records may substitute for birth
certificates. Wills and other estate proceedings can document
deaths as well as confirming the link between two or more
generations. Many compilations of church records have been
made and published. Census records showing a couple with
children can be used to imply a marital relationship in the
absence of an actual marriage record. Deeds, too, often
explicitly document the relationship between generations.
Family bible records are acceptable, so long as the title
page is available to document that the bible was contemporaneous
with the events documented in it. The DAR has transcribed
thousands of family bible records and these are available
for research and are acceptable as documentation of family
relationships. Gravestone inscriptions and photographs can
provide valuable information. Again, the DAR has recorded
the inscriptions on thousands of cemeteries around the country.
You can check the various state health department sites on
the Internet to find out where to write for copies of vital
records, fee information, etc. In many cases, vital records
can be obtained at both the state and local level. Mail
requests, for example, to the New York State Health Dept.
have taken as long as 16 months to be fulfilled; the same
request could be processed in a week or two by writing to the
local Registrar of Vital Statistics or Town Clerk.
Sometimes one document can serve as proof for two events:
for example, a death certificate may also include a birth
date/place and parents' names. Marriage records often include
the names of the parents of the bride and groom.
How do I prove my ancestor's Revolutionary War service?
If you have identified a male ancestor who was born between
approximately 1740 and 1760 and was living in this country at
the time of the Revolution, he is of prime age to have served.
However, in our own chapter, we have a member ancestor born in
1700 who provided Patriotic Civilian Service as an old man.
One member from another state is descended from a Patriot Ancestor
who was born in 1770: this ancestor served as a drummer boy at age 12.
The first step would be to check the DAR and SAR Patriot Indexes.
These are compilations of every qualifying ancestor used by a woman
or man to join the respective societies. You can obtain copies of
the related applications from DAR or SAR for $10.00. Many states
made their own compilations of military service. In New York the basic
source is New York in the Revolution As Colony and State, compiled in
1898 by the NYS Comptroller and subsequently reprinted. For Massachusetts,
the 17-volume Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary
War contains a brief paragraph about each man, when he served and in
which units. Part of the huge series of books entitled The Pennsylvania
Archives contains information on men who served from that state.
Many Virginia records are available online at Ancestry.com.
Check with the National Archives to see if they have a military
file for the man.
Where do I go for help?
has access to many of the resources referred to
above and can do lookups for you. For instance, our Chapter Genealogist
owns the set of books summarizing every Revolutionary War pension file
that is in the National Archives, and the companion set for military files.
While our Registrar and Genealogist cannot undertake major genealogical
research for you, the Registrar
is available to advise you on how to deal
with the inevitable roadblocks that we all face in genealogical research.
How do I submit my paperwork?
The first step in the application process is to complete an
application worksheet. The front of this depicts your descent
from the Patriot Ancestor, with a line for birth, death and
marriage for each person in the bloodline. Where possible,
include city/town, county/state for each event. Go down the
worksheet and make a check mark next to each event for which
you have documentary proof (vital record, church record, census,
will, etc.): the unchecked events will highlight where additional
work may be needed. It is only necessary to document the
individual in the direct bloodline in each generation, but it
you can provide documentation for the spouse, please do so.
The reverse of the application includes lines for each generation,
on which you list the various pieces of documentation that you
are using for that generation.
When you think you have everything in order, send the worksheet
and 2 good photocopies of each piece of documentation to our
He will prepare your application in duplicate for filing with the
state society and National headquarters, using the required archival
paper and approved application software.
What does membership cost?
The initial fees to join our chapter total $140. This includes the
one-time application fee of $90 ($80 National and $10 State); first
year's National dues of $30; first year's State dues of $10; and first
year's Chapter dues of $10. Thereafter, annual dues currently total $50.
The National Society offers a "Family Application" process, whereby
2 or more closely related men, joining at the same time under the same
qualifying ancestor, can receive a substantial discount on the National
application fee. The first applicant pays the full $80, but all additional
ones pay only $30. So, if you have sons, brothers, uncles, etc.
who would be interested in joining, it can be highly beneficial to join