Saratoga Battle Chapter SAR
Saratoga Battle Chapter

Joining the SAR
About Patriot Ancestors | Identifying your Patriot Ancestor | Documentation | Types of proof
Proof of Service | Getting help | How to submit | Costs

Who are Patriot Ancestors?

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.

Examples of military 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.

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 particular line.

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 Registrar, 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: the USGENWEB 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: www.archives.gov/. In other cases, the files remain with the states and can usually be researched at the state archives or at larger public libraries.

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?

Our Registrar 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 Registrar. 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 together.

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