United States Societies
You can obtain help with your family history research from the following types of societies:
- Historical and genealogical societies
- Lineage and hereditary societies
- Family associations
- Fraternal organizations
Historical and Genealogical Societies
More than 9,000 historical and genealogical societies may have records and services to help you with your research. Societies have been organized in all states and most counties. They generally collect historical documents of local interest, publish periodicals, and have special projects and indexes. Because of the excellent help they can provide, you should contact the societies near you and near the areas where your ancestors lived. You may find it helpful to join one of these societies and support their efforts. Your local public library may have guides to help you locate these organizations, including:
- Meyer's Directory of Genealogical Societies in the USA and Canada. 11th edition. Mt. Airy, Maryland: M. K. Meyer, 1996. (FHL Ref book 970 C44m.)
- Wheeler, Mary Bray, editor. Directory of Historical Organizations in the United States and Canada. 14th edition. Nashville, Tennessee: American Association for State and Local History, 1990. (Family History Library book 970 H24d 1990.)
The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) is an umbrella organization of over 450 genealogical societies. FGS does not do genealogical research. Their business office can identify local genealogical societies and supply their addresses and telephone numbers.
FGS Business Office
P.O. Box 830220
Richardson, TX 75083-0220
You may also be interested in the activities and services of the National Genealogical Society (NGS). This society maintains a lending library and publishes a newsletter and journal. The NGS sponsors conferences and other activities to support genealogical research, including correspondence classes and a genealogical computer bulletin board service. The address is:
National Genealogical Society
4527 17th Avenue North
Arlington, VA 22207
Lineage and Hereditary Societies
Soon after the American Revolution, prominent citizens began to form exclusive social organizations and join hereditary and patriotic societies. Many societies were organized in the late 1880s and 1890s when membership in these organizations became very popular.
These societies are generally involved in educational, cultural, social, and other programs to preserve the documents and memory of the past. They often maintain libraries and museums that can help you in your research. Most publish a periodical or newsletter, such as the Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine.
One of your ancestors or relatives may have submitted application papers containing his pedigree in order to join a lineage society. These records often include multi-generation pedigrees and information from family Bibles, death records, or military documents. They may also lead you to someone else interested in your family. Unfortunately, these papers have not always been carefully documented, but they can provide excellent clues for further research. Some societies allow only members to use their records.
The Family History Library has over 2,000 microfilms and numerous books of society records. These include application papers, yearbooks, ancestor rolls, membership rosters, and publications of the societies. For example, the library has microfilm copies of a card index and 100,000 applications for membership in:
- Sons of the American Revolution. Membership Information, 1776-1996. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1996. (On 1,087 Family History Library films starting with 541473.)
The library also has major collections from the following societies:
- General Society of Colonial Wars http://www.gscw.org/
- General Society of Mayflower Descendants http://www.mayflower.org/
- Holland Society of New York http://www.hollandsociety.org/
- National Society of the Colonial Dames of the XVII Century http://www.colonialdames17c.net/
- National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) http://www.dar.org/
- National Society of New England Women http://www.newenglandwomen.org/
- National Society, Sons of the American Revolution http://www.sar.org/
The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) at http://www.dar.org/ is the largest and most popular lineage society in the United States. It has had over 188,000 members and several chapters in each state. This society actively encourages members to locate and transcribe records useful to genealogists. An index to the Revolutionary ancestors of DAR applicants is:
- Daughters of the American Revolution, Millennial Administration. DAR Patriot Index. Three Volumes. Washington, DC: DAR, 2003. (Family History Library book 973 C42da 2003.)
Addresses, membership requirements, and information about most lineage and hereditary societies are in:
- Roberts, Jayare, and Dorothy Hebertson, compilers. Register of U.S. Lineage Societies. Salt Lake City, Utah: Family History Library, 1990. (Family History Library book 973 C43m 1990; fiche 6050647.) This register gives call numbers and describes many of the society records available at the Family History Library.
- The Hereditary Register of the United States of America. Annual. Yoncalla, Oregon: Hereditary Register Publications, 1972-. (FHL book 973 C4u 1986.)
Many family organizations are gathering information about their ancestors and descendants. Some organizations are gathering information about all individuals with a particular surname. Family histories, newsletters, family group records, and other information gathered by family organizations are described in the “Genealogy” section of this outline. The Family Registry and the Ancestral File (also in the “Genealogy” section) can help you locate active associations. Some researchers have located family organizations and other researchers by posting queries on the Internet or by searching the membership directories of online computer genealogy groups. Also helpful is:
- Bentley, Elizabeth Petty, compiler. Directory of Family Associations. Third Edition. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1996. (FHL book 973 D24benb 1996.)
Your ancestor or relative may have belonged to an association, lodge, or secret society whose membership is based on common interests, religion, or ethnicity. Many sources, such as local histories, biographies, obituaries, tombstones, family records, and artifacts may give you clues that an ancestor belonged to a fraternal society. Examples of these societies include:
- Ancient Free and Accepted Masons (Freemasonry) http://www.freemasonry.org/
- Order of Eastern Star http://www.easternstar.org/
- International Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) http://www.ioof.org/
- Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE) http://www.elks.org/
- Lithuanian Alliance of America http://www.everyculture.com/multi/Le-Pa/Lithuanian-Americans.html
- Ancient Order of Hibernians of America http://www.aoh.com/
- Knights of the Maccabees http://www.meta-religion.com/Secret_societies/Groups/Other/knights_of_maccabees.htm
- Modern Woodmen of America, organized 1883 in Iowa, a fraternal benefit society. It offers financial services and fraternal member benefits throughout the US. The headquarters are in Rock Island, Illinois.
Modern Woodmen of America http://www.modern-woodmen.org/Public
(not accessible without username and password)
These societies were involved in political, social, and financial activities. Around 1900, for example, there were over 2,000,000 members involved in fraternal insurance programs.
For more information about fraternal societies, see:
- Schmidt, Alvin J., Fraternal Organizations. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1980. (FHL book 973 C47sa.)
The records of fraternal organizations may exist in a society or business archive. Some genealogical information may be obtained through correspondence.
The Family History Library has histories of fraternal societies but very few records. In the Family History Library Catalog, find:
Most information about fraternal organizations in the Author/Title Search under the organization name.
Some organization histories are in the Place Search under the locality, then topics such as SOCIETIES, GENEALOGY, HISTORY, OCCUPATIONS, MINORITIES, and PUBLIC RECORDS.
Guide to Societies and Associations
Current addresses, functions, and membership requirements of fraternal, ethnic, veteran, hereditary, patriotic, and other associations can be found in the:
- Encyclopedia of Associations. Three Volumes. 32nd edition. Annual. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research, 1987-. (FHL book 973 E4gr.) Section twelve, “Veterans', Hereditary, and Patriotic Organizations” is especially useful for genealogists.
Locating Society Records in the Family History Library Catalog
Records of these societies are usually described in the Author/Title Search of the Family History Library Catalog under the name of the society. They are also listed in the Place Search under one of the following:
UNITED STATES - SOCIETIES
[STATE] - SOCIETIES
[STATE], [COUNTY] - SOCIETIES
UNITED STATES - GENEALOGY
[STATE] - GENEALOGY
[STATE], [COUNTY] - GENEALOGY
Some records gathered by societies are listed in the Locality Search under the type of record. For example, cemetery transcripts gathered by a local genealogical society are listed in the catalog under the [STATE], [COUNTY] - CEMETERIES.
Lists and guides that describe the collections of societies are listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
[STATE] - ARCHIVES AND LIBRARIES - INVENTORIES, REGISTERS, CATALOGS
[STATE], [COUNTY] - ARCHIVES AND LIBRARIES - INVENTORIES, REGISTERS, CATALOGS
[STATE], [COUNTY], [TOWN] - ARCHIVES AND LIBRARIES - INVENTORIES, REGISTERS, CATALOGS
You can also find information about some societies under the name of the organization in the Subject Search of the Family History Library Catalog.