”I want to join the Mayflower Society, what do I have to do?”
I thought this question would be a great lead up to lineage societies in general. There are many genealogists that specialize in helping people gain acceptance into lineage societies. Why? Depending on where you live in the country, inclusion in a lineage society can earn you some serious respect and clout. For example, here in the deep south telling someone that you are a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) or the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) will earn you some brownie points. The south has always been known for its patriotism and pride in military service. I am guessing here but if you are a New Englander I would think that being able to say you are a member of the Mayflower Society would be a pretty cool thing. Many people that seek membership are not interested in genealogy in general and that is why they hire someone to help them. There are also plenty of experienced researchers that apply because they know they have the evidence they need to prove their eligibility. Being able to say you are a member of [insert name of society here] helps validate your research skills. Today the scrutiny placed on applications is much greater in years past. Many people that applied years ago would have their applications denied today for not sourcing their evidence properly nor proving their parent-child relationships consistent with the Genealogical Proof Standard.
To Bob’s specific question, here is the Membership Info for the General Society of Mayflower Descendants (the official name). The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) has some very helpful information and pitfalls to avoid in their article, Applying for Membership in the Mayflower Society. Every society has their own rules. Some will only allow you to apply for membership if you have been invited to do so by another member. Some societies’ have very strict documentation requirements while others are a bit more lax. I personally would appreciate the stricter requirements especially if I was trying to prove to myself that I produce quality research. Many of the societies are also civic associations involved in local historical preservation and education as well as fundraising for local charities. Many require you to be an ACTIVE member of the society or they will boot you.
The first step is to find out exactly what the lineage society you are interested in requires. Legacy Family Tree has a nice Lineage Society QuickGuide that you might find useful. The Hereditary Society Blue Book by Robert R. Davenport has listings of 147 lineage societies though this book is a bit dated (1994) and there could be some new ones that have been formed. Here is a list of Hereditary and Lineage Organizations on Wikipedia.
The one other thing that I will mention is that once you prove your eligibility, you will also be paying yearly dues for the privilege of saying you are a member of [insert name of society here].
Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis