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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Letter to NSDAR President General

In catching up on blogs this weekend after a long hiatus, there was one in particular that stood out from the rest that I feel compelled to respond to in my own way.  Judy G. Russell, CG as The Legal Genealogist wrote in her blog "We paid in blood" about her response to the Who Do You Think You Are episode featuring Rob Lowe.  Please read Judy's blog and the responses and also her follow up post "Readers respond to 'We paid in blood'" which highlights many great responses also. 

One particular response caught my eye from Cathi Desmarais over at Stone House Historical Research in which she correctly pointed out that individuals may not join the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution through collateral ancestors.  A collateral ancestor is one not of direct lineage but shares a common ancestor on a lineage, such as an uncle, aunt, niece, nephew, or cousin.  As a Hessian soldier, Lowe's ancestor was sent to the colonies to fight against the Continental Army and did so at the Battle of Trenton.  Although Rob Lowe's ancestor would qualify for service in the NSDAR as a former Hessian soldier who paid a supply tax, Judy's collateral ancestor would not qualify even though he fought in the Battle of Trenton and subsequently died. Cathi responded to Judy "you should be able to honor you uncle's and your family's sacrifice".  Cathi, I couldn't agree more!

This post is not so much about the WDYTYA episode, but in support of Judy and others to be able to honor and document collateral ancestor's service and participation in the Revolutionary War.  My own response has formed into a letter for the NSDAR President General.  The letter outlines the positive reception of the society's involvement with the show and steps the genealogy staff has taken for public access to the lineages from the applications for membership through the Genealogical Research System.

If you belong to NSDAR or are interested in this subject, please consider writing your own letter.  Or feel free to print out mine (just might want to change the genealogy librarian bit).  Read them at chapter meetings, email it to friends, and discuss it with your State Regent.  Maybe if enough people respond, NSDAR will listen.

Mary Ann T. Wright
President General
National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution
1776 D St NW
Washington, DC  20002

Dear President General,

The Who Do You Think You Are episode featuring Rob Lowe was certainly inspiring and a wonderful  highlight of the NSDAR Library, historic building, genealogy staff, and society in general.  With such interest in a good-will organization and particular national pride in the time period, the society was well represented.
Another important segment of the episode included the standards that the society maintains for those applying for membership in the organization and for those submitting supplemental applications.  These standards have certainly changed and improved over the years.  It is well known that the staff of the genealogy department give careful time and consideration of each individual application to check for accuracy and legitimacy.  The evolution of such standards has created an important collection of genealogy lineages that prospective members, members, and at large researchers use to document family histories.  Creating public access to these lineages via the Genealogical Research System has also provided a valuable resource.   As a genealogy librarian, I can vouch for its usefulness and its’ use by information professionals and the general public.  The National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution has earned its’ stellar reputation as a curator of Revolutionary War lineages.
In evaluating the episode, Rob Lowe read a letter stating his ancestor would qualify for membership in NSDAR, should a female relative wish to join, with service based on a tax he paid for the war effort.  The episode provided detail of how a Hessian soldier was brought here for a cause not of his own and later chose to stay due to the ideals of the country.  As a member of NSDAR, I was appreciative of the principles of the society on display for a national audience:  historic preservation, education, and patriotism.
Unfortunately, not everyone may honor their ancestor according to current standards as collateral lineages are not allowed .  There are a number of those that served in a military or civil service capacity that either died during the war or whose lineage has died out.  As NSDAR is evolving with social media, outreach, and records preservation, perhaps it may also be time to evaluate how members may contribute to the ongoing genealogical and historical effort with collateral ancestors that served during the Revolutionary War.  With an inspiring story of a Hessian soldier who fought against General Washington later providing service and being acceptable to NSDAR, it would be reasonable to follow with collateral ancestors who also provided service and in some cases their lives to be acceptable also.  Who better to provide the stories of fallen patriots than the NSDAR.

Understanding that the requirements of the organization are for “any woman 18 years or older who can prove lineal, bloodline descent from an ancestor who aided in achieving American independence is eligible to join the DAR”, I respectfully request that consideration be given to establishing collateral ancestors through supplemental applications only.  Although there may be an increase in the amount of applications submitted, there would also be an increase in revenue from the submissions.  The additional research may aid genealogy staff in passing membership applications as additional lineages are documented.  As family history is such an important aspect of the scope of the society, more members will be able to contribute to their heritage and the historical importance of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution.

If I can add any further thought, discussion, or communication about this request please do not hesitate to contact me.

Warm Regards,
Heather Kramer


  1. During a search for a friend to locate a revolutionary ancestor, I discovered a connection through her aunt. (Her mother and aunt had different fathers.) I asked a premiere genealogist if DAR accepted collateral relatives. She assured me they did. Thank you for addressing this issue.

    1. Hi Courtenay,

      Thank you so much for reading! The United Daughters of the Confederacy accepts collateral lines. This is wonderful because so many died in during the conflict. In the main lineage I research there were three brothers, their brother-in-law, nephew, and two cousins all died within a year of each other. Only the brother-in-law has descendants so it is important to document that the others lived and were agents of history.

      It would be a bold new world if NSDAR would let everyone honor or document their collateral ancestors also.


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