If you caught the genealogy bug because you thought you descended from a Revolutionary War patriot or Mayflower passenger, you're not alone. Thousands of Americans attempt to trace their lineages back to war veterans and founding fathers. But if you can prove direct descent from the right ancestor, a lineage society might want you as a member.
For many researchers, belonging to a lineage society is an honor in itself. Membership has plenty more privileges, though: For example, it connects you with family historians who have similar research interests, and lets you access the organization's library and other resources. To qualify for most lineage societies, you'll need to trace your direct line back to an ancestor who meets specific criteria, and provide thorough documentation of your connection.
Although the required documentation varies by society, you can expect to spend considerable time on your application. Generally, societies require proof of all places, dates and relationships. Acceptable sources for establishing descent include vital, census and probate records; wills; family Bibles and letters. Membership qualifications also vary by group: Some are gender-specific, some require stringent documentation and others are invitation-only.