Why Apply to a Lineage Society?

Both my mother’s and father’s families lived in Ohio in the last two centuries.  Early in my Ohio research, I joined the Hamilton County Genealogical Society, a chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society.  On HCGS web site, I read about the lineage societies they sponsor:

Century Families of Hamilton County – This program honors the descendants of the pioneers who settled (or were born) in Hamilton County between 1 January 1861 and 100 years ago from today.

Settlers and Builders of Hamilton County – This program honors the descendants of the pioneers who settled (or were born) in Hamilton County between 1 January 1821 and 31 December 1860.

First Families of Hamilton County – This program honors the descendants of the pioneers who settled in Hamilton County prior to 31 December 1820.

“Wow!” I thought, “I’ve got people in Cincinnati back to about 1817, I’ll apply.  Piece of cake.”  I downloaded the forms and read through the pages of instructions.  This was not going to be as easy as I had first thought.  I quickly determined that I should take baby steps with the applications, applying for Century Families first, then Settlers and Builders and eventually First Families.

I would need to supply copies of evidential documents for name, birth date and place, parents names, death date and place, marriage date and place.  The documentation must start with me and work backwards in time to the ancestors eligible for Century Families (my maternal grandparents and both sets of great-grandparents on that side).  Where did I have a copy of my birth certificate?  I had been married, widowed, and married again, so I needed marriage and death certificates to prove how the name on my birth certificate had morphed into the name I have now.  I was used to gathering such documents for my ancestors, but not for myself.  Compiling the records for my parents was easier since I had obtained birth, marriage and death certificates a few years ago.

I turned to the binders I use to capture documents I had on the earlier generations.  There is nothing like revisiting your research and supporting documentation to point out the “holes” in your study.  I re-examined each document to make sure that they “proved” what I thought they did.  More importantly, would the lineage society committee find them sufficient proof for the facts stated?

In the summer of 2011, I conscientiously accumulated all my evidence, wrote source citations in the margins of each along with my name and membership number on the back.  My Century Families application packet was 32 pages and included 25 source documents.  I must have done a good job because my application was accepted without a peep from the committee.  My Century Families medal and certificate arrived in the mail shortly after the awards luncheon.

This year I applied for the Settlers and Builders society for one set of great-great-grandparents and their parents.  The application packet added 20 pages and 13 source documents to the first.  Several of the documents were in German and required “certified translation.”

This time I heard back from the review committee regarding my application.  I needed additional documentation to prove the full names for some of my ancestors.  Francis Seraph Huber was sometimes “Frank S.” “Franz” or just “Frank.”  (Including his middle name was important to me because his father had been one of the founders of Cincinnati’s St. Francis Seraph church.)  His wife Mary Louisa Danheimer appeared in various documents as “Mary”, “Mary L.” and “Louise.”  A death certificate showing my great-great grandmother had been born in Cincinnati was not sufficient proof of her birthplace.  I needed to supply a census record to back up that fact.

I am thankful for a patient and kind committee chair, Kenny Burck, who guided me in submitting the necessary supplemental documents.  My medal and certificate arrived in the mail earlier this month.  Next year, my goal is to apply for First Families of Hamilton County.

So, why apply for a lineage society?

The process of completing the application and supplying necessary proof documents was a great learning experience.  Reviewing previous research and documents pointed out weaknesses in the stories of my ancestors.  The application began with me and worked backward in time, generation by generation.  This is the model that our research should follow.  Each statement of fact required one or more document to substantiate that fact.  And each document required a source citation.  All of these good genealogical practices were reinforced in the application process.

Century Families of Hamilton County and Settlers and Builders of Hamilton County

And besides, the medals are cool and can be worn as conference bling!

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