If you think you may have a Patriot Ancestor, or a relative may have joined DAR, then your Registrar for DAR or SAR may suggest you locate a DAR Application that has already been approved. If the application has been approved after 1985, then often that approved application is the only proof you need for any ancestors in your lineage that are on the DAR Application. For example, if your mother joined DAR after 1985, then all you need to join is your mother’s approved DAR Application and your birth certificate proving she is your mother. The same principal can be applied for other relatives that joined DAR, including a sister, aunt, grandmother, great aunt, etc. You merely need the documents linking you to the Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA) on the DAR Application. SAR will call the approved application a DAR Record Copy. This can be searched and downloaded from the DAR website for the reasonable cost of $10. Even if your relative joined before 1985, finding this application is a boon to your genealogy.
What if you are not sure if you have anyone in your family that joined DAR? You can perform a search to find out.
The DAR website has a Genealogical Research Database. Once there, you have options near the top with red tabs for Ancestor, Member, Descendants, and more. This article will focus on these first three.
An Ancestor Search will do a search for the Revolutionary Era Ancestor, who may have supported the cause for American Independence. Remember, your Patriot Ancestor need not have served in the military as there are other ways to support Independence, including paying a tax that supported the military. See my earlier post about a Quaker ancestor that qualifies me for SAR membership on a Supplemental Application. A Supplemental Application is when a member finds additional Patriot Ancestors after their Primary Membership has been approved. Any type of approved application will be helpful to you as the lineage is proved.
With the Ancestor Search, fill in what you know, including Last Name and First Name. The red asterisk is not always a mandatory field, as I can find my ancestor with a search for last name only. However, if your ancestor had a common name such as Smith, it will be helpful to fill in more information in more fields. The less information you provide, the more search results you will get. The more information you provide, the narrower your search results will be. Sometimes less information helps you in a preliminary search. Understand that names may be spelled differently on the application than are spelled in your records, or by your current name. Smith could be spelled Smyth, Smithe, or Smythe or other ways as well. Wildcards can be used, such as Smi* which will provide results of not only Smith, but also Smick, Smiley, and other surnames that begin with Smi as the first three letters. If you get many results, the first 25 will be displayed with additional pages you can access at the bottom of the list.
Similar searches with partial names, or differently spelled names, apply to all types of searches on the DAR website.
If you click on the Ancestor’s name, you see their full record, which includes state of service, rank, birth, death, pension number and a description of service, as well as the name of their spouse. The red family tree icon to the right shows their ancestor number, and clicking on the icon reveals all descendants who have been approved as DAR members with this Patriot. Below the spouse and other information is a box with “Associated Applications and Supplementals” and a DAR National Number, and a link to purchase a PDF copy of this application. The other icons list information available, such as a yellow S, indicating Supporting Documentation is available, a lavender D indicating Descendants list available for this member and ancestor, and a purple D indicating Descendants list available for this member but not this ancestor.
Similar links and icons appear on other types of searches as well.
A Member Search can be done if you already know the National Membership number of the woman who joined DAR. Perhaps your relative has a Certificate hanging on the wall, or some other document, that indicates her membership number. If you have that information but are unable to locate the Record Copy of her Application, this Membership Number search can help you.
A Descendants Search helps you locate an individual who is named on the application but is not the Patriot Ancestor. This would mean children, grandchildren, and other generations after the Patriot. These people would be descendants of the Patriot, but ancestors of yourself. The Descendants Search includes over seven million names.
For example, you think your great grandmother may have joined, but you can’t do a Member Search as you have no idea what her National Number was. So, you search for your great grandmother on the Descendants Search. If you don’t find her, try her parents or grandparents.
Searching in the Dark for Ancestors
Some people even randomly do a search for an entire generation of grandparents, great grandparents, or great greats and earlier, hoping that maybe a name triggers a positive search result that some distant cousin may have joined DAR that you don’t know about. This is a little bit of stabbing in the dark, but if the dart hits a target dartboard, you have a winner!
Finding a Winner
If you find a winner in your search, you have a cousin, perhaps distant, that has joined DAR, possibly without your prior knowledge. Now all you need to do is prove your connection to the Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA). For example, if you and the member are first cousins, your grandparents are the Most Recent Common Ancestors and you only need to prove your lineage to your grandparents and theirs. If you are second cousins, you only need to prove your lineage to your great grandparents. Sometimes a DAR Record Copy does little other than prove a common generation or two beginning with the Patriot. That’s still making progress, you don’t need to prove that Patriot Ancestor was a Patriot, the DAR Record Copy has already done that. You need only prove your lineage to the MRCA on the application. This may be a single generation, or many generations. But some work is done, and the Patriot Ancestor is identified, which is the hardest part of your search.
If the application was approved by DAR after 1985, then that Record Copy will likely be all the proof you need for the lineage on that Record Copy. If the application was approved before 1985, then the lineage is not considered proved by current standards of DAR or SAR. That’s still a good find; use the pre-1985 Record Copy as an outline or rough draft for your own application. Work with your Registrar to determine what evidence you need as documentation. Often the DAR Record Copy even lists the documentation used, such as BC (Birth Certificate) or a census record. Find the original documents and submit them to your Registrar.
Sometimes a search that feels somewhat random actually finds a Patriot Ancestor, which may be your gateway to joining DAR or SAR! Happy hunting!