Many compatriots, or close relatives, put a lot of resources into genealogical research. This used to include the time and travel required to review original records and archives. Today, a few of those archives are available online for free. The most thorough and authoritative archives cost money. Genealogical research can be expensive, one way or another.
Whether working on your initial application to SAR, or another lineage society, or a supplemental application, you have a specific goal: find a line of descent from a relevant ancestor to yourself, and provide “proofs” of its accuracy. For a SAR application, you prove descent from someone who, during the American Revolution, provided documented support for the Revolution. Many current and prospective members have already identified one or more eligible ancestors. The remaining challenge is to collect “proofs” of the line of descent.
Ideally, you find a birth record and marriage record for each ancestor in your line of descent. This may be simple for Quaker ancestors, since their meetings kept such detailed notes of life events. Ancestors from the mid-19th century to today may be recorded as parents or children in the decennial US Census. The family’s census record can sometimes fill in for other missing records.
The best proof is a copy of the original document. For example, you can find images from US Census records and Quaker meeting records on Ancestry.com. However, this requires an Ancestry membership. It is very difficult to find original documents and copy them for free. Today (August 2020) a basic Ancestry member costs either $24.99 a month or $99 for six months.
Research For Hire
Our State Genealogist recently received an announcement about research services to share with our compatriots from the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS), also known as “American Ancestors.” Their staff will research your ancestry for a fee, and the fee is increasing in September 2020. The cost for their basic investigation ranges from $675 today for NEHGS members to $840 for non-members following the price increase. According to the announcement, the assessment includes:
- “A list of specific resources examined
- Copies of records discovered during the review period
- A detailed strategy for what can be accomplished with additional research-for-hire
- Suggestions for further independent research”
Genealogical research is like any detective work: there are no guarantees. They will research what they can with what the have. If they find nothing, they will at least describe their efforts and identify other avenues for future study. NEHGS also offers general genealogical research for a fee of $85-105 per hour.
Most families do the research themselves. Some rely on documents and document copies collected and shared across generations. For many people, it’s possible to construct a family tree from free information on sites like Find-a-grave.com. Unfortunately, the free sites rarely display original documents. A grave site photo can “prove” a date of death and perhaps a spouse’s name, but other details, like age and achievements, are chosen by those erecting the monument. Unless you have the birth certificate, it can be hard to pin down an accurate birth year. Free sites rarely provide original documents like birth certificates or census records.