Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications

By: Carolyn L. Barkley

I have written about the records of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and the DAR Library in Washington, D.C. on more than one occasion. On June 30th, Ancestry.com sent an email announcing the addition of a database providing access to 145,000 Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) membership applications. After reading the message, I realized that I needed to provide “equal time” in this blog to the SAR and its records.

As an organization, the Sons of the American Revolution had its beginning in the patriotic fervor of 1876, when the country celebrated the centennial of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. A group of men in San Francisco, all descendants of individuals who had participated in the Revolution, established the Sons of Revolutionary Sires. Their objective was to form a “fraternal and civic society to salute those men and women who pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to the battle for independence from Great Britain.”

By 1889, thirteen years later, and the centennial of Washington’s inauguration, the Sires had grown into the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR), a “fraternal and civic society composed of lineal descendants of the men who wintered at Valley Forge, signed the Declaration of Independence, fought in the battles of the American Revolution, served in the Continental Congress, or otherwise supported the cause of American Independence.” In June 1906, the organization was chartered by the United States Congress, with then-President Theodore Roosevelt (himself an SAR member) signing the charter (Act June 9, 1906, c. 3065, Sec. 6, 34 Stat. 228).

The SAR supports a series of historical, patriotic, and educational goals which include record preservation, research support, recognition of veterans, school essay contests, community information about the values of the Revolutionary period, and assistance in the location and evaluation of genealogical records. The national SAR Magazine publishes articles on historic events; the SAR Revolutionary War Graves Committee has published (1993) information on approximately 54,000 grave sites of patriots listed in the organization’s War Graves Register; and the Patriot Index Committee published a CD containing information on 732,000 patriots and their descendants. Information on membership and application procedures can be found on the SAR web site.

In support of your research regarding a possible Revolutionary War patriot, the SAR maintains a Genealogical Research Library, originally housed in Washington, D. C., but, since 1978, located in Louisville, Kentucky. Open to the public, the library’s collections include “family history books; records of states, counties, and cities that composed the original 13 colonies; Revolutionary War-period history books, biographies, pension applications, muster rolls, etc.; census records.” SAR Library computers provide free access to Ancestry.com, Footnote.com, and HeritageQuest.com, as well as access to the SAR Patriot Index. Special collections include the George Rogers Clark Collection (microfilm copies of original documents held by the Library of Virginia in Richmond, Virginia), and the Lafayette Papers (microfilmed correspondence, letter books, notebooks, memoirs, and family papers, etc., discovered at Lafayette’s home, Chateau La Grange). The library’s catalog is available for online searching. Staff, however, are not available for one-on-one genealogical research assistance nor can they respond to genealogical inquiries. If you are unable to travel to Louisville, you may request a record copy of the most recent membership application for a patriot. Membership application copies cost $10.00, and copies of documentation cost $1.00 per page with a $5.00 minimum. Keep in mind that documentation is unavailable for applications filed before 1978 (or approximately national membership number #11400).

Given the limitations imposed by travel from your home to Louisville and/or the cost and time involved in ordering record copies, Ancestry.com’s new database will be very convenient whether you access it through your personal subscription or through AncestryPlus at your local library.

The new database, whose full title is “U.S., Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications, 1889-1970,” includes applications for membership approved between 1889 and 31 December 1970. As the applications are arranged in “packets,” once you locate an appropriate application, you will need to scroll through its several pages using the arrows in the upper right-hand portion of the screen. Each application will include a pedigree extending from the applicant back to his patriot ancestor. Additional information includes a summary of the patriot’s service between 1774 and 1783 and may also contain “references to Revolutionary War pension files, baptismal records, marriage records, cemetery records, census records, family Bible records, deeds, court records, documented family and local histories, and copies of applications to other lineage societies.” Please note that copies of these digital images are not accepted by the SAR for application purposes. Instead, you will need to request a record copy as discussed above.

I searched the Ancestry.com database, for one of my Revolutionary ancestors, Oliver Lanfare (my family’s variant spelling of the surname) of Branford, Connecticut, whose wife was Phoebe Rogers. I located the application of Dow Roland Beebe (dated Bridgeport, Connecticut, 1909), descendant of Oliver Lanphier Jr. (wife Phoebe Rogers) of Branford, Connecticut. Beginning with the patriot Oliver and his wife Phoebe, Dow then listed Oliver Jr.’s son (Olivier Lanphiere III) and his wife Lois Willard; Oliver III’s daughter, Mary Ann Lanfare (married John Rogers Rowland); and finally, Mary Ann’s daughter, Mary Frances Rowland, who with her husband Dr. William Benjamin Beebe were  the parents of the applicant. My Lanfare/Lanphiere line descends through Lois Lanfare, a younger sister of the Mary Ann Lanfare listed above.

In the lineage, Mr. Beebe noted that Olivier Jr. was born in Branford Connection in 1749 and died there on 7 May 1812. In addition, he stated that Oliver Jr. served as a private in “Co. 2 of the “7th Regiment of Connecticut.” Further, he stated that this “regiment was raised by order of the Assembly at the July session in 1775. It was recruited from Fairfield, Litchfield and New Haven counties, and was stationed at various points along the Long Island Sound. In September 14th 1775, Gen. Washington made requisition for this regiment and it was ordered to the Boston Camps, where it was assigned to Gen. Sullivan’s Brigade at Winter Hill, at the left of the besieging line. Remained in this regiment until the close of service.” For sources, Mr. Beebe listed Connecticut Men of the Revolution, page 80, and the application papers of DAR members #70738 and #70741. Beebe’s application was accepted and assigned national number 20842 and state number 1858.

Although Beebe’s application is too old to have supplementary documents available, the information provided is sufficient to support further research. A search on Amazon for a book entitled Connecticut Men of the Revolution offered several similar titles all listing Revolutionary War records for men from Connecticut, all of which should be consulted as possible. Other resources to use in partnership with Beebe’s application are the application papers for the two DAR members provided in his documentation and any papers submitted on this patriot from 1909 to the present; Revolutionary War pension files and Treasury Department records of pension payments (although a quick check of Index of Revolutionary War Pension Applications in the National Archives (NGS, 1976) does not include Oliver under several variant spellings of the surname); and any applicable National Archives microfilm publications, including “Index to Compiled Service Records of Revolutionary War Soldiers Who Served with the American Army in Connecticut Military Organizations: (M920), “Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War” (M881, with roll 319 covering surnames L-Me), and the “Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783” (M246,with rolls 19-21 covering records of the 7th Connecticut Regiment, 1777-1780). Ancestry.com provides access to two databases, “U.S. Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783” and “U.S. Compiled Revolutionary War Military Service Records, 1775-1783,” which may simplify this search – and will certainly provide you with considerably more legible copies! Further information may be found among the 277 entries on the Revolution available at genealogical.com.

I hope you will take this opportunity to search for your patriot ancestors among the SAR membership application database on Ancestry.com. Your research will identify clues upon which you can base further research, whether you wish to complete a lineage application or simply seek to further your knowledge of the individual and his experiences.

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