03 May 2014

Archibald LINDSEY, DAR, and the American Revolution

Third, in a series of posts on a recent ‘cousin’ connection and my research journey to  discover, follow, and document my LINDSEY ancestors. 

In the Absence of Documents I noted my concern, reference lack of tangible documentation.  And, in my post, Puzzle Pieces, I outline my research plan and strategy.  Today’s post is about how my journey is progressing.

Archibald, my 4th Great Grandfather, is buried in the Maxon-LINDSEY cemetery, Attica, New York. (1) and he was purported to have participated in the American Revolution. (2)  Using that clue, I searched Google . . .

One specific online source stood out, The New Horizons Genealogy submitted by Lynn Tooley.  The reason?  At the top of the webpage is the following sentence. . .

“Graves of the soldiers of the American Revolution buried in Wyoming County, New York whose graves have been officially reported, located or marked by the Daughters of the American Revolution.”

That highlighted word – officially – is what specifically stood out to me.  I have heard many a comment or story throughout my life of the prestigious organization known as the Daughters of the American Revolution or DAR for short.  I had heard too, that it had very strict membership guidelines.  So, surely, if the DAR officially reported, located or marked the grave of my ancestor, Archibald LINDSEY, than his Patriot status – “services in the assisting of the establishment of American Independence” - during the War of Revolution was documented.  Right? 

Not so fast.  On 3 April 2014, I posted a query on the Daughters of the American Revolution FaceBook page; I specifically asked, whether I was correct in assuming that, based on that quoted paragraph at the top of the New Horizons webpage, that my ancestor, Archibald LINDSEY’s service during the Revolutionary War had been carefully examined and confirmed?  The reply I received is quoted below . . .

“Many states have similar books.  These books were not vetted by headquarters and many of the graves listed probably have not been officially marked.  The office of the Historian General maintains a database of officially marked graves and would have some documentation for them.”

Note to Self:  Need to see if the DAR Historian General has any documentation on Archibald and whether his grave was officially Reported, located or marked.

A short time later, this comment was posted by the same person . . .

“By the way, your ancestor is in the DAR Genealogical Research System database available on the public website.  You can always order an unrestricted copy of the documentation on file or a copy of one of the previously verified applications.”

I took a look at the DAR Genealogical Research System (GRS) database online and, as the poster indicated, there were three previously approved applications available.  I could request copies, for a fee, and receive them immediately in PDF format via email.  Awesome! 

On my first review of the applications I was pleased.  They each provided lineage from the applicant back to the Patriot ancestor; names, dates of birth, marriage dates, dates of death, and maiden names.  Both the 1953 and 2006 applications included a form titled “References for Lineage.”  The paragraph at the top of the forms read . . .

“(proofs for line of descent are wills, administrations, deeds, church, Bible, census and pension records, tombstones, histories, genealogies, old newspapers, etc.)”

“Give below a reference to the authority for EACH statement of Birth, Marriage or Death.  If from published records, give names of books and page numbers.  If from unpublished records, applicant must file duplicate certified or attested copies of the same.”

Okay, that is encouraging, as that is my goal; to verify in as much as humanly possible, with definitive source documents, that this is my ancestor.  It is also my goal to avoid as much as humanly possible the pitfalls of accepting ‘as fact’ oral histories and un-sourced or undocumented genealogies.

The lineage information on the three approved applications provided names, births, marriages, and deaths to familiar LINDSEY descendants.  The descendants were familiar because my ‘cousin’ and I had discussed them.  Using the information provided on Archibald LINDSEY’s sons, I was hopeful that I’d find supporting documents.  But, what I was finding on ancestry.com and familysearch.org was the same over and over again.  The family researchers seemed to have relied on the same information again and again - “The Lindsays of America,” a compiled genealogy of all LINDSAY / LINDSEY families; “The Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors, Volume 9,” County History and Biographical data and oral history.  And, stopped there.  There were no supporting documents.  No birth / baptism records; no marriage records; no death records; nor military pension file / widows pension file; no Bibles; wills; deeds;   Nothing.

So, it was back to the approved DAR applications.  The Reference for Lineage Form attached to both the 1953 and 2006 approved applications clearly stated that documentation in some form was required.  Below is a listing of the documentation supplied by the applicants. . .

1953 Approved Application:

  • Marriage Record – 2nd Generation (Eckert / Salby)
  • Census Record(s) – 2nd Generation (Eckert / Salby)
  • Family Records – 2nd  & 3rd Generations (Eckert / Salby & Eckert / LINDSEY)
  • Personal letter, dated 1821  - 3rd Generation (Eckert / LINDSEY)
  • War of 1812 Records – 3rd Generation (Eckert / LINDSEY)
  • The book, “The Lindsays of America” by Margaret Isabella Lindsay, Page 141 – 4th Generation (LINDSEY / Moor)
  • Tombstone, Maxon-LINDSEY Cemetery, Attica New York – 4th Generation (LINDSEY / Moor)
  • The Lindsay Association of America, pages 44 & 45; 70 – 5th and 6th Generations (LINDSEY)
  • Bounty Land File 55 – 120 W10726 on Benjamin LINDSEY in 1850 – 6th Generation (LINDSEY)

2006 Approved Application:

  • Birth Certificate (Applicant) – 1st Generation (Applicant)
  • Spouse’s Birth Certificate – 1st Generation (Applicant)
  • Marriage Certificate (Applicant) – 1st Generation (Applicant)
  • Applicant’s statement (made in reference to sources for generation 7) – 1st Generation
  • Birth Certificate – 2nd Generation (Applicant’s Parents)
  • Marriage Certificate – 2nd Generation (Applicant’s Parents)
  • Death Certificate – 3rd Generation (Wicks / Hammond)
  • Spouse’s Death Certificate – 3rd Generation (Wicks / Hammond)
  • Obituary – 4th Generation (Hammond / Walbridge)
  • Civil War Pension – 4th Generation (Hammond)
  • Death Certificate – 4th Generation (Walbridge)
  • “Probate Record, Wyoming County Probate Records 1841 – 1900,” by W. David Samuelson, page 364 – 5th Generation (Walbridge / LINDSEY)
  • 1850 Census – 5th Generation (Walbridge / LINDSEY)
  • Biographical Review of Livingston and Wyoming Counties, pages 649 – 650, by Boston Publishing – 5th Generation (Waldbridge / LINDSEY)
  • “The Lindsays in America,” by Margaret Isabella Lindsay, Pages 401 – 402 – 6th Generation (LINDSEY / Loop)
  • Biographical Review of Livingston and Wyoming Counties, 1895 – 6th Generation (LINDSEY / Loop)
  • Estate Record, 23 July 1875 – 6th Generation (LINDSEY / Loop)
  • History of Wyoming County, NY, pages 144, 149 – 6th Generation (LINDSEY / Loop)
  • Historical Wyoming, Volume 4, No. 4, March 1951 – 6th Generation (LINDSEY / Loop)
  • Maxon-LINDSEY Cemetery – 6th Generation (LINDSEY / Loop)
  • 1820 Warren County, New York Census
  • 1953 Approved DAR Application – 6th Generation (LINDSEY / Loop)

2012 Approved Short-Form Application

  • Birth Certificate – 1st Generation (Applicant)
  • Marriage Certificates (first & 2nd Marriages) – 1st Generation (Applicant)
  • Divorce Decree – 1st Generation (Applicant)
  • Birth Certificate – 2nd Generation (Applicant’s Parents – living)
  • Marriage Certificate – 2nd Generation (Applicant’s Parents – living)
  • Birth Certificates – 3rd Generation (Applican’ts Grandparents – living)
  • Marriage Certificate – 3rd Generation (Applicant’s Grandparents – living)
  • DAR Approved 1953 Application 3rd Generation (Applicant’s Aunt)
  • Death Certificates – 4th Generation (Wicks / Hammond)
  • Marriage Certificate – 4th Generation (Wicks / Hammond)
  • “New York Postal History,” Kay and Smith, Page 131

Revolutionary Ancestor

  • “Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the War of the Revolution,”  Volume 9, page 827 (1953, 2006 and 2012 Approved Applications)
  • New England History and Genealogy Register
  • “Historical Data Relating to Counties, Cities and Towns in Massachusetts, 1997,” pages 9, 55, and 107 (2012 DAR Approved Application)
  • “New York Postal History 1775 - 1980,” Kay and Smith, pages 13 and 130 (2012 DAR Approved Application

A lot of source information right?  Yes and no.  Yes, there was a lot of source information on the more recent generations; generations one through three.  But, beyond that, the information provided seems to be information that is found in oral, County, Postal histories and compiled genealogies.  A wealth of information but a dearth of source documents.  At least that has been my LINDSEY research experience to date.

On the Daughters of the American Revolution website, under the “How do I Join?” Section we are told . . .

“Any woman 18 years or older who can prove lineal, bloodline descent from an ancestor who aided in achieving American independence is eligible to join the DAR.  She must provide documentation for each statement of birth, marriage, and death, as well as of the Revolutionary War service of her Patriot ancestor.”

Yet, I wasn’t finding that documentation.  I have been looking via Google Books at the County Histories, at “The Lindsays in America” book – you may recall from the previous two posts that I immediately purchased it online at Amazon.com because I was sure, sure that the author must have had source citations for where the information on my LINDSEYs came from – and I also took a look online at the Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors, Volume 9.  Each of these sources did indeed provide the exact information, verbatim, that was noted online at ancestry.com on the member trees and in the pages of the DAR Approved Applications.  But, yet again, no source citations that I could find.  Grrr!  This is frustrating.

So, I went back to my favorite resource, the social network, specifically, the DAR FaceBook page and started a discussion.  Below is my initial post . . .

Me:  I am learning about my Revolutionary War ancestor and those descendants that applied and were accepted into DAR membership.  I have found those descendant’s accepted applications at your online GRS site and have received PDF copies. 

I am curious to understand and learn what the review and verification process was over the years and what it now is, in light of the advent of  21st century technology and the plethora of documentation that is now online.

I’ve seen that the membership application process included the applicant providing birth, marriage, divorce (if applicable) and death documents.  What was required in the way of proof documents of the Revolutionary’s service?

What follows are some revealing posts from that discussion. . .

Poster 1: I think way, way back the verification process consisted of you saying, “this is my Grandfather.” 

Poster 2: As for how the applications are approved, the Registrar (then the “genie” at NSDAR) will look at the lineage form, and check the form against the proofs, usually from the bottom up.  They’ll go up as far as they can verifying each proof provided.  When they can’t find something to match the form, they’ll stop and go from the top down, as far as they can.  Hopefully the proofs will match up with the lineage form, and then it is approved.  Helpful Hint:  The application where the genie doesn’t have to get up from his / her desk and go looking for the source will be approved SO much faster then the ones where a lot of leg work is needed.  Happy Hunting!

Poster 3: Back in the day your word was all that was needed.

Poster 4: If you have an application that was approved in 2012, you need not worry about proving Revolutionary War service, nor any of the accepted lineage for any generations you have in common with the applicant.  That is certainly recent enough.

Do you remember when you learned Santa Claus wasn’t real?  Yeah, that is pretty much how I felt after reading these comments.

Hmmm . . . WARNING, what follows are my immediate thoughts as I was reading those comments . . .

“Way back when, you just had to say this is your grandfather” 

Really?  I understand that in bygone days ‘your word was your bond,’ however, human nature being what it is and has been since time immemorial, what prevented someone from picking a revolutionary out of a hat, so to speak, and claiming them as their own?  We see that kind of thing today – someone finds a similar name on ancestral trees that are online; they click, attach and viola, it’s their ancestor now.

While I understand that the onus of responsibility is on an applicant to provide documentation ‘proving’ lineal bloodline descent and the revolutionary’s service, I am now left wondering why DAR employs professional genealogists IF the DAR is really only looking for the ‘path of least effort’ as implied in the poster’s comment . . .

“The application where the genie doesn’t have to get up from his / her desk and go looking for the source will be approved SO much faster then the ones where a lot of leg work is needed.”

Again, does that mean I could now go online, pick a revolutionary, do a little research at ancestry.com, familysearch.org, fold3.com or any number of other online websites, cull documentation from these resources, attach them to an application and wait for the approval and induction into the DAR?  I’d like to think due diligence is given to the process and that provided documentation is scrutinized, however, I am not sure that, that effort and, attention to detail wouldn’t require leg work.

I believe that one of the reasons that the DAR organization has been viewed by many as prestigious is because of its lofty standard of “linear proof of bloodline descent from an ancestor who participated in the American Revolution.”  For many women in the U.S., membership in the DAR, is a rite of passage and a badge of distinction; they ARE a direct descendant of a Revolutionary War hero who banned together with others, fought for and achieved independence.

Yet, what I have and I imagine many, many others have as well, is nothing more than oral history heard down through the ages and documented in county histories and biographical data as fact, even though no source citations (generally) are provided.  That is not to say that it is inaccurate or false, but it does, at least, fall short of the lofty standard of ‘proof.’

Don’t misunderstand, I think that the DAR is a wonderful organization, they’ve set the bar high, and it and its members have achieved great things over the years; and what I most appreciate about them is their support of, and kindness and compassion toward our military men and women.  However, I am mourning the ‘death,’ if you will, of my notion that if a family member was a member of DAR then the ‘proof’ documents were there and beyond reproach. 

There is nothing wrong with . . .

- oral histories
- compiled genealogies
- biographical data
- family Bibles
- Tombstones

But they most oft are secondary sources; while these sources often have snippets / nuggets of truth, they can be rife with error.  Oral histories either are often embellished over the years or they suffer from omissions of key facts and events.  Compiled genealogies and biographical data have the same inherent problems.  Family Bibles?  It depends when the family data was added; at the time of the event or a very short period after?  Or, weeks, months, years later?  Was the information added by a family member who took part in or witnessed the event?  Or, was it added by a descendant, based on the oral history they’d been given?  Tombstone?  Was it engraved and erected shortly after the family member’s death?  Or, was it engraved and erected in honor of the deceased by a descendant?  When?

So, I am left with secondary information.  However one recommendation from the folks on the DAR FaceBook page was that I contact DAR to see if I can obtain a copy of the complete applicant file(s), perhaps it will contain more definitive source information.  I most definitely will be being doing that.  Additionally, as I was again reviewing the approved DAR applications during the writing of this post, I noticed some key clues that I had overlooked – even though I had read through them twice before and had even transcribed each of them - goes to show how important it is to take a break from the records for a short time and then come back and take a look again.  What did I miss?

  • War of 1812 Records
  • Tombstone, Maxon-LINDSEY Cemetery, Attica New York
  • Bounty Land File 55 – 120 W10726 on Benjamin LINDSEY in 1850
  • “Probate Record, Wyoming County Probate Records 1841 – 1900,” by W David Samuelson, page 364
  • Estate Record, 23 July 1875
  • New England History and Genealogy Register
  • “Historical Data Relating to Counties, Cities and Towns in Massachusetts, 1997,” pages 9, 55, and 107

So, while I wait for copies of the complete applicant files from DAR, I will be working on seeing what information can be found from the source clues above; look there, some sources may turn out to be the elusive primary sources I’ve been looking for – War of 1812 Records, Bounty Land Files, Probate and Estate Records.  Wish me happy hunting!

Suggestions, advice, recommendations are all welcome and much appreciated.  If you have or have had similar experiences I would love to hear your story.  

_________________________________________

Sources:

(1) Information shared by Lindsey ‘cousin;’ “The Lindsays of America” by Margaret Isabella Lindsay, page 141; New Horizons Genealogy submitted by Lynn Tooley

(2) Information shared by Lindsey cousin; Find-a-Grave Memorial #41560310; Biographical Sketches of the Leading Citizens of Livingston and Wyoming Counties, New York; Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors, Volume 9

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