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The Society of Descendants of Militia Officers

serving from 1607 to 1861

Obligations of Membership

Members of the Society are expected to support the Society's mission and work.  Research does not stop when you submit an application for membership.  Our mission is to collect, preserve and analyze, and disseminate information about the service of the Militia as a historical component of colonial and national defense prior to 1861.  We encourage every member to undertake one or more of the components of the mission.

As an Internet based organization, we expect that our members read and respond to correspondence from the society, participate in the governance of the Society, and participate in our annual online meeting (the Annual Muster).  Being an involved member is critical to our growth and mission accomplishment.  

Membership

Membership is open to lineal or collateral descendants of officers of the militia as established under the laws and regulations of the colonies and states from 1607 to 1861. 

(1) In the context of our Society the Militia is a governmentally established military force defined as the general body of citizens subject to military duty limited in term of service or by area of service in response to specific call by the senior elected or appointed official of a state, province, or colony or by the President of the United States.  The Militia does not include members of permanent military units established for border protection or service nationally or for the duration of a conflict.  The Militia includes elite uniformed units which had an established local membership and met for training and social purposes on a regular basis, county units formed by draft of the eligible citizens, and detached units drafted from the Militia to serve for limited periods in wartime at the call of the President.     

(2) Type of descent:

(2.a.) Lineal descent may be in the male or female line, and may include by adoption, by nonmarital birth, or children of annulled marriages.

(2.b.) Collateral descendants must be from the brother or sister of a militia officer. 

(3) Officers are defined as non-commissioned officers of the rank of Lance Corporal, Corporal, and Sergeant, commissioned officers of the rank of Ensign, Cornet, or the most junior rank of Lieutenant, to the most senior general officer appointed by the Governor of the colony or state, and individuals who hold appointments with officer pay and status (including surgeons and chaplains). 

(4) Qualifying service:

(4.a.) Service in the militia, including both the militia consisting of all adult males (the general levy) and elite companies with regular established memberships.

(4.b.) Service in a war, declared or otherwise, or in a conflict commonly termed a war by participants at the time, is not required (although it is probably the best documented and easiest to demonstrate).  Service as an officer in a period of peace contributed to national security and is qualifying service (and may be the most difficult to demonstrate).

(4.c.) Service in a State Regiment or in a regiment of the United States Army or of the Colonial Line or a regiment of the British or other national army in Colonial America, while meritorious in its own right, does not count toward meeting the requirements of our Society.

(4.d.) Service in a Loyalist militia unit at the start of the American Revolution is qualifying service.  However, service in one of the many Loyalist volunteer units raised by the British Army is not qualifying service.

(4.e.)  Service in the militia of a Dutch, French, or Spanish colony or in the territory of Mexico subsequently incorporated within the borders of the United States is qualifying service.

(4.f.) Service in a unit formed from the Militia and detached from normal militia service to meet levies upon the States by the President during the War of 1812, or other wars, is qualifying service.

(5) Status of established and demonstrated lineages:

(5.a.) Accepted membership applications from individuals who are members of lineage societies for various wars prior to 1861 which require demonstrating a line of descent including an ancestor who served in the Militia of a Colony or State may be submitted as proof of required descent.  Such application must be accompanied by documentation of the individual's Militia service. 

(5.b.) Applications from individuals who are not already members of lineage societies that require demonstration of the line of descent require that the applicant document descent from the ancestor with qualifying service.

Associate Membership

Individuals who do not meet our hereditary membership requirements may apply for Associate Membership.  Associate Members have all of the rights and privileges of hereditary Members, with the single limitation that only hereditary Members may serve as Captain of the Society.

Requirements for Associate Membership:  The individual must have a substantial interest in the Militia in the period from 1607 to 1861 and:

(1) be a lineal or collateral descendant of a Private soldier who served in the Militia during the period 1607 to 1861 and whose service can be documented, or

(2) descend from an individual related to an officer of the Militia not eligible as a collateral ancestor, or

(3) have a substantial attachment to the Militia through: academic study and research and dissemination of knowledge; service in the National Guard, Naval Militia, or a State Defense Force; reenactment and interpretation of the Militia; curation of military collections; or similar interest, or

(4) be the spouse (not otherwise eligible) of a member of the Society.

Associate Members must willingly undertake the obligations of membership to include contributing to the Society's research and educational programs.

Demonstrating Descent

Demonstrating lineal or collateral descent from a qualifying ancestor (commonly called proving a line from a propositus) can be a challenging undertaking.  It is not our intent to create bars to membership through this process.  Our application asks the standard range of questions common to any hereditary society.   The following guidance may assist you in preparing evidence of descent or of the service of the Officer from whom you descend.

(1)  Physical documents may be used to demonstrate both service and descent.  These include:

(1.a.)  Original records, including birth, death, census, wills, pension application, military service, muster rolls, or other applicable documents.  Submit photocopies identifying the source of the document, record name or group or number, or other identifying information.  Do not submit original documents. 

(1.b.)  Gravestones or monuments.  These may be documented by photography, and photographs may be submitted as electronic files.  The date of the photograph and the location of the cemetery should be included.

(1.c.)  Published books or articles in scholarly publications or newspaper articles, obituaries, public notices, etc.  Submit a photocopy of the particular page used as reference along with book title page and page including publication date and place.     

(2)  Internet sources may be used to demonstrate both service and descent.  Internet sources must reference author, holder of documents, title of the document, URL sufficient to allow us to access them, date of publication or date of access.  We recommend that you print a copy of any document you plan to use in case the contents or URL have changed between the time of your research and the submission of your application.  Acceptable sources include:

(2.a.)  Original documents made available as photographic copies by established archives and libraries.

(2.b.)  Transcriptions of original documents that appear consistent with the original documents or documents of their type made available by either established archives or libraries or by websites that offer a significant collection of such documents drawn from identifiable and credible sources.

(2.c.)  Cemetery censuses, published by the cemetery concerned, by governmental agencies, or by volunteer organizations, that include pictures of gravestones or otherwise include names, dates of death, dates of birth, and inscriptions. 

(2.d.)  Secondary sources that are consistent with other primary and secondary materials and for which the site author either includes a detailed bibliography or notes, or indicates the process used to arrive at the information and the level of confidence that can be attached to it.

(2.e.)  Online books available as .pdf or similar documents and newspaper collections held by libraries or by the newspaper.

(3)  Family tradition and family genealogical writings may be highly reliable or may be completely false or anything in between.  Family sources may be used, but must be supported by other primary and/or secondary sources, that meet the criteria of paragraphs (1) or (2) above.  Users of family genealogical studies are cautioned that these may be confusing and poorly written, requiring considerable work to arrive at a low level of confidence in the resulting data.

(4)  A unique feature of our application is the statement of service of the Militia Officer from whom you descend.  This is not a proforma statement that Captain Michael Holt served in the North Carolina Militia in 1768 as demonstrated by a muster roll in the collection of the Museum of the Battle of Alamance (a hypothetical example).  Our application asks a series of questions because your ancestor's service is a legitimate part of our efforts to understand the Militia, its structure, its role as a military force, and the details of its service.  By completing this statement you contribute to our research efforts.

(5)  Our membership application asks that you evaluate your sources and provide your estimate of the confidence you have in the information submitted.  We also ask that you identify information that is missing and that either requires further research or may no longer exist.  Attempting to reconstruct ancestry and the events of those ancestors' lives is difficult and uncertain.  Absolute certainty is not required in submitting an application, and applicants are not expected to expend large sums of money or extensive time in attempting to locate information that does not make a significant contribution to the application. 

Notes:

Our Society does not use the term "propositus."  Our ancestors were Officers, holders of commissions issued by governmental authority, and often chosen by vote of confidence of their fellow citizens.  Whether or not they served in war, they stood ready to lead their friends and neighbors into battle and to risk their lives to defend their colony or state and country in an emergency.  They deserve the respect of being known collectively as Officers or individually by their military rank. 

Our Society does not use the term "prove" or "proven" in relation to lineal or collateral descent.  Absent DNA testing of remains it is impossible to establish with absolute certainty, in other words to prove, the link of a child to both parents.  The common law assumption is that children from a  marriage are in fact the children of both partners; we accept this as true, even though it may not be the case.  We believe that "demonstrating" is a more accurate term for something that we cannot actually establish with certainty.

Our Society accepts demonstration of a lineal or collateral line by adoption or nonmaital birth.  Adoption during the periods of Colonial wars was not a rare event, and provided orphaned children protection in a society that lacked established social services.  As a legal status, it transfers filiation to the new parents of the adopted child, creating a legal relationship that recognizes the adopted child as a full member of the new family.  Nonmarital births acknowledged as such by the fathers clearly establish a  relationship between child and parent, were not uncommon, and did not necessarily exclude the child from society.   If these two forms of family relationships were acceptable to our ancestors, they should be acceptable to us.  Births in marriage that is annulled represent a more difficult problem, but we are guided by current legal thought that accepts such births as legitimate.

We do not require certification of copies of original documents, photographs of gravestones, etc.  If you are inventive enough and desperate enough to join our organization that you are willing to manufacture a fake cemetery monument and photograph it or forge legal documents, please don't bother - let us know that you do not qualify by lineage but need to join, and we will be happy to have you as an associate member.

Membership Fees

The Society of Descendants of Militia Officers is an all volunteer organization.  No member is paid a salary for their service as an officer of the Society.  All expenditures of monies collected are approved by the membership and are to achieve our educational purposes.

New members pay an initial application fee of $20.00.  This fee is used to meet the costs of establishing a member file, preparing and mailing the membership certificate, and the costs of seals and other office equipment required to process memberships.

All members pay an annual membership fee of $25.00.  Membership fees are used for the administration of the Society, the provision of services to its members, and for specific educational projects.  Annual memberships expire in the anniversary month of joining as indicated by the membership number.

Supplemental ancestors may be added at a fee of $20.00 for the first individual and $10.00 for each additional ancestor submitted at the same time.  Supplemental ancestors may be submitted at the same time as the initial application at a fee of $10.00 for each individual.. 

We issue two certificates of membership.  The first is a membership certificate in the style and format of a commission for an officer of the militia at the time of the Revolutionary War, with wording suitably altered for membership in the Society.  The second is a roll of qualifying ancestors in a format similar to that of a muster roll of the period of the War of 1812. 

All fees are invoiced by PayPal upon acceptance of the initial or supplemental membership.