The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) was founded in 1890. Today this women’s lineage organization has about 168,000 members. Any woman 18 or older who can prove a lineal bloodline descent from a patriot of the American Revolution is eligible for membership. The DAR promotes patriotism, preservation of American history, and education. As a sideline of those goals, the DAR also collects and makes available a lot of genealogy information.
In order to "prove a lineal bloodline descent from a patriot of the American Revolution," members must study their family trees closely, find a patriot, and then submit carefully documented proof of that descent. As such, many of the newer membership applications contained the highest-quality genealogy research you can find.
NOTE: In years past, the qualifying standards of the DAR were not as strict as they are today. Scholarship has improved over the years, and now all submitted documentation is analyzed carefully. Even if your mother or grandmother was accepted as a member based on their ancestry, you cannot join today by simply resubmitting lineage information from their membership applications. You must do your own research and conform to higher academic standards than they did.
The DAR Library in Washington, D.C. is one of the largest genealogical centers in the United States. Founded in 1896, this library now contains 170,000 volumes, 300,000 files, 65,000 microforms, and manuscript collections, as well as other important historical and genealogical materials. In an article on the DAR web site, Library Director Eric Grundset wrote:
"Generally, DAR collections compliment and partially duplicate those of the Library of Congress and the National Archives. Although much smaller than these massive institutions, so much unique material resides at DAR that researchers frequently comment that they have found genealogical gold they could not find anywhere else. The holdings themselves, which do not circulate, coupled with open bookstacks in the Library, quick processing of new materials for use, and major in-house finding aids, draw researchers from across the nation every day. American Genealogical Research at the DAR presents the DAR's research materials, gathered for over a century, to American genealogists with the hope that more will visit and find what they could not find elsewhere."
The DAR collections are not limited to famous individuals, supposedly "blue-blood" families, or those with colonial English ancestry. While a high percentage of the Revolutionary soldiers, sailors, and marines had English ancestry, their descendants have married into every ethnic group. The DAR collects lineage information for all ethnic groups in order to assist would-be members with their applications. Indeed, not all members of the DAR live in the United States since families have emigrated over the years. Women who can document descent from any Revolutionary War patriot are accepted as members of the Daughters of the American Revolution, regardless of location or ethnicity. Today’s DAR members live in Canada, England, Australia, Singapore, Mexico, and even mainland China. In many cases, the descendants of Revolutionary War patriots emigrated and then raised families outside the U.S.
Luckily, the same information is available to the general public, whether applying for membership or not. Men may visit the DAR library and access all the information there, as can women who are not applying for membership in the organization. All visitors are welcome.
A book published by the DAR, African American and American Indian Patriots of the Revolutionary War (2001), lists some 3,000 individuals for whom proof of Revolutionary War service has been found and provides introductory historical information on their roles in the struggle for independence, organized by state. The DAR Library also has two special collections on African American and American Indian history and genealogy.
1776 and the years immediately after are obviously the focus of the organization. However, in order to properly serve members, the library continues to obtain as much genealogy information as possible, including whatever information becomes available for the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Probably 99% of the information available at the DAR Library in Washington, D.C. has not been computerized and is not available online. Indeed, some of the information found in that library is not available anyplace else. Among the most important materials in the DAR Library are approximately 17,000 volumes of typescripts collectively titled the Genealogical Records Committee Reports. This committee begins at the chapter and state levels. Its purpose since 1913 has been to encourage DAR members to transcribe such historically and genealogically important sources as cemetery, Bible, church, military, county, town, and family records. Only the DAR Library has the entire national set of these typescripts.
The library’s File Collection contains an estimated 300,000 file folders. The bulk of the material in this important segment of the library consists of the documentation sent to support DAR membership application papers. The files contain much genealogy information that is difficult or impossible to find elsewhere. The files of later years will contain source citations as to where the original information was found. However, files of earlier years were not as well documented.
A personal visit is necessary in order to examine the millions of available records. The library is housed in the DAR’s national headquarters complex, which covers an entire city block just southwest of the White House. The library’s catalog is available online at www.dar.org. With a bit of preparation before leaving home, the visiting researcher can save a lot of time by arriving at the library with a planned agenda and a printed list of items to be examined.
The library of the Daughters of the American Revolution is one of the greatest resources for American historical and genealogical researchers. A visit there may uncover information not available elsewhere.
For more information about the Daughters of the American Revolution and its excellent genealogy library, visit http://www.dar.org. The online library catalog may be found at http://www.dar.org/library/onlinlib.cfm.