The DAR Library in Washington DC is one of the premier genealogical libraries in the world. Until recently, non-members had to pay an entrance fee of $10. However, the library is now free for all to use so if you are lucky enough to live nearby or be visiting our nation’s capital, be sure to visit the library.
For those of us who live too far away, the Daughters of the American Revolution has some limited free database indexes on line that can be accessed by the public.
First go to the DAR home page.
Next, look towards the top right hand side of the page and click on “Library.” I couldn’t screen capture the dropdown menu, but click “ONLINE RESEARCH” towards the bottom left side. The DAR Genealogical Research System page will open:
The Genealogical Research System contains several types of databases. The first choice is “Ancestor.” If you think you have an ancestor who gave service (they didn’t have to be a soldier – they could have given patriotic or civil service, too), enter his/her name and state.
I tried “Mathias Williams,” but got no hits. I then tried “Matthias Williams” and three different men came up, one from Virginia and two Matthias Williamsons from New Jersey. I also tried “Mat*hias Williams” and the same three men came up. If you aren’t sure of the spelling, wild card searches do work.
If your person doesn’t appear in the Ancestor index, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he/she didn’t support the American cause. It just means that no one has joined under that person.
The second choice is “Member.” The description points out that privacy of members is protected and, although it says searches can be done by national number, name and other fields, the only field choice here is national number. If you have a family member who is/was a DAR member AND you have her national number, enter it here. The page that opens up does NOT give the member’s name unless the member is deceased. Then the member’s name is given and the state in which she belonged along with a number code indicating the local chapter. There is also a list of any ancestors documented by that member. If the member is living, then only a list of documented ancestors appears. The “Member” database is really only useful if you want to be sure that your family member was a DAR member and know which ancestor/s have a proven descent to your family.
The third choice is “Descendants.” I find this to be the most difficult database index to use because one must know the name of a non-living direct descendant or the spouse’s name to make a connection to the Revolutionary War patriot.
HOWEVER, let’s say you suspect that you may have a Revolutionary War line, but you are stuck in the 1776-pre 1850 census gap. For example, I have come across the surname “Scripture,” which is fairly unique, while searching for my family in New England. One of the Scripture men I’ve seen in print is Oliver Scripture. Let’s say someone is a Scripture descendant and has proven her family back to Oliver. She is having difficulty proving his parents’ names because he was born in 1796 (according to his gravestone inscription) and married with a grown family by 1850, but she hasn’t been able to find a birth record.
I entered his name in the Descendants database and found that someone has joined DAR under Joses Bucknam, James Scripture and Samuel Scripture. It appears that Oliver Scripture married Mary Goddard Bucknam and that both Oliver and Mary are proven children of Revolutionary War patriots.
The next search box is for the GRC, which indexes the work of the DAR Genealogical Records Committee. Local DAR chapters from 1890 up through today transcribe and index unpublished local records, which many times include family Bible records.
Since Oliver Scripture isn’t a common name, I entered it in the GRC box. Two hits came up.
Unfortunately, GRC records haven’t yet been digitized and are only available at the DAR Library. However, at least I know that the NH Oliver Scripture may relate directly to Oliver born in 1796. The other man I would bet is part of the same Scripture family as they all seem to descend from Samuel Scripture in Massachusetts by about 1675.
Next is the “Resources” tab. There are four live tabs here – an Analytical Card Index, Revolutionary War Pension Index, the Forgotten Patriots Research Guide and Suggested Websites. A description is given for each tab; they are basically alternate ways of searching for some of the same information using the first four databases. Some of these tabs overlap with library catalog search features. However, if you are really at a brick wall and haven’t found your ancestor using the other databases, I would recommend continuing on with these before giving up.
Even if you are not interested in joining a hereditary society, but just find yourself in the black abyss of record keeping between the 1790 and 1850 censuses, I highly recommend giving the DAR online resources a try. You might just find another brick wall has been opened!