[This blog post comes from Gwen Thomas Mays, our Organization Records Archivist]
The organization records at the State Archives of North Carolina include collections from various clubs, committees, sororities, fraternities and lodges, patriotic societies, lineage societies, professional associations, veterans associations, and special interest groups. Of these, the patriotic and lineage societies often contain records that can give the researcher hints about their ancestors, and the same can be said of some of the veterans associations as well. These groups include the North Carolina Department of the American Legion, the North Carolina Society of the Daughters of the Revolution of 1776, the North Carolina Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the Society of Colonial Wars in the State of North Carolina, and the Sons of the Revolution in the State of North Carolina, Inc., just to name a few. These records can not be used as proof of military service, but can point the researcher towards the appropriate place to obtain that proof.
When the American Legion was founded in 1919, a person had to be a veteran of the World War to become a member. After World War II broke out, it was decided that the organization should also include veterans from this war. The records at the State Archives cover the years 1920 to 1945, and include lists of veterans from each of the counties in North Carolina. The organization American War Mothers includes applications for membership that list World War I and World War II service of the children of the applicants. And the collection for Veterans of World War I includes lists of veterans from that war.
For the Civil War, the State Archives has original records from the Winnie Davis Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the James Johnston Pettigrew Chapter, and the James B. Gordon Chapter, which all contain applications for membership that include the lineage of the applicant showing descent from a Confederate veteran. And on microfilm, there are records from the Bladen Stars and Starlets Chapter, the James Kenan Chapter, and the North Carolina Division of the UDC. In many cases, the applicant’s Civil War veteran was their father, making them literally Daughters of the Confederacy. The Winnie Davis Chapter and the North Carolina Division records also include applications for the Southern Cross of Honor, which were filled out and signed by the veteran himself.
Going back in time, the Revolutionary War is represented by the collections from Children of the American Revolution, the North Carolina Society of the Daughters of the Revolution of 1776, and the Sons of the Revolution in the State of North Carolina, Inc. For membership in both the Daughters and Sons of the Revolution, the applicant had to be a direct descendant of a veteran or statesman from the original 13 Colonies who unwaveringly worked for the cause of American independence from Great Britain. Some of these applications include supporting documents that substantiate the applicant’s claim.
And farther back, the Society of Colonial Wars is a patriotic society of male descendants of participants in Colonial wars. As any genealogist knows, it can be extremely difficult to trace the lineage of Colonial or post-Revolutionary War era females. Many times the applicant’s lineage outlined on their application for the societies mentioned above, traces through one or more females in their heritage giving often hard to come by maiden names. Some, but not all societies required birth, death, and marriage dates on their applications, which can also be nearly impossible to find for pre-1850 ancestors.
These collections are generally overlooked and may contain a clue to help break through a brick wall in the research process. As always, the search room staff at the State Archives will be happy to direct patrons to the finding aids for these and any other collections in our holdings.