5 Things to Know About The Sons of the American Revolution

Sons of the American Revolution, NSSAR

Sons of the American Revolution

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It’s OCTOBER and unofficially Family History Month! I’m back from maternity leave (putting another leaf on the family tree) and I’m ready to jump back into the ins and outs of genealogy and history.

Recently, I’ve gotten a lot of comments on my Daughters of the American Revolution and Mayflower Society blog posts, which got me thinking about other lineage societies. In particular, the ‘brother’ group to the Daughters of the American Revolution – the Sons of the American Revolution.  Another lineage society from the late 19th century, it parallels the Daughters of the American Revolution in many ways and is in fact, the older society of the two. But for me at least, I’ve heard more about the DAR than the SAR. So here are 5 things to know about the Sons of the American Revolution:

1) The Sons of the American Revolution began on April 30th, 1889 – 100 years after George Washington’s inauguration.

A lot of lineage societies got their starts due to the patriotic fervor that came around in 1876. Many Americans wanted to connect with their Revolutionary relatives and commemorate them. Out of this patriotic fervor came an interest in genealogy and lineages. Not to say that there weren’t lineage societies prior to this time, but the period after 1876 is when you start to see a lot of lineage societies pop up. (You see this again later – on a smaller scale – during the 1960s and 1970s).

The NSSAR (the society is officially known as the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution) has a more detailed explanation of their origins here, but the short version is this: In 1876,  a group called ‘Sons of Revolutionary Sires’ was started in San Francisco. This group spawned (pun intended) the Sons of the American Revolution, a more nationwide society. (The Sons of Revolutionary Sires later became the California chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution.) The National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution officially started nearly 13 years after the original group, organizing on the 100th anniversary of George Washington’s inauguration.

2) The National Society of Sons of the American Revolution (NSSAR) ‘s mission and goals cover three main areas: Patriotic, Historical, and Educational.

Much like the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR), the NSSAR has a mission and goals that cover three main areas. For them, it is:

  • Patriotic goals (such as preserving U.S. History and inspiring communities to the principles which the USA was founded on, as well as supporting veterans),
  • Historical goals (the NSSAR is active in preserving historical and genealogical documents leading up to and during the American Revolution, and was instrumental in getting the National Archives constructed, as well as growing the collections inside)
  • Educational goals (the NSSAR runs several contests and scholarships concerning American history, as well as helping people with their American genealogy).

3) The Sons of the American Revolution had about 37,000 members as of January 2018.

Despite the fact that NSSAR has been around for almost 130 years, the society itself is still quite small, given how many men could theoretically join. In comparison, the NSDAR is estimated to have about 185,000 members. Another interesting statistic to compare is the total membership of the NSSAR over the years (175,000 according to Wikipedia) versus the total membership of the NSDAR over the years (940,000+ according to Wikipedia).

While there is no specific reason that I have found as of yet for the disparity, it may be because of one (more) of a few reasons: (these are my hypotheses) the NSSAR may recruit less heavily than the NSDAR, there might be less male descendants than female descendants of patriots (I doubt this), or women tend to do genealogy more so than men and are more likely to take pride in a society celebrating that heritage (That’s just my observation from my own family). That said, the NSSAR still has chapters in all 50 states as well as 7 countries outside of the United States.

4) Looking for genealogy research on early American ancestors? The Sons of the American Revolution offer genealogical copy and research services to help you find and learn more about your ancestors.

While their counterpart, the Daughters of the American Revolution, is more renowned for their genealogy collection (and has a larger collection in general), the Sons of the American Revolution has a collection that is decent and extremely helpful for genealogists. Just like the NSDAR, they have the records of people who have joined in the past and their paperwork available for genealogical research. (If the records are for a living member of the NSSAR, the person inquiring must be a member of either the NSSAR, NSDAR, or NSCAR (National Society of the Children of the American Revolution) or be a prospective member being assisted in their membership application.)

If an individual wants someone at the SAR Genealogical Research Library (in Louisville, KY) to research one or more of their ancestors, they can. The cost of research is $30 and up depending on the amount of research needed and whether or not the individual is a member of the NSSAR or not. If you wish to see whether or not a relative is possibly a patriot or in their system, you can search the SAR Patriot Research System for free. As noted on the website, it is being updated regularly as new records are found and new members join the NSSAR. (Tip: Do a very broad search when searching for patriots – first and last name. More often than not, other information about the individual, such as spouse, birth and death deaths, state of service, or rank may not be in the system yet.)

5) Famous members of the Sons of the American Revolution include many US presidents, leaders, scholars and even a former King of Spain! 

Despite being a small group, there are quite a few famous members of the NSSAR, including 17 US presidents. (Technically there are 6 US presidents who are considered a patriot ancestor, 4 ‘modern day’ presidents who have patriot ancestors but are/were not members of the NSSAR, and 4 ‘modern day’ presidents who do not have patriot ancestors and thus are not eligible for membership. Other famous members of the NSSAR include a large number of congressmen (including John McCain), military leaders (Douglas MacArthur and John J. Pershing), scholars (Henry Louis Gates Jr), and even foreign leaders such as Winston Churchill and the former King of Spain, Juan Carlos I.

Questions? Comments?

Do you have questions or comments about the SAR? Other lineage or heritage societies? Are there other groups you would like me to showcase or talk about? Let me know in the comments! And if you like what you’ve been seeing here on Tenacious Genealogy – please subscribe to our email list. Not only will you stay up to date with the latest blog posts, but you’ll also get access to freebies such as ’10 Tips for Starting Your Genealogy’ and other fun ‘subscriber only’ items!

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