Tuesday, January 18, 2011


I’ve dabbled with some of the heritage clubs, mostly in an effort to build up an offspring’s grad school applications.  Growing up when we did, such clubs as DAR and others were known only by the awards they presented to a few of us at the end of each year. 

In my house those clubs were mostly thought of as society ladies or climbers and given little thought.  However, I discovered that although they are those things, many of them are also serious genealogists and depend on others developing the interest in their own heritage to ensure the survival of the clubs and the history.  Most of them are very nice people with a sincere interest in preserving American history.

The lineage proofs can be difficult and must meet a legal standard.  Many of the early proofs developed in the 1900s tended to be fanciful and are no longer accepted as legitimate references…suggesting that our impressions of the early DAR ladies as social climbers might have been partially correct.

A few years ago I challenged a Manhattan heritage group to recognize the service of my Arkansas grandpappy.  After about 2-years of gentle, nudging they agreed to do so.  It wasn’t so much that they didn’t want to do it, it was more that they hadn’t done very often before and had apparently lost the knowledge of how to go about it.  Be that as it may, they got it done at a lovely venue in mid-town, across from 30-Rock.

The society was clearly a social club where the original mission had given way to more of an old-style pecking order exercise.  Seeing actual veterans like me and my grandpappy was atypical for them.  Nevertheless, they did a magnificent job and never once made me feel unwelcome.

When the club president discovered that we were also Jamestowne Society members, she was openly and unabashedly impressed.  She had been trying for years to make her own connections to that group.  It’s kind of like the Mayflower Society, only for southerners. 

Most of the heritage clubs I’ve encountered are based on some form of military service of an early ancestor…a great grandpappy way back up the line somewhere.  A veteran would understand better than most that serving in a war is mostly a matter of being born within a fairly narrow range of years and being drug into it as a result of arguments between some old guys.

Bill Mauldin understood the facts of these matters and illustrated them as succinctly as anyone I’ve seen.  I forwarded Mauldin’s cartoons to the society president a few months after the ceremony…she got a kick out of it.

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