Sons of the American Revolution: My First Meeting
I had been invited to attend a meeting of the Sons of the American Revolution a couple of weeks ago by the current president. I had called him to inquire how best to proceed with "proving out" my lineage and set the stage to make my children members of the SAR and DAR. I was to attend the meeting then meet with the club genealogist afterwards to learn a few tips on the search. I was told to come early and eat at the restaurant prior to the meeting, so I did just that. The restaurant was one out of the past where a nicely filled buffet awaited your choices, walking along and choosing what your desire of the day was. Is your desire fried chicken? It is here. How about roast beef? A mountain of roast beef, drippings oozing down the side awaited a razor sharp knife. Personally I was in the mood for a chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes with cream gravy across the top of both, with a side of green beans with bacon. Top that off with a sweet tea and I was set.
I arrived in the room set aside for the meeting and was immediately met by a kindly man whose name now escapes me. To tell the truth, I do not recall many names from the meeting for there were far too many to try to set in my mind. Everyone was quite cordial and polite in their inquiries as to who I was and then welcoming me to my first meeting. As I seated myself I was made welcome once more by a gentleman seated behind me who was attending his first meeting as well. And while I was a newby to this arena he was anything but. In fact, he was a professional genealogist by trade and made me aware that he would be happy to help me in my search. I quickly thanked him and tucked away his card for the immediate future (I have already contacted him).
More people entered and seated themselves and soon it was time for the meeting. We all stood and stated the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. This is always a good feeling for me as I never just say the words; rather I think on each and every word, and what they mean to me. I always finish with a warm glow in my chest.
Then it was time for a new pledge, one I had never partaken in. As I read the words and uttered them, another feeling came over me. A feeling that somehow connected me to the time almost 250 years ago when our nation was but a fledgling, struggling to survive and not yet prosperous by any means.
"We descendants of the heroes of the American Revolution who, by their sacrifices, established the United States of America, reaffirm our faith in the principles of liberty and our Constitutional Republic, and solemnly pledge ourselves to defend them against any foe."
Read those words once more; think on them. They are as powerful to me now as those of the Pledge of Allegiance for they bind me to a past I was unaware of a short time ago. A time gone but not forgotten, and one that will carry forth in my children if I am able to successfully prove my history.
I hope you took a few moments to watch the video above of Red Skelton reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. If not, please go back and view it. I'll wait.
What did you think as you watched and listened to that wonderful explanation of the Pledge? Did your heart swell with pride? If not, why? How can one not be moved to the point of tears listening to that portrayal of these words? Please understand now that while speaking the pledge to the SAR I felt the same pride, the same incredible glow I feel when reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. I was incredibly humbled to be there, speaking those words. The feeling that went along with the simple words far exceeded the few letters contained on the small card that was handed to me as I entered.
To a degree I felt like an outsider; one who did not belong. In part because I have not yet proven my ancestry and made the connection but also due to who I was seated with. Each and every one of the gentlemen participating on this day were former comrades in arms in one form or another. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, possibly even Coast Guard; veterans one and all as far as I could determine. I was proud to be a part of this assemblage, yet did not feel I had earned my way here.
The genealogist for the chapter is a retired full bird Colonel who served our country for many years. For the past thirty years he has overseen the new "recruits" into the chapter and is said to have an exemplary record of making sure every "t" is crossed and every "i" is dotted. Rare indeed is the submission returned to him for correction or verification.
He sat with me afterwards and laid out the direction I need to follow in order to join the chapter. It is in depth indeed, as every generation requires a combination of birth, death, marriage records along with census, pension, service, and even wills and land warrant records. It may seem easy to gain some of these for one's self and parent, but try getting back a bit further, back into the mid 1800's and beyond. The search can become trying to the point of becoming obsessive.
But the search can lead to other, unsuspected information. Such as one record I came across while searching that lists every single man in the 6th Regiment under the control of my (hoped for) ancestor. I am able to see their name, their pay, what they did for each month of service in the 1770's while creating and defending our new country. A nugget of information here: what do you think a Colonel in the Revolutionary Army was paid? Ready? $50.00 per month initially before he received a raise to $75.00 per month. In addition he received $50.00 per month for food. So $125.00 per month to serve our nation that was not yet a nation.
I also dug a bit deeper on one line and came up with a copy of a record book detailing marriages. A set of my ancestors were married in 1604 and after printing off a copy I was able to hold in my hand that information. Something that took place over 400 years ago is legible and available to me today. That is amazing to my simple mind.
But back to my search: I have my birth certificate and can lay my hands on one for my father. From there, I can get copies of census records detailing the years from his father back to the mid 1800's. Then I have the Colonel in the Revolution, his son and grandson. These are rock solid facts. But the middle...
The middle. This is where I am running into difficulty. I know that each name is tied to the other but providing documentation is proving to be difficult. Every site I have gone to alludes to the lineage but having that hard and fast proof is a bit more than I can find as of yet. If I run into the brick wall I do have other names to pursue but I really want this one to prove out. In part for my children but also for my father and his brothers. You see, their family history has always been difficult to follow and if this was to be true and verifiable it just might bring a smile to their faces.
As I have entered into these waters, striving to learn more about my history I have also started reading a book I have enjoyed before. Titled "Legacy" it was authored by one of my favorite authors James A. Michener. It is perhaps the shortest book of his I have read but the content is powerful. Set in the 1980's and the Iran/Contra debacle involving Oliver North it details a fictitious person who is also being investigated. This person was involved with the Contra aspect but always was under orders. As he is preparing to defend his honor we are introduced to his ancestors, those brave unselfish men who came before him. One who assisted in the creation of our country; one who worked behind the scenes to create our Government; and others, a total of seven generations of greatness leading to the (then) current generation on trial. It is a spellbinding read, one worthy of your time to peruse it. And perhaps to remind us of where we came from and what we should be thinking about in today's world.
After the meeting was completed and the gentlemen were making their way out of the room, I thought to myself how amazing it felt to possibly become a part of such an august group of individuals who represent our nation's founding moments. I have always enjoyed history and in particular our nation's history. From the dawning moments of America to the attempt to find a water route across the continent to the mountain men to the Civil War, each and every time period has intrigued me. And now, with this group I might be able to do more than simply explore, read, research a period as important as this, but I could actually belong. I, my wife, my children; then theirs and their grandchildren and so on down the line.