Podcast Episode 88: Find your Patriot Ancestor at the SAR Library & Archives

Learn how to trace your Patriot ancestry with SAR resources. Explore library tips, research systems, and upcoming commemorations in this helpful guide.

Podcast Episode 88: Find your Patriot Ancestor at the SAR Library & Archives

Every July 4th, we think of the patriots who founded America. Perhaps you know you have a patriot ancestor and want to learn more about what life was like for him or her. Or maybe you're wondering if there's a patriot in your family tree at all. If so, this episode is for you.

Cheri Daniels tells us all about researching Revolutionary War Patriots at the Sons of the American Revolution Library in Louisville, Kentucky, where she is the Directory of the Library and Archives. The SAR has extensive resources and many of them free and online for genealogy research.

The SAR vs. DAR

A common misconception is that the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) and the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) operate in the same location, often presumed to be Washington D.C. Instead, the DAR is headquartered in Washington D.C., while the SAR is based in Louisville, Kentucky.

Top Tips for Tracing Your Patriot Ancestry

1. Utilize the Library’s Free Resources

The SAR Library offers numerous free resources accessible online. Cheri explains:

"We have a lot of free resources that people can go to if they visit library.sar.org. About a third of our titles are already connected to ebook editions that are free, anyone can access from home."

Search the library catalog and look for ebook extensions in the call numbers. Open up the record, scroll down to E-Resources, and you can find electronic copies available for research.

2. The Patriot Research System (PRS)

The SAR provides a free Patriot Research System (PRS) on their website. Sherri suggests:

"The PRS is basically a list of all the different patriots that they've discovered. It may not always be tied to membership but includes names found through various sources like gravestones, pension records, or obituaries."

If you find a patriot that could be your family member, you can see detailed information about that patriot and their descendants up to four generations, helping you determine potential connections to your family tree.

3. Review Records and Applications

You can review SAR applications from as early as the 1880s to 1972 on Ancestry.com. For applications beyond 1972, you may need to order a copy via the PRS. The DAR has a similar system called the Genealogical Research System (GRS), where you can also order record copies.

Collaboration Between SAR and DAR

Although the SAR and DAR started as a joint organization, they have since parted ways. They rarely collaborate on research and lineage projects but do work together on commemorations and events. Cheri highlights:

"There are always joint chapter activities during commemorations. The DAR ladies dress up alongside the SAR men during events like the Boston Tea Party reenactment."

Research Challenges and Standards

Both the SAR and DAR have applications dating back to the late 1800s. Standards for documentation have evolved, and sometimes older applications need re-evaluation. Cheri explains:

"Both organizations review old applications when new members try to join. They ensure documentation is up-to-date, sometimes leading to corrections or denials of past claims."

The fluid nature of genealogy means new discoveries could change previous conclusions, as noted on shows like "Finding Your Roots."

Planning for the 250th Anniversary of the American Revolution

With the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution approaching in 2026, there are ongoing discussions about commemorations. Cheri suggests:

"One of the best ways to celebrate is by joining DAR or SAR during the anniversary. Special commemorative items and activities will be available."

How to Reach Out

For those interested in delving deeper into their ancestry or accessing the library’s resources, Cheri can be reached through Genealogy Literacy and the SAR Library.

Stay connected through their Facebook page for updates on new resources and virtual programming.

Follow these tips to trace your patriot lineage, and perhaps you'll find a new branch of your family tree that connects you to the founding of America!


Every July 4 we think of the patriots who've founded America. Perhaps you know, you have a patriot ancestor and want to learn more about what life was like for him or her. Or maybe you're wondering if there's a patriot in your family tree at all. This episode is for you's Sherri welcome to the podcast. I'm thrilled that you could make it in time while you're doing your roots tech preparations. Thank you so much for having me in your role as the head of librarian, archives director of libraryan and archives at the SOS of the American Revolutionary Library. Revolutionary Sons of the American Revolution. We are. We're revolutionary out here. Sons of the American Revolution Library, which, as you said, people think it's always in Washington DC. But that's the daughters of the American Revolution. The sons of the American Revolution are in Louisville, Kentucky.

What, what tips or advice do you have for people that are trying to trace their patriot lines or, you know, just trying to understand how to use your resources? Do you have, you know, maybe like a top three, you know, tips, you know, things that you say often to people keep mind? Yes. So as you can see, this is basically the library behind me. It stretches almost an entire the width of a block. We're in downtown Wuville. We're in the heart of Museum row. In fact, our library is directly across the street from the Louisville Slugger Museum. So if anybody driving through town sees the ginormous bat that is up against that building, turn around. Our door is right across the street from that. So we're right downtown again. We are the national library here. This is not just the state or society library. This is the actual national one. And a few things to know about our library is that, yes, we do have a lot of free resources that people can go to if they go to library dot sar.org dot check out our catalog because about a third of our titles are already connected to ebook editions that are free. Anybody can access from home. So if you'ever seen an ebook extension at the end of the call numbers of our books, just open up the record and then scroll down to e resources and you can go directly to an electronic copy. One thing that's something you can research our library from home and get some things out of there. Then as far as trying to discover whether you got a patriot back there that you want to join either DAR or SAR, one of the biggest things I suggest to people is that think of both the DAR and the SAR is a giant pools of members who have joined under the lineage of patriots. And we're talking and patriots of women, men, African american, native american, all backgrounds, all walks of life, all types of service. And so it's not just a military soldier. Think about your ancestors that lived at that time.

The SAR has a free resource on their website, and it's the Patriot research system. And it is basically just a list of all the different patriots that they've discovered. It's not always tied to membership. Literally their goal, and it's still in the works. It's not fully finished yet, but their goal is to not only answer the names of the patriots that are tied to membership, but also any patriot that they find proof of. Even if it's something that just, they found a gravestone of a patriot, or they see something in a pension record or an obituary or something, they will plug that information in. If somebody finds their ancestor in there, they're welcome to submit biographical information. The great thing is if you find a patriot in there that you think might be your family, you can click on that and you can see that patriot, the descendancy from that patriot about four generations back, it's a transcription, it's not the actual application. And that's basically free information. You canually see their birth date, death date, where they were located. Same with those four generations going back. That's a line that you think you connect to. Then you could order a record copy. One things we were talking about before we got on here was applications. Can you see SAR applications? You can from the original, the earliest applications, which is 1880s up until 1972. You can see those in ancestry.com dot. After that you'd have to go to RPRs and probably order a copy.

But the reason I mentioned to the DIR is because the DAR has a very similar system, which is the genealogical research system. Again, it's a free resource. You can look up Patriot name, surnames, whatever. The only difference with theirs now you can also see about four generations back. Once you see somebody and you can order a record copy just like you can here. The difference is that they're tying theirs directly to membership. Their goal is not necessarily to add anybody else they found that was associated with the revolution. Those are probably my two biggest tips. That portion of our titles are connected to e resources and then the Patriot resource system free for anybody to use. You can go use that right now. Probably the best way to get to that is sar.org. and look up, there's a little acronym just says prs. Doesn't say Patriot researchces, it says prs. So look for that. It's a little link right on the direct website, and you can get there and just play and have fun and be amazed what you would find, honestly, too. One last thing, I think on the library website, do some exploring in there. We've got resources that are connected to. There's like, resource page. There's kind of like a little blog about things that are coming out. And then we put up a lot of our programming, especially our virtual programming, is usually free, and we record that it goes up on a YouTube channel. So there's a lot of free resources there that we've got in the site that people can learn more.

Wow. I haven't been on the SAR site, so now you've given me a way to spend an evening on the site. I do. Is there some coordination between Dar and Sar over the patriot list? Do you guys compare notes? Do you meet once a year? O. They do not. It's almost territorial, but they don't really, but I will give you a fun fact, is that, I don't know, most people probably don't know that they actually began as a joint organization. Oh, I did not know that the women were part of SAR was first, but the women were also, they were allowed to join. And so you had, in fact, some of our oldest applications. They never did eject. Like the early women founders of SAR, like, they're still technically in the member ranks. They left them in there. But, yeah, and they parted ways. And I haven't fully figured out the whole story about how that all happened, but they did. Then. Then a couple years, I think they parted ways and then the DAR was formed. But, yeah, honestly, I think just being on this side of the organization and I'm also a member of DAR and just realizing how big these organizations are and because they're so big and because there's state level, there's local chapter, these are all little groups of people that have to coordinate with each other all the time for different things, like marker memorials and lineage research and all of those kind of things. I rarely see them doing anything that's joined together except for commemorations. They will do a lot, especially there's a parade or obviously the 250th of the Boston Tea Party just happened. You're going to get a lot of the Dar ladies dressing up alongside the men during the color guard. I see a lot of thoses of joint chapter activities happening. The ladies will have their banner. The men will have their banner. But in, they're in their dress and they're commemorating something.

But as far as research and lineage and the genealogy departments, I don't see any connection. And I will say that every once in a while something will happen where let's read it this way. Both organizations have applications that go really far back. When I say far back, they submitted their first applications in the late, late 18 hundreds. So what were the standards at the time? Some of these people who were submitting their applications was like, hey, I know my grandfather fought. I mean, there wasn't a whole lot of documentations that was required because they're within a generation or two of actually knowing the patriot. So over the years, then there's been different kinds of research or documentation standards that have come out, and both organizations have. Sometimes if it's like a really old application and then somebody's trying to join recently through that, both organizations I know will review the older application, make sure the documentation between the two sometimes. D we've all seen DAR previous applications being flagged as, oh, this probably should not have been approved over the past. Some future members are going to have to prove accurate service or whatever. And then when that happens on the DAR side, then that adversely will affect the assay our side, too, because they'll run into it as well. And you're like, they each, I don't know, it's like they each kind of like, well, dare they do that? Like, it's called research. Everybody has to get in the same sandbox for research, and we have to settle this. And it's not anything malicious on either side. It's just, it's where the document trail leads us, and we have to make sure that it is accurate. And you're always going to run across that. I'm a big fan of a lot of the genealogy shows out there, but even finding your roots, I was watching that last night. They have a disclaimer at the beginning that says the results that are portrayed here may be changed if further documentation comes out. No matter where you are in your genealogy research, something may come out that could change your conclusions or who you've matched to. So yeah, there's a lot of generations between us and the american revolution, and we don't know everything that happens. Certainly.

Let's wind up the podcast with do you have any fun plans for the 250th anniversary, the American Revolution? What do you have planned? I don't have anything planned yet, so give me some ideas and give the audience, you know, I think obviously one of the best ways I do encourage, when I joined Dar, actually, I joined when it was one of their, I can't remember which year anniversary. It sitting over on my bookstelf, I can't remember, but when I joined, I know they had like a little fun, little gold stamp that it was like, oh, you joined during the anniversary of joining and everything. I think there's going to be a lot of commemoration things that come out for the 250th, which is in 2026. And of course, leading up to it, we're trying to come up with different things and different ways to celebrate. And I'm just going to be honest, a lot of discussions are still going on as far as what that's going to look like. I've even wondered what that's going to look like at Rootsteh, because in 2020, when the anniversary of the Mayflower was taking place, boy, they were really in it. I mean, Nehds and David Aln Lambert, I mean, they, they had virtual reality headsets and you could see yourself coming in on the Mayflower boat. I mean, it was fascinating stuff. We're supposed to, at the saar, we're working on building a museum over there, so hopefully we'll have our museum in placeug to be something new for us. But as far as how you commemorate on the local level, that's going to be really hard, I think, because there's going to be natural places. The east, from the Mississippi over to the east, there's going to be probably a lot more commemorations going on. As far as how it plays out nationally, I'm not so sure. There's a national 250th commission that's not tied to any one of us necessarily, any of our groups necessarily. It commissioned by the government. So I'm hoping they'll announce some other things, too, so that nationally, people can kind of get excited about it. I know we did.

Leading up to the 250th, what have we got? What happens, like, with the tea party, clearly in Boston, they went and they dumped that tea back into the harbor, which was really fascinating to me because I've seen the ship reenact. Like, I've seen how they do that with the museum where it's usually like they're in these cases or these wrapped up things and they toss them in. No, they were really dumping actual. The, of the. I'm like, it's loose leaf. It's flying everywhere. I'm like, what are you doing? How did this get approved? But they did it and it was great and I loved it. And the whole town got really involved. And even the young people, like, I saw so many TikTok videos coming out where these young people were like, we're dumping a tea. And I'm like, yes, this is excellent. Like getting the young people excited about this. This is great. So we had our own like actual tea here in Louisville. We drank all five teas that were dumped into the harbor. Then I had this presentation on tea and then we did a virtual one coming up. What do we have? What happens in 74? I'm stretching on that one. I think Lord Dunmore's war comes to mind. I think we're going to do some stuff on that because that was like several months and it did affect especially those who were trying to move west right around the time that the revolution happened. So we're going to get into that course. 75, we've got Lexton and Concord coming up. That really sparks everything. Just I think one of the main, the important thing for 200 fifiet and leading up to it is being able to really celebrate all the different kinds of stories that are out there. We're so used to some of the same stories of, well, even just taking Lexand and Concord, for example, we know that story a lot and we know a lot of the names that came out of who fought or who was hiding from the British at the time and Paul Revere and all of this. But the amazing stories of all the different groups that were involved in the effort. And I'm amazed sometimes. In fact, that's what I'll be talking about at Rootsteh is how to find. How to locate those stories and those who participated in the revolution that we might not have thought about. I think one of the things that I didn't realize, I've. I've always had a little bit of passion for the revolution, but it wasn't got closer to the tea party that there was a story that came out that they were promoting saying that there were 300 women that actually published their name in Boston newspapers saying, we're not going to drink this tea and I'm going, 300 women? What? Right. Like, that's amazing.

So that's there. It's there. We just, I think leading up to 2026, we've got to celebrate all of it. We've got to really know, really dig out the great ones and of all different backgrounds, all different types of assistants and how that looked. And I think too, one of the things we see here a lot is it's not super easy to figure out who really was on the side of the patriots versus loyalists. It was muddy. I mean, we talk about the civil war being brother against brother, who's kind of the same here within the colonies. And so I think those are wonderful stories to tell because it, it reminds us the human side of what they were struggling with. This isn't just like a sports arena. You're on one side or the other. It was muddy. It was really muddy.

Yeah, I love those, actually. Those are. I think that's important. It is important. And we'll see if we can get the British to occupy Philadelphia again and kick everybody out. And then we'll all camp outside of Valley Forgeune. Prtes. I grew up outside of Philadelphia, and everywhere was George Washington slept here. And, you know, all the little battles that happened all around.

I will tell you a little story that something I just recently found in the SAR. One of the committee, our chairman, committee of the library and Archives committee, he donated several of the SAR medals. He'd found them online. And one of them was this little, it was a little pin with a ribbon, and it said it was a pilgrimage and it was celebrating some sort of pilgrimage. And I looked, he didn't know what it was from. I think it was 1914, and he didn't know what it was from. He said, he's got this, our symbol, but he didn't know what that was. And so I was like, I've only been here it'be two years, April 1. So I'm still learning the collection. And I went downstairs and we have what they call a George Washington collection, which is mainly, we're trying to collect anything that's ever written about George Washington. So a lot of trade books and everything. One of them was this giant scrapbook, and it was original. This was not a copy. It was literally a scrapbook they had put together. It was a pilgrimage that they had taken. They had celebrated that the Ess Sar had celebrated. And it was George Washington's sp route from Philadelphia to Cambridge right after the battle of Bunker Hill. That was this first action of him doing this. What was great about it was he, when I showed this to Jim Maples, our chairman, he says, I said, look at this. And he goes, they're wearing the pins. They're all wearing the pins. I said, yes. And they would dress up in their colonial garb. And what's great, too, is that they were stopping at the cemeteries along the way, and they were taking pictures of the revolutionary people who were buried there. And got, you've got images from, of gravestones from, like, 1914 and so beautiful, beautiful piece. And so, yes, we totally understand that the George Washington in Philadelphia and that wholees. It's like, it's like just, it's in the atmosphere, you know, it is. It is.

All right. Well, Sherri, I want to thank you for your time today to ph filll us in on SAR, because that is important to people in Pennsylvania, for sure. They have, you know, if you can trace your ancestry to Pennsylvania, you probably can trace yourself to one of the people that lived here during the revolutionary period.

How can people get in touch with you? If they want to follow your blog or follow you on social media? What's the best way to reach you? Genealogyliteracy.com is probably the best way to kind of keep track of what I'm doing. And then, of course, always library dot sar.org as what we're doing here, you know. And we also have a really great Facebook page for the, for the SAR Genealogical Research library and a lot of stuff coming out and hopefully lots to learn as well.

Great. Awesome. I hope people follow up with you, and thanks for being on the podcast. Thank you so much for having me.

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