Friday, April 19, 2013

Tennessee State DAR Conference 2013

Today I attended my first DAR State Conference. I admit I was fascinated by this subculture taking place around me today, and did my best to figure it out. It was a big learning curve. I'm still not sure I understand it. I really could have used a DAR 101 handbook....if it exists.

My first puzzlement happened with registration and the first session. Both began at 8:00 a.m. I thought surely this must be a typo, alas it was not. I quickly got through the registration process, and then found a seat in the Lineage Research Workshop. The speaker was Robert S. Davis, who is the director of the Family and Regional History Program at Wallace State College. Wallace State College is located in Hanceville, Alabama, just north of Samford University in Birmingham. I've looked at their collection catalog online in the past, and it is impressive. I was going to make a stop there last summer, but ended up spending time in hot/humid cemeteries tracking down my ancestors. Aahh...such is the life of a genealogist!

Anyway, Mr. Davis discussed land records as they pertain to Revolutionary War soldiers. I've mentioned before how I enjoy land records, so I was thrilled with the topic. I was particularly interested to learn about following the paper trail of letters that ancestors may have written to the various government departments, i.e, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, the War Department, or Freedman's Bureau. The letters were assigned a code, abstracted and recorded in the endorsement book by the clerk, and then possibly sent on to another department or person. What happened to the original letter can remain a mystery, but the endorsement books still exist. So while the original letter may be lost, the essence of it remains in the endorsement books. These books can be found at NARA. There is conveniently an index to these letters on microfilm at NARA, M495 Index to the Letters Received by the Secretary of War.

I also learned that many records can be found at a state level for your Revolutionary War patriots. Did you notice I didn't say soldiers in that last sentence? Turns out that if your ancestor gave the soldiers chickens or any other type of aide, then they are considered a patriot. The aide could have been recorded on a voucher, that your ancestor then turned in to the state for reimbursement. This means you could be eligible for DAR membership even if you do not have any Revolutionary War soldiers. You just have to find the record stating the aide to prove it.

Next, it was time for "Coffee with the Candidates." The title is pretty much self explanatory. There was coffee, pastry, and the candidates for the incoming NSDAR term. I'm a little fuzzy on the fine print of it all, but my impression is that these candidates are already a done deal, and the vote this weekend is a formality. At any rate, each candidate got up and spoke briefly to the room about the upcoming term. Some told funny anecdotes, explained their responsibilities, or expressed varying degrees of anxiety infused excitement.

After lunch I attended a workshop presented by Hamilton Jewelers, who are the official jewelers of the DAR. The presenter was not very experienced or knowledgable. In fact, the lady sitting next to me said, "Boy, she's not very good is she?" I think this was an opportunity for the presenter to get her feet wet. When she was done with her slide presentation (that she read directly from, without much embellishment), the more experienced company representative came up to the podium for the audience questions.

There is all sorts of bling, I mean pins, one can purchase. Some of these pins you have to earn, some you can buy outright, and some have prerequisites before you can buy them. Then there are rules about when you can wear some of them and their placement on the ribbon. I don't really understand the rules, but I'll cross that bridge when/if I ever get to it. The collection of pins some of these ladies have, that were in attendance, is pretty impressive. One woman must have had at least 10 or 12 ancestor pins (those represent DAR qualifying patriots/ancestors).

Overall it was an interesting experience. Although I have to say I think an opportunity was missed. The conference events seemed to be focused mostly towards State Officers and Pages (those are DAR members over 18 and under a certain age). What about the members in between Officers and Pages? This was a time that could have been used towards promoting involvement in the organization. Discussing all the different ways to volunteer. Maybe even pinpoint areas that needed volunteers. There could have been other lineage workshops that focused on another area of research. In our chapter there has been talk in the past of doing a cookbook. A how-to session on producing these types of projects could have been helpful. The possibilities of topics are endless.

Let's face it, if you are attending the DAR State Conference then you are an eager member ready to be encouraged, right? Most of us "in betweener's" only attended the sessions discussed above, didn't go back tonight, and will skip Saturday and Sunday altogether. In my humble opinion, for a conference to be successful, that encourages participation and attendance, you have to address the needs or potential of the majority not just select groups within the organization.


  1. As a relatively new member (3 years) of a small DAR chapter in Massachusetts, I have to say that I agree that the DAR does need to figure out how to engage ALL of its members. (Maybe some chapters and/or states are better than others.) Our chapter is relatively small and when I attend one of the programs / meetings, there are usually the same 8-10 older women in attendance. I have not attended our State Conference, but I would be curious to see if I had the same impression you did if I were to attend. Thanks for sharing your perspective on your state DAR conference.

  2. I am a new member also, just a year in. I am being installed as corresponding secretary next month. Unheard of isn't it. I agree with your observations, but I've taken the approach of participating actively instead of attending. I aligned myself with the leaders (older and tired leaders) and let them know of my skills, ideas and what I could offer. They have presented me with a challenge entitled "prove it". I encourage you to reach out to your Leaders (chapter and state) and share your observations and offer to serve on a committee. They welcome fresh ideas. Similar story - my sister is a new member in CT (I am in Mobile, AL)and served as a committe chair for the scholarhip program. As she went through the rather dated process she took note of how to improve on it and discussed with some leaders in her chapter, she was very nervous they would be angry - the were not. The encouraged her to take the ball and give her new ideas a try. PS for every lady with a chest full of supplement bars you will find a lady who think the first lady has too much time and money on her hands. To each her own!

  3. I recently became a member and am attending my first State Conference this weekend so this article was timely certainly for me. Thank you for posting your experience.