The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) is now accepting limited autosomal DNA test results, as well as Y DNA evidence for lineage society applications.
Membership to the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) has been a holy grail for genealogists for 125 years. With its requirement of proof of a “lineal bloodline descendant from an ancestor who aided in achieving American independence” in three categories: birth, marriage, and death, as well as proof of Revolutionary War Service, membership is exclusive to those with an iron-clad paper trail. That is, until 2014 when the DAR rocked the genealogy world and added Y DNA evidence to its list of acceptable documents proving a relationship to a Revolutionary War ancestor.
In 2020, the DAR also added limited use of autosomal DNA testing. Let’s look at that first.
The DAR and autosomal DNA
“As of July 2020, the DAR began accepting autosomal DNA (atDNA) for proof of lineage when there is no existing documentation to prove lineage within the first 3 generations e.g. the applicant, the applicant’s parents, and the applicant’s grandparents,” states the DAR website. This appears to be consistent with their historical policy of accepting the kinds of DNA evidence used in court for proof of parentage.
This limited use of autosomal DNA is only helpful in the above-outlined situation, but it’s certainly better than nothing. The only other comment on autosomal DNA is that “the requirements will be similar to those using Y-DNA to prove lineage.” So let’s move on to Y DNA.
The DAR and Y DNA testing
The DAR does accept evidence from the Y chromosome test, or YDNA (see the requirements here). The Y DNA traces only a direct paternal line, making it a great choice when trying to link living males with their Revolutionary counterparts. This Y DNA is passed basically unchanged from generation to generation, making the modern day holder of the Y DNA the proud owner of possibly exactly the same Y-DNA that fought the Redcoats.
That’s pretty cool, don’t you think?
The DAR recently announced that to further help those wanting to use their Y DNA as part of their application, they have formed a project at Family Tree DNA, the company that provides the Y DNA testing. Projects are absolutely the best way to get the most out of your Y DNA testing. There are surname projects, location projects, haplogroup (deep ancestral group) projects, and even special interest group projects, like this one for the DAR.
While the results of the testing are only available to members of the group, the statistics page gives us an idea of the scope of this project. They currently have over 5500 total project members. If you think your paternal line may be a candidate for the DAR, you can have a representative of your line tested and compared to the group. If you find a match, you will have relative certainty that you do connect to that patriot, and can then be more confident in your traditional research in pursuit of the necessary paper connections.
In April the DAR opened up the DNA project membership (not society applications) to include mtDNA and autosomal DNA. Hopefully this project will pave the way for the addition of those tests in the future, though, for several reasons, inclusion of these tests in the application process will be more difficult.
Y-DNA evidence not easy for DAR
In all honesty, just using Y DNA evidence is going to be difficult enough. Let’s say that you are actually able to trace down multiple generations to find a direct male descendant of your Revolutionary guy to be tested, an individual who is, the DAR mandates, “a close male relative of the applicant (or the applicant’s mother) who shares with the applicant (or the applicant’s mother) an unbroken paternal line to the Revolutionary War ancestor” and you convince that unassuming relative to give up his saliva. You still are only halfway there. The DAR guidelines also state that you have to have a second individual who is “a close male relative of a member who has a previously verified application or supplemental through an unbroken male line to a different son of the same patriot.…” I added the emphasis there.
OK, so let’s say you are a genealogical whiz and, let’s face it, you were lucky, and you find two such candidates and have them tested.
Well, the DAR tells us that those two men must match EXACTLY on the 37 Y DNA markers tested. Now there is no telling when that Y DNA might experience a mutation. So to me it seems a little unfair to require perfection. So it is possible, that even after all the work of finding the right guys to be tested, the test itself may work against you, as even one difference is enough to keep this YDNA off your application, at least for now.
So while I applaud the DAR for using Y DNA testing at all, and for spearheading a special interest project at Family Tree DNA, the reality is that the limitations of direct paternal line genealogy and the requirements of testing make it unlikely that very many will be able to take advantage of the Y DNA in their DAR applications. Furthermore, although it’s great that the DAR now offers an online video tutorial on using DNA evidence in DAR applications, it seems to be behind a membership wall. What’s the point of offering a tutorial on using evidence in an application if someone has to already be a member before they can watch it? Hopefully, that will be made available at some point. (Please let us know if you hear about it—we’ll update this article.)
What to do next
From this update on the DAR, I can send you off with a few reminders right now.
1. First, collect those DNA samples whenever you can, especially for key relatives, like your paternal line and the oldest living generation (whose DNA is less likely to have experienced any mutation).
2. Second, keep your research paper trail strong. Nothing in the near future of the genetic genealogy industry tells us that distant relative connections (like to your Revolutionary War ancestor) will be provable by DNA alone.
3. And third, definitely look at crowd-sourced studies for your particular DNA. Those surname, location, haplogroup and special interest group projects I mentioned from FTDNA are just some of the ones that might help your research—or that you could use to help someone else’s. Read more about DNA projects worth joining!
Use your DNA to find your missing ancestors
Don’t feel hemmed in by the restrictive rules for DAR when it comes to DNA. Learn more about using DNA to discover the identities of your unknown or unverified ancestors—male or female, U.S. patriot or not—with our free get-started downloadable guide.
I’m British, so I’m not overly excited by joining the DAR, but one of my primary interesting genealogy discoveries when I finally identified my American great-grandfather by autosomal DNA was that I could (if they accepted autosomal DNA evidence) apply for the DAR about seven times over, based on various different ancestors! For someone in my position it is a little frustrating that I can’t use autosomal evidence; the paper trail from my great-grandfather is solid, and my father and I have DNA matches to a living daughter of great-grandfather (first child in 1906, last child in 1941 – he was busy!), and multiple grandchildren/great grandchildren. For us Y-DNA would be useless; the male line appears to have daughtered out, except for my NPE grandfather, and dad has almost no matches – just a few at Y12 and 10 on big Y, with no surname clues (so I think the matches are before surnames existed). I hope they do accept autosomal in a sensible way in the future – there must be a lot of people who can prove an autosomal link to someone who has a documented paper trail! Rachel @ Toll Genealogy
Rachel, I think it was a big step forward to include YDNA, autosomal is just so much harder to "prove" as there are so many explanations for any given amount of shared DNA. But it is great that you have been able to use it in your own research.