Tuesday, July 22, 2008

DAR's 117th Continental Congress

As I mentioned in my last post, I was on my way to Washington, DC, for the Daughters of the American Revolution's 117th Continental Congress. I was one of approximately 3,000 other members who made the annual trek to DAR Headquarters.

It's always a whirlwind of a week, but it was even more so for me this year. I was busy behind the computer (not exactly a stretch for me) posting photo slideshows of the many different events after they happened so our members at home could "see" the action.


The Washington Monument, as seen from the DAR Buildings.

After a red-eye flight (ugh) from LAX to Dulles, my three travel companions/roommates decided that we should dump our luggage at the hotel and hike over to the Genealogist's Mecca: The National Archives. Had I actually been prepared to do this, I'm sure I would have been much more successful; however, I never thought I'd have time for a research outing on this trip and thus, brought nothing.

My roommates, on the other hand, came armed with copious notes and documents to look up. One of my roommates came home with 10 POUNDS (yes, you read that right; she weighed it) of copied documents. My other two roommates had almost as much. New ancestors were found, lines were proven... one Revolutionary War pension file not only contained copies of two marriage certificates, but also a pre-nuptial agreement (who knew they had those back then?), and a long affidavit from the wife raving about what a creep her husband was!


The Genealogist's Mecca: The National Archives in Washington, DC.

As for me, I had about 5 sheets of paper to carry home... none of which were new "finds" for me; I just wanted cleaner copies. In retrospect, this was probably a good thing, considering that my checked bag weighed 50.5 lbs., even with all of my shoes in my carry-on.

Or so I keep telling myself.

After hours of striking out and watching (read: envying) my roommates' successes, I felt like Charlie Brown in "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown":

"I got five pieces of candy!" "I got a chocolate bar!" "I got a quarter!" "I got a rock."
Hmmmph. Next time, I'll be prepared.


Opening Night entertainment included The United States Marine "The President's Own" Chamber Orchestra. I do love a man in uniform!

Some highlights of the week:

  • Bill Conti, Oscar and five-time Emmy award-winning composer and conductor (and husband of a California DAR member) performed on Opening Night. It was fun to hear him play some of his own hits.

  • The DAR Media Award went to HBO's John Adams Miniseries, Kirk Saduski, Co-Producer. Incidentally, I just picked this up on DVD last weekend, since we don't get HBO in our house, and I've heard such great reviews of the show (Shhh! Don't give away the ending!).

  • The Keynote Speaker on National Defense Night was Dr. Robert M. Gates, Secretary of Defense. Regardless of your political leanings, he does give a great speech. Plus, he's really quite attractive, for a "mature" gentleman.

  • The DAR Medal of Honor went to Brigadier General Susan J. Helms, Commander of the 45th Space Wing at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida. It was nice to see a woman receive this honor.
On Sunday afternoon, I finally got a chance to visit the DAR Library, something I never had time to do on any of my 7 previous visits. Despite being armed with only one item to look up, I had my most productive research day of the trip.


That's me, finally getting some quality time in the DAR Library!

My one item turned out to have information about my wayward Delaneys: my great-grandmother and her brother were listed in a 1905 Lancaster County, Nebraska, school record that had been indexed by members of the Nebraska Society DAR.

Although this wasn't anything profoundly new to me, I was still moved to tears to find their names in print. I'm sure you know what I mean - finding that validation and connection after years and years of searching can be an emotional experience. It is for me, anyway.


DAR Headquarters is currently undergoing a major renovation.

I found some other, excellent books, simply by nosing around the Greene County, Tennessee, section:

This may not seem like much to you, but as someone who usually gets a "research rock," I was thrilled!


The beautiful portico of Memorial Continental Hall.

I also had a chance to search the online DAR Library File Collection (only accessible from within the Library or the Seimes Technology Center), which is a plethora of materials submitted along with DAR member applications. Specifically, I was trying to find proof of my Hays line, but what I think I may have done instead is disprove it. I think. Although my accountant-roommate pointed out that anything gleaned with my shoddy math skills really didn't prove or disprove anything.

Back to the drawing board... next year.


DAR Founders Memorial following the annual Memorial Service and Wreath-Laying.

If you've never had a chance to visit the DAR Library, you'll want to put it on your list of must-visit libraries the next time you're in Washington, DC. Here are a few pointers, based on my limited experience:

  • Search the Library Catalog and the Genealogical Records Committee (GRC) Index before you go. This will save valuable research time in the library. Trust me, there's never enough time. The librarians practically carried me out kicking and screaming at closing time.

  • The Library has a free, wireless Internet connection. Bring your laptop. You can access the Library Catalog and GRC Index from the comfort of your own computer rather than wait for a library computer to open up.

  • The on-site Library computers have access to Heritage Quest, Ancestry Library Edition, JSTOR, Footnote.com, NEHGS, and other databases. You cannot access these remotely, however, only from the in-house computers.

  • Self-serve copies are 20 cents per page. Bring change if you want to use the copiers, as none will be available in the Library. There is no copy card, like at NARA.

  • I'll probably get in trouble for this, but... instead of making copies, bring your digital camera. Sure, copies are of better quality, but digital photos are free. You do the math.
If you can't make it to the DAR Library, search services are available... for a fee.

And I'll throw this out there... if you think you have a Revolutionary War Patriot in your lineage, send me an email or leave a comment, and I'll be happy to look him/her up for you.


Two of my roommates and me. No, we did not plan in advance to wear red, white and blue. It just worked out that way.

So, those were a few of this year's highlights. It really is an exciting week and a lot of fun. If nothing else, it's a chance to visit with friends that I only get to see once a year.

But next year, I'm going to be prepared with a list of items to research and an extra suitcase... just in case I don't get a rock.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

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7 comments:

Thomas MacEntee said...

It looks like you had a great time in DC - I went to college there at The George Washington University not far from the DAR complex of buildings.

Cindy Jane said...

What an awesome post and I love the photographs. I know how hard you worked behind the scenes to allow Daughters (moi) the chance to participate in this years Continental Congress. Let's make a date for July 2009 to spend time getting acquainted, face to face, in the DAR Library. I'll put another $1.00 in my CC 2009 fund.

Miriam said...

I've been anxiously waiting to hear about your trip. Thanks for sharing!

Randy Seaver said...

Excellent post. You really captured a lot of your time there - verbally and visually.

I have the DAR Library on myl ist for next time I'm in DC. I spent a terrible day at the Library of congress last time, and haven't been to the Archives to research either.

Cheers -- Randy

Kathryn Doyle said...

Elizabeth, fantastic description of your week at the DAR. Okay, it makes me want to try again after a really BAD experience at the library several years ago. Your enthusiasm jumps off the screen!

Chris said...

I know this is random, but I am a Tri Delta at Ohio State and saw your blog linked in a Tri-D email that was just sent out. I think I may need help with my DAR stuff. I know I'm related, as my great-aunt was in a DAR chapter, but I don't know how to go about finding the right documents. My email is dennis.173@osu.edu and I'd love to hear from you!

In the Bonds,
Chris Dennis

Elizabeth said...

Thomas and Miriam - Yes, I did have a great time in DC! Busy, but fun. And hot! Thomas, I didn't know you went to school in DC. I'm sure it was an interesting place to study!

Cindy - You're on! JWM reservations open up on August 10th. Need a roommate?

Randy - do check it out. It's a fantastic library, probably only rivaled by the LDS in SLC. And thanks for the mention on Genea-Musings. I'll wait for my blogalanche now, thank you!

Kathryn - Don't give up. I'll be happy to help you however I can. If you've got info to disprove or correct what the DAR has, they'll want it, believe me!

Chris - What a pleasure hearing from a Tri-Delta sister! If your great-aunt was a DAR member, it *should be* simple for you to join. Of course, I'd be happy to assist you, and I'll send you a private message at the email you listed. DL!