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How to Join The Jamestowne Society and First California Company

While Jamestown served as Virginia’s colonial capital through 1699, tens of thousands immigrants landed there for a variety of reasons. The Society has established that many settled for a while before moving on farther in the colony. Then, for two centuries beginning in the late 17th, people became Virginia’s most important export. Many of our friends and neighbors don’t realize that they are descendants of those settlers. Our mission also includes helping them explore whether they are.

The Jamestowne Society’s primary mission includes:

“…discover and record the names of all living descendants of those early settlers who made the great sacrifice to establish our English-speaking Nation; …unite these descendants to honor the memory of our settler ancestors” and “…bring the members into closer association through activities revolving around matters of common historical and genealogical interest.”

Our meetings afford prospective members excellent opportunities to get acquainted with the organization and individuals that share a kindred interest in Jamestown. We will welcome your attendance.

A compelling program about our ancestors enrapts the audience at one of our meetings

Members at those meetings are often a good source of help in the application process. In addition, they often offer information and staff our tables at genealogical events throughout the region. Some libraries also have supplies of our brochure, which summarizes our definitive application procedures.

Membership in the Jamestowne Society is by invitation. Unlike many other lineage organizations, applicants must first join the national Society with sponsorship by a member. The process starts with a recommendation by a current Society member (a “sponsor”) to our headquarters requesting that an invitation be issued.  If you do not know a Society member, please contact our Membership Chair, and include your residence address.

An applicant for membership must document a line-of-descent from one qualifying Jamestown ancestor and present it to the Society’s registrar-genealogist. The application and documentation must use the Society’s software package and be completed within a year.  You can review the qualifications for joining here. The fee for lifetime membership in the Jamestowne Society is $400. The fee for each supplemental application is $125.

Qualifying Ancestors

All members must be descendants of of Qualifying Ancestors. Our Society has confirmed over 900 individuals that are registered in its Index of Qualifying Ancestors. The following criteria are used to determine who may be included as a Qualifying Ancestor for purposes of membership in the Jamestowne Society: The individual (1) was a stockholder in the London Company or the Virginia Company; (2) owned land on Jamestown Island or lived on the Island prior to 1700 (owning land in a neighboring area or neighboring county does NOT of itself qualify an individual; (3) was a resident in Virginia at the time of the 1624/25 Muster; or, (4) served as Governor, Secretary of State, Treasurer, Attorney General, Clerk of the General Court, Member of the Council or House of Burgesses prior to 1700; (5) was an Anglican Church [Church of England] minister in Virginia prior to 1700; or (6) served as an Indian Interpreter in Virginia prior to 1700; these persons shall be conclusively presumed to have had their domiciles on Jamestown Island during their terms of office. The names that appear on the Index are of those ancestors that have met those criteria and from whom descent has or can be proven. We maintain a list of our members’ Qualified Ancestors. (Note: The Jamestowne Society leadership has recently added two more categories to the qualifying ancestors; see http://www.jamestowne.org/application-process.html).

Reference for the Qualifying Ancestor’s service must be cited from court records, or from one of the following acceptable published sources: THE JAMESTOWNE SOCIETY REGISTER OF QUALIFYING SEVENTEENTH CENTURY ANCESTORS; Leonard: THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF VIRGINIA, 1619-1976; Stanard: THE COLONIAL VIRGINIA REGISTER; Dorman: ADVENTURERS OF PURSE AND PERSON, 4th Edition; or Brown: THE GENESIS OF THE UNITED STATES. NOTE: The 2016 edition of the Register of  Qualifying Seventeenth-Century Ancestors is available from the Society for $10 (plus $3 shipping).

This notice appears the online Index pageThe Jamestowne Society does not provide genealogical research for individuals. If you are interested in adding a Jamestowne-era ancestor to the Qualifying Ancestors Index, you must prove that they had appropriate service as defined by this Society, and your lineage, as part of the Membership Application Process.

Membership in First California Company

The First California Company is one of the Society’s 52 Companies. Most of our members live in Southern California, including Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Imperial and San Diego counties. If you live elsewhere in California, we can refer you to local contacts. Any member of the Jamestowne Society may join the First California Company by applying to our Membership Chair, and including your residence address. When you join the First California Company, you would affiliate with other Society members and can participate in our events and other special activities in Southern California. Member dues are $30 per year, due on July 1. Prospective members of the Jamestowne Society may attend First California Company functions as a guest.

Helpful Tools

PLEASE NOTE: The Jamestowne Society and First California Company do not provide genealogical research for individuals. Genealogical research to establish membership qualification and lineage is the sole responsibility of the applicant.

Instructions for preparation of applications for Society membership

The Society now offers helpful Instructions for preparation of membership applications that can be obtained from our Membership chair.

Legacies and Family Lineage Papers

A candidate (applicant) related to a member who was admitted to the Society since 1995 may be able to use a streamlined process.  This will only refer to legacies: parent, child, grandparent, sibling, niece, nephew, uncle, aunt, or first cousin.  The candidate will still be required to fill in all generations back to the common ancestor being used. Documentation is necessary for generations through the point where he/she connects to the relative’s application. Supporting documents filed with a relative’s application, which have in past years been acceptable for proof of eligibility, may not conform to current requirements. An applicant’s reliance solely on these materials could result in rejection of the application. (As a general rule, papers for member numbers 4400 and higher are acceptable as reference.)

Qualified individuals (i.e., those who know that they are related to a Society member) seeking membership may be assisted in their ancestor search process by written request for special Family Lineage Papers. To be of any benefit, the request must be specific to an individual who is known to be in a prospective member’s line. There is a small fee for the copying and mailing. Please send all requests to the Society’s Executive Director.

Unacceptable documentation

Family information (printed, published or otherwise) and family group sheets are NOT acceptable proofs. Membership in, or lineage forms of, other societies are NOT acceptable as proof. Printed genealogies and county histories are secondary sources and MUST be supplemented by acceptable primary source [original record] documentation.

Getting Genealogical Help

The personal computer and Internet are essential tools for any beginning or more advanced genealogical search for ancestors. They are key to accessing a huge amount of online and other personal data, which are largely available at no charge. Old records are constantly being digitized. It is critical to begin your search with a plan that starts with one’s parents and works backward rather than starting with the ancestor, as the Library of Virginia suggests. Local genealogical organizations often offer workshops for both beginners and more advanced researchers.

Beginners would benefit from online guidance and recommendations for strategies and steps in getting started. The researching of lineage to an ancestor that is listed among the Jamestowne Society’s online Index of Qualified Ancestors will require skills and a plan to investigate through at least eleven to fourteen generations that must go well beyond what is in the records in the US National Archives; each generation must be fully documented.

Several Southern California libraries have genealogy sections and helpful research staffs. In particular, the biggest genealogy collection anywhere in Southern California is in the Los Angeles Public Library’s Main Branch (downtown) that takes up most of one very large floor. Other major collections in our region with early Virginia genealogical materials include the San Diego Public LibrarySouthern California Genealogical Society in Burbank and the Cole Library of the City of Carlsbad.

The SCGS also offers its annual genealogical Jamboree each June, where there are many opportunities to learn about genealogical research and develop and enhance genealogical skills.

Many county and city libraries offer access to online genealogical resources. They, in themselves, are not acceptable or reliable sources, but their data are often referenced and underlying sources, such as a federal census schedule, may be acceptable. For example, they may offer access to all of the US Federal Census records from 1790 to 1940, plus military records, obituaries, public member and family trees, state records, etc., that have been gathered from all over the world. However, many individuals submit and post personal family records on them that are not documented. These family group records may or may not be correct. They may be suitable for guidance in preparation but must be vetted and documented before they can be used in an application.

Census records may be used as documentation when they are clearly legible and contain STATED relationship information. Generally, 1850 and later census records list names and those from 1880 state relationships.

The wisest course to help plan your search is to seek out a local genealogical society that offers classes and other tutoring and guidance on the genealogical research process and standards to help you create and manage your plan. You can find the most active of these societies by Internet search. SDGS may be able to help. In addition, they also can help direct you, if you want, to professional genealogists who can be of service, usually on an hourly rate basis.

Jamestowne Society’s Facebook Page

The Jamestowne Society’s Facebook page has about 2,500 followers who seek and offer knowledge and advice. It offers an opportunity to post queries and comments about searching for ancestors, proving lineage and membership qualifications and issues. Several First California Company members are among the group. The predominant posts are queries about proving lineage and application questions. You can access it by clicking on the Facebook icon at the top right hand corner of the Society’s web site. You must have a Facebook account to gain access.

The instructions on the page state:  “To join [this Facebook group] or nominate someone to join, use ‘+Add People to Group’ instead of ‘invite by email.’ Thank you for your cooperation. The Jamestowne Society was organized for educational, historical, and patriotic purposes. The Society is composed of living descendants of the Jamestowne settlers. Prospective members of the Society must demonstrate descent from a qualifying Jamestowne ancestor to the satisfaction of the Society genealogist. This Facebook group is open to Jamestowne Society members, prospective members, and those interested in genealogy and history of Jamestowne prior to 1700.”

For other sources of early Virginia genealogical research and history, including use for a Jamestowne Society application, you might use the Library of Virginia; its Virginia Memory site that includes those for Using the CollectionsHistorical and Genealogical Societies in Virginia;  City and County Research: Chancery Records; and, City and County Research: Records from Burned Counties in Virginia.

One of the major problems in researching Virginia genealogy before 1865 is that many of the official colonial records were destroyed by fire at that time. The Library of Virginia offers guidance about those lost records. The University of Pittsburgh also holds some valuable colonial records, including the minutes of the First Assembly in 1619 and rosters of those who survived and died from the March 22, 1621/22 attack.

In addition, the Library of Virginia’s collections include a large variety of information under Military Service (including Dunsmore’s and the Revolutionary War and War of 1812, through Confederate pension and other records), Historic Virginia Government, Photograph Collection for historic buildings, and Land Office Patents and Grants (including a database including patents and grants from the crown and commonwealth from 1623 to 1992 and database of grants in the Northern Neck Proprietary from 1692 to 1862 (images available online).

Other unusual sources include online books that are out of copyright and often include family histories, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation Interactive Map of the James River’s historic areas. The Library of Virginia also maintains on-going forums for Virginia genealogy and history research issues and topics, that includes periodic updates of digitalization of chancery records of various Virginia counties.

The most popular and standard reference books and online links for researching settlers and residents of  early Virginia include the following:

Virginia Immigrants and Adventurers, 1607-1635: A Biographical Dictionary; by Martha W. McCartney; (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co. 2007);

Jamestown People to 1800; Landowners, Public Officials, Minorities and Native Leaders; by Martha W. McCartney; (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co. 20012).

Adventurers of Purse and Person, Virginia, 1607-1624/5, Fourth Edition, a three-volume set compiled and edited by John Frederick Dorman. Volume One, Families A-F, has 1248 pages including index; Volume Two, Families G-P, has 1094 pages including index; Volume Three, Families R-Z, has 1089 pages including index.

Historic Jamestown offers a link to biographies of early settlers (1607-1624.)

The John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library at Colonial Williamsburg offers resources for researching seventeenth century Virginians, which include citations for a variety of records, including some online links.