Apply for Membership in the DSDI Today

Before deciding to apply for membership in the DSDI, it can be helpful to understand how we scrutinize the genealogy of our applicants.

Our application process has been designed in such a way to ensure that only direct descendants of the signers are admitted into the society, and we’re here to help you all along the way.

Prior to completing your application, please reach out to the Registrar by using the contact form on our website: Select Registrar from the “send my message to” field. The body of the email should include a brief summary of your lineage with reference to any DSDI members’ names and/or membership numbers of relatives if applicable. The Registrar may be able to help by letting you know what generations of your lineage are already documented with DSDI.

The DSDI Application Process:  Frequently Asked Questions

We have compiled a list of the most commonly asked questions regarding the application process for the DSDI. If you don’t find what you need here, please feel free to contact us.

How often are applications reviewed?

New member applications are processed in the order they’re received and are presented to the Board of Governors three to four times annually.

Is there a minimum age requirement for membership?

DSDI Junior membership can begin as soon as a birth certificate is issued allowing children to participate in DSDI activities. At age 18, Junior members may upgrade to Senior Membership.

When do I need to submit a membership application to be eligible for a Scholarship

Eligibility for scholarships is dependent on a DSDI Junior or Senior membership number being assigned by the fall meeting prior to the scholarship application window. The scholarship window begins in late fall of the year prior to the academic year of interest. For example, The 2022 DSDI Fall meeting took place September 23-24, 2022 and the Scholarship application window for the 2023-24 academic year will open in late fall 2022. Given that descendants are eligible at birth for membership, there is plenty of time for submitting an application prior to the scholarship deadlines. Please allow at least 6 months for processing as applications are reviewed in the order received and no exceptions are made to meet scholarship deadlines.

Will the DSDI Consider Family Stories as Proof of Descendance?

Many families have stories tying their family to one of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence. Unfortunately, many of those stories will not survive genealogical scrutiny. That’s why we required actual documentation of lineage.

What’s the difference between the terms “related,” “collateral,” and “descended?”

An item of confusion we see frequently is the difference between “related”, “collateral descendant” and “descended”. If you think you are related to, or a collateral descendant of a Signer, you are not eligible for membership in the Society. The Society does not maintain genealogies on Signers’ relations. We are asked questions about Signers’ possible relations all the time and we simply cannot address them.

What is the difference between related, collateral descendant, and descended? If you are a grandchild, great-grandchild, etc., you are a descendant. If the Signer is a cousin, great uncle, etc, you are related to or a collateral descendant of the Signer.

Does the DSDI accept DNA evidence of descendance?

The Society is an organization of documentation. We do not accept DNA as proof of descent.

Where can I research the Signers’ descendants?

There are several good sources of genealogical data on the Signers’ descendants. A source document, The Leach Manuscript, may be seen on microfilm at any LDS Family History Library, in Salt Lake City, or in more than 3,500 Family History centers located around the world. For the FHC nearest you, visit Family History Centers.  If you think you are a descendant of one of the New England signers, a great resource is the New England Historical and Genealogical Society.

In addition, there is a seven-volume series, The Genealogical Register of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, by The Rev. Frederick Wallace Pyne. These volumes are arranged by Regional grouping, starting with New England (Vol. 1) and ending with Georgia (Vol. 7). Each volume contains detailed genealogical data on the descendants of each Signer from that State. The publisher of Picton Press has died and Picton Press no longer exists; however, the books may be available from the Rohrback Foundation. Additionally, will allow you to search for this collection of volumes near you.

Which Signers have no living descendants?

These Signers have no descendants:

  • William Whipple (seven children, all died within the first year of their life)
  • John Hancock (two children, one died at one year, the other at age eleven)
  • Samuel Huntington (raised two adoptive children, had none of his own)
  • James Smith (five grandchildren, none had children)
  • James Wilson (one grandchild, never married, had no children)
  • Caesar Rodney (never married, no children)
  • George Wythe (one child, died as a newborn)
  • Francis Lightfoot Lee (had no children)
  • Joseph Hewes (never married, had no children)
  • Thomas Lynch, Jr. (he and his wife died at sea, no children)
  • Button Gwinnett (had one daughter, who had no children)
  • Lyman Hall (one son, never married, no children)
  • George Walton (one great-grandson, George Walton Reab, a bachelor, no children). 

Every month we get applicants from people stating they are a descendant of one of the above-named signers. To date, no one has been able to prove their claims. There were several James Wilsons in the Philadelphia area during the Revolutionary period and we get applications for James Wilson, but the applicants are not descendants of James Wilson, the Signer.

I believe I’m a descendant of Signer George Clymer. Could that be right?

We get applications from people who believe themselves to be George Clymer’s descendants, but they do not pan out. The reason is that there is a living branch of George Clemmer, from the Germantown region of Pennsylvania. Over time, the name “Clemmer” morphed into “Clymer.” To date, none of these applications have passed genealogical muster. 

I am a descendant of Josiah Bartlett. Could it be the Signer?

Josiah Bartlett is a source of applications that do not pass muster. The reason is that a lot of Bartletts settled in the same county in New England, and while some folks may be related to Josiah, few are descended from the Signer.

Is it possible to be a descendant of William Ross, grandson of Signer George Ross?

We often received applications stating descendance from William Ross, the grandson of the Signer, George Ross. The Signer did have a grandson, William Ross. But William never married and died without children.

There are some SAR documents from an earlier time that provide full genealogical information on a William Ross. Both Williams were born the same year—one in Lancaster County, PA, one in Cumberland County, PA (you will also see this listed as IA). The one born in Cumberland County died in Illinois. The grandson of the Signer died in Lancaster, PA and the death year is different for each. This is just one example of why you must be very careful with genealogical information you find on the web. Tracing your roots is not quite as easy as The Genealogy Roadshow or Finding Your Roots would have you believe.

What should I know about the name “Robert Morris?”

While there are descendants of the Signer Robert Morris who do carry the Morris surname, they are not straight-line male descendants. One of the granddaughters did marry a Morris and the name does come down to current times, but no male Morris sons or grandsons exist in current times.  In addition, according to DAR records, there are four other Robert Morris Patriots from the Delaware Valley. We get frequent requests for membership from one of those men’s descendants. In these cases, we have to say no. 

If you think you might be a descendant of one of these men, we recommend you contact the Pennsylvania Historical Society in Philadelphia, as they have extensive genealogical records from the revolutionary period of time.

Fee Schedule:

Application Fee – $45.00Junior Application Fee – $45.00Annual Dues – $45.00
Life Membership – $600.00Junior Life Membership – $600.00Reinstatement Fee – $45.00

Are You Ready to Apply for Membership?

If you have genealogical proof (other than a DNA test) that you are a direct descendant of a Signer of the Declaration of Independence and you would like to apply for membership in the DSDI, we look forward to hearing from you. Every new member brings new information, new experiences, and new opportunities for comradery and friendship—so apply today!