Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati


Membership in the Society of the Cincinnati can get a bit complicated because the Society is made up of 14 Constituent societies - one for each colony and one for France. You must belong to the Society to which your ancestor belonged, or would have belonged, had he been a member. Each of these societies has slightly different rules for eligibility. Therefore, I will describe the rules in Massachusetts.

First of all your ancestor must have served as an officer in the Revolution. An eligible officer must have had, at least, three years of service in the Continental forces. Militia service after June 1775 does not count. However, he may also have been killed or incapacitated in service, deranged or serving at the end of the war (1783). Deranged is a nice 18th century word meaning 'we have no troops for you to command so please go home, keep your sword shiny and we'll call if we need you'.

Unlike other hereditary organizations, only one person may represent an eligible officer as an Hereditary Member at any given time. In Massachusetts, there may also be one Successor Member on a line. Therefore, there must be a vacancy for a new member to fill.

You must have a direct line of descent from the officer or one of his siblings. We do not accept cousins although some societies do.

If it is not clear which society your ancestor would have joined, it is generally resolved by which state the unit he served in was associated with. Most Continental units were closely related to one state. Thus we have names such as the 1st Regiment, Massachusetts Line.

If you have an ancestor who you believe served in the Continental forces (Army, Navy or Marines) and you need help to figure out if he had sufficient service, there is an opening, your line qualifies, or what society you need to contact - I would be happy to help. All I need is the name and, hopefully, the rank and unit.

Thank you for your interest.

J. Archer O'Reilly III
Secretary - Massachusetts Society


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