Recently, I posted the article, Helping Hands, for the 88th Carnival of Genealogy’s theme on “Volunteerism”. That post started the wheels in my brain turning, and I wondered, “Just what type of organizations did my family and ancestors join? What were their roles? How long did they continue their associations? What type of ‘rules’ were required or the type of paperwork submitted in order to become affiliated with those groups?” So let’s dig in and find out! (Note: when I started writing this article several days ago, I didn’t realize just how many organizations and groups – civic, professional and fraternal – my family had joined. I’ve realized that I need to break this post into sections.)
Girl Scouts of the U.S.A.
When I volunteered to be a leader for two of my daughters’ troops, all I had to do was fill out an application form and commit to attending the Service Unit meetings (once a month) and hold regularly scheduled Troop meetings. In order to participate in field events, I needed to have one other adult (preferably a co-leader or a parent) with me and have completed a CPR/First Aid Course. Toward the end of my “leader” days, Girl Scouts were also requiring background checks. I was a Girl Scout Leader for my oldest daughter from her 3rd grade year until she was in high school. I was a Leader for my youngest daughter through her Kindergarten year through her 4th grade year (the two overlapped!). As a member of Girl Scouts, I only participated through two years of Brownies and six weeks of “Girl Scouts” (the term then for when a girl “flew up” to the real scouting program).
History of Girl Scouting: Organized on March 12, 1912 by Juliette Gordon Lowe. She had met Lord Baden-Powell while in England and became interested in the “new movement” of Girl Guides and Boy Scouts.
Boy Scouts of America
My grandfather was a member of the Boy Scouts as a Scoutmaster and received the Silver Beaver Award. Today, adult volunteers must submit an application, attend required Youth Protection training, and follow the Boy Scout Law and Oath. Women were once only allowed to be “Den Mothers” but today can hold any Cub Scout Leadership position. Girls are allowed to participate in the Venturing and Explorer programs however the Eagle Scout badge is only for males.
History of BSA: Founded in England in 1907 by Robert Baden-Powell and incorporated in America by W.D. Boyce on February 8, 1910. The Silver Beaver Award is an award for distinguished service that is given by the Council.
White Shrine of Jerusalem
My grandparents were members of the White Shrine of Jerusalem for several years. This is not a “racial” organization – the “white” refers to the purity of Christ. Membership is for women who have been active members of Rainbow Girls or Job’s Daughters for at least three years and have attained the age of 18. Women who are related to a Master Mason are also eligible to join. It’s purpose is Fraternal, Charitable, and Spiritual. To join this organization obtain a petition from someone and complete the necessary information and submit with an initiation fee. After confirming a Masonic affiliation, a vote is taken and a potential member will receive the results and a date for initiation.
Free & Accepted Masons
My grandfather was a member of Michael L. Finnell Lodge #711 located in the 8th District of Ohio of Free and Accepted Masons. He reached the 33rd Degree many years before he passed away. To become a member of the F&AM, one must contact the secretary for the nearest lodge and schedule a time to be visited by two members of the lodge who would recommend you for membership. Qualifications include: a resident of the state for specified period of time, be at least 19 years of age, believe in a Supreme Being, live a moral life, not an advocate of government overthrow, and read and write English.
History: Freemasonry was founded in 1717 in Londong, England and is a fraternal organization. The traditions are founded in the building of the temple of King Solomon and the ceremonies use the tools of stonemasons that symbolize truth and moral lessons.
My grandfather was a past commander of the Dignam-Whitmore American Legion post 526 which is located in Greene County, Ohio. Anyone on active duty or has served in an eligible war era (WWI, WWII, Korean War, Viet Nam War, Grenada, Lebanon, Panama, Gulf War – 1990 to present) is eligible to become a Legionaire. The American Legion Auxilliary is for women who are related (spouse, daughter, mother, sister, grandmother, granddaughter, great-granddaughter, etc.) of an American Legion member or deceased member. Sons of the American Legion are for those male descendents of an American Legion member.
History: The American Legion was founded by WWI veterans in 1919 in order to assist disabled veterans and their families. They also helped maintain a strong defense. One achievement for the American Legion has been the GI Bill of 1944 that helped WWII veterans. They have fought to increase health care for veterans and were instrumental in getting compensation for victims of Agent Orange, undiagnosed Gulf War illnesses and much more.
Order of the Eastern Star
My grandfather was Past Worthy Patron (1957) of Aero Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star and my grandmother was a charter member of the same chapter, No. 536. My grandfather was honored upon his death by the Aero Chapter for his service of 30 years and 8 months. Membership is for men who are Masons and women with specific Masonic affiliation. Women are also eligible if they have been members in good standing for three years of Job’s Daughters or Rainbow Girls and have attained the age of 18. To become a member one must talk to a current member of the local chapter and submit a petition. It is not a secret society and members must believe in a Supreme Being.
History: click here to read about the three different time periods of Order of the Eastern Star history.
National Association of Balloon Corps Veterans (NABVC)
Since my grandfather served in the Balloon Corps during WWI, he was automatically a member of this group and in the mid-1950s, was elected as National Commander at one of the national conventions. Although, not active in recent times, as all members have passed away, the NABVC was instrumental in 1975 who assisted the British WWI Balloon Veterans in locating one of the last Caquot Type R balloons from that era. After restoration, the balloon can now be seen hanging in the United States Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. (Picture is of the Caquot Balloon hanging in the US Air Force Museum; photographer – Wendy Littrell; digital image held in private)
National Active and Retired Federal Employees (NARFE)
My grandfather, having been a federal employee for many years, was part of this organization and served two terms as regional Vice President. To become a member one must be an active federal employee or a retired/former federal employee. One of the perks my grandfather experienced happened on October 18, 1971 when he traveled with NARFE to the White House. He enjoyed a meeting with President Nixon and received a photo of the group.
History: Formed in 1921, this association helps improve and safeguard earning rights and benefits of active and retired federal workers, their families and survivors.
Antioch Shrine Temple
My grandfather was also a member of the Antioch Shrine Temple in Dayton, Ohio. One of the qualifications to becoming a Shriner was to be a Master Mason. This is a fraternal organization based on Masonic principles. The Shriners supports Shriners Hospitals for Children.
History: The Shriners were organized out of a meeting in New York of several Master Masons which included physicans and actors. The first temple was organized in the New York City Masonic Hall on September 26, 1872. In 1888 there were 48 temples and over 7,000 members in the United States and Canada. The Shriners came to the aid of those victims of the 1889 Johnstown (Pennsylvania) flood. At the 1920 Imperial Session in Oregon, Freeland Kendrick of Philadelphia wanted to establish a Hospital for Crippled Children. The first hospital was in Louisiana. In 1996 the hospitals became the Shriners Hospitals for Children as they had updated their care to provide treatment for burns, spinal cords, neurological, cleft lip/palate and a multitude of others. The hospitals provide care at no cost to the patient or their families – only what is best for the child. Today there are about 400,000 Shriners in 191 temples all across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Central America.
High Twelve Club
As a Master Mason, my grandfather also belonged to the High Twelve Club, Chapter 69 of Dayton. Members must be Master Masons however anyone can attend meetings.
History: The first club was chartered by E.C. Wolcott on May 17, 1921. It is a group of Master Masons who support those Masonic causes that emphasis patriotic events and youth support. It is an association that is dedicated to the unity of Master Masons without the formal ritual of a lodge. The name came from the term “high twelve” for noon which is the time many clubs met.
Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite
The Valley of Dayton is the chapter my grandfather had his membership. The Scottish Rite is open to all Master Masons in good standing.
History: the first Scottish Rite Supreme Council was founded in 1801 in Charleston, South Carolina. The organization shares the same belief as other Masonic organizations that there is no degree higher than a Master Mason. Even though there were members of Scottish ancestry, the organization originated in France in the early 18th century.
Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)
My grandfather was a member of Post 6861 located in Fairborn, Ohio. To be eligible one must have received a campaign medal for overseas service or served 30 consecutive or 60 non-consecutive days in Korea or received hostile fire or imminent danger pay. Members must also be U.S. citizens, currently in the military or have an honorable discharge and have served overseas. There is also an organization called VFW – She Serves that is exclusively for women who honors the sacrifce of female veterans who served overseas.
History: In 1899 veterans of the Phillipine insurrection and the Spanish-American war founded local organizations to get benefits and rights for their service. When they arrived home, there weren’t any medical care or pensions for them and most were left to fend for themselves. The VFW helped with the passing the GI Bill for the 21st Century in 2008 and fought for the improvement of VA medical facilities. Today there are over 2 million members in 8100 posts worldwide. Their mission is “honor the dead by helping the living.”
Voiture 40 and 8
As a WWI veteran, my grandfather was a member of this independent – by invitation only – organization with the long name of “La Societe des Quarante Hommes at Huit Chevaux” - but commonly referred to as “Forty and Eight”. Invitation is extended to honorably discharged veterans and those who are honorably serving in the United States Armed Forces.
History: Founded in 1920 by American veterans returning from France, this organization’s aims are charitable and patriotic. The logo reflects the WWI origins as Americans were transported to the front lines by railroad cars that bore the stenciled numbers “40/8″.
Association of Old Crows
My grandfather was a member of Kittyhawk Chapter 70 in Ohio. Members are people who are engaged in the development of related areas of electronic warfare (military employees, civil service employees, scientists, educators, etc.).
History: Organized in 1964 to exchange information on operational and technical parts of defense electronics and like fields. For more on the history please click here.
Reserve Officers Association of the United States
Members are Reserve Officers in U.S. Armed Forces.
History: General John Pershing formally established this association in 1922 after WWI. The second session of the 81st Congress enacted Public Law 595 - “An Act to Incorporate the Reserve Officers Association of the United States.” President Harry Truman signed the charter on June 30, 1950.
Retired Military Officers Association
This is open to all retired military officers, former military personnel, active duty professionals, business professionals, students, and business owners/managers. Since my grandfather retired from the U.S. Air Force as a Colonel, he was eligible for membership.
History: Information about the RMOA mission can be found here.
Aviation Hall of Fame
My grandfather was a charter member of the Aviation Hall of Fame. Members need only to pick what level of membership and send in the appropriate monetary amount. The National Aviation Hall of Fame is located at the U.S. Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.
History: Founded in Dayton, Ohio in 1962 and chartered by Congress in 1964. It is dedicated to preserving as well as promoting the legacy of those in America who are outstanding air and space pioneers. Past inductees have included: Jimmy Doolittle, Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindbergh, Wilbur and Orville Wright, Chuck Yeager, Neil Armstrong, Howard Hughes, and James Stewart.
This is another organization that requires Masonic membership as well as honorable service (currently or in the past) as an Officer or Senior Non-Commissioned officer in the uniformed services.
History of the sojourners can be found here.
My uncle was a member of the “Cereal City” Lions Club in Battle Creek, Michigan. Members are invited to join and are made up of men and women who are service and community minded. In order to facilitate membership, one should locate the nearest club and contact that club to express interest in joining. My uncle was a past president, and a recipient of the Melvin Jones Fellowship Award. He also held several other titles in his local Lions Club.
History: Began in 1917 by Melvin Jones, a Chicago businessman. It is the world’s largest service organization with more than 1 million members in 45,000 clubs internationally.
Chamber of Commerce
My uncle was a member of Battle Creek Chamber of Commerce.
American Society of Mechanical Engineers
My uncle was a member of this Society. Those who seek to become members must fill out an application that requests professional information and pay the required dues.
History: Founded in 1880, the ASME is a not for profit professional organization. Collaboration and knowledge sharing is enabled across all engineering disciplines. The society helps the worldwide community of engineering to develop real world solutions for challenges faced.
National Amputee Golf Association
As an avid golfer most of his life, when my uncle faced the challenge of being an amputee, he joined this association. Membership is open to anyone who has lost a hand or a foot at a major point (hip, wrist, elbow, knee, etc.).
History: The NAGA was incorporated in 1954 and began with a small group of golfers who got together to play golf. Soon, the games turned into regional tournaments. Today there are over 2500 members globally.
National Security Industrial Association (presently: National Defense Industrial Association)
My uncle also enjoyed membership in this group. Members could be corporate (companies and institutions) or individual (defense professionals).
History: In 1944 the NSIA was founded as the Navy Industrial Association as not-for-profit and non-political. It began as a way for government and industry (especially the defense industry) to have effective communication. When the Department of Defense was formed, the name of the association became the National Security Industrial Association. In 1997 the NSIA merged with the American Defense Preparedness Association to become the National Defense Industrial Association.
(Stay tuned for Part II!)
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