Lake Forest-based group born of patriots
Ceilia Bernardoni, left, and Lynett Winegarner lay roses at the headstone of Juliana Howe Ewell during a ceremony at Oak Woods Cemetery in Chicago Sunday. | Kevin Tanaka~for Sun-Times Media.
Those interested in joining the Daughters of the American Revolution should visit www.dar.org for information and to fill out an online application. The national number is (202) 628-1776.
Updated: September 21, 2012 5:48PM
LAKE FOREST — Members of the North Shore chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution attended a grave-marking ceremony on the west side of Chicago this month for one of their own — Juliana Howe Ewell, whose father served in the American Revolutionary War.
While the ceremony was far away from Lake County, some chapter members, like Zion resident Racheal Hughes, one of 120 women in the chapter, wanted to make the journey.
“It was such a beautiful day, and we all had a great time,” Hughes said of the Sept. 9 event. “(Ewell) is what’s called a real daughter — someone whose father fought in the Revolutionary War.”
The North Shore chapter of the Washington, D.C.-based national organization focuses much of the members’ energies on historical preservation and research, Hughes said.
For instance, in May, the Lake Forest-based group also marked the grave of Henry Collins in a cemetery near Zion. The members of the North Shore group had researched records, finding that Collins had been part of the American Revolutionary War effort. They decided to mark his resting place by adding a DAR plaque, denoting his service, Hughes said.
Hughes became involved with her local DAR chapter because her grandmother became a member of her local chapter in southern Illinois in 1987. Her mother decided to join in 1991. Hughes signed up about two years ago.
According to the North Shore chapter’s website, most members live in Lake Forest, Lake Bluff, Northbrook, Deerfield and Highland Park. It was organized in 1893, and at that time, it was the second DAR chapter in the state of Illinois.
Unlike some members, Hughes didn’t have much trouble proving she was descended from someone who had served or gave aid in the Revolutionary War.
All she had to do was prove she was a direct descendant of her grandmother, who had the task of proving she was descended from Alexander Beggs, who started out on the East Coast in the 18th Century before moving to southern Illinois where Hughes’ grandmother had lived.
Hughes said she knows little about the man who allowed her to join the organization other than they are eight or nine generations apart and that he helped in the American Revolutionary War effort.
Without the benefit of the Internet, which makes genealogy searches easier, Hughes’ grandmother had to collect marriage records, birth certificates and military service listings across the country and through the decades to prove her lineage.
“I think it’s really hard for the first person who has to prove ancestry to join, but it’s really easy for everyone else after that,” Hughes said. “A lot has been preserved, so it’s really a matter of finding the right documents.”
The North Shore DAR chapter is one of 3,000 such chapters across the country, said Bren Landon, public relations director of the national DAR organization. About 170,000 women worldwide are members of the organization that was founded in 1890.
To be members, women must be descended from people who fought in the American Revolution or gave aid. That may mean ancestors may not have served in the military, but had signed a pledge of allegiance to the revolutionary cause or even gave food to American troops, Landon said.
She added that the group’s historical library in Washington, D.C., may be particularly helpful to those who want to join. It was recently featured on the NBC TV show, “Who Do You Think You Are?” when actor Rob Lowe used the library to track down his ancestors.
Accepted members join their local individual chapters, which set their own agendas as far as what they’d like to focus on, she said.
“The cool thing I like about the DAR chapters is that they have such varied services,” Landon said. “One chapter maybe be into historical preservation of graves, and others are into the preservation of buildings while another may be into the patriotic angle, while another may be trying to send food and supplies to troops abroad.”