By Lena Anthony
Volume 142, Number 3, May/June 2008, Page 4
Photo courtesy of Bren Landon
Barb Griffith has never seen a genealogy roadblock she couldn’t overcome. A courthouse that burned down? Ancestors who moved around a lot? “There’s always another avenue,” she says.
As Registrar for the Cuyahoga Portage Chapter, Akron, Ohio, since 1991—the year she joined—that’s the response she gives to prospective members as she helps them find their patriots.
Mrs. Griffith’s passion for genealogy developed because of a desire to learn more about her dad. “Being raised by my mother and stepfather, I knew absolutely nothing about my father’s side of the family, so once I got out on my own, it was my mission,” she says. But computer databases and the Internet weren’t available to genealogists in the early 1980s, so she did it the old-fashioned way.
“I set out to every town, township and county where any of my family had ever been thought to live,” she says. “Once I found out about my father, I wanted to know about my grandparents and the generations before them.”
About the time she retired from a 30-year career in real estate, Mrs. Griffith was shopping for antique greeting cards when a stranger next to her struck up a conversation. “We started talking about the beautiful cards, which got us on the subject of genealogy,” she recalls. “When I mentioned that my great-great-great-great-grandfather fought in the Revolutionary War, she immediately said, ‘We need you in DAR.’”
Mrs. Griffith wanted to join the DAR to honor her own family lineage, but today, being a Daughter means much more to her. “In the beginning, I asked a lot of stupid questions because I was naïve,” she says. “I didn’t understand its reach. Now I do, and I want everyone who is eligible to be a part of it.”
She is serious about that pledge. Mrs. Griffith’s efforts have gained 100 new members for her chapter, earning her the 100 Member-for-Member Bar. And she has led hundreds of other members in Ohio and other states to the DAR as well.
“We can’t continue to be this wonderful organization without constantly adding new members,” she says. “They’re the lifeblood of the DAR.”
In addition to her recruitment efforts, Mrs. Griffith is passionate about helping prospective members. She takes them step-by-step through the process of proving their lineage. “I want this to be a fun experience, not something that gives them a migraine,” she says.
It doesn’t take long for Mrs. Griffith’s prospective members to find out that they’re in excellent hands. So many prospects don’t have the time to put in the effort, so Mrs. Griffith steps up to help. She visits the DAR Library in Washington, D.C., at least every other month and has traveled as far away as Utah to look for proof of lineage for
There hasn’t yet been a case that she couldn’t crack. “No two applications are the same. I’ve had some finished in an hour. One I worked on for two-and-a-half years. Finally we were able to find that one missing link.”
Mrs. Griffith—who is the Ohio State Society Organizing Secretary and a certified Volunteer Field Genealogist—also teaches genealogical research workshops to other chapters and compiled a binder to assist Chapter Registrars.
“I wanted each new member to have actual copies of all documentation submitted to NSDAR for her own records and to pass down to future generations,” she says.
In her free time, Mrs. Griffith enjoys traveling with her husband, a retired police detective. “He loves history and genealogy as much as I do,” she says, “which means he won’t mind when I sneak some research into a vacation.”