Researching Through Genealogical Societies (Part 1)

by Bob Brooke

Genealogical and historical societies can be very helpful when searching for information about ancestors. Those in each state in which ancestors of a family resided for a generation or more are the best. Sometimes the two interests have combined to form one society, but many states have separate organizations. Also, county or regional societies of history and genealogy can be another resource for ancestral hunting.

The National Genealogical Society ( ) publishes a scholarly Quarterly that is worth the entire cost of membership. Since 1912, The National Genealogical Society Quarterly has published material concerning all regions of the nation and all ethnic groups including compiled genealogies, case studies, essays on new methodology and little-known resources, critical reviews of current books, and previously unpublished source materials.

Articles in The National Genealogical Society Quarterly show how to cope with name changes, burned courthouses, illegitimacies, and other stumbling blocks; how to interpret records that do not mean what they seem to say; how to distinguish between individuals of the same name; how to identify origins of immigrant ancestors; how to research a variety of ethnic groups; how to find a way through the maze of records at the National Archives; how to conduct research in specific states; and how to compile good genealogies.

The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS)( is the oldest and largest genealogical society in the country. For the past 154 years, NEHGS has been helping both new and experienced researchers trace their heritage in New England and also around the world. It offers several newsletters: The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, with general ancestral information on New England; Nexus, with news of the Society; The Computer Genealogist, with information for genealogically researching the Internet; and The Great Migration Newsletter, with information about the migration from England in the 17th century. In addition to its 200,000-volume research library in Boston, NEHGS also supports a 25,000- volume book-by-mail Circulating Library; a mail-order sales department; educational programs, lectures, conferences, and tours. For those with New England ancestors, no matter where they live, NEHGS is the best bet.

In the same vain, The Mayflower Society of Plymouth, Massachusetts, provides information on the passengers of the Mayflower and their descendants. In addition to a 10,000-volume genealogical library(more on that in a future column), there's a fascinating museum reflecting the colonial period and the 19th century in Massachusetts.

Regional genealogical societies, like the Detroit Society of Genealogical Research is important to anyone with ancestry in the Midwest. Its Magazine is also a valuable aid in pursuing Midwestern ancestry.

More information on some of the best state and ethnic historical and genealogical societies will be in Part 2.

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