29 May 2012

Best heritage and ethnic genealogical societies in New England

As genealogists, you may find that heritage groups and ethnic societies will open windows to your past. Besides avenues of research, connecting to these groups may help you understand more about your family customs, costumes, holidays, foods, traditions, and shared history.  

These societies offer its members access to unique library collections, digital and manuscript archives, publications, events, educational opportunities, research help, and/or museums. Some only offer informal meetings, while others have libraries, heritage tours, online databases—and much more. It all depends upon the goals of that individual society.

Below, you’ll find links to heritage and ethnic genealogical and historical societies in Massachusetts (and a few other places in New England). Most of the societies’ mission statements and founding dates are included.

Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, New England Chapter, Saxonville, MA: Founded in 1997, AAHGS-NE's mission is “to promote genealogical research of African-American heritage at all levels, beginner to professional.” The chapter is affiliated with the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society headquartered in Washington, DC.

American-Canadian Genealogical Society, Manchester, NH: Founded in 1973, ACGS’s purpose is to: “foster the study of ancestral origins; encourage research into the history of families; foster high standards of ethics for genealogical research; [and] provide a common access by and for individuals of Acadian, French-Canadian and Franco American origin.”

American-French Genealogical Society, Woonsocket, RI: Founded in 1978, AFGS is “devoted to people of French-Canadian extraction. Its purpose is to study and preserve our rich heritage by assisting members in discovering their ancestors and the daily events that shaped their, and our, lives.”

American Jewish Historical Society, Boston: “Founded in 1892, AJHS is the oldest national ethnic historical organization in the nation. AJHS is one of five partner organizations at the Center for Jewish History in Manhattan and has a branch in Boston.”

American-Portuguese Genealogical and Historical Society, Taunton, MA: Founded in 1977, APGHS “resolved ‘to have their work located in such manner that future Portuguese[-Americans] interested in genealogy could have ... information readily available so research would not have to be duplicated.’ This information was the start of the Special Collection in the Taunton Public Library that now has more than 80,000 entries.”

Chinese Historical Society of New England, Boston: Founded in 1992, CHSNE is an educational organization “dedicated solely to documenting, preserving, and promoting the history and legacy of Chinese immigration in New England.”

Finnish-American Heritage Society, Canterbury, CT: Founded in 1987, the FAHS owns the Finnish Hall, which was first dedicated in 1925 by an earlier group of Finnish-Americans. “In addition to a vast collection of artifacts and historical information in the archives and library, we offer Finnish language classes, translation services, and genealogy materials.”

French-Canadian Genealogical Society of Connecticut, Tolland, CT: FCGSC is “dedicated to collecting, preserving and disseminating genealogical and historical information about our ancestors who settled in Quebec and Acadia and their descendants. Our focus is on the genealogy of people of French-Canadian and Acadian heritage who settled in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and throughout New England.”

The Irish Ancestral Research Association, Auburndale, MA: TIARA organized “to develop and promote the growth, study, and exchange of ideas among people and organizations interested in Irish genealogical and historical research and education. Our monthly meetings educate and entertain our members, as well as foster interaction with other Irish researchers.”

Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston, Newton, MA. Founded in 1982, JGSGB started as “a study group for people looking into their Jewish family history.” It is a chapter of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) and affiliated with more than 70 Jewish genealogical societies worldwide.

Jewish Historical Society of the North Shore, Swampscott, MA: Founded in 1976, JHSNS organized “to promote increased public awareness of Jewish history and accomplishments around the North Shore; to encourage scholarly study and collect and preserve primary evidence of this history; [and] to sponsor meetings, publications and other forms of information about Jewish life along the North Shore.”

Polish Genealogical Society of Massachusetts, Northampton, MA: Founded in 1989, PGSMA was “founded to promote interest in preparing a family tree; unite people interested in Polish research; assist in research efforts; sponsor educational programs and publications; [and] preserve historical material which could aid research.” The society includes historic Poland to its outer limits, i.e. all three partitions: Austrian, German and Russian.

Polish Genealogical Society of Connecticut and the Northeast, New Britain, CT: Founded in 1984, PGSCTNE’s goal is “to actively promote the research of Polish-American families…and to unite all persons interested in genealogy.”  
Swedish Ancestry Research Association, Worcester, MA: Founded in 1994, SARA’s purpose “is to provide individuals researching their Swedish ancestry the opportunity to meet and share ideas with others who have similar interests. We are devoted to helping our members attain their goals through an agenda of informative speakers, workshops and publications.”

Western Massachusetts Jewish Genealogical Society, Northampton, MA: WMJGS “exists to help its members research their family history.” WMJGS is a chapter of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS).

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