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).

22 May 2012

Best Massachusetts genealogical and historical societies

New England Historic Genealogical Society
As genealogists, it really pays to become members of local genealogical and historical societies. It often doesn’t matter if you live in Massachusetts or not. If you have ancestors or relatives who lived in the Commonwealth, it’s worth it to connect with like-minded individuals and societies to further your research.

As genealogists, we know access is everything. 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, like New England Historic Genealogical Society, have a world-class library, heritage tours, a large collection of online databases—and much more. It all depends upon the goals of that individual society.

For example, Essex Society of Genealogists is “based at the Local History and Genealogy Room of the Lynnfield Public Library.” It’s a public library, so anyone can use the research materials and equipment available. If you visit on certain Wednesdays, you’ll see ESOG volunteers digging into the materials to answer queries or cleaning up the stacks. The group holds monthly meetings, all open to the public, except for the potluck special, open to members and their spouses only. But if you don’t become a member, you won’t receive the society’s quarterly publication, The Essex Genealogist.

Below, you’ll find links to local and regional genealogical and historical societies in Massachusetts. To give you a taste for what each one stands for, most of their mission statements and founding dates are included. Check them out and see which ones intrigue you. And remember, as American Express so aptly put it, “membership has its privileges.” By joining, you help these societies fulfill their missions and you have access to their resources to make ancestral connections.

American Antiquarian Society, Worcester: Founded in 1812, AAS is “a national research library of American history, literature, and culture.”

Berkshire Historical Society, Pittsfield: BHS is “dedicated to collecting, preserving, and disseminating the history of Berkshire County in western Massachusetts. In addition, the Berkshire Historical Society is committed to the preservation and interpretation of Arrowhead, home of author Herman Melville, the first National Historic Landmark to be so designated in Berkshire County.”

Boston Athenaeum, Boston: Founded in 1807, this membership library’s mission is “to serve its members, the broader community, and scholars throughout the world by preserving and augmenting its collections of books and art, by providing library services and cultural programs, and by preserving and enhancing the unique atmosphere of its landmark building.”

Bostonian Society, Boston: Founded in 1881, this historical society is “dedicated to studying, and preserving Boston’s uniquely important history, embodied in materials, records, and structures such as the Old State House, and in sharing an understanding of the revolutionary ideas born here.”

Cape Cod Genealogical Society, Dennis Port: Founded in 1971, the society “acquires, catalogs, and preserves genealogical and historical information, emphasizing but not limited to Cape Cod.”

Central Massachusetts Genealogical Society, Gardner: Founded in 1993, CMGS has monthly meetings and publications.

Essex Society of Genealogists, Lynnfield: Founded in 1975 and an independent society as of 1981, ESOG is based at the Lynnfield Public Library.

Massachusetts Genealogical Council: Founded in 1980, MGC is “the umbrella organization representing Massachusetts genealogists, historical societies, and individuals who are concerned about records preservation and free and unfettered access to civil records.”

Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston: Founded in 1791, MHS’s mission is “to collect, preserve, make accessible, and communicate manuscripts that promote the study of Massachusetts and the nation.”

Massachusetts Society of Genealogists: Founded in 1975, MSOG’s purpose is “of promoting and encouraging Massachusetts genealogical research at all levels, beginner, amateur, and professional.” Chapters are in Bristol, Martha's Vineyard, Merrimack Valley, Middlesex, and Worcester.

New England Association of Professional Genealogists: “NEAPG is designed to be a place where professionals from a wide variety of specialties can come together with the common ground of genealogy to: to promote international awareness of, and interest in, professional genealogical services; to promote professional standards in genealogical research, writing, and speaking; to engage in activities which improve access, facilitate research, and preserve records used in the fields of genealogy and local history; to promote awareness of activities and/or laws which may affect genealogical and historical research; to educate the membership and public through publications and lectures, and provide support for those engaged in genealogical pursuits as a business.”

New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston: Founded in 1845, NEHGS was the first genealogical society in the United States. “NEHGS collects, preserves, and interprets materials to document and make accessible the histories of families in America.”

Plymouth County Genealogists, East Bridgewater: Founded in 1976, PCG’s mission is “the advancement of genealogy as a hobby and a profession, the encouragement of sharing accurate documentation, and the exploration of  new avenues of research.”

South Shore Genealogical Society, Hanover: Founded in 1983, SSGS brings together people who share “a common interest in searching for and learning their family history. Today, [the] society is made up of beginners, amateurs, and professionals who work within the highest ethical standards to learn, educate, assist, and disseminate to our members sources, techniques, and methods required to learn the history of their family.”

Western Massachusetts Genealogical Society, Springfield: Founded in 1972, the society “is devoted to the research and documentation of our family ancestry and history. We also assist others in the pursuit of discovering their ancestry.”

To find town or city historical and genealogical societies and museums, use the search engine at Preservation Directory.