As Boston 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.
If you have more suggestions for this list, please email me. This article is part of a series. See also: Best Heritage and Ethnic Genealogical Societies in Massachusetts; and Best Lineage Societies in Massachusetts.
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