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New England Historic Genealogical Society

The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) is the oldest and largest genealogical society in the United States, founded in 1845.

New England Historic Genealogical Society
New England Historic Genealogical Society.tif
FoundedBoston, Massachusetts, US
(1845 (1845))[1]
FoundersCharles Ewer (1790-1853)

Lemuel Shattuck (1793-1859)

Samuel Gardner Drake (1798-1875)

John Wingate Thornton (1818-1878)

William Henry Montague (1804-1889)
TypeGenealogical society
PurposeFamily history, Genealogy, Kinship and descent
Area served
United States
ServicesGenealogical records

Historical records

Genealogy research

Genealogy education
President and CEO
D. Brenton Simons [2]

NEHGS provides family history services through its staff, original scholarship, website,[3][4] educational opportunities, and research center. Today it has over 250,000 members and more than 90 staff and volunteers.[5]



First-floor Treat Rotunda at NEHGS.

NEHGS is headquartered at 99–101 Newbury Street in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood. NEHGS moved there in 1964 and it is the seventh location for the organization.

The first three floors of NEHGS' present location were built as the headquarters of The New England Trust Company in 1928, designed by Ralph Coolidge Henry and Henry P. Richmond, successors to noted American architect Guy Lowell. Henry and Richmond also designed buildings at Colby College, Pine Manor, and Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. When NEHGS moved into its new headquarters in 1964, it added five floors on top of the New England Trust Company building.

Ruth Chauncey Bishop Reading Room at NEHGS.

Prior headquarters included the City Building, Court Square, Room 9 during the years 1846 and 1847; the Massachusetts Block, Court Square for 1847 to 1851; 5 Tremont Street, 3rd floor for 1851 through 1858; 17 Bromfield Street, 3rd floor from 1858 to 1871; 18 Somerset Street – 1871 to 1913; 9 Ashburton Place from 1913 to 1964.

George Washington "porthole" portrait painted by Rembrandt Peale, 1853.



The NEHGS research library holds materials related to genealogical research in the United States, as well as some materials relevant to the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Canada. NEHGS collections include 200,000 bound volumes; 5,000+ linear feet of original manuscripts; and 100,000 rolls of microfilm. NEHGS also holds a fine arts collection including works on canvas or paper by Joseph Badger, John Singleton Copley, Pierre Charles L'Enfant, Jonathan Mason, Jr., Rembandt Peale, and John Ritto Penniman. Items from its collection of American furniture were featured in Antiques and the Arts Weekly Magazine.[6]


The NEHGS website[7] is ranked number 120 in the Genealogy and Ancestry category on SimilarWeb.[8] More than 15,000 members research on the website every day and an additional 15,000 non-members visit daily.[citation needed] It features a catalog and nearly 3,000 unique searchable databases containing information on over 113 million people. Popular databases are Massachusetts Vital Records to 1850, Massachusetts Vital Records 1841-1915, Massachusetts Vital Records 1911-1915, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, The American Genealogist, Social Security Death Index, Cemetery Transcriptions, Great Migration Begins: 1620-1633, and Abstracts of Wills in New York State 1787-1835.[9]

The Society's website has online exhibits featuring items from the Society's manuscript collection.

In addition to the main website, NEHGS supports[10]

NEHGS launched its first website,[11] in 1996; it was one of the first non-profit genealogical societies to have an online presence.[citation needed] NEHGS' first website consisted of 38 pages with information about NEHGS services and programs. In 1999, with the introduction of a new magazine New England Ancestors, NEHGS changed its URL to,[12] adding genealogical articles to the website for use by members and the public. In 2001, NEHGS redesigned its website to include data rich content, new articles, and member forums.[citation needed]


NEHGS provides various educational opportunities relating to genealogy and family history. Most of educational programs are led and/or taught by members of the NEHGS staff, though some include invited guests.

NEHGS offers a series of research tours, lectures, seminars, and other events throughout the year. For over thirty years, NEHGS has conducted a week-long tour to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah and frequently offers opportunities to research and visit in Ireland, Scotland, Washington D.C., England, Quebec, and other places. For more than twenty years, NEHGS has sponsored a week-long summer “Come Home to New England” program in Boston.

The Society has also developed online seminars many of which are taught by their staff genealogists on a wide variety of topics such as Internet searching, beginning genealogical research, organizing, preparing lineage society applications, and others.


NEHGS publishes books on families, genealogists, and historians, including authoritative guides, source record compilations, compiled genealogies, and family histories. The Newbury Street Press imprint is America's leading publisher of privately sponsored family histories.

Among the Society's recent additions to the genealogical canon are Genealogical Writing in the 21st Century, New Englanders in the 1600s, A Guide to Massachusetts Cemeteries, Ancestors of American Presidents: 2009 edition, The Descendants of Henry Sewall, and Twenty Families of Color in Massachusetts.

The New England Historical and Genealogical RegisterEdit

Published quarterly since 1847, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register is the flagship journal of American genealogy and the oldest in the field. A wide variety of genealogies and source material have been published in the Register for over 160 years, with an emphasis on New England. Authoritative compiled genealogies have always been a primary focus of the Register. Thousands of New England families have been treated in the pages of the journal, and many more are referred to incidentally. Typically, these articles solve a genealogical problem, identify immigrant origins, or present a full-scale treatment of multiple generations. Henry B. Hoff was appointed editor of the Register in 2001. In October 2009, an annual supplement to the Register, American Ancestors Journal, was introduced.

The Great Migration Study ProjectEdit

Publications of the Great Migration Study Project:

  • The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620–1633, [first series], 3 vols. (NEHGS, 1995) The first phase of the Great Migration Study Project identifies and describes all those Europeans who settled in New England prior to the end of 1633 — over 900 early New England families.
  • The Great Migration: Immigrants to New England, 1634–1635, [second series], 6 vols. to date:. (NEHGS, 1999–) During this time period, approximately 1,300 families (or unattached men and women) arrived in New England. Each volume contains about 200 individual sketches.
  • The Pilgrim Migration: Immigrants to Plymouth Colony (NEHGS, 2007) This volume contains over 200 sketches on every family or individual known to have resided in Plymouth Colony from the arrival of the Mayflower in 1620 until 1633.
  • The Great Migration Newsletter. Available in print or online, this publication complements the individual Great Migration sketches, and examines the broad issues in understanding the lives and times of New England's first immigrants. Article topics include the settlement of early New England towns, migration patterns, 17th-century passenger lists, church records, land records, and more.

In the mediaEdit

The July 1888 photo, which shows 8-year-old Helen Keller with her teacher Anne Sullivan vacationing on Cape Cod, was donated to NEHGS.

In January 2010, NEHGS research showed that President Barack Obama is a 10th cousin to then newly elected Republican Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown. The two share a common ancestor named Richard Singletary who died in Haverhill, Massachusetts in 1687.[13]

In October 2009, Boston Herald reported on NEHGS' conclusion of a relationship between actors and friends Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.[14]

In April 2008, NEHGS released a story on interesting kinships of the then three remaining presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain. Barack Obama was shown as a 9th cousin to actor Brad Pitt while Hillary Clinton was noted as a 9th cousin twice removed of Pitt's wife, actress Angelina Jolie. Genealogists also confirmed that Obama is related to seven former U.S. Presidents, including George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Lyndon B. Johnson, Harry S. Truman, and James Madison.[15]

In March 2008, NEHGS received a gift of the earliest known photograph of Helen Keller with her teacher Anne Sullivan. The photo, taken in July 1888, shows 8-year old Keller holding a doll. The photograph was subsequently given to the Brewster Historical Society in Brewster, Massachusetts.[16][17]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "History of the New England Historic Genealogical Society". American Ancestors. New England Historic Genealogical Society. Retrieved 4 Sep 2019.
  2. ^ "NEHGS Governance". American Ancestors. New England Historic Genealogical Society. Retrieved 4 Sep 2019.
  3. ^ The History of NEHGS Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ " - Family History Research and Expert Genealogy Resources". Archived from the original on 2014-09-14. Retrieved 2017-02-24. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  5. ^ "Our Future Vision". NEHGS Annual Report, Fiscal Year 2017. New England Historic Genealogical Society. Retrieved 4 Sep 2019.
  6. ^ McQueeney, Frances (21 Jul 2014). "New England Historic Genealogical Society". Antiques and the Arts Weekly. Retrieved 4 Sep 2019.
  7. ^ "New England Historic Genealogical Society". Archived from the original on 2014-07-07. Retrieved 2013-05-16. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  8. ^ " July 2019 Overview". SimilarWeb. Retrieved 4 Sep 2019.
  9. ^ "American Ancestors: Databases". Archived from the original on 2013-12-13. Retrieved 2013-12-13. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  10. ^ "The Great Migration, A Survey of New England: 1620-1640". Archived from the original on 2013-05-11. Retrieved 2013-05-16. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  11. ^ "New England Historic Genealogical Society". Archived from the original on 2008-07-23. Retrieved 2013-05-16. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  12. ^ "New England Historic Genealogical Society". Archived from the original on 2010-09-27. Retrieved 2013-05-16. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  13. ^ "Barack Obama and Scott Brown are cousins, genealogist reveals". Daily Telegraph. 2010-01-29. ISSN 0307-1235. Archived from the original on 2019-06-20. Retrieved 2019-06-20. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  14. ^ Fee, Gayle; Raposa, Laura (2009-10-12). "Ben Affleck and Matt Damon: Keepin' it in the family! -". Retrieved 2019-06-20.
  15. ^ "Clinton and Obama related to Brangelina". Reuters. 2008-03-26. Archived from the original on 2019-06-20. Retrieved 2019-06-20. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  16. ^ Times, K. C. MYERSCape Cod (2015-03-01). "Helen Keller picture proves perfect for Massachusetts museum". Press Herald. Archived from the original on 2019-06-20. Retrieved 2019-06-20. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  17. ^ "1888 photo depicts Helen Keller, teacher - Life-". 2008-04-21. Retrieved 2019-06-20.

Further readingEdit

  • Schutz, John A. A Noble Pursuit: The Sesquicentennial History of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1845–1995, NEHGS: 1995. 247 pp.
  • Weil, François. "John Farmer and the Making of American Genealogy," New England Quarterly, 80(3):408–434, 2007.

External linksEdit