Come Meet Your Ancestors!

March 22, 2011

-By Penny Cherubino

The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) has been a Back Bay neighbor since 1964, and yet many residents have never ventured into this storehouse of information about the history of families. Others, curious about their own family, or the families who once lived in our neighborhood, have experienced how accommodating this organization can be.

Boston residents Tom and Nancy High, who are longtime genealogists, urged neighbors to get to know NEHGS. “It’s a shame more local residents don’t know about and take advantage of this tremendous resource here in our back yard. They have an outstanding library of material assembled over more than 150 years and, although the original focus was on New England, they also have a huge range of information from elsewhere. The staff is very helpful and their online resources are exceptional. Don’t be afraid to go in.”

Welcoming Tours

Each month NEHGS hosts a free “New Visitor and Welcome Tour.” The next one is on April 4th. This is an introduction to their research library at 99 Newbury Street. Each session begins with a bit of background on genealogy, followed by a tour of the building, and information about the society’s collected materials.

A Place to Ask Questions

Visitors are welcomed warmly by everyone from the receptionist to the organization’s President and CEO, D. Brenton Simons. He made it clear that NEHGS is happy to serve every level of expertise– especially newcomers. “One of the great things is just simply being able to visit and ask someone questions,” he said. “A lot of people haven’t done much family history research, and they don’t know where to start… Fifteen minutes with an expert can save you weeks or months of work.”

International Online Presence

“We were early in going online. We started our first website in 1996,” Simons said. “Today, we have literally thousands of persons a day visiting our website and doing research on it.”

Last December, they re-launched their site under the name, and are hosting regular “Using” events to help visitors make the most of the new features, tools, resources, and content.

Collecting Everyday Treasures

If you’ve ever helped a family member downsize or settle an estate, you know that there are documents and materials that no one seems to want. Before you discard them, check with NEHGS.

“We’re a collecting organization. We actively seek bible records, correspondence, old photos, daguerreotypes, diaries… The things that really convey some history, that are personal to an individual or their family,” Simons said. He invited donors to mail or drop off the material and let NEHGS’s experts add appropriate pieces to the 28 million special collection items stored in their archives.

Memberships, Services, Adventures, Books

Over the past few years, there has been an increased interest in family histories. With popular TV shows like “Who Do You Think You Are?” and increased online access to research materials, more people are doing genealogical research than ever before.

Spring gift-giving occasions are on the horizon. Think about a gift from NEHGS. For example, their “Family Discovery Package” includes 1.5 hours of research conducted by NEHGS experts, a 1-year subscription to New England Ancestors magazine, a copy of RootsMagic genealogy software, and two “day passes” to continue the research at the NEHGS library.

This organization offers something for every interest level. They have books, online services, tutorials, memberships, seminars, plus organized tours, and travel packages.

For more information,visit or stop in and talk with a staff member.

  • neghs neighbor

    The April New Visitor and Welcome Tour at NEHGS is April 6, 2011, not sure of the time because their website is down.

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