Saturday, March 15, 2008

New England Historic Genealogical Society databases

I have been a member of the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) for about 16 years, and enjoy reading the New England Historical and Genealogical Register (a quarterly scholarly journal) and the New England Ancestors magazine (a quinterly (is that a word? 5 times) in 2007). The NEHGS web site is You have to be a member of NEHGS in order to access the databases on the web site.

You can see a list of all of the databases on the web site at

Some of the unique databases (at least to me) available on the web site include:

* The Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841 to 1910. This database has a search engine that you can use for first names, last names (with a Soundex option), counties, towns, volume/page, and/or birth, marriages and deaths (the index is balky, however - sometimes it clears without warning). The page images are the summary pages submitted to the Massachusetts Secretary of State by the town clerks each year. I have used these extensively in my own research. The birth data provides the maiden name of the mother and the birthplaces of the parents. The marriage data includes the residence, birthplace and parents names (often with mother's maiden name) of the bride and groom. You can do a search at the site in order to see if a birth, marriage or death is included in this database.

* The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 1847-1994 index and page images, with a search capability. This is, of course, the premier journal for New England genealogy research, and has many family history articles, plus many town, church and vital record abstracts or transcriptions.

* 19th Century U.S. Newspapers from Thomson-Gale (not available to institutional members). I haven't used this database as often as the others listed.

* Early American Historical Newspapers, Series I, 1690-1876 from Newsbank (not available to institutional members). This collection is fantastic - it is included in the collection too.

* Abstracts of Wills, Administrations and Guardianships in New York State, 1787 - 1835 - created by William Applebie Daniel Eardeley. The original materials are part of the Brooklyn Historical Society's manuscript collection.

There are some vital record databases for Connecticut (but not the Barbour collection), Maine, New Hampshire (but not the NH VR collection from town records), Rhode Island (the Arnold books) and Vermont (but not the VT VR collection from town records). I'm puzzled why THE major New England repository doesn't have these basic record collections for each state online (they do have them on microfilm, as does the Family History Library).

Except for the two premium databases above, the information on the site can be accessed at a library that subscribes to the society databases. In San Diego County, the Carlsbad Public Library provides access to the NEHGS site. In other locations, please contact your local or regional library to see if they provide access.

I checked the Death Indexes web site, and it doesn't list the NEHGS web site for the 1841 to 1910 records. The Birth and Marriage Index site also does not list the 1841 to 1910 NEHGS records. They should!

I checked Cyndi's List for the NEHGS vital records and other databases in the Massachusetts section, and they weren't listed there either! The NEHGS wasn't listed in the Library section and the Register and New England Ancestors were not listed in the Periodicals. What's up with that? It did list NEHGS in the Societies and Groups section.

If you have a significant number of New England ancestors, you should consult the NEHG Register at your local or regional library (there are indexes available in CD and book form), in addition to using the FHL microfilms for the state vital records. You should also consider joining the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

The actual society library in Boston is wonderful - an excellent book collection, many microfilms on site, and online databases. The real prize at the Library are the manuscripts in their collection - they are unique and may contain records and information found nowhere else.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hi, Randy Seaver -- I just got the genealogy bug a few days ago. I think watching the John Adams series on HBO prompted me finally to reach into the back of the closet for the files my mother left me, and to pull my grandfather's "Memoirs" from the library shelf. There is so much I could write, but will cut to the chase. I found your site somehow thru a search to NEHG -- because -- I am in possession of a letter from my aunt to my uncle dated 1935 where she mentions Volume 86 of their mag containing an article about my ancestor Benjamin Hanks. Then somehow I ended up on and to you. As I am new at this -- do I have to subscribe to all these sites to get the info I want or to have access to this particular issue? Or travel to Boston? I am beginning to suspect that this "bug" can end up being costly!! My origins on both sides are 1600's and somewhat noteworthy, so I'll do what I gotta do.....Reese in St. Louis