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View from the Family Tree

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A Year in Reflection

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Welcome to my new blog, "View from the Family Tree." I hope to post to it on a weekly basis if not more frequently, as time permits. Here I will plan on sharing insights on activities at NEHGS, impressions from the fields of genealogy and local history, as well as a few personal reflections on my own interests and family history experiences. I want to start by thanking our capable web team, lead by Ryan Woods, and to Brian A. Sullivan for the use of his excellent photograph, taken last summer at Walpole, N.H., as its logo.

 

This evening the New England Historic Genealogical Society will host its annual holiday party for members, staff, and their families. The building is abuzz with excitement. We will have all the requisite ingredients of a successful holiday party, including refreshments, music, raffles and prizes, and, for the first time, even a magician! Thank you to longtime member and genealogist Philip Vanderbilt Brady for coming all the way from South Carolina to entertain our group with a magic show. But, more importantly, this event gives me the occasion to reflect on what we have accomplished as an organization in 2010. I am proud of the good work our staff has done, the positive impact of the contributions of our volunteer corps, and the loyalty, generosity, and friendship of our members across the nation and the world.

 

It has been a good year, even during uncertain economic times. Membership is up --- in fact, way up, earned and contributed revenue is ahead of plan, and our new state-of-the art website, AmericanAncestors.org was successfully launched a few months ago. Some of the highlights:

 

  • The American Jewish Historical Society made NEHGS the headquarters for its major archives and three-person staff
  • The launch of a new website with 25+ million new names
  • The premiere episode of "Who Do You Think You Are" on NBC with our beautiful library featured and the wonderful chemistry between our own Josh Taylor and Sarah Jessica Parker 
  • The debut of new, unique data and journals on our website, including most recently "The Mayflower Descendant," begun in 1899
  • The presentation at our annual dinner to Henry Louis Gates, Jr. of his family history (with a foreword written for the occasion by Oprah Winfrey) and his moving response; and the impact of his series on PBS, "Faces of America" 
  • The beautifully presented remarks by Pulitzer-prize winning author Annette Gordon-Reed at the same event 
  • A special collaboration with the Museum of African American History and the African American Historical and Genealogical Society to launch AfricanAmericanAncestors.org and publish a guide to our African American holdings at NEHGS 
  • The pleasure of interacting in real time with our members and friends (7,300 and growing!) on Facebook 
  • A discovery-filled trip with members to research Irish family history at repositories in Dublin
  • An exciting, interactive "weekend retreat" with our Board of Trustees in October
  • A delightful visit to London last February for the world's largest genealogical exhibition and our fun evening of "wit and whimsy" at the historic Rule's restaurant near Covent Garden 
  • Visits with members in California, Connecticut, New York, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, to name just a few!
  • Our ongoing dedication to scholarship through publications (both online and in print), education, and library services
  • And, finally, laying the groundwork for a $50 million Capital Campaign to secure the Society's future and advance our mission, an effort which will be announced in a few weeks

The list of exciting things that have happened at NEHGS this year is very long but I will stop here. As the holidays approach, I hope you will join me in reflecting upon the important role NEHGS plays in advancing family history research in New England, New York, and beyond. You are central to the success of our great American mission and on behalf of the Society's board, council, and staff, I thank you for your participation in our lives and work.

 

Warm regards,

 

 Brenton 

D. Brenton Simons
President and CEO
New England Historic Genealogical Society
99 - 101 Newbury Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02116, USA
888-296-3447

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