Executive Office

American Ancestors / New England Historic Genealogical Society Staff

D. Brenton Simons
President and CEO
D. Brenton Simons

D. Brenton Simons has changed the face of nonprofit-based genealogy in America and beyond by bringing the best scholarship to millions of users for more than fifteen years as President and CEO of AmericanAncestors and the New England Historic Genealogical Society. He has overseen an historic expansion of the organization ― the founding genealogical institution in America ― which now serves more than 355,000 members in 139 countries, and millions of online users, with 1.6 billion records at AmericanAncestors.org.

Mr. Simons is the Vice Chair of the Plymouth 400th Anniversary State Commission, by appointment of His Excellency, The Hon. Charles D. Baker, Governor of Massachusetts. He is a recipient of the Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History and the Spirit of 1812 Award from the National Society United States Daughters of 1812.

An award-winning author, he has been featured on CNN, FOX, BBC, PBS-TV, The New York Times, Boston Business Journal, and elsewhere. His most recent book, Boston Beheld: Antique Town and Country Views, was hailed by the late historian Douglass Shand-Tucci as “the book Jane Austen might have written had she run into Charles Dickens after his return from his Boston visit of 1842,” and an earlier work, Witches, Rakes, and Rogues, has been a popular book for many years.

Mr. Simons is the Secretary of the Board of The New England Quarterly, the premier journal of New England’s cultural, literary, political, and social history, and is a Board member of Plymouth 400, a member of the American Antiquarian Society, the Society of the Cincinnati, the Society of Colonial Wars (in Massachusetts and Florida), a Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and a Proprietor of The Boston Athenæum.

Ryan J. Woods
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
Ryan Woods
Ryan J. Woods is a fourteen-year veteran of key management positions at American Ancestors / NEHGS. He serves as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of our organization as well as Clerk of the Council of the Corporation. In his roles, he provides executive oversight for the day-to-day operations of our seventeen activity areas including content and collection development, web services, publishing activities, research services, educational programming, financial operations, facilities management, marketing strategies, and business planning.

He has played a key role in developing services and experiences to meet twenty-first-century research and information access requirements. He was the lead creator of AmericanAncestors.org, our award-winning website and the most-used genealogical society website in the world. He has fostered and managed important collaborations with commercial and nonprofit partners, including overseeing the recruitment of more than 1 billion searchable records to AmericanAncestors.org, and he was a lead staff member in the collaborative effort to establish of our Jewish Heritage Center. Currently, Ryan is focused on partnerships, and business planning for our headquarter expansion and the creation of a national visitor destination experience.

A dedicated researcher, Ryan has authored pedagogical articles about the use of historical biographies to teach character and ethics. He has also contributed genealogical articles and several book forewords for historical and genealogical publications; he regularly presents at national historical and genealogical conferences and events.

Ryan serves on several nonprofit boards and committees, including as Chairman of the Committee on Heraldry, as a member of the Committee on Pretensions of the Society of the Cincinnati in the State of Connecticut, as Lieutenant Governor of the Society of Colonial Wars in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as a development committee member for Plymouth 400, as partner representative on the Mayor of Boston’s Green Ribbon Commission, and as immediate past-President of the Boston University School of Education Alumni Association. He is also a member of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, the Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Florida, and the Saint Nicholas Society of New York City.

Ryan and his family, wife Karen, son Nathaniel and daughter Abigail, are strong supporters of cultural institutions in greater Boston; they are patron members of the Massachusetts Audubon Society, Plimoth Plantation, Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Children’s Museum, and the New England Aquarium. He can be reached at ryan.woods@nehgs.org or by phone at 617-226-1205.
Olivia Terrell
Executive Assistant
Olivia Terrell

Olivia Terrell has worked in the financial services industry, community based organizations, and health care management. She is always looking for an opportunity to help and learn from others.

In March 2020, she joined NEHGS as Executive Assistant to the President and Chief Executive Officer. She worked as an Executive Assistant at Bank of Boston and Training Coordinator during the merger and acquisition between FleetBoston and Bank of America. Also, worked as a Residency Program Coordinator and Graduate Medical Education Coordinator at the Boston Medical Center for over 11 years.

She obtained an Executive Assistant Program Certificate at Gibbs College and has held numerous volunteer positions and received some significant honors, including the Gail Snowden Legacy Award; former Board of Directors, Member and Chair of Development Committee, Freedom House; YMCA Black Achievers Award; African American Resource Group Steering Committee, FleetBoston; Team Captain for Making Strides Against Cancer Walk, and more.

She can be reached by email at olivia.terrell@nehgs.org or by phone at 617-226-1220