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A Letter from D. Brenton Simons

December 21, 2023

Dear Friend,

Greetings! I write to you with important news from American Ancestors / New England Historic Genealogical Society.

In early September, I informed our Chair and Board of Trustees of my desire to remain on our staff but to step back from my longtime role as President and CEO in early 2024. After 18 years in the latter position and 30 years as a member of our staff, I felt ready to change my role at the Society to one which develops new scholarship, stewards key personal and institutional relationships, and enthusiastically supports my successor in reaching our ambitious goals and strategic vision.

Accordingly, I am happy to announce that I will become President Emeritus and Chief Stewardship Officer of the Society as of January 1, 2024. I am not retiring and expect to remain fully engaged as a member of the Society’s staff for years to come, and so this is not a farewell but rather a moment of healthy and positive transition. This model has a wonderful precedent at the Society. When my predecessor, Dr. Ralph J. Crandall, stepped back as the Society’s Executive Director 18 years ago, he transitioned into a role supporting me as the then-new President and CEO for eight highly productive years. So, that excellent example provided inspiration for the present transition.

Thank you for all your support not just as the organization’s President and CEO, but throughout my entire career at the Society dating back to 1993 (and even as a member since 1985!). I am very proud of our accomplishments together, especially over the last 18 years, including our tremendous growth in online content (now with more than 1.4 billion names at, membership growth (now numbering almost 450,000 members and subscribers in 139 countries), our fundraising efforts (now in excess of $100 million just in this period), our new state-of-the-art annex presently under construction in Boston, our sponsorship of groundbreaking research projects ranging from The Great Migration Study Project to 10 Million Names, our service to increasingly diverse populations, as well as youth education programs, outstanding books and journals, heritage tours, our continued involvement with Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on PBS, and much more.

Brenton Simons

This is only a small sampling of what we have accomplished together. None of this could have been achieved without the steadfast support of loyal members everywhere, a professional and supremely dedicated staff, thousands of volunteers, generous donors, and a highly supportive Board of Trustees and Council. Please accept my heartfelt thanks.

It has been, and it will continue to be, my great pleasure and honor to meet and work with our members throughout the United States and abroad. As a devoted genealogist, I am happiest when I can help our constituents discover their roots with the best, most carefully vetted genealogical scholarship and historical resources in the field. For our constituents and the public at large, understanding their place in the great American story is an important service to our nation. It is my great privilege to be able to continue this work in a new role.

I could not be more pleased that the Board of Trustees has selected my colleague of 17 years, Ryan J. Woods, to succeed me as President and CEO. We are thrilled to have him step into the role and lead our beloved organization into the future. You will be hearing more about Ryan and his vision for American Ancestors early next year.

In the meantime, I hope to see you soon, and I wish you all the best in this special holiday season and in 2024!

With the greatest appreciation,

Brenton (signature)

D. Brenton Simons OBE
President and CEO