The American Antiquarian Society has a very strong collection of published genealogical material focusing on early North American lines of descent, including French-Canadian genealogies. Not only is this collection used by genealogists but it is also used extensively by scholars working on biographical, historical, and literary topics. Currently, the collection numbers over 17,000 family histories, plus 2,000 genealogical reference works. The Society adds to the collection by purchase and donations. Genealogical acquisitions are partly funded by the following endowments: George Chandler (1884), Bernard Christian Steiner (1926) and Dorothy Brewer Erikson (1998). Eleanor Adams, the retired Executive Assistant to the President, established a fund in 1997 for the purchase of genealogy and New England local history.
The collection includes some of the earliest genealogies published in the United States: Roger Clap's Memoirs of Capt. Roger Clap (Boston, 1731), which includes a "short account of the author and his family," compiled by James Blake, Jr.; Luke Stebbins's Genealogy of the Family of Samuel Stebbins (Hartford, 1771); John Farmer's A Family Register of the Descendants of Edward Farmer (Concord, N.H., 1813); Anthony Haswell's Record of the Family of Anthony Haswell (Bennington, Vt., 1815); and Joseph Sharpless's Family Record of the Sharpless Family (Philadelphia, 1816). More information pertaining to the Society's collection of early genealogies can be found in volume 32 of the Proceedings (1922).
All the family histories in the Society's possession are fully cataloged, with access by author and by all the major families traced in the book. The genealogical reference materials also are cataloged, with many of them available on open shelves in the reading room. The reading room collection includes the 240-volume series of vital records of Massachusetts towns to 1850, the New England Historic Genealogical Register, lineage books published by the Daughters of the American Revolution, Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the Revolutionary War, Mayflower materials, and P. William Filby's Passenger and Immigration Lists Index (Detroit, 1981). Of particular help is the American Genealogical- Biographical Index (Middletown, Conn., 1952-). This series indexes 631 family histories by personal names. The Society owns 591 of the titles indexed, and, to assist reader usage, the consolidated "Key Title Index" to this series has been annotated with the library's call numbers. One reference that is of particular interest for genealogical research in Worcester County is the Works Progress Administration's "A Biographical Index to Worcester and Worcester County" (typescript, 1935). This work indexes ten standard histories by the personal names of the major figures who lived in this area.
Bibles with manuscript notes entered by family members are an excellent and often overlooked source of information for genealogists. The Society has a collection of these Bibles, with access provided in the catalog by family name.
The Society has a wide spectrum of auxiliary materials available for genealogical research. These include state, county, and local histories for all fifty states, biographies, United States histories, regimental histories, Canadian histories, periodicals of local historical societies and state libraries, and city directories. Another excellent source of genealogical information is the Society's collection of newspapers. The Society's typescript "Index to Marriages in Massachusetts Centinel and Columbian Centinel, 1784-1840," and the "Index to Deaths in Massachusetts Centinel and Columbian Centinel, 1784-1840," are two widely used indices that are available in the reading room.
The Society also owns a set of clippings of the genealogical column "Notes and Queries," which ran in the Boston Transcript from 1894 to 1941. This is a very good source for genealogical information pertaining to New England for the period 1600-1800. The Society's collection of these articles is arranged in boxes by date of publication, and indexed by name in The American Genealogical-Biographical Index.
There are a number of genealogical sources available in microform. In addition to the microfilm series Early American Newspapers by Readex Microprint Corporation, there are two useful microfiche series that are of value to genealogists: Jay Mack Holbrook's Massachusetts Vital Records which continues the earlier published records up to 1890 and American Directories produced by Research Publications, Inc. which includes all the directories listed in Dorothea Spear's Bibliography of American Directories through 1860. We have recently acquired the 2nd series titled "City Directories of the United States, 1861-1880" in microfilm.
There is a small but growing collection of genealogical materials on CD ROM: the New England Historical and Genealogical Register and Tanquay's Dictionnaire Genealogique des Families Candiennes.
In order to derive maximum benefit from the Society's genealogical collections, readers are encouraged to do preliminary work before using the collections.
- Eleanor S. Adams, retired Executive Assistant to the President, and Marie E. Lamoureux, Collections Manager