Legacy Tree Genealogists works with researchers from across the globe to access records for our clients. We asked one of our researchers to share the ins and outs of visiting the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) in Boston.
Planning Your Trip to the New England Historic Genealogical Society
Located on Boston’s famous Newbury Street, the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) is close to anything and everything. Newbury Street is a shopper’s paradise, and all kinds of hotels are within a 15-minute walk, from the five-star Four Seasons and Mandarin Oriental and the exquisitely beautiful Fairmont Copley Plaza to a Sheraton, Hilton, Westin, and Marriott, plus several boutique hotels.
The New England Historic Genealogical Society does not accommodate parking. The closest parking garage costs $40 to park over 90 minutes. NEHGS is between two “T” or subway stops for economical visitors. The Arlington “T” stop is at Boston Public Garden, two blocks east, and the Copley “T” stop is across from the Boston Public Library, one block west and one block south. Also, an Amtrak Station is a ten-minute walk away, just off I-90.
The New England Historic Genealogical Society is member-based. Individual members pay $89.95 USD per year for on-site and online access. Non-members may purchase a day pass for $20 USD. If you take the free tour on Saturday mornings (not every Saturday, so call ahead!), you are welcome to stay and research.
Visiting the New England Historic Genealogical Society
The first floor has a small bookstore to the right on the entryway. Check-in is to the left. The Rotunda in front is stocked with how-to guides, an international reference collection, and teller windows from a previous life. A break room is on the other side, next to the bank vault, with more books. The elegant wood paneling, old paintings, intricate fireplace, and period chandeliers give it an antiquated and inspirational vibe.
The second floor holds meeting rooms and the third floor, administrative offices. The fourth floor contains the microtext collection, including microfilm and microfiche. It also has two scanners and a genealogist to assist in operating them. Collections include New England vital records, deeds, probate records, and city directories as well as items like Department of Motor Vehicle records.
The fifth floor is the reading room. It contains 40,000 state, regional, and local histories, a large table, and at least one genealogist. A branch of the American Jewish Historical Society is also housed on this floor. Manuscript requests are made here.
The sixth floor is more administrative offices. The seventh floor is the largest research floor, with six large tables comfortably spaced and six computers with access to newspaper databases and other subscription websites, including Ancestry and Fold3.
The corner to the right as you enter has current genealogical periodicals. The corner across the room has bound issues of older NEGHS periodicals. The corner to the left as you enter has a genealogist at a desk and shelves of several collections, including bound issues of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record and The American Genealogist, and every volume of Mayflower Families and The Great Migration. The opposite corner has a table with several computers. A collection of 30,000 published family histories are in the attached room on the left.
The bulk of NEHGS’s collection are here. An off-site location houses new and less popular collections that can be accessed with a week’s notice. Off-site collections include unpublished manuscripts. In total, NEHGS houses over 1,000,000 manuscripts. Since only about 20% of NEHGS’s collections are online, a visit could be well worth your while.
Researching at NEHGS
I brought three family names to see what I could find at NEHGS. All three are old eastern Connecticut names: Janes, Slafter, and Fenton. I found that each name had its own published family history and two histories definitely had my lines! Interestingly, the two books with my lines were published in the late 1860’s.
My favorite find on the fifth floor was a published Guide to Diaries in the R. Stanton Avery Special Collections of the NEHGS. Diaries are my favorite records since they have the most potential for giving insight into personalities and daily lives. Examples of information on diaries are: “Thomas Brewer, 1798, unspecified location,” “James Cox, 1779 – 1782, on ship,” “John Fiske, 1607 – 1676, Chelmsford and Wenham, Massachusetts,” “Julia Moses “1837 – 1918, Boston,” “Louise More, 1876 – 1945, NYC socialite,” “Susan Sparrow, 1833 – 1910, Cape Cod.”
The New England Historic Genealogical Society has collections from every state and genealogists on every floor to answer your questions. It is well worth the visit. If you plan a visit of several days and know that you’ll need to get out and take a break, you couldn’t ask for a better location. The picturesque Charles River is a ten-minute walk north with a great view of the world famous MIT. The fifty-acre Boston Common is a historically significant park that is a ten-minute walk east, in the middle of Boston, with swan boats and a Frog Pond. And if Newbury Street doesn’t offer enough shopping options, my favorite mall, The Shops at Prudential Center, is a ten-minute walk west.
The New England Historic Genealogical Society is more than a research facility, it is a rich experience. As much as I enjoy finding information online at home, I value the experience of visiting repositories, especially historic repositories. Whether you research on or off-site, the collections of NEHGS can prove invaluable in extending your family history.
Do you have ancestors from the northeastern United States? Our excellent onsite researchers can access the New England Historic Genealogical Society as well as other resources in the Boston area such as the Massachusetts Archives, Boston Public Library, and National Archives to find what you need. Contact us today to request a free quote!