On Tuesday, NEHGS announced the first fruits of an historic collaboration with the Archdiocese of Boston, one where – over a period of years – Archdiocesan records will be digitized and made available on the NEHGS website, AmericanAncestors.org. In the fullness of time, this collaboration will preserve and make accessible unique records to tell the stories of some 10 million people from the earliest days of the Catholic community in Massachusetts through the twentieth century. These records are key because they often include events not captured in civil registrations. Whether because of a home birth or a conscious decision not to report an event to a civil authority, these documents might include the only written record for a birth or a death. Their importance and value cannot be overstated.
There is an innate yearning amongst people to know from where we come. Whether one is reflecting solely on the past or trying to understand our forbears’ impact on the present and future, here at the New England Historic Genealogical Society we work to help our visitors discover and understand their heritage. At the very heart of what we do, and what we help others to do, is exploring the stories and the histories of people, their families, and their unique place in the human experience.
Over the history of this organization, we have engaged in many collaborations to make important record sets available and to ensure the preservation of those records for future generations of historians, genealogists, and the public. From our earliest days, when we saved 1790s tax and property lists from fire, the preservation of those records allowed us to better understand Massachusetts in the eighteenth century; beginning in the first years of the twentieth century, we worked with cities and towns across Massachusetts to transcribe and publish more than 2 million birth, marriage, and death records that were being lost to time and the elements – records that dated from the 1620s through the end of the nineteenth century. Most recently, we have collaborated with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court archives to make accessible online, for the first time, the historic probate records of the Commonwealth.
Over the history of this organization, we have engaged in many collaborations to make important record sets available…
We hold three aims within our institutional purpose, to educate, inspire, and connect people. Our historic collaboration with the Archdiocese of Boston is a fulfillment of those aims.
In addition to the records we are bringing online, which are the foundation for research, we also seek to educate and provide context for what the records contains. So through the efforts of a very talented staff including Thomas Lester, Archivist and Records Manager at the Archdiocese of Boston; Jean Maguire, Library Director here at NEHGS; Claire Vail, our Director of Digital Strategy; and our web team including Sam Sturgis, Molly Rogers, Kelsey Jarboe, Andy Hanson-Dvoracek, John Phlo, and Don Leclair, along with Abbey Schultz, we have created a companion website for this project – CatholicRecords.AmericanAncestors.org – which provides an interactive narrative history of the growth of the Catholic community in Massachusetts, and gives insight into key people and events in that history.
Family history is our passion and purpose. From it, we can discover much about community, about faith, about politics, and about the human condition. We are very proud to be working with Archdiocese to bring these materials to the public.