Researching Kentucky Bloodlines in New England

Founded in 1845, the New England Historical Genealogical Society (NEHGS) is a treasure trove of resources for Kentucky researchers with a northeast bloodline.

In the autumn of 2019, I spent a few days in the Boston area, where I visited this beautiful research library and some other useful sites.

New England Historic Genealogy Society Library entrance (Author’s Photo)

Finding Kentucky Ancestors in Boston

One of my paternal bloodlines is the Folsom family that arrived in Boston in 1638 on the ship Diligent from Ipswich, Suffolk, England. This family has an organized family association and has published several volumes of family history over the past hundred years. Most of these publications are freely accessible online through FamilySearch.

However, my line who came to Kentucky wasn’t in the published family association publications. I had pieced this line together, bit by bit, over several years. 

If you plan a trip to research at the NEHGS, it’s worth getting an introductory membership to American Ancestors, which is their website. When I did this, I could access a lot of information online.

Visiting the NEHGS Library

The benefit to research at the NEHGS is its central location in the city's heart. It’s near Boston Common on Newbury Street and just a short walk to the Boston Public Library. The Massachusetts Historical Society is another short walk away.

The research library is well laid out. There are restrooms on every floor and elevators make it accessible to everyone. 

Inside the beautiful NEHGS Library. (Author's Collection)

A comprehensive collection of research guides and genealogical books is on offer at a bookshop on the first floor. The first floor has a nice break room for researchers. Within a short walk are some wonderful coffee shops and cafes, so you don’t have to wander far to ensure you can meet your creature comforts.

While there is a heavy focus on Northeast American locations, it surprised me to find an impressive collection of local history books on Kentucky at the library. I even viewed some books at this library on Kentucky locations that I’ve never seen in many of Kentucky’s large research libraries.

Lots of Genealogy Help Available

The best part of the five-story library is the staff of expert genealogists I found accessible on every floor.

The staff genealogists were extremely helpful to me and the other researchers I saw come and go. Some researchers showed up with apparently limited experience in genealogical research, while others I overheard were obviously professional genealogists doing client work. 

Regardless of the patron’s skill level, the staff genealogists helped everyone. You can also hire one of the staff genealogists at the research library to do research for you.

Other New England Genealogy Sites of Interest

I had planned to spend two days at the research library, but could find what I was looking for on the first day. With the extra time, I opted for a detour outside of the city, boarded an Amtrak train for a quick ride, and visited ancestral towns in Exeter, New Hampshire, and Lowell, Massachusetts.

Exeter is where five generations of my Folsom ancestors are buried, so I could visit the cemetery and the Exeter Historical Society, which is a gem itself. 

Lowell is home to the historic mills and the location where my third great-grandfather lived with his first wife. Both are buried in a cemetery there. 

Visiting Local Cemeteries

Another day, I visited Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge where many family members are buried.

Mt. Auburn is a cemetery that takes your breath away by its beauty. It’s enormous, so if you ever visit it to locate a family member, be sure to stop and get a map at the visitors’ center. The staff at Mt. Auburn can help genealogical researchers piece bits and pieces together on those buried in the cemetery.

Mt. Auburn Cemetery common area provides place for quiet reflection (Source: Author’s Collection)

Other Ways to Visit the Library

Many ancestors arrived and even lived in the northeast prior to migrating to Kentucky. This library offers multiple collections, including the published family books and extensive maps that can assist you with your research. 

If you cannot visit this beautiful library in person, maybe you can locate the records or books you need online. American Ancestors periodically offer specials, allowing you to access their holdings and view an enormous collection of digitized books online for a small fee. 

And if you are in the area, consider a quick visit to the Massachusetts Historical Society as well.

 

About the Author

Chris Padgett, current President of the Kentucky Genealogical Society, is a native Louisvillian whose interest in family history began when he was young, listening to his grandparents tell stories and following his parents as they researched their families and conducted oral interviews with older relatives. He enjoys traveling to places where his ancestors lived.

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Many ancestors lived in New England prior to migrating to Kentucky. Our member researcher describes his visit to the New England Historic Genealogical Society library to review their Kentucky collections.