I recently returned from a trip to the eastern United States with David Rencher, our chief genealogical officer, to visit some of our important and valued archive partners in that part of the country. It was, for me, a journey of discovery and an important reminder of how essential archivists and their collections are to our work.
Our trip began on May 1, 2013, with a visit to the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) in Boston, Massachusetts.
We met with Brenton Simons, the CEO of NEHGS, and Ryan Woods, and took a tour of their facilities and collections. In addition, we had important strategic discussions about our relationship, how we can better work together, and how the NEHGS and FamilySearch can better partner to achieve our joint goals of working in family history.
The following day, we were in New York City, where we met with McKelden Smith, president of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society (NYG&B). Founded in 1869, the NYG&B recently celebrated its 150th anniversary. Members of this organization are experts in all aspects of New York family research, and our discussions were all positive about collections, our directions, and working together to maximize our joint interest in continuing to work with the New York Public Library.
Next up was a stop in Philadelphia, where we met with David Haugaard who is the director of research services of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Currently, the society is working to create a genealogical and biographical index for Pennsylvania, along with archiving and digitizing several other unique collections that they will host on their website. A highlight of this visit was seeing some of the treasures of their archive collection, including drafts of the U.S. Constitution, printed copies of the Gettysburg Address, and the original draft of “The Star Spangled Banner,” by Francis Scott Key.
Our last visit of the week was with Bill Mayer, assistant archivist, Brenda Kepley, and Mary Rephio of the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C. We toured their facility, including the digitizing area, and met with FamilySearch missionaries who work to photograph important records, and we were able to thank them personally for their service.
The trip couldn’t have been more productive as we met with some of our important archive partners and discussed collections, how to maximize our relationships, and how to work even better together in preserving family history. It drove home the fact that archives are truly at the heart of family history.
Dennis Brimhall, FamilySearch CEO