President's Message

Brief on-point messages from the president.


President’s Message, October 2011

This month I want to share some information about an organization and a website that I’ve found quite useful. About a year ago, the New England Historical Genealogical Society changed its focus and correspondingly the names of its member magazine and its website. NEHGS is a venerable society founded in 1845 with an extensive research library near Copley Square in Boxton, MA. You may recognize it as the publisher of the New England Historical and Genealogical Register.

Previously, this organization focused on New Englad, with a heavy emphasis on Massachusetts. Recognizing that much of their communication is now with folks whose families had roots in New England, but who had since moved to other parts of the country, the title of its member magazine has change from “New England Ancestors” to “American Ancestors: New England, New York, and Beyond…” and its editorial policy has become quite deliberately more open to topics outside New England.

At the same time, its website has changed from to The website contains informative articles by professional genealogists and several free and excellent databases. For these free databases, the user must simply register for a free account. They are:

  • *Massachuesetts Vital Records to 1850
  • *Social Security Death Index
  • NEHGS Library Catalog
  • Irish Immigrant Advertisements, 1831-1920
  • Index to Revolutionary War Pensioners
  • New York Wills, 1626-1836
  • Massachusetts, Society of the Cincinnati
  • Gloucester, MA Burials
  • Ware, MA Families
  • New England Ancestors Magazine
  • Jewish Cemetery Association of Massachusetts
  • American Ancestors Magazine

Though not free, there are nearly 3,000 searchable databases online available to members (approximately $75.00/year). The two I’ve asterisked above are among the most popular together with:

  • Massachusetts Vital Records 1841-1910
  • Massachusetts Births and Marriages 1911-1915
  • The Register
  • The American Genealogist
  • Cemetery Transcriptions from the NEHGS Collections
  • Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620-1623
  • Abstracts of Wills in NY State 1787-1835

If your heritage involved “lower” New England, you’ll certainly find things of interest here. I’ve just spent a few exciting hours pulling up and printing out images of original newspaper articles concerning details of a particular shipwreck off Cape Cod in March of 1802 in which my 4th Great Grandfather Ruee of Salem, MA was one of only five survivors out of 17 aboard the cargo ship, Brutus, owned by George Crowninshield and Sons, loaded with coffee and bound for a European port.

Several other sips wrecked in that storm but there was no other loss of life. It is interesting that none of the twelve who were lost actually drowned. One of the twelve fell from a yardarm while attempting to reef the sail and was killed instantly in the fall. The other 11 who were lost froze to death in their exhaustive walk seeking safety on the sparsely populated Cap Cod as they wandered about tyring to get to either Provincetown or to Truro. Thomas Ruee was first mate who took over after the Captain died. First mate Thomas Ruee later became Captain Thomas Ruee, was lost at sea in 1814, and I’m told his portrait hanges in the Peabody Maritime Museum.