Society & Organization Histories

Collection Information

Society and organizational histories can be a great way to learn more about your ancestor’s social life. Even if your ancestor isn’t mentioned by name, you can learn about projects and events your ancestor may have taken part in, and in the case of genealogical society publications, you may find a family member has submitted some of your family history to the publication. In these cases, you could find names, birth, marriage, and death dates, relationships, as well as stories about that family.

The names and dates you find in records create the framework for your family history, and putting what you know into the context of history can help you get to know more about your ancestors.

Even in cases where your ancestor isn't mentioned specifically, learning about the organizations and groups he or she was a part of can fill in some of the blanks and give you a more well-rounded view and add interest to your family story.

Sample Images

Search Tips

  • Through the Card Catalog, it’s easy to see what local histories are available geographically. Use the filters to select Stories, Memories & Histories and narrow your search to that collection. Next in "Filter by Location" select a country, state, and county to see what’s available for the area.
  • When searching for a person in these collections, start with just a surname. Exploring all of the matches for your surname in a local publication can lead you to other related families in the area.
  • Once you’ve located a title of interest, use the keyword search to find topics of interest. Use search terms like crop, church, school, epidemic, drought, fire, flood, a neighborhood name, or any other topic you’re interested in learning more about.
  • Browsing the book is sometimes the most effective way to find what you’re looking for. For many of the titles on Ancestry, you’ll find links on the database search page directly to the table of contents, list of illustrations, individual chapters, and the index. These are often mirrored in the navigation bar of the Advanced Image Viewer. (Look in the blue bar above the navigation icons that says "Go to section.")
  • Older databases may not include the advanced navigation, but it’s still possible to read the title just as you would a book, and even where pages don’t match up exactly, you can do the math to skip ahead to sections of interest.
  • Search wide in these collections, searching for the names of friends, neighbors, and associates of your ancestor. While your ancestor may not have warranted a mention, notes on an associate could shed light on your family story.
  • Use the stories you find in these publications and locate records that support what you’ve learned. It’s not uncommon to find "embellishments" in some published histories.