Directories of Groups and Associations
|This article originally appeared in Printed Sources: A Guide to Published Genealogical Records, edited by Kory L. Meyerink.|
Directories in this section include a variety of works compiled at national, state, and local levels. Nationally, the most comprehensive directory is the annual Encyclopedia of Associations: National Organizations of the U.S. (Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1961). Although titled as an encyclopedia, this work is actually a directory of more than twenty-three thousand national nonprofit organizations. Genealogical and related organizations are listed in two sections: section 10, Fraternal, Nationality and Ethnic, and section 12, Veterans, Hereditary and Patriotic organizations. The attached image is the entry for the St. David’s Society of the State of New York. Its founding date, 1801, is of special interest because one would expect the society to maintain membership information dating from that time. Also note that the society maintains a five hundred-volume library.
Also published by Gale Research is the Encyclopedia of Associations: Regional, State and Local Organizations. This volume lists more than eighty thousand U.S. nonprofit membership organizations. The coverage is regional, state, and local. The set is divided into geographic regions and provides information on more local groups than the nationally oriented Encyclopedia of Associations. In it researchers will find addresses and names of local contact persons for many state and local genealogical groups.
Encyclopedia of Associations: International Organizations expands the geographic scope of the Encyclopedia of Associations series by providing a guide to more than twelve thousand international nonprofit membership organizations. International genealogical organizations and associations are well represented in the veterans, hereditary, and patriotic organizations section of this directory.
The Encyclopedia of Associations series is available online and in CD-ROM format, providing global access to national and international associations. Many public and university libraries offer access to these electronic databases.
For those researchers seeking information on state and local historical and genealogical societies, there are two key sources to consult. Meyer’s Directory of Genealogical Societies in the U.S.A. and Canada, by Mary K. Meyer is published every two years. Meyer’s Directory, as it is more commonly known, lists more than 2,200 genealogical societies in the United States and Canada. Listed alphabetically within a state or province, each entry gives the society’s address, telephone number, date founded, membership, publications, and special projects.
Researchers should keep in mind the ever-changing nature of nonprofit organizations. In the introduction to the 1992 edition, Meyer notes that more than three hundred societies had changed addresses since the 1990 edition of the Directory. Meyer’s Directory includes a separate listing of independently published genealogical periodicals and a listing of special interest organizations.
Researchers seeking information on historical societies should turn to the Directory of Historical Organizations in the United States and Canada, edited by Mary Bray Wheeler. First published in 1936, this directory has grown from 583 entries to its present listing of approximately thirteen thousand historical organizations. In compiling the directory, the staff of the American Association for State and Local History made every effort to provide . . . an organized guide to the ongoing work of history groups everywhere (Wheeler 1990, ix). The Directory of Historical Organizations in the United States and Canada can help genealogists locate historical societies in the county or region where an ancestor lived. Locating them is especially important when a search of the previously mentioned genealogical directories does not produce the name of a genealogical society in a certain area. Many historical societies sponsor genealogy committees that will answer mailed inquiries. See the attached image for the Owyhee County Historical Complex in Murphy, Idaho.
Besides these national directories, many directories are published at the state and local levels. For example, the Directory of Kentucky Historical Organizations is a joint project of the Kentucky Historical Society and the Historical Confederation of Kentucky. In 1991 the Kentucky Historical Society conducted a survey of more than 250 historical organizations in the state. This directory is the direct result of that survey. At right is a sample entry from the directory.
When consulting directories, do not overlook Elizabeth Bentley’s Directory of Family Associations. As with the two previously mentioned directories compiled by her, this compilation provides information from more than five thousand questionnaires sent to family associations, reunion committees, and one-name (or surname) societies. Sometimes the information is from one individual who serves as a so-called clearinghouse and is actively interested in collecting information on a single surname. These individuals often offer to search their surname databases in exchange for additional surname information or for a specified fee.
Each entry in the Directory of Family Associations provides the association’s name, address, contact person, and information on the association’s publication. Some family associations gather information on several different surnames. For example, the Jacoby/Goble/Gibson/Tiller Family Association, based in O’Fallon, Missouri, collects data on several surnames. As illustrated in the attached image, the user is referred from the surname Goble to the entries for the surnames Jacoby, McIlraith, and Powell, where additional Goble information will be found. Also, note the Goff/Gough Family Association. Further on in the alphabetical listing of family associations, a see reference directs the reader from the surname Gough to the surname Goff. Researchers who are just starting in genealogy can use this directory to discover variant spellings of surnames and to consult with others who are researching similar surnames. As mentioned previously, this directory is available in CD-ROM format.
Genealogists often discover that an ancestor was a member of an organization that no longer exists. In such an instance, Fraternal Organizations, by Alvin J. Schmidt, can be a useful reference source. This book describes different types of voluntary associations, some dating back to the beginning of the United States. These groups played a vital role in our ancestors’ lives, often providing fellowship and vital personal services (Schmidt 1980, xxix). Fraternal Organizations describes each organization and gives references for further reading. Sometimes little is known about an organization, as with the Arctic Brotherhood, which was founded as a secret society in 1899 on the steamship Seattle. It seems that gold prospectors formed this society on their way to the fields of Alaska. The compiler notes that he was not able to determine whether this order still exists and conjectures that it is most likely does not (Schmidt 1980, 44).
William R. Ward’s A Guide to Hereditary and Lineage Societies (Salt Lake City: Tradition Publications, 1993) is one of the best directories for locating information about currently active and defunct hereditary and lineage societies. The Guide provides the following information for each society: other names by which the society has been known, year founded, address and telephone number, eligibility requirements and whether membership is open or restrictive, publications, society library information, location, and accessibility of member records. Additionally, this guide includes a section on Wearing Society Medals and Insignia. There is an extensive bibliography, a chronological list of hereditary and lineage societies, and a section on preparing lineage papers.
Additional organizational directories of interest include Farmer’s Organizations, by Lowell K. Dyson; Labor Unions, edited by Gary M. Fink; Cyclopedia of Fraternities, by Albert Clark Stevens; and Dictionary of Secret and Other Societies, by Arthur Preuss.