A Century of Genealogy
As the 21st century approaches, we are again experiencing a surge of interest in tracing family trees. Aging baby boomers, the largest segment of the U.S. population, are eager to research their ancestry. The genealogical Web sites on the Internet are introducing genealogy to persons of all ages and ethnic backgrounds. And for the first time, corporate America is recognizing the potential of marketing specifically to genealogists and is investing in genealogy products and services.
The following timeline of major genealogical events illustrates the rapid growth of genealogy in the 20th century. Most hereditary societies were established in the late 19th century or early 20th century. The majority of national genealogical organizations were founded between 1964-1980 and a couple more in the 1990s. Development of genealogical software started in the late 1970s, the same time that genealogical reference books were being written and published in larger numbers. Educational opportunities began in 1950 with the National Institute on Genealogical Research, followed in 1964 with Samford's Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research. The first national conference was held in 1981 -- the beginning of the flood of local, state and national seminars and conferences.
- 1876: The New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts was founded. They are now the oldest and largest genealogical society.
- 1881: Sons of Revolutionary Sires was founded in 1876 during the centennial of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In 1889, on the 100th anniversary of the inauguration of George Washington, the National Society of the Sons of the Revolution was organized.
- 1890: Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War was founded.
- 1891: The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution was founded. In 1896 the Daughters of the American Revolution Library was established for staff DAR genealogists.
- 1894: The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
- 1897: United Daughters of the Confederacy was organized.
- 1912: General Society of Mayflower Descendants was founded.
- 1915: National Genealogical Society, Washington, D.C. was founded and they began publishing The National Genealogical Society Quarterly.
- 1945: National Society Colonial Dames XVII Century was founded.
- 1947: The American Society of Genealogists was created as an honorary organization limited to fifty scholars in the genealogical field.
- 1950: Everton published the first edition of the Handy Book; now in its ninth edition, and their magazine, Genealogical Helper was established.
- 1962: The National Institute on Genealogical Research was founded. Their educational program focuses on federal records of genealogical value located primarily in the Washington, D.C. area.
- 1962: Annual Index to Genealogy Periodicals begun.
- 1964: Board for Certification of Genealogists founded.
- 1964: Accreditation program begun by the Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
- 1964: Samford Institute of Genealogy & Historical Research founded at Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama. The Board for Certification co-sponsors the Institute which offers seven courses ranging from beginning to more specialized topics.
- 1976: Federation of Genealogical Societies was founded.
- 1979: Association of Professional Genealogists was founded by nineteen professional genealogists. Their membership today is nearly 1,200 worldwide.
- 1979: A genealogy software program, Genealogy: Compiling Roots and Branches, by John J. Armstrong was advertised in the September issue of Personal Computing Magazine. The program sold for $250 and the source code was printed in the magazine. You typed the code into your computer, which was a common way of publishing software in the early days. It was written in Microsoft BASIC for the TRS-80 by Radio Shack.
- 1980: Cite Your Sources: A Manual for Documenting Family Histories and Genealogical Records was published.
- 1981: First national genealogical conference sponsored by the National Genealogical Society was held in Atlanta, Georgia.
- 1981: Genealogical Computing Magazine started publication.
- 1983: Fund drive originally known as Genealogical Coordinating Committee NARA Gift Fund and now known as Dollars for Documents was established. The gift fund's purpose is to create finding aids and microfilm significant research materials at the National Archives.
- 1983: Ancestry founded; now known as Ancestry.com.
- 1984: The first edition of The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy published by Ancestry, Inc. (Revised in 1996)
- 1984: PAF Version 1 released. It was written in BASIC for the IBM PC (also Microsoft) and did not include GEDCOM. Commsoft's Roots II came out in May of 1984 for the IBM PC.
- 1986: PAF 2.0 released, the first genealogy program to include GEDCOM exchange.
- 1986: The National Genealogical Society founded the Genealogy Hall of Fame.
- 1987: The Council of Genealogical Columnists was founded.
- 1988: PERsi (Periodical Source Index) published.
- 1988: Social Security Death Index becomes public record.
- 1989: Family Tree Maker genealogy software first introduced by Banner Blue.
- 1992: Genealogical Speakers Guild was founded.
- 1992: Federation of Eastern European Family History Societies (FEEFHS) was founded.
- 1993: Genealogical Institute of Mid-America founded. GIMA is a four-day program of intensive study at the University of Illinois, Springfield.
- 1994: Banner Blue Software (creator of Family Tree Maker software in 1989) acquired Automated Archives, Inc., who developed CDs containing genealogical records.
- 1995: Broderbund Software, Inc. acquired Banner Blue Software.
- 1996: Revised edition of The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy published by Ancestry, Inc.
- 1996: Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy founded a week-long seminar that offers students hands-on learning experience at the Family History Library.
- 1996: Cyndi's List established on the Internet.
- 1997: Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian by Elizabeth Shown Mills (Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, Maryland) published.
- 1997: PBS Ancestors television series aired nationwide.
- 1998: Broderbund Software, Inc., purchased by the Learning Company.
- 1999: The Learning Company purchased by Mattel, Inc. A few months later, A&E Television Networks, Hearst Interactive Media, Mattel, Inc. (NYSE: MAT), Thomas H. Lee Partners and Weston Presidio Capital formed Genealogy.com, LLC, formerly the Broderbund genealogy unit of Mattel.
- 1999: The cover story in the April 19, 1999 issue of Time Magazine is Roots Mania.
If a genealogist researching in 1900 were able to time travel to the year 2000, the volume of research tools, education, and technology would be overwhelming. But if you were to put a 1900 and 2000 genealogist side-by-side to research their family, the odds are good that they would share similar research strategies.
Genealogy has changed; but yet it has not. Yes...we will have more indexes and digital images of original records; and there will be more mergers and involvement by big business. But regardless of time period, genealogists will always continue to seek out records hidden in courthouse attics and basements. They will debate the accuracy of published genealogies and encourage the integration of genealogy into schools and universities. Families will know more about their ancestors and cousins and be proud of their contribution to history.
Your contribution TODAY as a genealogist is important to the future of genealogy. Cite your sources, be accurate in your transcriptions, and share the results with your family. What better legacy could you leave your descendants?
(A special thank you to Birdie and Russ Holsclaw for their research into the development of genealogy software.)