Is there a centralized directory or database of local historical societies or organizations for the United States which shows the information and services they provide in a consistent format for each society?

I did look at the Local Historical Society Genealogy question which to a degree spurred this question about resources utilized and available to them.

I know internet search engines like Google/Bing/Yahoo/etc exist -- but finding out their location and hours of operation requires individually searching for each society, knowing the exact names, etc. -- and their region / period of coverage is not always apparent.

Even though technically several of these are libraries they commonly also do not show up in searches on WorldCat as a library nor their holdings.

I also know Cyndi's List has a list of societies, but it is just that -- a list of societies and a link to their websites, not a searchable index with areas of coverage, nor services they provide.

All of the societies are using different tools and website formats, so trying to navigate their websites to figure out what services they provide and how to initiate requests for services can be pretty frustrating sometimes.

Key Data Points I am looking for, the areas of coverage in particular being searchable.

  • Name of the Society / Historical Library
  • Geographic Areas of Coverage
  • Years of Coverage
  • Website
  • Contact Information
    • Phone Number
    • Mailing Address
  • Collection Holding, especially Unique Ones
  • Publications
  • Research Fees
  • Cost of Membership / Membership Benefits

Question: Is there a centralized Historical Society index / database for the United States that contains this type of information?


1 Answer 1


The closest thing I know of that meets your criteria is WorldCat's beta project ArchiveGrid.

It has a feature FIND ARCHIVES NEAR YOU which allows you to search for a location or zip code, or pick out a library or archive via a pin on the map. A pop-up box offers you the choice of searching the collection or getting contact information for that facility.

enter image description here

Clicking on the contact information link takes you directly to the website of that library or archive.

Underneath the map is a list of locations which expands to show a list of participating libraries and archives for each place. The United States is at the top, with other countries following alphabetically. (Examine the list carefully -- at the moment, the Australian provinces are displaying at the bottom of the list of US states, before Canada, instead of being listed together under a heading 'Australia'.)

enter image description here

Searching ArchiveGrid will yield results from the catalog descriptions (not the contents of the manuscript collections).

For instance, a search for "Quaker" yielded over 7,700 results. I have the option of list view, or summary view. Summary view offers me a choice of six boxes which I can use to filter my results:

  • People
  • Groups
  • Places
  • Archives
  • Archive Locations
  • Topics

Choosing "Smith Family" from the People box cuts my results down to a list of 26 results.

The drawback of ArchiveGrid is that it only includes the repositories that want to participate in the project -- but the advantage is that the contact information links take you directly to the archive's own site, which is more likely to be up-to-date than any directory or database maintained by a third party.

While most of the contributors so far are archives and libraries, you can see from the final screenshot that some historical societies are participating in the project.

This may not be exactly what you had in mind, but no simple directory could provide enough information about the holdings of a library or archive to be of practical use. With ArchiveGrid, you have a far better chance of discovering which institution's collections have something of interest to you.

Other resources:

Via Twitter, Sir Leprechaunrabbit suggested the book:

GRD "Genealogical Research Directory" pub. and upd. every yr but not #online

On WorldCat.org, Genealogical research directory : regional & international ... & guide to genealogical societies by Keith A Johnson and Malcolm R Sainty has an electronic version of the 6th ed. from 1985 on Hathi Trust which is limited view (search only). This was apparently updated yearly for many years, but the latest version I see on WorldCat is the 27th edition published in 2007.

A search of WorldCat for similar items found many directories of organizations by state, and the American Association for State and Local History's Directory of historical organizations in the United States and Canada (1990). One strategy for finding the kind of website you seek might be to look for these older volumes, then search for the book creators to see if they have shifted to an online or other electronic publication.

  • 1
    National and state society associations also maintain lists of affiliates, example see Federation of Genealogical Societies - Find a Society [fgs.org/cstm_societyHall.php ]
    – bgwiehle
    Commented Feb 19, 2016 at 12:59

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