There are hundreds, if not thousands, of public and private historical societies and museums around the world at local, regional and national levels. Genealogists generally seem to be unaware that genealogy is really history and much of that history is preserved by these organizations. I remember one trip I took a while ago when I visited the Hancock County Historical Society in Carthage, Illinois.
Some of my ancestors were residents of Hancock County and I was interested to find out that the Historical Society had a catalog card index of every person who had lived in the county. I immediately began looking at the Tanner family names and was surprised to find a huge section of cards of Tanners from Switzerland. I was vaguely aware that the Tanner surname was common in both England and Switzerland but this huge sections of cards showed me the reality of the Switzerland heritage of some of the Tanners in the United States. By the way, as far as I know, that card catalog is still there in the Historical Society and is still not digitized or online.
To get started on this topic, here is a list of the lists of some of the world's historical societies along with a few museums.
- Wikipedia: List of historical societies
- Wikipedia: List of U.S. state historical societies and museums
- American Historical Association
- Cyndi's List -- Societies and Groups
- Where is all the genealogy? -- Historical Societies
This is a topic I come back to every once and while because it is of overriding importance to the dedicated genealogist who wishes to resolve some of the most difficult ancestral relationships.
One window into the world of historical societies is the PERSI or Periodical Source index now found on the Findmypast.com website.
Here is a quote about the PERSI:
The PERiodical Source Index (PERSI) enables you to easily locate key information about people and places. It contains over 2.5 million entries from thousands of historical, genealogical and ethnic publications, making it an invaluable, comprehensive family history resource.
Most of PERSI’s articles are from periodicals covering the United States and Canada, but you can also find thousands of genealogy and local history entries (in both English and French) from Britain, Ireland and Australia.
Articles fall under twenty-two different subject headings, or record types. These include biography, cemeteries, census records, church records, court records, deeds, institutions, land records, maps, military records, naturalization records, obituaries, passenger lists, probate records, school records, tax records, vital records, voter records, and wills. Article about three or fewer specific families are arranged by surname.Many of these publications are associated with historical societies and museums. Of course, some of them may not be active or even in existence, but the PERSI list can lead you to associations that may not have an online presence.