Ever wonder if you might be related to a member of a royal family or a rock star? The country's first, largest and most active genealogical society, located in the Back Bay, can help uncover family stories that are inspiring, fascinating and may even turn out to be stranger than fiction.
The New England Historic Genealogical Society, located on Newbury Street, has helped trace some remarkable family connections from Senator Scott Brown being distantly related to President Obama to Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, friends and famous Hollywood actors, also distant cousins.
This is not your father's genealogical society. New England Historic Genealogical Society President and CEO, D. Brenton Simons, says anyone who wants to discover their family roots is welcome at the Newbury Street location.
"We enjoy being part of this neighborhood. We welcome Bostonians, Back Bay residents and anyone who wants to come and explore their family heritage. Making discoveries about one's family are the most meaningful. We help people make those connections in real time," said Simons.
Simons, an author and a genealogist for many years, has helped bring genealogy - the study of family histories - into the modern era by establishing a website that helps people trace their roots online.
Simons says the website, www.AmericanAncestors.org, gives people access to millions of records to help put the pieces of a family history together.
He says it's the ability of the staff to trace reliable records and accurate data that has established the New England Historic Genealogical Society as the nation's premiere genealogical agency.
Simons, author of Witches, Rakes, and Rogues, has uncovered some of Boston's most colorful stories.
Salem wasn't the only place people were being hanged for witchcraft. A number of Bostonians were convicted and sentenced to die.
"Witchcraft existed in Boston from 1630-1740. In 1741 there was even an exorcism that took place," he said.
His super sleuthing actually uncovered the country's first serial murder that took place in the Back Bay in 1751.
And many may not know that in the 1600's there were lots of "Clark Rockefellers" or scoundrels who were able to dupe the proper Bostonians of the day.
History comes alive in the gorgeous 8-story building home to everything from a chair belonging to John Hancock to more than 200,000 books, family papers, photographs and many other resource materials to help put together the pieces of a family puzzle.
Not sure where to start your search? Some of the leading genealogists in the country can help you online or in person at the Newbury Street location.
For more information on the New England Historic Genealogical Society, click here.