2024 HS Genealogy / History Achievement Award

D. Brenton Simons, President Emeritus and Chief Stewardship Officer at American Ancestors, named winner of the 2024 HS Genealogy/History Achievement Award

D. Brenton Simons

“D. Brenton Simons had overseen a period of extraordinary growth for the New England Historic Genealogical Society. It now serves more than 415,000 members in 139 countries and millions of online users, and it provides more than 1.4 billion records at AmericanAncestors.org. As a result of Simons’ superb leadership, many librarians, archivists and their patrons have benefited from the continually expanding genealogical and historical services at NEHGS”. – Award Committee Statement

As a result of Simons’ superb leadership, many librarians, archivists and their patrons have benefited from the continually expanding genealogical and historical services at NEHGS in the following areas:

  • Website. Many public libraries across the United States subscribe to the institutional version of AmericanAncestors.org.  It is considered by librarians to be a key resource for New England research, as well as national family history, heritage and cultural research.  FamilySearch International even provides special portal access to the website for its FamilySearch Centers around the country. It was voted a “2022 Best US Genealogy Website” by the Editors of FamilyTree Magazine. NEHGS’ slogan, “Offer your patrons a seat in our world-class library while they’re still seated in yours,” couldn’t be a truer statement!
  • Publications. From the inception of NEHGS, librarians feel that it has produced and shared the very best in genealogical research.  From scholarly articles to introductory research guides, their publications have appealed to and assisted researchers of all levels. NEHGS titles are found in public, academic and special libraries across the world, including more than 100 published books, the American Ancestors Magazine, and the highly-respected New England Historical and Genealogical Register.
  • Research Center. Located at 99 Newbury Street in Boston, the NEHGS Research Center has long been identified by librarians and professional genealogists as one of the Top 10 Genealogical Libraries in the United States, and a leading research center for genealogists of every skill level.  USA Today also declared it to be “One of the 10 great places to trace family roots…”
  • Mr. Brenton Simons himself. From the very outset of his tenure as president and CEO, Mr. Simons has sought to develop friendships and partnerships with libraries, schools, and businesses who serve genealogists and historians. He has been professional, knowledgeable, and humble in his efforts to create win-win relationships. The nominator has experienced this personally over the years in working with Mr. Simons. In one of the finest examples of his ability to serve the genealogical and academic communities, NEHGS is now the anchor location of the popular PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Service to Allied Organizations

Simons serves as an officer of several heritage organizations in the United States, UK, and beyond, including:

  • President of the International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences (a biennial international conference to be hosted by NEHGS in Boston in 2024).
  • Immediate past Secretary of the Board of The New England Quarterly, the premier journal of New England’s cultural, literary, political, and social history.
  • Vice Chair of the Plymouth 400th Anniversary State Commission and as a member of the Commission to Investigate the Seal and Motto of Massachusetts, both by special appointment of Massachusetts Governor Charles D. Baker.

Awards Received

For his work in nonprofit leadership and as an author, Simons has been recognized with several honors, including:

  • Award of Merit (American Association for State and Local History)
  • Bradford Award (Pilgrim Hall Museum)
  • John Adams Medal (Massachusetts Society of the Sons of the Revolution)
  • History Award Medal (Daughters of the American Revolution)

Publication Credits

  • The Art of Family: Genealogical Artifacts in New England, co-edited with Peter Benes, and essays by Simons, Abbott Lowell Cummings, John Putnam Demos, Wendell Garrett, and Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.  Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2002.
  • Witches, Rakes, and Rogues: True Stories of Scam, Scandal, Murder and Mayhem, in Boston, 1630-1775.  Carlisle, MA: Applewood Books: 2005.
  • Boston Beheld: Antique Town and Country ViewsHanover, NH and London: University Press of New England: 2008.
  • Simons has been published in various genealogical and historical monographs and articles.

Other Relevant Information

An avid genealogist, collector, and antiquarian, Simons enjoys travel, gardening, and nonprofit volunteering. He is a member of:

  • American Antiquarian Society
  • Society of the Cincinnati (CT)
  • Society of Colonial Wars (MA and FL)
  • Honorary Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society
  • Proprietor of The Boston Athenaeum

Established in 1992, the HS Genealogy / History Achievement Award, sponsored by FamilySearch, presents a citation and $1,500 to a librarian, library or publisher, in recognition of professional achievement in historical or genealogical reference, service, or research librarianship. The recipient shall be selected for exceptional accomplishment in one or more of the following areas: leadership; service; training; reference; or publication of recent, significant print or digital reference works/projects that offer access to genealogical or historical sources. Preference shall be given to members of RUSA.

The selection committee was Chaired by Tina Beaird.