History of the Hamilton County Genealogical Society
(a Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society)
About 1955, a small group in Richland County, Ohio, met to discuss local history and genealogy. They recognized the need for an organization to collect and preserve local history and genealogical information. During the next few years, the articles of incorporation were submitted, the first constitution written and the Ohio Genealogical Society (OGS) became a reality. By 1969, two chapters had been chartered and three more were being organized.
In August 1972, a number of confessed genealogists met in the Hamilton County suburb of Wyoming to see if there was enough interest to form a chapter. The group extended an invitation to OGS officers to come to Cincinnati to speak to the group. On January 16, 1973, they met with a small group and founded the Hamilton County Chapter of OGS (HCGS).
Our first full-fledged meeting was held in March of that year at the Church of the Ascension in Wyoming. At this meeting the By-Laws were adopted and officers were elected. On May 5, 1973, we received our charter from OGS.
Our first project was to locate cemeteries in southwest Ohio for inclusion in the OGS cemetery book. In 1974, we arranged to reprint Henry B. Ford’s History of Hamilton County with a new every-name index. We also began the project of indexing Hamilton County wills prior to 1850, work later included in Carol Bell’s Ohio Wills and Estates to 1850: An Index and we were underway for our first original publication, Abstract of Book 1 and Book A Probate Records, 1791-1826, Hamilton County, Ohio.
In 1983, HCGS published Volume 1 of Hamilton County, Ohio Burial Records. The first issue of The Tracer came out in 1979 and in 1987 was augmented by our newsletter, The Gazette. HCGS Interest Groups were formed: German, Irish, Computer and African-American.
The Bicentennial Microfilming Committee was established in 1986. The purpose of the group was to arrange to have the records of historically important Hamilton County institutions such as churches, cemeteries and funeral homes placed on microfilm. Over a two-year period members of the committee contacted organizations who might be willing to have their records microfilmed, picked up and returned the records to those institutions, transported the documents to the Wright State Media Department for filming, and returned copies of the completed films to the participating organization. In all, well over 150,000 individual records were collected from nearly 50 churches, 10 cemeteries, and six funeral homes.
The first edition of A Guide to Genealogical Resources in Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Ohio was completed in 1998. The guide is now in its seventh printing and has grown from 36 pages to 178 pages.
Since 1986, HCGS has presented all-day seminars every year except for the years the OGS annual conference was held in Cincinnati. National speakers and topics have been the goal of each seminar. Our society planned the OGS conferences held in 1992, 1996, and 2000. We were the planning committee for the Federation of Genealogical Societies national conference held in Cincinnati in 1998. During the last decade, HCGS hosted the 2012 National Genealogical Society Conference, and OGS conferences in 2004, 2008 and 2013, co-sponsoring with OGS. The First Families of Hamilton County committee was formed in 1988. At the First Annual Banquet and Award Ceremony, held October 8, 1988, eighty charter members were inducted.
In 1995, HCGS began its Voice Mail service. In 1996, HCGS started “surfing the net” with its first website. In 1993, HCGS began a Genealogy Fair at the Library. In 1998, HCGS established the Hamilton County Genealogical Trust Fund to purchase primarily Ohio genealogy books. An HCGS awards committee was developed in 1998. Make a Difference Day projects were begun in 1999.
The first three decades of HCGS were filled with periods of growth in membership and refinement of programming, publishing, and organizational issues unique to a high performing organization.This last decade, which takes us through our 40th anniversary, was focused on education, making more records available to the family history researcher through publishing, microfilming, indexing, and now digitization, and hosting national and state conferences.
Possibly the greatest impact on HCGS activities in the past 10 years is the explosion of technology and related resources and HCGS has tackled these opportunities. In 2011, we created our Blog, Facebook and Twitter pages. A new director position, Digital Resources Director, was approved in 2012. A new custom-designed website emerged in November 2013. Opportunities with the Probate Court and the Recorder’s Office to digitize important records have progressed.
HCGS now has 21 volumes of burial records, four church burial records volumes, nine death records volumes and a morgue records volume completed. Hamilton County Probate Court records 1791-1837 have been reissued on a searchable resource. Feature articles in the award winning Tracer continue to assist researchers and provide great references for our members who live outside of this area.
HCGS instituted a lower cost e-membership category, which many members prefer. A significant change was the conversion of our quarterly Gazette in 2013 to become an e-zine and moved to the public pages of HCGS's website.
With huge thanks to many long time and loyal members, some of whom were honored with a special 40th anniversary recognition at our 2013 Heritage Banquet, HCGS is positioned for a great decade ahead. No doubt in 2023 HCGS will celebrate a Golden Anniversary with the support and contributions of each and every member. With hard work and good leaders throughout our long years, we have achieved a high level of organizational development and will strive to continue to meet the challenges of a county genealogical society with excellence, energy and enthusiasm.