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Nominations sought for NGS Hall of Fame

Thirty three times, the genealogical community has honored one of our best, one that we’ve lost.

Thirty three times, the focus has been on someone who has made contributions to the field of genealogy that were of lasting significance in ways that were unique, pioneering, or exemplary.

Thirty three times, individual genealogists and groups have nominated those persons whose achievements or contributions have made an impact on the field — and one has been selected: a genealogist whose unique, pioneering, or exemplary work lives on today.

Thirty three times.

Starting in 1986 with Donald Lines Jacobus and continuing to 2018 with Mary Smith Fay, 24 men and nine women have been elected to the National Genealogy Hall of Fame.

Jacobus, the first person chosen, was “nominated for this honor by the American Society of Genealogists, the Genealogical Society of Utah, and the DuPage County (IL) Genealogical Society. During his lifetime, Jacobus was widely regarded as the dean of American genealogists, and he is recognized as the founder of the modern school of genealogy in the United States. He was the editor and publisher of The American Genealogist for forty-three years, and he may have been the most prolific genealogical writer of any generation. His writings include the classic, Genealogy as Pastime and Profession. On his death, he was described by his colleague Milton Rubincam, as ‘the man who more than any other single individual elevated genealogy to the high degree of scholarship it now occupies.’”1

Fay, the most recent honoree, was a prolific writer on genealogy from New England to Texas:

Mary Smith Fay was one of the country’s most eminent genealogists. She became a professional genealogist after retiring from the Shell Oil Company in 1969. Her research interests spanned the entire Eastern United States from New England to Texas, which led her to author two books and over three dozen articles, all of which highlighted her genealogical research skills. Her professional work included serving as genealogist for the Howard Hughes estate and investigating claims of those purporting to be his heirs. She was active in numerous genealogical societies, and lectured at both local and national genealogical conferences. Mary Fay was born in Burnt Prairie, Illinois on 27 August 1915; she died in Houston, Texas on 7 July 2000.


In 1988 she published the Fay genealogy, Edwin Fay of Vermont and Alabama 1794–1876: His Origins from 1656 and His Descendants to 1987, preceded in 1979 by War of 1812 Veterans in Texas. Numerous articles appeared in the major genealogy journals. Notably, “The Three James Hickmans: Identifying Revolutionary War Veterans,” Virginia Genealogist, 41 (1997): 52–54; “Genealogy of Howard Robard Hughes, Jr.,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly, 71 (1983): 1–12; “Sheltons of Connecticut to Texas,” The Genealogist, 2:1 (Spring 1981): 115–23; and “Some Descendants of Richard and Sarah (Best) Tritton of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and New Haven, Connecticut,” New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 145 (1991): 125–28.


Mary Fay served as president of the Houston Genealogical Forum in 1968; as State Chairman, Lineage Research Committee for the Texas Society, DAR, 1973–1976 and 1979–1981; and as a trustee for the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) 1983–1995. She was certified by BCG in 1974, became a Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists in 1997, and an Honorary Admiral, Texas State Navy. In December 2000, the Mary Smith Fay Genealogy Library of the White County Historical Society, Carmi, Illinois, was named in her honor.2

In between Jacobus and Fay, the award recognized a wide variety of genealogical giants: Walter Goodwin Davis (1987); Gilbert Cope (1988); John Farmer (1989); George Andrews Moriarty, Jr. (1990); Lucy Mary Kellogg (1991); Meredith Bright Colket, Jr. (1992); Henry Fitzgilbert Waters (1993); Archibald Fowler Bennett (1994); Joseph Lemuel Chester (1995); George Ernest Bowman (1996); John Insley Coddington (1997); Jean Stephenson (1998); James Dent Walker (1999); Rabbi Malcolm H. Stern (2000); Richard Stephen Lackey (2001); Hannah Benner Roach (2002); Milton Rubincam (2003); Herbert Furman Seversmith (2004); Mary Campbell (Lovering) Holman (2005); Kenn Stryker-Rodda (2006); Walter Lee Sheppard, Jr. (2007); Lowell M. Volkel (2008); Willard Calvin Heiss (2009); Rosalie Fellows Bailey (2010); Albert Cook Myers (2011); Josephine Cosette Mayou Stillman Frost (2012); Earl Gregg Swem (2013); Florence Harlow Barclay (2014); Donald Arleigh Sinclair (2015); Marsha Hoffman Rising (2016); and Peter Stebbins Craig (2017).3

Thirty three of our best… And, now, it’s up to us to help select the 34th person.

The National Genealogical Society and the National Genealogy Hall of Fame Committee are seeking nominations from the entire genealogical community for persons whose achievements or contributions have made an impact on the field. The next honoree and the society that honored the nominee will be announced at the NGS 2019 Family History Conference in St. Charles, Missouri, in May.

Nominations for election to the National Genealogy Hall of Fame are made by genealogical societies and historical societies throughout the United States, and have to be submitted by 15 December 2018.

Here are the guidelines for nominations:

• “A nominee must have been actively engaged in genealogy in the United States for at least ten years, must have been deceased for at least five years at the time of nomination, and must have made contributions to the field of genealogy judged to be of lasting significance in ways that were unique, pioneering, or exemplary.”4

• “The National Genealogy Hall of Fame is an educational project in which the entire genealogical community is invited to participate. Affiliation with the National Genealogical Society is not required.”5

• “The National Genealogy Hall of Fame Committee elects one person to the Hall of Fame annually. Those elected are permanently commemorated in the Hall of Fame at Society headquarters, Arlington, Virginia.”6

• “Nominations for election to the National Genealogy Hall of Fame are due by 15 December each year. Official nomination forms are available from our website,, Awards & Competitions, or by contacting the National Genealogical Society, 6400 Arlington Blvd, Suite 810, Falls Church, VA 22042-2318; phone 1-800-473-0060.”7

Here’s a link to the official nomination form so no excuses!

Let’s all put on our thinking caps and consider those who were among our best… those we can honor for their service to our community.

It only takes a few minutes to help honor and remember a lifetime of service.


  1. “donald Lines Jacobus (Elected 1986),” National Genealogy Hall of Fame Members, National Genealogical Society ( : accessed 29 Oct Nov 2018).
  2. Ibid., “Mary Smith Fay (Elected 2018).”
  3. Ibid.
  4. Call for Nominations,” National Genealogical Society ( : accessed 29 Oct 2018).
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
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