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The Arkansas Genealogical Society, Inc., Arkansas’s only statewide genealogical organization, was organized in Fayetteville (Washington County) on May 4–5, 1962, in response to a call by the Washington County Historical Society. Under the guidance of the longtime editor of its quarterly, Flashback, Professor Walter J. Lemke of the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville, this organization took the lead in collecting Arkansas genealogical data for many years. However, by 1962, growing interest in this hobby had overwhelmed its limited resources, and a decision was made to call for the formation of a statewide genealogical society to take over this work. Drawing upon the resources of this local group, volunteers published the first issue of the Arkansas Family Historian, Arkansas’s first quarterly devoted exclusively to genealogy and family history in March 1962.
As support poured in, it quickly became evident that the time had come to launch a statewide genealogical organization. The society’s first president was George R. Turrentine of Russellville (Pope County). Lemke was selected as the Arkansas Family Historian’s first official editor. In May 1963, with membership standing at more than 350, the new organization held its first annual meeting in Conway (Faulkner County). Since that time, it has sought to fulfill four major objectives: 1) the publication of a quality journal devoted to Arkansas family history and genealogy, 2) the publication of books, pamphlets, and other publications relating to Arkansas genealogy and primary historical sources, 3) the preservation of historical, genealogical, and biographical sources pertaining to Arkansas, and 4) the sponsorship of educational workshops, conferences, and seminars in order to better educate Arkansas’s family historians and genealogists. Over the years, the society has published a number of works that are available for sale to the public in hard copy or digital format. Among these are its popular Arkansas Township Atlas, 1819–1930: A History of the Minor Civil Divisions in Each County and Arkansas Post Offices from Memdag to Norsk: A Historical Directory, 1832–1990, both by Russell P. Baker, as well as the ongoing series, Arkansas Prior Birth Indexes, now in its ninth volume. The latter publications contain the names and birth information of some 330,000 Arkansans who were born before 1911.
Since 1964, the society has also sponsored annual statewide genealogical conferences and workshops. These events have drawn a number of nationally known lecturers, as well as state and regional presenters. In 1991, the society began awarding Certificates of Arkansas Ancestry to descendants of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Arkansans who apply for them. Ancestry Certificates are issued in the following categories: Colonial, Territorial, Antebellum, Civil War, and Nineteenth Century. Since 1962, the editors of the Arkansas Family Historian have been Walter J. Lemke (1962–1964), Dolores Murphy (1964–1972), Elaine W. Cia (1973–1984), Margaret Hubbard (1985–2004), and Susan Boyle (2006–present)—from 2004 until 2005, an editorial committee supervised the production of the quarterly. In the summer of 2009, the Arkansas Genealogical Society cosponsored the national conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies in Little Rock (Pulaski County). The organization is currently headquartered in Little Rock.
For additional information:Arkansas Genealogical Society. http://www.agsgenealogy.org (accessed September 21, 2011).
The Arkansas Family Historian. Little Rock: Arkansas Genealogical Society (1964–).
Russell P. BakerMabelvale, Arkansas
Last Updated 11/30/2011
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