There are thousands of genealogy societies in the United States. Most are open to anyone with an interest in the society's area of specialization. Generally speaking, anyone is welcome to join most societies.
A few genealogy societies may restrict membership to the descendants of a particular couple or to descendants of those who lived in a specific area in history, participated in a particular event, or arrived on a certain ship. These are often referred to as "lineage societies." For instance, such societies include the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Sons of the American Revolution, the Mayflower Society, and the Society of The Ark and The Dove. Membership in these organizations is restricted to those who can prove descent from specific people.
One society remains much more exclusive, however.
In fact, you cannot even apply for membership; you must be invited to join by the existing members. The society only invites those with excellent scholarly genealogical credentials. Membership in this exclusive society is restricted to fifty individuals at any one time. As a result, the members of this society represent the top genealogical scholars of today. The primary goal of this exclusive organization is to promote high-quality genealogy scholarship everywhere.
The American Society of Genealogists (ASG) was founded in 1940 by three distinguished academicians: Arthur Adams, John Insley Coddington, and Meredith Colket. It was incorporated in 1946 as a non-profit educational organization in the District of Columbia. At the time of its founding, nothing existed to certify competent genealogists, nor was there a method to honor significant achievement in the genealogical field. AGS was founded to address these needs.
Members of the society are referred to as "Fellows" and are authorized to use the letters FASG (Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists) after their names.
Election to become a Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists is based on a candidate's published genealogical scholarship. To even be considered for membership, the person must have published genealogies and other works that demonstrate an ability to use primary source material, to evaluate and analyze data, to properly document evidence, and to reach sound, logical conclusions presented in a clear and proper manner.
As mentioned earlier, the society is limited to only fifty Fellows at one time. Vacancies normally occur only through deaths of present Fellows. There is a possibility of a Fellow resigning for health or other reasons, however. As vacancies occur, any Fellow may propose a genealogist he or she feels meets the Society's exacting standards. Election requires action by at least half of the membership present at an annual meeting and fails if the affirmative vote is less than eighty percent of those voting. All proceedings of the ASG are privileged, and Fellows may not disclose the name of any person under consideration.
The American Society of Genealogists is best known for the following:
The Genealogist, published twice yearly and edited by Charles M. Hansen and Gale Ion Harris, is one of the most prestigious journals in the field of genealogy. It publishes high-quality genealogical articles, including single-family studies, compiled genealogies, and articles that solve specific problems.
The ASG Scholar Award, created in 1996, offers $500 toward tuition and expenses for the National Institute on Genealogical Research, Washington, D.C., or the Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research, Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama.
The Donald Lines Jacobus Award, established in 1972 to encourage sound scholarship in genealogical writing, is presented to a model genealogy published within the previous five years. The Society also awards a Certificate of Appreciation to individuals or organizations whose contributions to genealogy are so merited.
The Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) was created by ASG in 1964 as a professional accrediting body for genealogists. Although BCG is now an independent entity, fellows of ASG have numbered among the trustees and officers throughout the Board's history.
ASG was instrumental in establishing the National Institute for Genealogical Research (NIGR) in 1950. Since NIGR's incorporation in 1989, ASG holds a designated seat on the Board of Trustees.
The American Society of Genealogists remains as one of the most respected organizations within genealogy. Thanks to the efforts of its Fellows, genealogy research and accuracy has improved greatly since its founding. This organization is dedicated to the highest standards of academic research. While few genealogists ever are able to join this organization, we all benefit from this organization's efforts.
To learn more about the American Society of Genealogists, you can look at the society's web page at http://www.fasg.org. You can find a list of all the present Fellows at http://www.fasg.org/ActiveFellows.html.