Friday, May 17, 2013

Society Spotlight: Decatur Genealogical Society

DecaturGS-LogoThe Decatur Genealogical Society (DGS) is the oldest and one of the largest genealogical societies in Illinois. Membership of 600 includes many persons from out of state. Organized in 1964, DGS is a non-profit, non-sectarian, educational society with the following purposes: to encourage the science of genealogy, to help others gather genealogical information, to preserve and publish material of historical and genealogical nature, all for educational purposes. They operate entirely on membership dues, volunteer labor, publication sales, and private donations.

An individual membership currently is $15/year and offers the following benefits:

  • Receive the Central Illinois Genealogical Quarterly.
  • Place free queries in the Quarterly.
  • Submit material on the Central Illinois area for publication in the Quarterly.
  • Receive the bi-monthly newsletter Central Illinois News, which contains information on coming events, new acquisitions, and research tips.
  • Full use of the DGS Library during open hours and the ability to check out books (those with an individual membership may check out three books, those with a family membership may check out six books).
  • Participate in projects to preserve important records.

General meetings of the Society are held on the fourth Sunday in February, April, June, and September, at the DGS Building, 1255 West South Side Dr. in Decatur. Each November the DGS Annual Meeting is held off-site. In addition, DGS hosts a Genealogy Fair in the spring, and a four-week genealogy class in the fall. These meetings and events are open to the public.

DGS has an extensive reference collection, which is housed at the Decatur Genealogical Society and Library located at 1255 West South Side Drive, Decatur. The library is open Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM (except for national holiday). In cases of inclement weather, visitors are advised to call the library at 217-429-0135 to make sure they are open. The library is open to the public, however, they do ask a nominal donation for use by non-members.

The DGS Library has something on every county in Illinois, every state, and even some foreign countries. They have a large collection of miscellaneous books covering subjects such as: Bible, Black History, Church, Colonial/New England, General Reference, How To, Immigration, Land, Mayflower, Military, Who’s Who, etc. There is also an extensive collection of Family Histories. DGS also exchanges periodicals with over 150 other genealogical societies and has a separate room of periodicals. There is a Surname Card File and a Location Card File to help find articles within these periodicals. Some of the library's most popular collections include:

  • The original Macon Probate Records 1829-1975
  • City Directories for Decatur, Macon County, and other contiguous counties.
  • Family Vertical File – ten file cabinets full of miscellaneous tidbits filed by surname.

Additionally, the Stephen Decatur NSDAR Library is housed in the DGS facility. DGS also has an extensive yearbook collection, which not only contains those from schools in Macon County, but in surrounding counties as well. For more information visit the DGS Library page on their website.

The Society has been busy over the years, having published 80 book on Macon County, 95 books on other Illinois counties, and 8 for out of state locations. They also sell 81 Sangamon County, Illinois, publications that were given to them when the local Sangamon County society disbanded. These cover: cemetery; census; land; military; funeral home and many other miscellaneous types of records. Visit their Publications page to see a list of all the publications they have available for sale.

In addition to the books DGS has already published, they are currently working on the Wabash Railroad Employees Hospital Log 1909-1912, updating two Macon County cemetery books, and compiling other counties Honor Roll books.

For additional information about the Decatur Genealogical Society, visit their website, or contact them by email at

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