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History of FEEFHS

From small beginnings to the present, the Foundation for East European Family History Studies (FEEFHS) has become one of the most effective organizations in supporting the field of East European genealogical research, encompassing many relevant regions, countries, religions, and ethnicities.

Charles M. Hall, Founder of FEEFHS 1930 - 2010
Charles M. Hall, FEEFHS Founder 1930 - 2010

The spark to create such an international organization was conceived in 1992 by a small group of leading genealogists, linguists, and other specialists with Eastern European expertise and diverse ethnic, religious, and national backgrounds. Charles M. Hall conceived the idea of an international federation concentrating on Eastern European research, and invited the group to meet in Seattle, Washington that June to consider the best ways to proceed.

The then-recent collapse of the Iron Curtain created significant new opportunities for working with previously unknown or inaccessible Eastern European records. Coincidentally, this flow of information coincided with an upsurge in interest in genealogy and the movement to establish new genealogical societies for specific ethno-geographic niches. At the time, the founders recognized the potential value of an organization which could promote mutually beneficial interaction between existing Eastern European-focused societies, foster the creation and development of new such societies, and advance the field of Eastern European genealogy research in general. At the time, similar existing genealogical umbrella organizations served primarily North American and British Isles interest groups. The founders felt that this same kind of support organization could benefit Eastern European genealogy. Thus, FEEFHS was born and, in the beginning, named The Federation of East European Family History Societies.

By the end of 1992, eleven societies embraced the concept and joined as founding members of FEEFHS. A Constitution and Bylaws were ratified in 1993 (and revised in 2002). The number of FEEFHS' member organizations doubled each year for several years after its founding. By bringing together people with similar interests, FEEFHS helped inspire the creation of several new organizations, including the Galizien German Descendants and the Silesian American Genealogical Society. In 1995, FEEFHS introduced the Docent of Historical Studies (ДИН) credentialing program for certifying Russian research professionals.

At this point in the organization’s evolution, the development of electronic communications to facilitate global outreach and community building was in its infancy. The FEEFHS website, inaugurated in May 1995, served as an incubator of sorts, providing an internet presence for dozens of societies until they were able to start their own websites. FEEFHS’ influence over the years cannot be overstated. Its own domain,, was introduced in the spring of 1996. The website featured the first online collection of historical and contemporary Eastern European maps for genealogical use. From the beginning, it has provided web space and links to member organizations and individuals. The website has received several awards over the years and was recognized in the very first New York Times article on the subject of web-based genealogical research.

In early 2010, FEEFHS eliminated formal paid membership of societies and individuals, and dispensed with the annual journal due to the amount of information starting to become available online. Those FEEFHS journals are now available online available online on this website.

In 2014, “The Federation of East European Family History Societies” became “The Foundation of East European Family History Studies” to encompass the growing number of individual researchers interested in pursuing their genealogy and, to some extent, the decline in smaller societies with narrower focuses, such as one-country societies.

In 2015 FEEFHS obtained 501(c)3 non-profit status which permits FEEFHS to receive tax-deductible donations.

FEEFHS activities include or over time have included:

  • Hosting annual conferences throughout the US and Canada with various North American and international presenters
  • Hosting a premier collection of historical maps online
  • Maintaining the organization’s website…and often winning awards for it
  • Publishing an annual professional journal (from 1992 to 2008)
  • Distributing and publishing online a member e-newsletter
  • Creating and hosting genealogy databases
  • Promoting awareness of member societies
  • Promoting communication among member societies
  • Providing support to member societies and to the creation of new societies