AFGS Library Temporarily Closed
Due to the COVID-19 public health emergency,
the AFGS library is closed to the public until further notice.
Thank you for staying home during this difficult time.
American-French Genealogical Society Franco-American Heritage Center on National Register of Historic Places
The Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission has announced that the National Park Service has added the former First Universalist Church, now the American-French Genealogical Society’s Franco-American Heritage Center, to the National Register of Historic Places.
The National Register is the Federal Government’s official list of properties throughout the United States whose historical and architectural significance makes them worthy of preservation. Erected in two phases, the former First Universalist Church building represents the evolution of ecclesiastical architecture during the 20th century. The building is also significant to Woonsocket’s religious history as the city’s sole Universalist church for more than eighty years.
The building consists of a two-story flat-roof block with a rear ell (built in 1924) and a one-story gable-roof addition (built in 1957), all in buff-colored brick with limestone trim. A square tower built as part of the 1957 addition connects the two blocks. Gothic Revival-style details on the 1924 structure include trefoil arch panels and drip molding carved in limestone. The 1957 addition is notable for its nine stained glass windows depicting Biblical scenes.
Despite their strong financial footing, the First Universalist Church faced challenges of aging parishioners and declining membership by the 1980s. The congregation disbanded in 2007.
The church sold the property to the American-French Genealogical Society. AFGS was founded in 1978 to provide historical and genealogical research assistance and to maintain special collections on the topic of the French-Canadian diaspora. The AFGS is an ideal successor; the organization had been renting space in the building since 1989. The second floor of the 1924 block currently serves as the home to the Veterans Memorial Museum, which displays a collection of military-related artifacts, many of which have special connections to Woonsocket residents.
The National Register nomination was prepared by RIHPHC Architectural Historian Elizabeth Rochefort. RIHPHC’s Executive Director J. Paul Loether said, “The American-French Genealogical Society has been a thoughtful steward of the building. We are especially pleased that the National Register listing follows the completion of a State Preservation Grant to improve ADA accessibility. This historic building will remain a valuable community center for years to come.”
Welcome to the American-French Genealogical Society Website
You will find a wealth of useful information on this site not only about the Society, but also about conducting French Canadian family research.
AFGS is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization located in Woonsocket, Rhode Island USA. Since its founding in 1978, the Society has acquired over 20,000 books and nearly 7,000 reels of microfilm. Our library contains one of the largest collections of French Canadian genealogical and historical research.
We can assist those who have ancestral roots other than French Canadian. AFGS is an affiliate library of the Family History Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. Through this affiliation, the Society has access to birth, marriage, burial, and in some cases, real estate records from over 130 countries. If you want to dig deeper into your family origins, AFGS also can assist with DNA and genetics research.
Members and guests who reside outside the Woonsocket area and would like to use the AFGS library should visit our “Visit AFGS” page under the “About Us” menu. We have our hours of operation, driving directions, and a link to area places to visit, great restaurants, and local lodging.
AFGS hosts many workshops and lectures covering genealogical, historical and “how-to” topics.