I have been on a bit of a kick looking at genealogical history. An article from the July/August 1999 issue of Family Chronicle magazine deals with the early history, up to the founding of the New England Historic Genealogical Society in 1845. Read it at: http://www.familychronicle.com/HistoryOfGenealogy.html
I was surprised to read that "The New England Historic Genealogical Society was chartered in that year, two full years before a similar society was begun in England."
The NEHGS retains bragging rights by a small margin.