Getting the Most Out of Your Membership: Your Local Society

This is the final blog post in my series on getting the most out of your memberships by taking personal responsibility. To read the original post, click here.

The local (or state or regional) society is where most of the genealogical action is. This is your local cohort of people who all have the same passion: genealogy. Not everyone is at the same experience level. Not everyone wants to be a “professional.” And not everyone wants to take part at a national level. And that is OK. I believe genealogy is a ground-up, grassroots kind of a structure. As a system, we “grow” and “harvest” our best genealogists from small local societies before introducing them to the wider world. It is at the local level that some of our best friends are made and our most reliable colleagues are found.

So what does it mean to be a member of a small (or even a large-ish) local society? It is a little bit different than being a member of a national organization, in that you can have personal, face-to-face interaction with the members and leaders often, whether monthly or even more often, with very little effort. Having said that it is relatively easy, it still requires some effort on your part to get the most out of that membership! You have to decide to leave your house to go to a meeting, which may be difficult on snowy, cold evenings. Or you may decide to volunteer in some way to benefit your society (by bringing snacks, putting together the newsletter, writing articles for their publications, helping organize an annual seminar, and so on). Every volunteer helps the society run more efficiently and effectively. We’ve all seen what happens when something goes wrong. Someone forgets the snacks. Someone doesn’t get the newsletter out on time. Someone forgets to confirm the speaker. REMEMBER that all of the society’s benefits are run on volunteer efforts. But when one of those cogs in the wheel breaks down, it can be somewhat disastrous for the member’s experience, but with enough hands helping these mishaps are more easily mitigated.

I am currently a member of the Williamson County Genealogical Society (Round Rock, TX) and their website proclaims:

“We would love to have you join us! We hold ten regular meetings each year, host an annual day-long seminar, hold genealogy classes and are involved in special projects, such as FamilySearch Indexing. We sponsor a Brick Wall Special Interest Group and a DNA Special Interest Group that meet throughout the year. We electronically publish ten issues of our newsletter, “The Roundup,” and four issues of our quarterly publication, “The Chisholm Trail,” each year.”

When I lived in Colorado I was a member of the Boulder Genealogical Society. Their website describes the benefits:

“Benefits of membership in the BGS include — but are not limited to! — interesting monthly programs, periodic “You Asked For It” educational sessions, a monthly digital newsletter, access to members-only material online (in particular, several years of back issues of the Quarterly), genealogy classes, special interest study groups, research assistance (non-local members), occasional field trips and last but not least, camaraderie with folks who share a passion for family history research.”

A common theme among these benefits are the opportunities for genealogical education, publications, and networking with other local genealogists. Many local societies offer research services or assistance. Again, you will get out of it what you put into it. If you want a good membership experience, at the very least you need to attend classes, and if you want more, become a volunteer and help provide a good membership experience for yourself and others.

That is the end of my series on getting the most out of YOUR memberships. They are YOURS and will require some effort on YOUR part. Be mindful of what you are really saying when you are tempted to say “I’m not getting anything out of that membership.” Take some personal ownership over that statement, and see if a little more effort on your part could get you more out of your memberships.

**Of course these statements may not reflect everyone’s experience. If you have had a different experience and/or a legitimate complaint, PLEASE take it up with the proper direct channels for that organization. I’m sure they want to know their members’ views and to try to make it right. This blog is only expressing my personal opinions and is not the place to vent your frustrations with a given society or organization.

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