Tag Archives: genealogical societies

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.

Getting the Most Out of Your Memberships: APG

This is the next 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 Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) focuses on supporting genealogists who are working at a professional level, whether that work is through taking client research projects, as a genealogical educator, as a genealogy librarian, as an editor/proofreader, as a webmaster, and so on. The APG also supports those striving to become professional genealogists. From their website, “APG is an independent organization whose principal purpose is to support professional genealogists in all phases of their work: from the amateur genealogist wishing to turn knowledge and skill into a vocation, to the experienced professional seeking to exchange ideas with colleagues and to upgrade the profession as a whole. The association also seeks to protect the interest of those engaging in the services of the professional.”

If you don’t consider yourself to be a professional, to be working at a professional level (perhaps you are only a hobbyist), then this society may not be right for you. However, if you are, then there are many benefits to being a member of APG. If you are already a member and find yourself saying “I don’t know what I get out of this membership” then double check this list of the APG benefits from their website, somewhat edited for space (to see the full list, visit the website):

  1. APG Quarterly
    • APG Quarterly, a journal for those interested in professionalism:
    • Articles on communicating with clients, preparing lineage society applications, training research assistants, business record keeping, and home office tax concerns
    • Articles in associated fields (preparing lecture slides, teaching family history to children, preparing manuscripts for printing)
    • Back issues (2004-2011) available for download in pdf format, in the “Members Only Area of the website (back issues beyond 2004 are still being scanned)
  2. APG Directory of Members
    • Directory, an online publication, available worldwide to members, libraries, societies, and consumers, with:
    • members’ biographies, services, research and geographic specialties
    • various search criteria to assist readers in finding researchers
  3. Activities at National Conferences
    • Conferences
    • APG-sponsored lectures on professional ethics, client billing, business software, vital records access, and other timely topics
    • Roundtable discussions for members, like time management, advertising, taxes, certification/accreditation
    • Luncheons and receptions where members meet and network with colleagues
  4. Discounts for APG Members
    • Available in the Members Only Area
      • Boston University Online Certificate Program for Genealogical Research
      • The Genealogical Books Super Store
      • JSTORE JPASS
      • Genealogy Today
      • Heritage Books
      • Legacy Family Tree
      • Print My Genealogy
      • Progeny Genealogy
      • Salt Lake Plaza Hotel
      • and many others
  5. Educational Brochures
  6. Members-Only Mailing List
    • Available in the Members Only Area
        • APG members may subscribe to the APG Members-Only List. This unmoderated mailing list is used to discuss topics of interest to the members of the Association of Professional Genealogists.
  7. Professional Development
    • Recordings of past Webinars
    • Sample Contracts, Forms, Reports
  8. Professional Review of client complaints
    • Resolving differences. If you have a question or complaint, tell the professional first. Misunderstandings can occur on either side but can usually be resolved quickly. In the unlikely event a difficulty between you and your genealogist is not resolved, notify the organization or person who referred the professional to you and tell your genealogist you have done so.
    • APG takes very seriously its responsibility to serve both the genealogical client community and its diverse membership. If a complaint involving a member is alleged to violate APG’s Code of Ethics, the Professional Review Committee (PRC) shall review and investigate the complaint if it meets criteria for such action. Please see Code of Ethics and Professional Practices.
    • The Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) offers an arbitration service when a certified professional is involved. See http://www.bcgcertification.org/.

There are eight major headings here, many of them with sub-headings. Those are a lot of benefits targeted for the professional genealogist. The discounts to various websites alone could make your membership worthwhile, IF you choose to put in a small amount of effort. One of the best benefits, in my opinion, is the members-only mailing list. This is a VERY active mailing list where you can post about a particular issue or question and get a lot of advice from people across the globe. You will undoubtedly get an answer to your questions. It is so accessible, it is like having your own mentor(s) in your back pocket!

Of course, as is the theme of this series of blog posts, you have to put some energy and effort into your membership to get the most out of it. In order for the directory to work for you, you have to create your profile and keep it updated. To learn from the articles and webinars you have to read and attend. To get the most of the networking opportunities, you have to attend the annual conferences.

If you are a member of APG and find yourself saying “I don’t know what I get out of that membership” I encourage you to take a realistic view of what you’ve been putting into it. There are a lot of fantastic benefits to be had, given a little time and energy.

**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.

Getting the Most Out of Your Membership: FGS

This is the next 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 Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) is a bit different from other societies in that its main purpose is to serve members at the society level, rather than the individual level, focusing on society management and issues with records access and preservation. The website proclaims it to be “a gathering point for genealogical societies with resources to grow & thrive.” Also, “representing the members of hundreds of genealogical societies across the United States and other nations, the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) is here to link the genealogical community by helping genealogical societies strengthen and grow.” So you may not look at this group the same as you would National Genealogical Society (NGS) or the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) or your local or state society. However, the principle of getting what you give is the same.

Is your local, state, or regional society a member of FGS? If you don’t know, you can check on the “Find a Society” directory page. If they are, do you ever hear any announcements or read any FGS news in your local society’s newsletter, at their monthly meetings, on their Facebook page, blog, or other form of society communication? If not, I would guess that your society’s leadership is not taking advantage of their membership and may even be saying “We aren’t getting anything out of this membership.” Here are the FGS society member benefits (from their website):

  • Be listed in the Find a Society directory
  • Access to the FGS Members-only Area
  • Reviews of your society’s Bylaws, Newsletter, and Website
  • Access for your Board of Directors to FORUM (Anyone can subscribe to the FORUM, so even if you aren’t on the board of a member society, you can still get this valuable magazine)
  • Have your submitted events and webinars listed in Society Events.
  • Access for your Board of Directors to the FGS Webinar Archives and available Focus On Societies audio recordings from past FGS conferences
  • Access to the FGS Reach Out series of white papers, which cover topics related to creating partnerships with other organizations in your community or region
  • Access to the archive of issues of FGS FORUM from 1989 to present
  • Access to details of Partner Benefit Program discounts with companies such as MyHeritage, Genealogy Gems, Vivid-Pix, and Dell Computers
  • Access to the FGS Member Society Leadership Forum Facebook Group
  • 10 free FORUM subscriptions/year to give as door prizes at society events

All of these member benefits take a little bit of effort from the FGS Delegate (or President) of the member society. You have to submit your society’s events if you want them to be included in the calendar, you have to send an email to request those free FORUM subscriptions for door prizes, you have to log-in to your account to access the partner discounts, you have to submit your bylaws, newsletter, or website to get a review. And so on.

And if you haven’t heard anything about FGS from your society’s leaders, despite being a member society, maybe they need a delegate. Consider volunteering for this position and be a great delegate, bringing valuable member benefits to your society!

**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.

Getting the Most Out of Your Memberships: NGS

This is the next 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 National Genealogical Society (NGS) was organized in 1903 and claims to be “the first national genealogical organization.” It has always been a leader in genealogical education with its conferences, seminars and workshops, research tours, books, magazines, and a scholarly journal.

As a member of NGS you receive the following benefits (straight from the NGS website):

  • NGS Magazine: delivered quarterly by print or digital access. A top choice by NGS Members, with articles on effectively using records for family history research—i.e., vital records, immigration, land, and courthouse records—and columns on genetic genealogy, repositories, technology, writing, etc.
  • NGS Monthly: delivered monthly by email. A digital publication with articles, authored by an award-winning genealogist on methodology, research techniques, sources, and NGS news.
  • NGS Quarterly (NGSQ): delivered quarterly by print or digital access. A leading scholarly journal in the field, highly in demand for its case studies and genealogies, essays on methodology, and book reviews.
  • Discount registration for the annual NGS Family History Conference
  • Free Family History Skills Course (online, take anytime, anywhere)
  • Discounts for online genealogy courses (only NGS offers the e-learning system Canvas):
  • American Genealogical Studies Four levels of courses that teach skill building + Certificate in American Genealogical Studies available
  • Continuing Genealogical Studies Ten individual courses, you chose topics of interest to you
  • Discounts on Research Trips to Washington, D.C.; Salt Lake City, Utah; and more
  • Discounts on books, including our Research in the States Series and Special Publications
  • Free Member-only Resources, including genealogy templates and charts, tutorials, and articles
  • Free Access to e-Library and Archival Resources, including fully searchable NGS Magazine, NGS Monthly, and NGSQ articles with 24/7 access on our website:
    • Twelve years of NGS Magazine issues
    • 50+ articles from NGS Monthly since inception February 2016
    • 500+ issues of the NGSQ
  • Upfront with NGS: a blog featuring news and resources for genealogists
  • Special packages for audio and video recorded lectures at PlaybackNGS.com
  • Full access to Voices of Genealogy, a series of mini-documentaries with interviews of leading scholars in genealogy
  • Eligible to enter the NGS Family History Writing Contest
  • Special Offers from NGS Partnerships and discounts from Affiliates

ALL of these benefits require some action on YOUR part. If you want education, you have to read the articles or watch the videos. If you want to tour research centers, you have to sign up, pay the fee, do the prep work, and go. If you want discounts on items, you have to check the list and click through the affiliate links. And so on. There are 17 broad categories included on the website for member benefits. Seventeen. If you are not “getting anything” out of your membership, I challenge you to take a look at the website, read the emails and blog posts.

Next time you find yourself saying that phrase, take a real look at what you should be expecting from your membership and determine if the problem lies with your priorities and how you choose to spend your time and/or efforts.

**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.

Getting the Most From Your Memberships: Personal Responsibility

I am a member of a lot of societies, near and far, local, regional, and national. And I serve on several boards, locally and nationally. So this post comes from my personal experience from all of those realms, not any one group in particular. I hear colleagues, friends, and Facebook acquaintances say about their various memberships that they “just aren’t getting anything out of it.” And that statement always makes me pause.

I have always lived by the principle that you get what you give. If you don’t give time, effort, energy, or attention to something, you are going to get very little out of it in return. This goes for various memberships and subscriptions in all aspects of life, not just in the world of genealogy. (For example, have you checked the benefits for your Alumni Association lately? So when someone says they aren’t getting anything out of something, I truly believe they are probably putting little effort into it. If you don’t have time, or if it is not a priority for you to put time into that particular membership, then perhaps it is not the membership’s or the society’s failure, but rather the effect of your own priorities. There has to be a level of personal involvement and responsibility when it comes to what YOU are getting out of your memberships.

I am writing this series of blog entries to try to convince my friends and colleagues to be cognizant of what they are actually saying when they say “I’m not getting anything out of my membership.” If a particular membership is actually not offering anything of value, then by all means, don’t renew it. However, if it provides a long list of benefits that you are choosing to ignore (whether on purpose, or because you don’t have time, or you didn’t research it), and I mean this in the nicest possible way, but that is on you. If you ignore/delete/archive emails that provide important announcements about your membership benefits, again, that is your choice.

And I fall into this trap as well; I am not claiming to be innocent here. However, I’m also not blaming my lack of getting anything out of my memberships on the societies themselves. I realize that I am just too busy with X, Y, and Z to take full advantage of the benefits of a particular membership. This means that I have three choices: I decide to not renew; I decide to renew anyway, being supportive of the group, but knowing I won’t be getting full value out of that membership; or I decide to re-prioritize and make an effort to get everything I can out of my membership.

I hear this complaint again and again. I’m not singling out any particular person or group with this post. Like I said, I’ve been involved in many societies and I have heard this sentiment at all levels over many years. I’m not sure what else societies can do for their members if their members aren’t reading society communications or taking advantage of the benefits their membership already provides. Remember that most of these societies are volunteer run organizations and they are doing as much as they can with the resources they have. If you want to see changes or improvements, volunteer to help.

At the national-level, there are three “big” memberships (there could be more in this category, but these are where I am currently focusing): the National Genealogical Society, the Federation of Genealogical Societies, and the Association of Professional Genealogists. There are a host of local, state, regional, and topical societies as well (including lineage societies, geographical focus groups such as german genealogy, and others). Over my next few blog posts I am going to highlight benefits that are available at these national groups and at local levels to remind you of what you can get out of your memberships when you put some effort into them.

**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.

Moving Part 4: Creating a New FAN Club

a kitchen cutlery drawer full of knives, forks and spoons
a kitchen cutlery drawer full of knives, forks and spoons

[Author’s note: Sorry for the delay between posts! I’ve been exceedingly busy with some projects lately. One of them was preparing for the Northwest Genealogical Conference. I am excited to be presenting three lectures this Friday and Saturday in Arlington, Washington (near Seattle) and took some time to get prepared. I had some other projects in the works as well and so these posts had to wait a little bit. So, without further ado…]

When we relocate everything is different, except for the stuff you brought with you, and even that ends up in different locations. (The spoons are no longer to the left of the sink. They are now in the island drawer.) For the first few months, I had a bit of anxiety when needing to do something simple like go to the grocery store. Traffic patterns are different. Road signage is different. The stop lights are sideways here instead of up and down. It took us a while to locate a decent breakfast restaurant. Not to mention all of the work that went into getting our new driver’s licenses, license plates, health care professionals…I’m still in the process of finding a decent dentist. (I miss you Dr. Simpson in Boulder!)

Moving to a new location forces you to create a new network, a new FAN club. (I described the FAN Club in the previous post.) One of the most common ways to do this is to get to know your neighbors. (Unfortunately, we have found that the neighbors down here are not as friendly and/or talkative as our old neighbors. We miss you Judy and Williams Family!) Our neighbors tend to keep to themselves. In fact most people in our neighborhood keep to themselves. (Except for one child who lives down the block and made friends with my kids… she’s always coming over to visit.) So we are still working on this one.

My favorite way to meet new people, especially like-minded people, is to join a new genealogical society (or three, as I have done). This puts you in contact with others who appreciate family stories, research, sharing tips and tricks for genealogy, and who won’t roll their eyes at you when you start talking about the latest record you located. (Not that my husband does this, but my kids certainly do.) Near me there are two dues-paying societies that I have joined, the Austin Genealogical Society and the Williamson County Genealogical Society. There is also an informal genealogy group that meets at the Pflugerville Public Library. I have also joined the Texas State Genealogical Society. They don’t have monthly meetings but do have many member benefits, one of which I’ve already benefited from: their speaker’s bureau. I’ll have the pleasure of speaking to the Central Texas Genealogical Society meeting in a couple of weeks.

Other ways to meet people and get acquainted with new people includes volunteering for those genealogical societies or other community organizations such as the library, school, or animal shelter, finding a new church or other house of spirituality, attend events in the community such as festivals or neighborhood events, or take a class (art, exercise, dance, cooking, etc). These are just some of the ways to expand your FAN club after you relocate. These can be quite fun and engaging.

As an aside, an interesting thing I’ve realized after relocating: I didn’t have to give up my Colorado friends as much as I did when we moved during my childhood. Back then, keeping in touch involved actual letters sent via the US Postal Service (*gasp*) or long distance phone calls that were expensive, both of which are being eradicated from our modern lives. The internet has allowed me to keep in touch through social media and video chatting and smart phones allow these communications to happen anywhere. Also, it doesn’t hurt that I moved to a town very near where one of my best Colorado pal’s parents live, so I get to see her every time she comes to visit them. The same is true with my kids. They still chat, text and video call their friends from Colorado. Even though we may have spread out physically as a society, the internet has brought us the ability to remain connected in ways our ancestors would probably find magical or mystical. (Heck, I find it to be magical myself.)

Next up… Learning to research in a new community.