The Importance of Genealogy Societies in an Age of Digital Technology

Amy Johnson Crow interviewed D. Joshua Taylor at the RootsTech conference. She posed the question “In today’s world of social media, where everyone is sharing seemingly everything, do we still need genealogy societies.”

This got me thinking. Genealogy societies have always been a partner to my research. They had resources that could help me with my research. You could say that genealogy societies were the databases before the internet. The members would visit local libraries, archives, county offices, court houses, cemeteries and churches in their area and transcribe information that was a boon to researchers.

In my genealogy library I still have books and pamphlets from these societies that I have used to research my family history. As technology advanced some of these resources found their way onto CDs. Now you can find many of them in member sections on society websites. Thankfully they are still publishing books with information from smaller resources. The smaller record groups are not usually found on the larger company websites.

 

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They publish books on the history of their areas as well as local businesses and trades. This can help you learn more about the community where your ancestors lived.

Genealogy societies are important because their journals have articles that could help with our research such as providing information on a previously unknown local resource. Some of these journals are now available electronically. The best place to find past years of genealogy society journals is PERSI (Periodical Source Index) which you can now find on Findmypast.

Genealogy societies provide educational opportunities. They have monthly meetings, seminars, workshops and conferences. All these provide the attendees with an opportunity to learn more and to improve their research skills.

One thing I wish more genealogy societies would do is to either live stream or video their meeting lectures. They could put them behind membership walls and this would allow members who don’t live near enough to attend the meeting to watch the lecture. I often feel like I am paying a lot of money for membership fees to societies and not being able to avail myself of all they have to offer because I live abroad. These days everyone has the ability to take video with their cameras. You can use YouTube or embed them on your website. As we saw at RootsTech the app Periscope was used to live stream expo hall demos.

The majority of people who run genealogy societies are dedicated volunteers who have been with the society for many years. We are missing the younger people who may not see the importance of the genealogy society. There is a theory that we can find everything online. We can’t.

 

Jane Watt representing Halton Peel Branch Ontario Genealogical Society Conference 2013

Jane Watt representing Halton Peel Branch Ontario Genealogical Society Conference 2013

 

As Josh Taylor said in Amy Johnson Crow’s interview the genealogy society is a community to share information and stories. It is a place to learn new ways of research and keep up to date on all the changes.

Every genealogy society should have a social media presence. This will hopefully help bring in some of the younger people. Some of the societies that do have a social media presence aren’t using it to their advantage. There is a lack of knowledge about what genealogy societies have to offer. The first step is to promote their printed publications containing the transcriptions from local records and make these publications easier to access. It would save printing and postage if they were turned into eBooks.

Genealogy society memberships have always been part of my genealogy budget. I belong to the Glasgow & West of Scotland Family History Society, The Manchester & Lancashire Family History Society, The Genealogical Society of Ireland, The National Genealogical Society and The Ontario Genealogical Society which includes the Halton Peel Branch, the Irish Special Interest Group, and the Scottish Special Interest Group. These societies represent the areas in which my ancestors lived, where I live now, as well as my current interests.

Remember, if you are researching your family history no one knows the records of their town better than the local genealogy society, except maybe the local history librarian. Both places are brick and mortar and they house documents in paper, film and other formats. Both the genealogy society and the local history librarian are important assets to your family history research.

 

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