Friday, June 08, 2007

Declining Membership in Genealogical Societies Revisited

I finally got around to reading the July issue of Family Tree Magazine, the one with the article where I'm quoted on the subject of declining membership in genealogical societies. Randy, Denise and Maven have already written very nice posts referencing it. Diane Haddad did a nice job with the article. She got my quotes right (that's always nice ;-) and didn't twist my meaning (that's always appreciated). After reading the article a time or two I tried to think of something new and insightful to add on the subject but nothing comes to mind.

At the end of the article Diane mentions that the topic is open for discussion on the Family Tree Magazine forum so I went to the site to check it out. Virtually every person who commented attributed the decline in memberships in gen. societies to the internet (and the plethora of information available on the web). I couldn't disagree with that. It's my thinking too.

George Morgan wrote an article this week (and Randy wrote a response) on how he spearheaded a major change in the Florida Genealogical Society, Inc. by analyzing the costs of traditionally publishing the society's publications, looking at alternatives, and finally choosing to move in the direction of electronic publishing. Yeah, George. Yeah, FGS. I'm glad to hear that some genealogical societies are changing with the times. Electronic publishing is one of the things I advocated last August when I wrote my series on the declining membership in genealogical societies so it's not a new idea to me. My thoughts run along lines of "It's about time, what's everybody else (other genealogical societies) waiting for?"

Dick Eastman wrote article this week explaining wikis, blogs, etc. It's not his first and probably won't be his last article on internet technology. God bless Dick. He just keeps delivering the message that this Web 2.0 stuff isn't new anymore and it isn't complicated either. Good for him. I'm glad he's doing it. He's got a large audience so maybe it will make an impact.

When I was the webmaster and on the board of directors of my local genealogical society 6 years ago I tried to find support for making the society more internet based but there wasn't much support to be had. Not enough to keep me on as webmaster and as a member of the board of directors. I believed strongly enough that the direction of the society needed to be internet focused (and including electronic publishing) that I was willing to resign from the board, resign as webmaster, and eventually dropout as a member of the society when it became evident that they were unwilling to make changes in the direction of progress. This didn't happen on impulse but rather over a period of years. I came to realize that we were not of like minds and never would be in regards to technology and change.

I was recently contacted and asked to quote on a web site re-do for a national genealogical society. I was happy to oblige and quoted them for a re-do using current Web 2.0 technologies. Their response was along the lines of, "We need to find out more to understand what this would do for us." It was a good response because there's a lot of money on the line (I may be a cheap drunk but I'm not a cheap web designer ;-) . But I'm finding it hard to get myself to make a pitch for the idea. It's like... I've been there, I've fought that battle, and I don't have the energy (or the passion) to fight that battle again. Maybe I'm just burned out. Maybe it wouldn't be much of a battle at all. Maybe I could make a nice presentation and they'd all jump on board. One can always hope.

So now it's been almost a year since I wrote my series of articles on the declining membership in genealogical societies, and what have I got to add? Not much. I applaud those who are still fighting the fight for change and those who are bravely moving ahead even when they're not sure what they're doing. Change is usually uncomfortable. It's also necessary.

For myself, I'm more interested in blogging these days than I am in being a catalyst for change in genealogical societies. I'm pleased to have been interviewed and quoted on the topic for a national magazine. Nuff said.

My previous posts on the topic of declining membership in genealogical societies:


  1. Well said! I thought that your comments in the article were very cogent and inspiring.

    For me, the key issue is convincing people not in our societies that societies have value to them - as a beacon of news of online resources, as a forum to share information among colleagues, and as a mentoring system to help researchers that are stuck.

    We still have to serve and appeal to those who are not internet savvy or connected - they are often a major source of membership funds and meeting attendance.

    CVGS is trying to serve both segments - with a mix of Monday and Saturday programs, online newsletter but paper copy for those who want it, web site and blog, mentoring, computer lab work, research forum, classes, etc.

    It's a fun time to be a researcher, a society leader, and a blogger!

    I doubt if you're a cheap guess is you have excellent (and expensive) taste in food, wine and spirits. I wonder what the favored drink of genealogists is? Is that a Carnival topic? [BG]

    lysorxzs - do you know what that means?

  2. Oooh! This sounds like a fun Friday, the-weekend-is-here game. Let's see how many of the genea-bloggers will stop by and divulge their drink of choice.

    I personally favor wine over mixed drinks, sweet wines over dry, and California wines over all the rest.

    What I'll be drinking tonight:
    Beringer's White Sin ;-) ...on ice so it's light and sweet and crisp. Perfect for a hot summer evening!

    (And I really am a cheap drunk... 1 drink and I'm happy, 2 drinks and I'm a little too bold, 3 drinks and I'm dangerous ;-)

    O.K. I'll confess to liking expensive food. I do favor fine dining establishments :-D

    I don't have a clue what "lysorxzs" means but ask me again tonight after I've had a nice dinner and a couple glasses of wine... I'm sure I'll come up with something... interesting ;-)

  3. I'm a sucker for practically any kind of cocktail. My favourite beers are Erdinger, Heineken and thge pint of Guinness.

    Thank god it's Friday all this talk of drink has made me thirsty and I don't have to worry about getting up for work tomorrow morning ;)

  4. I always like to buck the trend. Recently I decided I'll be joining a couple of local Genealogical societies, so I find it's typcal that they'd be in decline. Still, you can't find everything online and I think it would be useful to join a good old fashioned society!

  5. Great article! I agree with you 100%. I left one society for the same reasons you describe here, but fortunately another society is trying to pull themselves out of a slump that may be worth the effort . . . I surely hope so since they are closer to the family sources I'm focused on.

    I am finding great satisfaction in the relationships I've built among those of us blogging about our families and/or about research. Much of that community is a result of you and the Carnival. I think we should explore this online community to see how best to build and strengthen it.

    As to inspirational beverages, I'm a fan of the Spanish reds. Tonight, however, I'm going to stick to water since we're taking a picnic to the beach to watch the shuttle launch. I've been watching these things since Alan Sheppard and it's still just as exciting. If I get any good photos, I'll post them online.

  6. Jasia, I certainly appreciate all the thought you've put into the articles on "Declining Membership" and have sent a link to this article to the other officers of my local genealogy society. My hope is that they will take the time to read them and perhaps it will plant a small seed...

    As the Publications Chairperson and editor of our quarterly newsletter (which, since it is quarterly, doesn't really have that much news included) I've been trying to promote electronic publishings of our books, etc. without much success. Getting our newsletter converted to an electronic format will probably be almost impossible. We only have about 100 members, probably half of them out of state, and the majority are not comfortable with using the internet, email, etc.

    So, Randy, what is "lysorxzs"? Like Jasia I'm clueless in that regard. And also like her 1 drink and I'm happy, 2 drinks and I'm a little too bold, 3 drinks and I'm dangerous... I enjoy a nice COLD beer by myself now and then; a frozen daiquiri or a fuzzy navel socially.

    Is anyone going to the FGS conference in Fort Wayne in August?

  7. Jasia,

    Merlot...of course I drink it for the health benefits red wine provides...and it tastes so good! After 2-3 glasses I just become a very friendly guy...

    I have never joined a genealogy society. I've moved around so much because of the Army, that I never felt connected enough to wherever I lived to join one. Now, I seem to get what I need from my fellow bloggers and I don't see the need to join a local society...of course I have no idea what they are like.

    After reading all of your posts, I checked out the website of my local Howard County Md genealogy society just to see what they are about. The site was bare bones and didn't have much info on it...and it said it was founded 21 years ago...I just don't think I'd fit in.