Thursday, November 29, 2007

Should Genealogical Societies Go Virtual?

Jasia posted today about the birth of a new genealogy society blog for the California Genealogical Society and Library - at

Welcome to Kathryn Doyle and the CGS people - and congratulations on taking an exciting step into the genealogy blogosphere.

In Kathryn's first post, she mentioned attending the FGS conference and witnessing David E. Rencher's 2005 keynote address on "Societies Going Virtual." David's presentation slides in PDF format are here.

There are many challenging issues facing genealogy societies of all kinds, and David addresses them well, and concludes "Go Virtual or Perish." Now that doesn't mean a society has to have a blog, but it does have to have a web site. It also needs to attract "distance members" who have an interest in a town, county, region, state, country, ethnic group, church denomination, etc. On the web site, it could have a "members only" area for publications, databases, presentations, etc. It could have a sales operation for publications on paper, CDROM, etc.

To be sure, there are genealogy societies that have many of the "virtual" characteristics - the New England Historic Genealogical Society comes to mind because I am a member. They have an online store, a members-only area with databases, a regular email newsletter, but they also have a physical building, a large manuscript, books, and periodical collection, and members across the country.

David's presentation material should be "must-reading" for every society leader struggling with membership, budgets, projects, and programs. I'm going to pass the link to it to my Board members for their perusal, comments, and ideas.

Thank you to Jasia for the 17 part series on genealogy societies in August 2006, to Kathryn for her link to the Rencher material, and to David for his presentation which made me think a bit tonight.

To answer my own question - I do think that genealogy societies should have a strong online presence that complements and supplements the physical meetings and projects of an existing society anchored at a location with members and resources. Going"completely virtual" is not feasible for most societies now or perhaps ever. We'll see - the future has a way of sneaking up on us, doesn't it?

1 comment:

Kathryn Doyle said...

Thanks for the warm welcome to the genealogy blog world and for your thoughts about the challenge to "go virtual." This is all new to me (and to the California Genealogical Society) so I look forward to reading more of your Genea-Musings.
Kathryn Doyle