Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Genealogical Societies - Socialization Networks

The 82nd Carnival of Genealogy has the topic: What's your favorite genealogical society? Do you belong to a society? Tell us why! Or if not, why not?

This could be a long post! This is one of my favorite topics.

I don't have a favorite genealogical society. I'm a member of several, but each one is different, and serves a specific purpose. I am currently a member of:

* National Genealogical Society (NGS) -- I'm a member of this because of the publications and the conferences. The National Genealogical Society Quarterly is one of the premier peer-reviewed genealogy periodicals. The NGS NewsMagazine has articles about different research aspects that I find very helpful. I joined NGS in 2004, I think.

* New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) -- I'm a member of this society because I have many New England ancestors. The peer-reviewed New England Historical and Genealogical Register is a premier publication that often addresses research problems similar to my own brick wall problems. The New England Ancestors magazine has excellent articles and news specific to New England. I joined NEHGS in about 1990, as I recall.

* San Diego Genealogical Society (SDGS) -- I live in southern San Diego county, and this society provides programs and seminars on second Saturdays. I was able to attend meetings when I was working. They have a local library - it used to be in El Cajon but just moved to Kearny Mesa in San Diego. SDGS has about 400 members at present. I joined SDGS in 1994, I think.

* Computer Genealogy Society of San Diego (CGSSD) -- Once I started using online databases, I joined CGSSD because their programs were very appealing. They have programs on 3rd Saturdays and have about 250 members. I joined CGSSD in 2005, I think.

* Chula Vista Genealogical Society (CVGS) -- This society meets on weekdays at noon now, and I didn't become too involved with it until I retired from aerospace engineering in 2002. I had joined back in the mid-1990s, and had given several presentations before I retired. I've been Treasurer (2003-4), Program Chairman (2005-6), President (2007-8) and am currently Newsletter Editor and Research Chairman for CVGS. CVGS has a monthly Research Group (solving problems), a monthly Computer Group (helping members with online research) and a monthly Program Meeting with a speaker. I started my speaking "career" at CVGS and still do one or two programs each year for my "home" society. CVGS has about 100 members now. Being relatively small means that many of us "know" most of our members and have friendships with many of them.

There have been other societies that I've been a member of:

* Wiltshire (England) Family History Society
* Cape Cod (Massachusetts) Genealogical Society
* Essex (Massachusetts) Society of Genealogists

I dropped my membership in these as they ceased to provide useful information for my research needs.

I have a number of reasons to join a genealogical society, including:

* To learn, through classes, programs, seminars, conferences and publications about genealogy and family history research. Genealogy research requires a steady progression of education as the researcher gains more experience and is faced with research in different topics and different localities.

* To share knowledge with society colleagues. A society is a social network of people with a common interest in genealogy research, or some aspect of it. I enjoy hearing about the research experiences of others. I also like to share my own experiences in small group settings or as a program speaker.

* To gain experience as a program organizer, a leader, a presenter, a speaker, etc. Being able to present programs to my small and accepting CVGS society enabled me to improve my public speaking skills to the point that I'm speaking to societies and organizations all over San Diego County, and teaching an adult education class in Beginning Computer Genealogy.

Being active in genealogical societies gets me out of my genealogy "caves" at home or in a repository. Online genealogy (and blogging!) is something that we can pursue all night long and can result in isolation if we're not careful. I enjoy the socialization networks that I belong to and contribute to.

I firmly believe that genealogical societies can grow and thrive if they provide services to their members that the members need. For many experienced researchers, that includes offering help with using computers and having days out with friends. For beginners, it includes offering classes to help them get started and programs or seminars to help them learn advanced research techniques. For online genealogists, societies provide the opportunity to socialize with other genealogists and learn that the Internet has only a fraction of all genealogy resources, and that most problems are solved using paper (or microfilmed) records in dusty courthouses and repositories, often in far away places.

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