Thursday, February 24, 2011

Open Thread Thursday - Genealogy Societies

This week’s topic for Open Thread Thursday is:
In a post- RootsTech genealogy world, what steps do genealogy societies need to take to appear relevant to and a necessary resource for the changing genealogy community?

Okay.  I'm not sure how much room I have to talk on this one, as I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of a genealogy or historical society.

Maybe that fact, in itself, is my opening.  I have never felt a real draw to become a member of said societies.  Why not?  Well, first and foremost, I never saw a huge benefit for doing so.  I've always been among the youngest of people I knew who were doing genealogy.  Even in the association researching my surname, I'm the young guy who handles a lot of the technology.  Not all, as some of those association folks are pretty savvy, but a good chunk, especially while at association gatherings.  Genealogy Societies always looked to me like a bunch of stodgy old geezers who would laugh me out because I chose to do as much as possible electronically, and was more focused on finding ancestors than fully, properly documenting and citing my sources.

I'll admit I do need to do more work on my documentation, and I'm working on that, but I'm sticking to my guns in doing as much as possible in electronic formats.  I don't have space for linear yards of paper documentation.  I don't have time and money to traipse all over the country collecting hard copy documentation.  I don't have money to send to NARA or wherever (some at up to $27 per copy!) for documents.  I've gone so far as to order a copy of my paternal grandfather's military records, but that's probably going to be it for the foreseeable future.  If I were going to join a society, it would probably be the New England Historic Genealogical Society as I have ancestry that was prominent in early New England.

I'll admit I need to do a lot of work on my source citations, and I have been avidly reading Randy Seaver's and James Tanner's blogs about the subject.  I'm rather hoping the people working on a better GEDCOM (whether that be BetterGEDCOM or something else) will come up with a viable new standard, and the software vendors will support it, such that our citations will not be lost or mangled in transfers.  I'm hoping those same vendors will improve their software to make it not only easier to do proper citations, but aggressively assist users in doing so. 

That said, I still don't see a huge benefit to joining one of these societies.  Is it really worth it for the periodical newsletter?  DO they also have databases I could then access electronically?  Are they actively pursuing technological ways and means?  Or are they all hidebound old codgers who can't be bothered to learn computers?

Are you a member?  Of which one(s)?  How has it benefited you?  Please see if you can give me a convincing argument in favor of joining in the comments below!