Support your local genealogical society and one other

Have you given some thought to all those other genealogists who walk through the cemetery and transcribe the info found on the tombstones? How about those who edit genealogy newsletters and quarterly journals? Who teaches classes in the area where you live? I’ll bet the local genealogical society plays a large part in all of these.

What can you do to lend a hand to a genealogical society? What projects does your society have in the works. Have you been reading a really good guidebook and might be able to write a short article about its usefulness? Do you belong to your local society? Your local society may be a county or state society one. At any rate, be sure to join it And then join one in an ancestral area. Contribute to both. Can’t make it to that other locality? Offer to do some typing, indexing, proofreading. Have the back issues of the quarterly publication been indexed — if not, offer to do that so both your and others may benefit.

What does all this connecting with genealogical societies do for you? You may gain access to special databases, learn about area experts, find an index to an ancestral cemetery, and maybe even find a place to donate some funds.

Becoming a member and reading the publications and perusing the website could help you expand your genealogical knowledge, find others to network with, learn about the massive number of recommended (and a few not-so-hot) genealogical guidebooks, keep up-to-date on vital records legislation, gain you entry to some libraries and courthouses, plan your continuing genealogical education, and find out that someone else was researching one of your ancestral lines.

It really is quite simple. Join a genealogical society. That’s it. If you are already a faithful member of one or more, join a new one. Some even accept online credit card payments for memberships.

Multiple benefits

How many do you belong to? None? Well, let me tell you what you are missing. Or are you a member of only those in ancestral areas and not where you live? Continue reading for some reasons why membership is beneficial.

• In some localities you need a membership card to gain entry to a historical society, archive, town hall, or courthouse.

• Info in the society’s library or publications may not appear anywhere online. Or if online maybe only accessed by members.

• Some have the capability for online discussions and queries – but only for members.

• Local society events are the place to find new acquaintances that might be willing to car pool to a seminar a distance away, to the state archives, or to a major genealogy library.

• If you don’t drive, you may find someone that travels monthly to research at a large library and has room in the car for you to tag along.

• You would miss newsletters and flyers that tell about upcoming educational events.

• The society’s publication may contain articles from the local experts that share news about the updating of the newspaper index at the local library, of the volunteer efforts to transcribe all the local cemetery tombstones for an upcoming publication, or of the recent donation to the local history room of the 50 years of material collected by a local genealogist.

• Lending of lecture audiotapes, books, and periodicals may be for members only.

• You might find a fellow member that might lend you their entire bookshelf of back issues of a genealogical or historical society publication.

• Stuck on a genealogical software problem? A fellow member might be available to teach you the finer points of that software.

Old Queries
The publications of societies are often a gold mine. Even the queries published ten, thirty, or 60 years ago may help solve one of your genealogical situations. That person may no longer be interested in genealogy (although, I cannot fathom that!), may have died, may be ill, not have a computer, or for some other reason has not posted family information or queries online. This older periodical may be the only place you find some long sought after clues. (If your research shows that this long-time genealogist is deceased you may be able to find current relatives through an obituary or probate file.)

Take the step
Are you ready to consider joining or rejoining if it has been a while? Check for brochures at your area historical and genealogical libraries, and check online for names of societies at Society Hall , which is a joint effort of and the Federation of Genealogical Societies.

Check out their websites
One way to find out more is to see if the society has a website. Society Hall is one place to find links. You might also try typing in the name of a society in a search engine or simply type in some key words such as: genealogical society Smithtown.

While you are joining, please consider some volunteer time for the society. It can be in your local area as an on-site volunteer. If you live distant from one of your favorite societies maybe you could offer other services as mentioned above. They may need someone to do data entry of their old typewritten cemetery transcriptions, to write articles, or index a newspaper that is on microfilm. Participate further by donating genealogical books, CDs, and periodicals you no longer need. If the society has a library, your materials may be needed in their library. If they are duplicates of what is already in the library, or the society has no library, selling the donated materials helps with the society budget. Thirdly, why not add a society or two to your list of charitable organizations to which you donate funds? Almost all societies have very limited budget and would appreciate some extra funds for helping to share information and education.

© 2009, Paula Stuart-Warren. All rights reserved.

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