How Is Your Local Genealogical Society Doing?

photo of a presentation made during the 2013 RootsTech genealogical conference

Credit: RootsTech

The Reading Eagle (Reading, Pennsylvania) ran an interesting article about the dropping membership of the Berks County Genealogical Society.

According to the article this local genealogical society is feeling the impact of dropping memberships at the same time interest in genealogy is soaring. Instead of joining local genealogical societies, new genealogists seem to be going directly to the Internet to ask questions, learn the basics of genealogical research and search for their ancestors.

The national genealogical conferences like the Federation of Genealogical Societies and the National Genealogical Society annual conferences have seen a drop-off in attendance since 11 September 2001. Meanwhile the annual RootsTech conferences have seen a surge in attendance during the three years this family history conference has been held.

At the same time, online weekly webinars like the Legacy Family Tree Webinars have 1,000 people attending, and podcasts like the Genealogy Guys Podcast are seeing each episode downloaded over 4,000 times. That is way more than the number of genealogists attending the annual meeting of a large city or state genealogical society…and they are pulling that many of us every week.

How is your local genealogical society doing?

Is it growing?

Is there excitement?

Is it fresh?

Is there a buzz?

When I attended my first genealogical society meetings 50 years ago in the early 1960s—the meetings of the Stamford Genealogical Society (now called the Connecticut Ancestry Society)—the focus was on outreach and training. Their chief projects were having the genealogical society members submit their family tree charts (which were put in binders and cross indexed), and producing the quarterly journal. They were good, effective meetings. We all looked forward to them. It was like an extended family.

The genealogy world changed in 1976 with the publication of Alex Haley’s Roots and the launch of the companion television series in 1977. Genealogy has not been the same since. We went from 200 genealogical societies in the United States to over 4,000 societies.

FamilySearch Indexing has well over 100,000 indexers, all volunteers, who are creating over 1 million indexed genealogy records every day.

How is your local genealogical society doing?

What is your society doing to keep itself fresh and exciting?

Share your ideas and best practices.

Post them here today in the comments.

What about the Kids? Researching Your Family Tree’s Children

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this guest blog post, Gena writes about the family history challenge of researching your ancestors’ lives when they were children.

My sons have had the opportunity to visit more cemeteries and hear more genealogy presentations than most family historians. They’ve been a captive audience as I give genealogy talks to conferences, societies, and libraries. They even have a few of my genealogy presentations memorized. Unimpressed by the family history topics I cover, my youngest always asks: “why don’t you ever talk about researching kids?”

old photo of children from Gena Philibert-Ortega's collection

Old photo of children, from the author’s collection

It’s a fair question considering that all of our ancestors started life as children. My guess is that most family historians would reply that children don’t leave a record trail, or that their lives aren’t as documented as adults—and that is why genealogists don’t spend much time researching their ancestors’ early years.

But there are instances where children do leave a paper trail. A visit to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois, reinforced this fact to our family when we viewed a photographic exhibit of Civil War soldiers. Boys as young as 9 years served in the Civil War, and some of them were photographed.

photo of an unidentified young Civil War soldier in Union uniform and forage cap, from the Library of Congress

Photo: Unidentified young Civil War soldier in Union uniform and forage cap. Credit: Library of Congress.

From: Library of Congress. Flickr, The Commons. Accessed 23 March 2013.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/5229153190/

While children are too young to leave the type of documentation reserved for adults, they do leave behind records. A birth record or church christening announcement may start your search, depending on the time period. School records are another choice for researching kids. Don’t forget the variety of articles found in a local newspaper.

Obviously the era the child grew up in will determine what mentions could be found in the newspapers. But some ideas include:

Organizations

What organizations or clubs did the child belong to? By learning more about the history of the place your ancestor was from, you may identify groups that they may have taken part in, including organizations that were social, educational, ethnic or religious in nature.

The Boy Scouts of Black Wolf and B.P., Lexington Herald newspaper article 25 September 1910

Lexington Herald (Lexington, Kentucky), 25 September 1910, page 4

Although far from comprehensive, here is a list of some groups from the 20th century:

School

In a previous blog article, “Searching Family History: Old School Records in the Newspaper,” I explored the types of newspaper articles that listed teachers and students.

As explained in that blog article, there are numerous types of articles mentioning children. From their achievements and awards, to sporting events and even misdeeds, you can find mentions of school children in local newspapers. One of the pluses to digitized newspapers is that a search of just a name can assist you in finding these mentions. Consider limiting your search by date as you explore GenealogyBank, allowing you to focus on an ancestor’s early years.

Letters to Santa

Reading letters to Santa from the late 19th and early 20th centuries reminds one how much better off materially most people are now.

Letters to Santa from the Children, Kalamazoo Gazette newspaper article 16 December 1906

Kalamazoo Gazette (Kalamazoo, Michigan), 16 December 1906, page 9

These letters range from requests for toys or food to desperate pleas for almost anything their parents couldn’t afford. These letters often include the child’s name and, in some cases, an address. What a great find to see the requests of your family member to the jolly guy in the red suit!

Dear Old Santa Claus, Kalamazoo Gazette newspaper article 21 December 1899

Kalamazoo Gazette (Kalamazoo, Michigan), 21 December 1899, page 2

Social History

As with any genealogy research, consider social history when learning more about children from past generations. Use the newspapers as a local history source to get a sense of what organizations and activities your ancestors may have been involved in during their younger years. Read histories of the time to learn more about what childhood was like during their era. By learning more about the locality of your ancestor, you can learn more about what types of activities they may have enjoyed. Gaps in specific family records can be filled with broader social history information.

Keep your own children’s interests in mind! Including stories about their ancestors’ childhoods will stimulate present and future generations of children to take more interest in the family history you are documenting and preserving.

Upcoming BYU Family History & Genealogy Conference in Utah

Throw a dart at a map and you’ll find a genealogy meeting pretty much every week of the year.

One of the key upcoming conferences is the 44th Annual Conference on Family History & Genealogy, held on the Brigham Young University campus in Provo, Utah. If you’d like to attend this year’s event here are the BYU conference details:

Conference Dates: July 31 to August 3, 2012

Website: http://ce.byu.edu/cw/cwgen/

Phone number: 1-801-422-4853

The theme of this year’s genealogy conference will be “Strengthening the ties that bind families together through family history.” It will offer classes for genealogists of all skill levels.

Noncredit registration for the four-day family history event, including a CD syllabus, is $180. Family history consultants will receive a $25 discount on general conference registration. The for-credit cost for the conference (including two credits of History 481R—Family History-Directed Research—and a CD syllabus) is $440. To register, call 1-877-221-6716 or visit http://ce.byu.edu/cw/cwgen/

Key BYU Conference Speakers

  • Richard E. Turley, Jr.: under his direction, FamilySearch.org was launched in May 1999.
  • John Titford: English writer, broadcaster and genealogical consultant.
  • Rod DeGiulio: Director of FamilySearch data operations.

These conference classes will explore: family trees, FamilySearch, international research, German research, youth and genealogy, computers and technology, and methodology.

Two hands-on workshops will be offered. A “German Gothic Handwriting Workshop,” taught by Warren Bittner, will be held from 9:45 a.m.–noon Tuesday. Participants will learn to decipher the German Gothic handwriting used on many genealogical records in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Scandinavia.

The second hands-on workshop, “Building a Genealogy Website” held on Tuesday from 1:30 to 5 p.m., will teach participants how to make their research available to the world by creating their own family history website using Google Sites. It will be taught by Rebecca Smith, Noel Coleman and Hannah Allan.

GenealogyWallCharts.com is offering conference attendees a free black-and-white fan chart of their family trees. To take advantage of this offer, order the chart online and then pick it up at the conference at no charge.

Men’s and women’s housing, which includes lunch each day of the genealogy conference, is available on the BYU campus for $100. Conference participants who are not staying in BYU campus housing can buy a $25 lunch card that covers hot lunches, a salad bar, drinks and dessert at the Morris Center each day of the conference.

RootsTech Presentation Download: Newspapers for Genealogists

Wow—over 4,000 genealogists attended this year’s RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City last week. This must-attend conference was a nonstop opportunity to learn about the latest genealogy technology and to talk shop with like-minded genealogists from around the country. I have been attending genealogy conferences for nearly 50 years and RootsTech 2012 was the best ever. Plan now to attend the next RootsTech conference, on March 21-23, 2013!

GenealogyBank was there in force, with seven reps from our Team on-site to meet our members and explore their ideas, “wow” finds, and suggestions for GenealogyBank as we move into 2012.

At the RootsTech 2012 conference, I gave a presentation on searching newspapers for your family history that was well attended and very well received. If you were unable to attend my presentation at the conference in person, you can download a free copy of the PowerPoint slides I used, entitled “Newspapers for Genealogists: Document Every Day of Your Ancestors’ Lives” by clicking the Facebook “Like” button below:

Newspapers for Genealogists: Document Every Day of Your Ancestors’ Lives | GenealogyBank 2012 RootsTech Presentation

Newspapers for Genealogists: Document Every Day of Your Ancestors’ Lives | GenealogyBank 2012 RootsTech Presentation

Download the RootsTech presentation and read through this effective overview of GenealogyBank, with plenty of search tips and strategies for using the terrific genealogical resources provided by our historical newspaper archives.

 

David Rencher named Chief Genealogical Officer of Family History Department (Salt Lake City)

The Family History Department (Salt Lake City, UT) names David Rencher to new position – Chief Genealogical Officer.

Today’s announcement from Jay Verkler reads:

I am pleased to announce the creation of a new position in the Family History Department: Chief Genealogical Officer (CGO). This key role will be filled by David Rencher, a 28-year veteran in the department and the genealogical community.

The position of Chief Genealogical Officer ensures that the genealogical integrity of FamilySearch is maintained at the highest levels. The CGO will make sure that a genealogical perspective is reflected in our operational and strategic direction and that the department’s many efforts are connected to the genealogical community.

David’s responsibilities will focus on four major areas:
Genealogical Soundness of the Organization
· Strengthening the genealogical focus of the department’s products, services, and processes
· Providing input to the Strategy Team for genealogical issues
· Maintaining and growing genealogical expertise in partnership with the genealogical community

Record Strategy
· Providing input on the overall record strategy for FamilySearch
· Using genealogical experience and contacts to help build an open FamilySearch environment
· Providing input on third-party affiliation opportunities

Marketing
· Leveraging the genealogical community to assist FamilySearch goals
· Providing input regarding outbound marketing to the genealogical community · Speaking at key genealogical conferences to share FamilySearch messages

Public Outreach
· Providing a public face to the genealogical community for communication · Interacting with the media to promote FamilySearch objectives
· Assisting with V.I.P. visits and tours
· Expanding the network of key genealogical contacts worldwide

In addition to his new role as the Chief Genealogical Officer, David will continue as director of the Planning and Coordination Division. David will continue to report to Russ Stay for Information Divisions-related issues and will report to Jay Verkler on CGO issues.

We wish David well and ask for your support as he takes on these important new responsibilities.

Jay L. Verkler
Managing Director for FamilySearch