Friday, October 3, 2014

Extreme Genealogy (Or Why You Should Belong To At Least One Genealogy Society)

Extreme Genealogy (Or Why You Should Belong To At Least One Genealogy Society) via #genealogy #GenSocs #familyhistory
Genealogical Societies can take your research to extreme heights.
I tend to do things to the extreme. Just ask my friends. I never cook just a small dinner when having guests over because I might not have enough side dishes and desserts to go around. So it ends up looking like a buffet restaurant.

I don’t put new flooring in just one room (or one room at a time). Oh no. I have to do the whole house -- all at once. So it’s really no surprise at all that I belong to six genealogy societies, and I will probably join more. I'm extreme like that.

You’re probably wondering why I belong to even one, much less six, genealogical societies. Once upon a time I was like you. Overworked and underpaid, I had no time for what I thought of as socializing at the local genealogical society. Besides, I thought those folks were probably all old fogies who sat around talking about their aches and pains and boring everybody with stories about their family. They weren’t talking about my family so what good were they to me?

Then I needed a record from my grandmother’s place of birth from a burned county, which meant – at the time – I would need to write away for the birth certificate, which I did only to find that the courthouse with all the records burned down 80 years ago. What to do? “Well,” I thought to myself, “Maybe there was a birth announcement in the newspaper.” But my problem was that I was in California and the newspaper that may have contained the birth announcement was in a little bitty town in Nebraska. And I didn’t belong to any “network of genealogists.” 

Then I had a brilliant idea. Maybe the local genealogical society would do a look up for me. And that’s what got me hooked. (By the way, many newspapers are still not digitized. So this is a problem for family history researchers today that many genealogical societies can still help you out with.)

I don’t know if you know this or not, but many genealogical societies have someone in their membership who is in charge of doing (or doling out) look-up requests. This is just one of the many benefits of a society. I also found that by belonging to the societies, I get their newsletter, which sometimes is more like a magazine filled with things like pedigrees, stories about historical events and people, local culture, and more. Once, I actually stumbled upon a story written by a cousin about my family!

Since I have no family in the area I live in, my local society was the last one I joined. “After all,” I thought, “they weren’t going to help me find my ancestors.” But I soon found out how wrong I was. Not only have I learned better research techniques, have gained valuable hints and tips, and have been guided by those who have searched before me, but I have actually found books about my research area on sale at their annual book sale.

In addition, I have attended many “how to” technology classes like, “How To Use Evernote to Aid Your Research” and “Database Programs To Help Organize Your Research.” You know, all that techie stuff I can’t figure out why I need it, but everyone keeps telling me I do.

Did I say I belonged to six societies? Let me correct that. I belong to seven. How could I have forgotten the Southern California Genealogical Society?

California, right? They probably have nothing to help me with researching my Louisiana roots, right?

Well, that's what I thought too. But I was wrong again. SCGS has one of the best libraries on Cajun research, and as a member I can research there to my heart’s content, or ask a fellow society member to do a look-up for me when I can’t get there myself.

There are many reasons for joining a genealogy society, but October being Family History Month seems like a perfect time to try one or two out. Search the FGS Society Hall to find them, and you may discover they take your research to whole new heights -- extreme heights. And you’ll probably make a bunch of new friends who understand your obsession with dead people too. Like I did.

Kim von Aspern-Parker

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