Saturday, October 25, 2014

Family History Month: Isn't It Every Month?

Family History Month is not over just yet; there’s still a week to go and some great things going on. If you’ve been hesitant to get involved with a local genealogical society, now’s your chance to dip your toe in the water!

I thought I’d take a moment to let you know what it’s been like being a member of a local genealogical society. I’ve been a member of a number of regional and state genealogical societies in the locations where my roots are: Ohio, NEHGS, Southern California, and St. Louis. There are others too, but my budget is tight so I have to be selective and choose those that provide the most resources to those of us researching from afar.

I hesitated for a long time, however, to be a part of a local Genealogical Society mainly because I don’t have local roots and didn’t believe I had the time to invest in participating as a member. But, as I heard more and more stories about societies folding and their resources and materials being scattered among other groups or, in an extreme case, lost forever, I decided I had to take a position of leading by example.

I live in an area (the western suburbs of Chicago) where we have lots of genealogical societies. I was fortunate to find the group that I believed I could gain the most from and to whom I could give the most in return: the Fox Valley Genealogical Society. At the first meeting I attended, in which Paul Milner was speaking about Irish roots, they asked for volunteers for their free monthly research days at a local library. What possessed me to raise my hand is beyond me, but nearly two years later, I still look forward to the second Tuesday in the month. I’ve met some wonderful family historians working on genealogy problems small and large, local and international. 

Courtesy Laura Cosgrove Lorenzana
I’ve gained so much from helping others work through their genealogical challenges, and find that I look at my own research differently. Had I not gone to that meeting, I wouldn’t have the benefit of looking at genealogical problems from a different perspective. Plus, I’ve met some really great people.

Genealogical and historical Societies have the goal of preserving family and cultural history. These two things go hand-in-hand, but can’t be accomplished without a wide variety of people with an even wider variety of skills. Please think about sharing your knowledge with a local society. ­

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