Sunday, October 26, 2014

Societies: Preserving Your Genealogy Society

Family History Month has really uncovered just how many great things are happening in the genealogical community. Which means there’s lots for FGS Member Societies, and even those that aren’t members yet (cough, cough), of which to be proud.

As Family History Month is winding down, I’d like to take a moment to talk about preservation: the preservation and long-term health of your society. One of the more challenging aspects of running a genealogical society is acknowledging it takes a village. There are quite a few groups that are run by tightly-knit nuclear groups of individuals who want to run things in ways that make them comfortable. The challenge with that is that a society cannot be run, long-term, by just one person or even several people. It takes a changing and growing team of individuals, with diverse skills, to form an effective and resilient society.

As an archivist, I’ve seen a number of collections of now-defunct historical societies. There’s nothing sadder than knowing that a group of people came together to collect and preserve their history, only to have it all come apart because they didn’t plan for the long-term operation of their group. And I’ve seen, and heard, lots of stories of genealogy societies that fall in this rut. Even some larger Societies still have the same people at the helm as they did 10, 15, or even 20 years ago. But what’s going to happen when those people are no longer around?

Remnants of Elburn Historical Society before archival processing
(c) 2010 Laura Cosgrove Lorenzana
If your Society has enough members and is a vital part of your larger community, congratulations. But, if you are seeing dwindling membership and are finding it difficult to get people to your events, as challenging as it may be, it may well be an issue of not being willing to take a little short-term pain for the longer-term gain. Please know that FGS is here to help you preserve the thing that you’ve worked so hard to build. There are tools and resources available to help you create a long-term plan for your society, while working in the present to engage new members. Let’s use Family History Month 2014 as a springboard for a great new year of genealogy, family history, the history of our communities, and for the human family we’re all a part of. I hope to see you all here again next year for Family History Month, 2015.

Oh, and if you want to get a giant leap ahead to start 2015 off right, don’t forget to register for FGS2015 in Salt Lake City!­ Take a look at all the helpful Societies Day presentations designed specifically to help societies strengthen and grow for the long term.

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