Genealogical Societies – An Under-utilized Resource
Genealogy societies are a great resource for family historians whether you are a beginner or advanced. Genealogical societies are formed for a variety of reasons. They can be created around a common lineage (Mayflower Society), surname (Descendants of John Simmons), ethnicity (American Historical Society of Germans from Russia), geographical research locality (Adams County Genealogical Society), or current place of residence (Utah Genealogical Association).
Why should I consider joining a genealogical society?
There are lots of good reasons for joining a genealogy society, but here are some of the best reasons for a novice genealogist to get involved.
- Camaraderie. Chances are that despite your growing enthusiasm for family history research and your willingness to talk to friends and family about what you are learning, you will enjoy getting to know other enthusiasts and discussing the ups and downs of genealogy with someone who understands your excitement and frustration.
- Mentoring. You can learn a lot from your fellow society members. While new members and beginners are generally welcome in these societies, you will find that many of the members have a wealth of knowledge and are happy to share their expertise with others.
- Access to resources. Many societies are formed around a certain purpose and, as a member, you may have access to certain local records or archives that are otherwise unavailable or hard to find.
- Extend your reach. Joining a genealogy society that is some distance away may give you connections to help you research without traveling to that location in person; conversely, you may be of help to someone on your end.
- Educational opportunities. Many societies have educational classes, seminars, and publications that can help you to increase your knowledge base, either generally or specifically relating to the society’s mission. Genealogical societies based on a common ethnicity often have opportunities to learn about foods and customs with which your ancestors were familiar.
How to find a genealogical society
To find a genealogical society, you could do an Internet search using the terms that best describe what you are looking for in a society. Additionally, there are several resources that list some of the best genealogical societies. Most of the large commercial online genealogical sites such as FamilySearch.org will have information about different societies in their community or wiki pages. Cyndi’s List is another example of a site that maintains fairly comprehensive reference lists. Lastly, if the society is a member of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), you will find information about that society on the FGS website.
Is joining a genealogical society worth it?
If you’ve decided that you’d like to join a society and have decided which one you’d like to join but are unsure if it is worth your investment, many of them will allow you to subscribe to their newsletter. In fact, many of them have blogs that you can follow, Facebook pages that you can monitor, and web sites to peruse. All of these will allow you get to know the society and its members and this will help you determine if it is right for you. Arrange to attend one of their meetings prior to joining and ask questions as you get to know people.
If you are still not sure that your level of participation will be equal to the cost of the membership fee, consider that your fee is typically used for a good cause in promoting the mission of the society and that your added participation may bring something new to the table that the society was previously lacking.
Also, remember that when doing your research, you can contact various genealogy societies and request that they search their records and/or send someone to onsite archives to look at records for you. Some societies are more willing or able to help than others, so you have to contact them to find out what services they offer, how much they charge, and how long the wait will be – but they are a great resource to try when working on your genealogy, as they sometimes have collections of records not available in other places, and/or can complete onsite research that will save you from having to take a trip yourself.
If you have an ancestor in your lineage who may qualify you to join a lineage society, our experts can help you gather your documentation and prepare your application. If you’re not sure if you have a qualifying ancestor, we would love to look over your tree and find out! Contact us today to discuss your options!