Sunday, January 21, 2018
Moving on Up
Well...last Thursday evening, I made the move. I am officially no longer the vice president of our local genealogical society. Now, I'm the president. The buck, as a very different kind of president once said, stops here.
In this success-crazy culture of ours in modern America, it seems that moving up the ladder is always seen as a good thing, a goal worth achieving. Once the move is made, however, there are a few of us who end up saying, "What was I thinking?" Now that Thursday evening's installment dinner has come and gone, a part of me is asking the same question.
Although our local genealogical society has been in existence for sixty six years, in some ways, we've always seemed to see ourselves in a small way. For years, this group only met every other month—and, oh, they took time off for the summer months and the winter holidays. Though they started off with twenty four charter members, it wasn't until this year that we finally climbed back up to the one hundred members we haven't had since the advent of big online genealogical companies knocked the wind out of local, in-person family history organizations' sails.
All of this began to change—and for the better, I assure you—with the arrival of a new president who, as she admitted herself, came to the office kicking and screaming. I owe it to my "genealogy angel" and mentor, Sheri Fenley, that when I stepped into office last Thursday evening, I assumed the helm of an organization which now has official status as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, which now sports a shiny new website, which now presents a strong monthly program of qualified genealogical speakers, which facilitates a closed Facebook group open to anyone for the asking—members and non-members alike—who are interested in genealogy within our county, which now gives back to our community fifteen hours a month in free beginners' genealogical training at our community college and libraries across the county and six hours of one-on-one consultation for library patrons at our main library. All this happened in the four years of her watch.
Of course, I hope to continue this tradition, as well as add to it. Thankfully, this will be a team effort, and I have a board of directors with which to collaborate as we guide the progress of our society and guard the ground we have already gained. It's my hope to see this organization flourish, growing into its now-official nonprofit status with a more visible home center from which we can offer more special interest groups, more educational offerings, more collaborative programs in which we partner with like-minded community organizations. With all of us pulling together, such goals—and more—are possible.
There is something so compelling about seeing the light bulb go off in a new researcher's mind when she realizes that the digitized document she is viewing, for instance, contains the very signature of her own great grandfather. The faces of people making these discoveries for the first time are priceless to see. The experience is palpable. While almost anyone can now go to a library and tap into a genealogical website and bring up such pictures, it takes a society—that group of people who become the interface where the rubber meets the novice's road—to become the midwives who bring that love of research to life.
That's why it's such an awesome duty to facilitate the development of an organization like a local genealogical society. No one person can do it all. And no one person steps into the role, knowing exactly what to do from the beginning. That's why we need each other—to share the burden of the mission, and to beckon each other to grow in shared responsibility as our organization matures.
And we couldn't get where we are—nor move from this point forward—without the care and mentoring of those who took the reins before us. For every momentary thought like, "What was I thinking?" I have the steadying hand of my (now) Immediate Past President, for which I am grateful, and stabilizing influence of a supportive board, along with the willing participation of our membership.
It is, after all, teamwork—in which case, it is not really "moving on up," but dancing this promenade, together, that will advance us to the next step in the process.