Saturday, February 1, 2020
The Sociology of Genealogy
Well, I'm back home from my trip to Florida. And it looks like the cross-country flight was long enough to see me through to the back cover of one book, and beyond that to the start of another one. I'll save most of my comments on that new book for another post, but I couldn't help thinking about some thought-provoking statements which caught my eye right away.
The book, like the one I just finished, is one about marketing—something I think about often, considering my mission to keep local genealogical societies vitally pertinent in a changing world. That changing world includes the seemingly irresistible force to convert genealogy into a solitary pursuit—the reclusive researcher, pajama-clad with hot chocolate in hand, still hunkered down at her computer at three in the morning, instead of the networking family historian of earlier eras.
Truth is, genealogy has long been a pursuit of connecting the dots: between researchers, between distant cousins, between people who wish to share information on their extended families. We have always been a social bunch. If sociology is, by definition, the study of how humans act in groups, we are missing a bigger story by ignoring our heritage as genealogical societies, online forums, bulletin board adherents, and other collectives. Our strong suit in genealogy has always been our coming together to solve research problems and to educate ourselves and improve our research skills.
That's why this book caught my eye: it looks not at marketing in the traditional sense, but in a way that melds almost seamlessly with our outlook as advocates of genealogical societies. This particular book focused on two themes I favor: story, and connection.
Just a sampler from a weary traveler, with more to come tomorrow.
"If you want to make change, begin by making culture. Begin by organizing a tightly knit group. Begin by getting people in sync."
"If you can bring someone belonging, connection, peace of mind, status, or one of the other most desired emotions, you've done something worthwhile."
"We make connections. Humans are lonely, and they want to be seen and known. People want to be part of something. It's safer that way, and often more fun. We create experiences."
The book? Marketing guru Seth Godin's This Is Marketing. If you are involved with a local genealogical society, you may not think you need to sell your organization as a product, but—surprise—getting out the word to those who would care to join requires some thinking about marketing. We'll take a closer look at this tomorrow.