Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Don't Get Jealous, Get Together!

I am not immune to the pull of the Green Eyed Monster. I have to confess, upon receiving the comment from Jeffrey following my post on genealogical societies a few days ago, I took a look at the website for the board he referenced.

And got jealous. Extremely jealous.

His is an organization well supplied with talented board members. They produce an annual seminar featuring name speakers for which people drive for hours to attend. (I do.)

Sometimes, we wish for what we don't have, and waste our energy on what is not, rather than building up what can be.

In the process of attending to my regular duties for my own society, yesterday I was in pursuit of speakers to complete the season's lineup for membership meetings. I knew the speaker I wanted to reach, but her contact information seemed to be a well-kept secret. So I put in a call to a neighboring genealogical society's president to see if she could provide the coveted connection.

You know how those conversations can go. Inevitably, we got to talking about other matters of mutual interest, which led to her mentioning her dream idea: to assemble the leadership of all the region's county genealogical societies for a meeting to share ideas, resources, and encouragement.

For the more urban regions in our state—or, for that matter, across the country—this may be an idea that is put into practice as a matter of course. For our more agricultural areas, though, each county's association operates rather independently. How helpful it would be to connect, from time to time, to bolster each other's efforts with a time of sharing.

I've heard of such ad hoc gatherings in other regions—and had that same feeling of envy creep over me. The benefits of such meetings are obvious. In wall-to-wall suburbia, the logistics make more sense and don't put up any barriers.

But we can do this, too. The benefits can more than outweigh the costs. Networking always adds value to what one single, isolated group could do on its own. We can learn from each other—especially when it comes to the pitfalls facing all collective efforts in our current age. I think of everything from the Bowling Alone mentality to the call to broaden our horizons in the age of online connectivity. We have so many challenges. But we have so many opportunities. Sometimes, all it takes is informing ourselves of what options are available to us, and arming ourselves with the willpower to do what needs to be done.

As genealogical societies, we can't let ourselves become an anachronism. Sometimes, we feel frozen in place by a sense of "future shock," but if we really explore our options by banding together, we'll find we have the collective resources to mount those challenges of moving our organizations into the twenty-first century. We may find our first love is talking about the things of the past, but in order to remain viable for the future, we need to keep pace with the tools and concepts of the present.

Above: "In the Orchard," 1891 oil on canvas by American Impressionist painter, Edmund Charles Tarbell; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. I read this a few days ago - and you inspired me to search out my local genealogical society. I avoided the one "downtown" since it is a pain to get to, and parking is impossible or expensive (think NYC!). I found one only 3 miles down the street - and they are so quiet, it took a lot of digging just to find them! I reviewed their "last year's program" and regret I missed at least 80% of the presentations. Goodness... they need to be a lot more "visible"!!!!!

    1. Maybe they are all introverts ;)

      I hope their upcoming programs are as interesting as the ones you missed from last year. Sounds like an invisible gem. Glad you found them, Iggy.


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