Saturday, February 25, 2017
Behind the Society Curtain
There's always the thrill of chasing down yet another clue on those elusive ancestors in my family tree, but that is not the only way I participate in genealogical endeavors. As you may have already gleaned from my various posts, I'm quite involved in our local genealogical society as one of their board members.
Lately, our small society has taken a big—and maybe scary—step. We've graduated from the society websites of yesteryear—those so-nineties websites kindly hosted for free at Rootsweb.com—to have a website of our own. Thanks to the leadership of our president—Sheri Fenley, whom so many know as the blogger behind The Educated Genealogist—a small group of our board's members have been working behind the scenes in converting that website vision into reality.
Not that we're doing all the coding, of course. Who do you think I am—Superwoman? While we aren't so fortunate as to have a talented member able to take on that challenge, Sheri found us something better: a company which works well with small societies such as ours, which is able to put together a site meeting all the functional requirements we could wish for.
For the past two months, we've been working with Tom Ryder of EasyNetSites. We now have what the company calls a "template-driven" website which will automate many of the functions a small society like ours would need to have done. It will take us a long time to exhaust the capabilities inherent in this design, and we are only beginning to see the possibilities.
Apparently, our small society is not alone in celebrating the discovery of this website design company. This, I discovered when checking out the many societies whose websites are on display on the portfolio page at EasyNetSites. While some of those groups are local organizations like ours, others using EasyNetSites include state organizations, international interest groups—and even the Federation of Genealogical Societies. Come to find out, when I registered for that DNA class at SLIG, I did so on a website designed by EasyNetSites.
Seeing so many societies listed in the EasyNetSites portfolio was like having the curtain pulled away to reveal the behind-the-scenes workings of those groups which seem to have it all together. Apparently, this is one of their best-kept secrets.
Not that the completed website is a turnkey operation. We've spent several hours with Tom via webinar, as he trained us on how to get our site up and running. We are the ones inputting the data, deciding where to insert photos, announcements, schedules, and other features of our society's offerings. It takes a while to learn all the features of our new website—and to spruce up all the finishing touches before our grand opening. That's why our website won't be fully functional until mid-March: we have a lot of work yet to do!
While local genealogical societies are usually small in numbers—and often in available funds and enough hands to get the job done—there still are ways to put forth a professional presence and invite the public to join in our activities. Sometimes, that entails being able to obtain the services of those who are knowledgeable in specialties outside our own areas of expertise.
Computer programming definitely qualifies as something outside our board members' skill sets. Lest you find your local organization in the same situation and think there is nothing that can be done about that, think again. Apparently, there is an answer, even though it may have been your neighboring society's best-kept secret up til now.
Above: "'Blame the thing—I can't make it work!' complains Cleveland over the keyboard." 1893 political cartoon by Bernhard Gillam depicting then-President Grover Cleveland attempting to manipulate the Democrat Party as if it were a typewriter. Courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.