Getting the Next Generation Involved in Genealogy Societies

Here is my latest video and it is all about how to get the next generation involved in genealogy societies.

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13 responses to “Getting the Next Generation Involved in Genealogy Societies

  1. I haven’t had a chance to listen to this yet (which, I promise I will!), so if I’m repeating anything you say, please forgive me.

    After I had started doing my own research when over nine years ago (gosh, it’s been that long?!) when I was twelve, it wasn’t too long after that I found a genealogy society.

    Looking back, I see some things that really connected me with these people.

    1) The people were so friendly! They took me under their wing and treated me like a (grand)child! I made great connections with so many of them and some of them became great friends. As I’ve gotten older and as more academic responsibilities have been placed on me, I don’t get to see them as often as I used to.
    2) I think one reason that I got along so well with them was because of the fact that I grew up around older people. Some teens and kids just don’t have any connection with the older generation and literally don’t know how to connect with them. I believe that is a big hindrance. So sometimes the problem doesn’t lie with the society, but the individual.
    3) Societies need to offer classes to all ranges of genealogists. That means that societies need to offer beginner classes as well as intermediate and advanced classes. Teens learn quickly. I think they probably make the best genealogist, because they can pick up things so fast and think outside of the box when necessary. Societies can sometimes get in a rut where they don’t cater to other leveled researchers.
    4) I was so fortunate to belong to the society that I did. I belong to the Antelope Valley Genealogical Society. Not only was I a member, but they gave me responsibilities that made me feel special. When the person who ran all the publicity had to retire, they asked if I’d be willing to do so. So I took over and was on the board for many years, taking care of the publicity. I also got to work on the Kin-Dig committee, which is our annual conference held locally. It was things like that that made me feel needed, special, and a part of the group.

    So in short, I guess what helped me get involved so much was, of course, obviously my passion for genealogy, but 1) friendly people, 2) growing up being taught how to enjoy being around the older generations, 3) the classes, and 4) being given responsibilities that made me feel a part.

    That’s my two cents worth!

    (And I promise to listen in full! lol!)

    • Anthony – You’ve been so fortunate to be a part of a society that does things right! I’ve never been to the Antelope Valley Genealogy Society, but I’ve heard nothing but great things about them through you. They are an example for other societies to follow.

      Secondly, you are also so fortunate to have a parent that was willing to drive you to those meetings. Not having a mode of transportation is a huge hindrance on genealogists pre-drivers license and it speaks volumes at how wonderfully supportive your mom is.

      I probably could have convinced my parents to take me to a meeting or two before I had my license. But honestly, between my own fear of walking into a room full of genealogists that I’ve never met and feeling like a burden to ask my parents to drive me to a meeting after a long day of work, I never got around to it.

      You bring up an interesting point about how many young people don’t know how to connect with the older generation. I grew up around older folks since I’m the youngest of my generation (on my mom’s side). In fact, two years after I was born, my eldest first cousin had her baby. So although I never knew my grandparents, I had many aunts, uncles, and family friends that filled in the role pretty well. When we moved to Seattle when I was in elementary school, I was right back to being the only kid around again. I didn’t mind it – in fact, it made Christmas pretty awesome since everyone wanted to play Santa. Interacting and talking with people much older than me wasn’t a problem and came really naturally to me.

      But are others who don’t grow up in that sort of environment at a disadvantage? Possibly. The only way I see to resolve it, however, is to face the issue head on and just get some experience.

      Love your comments!


  2. Elyse-
    I know what you mean! I started when I was 13, I am now 26 and a professional genealogist. I have been treated the same way and still am from time to time. It’s such a shame and something I hope to help to change. I am sharing this on my Facebook page and recommending this to others :) Keep up the great posts!

    • So sorry to hear that you’ve experienced this – hopefully, we can get the attention of more societies and get them to change so that everyone, no matter their age, feels welcome.

  3. I grew up as the eldest in my family (4 kids) and never really knew how to speak to adults until I had been one for a long time :-) One society I joined seemed to be populated by people who were in competition with each other – there were those who just got on with it quietly, and those who thought they knew better and “rubbished” the others. Needless to say, I’m not a member any more!


    PS: Happy Blogiversary – keep it up, I really enjoy your posts!

  4. I love the ideas that you have shared in the video. I guess that it may really be tough to get the younger people involved in genealogy. However, with the current generation being tech-savvy, they can contribute a lot to genealogy more than what they can imagine.
    Brian´s last blog post ..which guitar software Is best for learning

  5. The key is to have an active program that combines ongoing research and development projects with teaching and learning activities provided especially for new members and the general public. Society activities can utilize and harness the new interest in family history that is being fueled by popular television programs.
    Natalie´s last blog post ..Healthy Dinner with Crock Pot Guide

  6. Ohhhhh did I have a bad experience. I was emailing/talking to this one genealogist/registrar for one of these Genealogy Societies and guess what they said/wrote? “‘IF’ you are related…” (emphasis on “IF”) and “Well if your mom was adopted… ” Excuse me? She was NOT adopted. This was like a slap in the face. So all the dozens of pictures, the letters, the postcards, the handwritten family tree signed by witnesses dated back to 1960 was a lie? The heirlooms, the jewelry, the will (which was lost by moving), the furniture, the passed down photos of other family members was a lie? The houses of the family members were a lie? The toys and handcrafted blankets passed down to me when I was a child was a lie?

    Then superciliously they simply could not comprehend why a person would EVER change their name, even if it was for professional purposes (it sounds better (esp in some biz – er movies?) and oh, they REALLY could not comprehend how ANYONE could lose any documents, um moving and family members who don’t care about that? So there were not names required at the time of a birth certificate (I looked and there was absolute no place for parent’s names) in the mid 1900’s and one of another family burnt in a fire, but hey I found 3 different censuses and probably 5 dif addresses to back it up against the skeptics! Of course the poetry book written is a “lie” too by this grandparent?

    Oh my Gosh it is just so frustrating. This is what I FEEL (I don’t have an attitude when I talk/write to them, I’m mannered and sweet) when I face this “attitude” against what I guess you say, “young people”

    I just wanted a scholarship at first, now I’ve been offended and it’s like a pride thing! (I’m in college, btw) Also, I have hundreds of docs from (this they don’t like) and found genealogy books to back those up. Hey, I have found 3 lines to the 1600’s in just 8 months I’ve been doing it and been busy at the same time!

    Keep breaking the walls, good 4 you!

  7. Great video again Elyse.

    About 10 years ago I started going to a genealogy club. I was in my early 30s. I was by far the youngest one there. My experience was somewhat different than your first experience. They were very friendly, open and never made me feel that they were looking down at me for doing it wrong or anything. Perhaps it was just bad luck or the particular genealogy club which you went to the first time.

    Regards, Jim
    Genealogy Blog at Hidden Genealogy Nuggets
    Jim Sanders´s last blog post ..Society Saturday – NERGC Conference Announced

  8. Very good ideas – thanks! I’m a new president for my genealogy society and I plan on using your idesa to attract new and younger members.

  9. Elyse,
    I got interested in genealogy as a kid – like you I started at the age of 12. It was great fun to discover my family history together with my dad. Unfortunately now I do not have that much time any more but will get back to more serious genealogy research hopefully before I am old.

  10. In your dealings with that particular society do you feel that the cold reception was prompted by the laptop you brought? I believe that some societies resist online research, and I know why: not all information out there on the internet is accurate. And I speak from personal experience. Yes, the internet is a great TOOL, but it contains wrong information that hinders accurate research. Hence the need for young people to become active in their local societies, regardless if they are the only one in the room during a meeting. If you got to walk before you can run, then you must crawl before you can walk — that’s why a genealogical society is a great starting point for young genealogists. Those veteran genealogists could give you a few pointers on different types of research other than the internet. It is not going to hurt young folks to try things the old-fashioned way, especially if it uncovers much-needed information!

    Elmer Burnside

    • The cold feeling started the moment I walked in the room – I was early and there wasn’t any signs up yet, so I politely asked someone if this was the room for the genealogy society meeting and I got this eyebrow lifted look and a reluctant yes. I put my stuff down and saw people setting up – I asked if there was anything I could help with. They said no.

      I sat down and pulled out my laptop and pulled up my program (can’t remember if I was using Legacy or RootsMagic at the time). I pulled up my word process and waited. I was ready to take notes once the speaker began.

      And I just felt so out of place. No one would sit near me and it felt like everyone was staring at my laptop as if it was a forbidden item. Some of that, admittedly, is my own nerves and anxiety – I wanted to fit in so badly but here I was as the new kid.

      However, if they would have just asked, they would have learned that I was there to get better acquainted with libraries and archives. I had only been to a few genealogical libraries and the FHC a handful of times – but that is because I had just gotten my car and drivers license. I wanted tips. I wanted to soak up their knowledge. I wanted to maybe even find a friend that I could meet at the local FHC or library. I was looking for a mentor.

      But what I got was a cold reception and I was given a basic pedigree chart and treated like a bother. Not exactly welcoming.

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