Here is a bit of a confession: I’m not the only 20-something genealogist out there. Surprisingly, there are a bunch of “younger” genealogists and family historians out there – I get comments and emails from them on a regular basis. But the one thing I’ve noticed we all have in common? We’re all pretty darn shy when it comes to actually going to a genealogy society or conference. So how do you pull us out of our shells?
Here are my words of advice based on my own experiences and thoughts:
1.) Please don’t look at me like I’m a lost child that wandered into the wrong room. No, I’m not lost. Yes, I mean to be in here. No, I was not dragged here against my will. Yes, I actually want to be here.
2.) Don’t assume my grandparents (or other older relatives) are alive. Some people my age are fortunate enough to have their grandparents still around. However, I’m not one of them. My mom was the youngest child in her family and was the last of her siblings to have children. My maternal grandmother died before I was born and my grandfather died shortly after. My dad is also the youngest child of his family. However, both of my paternal grandparents were alive when I was born. Around my toddler years, my grandmother developed dementia and died in 2002. My grandfather lived across the country and although it was his refusal to tell me anything about my family that got me interested in genealogy, he died in 2003. So no, I’m not so lucky in that department.
3.) Please don’t assume I’m a beginner. Often times when I walk into a new genealogy society or library, people assume I’m an absolute beginner. I’m not saying I’m Elizabeth Shown Mills or anything, but I know my way around a pedigree chart. Instead, ask me how my research is going. Ask me where I’m stuck. Ask me about what kind of ancestors I have. Then offer me help or just let me enjoy the company. We got something in common – let’s chat!
4.) Have a website, blog, and Facebook account. I want to keep up with the happenings of your society and these are all easy ways for me to do it. Keep me updated and informed, and I’m more likely to be there.
5.) Have an open mind. I don’t expect every person in your society to be the most tech-savvy person on the planet. All I ask if that when I mention a technological something (like DropBox or Facebook) and look at me like I’ve just spoken in Chinese or something. Instead, ask me about it. I swear, I won’t bite. I won’t get mad. I won’t think you’re stupid. I want to share. I want to tell you about it.
6.) Have a Decent Tech Set-Up: I understand that technology costs money and right now, the last thing any society has is money. But, having a decent tech set up makes a speaker’s life so much easier. And when you have great speakers who can easily show off their lovely presentations, then you have happy attendees.
7.) Don’t let my age define me. When I went to SCGS’s Jamboree for the first time, I kind of became a legend to attendees. On the last day of the conference, a woman walked up to me and excitedly introduced herself. She added that, “It really is true! There really is a young person here at this conference! There’s been rumors going on about you the entire time but I just didn’t believe it!” At the time, it was cute and flattering and kind of embarrassing – I was just happy that people were accepting me. But now, I want to be judged and valued based on my knowledge, on my personality, on who I am and not hold old I am. I get it – it’s so exciting to see a 20-something at a genealogy society or library. I know that I’m young enough to be your daughter/granddaughter and how much you wish one of your family members would catch the bug like I have. But once that excitement settles down, would you mind actually getting to know me and judging me based on that? Cause I want to get to know you too. I want more genealogy friends – people that get that I would rather go to a cemetery or spend an entire day in a library than go to a bar on a Friday night. We already go so much in common – so let’s be friends!
So that’s my list of advice for genealogy societies hoping to attract a bit of a younger crowd. Got anything to add to the list? Pop it in the comments section.