Sunday, September 13, 2009

Opening Genealogy Events to the Younger Working Genealogists

In my last post about Family History Month, I started to rant about how annoying it was for many of the session I was interested in attending being during the day. This meant that I either had to take off the entire month of October to attend everything or miss out on lots of great talks. So here is my dedicated post to my rant:

Family History Month means that the Allen County Public Library is offering a talk or other event every day of October. They have been doing this for years. I went to a few events last year and really enjoyed them, so I looked forward to the October 2009 calendar of events. Once again there were some very interesting topics that I wanted to attend all month. The problem was that many of these events were on weekdays during the day. I don't want to take off lots of day in October to attend the events that interest me. I know there are a lot of others that have this same problem with the genealogy societies and events held where they live and nationally.

Although I have no data to support the following claim, I think that it is true: The age of the average genealogist is decreasing rapidly. Younger people are getting involved and finding a passion for genealogy. I'm not talking about high school and college students, I talking about people who have full time careers and find the time to do genealogy as a hobby. Genealogy is no longer reserved for retirees.

The reasons for this change is based on the availability of great resources on the internet. A genealogist can now search many databases from home, 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 day a year. Whenever a person has the time and desire, they can preform searches and make great strides in their research. Although you can't do everything online, there is a LOT you can do. The popularity of blogs, Facebook and Twitter in the genealogy world has also helped to spread the genealogy bug to nongenealogists. Many people are catching the genealogy bug so much that they are making it their profession.

So here is my question: If so many people are becoming genealogist with full time jobs, why are many society meetings and genealogy events held during working hours?

Is it just because that is the way it has always been? Do they not realize how many people are interested in genealogy that are working when the meetings are held? Is it about the cost of an evening or weekend meeting? Do they not want "younger" people at their meetings?

Here are some of my thoughts on some changes that should be made:

1. Societies should hold meetings in the evenings or on weekends. Meetings during the day time hours during the week are only going to be attended by retirees and others who have flexible schedules. Holding meetings later should help to increase attendance and membership.
2. Offer a variety of topics that would interest different people. For example, the Allen County Genealogical Society of Indiana's October program is on African American research. I didn't notice any African Americans at the September meeting, but this will encourage African Americans to attend and learn about how to do their own genealogy.
3. Promote events and meetings online through a society website, blog, twitter, Facebook, etc.
4. Make meetings open to the public. People who attend a meeting on an interesting topic will want to come back and become a member.
5. Events for a variety of levels. Don't focus only on beginners or only on advanced researchers.

I also have some ideas for libraries and archives. These are more problematic to undertake due to budget issues.
1. Evening hours and weekend hours. Move hours from 9-6 to 12-9 for example. Or be open Tuesday through Saturday instead of Monday through Friday.
2. Hold events on weekends or in the evenings.
3. Promote events online.

National or regional conferences:
1. Should hold events on the weekends to gain more attendants.
2. Promote online.
3. Move events across the country (if national) and not stick to one place (the South, the Northeast, try the Midwest or the West coast too!). This will allow a different group of people to be within driving distance of the event and be able to attend.

Not everyone will be happy with the times of genealogy events. But thinking of ways to get the most people involved should be a priority.

I have obviously just touched the surface on this topic. I wanted to start a discussion about it. So leave a comment. What are your thoughts on this topic? What other ideas should the genealogy community consider to encourage more participation in events and societies?


  1. Some great ideas - now one major problem I see is that so many newbie and younger genealogists (myself included) do not volunteer to work those evening hours, offer to teach computer classes and genealogy classes, etc. I think often we have great ideas on how to improve things but then we expect the society to make the changes for us - we need to get more involved in the societies and help make the changes with them. So I guess the next step is how do we help make the changes?

  2. Tina and Tessa,
    As a board member of a large society your ideas and suggestions are of great interest to me. We are really working on making ourselves more accessible to the younger generations and have implemented many of the ideas that you list, Tina. I'm starting a Carnival of Genealogical Societies and I hope you will participate and share more of your experience and ideas.