Ideas from the blogosphere: Embracing the change

As more and more local genealogical societies are struggling with membership, resources, and finances, we are exploring the world of genealogical society weblogs for ideas on what others are doing to cope, to survive, and to thrive.

This first rather long entry is from the Southern California Genealogical Society and talks about how they handled the change from the technology and techniques of the late 20th Century to the early 21st Century.

Doin’ Things Right at the Southern California Genealogical Society

For an organization that came *thisclose* to going the way of the Polaroid and the typewriter, the Southern California Genealogical Society is thriving. Its membership has grown steadily over the past few years, and the Society has earned the reputation of being an innovative and progressive organization. How did it come about? It took a major transformation in attitudes about the Internet, and it didn’t come easy.

Throughout its first three decades, the SCGS library had a steady stream of patrons coming into the library to use the valuable collection of materials from across the US, Canada, Germany, and England. In the early ‘90s, the library was hit with a demographic double-whammy. Its more senior members who were accustomed to traditional research came into the library less often, either due to health issues or a diminished interest in researching. At the same time, online research was becoming more popular for Internet-savvy members. The chairs remained empty, the books remained shelved, and membership declined.

It Was the Internet’s Fault. The Internet Was Bad. Bad, Bad Internet.

Fortunately, the Society had some forward-looking leaders who embraced the opportunity instead of bemoaning the threat. A couple of patron computers were added, and then a couple more. Database subscriptions were added for in-library use, and the library began to offer a wide variety of valuable resources: online databases as well as maps, books, indexes, manuscript files, periodicals, gazetteers, microfilm, microfiche, etc. The Society’s website was updated and became an asset, and e-commerce provided a new way to bring revenue into the organization.

Part of the evolution contributing to the Society’s success was a fundamental change in the structure of its annual fundraiser, the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree. For years, the Jamboree was designed as an expo, a place to shop for books, guides, indexes, charts, and other products used by genealogists. It was an all-in-one shopping mall that had a few classes that were repeated throughout the weekend. It was very successful and the Jamboree team did an excellent job.

With the growth of the online marketplace, however, booksellers realized they didn’t need to drag crates of books to Southern California in order to sell them. It became challenging to get exhibitors, particularly book vendors, to attend. Genealogy software began to replace hand-written family group sheets and pedigree charts, and shoppers didn’t need to wait a whole year to buy their goodies. They could order them online and have them in a few days. Toss in some problems caused by a change in venue, and shadows were falling over the event. The design of Jamboree needed to change.

It did change – just in the nick of time. If the old model had continued, Jamboree would be nothing more than a “remember when…” Instead, it adapted to the changing needs of genealogists. It became a conference with an exhibit area, instead of the other way around. It became a place to network with others and to celebrate the thrill of solving an ancestral puzzle. It featured stuff to learn instead of stuff to buy. The crowds returned, and Jamboree has grown in just a three years to be the largest American conference produced by a single genealogical society.

Jamboree is a great event itself, but it also serves as a motivator for other functional areas of SCGS. You’ll hear, time and time again, that “We want to get this done in time for Jamboree.” Whether it’s producing a new marriage index, or installing new microfilm reader-printer equipment, updating the online catalog, revising brochures for the various interest groups, or even getting the Library curtains washed, Jamboree provides a concrete deadline. Things just seem to get done in time for Jamboree and the entire organization benefits.

SCGS is taking its first wobbly, tentative steps into providing educational content through webinars. The first free webinar will be held Saturday, March 27, with George Morgan leading a session on “How to Get the Most out of a Genealogy Conference.”

None of this evolution could have been possible without the foresight, dedication, leadership, and thousands of hours of time contributed by the librarians, indexers, back-room staff, and other volunteers of the Southern California Genealogical Society. The Society has no paid staff; it is managed entirely by volunteers. No words of gratitude can come close to expressing thanks for the willing participation of these members.

SCGS has embraced social networking as a way to build involvement, communicate with members and potential members, and to market its various programs, including Jamboree. Blogs and tweets and Facebook posts have brought increased exposure and we are reaching more members and potential members than ever before. We are fortunate to have the support and personal relationships that have developed within the geneablogging community, and in that way, everyone who reads this post is contributing to the continued health of the Southern California Genealogical Society. For that, we thank you.

Adapt. Evolve. Change.

And thank you, Good, Good Internet!

This post is being submitted to the inaugural edition of “Carnival of Genealogical Societies.”
The opinions expressed in this post are my own.
Paula Hinkel
Posted by Paula from SCGS at 11:50 PM, 06 March 2010

Southern California Genealogical Society and Family Research Library

Labels: Carnival of Genealogical Societies

The Rash

My mother’s maiden name is Rash. As I was researching her family name, I discovered a Fannie Rash which I thought was quite humorous. As I kept researching I discovered there were more Fannie Rashes than I wanted to believe! Some were by birth — others by marriage. Maybe this was just a common thing back then. (Thanks to Kay Ballard)
Published with permission: Previously published in RootsWeb Review: 10 March 2010, Vol. 13, No. 3

FYI: Check Comments

Comments to previous posts (those items in the center column of the Bulletin page) are actually posted to the previous post and not again at the top of this center column.

So that you don’t miss comments which update a post, always go down the left column of the page to comments.

A recent comment on the previous query of SHIREY, was listed there on March 8.

March 15 Meeting News

The regular monthly meeting (on March 15) is approaching and only a week away. Here are some items of interest about the meeting:

1. The program will feature guest speaker Joe Hayden of Quitman talking about Wood County veterans. Vice-president Dorothy Harbin is working on some additional ideas to go with that theme.

2. If there is time, we may also be able to work on the accumulation of obituaries in the Genealogy Research Center. You might want to bring some scissors and glue sticks just in case.

3. President Shirley Patrick has sent a message asking that we let members know that she will be unable to attend the March meeting due to grandchildren visiting over Spring Break, and she has ask the vice-president to preside at the meeting.

4. Dorothy is still working on the program for April and expects to hear soon about a confirmed speaker about several of the earliest settlers families in the county.

5. Also be aware that election of officers for next year is scheduled for the May meeting every year. If you have ideas, etc. you might contact President Patrick to pass on to the nominating committee.

6. If you want to get with the group meeting before the meeting at Peralta’s in Quitman, we gather and visit and eat starting at 5:30 p.m.

Tenth Annual Family History Fair In Tyler March 13, 2010

Dr. James Sellers, President of the East Texas Genealogical Society, and Mr. Kenneth Stegall, Director of the LDS Tyler Stake Family History Center, are pleased to announce that the 10th Annual Family History Fair will be on Saturday, March 13, 2010, at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 1617 Shiloh Road, Tyler, TX.

The Family History Fair, including lunch, is free and open to the public. Registration will begin at 8:30 a.m. with the first session scheduled for 9:00 a.m. All of the sessions are free, and pre-registration is not required. The seminar will include two morning sessions from 9:00 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. and multiple breakout sessions from 1:00 p.m. until 3:30 p.m. A free lunch will be provided from 11:30 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.

The keynote speaker will be David E. Rencher, Chief Genealogical Officer, FamilySearch. Mr. Rencher is a professional genealogist and has held leadership positions in several national genealogical organizations. Currently he is also Vice-President of the Genealogical Society of Utah and Fellow of UGS & the Irish Genealogical Research Society, London. He will conduct the two morning sessions.

Session 1 – “What FamilySearch Can Do For You!” FamilySearch has many facets. Come learn what FamilySearch is doing to make your genealogical research faster, easier, and more effective. Also learn how you can participate so that everyone benefits.

Session 2 – “Effective Use of the Family History Library Catalog.” The Family History Library Catalog (FHLC) has many hidden secrets. Learn how the material is organized to get the most from the catalog. Determine which search engines are the most effective for specific information you are seeking.

There will be multiple topics available in the two afternoon sessions. Mr. Rencher will conduct two of them:

Session 3 – “Irish Jurisdictions and Reference Works.” This session gives a basic approach to ensuring that all participants understand the reference tools needed to do successful Irish research and to understand how jurisdictions should be treated in Ireland to identify records.

Session 4 - “Irish Estate, Land & Property Records.” Estate, land, and property records are second only to parish registers in identifying generational links and family information for land owners and tenants. This session gives the researcher the tools necessary to examine these invaluable records.

Other break-out sessions during the afternoon will include “Newspaper Researching,” “Dating and Preserving Old Photos,” “Organizing Your Research,” and a tour of the Family History Center. There will be displays for “Deciphering Old Handwriting,” Display Your Family Tree,” Artifacts of By-Gone Eras,” “Cemetery Research,” and “ Virtural World Researching” available for attendees to peruse during the day.

The public is encouraged to attend this special presentation sponsored by the Family History Center and ETGS. It will be free (including lunch) and open to the public. For more information about this program or ETGS go to our web-site: or contact June Everheart, Publicity Director at or (903)877-4501.


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