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Internet: Curse or Charm?

The Internet has changed the way genealogists perform research; therefore, the way that societies operate must also change if they hope to stay viable for the technologically savvy modern day genealogist. Although most societies view the Internet as a curse, resulting in shrinking membership and lack of attendance at regular meetings, is it truly? Or, is the internet a powerful tool with the ability to provide societies with cutting edge offerings available to a much larger, more geographically diverse membership?

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Type: Article
Resource: GenWeekly
Prepared by: Christine Sweet-Hart
Word Count: 577 (approx.)
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The Internet has changed the way genealogists perform research; therefore, the way that societies operate must also change if they hope to stay viable for the technologically savvy modern day genealogist. Although most societies view the Internet as a curse, resulting in shrinking membership, and lack of attendance at regular meetings, is it truly? Or, is the internet a powerful tool with the ability to provide societies with cutting edge offerings available to a much larger, more geographically diverse membership? With all the technological advances available on-line, it's time for societies to harness the true power of technology from the Internet. Many beneficial technological advances are available to societies at little or no cost.

Shrinking membership can be the result of many factors. How easily can potential members find out about your organization? Internet and e-mail lists are often hotbeds of activity where many researchers from a wide geographical area and common area of interest meet virtually to discuss areas of interest, obtain information, and swap resources. By sending periodic updates about your society's events and projects to high profile on-line genealogical newsletters such as Dick Eastman's (www.eogn.com), GenealogyBlog (www.genealogyblog.com), Brigham Young University (cfhgoff@ad.byu.edu), National Genealogical Society (www.ngsgenealogy.org), or Everton's Genealogical Helper (www.everton.com), you will be able to reach a large audience of genealogists. Posting information about your upcoming events on topical email lists on www.rootsweb.com could also help generate awareness and membership for your society.

Boosting attendance at society meetings may be a simple as varying meeting times and locations. Often societies meet at inconvenient times for working members and those that live a distance from the meeting site. Inclement weather and other commitments that members have at meeting times are also issues. At www.freeteleconference.com your organization can schedule free teleconferences for the price of a long-distance call. By varying meeting times such as having a lunchtime teleconference featuring a local speaker, or holding your meeting on a weekday evening via teleconference and e-mailing agendas and attachments beforehand, your society can increase its membership participation. You can record the teleconferences and sell the CDs with handouts as part of your society's offering, available at no or minimal charge to members.

Do you have a presence on the Internet in the form of a web site or blog? Web sites and blogs are a great, low-cost advertising for your society and a way for potential members to learn about you at their convenience. Web sites can be had for a little as $7.50 a month to host and a reasonable fee to reserve the domain name. Set up is very simple and requires no programming knowledge. Blogs are free at www.blogger.com and are very easy to set up and maintain. Both are a great way to keep in contact with your current membership and attract new ones.

The Internet continues to grow and change, giving savvy researchers more and more information at their fingertips. Although many societies perceive this as a curse, in reality it is a charm. In addition to providing convenient research for genealogists, the power of the Internet when harnessed appropriately can also provide a wealth of tools for genealogical societies to augment their offerings. By providing members more options for and flexibility in participation, the list of possible members for your society will increase. Make it easy for potential members from anywhere in the world to find you, offer them a package of valuable resources for their membership dollars, and watch your membership grow.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2006.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

*Effective May 2010, GenWeekly articles that are more than five years old no longer require a subscription for full access.

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