Every family historian, genealogist and ancestor hunter will have used records provided by volunteers and family history societies. Unfortunately family history societies appear to be declining, and personally I think this has something to do with the aging membership of societies and the growth of resources on the internet … and we’ve all heard the advert about just entering your name…
I hold memberships with West Middlesex Family History Society, and East Surrey Family History Society. I joined these two groups because they are me my “local” groups and I firmly believe we need to support our local societies with our patronage.
There are two other groups I’m a member of, both of which concern surname studies. The first group I joined was The Guild of One-Name Studies and I received lots of help and encouragement. They have a wide membership group and have some great benefits of membership, such as the marriage challenge and their schedule of talks.
The second society I joined was The Surname Society (TSS). It was founded two years ago; with the second AGM and conference being held this past Saturday. The thing that makes The Society different is that it’s all virtual. The monthly meetings are held online, the conference was held online, the AGM was …well you get the idea. Membership is just £5 per year (I spend more than that on cuppas in a day) and the will never be associated hotel or travel costs to participate in events. TSS works for me because it compliments my addiction to tech and scratches that genie itch. The other difference is that a surname study can be registered for a singular region, rather than just being “Worldwide”. As I said earlier, TSS was founded two years ago, and I’ve been a member since it began.
Whilst I was at RootsTech my “enthusiastic” Tweeting was noticed by Kirsty Gray, Chair of TSS (most of my usual rugby based followers probably wished I shut up for two seconds!), who proceeded to ask if I’d be interested in getting involved with tweeting for @surnamesoc. To be honest, it wasn’t a service I’d ever considered offering up, and I was surprised to be asked. Having slept on it I agreed, and whilst it wasn’t a necessary step I also offered to step up to join the Committee.
So here I am, the new Social Networking Coordinator for The Surname Society, all because I stepped out of my comfort zone, went to RootsTech and wouldn’t shut up about it on social media!
If I can do it, then so can you. Even if you just join your local society for a year; do it. Go to a meeting or two, if you’ve got time to spare offer your services. We have to keep societies alive and if we’re a part of them we can help them increase their membership and enter the Internet age. Otherwise all we’ll be left with is shaky trees and no one to offer help, advice and encouragement to a whole new generation of dead people hunters.