Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Why I Belong - 82nd Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy - Breaking Into Society.

Red Hat group at the BCGS Walter Draycott Library, 2009.

The 82nd Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy - Breaking Into Society is already up at the California Genealogical Society and Library Blog.

The questions asked for this Carnival were:

What's your favorite genealogical society?
Do you belong to a society?
Tell us why!

Or if not, why not?

I accidentally missed the deadline, but since I feel this is an important subject, I wanted to add my point of view to the rest.

There’s no doubt about it, my favourite genealogical society is the British Columbia Genealogical Society (BCGS). While it’s not the only genealogical society I belong to, this is certainly the most heartfelt and longest lasting of my genealogical society relationships.

Now - I do live in British Columbia, Canada. I have family history here dating back to 1901 at least and I've always been interested in BC history, but I believe joining a local group or society- no matter your genealogical interests - is very important for genealogists. In fact it's one of the top 5 tips I offer people whether they are beginners or seasoned researchers.

Because of my membership in the BCGS, I've made new friends, I've learned about genealogical resources I might never have heard of otherwise, even when I couldn't attend meetings I had the Society's journal as my genealogical lifeline, and I have access to the BCGS Library - a treasure trove.

The other day I talked at the Finding Your Roots Seminar about the BCGS Walter Draycott Library. In introducing this session, I gave my answers to the question: 'Why should I visit a genealogical society library when there are plenty of libraries around?' Although I was then speaking about only one aspect of the activities of the BCGS, I think the points I made explain why I believe joining a genealogical society is good for genealogists.

1. In a genealogical or family history library, you'll always find that the focus is on research and you'll find that the library, and you, continuously benefit from the expertise and enthusiasm of other members. For example, all BCGS menbers are encouraged to suggest new acquisitions for the Library for their areas of interest and their donations to the Library are welcomed. Our BCGS Special Interest Group facilitors are all on the BCGS Library Acquisitions Committee. This has broadened our outlook and we've been able to to strengthen and develop our worldwide collections, even though our budget isn't always large.

2. You'll find that through co-operative arrangements, societies have been exchanging journals and newsletters, as well as other information and resources, for years or even decades. You'll be able to check indexes and browse through past issues for details on your ancestors. And, remember, 'old' genealogical information really is just as good as 'new'.

3. Genealogical society members are well aware of the value of indexes and lists. These abound in any genealogical library and usually you will find you can easily fit right into an indexing project yourself, like the BCGS BC Book Indexing - so far, 58,000 names indexed there and for the Master Surname Index - over 100,000 entries.

4. Members are eager to share with others and to find those researching in their areas. So in our Library, for instance, you'll find binders and binders of pedigree charts donated by members for use by others, as well as bound copies of members' genealogical research on British Columbia Pioneers. (All indexed, of course.)

You'll also see volunteers reading genealogical and family history journals and newsletters as they're catalogued. We feature their recommendations in 'Gleanings from the BCGS Walter Draycott Library' which is published in our own quarterly journal, The British Columbia Genealogist. And if a member sees something interesting on the Internet, or news of an event coming up, they post that on our Library Bulletin Boards for everyone to read.

5. Membership does bring 'special privileges'. In the case of the BCGS, which has a Library of over 13,000 books, periodicals, microforms, CDs, etc., members may use the Library for free (non-members pay only $5. a day). Only members may borrow circulating materials. For me, as for many researchers, these kind of benefits are a real drawing card.

And, at our Library, there are Special Interest Group meetings and special seminars and workshops. Members are entitled to attend any of the Special Interest Group sessions and receive a discount on most BCGS seminars and events.

BCGS members are eligible to volunteer in the Library too. There's a great variety in the work available, of course, from the duty volunteers who give new visitors tours and check out books, to the cataloguers of new acquisitions and donations, to the indexers of our history book collections who might even work at home. Sometimes we get to participate in special tours and activity days, as several of us did in the Red Hat research day shown above.

By volunteering, I've seen and learned much more about the collections and I've made new genealogy friends as well. Having genealogy buddies nearby is great - they are there to congratulate you when you're successful and to cheer you up and offer tips when you're not so lucky. And usually on a 'duty day', there's time to do and share some work on your own family too.

This, I feel, is one of the major benefits of a genealogical or family history society - the chance to learn about genealogy within a group of like-minded people - who share not only your vocabulary and your acronyms (BMD. GEDCOM, LAC, UEL), but, as well, your enthusiasms and your passion for any and or all things genealogical.

In January 2010, there will be a new carnival devoted exclusively to genealogical (and historical) societies. Keep an eye out for more information at the California Genealogical Society and Library blog.


Kathryn Doyle said...

Thanks so much for joining the carnival. So much of what you say about the BCGS rings true for CGS as well. (We've even had the Red Hat ladies come by for a visit!) I hope the new GenSo carnival (I need to come up with a good name) can be a way for us to share our successes and solve some societal challenges.

M. Diane Rogers said...

For sure there are challenges! But sharing ideas and experiences should be a big help. And, we can have some fun together. I will think on some ideas for the Carnival too - but I know I'm not good at titles. Sorry!