Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Value of Joining Societies

     In our current economic situation I think we are all holding on to every spare dime we can, something I think we should do.   When I was in India, I found myself answering the question again and again about why Americans don't save money.  My answer went something like this, " We don't save we invest, why would you put your money into a bank savings account which will only earn you less then 1% interest, when you can invest and earn more?" By the way, our local account in India paid 8% on savings, so it's easy to see why the Indians didn't understand our attitude.
    When I spend money I also try to make it an investment in my future.   There are so many organizations available to aid in our family history research. I have memberships to several of those organizations.  The Association of Professional Genealogist, The National Genealogical  Society, The New England Historic Genealogical Society and then of course there is Ancestry.com.  Each of these organizations require a fee.    Are they worth the money, do they provide value and have they helped to further my research or my work?
     I have been a member of Ancestry.com for many years.  They have made the retrieval of records on line very easy and quick with good search engines and vast repositories available.  Lately, though instead of records I am finding more indexes to records, and while indexes are good, I prefer to look at the document in question for any clues they might hold for further research. I also worry about Ancestry limiting competition especially with their recent purchase of footnote.com. I would hope the goal of all the organisations is to make records more available not to limit access via membership at exorbitant rates. As Ancestry's rates increase so does my desire to look elsewhere for records.
     A great place to begin is local societies where your ancestors lived.  Depending on the area, they can contain vast amounts of information to aid in your search. They help provide local history books, pictures, yearbooks, newspapers etc. I like to search them out and give support to these local groups in an effort to help them in their work at a local level.  Especially in these rough economic times where many states are cutting funding these local libraries and societies can really use our support.
     Several years ago (OK, about 20 years now but who's counting?) I was beginning research on my husband grandfather, Frank Saylor.  Frank was born in the early 1900's and we were told he was from Paulding County, Ohio. I couldn't find him anywhere, I knew his parents names were Frank and Mary Saylor.  I also knew that he raised his family in the Lansing area in Michigan.  With a great deal of research (because of course, the family knew nothing or at least wasn't willing to share what they knew) we found that he grew up in Elsie, Michigan. The local library in Elsie had a wonderful selection of yearbooks and collections of local family histories.  We were able to obtain yearbook pictures, obituaries and cemetery records that helped us in our quest to know about the family.
    These local organizations are run by volunteers and these volunteers are a great resource in looking for information on your ancestor.  When I was trying to find more information on Mary Saylor, who it turns out was from Paulding county Ohio, I contacted the local society and was able to find Mary Smith Tschannon Saylor's father, John Smith. The local volunteer was able to track down her birth record for me.  May I also add here, she did it free of charge.
     Another great place run by volunteers is findagrave.com, more and more records are being added all the time and you can request pictures of existing headstones which can be very helpful in finding lost relatives (I have found a few that way).  I work as a volunteer taking pictures of headstones that people request in my local cemeteries and posting them on the site as I can.  In a small way, I can help others further their research.
     And although I prefer free, sometimes you do have to spend money.  As stated earlier, I have joined a few organizations and found them to be quite helpful.  The New England Historic Genealogical Society publishes a weekly newsletter that has helped me find wonderful resources on line. . This week's e-mail contained links to several local societies who have a presence on line.  I can't wait to spend time exploring these links and seeing what information they have for me! Here is a link to their newsletter: http://tinyurl.com/3emv6y5
They also offer copies of over 10,000 rare and out of print books that can aid in our research.   This is just one organization that has contributed to my growth as a genealogist.  What are some of your favorites and why are they your favorites?  I hope to explore more of these organizations in future posts now that I am back on line.  Have a great week everyone and good luck in your research! MJ
 

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