Sunday, September 27, 2009

Planning Meeting Musings

Thank you to the 20 or so people who showed up for yesterday's quarterly meeting. The meeting started with our Washington State Genealogical Society district rep, Bonnie MacDonald, presenting a volunteer award to Marilynn VanHise for her 9 years of work coordinating the King County Records Project. It was also announced that SGS has received written permission to publish this index however we please. Any ideas for how we can benefit financially from this project would be most appreciated.

After the usual "business" [minutes, treasurer's report, president's report], we reviewed the long range planning priorities generated at the quarterly meeting held last March. We also discussed SGS's financial situation--basically that over 80% of all funds generated by SGS go to support the library.

After some discussion, we broke into 3 groups for goal-setting.
The Programs/Education group came up with a long list of suggestions, from program topic and class ideas to suggestions for when and how to offer them.
The Membership/Volunteers group recommended that SGS take PayPal &/or credit cards for dues, move to digital newsletters and increased use of email notices [no more often than every 10 days to 2 weeks].
The Library group set more specific goals:
  • search for a new home for SGS--a good location with parking
  • strengthen relationships with other organizations; possibly combine with another historical or genealogical group for a new home
  • develop the uniqueness of the SGS library--identify our collection's strengths and advertise them.
These are all great ideas, and all need more member input. Since our lease is up in 18 months, it's time to seriously consider relocation. If you know of any potential space--3000 square feet or more that can bear our library's weight, is inexpensive, well located and has good parking--please talk to a Board member.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fall Semianr Oct. 17th

SGS hosts two seminars per year--one in the Fall and one in Spring. They generate a goodly chunk of our operating budget. Unfortunately, this year's Fall Seminar doesn't seem to be generating the interest we'd like--and need. What we need to know is--why are we not getting our usual number of registrations? Is it the topic--Oral History? Is it the timing--Saturday, Oct. 17th? Is it that we sent out the registration forms too early--ca. August 1st?
As with every aspect of SGS, the Seminar Committee is made up of volunteers. It's one of many SGS committees that could use some new participants. All of its current members are now either on the Board or doing other time-consuming jobs [like coordinating desk volunteers]. Would you like to help? If so, please call the office or email Karl [k.kumm [@]].
If a seminar on oral history is a dud, what topics would draw more interest? If you've got ideas, please email me or come to the next Seminar Committee meeting. If you lost your brochure and need information, check out

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Where are we going?

The SGS Fall Membership meeting is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 26th [see details at right]. Will you be there?
SGS is struggling.
Our membership has been steadily declining.
We don't have enough desk volunteers to staff our library during posted open hours.
Our revenues are not covering our expenses.
What can/should we do?
Who will do it?
We started a long-range planning process in March with brainstorming. This exercise generated a list of priorities for SGS. Come hear how SGS is approaching these priorities and give us your input on how to move SGS forward. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Searching for Volunteers

SGS has over 600 individual and dual members. So why is it that the work of running the Society and keeping the library running are left to so few members? Many of the jobs we most desperately need new volunteers for--like being a library desk volunteer, serving on the seminar committee, or helping with publications--do not require huge commitments of time. Desk volunteers can sign up for just one shift a month (5 hours). The seminar committee usually meets once a month for two hours; members spend a couple more hours performing their assigned duties. Our Newsletter is published quarterly and our Bulletin twice a year; not an onerous schedule by any means! Many hands make light work for all of us. What can you do to help keep SGS running?
For those who'd like to know more about becoming a desk volunteer, please sign up for one of the training sessions--Monday, Sept. 28th from 10 AM to 3 PM or Saturday, Oct. 3rd from 10 AM to 3 PM. Just let Pat Younie know you're interested by emailing SGSVolunteers [@]
BTW, a big THANK YOU to Annette Dwyer for the new banner. Quite spiffy, isn't it?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

SGS's Computer Interest Group

Oh, how I've missed our Computer Interest Group [CIG] meetings these last several months! Somehow I've managed to be out of town the second Saturday since May. I didn't realize how much I missed the CIG meetings until attending today's session. It was great!

Today's topic was Family Tree Maker 2009, with new member Jeff Otjen as presenter. Jeff did a really great job of demonstrating many of FTM's features. I've been an FTM user for many years--since it's inception, actually--and have been one of those reluctant upgraders. I'm so used to the "old" format [i.e., FTM 16 and earlier] that I've really had a hard time adjusting to FTM 2008/2009. After seeing Jeff's demonstration of the integrating features and mapping capabilities of FTM 2009, I'm ready to give it another try.

Speaking of special interest groups.....SGS is down to just a very few active ones. According to our last Bulletin, our only active special interest groups [SIGs] are Canadian, Computer, German, Irish, and Mac [as in Macintosh computers]. Is it time to resurrect some of our "lost" SIGs? Our Bylaws allow for creating a SIG if we have 10 interested members. What topics are of most interest? How about a SIG on research techniques, writing your family stories, or Scandinavian research? Other suggestions? Please leave your comments below or email them to me at sgspresident[@]  [remove brackets for correct address.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Reflections on FGS

I've been back in Seattle since late Saturday, so now it's time to reflect on last week's FGS meetings and what, if anything, my attendance means for the Society. On the plane to Little Rock, I made a list of SGS issues I hoped to get help on at the meetings. These included reversing our declining membership, getting more members involved in Society activities, how to generate revenue from our library, how to keep our board meetings moving [and under 2 hours?], and how to move SGS into the digital age without offending our non-digital members.
I had high hopes that I'd gather a lot of great ideas from other Society movers and shakers. This didn't happen, even though I spent the entire first day in "Society Management" sessions [the only day such sessions were offered]. There just weren't any opportunities to sit down and chat with experienced Society officers. I did meet a great bunch of gals from Dallas [we stayed at the same hotel], but their society has the same problems SGS does, and they haven't found solutions to them either. And I met lots of people from genealogical societies located in small towns. Unfortunately, what works in small towns is not very likely to work in it?
This is not to say attending the FGS meetings was a waste of time. I heard a number of great speakers, learned a few new genealogy research tricks, talked to a number of vendors [which will hopefully yield a few more raffle prizes for October!] and got our Washington Donation Land Claims book scanned for free.
If you've got ideas to help SGS with the issues listed above, please send me your thoughts.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

FGS Days 4 & 5

Here I sit in the Little Rock airport, trying to catch up on my posts. It's so nice of them to provide free wi-fi for those of us with laptops!

Day 4 [Friday] I attended talks by George Schweitzer [again! as entertaining and informative as earlier], J. Mark Lowe, Elissa Powell [our Spring Seminar speaker], and Thomas W. Jones. All were truly excellent. If we ever decide to focus a seminar on Tennessee and/or North Carolina, I would definitely recommend Mark Lowe as a speaker. He had a wealth of information on researching in those states and presented it very well. Tom Jones definitely caters to the "more advanced" genealogists. The lady in front of me had attended this same talk a year ago and was hoping to understand at least half of it THIS time. Not a good sign. I did enjoy the talk, but doubt most of our members would.

This morning I attended talks by Elizabeth Shown Mills ["The Identify Crisis"], Paula Stuart-Warren [on school records], and Barbara Vines Little before heading to the airport. The first two were excellent. I'm sure Barbara knows her stuff [Virginia research], but her slides were not great and she had to keep backtracking, which drove a few of us batty. Elizabeth and Paula were both fantastic and I'd recommend either one of them for future seminars.

Personally, I've had enough heat and humidity for this year and am definitely ready to head home to Seattle, where I understand the weather is finally starting to act "normal." Now why I have to fly to Atlanta to get to Seattle is beyond me.....

Please let me know your thoughts, either by emailing me [SGSPresident [at]] or clicking on the "Comments" link below.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Day 3 in Little Rock

The Exhibit Hall opened this morning. What a treasure trove of goodies! I tried to make a quick circuit of the exhibits between 9:30 [when it opened] and 11:00 [first session after the keynote], but only hit about half of the exhibits. All of the big genealogy companies are here--Ancestry, FamilySearch, Footnote, NEHGS, NARA, World Vital Records. I hit up a few of them for possible donations for our fall seminar raffle. Hope they come through!

After studying the FGS Conference schedule last night, I decided that I should focus on listening to presentations by potential future speakers for our SGS seminars today and tomorrow. I started with a presentation by George Schweitzer on "US Migration Routes and Settlement Patterns, 1607-1890." Ol' George is as entertaining and informative as ever, dressed in his frontier garb. Also heard "Tracing Scots-Irish Ancestors" by Dean J. Hunter [informative but very dry] and "Genealogical Applications of Historic GIS" [great slides; very informative; but very academic delivery]. Last presentation of the day [5-6 pm] was by Curt Witcher, a librarian with the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, IN and member of the FGS Board of Directors, on "Future Possibilities with Digital Libraries." Curt's presentation style and content were fantastic, but pretty depressing from the standpoint of generating revenue from our SGS Library. Literally hundreds of thousands of books and manuscripts are being posted to free websites around the world. If you haven't already visited them, check out a few of the sites he mentioned:
Allen Co. Public Library has already contributed over 7000 titles from their collection to Open Library.

Ancestry is offering free scanning today and tomorrow, so I lined up this morning to get a 15-minute time slot. By 2:45, when my time came for scanning, they were running 30 minutes behind. I was going to have them scan a few pages of our 1980 SGS publication of the Washington Donation Land Claims, to see if we might publish a digital edition. The scanning staff offered to scan the ENTIRE book for me if they could do it overnight. Needless to say, I accepted their offer. I should receive a USB drive with all 250+ pages on it tomorrow morning. Such a deal....for free!

I've now been "adopted" by the contingent from the Dallas Genealogical Society. We're all staying at the same inexpensive hotel about 1.5 miles from the conference center and they took pity on me being "all by myself." I was shocked to learn that they draw fewer than 100 to their annual seminars...and that they almost always lose money. Guess we must be doing something right in Seattle!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Day 2 in Little Rock, Ark.

The FGS Conference started in earnest this morning with "Delegates 101." It appears that SGS has been missing most, if not all, of the benefits of membership in the Federation of Genealogical Societies. They sponsor a number of free programs to support member societies, including bylaws review, advertising for seminars, and conference/seminar planning guides.

The second session I attended was a presentation on cemeteries by Elissa Scalise Powell, our invited speaker for the SGS Spring Seminar 2010. I'm happy to report that Elissa is quite entertaining and has a wealth of information--and some great slides. Everyone will learn something from her, I'm sure.

The other 4 sessions I attended today were: "Program, Program, Git Your Program", "How to Control the Debate Dialogue in a Meeting", "Conducting Your Society Business in a Virtual World", and "Using Your Society's Webs Site (to attract new members)." All were uniformly informative and I've got 6 pages of handwritten notes to prove it! I'll be happy to share my notes and the syllabuses (syllabi?) for these talks to anyone who's interested.

I also attended the FGS Delegates Luncheon and an evening presentation by During the "sharing" period at the luncheon I mentioned our completed King County Records Project. The round of applause and shocked expression of the moderator when I stated the number of records indexed [over 1,560,000] were quite gratifying. More kudos to Marilynn Van Hise and her team.
The next three days offer numerous research topics, so I expect to come home well educated.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Day One in Little Rock, Arkansas

I'm happy to report that all's well in beautiful downtown Little Rock.
The actual FGS conference starts tomorrow. I got here a day early so I could spend some quality time in the Arkansas Archives. Didn't find much, but it's always great to be researching.
I'm staying at a less expensive hotel about a mile from the conference site. Went down to my free breakfast and noticed a woman in a t-shirt that said something about genealogists. Is that something SGS should sell--genealogy t-shirts? Would anybody buy them?
Spent about 7 hours [straight through] at the Archives and headed to the convention center to check in. Unfortunately, the capitol complex is a good two miles from downtown, and buses are few and far between, so I ended up walking it. Luckily, temps and humidity are mild for Little Rock [both in low 80s], so it wasn't too bad.
Had to get checked in so I could hit the free ice cream social. Got there just in time to grab the last ice cream cup--mostly melted, but still edible. Turned around and who was there? None other than our own Jean Morton. I knew she was coming to the conference, as she has in-laws here, but certainly didn't expect to run into her so soon! Does anyone know if any othe Seattlites are attending FGS? If so, please let me know so I can look for them. [sgspresident [at]]
The opening session for Society Delegates starts at 8:00 tomorrow, so I will be up considerably earlier than usual. Hope I learn something useful about FGS and what they have to offer societies like our's. I'll be attending sessions on marketing, programs, controlling debate in meetings, and digital societies tomorrow. Wish me luck!