Thursday, October 29, 2009

SGS Committees

It seems like half of my time these first 5 months in office has been spent trying to find people to serve on various SGS committees. Maybe when the Society had 2000 members all of these committees were fully staffed, but now that we're down below 600, it's a bit more difficult, especially since we're also trying to keep the library open 30 hours a week, which means a minimum of 6 shifts per week [preferably 7, so there are two people for the evening hours[.
We now have active participants on the Library Trustees, Retention/Disposal, Editorial Board & Publications Committee [need more help], Long Range Planning, Audit, Seminar [need some new people], and Computer committees. We have not appointed anyone to the Security and Program committees yet; the Elections Committee is not appointed until March--but we'll need people for that. I would love to have a group of people willing to make presentations on behalf of SGS--a speakers' bureau--as we get requests for presentations fairly often. Wouldn't it be great to be able to introduce people in retirement homes to genealogy by bringing an introductory class to them?
Most of these committees don't meet very often and have pretty limited duties. They're a good way to "ease into" becoming more active in the Society.
If you're interested in becoming more involved in any of these activities, please email Director of Volunteers, Rosemary Lehman, and She'll find a place for you.

Monday, October 26, 2009

How do you organize your genealogy research?

Maybe the Board was just a little slap-happy after our almost 3-hour meeting today, but we decided to make this month's blog poll on how we organize our genealogy notes. We're most curious to see your answers...and read what you have to say about this topic.
Karen Sipe and I had hoped to spend some significant time talking about organization in the Beginning Genealogy class we taught during the Fall Seminar. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and barely gave the topic lip service. For this I apologize. We had hoped to talk about organizing files or notebooks by surnames, locations, time....there are as many ways to organize family history research as there are researchers, I suspect.
Personally, I've tried color-coded files, surname notebooks, and boxes by family line [with separate file folders inside], but somehow I always get too busy to file and end up with piles...and piles....and piles. If I'm lucky, I can figure out where a particular piece of paper I'm looking for is by how deep it is in the pile, but that hasn't been happening much lately. It's obviously time to get organized...again.
I'm thinking I might just wait until I hear what Elissa Powell, our Spring Seminar speaker, has to say on the subject. One of her four presentations will be "Twenty Years of Stuff. Now What Do I Do?" I'm hoping she's got some simple solution for my piles!
Please share your thoughts by taking the poll [column to right] and/or sharing your comments [click on green word "comments" below].

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Funerals and Missed Opportunities

I attended a funeral for a lady I'd never met the other day. It's not that I didn't try to meet her. But I never managed to convince her to talk to me. Her father was a step-brother to my great-grandmother, so we were two generations removed from each other. And I really, REALLY wanted to talk to her about my great-great-grandfather--the person I've spent 20+ years researching. Sadly, she was probably the last person alive who might have known R. H. Collins. If I could just have talked to her.
This past weekend's SGS conference focused on Oral History. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to ask this lady questions. And since I was busy teaching during the seminar, I didn't get to attend any of the sessions that would have made me a better interviewer/listener. Maybe next time.
The SGS Seminar Committee had a de-briefing session this evening. The speaker evaluations were overwhelmingly positive, with several speakers receiving the maximum possible scores. It's a shame more people didn't come to hear them. Hopefully those that did attend won't let their relatives become missed opportunities like I did. The lady I never met sounded like a really interesting and wonderful person.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

SGS Fall Seminar a Success!

Thank you to everyone who participated in the SGS Fall Seminar yesterday.
Attendance was a bit lower than last year's event, but those who attended gave the sessions rave reviews. Of special note was our keynote speaker, John Hughes, who was called "a wonderful speaker" and "totally fascinating!" and Cary Lynn Bright, who presented 30+ ways to Bring Your Family History to Life in Your Home.
The members of the Seminar Committee [Karl Kumm, Jean Roth, Pat Younie, Cary Bright, Linda Fitzgerald, Christine Schomaker, Mary Roddy, Tom Hamilton, Jean Morton, Jan McNair] deserve special thanks for their hard work pulling together such a well-run event. Set-up helpers Mollie Fitzsimmons, Sharyl Swope and Bruce Finlayson and clean-up helpers Cindy Stevens, and James Ryan were especially appreciated. A few more strong helpers at the end of the day would have been nice....
A big issue facing SGS now is finding a place for future seminars. The Sand Point Education Center, where we've held our last three seminars, has reverted to the Seattle School District and is on their list of schools to be re-opened next year. While there are many venues available for single-speaker events, locations for multiple simultaneous sessions are considerably rarer. If you know of any appropriate places for future SGS seminars, please tell us. Appropriate locations need to be wheelchair accessible, near a Metro bus line, have ample parking, and be reasonably priced. Contact us via the "comments" option below, by calling SGS [206-522-8658], or by emailing or
Thanks again to all who helped produce another great event!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

SGS Programs

"Program, Program. Git Yer Program" was the title of one of the FGS presentations I attended last month. According to that speaker--and several people who have responded to this blog--programs are the key to building a genealogy society's membership.
Taking that advice to heart, Director of Education Jean Roth and I have been working hard to put together several new educational programs for the coming months.
I'm sure you're all aware of our two big seminars each year. They are a major source of revenue for the Society and a way for us to reach out to family history researchers in the Puget Sound area who may not be SGS members, as well as providing learning opportunities for our own members. Revitalizing these seminars has been a major effort the last two years.
Now we're turning our focus to educational programming for our members.
What kinds of programs does SGS offer?
First, regular monthly [more or less] speakers on a variety of topics. We've added a November program and have three NEW presenters/presentations scheduled for Jan-Mar 2010.
Second, instructional classes. We'll be offering another beginning genealogy workshop, a two-part beginning computer genealogy class, and a new intermediate genealogy research series in early 2010.
Third, special interest groups. Our computer, Mac, Canada, German and Irish interest groups continue to run their own monthly programs. Several state focus groups--Illinois, Pennsylvania, New England [yes, I know that's not a state, but they morphed into a region]--continue to meet and offer interesting area-specific programs. We have plans to better support these groups in the coming months.
So, what are these exciting new programs? Sorry, can't tell you. They'll be announced at the Fall Seminar this Saturday and in our upcoming Newsletter. If, after checking out our new offerings, you don't see what you'd like, please let us know. And if you'd like to help plan future events, we'd be happy to have your assistance.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

HQRL's Seminar with Dan Lynch

Along with about 150 other area genealogists, I spent today in Tacoma listening to Dan Lynch, author of Google Your Family Tree. I have to admit, my main reason for going to this all-day workshop was to try to drum up some more registrations for our seminar next weekend. After all, I've been doing genealogy for 30 years, working with computers for 40 years, and using Google for 10 years. What was I going to learn about using Google for family history research?
Answer: A LOT!
Dan is an excellent presenter. He's well organized, repeats the things he really wants you to remember, uses technology well, incorporates humor into his presentation, easily adapts to interruptions [like announcements over a loudspeaker], and makes time for anyone and everyone who wants to ask questions.
So...what did I learn? Without giving you too many free tips, let me just use keywords and symbols: "~" "translate this page" "+" Google Alerts "~vintage" "Language Tools" 
Sorry, you'll have to buy Dan's book or attend one of his seminars to get the details.
The other thing I learned is that there is always something new I can learn by listening to other genealogists, even if the presentation is on a topic I think I'm pretty well informed about. We each have different approaches to using the tools that are available to us. You never know when that one new "tidbit" might open the door for your family research. 

One suggestion Dan made is that family historians should post some of their information and photos online so that other researchers can find you. In answer to a question about WHERE and HOW to post family photos, he suggested that local genealogical societies create a photo sharing page on their website. What do you think of this idea? Please respond by clicking on the green comments button below. Also please take this month's one-question survey in the righthand column.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Visit to another genealogy library

I just returned from a week's trip to Missouri to visit with relatives on my mother's side of the family. My husband and I try to do this at least once a year, as I like to get back there to do genealogical research and he enjoys the small town environment. This time there were 5 of us first cousins and my uncle, who is now 84 [going on 60].
Since we were only there for a week I tried to be on my best behavior and not run off to do my research. However, before leaving Seattle I discovered that a relative had donated a box of photos to the genealogical society in an adjacent county. Needless to say, I wanted to take a look at them. Since my cousins were also interested, we scheduled a little field trip.
This genealogy library is only open 12 hours a week--Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10 AM to 2 PM. It's located in a former Carnegie Library that the Society managed to purchase for $90,000 [raised in 12 months] in 2002 in a community of about 10,000 people. Counting the floor space on both the first and second floors, I doubt they have as much space as the SGS Library and they certainly don't have the number of books, periodicals, CDs, and other research materials we have.
What they DO have that was impressive to me is an ACTIVE archival preservation and indexing program. The box of photos I found listed online had been carefully indexed and organized into a single archival box with photos separated by archival tissue paper, grouped by subject and placed in archival file folders. The entire second floor of the building housed shelves of ORIGINAL county records [what you'd expect to find in a county clerk's or recorder's office] and project work areas. This group is currently preserving and indexing all of the county's circuit court records from 1900 until 1980 [the State of Missouri is doing the same for all court records before 1900]. The record preservation process and care taken by these volunteers is impressive and the resultant indexes will be invaluable for researchers in this area.
My questions to readers of this blog:
   - Should SGS be doing similar record preservation projects?
   - Could SGS generate enough money to purchase our own building?
   - Is that a worthwhile goal?
Please let me know your thoughts by clicking on the green COMMENT button below or emailing me directly at SGSPresident [@]
Thank you.