Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years Resolutions

Do you make New Years resolutions?
There was a time in my life when I actually wrote out a list of resolutions for the coming year on January 1st. That time is long past.
I've been quite amused this week by the various genealogy blog posts on resolutions. Lorine at Olive Tree Genealogy ( posted her 5 genealogy resolutions from last year and admitted to not accomplishing ANY of them. If I had made any, I'm sure I'd have a similar score.
Michael John Neil ( recommends picking one genealogy task that you might reasonably accomplish, writing it on a post-it note, and sticking it onto your computer. "If it won't fit on a post-it note, it's probably too long!" lists 10 Top Genealogy Resolutions to add to your "to do" list at These are all quite honorable goals, but none is easy. I've probably put "get my genealogy notes and records organized" on every resolution list I've ever made. Has it happened? Of course not!
What are your genealogy resolutions? If you make them, how about adding "get more involved in SGS"? We need people to write articles for our Bulletin, people to make presentations, people to share their brick wall solutions, people to serve as genealogy mentors, people to run for SGS director and officer positions, people to serve on various committees (nominating, elections, program, seminar, editorial). As an all volunteer organization, we depend on our members for EVERYthing that happens at SGS. Please consider helping out more in 2011.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Leaving your legacy

Is it just me or have the rest of you noticed a sudden interest in what happens to our research after we leave this earth? I read two blogs regularly and ran across related articles in both of them today. In Eastman's Online Newsletter today was an article titled "From the In-box: What to do with Collected Data" (, which basically asked for readers' suggestions on how to handle our collected genealogy research materials. It generated a large number of responses. Then on Michael John Neill's was "Cleaning Mother's House" (, a purportedly fictional account of one family's handling of the deceased mother's research. I suspect I'll be having nightmares from that one!
Both articles got me thinking about the role SGS should be playing in helping our members (and others) make their research available to others who might benefit from our research in the future. Right now we have at least 20 to 30 boxes of member's research files stacked in our storage area. Our Library Trustees have recommended creating a Director of Archives position and making part of the library into a genelaogical archive. At the present time, we have neither the space nor the funds needed to do this. Should we be weeding our book collection to make space for an archives area? Should we be madly fundraising so that we could move into a larger space? Which is more important to you--a library or genealogy archives? Please cast your vote at right and leave your comments below. Thank you!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Is DNA Testing for You?

I attended the SGS DNA Special Interest Group this morning for the first time. Actually, that's not strictly true. I was present at one of the group's first meetings, but didn't understand much of what was said. The DNA SIG has developed a new format so that both beginners and more advanced genetic genealogists have a chance to learn. They are now meeting quarterly (rather than every other month), but for a longer time period at each meeting. The first hour is for beginners. Today's first hour covered the basics of what the different tests are, what you can expect to learn from them, and who should use which tests. I think I finally know enough to start working on my uncle to get tested. He's the last male in my mother's line and if I don't get him tested, I've lost my only chance to verify that family line.
The second hour went into more detail on how to learn more about genetic genealogy. Cary Bright and Ida McCormick, the co-presenters, provided a great handout with suggested books and websites. It looks to me like there's plenty of material to keep me busy for many, many hours.
At the end of the meeting, a group member talked about his experience with genetic testing--without going into all the technical details. Because he started testing a number of years ago--before many of today's tests were available--he has had to go back and purchase additional DNA testing multiple times.
Unfortunately, these tests cost money.....and not inconsiderable amounts of money, at that. We can all save a little by ordering through the SGS SIG or through a surname or geographic area group.
For the first time I came away from a DNA discussion thinking that I really need to jump on this bandwagon. With family names like Collins, Campbell, and Sharp, I've still got lots of brick walls that pre-date most US records. Hopefully DNA will provide the answers that my record searching has not.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Genealogy Tip of the Day

Have you discovered Michael John Neill's "Genealogy Tip of the Day" blog yet? It's absolutely free!
Check out:
Michael posts short genealogy tips to his blog at least once a day. If you're on Facebook, you can become a fan of his companion page and the "tips" will show up on your page, too.
To go to Michael's Facebook page, follow this link:!/pages/Rio-IL/Genealogy-Tip-of-the-Day/136180964378
Michael has been a professional genealogist for some time, specializing in research techniques and resources. He also writes a weekly genealogy newsletter called "Casefile Clues" for paying subscribers. These are in-depth analyses of specific records and research questions. You can obtain samples for review from his website at Right now he's running a special--$12.00 for a year of his e-newsletters (a savings of $5 off the regular price).
While I've been doing family history research for a very long time, it never ceases to amaze me what I don't know. Reading Michael's "tips" and "Casefile Clues" has definitely opened my eyes to new avenues of research.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

2010 Best State Websites

Family Tree Magazine has compiled a list of the 75 "best" state websites for genealogy and is kindly making that list--complete with links to take you directly to the sites--available to everyone. What a great way to celebrate Family History Month and Archives Month! Check the list out at:
And, this Family Tree Magazine article reminds us “If you can’t visit your ancestor’s state archives in person, find out whether you can borrow materials or order photocopies through interlibrary loan. Many archives offer research services for a fee, or you can hire a local researcher to do lookups for you.”
Of course, our own state's Digital Archives site is included, as is the Washington Secretary of State's digital newspaper site.
Take some time (when the rains begin) to explore the state sites for places where your families resided. It's pretty amazing how many digital records some of the states have posted.

In other news, I'm thrilled to report that we have over 100 pre-registrations for our Fall Seminar this Saturday. I saw a copy of the syllabus this morning, and it's chock-full of great resources for genealogists at all levels of experience. I'm sure everyone will learn something useful this Saturday. Hope to see you all at the Nordic Museum.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

October is Family History Month!

How are you celebrating Family History Month this year?
How about learning a new genealogy skill or introducing a friend to genealogy?
The SGS Fall Seminar is scheduled for October 23rd this year and is focusing on U.S. migration routes in the 18th and 19th centuries. Most of our ancestors arrived in the U.S. on the east coast [think Castle Garden, Ellis Island, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore....] but didn't necessarily stay there. Future generations tended to travel west. This all day seminar focuses on the routes our ancestors took and how to track their travels. Do you know when and where your ancestors first arrived in the U.S.? Do you know how and when they moved and what routes they took? Is there a gap (or two?) in your family history and you're not sure where to look to fill it? There's a good chance your family followed the same routes as thousands of others in their quest for land or a better living. Come to our Fall Seminar and learn where to find the records you're missing. Registration information and a list of topics and speakers are available on our website at Early registration ends October 15th; after that, the price increases, so please send in your registration now.
Leading up to the Fall Seminar we have two related presentations. On Sunday, October 10th, Karen Sipe, a Seattle area professional genealogist, will be speaking on Passenger Arrival Records. You'll learn where to find them, what they look like, and what information you can gain from them.
On Monday, October 18th, Jean Roth will be speaking and illustrating New York Emigrant Arrivals. She's got some great photos of the immigrant experience at Castle Garden and Ellis Island. Have you been told that your ancestor's name was changed at Ellis Island? Come and learn why that's probably not the case.
On Saturday, October 30th, the SGS Library will be open to non-members for a free day of research. If you've got friends who might be interested in family history, bring them by the SGS Library on the 30th and show them the many and varied resources we have available.
Information on all of these programs and events is available on our website.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

End of an Era?

The SGS Computer Interest Interest Group (CIG) was the first of its kind in the US, formed in January 1981. Due to our inability to find anyone willing to lead (or co-lead) this group, the CIG missed its regular September meeting and is likely to be discontinued. Ironically, a member has volunteered to do the tasks that previous leaders of the group have found the most tedious--scheduling meeting rooms, maintaining the email and attendance lists, and communicating with SGS Publications and Education directors. What we don't have is anyone willing to find and schedule speakers on topics that combine genealogy and computers.
Several members have suggested that this might be a reasonable time to discontinue the CIG. Unlike 25 to 30 years ago, virtually everyone doing genealogy these days uses a computer in their search for those elusive ancestors. And virtually every SGS presentation includes information on websites or other computer-related resources.
Personally, I already miss the learning that occurred on those second Saturdays. While I probably qualify as a computer nerd myself (having worked with computers since 1968), I learned something new almost every month. There are so many new applications coming out every year that there's no way one person can keep up with all of them. Some of my favorite sessions have been the "holiday sharing" and "new toys" sessions, when I got to see all the cool computer toys other CIG members with larger genealogy budgets had acquired. And I really loved that we had a wide range of computer experience in the audience every month.
So...this month's poll question is simple: is it time to permanently disband SGS's computer interest group? Please take the poll in the upper right corner of this page and share your thoughts by using the comment button below or email me directly at

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Last week SGS sent out two mailings--our fall seminar brochure and our Newsletter. The seminar brochure went to all current and former members (back to 2007) and non-members who have attended one or more of our conferences in the last five years. The Newsletter was only mailed to those who either requested a printed copy or paid the optional $6.00 printing/mailing fee. Since both items went out bulk mail last Thursday afternoon, they could be delivered to your mailbox anytime in the next week. An email was sent to our SGS-Members listserv on Friday letting members know that a digital version of the Newsletter is available on our website.
At the same time, we have been moving all members who did not renew for our 2010-2011 membership year (which started June 1st) to "inactive" status and removing them from our SGS-Members listserv. Unfortunately, our listserv adminstrator erroneously sent a message out to the listserv last week that was meant for our Director of Membership. That message seemed to suggest that everyone who received it was being removed from the listserv. That was certainly not the case, but the erroneous message resulted in many outraged emails. People who were removed from the SGS-Members listserv were then added to our SGS-Announce listserv (for non-members to receive seminar announcements). Everyone removed from the SGS-Members listserv received an email from Rootsweb informing them that they had been unsubscribed.
Unfortunately, it seems that our data entry quality control has not been up to snuff lately, and quite a few members who have renewed were not accurately recorded as such in our database. To be fair, the software we use for our membership and mailing database is not the easiest to use. Membership date information has to be entered correctly in three different places, and another check box marked for Newsletter mailings.
Some of our members have sent some pretty snippy emails to us, complaining about our record-keeping. Please remember that EVERYONE at SGS is a volunteer. We are all doing the best we can and sometimes we're not perfect. Our Membership team is working hard to correct our database. Please be nice to them.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Back to School

Ah, summer in Seattle.
Now that the temperatures have dropped 40 degrees, it's time to think about back to school....and school supplies.
Need any supplies for you genealogy research and organizing? Now's the time to buy them. Some of the deals are incredible.
I'm one of those who makes folders for every trip I take. I've seen the 2-pocket folders for as little as 10 cents a piece lately. Sure beats paying 89 cents each.
Notebooks, pens, pencils, paper, paper clips--everything's on sale right now.
Are you putting more of your genealogy records on your computer? You can pick up a pocket-sized back-up drive that holds 500 gigabytes for $50-$60.
Thumb or jump drives--the little backup drives you pop into a USB port--are way down in price. I picked up three 4 GB drives today for $24.
The deals are everywhere. Just check the pull-out ads in Sunday's newspaper.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Outreach at SGS

Last Friday evening SGS held our second Open House this calendar year. We invited anyone to stop by between 5 and 9 PM and learn about SGS. Each hour an "Intro to Genealogy Research" class was taught; we did census look-ups for all participants; we offered library tours; and we held a book sale outside. Unfortunately, we didn't have the turnout we did in March--only 12 people attended the classes this time. But we did have some great conversations and at least one attendee has decided to join SGS.
Jean Roth, Director of Education, gave a talk on Scottish Genealogy at the Highland Games this year. She also taught a class on Irish Genealogy during the Irish Week celebrations back in March. I've given talks on "Getting Started with Your Family History" to a number of groups, and am always looking for more.
Do you have ideas for other ways to "spread the word" about genealogy in general and SGS in particular? Should we develop outreach efforts to retirment communities? groups? Which ones? How do we find them?
Please share your ideas by leaving a comment below or emailing me at

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Summertme at SGS

Once summer finally arrived in Seattle in mid-July, activity at the SGS Library really started heating up.
On July 12th and 17th, we had two great talks by local professional genealogists Evelyn Roehl and Sarah Thorson Little [see previous post].
On July 19th, BYUTV spent most of the day at SGS filming scenes for a future show in their Generations Project series. I've posted a few photos on our new SGS facebook page. You can check out other shows in the series on their website at
On July 21st, our new Director of Library, Mary Alice Sanguinetti, began work on a complete SGS library inventory. THANK YOU to all of the great volunteers who have been helping in this effort. It's great to see so many new faces coming to help out. There's lots more work to do, as after the card file is brought up-to-date, we'll need to update our digital catalogue.
On July 26th, the SGS Board held a 5-hour session, combining our regular Board meeting with a mini "retreat" to get ourselves organized for a great year.
On July 31st and August 1st, Director of Education Jean Roth led a group of SGS volunteers to the Highland Games where SGS sponsored a genealogy booth. THANK YOU to our members who helped staff this booth through the weekend.
This week our library inventory has continued AND we have our second OPEN HOUSE scheduled for this Friday, August 6th, from 5:00 to 9:00 pm. New Director of Volunteers Becky Kaufman has been doing a great job of getting more SGS members involved in helping with SGS events. As Becky says, we've got a wide range of volunteer opportunites available--something for everyone!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Two Great Talks This Week

It's too bad more SGS members can't make it to our many talks and programs. Last week featured presentations by two Seattle area professional genealogists. Both were interesting and informative. About 30 people attended each talk, which is a significant increase over the number of members who used to attend our monthly programs. Hopefully we're offering topics and speakers of greater interest to our members.
On Monday, July 12, Evelyn Roehl spoke on "Genealogy Quirks"--weird things in databases and indexes that genealogists use. Evelyn has been collecting examples of such quirks for many years, as witnessed by the article on the same topic she wrote for the SGS Bulletin back in 2000 (which has been scanned and should be posted shortly on the SGS website). For this presentation, Evelyn had numerous great examples of errors and omissions in databases we all use that could cause unsuspecting genealogists to turn prematurely grey or pull out our hair. Hopefully we all learned that you can't trust an index to be comprehensive and if you don't find someone where you know they should be, check to make sure the database you're searching is accurate and comprehensive.
On Saturday, July 17th, Sarah Thorson Little spoke about her "Whirlwind Research: 50 States in 50 Days." Sarah was hired by Dr. Ellen Fitzpatrick, author of Letters to Jackie, to obtain releases from authors or their descendants of over 200 letters written to Jackie Kennedy in 1963 following the death of her husband, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Sarah shared how she used every scrap of information contained in the letters and the envelopes they were sent in to fulfill her assignment. What was particularly amazing was that Sarah had less than two months to track down all these people, while continuing to hold down a job and deal with various fall holidays. Attendees at this talk learned a lot about carefully reading letters for every clue and making use of helpful librarians and other local resources to find living relatives.
This week we have the DNA Interest Group meeting on Wednesday evening and a special half-day Scottish Genealogy Workshop on Saturday afternoon. Hope to see you at SGS soon.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Is SGS ready for WorldCat?

 I think I've written previously about the proposals submitted to the Board by last year's Library Trustees. One of their many thoughtful recommendations was that SGS should place it's library catalog on WorldCat. Since none of the current Board members know much about the inner workings of WorldCat, we invited Gary Zimmerman, president of the Fiske Library (the second genealogy library to join WorldCat and the first to use WC as its digital catalog), to come and speak to us about the Fiske's experience. Gary was kind enough to accept our invitation and gave a very interesting and informative talk last Wednesday evening, July 7th.
One of the many things I didn't know about WorldCat is that it's operated by OCLC--the folks who coordinate interlibrary loans across the country. You have to join OCLC and pay them a monthly fee to list your holdings on WorldCat. You also have to join FirstSearch, which "seamlessly links your users to thousands of full-text articles, electronic books and journals, digitized special collections and more." What they are selling is "linkages"--to researchers on the internet, to other libraries, to a rich set of resources that support libraries. As a 501(c)3 we can join at a reduced rate of $1100 per year. Some of these costs can be offset by credits generated by listing our library holdings on WorldCat, but it's not clear to me whether or not we could offset the full costs or not. You can also get credits for sending your items out to other libraries via interlibrary loan (ILL), but there are some strict standards that have to be met (like responding within 72 hours to an ILL request; mailing the book on the same date as your "accept" the request; mailing from your library's zip code).
The Fiske has entered about 9000 titles in 3 years into WorldCat and are the envy of many libraries. They've also added bar codes to all of their books so they can track them efficiently. It's not clear how many hours of volunteer time this has required, but it was clear from Gary's talk that generating accurate library call numbers was a continuing challenge--and still is--for them. I can't imagine it would be any different for us.
There are definitely pros and cons to joining WorldCat and I, for one, don't have a clue how they might balance out for SGS. Your thoughts?
Next week our new Director of Library, Mary Alice Sanguinetti, will begin an inventory of our collection. Kudos to her for moving so quickly to get this important effort started.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Ready to roll....

I am happy to report that the SGS Board of Directors is now complete. Our new Nominating Committee, chaired by Bruce Finlayson, submitted names of candidates interested in each of the four open Board positions (two contested, two not) and the Board, after reviewing the candidates' statements and their qualifications, elected the following to serve the remainder of the 2010-11 SGS fiscal year:
     Vice President:  Bonnie Larson
     Treasurer:   Tom Hamilton
     Director of Membership:   Jean Morton
     Director of Volunteers:   Becky Kaufman
Please join me and the rest of the Board in welcoming these new officers/directors and really appreciate the level of interest shown in these positions. We look forward to another active and rewarding year.

The Board also confirmed the appointment of Marilyn Rose, former SGS President, to serve a three-year term as a Library Trustee. She will join Pat Younie and Ida McCormick, continuing Trustees, this year, to continue working on establishing appropriate library policies.

So, what is this now-complete Board working on? Right now, we have the following major projects on our collective plate:
1. Decisions related to the Library Trustees' proposals: So far we've had one working meeting and are trying to schedule more. Since many of the proposals are interrelated, we need to make sure that new library policies are totally consistent. One of the Trustees' proposals--to place the SGS Library catalog on WorldCat--will be addressed in an informational meeting with Gary Zimmerman, President of the Fiske Library (which was the first genealogy library to join WorldCat), on Wednesday, July 7th, at 7 pm at SGS.
2. New policies required by our new Bylaws: We have developed drafts of many of the required policies and now need to review them carefully before voting on approval.
3. New Board Job Descriptions: Our current job descriptions were written in 1999. Duties and responsibilities have changed a lot in 11 years, especially with this year's new Board position. We are working on revising all of the job descriptions and making them consistent and comprehensive.
4. Establish the year's calendar for SGS programs, meetings and events.
5. Establish performance measures for each Board member. Yes, we're all volunteers, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't evaluate our efforts. Setting performance measures will help us gauge how well we're doing at meeting the goals of our positions and the Society.

If you'd like to provide input on any of these projects, please email us. All Board members have generic email addresses, e.g. President =, Secretary = We need to hear from our SGS members to know if we're on the write track, so please email us.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Digital Genealogy

I suspect we all agree that doing genealogy in the 21st century requires some computer and internet knowledge and skill.
Hopefully we all agree that completing a meaningful and interesting family history also requires more than a computer and an internet connection.
The question I've been pondering lately is: What is the optimal balance between "old-fashioned" [ie, libraries, courthouses, family interviews, etc.] and digital research methods?
A corollary to the previous question is: How can SGS provide the best mix of family history research resources for our membership?
If any readers of this blog have suggestions or ideas to share, please click on the "comment" hyperlink below and let's get a conversation going.
Please share your thoughts.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Library Trustees' Proposal

For those of you who didn't make it to last Saturday's SGS Annual Meeting, I thought I'd direct your attention to the Library Trustees' proposals for our library. They prepared a 36 page report to the Board; then developed an 8-page summary for discussion at Saturday's meeting. That summary is available as a PDF file from our home page [ ]
The Trustees (Pat Younie, Ida McCormick, and Betty Ravenholt) have done a tremendous amount of work to develop policies for guiding collection development (acceptance, retention, disposal), creating a comprehensive library inventory and electronic catalog, and reorganizing our library "staff."
If you're interested in the future of the SGS Library, please take a look at the Trustees' proposal and provide your feedback to the SGS Board. I don't anticipate any votes on the specific proposals until the July Board meeting, when we will hopefully have a full Board, so you have another 6 weeks to submit your comments. They can be sent to, or any other Board address [see inside Bulletin front cover].
Speaking of which....if you're interested in serving on the Board as Treasurer, Vice President, Director of Volunteers, or Director of Membership, please contact Bruce Finlayson, chair of the nominating committee, at The committee will be forwarding names to the Board on June 23rd for appointment at our June 28th Board meeting. This is a working Board, and we need people who have open minds, a willingness to work as a team, and a desire to see SGS grow and prosper to keep the Society going. If you have some time and energy, please consider joining the SGS Board.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

SGS Annual Meeting June 5th 1-3 PM

One week from today is the SGS Annual Meeting.
Did you just yawn?
I hope not.
This year's annual meeting will be a bit different than those in the past.
Yes, we'll read the minutes of our last quarterly Member Meeting.
Yes, we'll formally "swear in" the SGS officers and directors for 2010-11.
Yes, we'll thank this year's volunteers.
Hopefully that's where the similarity to previous years' meetings will end.

Although not required until next year, I'll be presenting an Annual Report to the Membership, summarizing the Board's activities during the year. Both as a whole and as individuals, your 2009-10 SGS Board of Directors has done an incredible amount of work. Hopefully you've noticed some of the changes this increased activity level has produced.

Following the Annual Report, our Library Trustees, who have been meeting since October, will present their recommendations for the SGS Library. While the Board will need to approve implementation of any or all of their ideas, we would like to receive feedback from our members before making those decisions. The Trustees have made a host of wide-ranging recommendations which, if implemented, will result in major changes to our Library and procedures used for maintaining it. If all of them are implemented, the SGS Library will be a much different place.

Let's face it. SGS and other genealogy societies are at a crossroads. The majority of genealogical research is being conducted via the internet, not in physical libraries. Genealogists meet in hyperspace more than geographic space to share their information. What does that mean for the future of SGS and our library collection?

Please come hear the Trustees' ideas and share your own.
We want to hear from you.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

SGS Spring Seminar a Rousing Success!

Today's Spring Seminar with Elissa Scalise Powell was a rousing success! About 140 people attended and nobody got wet! Elissa's 4 topics contained something for everyone. She was surprised (as was I) at the range of experience among our attendees--from total newbies to 30+ years of genealogy research. I hope everyone learned something new.
One of the tidbits I picked up was in the very first session called "Hiding Behind Their Skirts: Finding Women's Records." If you're looking for women's diaries or letters about a particular area, search for a local university that has a women's studies department. Chances are, they will have collected at least a few diaries from that area. Now why didn't I think of that?
I also like her idea of searching for "church neighbors"--people who attended the same church but maybe didn't live very close to your family. I've got lots of families back in East Tennessee in the late 1700s/early 1800s and have looked for individual events in the church records. Now I'm going to go back and look at some of the other family names in those records and see if I can find more family connections.
In her "Twenty Years of Stuff--Now What Do I Do?" talk, Elissa suggested creating Home, Working and Resource files. That really sounds like a great (and relatively simple) idea. Maybe I'll try it after I get over the shock of hearing that she doesn't take her laptop into courthouses and libraries. The will codicil example Elissa shared with us is very similar to one that was published in the SGS Bulletin several times back in 2008-09.
Elissa's third topic was "Rubik's Cube Genealogy: A New Twist on Your Old Data." I really like the idea of creating timelines for records for the areas in which I'm researching. The graphics Elissa presented make it clear where you should be looking for records for specific people. I'm embarrassed to learn that Family TreeMaker can generate some of them for me and I've never used that feature. And that Burpee seed planting zone map was a kick!
As a geographer, naturally I liked all the maps Elissa showed in her final talk, "How Did My Pennsylvania Ancestor Get Here? Migration Trails Out of the Keystone State." We saw the Burpee seed planting zone map again, but linking it to European planting zones was fascinating. Several people were interested in the ethnicity maps Elissa showed from the 1990 US Census. FYI, the University of Virginia Library has a historical census browser available online which allows you to create tables or maps from US Census data from 1790 to 1960 for states and counties. Check it out at
I hope everyone else who attended today's seminar learned as much as I did. My apologies for the mess-up on the lunches; it obviously isn't what we expected or thought we'd paid for. I'm looking forward to a relaxing dinner at Marie Callendar's and hope to see many SGS members there.
Thanks to all who attended and to Elissa for four wonderful presentations and to our SGS volunteers who made this happen, especially Jean Roth, Cary Bright, Linda Fitzgerald, Christine Schomaker, Pat Younie, Tom Hamilton, Elizabeth Howie, Rosemary and Jon Lehman, Mary Roddy and Ron Floyd. 

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Are we famous yet?

What a great day for SGS!

Hopefully you've all seen today's Seattle Times feature article on Seattle Genealogical Society's cemetery survey of the Newcastle Cemetery. If not, you can see it at
There's also a video showing scenes from our visit to the cemetery with Linda Fitzgerald, a member of the cemetery survey team, talking about why genealogists gravitate to cemeteries and what was found at Newcastle.
Before 9:00 AM, I already had received emails from three people either providing more information on the cemetery or asking for more information. Obviously people do still read their local newspaper!

It might surprise you to learn how long it has taken this article to make it into print. We first contacted the Seattle Times back in January with the idea of an article on our Newcastle Cemetery work during February, Black history month. We finally arranged a visit to the cemetery with the Times reporter, a photographer, and a videographer on April 14th. The article came out on May 8th. Even the reporter was surprised that it made the front page. I guess we just lucked out on a slow news day!

My apologies to the members of the committee that worked on the Newcastle cemetery project back in 2007-08. The reporter wasn't interested in listing the names of everyone who worked on the project, or in advertising our Spring Seminar and other upcoming events for us. At least she included our website address, so hopefully people will find us.

Speaking of the Spring Seminar, you've only got 6 days to get your registration into SGS. They're due by May 15th. We will be accepting day-of registrations, but they'll be at a higher price [$45 for SGS members; $50 for non-members], you won't be able to purchase lunch, and we can't guarantee having a syllabus for you. Elissa Scalise Powell is a very good speaker, with a lot of useful information to share. I suspect I'll get enough tips just in her first talk ["Hiding Behind Their Skirts: Finding Women in Records"] to make the day worthwhile. That's not to say I'm not looking forward to sessions 2 ["Twenty Years of Stuff-Now What Do I Do?"] and 3 ["Rubik's Cube Genealogy: A New Twist on your Old Data"]. I'm hoping they'll spur me to do something constructive with my 30+ years of "stuff." And though I don't personally have Pennsylvania ancestors who traveled West, I do have ancestors from Ohio and Vermont. Elissa's final session, "How did my Pennsylavania Ancestor Get Here: Migration Trails out of the Keystone State", will undoubtedly give me some new ideas on where to search for more records on them. Well-attended, successful seminars are essential to the financial stability of SGS. Please plan on joining me in this great educational opportunity on May 22nd.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Election Results

The 2010 Elections Committee spent about four hours checking and counting the ballots in our recent election this afternoon. Thank you to the committee--Peggy Kirmeyer (chair), Anna Chavelle, Maureen Crawford, Jackie Lawson and Jan Walker. Thank you, too, to the 40% of our members who took the time and energy to vote. I was hoping for a few more, but we had close to 300 ballots returned, which is not bad given that none of the Board positions had multiple candidates.
I am pleased to report that BOTH the new Bylaws and the Newsletter printing/mailing fee were overwhelmingly approved. I must admit to being somewhat nervous about either issue passing, but both did with huge pluralities. The mailing fee will not be implemented until 2011, but I'm hoping that many members will voluntarily pay the $6 this year if they want to continue receiving printed/mailed Newsletters.
Thank you to all who agreed to run for the 2011 Nominating Committee. I can attest that this is a pretty thankless and time consuming task, having served on it two years ago. I hope that it will get easier as more members like what they see happening at SGS and agree to step forward and participate more fully in running the organization. Next year's Nominating Committee will start work almost immediately, as the new Bylaws include a new Board position, Director of Membership. Please let them know if you'd consider serving either as Director of Membership or as Director of Volunteers or Treasurer, positions for which we did not have candidates on the ballot.
Thanks again to all who voted and welcome new Board members, Kathleen Stamm (Vice President) and Mary Alice Sanguinetti (Director of Library).

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Digital SGS?

I called a meeting of people interested in SGS's digital future on Wednesday evening. It was a pleasant surprise when a dozen people showed up. They represented a wide range of SGS experience--from 40 years' membership to a newbie. 
My assumption going into this meeting was that we'd discuss and prioritize what SGS publications and papers should be digitally scanned and indexed to make them more available. Much to my surprise, the people attending shifted the discussion to our library and the fact that we don't have a complete, comprehensive, searchable, online catalog. At least for those in attendance, it was quite clear that getting an accurate catalog of our holdings is much more important than scanning and digitizing. So...that's our first priority.
A side topic of this discussion was whether or not SGS should place our library holdings on WorldCat. WorldCat is a global network of library content and services that allows users to identify library holdings across the continent. It's not clear what the costs and benefits would be of joining WorldCat, but certainly it would be a lot of work. You can bet this will be a topic of discussion in the coming year.
I hope to be able to schedule a time to start the library inventory soon. The consensus at the meeting was that we should use our existing Procite database as a starting point, since it's already in a digital format. We know it's not complete, but at least it's a starting point. So, first step is to export that database into a format we can import into a spreadsheet or database program. Then we'll develop an inventory form and schedule one or more work parties. If you'd like to participate, please let me know []. If you've got ideas to share, please click on the Comments link below.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

How can SGS benefit from the digital revolution?

Sometimes it seems to me that SGS is missing the boat; the digital revolution has left us behind. Yes, we've had a website for over 10 years, but in my opinion, it really can't compete with those of other genealogy organizations. Many societies have years of digital publications--both newsletters and research/article-rich pubs--available on their websites. Some have iploaded large searchable databases, like area cemetery records or vital records, to their sites. Still others have full library catalogs, searchable family group sheets submittd by their members, and numerous other types of searchable records available on-line. Many genealogical societies limit access to these records to their members only; others let anyone access them.

What should SGS be doing? Should we be scanning and indexing records currently in our possession? Should we offer records to someone else [like Ancestry, Footnote, or FamilySearch] to digitize? What should come first? How should we proceed? Where will we find the volunteers, equipment, and funds to do this? I was digging around in some cabinets at SGS the other day and "discovered" about a dozen notebooks/folders of family group sheets submitted by our members in the 1970s and 1980s. Most have no source information. Are they worth scanning and indexing? Could they help someone break down a "brick wall"?

I've scheduled a meeting for this Wednesday evening, April 14th, from 7 to 9 pm, at SGS for people interested in making SGS more "digital" to share ideas and discuss what we should be doing in this area and how we should be doing it. If you're interested in this topic, please come. If you're interested and can't attend, please email me your interest []. The number of people who show up on Wednesday and/or email me their interest will determine how we proceed.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

It's Election Time

First, a big THANK YOU to all of our members who have already returned their ballots. Second, if any SGS members are reading this and have not received their ballot package yet, please either call the SGS office at 206-522-8658] or email me [] and we'll mail one out to you. They were delivered to the bulk mail facility a week ago [Monday, March 29th], so if you're in the Seattle area, you should have it by this Monday [April 5th].

I have to say that it frustrates me that we don't have multiple candidates for each officer/director position. Heck, we don't have ANY candidates for two positions--Treasurer and Director of Volunteers. Why is this? There are some obvious reasons. Some of our members feel they're too old to serve on the Board. Other members are still working full-time and raising families. Many of our members dedicate their volunteer time to other organizations. What about the rest of you? SGS could sure use your help!

We will be including a volunteer form with your membership renewal form this year. Yes, I know. SGS has done this before and nobody ever called. I've heard that many times and even experienced it myself. But we are no longer the "old" SGS. This Board realizes how much we need more volunteers and the active involvement of as many of our members as possible. I will go out on a limb and guarantee you that IF you fill out this year's volunteer form and provide accurate contact information, you will be contacted by the end of July. If we don't have a Director of Volunteers by then, I'll go through the forms and contact you myself. Granted, it will probably be by email [I'm not a big phone person], but you WILL be contacted.

If you haven't sent in your ballot yet, please take some time to read the proposed Bylaws revisions and think about what is being proposed. It would be great to receive ballots from at least half of our members. Will you help make that happen? Please? Thank you.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Program Planning--Got Ideas?

It's time for us to plan the next 4 to 6 months of SGS educational programs, covering June through October/November/December. Our Director of Education, Jean Roth, and I will be meeting the first week in April to see what we can put together. Right now I'm looking for ideas. It would be really great if we could get a discussion going in the comments section of this blog [just click on "comments" below and post your thoughts].
SGS offers classes [either one-shot or multiple sessions], workshops [one day events, 3 or more hours], and programs [evening/weekend/daytime]. The "Intermediate Research Series" we started in January has been incredibly popular. Topics presented so far are advanced census, naturalization [both by Karen Sipe], searching online databases [Gary Zimmerman], getting the most from your Family History Center [Bob Mullen],  and Dating Old Photographs [Marilyn Rose]. Remaining programs in this series include maps and gazeteers [April 10th] and travel for family history [May 1st]. We've had monthly programs on DNA for Genealogy [Larry Jones] and MS PowerPoint for genealogists [Jeff Otjen]. Our April program meeting will be on the German Annenerbes [April 18th]. And we've held multiple Brick Wall and informal chat sessions. Classes offered this quarter have included all-day beginning genealogy and a two-session beginning computer genealogy. We are co-sponsoring a 5-week class in Swedish genealogy with the Swedish Cultural Center and the Swedish-Finn Historical Society [April 10-May9]. And, of course, our special interest groups--Canadian, computer, german, irish, Pennsylvania, Illinois--have continued to meet and offer educational programs. question to you is: What are we missing? What topics should we try to offer in the coming months? Are there speakers you would particularly like to hear? Would YOU like to give a presentation?
Please leave your comments below for all to see or email me privately at I hope to hear from you!

Monday, March 22, 2010

SGS Open House a Success!

A big THANK YOU to all who helped make the SGS Open House on Sunday a big success!
We had over 50 people visit SGS on Sunday afternoon.
It was quite a lively place, with 4 stations set up to help genealogy "newbies" get started.
38 people attended the "Getting Started" talks and many got help finding their ancestors in the US Census from our look-up volunteers.
Other volunteers helped visitors find information in our library.
And yet another member helped folks fill out Family Group Sheets.
It was great to see such a high level of activity at SGS.
We plan on hosting another open house next September and hope to get more members involved. Please consider sharing an afternoon helping novices get started. It was a lot of fun!
Special thanks to Linda, Chris and Cary for their intensive cleaning effort to clear space in the storeroom and remove the piles of boxes of books and papers from the back work area. It was great having that table available for setting up four look-up stations.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Appreciating where we live

My husband and I just returned from an extended trip to the Arizona desert. We've stayed at this place for varying lengths of time the last three years, but this year I figured I'd take along a genealogy research project or two to work on. I had visions of having at least one project completed and several articles on various ancestors partially completed. None of that occurred, even though we had many wet, cool days that kept us inside.
I guess I'm just spoiled by living in a city with lots of genealogy resources. We have the wonderful library collections at SGS, the Seattle Public Library, and the Fiske Library--all with both books and online genealogy databases available to us, not to mention interlibrary loan services. We have a branch of the National Archives right across the street from our SGS offices. We have numerous Family History Centers. We have high speed internet just about everywhere.
Where we stayed in the Arizona desert was pretty much the opposite in terms of genealogy research capabilities. We stay in a park model trailer in a trailer park near Quartzsite, AZ--in the desert in southwestern Arizona. We were 12 miles from Quartzsite and about 100 miles from any place with a permanent population of 30,000 or more. There is a Family History Center in Quartzsite, but their driveway washed out in a storm the day after we got down there, so the center was closed the entire first week. When I went in to order a couple of films and use their computer in week 2, I learned that (a) the films wouldn't arrive for 3-4 weeks [so don't bother ordering them], (b) their printing microfilm reader was dead and they didn't expect it to be repaired any time soon, and (c) their internet service provider wasn't compatible with the Salt Lake City computers, so there was no access to any of the FHL online databases. The next closest FHC was 65 miles away, definitely too far for running back and forth to use their computers or films.
Yes, there is a library in Quartzsite. Yes, it has some public computers with internet access, but you're limited to 30 minutes on any one day and they have no genealogical databases. They're also only open until 4 pm on weekdays; no weekend hours at all.
Yes, there was wifi service available in the trailer park, and I paid dearly for it. Unfortunately, even though there was a wifi antenna attached to our rental trailer, we couldn't always access it, the speed varied from 24 mbps down to 2 mbps, and the connection mysteriously cut out without notice about every 5 minutes. Not really very compatible with trying to do research!
So...enjoy the genealogical research benefits of living in the Seattle area. Not everyone has easy access to the wealth of resources we do.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Will SGS Benefit from NBC/Ancestry's WDYTYA?

Two days after I wrote my previous post about NBC/Ancestry's "Who Do You Think You Are?", Ancestry started sending emails to genealogical societies about helping them advertise their show....and suggesting ways we could leverage the show to our own benefit.
SGS is hosting an open house after the third edition of the show, on Sunday, March 21st, from 1:00 to 4:00 pm. We're hoping that people who have been watching "WDYTYA?" and thinking about their own family histories will start looking for some help....and will find SGS. We'll be running 30-minute "Getting Started" classes on the hour along with having stations set up to help find ancestors in the US Census, learn about our library, and start filling out family group sheets and pedigree charts. If you'd like to help on Sunday, March 21st, please contact Cary Bright at
If you're not available on the 21st, how about talking up SGS and our Open House to your friends and neighbors, along with suggesting that they watch the TV show on Friday evenings. Except for a few too many close-ups of Sarah Jessica Parker "oohing" and "aahing" and saying "OMG!", I thought the first show was pretty interesting. I can't imagine walking into a local museum or NEHGS and having them hand me the kinds of materials that were handed to SJP, but then again, I'm not a celebrity. Hopefully people will realize that finding the kinds of documents and information that were handed to her takes time and effort. I'll be stopping at the El Dorado County Museum in Placerville, CA next week. Do you think they'll have a letter about one of my Gold Rush relatives for me? Hope springs eternal!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Grant Received!

Sorry for the delay in posting, folks, but I've been awaiting formal notice about our 4Culture (King County's heritage funding organization) proposal. We received it today, and YES! We received an operations sustaining grant for 2010 in the amount of $3500. That's enough to cover one month's rent and utilities plus a mailing or two.
This grant alone won't make SGS suddenly financially flush, but $3500 represents 100 new individual memberships, a significant addition to our bottom line.
This grant proposal was a team effort by several Board members, with review by several long-time active members in SGS. Without this level of support, I'm sure we would not have been successful in this endeavor.
We anticipate applying for a similar grant through the City of Seattle's Civic Partners Program this Spring. If you'd like to help with this process, please let me know []. If you know of any other grant-making organizations to which SGS might apply, please let me know that, too.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

"Who Do You Think You Are?" coming to NBC

I'm sure you've all heard the hype about the new NBC show "Who Do You Think You Are?" NBC has partnered with to develop and market this show, which is modeled after a similar, highly popular show that's been running in Great Britain. The US version will feature the family histories of Lisa Kudrow [who also serves as the show's executive producer], Sarah Jessica Parker, Spike Lee, Matthew Broderick, Susan Sarandon, Emmitt Smith and Brooke Shields. All just regular people, right?
Ancestry has been emailing all of its members, asking them to invite family and friends to watch the program...and sign up for a free trial Ancestry membership, of course. Ancestry writes...

Many of the reasons we partnered with NBC are the same reasons the genealogy community will be interested in the show – because "Who Do You Think You Are?" brings family history to the general public and presents new opportunities for the entire genealogy community. This means:
  • More people may want to join a local genealogical society
  • More people asking for help finding their stories
  • Increased media exposure for the family history community
  • More funding and resources for organizations focused on family history
What is wonderful about the show is that it will help people everywhere understand what they could discover about their own family stories.

Who Do You Think You Are? could very well be the next biggest family history phenomenon since Roots. America will see a renewed interest in family history.

This all sounds well and good, but what I'm not seeing is any support from Ancestry to local genealogical societies to help them leverage the interest in genealogy generated by the program into new members and program participants. Several SGS Board members have been bantering around ideas. What do you think? Anybody got ideas for ways that SGS can benefit from the new-found interest in family history generated by  "Who Do You Think You Are?" If so, please comment below or email me directly at The first show airs March 5th.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

SGS is Growing!

I'm happy to report that January 2010 was probably one of SGS's best months ever in terms of membership growth. Thanks to our 5-month special offer, we added almost 30 members this month. Compare this to the 22 members added in ALL of calendar year 2008 or the 71 added in 2009.
My question to you now is....what can we do to insure that these new members and all of our "old" members renew in May? We've been focusing on new programs and classes. Please check out our February through May offerings and let me know what we're missing. If you have ideas for speakers or topics, please tell me.
We added 5 new members on January 30th at the DNA Genealogy talk given by Larry Jones. Were you there? Did you enjoy it? I certainly learned a lot and was thrilled at the turnout. Several of you expressed interest in forming a Special Interest Group [SIG] on DNA Genealogy, but we haven't reached the 10 interested members needed for the Board to approve the establishment of a new SIG. If you're interested in exploring DNA Genealogy topics, please call SGS [206-522-8658] and have you name added to the list of interested members.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

It's Nominating Time!

This year's Board has spent numerous hours updating SGS policies and procedures and is now diving into recommended revisions to our Bylaws. It seems like most of our time has been taken up with housekeeping duties, and it has. I realize these are necessary activities, since the SGS Policy & Procedure notebook was essentially empty when we took office last June.
We are, hopefully, getting to the end of the policies and procedures work and will have more time for what I hope are much more creative and interesting deliberations--like whether to renew our lease (and if not, where will we go?), how to create new programs (and what programs to develop), how to increase outreach activities and our visibility to the larger community. Our recent planning survey will help us set priorities for the coming year, but it's up to the Board to make the decisions.
We'll have 4 openings on the Board this year--Vice President, Treasurer, Director of Library and Director of Volunteers. Are you ready to step into one of these positions? Or maybe run for one of the others? A sign of a healthy organization is multiple names on the ballot for each position.
There is a list of elective and committee positions posted to the SGS website at Please take a moment to look over the list and see where your skills might be most useful. We're also in need of people to help organize book sales, including ordering new books for sale, and folks to help take an inventory of our holdings later this spring.
If you're interested in an elected position, please contact Karen Thomason, Nominating Committee chair, at If you'd like to volunteer for one of the other committees, please contact our Director of Volunteers, Rosemary Lehman, at And, if you'd consider being on this year's elections committee, please let me know, as I have to come up with 5 people by March 20th [].

Friday, January 22, 2010

No beginners?

I've been sneaking a peak at the planning survey results this week.
The survey doesn't close until this Sunday, January 24th, at 9:00 PM, so you still have time to respond [click on Click Here to take survey to respond]. We're at 144 responses right now. Can we make it to 150? The Board will be reviewing and discussing the results at Monday's meeting, so let us know your thoughts.
Most of the results aren't too surprising--SGS members are predominantly female, over 50, and live in North Seattle/King County. Over half of the respondents consider themselves "intermediate" researchers and computer users.
I hope this means that our new intermediate research skills series of programs will draw in more members. The first session will be tomorrow with well-known local genealogist Karen Sipe presenting on advanced census research. As a long-time NARA volunteer and instructor, Karen has all sorts of great tips for getting the most out of census records. Come by SGS at 1:00 tomorrow and benefit from her experience.
I'm also deeply gratified that many of you took the time to answer the open-ended questions in the survey. We value your thoughts and ideas. Many of you provided thoughtful comments and creative ideas. Thank you so much for taking the time to share these with the Board and Long Range Planning Committee. Suggestions for specific areas--education, publications, library--will be sent to the appropriate director and/or committee.
Several of you who answered the final question--what skills are you willing share--failed to provide your name and contact information. We have no way of knowing who you are if you don't tell us, as the survey contains no identifying information. If you answered that question and don't hear from a member of the SGS Board by mid-February, please email me [] and I'll be sure someone contacts you.
Complete survey results will be published in the next Newsletter, which will be out the end of February. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

SGS Outreach Efforts

One focus I've had since becoming SGS President is getting SGS better known in the community. SGS has sent speakers to other genealogy societies in the area for many years, but now we're trying to broaden our outreach efforts. To that end, this Saturday Cary Bright and I are presenting an all day beginning genealogy class at the Nordic Heritage Museum. In February, SGS will be participating in a panel discussion on genealogy at the Rainier Club. In April and May, I'll be teaching a 5-week class for the Swedish Cultural Center.

What else can we do to get SGS better known in the community and possibly generate a bit of income? It seems to me that retirement homes--ones where the residents are relatively active--might be an ideal focus for outreach activities. But what can/should we offer them? Should we offer classes, library tours, individual assistance, something else? Who would provide these services? Do we need a new kind of membership to accommodate retirement homes and their residents?

How about reaching out to schools? Several members have suggested developing a program in genealogy for school kids. But at what grade level? has developed a new Education page that includes a section of Heritage Education Resources. For the most part, these appear to be history trunks--collections of materials for classroom exercises. Is this something SGS could/should be contributing to? Do we have members with experience in this area? Or should we be offering teacher training opportunities in using genealogy to teach history? What other possibilities are there? Anybody interested?

The response to our planning survey has been quite good so far, with over 110 completed surveys. I'm guessing those who read this blog have already completed the survey, but if not, please follow this link The survey will close on January 24th. Is there any chance we could reach 200 responses?

For those of you who haven't noticed, there's a one-question quick survey to the right of this blog entry. Please share your thoughts on what you'd like to see in our Bulletin.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Publishing your family history

Today's Computer Interest Group [CIG] focused on publishing your family history. Jill Morelli did a fantastic job of describing the process she used to publish a book on 3 generations of her Swedish ancestors, working backwards from her immigrant ancestors. I'm guessing at least half of those in attendance have already checked out to see how it works!
Jill's book is absolutely gorgeous. She designed it for her "cousins" who aren't really into genealogy, so there are no computer-generated family reports, just a couple of pedigree charts at the back of the book. There are lots of photos, maps and descriptions of her ancestors' lives and locations. It's a very professional looking volume--complete with its own ISBN--that I dearly wish was on my family!
For those of us who aren't quite ready to write an entire book, the idea of writing a series of short stories on individual family members or events--as John Phillip Coletta recommended at last Spring's seminar--was mentioned. Speaking on behalf of our Director of Publications, SGS would love to get more member submissions of articles about their ancestors, brick walls that have been surmounted, research techniques that yielded results, descriptions of unusual records, and Pacific Northwest transcribed records. The quality of our Bulletin is directly related to the quality of the submissions SGS receives. Have you got an article in you? Please consider submitting it to

I hope that by now all of you have taken the SGS Long Range Planning Survey. If not, please take a few minutes and answer the questions at:
We'd love to get responses from at least half of all SGS members. Please let us know your thoughts.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Resolutions?

Several people have asked me if I'm going to post some new year's resolutions for SGS. Quite frankly, no. I'm really lousy at writing and keeping resolutions--as illustrated by my totally disorganized genealogy files and office. Resolutions just don't seem to work for me, whether I've got control over what I'm resolving or not.
In the case of SGS, as president I really don't have that much control over what happens. I could resolve to double membership, bring in $100,000--all sorts of things. But I really don't have the power to make them come true.
What I can do is set some goals.
My SGS goals for 2010 are:
1. That SGS become fiscally sound. I pledge to do everything in my power to try to increase revenues and decrease expenses at SGS so that the two will be in balance. Our year-end donation drive has yielded excellent results--over $4000 in donations. For this I thank all of you who sent in money, whether it was $5 or $100. But we need to find ways to generate revenue other than begging our members to send checks. To this end, I have agreed to teach courses for the Swedish Cultural Center and the Nordic Heritage Museum with payment going to SGS. Treasurer Mary Roddy and I submitted a grant application to 4Culture in early December for operating funds. We will submit a similar proposal to the City of Seattle's Civic Partners Program this spring. Should we sell our King County Records data to Publish another book? Establish a genealogy speakers' bureau with payments going to SGS? I'd love to hear your ideas....or just come into SGS and add them to the list on the flip chart in the family histories area.
2. Increase SGS dues-paying membership. I'm not going to put a number on this, but my review of our membership history shows that we've lost half of our dues-paying members (i.e., individual, dual and library memberships that pay annual dues) in the last ten years. At the turn of the century--Jan 2000, that is--we had 1008 dues-paying members; now we have 504. On the positive side, we're only down about 10 members from last year, but our membership has been declining steadily. Most of you probably realize this is "par for the course" for genealogical societies, but we need to do better. Last year, our annual dues covered barely half of the Society's expenses. SGS can't continue this pattern and survive for long.
3. Develop a viable plan for dealing with our library situation that reflects our members' desires. I've written before about our lease expiring in 16 months and my desire for more space and better parking. But what do YOU want? Our Long Range Planning Committee has drafted a survey that members will be asked to complete starting next week. It includes questions about the Library, as well as other SGS programs and activities. Please take a few minutes to let us know what YOU think.
4. Increase member participation in SGS activities. There is a small core group of members who are actively involved in SGS classes, special interest groups, committees, volunteering, etc. What about the rest of you? What activity or event would entice you to become more involved? Is there ANYthing I can do to get you more active? Any ideas would be appreciated.
5. Improve two-way communication with our members. I've tried to increase communication TO you through regular listserv emails, this blog, and the SGS Newsletter [which is now back on schedule]. Unfortunately, I'm not getting much feedback and haven't figured out how to do that. Any ideas? Maybe the new chat sessions [see Jan 14 on the SGS Calendar] will bring some of you in. I sure hope so!
[Added on January 2nd] 6. Replace the SGS website with one that is more up-to-date, easily navigable, allows posting of members-only items [such as our King County Court Records Index], provides for online payment of dues and fees, and encourages member and non-member interactions. This is not to say that there is anything "wrong" with our current website. It is just outdated and sits on an ancestry-owned survey, which makes me nervous about posting data.
As always, I am open to any and all suggestions for improving SGS. Please share your thoughts by clicking on the "comments" word below, emailing be directly at sgspresident [at] or just answering our upcoming survey. If I'm still writing this blog next January 1st, I'll let you know how we did on these goals.