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.