Genealogical Societies in the Time of the Pandemic: Part 2

Screen Shot 2020-04-19 at 9.40.23 PM.pngIn response to the previous blog post, a reader asked me to elaborate on what programs Seattle Genealogical Society (SGS) started that didn’t work so well. Hmmmm. Let me give that a try.

You need to know I am my worst enemy….if there is a volunteer who is passionate about the idea, I will try just about anything. In fact, I frequently get ahead of the Board  with my own ideas, much to their chagrin. When the idea is finally vetted by others, I see the error of my ways and the concept is modified or dropped. I don’t view this as “personal.” Some ideas are ahead of their time and others may be late, but get launched eventually. Some do not have the right personnel engaged or circumstances made execution challenging. I would rather try something and have it not be successful (“fail” is too harsh a word), then to not have tried it at all

What I am trying to say is that none of the concepts noted below were “failures.”

CDG class free registration: I wanted to get the name of the Certification Discussion Group (CDG) in front of the ProGen alumni group at Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) in January 2020. I made a certificate and sent it to the organizer and then realized I had not asked the Board for approval. After much discussion in the February meeting (SLIG is in January.), the Board agreed to the reimbursement, but asked that I bring it to the Board in advance next time.
Concept: Obtain approval prior to proceeding and certainly with financial commitments.

Online classes: I personally think that we ought to have a full array of online classes for all types of genealogical researchers–beginning to advanced. In an effort to do so I solicited two different individuals to see if they were interested in teaching online. Both initially accepted. Teacher #1 and I put together a proposal for the Board, before I engaged the Education Director (very bad form on my part). There were legitimate reservations and concerns. SGS proceeded with one, but the other declined based on some reasonable stipulations of the Board.
Concept: Engage the proper genealogical society director before you go rattling off with some new idea.

Beginning online classes (we will not call them “beginning” ever again): We tried two online classes early on that are no longer given. I think the instructors had other commitments and we were inexperienced in how to ensure their success. With very little advertising we launched two–both had enough students the first time, but one failed to pull in enough students the second.  The instructor of the other course had family issues and could not continue.
Concept: You need to identify all the team members who will need to participate to make it a success. If they are max’ed out, effectiveness is hampered. It takes a team. This includes the Board, the registrar, publicity etc.

Under its own weight: We wanted a new website starting 6 years ago or more. What we had was so difficult to modify, it drove volunteers away. We fussed with using various platforms for YEARS, but it never got off the ground. We finally went very simple, no bells and whistles. In one year, we had a new website.
Concept: Sometimes rather than doing the tippy-top best–simplest is better.

External Funding: We apply for, and regularly receive, money from the County for operations. While it is relatively small, it is a big help. The past couple of years the County has bolstered their request for Seattle GS to give evidence of reaching out to diverse ethnic groups. SGS has a tendency to be white, older and middle class and above.
Concept: We have not internalized the advantage to SGS when we reach out to diverse groups. We need to do that. To date, we only know of one instance where our desire to be more responsive to diverse audiences has resulted in a less than enthusiastic response. We are trying again. We need to keep this on the forefront of our thinking and conceptualization for our audience.

External circumstances: We applied for and received a program grant to run a Japanese Genealogical Seminar (Seattle is 17% Japanese ethnicity.) I was the lead. I really wanted to come out of the seminar with a useful booklet of how to do Japanese Genealogy in Seattle. I got sick and had to depend on others to pull off the seminar which they did with great success, but the booklet never got put together.
Concept: Sometimes pieces have to be compromised for external circumstances. This idea sits there waiting for a focused person to develop and publish it.

Thinking something through to the end: In 2015, SGS put their documents in the cloud. This was and is terrific. What we didn’t think about was the next “layer” and the next. What did the filing system look like? What were the divisions?  Just because a Director “touches” a document, doesn’t mean it should reside in their folder! Should the Directors have folders at all–or should they be topical? How should documents be labeled?
Concept: We were so excited to get some of 98 YEARS of accumulated paperwork out of our space and get it cleaned up, just a little extra thought would have perhaps alleviated some issues we face today.

These are my personal opinions and not the opinions of others.  Let me be clear, it is not for want of dedicated volunteers to get the programs up and running. We have a great team on the Board. I could go on, but you get the drift.

Happy hunting!


What I have done since the last post:  The highlights include: I attended the writing course with Tom Jones at the Institute for Genealogical & Historical Research (5 days of intensive learning). I was able to do this because they went virtual. Many events went virtual, e.g. National Genealogical Society 2020 Family History Conference and Federation of Genealogical Societies. You can still “buy” the conferences. I just submitted an article to Swedish American Genealogist on a problem I have worked on for years and have finally solved! And, the next series of the Certification Discussion group gets started in a couple of weeks. I am very busy; and rarely even have time for a nap!

Genealogical Societies in the Time of the Pandemic: Part 2