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How is Your Genealogy Society Doing?

How is Your Genealogy Society Doing?

Let’s face it. It’s been a challenging year. It's been difficult for individuals and families, but it's also been difficult for businesses, organizations, and societies.

Genealogy societies are an important part of the family history community. They are the place where researchers gather to learn and share. They are the purveyors of education through programming, Special Interest Groups (SIGS), seminars, and conferences. Members are kept up-to-date on the society and other genealogical interests via a periodical (magazine, journal, or newsletter), blog, or social media account.

Individuals volunteer their time, talent, and experience to make societies a place that benefits the community. It’s a lot of work, and it takes a team of volunteers to ensure everything runs smoothly.

Starting in March, many societies were forced to cancel meetings. It seemed at first that this was a momentary inconvenience. Soon, however, when reality dictated that groups would not be meeting in person for some time, societies had to make some tough decisions, including whether to meet online or not meet at all. Many societies met the challenge. They learned how to hold a virtual meeting. They trained their volunteers and, in some cases, their speakers how to use this new technology. They figured out how to provide programming differently. Some societies even provided all-day seminars to their members and the larger genealogy community.

While many societies have adapted to the new reality, that's not a possibility for all societies due to technological know-how and cost. I've had societies tell me, "we are barely surviving," "we aren't sure whether our members will renew their membership." It is a tough time, and it helps to know you're not alone. There are other organizations in the same boat who have ideas that may help.

As we conclude 2020 and look towards possibly not gathering together in person until later in 2021, what are your genealogy society plans? Too often, even in "normal" times, society board members may feel isolated from other societies. We all benefit when we can share ideas and our experiences, whether they worked or not.

Let's help each other and share ideas about making the most of society management in these unusual times. Tell us about your society in this time of COVID and what changes you've made. Not sure what to write? Consider addressing some of the questions in the comments below :

  • What did your society do differently during the pandemic?
  • Are you holding meetings? If so, how?
  • If you are holding meetings, aside from being online, how else are they different?
  • Is there anything that is NOT working for your society?
  • Is there anything your society is NOT doing that you did pre-pandemic?
  • Have you tried something new that you plan on continuing?
  • What has your genealogy society done to reach out to non-members?
  • What are your plans for 2021?
  • What recommendations do you have for other societies?

I look forward to hearing from you and what you have experienced.


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.



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I'm really proud of our society, our members and leaders and larger community. We were fortunate to have created an online group at when the Rootsweb lists went away, so we could communicate and brainstorm there. And we'd had for years had a free Google Suite for Non-profits, which has Google Meet in it. Put those two free magic ingredients together with a committed membership and hard-working leaders, and you have a growing society! South King County Genealogical Society (Washington State) has been meeting about weekly, and hosted a successful seminar with Diahan Southard in October. We're looking forward to in-person general membership meetings, but think our SIGs and User Groups will stay virtual forever, as we're drawing people from everywhere. Thank goodness for Conference Keeper which lets people know whats' happening! Check us out at

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