What will the Wood County Genealogical Society Look Like in Ten Years?

If you care about The Wood County, Texas Genealogical Society (WCGSTX), Wood County, Texas itself, or have ancestors who called Wood County home, please join in helping us create a future for genealogy, genealogical research, and the heritage of this county.

The fact is that local genealogical societies like we have known all our lives are in a crisis period. Some are gone, some are struggling, some, like the WCGSTX, are still plugging along and doing okay but face an uncertain future. The reason is that the world as we have always known it has changed, is changing, and will look even more different in a few years.

There is a discussion about the impact of these normal and not unexpected changes going on in the larger genealogy community. It is one that needs serious consideration right here at home.

A genealogy thinker I have been following (thoughtfully) for a while now is one Marian Pierre-Louis. She has an online presence in many places, but I just finished reading from her blog, Marian’s Roots and Rambles, a two-part series on the paradigm shift in genealogy and its meaning. I would like to share two thoughts from it here and urge you to follow the highlighted links to read all she has to say.

I recommend reading part 2 first. It deals specifically with local genealogical societies and the two following thoughts come from it. Out of context, they might seem rather tame and obvious, but just follow this link and read her blog post in its entirety.

1. Societies have a lot to offer but they need to change with the times. They can not continue to offer services in an outdated manner when change is happening all around them. I am not going to give my money to a society who provides me with nothing.

2. Simply sending money to a society is not enough. Active participation and transformation is the answer.

Whatever your reaction to this, will you please join me in a discussion of the merits and ideas we might follow in deciding and directing our survival and our own future. At meetings, in response to this post, in emails, at chance meetings at the grocery store, on Facebook, on Genealogywise, at our activities and social gatherings, lets look for our future, decide what we want to be and become, and get busy on plans to get there.

The parade has started. Let’s make sure it doesn’t pass us by.

From the editor


Why Genealogy Has Changed

For now and the future, this video shows why genealogy has changed and why methods must change to bring younger generations into the fold. Deason Hunt

Why Should A Genealogy Society Give Records Away?

By Jeffrey A. Bockman, Naperville, IL
Originally published in the FGS FORUM, Winter 1997, page 25
Now available for viewing at Genealogy According to Jeff at www.JeffBockman.com/gatj .
Reprinted here with permission.

There is a vast amount of family history currently available on the Internet and on CDROM that is incorrect, undocumented, or fictitious. Yet, with the growing interest in family history many searchers will stop with these easy-to-find “instant families.” David E. Rencher stated in “Where In Cyberspace Are We?” (FORUM 9:2 (Summer 1997) page 3), that presently the Internet offers a search environment but “the field of electronic genealogy… has yet to create a research environment.” Genealogy societies should be leading the way in creating a research environment by providing information so that verifying an “instant family” is as convenient as finding the family in the first place. But how?

One way in which societies can help to create a research environment is to rethink traditional ways of distributing and sharing the information that they compile. The traditional method of sharing is to publish and the process is:

1. Compile information from vital records, cemeteries, ledger books and other sources and enter into a word or data processing program; then format and proofread.

2. Take the manuscript to a printer and have it published.

3. Store, advertise, and hopefully sell the resulting publication.

A closer look at this process shows while step 1 is critical in getting the information in a form that can be shared with others, the dissemination, steps 2 and 3, is open to question. Step 2 benefits a printer/publisher while step 3 benefits a society-but only if sales are good and income exceeds expenses.

This traditional procedure has other flaws. First, distribution potential is limited. A user benefits if he or she can find the publication, but it may only be available from the society by mail or at local workshops. If it is advertised in national genealogical publications, it competes with hundreds, perhaps thousands of similar titles. Even library use is limited: users may find the book only in a local, regional or national library which specializes in genealogy. Thus, a researcher could spend more time and money trying to locate the information than in actually using the information.

The market is limited, too. Few people want to purchase a publication to look up only one or two events. They have other options. They can ask the county clerk or the cemetery office to find one or two entries. Or, they may write to the genealogical society who offers searches as a courtesy or for a slight fee.

A third drawback is the risk involved. The society takes all of the risk. It has to determine print quantity based upon printer volume costs, anticipated demand, and storage facilities. The society must advertise and give free copies to some libraries or for book reviews. Society volunteers must retrieve books from storage, haul, unpack, and display them at conferences, then box and return unsold books to storage. If publishing, storage and advertising costs, and the wear and tear on volunteers exceed profits, the risk has been too great.

This traditional distribution channel, with its flaws, should cause societies to reexamine their ultimate goal in compiling and distributing information. If society goals are to a) preserve and make available genealogical information; b) promote an interest in genealogy; and c) encourage proper research techniques; there may be a better way to achieve them.

Why Not Share With Everybody?

The target audience for the dissemination of information in published form are the society members, people doing research in the jurisdiction, and patrons of selected libraries. This is really a very small audience. If a society seeks to share information with the widest possible audience, why not share with everybody?

The Internet is the new communications frontier. Anyplace in the world is only nano-seconds away. If every society and county government put their records on-line a researcher who only needs information about a single event would be able look it up from home or the local library with internet access or at an “Internet coffee shop.”

Ideally, if the person found the desired event from a detailed on-line index, they could order a copy of the certified record by entering credit card information or obtaining an invoice number. Further down the Internet road, the actual certificate could be scanned and stored on-line and viewed or transmitted automatically. Authenticity or a means of preventing manipulation of the image would need to be established.


While many societies are beginning to discuss this issue they look at it from a personal or society viewpoint rather than from a global viewpoint. Instead, consider a wider range of benefits:


None – loss of income
Government Agencies:
Time savings from not having to look in book indexes
Faster access by using the electronic index
Only activity would be with paid certificate requests
Possibly less floor space needed for index storage and access
Genealogical Society
No financial risk from over-printing
No handling and storage, save time and costs
Less Income but less need to purchase other indexes
Improved recognition and wider audience with home page link
Requests for hard copy can be automated and printed on demand
Global Audience
Faster, easier access to useful research data from across the country without leaving home
Eliminates need to review on-line library catalogs trying to find the closest copy of a printed index
Information could be annotated to show corrections and the source
Attend sessions and socialize rather than sitting in a hallway selling books
Do not have to wait for replies to letters and the cost of SASEs
Achieve immediate action and results on new clues or ideas
Could actually spend time doing research on their own family
There is already competition to some of the traditional functions done by a society. GenWeb is providing information on area resources and posting queries. Volunteers on the Internet are providing free research. Libraries and counties are putting records on-line to preserve them, and to save storage, viewing, and parking space.

If one of the purposes of a genealogical society is to help make information readily available then what better method is there? Societies are non-profit organizations. What money they do realize from publication sales often goes to purchase other publications for the use of members. But there are other options. Money can be earned through workshop, class, or lecture fees. Profits can be used to disseminate information more widely: by providing additional Internet resources, Internet access at the local library or society library or office, or supporting the storage and access cost of the county GenWeb site, a society home page or on-line vital record storage.

Once a society is convinced of the benefits of this new and more effective way of disseminating information, they can start small and work up to more ambitious projects:

1. Provide the following information on-line:

Places to do research, hours and holdings
Handy guide to the type of historical information that is available
Access instructions to vital records or the indexes
2. Compile indexes and make them easily available.
3. Assist counties and repositories in getting images of the actual records on-line with easy search and retrieval systems.

If everyone would “Do for others as you would like them to do for you,” we could all make electronic genealogy work for us. We could be making verification of information now available in Internet’s search environment quick and easy. We could be establishing research environments to complement and enhance the existing search environment, and we could be turning searchers into researchers.

What is a Genealogical Community?

James Tanner of Genealogy’s Star blog makes me think. A recent blog entry asks what makes a genealogical community. One of the criteria he suggests is “shared values and interest.”

That leads to this question: what are the shared values and interest of the Wood County Genealogical Society both from local members and those who live a distance away in Texas or in other states?

Please share your ideas in the comments below (and be sure to sign up for emails when new comments are posted or comeback here often to see and respond to comments).

My Society Online Radio by mysociety | Blog Talk Radio

My Society Online Radio by mysociety | Blog Talk Radio.

Thanks to Our Volunteers

Thanks to all of you who volunteer time and money (memberships and donations and books, and supplies, etc.) to keep our society going. Right now we have officers and committees doing things we can’t see to help us accomplish our group goals. Every bit helps whether its a short-time or long-range thing that you do.

For instance just recently we had members answering queries, meeting with visitor researchers in the library and over the telephone, sending suggestions and ideas for our organization and for resources for our members. Mark Reid, Barbara Nichols, and Vice-president Dorothy Harbin have recently been helping with researchers. Dorothy and Mary Ann Niswanger recently spent time working on organizing books and recording usage of books in our library. Shirley Bates is working on getting some publications out and ready for sale. The currently operating Nominations Committee (Barbara Coleman, Secretary Kathy Lutonsky, and Mary Ann Niswanger) and budget committees (Treasurer Wayne McCluney, Deason Hunt, and Ethel Kelley) are working behind the scenes to be ready for the May meeting. President Shirley Patrick looks for ideas for online resource links and examples of what other societies are doing and forwards them to the newsletter. And, recently webpage participants such as Bill Lukenbill, Doug McCreight, and Paula Randolph have joined in helping answer others’ queries. I know that I am leaving people out because we have just had a lot of work by groups like the Constitution Revision Committee (Ronnie Vance, Shirley Bates, and Wayne McCluney) and other service such as the help Sally Allcorn gave to Forever Young recently. We appreciate also people who move chairs and tables at meetings, who show up for our programs and business discussions and, not least, join us for eating at Peralta’s and helping other with research before regular meetings. Everybody who participates helps us be more successful.

We welcome suggestions, help, etc., and if you see something that needs doing, just jump in. We appreciate all your time and efforts. We’ll be suggesting things that people can do over the next few months to help out. If you see something you would like to do, let us know.

From the Editor: Membership Musings

Those of you who have known me for very long know that I am dedicated to the idea of improving and growing membership in local genealogical societies. In that vein, I am strongly suggesting that anyone who has such interest take a look at Amy Coffin’s latest blog post The We Tree Genealogy Blog. This entry is titled “Genealogy Society Memberships: What Makes You Join?”

She tells why she rejoined some and did not rejoin some others. Her reasons and the comments others have posted to her blog make for some thought-provoking reading. Of course, Amy always makes for thought-provoking reading.