Since family information has become so available on the Internet, many people don't realize the vital role still played by local genealogical societies. While all of the press and excitement has been focused online, these organizations have quietly gone about their business of preserving history and making it available to the world. Societies come in many different flavors but mainly are . . .
Geographically based like Chrystal Lake Historical Society located at http://www.cl-hs.org/
Surname focused like the Musick Family Association located at http://www.musick.com/
Event focused like the Bolzano 'World War I Historical Society' located at http://www.provinz.bz.it/museenfuehrer/english/detail.asp?ORGA_ID=822
Ethnicity focused like the Australian Jewish Genealogy Society at http://www.cl-hs.org/
They almost all have one thing in common - they are managed and run almost exclusively by volunteers.
These organizations are experts at "making do" with the resources at hand, leveraging facilities, information, and personnel into viable organizations that preserve our heritage for future generations. Generally these societies are organized as non-profit corporations and those without such legal designation are still just trying to break even. No matter where you live, there is likely such an organization near you. Continued support from current and future members and friends will keep them viable. Here are a few good reasons why you should join these people and make a difference. Meet People: A local organization is a great place to meet people who truly care about history and families; people who can teach you wonderful lessons about research, history, and life. We have all used the services of a society that houses the archives and genealogical library for a local town or county. Just think back on that experience - helpful people providing accurate and timely information for the cost of copies, shipping, or a small donation. You can work directly with these people, learn from them, and help each other as you search for your family. It's fun: Do you remember the first time you stared at the record in front of you before breaking into whoops of joy at finding your long-lost ancestor? Do you remember the days of excitement while you told your family about the discovery? We only get a few of those moments usually scattered over the years of searching. You can gather a few more of these moments vicariously through your local genealogy society. When you find an ancestor for someone else, it is almost as much fun as finding your own. Society offices, museums, and libraries are filled with excitement and stories of these wonderful moments shared together. One good deed deserves another: I joined the Greene County Genealogy Society in Tennessee several years ago when they helped me climb over one of the brick walls that occasionally block our research path. Their diligence and knowledge of the local archives produced the Last Will and Testament of my ancestor, James H. Hall, Sr. and named his entire family and a flood of new information for me. The cost: $3.00 for copies and mailing. Woo Hoo! - by far the biggest bargain I have ever received. I sent a check for a lifetime membership in lieu of the $3.00 charge. I don't even live near Greene County, but the membership has continued to produce information about my family there including a diary that mentions James and other members of the family along with details about their lives. You might choose to join a local society where you can participate on a daily or weekly basis. Donate your talents: Don't have money available to join? Donate your time and talent. Societies are always looking for people with all kinds of talents - or people with time to do all kinds of tasks. Can you organize, answer phones, research data? Are you interested in transcribing documents, indexing, raising money, promoting the group? Whatever your talents and interests, the local society can use them and you will reap the rewards of helping other people - sometimes people you have never met. Donate money: Don't have time to join and play an active part? Societies can always use donations to improve their displays, repair the plumbing, or pay the light bills. Money is always appreciated in a non-profit organization. You never know what the need are until you ask. My suggestion is that you allow the local group to decide how to best spend your donation; don't attach any strings to the donation. Those who are active on committees and boards are in the best position to spend the money in the best possible way. You can make a difference - don't delay. Join a society today!