Generally, a family association is an organization formed by people who share a common ancestor or surname. They join together for a variety of purposes including exchanging genealogical information, sharing current news about family members, having reunions, and promoting family pride.
Some family associations strive to collect information about people with their surname all over the world, while others consist of a relatively small family group in a specific geographic area. Some groups put a lot of effort into family research while others prefer to concentrate more on family reunions and current family news.
Why Should I Join a Family Association?
Joining a family association isn't a requirement for researching your family history, but it certainly can't hurt and may go a long way to help. Here are a few reasons why:
Information Exchange -- Many family associations maintain collections of their members' family trees, so there's a good chance that you could find more information about your family when you join.
Family Newsletters -- Almost all family associations put out some sort of newsletter, whether it's once a year, once a quarter, or once a month. Newsletters can contain pedigree trees, pictures, interesting tidbits about a family's history, announcements of current births and deaths, information about upcoming reunions, and even queries.
Reunions and Meetings -- Getting together with family members once per year or once every several years can be a real boost to your family history research. It's likely that you will have many opportunities to do research, share information with others, and visit locations that are historically significant to your family. It's also great to spend time with people who share the same interests as you, catch up with relatives that you haven't seen in a long time, and even meet new relatives.
Research Advice -- If you are stuck on a particular research problem, perhaps unique to your ethnicity, chances are that others in your family have already been through it and may be able to offer advice. If not, it can be fun to pool your resources and work out a solution together.
How do I Find the Family Association That's Right for Me?
One of the best ways to find a family association is to ask other family members if they belong to one or know of any that exist. If none of your relatives are aware of one, here are a few other places to look:
Genealogy Publications -- National publications such as Everton's Helper are good places to look, because some family associations advertise in those. You may also want to check in smaller, regional publications in the area where you ancestors lived.
Directories -- Books listing family associations are available through your local libraries and genealogy booksellers. One example is Elizabeth Petty Bentley's Directory of Family Associations, which contains contact information for over 5,250 different family associations.
What if I Can't Find a Family Association?
Keep looking, but also think about starting your own family association! We've spoken with many people who have founded and/or currently help run a family association, and they have plenty of advice to get you started.