The best return on the investment of your genealogical dollars is in genealogical societies. These local groups, large and small, are doors to your family's history. Many do not think of joining the local society if their ancestry was not in that area. Not only should you join the genealogical society in your area, but you should also join genealogical groups in the localities where your families have lived.
It is through the genealogical societies that you discover you are not researching in a vacuum. You find that there are others working with the same records and in the same localities. And sometimes you may find a cousin through the queries in their publications.
You are not researching in a vacuum.
Strength in Numbers
Membership is reasonable, varying from about $10 to $50 per year. Higher dues are generally associated with the larger societies that offer additional benefits to members, such as research services, newsletters, and book-lending. The value in belonging is meeting others interested in this fascinating hobby, hearing lectures on research tips, participating in workshops and seminars, and discovering the genealogical sources in your backyard.
Many times I am asked how does a researcher learn about upcoming workshops and seminars. Personally, I learn about these opportunities through my involvement and membership in the various societies and also by reading the publications they send.
Genealogical societies, of which there are about 3,000 in the United States alone, collect and publish records of their counties, cities and state. Local societies often publish records, such as cemetery or marriage records, that are not available anywhere else.
You can find the names of genealogical societies by consulting several sources. One is the Genealogical Periodical Annual Index (GPAI). GPAIs are indexes to information published in many periodicals, and most libraries have copies of them. In them are the names of many societies, listed alphabetically.
Another reliable source for locating societies is Elizabeth Petty Bentley's The Genealogist's Address Book.
What They Offer
A shortcut (and money-saver) to learning what has been published in genealogical periodicals can be had by consulting all the GPAIs at your library. These have been published since 1961 and are gold mines of information. Look under your surnames of interest, topics of interest (such as adoptees, Civil War, black genealogy, and methodology), and under locality (state, county and countries).
Another useful source for discovering what has been published by many of the genealogical societies is to search through the Periodical Source Index more commonly known as PERSI. This work is published annually through the Allen County Public Library in Ft. Wayne, Indiana and is available at many public libraries with genealogy collections.
In addition to the published resources mentioned, you can also learn a lot by visiting your local library. Many genealogy departments will have periodicals from many different genealogy societies. Searching through some of them will give you an indication as to what they will offer.
Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is an award-winning author of several genealogy how-to books, including The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, The Genealogist's Computer Companion, and Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at [email protected].
See more advice from Rhonda in her columns Expert Tips, Tigs and Trees, and Overheard in the Message Boards.