The Future of Genealogy

Seems ambitiously titled, no?

This post came about on another sleepless night when I sat in bed pondering what I felt went wrong with my local historical society. While I don’t pretend to have all the answers, I know when something is wrong.

Don’t misunderstand me, the historical society has done some great things, two volumes of a county heritage among them. But lately, lately, it just seems like the society has gone down.

I want a historical and genealogical society to do two things for me: push me as a researcher and give me great historical background on the people I’m researching. I also want them heavily involved in preserving the local history. Our society has had maybe two genealogy workshops in the last decade and the monthly meetings have, for the most part, turned into “what life was like in the 30s” talks. That’s only interesting to a point.

But then it kills me when they complain about membership not growing. Well, they don’t do anything. They talk. They were doing a great thing restoring our original local jail and turning it into an archive for the rescued materials from our courthouse. And then for reasons I do not understand, they stopped being involved and wanted to create another building that housed society materials. It had something to do with the county development people wanting the archive to house only those rescued courthouse materials and not photographs and personal histories. Basically, someone got their feelings hurt.

We have a population of maybe 22,000 for the entire county. That’s really not a lot. We already have a genealogical room in our main library, the county courthouse, a museum, and now the archives. When people in town or even out of town come to do research, it is ridiculous to demand them to go to several different places all within a short distance of each other and all with differing opening days and times. It cuts the throat of the society and the local economy.

While I’m glad they rescued the older materials of the courthouse and created an archive (that’s only open two or three days a week, four hours a day), when the Mormons came to town to help microfilm records, those are the records they filmed. I can read those valuable materials seven days a week, twenty four hours a day in the comfort of my home, rain or shine.

That’s the future of genealogy: more and more documents online for anytime view. It’s the job of the societies and archives to have unique files if they desire foot traffic. If not, start scanning. You’ll be done in a few years.

But do something. Anything at all will do.