Monday, May 19, 2008

Another One Bites the Dust

Since we moved to lovely Lompoc almost 3 years ago, I've meant to get involved in the local genealogical society. Every month, I would see the meeting notice in the newspaper and make a mental note to attend the meeting. Sometimes I even put it on my calendar.

Life got in the way most months, but a couple of times - including last month - I actually got off my behind and went to where the meeting was supposedly being held. Oddly enough, there were never any cars in the parking lot, and the place was deserted.


So, when I saw the meeting notice again in Sunday's newspaper, I decided to do the smart thing and call for information.

The first number I called was disconnected. Not a good sign.

My call to the second number was answered by a very surprised lady.

Where did you get my number?

In the newspaper, I told her.

Really? And what was the name of the group listed in the newspaper?

The Lompoc Valley Genealogical Society.

Wow, that's odd. I haven't been to meetings for that group in a long time. And they don't meet at the LDS Church anymore.

I'd guessed that already.

They're called the Lompoc Genealogy Club now, and they only meet occasionally in members' homes.
She gave me a contact name and number for someone in this "new" group, and asked me to please ask him to call the newspaper and have the meeting notice with her phone number in it stopped.

I called, and the gentleman on the line was quite surprised that the ad for the "old" LVGS was still running in the newspaper.

There's only one newspaper in town - doesn't anyone read it?

Turns out that the "new" group is now defunct, too. Membership had dwindled to about five regular members, and as he put it, it's hard to find officers and run a society with only a handful of members.

So true... and sadly, so common these days. It's often hard to find officers and run a society with 100 members.

He did offer to help me with my research, but I declined. I really wasn't looking for help so much as "fellowship" with live genealogists. Thankfully, I get that with my fellow genea-bloggers, but sometimes that face-to-face interaction helps in the motivation department.

So, how's the health of your local genealogical society?

Mine passed away... leaving no obituary in the newspaper.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

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footnoteMaven said...

The health of my genealogy group?

On life support!


Terry Thornton said...

Elizabeth, What a sad tale. I don't belong to any genealogy societies --- but the one I spoke to last evening (Itawamba Historical Society) has about 500 members, a strong and growing Internet presence, and an active and lively group working to preserve, record, and share local and regional history/heritage. This group has had some outstanding leadership which has brought them into the Internet age --- and they continue to grow.

Perhaps you could find some like-minded folk and start anew --- with a web-centered approach. One thing you could try locally is an email discussion group with eight or ten interested individuals. I'm a member of an 8 person group all interested in Monroe County (MS) history --- and we exchange emails on a wide variety of subjects and support each other's research efforts. On occasion we get together for a "tour" or some special outing. Such a group could easily evolve into a web-based society equipped to tackle head-on the changing needs of researchers and historians.

But it is still sad that your local society died and no one noticed.

Randy Seaver said...


It is sad, but symptomatic of a society that didn't thrive for some reason.

The health of "my" genealogy group - the Chula Vista Gen Society - is fine - it is holding its own. A number of us "younger oldies" stepped up about 6 years ago to take the Board positions and the society has thrived as we brought it into the Internet age - a web site, a blog, a computer lab, a research group, in addition to a monthly speaker meeting.

Cheers -- Randy

Anonymous said...

I concur with Randy. My local society (Itawamba Historical Society in Mississippi) is holding its own. As we own and operate a historic house, and a historical center with a library, we have quite a few expenses (utilities, insurance, etc.). Added to those expenses we have publishing and postage costs (we publish a 56-page quarterly magazine). We have simply learned how to cut costs yet maintain our facilities (which is open to the public free of charge). One thing we have done though, is embrace the Internet. We have a website (including an online archives) as well as a blog which serves as an online newsletter). Now days I think in order for a society to thrive it must have three things: (1) a quality publication (2) an online presence and (3) regular monthly program meetings open to the public. I feel having a strong online presence is a must now days.

Bob Franks
Publications Editor, The Itawamba Historical Society

Lori Thornton said...

I've given up on the local one in Hamblen County. They hold their meetings when folks who work can't attend so they are obviously not encouraging new or younger members to join. The two times that I've gone to a meeting of it, they have really had no program planned. They just sat around expecting someone to ask them a question. It was a total waste of my time (and theirs). If they want to grow, they need to have meetings in the evening when those who work can attend. They are obviously not interested in growing though. The society in nearby Jefferson County is alive and well. (Their meetings are on Monday evenings, and I am usually working on Monday evening.) I am a member of East Tennessee Historical Society though. (It's about 45 minutes to Knoxville.) Societies that are doing well have publications which make people want to keep joining.

I am a member of several societies around the country, but as far as the ones where I can attend meetings, those are it.

Kathryn Doyle said...

I'm happy to report that the California Genealogical Society in Oakland is alive and kicking! Several of us are heading south to the Jamboree. Is there any chance you can escape motherhood for a weekend to join us?

Elizabeth said...

Thank you all for your comments and wisdom. I'll be publicly thanking you shortly. :-)

Kathryn, although I will not be able to escape motherhood for the weekend, I do plan to be at the Jamboree next month (my husband and daughter are coming with me!). Perhaps we should all plan a genea-blogger meet-up somewhere?

Kathryn Doyle said...

Yes! I hope you will be attending the Genealogy Blogger Summit (SA-07) from 10-12 on Saturday, June 28. I'm looking forward to seeing and hearing Danko, Dardashti, Eastman, Meitzler, Morgan, Seaver and Smolenyak.

Paula from SCGS said...

Hi Elizabeth! I'm glad to see you'll be at Jamboree, and yes, the genea-blogger Summit will be *THE* place to be on Saturday morning for the blogging community.

While you're at Jamboree, you should make sure to stop at the Santa Barbara Genealogical Society table in the exhibit hall. They may have some ideas for you.

It goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that you're always welcome at SCGS.

In response to your main question, SCGS is growing, not without a few bumps in the road, and our Internet presence is a noteworthy factor in our growth. Jamboree is another key factor. It's hard work but worth it.

Elizabeth said...

Kathryn & Paula: Yes, I'll definitely be at the genea-blogger summit! I'm really looking forward to hearing what the "pros" think!

Paula: My husband and I are members of the SCGS already. We don't live nearby enough to come to the library or attend many events, but we do enjoy the Jamboree. Last year was our first time attanding - we wound up being interviewed by RootsTV because we had the youngest "genealogist" in attendance (my daughter, who was 1 at the time). Our segment didn't get aired, but it was fun anyway!

I'll definitely check out the Santa Barbara group. I've looked at their web site, and they seem pretty active. Any idea if SLO will be there, too?

Again, thank you to you all for the advice and encouragement. Maybe we'll get something goin' in this town after all!