Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Interview with a 21ster

My husband's success in business directly depends on giving his customers what they want.  He recently shared with me the difference between "Indirect Voice of the Customer" and "Direct Voice of the Customer". “Indirect Voice” is when we assume we know what they need or want.  “Direct Voice" is asking them what they want.  In terms of this blog, I thought it a good idea to get the "Direct Voice of the Customer" -- in this case, a 21ster.  

Marti Kerkhoff Wallace is one of my Facebook friends.  I don't know Marti personally, but we have a mutual friend (Hi, Mike!).  From reading Marti's Facebook status updates, I can tell that she is a 21ster, a modern genealogist.  I asked her if she would share a 21ster viewpoint by answering a few questions.  She readily agreed!  Let's hear what Marti had to say...

When did you get into genealogy research, and why?
I got into genealogy after watching an episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?" and joined Ancestry.com for 2 free weeks (or so I thought--LOL!). In the beginning, I just had a general interest and no "agenda." After finding an ad for my great grandfather's machinist business in Cincinnati and showing it to my dad, I was hooked. My elderly father started crying as he looked at this ad for his grandpa's business.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Say "Family History", not "Genealogy"

Scott Phillips, Genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services, wrote an interesting article recently.  He suggested three ways to get younger generations interested in Genealogy.  His first suggestion was:  

"Never use the word 'genealogy' with younger folks. 
Use 'family history'."

WOW! ... It sounds so simple, yet I'm having trouble accepting this idea fully because the word "genealogy" is so ingrained in my brain that I can't imagine NOT using it.  And some form of that word is in the names of most genealogical societies, right?  It's all over the place! And yet, if I stop and think back, I can recall some empty looks on people's faces when I would mention the word "genealogy".  And I also remember that sometimes -- to clarify -- I would say something like:  "You know, finding your family history".  Then these people seemed to better understand what I was trying to say.  But I must admit, the very next time I was explaining what I do to someone, I went right back to saying "genealogy" without even thinking twice about it!  

Scott conducted his own (unscientific, but intriguing nonetheless) experiment and concluded, yes, saying "family history" instead of "genealogy" really does work.  He goes on to explain why he thinks it's a better word choice.  So after analyzing my past experiences and reading his article, I am going to try it from now on -- at least when speaking with people that are younger.  [This is sure going to take some getting used to.  Guess I have some changing of my own to do!]

QUESTIONS:  How about you?  What do you think about using these different words with younger people?  Think it will help to get them interested in "Family History"?

To learn more about Scott's reasoning and his two other ideas to interest younger generations, read his article here:  Scott Phillips article

Jenny Davis

Phillips, Scott. "Getting the Younger Generations Into Genealogy in Three Easy Steps." The Huffington Post (UK edition), posted 31 August 2012, (http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/scott-phillips/genealogy-getting-the-younger-generation-invoved_b_1843709.html?utm_hp_ref=tw : accessed 9 September 2012).

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Society Chapter Survives

The Ohio Genealogical Society has an annual Chapter Management Seminar, and I attended their 2012 seminar last month.  One of the sessions was, “Attracting New Members for Your Chapter”, by Deborah Lichtner Deal.  Deb had a number of ideas for attracting new members and I look forward to sharing more of them in a future post.  This post is relating one of her ideas and the story she told us about one OGS Chapter that was facing closure, due to insufficient membership.  She appealed to them to hold off closing, since she had some ideas to try out.  Maybe enough interest could be drummed up so that the chapter could stay open. The Chapter agreed to wait and see.

Deb planned to visit the Chapter and offer the program, “Top 10 Free Internet Sites”.  The program was promoted on a library’s Facebook page and in area newspapers.  It ended up being so popular that she offered THREE sessions in one day!  After that, there were enough people who signed up for membership in the Chapter that it could remain open!  Success.


What I take away from this story is:
  1. Help may be available outside of your own Society or Chapter.
  2. “Free” and “Internet” are hot topics.
  3. The library’s Facebook page and/or area newspapers were successful in getting the word out.
  4. It’s nice to have Deb & OGS on your side.  :)

I’d love to hear from any of you reading this blog post.  Do you have a “hot topic” that received favorable responses from the public?  If so, what was the topic and where did you promote/advertise it?


Deborah Lichtner Deal is an OGS Trustee.  She is listed on the OGS website at:  http://ogs.org/about/board.php.  She gave me permission to share this story here.  Thanks Deb!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

May the Force Be With You

If your society is willing to adapt in order to attract 21ster genealogists, that is great!  Really great.  Some societies, however, are not in that same place. In these societies, it may take a Force to initiate that change.  One society I know of was lucky to have a passionate 21ster join the board a few years ago.  She was just full of ideas on modernizing things.  But her ideas were met with a mixture of reactions.  Some board members liked her ideas, and some certainly did not.  Some did not know what she was even talking about (e.g. Social Media): 

“What is The Facebook?”  ;)

Responsible board members, understandably concerned about the cost of these “techy things”, wondered if the society could afford them: 

They asked: “How much does The Facebook cost?”
Her answer: “Nothing.”
Their reply:  “Nothing?!”

You may also encounter confusion, surprise, disbelief and/or a cautious acceptance of your suggestions.  It will probably be an uphill battle to effect change, but it’s worth it -- for the good of the society.  Technology is only going to become more prevalent, not less, in the world around us.  It only makes sense that we try to keep up, as much as possible, so that we are relevant to those around us, so that our societies thrive in this 21st century.   So I ask: 

Do you have someone in your society that can be a catalyst for change?

Do you have someone to start these conversations, someone to organize like-minded people to initiate change.  Is it you?  If so, great!  If not, may I suggest that you start asking around – maybe even advertise in your newsletter, start an interest group, etc.  And once you identify a Force for change, please encourage and support them.  Ask them if you can help in some way.

It’s not easy to change, but in my opinion a society’s long term viability depends on it.   May you find a Force in your society today.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Attracting 21sters to your Genealogy Society

Local genealogical societies are staffed with volunteers that have worked very hard to keep their societies going, year after year after year.  They are dedicated and hard-working volunteers that give their all.  They are my heroes and I am proud to work along-side them.  However, chances are that some local genealogical societies are still doing their business the same way they've been doing it for many years -- perhaps for decades. 

Memberships in genealogical societies have been declining lately.  It is a common concern in many societies.  Board members have begun to worry about the long term viability of their society, and they wonder how they will attract new members.  This blog deals with the issue of attracting 21sters.

Twenty-firsters are people who, regardless of age, have embraced the 21st century and its technology.  They are usually busy people with full schedules, and they probably use multiple technological products to manage the varied aspects of their life.  With computers, tablets, smartphones and the internet, they do banking, shopping, reading, socializing and more -- mostly online.  And they probably approach genealogy research expecting to use these same tools, expecting that research can be done mostly online. 

Contrast that kind of lifestyle to your local genealogical society.  They may have a significant quantity of society activities throughout each year, but these activities are probably geared to the majority of their current members -- many of whom probably do not identify themselves as 21sters.  A large number of these current members, with exceptions of course, did not grow up using technological products. They aren't familiar with them, they may not want to learn about them, or they may even feel overwhelmed by them. 

Therefore it shouldn't be a surprise that a Society's online presence often times is lacking the features that 21sters are used to, and therefore the Society may be unappealing to 21sters.  If a Society were judged solely by their online presence [which may be the case in this situation], 21sters may dismiss the Society as being irrelevant to them and therefore not worth their time, energy, or support.  The idea of attending a Genealogical Society meeting may not even occur to them.  Why drive to a library to hear a live person speak about something when they could instead find a webinar on the internet?  What would a Society meeting offer them that they can't get online? 

Now, as an experienced genealogist, I know without a doubt that there are many things that are not online yet.  I personally enjoy visiting repositories and can't get enough of them.  However, that perspective differs from the typical 21ster that is new to genealogy.  Yet somehow we need to appeal to them right where they are at.  There are a myriad of reasons to be a part of a dynamic genealogical society, but without first convincing 21sters that we are relevant to them, we probably won't have the chance to continue the conversation.

This blog exists to share ideas on how traditional Genealogical Societies can adapt so that they appeal to 21sters.  Let's get this conversation going!

Attribution:  Please note that I am not the originator of the term "21ster", nor am I the first to express the concerns mentioned in this blog post.  Please see the list of other blog posts and/or links to video(s) in the left-hand sidebar of my blog for others who have inspired me.