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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!

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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.  

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