Friday, April 27, 2012

Real meetings and virtual genealogy

Successful corporations like Southwest Airlines say it; moribund dinosaurs like Sears say it too, because it's true: "Thank you for choosing us. We know you have many choices."

The same is true in genealogy. Genealogy meetings have lower attendance now than they did ten or twenty years ago. Partly it's because many genealogists wrongly believe they can find everything worth finding about their families on line. Partly it's because many genealogy societies proceed much as if it were still 1989 -- or 1949! -- and wonder why their attendance is dwindling.

But I'm not here to whine about that. People have more choices now than they did then -- deal with it!

Recently my wife was peripherally involved in a local church fund-raising event tied to the centennial of the 1912 Titanic disaster. (That whole craze gave me the creeps, but I'm not here to whine about that either.) The church in question is a diminished congregation chained to a massive century-old edifice in need of equally massive renovation. Many free events had generated little help. In this case, they held a 1912-costume ball with thematically appropriate music and asked the attendees to (a) dress up in period style and (b) fork over $45.

An hour before it opened there was line of well-dressed chatty people out into the street!

Morals for us: (1) Insofar as possible, cater to what people really want. It may not be brain surgery, but our local society tripled our usual attendance with a 1940 census program. (2) And consider having a party and charging more for it!

As to the Titanic angle, I especially admire Lake County Historian Diana Dretske's post on the subject for responding to the public craze and still tying it to real genealogy.

Diana Dretske, "Titanic's Lake County Passengers," 12 April 2012, Illuminating Lake County History, Lake County Discovery Museum ( : accessed 23 April 2012).

Harold Henderson, “Real meetings and virtual genealogy” Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 27 April 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you mention it on line.]

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