January 24, 2020
Since most genealogy societies run their memberships on a calendar year, January is usually the time renew them. Within the last few weeks, I’ve received renewal reminders from several of the societies to which I belong. Since these reminders are usually received via email, it’s sometimes easy to overlook or miss these notices. Now, while it’s still January, is a good time to check recent emails for those renewal notices and take the time to either go the Society’s website and renew digitally or write and mail in a check before the month is over, and your membership expires.
Membership in genealogy societies is one of the most cost effective ways to up your genealogy game. Most local and regional genealogy society membership is a bargain. For example, LCGS charges a mere $20 for an annual membership. For that measly $20, members have access to a wealth of educational opportunities including monthly meetings, subscription to a bi-monthly newsletter, opportunities to attend classes and seminars as well as information about a variety of upcoming genealogical events including the annual LCGS Conference for a Cause. For local members, the monthly meetings are worth the price of a membership all by themselves since the majority of the meetings feature an informative presentation on a topic of general genealogical interest. In addition, the monthly meetings are a chance to get to know fellow genealogists. While your family may roll their eyes when you begin telling the story of Aunt Maude’s trip to the Chicago World’s Fair (again!), there will surely be someone at a genealogy society meeting who is fascinated by it, especially if you listen to their stories in return.
For those who are not local, membership in a local genealogical society where your ancestors lived is also worthwhile. Most societies have websites which may feature a “Members Only” section containing local records or offering reduced cost research in an area. For example, I recently visited the Gloucester County Historical Society Library in New Jersey. While I’ve never had an opportunity to attend a single meeting there, I did get free entrance to the library when I visited as well as the opportunity to access some files on my own, rather than having to wait for a volunteer to pull the files for me. Many local genealogical societies also publish a newsletter which can help out-of-area members to keep abreast of efforts to preserve local records and sometimes even contain transcriptions of those records.
Although the membership fee for a regional genealogical society may be somewhat higher than that of a local society, regional societies, such as the New York Biographical and Genealogical Society, can also be useful. Regional societies usually have online databases included as a benefit of membership and often sponsor research trips to archives and libraries in their area. While these trips are usually open to non-members, members often receive a cost break and advance notice of upcoming trips, which can be important since these events usually sell out quickly.
Researcher/Director at Large