Family history societies can be found all over the world. You will most likely find a family history society in an area where your ancestor lived and worked. As they have knowledge about the area in which your ancestor lived in they will undoubtedly be of great assistance to you. I therefore urge you to join a family history society to help you build your family tree.
A family history society can offer you so much help with your research.
They can give you the skills that you need to help build your family tree. Practical guides for the beginner are almost usually available from them. Even if you have been researching your family history for a number of years and you have made great progress they will still be able to offer you help.
You can connect with other society members and purchase materials for your research when you join a family history society. You could repay the help you have received by helping the society in various different ways. For example, you could donate your time to help others, assist at fairs and open days or even donate money.
In this article I will cover what you can expect from a family history society.
Consider Being A Member
In order to access the materials that a family history society possesses you will have to become a member. A society will charge an annual fee for you to be a member. This fee may vary depending on whether you are a student, adult, senior, or you are overseas. There may also be family and institution packages memberships available as well.
Some societies will begin the membership year on a particular date. This will be irrespective of when you joined. For example this date may begin from April 1st through to March 31st the following year. You will generally be reminded when you need to renew your membership before the year ends.
Anyone can be a member of a family history society!
Members of family history societies will be from all walks of life. They could be doctors, farmers, musicians or even retired. You will also encounter members of varying age-groups.
Take me for an example. I am in my mid 30s and have been researching my family history for at least six or seven years now. A misconception that some may have is that it is a society catering for the older population.
This could not be further from the truth as I have pointed out about myself. I realized relatively young that I needed to act now and preserve my family history before my older relations passed on without passing on any information.
So with that in mind anyone who has got an interest in genealogy can join. It doesn’t matter what you do for a living, your race, culture, gender or age. As long as you have a passion for family history then that is the only requirement.
You can also benefit from the older members who may have lots of stories of the area or particular research techniques that they have acquired over the years.
There is such a wealth of guidance that you can get from not only the staff that run these societies but also the members as well. So take full advantage of the resources and people when you join.
What Do Family History Societies Offer
A family history society can offer you so much help with your genealogy research. Not only do staff give practical help that will assist you to break down those brick walls in your research but other members may be of assistance as well as I have just mentioned before.
There are a number of opportunities throughout the year where you will be able to interact with other members. These will be the usual monthly meetings.
But your local family history society may also hold fairs and open days as well. These are events are usually put on to attract new members. They can though be of great help to existing members who can share information, strategies and anything they have learned amongst themselves.
Guide books and other material are generally published and sold by a local family history society. Many members will contribute to the production of these publications.
They may write their own articles about the local area or the people. Or they contribute in other ways such as the publication and distribution of the material.
Within these guides you may find records of your ancestors listed under old parish registers. So rather than digging and poking, and trying to find out where to get a register why not ask your local family society.
Here are some things that you can expect from your local genealogy group:
There maybe a number of branches associated with one particular family history society. Each branch though should put on regular monthly meetings. As a member you will be granted access to these.
Special guests do usually attend these meetings and discuss a topic that they have currently researched. A question and answer session will generally follow the guest’s speech.
These meetings are a chance for you to meet people who may share a common interest. For example, they may be interested in the same area or even the same person or family. Even if they are not they still maybe able to steer you in the right direction.
You may learn from other members practical ways to carry out your research, where you should be looking for information, or if you’re extremely lucky research already carried out on your family tree.
You can therefore gain knowledge and guidance from other members at these meetings.
Fairs and open days
Similar to monthly meetings, a fair or open day is another great way to further your genealogy research. At these events you can learn what the family history society has to offer. There will also be a chance to meet seasoned genealogists and people who have only just began to trace their family tree.
These events though will take place only a handful of times throughout the year. Maybe just once or twice during the year. You should be able to check out online where your nearest family history society event is.
As these events will attract large crowds, (and also other kinds of societies), they may not be located at their headquarters. Besides running an event with other kinds of societies and businesses a family history society may actually hold an event solely for themselves. These can therefore be a quieter affair, rather than the hustle and bustle of a fair.
The local council may though be responsible for holding such events and asks many different societies and clubs to participate. If you cannot find any family history society events then try contacting the local council.
Prepare yourself for attending these events!
It is a good idea for you to be prepared before you attend such an event. You can therefore organise your material and plan what you are going to enquire about. This will help you ask the questions that you need to know the answers to.
There is no point blindly going to an event such as this and walk away with hardly anything that will help you with your genealogy research,
A family history society will produce regular publications and journals. These are generally only available to their members and they obviously in incur a fee to cover the cost of printing and material.
If you cannot purchase a publication in person then expect to payer for it to be posted to you. Many publications these days come in digital form, (i.e. a PDF file). So you could make it easier for yourself by requesting a document to be downloaded to you.
Types of documents that you can expect will include:
- parish, chapel and school registers,
- military records, and
- monumental inscriptions.
A register of other members interests is usually produced by the society. You can then check this register to see if anyone else has the same interests as you. By doing so you can contact these other members specialising in the same field as you.
These registers, records and lists will generally be submitted by the family history society staff. However, there are other publications where the general public can also submit their own research. Depending on the length of the article they may be available individually, (perhaps a few pages), or together with other articles.
Unwanted birth, death, or marriage certificates may also be purchased at a discounted price. These certificates would have been incorrectly bought by other members of the society. Rather than throw away these certificates they are made available to other members for a nominal fee.
You can get documents such as these more cheaply this way. Although there is a strong chance that you may not find what you are looking for. So be prepared to return empty-handed. But it is always good to look as you may never know your luck.
What Can You Do For Your Family History Society
Not only can you get help from your local genealogy group but you can also offer your assistance as well. Donations are always welcome as these will help towards publications, projects and events. You can also offer your services at an open day, fair or monthly meeting.
A list of current research projects are usually made available to its members. You can contact the society and offer your services on a project that may interest you. This could be transcribing records or checking original documents.
There are many benefits that you can gain from joining a local family history society as I have pointed out in this post. If you do want to progress further with your genealogy research then this is a great step for you to take.
This is especially true if you have hit a brick wall, you don’t know where next to look, or you are just curious as to what else it out there that can help you with your research.
So why not go on Google today and search for a family history society that is in your area. Or you may search for one where your ancestors came from.
Either way they will be a great resource of information for you and can help you immensely.
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