Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Whither OGS Families

A package with OGS Newsleaf and the February issue of Families arrived on Tuesday.

In Families I was interested to find an article "Newspapers: A Gold Mine of Information," a topic on which I shall shortly be lecturing. It had items I shall borrow for my talk, but also notable omissions.

I also read J Brian Gilchrist's article "Eternal Rest Interrupted - Elmbank Roman Catholic Cemetery" about relocation of graves from the Toronto International Airport site, not that the topic is a particular interest but then any article by Gilchrist is a good bet to be interesting.

The remaining major articles didn't appeal to me - not everything in any magazine does.

There were two letters to the editor. One commented that the previous issue had "too many long family stories and not enough sources for us to check." The other was complimentary about the development of the publication, grateful for the treatment received as an author, liked the diversity of topics in the last issue and expressed a preference for more shorter articles.

A plea from the editor under the heading "Volunteers Wanted," a familiar refrain, suggests I'm not alone in seeking something different. It asks if recent issues have too narrow a focus -- the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

To that I'd have to say yes, but go further and suggest that the answer may require a more fundamental rethink of the publication.

There's no lack of talent amongst OGS members. Many articles by members appear in commercial magazines. I see them all the time in the Moorshead family of magazines which at least pay something, although not very much, and likely reach a wider audience. Why would an author publish an article in Families they could be paid for?

Families seems to consider its remit strictly Ontario, although many members have interests much further afield and would likely welcome good material from elsewhere? Has Families considered reprinting articles from publications of other genealogical and family history societies? That's one thing that could have been facilitated by an association of Canadian societies, but which OGS appears to have done nothing to encourage.

Beyond that is the question of whether technology means the days of this type of magazine are numbered. Many of us subscribe to genealogy databases, while others choose a pay per view option. Similarly, maybe people would prefer to have a choice between subscribing to Families and paying to access individual articles online. Some of the considerations are discussed in this recent article.


Anonymous said...

I'll be watching for this latest issue of Families to cross the pond. Comments may come in a couple of days.
Old Census Scribe

Anonymous said...

I don't think being paid to write is an issue for most family historians. Some of the OGS branch newsletters show that members are writing for them. Maybe it takes more confidence to submit to Families, but it also takes an editor who makes a point of meeting the members at every opportunity and pressing his point one on one.