14 October 2012

Has the internet replaced the genealogical society and the archive?

The latest post on the Genealogy in Canada blog claims to continue a discussion of "Why Belong to a Genealogy Society" building on the results of the results of the Canadian Genealogy Survey.

While the post does come back to that topic the major part is on a PhD dissertation which, while interesting, only skirts the topic.

Only in the post's final paragraph do we learn that from the Canadian survey:

"Most of the respondents to the survey indicated that archives were seldom used and genealogical societies were not seen to be very relevant. Instead, new-age genealogists are smitten with the on-line resources without troubling to think about where those records come from."
Read the post at http://genealogyincanada.blogspot.ca/2012/10/why-belong-to-genealogical-society-contd.html 


Unknown said...

I think the challenge is to find more creative ways in which we can engage with local archives in particular through the internet. I've been using various Nottinghamshire archives - which are generally great - but through time and geography constraints having to do it remotely and don't feel there is a way for me to share back or easily with others discoveries that I am making.

Tony Bandy said...

Personally for me it all boils down to people and our interaction together. This is something that cannot easily be replaced with an online digital resource. Libraries have and continue to struggle with this as well. Good post!

Elizabeth Kipp said...

Although I belong to BIFHSGO, OGS and the Guild of one name studies these days I used to belong to six of the English counties societies but I prefer that journals be online these days and that is just starting to happen. I will rejoin Devon, Somerset/Dorset, Hampshire, Birmingham and the Midlands, Cumbria and Yorkshire when the ability to have journals delivered online (instead of paper copy) becomes available. I seldom attend meetings but I do like to see what is happening with the various societies to which I still belong.

Their combined ability to make access to materials has already shown itself with the Canadian census and I am sure their impact will only increase in the future encouraging repositories to produce online catalogues to make their holdings more visible and increase their accessibility by permitting purchase of images of documents.

I didn't begin genealogical investigations of my family lines until 2003 and that was after the emergence of internet as a tool to access genealogical material although do recall vividly helping my husband go through census microfilm years ago. It is so much better now in 2012 than it was when I began in 2003 and steadily improving as more and more material comes online.

I like the idea of online meetings as well and would gladly attend the societies to which we belong in that capacity. I do think though that genealogical societies are a great social function and that should probably be their prime objective to provide a social place in which to discuss genealogy.

Glenn W said...

As a one-time archivist, I can say without hesitation that archives, at whatever level, hold material of interest to those involved in family history & genealogy. We have become dependent on online resources and this alone has given a tremendous boost to research activity. However, I have always felt there are records that are simply overlooked because they do not lend themselves to digitization and indexing (correspondence, diaries and journals, government subject files), but researchers need to know that these records exist. Where lies the responsibility for informing family historians and genealogists? Archives certainly need to publicise the existence of records, their research value and how to access and use them. Some archives do this, many don't and perhaps can't for financial or personnel reasons.

Education is clearly required, who will undertake to do it? Some months ago, LAC posted a series of finding aids to First War records, the list consisting of the file title only. Since I knew about the records from my own research, I was thrilled to see the finding aid online, but I know that others who were not familiar with the records were puzzled by the file titles, what exactly did the titles mean, what were the contents of these files, etc. If LAC staff had explained the research value or the contents of some of the files, it would have gone a long way to demonstrating the uses one could make of these particular records.

For those of us actively involved in societies, perhaps it is time to step up and explain that not everything is online (or will ever be online), the need to explore and to use archives. The large so-called "name dense" databases are at our fingertips online; now we have to get our hands dirty by opening archival boxes to learn what treasures await us.

Alona Tester said...

It is true that people are using the internet to research more and more, but I really, really loved the Ancestry Insider's recent article (http://ancestryinsider.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/become-that-dynamic-destination.html) which explains that to survive, societies need to MAKE themselves be valuable to the community, and MAKE themselves be needed which does also mean adapting with the times.

Cannuk said...

I feel sad that people are disappointed with their societies. The Victoria Genealogical Society (www.victoriags.org) is highly relevant, super active and great fun. The Resource Centre buzzes with activity and the sharing of knowledge. Our monthly meetings are educational and entertaining. Our Saturday workshops are often sold out. Our projects are many. Our website is useful and our membership is blossoming.

It wasn't always this way, but I'm sure glad that it is now.

Mike More said...

Glenn has it exactly. Too many, particularly those on sites like Ancestry.com, believe that "it is all on the Internet" One gentleman actually said that to me at Col By Day in August. I don't know what percentage of "genealogical" records are on-line but, considering that new ones are produced daily, it cannot have risen much above the 2% that was quoted a few years ago. Even if it has climbed to 10% or 20%, that still leaves an awful lot in archives. It's hard to get that across in the face of the advertising budgets of the commercial providers who tell everyone that it is all there at the click of a mouse. Telling the truth to our fellow members in genealogical societies is "preaching to the converted". We have to find some way to reach out to the rest and convince them that they will benefit from networking with others who share their hobby. Or at least, they can learn from our mistakes. :-)