Open Thread Thursday – Genealogy Societies and Technology

open thread

This week’s topic for Open Thread Thursday is:

In a post- RootsTech genealogy world, what steps do genealogy societies need to take to appear relevant to and a necessary resource for the changing genealogy community?

Post your responses in the comments or at a post on your own genealogy blog and place the link here in the comments.


Most readers know I lost my voice last week and even had to recruit the wonderful DearMYRTLE to take over at GeneaBloggers Radio last week! But now I’m ready to chat about RootsTech, as you can see by my Woodstock or Waterloo post earlier today.

Let’s face it, there is now tremendous pressure on various groups in the genealogy community to appear relevant, “with it” in terms of technology.  With 3,000 attendees at RootsTech, it is clear what a segment of genealogists and family historians want. And traditionally, genealogy has always been behind this “wave” called Technology.

Each segment, the genealogy industry (read: profits), the organizations and societies (read: non-profits) and the genealogists themselves (read: consumers) have to face the reality that as a whole we need to be riding that wave at the very top. Over the next few months and years, it will be a race to see who rides that biggest wave and rides it the longest.

One concern is the profit vs. non-profit paradigm and the ability of one sector (profit) to maneuver much quicker by making investments in technology. But there are ways that genealogy societies and organizations can make similar investments without necessarily throwing just money at the issue.  Already, several groups including FGS are making plans to incorporate more technology at their conferences as well as their educational and development initiatives.  This is a good start.

For those of us old enough to remember, RootsTech is our Sputnik crisis. Technology is not the complete answer and should not be pursued blindly in some crazy fanatical race. Every segment right now seems to be in “think” mode which is a good thing.  But we must turn “think” into “do” quickly, and perhaps as a community, rather than let any one segment define what RootsTech and technology will mean to genealogy for the next few years.


This is a great topic for this week’s Open Thread Thursday! And please, if you have a topic you’d like to see discussed among your genealogy blogging colleagues, please contact us and we’ll take it under consideration.

Disclosure statement: I am a member of the Federation of Genealogical Societies and hold the following positions within the organization: FGS 2011 Conference National Publicity Chair, Chair – Marketing & Public Relations Committee, Advertising – FGS FORUM, Member – Long Range Planning Committee, Member – Technology Initiative, Member – Membership Committee.  To review the other material connections I have with genealogy vendors and organizations, please see Disclosure Statements.

©2011, copyright Thomas MacEntee

FGS 2011 Conference Registration Now Open

[Editor’s Note: the following press release was received from the Federation of Genealogical Societies announcing the opening of registration for the FGS 2011 Conference.]

“Pathways to the Heartland” – A Conference for the Nation’s Genealogists

February 2, 2011 – Austin, TX. Registration for the 2011 Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference, scheduled for 7-10 September 2011 in beautiful Springfield, Illinois, is now open. This year’s conference theme is “Pathways to the Heartland,” and the local host is the Illinois State Genealogical Society.

This year’s conference offers an exciting opportunity for anyone interested in researching their family history. Over 165 educational sessions and 13 luncheons are designed to balance the needs of genealogists at all levels, exploring a variety of records, strategies, and other tools available to those interested in researching their family history.

Session sponsors include FamilySearch (offering extensive Focus on Societies, Migration and Immigration, and Technology tracks),, the National Archives and Records Administration, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, New England Historic Genealogical Society, Association of Professional Genealogists, Board for Certification of Genealogists, and others. In addition, the Genealogical Speakers Guild and ICAPGen will present their own tracks of sessions by their members that you won’t want to miss.

Conference Highlights

  • Librarians Day: On Tuesday, September 6, 2011, ProQuest is sponsoring a full day of free sessions designed for librarians, archivists, and other information professionals serving family history researchers.
  • Focus on Societies: On Wednesday, September 7, 2011, all new programs and focus group sessions to help improve the operations and effectiveness for genealogical societies’ officers, as well as their members and volunteers.
  • Conference Sessions: A wide variety of genealogy-related lectures and workshops for all experience levels.  Topics include Mid-Western research, migration and immigration, military, strategies and techniques, technology, and writing.
  • Special Events: Include An Old Fashioned Prairie Social, the FGS 35th Anniversary Celebration, and Spotlight on Societies—all providing an excellent environment to meet and network with others interested in family history and genealogy. This exciting week of genealogy closes with a Farewell Brunch on Sunday.
  • Exhibit Hall: Filled with a wide array of vendors and organizations, and a special Spotlight on Societies area will showcase local and regional genealogical and historical societies.

There are more activities and research opportunities too numerous to list. However, you can learn all about the 2011 FGS Conference and register for this exciting four-day event at Be sure to also visit or subscribe to the FGS Conference Blog at for more information and travel advice.

We look forward to seeing you in Springfield in September!

Learn More and Stay Connected

  • Visit the Conference News Blog:
  • Discover Springfield:

About the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS)

The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) was founded in 1976 and represents the members of hundreds of genealogical societies. FGS links the genealogical community by helping genealogical societies strengthen and grow through resources available online, FGS Forum magazine (filled with articles pertaining to society management and genealogical news), and Society Strategy Series papers, covering topics about effectively operating a genealogical society. FGS also links the genealogical community through its annual conference — four days of excellent lectures, including one full day devoted to society management topics. To learn more visit

Disclosure:  I am currently the National Publicity Chair for the FGS/ISGS 2010 Conference as well as the Marketing Coordinator for the Federation of Genealogical Societies. Please see Disclosure Statements for more information on my material connection with other genealogy vendors and organizations.

©2011, copyright Thomas MacEntee

ISGS Unveils New Website

isgs website

[Editor’s Note: the following press release was received from the Illinois State Genealogical Society announcing their new website.]

Illinois State Genealogical Society Unveils New Website

New Design Features Illinois Resources for Genealogy Researchers

January 15, 2011 – Springfield, IL. The Illinois State Genealogical Society (ISGS) announces the debut of its newly redesigned website available to the public on Saturday, January 15, 2011.

Located at, the new ISGS website features links to ISGS projects as well as links to other records and resources throughout Illinois including those individual genealogical home pages with an Illinois connection!

Visitors are invited to explore the new ISGS website and enjoy these features:

  • The current issue of the ISGS Newsletter and archived copies back to 2008
  • Listings of ISGS events and events for Illinois genealogical societies
  • Highlights of various ISGS projects and initiatives
  • Free databases filled with information on Illinois ancestors
  • A list of Illinois research resources

New Members Section

One of the new features of the ISGS website is a members-only section which will be populated with access to Illinois-related databases for those researchers with Prairie State ancestors. Over the course of the next few months, additional members-only databases will be added.

Stop By and Visit ISGS!

ISGS encourages everyone – ISGS members and the public – to stop by and explore. In addition, visitors are encouraged to leave their feedback with the ISGS webmaster at

About Illinois State Genealogical Society

The Illinois State Genealogical Society (ISGS) was organized in October of the Illinois Sesquicentennial Year, 1968, and is a non-profit, educational organization. ISGS was established for the following purposes:

  • To stimulate an interest in the people who contributed to the establishment and development of the State of Illinois.
  • To seek, preserve, and make available data pertaining to individuals, families, and groups who lived in Illinois and to events which took place therein.
  • To inform people of the value of, and need for, preserving family and local history for posterity.
  • To encourage the formation of local genealogical societies and to coordinate and disseminate information.

The ISGS genealogical collection is located in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield and an administrative office is maintained in the Illinois State Archives. For more information visit

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Disclosure:  I am currently the webmaster for the Illinois State Genealogical Society, as well as a Director, Publicity Chair and Death Records and Obits Chair. Please see Disclosure Statements for more information on my material connection with other genealogy vendors and organizations.

©2011, copyright Thomas MacEntee