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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

5 thoughts on “Open Thread Thursday – Genealogy Societies and Technology

  1. Interesting. I think we’ll see a far greater variety of degrees of tech-savvy-ness from societies than we do now. I have a hard time imagining my local county/state society doing some of the things I see the SCGS (for example) doing…but you never know.

  2. I am currently setting up a website for the fledgling local society I joined last Fall. They are just a group of genealogists who meet once a month to share their experiences. We have a genealogy library in the local library and volunteers work in the room to help others. We communicate by e-mail but there are no dues, officers, or meeting minutes. Mixed bag of technology here.

  3. I agree for the most part (although I think we should retire the whole Sputnik meme, it’s way overused). One problem here is many participants of my local and state genealogical societies are not exactly computer literate. I’m going to volunteer to help in this area, but as a newcomer, there’s sometimes resistance to change among the old guard.

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