Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Monday, September 16, 2013

Talking to the genealogical wall

When you are wrapped up in the online world, you begin to see everything in terms of your point of view. As you participate in the active, vibrant and growing online genealogical community, I comes as somewhat of a shock to find out that there are huge numbers of people actively pursuing their family history without even the slightest idea that an online community exists. What is more, they don't care and are completely uninterested in finding out. It is sort of like discovering that you aren't the only one who doesn't read Facebook everyday.

This comes home to me frequently when I mention that I write a genealogy blog and the person I am talking to says, "Oh, I've heard of that. What is a blog?" I can think of numerous analogies, including thinking that everyone has the same cultural, social and political values that you do. As I have commented before, some people see no use for computers and obviously have no idea that there is an online community. I once had this brought home to me forcefully when I taught a series of seminars in a distant state in two relatively small towns. The classes extended over a weekend and I went to church on Sunday at the local LDS (Mormon) Ward. In talking to the people in the Ward involved in Family History, we not only found that they were unaware of the conference, they were totally unaware of the three local genealogical societies that had sponsored the conference.

We have an active small local genealogical society here in the Phoenix area. I receive constant notices from them about their activities and online discussions, but they seem to be totally unaware of the activities and resources of the Mesa FamilySearch Library and, with one or two exceptions, have never visited the Library. The reason this is surprising is that the Mesa FamilySearch Library has probably the highest online presence of any FamilySearch Center outside of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. Not too long ago, I was invited to teach a class at an adult retirement community on the far side of Phoenix, about an hour and half's drive from where I live. Of the people in attendance only two or three had ever heard of the Mesa FamilySearch Library and only two had ever visited it. Almost all were very surprised to learn of the resources available. Some were not really interested.

I mentioned that I am teaching a new class of Missionaries (Volunteers) for the Mesa FamilySearch Library. All of these dedicated people are being taught a series of lessons over the period of a month to help them be prepared to assist patrons in the Library. They are wonderful, nice and dedicated people. But not one of them has even the slightest idea of the existence of an online world of genealogy. Most are learning about the use and functions of for the first time. I find this to be an almost constant occurrence. That is why I feel like I am talking to a genealogical wall.


  1. James, thanks for telling us about the lack of communication between genealogical societies and FamilySearch libraries. We've been trying to understand this situation.

    1. We recently offered to allow one of the members of a local society to teach at the Mesa FamilySearch Library Conference coming in October. They declined and did not suggest anyone else from their society to come instead. In some cases, the societies seem to be antagonistic as to involvement by anyone outside of the society. On the other hand, it seems that the Family History Centers are unaware of the existence of the local societies.

    2. Our local genealogical society is made up people of all walks of life, including LDS members. The FHC here also put on a seminar on using The turnout was fantastic. We are all hoping for another presentation soon.

      I would hope the FHC and the societies in other areas would use publicity and word of mouth to make the public aware of both and all the information available.

  2. Our local society, Contra Costa County Genealogical Society is partnering with the Concord Family History Center teaching a 6 week beginning genealogy class. We have 20 participants. We have a great relationship with the local FHC and one of their volunteers is on our board.