Saturday, December 27, 2014

Visits to the Recorders Office in 2015

Hamilton County Recorders Office
Have you always wondered about the records held by the Hamilton County Recorders Office? Maybe you know how the records could be beneficial to your genealogical search, but you've been a little reluctant to show up in an unfamiliar office populated by a lot of people who seem to already know what they are doing.

Have we got a deal for you! Many of you have participated in Liz Stratton's series on Finding Genealogical Gold in Land Records. We thought now would be the time to take that newly-found knowledge and apply it during a visit to the Hamilton County Recorders Office.

Kenny Burck and David Pittinger

Luckily for us, Recorder Wayne Coates and Chief of Staff Dave Pittinger thought it would be a great idea, too. They offered to schedule two dates for small groups of 10 to visit and learn first-hand about the wonderful resources available to us in their office. From 10:00 until noon on Wednesdays January 14th and 21st. Ten lucky members will meet in their Conference Room and get an overview of the office and the opportunity to search for their own records with Dave's help. (The programs on the 21st will be a repeat of the one on the 14th).

We gave priority registration to those who have been participating in the classes on Land Records and then opened it up to all members in the December Tracer. We currently have two spaces available on the 14th and three on the 21st. If you want to have your name added to the list, please email Kathy Reed, Program Director, at Should these classes fill up quickly, Dave has expressed a willingness to schedule additional dates. If these dates don't work for you, ask to be put on a "Waiting List."

The Recorders Office is located in the Hamilton County Administration Building a 138 Court Street. For a map and complete directions, click here. We hope to see you there.

 Submitted by Kathy Reed.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Virtual Cemeteries on Find A Grave

Find A Grave is a popular online genealogical resource.  Many people use Find A Grave but do not understand the Virtual Cemetery feature.  Hopefully this blog post will help you understand more about them.

What is a Virtual Cemetery?

 A Virtual Cemetery is a collection of links (to memorials) that you curate, like a list with links included.  The memorials are still managed by the profile that is assigned to manage them. The Virtual Cemetery is a quick link to the memorial. A Virtual Cemetery can be private or public. Your virtual cemetery might have memorials from many different cemeteries.  The Virtual Cemetery is different than Find A Grave’s “My Cemeteries” (which are links to a cemetery’s page).  

Find A Grave Feature definitions:

Memorial - page honoring a person, showing cemetery where buried
Cemetery - collection of Memorials located in a cemetery
My Cemeteries - a place to save a link to the cemeteries you work with often 
Virtual Cemetery - a curated collection of links to memorials

You can create a Virtual Cemetery for a variety of subjects.  Here are a few ideas:

o   List of famous gravesites: famous people, veterans, etc.
o   Family name: saving the links to all your family line in one easy to find place.
o   Cemetery research: quick access list of everyone to research in a particular cemetery
o   To Do: a list of memorials that you would like to research or take photos of
o   High school Class alumni             

This is a listing of Virtual Cemeteries  You can see that some are lists of tasks for a cemetery.  And then there are lists of famous people. The number next to the Virtual Cemetery name indicates how many memorials are included for that cemetery.

And here are a couple of examples of Virtual Cemeteries:


How do you create a Virtual Cemetery?

When logged in your Find a Grave account go to your profile page by clicking your profile name:   

Then go to your Contributor Tools:

Click the edit button next to “My Virtual Cemeteries”:

Click Add New:

Fill in the Your Cemetery name.  This one just has the same name as the cemetery I am working on. Click Yes if you would like this to be visible to the public, or No to keep it private.  Then click Add This Cemetery:

Your cemetery will appear in your list of Virtual Cemeteries.  It will not show up as a clickable link until you add memorials to it. The Virtual Cemeteries that are private have an * next to the name:

To edit a virtual cemetery click on the Virtual Cemetery link in your Contributions to Find a Grave page:

How do you add Memorials to a Virtual Cemetery?

To add a memorial to your Virtual Cemetery: Click on the Edit Virtual Cemetery link on the memorial page:

Then click the box next to your Virtual Cemetery you would like to place the memorial.  Click on Save Changes:

Here is the record in the Virtual Cemetery:

HCGS Makes a Difference Volunteer Project

We are using Virtual Cemeteries for the Hamilton County Genealogical Society’s project on documenting Hamilton County’s Civil War Veterans. Each Virtual Cemetery is a gallery of the cemeteries we have researched.  This makes it easier for our volunteers to find memorials they are working on without having to look up each person repeatedly.  For the public it shows the record of the soldiers in each cemetery, as if we created a memorial wall of the Civil War Veteran’s in each cemetery.

Our virtual cemeteries are located here: HCGS Virtual Cemeteries Or check out our Find A Grave Profile 

The image below shows a portion of the Virtual Cemeteries we have created for the project.  

We will need volunteers to help us with our project. If you like to work with Find A Grave searching and adding memorials to our Virtual Cemeteries or would prefer to head to the cemetery and take photos we would love your help.  Check out our earlier post on the project for more info: 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Researching Your Ancestors Using Church Records by Jeff Herbert

Jeff Herbert
“Researching Your Ancestors Using Church Records” will be the topic of the regular monthly meeting of the Warren County Genealogical Society on Wednesday, November 19 at 7:30 p.m.  The guest speaker will be Jeffrey G. Herbert, past president and current treasurer of the Hamilton County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society. 

Herbert has more than 20 years of experience in genealogical research and writing with a focus on local history.  He has authored more than 15 publications identifying and indexing local sources to aid researchers.  He is an expert in German research and old script handwriting.

Church records memorializing baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials often include information which can be extremely useful in identifying and sorting out family relationships.  However, they are often overlooked or considered too difficult to obtain, particularly by beginning or intermediate level researchers.  This presentation identifies valuable entry points for these vital sources of information.

The meeting will be held in the Phillippi Meeting Room of the Campus Center at the Otterbein-Lebanon Retirement Community, 585 State Route 741, (north of State Route 63), Lebanon, Ohio.

The event is open to the public, and is free.  No reservations are necessary, and everyone is welcome!

For more information, contact the Warren County Genealogical Society
at (513) 695-1144 or

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Anne Hutchinson - American Jezebel

Saturday, November 15th at 11:00 AM at the Main Library

Mr. Leland Cole, long-time member of the Hamilton County Genealogical Society, will be presenting two lectures at the Main Library on November 15th. If you enjoyed the Quaker talk presented last month, this talk will extend your understanding of the Quaker influence in the early days of our country. 

Lee will also discuss "Turmoil in the Ukraine" at 2:00 PM. The nation of Ukraine has experienced recent violent turbulence in a very stormy relationship with her Russian neighbor. Lee Cole, past President and current Board Member of the Center for Economic Initiatives and developer of a Marshall Plan prototype that has assisted many Ukrainian businesses, has first- hand knowledge of the current situation, and will provide a thorough overview along with historical background. This program is part of the Library's new "World Affairs" speaker series. 

Who Was Anne Hutchinson?

Anne Hutchinson was born in Alford, England in 1591 where she was educated.  Later she went on to become one of the most important women in British America.  Eleanor Roosevelt felt Anne was one of the five most important American women – Ever.  She is greatly responsible for Separation of Church and State and Freedom of Speech and was the inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter.

Anne, a fiery red-head, was very thoroughly trained on the Bible by her father the Rev. Francis Marbury and became skilled on debating the subject.  Her mother taught her how to be a mid-wife, a skill she would later use in America.  When 21, Anne married Will Hutchinson, also from Alford, whose family ran a very successful woolen import/export business.  Soon after, the government increased business taxes the couple decided to move to America.  On the ship she taught sessions on the Bible to other passengers.

The Hutchinsons built a fine house in Boston near that of Governor John Winthrop, the outspoken, autocratic, Puritan Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Anne continued to give lessons to small and ever increasing groups of local women.  These popular sessions were eventually attended by up to 80 people, both men and women.  Winthrop was enraged as Anne had differing views of “Salvation.”  He could not get her to change her mind so put her on trial.  The first day, Anne successfully defended her position against Winthrop and the clergy.  At the end of the second day, Anne was convicted and banished from the colony.  A second trial excommunicated Anne from the Puritan church.

Anne and Will fled to Providence where they negotiated with the Indians and settled in Pocasset, now Portsmouth, thus becoming co-founders of Rhode Island.  In the meantime, Winthrop continued to send ministers to meet with Anne and try to get her to recant her statements.  She would not.

In order to avoid these meetings, the family decided to remove to Pelham Bay (now the Bronx) and negotiated with the Dutch for land.  Sixteen people, including much of Anne’s family moved.  The land was located between the warring Dutch and Lenape Indians.  One day Anne was informed, through the Dutch that the Indians and Chief Wampage would attack.  Anne refused to leave the camp since she never before had any trouble with the Indians.  The Indians attacked, slaughtered all the inhabitants and animals and burned the camp.  It looked as though there were no survivors.  However, Anne’s youngest daughter, Susannah, was in the meadow picking berries and hid when she heard the screams and saw the smoke.

Wampage found Susannah, adopted her, and took her into his village.  She lived with the Indians for seven years until finally she was ransomed by her uncle, Edward Hutchinson.  She returned to Boston where she married John Cole.  Eventually they moved to Kingstown in Rhode Island to manage the Hutchinson’s property.

Submitted by Lee Cole

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Session Added: Hands-on with Land 2, November 1, 11 am, 1 pm and 3 pm

The Hands-on with Land session scheduled for 1 p.m. is full. A second session has been added at 3 p.m. on the same date. If you are on the library's waiting list, you have been accepted for the later session. Additional spaces are available at 3 p.m. Please email Liz Stratton at if you are interested in attending. Put "Land Series" in the topic line. The lecture at 11 a.m. does not require a reservation.

From the Collection of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County
Longworth Homestead, Used with permission from the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County
In Hands-on with Land sessions, we share discoveries, issues, strategies, and participant examples. The focus of the November 1 sessions is locating and gaining access to original indexes and records. A variety of strategies will be shared at the 11 am lecture.

During the hands-on sessions, participants will find ancestral land records online or learn how to access them from afar. Topics explored include:
  • County boundary changes and their effect on locating records
  • Availability of Hamilton County land records and indexes both online and at the Recorder's office
  • Federal land record availability with a specific emphasis on the issues faced researching Hamilton County warrantees and patentees
Submitted by Liz Stratton, Education Director, Hamilton County Genealogical Society

Monday, October 27, 2014

Uncovering World War I Genealogy Resources

Mark your calendars for 11:00 AM November 8th at the Main Library. Patricia Van Skaik will discuss some of the little-known resources available to those researching ancestors who may have served in World War I.

The library is home to numerous Grave Registration Cards that may include personal information about the veteran, as well as the funeral home used and the location of his grave. Rare books include clippings from contemporary newspapers that provide the reader with a picture of how the isolationists of the time felt about our country involving itself in a "European" war.

Rare Newspaper Clippings Housed at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County
Hope to see you there.

Submitted by Kathy Reed

Sunday, October 26, 2014

"Clicking and Claiming" on -- A Commentary

My Great-Grandfather, August H. Vonderheide, with his first three great-grancdhildren

Anyone who has been doing genealogy for any length of time knows not to trust family trees on at face value. They may be absolutely correct and include wonderful source citations. They may serve as a starting point for conducting your own research on an elusive ancestor. Best of all, they may lead you to connecting to “cousins” who are researching the same ancestor. I’ve had all three experiences.

Through Ancestry, I've had the pleasure of meeting and forming relationships with cousins who were working on the same family members. I’m very close to a 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th cousin I would not have discovered in any other way. One newly-discovered cousin lives about 15 minutes away from me, and we discovered that our gg-grandparents were brothers who ran their own business as blacksmiths in Cincinnati in the 1840s. What a delightful discovery.

BUT . . .

Not all discoveries are this positive. On ancestry, the company lets you know if someone is copying information from your tree to theirs. When I see the same name appearing over and over, I always contact them through the Member Connect option to see if we are related. A couple of days ago, I followed this procedure to contact someone who had included my g-grandfather in his tree. He had it totally wrong, and I offered to help him straighten it out. I did not expect to get this reply:

There may not be any logical or traceable connection at all, as the tree, by this time, is not actually a "family tree", but more correctly, a "community tree". In the process of assembling this interconnected tapestry, the families of various in-laws, or even second or third spouses, are included, which makes some of the "connections" a little obscure. I include something I call "cousin of a cousin", as your cousins may have an entirely different set of cousins, and when these families are expanded, gradually most of a community is included. So I probably bumped into (unnamed ancestor) by including parts of somebody else's tree, and if this information is incorrect, perhaps I was not sufficiently prudent in verification. Perhaps you could provide clarification?

The core of my tree is based in southwestern Wisconsin, Grant county, and expanding outward from there. Some goes back to European or Canadian pasts, and has stretched back and forth across the United States several times. In truth, I probably have no connection at all with some 95% or more of the people on the tree, and in fact, I am not even a direct relative of the base person, John Doe*. He was a brother-in-law to my first cousin, and I started the tree shortly after he died, as a sort of memorial. John* was about 8 or 9 years older than me, and he hung out with my older brother and my first cousins. He was always pretty much of a maverick when he was 17, and he was not much changed by the time he was 70. I pursue the expansion of the tree mostly for the intellectual challenge, as it is both a test of deductive capabilities, sorting out the scattered acts, and a way to fill time during retirement years. And I like to think it may be a starting point for somebody else who wants to start their own tree. Good Hunting.

*Name changed to protect the guilty.

I don’t think I have an answer for this one. Do you?

You can't just "click and claim" him -- he's mine.

Submitted by Kathy Reed

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Hands on with Land 1: Identifying Landowners, October 18

We are aware that the "Hands on with Land" session at 1 PM on  October 18 is full. A second session has been added at 3:00 PM. The nine people on the waiting list have been accepted for the 3 o'clock session. Space is limited in the second session. If anyone else is interested, contact Liz Stratton at or leave a message for her at 513-956-7078. Put the words "Land Records" in the subject line. The lecture "Surveying Land Records for Genealogical Gold" at 11:00 AM is open to everyone and does not require a reservation.

Additional details can be found on the Hamilton County Genealogical Society website,

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Heritage Luncheon and Lock-In

 Registration form

You only have until October 18 to make a reservation for the 2014 Heritage Luncheon. New members of the three lineage groups:  First Families, Settlers and Builders and Century Families will be inducted. It will be held at the Clovernook Country Club. RSVP by October 18 using this registration form.

Our guest speaker this year will be Wendy Hart Beckman, author of Founders and Famous Families of Cincinnati. Among the topics Ms. Beckman will discuss will be the trials, tribulations and triumphs of researching Cincinnati's earliest families. She will discuss some of the pitfalls she ran into including undocumented family trees, unvetted websites, and the necessity of finding original sources wherever possible.

Library Lock-In

I was hoping to give you a link to the library website so you could register for the lock-in scheduled for 6:30 to 11:30 PM at the Main Library on October 25th (same day as the Heritage Luncheon). The program also includes mini-tech programs in the adjoining computer lab. Unfortunately, the site says that the event is full. My suggestion -- call the Genealogy and Local History Department and ask to be put on a Waiting List. In the past they have invited everyone on the list.  (513-369-6905).

Submitted by Kathy Reed

updated: 10 October 2014

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Spring Grove Cemetery Tram Tour

Spring Grove Tram Tour
On September 14th, 18 lucky HCGS members had the pleasure of touring Spring Grove Cemetery by tram. The docent discussed "Women in the Grove" and "Iconography."

So many members expressed an interest in this tour. With a waiting list of 44, we arranged for two additional tours on October 11th at 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM. Last week we were informed that one of the tram cars which had been out for repair will now be added for the October 11th date. We now have additional spots available.

If you would like to participate, please email Kathy Reed at as soon as possible.
Put the words "Spring Grove" in the subject line. She will let you know by return email if you have been added to the list.

Submitted by Kathy Reed

Thursday, September 4, 2014

October is German-American Heritage Month

October is always a very busy month. Not only is it Family History Month, but it is also German-American Heritage Month. Chapter President, Kenny Burck, shared a list of activities scheduled for October that are sponsored by the German-American Citizens' League. In addition, Jean Morrison supplied a flier from the Tri-State German-American School. If you have an interest in learning to speak German, this school is for you. 

Since October 1989, German-American Heritage Month has been sponsored in the Ohio Valley by the German-American Citizens’ League, which was founded in 1895. The month is centered around October 6th, which was the day in 1683 when the first permanent German settlement was established in Germantown, Pennsylvania.  October is also Family History Month.

October 12 & 19 & 26, 2014 - (Sundays) - Visit the German Heritage Museum at  West Fork Park in Green Township at 4764 West Fork Road, located off North Bend Road in Monfort Heights - (phone museum on this day only after 1:00 p.m. at 598-5732 for directions if needed)  from 1 to 5 p.m (The Museum is closed October 5, 2015, please attend the Donauschwaben Oktoberfest in Colerain Township.)

October 4, 2014 - (Saturday) - Downtown Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County at 8th & Vine Streets - Annual Genealogy Fair with various groups including the Germany Genealogy Interest Group where you can ask the experts German Genealogy questions and trace your German roots - 11:00 to 3:00 p.m.

October 5, 2014 - (Sunday) - German Heritage Auxiliary of the German-American Club of Louisville at 1840 Lincoln Avenue, Louisville, KY - “German-Americans as Huns: The Anti-German Hysteria of WWI” - Presented by Dr. Don Heinrich Tolzmann (President of the German-American Citizens’ League) - 2:00 p.m.

October 6, 2014 - (Monday) - Landrum Academic Center 110 on the campus of  Northern Kentucky University (Maps/Directions  - “A Diverse Community: Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Germans” (The lecture will be followed by a panel discussion held by four German immigrants. Each of them will tell us where and when they immigrated and will be open for questions) - Presented by Paul A. Tenkotte, PhD - 2:00 p.m.

October 6, 2014 - (Monday) - Pleasant Ridge Public Library at 6233 Montgomery Road - “Reading Old German Script in Genealogical Records - Part 1” - Presented by Kenny Burck and/or Deb Cyprych  of the Hamilton County Genealogical Society for four nights in October - 6:00 p.m .

October 11, 2014 - (Saturday)  - Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints Family History Center at 144 Buttermilk Pike in Lakeside Park, KY (Exit 186 off  of  I-75) - “Germans From the Tri-State in the Civil War” - Presented by Dr. Don Heinrich Tolzmann (President of the German-American Citizens’ League)  - This event is open to the public - Phone 859-468-4866 for additional details if needed) - 11:45 a.m.      
October 12, 2014 - (Sunday) - German Heritage Museum  at West Fork Park in Green Township at 4764 West Fork Road, located off North Bend Road in Monfort Heights - (phone museum on this day only after 1:00 p.m. at 598-5732 for directions if needed) - Museum open 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. and attendance is free - “Cincinnati North Turners and the Anti-German Backlash during World War I”- Presented by Dann Woellert - 2:00 p.m.

October 13, 2014 - (Monday) - Pleasant Ridge Public Library at 6233 Montgomery Road - “Reading Old German Script in Genealogical Records - Part 2” - Presented by Kenny Burck and/or Deb Cyprych of the Hamilton County Genealogical Society for four nights in October - 6:00 p.m .

October 16, 2014 - (Thursday) - Green Township Regional Library at  6525 Bridgetown Road  - “Tracing Your German Genealogy” - Presented by Kenny Burck of the Hamilton  County Genealogical Society - 11:00 a.m.
October 21, 2014 - (Tuesday) - Pleasant Ridge Public Library at 6233 Montgomery Road - “Reading Old German Script in Genealogical Records - Part 3” - Presented by Kenny Burck and/or Deb Cyprych of the Hamilton County Genealogical Society for four nights in October - 6:00 p.m .

October 23, 2014 - (Thursday) - Kenton County, KY Public Library at 5th & Scott Streets, Covington, KY - “Locating Your German Family’s Village of Origin” - Presented by Kenny Burck of the Hamilton County, OH Genealogical Society - 7:00 p.m.

October 26, 2014 - (Sunday) - German Heritage Museum at West Fork Park in Green Township at 4764 West Fork Road, located off North Bend Road in Monfort Heights - (phone museum on this day only after 1:00 p.m. at 598-5732 for directions if needed) - Museum open 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. and attendance is free - “The Anti-German Hysteria of World War I in Northern Kentucky”- Presented by Lisa Gillham - 2:00 p.m.

October 27, 2014 - (Monday) - Pleasant Ridge Public Library at 6233 Montgomery Road - “Reading Old German Script in Genealogical Records - Part 4” - Presented by Kenny Burck and/or Deb Cyprych of the Hamilton County Genealogical Society for four nights in October - 6:00 p.m .

Programs sponsored by the:

German-American Citizens’ League of Greater Cincinnati                      
Hamilton County (OH) Genealogical Society
Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County, OH                                
LDS Family History Center in Lakeside Park, KY               
German Heritage Auxiliary - German-American Club of Louisville     
Kenton County (KY) Public Library    
NKU’s Department of World Languages and Literature

Call Kenny Burck for any other details at 513-260-0238

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Day with Genealogy Experts 2014

On Saturday, October 4, HCGS will be co-sponsoring the annual “Day with Genealogy Experts.” This year’s topic will feature the contributions of the Quakers to this region. In addition to the chance to tour the Genealogy and Local History Department, two speakers are scheduled during the day. At 11:00 AM, Dr. Diane Van Skiver Gagel, Past President of OGS, will be discussing “The Inner Light: Researching Our Quaker Ancestors.” Dr. Robert Wimberg, a popular local historian and Adjunct Professor at Wilmington College will discuss “The Quakers of Cincinnati and Their Contributions” at 2:00 PM.

As usual, a variety of “experts” from around the area will have tables set up that you will be able to visit between 12:00 and 2:00. This has been a very popular program in year’s past, and this year should be no exception. 

You may also want to mark your calendar for the annual Genealogy Lock-In at the Main Library. It will be held on Saturday, October 25th from 6:30 - 11:30 PM. Space is limited and a reservation is required. You may reserve a spot at this link.

Submitted by:

Kathy Reed

Monday, August 11, 2014

Proposed Bipartisan Legislation to Change the VA Policy on Veteran Headstones

Grave of Civil War Veteran Jesse Flinn in Pleasant Ridge Cemetery

Jim Dempsey forwarded this article to me for possible inclusion in the blog. Since it is an article that discusses a bill with bipartisan support, I have included it in this blog. If you have an ancestor who served in the military and was buried without a headstone, this new policy may allow the Veterans' Administration to supply a headstone.The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County confronted this issue a couple of years ago. They wanted to honor seven African-American Civil War Veterans buried in the Wesleyan Cemetery without a headstone. In some cases, they could not locate a descendant, making them ineligible to receive one according to the VA rules in place at the time. So it is with great excitement that I share this link.

Thank you, Jim, for the good news.

Legislation to Provide Headstones to All Veterans

Submitted by Kathy Reed

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Spring Grove Cemetery Tram Tour

Photo Credit: Spring Grove Cemetery Website

On Saturday, September 6th at 1:00 PM, 24 lucky members of the Hamilton County Genealogical Society will have the opportunity to take a tram tour of Spring Grove Cemetery. The tour will be led by two docents who will discuss "Women of the Grove" and "Iconography." (Note: Iconography is the study of the symbols found on grave markers). The tour will last approximately one hour.

Unfortunately, only the first 24 people who make a reservation will be able to attend. Should there be more members interested in attending, every effort will be made to schedule a second tour at a later date. Please notify Kathy Reed by email at and with the words "Spring Grove" in the subject line. By return email, you will receive confirmation of your eligibility to attend the tour. A waiting list will be maintained if necessary. Participants are asked to meet at the Welcome Center near the cemetery entrance. There is no cost to members.

Questions? The best way to contact me is through email. You may also call me at 513-295-1970.
Click to Access Directions

                                                                              Photo Credit: Kathy Reed

Note: This tour is FULL. If you are interested, please ask to be put on the Waiting List. If another tour can be arranged, you will be contacted.

Submitted by Kathy Reed

Monday, July 28, 2014

Survey Results Indicate that People Join Genealogical Societies for Camaraderie

Background: Recently, Gail Dever posted a survey trying to determine the most important factors that explain what motivates people to join genealogical societies. She published the results of her survey on her blog, Genealogy a la Carte
Do the results ring true for you? Do you recognize areas where we could do a better job in the Hamilton County Genealogical Society. Send your comments to Kathy Reed at and I will publish them in a future post. Thanks to Gail Dever for allowing us to share her post.
Are you listening, genealogical societies? Here are the results to last week’s survey question: What are the most important factors that make you decide to join a genealogy society? 
Due to publicity on blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, 490 people participated in the survey that provided 37 multiple-choice answers. More than 40 people checked the Other box and provided additional responses.
Many thanks to all who participated and to those who promoted the survey.
Focus on camaraderie, resources, and newsletter – at an affordable price
According to the results of this survey, if your society wants to increase membership, it should focus efforts to build camaraderie, encourage members to share and learn from each other, develop the library’s resources, maintain/increase the content and quality of its newsletter, provide lectures, and offer an affordable membership fee.
Most important factors
The top two reasons people join a society are for the people. While genealogists often do much of their research alone, it perhaps comes as no surprise that close to a majority of respondents — about 60 percent — join societies for the opportunity to meet people and learn from others. Forty-five percent also said “research assistance and guidance” is an important factor and 40 percent join because members are friendly and helpful.
The number three reason genealogists join societies is to “improve my research skills” (54%).  As for organized opportunities to learn, only lectures appear in the top ten. Is this because lectures are often free for members? Is it the frequency of lectures that encourage people to join?
Cost is also an important factor, suggested by 45 percent of respondents who selected “affordable membership fee.”
Other top ten factors are the library’s resources (47%), newsletter (46%), and remote access to members only databases (40%).
1. Opportunity to network with people passionate about genealogy – 61%
2. Opportunity to meet knowledgeable members to help me – 59%
3. I want to improve my research skills – 54%
4. Society focused on area where my ancestors lived – 48%.
5. Library’s resources (books, computers, microfilm) – 47%
6. Informative newsletter/journal/magazine – 46%
7. Research assistance and guidance – 45%
8. Affordable membership fee – 44%
9. Lectures – 43%
10. Members are friendly and helpful – 40%
10. Remote access to “members only” online databases – 40%

Learning opportunities not a huge factor
Other learning opportunities, such as conferences (36%), workshops (34%), and webinars (24%), appear in the top 20, however, they are not among the top factors one may expect, given the amount of work and cost required from a society.
While only one if five respondents chose message boards (21%) and free queries (20%), significantly more people (31%) prefer the ability to post to a surname research database.
Member discounts and advocacy attract few
Way down the list are member discounts, ranging from 10 to 18 percent. Although many respondents indicated they join societies to network with other genealogists, they appear much less interested in field trips (15%) and social events (11%). Very few respondents join a society for its advocacy program, partnerships, or board of directors.
11. I want to help fellow genealogists – 36%
11. Conferences – 36%
12. Workshops – 34%
13. Ability to post to surname research database – 31%
14. Email communication with members about activities, resources, and news – 25%
15. Webinars – 24%

16. I live near the society – 23%
17. Message board for members – 21%
18. Variety of special interest groups – 20%
18. Free queries – 20%
19. Member discounts on lecturers, seminars, and workshops – 18%
19. Volunteer opportunities – 18%
20. Society is a leader in the field of genealogy – 17%

21. Field trips – 15%
21. Member discounts on conferences – 15%
22. Member discounts on commercial databases – 13%
22. Society partners with other organizations – 13%
23. Member discounts on books and magazines – 12%
24. Recommendation from a friend – 11%
24. Social activities – 11%
24. Society recognizes volunteers’ contributions – 11%

25. Member discounts on research – 10%
26. Other (these factors will be listed tomorrow) – 9%
27. Useful new member packages – 8%
27. I want to provide financial support – 8%
28. Society has an advocacy program – 7%
29. Society’s board of directors – 2%