Sunday, June 19, 2011

I Finally Joined a Local Genealogy Society

I was batting around the idea of joining a local genealogy society for a while, and after seeing a post from Amy Coffin at We Tree Genealogy, I was convinced.  I needed to find one!

I looked on my local library website to see if there was any information.  It listed the Hamilton County Tennessee Genealogy Society, so about 3 months ago I decided to see what they were all about.  When I first found their website, I was confused because the "Membership" link didn't work.  So I went to the "Members" link and found a promising-looking candidate and sent an email to them (none of the members were identified as officers, so I sort of just took my chances).

I received a pleasant email reply informing me that they were a strictly online society (which is a bit of a contradiction-in-terms, if you ask me), but that I was more than welcome to join for a small fee, or I could transcribe and post an historical document of some sort (it had to be from or pertaining to Hamilton County, Tennessee) and join for free.

Since I have no known ancestors from Tennessee, I haven't really done any research here so I don't have any documents to offer up.  Besides, I really wanted a genealogy society where people actually meet face-to-face and talk to each other and learn stuff.

Incidentally, now the link for Membership is working again and this is what it says:
The Hamilton County Tennessee Genealogy Society is an on-line, non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of the history and genealogical records of Hamilton County Tennessee. The primary purpose is to provide an online format for the documentation and publication of these records for use by anyone with an interest in Hamilton County.
Not exactly my definition of a genealogy society.  Anyway, that was a bust.  A few weeks ago, I decided to give the library a call and see if they knew of any other local societies that actually meet.  The librarian was very helpful and gave me the contact information for two other societies in the area: Signal Mountain Genealogical Society (they have no website) and Delta Genealogical Society.  The Signal Mountain group meets on the first Tuesday of the month at 1:00 p.m. for light refreshments, with the educational portion of their meeting beginning at 1:30 p.m.  Well, that's all fine and dandy for the rich and retired folks and housewives on Signal Mountain, but us working class folk need a group that meets in the evenings after work!

So I emailed Dale Harrison, who is the membership coordinator - which is plainly displayed on their website along with all the other officers under "Members."  I received a very prompt reply inviting me to attend their next meeting, on the 2nd Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. (woohoo!)  The group meets at the public library in Rossville, Georgia, and the drive (literally) took me about 6 minutes.

Okay, so now I've found a group that meets in the evenings, now I'm just hoping it's an active group.

I arrived at the library a little bit early (I thought it would take a lot longer to get there than it actually did), so I got to meet the President, Rufus Williamson, right off the bat.  He is probably one of the sweetest little old men I've ever met.  He's gotta be about 80 years old and just as spry as you please.  He welcomed me and gave me a complimentary copy of the society's quarterly publication Southern Roots & Shoots.  The folks at the library hadn't set up the room for the meeting beforehand, so I helped him set up the tables and chairs before everyone got there.  Bless his heart, it's a good thing I was early.  There's no way he could have done all that by himself.  Those tables were humongous.  So I asked him ... "how many members do you usually have at your meetings?"  He said, "Oh, sometimes about 20 or so ... but since it's the summer, we may be short a couple of people who are on vacation."  Wow!  To me, that's a pretty big group for this little area.

Then people started coming in, about 14 total.  After some of the horror stories I have heard about newbies at some society meetings feeling like they were on the outside looking in, I braced myself for that "left out" feeling ... that never happened.  It was amazing.  Rufus introduced me by name (and that I was doing Crowe research) to every person as they walked in the door, including the speaker!  Everyone was very welcoming and gracious.  I felt like a rock star!  Almost everyone there was older ... much older ... than me, but it felt like a big family.

Our speaker was Marnie Pehrson, a local author.  She spoke about her book The Patriot Wore Petticoats.  It's a truly fascinating fictional story based on the life of her 4th great grandmother during the Revolutionary War.  I bought a copy.

The meeting lasted a little over an hour, and I was stopped several times on the way out by the members, thanking me for coming and asking me to come back to the next meeting and how happy they were to have a fresh face in the group.  Since it's a month until the next meeting, I have already mailed my membership fee (can't beat $15 a year!), and I'm looking forward to the next meeting and seeing all the wonderful people there!


Debbie said...

Isn't it great?! I love my local society, too. No research here, but they spur me on with the speakers and wonderful members.

Greta Koehl said...

I am so glad you made all the effort to find this gem. Based on your experience it appears that if the first genealogical society you check out is not what you want, it pays to keep looking.

Anonymous said...

What a hoot! I would love to find a locally based online society...

I'm glad you found a local one that fits your needs.

Amy Coffin said...

So glad you found a society that fits! :)

Marian Pierre-Louis said...

I'm so glad you had a good experience. And I don't think age matters so much when it comes to genealogy. It's all about sharing and the research.

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