Genealogy is growing dramatically in popularity. Multiple television shows depict family history discoveries, and the use of DNA to help folks climb there family tree has become mainstream. If genealogy is so popular, why is genealogy society membership declining, and how can we slow hat trend?
Genealogy societies have traditionally been centered around genealogists coming together in person, sharing research success stories, and learning more about how to find the records and stories of elusive ancestors.
These days though it’s easy to get distracted by by online research and perceived short cuts. The newest generation of researchers started their search not in a library, but on a computer keyboard. The problem is that they often don’t know what they are missing when it comes to what genealogy societies have to offer.
One solution: show them the value with video!
Create Video Magic with Animoto
(Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. Thank you for supporting the Genealogy Gems blog!)
One of my favorite video creation tools is Animoto because it helps you creates incredibly professional-looking videos in a shockingly short amount of time. And most importantly, Animoto requires no more technical skill than clicking, dragging, and dropping with a mouse.
Rather than seeing the Internet as the enemy of your society, embrace it and put it to work for it. Online video is terrific tool for:
Building your membership
Providing genealogical educational information
Sharing events with those who are unable to attend in person
just to name a few ideas.
See It for Yourself
Last year I had the pleasure of presenting a full day genealogy seminar in Fresno, California. Turning photos of the day into a video that could be used to build membership was a breeze With Animoto. I selected a design, uploaded my images and added text to help make the case. Here’s an example of a video I created for the Fresno Genealogical Society.
Getting the Word Out
A video like this can spread the word and reach prospective members in a variety of ways. Here are just a few ideas for how a genealogy society can grow membership using video to achieve their engagement goals:
Download the video from the Animoto website and show it at your next meeting so visitors can envision reasons to return
Embed the video your society’s website (just copy the code from Animoto and paste it on your webpage and the video will appear in a convenient video player)
Share the video on social media sites like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram to not only get views, but provide a super simple way for supporters to share it which will get your society more exposure.
Keys to Video Success
Just a bit of planning can deliver great results. Here are my recommendations for how a genealogy society can grow membership and achieve promotional video success:
Keep it short – it took just 1 and 1/2 minutes to convey the answers to the who, what, where, and why questions folks may ask when considering a genealogy society in the Fresno area
Let images do most of the talking – there’s no need for being verbose if you have energetic imagery that convey your ideas.
Highlight the benefits – the big question potential members have is “why should I bother joining a genealogy society? Make sure you answer that question in your video
Tell them at the beginning and end how to find you – repeating your website address and keeping it on the screen long enough to jot it down gives them what they need to contact you. And after all, that is the goal of your video.
How to Create Your Genealogy Society Video
We have lots of how-to video creation resources for you here at Genealogy Gems. Click here to find step-by-step instructions for creating videos on Animoto, and to see more examples of the role that video can play in your family history.
More Resources Reveal How a Genealogy Society Can Grow Membership
Recently Genealogy Gems Podcast listener Rosie wrote in with an Evernote question:
“I really enjoy listening to your podcasts. Thanks so much for all your efforts. As a long time researcher I always wondered how the Hunt family got from New England to Ohio around 1800. Not too long ago another researcher found some autobiographical sketches written by Thomas W. Hunt in the Library of Congress. They posted it on Ancestry.com and another researcher sent me the link. I am still trying to figure out Evernote but I am wondering if there is a way to transcribe the sketches from PDF format with this tool.”
Good for Rosie for considering her options for how technology might be able to make the task at hand just a little bit easier!
Currently you must have an Evernote Premium account in order for your PDF documents to be keyword searchable or to annotate PDFs directly. The pdf document that Rosie was hoping to automatically transcribe with optical character recognition (OCR) is in cursive handwriting. Evernote can apply OCR to simple, clear printing, but it can’t read script, especially fancier writing such as this Thomas Hunt sketch or old German script and handwriting.
That would require ICR, or intelligent character recognition, and that technology is still emerging and isn’t widely available to consumers yet.
The Solution: Evernote doesn’t transcribe documents. To get the genealogical content from the sketches into Evernote, Rosie will need to start a new Evernote note and re-type the documents herself. Once that is done, then Evernote can apply OCR to the note and the typed transcription will be keyword-searchable.
A Solution for Type and Printing if you aren’t an Evernote Premium user: If you are fortunate enough to discover a long-sought after genealogical document such as Rosie did, and your PDF document is typed text or simple, neat printing then you are in luck. There are free conversion tools available online that can do the trick. I use ConvertOnlineFree.com to convert my PDF document to text. I like it because I can use the tool directly from the web without having to download software to my computer.
(As with all tools we discuss here you’ll need to do your own homework and decide if it is right for you.)
1. click the Choose File
2. select the PDF file I want to convert from my computer 3. click the Convert button
4. save the converted file to my computer
5. copy and paste the text into a new note in Evernote, and OCR does the rest.
It’s nice to share Do you know other genealogists who use Evernote? Why not share this post with them? Use our handy social media buttons at the top of this post, or copy the and paste the URL into an email. Your friends will thank you!
Looking for a quick and easy craft to do? My mom made these cute ornaments for volunteers who work in the genealogy room of the public library with her.
These little framed photos of the volunteers’ ancestors would make fantastic ornaments to hang on a holiday tree or–year-round as my mother-in-law does–on a decorative metal family tree.
All you need are copies of old ancestral photos and these basic supplies:
inexpensive wood or paper mache cutout frames, which you can purchase at craft stores;
tape or craft glue to adhere the picture to the back of the frame;
silver spray paint (or any other paint suitable for the frame surface, with a brush);
Mod-Podge or another acrylic sealer (optional) to protect and further adhere the front of the ornament;
decorative ribbon or string to use as ties.
This would be an easy family history craft to produce in bulk, and it’s inexpensive! Consider making them for your own family history display or for family gifts. This is a great project for kids to do, as it should turn out looking nice even with young or inexperienced crafters.
Every Friday, we blog about new genealogy records online. This week’s findings include a major Cincinnati newspaper collection, Cuban genealogy resources, a burial index for New York City and records for a mental hospital in Surrey, England. Might any of the collections below include your ancestor? Check out our weekly Google search tip at the end of the post, too–it’s about finding images associated with the records you come across.
CINCINNATI NEWSPAPER. Subscribers can now search over a quarter million pages from The Cincinnati Enquirer (1841-1922) at Newspapers.com. This collection covers 80 years of history for one of the largest inland cities in the U.S., which was a major landing spot for Ohio River travelers and home to thousands of German immigrants.
CUBAN GENEALOGY COLLECTION. The Digital Library of the Caribbean now offers access to the Enrique Hurtado de Mendoza Collection of Cuban Genealogy.According to the website description, the collection “includes thousands of books, handwritten and typed letters, photos and other primary documents relating to Cuba and Cuban genealogy, collected over four decades by Felix Enrique Hurtado de Mendoza….: rare 17th and 18th century books, long out-of-print publications and periodicals that few, if any, U.S. libraries hold in their catalogs. Additionally, thousands of unpublished family genealogies and manuscripts make this collection particularly significant.” Read more about the collection in this article, where we learned about it.
NYC BURIALS. One of New York City’s oldest and largest cemeteries has put up a free database with thousands of burials, among them Civil War soldiers, former slaves and more. Green-Wood cemetery has about Green-Wood currently has more than half a million burials dating to 1840. Those who find an ancestor in the database should consider ordering a search of Green-Wood’s archival records.
UK HOSPITAL RECORDS. Over 11,000 Surrey, England Mental Hospital admission records(1867-1900) have been newly digitized and published by Ancestry, in partnership with the Surrey History Centre. Each record contains the patient’s name, gender, marriage status, occupation, residence, religion, and their reason for admission (diagnosis). Here’s your weekly Google search tip: don’t forget to look for images associated with the types of record collections you find! Where one record exists, another may also. For example: search “Surrey England mental hospital,” and then when the results come up, click “Images.” You’ll find tons of photos of that hospital, some of them quite old. You can further filter these (or any image results) under Search Tools. Most commonly when searching for old pictures, I will choose “Black and White” under the Color tab (which naturally limits results to mostly older photos) or “labeled for reuse” under the Usage Rights tab (more likely to find images I can publish). This tip is brought to you by The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke: the fully-revised and updated 2nd edition is packed with great search tips like these!
Reuters recently reported that Ancestry “is exploring a sale that could value it at between $2.5 billion and $3 billion, including debt.” According to unnamed sources, Permira (a buyout firm that owns most of Ancestry) “has hired investment banks to run an auction for the company.”
It’s far too soon to say what this might mean for paying customers, users of Ancestry Library Edition and corporate and community partners. The sale of a company can mean possible changes in direction and organization. Ancestry currently boasts delivery of 15 billion genealogy records to 2.1 million subscribers, and has stated its intent to acquire additional records at an aggressive pace. In an ever changing corporate and technological environment we believe it’s important to retain ownership and responsibility of our own data.
Our best advice to those whose master family trees are on Ancestry? Download and backup your data! We’re not being alarmist. This announcement is just a good opportunity to do something we routinely recommend anyway.
First, download your current tree(s) to GEDCOM files onto your computer. Under the Trees tab, choose Create and Manage Trees. For each tree you have there, choose Manage Tree, then Export Tree.
Next, check your sources! The Ancestry help section states, “Any pictures, charts, books, views, or similar items found in the original file will not be included in the [downloaded] GEDCOM. Vital information, notes, and sources are usually retained after conversion.” Check your GEDCOM to see whether your source notes are intact. Then make sure you have copies of documents, videos, photos and other items you may have attached to your tree. You don’t want them to disappear, should there be a hiccup (or worse) in service.
Finally, if you have used AncestryDNA, download a copy of your raw DNA data. We especially recommend this step! These tests are expensive. Tests for loved ones who are now deceased can’t be re-rerun. And Ancestry has disposed of DNA samples in the past when the company has switched directions. (Again, not trying to be alarmist, just cautious.)
If you have relied on Ancestry or any other cloud-based service to host your only or master family tree, we recommend you do your homework and consider your options. Please click hereto read a blog post about keeping your master tree on your own computer at home, and which software may be best for you.
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!