This is a timely Follow Friday question because it picks up on a post earlier this week by Elyse Doerflinger at Elyse’s Genealogy Blog, Getting the Next Generation Involved in Genealogy Societies. Elyse is a “Next Generation Genealogist” par excellence and was one of two recipients this year of the Suzanne Winsor Freeman Memorial Student Genealogy Grant sponsored by family and friends in memory of my mom, Suzanne Freeman.
The Grant Awards were announced this year at the 2012 SCGS Jamboree, but the recipients were not informed ahead of time that they would be receiving the award and a $500 check at the Friday night Gala event. As the grant chairman and presenter, I spent some time earlier in the week making a few notes for my presentation remarks. I started out to introduce the grant recipients, but I soon found myself expressing my motivation for starting the grant program and awarding the funds. In the end, my presentation speech evolved into a challenge to the genealogy community.
It was obvious, however, that the Gala event was neither the time or place for a speech. The crowd was gathered to mingle, chat, and have fun, not listen to a challenge from the podium. Instead, I abbreviated my remarks to focus on the grant recipients, Elyse Doerflinger and A.C. Ivory, and set my speech aside for another time.
In view of Elyse’ recent post, this might be a good time to resurrect those lines.
The Speech that was not Spoken
Jamboree 2012 Gala
As genealogists we are quite serious the idea of Honoring Our Ancestors. And, much of our work is shadowed by the desire that our descendants remember our family history. We want to be a LINK IN THE CHAIN BETWEEN PAST PRESENT AND FUTURE.
In the same way, our genealogy community stands on the shoulders of those genealogists who laid the groundwork for the Genealogical Proof Standard, for scholarly journals, and for moving genealogy from hobby to profession. WE HONOR OUR ANCESTORS IN THE GENEALOGICAL COMMUNITY.
Unfortunately, we are less diligent about ensuring a future for our community and profession. Look around you, how many people in this room do you see that could be considered “The Next Generation” of genealogists? We have to ask ourselves, what are we doing to recruit and encourage young people to join us in the fascinating profession we love?
You might say, they are busy – and they are. But Josh Taylor’s biography is evidence enough that young people can find family history so interesting that they want to make it their life’s work.
The real truth is that it’s not very easy for young people, especially students on a limited budget, to attend functions like Jamboree and catch the “genealogical bug.” Conferences, as we know, are expensive. Travel is costly. Stop and think what you paid for college, then think about what your children and grandchildren pay today.
That is why, I was so very pleased to learn that SCGS would offer tuition assistance to students who wanted to attend Jamboree. This is a brand new program, the first of it’s kind offered by any conference. Yes, some grants are available to fund tuition for specific conferences, but this is a new idea – that the conference itself would offer tuition remission or a special student rate. SCGS is to be commended.
Last year I was honored to work with the Jamboree committee on a student scholarship that offered free registration and a cash award. Suzanne Winsor Freeman was not a professional genealogist, she was a volunteer organizer who worked with young people all her life and took up genealogy as a hobby after retirement.
Suzanne was my mother. Suzanne was what you might call a “scattershot” genealogist. Her great wish was to join DAR through our patriot ancestor, but the application process was overwhelming to her. One day she called me with a tone of disbelief in her voice. Can you believe it, she said. I talked to those DAR ladies, and they said I needed SOURCES. Sources? What do they mean, Sources? I know it. That’s my source.
But when she came to Jamboree, she felt comfortable, accepted, and challenged to learn something new. She loved seeing young people getting started, and wasn’t afraid to try new things.
The Suzanne Freeman Student Grant aims to honor her memory by making funds available for young genealogist to advance their genealogical education and encourage their growth in this field.
The recipient of the 2011 Grant, Anthony Ray, is a Palmdale college student who had never attended Jamboree until last year. He isn’t here this year because he is researching family in Arizona. He is the Next Generation Genealogist.
Tonight I am pleased to introduce to you two young people who are familiar faces in the genealogical community. I first met Elyse Doerflinger and A.C. Ivory at Jamboree a few years ago but I knew them in the virtual world of blogging first.
Elyse has just completed a year of student teaching in Los Angeles. She writes Elyse’s Genealogy Blog and has become a popular speaker on organizing and technology.
A.C. Ivory is a student who also works for Ancestry.com’s research arm ProGenealogists and speaks about genealogy databases and technology.
PLEASE COME FORWARD
I’d like to introduce you THE NEXT GENERATION OF GENEALOGISTS — Elyse and A.C., recipients of the 2012 Suzanne Freeman Memorial Student Genealogy Grant.
My Mom was more a collector of family stories than names on her pedigree. The juicier the story, the better she liked it. When she needed to find a job as a newly-divorced mother of two teenagers, she turned to the non-profit profession where she had earned her stars as a volunteer for scouting and youth projects.
Meanwhile, I was attending a fancy private college courtesy of a scholarship set up through another youth organization, the California Scholastic Press Association. Founded by Millie and Ralph Alexander, the CSPA sponsored summer workshops and helped high school students learn about and begin careers in journalism. Fees for CSPA events were low and professional involvement and encouragement were high.
After my mother’s death in 2010, the CSPA came to mind as a model for a way to help students who were interested in pursuing genealogy as a career or serious avocation. And, the Suzanne Winsor Freeman Memorial Student Grant Program was born.
This grant program has two goals:
1. To help light a fire in the genealogical community to look for ways to assist, encourage, and motivate the next generation of genealogists.
2. To provide a practical “here it is” funding boost to young people that will enable them to attend a conference, purchase software, or pursue research goals they might not be able to accomplish otherwise.
Elyse asked this question in her recent video on her blog, and offered several suggestions —
- Does your society offer any kind of student or youth discount for membership or events?
- If not, does you society accept volunteer hours as partial or full payment for membership?
- Is your society accepting and friendly to young people?
I might add —
- Do you encourage young people to become involved by offering them positions of resposibility on your board or event committees?
- Do you provide ways for students and young people to offset costs?
- Have you considered offering a society grant to give young members “genealogy” funds to spend as needed?
So, what are you — and your society — doing to encourage the Next Generation of Genealogists?
Let’s keep the conversation going: Feel free to grab the image and post to your blog or a response on your blog.
Image Source: Marko_K’s Photostream, Flickr