Picking and Choosing

Today, I began the long process of deciding which societies I will renew memberships in, which ones I may need to join, and what periodicals I need to subscribe to for the coming year.

This is always a difficult decision for me. If I had my druthers, I’d join every society on my long list and subscribe to every periodical. Alas, finances almost never allow for that circumstance. So I must pick and choose based on whether or not I can participate in society functions, what benefits the society offers (and whether or not I can take advantage of them), and how well I like the society’s publications.

Last year, I was a member of two state genealogical societies, four regional genealogical societies, the National Genealogical Society, the Association of Professional Genealogists, and the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors. Additionally, I subscribed to The Genealogist and The American Genealogist. (Yes, I really read them.) One of the state societies can be joined only through the state’s regional societies, so I only have to pay once to be a member of both.

If this sounds like a lot, well, maybe so, maybe not so. I have the pleasure of living at the corner of three states, and because I perform client work in all three, then I must keep abreast of the genealogy world in all three. And because I’m a professional interested in professional practices, etc., then I must keep track of the larger picture, which I do through membership in the NGS, the APG, and the ISFHWE. I consider membership in all of these societies to be fairly necessary, professionally and personally.

This year, I had hoped to not only renew membership in all my “essential” societies, but to join at least two new ones as well, including at least one historical society.

Unfortunately, I’m probably going to have to drop membership in at least one regional society, not because of financial pressures but because the society meets at a time when working people cannot attend without missing work. The regular meeting places are usually held at locations 1.5 – 2 hours by car from me, which means I’d miss pretty much a whole day of work.

Outside of the meetings, the only benefit is the society’s publication. It’s actually one of the better society publications I read as far as content, reliability, and format go, but the editor is completely unresponsive. I’ve tried to volunteer several times (to write articles, to transcribe records, or to pick up records for others to transcribe) and have received absolutely no response. Frankly, if I’m going to beat my head against a brick wall, I’d rather it be an ancestral problem. On the other hand, perhaps the editor doesn’t need or want additional help, in which case it would be better for me to apply my efforts where they are needed.

Either way, dropping that society means I might be able to join another one. For instance, I would like to join a third state society, but while the meetings for the one I have in mind are held in several locations throughout the state, none is closer than a four hour drive from where I live. That doesn’t stop me from volunteering with the society when I can, but it does put weight on continuing membership in the pertinent regional society (which is active and relatively close to home) rather than joining the state-level society.

I had hoped to subscribe to at least two new periodicals as well, although I have not made my mind up as to which ones would be best. I thought perhaps one of the commercial, popular magazines, but I may veer toward Prologue Magazine, from the National Archives, or the Federation of Genealogical Societies FORUM instead.

Hmm. Decisions, decisions…

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