By Brenda Smith, Treasure Coast Genealogical Society
Many amateur genealogists don't see any value in joining the local genealogy society.
After all, your ancestors didn't live in the area, and your research is concentrated in a different part of the country or even a different country entirely.
This is one of the biggest mistakes I see genealogists make, and I hope to show you the advantages of getting out and joining with others to make your hobby more rewarding and exciting.
The number one reason is networking. You will find a group of people, meeting monthly, anxious to welcome you into the fold and teach you all they know.
The most important tool in genealogy is making new friends and contacts, with people who have the same passion. Members of the society will come from all walks of life and all parts of the country.
These members will be searching hundreds of different surnames, and yours may well be included. As with anywhere you go, you never know who you are going to be sitting next to.
There's a good chance that someone in the room will be researching your surname, state, or county, and if not this meeting, there is always next month, with new people coming to each meeting.
Researching alone is like working in a vacuum. As you gradually make contacts, you will find hundreds of genealogists in your community and all over the world.
You will make lifelong friends, and may even find distant, if not close relatives. You will find members anxious to help you and offer suggestions on solving problems in your research.
If you don't find your distant relative, someone else may find him for you. Genealogists just seem to naturally keep an eye out for the relatives of their friends.
Each meeting will feature some type of program, from general research, software, specific geographic areas, organization of materials, writing a family history, and hundreds of other topics.
The programs are presented by anyone from members of the society, to guests from other societies, to professional genealogists. The society will also, on occasion, hold an all-day seminar on any number of topics featuring professional speakers as well as beginner workshops.
One of the primary goals of local societies is to index, abstract, or transcribe local records and publish the results in their journals and/or online.
Those interested in participating in one of these projects will be taught the skills required and receive the satisfaction of being instrumental in sharing this information with the public.
Often, classes are held on teaching new research techniques, software, or researching specific areas. Field trips can be arranged between members to visit neighboring libraries, other meetings, or places of interests. With the imagination of its members, the sky is the limit, for a successful society.
Your whole genealogy is NOT on the Internet. It takes work, digging into records, asking questions, meeting people, learning the tricks of the trade and having fun. So get out of your chair, socialize and let others help you.
In St Lucie County, the local society is The Treasure Coast Genealogical Society. Meetings are held monthly, on the third Thursday of the month at 10 a.m., at The Trinity Evangelical Presbyterian Church in White City.
TCGS volunteers are available to help family researchers every Tuesday, year round, at the downtown Fort Pierce St. Lucie County Library on Melody Lane from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Please bring all the family information you already have.
There are hundreds of genealogy societies in the United States. To find one near you, visit the Web site www.familyhistory.com/societyhall/main.asp
Not only are some of my best friends people I met over 25 years ago in our local society, most of my other friends have been converted into genealogists.
It works both ways. Genealogy is contagious, and once contracted, it can never be cured.
Genealogy Pox has very contagious symptoms: Continual complaint as to need for names, dates and places. Patient has a blank expression, sometimes deaf to spouse and children.
Has no taste for work of any kind, except feverishly looking through records at libraries and courthouses.
Has a compulsion to write letters. Swears at mailman and computer when mail doesn't come. Frequents strange places such as cemeteries, ruins, and remote desolate country areas. Makes secret night calls and hides phone bills from spouse. Mumbles to self. Has strange, faraway look in eyes.
No known treatment or cure: Medication is useless. This disease is not fatal, but gets progressively worse. Patient should attend genealogy meetings, workshops, subscribe to genealogical magazines and be given a quiet corner in the house where he or she can be alone.
Remarks: The unusual nature of this disease is that the sicker the patient gets, the more he or she enjoys it.
Brenda Smith is a charter member of the Treasure Coast Genealogical Society.