Friday, February 5, 2010

Still Struggling with Membership to the Indiana Genealogical Society

I have a lot of ties to Indiana genealogy; I have ties there through both my mother and my father's sides of the family and my husband's family has a long-standing history there also. Between the two sides of the family, my Indiana research right now covers several counties such as Wells, Steuben, Jay, Randolph, Wayne, and Parke Counties with a few others thrown in for good measure. So how come only about 2 of those counties are represented in the Indiana Genealogical Society's list of databases (and what's available for them is pretty obscure)? The first five of those counties pretty much make up the entire North-Eastern corner of the state. So how come they aren't getting any attention? Now, to be fair, the Society can only include what they have, which means that someone has to be interested and conduct a research project there, and/or what is submitted to them. This could be a sign that there just isn't much going on in the realm of genealogy in these particular counties. Or not; it could be pointing to a much more problematic issue. I know that Jay and Randolph Counties for instance, both have thriving genealogical communities with at least several very knowledgable genealogists and historians. These people are very active in their communities respective societies so why not with the state society? Good question.

The major problem I can see with the Indiana society is that they do not appear to have much of a partnership with the individual county (or location specific) societies. Ohio is a good example of a state society working with each county society because they are set up as chapters of the state society. Because of this, work that is being conducted and generated within the county/locale chapters gets forwarded to the state society to help increase the usage to members throughout the state and even the country by way of its membership. I don't see the same thing happening with Indiana and it's really frustrating considering most people looking to join a society there would look at the state society's site and think there must not be anything going on in the Eastern parts of the state. And they would be dead wrong.

On the flip-side, I do recognize the need to foster state societies and take advantage of the usefulness of their publications. Just like the articles in the NGSQ, though the topics may not be zeroed in on your particular interest at the time, the methodology and case studies come in handy no matter what the particulars of your research may be. But, for most of us, we turn to those publications with nation-wide standing, such as the NGSQ, the NEHGS Register, TAG, etc. for these models. So then, it's vital for the state-specific periodicals to step up and provide the "between the lines" information that may be too specific to the location to find in the nation-wide journals. And that brings us back to the inherent problem of a limited vision in the Indiana society; it just doesn't appear to be filling in the holes like other state society periodicals do.

I want to support the society, I really do. But when they are only talking about half of the state, there's not a whole lot they can offer over the county societies. If they can formulate a new model where they will be working with the counties to obtain a wider spectrum of information I'll jump on it. Even if it means a hike in membership fees I would gladly pay it if it meant more of the state would be represented (the current fee is a very reasonable $30, but again, the advantages are limited to the counties to which they cover) .

Maybe I'm being a little irrational about it, or missing something. I may be misinformed about the extent of the inner-workings of the society. If I am, great!! Let me know ASAP and I'll sign up immediately. I am super-eager to subscribe to the memberships of those societies to which I can get the most use out of; those societies which will foster increased knowledge and skill when working with records within a particular state. I just don't feel like Indiana is offering that in my case right now and unfortunately, I'm not independently wealthy. Funds have to be distributed to the societies with which I'll get the most usage. If you've got family and/or research work in the Western part of the state however, or even the North-Central region, go for it. They have plenty to satisfy you.

1 comment:

  1. I have the same problem with my Indiana counties not being represented. But it seems that my counties (Ohio and Switzerland) have little to no resources in the counties themselves either. I have been putting some databases together as I have time for these counties, but don't want them behind the IGS pay wall, so I have not offered them. I hope that the IGS project of getting two databases for each county online is helpful and that they focus on databases that can help lots of researchers. I would really like to see more digitization projects and records online for members.