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Blog — March 20, 2021

Once upon a time, I was a highly organized person with tons of energy and vision. Then I turned 40 and, while my organization skills remained mostly intact along with my vision, the tons of energy “lost weight”. Then 50 rolled around and started out pretty good. Fifty is the new forty, right? Well, I don’t know if I can blame it all on the events of 2020 (including turning 52), but somewhere in the last year, my organization skills, drive, vision, energy and focus went kaput. In my immediate family (parents) we had two major surgeries and months of recuperation. In my extended family and loved ones set, we had weddings, babies born, high school and college graduations, moves, job and career changes, and unfortunately, deaths. Some from COVID, others not. However, with all the highs and lows, I have completely gone off the rails on my genealogical efforts. I am no closer today than I was a year ago to becoming a Certified Genealogist. I have lost, misplaced, and forgotten more emails, letters, and phone messages than I can count. I am truly sorry for those with whom I have talked or corresponded and failed to get you the help you needed. My plate has been more full than I would have ever imagined.

Now, why I am writing all this in a blog post on a genealogical site? In part, it is cathartic. Mostly, though, I am putting this out there because I am aware of many of my fellow researchers who have also had different, but equally (and quite often, greater) difficulties than I have had. And there are so many of whom I am personally unaware who have and are struggling. Happily, there have been so many who have been able to use quarantine and lockdown to develop and hone their family trees and help others do the same, but so many others of us have not. And that is OK. This is 2021 and we are moving forward, writing our own histories, and figuring out new — and sometimes — improved “normals.” As we all know, every generation before us had their own particular challenges and time rolled on. If you need, as I do, to recalibrate, let’s do that.

The dead have remained dead while I mostly ignored them for the last year. Now I need to work on finding them and adding some life. Not literally, but literarily.

~Erin

March 2020 NEWS

On Saturday, March 20, 2021, the Mississippi Genealogical Society held its meeting at the Brandon Suites conference room in Brandon, Mississippi. Five of our officers met prior to the society meeting. Take-aways from both meeting include the following:

  • SAVE THE NEW DATE!!! Our annual seminar has been rescheduled to Saturday, July 17, 2021. Lisa Louise Cooke (https://lisalouisecooke.com/) will be our presenter. Once our location is finalized, we will send out all the details.
  • The next MGS meeting will be Saturday, May 15, 2021 and we have great hopes of meeting in-person. We are working on locations as COVID restrictions lift and will let everyone know ASAP. We will also provide either Zoom or Facebook Live (or both) options for those who are unable to attend for any reason.
  • Our May meeting should be our officers election meeting. Positions are President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Corresponding Secretary, Recording Secretary, Historian, and Parliamentarian. All society members are eligible to hold these positions. We hope that anyone with a desire to serve will step forward and offer their possible service. We also have committees that needs participation. We will be sending out more information about this in coming days.
  • The National Genealogical Society Annual Conference is May 17 – 21, 2021. Mississippi Genealogical Society officers are planning to participate in this conference and strongly encourage all MGS members to do so as well. One of the days of the conference (May 21st) will be dedicated to societies and is for all society members. For anyone who would like to take a more active role in this or any historical or genealogical society, this is a great opportunity to gain insight and skills. Moreover, as a researcher, the NGS conference has much to offer researchers of all skill levels and experience. Check out the website and conference details — https://www.ngsgenealogy.org/

One of the most important take-aways from this meeting was how much we enjoyed being together and talking about stories. We spoke of ancestors and people we only know by name and how much we love the stories of people. We hope to start sharing stories, as many as we can gather. We will share on this website and in the newsletter and then further afield as this effort grows. If you are willing to share these stories, please reach out to me (Erin) personally at erin.feathers@gmail.com.

More news as it happens…

When A Society Dies

Last week I had to perform what turned out to be a very uncomfortable and somewhat sad task — dissolve a genealogical society. As one of the last officers of the Family Research Association of Mississippi, I, along with a small group of others who constituted the last “Board”, voted unanimously to dissolve this association by closing the bank account, transferring the funds to a similar, non-profit society and not renewing the post office box rental. As as organization, there have been no meetings for two years. We all just stopped attending. Ironically, our final act as concerned Board members was completed completely via email and text. For me the experience put an exclamation point to the fact that genealogy research is not what it once was; not even five years ago.

What are the further implications of this quiet passing of FRA as we affectionately called it? In July 2016, Donna Cox Baker, host of The Golden Egg Genealogist, wrote about this subject in a blog entitled “The Genealogical Society: Revise or Demise?” She posits great points as to why genealogical societies are not what they once were, including genealogists of today looking and living very differently from genealogists of ‘yesterday’. We could spend days talking about those differences. Classic example — this week as I have worked on the creation of the website where this post will live, I was adding the history of the society and four of the first five members were noted by their married names. I know their husbands’ names, but not theirs. Different time, very different way of doing things.

So, what have I learned from handling the final disposition of a genealogical association and researching how common this is? I have come to better understand my own feet-dragging when a society meeting rolls around. I am busy. I do much of my genealogy research from the comfort of my living room, in my pajamas, fighting my cats for use of my laptop. And that could be at 2:00 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon or 2:00 a.m. on a Thursday. Or I am on a research trip or at a conference, trying to absorb and plan. I don’t need society membership to do any of that. Or do I?

Groups like the Federation of Genealogical Societies and the National Genealogical Society and several others exist, in part, to help societies grow and thrive. Why do they do that? There are several reasons for what they do, including preservation of records, establishment and maintenance of standards in research, educating an upcoming generation and late joiners to the researching party. All those things take people physically doing something to preserve records, do research in such a way that findings have merit, and teach those coming along after us. That takes being present, even if it means some of that presence is done via a Zoom meeting or webinars (sometimes watched at 2:00 a.m., in your pajamas, fighting cats for use of the laptop) or developing interactive, dynamic websites so that people can make the best use of their time in finding information and meetings to attend.

However, I think the biggest plus to helping societies thrive is the network a person develops by active membership in a genealogical society and in the educational process. People sharing what they know, how they know it, who they know (and to whom they are related) has created for me a real treasure trove of knowledge, experience and opportunities that has significantly enhanced my love for genealogy. In a world where people are increasingly disconnected, looking at small screens and conversing non-verbally, time spent in a genealogical society, actively contributing to the mission of that society can be a wonderful research blessing for a genealogist.

Farewell to the Family Research Association of Mississippi! My time spent there helped me be a better researcher, find some cousins, make friends that I still associate with, and recognize the importance of gathering, even in this digital age.