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Should I join a society?

If you are a newcomer to family history you may not see any need to join a family history society, especially in the light of the ever-increasing amount of information available on the Internet. It is true to say that in the early stages of research, quite a bit of progress can be made by going it alone. However, it will not be long before your research grinds to a halt, and then help will be needed to get you going again.

This is where membership of a local society can be of great benefit. There are two main options – either join a society local to where you live, or local to the area where your ancestors lived. This latter option could involve you in joining several societies if your ancestors lived in different parts of the country, or even in different countries.

The advantage in joining a society near to where you live (or work) is that you can go along to the meetings which are a feature of most societies. There you can get to know fellow family historians who have more experience and who are likely to have overcome the problems you are encountering. They will be most happy to share their knowledge and come up with ideas for you to pursue. The Society usually has education classes which add to your understanding of different aspects of family history such as parish records etc.

If you join a society located where your ancestors lived, you may find that the society has published transcriptions of records that are not available from the Internet and which contain information relevant to your family. Or there may be articles published in their own journal that illustrate what life was like at the time your ancestors were living there. This will help to put flesh on the bare bones of dates and places.

You may well find that other members are researching the same names as you and you could suddenly discover that someone else can provide you with a great deal of information about your own ancestors.

There is also the social aspect of belonging to a local society, and you may in due course get great satisfaction from being able to help others when you join the ranks of the more experienced!

A year’s membership of a family history society can make an excellent gift for a friend or family member.