Gold Dust or Fool’s Gold

Many of us when we start our Family History we head right over to the main sites wondering if we are willing to commit to the price tag it costs to discover our ancestors and is this the best value for our dollar. Unfortunately, the new researcher does not learn about the local Genealogy & Historical Society’s, as we do not have the marketing reach as the Big Companies have. This is what I am hoping to change in this blog writing, so let us get started.

So what is Gold Dust, you ask? Gold Dust in a large enough quantity is just as valuable as Gold Nuggets. We who have done this longer than a day know that a simple speck (hint) can bring an entire wall down and if we look at the local Society as the keepers of Gold Dust, they have the power to discover our ancestors in a much different way from regular census or Birth/Marriage/Death records. The question is how to recognize this gold dust and what to do with it and how to use it to make the society relevant. From this point, I am going to use my local society, The Niagara Peninsula Branch – Ontario Ancestors as the example in this discovery into the gold dust and its value and our desire to remain relevant into today Genealogical Digital minefield.

Back about 6 or 7 years ago, we as a Society looked at our publication sales as a Society recognizing that we had flat lined in sales and there was no life in query requests as well. What could we do was the question, how could we come into the new century and survive in a quickly changing world and fix this. First thing, we had to recognize value of our time as volunteers and how much effort we needed to put into this. Volunteers were not coming out in droves anymore so we had to do with what we had. Therefore, we took a bold step and scanned every publication we could get our hand on and assembled and publish ones that were half done. We were just simply done carrying boxes and boxes of publications to different events, this was simply foolish. WAIT you say, we paid for this paper! So does the medication for my back pain.

The next part was the delivery system needed to be developed and I am a big fan of working smarter and not harder and if I can get a computer to do it, then let us do it. Well that is where are today, allot of effort and work but we are part of an online Marketplace where people can order, pay and have email a digital download of the publication. Remember the boxes? Ya we recycled them after all after one year, nobody wanted paper since the new system was more efficient and timely.

WAIT for a minute, if they can download them you can share them!! Yes, you can and 10% of the people will do this and if you are going to focus on the 10% then you will miss the point of this Blog. As the saying goes, “You can build a better mouse trap and they will build a better mouse.” You will be spinning your wheels if you worry about the 10% forever but focus on the 90% and since you are downloading the same file over and over again, your manufacturing costs are zero and your efforts are zero in the delivery of this. Someone could order a publication at 2 am while you are sleeping, receive the link to download the file instantly and you can continue to sleep.

So, up to 6 months ago our Branch was at this state, allot of work and effort went into digitization, uploading and massaging the online store and over the last couple of years our efforts started to pay off. But there had to be more so if you think this is the end, Sorry no – This is still somewhere in the mid-stream of it all.

As a genealogical society, we have experienced Silos, which represent the walls that surround our organization to protect the data we have because heaven forbid if someone got our data. Well, I am about to tell you that we need to tear all the walls down. If we are not working with others in our community and sharing ideas, we are failing ourselves, others and our fourth grandchild who acquires the genealogical bug. Each week we hear of another Genealogical or Heritage Society folding but we do nothing about it, so let us do something! We have to go from this stage to the next, but what is that you say? First, we need to break down the walls, encourage & teach one another and develop simple but precise ideas that will continue to make us relevant for the future. We need to get to the masses; we need to get out to the world and most of all we need to set a fire under us to move us forward. We have to work smarter and not harder. Doing it any other way is simply just foolish. I hope that if you are not in the same place as my Society, take a moment an recognize what you have as very valuable Gold Dust. Genealogy Data never gets old, it is reborn every time someone new starts their family history. That is the value right there.

At this point, I am going to stop. The new post will talk about Indexes and if the big four have them why cannot my Society. Why should they be exclusive to them only? I have no desire to endorse any company but simply will share the cost effective and easiest way to make this all happen. I will not get deep into the tech part of it but save that for a one on one conversation, which I would welcome.

In closing, since the writing of a Blog is so new to me, I am going to write on this once a week and then mid-week talk about something else. Canadian Genealogy is very important to me, so let’s promote it and also having our research survive to the next generation as a gift to the masses. Let talk about that too.

Thanks again for following this and I hope we can all learn as a genealogical community that we have the power in this tech world and we can and always make a difference in someone’s live as they discover their ancestors on the local level.


Steve Fulton, UE

1 Comment

  1. Thanks Steve, excellent article. This weekly newsletter is a great bonus for OGS members. All we need now is an army of volunteers to scan all these records.

    Ann Hentschel, member of Lambton OGS.

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