Genealogy and History. We Must Move it to the Future
We all know that genealogy is all about ancestry, history, and times/people gone by. But today I want to talk about the need for all of us to think about bringing genealogy and Family History into the present and the future.
“He who hesitates is lost.”
Joseph Addison (1713 in “Cato”)
As I am sure you do, we here at Onward To Our Past®, belong to a number of genealogy and history organizations. Some local, some national, and some international. Almost all of them, during the recent economic recession and subsequent slow recovery and stagnation, have or are struggling. Add to this the fact that many are also struggling with an aging membership roster and times can be tough for many. One common theme though is that almost every one of them is some sort of ‘Society’. More on this in a moment.
What prompted me to write this genealogy post today is a letter I received yesterday. It was from the Ohio Historical Society. You can read the letter in its entirty below.
I bring your attention especially to the last two sentences in the second paragraph:
“We hosted focus groups throughout the state and learned that Ohioans find Ohio History interesting, but indicated that they could not relate to the words “historical” or “society”. Even after discovering that they enjoy our services and historic sites, they said our name is exclusive, private and antiquated.”
As a result, as you can see, the Ohio Historical Society is becoming the Ohio History Connection.
The last time the OHS changed their name? Sixty years ago.
What does it mean for us genealogy lovers?
First off, this means that we can all take advantage of the Ohio Historical Society and their two years of research, study, and consideration. We can piggyback off what they learned and what their members and others told them!
Second, it means we need to take a look at what the name means for each of our organizations in genealogy. I am willing to be that perhaps 95% or more have ‘Society’ prominently in their name. I also bet over 50% have the word ‘Historical’ in their name too.
So here we are worried about how to entice and attract the younger generations in genealogy and our very name is most likely telling them that our passion is ‘exclusive, private, and antiquated’.
‘Exclusive, private, and antiquated’
This is most definately NOT the message we want to be giving about genealogy and our organziations that we love so much. And while it might be fine for a country club, we sure don’t want that image!
Time for a change!
So I say we all need to think long and hard about the lessons we see in the letter from the Ohio Historical Society, now Ohio History Connection and start what may well be a long and arduous process to change our thinking and our names to something that is inclusive, open, and up-to-date!
Who knows…perhaps as we do this we, as a community, will finally move past the silliness that so often engrosses many of us over whether we must use genealogy or family history! After all, my own grandsons have told me the simple word ‘genealogy’ turns them off to me 100%. As they say ‘Grandpa, it sounds too much like school, not anything fun. So now with anyone younger than myself I really try and only use ‘family history’ and it makes a differnence.
So, I really do think it is time for a change! What do you think?