What I Learned About the Future of Genealogy from Running a Student Genealogy Grant, or A New Challenge for the Genealogy Community
When we decided to set up a memorial grant as a tribute to my mother, Suzanne Freeman, I had no idea it would be so hard to give away money.
It sounds easy enough, but it’s tough to select between so many well-deserving applicants representing the future of genealogy. From academically trained researchers to local society volunteers to tech-savvy innovators, applicants to the 2011 Suzanne Winsor Freeman Memorial Student Genealogy Fund represented the best of young genealogists today.
What I Learned
It was truly a privilege to learn more about what matters to young researchers and to see that a common theme runs strong from coast to coast – it’s all about family. Without exception, each applicant was moved to pursue their family history because one person in their family had taken the time to tell a family story that struck home.
The lesson for the rest of us, of course, is to take time to BE that one person to the young people in our families. We have to step back from our books, papers, and computers to just tell stories in a way that engages our children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews.
In the same way that we labor over developing a well-honed research plan to ferret out elusive ancestors, we have to listen hard and work to craft stories that may catch some young person’s interest. Tell the young athlete about an uncle who played ball, give a pre-teen her grandmother’s party gloves with a story about her first dance, or help a new bride with an old family recipe.
All of this leaves me feeling that we, as a Genealogy Community, could do more
We need to “Walk Your Talk,” as my mom often said. We hear a lot of talk about “the future of genealogy”. . . but what are we doing to help the young genealogist learn enough about the field to want to make it a serious avocation or even a career?
Students who applied for the Memorial Grant are all attending school, working jobs, and living on a tight budget with little room for genealogy expenses. Yet, it’s hard to find a genealogy conference, event, or seminar offering a discounted student rate. Students are expected to pay full price, or apply for one of the very few genealogy grants available.
If there was an obvious youthful presence at RootsTech in Salt Lake City last month, it may be partly due to the discounted student registration fee of $35. Sponsored by Family Search, this sends a clear message to any student interested in genealogy today: We Want You!
SCGS is one of the few genealogical organizations offering a substantial membership discount for students. When combined with Early Bird Registration for Jamboree, this can offer a real savings for student attendees. And, kudos to SCGS for donating a free three-day registration to the grant recipient, only hours after hearing the grant announcement.
Reading applications for the Student Genealogy Grant left me with three wishes –
- I wish each applicant could be awarded a student genealogy grant to encourage their work.
- I wish professional societies and event sponsors would make it easier for students to join professional organizations and to attend conferences by offering drastically discounted student rates.
- I wish more organizations would take a cue from the Southern California Genealogical Society and offer full-registration scholarships to their events.
Maybe then we would see a real burst of new leaves in our great genealogy family.