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    In every family, someone ends up with “the stuff.” It is the goal of The Family Curator to inspire, enlighten, and encourage other family curators in their efforts to preserve and share their own family treasures.

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    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.

    The Challenge

    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.

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    Reader Comments (6)

    Great article! Just the reminder I needed to spend as much time telling the stories as I do experimenting with the platforms for presenting them. Thanks!

    March 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDenise Olson

    Well said, Denise! We do need to engage the youth with our stories and make it real for them.

    I like your suggestion that more gen societies could offer discounts to students.


    March 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoan Miller (Luxegen)

    What a great post!

    I am a member of the Southington Genealogical Society in Southington, CT and our organization offers a youth membership (under age 18) for 1/2 price. We are proud to say our normal dues are only $10 per person or $15 for a couple (or two people of the same household) with our youth membership being only $5. We don't offer a student price, but our dues are one of the lowest in the state.

    Our youth member, who is only 14, has even given a talk to students in another town. We are very proud of him!

    March 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDeanna

    Hats off to your Society, Deanna! Low dues AND student speakers; now, that's encouraging news. Thanks so much for the inspiration.

    March 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDenise Levenick

    Wonderful article Denise. Thank you for letting us know what you learned. UGA currently has a student discount, but I'm going to make sure the conferences do too.

    March 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Hovorka

    I am now on speed dial for all my family and friends for assistance when needed. I got a question the other evening concerning proper names and their shortened forms. I love it!

    I am ashamed to say that of the three local societies I frequent only one (The Jewish Genealogical Society of Washington State) has a student membership.

    We are going to have to embrace new technology to win over the young vote. (Ask any politician.) A web presence that hasn't been revamped in five years catches no one's eye. Get hip WA societies.


    March 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterfootnoteMaven

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