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                 January, 2009

      Charles Hansen, Editor

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  Getting Your Money's Worth
  — by Charles Hansen

        A few months ago I was asked if I would send out announcements to the members of our local genealogical society for the monthly meetings, and I said ok.  It was pretty easy,  I sent about 225 E-Mails to our members to let them know about the next meeting and other important information to the members.  This month's message also reminded the members to be sure to pay their dues, as well as the meeting notice.  The day after I sent the E-Mails I got a reply form from one elderly member, who said she was not going to renew this year because she did not think she was getting her money's worth for the dues.  I passed her reply on to our membership chairman.

        While I have always thought that the most important genealogical society to belong to, is the local genealogical society, a lot of people say, "Why join the local society?  I have no ancestors in this area, so I am doing no research in this area whatsoever".

        My family situation is somewhat different, in that all four of my grandparents came to this area and stayed, so I found a great deal of information on all of them, and as many of you are aware, that too is an unusual situation.

        The best reason for joining a local society is the education it provides and the newsletter you get from the society.  You also get a lot of networking with others who are all looking for their ancestors.  I have never found anyone else working on my ancestors unless I go back many generations, and then the information gained was also completed years ago.  I have also found people working in the same areas where my ancestors lived and they gave me hints on what to look for and where to look for information.

        The bad part regarding dues is that most genealogical society's dues are due in January, so if you belong to several societies, you may be short in December when all the Christmas shopping, and in our area high heating bills, start for the winter.  A few years ago our society tried to schedule dues due 12 months after you joined, so a lot of people had dues, due in a lot of other months besides January.  The problem was that few people did not remember when they joined and so, did not know when to renew.  Our local society then went back to January for dues to be renewed.  The local society does have half-year dues if you join after July 1.  I remember a few years ago, I was talking to another member about her dues and she said it took nearly all her social security check to pay dues in December, as she was a member in several societies.

        On the society end it is hard to budget for a lot of benefits for members if the society keeps loosing members.  Several years ago I was on the budget committee and they had pretty much figured out the yearly bills, so then they were going to decide the dues to pay the bills.  One member suggested to just divide the bills by the members and that should be the dues for the year.  I pointed out not everyone pays dues, as I had not paid dues in several years (I paid the lifetime fee and so no more yearly dues), and I though he was going to hit me for not paying dues until I explained I was a lifetime member, but most people still pay yearly.

        So far I have not said anything about any of the pay-for-view sites.  I think it was George Morgan who wrote an article regarding his decision on whether he would keep all the yearly subscriptions he had to pay per view, such as Ancestry, Footnote, World Vital Records, etc.. He was evaluating how much he was getting for his money and thinking of dropping one or two subscriptions.

        I know this is an individual decision and everyone needs to make their own decision.  I remember when Prodigy and AOL began charging by the minute for connections - genealogists bailed out in droves. I was pretty lucky as I was paying for my Prodigy subscription annually and so Prodigy did not turn on the clock till my year was up - but when I got my first $70.00 monthly bill, I was thinking of dropping that service as well. I'm now glad I hung on. Remember, if you are not getting your moneys worth, let the society know why you are quiting and maybe they will change to encourage enough people to keep the society from closing.  Too many societies have closed due to the of the lack of members.

Webmaster's note:  Recently, AOL has discontinued many personal web sites (PWP).  Many of those with AOL, genealogy-based web sites, are scurrying about finding other providers. Prodigy is no longer in business.

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