If I had to sum up the sessions that I’ve attended so far here at the Federation of Genealogical Societies 2011 Conference, it would be that it is imperative for today’s societies to meet their potential members where they are. Be relevant to them. If the younger generations are using today’s technology to communicate, then societies need to communicate with them using that same technology.
From Curt Witcher’s session on fundraising to D. Joshua Taylor’s session on Engaging 21sters to Lisa Alzo’s session on Immigrant Cluster Communities to Debra Mieszala’s session on The Curious Case of the Disappearing Dude [Captures your attention, doesn’t it?], one theme was apparent. It’s all about the story. We may have those in our families who are family group sheet "filler-outers", but most people want the story. That is what is captivating. Yes, as I mentioned in my blog post The Situation of Genealogy and Family History, the details are important and what we, as genealogists, love, but the story is what gets them in the door ~ literally and figuratively.
Is today’s younger generation studying the aspects of the inter-relations of those peoples indigenous to the Atlantic Coast of New Jersey?
Are they anxiously sitting on the edge of their seats to see what happens next in the day-to-day activities of the descendants of the Acadians who settled in Atchafalaya River Basin in Louisiana and their obsession with collecting crocodilians?
Do they analyze every week the relationship between a rescuer of aged underwater timber and his co-workers?
Every week, do they analyze the physics of a semi-trailer truck trekking across temporary roads made of ice?
No. To all of the above.
They’re watching Jersey Shore to see The Situation lift up his shirt to show off his six pack. In public. Again. Then doing a fist pump. Again.
They’re tuning into Ax Men because they just love Swamp Man Logging, a.k.a., Shelby Stanga, and they were literally on the edge of their seats watching the episode where Shelby was really sweating it out when he couldn’t find any more logs to get enough money to take his faithful and loyal dog, Willy, to the vet when Willy was so very sick. And you could really tell how torn up about it Shelby was.
They’re watching Swamp People and wondering how, on God’s green earth, the Landry brothers can pull those 12-foot ‘gators into those small (And I mean small.) boats without turning their boats over and becoming ‘gator bait themselves.
They're watching Ice Road Truckers to see if those crazy truckers [They have to be crazy. No one sane would do what they do.] who haul freight across temporary ice roads in the dead of winter will plunge into the frigid waters of those lakes this week. And? How the heck do they get that underwater & under ice view of the trucks crossing up above. [Seriously. How do they do that? I’d hate to be the diver who has to set *that* camera up.]
Whether a person is being asked to join a genealogical society, whether a person or group is being asked to donate to a genealogical society’s project, or whether a person is being asked by their own family historian to contribute information or time to their family’s history, they’re all looking for one thing. A story. They probably just don’t realize it. Something that catches their eye. Something that makes them laugh. Something that makes them cry. Something that makes them shake their head and say, “Are you kidding me?”
And we, as genealogists, can give that to them. We can give them the stories that catch their eyes, that make them laugh, that make them cry, and make them shake their heads. [Sometimes all at the same time.]
So, why aren’t we doing it?