Nov 162021
 

Last Friday evening (12 November) I watched an interesting and timely online presentation, “Genealogy: The Next Generation.” Delivered by Janet Few as part of the Family History Federation’s Really Useful Show, this tackled an issue of great importance to family historians (and, by extension, one-placers like ourselves): how can we encourage and support young genealogists?

A detailed handout accompanying the presentation is available from Janet’s website. Here, I will for the most part be looking at some of the key points which Janet raised, and reflecting on what the Society for One-Place Studies has done – and could do – to attract, nurture and benefit from the next generation of one-placers. Not to mention what you could do to play a part in all of this!

Family history societies and young genealogists alike have much to gain from any efforts made by the former to be more welcoming to the latter. As Janet so rightly said, “It is important that younger genealogists are encouraged and valued; they are the future.” We’re not just talking about the future of family history societies here – the longevity of our own personal research is also at stake. How many of us have wondered who will carry on our ancestral research (or our one-place studies) after we have gone?

Janet set out lots of examples of how young genealogists work, the barriers they face, and what they would like from family history societies and other providers. It was heartening to see that in many cases, our Society is doing the right thing:

  • Free membership for students under the age of 21. Cost can be a serious issue for young genealogists, but we have addressed this. On our Join Us page, there’s a link to a form for free/discounted membership applications.
  • Busy social media channels. Young people are more likely to engage with societies which have “a strong social media presence.” I think that describes us well, particularly with regard to our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram offerings.
  • Online meetings. These enable young genealogists to attend meetings without standing out as ‘different’. Our monthly webinars are held online via Zoom, and our annual conference and AGM are also online.
  • An international community is what young genealogists feel they are part of. The Society for One-Place Studies was founded by family and local historians from three continents, we currently have members in 14 countries, and we welcome one-placers from anywhere in the world!
  • Membership benefits explained. Clearly setting out membership benefits, in a format accessible to young people, is more likely to attract younger members. Hopefully our Why Join page sets out our membership benefits clearly for everyone; we have also created the graphic below for use on social media.

Listing of Society membership benefits, amended to show that membership is free for students under 21

  • Young speakers. Young genealogists should be taken seriously and given opportunities to contribute as well as to learn. I think it is fair to say that our webinars have featured speakers from all age groups – including leading Gen Z Genealogist (and Society member) Daniel Loftus – and we are very happy to provide a platform for more young genealogists and one-placers.
  • Welcoming new ways of doing things. Young people don’t necessarily want to do things in the way that older generations do or have done – and that is fine with us! A mantra we have expressed on this website (see the opening paragraph of One Place Servants) and via other platforms is “your study, your rules”, and we mean it, whatever your age group!

What else can we do? For starters we can keep the ‘plus points’ listed above under continuous review, taking on board advice (especially from young people themselves), and adapting as new technologies emerge and habits change.

There are a number of other suggestions made by Janet which we could also investigate – I will look at those, and provide some ideas as to how you could provide support, in Part 2 of this post.

Steve Jackson
Social Media Coordinator, Society for One-Place Studies
One-placer for Fawsley and Waters Upton

  2 Responses to “Supporting the next generation of genealogists – Part 1”

  1. I am convening a discussion on this topic on Saturday 27 November 2021 10.30am UK time. You can contact me via my website for the link https://thehistoryinterpreter.wordpress.com/

  2. What do you think about a #OnePlaceYouth theme, across 2022, in addition to the monthly blogging prompts, not directly related to GenZ but helps us keep young people in mind? Childhood up to perhaps 25y??? Comparisons of then and now, might that engage with the younger genealogy community?

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