Tuesday night I attended my first meeting of the St. Louis Genealogical Society. I've read other genea-blogger discussions on genealogical societies, such as Creative Gene and Genea-Musings so I had some idea of what to expect.
I wasn't surprised that I was the youngest person in the room. I kind of hoped there might be one or two others in my age bracket, but I didn't see any. The presentation topic was on how to use Google, and I didn't expect to learn much, but I did expect to get an idea of the quality of the presentations. Often in any group that solicits guest speakers from within its own membership - regardless of the group - you're going to get questionable expertise. And since technology topics still have an inverse age-curve, I figured the topic would be a good test for me. If the information presented was full of holes, or worse, incorrect, I would have doubts about the information presented in topics I was less familiar with.
I was happy with the presentation. There were additional features they could have mentioned, but in the 90 minute presentation they covered a lot of ground. I'm not sure if everyone in the audience followed well enough to be able to use the information on their return home, but it was still accurate and useful information. And one suggestion was made that I hadn't considered. (Searching the Patent database. I've searched it before at its main USPTO.gov site, but not for family surnames.)
I'm on the fence on whether to join the society or not. Most of their online databases are open acess on their website. They do have a local marriage database members-only, but it stops in the 1890s, and my earliest St. Louis ancestors arrived in 1885, so I know it won't be very helpful. (I have ancestors who were in the US in the 1700s, but not St. Louis) They have some useful CDs for sale containing data and maps and such, but non-members can purchase them for only a slight surcharge. Monthly presentations at their meetings are open to the public. I may purchase one year membership though in order to take a multi-session Beginning Genealogy course, which appears to be open only to members and is free with membership. Though at the moment I don't see why I would renew the membership afterwards. (That said, I might still volunteer for data-entry/proofreading. If they offered a VolunteerHour/$ exchange rate so people can volunteer instead of pay dues, I would definitely consider it. Of course, I didn't ask, but I might make the suggestion to someone at the next meeting I attend.)