Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Pajama Game vs Genealogical Societies

I've been conducting pajama research for the past six months. Quite successfully, I think. However, I have recently begun visiting the local library a lot more often to go through their microfilm holdings, and at the end of January paid the dues to join the local genealogical society for a year.

I could wait for the microfilm holdings to go online, but I could be waiting a decade, or longer, and I'm not that patient. I've seen devices advertised online that will convert microfilm to digital images, but at $40,000, I suspect libraries, and genealogical societies, aren't yet lining up to buy them. But if the price decreases, I suspect they will. When that day comes, the conversion process will speed up.

The St. Louis Genealogical Society does have some attractive offerings to members. Discounts on classes and seminars is one of them. In particular, they offer a Beginning Genealogy course for $60 to non-members, and for free to members. Still feeling I qualify for that course, I figured that it was worth $35 to see if I could learn anything.

Checking out their course list, I'm not too thrilled with their other offerings for this season. The ones that would interest me the most (on military research) are scheduled during the weekday lunch hour. It's likely the majority of membership is retirement age, but I'm not, so I can't attend those classes.

Beyond the discounts on courses and some CDs they offer, there isn't much they provide to the member only. There is a lot of good information on their website available to anyone, and I've been using it the past 6 months. The Members-only section has a marriage database from 1804-1876, but none of my ancestors were in St. Louis by then, and anyway, they sold the database to, so it's available there. They have a section for the pedigrees of "First Families", but once again, my ancestors haven't been here long enough. (They've been here since the 1880s. It's not like they arrived last year.) Beyond that the only other Members-Only feature on the website is the opportunity to volunteer to do data entry. I may, but that's not really a benefit. I'm not upset that the society gives most of their information away, but it might not make the most business sense.

So if I don't feel I'm getting my 'money's worth' from the discounts on classes, or find another benefit, my renewal in future years may be open to question. However, I do feel that the experienced genealogists in the society have knowledge about resources I lack. I've learned stuff at every presentation at every monthly meeting I have attended so far.

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