Why Join OGS? – A Past President’s Perspective
Shirley L. Sturdevant, Past President
Every effort The Society and its individual entities make is to this end and we are well respected for this around the world.
During the past several years, I visited many Society Branches and Special Interest Groups in my role as Vice President and President and represented OGS at many functions. I was regularly asked about why people belong to The Ontario Genealogical Society. Conversely, I attended events where members shared their excitement about belonging to OGS or when new people stepped forward to find out how to join enabling me to gather some of the answers “on the road” as well as from my own experiences.
The answer is simple: OGS has been and continues to be all about COMMUNITY, EDUCATION and ADVOCACY.
From the very beginning, the formation of individual Branches, prior to the creation of The Society in 1961, was based on Community. Individuals came together with a shared interest in genealogy and family history. They wanted to share with and learn from each other and to work jointly on projects that would benefit the whole. When The Society itself was created from those participating Branches, the goal remained the same – to work together in mutually beneficial ways to enhance genealogy for all.
Whether it was as individual Branches, or as a Society, members worked on projects in their own areas, knowing that they could count on others across the province doing the same. This reciprocal relationship ensured that although a person might not be living in an area of genealogical interest to them, their efforts were valuable to someone else; conversely, others were working on their behalf to make information available that would affect their ancestral research. This was and continues to be our symbiotic relationship. The projects and interactions may be different now but the relationship continues.
Through our Branch, and now Special Interest Group (SIG) and Society meetings, we all benefit from one another's knowledge and skills. Often people meet others from the same family line or with the same geographic area of interest. That introduction and subsequent relationship often plays a major role in breakthroughs for one or both parties. Discussing family research with an individual or in a group setting that is provided through the general and special meetings throughout our organization allows people to share methodologies, best practices and skills.
Can non-members attending one or several meetings benefit from some of the same things? Yes, of course. However, becoming a member takes one to a different level of involvement and understanding. That sense of camaraderie and companionship often develops into deeper participation and commitment to ensure that others will have the same opportunities to access records, to develop a deeper understanding of family history research, and to work and advocate on behalf of items of specific interest to genealogists, not only within the area, but across the province, the country and around the globe.
That community extends again when people meet one another at conference or in other, larger settings. Again, yes, non-members can take advantage of this opportunity but it is the collegiality of the members that strengthens the bond and makes the connections and learning opportunities more likely. OGS is as much a service organization as it is anything else. Members strive to serve one another and the broader heritage community.
The educational component of the Society and its individual Branches/SIGs stems from this sense of community but also expands it. Think of the many educational opportunities that arise through individual contacts, through general membership meetings, through one-day seminars or workshops and also through the annual multi-day Society Conference which is only made possible through the efforts of our Member Volunteers, the Board of Directors and Provincial Office Staff. Branches and Special Interest Groups have created their own publications, as has the Society, both alone and in partnership with Dundurn Press.
The Society journal Families and both The Society and Branch/SIG newsletters expand the community and educational aspects of membership. Now, OGS members have free access to instructional and educational webinars each month. Additionally, through an arrangement with The National Institute for Genealogical Studies, members have access to free and discounted courses (print materials not included). Publication sales and reduced conference fees are but two other benefits.
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