11 February 2015

FGS conference 2015: Day 1, opening session

Day 1 of the conference concentrated on the Federation of Genealogical Societies' mission: serving the needs of its member societies. The focus was on improving and growing societies to better serve their members and prospective members.
We started at 8am with a welcome from Joshua Taylor (FGS president and Genealogy Road Show star). He noted that is is the largest FGS conference ever- although he shared no numbers.

Attendees were encouraged to sign the Genealogists' Bill of Rights, which outlines our concerns with recent efforts to limit access to records. The document will be available for signature during the next several days  (I believe I signed that last August when I attended the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies conference, also in Salt Lake City).

Josh also mentioned a new partnership between FGS and Billion Graves for cleaning tombstones and recording cemeteries. The initiative may provide a revenue source for societies.

Paula Stuart Warren presented awards to Ed Donakey for his work on last year's San Antonio conference; Fran Jensen and Elaine Haselton for their work on the War of 1812 Preserve the Pensions project; Louise Callway (Southern California Genealogical Society; Roger Moffat (Western Michigan Genealogical Society); Cindy Brennan (Sonoma County Genealogical Society); and Teri E. Flack (RPAC liaison from Texas). 

In addition, the Illinois State and Indian Genealogical Societies received Distinguished Service Awards for their fund-raising efforts for the War of 1812 Preserve the Pensions project. Illinois raised $134,000 and Indiana, $64,000. Later in the meeting we were told that the Preserve the Pensions project is half way to its goal ($1.6 million to go). Ancestry matches the funds raised.

Close to may heart, both the German Genealogy Group and the Italian Genealogy Group of New York City received Awards of Merit for their indexing work on so many New York City record collections from local and regional archives. 

The Family History Library was awarded the Genealogy Tourism Award for the 400,000 plus visitors/year who come the Salt Lake City institution each year. 

The Focus on Societies Day really kicked off with the next three presenters at the opening program: Deena Coutant, Jen Baldwin, and Curt B. Witcher.

Coutant spoke about "Applying TLC to Create New Growth" for our societies. TLC = time (and teamwork), leadership,and communication. Societies may be at different points in their development and management teams will need to make sure their focus is aligned with their mission.

Baldwin, a specialist in genealogy and social media, emphasized that with regard to customer service, 65% of consumers learn about companies through social media and 72% expect us to have a social media presence. We must understand that how we approach social media is as important as what information we place online. We should not only be present, but own it - make a concentrated effort. Then, be ready for success.

Witcher, Senior Manager for Special Collections at the Allen County Public Library, presented " 'Courage to Change the Things I Can...' Being a Successful Change Agent." The qualities of a change agent are speed (bias toward action), accountability, and ability to execute. He suggested we try to exceed expectations with every engagement. Like Jen Baldwin, he noted that we should not just be present on social media, but be great there.

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