Sunday, May 29, 2016

Pursuing Genealogy on a Shoestring Budget - Association Memberships

Genealogy is expensive!  There's costs for membership to associations and online databases, travel, research supplies, vital records, mailing, and conferences.  When doing our taxes earlier this year the reality of the expenses hit me.  When I received an email recently from a reader who mentioned how the costs were pinching her lifestyle I decided to investigate ways to save.

I'm open to suggestions so please readers, comments are welcome on ways you've found to be frugal! The focus today is on association dues because one of the benefits of belonging to a group is discounts on related items.

Most likely your local and state association's yearly membership dues are reasonable.  I believe it's important to support your local group, if you can afford to do so.  My local group costs $17.00 annually and provides a weekly email of free classes offered and genealogy tips.  If the cost is prohibitive for you, speak with the group about ways you can take part without paying dues. Volunteering at events, assisting with the newsletter or transcribing local records may all be needed and appreciated more than the amount of the annual dues. It can't hurt to ask!

My state society costs $25.00 per year.  I have access to a monthly free webinar, archived journal and newsletters, and access to a members only forum where I can post questions or ask for help with lookups. There are also occasionally special offers; the current being Fold3 for half price ($49.95). Adding the cost to join the state society with the Fold3 discounted membership is less than the cost for Fold3's regular price, however, Fold3 offers discount premium memberships all the time so that alone would not be a reason to join the state association.  For me, the webinars and journal are well worth the price of $25.00.

Regional societies offer specialization and if you're looking to cut costs this may be where to do it. For example, I do a lot of research in the midwest, mostly Indiana-Ohio-Illinois.  There are many local societies and historical groups in the areas that I mine for records, along with larger groups, such as the Ohio Genealogical Society, which costs $35.00 a year.  I tend to not join these groups because I don't live close enough to benefit from the local events they offer. Before you join, check out the groups website and contact members for their advice on where to find what you're looking for.  I have found the majority are knowledgeable and willing to share their expertise. If there is a record you need that is in their holding, discuss the cost involved for you to receive a copy.  I try to pay it forward by also sending them the information that I have collected at the end of my project.  This allows their resources to grow and benefits the whole group.  If you find that the society won't assist you unless you become a member, contact the local library instead by emailing through the Ask-a-librarian link.  For a quick look up, direction in which to research, or knowledge of where a record may be housed these folks are the best and it's free!

If you research in primarily the New York or New England area you may want to join the New England Historic and Genealogical Society (NEHGS) and the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society (NYG&B).  NEGHS is $89.95 annually; I love their quarterly magazine, journal (The Register), weekly e-newsletter and using their library for free.  I find their AmericanAncestor.org database powerful, too.  I've attended two of their workshops in the past six months (one in Boston and one in Florida) and weren't all that impressed, though.  They also have an Ask-a-genealogist service that's free but I've never used it so I can't attest to how it works.  I have asked for help in person and found some of the genealogists to be extremely helpful.  I'm trying to limit my book collection so I haven't taken advantage of the 10% discount on what they publish. If you're going to save check your local public library.  Mine has access to the database and the journals so I really don't need to pay for this membership but having the resources at home is worth it for me.

NYG&B is $70.00 per year and offers a quarterly journal (The Register) and review of genealogy news (The New York Researcher), monthly e-newsletter, free FindMyPast US-Canada subscription, access to records in special collections, and discounts on other promotions.  My library does not have copies of The Register but another library in my area does. If my budget needed to shrink, I'd cut this and read the superb journal in the library.

National societies have many benefits of membership.  The National Genealogical Society (NGS) is a bargain at $65.00 a year.  Members receive access to free online courses, a quarterly journal, (NGS Quarterly) and magazine (NGS Magazine), digital monthly newsletter, and access to Bible records, ancestry charts sent in by members, and a marriage and death notice database from early American newspapers. They also offer some partnership discounts.  There are additional fees to attend conferences, however, members receive a discount.  I, personally, would not cut out belonging to this group.

I realize the hobbyist is not going to join the Association of Professional Genealogists as a professional member for $100.00 a year.  A subscriber only member price is available for $45.00 annually and provides a paper copy of the Quarterly journal.  If you're a professional, though, this organization is well worth the cost; the members only listserv alone is an extremely valuable resource, along with professional development webinars, conferences and discounts, such as a 25% off a JSTOR pass, 10% off Legacy Family Tree software and webinars, $20.00 for Rootsmagic and book, and 10% off BYU online certificate in genealogy program tuition.  There's more deals then I listed but subcribers only do not have access to them.  So unless you're going pro, you won't have a cost savings here.

The Board for Certification of Genealogist (BCG) has a free website that is of value to everyone interested in genealogy, whether you want to become certified or not.  The free Springboard blog is informative regarding methodology, links are given to educational programs so you can continue to grow and the skillbuilding and sample work sample areas are important for all levels of genealogists. Most importantly, The Standards are a must and only $6.99 for a Kindle edition.

Notice I haven't mentioned lineage society memberships?  That's because the application fees and membership dues vary.  With all the added costs, such as luncheons, travel to events, and highly encouraged donations for philanthropy, if you're on a budget it's best to avoid them.  Their members may volunteer to help newbies though, so you might want to check that out.  Some groups, like the Daughters of the American Revolution have very helpful information for free online to everyone.

Here's the rounded cost if you've joined all - $407.00.  On a fixed income, my recommendations are paying for your state and NGS membership and definitely purchasing a copy of  The Standards if you don't have one already - that cost is less than $100.00 a year.

Next time we'll explore cutting costs for online databases.

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