Survey results indicate genealogists join societies for camaraderie

Listening_MicrosoftAre you listening, genealogical societies? Here are the results to last week’s survey question: What are the most important factors that make you decide to join a genealogy society? 

Due to publicity on blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, 490 people participated in the survey that provided 37 multiple-choice answers. More than 40 people checked the Other box and provided additional responses.

Many thanks to all who participated and to those who promoted the survey.

Focus on camaraderie, resources, and newsletter – at an affordable price
According to the results of this survey, if your society wants to increase membership, it should focus efforts to build camaraderie, encourage members to share and learn from each other, develop the library’s resources, maintain/increase the content and quality of its newsletter, provide lectures, and offer an affordable membership fee.

Most important factors
The top two reasons people join a society are for the people. While genealogists often do much of their research alone, it perhaps comes as no surprise that close to a majority of respondents — about 60 percent — join societies for the opportunity to meet people and learn from others. Forty-five percent also said “research assistance and guidance” is an important factor and 40 percent join because members are friendly and helpful.

The number three reason genealogists join societies is to “improve my research skills” (54%).  As for organized opportunities to learn, only lectures appear in the top ten. Is this because lectures are often free for members? Is it the frequency of lectures that encourage people to join?

Cost is also an important factor, suggested by 45 percent of respondents who selected “affordable membership fee.”

Other top ten factors are the library’s resources (47%), newsletter (46%), and remote access to members only databases (40%).

1. Opportunity to network with people passionate about genealogy – 61%

2. Opportunity to meet knowledgeable members to help me – 59%

3. I want to improve my research skills – 54%

4. Society focused on area where my ancestors lived – 48%.

5. Library’s resources (books, computers, microfilm) – 47%

6. Informative newsletter/journal/magazine – 46%

7. Research assistance and guidance – 45%

8. Affordable membership fee – 44%

9. Lectures – 43%

10. Members are friendly and helpful – 40%

10. Remote access to “members only” online databases – 40%


Learning opportunities not a huge factor
Other learning opportunities, such as conferences (36%), workshops (34%), and webinars (24%), appear in the top 20, however, they are not among the top factors one may expect, given the amount of work and cost required from a society.

While only one if five respondents chose message boards (21%) and free queries (20%), significantly more people (31%) prefer the ability to post to a surname research database.

Member discounts and advocacy attract few
Way down the list are member discounts, ranging from 10 to 18 percent. Although many respondents indicated they join societies to network with other genealogists, they appear much less interested in field trips (15%) and social events (11%). Very few respondents join a society for its advocacy program, partnerships, or board of directors.

11. I want to help fellow genealogists – 36%

11. Conferences – 36%

12. Workshops – 34%

13. Ability to post to surname research database – 31%

14. Email communication with members bout activities, resources, and news – 25%

15. Webinars – 24%


16. I live near the society – 23%

17. Message board for members – 21%

18. Variety of special interest groups – 20%

18. Free queries – 20%

19. Member discounts on lecturers, seminars, and workshops – 18%

19. Volunteer opportunities – 18%

20. Society is a leader in the field of genealogy – 17%


21. Field trips – 15%

21. Member discounts on conferences – 15%

22. Member discounts on commercial databases – 13%

22. Society partners with other organizations – 13%

23. Member discounts on books and magazines – 12%

24. Recommendation from a friend – 11%

24. Social activities – 11%

24. Society recognizes volunteers’ contributions – 11%


25. Member discounts on research – 10%

26. Other (these factors will be listed tomorrow) – 9%

27. Useful new member packages – 8%

27. I want to provide financial support – 8%

28. Society has an advocacy program – 7%

29. Society’s board of directors – 2%


Tomorrow, I will list the Other factors respondents provided in Survey results: The comments provide insight.

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8 Responses to Survey results indicate genealogists join societies for camaraderie

  1. Colleen says:

    Interesting results!

  2. I would like to link this article to our society’s blog and facebook account. Thanks for the valuable information.

  3. Susan says:

    Very interesting results, a great deal for growth and statainabilty for family history societies can be learnt by members responses. And it’s all here in black and white for their taking.

  4. Barbara Tose says:

    Thank you, Gail, for doing this. It ties in nicely with some comments made to me recently about BIFHSGO and my thoughts about where we need to put some of our energies. It will save us some time and allow us to concentrate on remedies. Even societies that feel they are doing well can learn something from your survey.

    • Gail Dever says:

      I hope the survey will generate positive discussion among members and board members. At the very least, let’s hope it encourages people to talk and share ideas.

  5. Brus says:

    The membership card gives you access in any town hall for marriage/birth, info on distant relatives which may be restricted to direct relatives.

  6. chekwriter says:

    A lot of genealogy societies are linked with historical societies too. In those small towns where a lot o for ancestors lived, settled, founded the town, etc.

    So no one seems to have put that as a reason nor your survey did not seem to include it either.
    Most genealogy societies are always in search of funds to keep up just the day to day operating costs. rent, electric, heat, etc.

    So membership is prime to stay open.

    Nice to have a genealogy/historical society that has computer access to other facilities.
    Not every one today even yet, own let alone know how to use one.

    The survey does reflect a small cross section of REAL die hard researchers.

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