In this information age some wonder how useful genealogical societies can be. After all, isn’t everything quickly becoming available online? Serious researchers understand that genealogical societies can be the best investment they make.
Each individual needs to determine which memberships will be the most beneficial. Currently I am a member of seven genealogical societies. Some, such as the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania and the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, are locality specific. They help me understand research and resources for those areas on a statewide level. They also provide online access to databases of information, as well as the historical runs of their journals. Groups like the Ohio Genealogical Society offer an annual conference with access to high-quality, informative presentations. Larger regional organizations, such as the Southern California Genealogical Society and the New England Historic Genealogical Society, offer similar benefits.
Small local societies also have a great deal to offer. They are the best experts on their area. They often have transcriptions and abstractions of records that are unavailable elsewhere. They also may know about unique records or compilations that cover the area. Many of these societies have a minimal web presence, and you may need to send them a message by email, or even by postal mail. When you contact them, if they are able to assist you, I strongly recommend you support them by joining the group for a year or more. Membership fees for such groups are often low, and your financial support will be greatly valued (and help make certain they are there the next time you need their assistance).
National organizations, such as the National Genealogical Society and the Society of Genealogists, offer different benefits. Each offers an annual conference (SOG’s annual Family History Fair is now held in conjunction with Who Do You Think You Are, Live!, which attracts tens of thousands of participants). The National Genealogical Society Quarterly offers many articles on methodology and research. The Genealogist, the SOG journal, offers descriptions of records, biographies, histories, and more. SOG even offers online access to databases. Very helpful if you have British research.
The Federation of Genealogical Societies in the United States is a great place to find genealogical societies of all levels. Other countries have similar organizations, such as the Federation of Family History Societies in the United Kingdom. Support these societies with your membership, and they will be there to support you in your research.