I worked a shift at the State Fair yesterday for the Genealogical Society of Marion County. It was Indiana Heritage Day, and we had a long row of booths to do meet-and-greet time with fairgoers. I think it was a real shame and a huge missed opportunity for lots of Indiana historical and genealogical societies.
The booths were free, fair admission was free, you could park at several outside locations and ride a free shuttle bus to the gate, and yet GSMC was the only genealogical society at the event. The Indiana Historical Society and the German Heritage Society were the only historical groups there. A Civil War and a WW2 group had booths. The other tents had state government departments.
Many genealogical societies lament the lack of interest among local folks, lament the missing members, lament small attendance at meetings, and on and on. My question is: Where are their outreach programs? It doesn't do much good to preach to the choir--you have to convert the heathens! Not that we're calling our prospects heathens, of course. Many of them just do not know our groups exist.
We, as genealogical and historical societies, need to get out into the community. Talk to citizens about their ancestry. Remind them that they are the end result of many centuries of survivors and reproducers. Ask them about their stories and let them know we can help them find their ancestors. How many Indiana community events are there every year and how few genealogy booths do you find?
Midwestern Roots was the same as the Fair; hardly any local genealogy groups were there--at the largest genealogy gathering in the state this year or next! Why not? The world wonders....