Montana State Genealogical Society

PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE: March 1997

The other day I heard a man give a little talk about roots, what they do for a tree, and what they do for man. Roots are essential for the nourishment, growth, and strength of a tree and anchor it in strong winds and storms. It is the same with man's spiritual and emotional nourishment, growth, strength, and endurance. I honestly believe that so many people today, both young and old, are swaying and blowing over with the slightest wind because they have no roots. I also believe that this is the deep down reason why so many of us are actively searching our roots. And more people are joining our numbers every day.

When I stop to ponder, I am amazed at the amount of time and energy some my colleagues in the state society and in local societies around the state spend on furthering the cause of family history research--not just for themselves but for hundreds of people they have never even met. This thought always seems to hit me hardest when we meet together, and I hear of all the trials of daily living that are occurring in their lives. I am so thankful to all of you who "keep on keepin' on" inspite of illness, broken bones, family deaths and other problems. The work we do locally and in the state society is so important to so many people who are trying to establish those roots and to those who some time in the future will realize that need. Why do we continue inspite of all kinds of adversity? Because we are commited. Unfortunately there are some among us who feel too burdened with daily living and either drop their memberships or become inactive in their societies. Commitment is a choice. If you believe that facilitating people's ability to "grow roots" is as important as I do, that indeed it plays a key role in a healthy society, you must choose to commit. When you sincerely make that choice, the problems of living may slow you down or temporarily delay you, but they will not stop you.

In the latest issue of the FGS Forum Curt Witcher talks about commitment, and I'd like to relate some of his thoughts. First, he doesn't just say "commit"; he says "commit to action...Take just a little action and make a difference." 1 He gave six areas of action that are important for a committed and therefore successful society.

  1. Develop a mission statement if you don't have one. If you already have one, reread it frequently, and change it if it does not meet your needs. Have goals that keep you inspired and remind yourselves of them often.
  2. Attend your society's meetings. "It is not enough to be a member of a society." All of our societies have members who are on the rolls that we seldom see. Other than paying dues, if you are one of these members, you are dead weight. Choose to commit to action and make sure that you keep meeting days free from other activities. In my local society we have had some new members who have joined in the last couple years and have been very active. None of them have done anything stupendous. They have all just taken a little action and made a big difference. And I think they're wonderful.
  3. Look for ways to work with other societies in your state and area--not just genealogical societies, but historical societies, museums, heritage organizations, etc. One of Curt Witcher's favorite sayings is, "Together we can make it happen.!" He stresses that we should "aggressively" look for ways to have joint projects and/or programs. I would put in a little plug here for looking for ways to work with the societies in your districts.
  4. Explore ways of working with your local libraries--and not necessarily just in areas of genealogy. "A number of librarians still suffer under the notion that all genealogists want to do is 'take, take take.' Demonstrate to them that they are wrong."
  5. Personally invite others to take a little action with you. Invite someone less active to go to a meeting, walk the cemetery, or index some records with you or contribute to your newsletter. The worst way to get volunteers is to ask, "Who will ..." or "Would anyone like to ..." Try not to put them on the spot or embarrass them in front of everyone at a meeting, but ask them individually at another time if possible. Let them "borrow your light" for a little while, and hopefully theirs will be rekindled.
  6. Commit to political action. I know this is a pain for most of us, but we must watch out for our interests in these days of budget cuts and movements to close or destroy records. Be informed, attend meetings, and let your concerns be known.

I am grateful for Curt Witcher, his commitment to action, and all he has done for the genealogists of the world. In addition to all the hours he logs on our behalf, he is perhaps our greatest cheerleader. Ponder the importance of roots to a tree, to man, and to society, and choose to commit to action.

Pat Thompson, President, MSGS

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