As this is to be my last President's Message I have pondered what I could say as though I had just one last chance to make a difference. The truth is, if I haven't made a difference by now, I have wasted the last four years.
I would like to thank all of the members of the Montana State Genealogical Society for giving me the opportunity to serve you. The last four years have been a truly rich experience for me. I started out on shaky legs with little idea of what I was supposed to be doing. I was fairly well acquainted with some of our most pressing problems and had few ideas on how to solve them. Six months passed, and I panicked because I hadn't accomplished anything. Gradually trickles of ideas became brainstorms, and we began to move. I developed a vision of what we could be and things that we could accomplish that would move us forward. I feel good about what has happened with the MSGS during the last four years. There have been some failures as well as successes--some things that we could have done better--some things that we still need to work on to improve. But overall I am not ashamed. We have had a truly wonderful executive board--all very dedicated people who have made great contributions. I want to give special thanks to Paulette Parpart, my 1st VP. As many of you are aware, Paulette and I have been a team. We have bounced ideas off of each other, supported each other, and helped each other keep our fires for genealogy and the state society kindled. We've done good things. But all the good that I have done for the society does not begin to match what being president has done for me. No one has benefited more from my presidency than I have.
Would you like to grow in your knowledge of genealogical research? Would you like to make special friendships, many of which will help you progress in your research? Are you maybe a little frustrated or discouraged because of your inability to solve some of your research problems? Do you know the answer is out there somewhere, but with your present level of genealogical skills you can't find it? I have the answer for you. Take an office in your genealogical society. I testify that you will grow in your knowledge, skills, and abilities with far greater speed and scope than you will if you just come to the meetings and never participate. If you want to multiply that growth factor and learn even more and at a still faster pace, take an office in the state society. It helped me keep my family history research high on my list of priorities, and I learned so many things as I served in the offices of my local society. I chugged right along and more or less reached a plateau where I stayed until I became MSGS president. Then I began to learn things from people all over the state--how to find the old newspapers on microfilm that I need from Paulette in Missoula, where to look for the detailed history of the battles and ships in the Pacific during World War II from Al in Bozeman, things to check out on the Internet from Bob in Butte, and much, much more. From Al Stoner in Helena I was able to borrow some indexes that eventually put me in touch with an unknown distant relative who gave me a whole notebook full of information. Swallow that lump in your throat, steady your wobbly knees, and quit making excuses. You are not more busy than other people who have served in your society's offices. I am addressing beginners as well as more experienced members. If you are serious about your family history research there is no better way to learn, sharpen your skills, and keep you on track than to be a genealogical society's officer. Do it.
Pat Thompson, President, MSGS