Research Your Scottish Ancestry

Robert WilbanksGenealogy Societies: Expand Your Reach

by Robert M. Wilbanks IV, B.A.
Chief Genealogist & Historian, C.S.A.

I often mention directly or in passing, the importance of continuous learning and networking. I’ve also on occasion listed events happening throughout Arizona where you can learn with, and from, others thanks to genealogy societies.

With so much growing specialty knowledge related to genealogy research, genealogy societies are a great place to continuously learn more and stay current on research, and even technology, related to genealogy.

Genealogy Societies (or Clubs) are organizations with a wide variety of membership working together learning about, and preserving, genealogy research and resources. Many of these organizations will provide a generalized coverage of genealogy, while many others can be more focused based upon ethnicity, geography, nationality or even by family name.

The following are just a few of the key reasons to join a genealogy society:

Networking : Networking is a large part of genealogy. Through societies you can work with and learn from other more experienced genealogists. Discover members researching in the same geographical area, or family name, etc. as you. Work together to create mutual learning opportunities. Share your research and knowledge with others. Also, in far off societies, seek research help by the members who currently live in your ancestors’ locale.

Meetings, Seminars, More : Attend meetings with special guest speakers, and work together with other members to create mutual learning opportunities, including annual seminars or conferences. Bring speakers from across or out of state. Some societies host chats, and webinars. Through these events you can also expand your networking.

Journals & Publications : One of the best features of genealogy societies are their journals and other historical publications; especially from genealogy organizations in your ancestors’ home locale. These societies will search and publish records not readily available to others. Also, you can write about your research efforts and seek help from others, or submit an outline of your family history for publication in a history compilation by the society.

Resources : Some organizations have their own libraries for members, as well as specialized databases. Some will offer free or fee based research assistance in their locale. Some coordinate discounted research trips, tours and other activities.

Naturally, you should join societies from where your ancestors originated. But don’t discount joining a local organization where you currently live. If you now live in Arizona, but your ancestry does not come from Arizona, this shouldn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t join an Arizona Genealogy Society. Many members are from elsewhere, as well as their ancestry. In addition to learning about genealogy basics, you could potentially find others already familiar with the locale you are researching in, or even be familiar with the specific family you are researching. At the first genealogy society meeting I ever went to (in Arizona where I have no ancestry) I discovered 5 different distant cousins in the room, with genealogies from Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia where my ancestry was from.

To locate a genealogy society in the region of your ancestry, simply Google the county and state with the keyword ‘genealogy’ or ‘family history’. To locate family surname societies, just Google that surname with the same additional keywords.

This website of the Federation of Genealogical Societies can help you find any Genealogy Society in the U.S. and Canada:

The following link can help you locate Scottish societies more general and national in scope: Researching the Scottish counties specifically also will help you locate genealogy societies specifically for that county.

Genealogy Societies are a great benefit for new and extremely experienced family historians alike.

This is another of a series of articles in which I show you the basics of searching for your family history, discussing the use of family records, public records, and online resources nationally and internationally, etc. The previous articles are now available on the Genealogy Section of this website.   See “Genealogy” in the menu options at the top of the web page.