Genealogical Open House ideas
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* Have a separate lecture room and provide lectures about topics such as immigration from X (a country where a lot of the local people originally came from), using census records, local history, etc.
* Provide internet workshops on internet computers, teaching people how to use the internet for genealogical research.
* Invite other organizations to participate in a fair, for example local museums, historical societies, genealogists willing to share their data, (antique) book dealers with focus on local history. You can even try to get the commercial organizations to sponsor the event a bit, for example in return for a stall or an ad in a booklet that each visitor gets.
* Have some reading tables, for example with books about the meaning of family names, local history, etc.
* Have as many local sources available as possible, preferably in transcribed format.
* Have a photocopier there so people can make copies!
* Ask users to bring their family photos to have them dated. You'll need somebody who knows a lot about old photographs for this. Have a military expert that can recognize uniforms etc.
* Have a scanner there and create a life image database using Flickr (http://www.flickr.com) from pictures visitors bring.
* Sell beginners packages, for example including empty forms, FAQs, quick tips and a list of useful websites. Include a membership form for your society :-) Alternatively, give this package away to new members as a special open house deal.
* Plan to teach a beginners class during the winter and allow people to sign up during the open house. Give a discount for (new) members.
Another thing they do for members is offer a slumber party. They keep the society open all night for those who want to research. They charge $25 per person. The limit the number of people and they are asked to bring snacks to share and then they usually have pizza delivered.
Our local society seems like it's asleep all the time. We're in a terrible rut and wonder why we don't seem to attract new or young members any more. I've offered up several fun ideas (I thought they were anyway) but this one sounds like it would be a real ball! Last night I proposed a variation on speed-dating for one of our monthly programs. Instead of looking for a date you'd be looking for a research partner and you'd get to know other members at the same time.
Our speaker next week is a reference librarian from the local library. I plan to hit her up afterwards about having a slumber party at the library. Thanks for a great idea!
Have some beginner's packets made up with a family group sheet, pedigree chart, promotional material for your society and the library, an instruction sheet on getting started (you know, 1 ask family about ancestors, 2 find them on the census, 3 start getting birth, death, and marriage certs., etc.), but a small note pad in it and a pencil. If you have time, get some pencils with the name of the organization on them. For people who are really interested, match them up with a mentor who can guide them through the research even after the event is over.