S is for Society, Secretary, Sustainability and Succession #AtoZchallenge


Welcome to Day 19 of the  #AtoZChallenge.  Don't know what the AtoZChallenge is? Find out more here.

My theme is about Family History Societies.  What they are, How they work, Who is in them, Why they exist.

And which ones begin with S !  

Family Organizations beginning with S (Family Search Wiki) 

Rest of World




What does the word Society mean to you?  A dictionary definition is:
an organization or club formed for a particular purpose or activity.


 Are there connotations associated with the word? Notions of exclusivity or exclusion?

Recently in one of the #ANZAncestryTime Twitter chats held on a Tuesday night at 7pm Australian time we discussed family history societies and whether they are relevant or not in this day and age. I am indebted to Sue Wyatt for summarising the discussion on her blog here.  I commend it to you.  Fabulous to read about all the different experiences, good and bad.    



A Society simply cannot function without a Secretary.  They are the lynchpin when all is said and done.  It takes a special sort of person to be a Secretary.  You absolutely need to be organised and calm in the face of chaos.  Our Secretary deals with a truly extraordinary amount of correspondence.  Last month she dealt with over 90 official emails.  That's not counting the informal emails sent between the management committee members.  Snail mail is a lot less of course, but still significant.  There are sympathy cards or letters to send to members who have lost signficant others or the family of past members. There are thank you letters to be written to those who have made donations.  There are certificates to be posted out to those who have completed our beginners course.  There are bills and membership renewals to be processed and research requests. 
Our Secretary is responsible for maintaining the Society's records and making sure that the building is cleaned and the lawn mowed as well as arranging pest inspections annually.  She organizes the AGM, the annual awards for service to family history and writing family history and the thank you functions for volunteers. She meets new volunteers to give them keys to the library. I'm sure I've forgotten something but you get the picture don't you?
Do Secretaries ever sleep I ask myself? Or, for that matter, get any family history done?



What are the pillars of sustainability for your society?  Are you demonstrating sustainable practices? Sustainable for the planet and for you personally?  Are you doing too much? Do you need to cut back and not try to do everything?  



What happens if you get run over by that wretched bus?  Do you have a succession plan?  Does somebody already know what you do?  Have you been coaching someone so that they feel confident to step up when required?  Do you have a supportive coaching culture that encourages ideas and supports success?  Don't forget to look behind you and give someone else a helping hand.


Australians can be guilty of the tall-poppy syndrome; cutting people down to size who "have tickets on themselves".  Do you encourage people to feel safe and secure or cut others down to make yourself feel bigger?  Do you recognize or acknowledge the work that others do regularly?  A simple sincere thank you is often all that is needed to oil the wheels.    Make sure that other's success is shared.  Can they share their story with other members so that everyone learns and benefits from their experience? 

Got something you'd like to share?  Let us know in the comments below.




GeniAus said…
So much to think about. As well as succession I think fixed terms should be considered, Societies will go STALE if the same people are in one job year after year.
crgalvin said…
I shall send this one on to our secretary who does a stellar job managing all those tasks that you have mentioned and many more I’m sure. As we document all the roles and responsibilities everyone is made aware of how much is achieved.
Alex Daw said…
Dear Jill - I completely agree - burnout and stagnation are real problems.

Dear Carmel - I am sure I have forgotten some of the many things our Secretary does. The avalanche of emails alone I imagine is almost all-consuming.
Molly's Canopy said…
Succession is probably one of the biggest issues for gen societies. When I attend conferences and online meetings, I am struck by the aging of our family history milieu. We need to get younger generations involved. https://mollyscanopy.com/2021/04/space-flights-sweater-sets-and-slam-books-atozchallenge/
Alex Daw said…
Hi Molly - yes I agree. I think we need more cultural diversity in our societies. Australia is populated largely by migrants as well as our First Nations people. We need to acknowledge this in our Special Interest Groups more broadly and also in our Publicity and Marketing.

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