Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Starting your own computer users group

From: Michelle
Does anyone out there know how a group of us could create a PAF User group in our area? I have checked to see if one is here already and the closest one to us is in Denver which is a two hour - three hour drive for most of us. We are wondering if there are any guides or specifics needed to do this? Or any programs we have to follow etc.

Thanks for being motivated to begin a genealogy computer users group in your area. Here are a few suggestions from Ol' Myrt to get you started:

-- Find a meeting place that is free, to keep your costs down.
-- Charge a minimum of $10 annually to pay for expenses, but keep the meeting "open" to non-members.
-- Consider meeting at the local public library, which will most likely have a computer projector, microphone and internet access.

-- A 2 or 2.5 hour meeting each month (except the summer?) should suffice.
-- Consider that Saturdays will allow working people to attend.
-- Remember that evening meetings will be impossible for older folks who have trouble driving in the dark.

-- Even though you are calling your group a "PAF" users group, keep an open mind about the use of other programs.
-- Divide the time as follows: 30% genealogy software, 30% basic genealogy research topics, 30% internet research topics.
-- Use the other 10% for audience participation (show & tell, usually arranged in advance.)
-- Some programs, such as PAF and Legacy Family Tree have their own tutorials.
-- See what other genealogy users groups are doing, and emulate their best work. See:
---- Silicon Valley Computer Genealogy Group
---- Utah Valley PAF Users Group
-- Show 15 minutes of a genealogy video each month, such as Kip Sperry's "Reading Early American Handwriting" from
-- Schedule 1/2 of each meeting's topic for the next year, and then fill in the rest of the time based on:
---- new topics that come up in the mean time
---- the evolving needs of your members

-- Obtain free webspace through
-- Post meeting dates, times, topics on your website.
-- Provide links to regional genealogy events (classes, seminars, society meetings).
-- Send permanent 8.5" x 11" flyers to each Family History Center and public library in your region.
-- Send info to the local newspaper's "what's happening about town" section.

-- Remember that with most societies, genealogical or otherwise, 10% of the members do 90% of the work. That is just the way it is, kiddo.
-- Have a hospitality chairperson to manage light (very light) refreshments.
-- Ask RootsWeb for a mailing list to keep members and interested parties informed of upcoming events.

BE GRATEFUL and happy for the input from members and attendees. I think back on my days with the Manasota PAF Users Group with great fondness because the MEMBERS were so wonderful about sharing their knowledge with others at our meetings. We saw things like displays of Civil War period clothing, descriptions and discussions about Bob Jones' grandchildren trip to plant trees in the family cemetery and such. I remember that Dorinne and Bud were the first to get digital cameras and showed us how to digitize old documents. Elsie called a member if they didn't show up at a meeting, providing a great sense of continuity and belonging. Of course, for the fun of it, I always picked on Chuck Fitzgerald, until he moved, and Jim Connoly took his place. You know, have fun with it! OK... I'm going to start to cry just remembering old friend and great times!

Be open to suggestions, and learn about each member's personal interests and talents. Each of us have different strengths when it comes to computers, software, research, obtaining unusual original documents, preparing our work for publication, etc. Give each member a chance to SHINE.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)

Snail Mail Address:
227 Bellevue Way NE PMB 544
Bellevue, WA 98004

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