NOTES TO THE D.F.H.S. REGARDING THE INTERNET:
A balanced view....
I have been a member for one year ( almost in
November). I hope the comments thus far, will not deter those thinking of
joining the society . I enjoy reading the Devon Family Historian published
quarterly. The articles are informative and for one living so far away the
booklet gives me a sence of connection to the Devon area where my research
centers. Upon subscribing to the Society , I was pleased to learn I could
send a personal cheque in canadian dollars. I didn't have to go to the bank
pay extra for pounds sterling and so on. That was indeed helpful to me and I
would think to others as well. I plan to renew my subscription in January.
If there are those who are not sure about becoming a member I would
encourage you to subscribe and then make your decision to renew the
following year. Without the continued support of membership the Society can
not expand and grow.
Yes I would like to see the membership e-mail address and interests inserted
in the publication. I understand ,from various responces this is in the
making. I appreciate the dedication from those volunteers living and
participating in the running of the Tree House and DFHS. Without their
support and work the DFHS would not exist. Continued success to those on the
front lines, the volunteers. I appreciate your good works .
Heather Billings, Ontario, Canada. DFHS # 9255.
..Would an FHS lose money..??
Information gathered and freely given by members of the society
could be circulated within minutes around the world. Copyright is
often ignored by Internet users . It would no longer be source of
income to the Society.
Societies are rightly worried about their financial situation might be
affected if their publication sales drop off - though there are a number
who can now point to distinct increases in membership due to the existence
of their Web sites and services to Internet users.
If the DFHS is concerned they will not
have revenue should they post information I beg to differ on this thought. I
for one would love to see the complete listing of information they hold with
a brief discription of contents. I have looked at my booklet and wanted to
purchase several items but not sure if I would be wasting my money and their
time requesting an over view prior to purchase.
Ontario, Canada Heather Billings DFHS membership #9255 and
proud to be a Member !!!!
I don't see sales dropping off by going onto the Internet if they follow
the suggestions below. In fact I see an increase. This is just a note to
anyone wanting to contact their societies in order to persuade them to go
A happy medium for the Society wanting to explore the possibility of going
up on the net might be; to put up an attractive and informative web site
for the Society. And rather than put up pages from their money making
publications, etc., they might list their titles with a synopsis of the item
and perhaps an Index of the names and places they cover. Along with that
information they could list the price of the item and how to order it. This
way they would not be "giving away" their information, but still requiring
purchase of them and at the same time informing the public of their value
and making use of the Internet all at the same time.
I for one am reluctant to buy publications unless I know what they contain
and if they can help me, since I am on a tight budget. Titles can be so
misleading. The above information would be a great enticement for me to
seriously consider the purchase of a publication. The Society that does
this might not only find their membership increasing but their publications
sales increasing as well. After all they are reaching millions of people
across the world including many researchers that are remote to their
limited local access.
In the US alone, the figures have jumped to 86% of all US citizens having
access to a computer and the Internet via, home, work or school. I'm not up
on the European statistics. Electronic sales (e-commerce) will actually
pose a threat for the first time to traditional storefront sales by the year
2002 based on the total gross dollar amount exchanged in commerce.
Cynthia Sims Kirkland, a remote research in Dallas, Texas
You can now have your information/publications on the net / sell it
(download to the buyer's PC) it's no more at risk than someone
photocopying a book. Societies can even
charge a membership/user fee for access to parts of their website that has
The issue is one of access and the web is the way to go. Structured properly
it can increase not decrease income and access. People will have access to
the information and the organization what gets it to them in the most
convenient way, at the most effective cost, will get their money.
I say digitize the libraries, archives, and publications etc and charge a
reasonable fee for access to or purchase of information
...Help to and Involving long-distance members...
What you (Brian) put on the net for the DFHS induced me to join two
years ago, but the fact that they have not updated it, or given their
overseas members an email contact I have decided to drop my membership.
To give us (overseas members) at least one free lookup a year by email
is not too much to ask. I would also like to be able to email a query
for the "Historian".
Howard Jensen, Largo, FL DFHS # 8703
At last it is great to see the DFHS come into the modern age (re: new web-site),
as a lapsed member it is inspiring me to renew my membership, for those of us at the
other end of the earth (New Zealand) hopefully it will start to keep us
If any one hasn't visited the site, please do so, therefore we can show the
committee that this is a viable medium.
Well done to all concerned, keep up the good work !
Paul Ashton (NZ)
I joined the DFHS back in 1978 and was very happy to do so in
those pre-home computer days. However, as with the GRD &
other directories, I have found it little short of uselesss with regard
to putting me in contact with others researching my names. I have
certainly had much more contact through the internet. As a result I
didn't subscribe for about 3 years, then re-joined but have now
stopped again. The same goes for the Soc. of Gen. I'm afraid, as I
found it extremely expensive borrowing PRs from them, having to
pay their Recorded Delivery charges as well as my own, on top of
a 20 pounds subscription. The benefit gained from membership was
peanuts in comparison. I certainly can't afford to send to the DFHS
for all the entries I would like from their marriage index as it would
cost well over 100 pounds, and I already have some of them. I
understand it's all or nothing, so it's nothing as far as I'm concerned.
Doreen DEVON #1165
A large proportion of the DFHS membership must be domiciled a long way from Devon (50%, 40%, 30%....???) and would greatly benefit from improved resources and communication facilities (including e-mail) to the DFHS......ALL (as has been said) that is more than likely to be to the betterment of the Society....
I believe that any UK society which wishes to attract members must give recognition of ALL its members regardless of their location. Local members have access to the societys Library and may attend meeting in order to know what is going on. Overseas members do not have access to the society's facilities and pay an additional amount in order to receive the society magazine/newsletter. They generally receive little additional benefit.
Given that many now have access to a computer this does not mean that members located in another country cannot contribute and be active and useful regardless of their location. One simple mechanism by which overseas members could contribute and be seen to be providing a useful volunteer service could be through one or more lookup service/s linked to a society website. However, the society must first have a good website and encourage active involvement of their ALL their members.
Fran Higham (Australia)
I am trying to research Ellis, Smith, King, Knight, and
Polyblank in Devon from 7,000 miles away and it is difficult. I am not
looking for a hand-out and will gladly pay a reasonable fee for reasonable
on-line services. However, I don't want to pay to belong to a society that
offers non-residents nothing beyond a newsletter. I don't mind paying for
access to data bases unavailable elsewhere. I would appreciate things like
indexes to Census listing (for example 1871), some help with how to
distinguish between Devonport, East Stonehouse, and old Plymouth and which
Church records to look in. I can find ZERO relatives in the 1881 Census in
all of Southwestern England and they should definitely be in Devon. I don't
know what church to search. I would greatly appreciate access to helpful
resources and don't mind doing the work myself. I just don't know what to
do at this point. I would like to see on-line directories of Plymouth and
area, on-line census, on-line parish indexes, the Pigot Directory, and other
resources. I would even be willing to help enter data on a volunteer basis.
If the DFHS were oriented beyond just those fortunate enough to live in the
UK and offered me something that would truly be helpful in family history I
would want to be a part of it and would pay my fair share.
Godfrey J. Ellis
Lacey, WA (near Seattle)
...Awareness caused by the Internet..
I would certainly not have known about the DFHS if I hadn't found it on the
GENUKI pages. I printed the membership form out from there and sent it off.
Sandra in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
What the DFHS might choose to provide on the Internet is certainly their decision, but, as you know, there is much information in their Exeter research centre that *could* be loaded onto the Internet, at least, perhaps, as regularly and well-maintained lists of what is available.....plus surnames interests etc. etc.
My view is that if the DFHS were to look at the Internet as a positive advertising tool (for them) as well as information provision (for the punters), then their financial position would be greatly enhanced, since I would think that many more people would subscribe to the Society to get access to more detailed data and information.
I have got the very firm impression that the Society see the Internet as a competitor, not as a friend....
..The modus operandi of the Society...
At times, the Devon FHS has appeared to me to be run for the benefit of a
select group of locals - a cabal. The advantages of Society membership are
certainly heavily weighted in favour of local residents. The prime example
of this is the Tree House Centre catering as it does solely for visitors. If
there is a balancing facility to obtain photocopies by post, it is little
advertised, and I am unaware of it.
Another example that the Society does not want help is that Projects are
started without the wider membership being aware of them. The recent
transcribing of parish registers for the Burial Books is a case in point.
The new web site just another. The Society's quarterly magazine could have
been used to inform all members of the proposals, giving them a chance to
But I do believe the truth is far less sinister.......
Although I am a member of the Devon FHS, I do not know who is constructing
their new web site, who is controlling its content, or how it is funded. The
URL http://www.devonfhs.org.uk/ suggests to me that the site is not a free
one. Perhaps the next issue of "The Devon Family Historian", which all
members receive free of charge, will let me know.
Roy Parkhouse, Mon.
..Experience of using other Internet information providers..
Perhaps their committee should study the operation of some of the more go-
ahead societies. Let me start them off with an example from my own experience.
I am doing a DUNBAR one-name study, and the main concentration of the name is
in Moray and Aberdeenshire. For this reason, some years ago I became a member
of the Aberdeen & N.E. Scotland FHS. They are a thriving society, very active,
publish an interesting journal, their King Streeet, Aberdeen headquarters
library and research facilities are very good - and volunteer staff extremely
pleasant, knowledgable and helpful - and they have an internet address.
In preparing for my recent trip to Scotland I e-mailed them and within a short
time received photocopies of the material I was interested in. This gave me a
head start, enabling me to spend more time researching other lines in
The internet may not be the answer to the family historians/genealogists
prayer, but in my experience can be a valuable tool. Without good
communication facilities I cannot see an organisation such as a family history
If I could get similar assistance from the DFHS I would certainly become a
Located in west Wales
Can I bring attention to the article in this months Family History monthly
relating to the Cornwall Family History Society. It tells of how they as a
society have grown by keeping up with todays developments. Worth reading,
and worth copying - by the Devon Society.
I am a supporter of the DFHS - having begun in the days when you developed a
more impressive filing system than family tree - they helped me by putting
me in touch with a couple of local archivists who in those days would do a
bit of 'looking up' in exchange for a stick of Blackpool Rock!! Both long
gone now but sadly missed. My membership lapsed because of these contacts,
but I wouldn't hesitate to rejoin if the need arises
Sue & Brian
(but the downside to the prvious note.....)
The DFHS does not operate from one central office like, say the CFHS in
Victoria Square, Truro but from members homes in all parts of Devon. The
monthly meetings, which incidentally are very well attended are from four
different venues spread across the county in Bideford, Exeter, Plymouth and
Torquay. All this takes a lot of organising and is very time consuming.
DFHS Membership No. 7166 and proud of it.
I live in Australia and exist on a limited budget so I must pick the UK societys I join with some care (particularly in light of the current exchange rates).
I have decided that I will join one of the 2 Bucks groups largely because they have an excellent site on the 'Net where I can download photos of the churches where my ancestors would have worshipped and because several of the members of this society are active in the Mailing Lists giving advice and frequently mention the societys Web site. To me this suggests that it is an active and helpful society who give recognition to the many native born residents of the county who spread across the world.
I have also been considering joining the Kent Family History Society as well.
I particularly like this site (apart from family interest) because they allow payment for membership to be made in my local currency (as they do for many other countries) and they have a "Global Branch" which once again gives recognition of far distant members.
Fran Higham (Australia)
The index and service provided by the Scottish General Register Office
is a great example of what can be achieved, and may I suggest to them,
what a great revenue earner it could be!
For a £6 search fee (they have great encryption for credit card security
purposes) you can search births and marriages dating 1553 to 1897 have
been listed, deaths from 1855 to 1897 and Census records for 1891 (all
for Scotland of course). 1881 census records will be added later.
If you find what you need, you can order a certificate online for £10
and get it posted to you within about a week.
I've managed to track a few people that I haven't found anywhere else.
The initial search fee allows you 24 hours of access (timed from when
you first connect for a search and running continuously).
The DFHS could find it very interesting to have a look.
Fiona Bain in (getting warmer) Wellington, NZ
One of the best benefits for an 'overseas' researcher would be: some surname
information and locations available and exact lists of what they offer..
Remember, good genealogist's will still want to order a Society sanctioned
document to support their work. Therefore, if they can put helpful data in a
web site, most of us would order certified copies of that data.
I have a little story that makes the point of doing research in both the real
hands on and the virtual (internet) areas. I live in the U.S. and am wishing
for more data available everywhere as I have research to do in my home area as
well as in Europe.
My sister and I had been looking for our grandparent's wedding certificate.
Sis said, no problem will pop over to Plainfield and get it..She went asked
for the proper book, and found nothing...The kind clerk helped her go through
other books. Still nothing.
My sister then spent the next 6 months, trying to determine if we had the
location wrong. She called or traveled to many other counties and
Then I joined her after having my newest computer for all of 3 months. One
Saturday as I sat 'surfing' around, I found the US GENweb Project. Eventually
came to the county my sister had already looked for the certificate. There
online, in plain view, were two listings..one by groom, one by bride and our
grandparents on both. A kind gentleman who is the writer for many books in
the county had taken the time to input all this data, including the book and
page number. I called my sister, she said no,...you kidding. But she
traveled back there and guess what, there was the marriage certificate. The
first time she had visited, evidently the page had been stuck to the one in
front of it.
Moral...without doing both...no certificate.
...Suggestions on webpage design....
Have the general website up for the purpose of advertising the Society with
a Logon for "Members Only". This could require anything from a password to
enter, to a SSL login.. to an implanted cookie being sent to the member's
system, etc. THEN more information could become public online with out the
need for a multitude of "Volunteers", etc. Additional services could be
charged for accordingly ?
Our local FHS has a very good web site which lists resources available,
members interest fields, etc. BUT you can't get any information on-line
(or otherwise) unless you are a member. The site lists publications,
etc and prices but there's no actual access to this information. It's a
good way to promote membership and increase revenue without giving
...Views from other U.K. Family History Societies....
For the Manchester & Lancs FHS, it was reported to council a few months ago
that around 30% of new members were coming via the form on the WWW. WIth
regards to mail order sales we have only had the bookshop catalogue on the
WWW 3-4 months now. (The membership form has been on for a couple of years).
The unexpected problem we had with mail order was that the volume increased
Borders Family History Society (covers the Scottish Border counties)
I am always puzzled by societies worrying that they will lose
revenue from publications. My experience is that the contrary
is the case. In the case of the Borders FHS none of the actual
information in their publications is put online e.g. inscriptions,
hearth tax listings etc. Instead the publications are advertised
for free and their contents described for potential purchasers.
OXFORDSHIRE FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETY
Of the last 200 new members since the beginning of the year, 50 have
definitely been generated by the Internet.
Although I am unable to quantify sales directly to web advertising, many
purchasers have noted that they got the price from the web page. Also an
announcement of a new publication on the web page immediately generates sales.
Email has other advantages in being able to give quotations easily and more
cheaply. It saves money on telephone calls between Committee members.
The Journal editor can receive articles by email and not have to retype them!
And committee members can send her items more easily.
It means more work for the person or persons doing the work, but it is more
business for the FHS. But that is why we do it !!!
And, finally, if the FHS don't do it, somebody else will.
The Bucks Genealogical Society has made a stong commitment to supplying
information via its Internet web site and using it to give a better
service to the majority of our members who live outside the county.
When we first mooted a web site, there was a lot of tut-tutting and conservatism. In
the end the two of us just did it, showed the others, and got their
approval in retrospect once they realised it wasn't going to cost the
Society anything. Now 18 months on the whole Committee recognises the
worth of these activities.
Powys FHS has certainly benefited in terms of increased membership
via the Web site.
A significant number of overseas members now transcribe and input
data for our projects co-ordinator and return the files by email
attachment. They are very pleased to take a more active role in
contributing to their Society. Overseas members also come up with
helpful suggestions for improvement as well as solutions to problems.
In Cheshire, around 30% of new members join using the membership form
printed off our Society's web-site (for overseas members this figure
is 90%). In addition, it seems that another 10-20% of new members
find out about us through our internet pages, even if they aren't
directly connected themselves.
Besides the obvious benefits of extra membership subs and
publications orders, there are also other savings to be made. No
fewer than 20 out of the 25 members on the Society committee can be
reached via e-mail (is this a record? ), so notices, membership
lists, agendas, minutes, etc. which were previously sent by post, can
now be e-mailed instantly, at a tiny fraction of the cost.
Within the first 7 months of connection, our internet site had
directly generated enough revenue to cover the initial outlay of a
modem, the monthly ISP fees, and all the telephone costs. I'm pleased
to say that our Society's experiences of the internet have been
wholly positive, and we have benefitted financially, and also by
keeping in touch with distant members (many of whom now help with
project work, etc.).