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..??

.....the fear....

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.

"George"....DFHS member.

.....some answers....

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.

Brian Randell

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 on-line.

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 'valuable' information.

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

Edgar Barbour
...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 more up-to-date.

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....

John Lerwill

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 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....

John Lerwill

..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 assist.

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 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 Aberdeen.

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 society thriving.

If I could get similar assistance from the DFHS I would certainly become a member..............

Pat Dunbar
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
...Other comment...

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.

Lynne (U.S.A.)

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 towns..looking..nothing turned.

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 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, 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 certificate.

Lynne (U.S.A.)
...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 ?

Toby White-Beebe

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 anything away.

Pat Page
BC Canada
...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 considerably.

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.

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.).