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24 April 2015

Please Pass the Salt...And Tell Us About Your Ancestors

Volunteering at genealogical societies is a time-honored tradition. In 1915, the California Genealogical Society (CGS) organized the International Congress of Genealogy, held in San Francisco. 100 years later, CGS volunteers still keep the organization thriving and alive, and carrying on the excitement of ancestral discoveries!

By CGS Volunteer Coordinator, Kathleen Beitiks 

Many years ago I was invited to a dinner party with a dozen people who worked in a variety of occupations. One of the guests was a psychologist. At some point, the conversation turned to labor and delivery stories. We all had a great time laughing at stories about the near mishaps racing to the hospital or about the doctor who thought a breech birth was imminent, only to discover that the darling bundle of joy just had a big head – like his father.

“I hope you all tell your children these stories,” said the psychologist. She then went on to tell us that in an informal survey of her clients through the years, she realized there was one common thread – very few of them had stories to tell about their own birth or heritage. 

She wasn’t sure what that meant, but she theorized that it was very important to have sense of how we came into this world and the connection to our roots with family stories – both happy and not-so-happy. 

I have thought about that evening since I began volunteering for the California Genealogical Society. There are myriad opportunities to volunteer in our community and I know many of us give our time to food banks, homeless shelters, youth activities, hospitals, and other organizations. Volunteering with CGS is one of those “intangible” activities that may not have obvious results, but does impact the human condition - helping people discover who they are and where they came from. 

Volunteer researchers at CGS have a first-hand opportunity to see the joy of discovery in the face of someone who has learned about an elusive ancestor. Our library volunteers may have a chance to help dig up an old directory that contains the address of an ancestor from 100 years ago. Our tech volunteers make the ancestor quest easier in this new cyber world. Event organizers bring experts to us – saving us time and money in our individual roots searches. Our database volunteers help keep it all organized. And I could go on and on….

The world of genealogy has expanded rapidly in the past decades. Not only are we learning about the lives, loves, and wanderings of our ancestors, but now it is possible to learn about our DNA and medical implications for our descendants. 

This may be the New Millennium, but I suspect we will be making many more new and exciting discoveries about the past and future human condition in the years to come. And CGS volunteers should know that their time and talent has contributed to the world of genealogical discoveries and progress.

April is National Volunteer Month. If you are a CGS volunteer, we salute you. You are all invaluable and we could not keep this organization alive without you!  If you are not currently a volunteer but have thought about becoming one, check out our current list of Volunteer Opportunities or send me an email (Kathleen Beitiks) and I will put you to work!

Again – I can’t say it enough - a million thanks to our loyal, dedicated CGS volunteers (and you know who you are!)

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