19 January 2018

Now That It's Over - My Thoughts On Being President of a Genealogical Society

Last night was my genealogy society's annual dinner.  Traditionally it's the night we give awards and recognize members for their service.  It's also the night when the new officers are installed.

I served as president of the San Joaquin Genealogical Society for four years and have termed out.  I got the position because 4 years ago the president resigned after serving for only a few months.  I was vice president at the time and so that president just dumped the whole enchilada on my lap.  

I went kicking and screaming as I was dragged into the hot seat.  I was not prepared at all for this responsibility.  I thought I would have had 3 or 4 years as vice president, working under the president, getting primed for the leadership position to come.

In a few short months, I learned how to create an agenda, how to run a meeting, how to keep people from killing each other and the hardest task of all - learning to stand up front and center and talk to a crowd of people.  I am incredibly petrified to do public speaking.  Even if I have a script in front of me so I know what to say, I am scared stupid.  But I learned to do it.  

Being president is like being a conductor of an orchestra.  He doesn't actually play any instruments during a performance, but he needs the knowledge of how each instrument should be played and have the ability to step in and play should the need arise.

While it has been "Good to be the Queen" it is time for a new leader to take the reins. The past 4 years have been challenging and interesting and I am satisfied that our society has improved and is flourishing in a number of ways. 

I had two goals I wanted to reach during my term of office:  

  • Obtain 501(c)(3) non-profit status for the society.  
  • Create a bright and shiny new website, one that would help bring us into the 21st century.  

I can check both items off my list.

We did some new and different things:  

  • We partnered with the San Joaquin County Historical Society and created the First Families of San Joaquin County program.
  • We presented our first day-long seminar with 4 speakers and over 100 attendees.
  • We held a special 1/2 day seminar during the summer - special because our society goes dark for the summer.
  • We set up a booth at several community events to help promote the society.
  • We reached out further to the community teaching beginning genealogy classes at the junior college.
  • We added 2 more libraries to our Saturday genealogy workshops.

Over the last 4 years, our society has grown in both membership and benefits - 23 NEW MEMBERS IN 2017 bringing us to over 100 members now -  and is financially healthy.

I hope that in some small way, I have inspired and encouraged the members of SJGS to grow as genealogists and to take the step and volunteer to keep the society going.

 I can't encourage you all enough to make that step - get involved.  15 minutes or 15 hours -  volunteers are a very special breed.  They step in when they see the need.  They share their skills, talents and time.  Every one of you has something to bring to the table and make a difference.  Every one of you has a voice and you need to use it.  The society exists only because of you, the members. 

You can throw money at any organization, you can throw money into any nonprofit, and feel like "you know what, I did my part, I'm good to go" but if you really want to leave a legacy and if you really want to impact lives, I think it's really important that you get your hands dirty and you get involved in the experience.  

Congratulations and Good Luck to Jacqi Stevens, new president of the San Joaquin Genealogical Society!


  1. WELL DONE, Sheri dahling! Both the society and you are on an upward curve!

    1. Brenda Dahling! Wonderful to hear from you my camel loving friend. Do you know that I keep the rosary beads you sent me on my desk, always within reach when I need to say an extra prayer or two? Thank you for supporting me with your kind and encouraging words. One of the reasons I work so hard is so I don't disappoint those who have kept me moving forward. xoxoxoxo

  2. DAHling, there never will be another prez like you! Thank you for your four-and-a-half years as president, your half-year as vice president, your five-plus years as newsletter editor, and, above all, your friendship. You have paved the way for our society to grow, and that has been a most excellent gift!

  3. Great job, Fenley! Good luck to Jacqi. Your members are lucky to have both of you on the job. Do you get to stay on the Board as a fount of wisdom or did you take on another job?

    1. I will remain on the board for 1 years as immediate past president, but I'm telling you Jacqi doesn't need me. She has been my VP for the last 4 years so she knows how to run the show. And yes they conned me into taking another job - I will now fulfill all the research requests that come to the society.

  4. I know you were fabulous as the society president. You continue to be fabulous as YOU. Looking forward to hearing your stories next month as your at RootsTech roomie! :-)

  5. Congratulations on stepping up - both your society and yourself have benefitted from your dirty hands.

  6. As someone new to genealogy, I enjoyed getting the insider's view of a genealogy society. Congratulations on your accomplishments as president! I'm sure many people benefited from your hard work and dedication.