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Genealogy Circle Reincarnated in Alsace

Whatever Is To Become of Les Cercles Généalogiques?

Unappreciated

Dear Readers, we seem to have been going against the grain, swimming against the current, bucking the trend, and so on and so forth. For some time, here on the FGB, we have been urging, nay, importuning you to do your best to support the French genealogy circles and associations. Our reasoning has been that they are worth saving as they are filled with impassioned experts who will share their expertise for a pittance. They are the local historians who know volumes of details about the hamlets whence came your ancestors. We are a firm believer that no database or sytem will ever match the beautifully synthesizing memory of one of these experts.

This view, however, seems not to be held by many others here in France. A few months ago "Tom Prat" said they simply should be put out of their misery. "They are completely archaic," he moaned, explaining that membership can be paid only by cheque and access to the extracts they have painstakingly made is possibly only at their clubhouses or at a price to high online. He says that the circles make the claim that many of their members do not have the access to the Internet, so putting everything online would not be fair. Though he admits that this may be true, he seems to find it hard to believe. He goes on to say that they are too elitist but worst of all, they are completely out of touch with the new generation of genealogists.

No less illustrious a writer than the president of the Fédération Française de Généalogie, J.F. Pellan, asks whether the genealogy associations should not be "Uberized" (cute, eh?) instead of euthanized. He points out that the old economic model (seems a bit over determined to use that here) of the genealogy circles was based on an income from low membership fees and the sales of their booklets of extracted details from the parish and civil registrations in their area.

Essentially, the Internet has undercut those booklets, whether via an outlet of their own, such as Geneabank, or via an online commercial genealogy database, such as Geneanet, or whether via the surge in free, collaborative indexing that the Departmental Archives are adding to their websites. Their income was always at risk as, though their booklets of extracts may have been proprietary, the documents extracted are available free to view. The moment that free access to those documents became almost universal, the genealogy circles should have begun looking for a new way to make money.

Mr. Pellan's best suggestion was that they add photos of individuals to their booklets of births, deaths and marriages. This seems to lack a certain dynamism to us. We would like to suggest that they make available on their websites the many expert and informative articles about various families that have appeared in their journals and newsletters. Really, some of the family genealogies go back ten generations and some of the articles are quite thorough and scholarly. Put those online as pdf documents that can be downloaded, set up an index that can be searched on the website of all of the names mentioned in them, have a simple payment system to sell the articles individually, and start collecting money.

That is our suggestion for the day. What say you, Dear Readers? Kill them off or help them find a way to carry on?

© 2016 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

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