22 August 2007

Let's recognize young genealogists

I was happy to see the Association of Professional Genealogists release on its decision to establish a scholarship designed to encourage and support young newcomers. While this will target young professional researchers, there are many permutations that the Jewish genealogical community could consider adopting.

The noted scholarship is for the annual Professional Management Conference, and includes Federation of Genealogical Societies' conference registration and $500 toward travel and accommodations. The first recipient will be selected next spring and will attend the September 2008 FGS conference in Philadelphia.

"As an organization it is important for APG to encourage and inspire young people to choose this as a career rather than a hobby," said APG President Sharon Tate Moody in making the announcement at the PMC in Fort Wayne this week. "We could think of no better way to do this by recognizing academic achievement in preparation for a career in genealogy."

Applicants must be aged 18-25 as of May 1, 2008, be a current high school senior, undergraduate, post graduate or recent graduate of an accredited university or college, with a minimum 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale or the equivalent).

Applicants must include a list of extracurricular activities, organizations and volunteer activities; a letter of recommendation from a dean, principal or faculty advisor indicating the applicant's current/graduating GPA; and a letter of recommendation from an individual who has witnessed the applicant's interest in genealogy. Also required are 500-750 word answers to two questions relative to genealogical records and the applicants' anticipated career.

When will the Jewish genealogy community begin a similar outreach to encourage, support and recognize our own younger researchers?

Currently, there are individuals who are changing the demographics of Jewish genealogy with their passion and achievements: Logan Kleinwaks' work on various websites and OCR issues, Elise Friedman's interests in DNA matters and others.

In a recent conversation with Logan, he asked me why societies don't offer student rates for membership or conferences. While the discount does not have to be a hefty one, the mere fact that there is a special student rate means the society is encouraging younger individuals.

Several of today's major players have been interested in genealogy from very young ages, such as Steve Morse (One Step) and Bennett Greenspan (Family Tree DNA). Perhaps an early recognition program will encourage more young people to get involved in a meaningful way.

I'd like to see Jewish genealogical societies offer scholarship awards to 11th-12th grade high school students, with the process beginning in the junior year and honors awarded in the senior year. This could be any combination of family research, essay or other achievements by a student, and a full or partial scholarship to attend the IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy.

While such a scholarship might carry a modest financial award, it would likely take on a life of its own very quickly as college-bound students look for something unique to spotlight their achievements and universities look for a creative spark, in addition to academic qualifications.

The International Institute of Jewish Genealogy has its goal to have genealogy recognized as an academic discipline. An award for younger genealogists might spur interest at universities as they see incoming students preparing for and receiving such honors.

The summer Samberg genealogy program for high school students at the Center for Jewish History in New York might be another program for societies to consider.

For more information, click here.

What do you think about such a program to encourage young people to explore their family histories?

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