Category Archives: Tools

Bylaws Workbook

From the book’s description:
Bylaws Workbook cover
This workbook is designed to help societies create successful bylaws that prevent confusion, dissension, and disagreement. Whether large or small, new or established, societies can use this guide in planning, drafting, and implementing bylaws that guarantee a smooth-running organization. Whether a society realizes it or not, the most important document for its members is the bylaws. It is the only document that tells the members how the society is supposed to function. The authors draw from their extensive experience in bylaws reviews and revisions to provide step-by-step guidance on all aspects of bylaws development, including detailed examples.

You’ll find a copy of Bylaws Workbook available at Amazon for $4.60 with free shipping for Prime customers.

Genealogy 101

A primary goal for every genealogical society is to help members with their research. That can be a real challenge. Scheduling speakers who demonstrate research techniques and resources is one way, and your society’s web site can become a very useful tool for your members. It can also help you attract new members.

Begin with a section on research resources. Include information on local libraries with genealogical sections, nearby Family History Centers and even historical societies. Although most of your members may be seasoned research veterans, potential members often have very little research experience and could use some basic training.

Take advantage of your site’s blog to keep members informed when online archives offer free access to specific collections, interesting webinars are scheduled or new versions of software are released. Not only does this help your members, it shows potential members your society is actively engaged in supporting its members.


Need some inspiration? Take a look at Genealogy 101 – a Tumblr blog that points to any number of how-to resources along with information on all kinds of archives, books and information sources.

The Society Calendar

How does your society keep up with all the meetings, seminars and other events that bring us all together? Even the smallest society has any number of events and deadlines to track. It can get quite complicated.

Or not.

Put Google Calendar to work in your society and not only will you find it provides a central location for all those events and deadlines, but you can present all or part of that calendar in any number of ways. Here are some of the things you can do with Google Calendar:

  • Maintain multiple calendars with different levels of access. For example, the meetings calendar is open to the public while the board’s calendar might only be visible to board members.
  • Issue invitations and track RSVPs. Using the invite feature, you can email an invitation an event from your Google Calendar to specific individuals. They respond by accepting or declining the event and your invitation entry lists those updates. In most cases, when an invitee accepts, they will also be prompted to include your event in their personal calendar.
  • Assign multiple managers to a calendar. When you share a calendar with specific individuals, you choose what rights they will have – including the right to edit the calendar. When the staff members generating events can post them directly to the calendar, it saves time and effort.
  • Subscribers can display a shared calendar within their personal calendar. When a calendar is shared, individuals with viewing rights to that calendar can subscribe to it using any iCal-compatible calendar app so these events become part of their personal calendar.
  • Display calendar information on your web site. WordPress has a number of plugins and shortcodes to allow you to display calendar items on your site. The GeneaEvent Calendar page displays a Google Calendar for upcoming webinars, hangouts and online meetings. Google provides an embed code that can be used on just about any web/blog platform.

To create a Google Calendar, you will first need to register for a free Google account. This should be a “society” account rather than a personal account. The reason for this is to make it easier to transfer the account when there are changes to the society’s board/staff. Using my fictional Moultrie Creek Historical Society as an example, I would first try for mchsevents as a Google ID. Then, should someone else in the society take over managing the calendar, all that’s necessary to make the transfer is a change of password.

Google Calendar Help

Once your account is set up, log in and take a look around the Calendar app. You’ll find the Help center in the Settings menu (click the gear icon). It offers step-by-step instructions for all the calendar’s features. First get comfortable adding and editing calendar items. Take a look at some of the events listed on the GeneaEvents page to see what kind of information they have included in their listings. Notice that many include links to external sites for more information.

Do you need more than one calendar – say one for general membership and another just for the board? No problem. You can create multiple calendars and assign different sharing levels to each. Speaking of sharing, not only can you share who sees a calendar, you can assign specific individuals with permission levels that will allow them to update calendar items.

Once you’ve got your public calendar up and full of events, you’re ready to push that content to your web site. Google Calendar supports the iCal standard which allows calendars to be shared with other people, apps and platforms that also support the iCal standard. For example, I can subscribe to a public Google calendar from the Calendar app on my Mac desktop and those events are displayed right along with my own appointments and events. As long as the application or platform supports the iCal standard, these functions work very well. has both a shortcode and a sidebar widget to display iCal-formatted events in posts, pages and/or the sidebar. All I need is the iCal link to that calendar which can be found by clicking the menu link next to your calendar’s name in the sidebar and choosing the Calendar Settings item.

GoogleCalendarShareOn that calendar setting page, you’ll also be able to customize and copy the code to present the calendar as an embed on your site. That is how the calendar has been presented on the GeneaEvents page.  The Support Center has complete instructions for embedding Google Calendars on your site. Self-Hosted WordPress users can choose from a number of plugins but in my experience embedding your calendar using the embed code discussed here performs best (quickest display and update times). Plus, it allows you to put the calendar on a post or a page – giving it much more viewing space than a sidebar widget provides.

It costs nothing to use Google Calendar and the benefits are many. You’ll find it both easy to use and a great timesaver. Your members will love it too!

Painless fund-raising

Genealogy bloggers discovered the joys of affiliate marketing years ago. None of us are getting rich, but the revenue generated by posting ads on our blogs or linking to specific products within an online storefront has helped support our genealogy and/or blogging habits. The really nice part about all of this is that while we get a small commission every time someone purchases something from a link posted on our blog, it doesn’t add anything to the purchaser’s cost.

For the genealogy society, affiliate marketing can be an effective fund-raising tool. Here’s how it works . . .

Find a retailer that offers an affiliate marketing program. You’ll be surprised how many there are. Amazon is one of the biggest, but there’s also Ancestry, eBay, Flip-Pal and many more. Look for their affiliate program and it will explain how the program works and what you must do to become an affiliate. Once your application has been accepted, you’ll be given access to the tools you’ll need to market their goods. For example, Amazon’s Associates Central web site is full of news about special promotions, code for banner ads you can add to your site and a toolbar that helps you build an affiliate link to just about any page or product found at Amazon.

Amazon Associates

One of the easiest things you can do is copy/paste the code for a banner ad offering a product, service or campaign on your society’s web site. Then anytime a visitor clicks that ad and makes a purchase at the online store, you’ll get a commission. In the case of Amazon, if a visitor follows your link to an Amazon project and purchases several things, you’ll get commission on all those items.

While Amazon is large enough to maintain their own affiliate marketing program, smaller companies use a service to manage their programs. In this instance you will need to apply with the service first. Once accepted by the service, you then have to apply to the individual companies separately. That effort is much simpler. After your applications have been accepted, you’ll be connected to their affiliate support center where you can choose ads and build affiliate links to post on your society’s site.

A surprising number of genealogy-related platforms have affiliate programs. does along with most of its partners. Other genealogy-related products and services also offer affiliate programs. Once your affiliate accounts are active, when you mention one of them on the society’s blog you link to that site using your affiliate link. Then, should a visitor follow that link and decide to purchase something, your commission is posted to your affiliate account.

Let your members know that these ads and links are supporting the society and encourage them to use them when making purchases. Remind them regularly that it doesn’t cost them anything extra and their purchases bring additional revenue into the society.

If you would like to learn more about affiliate marketing, there are a number of books available at Amazon.  And, yes, that is an affiliate link. Should you follow that link and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission.

LiveMinutes – Easy and Affordable Collaboration

Societies always have documents to edit and review along with projects to manage. Round-robin email messages are cumbersome to manage and often get lost or deleted. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an easy-to-use platform where you could do all this – and more – in one place?

There is! It’s called LiveMinutes.

LiveMinutes note

You are looking at a document being edited in LiveMinutes. On the right is the activity panel where activity within the project is documented and where team members can post – and reply to – messages. Conversations are kept together so you don’t have to go hunting for all the discussion.

If that was all you could do, it would be a very useful platform. Fortunately, it’s just the beginning. Team members can call each other from within the project – using Skype or dialup. LiveMinutes even provides a toll free number and PIN so you can initiate your own conference calls. While talking to your team members, you can be working in the project – pointing to things within a document or making changes. You can upload documents and images to the project for reference and/or review. There’s also a very nice commenting function for reviewing outside documents.

Currently LiveMinutes integrates with Evernote, allowing you to pull notes into your project workspace. They are working to include cloud storage integration via Dropbox and Box.

LiveMinutes is free and supports access to up to five projects. A premium version will be introduced soon costing $5.00/month for unlimited projects along with additional features. I see this as a very useful tool for both societies and families. Most society staff could operate within the 5 project limit with only a few board members needing premium accounts. Families could find this quite useful to organize family events, vacations and reunions. It also has great potential for collaborating with research cousins.

Take advantage of LiveMinutes’ free account to see how you can put this impressive platform to work for you.

Originally published at Moultrie Creek Gazette