What is FOCUS?

Organizations are the backbone of our community and an important source of information and knowledge for new and veteran genealogists and family historians. FOCUS offers learning and engagement opportunities where organizations can share successes and foster collaboration to make our community even stronger and support everyone in search of their personal stories. FOCUS sessions are designed for leaders and volunteers from societies, libraries, archives, museums, and any other institution or organization in the genealogy and family history community.

2024 FOCUS Topic: Public Outreach and Engagement

For 2024, FOCUS highlights examples of how organizations have incorporated public outreach and engagement into processes and programs or made outreach and engagement the purpose of an event. The sessions explore various ways to plan and conduct programs that encourage more people to research their family history, learn about genealogy, and get involved with an organization. Individuals who attend will be inspired to create similar events and programs by the tips, tools, and stories presented.

NGS hopes this FOCUS event will provide resources and ideas that help organizations reach the public, motivate volunteers, and grow the genealogy and family history community. With America’s 250th birthday in 2026, organizations can learn from each other now and position themselves to show the value of genealogy research and how family stories are the story of our country during a momentous and historic celebration.

FOCUS Keynote: Outreach and Engagement Lessons from Bringing the New International African American Museum to Life

Join us for a special keynote presentation at 2:00 p.m. (ET). Find inspiration, a renewed sense of mission and purpose for your genealogy organization, and motivation to expand public outreach, engage volunteers, and grow your community. Dr. Tonya Matthews, President and CEO of the International African American Museum, shares lessons from the launch of one of the country’s newest and most compelling museums.

Tonya M. Matthews, PhD, is a thought leader in institutionalized equity and inclusion frameworks, social entrepreneurship, and the intersectionality of formal and informal education. Her background as both poet and engineer has made her a highly sought-after visioning partner on boards and community-building projects, and a frequent public speaker and presenter for communities of all ages and venues. A non-profit executive leadership veteran, she helped guide the creation of the International African American Museum (IAAM) and is the President and CEO. IAAM opened in 2023 and is located in Charleston, South Carolina, at the historically sacred site of Gadsden’s Wharf, one of our nation’s most prolific former slave ports.

FOCUS Breakout Sessions

Attendees can choose three of the nine breakout sessions to attend live and participate in Q&A 3:15–6:45 p.m. (ET) on 16 May 2024. Each person registered for FOCUS will have access to recordings of all these sessions until 15 August 2024.

Breakouts 3:15-4:15 p.m. (ET)

  • “Fabric of the Past: Teaching Local and Family History Research to School Teachers,” by Charity C. Rouse, MLS—Find out how Spartanburg County Public Libraries worked with the University of South Carolina-Upstate on a workshop with a National Endowment for the Humanities grant.
  • “Street Genealogy: Family History in a Parking Space Pop-Up,” by Shamele Jordon—Take to the streets to share the fun of family history. Learn from the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania and their partnership with other organizations and a TV show.
  • “Using Multimedia Approaches for Public Family History Outreach to Include Diverse and Marginalized Populations,” by Marcia Johnson—The National Grigsby Family Society shows how to plan, fund, and implement innovative multimedia to reach audiences, including diverse and marginalized populations in family history.

Breakouts 4:30-5:30 p.m. (ET)

  • “Branch Out: How to Partner Societies with State or Local Libraries,” by Korina Tueller, MLIS, and Linda Caldwell McCleary, MLS—Learn the ins and outs of the Arizona State Library, Archives, and Public Records and Arizona Genealogical Advisory Board partnership for Genealogy Day and how to launch a successful event.
  • “Cemetery Digitization Project: Engaging Volunteers and the Community to Save History,” by Lynne Deese—From digitization to online publication, the story of this project will share how Wake County Genealogy Society engaged volunteers and worked with partners to create a valuable community resource.
  • “We Are Three Lakes: Genealogy + History = Community,” by Marie E. Byatt—The Three Lakes Genealogical Society explains how the We Are Three Lakes website engages their community and brings people together by showcasing genealogy and history.

Breakouts 5:45-6:45 p.m. (ET)

  • “Creating an Exhibit and Celebration that Captures Hearts and Gets Attention,” by Marcia Fraser—Learn how the Williamson County Public Library Special Collections Department’s Black History Month program engages the community and gets television and online promotion.
  • “Growing Membership and Increasing Value with a PBS Affiliate Partnership,” by Heather O’Hara—Find out details of the Maryland Genealogical Society’s collaboration with Maryland Public Television to provide virtual events on genealogy and cultivate a mutually beneficial and ongoing relationship.
  • “Densho’s Story: Preserving and Sharing History by Leveraging Technology,” by Caitlin Oiye Coon, MLIS—Densho preserves and shares the history of Japanese American incarceration during World War II. Discover how they leverage digitized collections and educational tools to connect communities with the past.

After FOCUS on 16 May 2024

For those also registered for the 2024 Family History Conference, the SLAM! Idea Showcase program and the opening of the Expo Hall round out your day. We look forward to seeing you online!

To Register for FOCUS

2024 FOCUS registration is $50 per person. Any individual interested in building up the community of genealogy and family history organizations can sign up to attend FOCUS. Online registration is available through the Family History Conference registration page until 12 May 2024, but signing up for the conference is not required to attend this pre-conference event.

NGS organization members with at least three people who want to attend the 2024 FOCUS event can receive a special discounted rate of $40 per person (a $10 savings for each individual). To take advantage of the offer, an organization must submit the 2024 FOCUS form to NGS by 1 May 2024 instead of individuals signing up online as outlined in the paragraph above. Visit the Organization Member Registration page for details and to access the form.

Please email Kate Smith at [email protected] with questions about the 2024 FOCUS on Genealogy Organizations event.

Questions? Contact the NGS Registrar at [email protected]