Why join the OGS? Three big reasons! The OGS has always been (and continues to be) all about COMMUNITY, EDUCATION and ADVOCACY. There are also no less than sixteen additional member advantages, listed below.
From the very beginning, the formation of individual branches (prior to the creation of the Society in 1961) was based on community. Individuals came together with a shared interest in genealogy and family history. They wanted to share with and learn from each other and to work jointly on projects that would benefit all members. When the Society itself was created from members of those participating branches, the goal remained the same – to work together in mutually beneficial ways to enhance genealogy for all.
Whether it was as individual branches, or as a Society, members worked on projects in their own areas, knowing that they could count on others across the province to do the same. This reciprocal relationship ensured that, although a person might not be living in an area of genealogical interest to them, their efforts were valuable to someone else; conversely, others were working on their behalf to make information available that would affect their ancestral research. This was and continues to be our symbiotic relationship.
We can all benefit from one another’s knowledge and skills. Often people meet others from the same family line or with the same geographic area of interest. That introduction and subsequent relationship often plays a major role in breakthroughs for one or both parties. Discussing family research with an individual or in a group setting that is provided through the general and special meetings throughout our organization allows people to share methodologies, best practices and skills.
A sense of camaraderie and companionship often develops and furthermore, a deeper participation and commitment to ensure that others will have the same opportunities to access records, to develop a deeper understanding of family history research, and to work and advocate on behalf of items of specific interest to genealogists, not only within the area, but across the province, the country and around the globe. That community extends again when people meet one another at conferences or in other settings. The OGS is as much a service organization as it is anything else and members strive to serve one another and the broader heritage community.
The educational component of the Society and its individual branches/Special Interest Groups (SIGs) stems from this sense of community but also expands on it. Think of the many educational opportunities that arise through individual contacts, through general membership meetings, through one-day seminars or workshops and also through the annual multi-day Society Conference which is only made possible through the efforts of our Member Volunteers, the Board of Directors and Society Office Staff. Branches and Special Interest Groups have created their own publications, as has the Society, both alone and in partnership with Dundurn Press.
The Society journal Families and both The Society and Branch/SIG newsletters expand the community and educational aspects of membership. Now, OGS members have free access to instructional and educational webinars each month. Additionally, through an arrangement with The National Institute for Genealogical Studies, members have access to free and discounted courses (print materials not included). Publication sales and reduced conference fees are but two other benefits.
The OGS also has a plethora of databases from which you can continue your family research. We have a full library catalogue that is searchable, the TONI database, Cemetery Locator Cemetery listings, and databases of War Memorials, IOOF, Strays, and others. There are many ways for you to begin your research, break through a brick wall or share your stories.
Advocacy has been a major part of OGS and its beliefs since its inception. Members strive together to protect, preserve and make accessible various record groups and other items of importance to genealogists and family historians. The following are but a few examples.
- Cemeteries. OGS members continue to transcribe, photograph and preserve cemetery information and work towards the location, identification, registration and preservation of cemeteries with the Ontario Historical Society, with the goal of seeing them registered with the local land registry offices and protected by The Ontario Registrar of Cemeteries. OGS continues to have an ongoing, productive dialogue with The Registrar. Read more about our ongoing cemetery projects and our work with unregistered cemeteries.
- Census. OGS has a strong history of advocating for the preservation and release of census records. We continue to be in communication with both Statistics Canada and Library and Archives Canada and have been told that census records in any form, since they seem to be changing, will be preserved and released but the time may be extended to 100+ years since people are living longer. The Long-Form Census was reinstated by Statistics Canada in 2016, and we are seeking confirmation of the removal/reversal of the “opt-out” question which was included on the 2011 and 2016 Census.
- Fegan Boys Distribution Home. The former Fegan Boys Distribution Home (Home Children), 295 George Street, Toronto was discovered to have inscriptions of the boys’ names and the dates they had been at the home in some of the exterior bricks. OGS was afraid this building would be demolished in preparation for re-development. The City of Toronto has purchased the property and has indicated they hope to save the building along with others in the area. OGS has offered to assist in preservation or filming of the inscriptions. OGS monitors this situation and has been receiving updates from Councillor Wong-Tam’s office.
- Infant Home Records. In response to a member request, OGS contacted both the Ministry of Children’s Services and the Association of Children’s Aid Societies (ACAS) to see what is possible with regard to the release of these records to interested parties if they are still in existence and accessible.
- Library and Archives Canada (LAC). Under the direction of Librarian and Archivist of Canada Dr. Guy Berthiaume, LAC has reached out to the heritage community. In 2017 OGS opened an active dialogue with LAC about potential joint projects, as well as exploring opportunities for digitization that might benefit both organizations. We have ongoing dialogue about preservation of and access to documents.
- Libraries and Archives (general). OGS and its Branches enjoy strong, healthy relationships with local Libraries, Museum and Archives. We ensure that the voice of genealogists is heard when communities are planning changes to their local heritage environments, and we work closely with the Archives of Ontario to ensure that genealogical needs are understood, and that our members, and indeed all Ontarians, can continue their access to the rich archival resources of our Province.
- Receive our quarterly journal Families, providing an outlet for genealogical writing with an Ontario focus, as well as interesting articles about family history innovations and pursuits, and opportunities for researchers to solicit help with their genealogical brick walls.
- Receive our quarterly NewsLeaf which provides current information in the field of genealogy and information about Society events.
- JSTOR for Family Research $50 OGS Member Discount. With more than 2,000 scholarly journals spanning 300 years, JSTOR connects researchers with scholarship from the leading academics worldwide.
- Attend our live Genealogy Webinars (Available to the Public & Members), or access the archived versions at your convenience (Available only to Members).
- LivingDNA helps people to understand more about their ancestry by using state-of-the-art technology to link ancestry to regions in specific countries. OGS members are offered a DNA test from the UK’s LivingDNA for only $149.00.
- Get a member’s reduced registration cost to attend our Annual Conference with over 40 lectures and workshops to hone your skills. OGS members also receive “member rates” to attend conferences of the Quebec Family History Society.
- The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society is the largest genealogical society in New York State and offers OGS members a 25% discount off the usual individual membership pricing.
- Shop the Hound is a well-regarded Canadian retailer of the Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner and offers members a 5% discount on anything in the store until December 31, 2017.
- Get access to the Members Only section of the website and the following databases or collections; searchable digital copies of Families from 1962 to the present, Conference Wall of Ancestors 2009-2013, Memorial Database, Independent Order Of Foresters Insurance Papers Database, Strays database, Church Histories, Roman Catholic Diocese of London.
- In addition to special free draws and promotions, members get a 10% discount on genealogy courses and packages, including eleven Certificate Programs, offered by the National Institute for Genealogical Studies.
- Get a 50% discount on a Findmypast 12-month world Premium membership, with access to over 8 billion historical records.
- Get a reduced OGS member cost when you apply for a certificate for one of our Heritage Societies or our Heritage Clubs.
- DIGITAL TREASURES provides high quality Media Transfer Services for film, slides etc. Enjoy special OGS membership discounts.
- Receive discounts to some of our sister organizations across Canada (more information) [Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia]
- Mark’s Work Wearhouse offers a “download & print” certificate to receive a 10% discount savings. You will need to present the certificate to the store.
- Get special pricing from CDW, a leading provider of technology products and services for business, government and education. Learn more about who CDW is, what we do, who we do it for and how. – CDW Canada
- New! Get 5% to 30% off of Budget Car Rental Rates – Budget Car Rentals
- OGS is the portal through which you can join any number of our 34 Branches and Special Interest Groups in order to take advantage of the materials that have been indexed or digitized for geographical regions of Ontario, and to research areas of special interest. Some Branches and SIGs have a Member’s Only section of their website in which many genealogical treasures reside. Branches/SIGs may offer members of OGS reduced rates for research and involvement in education programs. Each Branch/SIG has a small additional membership fee.
Note: For complete information on how to get special pricing from our partners, please refer to our Member Resource web page.
Now, back to the question….
In the past few years, I have also heard the question, “But what do we get for our money?” OGS does have member benefits such as those mentioned above, as well as agreements with some other provincial societies and FindMyPast to provide reduced rates, and is working to arrange more; however, the truth of the matter is, the people joining now do not join because of the benefits. They, like our previous and many current OGS members, join to be a part of an organization that works on behalf of family historians. They recognize skills they have and offer to use them to serve OGS and the genealogical community by supporting its Branches/SIGs, projects and advocacy.
People can gather information online, but they soon realize it is not all there, or they do not know if what they have is their “family line”, or do not understand how to use or organize the data they have located. OGS may not be the first place they come any more, but after they have found “the low-hanging fruit” they join to find out what else there is and to connect with people who have learned from their own errors and are ready and willing to lead and share that knowledge. They join to help make a difference by offering their background skills and knowledge in leadership, technology or many other volunteer roles.
OGS is a membership-driven organization but it is also a service organization. Some members join for a short while to get all they feel they need and move on. Many others did and still join in order to better equip The Society in meeting its mission and objectives. Many see the vision of OGS to be so important that they donate their dollars to its projects. Others donate their time and skills. Like other service clubs whose members work together to serve their communities’ greatest needs by promoting service, fellowship, values, or pride, our organization works together for the community of genealogists.
So, why belong to OGS? Why wouldn’t you! Please consider how you fit into an organization that believes in these values and principles and that strives to meet your family history needs.