Monday, April 30, 2007

What are the Motivations and Purposes of Family Organizations

In corresponding with the person who wrote me last week, he said, "It's a challenge to introduce an idea such as this to a family. Most have never heard of a family association, much less its purpose."

That raises the question--what are the motivations and purposes of a family organization? Let me suggest a few, with some of these coming from my father, Robert J. Grow, who has served as president of the Jared Pratt Family Association for the last 20 years.

1. A desire to preserve the genealogy and history of ancestors. While traditional genealogists are interested in finding the names and dates, family history organizations often seek out a more personal, detailed and complex view of their ancestors. What were their struggles and triumphs? What were their lives like? While traditional genealogy focus on my family history, family history organizations tend to focus on "my family in history." This typically involves collecting photographs, documents, biographical sketches, stories, etc.

2. To build strong relationships among the living generations of the family, creating a shared sense of comraderie and maintaining a sense of collective identify through their family history.

3. To do for their ancestors what they believe is theologically required for salvation (e.g., the LDS belief in proxy baptism for deceased ancestors).

What are the purposes and motivations for your family organization?

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As the webmaster of the Jared Pratt Family Association--one of the oldest and largest family organizations in the country--I have received a number of e-mails asking for general information and tips about starting or running such an organization. Just last week, I received the following:

"Hello -

I wanted to contact you and commend your family on such a great family association. I am in the process of forming my family's association. While your family association is a lot further established, what you have done, I believe, is the model for what a family association is supposed to frame up to be.

I have researched a lot of family association models via the internet, but yours seems to really reflect what I hope to aspire to. From your website design to your content, your family has done an excellent job.

I was hoping to gain some insight and maybe a few friendly suggestions if you are ok with that. I was hoping you could give me some guidance and insight as to your board of directors and bylaws. I am doing this from sratch and , as I'm sure you know, there isn't much information on Family Associations readily available...."

For the past couple of years, I have been heavily involved with the Pratt Family Association--managing the mailing list and semi-annual newsletters, redesigning and enhancing the website, transcribing many documents and histories, helping plan a large reunion, working with volunteers, etc.

In the process, I have learned a lot of things the hard way that hopefully I can share here to help others who are in the process of starting, running, or improving a family association, family organization, or family society. I hope readers will both ask questions and share their experiences.

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