September 13, 2001



present by

Rose Marie Jisa, President/Facilitator

Ohio Chapter of SGSI


Organizing and developing a SLOVENIAN GENEALOGY SOCIETY INTERNATIONAL CHAPTER at the local level might seem like an insurmountable task. It isn’t! All it takes is a little bit of time to gather your thoughts, put them into a logical order, and begin! This presentation focuses on ideas and strategies that will make the job easy.



The primary purpose of starting a chapter is to bring those who are interested in learning more about their Slovenian ancestry together in a common setting where they can learn not only from formal presentations, but from each other.



In journalism, we were taught to answer six questions when we covered a story, i.e., who, what, when, where, how, and why. If all of these questions were answered, we could be relatively secure in knowing that we had completed the job. This is the format I have chosen for this presentation—to give you the “who,” “ what,” “when,” “where,”

“how” and “why” of establishing an SGSI chapter in your community.

I’ll begin with the “why.” Why would anyone want to take on the responsibility of organizing a chapter? It is a lot of work! But, there is more to it that that. There is the satisfaction of knowing your efforts will assist others who want to trace their Slovenian roots. In addition, there is the feeling of accomplishment in learning all you can about different methods and avenues used in doing genealogy research. There is also the advantage of expanding relationships with fellow Slovenes in your immediate area, perhaps making lifelong friendships. And there is just a “darn” good feeling knowing that your mom and dad would be proud of you for going that extra mile to preserve your ethnicity, your Slovenian roots!

How” do you go about establishing a chapter? The first step is: contact Al Peterlin to let him know you are interested in doing this. He will give you his blessing!

The next step is to determine “when” you will hold your meeting. Should you meet in the afternoon, the evening, or on a weekend? Be sure to check other events in your area that might conflict with your choice of dates, especially those that are Slovenian in nature such as lodge meetings, picnics, dances, balina, bowling, etc.

“Where” you will hold the meeting is the next step. Possible sites include a private home, the local library, or a community meeting room, i.e., banks, funeral homes, government buildings often times have rooms that can be used free of charge by non-profit groups. You may need to complete an application to reserve space indicating the date, time, and audio visual material/equipment needed such as chalkboard/markers, flip chart, overhead projector, computer drive LCD projector, video tape recorder. When completing the time of the meeting, be sure to allow yourself time before and after the meeting to set up the room and clean it up after the meeting.

“What” will be the agenda for your first meeting? You will want to include introductions, information about the Slovenian Genealogy Society International, the purpose of calling the meeting, general information about genealogy, and how often the group would like to meet (monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or yearly). Have a written agenda for yourself to keep the meeting moving. This way, you are less likely to get sidetracked from the initial intent of your meeting.

Who” (actually “Whom”) should you invite? The obvious answer is anyone interested in learning more about their Slovenian heritage.



Advertising Your Meetings

Next, you will need to “advertise” your meetings. To do this, contact your local newspapers, our Slovenian-American society newspapers, and radio/TV stations to find out the name of the contact person. Then, prepare a Public Service Announcement (PSA) announcing the meeting date and purpose. This PSA needs to be typed double-spaced with the heading “Public Service Announcement.” Use the format “who, what, when, where, how, and why” to answer all the information needed. You don’t actually have to write the script in full--just give the pertinent information in a listed form following this format.

Keeping Yourself on Track

To keep yourself organized, it is a good idea to have checklists of things to do. The first form to design is one that contains all your advertising contacts and when you contact them. Set up this form as a table with the name of the organization listed in the first column down the left side with subheadings of Contact Person, Telephone Number, Fax Number, and Email Address. Make at least 12 columns to the right of the first column. Leave the heading columns blank as this is where you can write in the date contacted.

Other helpful forms to design to keep yourself organized are:

a. Attendance lists which ask for name, address, telephone number, email

address, Slovenian village/town ancestors are from, and surnames of family members.

b. An agenda format including Introductions, Rewards of Being a Member of the Slovenian Genealogy Society International, Program Information, Next Meeting Announcement of Date and Time.

c. A format for sending out PSA’s to make sure you don’t forget important information for each announcement.

I find it best to keep all my material in a 3-ring binder using separators for specific sections, i.e., agendas, announcements, correspondence, attendee lists, requests for information, copies of material passed out at different meetings, genealogy resources to name a few.

Holding Effective Meetings

Holding effective meetings is important because you want those attending to return for future meetings. People want to feel that their time is spent wisely. It is your responsibility as the leader of the group to see that this is done. Establish the following ground rules for yourself:

1. Arrive early to the meeting in order to set up the room appropriately. If it is a small group, it is best to set the chairs in a circle so that all people can see each other; if you are expecting a large group, arrange chairs in rows.

2. Make sure the lighting is appropriate, that is, neither too dim nor too bright.

3. Be sure there are adequate supplies of chalk, marker pens, paper, etc.

4. Be prepared with a written agenda.

5. Start the meeting on time.

6. Call upon attendees to share their experiences, but be aware to those who

may dominate the conversation.

7. Listen respectfully and thoughtfully when others speak; building upon their ideas/experiences.

8. Express appreciation.

9. Be aware of your body language.

10. Be flexible.

11. Have some fun with the appropriate humor!

12. End the meeting on time!


As your meetings progress, you will need to provide different programs/activities to keep interest in the group. These are some programs/activities to consider:

1. Contact speakers from outside organizations who will present material dealing with local archives including vital records, naturalization records, cemeteries, birth/death records, marriage records, divorce records, church records, land records, wills, military records, etc.

2. Ask members to present information about how they have done their genealogy research.

3. Identify all types of photographs, how to preserve them, how to scan them, and how to place into your files.

4. Take field trips to local repositories of information, i.e., historical society, cemeteries.

5. Invite a librarian to speak on the genealogy holdings of a particular library.

6. Present material dealing with genealogy software, i.e., how to select it, how to use it.

7. Give a presentation on using the Internet to find information by searching databases, logging on to genealogy chat rooms.


In conclusion, there are other benefits from organizing an SGSI Chapter at the local level. You will find that those beginning the search are concerned primarily about linking together past generations of ancestors to form a pedigree chart, i.e., getting all family members neatly connected on a chart that shows complete families.

However, you will find that as these researchers continue, their interest does not stop at developing the chart; it progresses into becoming family historians. They get “hooked” on learning about their family’s demography, history, geography, sociology, and even the literature of the time. They want to understand something of the lives their families led, what mattered to them, and how they dealt with society’s problems. These findings often lead to their writing their own family histories.

As the leader of an SGSI Chapter, you have the privilege of knowing that you assisted fellow Slovenes in their quest to discover, learn, and benefit from their findings as well as learn more about genealogy yourself. It’s well worth the time and effort!