As we grow up, it’s inevitable that families drift apart after just a few generations. It’s quite understandable because new families are created as the family tree expands, and it’s hard to get together with the distant relatives.

However, one of the problems as the family tree expands is that Aunt Susie has family history information and keepsakes that Cousin Albert has never seen but would probably like to see.

There are family history stories and documents that need preserving, and family websites can certainly help share information, but once a family has really grown over a number of generations, it’s very easy to lose track of what’s happened to important records. When family history stories are posted online, many don’t have adequate reference citation. You may also be performing genealogy research that a distant relative already has completed but hasn’t made available online.

Family Organizations and Associations – One solution is to create a Family Association. You can set up your organization any way you want. One option is to register your organization as a non-profit; the other option is just to have a small informal organization.

You may want to weigh the benefits and drawbacks. A formal, nonprofit can provide tax-exempt status, protect you against liability (very important in this day and age), and let others make donations that are tax exempt. The website can help with getting started if you prefer an online resource, but LEGAL DISCLAIMER, talk to a lawyer in your state that specializes in non-profits. Regulations can vary from state to state on how you need to organize your association. A non-formal organization is probably better than nothing but does open you up to liability issues and does not offer tax exempt status. It really may depend on your vision of the scope of the association and how long you want it to last.

Things to consider for your organization:

Scope of the Family Association – Do you want to limit your organization’s focus? There are a number of ways you can define as the scope of your organization. Just to name a few ideas:

  • Descendants of a particular ancestor
  • Focus on a certain surname or group of surnames
  • Focus on a certain location
  • Researchers within a certain area

What the Association can Do – There are a lot of things that the organization can do. Below are a few ideas:

  • Organize family history information
  • Research genealogy
  • Create published family history books
  • Organize reunions
  • Run a family history website related to the organization’s focus
  • Send a monthly or quarterly newsletter to keep people in touch
  • Host meetings to collect and share information about the family line
  • Hold learning sessions for those interested in genealogy
  • Act as a center point for information and contact about family history work on your particular focus
  • Coordinate research efforts
  • Keep people focused to keep the research work moving forward

Who’s Running this Thing? – You will probably want to have officers (if you’ve gone the formal way or not). Some officers you might want to have in your organization are:

  • President
  • Vice President
  • Treasurer
  • Membership Administrator
  • Editor
  • Publisher
  • Website Dude/Technical Specialist
  • Historian
  • Public Relations Specialist
Family Association Quick Start

  1. Decide if you really want to spend the time
  2. Develop the focus and mission of the association
  3. Contact family members you’ll want to involve
  4. List projects you’d like to accomplish (rank projects in terms of priority)
  5. Find a local lawyer to aid the legal process and setup
  6. Define roles and rules for the association
  7. Begin working on your projects
  8. Spread the word

These are just a few ideas to get you thinking. A family organization can be a great way to keep the family history and records of your family together as the family grows bigger over the decades and inevitably further apart as the family tree expands.