A Look Back at the Guild's Founding

by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack, C.G. [1]

Originally published in Speak! 10 (May/June & Sept/Oct 2001): 11-14



August 17, 2001, marked the Genealogical Speakers Guild ten-year anniversary. Over that ten-year period, the Guild has welcomed many new members who may not be aware of the organization?s origins and what speaking conditions were like a mere decade ago.

Our history began several years before speakers united and formed the Guild. Speaker discontent over remuneration and other issues grew in the late 1980s. In 1990, a small group of speakers circulated the following petition among other conference speakers, then they sent it to the then-president of the National Genealogical Society.


We whose names are undersigned are lecturers at the 1990 NGS Conference in the States, and have been lecturers at one or more of the ... Conferences ... in the nine preceding years. In the early years of the Conferences,  we understood that we could not be fully compensated for our efforts; but as, in recent years, the Conferences have grown and become more successful, and have generated substantial excesses of revenues over expenditures, we have watched with increased concern as our remuneration has not kept pace with this growth.

A recent event has intensified and focused our concerns. The lavish outlay for the various receptions at the opening of the 1990 Conference appears excessive and disproportionate, and is possible only because of the success of past Conferences, a success which in large part derives from the sacrifices of time and money made by dozens of speakers.

            We feel that the time has come, and is in fact some years past, when the Council of NGS should work with the speakers toward a scale of compensation which will come closer to recognizing the effort made by the speakers, and which will not force them to incur a financial loss while contributing an essential element to the Conferences in the States.[2] [Twenty-seven speakers signed the petition.]


The honorarium ten years ago was mileage-based, and the only expenses the national organizations covered were the banquet and the conference registration. Speakers were on their own to make and pay for travel, hotel, and meal expenses.

Reprinted below is an article published in the first Guild newsletter (Vol. 1, September 1991), no author credited, although Helen F.M. Leary edited the first two or three newsletters. I have annotated and supplemented the article for clarity.


Speakers' Guild Formed

            On Saturday, 17 August 1991, the Genealogical Speakers' Guild[3] was founded in Fort Wayne, Indiana,[4] at the conclusion of the FGS conference, as the next logical step in lecturers? efforts to resolve the conflict between their view of themselves as dedicated professionals and evidence that a significant portion of the genealogical community does not share that view.

            The twenty-four educators who became charter members of the Guild were[5]


>         Marsha Hoffman Rising

>         Elizabeth Shown Mills

>         Mary McCampbell Bell

>         Robert C. Anderson

>         Sharon DeBartolo Carmack*

>         David Dearborn

>         Patricia Law Hatcher

>         Kathleen W. Hinckley

>         Henry Hoff*

>         Henry Z Jones*

>         Roger D. Joslyn*

>         Helen F.M. Leary

>         Sandra H. Luebking*

>         Suzanne McVetty*

>         Marie Melchiori*

>         Joy Reisinger

>         Gordon Remington

>         George Sanborn

>         Bill Schoeffler

>         Curt Witcher

>         Eric Grundset

>         Joy Wade Moulton

>         Jim Hansen*

?          Robin Bush


and they defined the Guild?s goals:


>        To provide a forum for discussion;

>        To promote speakers? interests with a unified, effective voice;

>        To broaden the speaker base by identifying and assisting promising new lecturers;

>        To raise professional lecture standards;

>        To help genealogical societies plan sounder, more cost-effective workshops by providing program and budget advice;

>        To act as a reference point for matching speakers' topics with program planners needs.


            The Guild agreed on several immediate steps: members will refuse to allow lecture taping without a conference-wide contract that agrees with the Genealogical Coordinating Committee resolution concerning royalties (see page XX); a newsletter was authorized, each charter member contributing $5 toward the cost of production and mailing; and an eight-member Steering Committee was appointed to meet in Hartford, Connecticut, on 5 October to complete work on the structure of the Guild.

            Temporary officers were elected: Robert C. Anderson (president), Marsha Hoffman Rising (treasurer), Helen F.M. Leary (newsletter editor), and Kathleen W. Hinckley and Mary McCampbell Bell (production and mailing editors). Considerable dissatisfaction with the compensation schedule for the 1992 NGS Conference in Jacksonville was expressed[6] and several proposals were made: boycotting the conference; accepting one lecture but refusing a second or third; or accepting the entire invitation. Because the deadline was so close, however, members agreed that the Guild would take no position concerning the 1992 conference.

            A Guild policy concerning future national-conference invitations was also considered; it was agreed that all Guild members would contribute their opinions and all would then adhere to the decision reached by the majority.


Astonishing Response

(Taken from the Guild's files)

Quickly the original group realized we had underestimated the amount of interest in a speakers guild. Initially, we requested a $5 donation and three self-addressed stamped envelopes from those who wished to receive the newsletter. Circulation of the Genealogical Speakers Guild newsletter grew from twenty-five to more than one hundred in nine months.

Responses to published articles hummed through computer bulletin boards and editors of other genealogical newsletters reproduced our articles. We had struck a chord. Not everyone who responded agreed with what they read. Not everyone agreed that the speakers had legitimate grievances. On the other hand, some believed the Guild was not going far enough with its initial goals. But people began to listen and to think about genealogical lecturing and education.

The response from August 1991 to April 1992 clearly indicated a need for a speakers? organization. Alternatives were discussed. The pro tem officers proposed that we formally organize at the National Genealogical Society Conference in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1992. We held a general meeting there, by-laws were proposed and discussion ensued. Again, the response of those involved overwhelmed the planners. More than eighty-five people attended the meeting, and we decided the best plan was to initiate the organizational process, elect officers, and then begin to refine by-laws within a smaller group. The Genealogical Speakers Guild was born.


The Guild is Official

(From the Guild's newsletter, Volume 1, June 1992)

            At a meeting in Jacksonville, Florida, on 2 May 1992, at the conclusion of the NGS conference, the Genealogical Speakers' Guild passed its by-laws, elected its officers, and established its annual dues.

            Roughly eighty-five people attended the organizational meeting chaired by Robert C. Anderson, president pro-tem. The first proposal to be discussed was whether the Guild should form itself as a chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists. The prevailing view was that the Guild should remain an independent organization; stated reasons were: APG has not yet installed its chapter program, becoming a chapter would not relieve the Guild of the need for finding volunteers and financing, and chapter status would tend to delute the Guild's voice on issue of concern to its members.

            The proposed bylaws were discussed at length, and many changes were suggested. As the evening progressed, however, and it became clear that permanent officers could not be elected without bylaws, they were accepted as proposed with the understanding that the incoming president would appoint a committee to work on revisions. The Guild's thanks were expressed to Pat Hatcher for accepting the grave (and time-consuming) responsibility for integrating the steering committee's ideas in written form.

            Following approval of the bylaws, permanent officers were elected:


President:                     Marsha Hoffman Rising, CG, CGL, of Springfield, MO

V-President:                 Kathleen W. Hinckely, CGRS, CGL, of Arvada, CO

Secretary:                     Marie Martin Murphy, of Bartlet, IL

Treasurer:                     Sandra H. Luebking, of Western Springs, IL

Representatives:           Henry Z ?Hank? Jones, Jr., FASG, of Universal City, CA

                                    Sydney Beckett, of Philadelphia, PA

Newsletter Ed:              Helen Hinchliff, Ph.D., of Fulford Harbor, B.C., Canada


            There was much debate over the dues structure, but because the Guild wanted to present a professional organization to the genealogical community and needed the funds to run a new organization, dues were set at $75 a year beginning in January 1993. There has not been a dues increase since.


Achieving the Guild's Goals

When the Guild was founded, speakers were not receiving a royalty on audio tapes. The Guild sought to change this, and speakers? now receive a 10% royalty on every tape sold. Additionally, the Guild was responsible for working with Repeat Performance and refining the taping agreement, which is now included in each speaker?s invitation for NGS or FGS conferences.

Because of the Guilds? collective bargaining, NGS and FGS revised their honorarium and speaker package in the year or two that followed our founding to $150 per lecture, a per diem meal expense, most travel to and from the conference city, conference registration, and complimentary hotel nights depending on the number of lectures the speaker presents. While the expense package has improved, there has not been a "cost of living" increase in the honorarium since the early 1990s. We still receive $150 per lecture.

There is no question that the Guild attained its goals from its founding in 1991. It will be interesting to see what the next generation of speakers? goals will be and whether they will perpetuate the principles the Guild?s founding members established.



* * *

GCC Resolution[7]

(reprinted from volume 1 of The Genealogical Speakers' Guild Newsletter)


Whereas the Genealogical Coordinating Committee (GCC), composed of the American Society of Genealogists, the Association of Professional Genealogists, the Board for Certification of Genealogists, the Federation of Genealogical Societies, the Genealogical Society of Utah, the National Genealogical Society, and the New England Historic Genealogical Society, is pleased to note the extent to which the national and state-level conference system has developed into a major educational forum within the genealogical field and wishes to ensure the successful continuance of this system; and


Whereas, the GCC recognizes the extent to which this system is entirely dependent upon the contributions of the many lecturers who donate time, service, and financial support far in excess of their token remuneration, and that the resources of these speakers are being requested and stretched to appoint that the foundations of the conference system are endangered; and


Whereas, the GCC further recognizes and deplores the illegal misuse of speaker material that occurs as a result of the widespread practice of taping and selling conference lectures by commercial firms; and


Whereas, the GCC recognizes that the selling of taped materials without compensation to the creators of those works is contrary to all practices, expectations, and realities of the business and professional world;


Therefore, the GCC passes the following resolution:


Resolved, that the GCC hereby encourages its individual member organizations to adopt the following policies.


1.     That all future conferences arranging for the commercial taping of lectures shall require a contract from the taping firm;

2.     That the contract shall require the commercial taper to pay royalties to each and every speaker whose material this firm sells;

3.     That the minimum royalty shall be $1.50 per individual tape sold;

4.     That the taping firm shall, for each lecture that a speaker permits it to tape and sell, maintain an on-going list of purchasers by name, address, and date of order.

5.     That the taping firm shall annually (on the anniversary of each respective conference) issue a royalty check to the taped speaker commensurate with the number of copies sold;

6.     That a copy of the purchaser's list shall accompany the royalty check?as supporting documentation for the calculated royalties and to supply the speaker with evidence of the identity of each individual purchaser as a means by which to combat plagiarized lectures;

7.     That the taping firm shall consent to the inspection of its order lists by an official representative of the GCC, if and when a speaker should present to the GCC evidence of questionable royalty reporting.


Passed, this 15th day of August, 1990, at Salt Lake City, Utah.

[1] Sharon DeBartolo Carmack is a founding member of the Guild. She wishes to express her appreciation to founding members Marsha Hoffman Rising, CG, CGL, FASG, Roger D. Joslyn, CG, FASG, and Robert Charles Anderson, FASG, for their assistance with this article.

[2] Here and elsewhere, typographical errors in the historical record have been silently corrected.

[3] There was much debate about whether the word ?Speakers? should be plural possessive or just plural. The plural form won, so today we no longer use the apostrophe in Speakers.

[4] The founding members met at a restaurant in Ft. Wayne, and although no one got her name, the Guild would like to acknowledge the tireless efforts and patience of the waitress who single-handedly served us through the several hour meeting.

[5] Asterisks denote those who are still Guild members.

[6] The 1992 NGS speaker package offered a mileage-based honorarium (that is: 0 to 300 miles traveled to get to the conference city = $200; 301 to 600 miles = $350; 601 to 1,000 miles = $500; and over 1,000  miles = $750. A second lecture paid $100 extra; a third lecture paid $50 extra). Speakers were expected to pay for their own travel, hotel, and meal expenses. Speakers also received complimentary banquet and conference registration. FGS offered a similar package at the time.

[7] The Genealogical Coordinating Committee was disbanded in 1995 at the NGS-San Diego conference because it had achieved its objectives.

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