Society Spotlight: The death of a family history society

Society Spotlight: In today’s post, I cover the demise of The Cross Family History Society – seemingly a one-person society, that ended with the death of its founder.


In this, the second of my history society themed blog posts, I take a look at a society that helped me significantly with my research, until one day the silence fell.

Some history societies were born out of an individual’s love of an interest (perhaps a particular industry, or geographical place), and grow until it becomes all consuming for the founder. This leaves the society and its precious work at risk of dying with its founder (as we heard yesterday from Linda McCauley).

Cross Family History Society

Silence

Back in the late 1990s, I was in contact with a Pam McClymont from Australia. She was the sole worker behind The Cross Family History Society, and she had amassed a vast amount of information about the surname and its journey to Australia from its home in Ely, Cambridgeshire.

Her research enabled me to point me towards answers for vast parts of my own Cross family tree (making it easier to verify the data from the UK too). She didn’t have email, or a website, and I don’t think she had a computer either, as she would mail me vast amounts of paperwork covered in her handwritten notes, and even a self-published ‘Who’s Who’ guide (this was typed).

Who's Who Cross Family Vol 1 - Pamela McClymont
Who’s Who Cross Family Vol 1 – Pamela McClymont

Suddenly the correspondence stopped. I wondered whether my letters back to her had been lost in the mail, but I found out just under a year later via another researcher who was more local to her, that the reason for her silence was because she had died.

It now makes me wonder whether I hold her most up-to-date research, and what percentage of her work, and whether I have a duty to perform by making it available in some way – perhaps find a way to obtain permission to create Volume Two, perhaps create it as an eBook to help reach a new audience?

What should I do?

Have you been a member of a family history society that ended abruptly? What happened next? Did the society’s trove of information make it into safety, or has it been lost forever?

Leave your comments, thoughts, and experiences in the space below, or join in the discussion over at LinkedIn, and perhaps you can help save another one from an untimely end.

Come back tomorrow where we look at the first of the three questions posed to the Societies – What is the Society’s biggest need?

Author: Andrew Martin

Andrew Martin is owner and lead writer for History Repeating and Family Tree UK. Genealogist, historian, writer, photographer and would-be archaeologist. He'd love a time machine, but worries that it might take all the fun out of it.

4 thoughts on “Society Spotlight: The death of a family history society”

  1. If you could find a way to republish her work that would be great, and I for one would be interested in a copy.

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    1. Hi Lisa, the republishing would be in the hands of the executors of her estate. It’s been a while since Pam passed away, which might make it easier a topic to broach, but it would need their approval from a copyright inheritance point of view. Also, since Pam did her research, a lot of records have become digitised on scale and available online at sites like Ancestry and FindMyPast. This has inevitably led me, and a few other Cross family researchers, to realise that there are a few inaccuracies in the ‘Who’s Who’ book, and some unsolved mysteries – eg how likely was it that a couple in their 70’s were still having children? Without a re-write, I think that book should remain as is.

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