Society Email

Does your genealogy society have email accounts for board members and staff? Why is this important? It maintains continuity as different people move in/out of positions within your society. When new people move into officer or staff positions, the outgoing staff member passes on the account password so the new person can access the email account. A quick password change and the new officer has…

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Society Email

emailiconDoes your genealogy society have email accounts for board members and staff? Why is this important?

  • It maintains continuity as different people move in/out of positions within your society.
  • When new people move into officer or staff positions, the outgoing staff member passes on the account password so the new person can access the email account. A quick password change and the new officer has complete control of that account. Your membership will always be able to contact the society president using president@mysociety.org.
  • New officers have instant access to all historical messages in their accounts.
  • It makes it easier to maintain outside accounts (like web hosting services or PayPal) when the people who maintain and make payments to these accounts change every year or so.
  • It reduces personal liability in case of litigation. Should there be litigation with subpoenas for all email records, society accounts would be the focus instead of personal accounts.

If your society uses a hosting service to maintain your website, that service probably also includes email. You can also take advantage of free email providers such as Google’s Gmail or Yahoo Mail. If you are considering using Google for Non-Profits, it includes free email accounts using your own domain name.

Use positions rather than people when you set up your email account. Instead of JohnSmith@mysociety.org use president@mysociety.org. For the commercial email providers you can include the society initials with the name – mcgs.president@yahoo.com for example.

Some members may not be comfortable managing multiple email accounts – especially if they only use webmail to access their messages. It can be irritating to have to check mail in multiple places. In this case an email client program may be the best choice. These programs – Outlook for Windows, Mail for Mac and iOS devices – support easily managing multiple accounts in one place.

Email is one of the most affordable ways to communicate with your members and staff. It’s time to take advantage of the many opportunities these services can offer.

*Email icon courtesy AJ Cann via Flickr.

How Precious Is Your Email?

Today, email has replaced letters as our primary form of written communication. How much of your research efforts and your current family history is in your inbox? More importantly . . . what are you doing to capture and preserve it?

Surprisingly, many of us only know enough about email to log into our service provider’s webmail site and read, send or delete messages. Sure, all the messages you keep are right there on that server whenever you want them, but what happens to all those messages if you change providers or move? Can you take your messages with you? Can you download messages to your computer?

Even worse – what happens to them if something happens to you?

First of all, webmail is one of the least efficient ways to manage your email – especially if you have more than one email account. (You do use a separate email account for your genealogy research, don’t you?) Logging in and out of webmail accounts is tedious and unnecessary. You need an email client application. An email client is a program that is installed on your computer and will connect to all of your email accounts – delivering all those messages to one convenient location.

There are lots of email client apps available. For Apple users – Mac & iOS – there’s the Mail app that comes with your computer or device. Older versions of Windows had Outlook Express but beginning with Windows 8 the default app is Mail. There are lots of commercial and open source email client applications. One very nice open source application is Thunderbird which works on both Apple and Windows desktops.

Why go to all this effort to find, set up and learn how to use an email application? Not only do these apps make managing your mail a lot easier, they also bring your email to your desktop. This is important because it’s the first step in keeping those important messages. The second step is to get them into a readable archive format. Fortunately, many email clients now save their messages as text files and you want to make sure you choose a client app that does. Yes, there’s a lot of code (mostly HTML code) included, but the message is a format that can still be read if the email client that created it is long gone.

Thunderbird users can take advantage of the AutoArchive Reloaded plugin to perform both manual and automated archiving. Most email clients have some sort of message export option. I used this feature recently with the Mail app on my Mac to backup all the messages on the email server before I moved to a new hosting service. Once the move was complete, I imported them back into Mail where they now reside locally. The original export file has been moved to an external hard drive as a backup.

Another option is to save messages into PDF format. That will protect all the formatting, images and other goodies included in todays messages. While Mac users can “print” messages to PDF format, Windows users need to install a PDF printer app (like doPDF). Either way, it can be a tedious and time-consuming chore. Mac users have a very nice alternative called Email Archiver [Mac – $24.99] . This app will crawl through your email accounts creating PDF versions of each message and save them in the location of your choice. You’ll need to do a one-time set up – identifying the accounts and folders you want it to archive and where you want the resulting archive to be located. Then you just tell it to archive and off it goes. The first crawl will take some time but after that, when you run the app it only archives messages that have arrived since the last crawl.  That archive directory is also included in my daily backup routine.

The messages in my archives announce new members of the family and the loss of others. They include photos from special events and share travel stories. There are research notes, conversations to organize holiday get-togethers and even some good gossip. One email account has been mine for more than 15 years so there’s lots of history in those messages. These bits of history are worth the effort necessary to learn, set up and manage both an efficient email processing system and a system to archive them.

How precious is your email?

Looking for an email client that makes managing your message traffic easier? Take a look at the free Mailbox app from Dropbox. It works on both iOS and Android devices and there’s an impressive beta app for Mac desktops.

One of the many things I like about Mailbox is the way it keeps conversations together.

The only drawback so far is that right now it only works with Gmail and iCloud mail accounts. Other platforms will be added, but so far no idea when they’ll be available.