Coming Together

The Merger of NGS and FGS

In the summer of 2019, NGS and the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) announced that the two organizations planned to come together as one organization focused on supporting individual genealogists and genealogy societies. Organizations like NGS and FGS merge pretty frequently in the not-for-profit world. They do so to improve services to members, to find efficiencies, to generate new collaborative ideas, and to grow their capabilities. 

After more than a year of planning, and in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, the merger became official on 1 October 2020. The “new NGS” has a dual mission: supporting individuals as they progress in their genealogy education and research, and supporting a diverse community of genealogy societies and organizations. Our ultimate goal is to assist people of all cultures in connecting their families to the past and for the future.

The process to achieve the merger was complex and more work will be done in the weeks and months following the official merger date. There is much more work to be done, so we ask for your patience. 

How it Happened

In the fall of 2019, we kicked off a transition planning process which was led by a “Transition Oversight Team” comprised of:

  • Ben Spratling, NGS President
  • Faye Stallings, FGS President
  • Kathryn Doyle, NGS Vice President
  • David Rencher, FGS Vice President
  • Ellen Balthazar, NGS Director
  • Steve Fulton, FGS Director (until April 2020) 
  • Matt Menashes, NGS Executive Director

The team was charged with ensuring that any issues that require resolution before the merger were identified and resolved, and to work with attorneys for each organization to make the merger legal. We also set up several project teams to focus on identifying potential issues and coming up with solutions. The teams focused on finance, technology, publications, membership, conferences, and awards. Team members come from both FGS and NGS and worked through issues to ensure the merged organization could begin operations on 1 October 2020.

Key Milestones

Quite a few steps were taken along the path to merge, but several key milestones stand out.

New Bylaws

The first big milestone in the merger timeline was reached on 17 June 2020 when the NGS Board approved amendments to its bylaws. The amendments supported merger agreements between the organizations. The new bylaws became effective on 15 August 2020.

The big change, of course, was that the new bylaws allow for organizations to be members of NGS. “Organization” is used as an umbrella word to include any society, association, library, archive, institution, group, or entity. Before this change, organizations could not be members of NGS but they could subscribe to NGS publications. 

We also created an advisory body for organization members, to give member organizations a chance to network and to provide feedback to the NGS board. The new “House of Delegates,” as it is currently called, is established in the amended bylaws.

We also created a new officer, Vice President for Society & Organization Management, who will serve on the NGS Board and the Executive Committee. This person is charged with providing “effective representation of member organizations before the Board.” This officer must be a member in good standing of a local and/or state organization. And to further encourage representation of organization members, the new bylaws require the appointment of the chair or chair-elect of the House of Delegates to the NGS nominating committee.

The amendments were formulated through a collaborative process between the FGS and NGS boards, attorneys for each organization, and the Transition Oversight Team, to codify a “new NGS” that fully supports a new objective added to the bylaws: “To strengthen and grow genealogy societies, family history groups, family associations, and other genealogical organizations.”

Final Merger Agreement Approved by FGS Societies 

Members of the Transition Oversight Team worked for months with attorneys representing both NGS and FGS to finalize a merger agreement. On 14 July 2020, the Boards of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) and the National Genealogical Society (NGS) approved an Agreement to Merge. As required by Illinois law, members of FGS were asked to vote for or against the merger. The final tally of eligible voters expressed unanimous support for the merger.

 Summary of key terms:

  • The merger of FGS and NGS will be effective 1 October 2020
  • Members of FGS as of the effective date of the merger will become members of NGS for the remaining unexpired term of their membership
  • Each society or organization member shall have one vote and shall appoint a delegate who shall have the right to cast a vote on behalf of the society or organization
  • NGS shall establish a committee of the delegates to provide advice to the NGS Board on genealogical society or organization-related matters and implementing any programs designed to strengthen genealogy societies or organizations delegated to it by the Board
  • NGS will support and further FGS’ purpose and mission
  • At least three current members of the FGS Board will become members of the NGS Board as of the effective date
  • A Vice President of Society & Organization Management will be added to the NGS Executive Committee and Board
  • NGS will create a new position, assign existing staff, or contract to manage society services and activities, including evaluation of opportunities and products that will benefit members and overseeing the delivery of services to members
  • Future NGS conferences will include educational sessions on society management topics
  • NGS will continue the FGS Preserve the Pension Project (PTP) and continue the operation of the Malcolm H. Stern-NARA Gift Fund.

New Board of Directors

On 1 September 2020, the NGS membership elected a new board of directors whose terms began 1 October 2020. This first “new NGS” board included four directors who moved over from the FGS board—Faye Jenkins Stallings, CG (Texas), David E. Rencher, AG, CG, FIGRS, FUGA (Utah), Cheri Hudson Passey (South Carolina), and Ed Donakey (Utah). Also joining the board were Colleen Robledo Greene, MLIS (California), Marlis Glaser Humphrey (Florida), and Andre Kearns (Washington, DC). Continuing their service were returning directors Janet A. Alpert (South Carolina), Janet L. Bailey (Virginia), Ellen Pinckney Balthazar (Texas),Bernice Alexander Bennett (Maryland), Angie Bush, MS (Utah), Ronald V. Hodges, PHD (California), and Deborah Lebo Hoskins, CPA (Pennsylvania). Ben Spratling, JD (Alabama) continued to serve as past president, and Kathryn Doyle (California) succeeded him as president.

Systems Integration

One of the biggest steps in a merger is integrating the operating systems of two organizations. And while the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to move both the NGS and FGS 2020 conferences to virtual events caused substantial delays, the NGS staff with support from FGS volunteers and outside IT consultants, worked feverishly to add FGS members to the NGS membership database, shift important FGS content (with more to come) to the NGS website, restructure and merge social media accounts, consolidate awards programs, and restructure conference and magazine content to meet the needs of societies and organizations in the new NGS.

We are very proud of the successful merger of these two organizations. As Faye Stallings, FGS President and incoming NGS Director said in August 2020: “We are so excited about the bright future of the combined organization that is the new NGS. During the process of preparing for this merger, we have seen a unified commitment and huge enthusiasm of the leaders for serving family history organizations.” 

“We are so thrilled to be ready to welcome all of the FGS membership to the new NGS,” added Ben Spratling, who served as NGS President during the merger discussions. “This merger is all about building a strong, vibrant community of family history organizations that assist people as they discover their ancestors, connect with their relatives, and learn their family stories. This is an exciting time to be part of the genealogy community.”