Building a Company: The Role of the FMC Genealogist
How does the FMC account for its recent successful growth rate? The obvious answer is an ongoing recruitment effort by several committed members coupled with the Company’s appeal as the oldest and largest Mississippi company. But the real answer to this success began with a change in terminology mandated by the Society. Six years after the Society asked companies to use the term “Genealogist” rather than “Registrar,” the FMC took that change literally. In 2015 the FMC Genealogist began to help applicants for membership in the Jamestowne Society by offering to type applications, help find documentation, and write proof standards to prove problem generations circumstantially.
FMC Connections to the Society
Membership growth has been aided by testimonies from existing members, who often state that the reason they joined the FMC is because it keeps them better connected to the Society in Virginia. A major FMC achievement is its support for and connection to the Society. Eight endeavors illustrate how FMC leaders make concerted efforts to engage in activities that strengthen the tie and interdependence between Company and Society.
FMC Governors and many Company members attend the bi-annual meetings of the Society in Virginia.
A newsletter is produced for Company members with pictures of VA Heritage tours, summaries of the projects the Society financially supports, and information learned from VA keynote speakers; these newsletters are distributed electronically to all members and archived in a binder.
An Honorary FMC Governor supports the Society by serving on two of the Society’s committees: the Annual Giving Committee and the History Committee. Dr. Shirley Haynie Godsey was also the keynote speaker for the Society meeting in Richmond in 2017 with a talk on “The Thirteen Lives of Captain John Smith”.
Native Virginian and FMC Councilor Dr. John W. Godsey wrote his Recollections of visits to Jamestown Island over seven decades to illustrate how the Society’s funding of projects has expanded our knowledge of history; his observations of the evolving value of visitors’ tours of the Island were published in the Fall 2020 Jamestowne Society Magazine.
The FMC has designed a poster-board exhibit highlighting Company achievements to display at the Governors’ Forum.
The FMC’s regular submission of news articles to the Jamestowne Society Magazine reinforces the symbiotic relationship between Society and Company.
The FMC pays the travel expenses of guest speakers to FMC meetings, including Virginians and Society leaders s such as Executive Director, Bonnie Hofmeyer; author Connie Lapallo; Jamestowne Rediscovery Archaeologists Dr. William Kelso and David M. Govens, M.A.; Governor Dr. Roy Martin; and Governor Thomas B. Leitch.
All speakers are offered a $100 Honorarium; but speakers from within the Company donate their Honoraria to the Society, crediting the FMC and selecting the fund where it will be placed. Such donations are listed in the Society’s magazine as “The First Mississippi Company in honor of speaker’s name.” The FMC posts Blog entries on the Society’s website; to date FMC has contributed more than thirty-six postings about Qualifying Ancestors of FMC members.
The FMC connects with the Society by supporting the educational component of its mission with two initiatives. The FMC bylaws now mandate that all program topics presented in Company meetings must deal with the history of the Jamestowne settlement and its expansion between 1607-1699, making all programs history lessons.
- “The 17thCentury: The Stuarts and Their Firsts”
- “A Look around Jamestowne”
- “Armorial Jamestowne Ancestors”
- “Review of The Ship that Saved Jamestowne”
- “Richard Hakluyt: Roanoke and the Birth of Virginia”
- “Sheriffs in Colonial America”
- “John Smith: The Man with Thirteen Lives”
- “John Rolfe, Tobacco, and the Making of Colonial Virginia”
- “Marketing Jamestown’s Investors and Immigrants in the Atlantic World”
- “Religion Wasn’t Simply Ritual: The Anglican Church and Observance in the 17th Century Virginia”
- “Pocahontas and Powhatan: Beyond American Myth”
- “Women and Children at Jamestowne”
- “Jamestowne: The Columbian Exchange”
- “Preservation Virginia Jamestowne Advisory Project”
- “Dale’s Code: Jamestowne 1611-1619”
- “1619 General Assembly Video”
- “ Virginia’s Capital War: Politics and Influence in Jamestown and Williamsburg”
- “Virginia’s Transformation: The Patawomek’s Last Warrior, Anglican Priest Edward Folliott and 21st Century Jamestown”
- “Chief Powhatan’s Role in the Survival of the Colony”
- “Bacon’s Rebellion”
Innovative Initiatives: Company Connections with Members
Just as important as the Company’s connection to the Society is the bond the Company builds among its members. To achieve interpersonal connections, communication between the FMC Council and members occurs year-round and is not limited to sending meeting invitations and the bi-annual distribution of minutes.
- Photo Roster: The FMC photo roster of all members is sent a few weeks before meetings. Since it is sometimes a challenge to recognize members whose faces may be seen only twice a year, the photo roster and name tags make it easy to distinguish between FMC members and guests.
- Yearbook: The Company’s Historian works with new members to create biographical sketches of qualifying ancestors for addition to the FMC Yearbook, a history project that supports the Society’s educational mission. These sketches not only make members aware of their ancestral “cousins” within the Company but also are submitted for posting to the Blog on the Society’s website at www.jamestowne.org. In 2020 the Council voted to distribute the FMC Yearbook electronically to save money,` but maintained the design of the printed version that fits into binders. A Microsoft Access database program produces a Member Roster that features members’ photos next to their personal information. The result is a beautiful and functional yearbook. Members who choose to print the yearbook at their own expense often use different colored stock paper to divide the sections. Currently, the FMC yearbook is 88 letter-sized pages and growing. Our exceptional Yearbook is updated and distributed twice yearly by email to all members.
- Member Autobiographical Sketches: Individual member sketches help members get to know one another personally. Each member describes what he deems relevant about himself on a single-spaced 8.5” x 11” page. These sketches, headed with members’ photos, are shared electronically with all members, then printed and archived in a binder. The stories shared are fascinating, relating many things previously unknown about the Company’s remarkable members. As an inducement to participate, members hesitant about writing are offered editing assistance. The goal, not yet reached, is for every member to submit a sketch.
FMC Members Attending Virginia Meetings: 2001-2020
Bradley III, Richard
Huff, Buena Lee
Founder Level Roll of Honor
In 2021 the FMC became the first Jamestowne Society Company to reach the highest level of giving: Founder.
Not only has the First Mississippi donated the $50,000 required to be a Founder, but it has exceeded this amount by continuing to donate to the Society annually in support of its mission.
Member support for FMC meetings has been reliably stable since the Company’s organization in 2001.
When rebuilding membership became a key goal in 2015, attendance rose steadily, intentionally including many guests. Higher attendance makes it possible for more members to receive first-hand, inspirational reports about annual projects the Society needs help financing. These reports reinforce information found in the Society’s Annual Giving Brochure, motivating members to donate and to continue paying Company membership dues. In 2016 the FMC Governor set a financial goal of reaching the Ancient Planter Level of Giving on the Roll of Honor, and members met that goal through individual donations credited to the Company by the fall of 2017. A larger company increased the size of the treasury, and members began to vote to donate more excess dues money to the Society than it could afford in the early years of the company. By Spring 2019, the FMC reached the House of Burgesses Giving Level, and by Spring of 2020 the FMC reached the Speaker of the House Level.
The FMC Scholarship Award correlates with efforts to build a cohesive, philanthropic Company. Initially, the Company set up an essay contest open to 8th graders and 12th graders. In 2011,the essay contest was replaced by the selection of winners who meet specific criteria. The current criteria are set forth in the Policies and Procedure Manual. The current scholarship is open to members, descendants of members, and to early American History majors who have rendered some service to the FMC, such as presenting a program. Every member is encouraged to submit a candidate for the scholarship by March 15th each year. Candidates submit a curriculum vitae and must have a minimum GPA of B or higher. The FMC Council reviews the candidates’ credentials and selects the successful applicant. The scholarship award, increased to five hundred dollars in 2021, is presented at the Spring meeting.
- 2017 – Caroline Lovelace
2016 – No Recipient
2015 – Hamilton Moore, MD
2014 – Stephanie Seal Walters, PhD
2013 – Elizabeth Henry
The FMC’s achievements are multi-dimensional: recruiting and retaining members, initiating innovative projects, communicating year-round with its membership, hosting appealing and educational meetings, attending Virginia meetings and the Governors’ Forum, highlighting the Society’s work, and financially aiding the Society’s projects. A review of the achievements of the first nine FMC Governors confirms financial support for the Society’s anniversaries, restoration of the church bell tower, retirement of the Headquarters’ mortgage, preservation of early Virginia records, reconstruction of the Barracks’ footprint on the island, and its archeology endeavors. Keeping members connected to each other, to the Company itself, and to the Society are the keys to creating a Company that mirrors the excellence achieved by the Jamestowne Society. The FMC is proud of its achievements during its first twenty years.