CAGGNI traces its origins to the Northern Illinois PAF Users Group (NIPAFUG). NIPAFUG was part of an early 1990s LDS campaign to provide support for their software package, Personal Ancestral File (PAF). Each Family History Center assisted in the creation of a user support group. Invitations went out to hundreds of registered PAF owners in the Chicago area, and approximately 250 people attended the initial planning meeting. It was from these attendees that NIPAFUG was formed.
The focus of NIPAFUG was limited to the PAF genealogy software. Various aspects of it and more general genealogy topics were presented at each meeting. The early success of the group was due in large part to a number of LDS members who were active in the group. The first meetings were held on Sunday evenings in the Schaumburg LDS meetinghouse. Refreshments were added, providing a more social aspect to the meetings.
As the membership became more diverse, it became apparent that there was interest in other software packages. Meeting topics began to change to encompass these new interests although the organization’s name remained unchanged. In 1998, realizing that more people might find the group if its name reflected the software neutral nature of its new broader focus, the name was changed to Computer-Assisted Genealogy Group of Northern Illinois (CAGGNI). A new meeting place and time were explored, and in 1999, the meetings moved to the Schaumburg Township District Library on Saturday mornings.
In 1999, a number of members who were users of The Master Genealogist (TMG) software package petitioned for the formation of a special interest group within CAGGNI to focus exclusively on this program. Likewise in 2006, two additional special interest groups were formed to focus on Family Tree Maker (FTM) and Personal Ancestral File (PAF) software programs. Since then more SIGS have been created, including interests such as Reunion, a Macintosh software package, Storytellers and, finally in 2015, the first DNA-focused special interest group in the Chicago area.
From 1993 to 2000, the CAGGNI newsletter grew from two to three pages of articles clipped from other sources to an eight- to 15-page publication. The newsletter gained a more professional appearance in 2001 with the help of desktop computer publishing technology. Graphics and photos were added to supplement articles. Email distribution of the newsletter was initiated to save copying costs and postage and provide the newsletter on a timelier basis. The newsletter included notes from the preceding month’s meetings, a listing of local genealogy group meetings and postings to CAGGNI’s Yahoo email group and articles submitted by members. Posts from the email group were replaced by posts to website forums and member blogs and, since CAGGNI joined Facebook in 2011, postings to the Facebook group.
With the growth and influence of the internet, it became clear that a group with “computer-assisted” in its name must have a website. CAGGNI established its first web presence in 1998. Elements of the initial site were portions of the newsletter, a page of members’ surnames being researched, information on local Family History Centers and a number of links to other websites of interest. In 2002, the website was completely revamped to improve its appearance, organization, navigability and expand its content. As a result of that effort, the site became a mature, full-featured website.
In September 2009, the website launched another update. It included such features as a speaker’s bureau, member forums, user-updated profiles, online dues payment options and other interactive features. In September 2017, the website was updated again to accommodate the increased use of mobile devices.
As mentioned previously, CAGGNI took the plunge and joined Facebook in 2011, first with a fan page, then in 2014, as a Facebook group. A Facebook group allows for all members of the group to post items of interest directly. CAGGNI draws membership to its Facebook group beyond its membership base.
In 2014, CAGGNI introduced GeneaQuest, a one-day genealogical conference, held at Elgin Community College and open to members and nonmembers alike. The day included many speakers, presentations, classes and lunch. Between events, the hallways were filled with genealogical vendors and local genealogical groups. During the first two GeneaQuest conferences, CAGGNI “Genies” at the GeneaUs Bar answered questions about software and online databases. The second GeneaQuest, in 2016, was at the American Society of Anesthesiologists Conference Center in Schaumburg. The third conference is scheduled for June 2018 at the Northern Illinois University (NIU) Conference Center in Hoffman Estates, IL.
Semi-annually, members are offered the opportunity to join other members on a road trip to a genealogical library. Past trips included one-day trips to Newberry Library in Chicago. Longer trips included weekend trips to the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne, IN, and to the Wisconsin History Society in Madison, WI. During the day, members are busy researching and then they have the opportunity to network with other attendees at optional evening events such as group dinners.
In 2014, CAGGNI became a 501(c)(3) organization, an IRS designation for a group organized exclusively for charitable, educational and scientific services. In addition, CAGGNI was recognized as a not-for-profit organization by the State of Illinois.
CAGGNI has grown significantly since its early days as a PAF users group. The organization offers a variety of educational opportunities to help its members become better researchers and family historians.