Wednesday, April 22, 2015

NERGC and Maureen Taylor--the most gracious hostess.

So I won the lottery at the recent New England Regional Genealogy Conference in Providence Rhode Island.  Not only was Providence a beautiful site for the conference, not only was the conference great with lots of people excited about what I had to say, but I got to stay with my dear friend Maureen Taylor who lives there.

Maureen was a most gracious hostess and took such wonderful care of me.  She lives in a beautiful turn of the century home which was built with servants quarters in the attic and two sets of stairs, one for the family and one for the servants.  So fun.  We built our home, and most of my local family members and neighbors have built their homes, so it was really awesome to stay in a historical home like that.  And it was in such a beautiful neighborhood too.  Maureen and I stopped at the local private library- the Providence Athenaeum where she has is a member.  A librarian's dream. I wish this library was closer to me--I could spend days and days there very happily.

The best part was getting to know Maureen better and learning more about her life.  I understand now how she keeps so young and healthy and how historically minded she is and so smart.  She lives close to the University and walks everywhere.  I wish my life had more walking in it.  And best of all I got to meet her wonderful husband Dexter and her two adorable Maltese dogs Tucker and Bella. I don't know if Dexter was up for the whole social networking thing but he let me snap this picture of them with his beeeeaaaaautiful antique Ford Mustang. 
Maureen let me do a little studying on her side desk in her office.  It was nice to have this gorgeous painting of her Great Grandfather watching over me.  I didn't get a picture of her beautiful desk and the fireplace and bay window.   She has an amazing personal library about the history of  hair and costume and all things genealogy.  I could have stayed here and read and read too. It isn't hard to see how much Maureen has studied to gain all her expertise.  She really is marvelous when it comes to photo identification.  And now I could see why.  She is called the Photo Detective, but I call her the Photo Whisperer.  If you need a photo identified she does brilliant consultations and she can tell you all sorts of things about your photo to help you identify who and what and where and when.

As always, it was fun to hang out with all our genealogy friends at this conference. It was so nice to see social networking friends that we don't often see out west like Marian Pierre Louis and Midge Frazel.  The Outside the Box sessions were really well attended as usual and we had some great discussions over dinner with Dexter, Lisa Louise Cooke and her husband Bill and with Biff Barnes.  I think we almost have the whole genealogy world figured out. And good food too.  Who knew all the good food was in Rhode Island?
Before I left, Maureen even took me out to the coast and we got to spend the day in Newport.  What a fun place with the Ten Mile Drive, Tennis Hall of Fame, and the best clam chowder ever, ever, ever--and great company of course.  The summer mansions along Ten Mile Drive were gorgeous--so fun for a historian. 

It was great to get to know Maureen better and see more of what her life was like.  Her nice husband, her home, the historical neighborhood she lives in, her offices and her dogs all suit her perfectly.  I was really spoiled to get to spend some time with such a great lady. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

New England Regional Genealogical Conference Fun

Lisa Louise Cooke, Maureen Taylor and I are up for more fun this weekend at the New England Regional Genealogical Conference in Providence, Rhode Island.  I can't wait to get started.

Rhode Island is a new location for me.  How beautiful it is!  I'm already impressed with the historic buildings and all the people with such a historical background.  It has already been really instructive of how disconnected we can be in the west.  When you live so close to where your family has been for generations, and just down the street from the archive, genealogy is so different.  How exciting to get to meet New England genealogists who know so much about their history.  I can't imagine how anyone could live here and not become a genealogist. 

We're starting out tonight with our Game Show and Pedigree Challenge.  Come win prizes and have some fun.  Besides the other demos listed above I'll be teaching:

  • Friday at 8:30 Beyond Scotch Tape: Charts to Fascinate Your Family in room 206.
  • Saturday at 8:30 Trip the Tree Fantastic: Intriguing Family History Trips for the Whole Family in room S-308.
  • and Saturday 10am Zap The Grandma Gap: Leave a Heritage Workshop in room S-316.
Come see us.  Win some prizes.  Eat some candy.  Have some fun.  It is always a party with these lovely ladies.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Join us at the South Davis Fair, April 11

For our friends who are in Utah, don't miss the 18th annual UGA South Davis Family History Fair Saturday, April 11, 2015. The fair will be held at Woods Cross High School beginning at 8am with the keynote speaker Dr. Paul McCarty: "Family History: Turning Hearts and Healing Ourselves". I can’t wait to hear his lecture. The healing that family history creates is something I’m really interested in as you know.

The fair features expert teachers, the most up-to-date genealogical research, technological classes, and vendors for attendees to enjoy.  Registration details, location, and more can be found online at  Family ChartMasters and Zap the Grandma Gap will have a booth with games and prizes. 

I will be presenting three classes: 
  • Family History Adhesive: The Science of Why History Binds Families
  • Simple Tech of How To Do It, 6 Steps to Choreograph Your Research Across the Internet
  • Panning for Gold: Online Genealogy

Consider joining UGA and receiving the benefits of membership, including discounted conference registration, webinars, publications, research helps and more. There are also many volunteer opportunities where you get to know lots of other genealogists and how to be a better researcher. I really enjoyed my time there as president and I made lifelong friends. Information for those of you wanting to join is available online at Please stop by the booth to say hi--We look forward to seeing you at the fair!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

An Open Letter to the Genealogy Community--Part Deux

What a great chat!  I love this community so much.  It is so great to be able to discuss things over social media and have input from so many directions.  Thank you so much for all the input I've received on my Open Letter to the Genealogy Community post over the weekend.  I think this has been a good discussion to have.  I'm so thrilled to have so many friends who are as eager as I am to advance the world of genealogy.

I'd like now to take it to another step.  I eagerly read the comments everyone had (and thank you for those of you who shared it further) and I was happy to see Jane Schwendinger and Thomas MacEntee encourage the conversation in a positive direction.  But I still saw alot of "they" this and "they" that and "they" should.  I would like to see some more "I will".   It is amusing to me that we all think of life that way--me included--but it is time to look inward.  So I'd like to challenge you all to help me make a list of what we are going to do to embrace the new influx of family historians.

I'll start:

1) I'm going to take some kind of interactive game or activity to every future conference booth that we do.  (If you have any ideas, I'd love to hear them.)  I think we can shake up the conference scene and make it more accessible.  And I think that will make it more fun for all of us who are regulars there too.

2) I'm going to try to make my presentations more interactive and engaging.  I'm going to start by looking at where I can insert more discussions with and within the audience.  And then I'm going to see what I can do about more multi-media (that is going to be tough but I'm going to stretch).

3) I'm going to keep a positive attitude.  I'm going to focus on how awesome it is that newcomers are interested, and try to brush off the quirky, strange, copyright naive, thoughtless, and sometimes even ignorant and rude things they do.  I'm going to try to stay away from my occasional "holier than thou" impulses and try not to talk down to anyone.  I'm going to be respectful and try to always be helpful and patient, no matter what.  Just because they don't know the nuances of family history doesn't mean that they aren't a brain surgeon in some other area of life.  

I have faith.  When I went to the Who Do You Think You Are conference in London, I had a chance to talk to several of the vendors there.  They had crowds of 22,000 that had recently dwindled some to 20,000 and then to about 17,000.  But the vendors there said that every year the audience came back as much better genealogists and more knowledgeable than before.  Just think if we could turn all 22,000 people at this recent RootsTech conference into full-fledged NGSQ-worthy genealogists.  But even if some of them don't come along as fast or in the way we want them to, we can embrace them.  As Valerie Elkins recently said, "The genealogy tent is big enough to accommodate and welcome all, no matter what drew you inside, or when." (Facebook post 2/23/2015: 10:38 am

That's what I'm shooting for.  What are you going to do?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

An Open Letter To The Genealogy Community

It is time for a chat.  I heard some disturbing comments from my genealogy community at RootsTech and FGS.  At first I tried to ignore it.  After stewing a bit, I’ve decided I can’t.  Most of them went something like this:
  • “ I don’t usually go to RootsTech.  The classes are too simplistic.”
  • “I hate explaining what we do over and over again to new people.  I prefer the conferences where everyone already knows what we do.”
  • “ Saturday at RootsTech is annoying.  All those kids don’t care about what we do.  They just want to gather the swag.”
  • “I can’t stand the crowds.  Too much chaos.” 
  • “This isn’t our clientele.  Our [society/organization/company] isn’t for beginners.” 
Over the last 11 years, I’ve watched so many in the genealogy world wring their hands that conference attendance is dwindling, that societies are shrinking, and that small companies with innovative ideas can’t make it in this market.  “Why doesn’t the rest of the world understand how wonderful genealogy is?”  they say.

Well, over the last couple of years, RootsTech has delivered the genealogy community an amazing gift—BEGINNERS WHO ARE CURIOUS ABOUT WHAT WE DO.  FamilySearch has done what it came here to do, which is to unlock the Mormon market, a market that is innately vested in family history but doesn’t quite know what to do about it.  They’ve also unlocked a huge amount of the general market.  There was an incredible range of people at RootsTech again this year.  Young, old, experienced, novice, and those who *think* they know how to do genealogy.  Some of them might have been a little quirky.  Some of them might not have been your ideal client.  But ALL of them were interested enough to show up.

The genealogy community now has a choice.  I submit to you that if we reject these newcomers to our community, we do so at our own peril.  To discard them will cause your [society/organization/company] to wither up and die.  Like quilters’ conventions (which draw huge crowds to a very complicated craft) we need to embrace all levels and all kinds of people at our events.  Consumers, societies, companies, vendors, and attendees all need to REALLY embrace them.

What can you do to make them feel welcome?  Quilters’ conventions are a great example I’ve talked about in the past.  At quilters’ conventions, professionals love to share their ideas with newcomers.  If we want to survive, I think we need to make this work. It may take a new focus or some updates to our business models, but how else will we bring in new business?

So, did I hear these comments right?  Were these people actually rejecting a crowd of 22,000 people who showed up to find out about what we do?  I’m hoping I misunderstood.  I hope I just wasn’t tuned in to the overwhelming joy that surely must have been humming around that hall.  Personally, I’m in—I’m all in.  I am happy to reinvent, make accessible and do whatever I can to make every one of those 22,000 learn about how exciting family history is.  Like I said in my earlier post, if I can offer swag, load up on bags of candy, invent games, and make this experience inviting so that the beginners and youth come back next year with a little more knowledge and some excitement to come to the conference again, I’m all in.  I’ll say it again: If, as a genealogy vendor you felt like this wasn't your market, you need to make it your market.  New market is good.  Let's grow!

I must have had a busy exhaustion fog blocking my hearing.  Let’s hope so. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

My RootsTech Highlights

I don't know where to start!  What a fabulous conference we just had.  I'm so full of gratitude, to our clients, our friends, to this wonderful community that I get to work with and to the organizers at FamilySearch and FGS.  I just said to myself over and over "This is what a genealogy conference should be like."  Yea!  Finally!  Here are my favorite parts in no particular order:

My Family Was There.  Both my aunt and uncle on my Dad's side came to the conference with their spouses, as well as my parents, my children and of course Kim.  That is what it is all about isn't it?  It was so fantastic to have my family there with me at a family history conference.  One of the major highlights for me was all of the DNA kits we purchased.  Between all of us, let's just say we took home a good portion of the 15,000 kits Ancestry sold.  Yes, I'm on the cusp of a DNA overdose.  I can't wait.  Likewise, so many other genealogists were able to bring their family too.  It was fun to meet Mothers and Fathers and kids of other genealogists.  That's what it should be like.

Endorsements.  The very first day, we had a very popular genealogy figure come tell us she was ready to endorse us.  She has been careful to be fair and slow to endorse particular companies so that made my day.  I respect her opinion and we are pleased to have gained her trust.  We also had several other well-respected and well established organizations come to us about partnerships and help with printing and design.  We take the trust we have with genealogy companies and other genealogy entities very seriously so we were thrilled with all of the new endorsements we gained last week.  We can't wait to solidify them and tell you about them soon.

Our FANTASTIC Family ChartMasters Team.  We thought we were incredibly overstaffed but we were entirely understaffed.  Our new employees, Christine Fazulyanov, and Michelle Phillips were incredible troopers and worked so hard.  Erin Roudabush and Lara Orchard who have been with us for years were amazing as always.  And Susan McGhie, our new sales help was great--she knew all about our processes because we recently did a fantastic chart for her--she even found some new cousins by showing it off.  We even pressed Mom and Dad into service and they were a great support again.  Everyone worked non-stop and we were able to help lots of people with charts and with Zap ideas for their youth.  Just what we came to do.  We haven't seen anything but growth over the last several years so we are confident we are delivering a good product.  We always want to hear what you think about how we can do better.  Let us know.  We really want to help you create amazing charts.

Busy, Busy Busy!  From what I heard, the numbers were at 22,000.  Finally, the rest of the world is
catching on to how wonderful family history is.  A hearty thank you to FamilySearch for being able to spend the money to be able to grow this audience.  We are so pleased to have a conference that is starting to look like Comic Con.  Family History is that cool.  I'm so thrilled that the rest of the world is finally figuring that out.  The constant crowds of people were awesome. 

Friends In Real Life.  So this part was great and also not so great.  We honestly have a family in the genealogy world.  I really care about these friends I see at conferences and online.  We've become close.  So I love to see them in real life and catch up with what is going on in their lives.  So many hugs.  This time, several of my friends had been through huge challenges that you wouldn't share in social networking.  It was heartbreaking to hear about these challenges, but I'm so glad to know the whole truth.  I'm hoping I can find some small ways to help.  I really appreciate that they felt they could be honest with me and hope the hugs helped a little.

My Neighbors Were There.  One of my great joys was having many of my neighbors, and other friends who live in Salt Lake City show up.  It was so wonderful to see people that I don't usually see at a genealogy conference being curious.  I'm so excited that RootsTech has been able to reach that far.  I hope the next step is to take it on the road to other parts of the country. 

The RootsTech Program.  I didn't catch much of it but the parts I caught were phenomenal.  If the rest of the conference was as wonderful as the sessions I was in the whole thing was amazing.  Great content.  My favorite part was the new song and video from David Archuleta for FamilySearch and Ancestry's big move into Mexico.  The video still hasn't been released here but one of the attendees posted David's second performance of the song on YouTube.  Love It!

Can't wait until Studio C releases the video they played Friday night too.  Great stuff.  Fun to introduce my Genealogy friends to Studio C too.  As if the 17,000 excited people in the room weren't enough to be happy about. 
The Kids.  There has been a little bit of online banter about whether or not all the kids who descended on RootsTech Saturday were actually all that interested.  They may not be interested yet, but if we can make RootsTech fun, offer swag and some bags of candy, a little Studio C, hopefully they'll come along.  Count me in to do everything I can to help make this their first step.  Hopefully they'll progress towards the strong identities, resilience and self esteem they'll find as they learn more about family history. Again, this is absolutely what a family history conference should be like.  We need this next generation desperately.  It should be a family endeavor.  If, as a genealogy vendor you felt like this wasn't your market, you need to make it your market.  New market is good.  Let's grow!  RootsTech has delivered this next generation to us and we all need to do everything we can to make sure they love family history.  I'm all in.

The one thing I wasn't thrilled about was my lectures.  Even though I was really well prepared, after days of go go go, I don't think I was at the top of my game.  I really appreciate the people who came up afterward and said they liked what I had to say.  They taped the "6 Steps to Choreograph Your Research Across The Internet" but I'm not sure when it will be available.  If you want to see the lecture, a better option would probably be to sign up for the SCGS webinar on this coming Wednesday where I am giving it again.  I will have had more sleep so I think there won't be as many "ums"  Either way though, I hope the lectures helped some people organize their research more.

Another drawback was that there just wasn't enough time to really talk to our friends and partners enough.  We did more of our great Outside the Box sessions with Lisa Louise Cooke, Maureen Taylor, and Family Tree Magazine.  (Another Highlight)
But I hardly got to see them--we were all going 10 different directions.  Thanks to Family Tree Magazine for the great dinner we had, and for everyone who we got to eat with at other times during the conference.  It was so good to have time to chat.  That is always a favorite part of any genealogy conference. 

All in all, I think our Ancestors are pleased.  The genealogy community is stronger and our family relationships are tighter.  All is good in the world.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Things to Do in SLC -- City Creek Center

With Rootstech hot on our heels, I hope you will look over my Pocket Guide to Salt Lake City for great tips on where to stay, where to eat, and where to play. An absolute fun place to eat and play in downtown Salt Lake, and just a stone's throw from Rootstech, is City Creek Center. It really is the new shining gem in the downtown landscape and it has some great features you should be aware of before coming into town. You'll definitely want to put it on your "To-Do" list, even if you are only into window shopping or grabbing a quick bite at the food court.

Here is the new section of the Guide about the City Creek Center. 

City Creek Center is the newest addition to downtown’s wonderful shopping options.  Located at 50 South Main Street, it is the closest/best food and relaxation break from the library.  In the winter months the mall is all indoors, but when the warmer months arrive, the mall’s retractable roof creates an open air shopping experience.  It is the first mall in the United States to have a retractable roof in place, which is not only unique but beautiful.  The roof allows for open air flow, increased light, and reduced need for air conditioning in warmer months but also protection from inclement weather conditions in the harsher winter months.  Either way, roof open or closed, the natural light and natural stone walkways with recreated historic City Creek (which originally was a main source of water for original settlers and farmers new in the Salt Lake Valley) create a lovely shopping environment, unlike most big city malls.  And an excellent Winter season perk is that the exterior walkways of the Center have a heated snow-melt system within them.  This allows shoppers to enter and exit City Creek, as well as navigate it's exterior courtyards, without slipping on ice or walking over salt and ice-melt.  Every thought was taken to make visiting City Creek a pleasure, year round and in every kind of weather.

City Creek Center is a genuinely beautiful place to experience, shop, and dine.  The recreation of the original City Creek runs straight through the middle of the entire shopping center.  And it has live fish, swimming right through it.  In addition to this namesake water feature, the shopping center also plays stage to several water fountains, including three by WET Design, makers of the famous Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas.  Two water features include a fire-and-water shows, one choreographed to music.  The shows are fun and the pyrotechnics are a boon of warmth in the Winter months.  A definite must see if you have a free evening.  Speaking of warmth, the shopping center boasts a large, four-sided fireplace in an outdoor courtyard area that makes for a cozy place to sit and sip a warm drink and visit with friends and family.  If you get lucky enough to be by the fireplace when a light sprinkling of snow comes along, it's really almost magical to experience.  Among the various water features, be sure to look for the art and sculptures spread throughout and see if you can identify the animal tracks located here and there in the walkways.  All in all, City Creek is just a beautiful place.

The mall itself is in two sections, divided by Main Street, which can be easily crossed by an indoor pedestrian sky bridge.  The sky bridge spans 140 feet with no columns or supports.  The glass of the skybridge is etched with 3-D leaf patterns and creates an interesting dappled shadow below when the sunlight shines through the bridge.  It's a scenic and seamless way to get from one side of the shopping center to the other, so much so that it's easy to forget your crossing over a major thoroughfare as you walk over the skybridge.  And from the center of the bridge, you can get a very nice view of not only Main Street, but also nearby Ensign Peak.  And for those who enjoy history, be sure to take a look at the bronze floor plaque, depicting the original Salt Lake City map plat.

City Creek Center also has a top-notch concierge service desk.  If you live more than 50 miles away from City Creek Center, just stop by the Visitors Center to receive your free "Passport to Shopping," a coupon book offering discounts and special offers at over 60 retail shops within City Creek Center.  If you opt to do some shopping with your discount book, be sure to take your same day receipts of $150 or more back to the Visitors Center to receive your complimentary City Creek Signature bag.  Your driver's license or passport is required for both of these visitor perks.  In addition to this, the Visitors Center offers several other amenities.  Stop by to inquire about free wheelchair rentals, valet parking, Trax and bus routes, local attractions and events, and more.  There is also a real time travel board with constantly updated flight information for Salt Lake International Airport.  This is particularly helpful if you are doing a bit of shopping or dining the day you leave town and want to keep track of your flight status.  The visitors Center is located on level 1, just outside of Macy's.

Some of Salt Lake’s best top end shops and dining can be found here.  Everything from Tiffany & Co., Anthropologie, Michael Kors, Coach, Lush, Rolex, and many more high end retailers are nestled in this beautiful mall.  It also contains some great options if you need a technology fix, with The Apple Store, Microsoft, AT&T, Sprint and Bose, to name just a few.  There is an ample food court with everything from Chic-Fil-A to McDonald’s, your standard pizza and hibachi, but also you can’t miss the Red Iguana’s counter service location and some treasures like the Cuban pork sandwich at Bocata and the Utah Sushi at Mr. Sushi.  If you would like a nicer sit-down dining option, I already mentioned the genealogist’s favorite, Blue Lemon.  I’ve also had some brilliant genealogy discussions with friends at BRIO, and at Texas de Brazil Churrascaria, as well as some of the other sit down options.  Kneaders is another excellent local favorite that I frequent at their location near my home.  I love the Mushroom Brie Soup and my kids love the all you can eat breakfast of pancakes and French toast with truly magical buttermilk syrup. Kneaders is the best place to pick up a big gift basket to take home to your family so that they forgive you for abandoning them in your family history pursuits.  And, away from the food court, but just outside of Macy's, is Farr's Ice Cream, which offers self-served ice cream, yogurt, and frozen custard, in addition to hand scooped ice cream.  You can sit inside Farr's or in the writer's cafe attached to it, in front of Macy's.  It's a nice quiet area, with big open windows facing Temple Square, to let you people watch or work with a tasty treat in hand. Be sure to take a stroll through City Creek, if you get a moment.  With its indoor creek and relaxed pace, it’s a nice break from research when you need one.  Being only a quick walking distance from the Family History Library, the Salt Palace, and several hotels, it's definitely the closest place to find what you need during your time in the city.