Thursday, July 31, 2014

Conference Energy

My son teaching his class at the BYU conference.
Don't you just love conferences?  I love conferences.  I get to see and visit with so many friends, old and new.  Our team has enjoyed meeting with so many of you over the last couple of days at both the BYU Continuing Education Conference of Family History and Genealogy and the IAJGS in Salt Lake City.  We love talking to you all about our products as well as having the opportunity for you to sign up for our newsletter for charts and our 52 week newsletter for Zap The Grandma Gap.  I also especially loved seeing Matthew present his "Get to Know Your Geezers" class Tuesday.  Talk about a parenting payday!  But I would like to say that my team and I also really love the feelings we get being right there in the middle of it all.

Genealogy is, no secret to us within the community, contagious (for lack of a better word).  It's such an important work we do, connecting our families--past, present, and future.  There is such a force and energy around it that to say it's a hobby is almost a fallacy.  It may start as a hobby for some of us, but once you get going, you know it's so much more important than that little word.  Golf is a hobby.  Knitting is a hobby.  Jogging, scrapbooking, bowling, and baking are hobbies.  Genealogy... well, that's life saving on so many levels.  It's not a hobby.  Genealogy has the power to change people's lives almost instantly.  Even when we discover unhappy things from the past within our families, those things can bring so much understanding and healing to our present.  Eventually the knowledge of those things can change our future.  I know we all understand that on a logical level (I hope we do) but sometimes it's easy to forget.  Until you get to be around hundreds of other people feeling the exact same feelings and then it just becomes palpable and electric.  It becomes a tangible fact that this life of research and records reaches so far in every direction of time that we can't even fully comprehend the good we are doing.

So, I just felt the need to tap into that energy and share it a bit with all of you.  It was so great to see so many of you this week.  If not, I hope we'll see you at the next conference.  You'll find us there, happy to meet with you.  And if you are far away, or can't make it for some reason, well, say "hi" right here in the comments.  I would love to hear about some of your great conference moments from this week or in the past.  Conferences are a wonderful place to get energized, learn more and make new friends. See you at another one soon.

Monday, July 28, 2014


There are two big conferences this week and next that I'd like to tell you about. I will be making the rounds at both and invite you to stop by and say "hello," if you happen to be attending either. Members of my team, Erin, Lara, and Michelle, will all be in attendance (at one or both conferences) as well.  Be sure to look for us.  We love being able to meet and talk with all of you when the opportunity arises.

The first conference I want to tell you about actually opened yesterday, July 27th, and will run through August 1st. It is the 34th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Salt Lake City, Utah. Be sure to check out the schedule from the link above, as there will be some great classes. I won't be presenting at this conference but I'll definitely be around, so keep an eye out for me and I'll watch for you.

The second conference, the BYU Conference on Family History & Genealogy, is starting tomorrow, July 29th, and both Matthew and I will be presenting here. We are each teaching classes on Tuesday, the first day. Matthew will be presenting "Get to Know Your Geezers" at 11:00 am.  I will have two classes that day, back-to-back.  I'll be presenting "Family Reunion Activities for All Ages" at 12:15 pm and then "Zap the Grandma Gap: Family History for Youth" at 12:45 pm.  Check out the other classes available at the link above, but hopefully Matthew or I will see you in one of our classes.

We love conferences and we love being able to teach others new ways to be more involved in their personal family histories. I look forward to meeting up with friends, both old and new, this week!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

I Am Thankful, Part 4

To sum up my journey of "big genealogy business" gratitude, I need to mention FamilySearch.  Of course they bring a lot to the genealogy community.  First and foremost, FamilySearch brings in a huge influx of money into genealogy. Because profitability isn't the end goal for them, FamilySearch can take risks. Which, when you think about it, is pretty exciting.  Rootstech, among other conferences, is a great example of the good that comes from having deep pockets and no need to make a profit.  I think we can all agree that we're pretty grateful for programs like that, not to mention all of the Family History Libraries that anyone can access. A steady income, with only a minor focus on margins, makes a big difference for the rest of us.

As a quick side note to that, I feel like I should mention why it doesn't particularly bother me that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints get free access to companies like,, and as a result of FamilySearch's partnerships with these companies. I know it doesn't seem fair to everyone else in the genealogical community.  However, you may not realize that LDS church members already give 10% of their income to their church, which helps fund FamilySearch, among other things.  So, they already have a financial stake (in addition to their own volunteer time) in FamilySearch's partnerships.  As a result, I can see why they are able to benefit from that for their own personal family history research and work. That makes me wonder, though,  if anyone would be willing to donate 10% of their income to Family ChartMasters in exchange for some partnership benefits? We wouldn't mind experimenting with some deeper pockets of our own. ;)

All kidding aside and back to my gratitude for FamilySearch... I truly appreciate the volunteerism and work ethic coming from its users.  It's quite simply a given for FamilySearch contributors that family history work is important and something that we all need to do.  The volunteer effort put in by people who index and work on records collection and preservation is pretty astounding.  These folks do it because they know it's important and they don't expect anything in return.  That's the real spirit of family history work right there: helping others find the missing links in their own histories because it's the right thing to do.  I have some real love for that.

In the end, FamilySearch (along with the MyHeritage and Ancestry) brings a lot to the table for all of us.  Sometimes as a small business owner it can feel a bit daunting to work alongside these giants; but there are so many things to be thankful for.  I have learned lots in my business and personal dealings with these companies, I love working alongside the good people who work for them and I truly am thankful for the roles they play in my company's success.  I am thankful everyday that I get to work in this industry and love the work I do so much.  I hope you'll be able to look around and find some things you are thankful for too.  There is lots to be grateful for when you look for it. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I Am Thankful, Part 3

Today, I would like to talk about This company is based in Israel and the CEO, Gilad Japhet, is my kind of CEO. We partnered with back in 2010 and we have really enjoyed our relationship with them. We handle their chart printing for them and it has been such a great experience for us because we feel our companies mirror one another in our shared desire for everyone to be active participants in their own family history. You can see their passion in the people that work for them and that is a refreshing and joyful thing to watch on the business side of things.
One thing I have some real gratitude for with this company is their worldwide reach. We have shipped charts for them to all ends of the earth! We regularly ship their charts to places like Ghana, Malta, Saudi Arabia, Nepal, New Caledonia, Russia, New Zealand, Columbia, Costa Rica, Argentina.. you get the drift.  We've printed their charts in a variety of languages as well, which just makes my job fun.  It is so cool to look at the pictures and see the families on all these charts.  I love seeing how far this company reaches across the globe because that means that genealogy is a real global passion for so many people out there and is a big key to that.

Something else that I love particularly about their website is the joy and fun they infuse into family history.  If you haven't been to the apps tab on their website you should take a look.  The Family Game, The Look-Alike Meter and the Family Crest have been fun for my kids and Matthew talks about them in his "Get to Know Your Geezers" talk. These are engaging games to help draw in your youngsters and show them that family history is fun! The family matching game is fun online and you can even purchase the cards.  One of their goals is to help you and your children care about your family history and to have fun doing it.  Like I said earlier, completely shared missions here.

In the end, I just really need to tip my hat to Gilad and his team.  They really "get" what genealogy and family history are all about.  When genealogy is your job, it's a business, sure, but it's also so much more than that.  I love and appreciate for their global reach, their focus, and their belief and understanding that our families matter.  I just really love finding a company, like ours, that makes their personal passion their livelihood.  It's a great example for all of us in the genealogical community, so three cheers for that!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I Am Thankful, Part 2

First up on the things to be grateful for is Sometimes, when you are a small and specialized business like ours, gratitude for the "big guys" doesn't always come easy because they can feel like a fortress in the community. This can make it difficult for smaller businesses to break through into the market. Still, none of us can deny the importance Ancestry plays for all of us and I have felt the need to share some of the things I appreciate about Ancestry's presence in our market.

I think we all learned how much we depend on them, personally and professionally, with the recent shutdown and denial of service attack. It felt like the end of the world and some of us were ready to jump from the rooftops when all of that went down. So, sure, Ancestry feels pretty impenetrable sometimes, but clearly, we all learned how much we want and need them around.

One of my favorite things about Ancestry, from a business perspective, is that they have proven the virtue of being commercial in the genealogy market. They've blazed a pretty wide trail for many of us and shown that capitalism works in this market. Kudos for that.

And a sincere note of gratitude on this list is for the good Ancestry has done for spreading the word about family history to the general, mainstream culture. These folks are definitely the poster face for the genealogy community to the rest of the world and people have turned to researching their personal histories as a result of the advertising Ancestry has done. In the end, isn't that what we as genealogists really want anyway--people to become interested and invested in their family history? I know that is one of my personal passions and I have to give Ancestry some credit here for the role they play in that.

As a little post script, I suppose I should also say that I am particularly grateful that Ancestry has recently shuttered their chart printing business (more on that later). I mean, that is a definite boost for my company, so thank you Ancestry! I'm especially thankful for that business decision. Speaking of which, is anybody in need of a family chart?

Monday, July 21, 2014

I Am Thankful For... Part 1

Gratitude has been on my mind a lot lately, especially as it pertains to my business and book writing. I love what I do! We are so happy to be a small business.  I really enjoy every aspect of being a "boutique" business and how it allows our company to have very specialized interaction with each of you. We've built some amazing relationships along the way that have touched our lives both professionally and personally. These partnerships, relationships, and interactions have taught us so much.

We genealogists definitely have a very synergistic community and the knowledge, emotional support, and business support we give one another are all very critical to us.  And so, I'm grateful.  To all of you. I'm also grateful for bigger aspects of the genealogy world and I feel the need to share exactly why.  So I'm taking a little bit of time to do a short series on the big business side of genealogy and how I have become grateful for the experiences and knowledge I have gained from my interaction with "the big three."  Please come back over the next several days as I share some how's and why's for my current grateful-for state of mind.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Customer Love

Here's what some of our customers are saying about their charts:

"I received my charts today - I can't believe how quick a turn around that was!  I just wanted to let you know how perfectly the colors turned out. I am so happy I went with that option as they are just like what I have in my database.  Thanks so much for your help and for getting this to me so quickly - what perfect timing for me as I have a 4-day weekend coming up that I plan to devote to genealogy." --Diana Ritchie (Diana has the first copy on her wall and then bought a second copy at 50% off to fold up on her desk and makes notations on it as she works.  What a great idea that was!)

"Attached are three photos from the reunion last Friday.   The charts were a big hit, especially the circle chart.Several took your business cards and said they wanted to order one." -- Roger Grua

"My client wrote me back tonight to let me know that he was 'very pleased with how the two charts turned out' Great work!!'   I have a very pleased client, so you definitely made me look good. Thank you again:).  As I mentioned on FB, I will definitely refer you and use you again for any kind of chart request from a client!!" --Susan Thompson

"I have been working with Erin to develop my family chart.  I want to tell you how very pleased I was with her help and suggestions.  I received the chart today and am so very happy with it. She was so very cooperative to work with...
The charts arrived today!!  I just discovered the pkg on my front steps...I assumed it would arrive Tues.  I was delightfully surprised.

I am so very, very pleased with how it turned out.  It sure is fun to see the whole family+extended family all together.  I am happy that you suggested the larger font.  It is great and again, thank you so much for all your help...the hours you put into it must have been many!!" --Donna Sweeney

We can help you create a fantastic chart for your family too!  You can start with a free consultation.  Just send us your information and we'll take it from there!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Five Fabulous Family Reunion Ideas

Summer is here and it’s the Family Reunion High Season. It feels almost like Christmas, doesn’t it? Well, just like any holiday season, a successful—not to mention happy—family reunion requires some extra planning and behind the scenes preparation to make the magic happen. Our goal is for a seamless magic that no one really notices but they can see the sparkles just on the edges as they think, “Wow, this is really special.” I’ve been posting some great ideas to pinterest lately that will give you great ideas for your next family gathering. Check out my “Top Five Favorite” Pinterest pins for great family activities that will have both young and old experiencing “sparkly moments” at your next family reunion.
  1. Pictures with Captions: This one comes from History Tech  and the original idea suggests placing comment bubbles on a historical picture in order to get some funny quotes going about a specific event. Let people mingle about, review the pictures, and add a saying or two wherever they feel inspired. Can you imagine what some of your family members will come up with? It’s sure to be side-splitting entertainment. 
  2. Story Telling Contest I shared this tip from a reader on my Zap the Grandma Gap blog  a little over a year ago but I think it is worth revisiting. For a reunion, you would let the adults know in advance that they should be prepared to present a family story in an engaging and fun way. The real fun, however, will come in when you make the kids at the reunion the judges! Kids are about the most honest people I know and if you stink at storytelling, they won’t hesitate to tell you. Everyone will want to step up their game for this one! 
  3. Family Crest Artwork  Look up your family crest in advance to place on display. You could then provide paper and pens/crayons to see who can draw the closest likeness. Or, find a template of a blank family crest and see what kind of imagination runs through your family as people create how they think your family crest should look. Save the artwork for review at your next family reunion while you are at it. 
  4. Create a Keepsake This one comes from Lynne Palazzi for Country Living  and let me tell you, it’s one for the generations. A tablecloth that everyone signs when they arrive that is then embroidered over to keep the memories from fading. Pull it out for every family reunion so the list of names can grow right along with your family. 
  5. And of Course, A Chart : How could you go wrong with this one? Imagine welcoming your family with a beautifully crafted, personalized Family Chart from Family ChartMasters . If you purchase a decorative chart, we’ll make it possible for the members of your family to purchase copies of that chart for 50% off. A really great deal! Or, order a working chart for a more utilitarian purpose. One of my favorite charts we’ve done recently was a large working chart where everyone in attendance had a space to sign their name under their place on the family tree. Much better than a boring guest book and such a creative idea! 
So there you have it, folks. My top five Pinterest inspired family reunion ideas. I hope it gets the creative juices flowing for all of you. If you have a great idea, please share it with me in the comments below. In the mean time, I hope you are all enjoying the magic and “sparkles” of the Family Reunion season.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Updates, Disclosures, and a New Employee... Oh My!

So, as you may know, I haven’t blogged for a while. In fact, I’ve been pretty quiet on all of the social media fronts lately. Not that long ago, I posted about being important and in that post I mentioned the importance of valuing our time with family and trying to avoid the social media whirlpool when it becomes overwhelming. I’m working on that while I am facing some big life changes that are coming up for our family. My oldest will be a Senior in high school next year and I am feeling the pressure of getting him ready to leave the nest. Of course the next two are pressing hard behind him and like every mama, I want to make sure they are ready to fly when the time comes. Still, I have so much to say and share with all of you. We’re in the full swing of family reunion season (hooray!) and we have been able to make some really fantastic charts lately (a future blog post, I hope). And we have two big conferences coming up, so that’s a pretty big mountain I am staring down at the moment. But I made a New Year’s goal to get a real handle on the social media side of things. It hasn’t quite come together like I was hoping though, as testified by the many scraps of paper, full outlines, and stacks of ideas facing me down from my desk. So what’s a gal to do when something isn’t working? Well, try something else, of course!

 Enter Michelle Phillips. Michelle is our newest employee here at Family ChartMasters. I think I can fairly say the excitement is mutual over this new partnership. Michelle is joining the team to help me get a grip on all of the social media and writing that needs to happen around here while I am still trying to balance every aspect of our business, as well as the promotion of my Zap the Grandma Gap book series. Michelle is a happily married mother of four who loves the written word. She recently finished her Associates of Science in English at Utah Valley University and is chipping away at her Bachelors of Science in English with an English Literature emphasis. School is just a part-time gig for her though, as she spends most of her time focusing on her family. In her spare time, she reads and writes (excessively), runs (not as excessively as she wishes her aging bones would let her), and takes a college course here and there (she’s happy with that balance). Some cooking, cleaning, and laundry get done in there somewhere too! Her biggest passion however, aside from her family, happens to be writing. Which is why we’ve asked her to join our team. She’s essentially stepping in as our new “staff writer” and social media manager. 

And that is where the disclosure comes in. I love being a small business owner. And I love having direct contact with all of you. So, with Michelle’s addition, you may be worried I am tossing all of that to the wind. Not so. Michelle’s main purpose is to get my ideas into complete sentences and published on our blogs and other social media sites. We’ll be working as a team, writing and editing together, but the ideas that will be presented from here on out are still mine. So when you see a post, just know that it’s me behind it and Michelle is just stepping in to be the conduit for it to make it to the web. Occasionally, in the future, you may see a piece from her and those will be marked with her name and credited to her. She’s new to the whole blogosphere, so when she does make an appearance, give her some love! In the meantime, it’ll just be status quo but with greater frequency. We’ll spend the next few weeks working out the kinks and hopefully shifting into a higher gear around here. So here is to seeing you all a little more often!