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 https://www.facebook.com/valerie.brown.elkins)

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.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Rootstech Presentations and Recording

I think many of us are gearing up for Rootstech 2015 and Family ChartMasters is no exception to that.  Between our booth (#1240!), Outside the Box, and my two conference presentations, things are hopping around here lately.  I am really looking forward to reconnecting with friends and meeting new ones next week.  In the meantime, I am putting the finishing touches on my presentations, fine tuning, and tweaking here and there.  But what if you can't make the trek to Utah next week?  I am very pleased and excited to say that you can still catch one of my presentations!  Each year at Rootstech, a handful of presenters are invited to have their presentations recorded for viewing on the web and this year, I am extremely honored to have been asked to participate.  One of my presentations, 6 Steps to Choreograph Your Research Across the Internet, will be recorded and available for viewing. Take a look:  https://familysearch.org/blog/en/20-rootstech-sessions-grow-family-tree/
I'm teaching on Saturday at 1pm and I'm not sure if it will be streamed live, or if it will only be recorded for later, but either way you'll be able to catch it at Rootstech.org

From My Syllabus:

How do you correlate your research between family history sites?  You can become an expert researcher and quickly document your family’s history online with six simple tips for working with multiple family history websites.  Learn how to stay focused and in control of your family history searches.  Distinguish the difference between navigating your cousin’s conclusion trees and actual sources about your family history.  Discover how to use tabs, and timelines to systematically place your results on solid, well analyzed research.  And understand how to record the results so that you don’t get tripped up as you move along your family tree.

There are always a few tips and tricks that can streamline the process of internet research and bring you better results.  If you are at Rootstech, you're going to want to drop in for this one.  We can all use fresh ideas on making our family history hunts a little easier.  And if you can't make it out here to Utah, be on the look out for the recording of this presentation at RootsTech.org.  It'll be worth it, I promise! 

I am also very excited about my other presentation, Family History Adhesive:The Science of Why Family History Binds Families and The Simple Tech of How to Do It.  Studies have shown that greater knowledge about family history strengthens your relationships and creates a core identity that empowers your current family.  In this session you will learn to use the technology your family members already access every day to create a strong family narrative together. 

Family history has proven to be the key to strong family relationships now and the emotional health of future generations.  The transmission of family history is a personal way to pass on family values, learn from the consequences of decisions and figure out how to overcome the challenges of life.   In this presentation, we’ll survey the psychology community’s studies of intergenerational transmission.  They have found that the shared family narrative is a source of strength and resilience that binds family members together with a common story. I will also help you identify daily communication tools your family already utilizes and show you the best way to utilize these tools to develop your family narrative.

Please join me at Rootstech, if you can make it.  I'd love to see you in my classes and at my Outside the Box presentations.  If you can't be there, please look for my recorded Rootstech session and I will look for you at a future conference! 

Games, Games, Games!

If you are heading this way, I am sure you are in the full throes of Rootstech preparation.  We're right there with you!  Something we are very excited about to share with everyone at Rootstech are the things we've been doing to make your family history fun and games.  That's right, I said it, games.  We're playing games and we're offering some great new games for you to purchase to use with your custom Family ChartMasters chart or at family reunions.  I'm telling you, it's going to be a fun time over in booth 1240 this week.  You've got to stop by and check out what we have happening.

First, we'll be playing our Pedigree Challenge game at the booth (1240).  Come test your genealogy chops by playing hide and seek with our giant Ancestor Chart.  How old was Albert when he died?  Who is Claudia's great-granddaughter?  Who is June's husband?  Who is Lawrence's oldest grandchild?  Swing by, drop into the game, win a prize!  It's a fun way to test yourself and see how you size up on the genealogy game field.

Family ChartMasters will be offering a brand new card game that you can purchase to play games with your family charts at family reunions and game nights.  This is great to have on hand and get family conversations going.  Take a look at what I am talking about here.

We'll also be offering the very popular and fun Your Family Tree Game for sale.  This is a great game whether you are 4 or 104.  We'll be playing this game on our Zap the Grandma Gap side of our booth so you can give it a whirl.  It's really fun and perfect for family game nights, family reunions, youth activities, and more.  We've enjoyed it a lot in our family and also at a staff meeting (yes, you read that right...we have fun around here while we work).  You'll definitely want to take a look at it.

And then, of course, what is Outside the Box without games?  I mean, that's like a birthday party without cake.  So be sure to check out our schedule for lots of great, free mini-seminars.  We'll be kicking off and ending our Outside the Box sessions with some more games though.  Come see us on Thursday, February 12th, from 10:30-11:00 to try your hand at our Genealogy Game Show (go head to head with other genealogists from around the world in a Jeaopardy-like game) and our Pedigree Challenge.  There are prizes involved so you don't want to miss it.  We'll cap Rootstech off with another round of both games once more on Saturday, from 3:30-4:00.  More fun and more prizes has to be the best way to end your Rootstech stay!

We are into the celebration spirit over Rootstech and the fun and games we are planning are just one way we're showing it.  Be sure to check out our booth (1240) for amazing products, chart consultations, books, games (to buy and play), prizes, or to just shoot the breeze with folks from our Family ChartMasters team.  We're looking forward to seeing you!