Sunday, January 24, 2016

What is the Genealogy Business Alliance?

Image from Zap The Grandma Gap: Power Up Workbook

So it seems I've struck a nerve.  Again.  I think the phrase is "fools rush in...."

From the moment I put the link to out on facebook I've been inundated with side conversations and personal messages from people looking for help with how to run a genealogy business.  That's so exciting, but I think I haven't clearly stated what I was going for with this new idea.  It looks like I've created some confusion.  

I usually take the day off on Sunday, but I had some inspiration today about the new "Genealogy Business Alliance" facebook group and I think it is time to clear things up.  Hopefully this will clarify--if not, I'm sure there will be another blog post, and hopefully more inspiration.  Here's my thoughts:
  • If you hire and fire employees
  • If you run vendors' booths at the major genealogy conferences
  • If you mainly spend your day managing and developing rather than researching, lecturing or writing
Then this group is for you.

If you aspire to such things you might find value here and you are welcome to join us.
  • If you are an independent researcher, writer, lecturer, media person, etc or currently work for someone in that capacity this is probably not the group for you.  In that case we would suggest working with APG, GSG, ISFHWE or starting your own specific group.  Though it may briefly touch on such subjects in the context of running a genealogy company, the concerns of an individual genealogy consultant is not a topic for this group.

We intend not to talk about genealogy, but rather how to run a company in the genealogy market.  Specifically this group exists to foster already existing "Mom & Pop" genealogy companies into becoming healthy corporations, thus creating more genealogy jobs, and encouraging all the boats on the genealogy sea to rise.

I'm sorry if this isn't the particular need everyone is looking for.  However I think the more focused this group is the more valuable it will be to the people who really need it.  I'm really excited about it. Already I've learned valuable things about QuickBooks and issues regarding an LLC.  There has also been talk of doing some purchasing together, shipping together, outsourcing together (what if we could create a full time job for something several of us only need a small part time job for. Or don't like (think taxes!))  So cool.

If you are interested, please fill out our google doc at out at  You can also request to join the closed facebook group "Genealogy Business Alliance".  Feel free to contact me if you have any problems with that. We'd love to talk to you.

Friday, January 22, 2016

SLIG Colloquium 2016 and a GBA

Last Saturday I was invited to participate in the SLIG Colloqium held at the Salt Lake Hilton.  The question posed for leaders from across the genealogy community was "What prevents genealogical organizations and societies (including APG, CAFG, GSG, ICAPGen, ISFHWE, NGS, and other national, state or provincial, and local organizations inside and outside the United States) from officially adopting or endorsing Genealogy Standards (published 2014 by BCG)?"  If you are interested, there will be a full article about the discussion in the spring issue of Crossroads magazine from the Utah Genealogical Association (SLIG’s sponsor society).

The discussion was a fascinating display of the politics between the different organizations in the genealogy community.  There are lots of good people serving in these many organizations and it is interesting to watch their various missions and values come into play with each other.  We are so lucky to have so many people who are passionate about family history working to help genealogists be better at their craft.  I came away with a new appreciation for the talent we have in genealogy--and a new respect for the diplomatic talent of many of the players.

The ultimate outcome of this discussion was an initiative to create a coordinating committee between the various organizations that could come up with a small number of basic principles of good genealogy research that we could all get behind.  With a core set of principles, we could be a united voice to new genealogists and help raise the quality of genealogy research across the board.

Most interesting to me was a part of the discussion in the middle.  Someone (I'm sorry I don't remember who) suggested that we should cast this net wide to include those companies that serve genealogists as well as the research entities.  Specifically she mentioned a developer at RootsMagic that she knew and suggested that these principles could be incorporated into that software and other databases and tools that genealogists use.  She knew that the developers would have more buy in if they were included in the discussion rather than just informed about it.  An interesting conversation ensued about who was "qualified" to put these principles in place and whether or not genealogy business owners were up to the task.  Having a Masters in Library and Information Science, and yet being on the "Companies that Serve Genealogists" side rather than the research side, I found this discussion very intriguing.

As the Colloqium concluded, Christy Fillerup volunteered to be the point person for developing this coordinating committee.  (Go Christy!  I know from personal experience with her that she will be fabulous.)  As things were wrapping up, I was approached by several people, including Christy, about creating and coordinating a voice for the genealogy business community that could be a part of this board.  While I watched groups from other organizations talk about how they are going to coordinate within their entity and then send a representative to participate, I felt suddenly quite lonely.

Similarly, as I've recently written the "Making Money in Genealogy" course for Salt Lake Community College (You really should sign up--it did turn out quite fantastic in my humble point of view :)  I found there were precious few resources about running a genealogy business.  There is a plethora of resources about how to do good genealogy research, but very very little about how to make a living doing it.  And if you can't make a good living at it, you can't be as effective at doing genealogy. 

I have long felt the need for a genealogy business organization--a coordinated effort between businesses where we could share some of the load of developing a genealogy company.  The genealogy market is very different, and in a lot of ways business resources from outside the community don't apply.  I've seen other communities with such organizations, such as the LDS Booksellers Association, or the American Independent Business Alliance or even the California Avocado Commission and the Battery Council International where such entities coordinate scholarships, conferences, workshops, share marketing ideas, joint buying projects (such as insurance) and create resources for new business owners to learn and network.  If there is a National Association of Firefighter's Credit Unions, I think it is time for us.  I think in general, most genealogy business owners have started companies because they love genealogy, and then find themselves responsible for other people's jobs without a lot of business know-how.  There are trade associations in most every field.  I think it is time to start talking about one in genealogy.

For starters we could develop:
  • A resource of best business practices 
  • A united buying power 
  • A resource for asking business related questions 
  • Networking activities 
  • Partnership opportunities 
  • A united voice in the genealogy community
What if we could take membership fees and provide grants to societies so that they could have larger conferences and vendors could find more value there? Hmmmm.  Where could this go?

What I'm talking about here isn't particularly an association for genealogy researchers.  While those researchers are welcome, most researchers can usually find the resources they need at the Association for Professional Genealogists.  What I'm talking about here is an organization specifically about business for genealogy business executives, that includes people like me--people who serve genealogists--the people who buy space in the vendors' hall at major conferences.

I know that the real value I find at conferences has always come at the lunches and dinners I go to after the conference, where I can talk with my peers and find out what is working best for them.  I'd like to solidify that more.  So:
  • I've started the closed facebook group "Genealogy Business Alliance".  Feel free to contact me to join.
  • We have created a google form that will collect information about people interested in the group.  Fill it out at
  • I'm going to organize an exploratory committee to discuss where this could go and feel out support.
  • I'll be passing out flyers at RootsTech to inform people about the effort.    
As I've started talking to people about it, I think there is a real need.  So.  What do you think?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Favorite Charts from 2015

We are excited to show off some of our work from 2015!

We did something new this year.  We went back through all of the charts we created and picked out a few of our favorites.  We've contacted the clients who worked with us to create the charts and asked if we could share them with you.  In years past, we've been too shy to ask because we know these are such personal creations.  But this year we got brave and boy did it pay off.  Every client we asked was really excited to show off their chart.

We did several charts for special occasions.  We love making your family events even more special:

We also did some very popular charts that looked like a natural tree:

Sometimes we put together several options for a client, and all of them turned out so well it was hard to decide:

We did some amazing all-in-one charts (more on that to come in a future blog post--but here is a taste) We can put in in-law lines, other side lines, color coding, second cousins, all sorts of things:

And of course you won't find the kinds of color coding we can do anywhere else. This year we color coded by place, by descendancy, and many other things:

We created some beautiful charts with icons and color coding to highlight a certain trait:

And of course the pictures. Who doesn't love a beautiful chart with beautiful pictures?

And maps--highlighting where the family was from:

So many beautiful families we get to enjoy:
Gorgeous blended families and step families:
We've changed the information for the living people on each of the charts.  But if the client requested, we've left their deceased ancestors because of the value we've found in having charts on display as "cousin bait."  Every year, as we've displayed charts at conferences, we inevitably have people come up and say that they share the same ancestors.  We've promised the owners of each of these charts that we'll forward any interested parties' emails to them so that they can collaborate on future research.  With a hope for new cousin connections, and a $25 gift certificate, everyone we contacted was excited to show off their great work.  And what beautiful families they have--don't you agree?

Join us this year at the conferences we attend (including RootsTech next month) to see these charts live and in person.  And don't be surprised next year if we choose your chart as one of our favorites.  We look forward to creating a beautiful chart for your family too!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy 2016 and the UGA Award of Merit

As usual the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy was a phenomenal success and I enjoyed myself immensely.  This year was even more fantastic though because Kim and I were able to take the whole week off and simply sit in class.  For the last five years I've been involved with UGA and the SLIG committee in helping put on the institute, but this year I was able to just relax and be a student--enjoy it with my husband--and learn tons.  Thanks so much to our employees who kept Family ChartMasters humming and to the SLIG team for making the conference such a success.
Kim and I took Blaine Bettinger's Beginning DNA for Genealogy course.  If you haven't ever attended an institute, it is really something special.  We were able to take 20 courses just about DNA and it's use in genealogy.  Even though I knew quite a bit about DNA's use in genealogy, and we've had all of our parent's generation tested who were willing, along with all of Kim's brothers and our son, I'm really sure now that I have filled in all the holes, and have a really good understanding of the foundation of DNA research.  Not only that, I have a partner now who can work with me to solve genealogy problems and extend our research.  We studied YDNA, mtDNA, and atDNA and learned about all of the companies who do the testing, their pricing and databases, the third party tools that will help you interpret the data, the ways you can apply it to genealogy and the ethical considerations to be aware of.  We heard case studies about how it has been used to solve complex problems, and best of all, we were able to discuss the issues with many of the leaders in the genealogy industry as we spent the week with them.  I learned so much, over lunch, in the hallways and with dear friends.  So so awesome.  Blaine is a phenomenal teacher.  I really appreciate him as a well-educated instructor and as a good friend. 
As usual, I didn't think to take any pictures until the last day, and I'm shy about asking to take pictures with people anyway.  Here's Kim and I extracting strawberry DNA during the last class.  So fun to take the class together. 
One of the highlights of the week was getting to meet Jessica Taylor of Legacy Tree Genealogists. It was great to be able to talk to someone who is running a genealogy company and dealing with many of the same issues that we are.  Really competent genealogy business people are hard to come by so it is a real treasure when you find a new one.  I so appreciate all of our genealogy business friends that I can bounce ideas off and learn from and I'm so excited to find a new one. 
And to top it all off, I was completely surprised Friday night when they gave me the UGA Award of Merit for my service to the association.  I had so many people come up to me and thank me and tell me I had really done great things.  I was overwhelmed. And then, when I posted this picture to Facebook, the outpouring was unbelievable.  I had so many comments and likes, I've got to be careful not to get a big head.  Tessa Keough made my day when she commented, " you are so positive and enthusiastic. Your company provides a great product and you do lots of volunteer activities - people notice and see you do things for the right reasons, furthering genealogy and family history. You show that you can be "in it" for others and also be successful, all with graciousness. Congratulations - well deserved."  Wow.  

And all of this was ten times better because Kim was able to be there with me. It was so fun to introduce him to all my SLIG friends and have him to hang out with us. Thanks so much to our awesome people at Family ChartMasters for letting us go.  Life is just really really good.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Meet with your own Personal Designer at RootsTech

Announcing a new Family ChartMasters service for RootsTech 2016, a one-on-one consultation with your own personal chart designer.

We love talking to our clients and friends at conferences, but sometimes you want to spend a little more time with one of our designers, talking specifically about your ideas and going over your family history information.  We've always offered Free Consultations, but never before have you been able to schedule an appointment and have someone all to yourself, live and in person.  We'll evaluate your information and give you some ideas right on the spot at the conference. 

Just bring in any genealogy file and the visions you have for the chart you would like to create.  We'll have someone there waiting for you who can look at your file and help you turn those visions into reality.

We're announcing it here first, for 24 hours our blog readers will get the first chance to schedule an appointment.  Hurry and snag a consultation quick, before we share it over social media and through our newsletter.  We're looking forward to talking to you.  We'll see  you at the Family ChartMasters Booth 1045 in the RootsTech Vendor's Hall.