Sunday, December 31, 2006

Rolling in the Genealogical New Year 2007

In the spirit of bringing in the New Year with a splash, Genealogy Today published over 24,000 new names across several databases. Included in the release were 473 war ration books, 197 funeral cards and 182 mug shots and wanted posters.

Also included were two extremely interesting and unique resources:

Indianapolis Police 1910 Souvenir ReviewIndianapolis Police 1910 Souvenir Review - Dedicated to the Indianapolis Police Department, June the First 1913. Includes a roster and history of the department, along with many photos. This amazing book was filled with names of the officers, along with some history of the department.

Citizens' Mutual Fire Ins. Co. 1883 Members - By-Law No. 9, As Amended, And List of Members of the Citizens' Mutual Fire Insurance Company, Of Kent, Allegan and Ottawa Counties. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1883. This book had over 8,000 names in it.

Many of the items were added to the Family Tree Connection database, which reached the 750,000 name milestone with this update. For a list of the new resources, check out today's Genealogy and How blog post.

Starting the year with over 1.92 million names online, Genealogy Today has set the goal of reaching 2.50 million names by the end of 2007. This will include significant additions to the war ration book and business card collections.

2006 celebrated the 200th anniversary of America's first interstate highway.

Looking back at where we've been, Melissa Slate brings to our attention and important anniversary, and in her article, “The National Road An Enduring American Icon,” gives us a us a brief history of our country’s first interstate highway, suggesting its relevance to better understanding the context of our ancestor’s lives.

New Year, New Ideas

You might have noticed that our home page was recently converted to a blog format. This is just one of the improvements we've planned for 2007 -- all in an effort to make it easier for subscribers to keep up with the latest news, events and exclusive articles.

The entire GenWeekly staff wishes you a healthy and peaceful New Year.

2006 GenWeekly Newsletter Archive

December 14, 2006

December 7, 2006

November 30, 2006

November 23, 2006

November 16, 2006

November 9, 2006

November 2, 2006

October 26, 2006

October 19, 2006

October 12, 2006

October 5, 2006

September 28, 2006

September 21, 2006

September 14, 2006

September 7, 2006

August 31, 2006

August 24, 2006

August 17, 2006

August 10, 2006

August 3, 2006

July 27, 2006

July 20, 2006

July 13, 2006

July 6, 2006

June 29, 2006

June 22, 2006

June 15, 2006

June 8, 2006

June 1, 2006

May 25, 2006

May 18, 2006

May 11, 2006

May 4, 2006

April 27, 2006

April 20, 2006

April 13, 2006

April 6, 2006

March 30, 2006

March 23, 2006

March 16, 2006

March 9, 2006

March 2, 2006

February 23, 2006

February 16, 2006

February 9, 2006

February 2, 2006

January 26, 2006

January 19, 2006

January 12, 2006

January 5, 2006

**This newsletter has been formatted using Adobe Acrobat. In order to view the newsletter you must have Adobe Acrobat installed on your computer.

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Nebo Reporter, December 28, 2006

sample ration book was mentioned in an article, "War Ration books are a hidden treasure," which discussed the war rationing process of World War Two and our related indexing project of the books. The article states, "a new movement is underway to preserve, protect against loss, and share these items of everyday life," and discusses how books can be donated to our project.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Do They Know What You're Doing?

If you run a genealogy web site, you probably (or maybe not) spend most of your time building the business by adding more content, or working on your marketing efforts to drive more traffic to you site. But do you ever ask yourself if the people arriving at your site understand what you're trying to offer them?

Many people (especially earlier this month while I was on a great genealogy tour) ask me what Genealogy Today is all about. And the more often I get asked, the better I get at answering. But, the better I get answering, the more I begin to realize that the Genealogy Today home page wasn't as successful at conveying the same message. [The home page has been improved since I wrote this post]

Often it's the evolutionary process that creates this disparity, so you should expect this to happen if you often engage in a variety of projects -- involving different type of information, or geared towards a slightly different audience.

There are plenty of articles out there on the topic of testing, but they typically measure success based on the number of visitors that complete a specific task. How do you measure whether or not someone understands what you're actually doing after they visit your web site?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Dealing with the proliferation of Paperwork

Christine Sweet-Hart contributed the article, "Managing a Large Genealogical Project", reminding us that New Year's is coming and you want to make a resolution to become better organized than you have in the past.

What greater honor can we give our forbearers?

Melissa Slate contributed the article, "Illuminating the Darkness" offering a collection of seasonal thoughts for honoring our loved ones.

Don't Forget to Record Christmas Traditions

Gena Philibert-Ortega contributed the article, "Christmas Traditions: Past and Present" highlighting websites might help you better understand your traditions and that of your ancestors.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

A Santa Fe Railway Brakeman

There's one source we often don't think to check when doing genealogical research: the special collections of libraries. I was surfing around for railroad employee information and stumbled upon a guide for the A. M. Spratt Railroad Collection.

What an interesting find. A. M. Spratt was born east of Sanger, Texas, on November 15, 1906 and lived there most of his life. He owned a café in Sanger until he became a brakeman for the Santa Fe Railway Company in July, 1943, working on the line from Purcell, Oklahoma to Cleburne, Texas.

The collection, in two letter-sized document boxes, is composed of material collected and saved by A. M. Spratt over the course of his 29 year career as a railroad brakeman. According to the guide, the collection contains employee Information, which consists of a variety of material related to employees, such as forms, seniority lists, rules, regulations, and health information.

This unique resource is open for research to anyone who visits the The University of Texas at Arlington Library, and was donated by Archie M. Spratt on July 30, 1987.

You Always Find a Friend

Genealogy for many is a self-rewarding hobby. Those that find multiple interested family members are among the lucky ones. That's what's so amazing about the Salt Lake Christmas Tour, and it's emphasized by the saying on the back of the tour t-shirts: "I may not find an ancestor, but I always a friend."

And from some of the attendees, I've also heard that you may also find a cousin!

Imagine having breakfast, saying "does anyone have {surname}" and getting a "sure, I do" from across the table. Then after a little exploration learning that you're sitting across from someone connected to your tree!

That's how interesting this tour is. There is a tremendous amount of information sharing among the attendees. And while some say that nothing beats high-speed Internet access, the bandwidth "across the table" often will exceed even the best online capacity.

It's been an exciting week, hearing so many success stories. The combination of having on-site access to the Family History Library and the tour coaches, has led to many genealogical discoveries -- some of which have remained elusive for years.

While many Internet "prophets" predict that the growth of online genealogical information will soon eliminate the need for travelling for your genealogy, nothing will ever be able to compare to this unique "research family" reunion.

Genealogy Library Center Accepting Donations

Here's an interesting project launched by Arlene Eakle (blog). What would you do if you found a large plastic bag full of someone’s genealogy manuscripts? Of if someone brought you 6 1/2 tons of professional genealogy files? Well, Arlene and her associates purchased a large building, remodeled it, and are now accepting genealogical donations.

If you have a genealogy research collection that needs a permanent home, please consider donating your collection to the Genealogy Library Center, Inc.

Friday, December 8, 2006

The Key to Understanding Land Records

Melissa Slate contributed the article, "The Headright Land System of Virginia", highlighting that the study of land records can bring us many important clues into the study of our past.

Churches Offer Historical Information About Family

Alan Smith contributed the article, "Church Records", suggesting that churches are more than just a depository of marriage, death and baptism records, but also living bodies of individuals whom collectively can have a lot of historical information about a family member.

A Treasure Trove of Undocumented Stories

Christine Sweet-Hart contributed the article, "Uncatalogued Correspondence and Notes Can Yield Great Clues for Research", advising not to discount the local library or historical society's uncatalogued correspondence and research notes as they can yield great clues for furthering your research goals.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Find Yourself a Genealogical Niche

If you're a small genealogy business owner, stop posting general information like census data or passenger lists on your site, the big companies will always outpace your efforts. And our industry is seeing an increase in the number of medium companies (e.g. and joining in the fray.

Yes, many genealogists are frugal and will often seek a free source for the information they are looking for, but as these medium companies grow and the bigger companies invest more and more in mainstream advertising, will the next generation of genealogists even think to check your site for these commodity items?

Compound this changing climate in our industry with the glut of keyword-happy Google AdSense web sites, and the visibility of a smaller genealogy web site will clearly be on the decline.

One of the solutions is to hone your collecting skills and expertise on smaller, more unique information sources and then become the best online resource.

Another reason I'm looking at this strategy is that the affiliate marketing opportunities available today (versus several years ago) are more focused on new customer acquisition. By specializing in more unique resources, you have the opportunity to reach individuals that may be interested in genealogy but not actively pursuing the hobby.

For example, a couple of months ago I stumbled upon a World War Two ration book in an antique shop. The book had interesting genealogical information on it, so I bought it. When I got back to the office, I did some research and found that there weren't any online repositories of these little books.

Now, as I'm collecting and expanding the WW2 war ration book database index on Genealogy Today, I'm also attracting military enthusiasts and researchers.

And the last marketing incentive for creating a specialized online resource is the ability to establish links from non-genealogy web site. Developing a highly focused page on the topic will get you good search engine placement, thus webmasters will find your page and link to it. How can they resist when you're the only site with an abundance of information on the topic, right?

The remaining question is how many niches can you establish and still have enough resources to be remarkable in each!

Monday, December 4, 2006

Do You Know What You're Missing?

Leland and DonnaI'm in Salt Lake City this week participating in the Leland Meitzler [pictured right with Donna Potter Phillips] Annual Christmas Tour. I've never been on a research tour before, but have visited the LDS Family History Library many times. Now I get it. Accomplishing in one week that would otherwise take months, (as the MasterCard commercials say) priceless.

This morning kicked off with a session by George Ott who essentially in one hour unlocked all of the mysteries of finding information in The Library. We all know how to use a library right? Well, approaching this library the same way you would your local library will work, but just much, much more slowly.

Then you have the team of professionals coaches at your disposal -- each having a specialty to ensure that you have a resource regardless of the geographic regions that you are most challenged by. The researchers hang out in The Library all week, and all you have to do is stop by, signup for a time slot, and you've got a free appointment. Signup with a research each day of the week and think about how much help your going to get and how much money that would have cost if you had to hire them yourself.

They are really "coaches". They don't tell you "oh, go look that up in the ...". They give you the play by play , "Go to this floor, check this reference book, find the FHL reel and find the document. And then come back tomorrow and we'll talk about the next step." It's really like having a coach on the sidelines helping you get to the goal line.

Most of the coaches also teach classes on various topics throughout the week. Pick the topics you would like a little guidance on. Learn tips and tricks for researching that particular topic in The Library.

Now I'm starting to see the value of spending a week in Salt lake City on the Christmas Tour, and not all tours offer this level of service. Have you ever been on a genealogy tour? Was it anything like this?

Don't Jump.... To Conclusions

Here's a deep thought, what is the truth when it comes to genealogical information? This evening, I attended a talk by Arlene Eakle (blog) who made an interesting statement. She said that documented information is simply information that has its source defined.

Over the years, many people have cautioned about online information and its validity, and I've blogged about anonymous websites and unsourced information that continue to compound the problem. If your a genealogy webmaster, you owe it to your visitors to explain where your information came from, the original source AND who interpreted it. That's another distinction Alrene made. We often say that information was transcribed, which is appropriate for clearly type documents, but for hand-written documents it really is interpretation.

I've learned this first hand with my ww2 war ration book project. My enthusiam oftens clouds my judgment as I didn'r realize what I was getting myself into with this project. I never imagined running around my house to stare at a little book in different lighting with a magnifying glass to figure out what the surname is. My wife now knows if I approach her and hand out a ration book, it means I'm baffled and need a second opinion.

So, sure people have gotten the message about trusting information, but I wonder how many apply that rule to the less professional looking sites. Do they trust the information found on as opposed to some of the personal web pages? Shouldn't they trust

A point was made in another session I attended today that the census data on was actually transcribed (and thus intepreted) in countries where English is not the primary language. And thus the people interpreting the handwritten census records are not familiar with Anglican names. Interesting point.

It seems like all genealogy companies be more responsible with the information they publish by clearly stating who was responsible for the interpretation. Not necessarily name the person (for privacy reasons), but stating a first initial, last name, and regional information (country or state).

I'm going to take a closer look at this topic and consider adding this extra piece of information to the databases published at Genealogy Today. It would probably also be interesting to clarify whether the source was typed or hand-written.

Genealogists should ask the webmaster, or the company providing the information, whether the source was handwritten, and if so, who did the interpretation. Don't just assume that because its online that the transcriber did an accurate job. I can now say with experience that dealing with handwritten documents is not an easy prospect.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Conductor Business Card Images

We picked up six old business cards that belonged to railroad conductors. These have been added to the business card collection at Genealogy Today. Here are the names:

Richardson, F. M.
Cummings, L. J.
Goodspeed, R. S.
Kenyon, C. B.
Lang, J. A.
Darling, W. H.

The business card database, a free online service, currently includes hundreds of railroad employee cards from across the country.

What's Your Weakest Link?

Image obtained from iStockPhoto.comBetween running your business, worrying about year-end accounting, and doing some planning for the new year, it's a challenge to find the time to stop and look at where you're NOT doing a remarkable job. But, perhaps such an exercise may yield better results in the long-term.

If you take a moment and think about what part of your business doesn't quite run as smoothly as it should, or is there a typical business function that you haven't even addressed. This should be part of your planning for the new year. Do what you do better before you attempt to do more.

So, I asked myself last month, what could I do better? The answer was improve my customer service. What if instead of waiting up to two days to get a response from me, customers could get one in a matter of hours? Sounds like a great plan, but how can a small business afford to provide remarkable service like that?

Enter the Virtual Assistant!

The explosion of the Internet created a whole new industry, giving talented people the opportunity to work for companies remotely. Then International Virtual Assistants Association defines a virtual assistant as, "an independent entrepreneur providing administrative, creative and/or technical services."

There are many VA's out there looking for opportunities to fill up a 40 hour work week. The best part of this arrangement is that you can get what you need (say 5 hours of help a week) without having to foot the cost of hiring a full-time (or even part-time) employee.

Interesting, right? So, rather that try to fix the real problem (i.e. I'm wearing too many hats to provide my customers with prompt responses), bring in some extra help to offset it. When you distill down something like customer service (for a small company), it shouldn't add up to more than a few hours a week. (If it's consuming more than that, perhaps you have a weaker link in your business and need to dig deeper)

Several years ago (when the VA thing was starting), I contacted several VA's (and a few contacted me), but could never get past the mental block of what could this person really do for me that I'm willing to pay for. It's really the exploration of what your weakest at, or what you're not even getting to altogether, that will help identify where to invest in outside help.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Researching Ancestors Through Museum Collections

Christina Inge contributed the article, "That Quilt in the Corner", which explains that museums can be a rich source of genealogical material, especially on female ancestors.

Practice good writing techniques, and you will get answers

Karan Pittman contributed the article, "Good Letters Will Get Good Information", offering the perspective that sooner or later every genealogist has to write a letter either to a relative, a stranger, a library or a government entity requesting information for family history.

Pennsylvania Dutch not of Dutch Lineage

Melissa Slate contributed the article, "History of the Pennsylvania Dutch", offering a brief history of the origins of the Pennsylvania Dutch in America.

Friday, November 24, 2006

LDS Family History Library Donation Policy

Gifts of family genealogies, organized collections and other records that contain genealogical information are welcome. You can even write a history of your family and place a copy in the library. Please use the authorized gift form when making a donation. Contact the Genealogical Society of Utah on the fifth floor of the Church Office Building (801-538-2978) for more information on the types of materials the library can accept and how to prepare your materials.

For more details, see Donations to the Family History Library.

The Huguenots settle in America

Melissa Slate contributed the article, "What are Huguenots?", offering a brief history of the French Huguenots.

Legal documents yield a wealth of clues

Karan Pittman contributed the article, "Legal Terms Provide Clues", offering a basic knowledge of legal terms necessary for successful family history research.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Fayetteville Observer, November 23, 2006 was mentioned in Catherine Pritchard's article, "Relatives should be first source for family tree," (which happens to be one of our primary "mantras"). And Thanksgiving is a perfect time to get other family members interested.

Another 1880 Census Resource launched an installment (502,894 records) of its first census today, the 1880 Census. "This is the first of many census indexes that we hope to have at," Paul Allen said. "We want these indexes to be accessible and affordable to everyone." (web site:

Thanksgiving Story

Teenage Thomas Hull's ancestral journey was highlighted in "Student proves ties to Pilgrims" this week in the Yakima Herald Republic. This 15-year-old documented his ancestry back to the ship the Pilgrims sailed on in 1620.

Collection of Funeral Programs Saving Memories

Vincent T. Davis put together a great article for the San Antonio Express-News about a project involving more than 614 funeral programs, dating from the 1940s to the present, that were preserved in the Texana Room at the San Antonio Public Library. "If you don't have any history, then you don't have anything to build on."

If you stumble across an interesting collection, contact your local library to see if they're interested in preserving local history.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Restoring Familial Foliage

Jan James shares a bunch of great tips in "Uncorking the genealogy bottle" an article in last week's San Joaquin County Record. About genealogy as a hobby, "you cannot get away from the history of it that connects your family," she said. "You're almost living their life again."

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

National Adoption Month

Penny Lofton's article "Becoming a forever family" published last week in the The Ocala Star-Banner, and reminds us that November is National Adoption Month, "a month when we pay tribute and thank those who have adopted children and loved them as their own."

Brown University Cataloguing Rare Maps

Here's an article from the Boston Globe about a new project at Brown Univ. to catalogue a collection of rare maps. "Officials say the push to catalog the artifacts -- some brittle with age, and many dating back 100 years or more -- will make them more accessible to the public and help those interested in urban studies, genealogy and other research areas."

The Value of Old Documents

You'll see me mention the phrases "genealogical" and "family history" value often on this blog, so I thought it would be appropriate to explain the subtle differences. There's a third phrase that I think we're all familiar with, "sentimental" value.

When you find that old "shoebox" in your closet, or your parents, it will be filled with items of different values. And when I'm talking about value, it's not in dollars.

If an item has vital statistics on it or relationship information, then it has genealogical value. An old drivers license may show the date of birth. An old newspaper clipping may list a child's parents. And then there are the obvious documents: birth, marriage and death certificates. But my point is that ANY document with this kind of core information has genealogical value.

Your family tree will identify all of the people you are related to, along with their core information (birth/marriage/death) and their relationships to other people (parent/child). But going beyond the basic genealogy is what I refer to as "family history". What activities filled the lives of the people on your tree? Their education, employment, community involvement, and military service are just a few examples of family historical information.

If you find an item in that mentions a person's name, a date and a place, it has family history value. Things like member lists from clubs and societies, yearbooks, magazines and newsletters from employers, military and Masonic rosters, all offer clues into a person's life. That's family history value.

An item may possess these "values", but be of no use to you -- either you don't know the people mentioned or you're not interested. But, other researchers may be very interested. You may have a item that mentions other individuals in a Lodge or Cavalry unit.

As you approach that trash can with a pile of documents, think about their value before discarding them. Not sure who to give them to? Don't worry, that's what this blog is all about.

Monday, November 20, 2006

World War II Internment Camp Sites

There was an article published Friday in The Honolulu Advertiser about the "120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were unjustly and unconstitutionally detained behind barbed wire during World War II. " In "Senate backs bill to preserve internment camp sites" we are reminded of this very sad but important chapter in our nation's history.

Detailed diary offers invaluable insight

Here's an article from the The Clarion Ledger about The Diary of David Gavin. Families mentioned in the pages are: Aberly (Averly), Appleby, Canaday, Clayton, Firman (Furman), Horn, Hughs (Hughes), Huger, Inabinet, Koger, Moorer, Muckenfuss, Murray, Myers, Pye, Rowe, Rumph, Shuler, Sistrunk, Utsey and West. The article reminds us that "Journal keepers are one of the biggest blessings you can find in your family research."

Coincidently this week, one of our writers, Ruby Coleman, submitted an article, Ancestral Memoirs, on how to locate letters, diaries or journals that contain first hand accounts!

New National Cemetery in South Carolina

There's an announcement on the U. S. Army web site about Fort Jackson being selected as the site for a new national cemetery to be established. Construction is slated to begin in fiscal 2008, with interments beginning about a year after that.

National Family History Day, 2006

According to a post on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services web site, Acting Surgeon General Kenneth P. Moritsugu, M.D., M.P.H., has declared Thanksgiving 2006 to be the third annual National Family History Day. "Over the holiday or at other times when families gather, the Surgeon General encourages Americans to talk about, and to write down, the health problems that seem to run in their family. "

Resources related to the Surgeon General's Family Health Initiative are available at New materials for 2006 include a printable PDF brochure entitled "Before You Start" and a redesigned, user-friendly PDF version of the tool, both of which are available in English and Spanish.

New England Railroad Superintendents

New England Railroad Superintendents 1850 Members - Reports and Other Paper of the New England Association of Railroad Superintendents from the Commencement of the Society to January 1st, 1850. What I find most interesting about this document is that I don't recognize many of the railroad names. They must be early predecessors of other more "famous" lines.

Hess grocery bind Yates family

"Memories of small Hess grocery bind Yates family" in Monday's edition of the The Altus Times and the Frederick Leader provides extensive genealogical details of the YATES family, along with some local history of this family-run grocery store.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Stoner Creek/Stayton Cemetery

"Searching for buried history" published last week in the Central Kentucky News-Journal shares the story of Phyllis and Butch Johnston as they uncovered some of the tombstones from this forgotten cemetery (a rumored burial ground for a Civil War soldier) and attempted to document those interred.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

24-7 Family History Circle, October 22, 2006

Maureen Taylor mentioned our funeral card project in her blog post, "Tips from the Pros: In Memoriam," and states "These cards are genealogical gems–evidence of a death and very collectible."

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Trading or Donating to Create Goodwill

Image obtained from iStockPhoto.comDo you collect stuff? Have you ever noticed that in the process of collecting one type of item, you end up with a bunch of related stuff? I find that this happens often when I purchase lots off of eBay. I don't have any use for this extra stuff, and yet I cannot bring myself to throw it away.

Then I started thinking that this must happen to other collectors as well, so what if I could find people that are looking for things I've accidentally collection that may have stuff I want. When I was a kid I used to trade my duplicate baseball cards with my friends, why not trade some of these items! We've become so accustomed to buying the things we want that the practice of trading has all but faded away.

Now as I'm buying things, I will often ask the seller, "what do you collect?" and then check my inventory to see if I have any matching items. Then (since the stuff has no value to me) I just mail them the items and suggest a trade. That's right, I send them the stuff without striking a deal in advance. Before you dismiss me as crazy, ask yourself how much effort does it take to get the items you collect and then read on.

Here's an example. I collect funeral cards for Genealogy Today. In the process, I get a bunch of holy cards, some blank, some with prayers. Sometimes I'll buy a mixed lot of say 100 cards, of which 20 are funeral cards. Repeat this several times, and you get a large pile of non-funeral cards sitting in a pile.

Now, I can (and have tried to) sell these on eBay and get a few bucks back. Instead, in the process of asking sellers what they collect, I made a friend who collects holy cards and doesn't know what to do with the funeral cards he gets. Viola! An open-ended mutually beneficial relationship. I mail him any holy cards, he mails me funeral cards.

I do the same with unwanted military items to get WW2 war ration books. And am currently looking for someone who collects railroad items so that I can get more conductor business cards and seniority lists.

This has opened up a whole new acquisition channel which is yielding some fantastic results. So much so, that I'm even bidding on lots at the live auctions that I attend just for the purpose of sending to my trading partners.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Antique Book and Paper Shows

Image copyright 2006 by Illya D'AddezioI'm often asked, "where do you find this stuff?", in regards to some of the information published on Genealogy Today. In addition to the network of book dealers, antique shop owners and estate sale managers that look for items that I collect, I attend regional ephemera and book shows.

These shows are really wild as you get to see vendors who collect all sorts of odd paper items (and even some non-paper items like coins, buttons, badges, etc). Sometimes the vendors travel (long distances) to attend, but most are local to the area. As a result, you're able to find items of local interest, as well as, some from other parts of the country.

Perhaps you're reading this and saying, "why bother, I can get anything I want on eBay". Yes, there is a lot of stuff on eBay, but eBay (while a fantastic site) does have its limitations. For example, you'll only find sellers who own a computer and have the time to post their items online. There are many (many) book and paper dealers out there with huge collections that never appear on eBay.

What's more, these dealers have so much knowledge of the items -- how to find them, what they're worth -- that you just can't get the same kind of interaction on eBay.

Image copyright 2006 by Illya D'AddezioMeet Peter Masi. He owns "peter l. masi - books" and this year is celebrating 25 years of bookselling. Peter doesn't have a brink-n-morter store, or an Internet site. He does have an extensive collection of resources, and publishes his own catalogs regularly and mails them to his customers.

What I love about many dealers like Peter, is that they pay close attention to what you're interested in. Duh, that's how they can successfully sell more stuff. So, by attending these regional shows and meeting people like Peter, you can have a bunch of "content agents" out there looking for the items you wish to collect.

If you'd like to get on Peter's mailing list, send him a note: peter l. masi - books, po box B, montague, MA 01351.

Yes, I do purchase many items from eBay, but you should see how full my truck is after attending one of these shows. Just the postage and time savings alone makes it worthwhile.

Sunday, April 9, 2006

Always On the Job!

Genealogy Today JacketPeople kid me about my Genealogy Today jacket, but I think it’s important as a small business owner to follow the creedance that you’re always on the job. The jacket accomplishes two things. First, it’s an amazing advertising tool. I’m 6′3″, so I make a good billboard.

Second, it’s a reminder for me to be “on”. One of my mentors in the business world once told me that when you’re behind the closed doors of your office, you can relax and let your emotions show. But when you’re on the floor, “it’s showtime” and you should be upbeat and positive about the job we’re doing. So, in a way, the jacket is my uniform, and when I’m wearing it I’m ready for anything.

It is a bit strange, however, to be standing on line (this happened to me in the post office) and all of the sudden the person behind you begins talking to the jacket (or the back of my head). But its a great way to strike up a conversation.

One fellow genealogy webmaster whom I have a great deal of respect for is Bill Cribbs (check out his site Genealogy Buff). He’s really perfected the “always on” approach to promoting his web sites, but he takes the concept even further by not only mentioning his site, but first engaging the strangers he meets to get enthused about doing genealogy. He really promotes genealogy first, and his site second.

I think in part, that’s what I am hoping to accomplish. Certainly I want people to visit my site, but I’d like them to get excited about digging into their ancestry. But all too often I switch into “marketing man” and chat up my site.

SUV with Genealogy Today MagnetYou may also be walking through a parking lot in the tri-state (NJ/NY/CT) area and stumble upon my SUV (well, it’s really for Moon, our show dog). As you can see in the picture, the SUV is often “on the job” as I am about town running errands.

Again, it’s serving a useful purpose as an advertising tool, however, it’s a bit embarrassing to come out of the grocery store and see two older women standing by your car chatting about the magnet they just saw. But, put on my happy face, give them a Genealogy Today card (so they don’t forget the URL), and Moon and I resume our travels.

My point of this blog is that even the little things can make a difference. Even if you’re running a web site that gets thousands of visitors a day, they may only see your site and never get that feeling of it being “real”.

When people SEE me with the jacket, or my truck, they feel a personal connection with the web site. They know there is a real person behind the scenes, and he’s just an average guy who even does the family grocery shopping. And it’s that confidence that leads to more word of mouth communication.

Paul Allen (often referred to as the “other” Paul Allen) recently blogged, Are You Talking to Your Customers?, where he explains the benefits of speaking to the people who use your products and services. Paul, by the way, was one of the co-founders of (and the subsequent company

It is just as important as talking to the people that know your site, as it is to talk to people who don’t. One of the questions I always ask people is “what do you think a web site called Genealogy Today would offer?”. I chose the name back in 1999 because I wanted to develop a site that focused on new and unique ways to research (and resources to search).

But just because that’s the vision in my mind, it doesn’t mean that it will make the same impression on others. Getting this candid public feedback gives me ideas for features that might enhance the site, and also warns me of possible expectations that the site doesn’t (but could) fulfill. The last thing I want is for people to land on the home page and think “this isn’t what I expected.”

Friday, March 31, 2006

Striking a Genealogical Balance

Image obtained from iStockPhoto.comAs 2005 came to an end, I thought about possible resolutions for 2006. One of the things that has bothered me lately are the emails I get complaining that Genealogy Today is just another paid site.

It always strikes me as odd, when the site (launched in 1999) didn’t have any subscription databases until the end of 2003. But when visitors voice their impressions, I do listen.

While I am not a Buddhist, I do put a lot of credence into the philosophy that everything should be in balance. I follow this in my personal life all the time through the holistic therapies and remedies I use for any ailments. So, why shouldn’t I apply it to my business.It made me think back to June 2000, when acquired RootsWeb. The announcement said, “the acquisition will provide the site the financial backing to expand its focus on preserving, sharing, and exchanging family history research. The site will expand with additional technology tools, increased family research content and a greater range of genealogical resources.” Did RootsWeb really need to be supported? Or were there higher powers at work trying to put MyFamily back into balance?

Well, this was unlikely a holistic action to balance their growing collection of subscription information, but it did give me the idea for my resolution. Well, at first, it just made me wonder what the ratio of subscription versus free data was.

I’d always had plenty of free content, both organic and through acquisitions, but never thought to monitor the quantity of free versus paid names. So, I added a feature to an administrative page that I have to show me the exact counts of all paid a free databases. And, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the site was not too far out of balance at 56% paid.

So, since then I have been resolved to getting (and maintaining) the site’s data collection at a more exact balancing point. And I am pleased to share that since February this goal has been achieved and the ratijavascript:void(0)o has stayed at 50% (+/- 0.75%) ever since.

Whether it’s the free vs. paid issue, or original content vs. affiliate links, you should always try to maintain a reasonable balance. Have you looked at your own site lately? How balanced is it?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Acadian-Cajun Roots

Sample image of Acadian CD-RomToday we announced the online release of The Acadian-Cajun Family, a database of more than 1.2 million records developed by Yvon Cyr over the past ten years. Yvon is a remarkable person who, after enduring a lifetime of incredible challenges, remains committed to his heritage and helping others trace their Acadian ancestors. Being able to collaborate on an online offering of this information was a wonderful opportunity.

Read our press release, “Tracing Acadian-Cajun Roots for Genealogists“.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Did You See What I Published Today?

Images obtained from iStockPhoto.comI read an interesting blog post today on a Geek Blog by Phil Burns. He said his company instituted the following doctrine for it’s employees: “If the customer didn’t see it, you didn’t do it.” What a great creed for publishers (webmasters and bloggers ARE publishers, by the way).

For a long time I have given myself the goal of posting something of value to genealogists every weekday on Genealogy Today. But reading this doctrine made me wonder if those countless efforts had ever been seen by anybody, and thus according to Phil, had I actually done them?

I have no way of measuring my net accomplishments, but I can share with you the steps I took to make sure that, at a minimum, the things that I published could be seen.
  1. Did I put appropriate keywords in the META tag?
  2. Does it appear in the site search?
  3. Can I find it on my site map?
  4. Does it deserve a home page link?
  5. Is it newsworthy? (then it goes on my news page)
  6. Is it pressworthy? (then I write a press release)
  7. Is it buzzworthy? (then I’ll post it to some lists)
  8. Is it linkworthy? (then I’ll message a few webmasters)
  9. Should I add it to my site history page?
  10. Did I mention it in my weekly newsletter?
  11. Should I blog about it on my corporate blog?
That’s right, I go through this list at the end of every day to make sure that whatever I’ve published can be found by my visitors. (#11 is a new addition to the list)

In looking at this list, however, I noticed that I don’t have a “what’s new” page. I’d like to get some comments on whether or not genealogists find “what’s new” pages useful when visiting sites.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Being a Smart Affiliate Partner

Image obtained from iStockPhoto.comIn the online world there are several ways to generate revenue; you can sell things, you can seek paid advertising or you can join an affiliate program and earn money for referrals.

When you sell things, you are always thinking of better ways to present your products or services. You try different ways to draw in visitors and analyze your page layout to make sure the purchase process is simple and efficient (otherwise visitors won’t make it all the way through).

When you add banner or text advertising to your pages, you usually plop them in the highest trafficked and/or visible places. Since most webmasters settle for CPM advertising relationships, impression volume is all that matters.

So, why do many affiliates treat affiliate relationships like advertising? Yes, it is true that with any affiliate program, shear volume should yield sales. But, why waste all that traffic?

As an affiliate partner, you’re an extension of the partner company’s sales and marketing department. You’re effectively selling (or pre-selling) their products or services.

While you still want to focus some attention on placing creative that yields a solid clickthru rate, you also should consider whether the landing page for each creative produces the best sales per click.

The partner may offer two search boxes that have comparable clickthru rates, but one may yield more sales. Commission Junction offers EPC (Average Earnings Per One Hundred Clicks) calculations with all the creative. This is a helpful calculation for comparing similar creative.

Remember, however, that all web pages are not alike, and so the program-wide statistics you see may be distorted. For example, a US Census creative might show a high EPC, but there may be sites in the program that are census-oriented and draw in traffic looking for census data. These kind of sites will probably achieve a higher EPC for a census creative than your site if it is less focus on the topic.

My own web site, Genealogy Today, is a pretty generic site and with a specialized piece of creative like a US Census banner I would never see the EPC that say a census-centric site like would. So, pick creative that best matches the needs of your own unique visitors.

That’s not to say that you should avoid creative that doesn’t match your site’s focus. It’s always good to have some in the mix as your visitors may actually check our you site and not find what they’re looking for. Just recognize the performance of these creatives may not match the EPC listed.

One of the most important factors in selling things on a site is to make sure you clearly state what the product or service offers. For products, it’s key to layout all of the attributes down to size, weight and a clear, readable picture is essential. For services, it’s important to spell out the terms, benefits and any deliverables.

You’re pre-selling a partner company’s product or service, so you should do some of the same things you would if you were selling it yourself. Look at the creative you’re using and ask yourself if the visitors know what they’re getting when they click on it.

Think about your own objective. You want visitors to click on the creative and do something — preferably make a purchase. You can send blindly send 1,000 visitors and hope to make a few sales. Or, you can selectively send fewer, more qualified visitors.

A “red flag” goes up in my head whenever I look at a performance report and I see clicks increase without a relative increase in sales. That red flag usually indicates that I’m not doing my job in pre-selling. (Yes, it could also mean the affiliate partner landing page is lame, but I rarely can control that. It could also be that the partner changed the landing page)

I find the following tactics to be the most effective at whittling away unproductive clicks:
  1. Make sure partner company name is clearly displayed,
  2. Make sure it is clear MONEY is involved (nothing is free),
  3. Provide an alternative, more direct click.
Let me explain #3. Visitors like options. Many like shortcuts. Say, for example, you’re displaying a search box that (after clicking) shows the visitor some results and asks them to signup. The “action” button may be somewhere on the page that the affiliate partner feels is the best place, and you’re not likely to change it. So, give your visitors a shortcut before they get there and lose interest.

There’s one last suggestion I want to make, and its one I am just beginning to explore. There’s a feature on Google that I’ve rarely used, but I now see the relevance and think it could be applied to affiliate marketing.

I’ve often thought about the situation where I’m promoting an affiliate (let’s call it “A”) and the visitor is already an “A” customer. They either pass by the creative, or generate an unproductive click. My thought is why not offer something akin to Google’s “Similar pages” feature. This way, if the visitor already knows what “A” offers, you can share with them related sites (that are also affiliate partners).

So, to do a quick recap:
  1. Monitor clickthru rates. Replace low-clickthru creative placed in high traffic areas.
  2. Compare EPC values of similar creative.
  3. Match creative to your own visitors, but mix in some unrelated stuff also.
  4. Make sure partner identity is clear on creative, or add it yourself with text or modify graphic (if program rules allow).
  5. Clearly show where $$$ are involved.
  6. Provide shortcuts to action pages.
  7. Try offering related alternatives.
There are plenty of “tricks” and slightly-deceptive ways to drive clicks to affiliates, but if you give me 1,000 visitors, I’d rather send each of them to a place where they are most likely going to act, rather than rely on “chance” that some of them will.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Movin’ On Up…

We recently relocated our offsite storage, and it has made our lives so much better. The former 100 sq. ft. location has been replaced with a 300 sq. ft. space complete with shelving and two workspaces.

Running a small business, you’re always looking to cut corners. But what price can you put on efficiency? Time is a critical asset for a business owner, so anytime you can streamline a process, you should do it. It can free you up to work on other aspects of the business, which can generate more revenue.

The mail order business of Genealogy Today has been growing, and I finally realized that too much (unneccessary) time was being spent everyday fulfilling the orders. In the old space, everything was in boxes and if my memory lapsed even a little bit, I could waste upwards of an hour trying to locate a product. Plus, when there was a recent trade show, some of the inventory would still be crated up and in another location. And newly purchased inventory often would still be in my house waiting to be carted off to the storage space.

With this new setup, orders are fulfilled quicker and with less effort (and frustration). Customers are happier because they get their goodies sooner, and I’m spending less time away from my office — thus, I have more time to spend expanding our databases.

Don’t underestimate the ROI of expanding your company’s space. Factor in the time-savings involved with better organization, easier access and more clearly defined operational procedures.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

BYU’s 2006 Computerized Genealogy Conference

click to enlarge The BYU Computerized Genealogy Conference was held from March 10-11 in Provo, Utah, and Genealogy Today attended (Room 2277, Booth #23) for the first time. This conference is designed to be a how-to guide for everyone, including beginning, intermediate, and advanced researchers. Pictured to the right is our booth (click on it to see an enlarged version of the photo).

Betty Lindsay (editor of GenWeekly) handled the Genealogy Today booth and gave the following report: “They have a pretty good-sized group at the conference. The parking lot has been completely full, and they have five simultaneous sessions going on at any given time. We had a good crowd on the first day. We went through almost three bags of the letter openers [giveaways]. The people coming to the table were quite interested to know who we were and what we had to offer.”

“Not many students coming through, although one of the vendors in our room is from the BYU computer science department (check out I’ve also seen a few presenters, some of whom may be faculty. But mostly what I’m seeing is the average conference-goer, and quite a few Family History Center managers/directors, asking when we will have a library subscription option. We are also in the room with a new company, Acentra, and”

The featured presenters for this conference were Curt B. Witcher and Alan Mann. Mr. Witcher is the department manager for the Historical Genealogy Department of the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana. And Mr. Mann is a manager of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

BYU also hosts a Genealogy and Family History Conference in August. This year’s theme is Strengthening Ties That Bind Families Together Forever.

Sold to the Highest Bidder!

Old Feed Mill Auction CenterThis week I attended (and participated in) my first LIVE auction. Wow! What an unbelievable 3 1/2 hour rush!

It took place at the Old Feed Mill Auction Center in Boonton, NJ [map]. Jack Wootton and his family have run these for years, and you could see that there were quite a few “regulars” in the audience. They do both antique and paper auctions.

I arrived at 3:00pm for the preview, and had already reviewed the catalog of the 1,999 lots to be auctioned that night. During the preview you can check out any of the items that you are interested in.

Then at 5:30pm, everyone takes their seat and the fun begins. They explain the basics, but there were a few things that I didn’t know, but quickly learned. For example, when they call a lot, if noone bids on it, then it gets added to the next lot. Well, I was quite surprised to find out that after winning the first item I bid on (a box of art books), I had actually won 10 other boxes of books!

By the time we reached the final lot, I was exhausted. Aside from the excitement of bidding on items, you also have to keep carrying the stuff out to your car since there’s not a lot of room where you’re sitting. I can see now why some people brought a friend along.

So, while I expected to drive home with 6 or 7 items (mostly club and society rosters and some yearbooks), the truck was fully loaded with crates and boxes of old stuff.

eBay certainly offers a lot of content acquisition opportunities, but none of the excitement of being at a live auction. And while I do enjoy attending book shows, flea markets, estate sales and the occasional garage sale, live auctions now rank #1 for ephemera-seeking thrills.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Library Discards — End of the Line? Or not?

Images obtained from iStockPhoto.comAs genealogists, we cherish historical information about our ancestors — especially when they’re not politicians, celebrities or otherwise renowned. Several years ago I began harvesting books and ephemera that contain lists of people associated with groups and activities. Along the way, I’ve found that some of these great resources have actually been library discards. So why did these books get discarded?
Most libraries need to get rid of, or “cull”, books at the same rate that they acquire them; otherwise, they would run out of space. They usually sell these books to the public, or in lots to dealer, to raise funds for additional acquisitions and library services. The librarian must face a difficult task — which old books to discard to make space for the new ones?

I would love to see more (non-dealer) outlets for libraries to have for discarding books of a historical nature. With a quick look online, I did find Better World Books, an organization that helps libraries sell off their discards. Unfortunately, included in their listing of “What type of books/materials does Better World Books not accept”, are telephone books, tax documents, government documents, directories OR any damaged books/materials not suitable for sale.

The State of Rhode Island web site has a page about “Selling library discards and donations on eBay,” so I guess it is possible to purchase these discarded items directly, although I don’t believe any of the books I’ve obtained via auctions have been from libraries. (As an aside, they mention a cool website to help determine what to charge for a book:

I will probably post something to the Librarians Serving Genealogists mailing list to see if they have any ideas on how to best channel discarded historical items. It’s a great list, by the way, for understanding the issues and challenges reference librarians face.

For any librarians reading this post, Genealogy Today will gladly reimburse you for the costs involved with packing and mailing discarded books to us. We’re looking for books with lists of names. Examples include masonic rosters, club and society member lists, church directories and school yearbooks or catalogues. Our mailing address is P.O. Box 911, New Providence, NJ 07974. Please address the packages to “Genealogy Today, Dept. LD” and include a note stating your packing costs. PLUS, if the book does not meet our needs and I am able to auction it off, you’ll get 100% of the sale price (less ebay/Paypal fees).

Monday, March 13, 2006

Get Inspired to Retire — Super Ideas!

Get Inspired to Retire: Over 150 Ideas to Help Find Your Retirement We received a letter on March 13, 2006, from Kaplan Publishing informing us that Genealogy Today was THE family history web site featured under the topic “Dig for Your Roots” (page 40) in a new book entitled, Get Inspired to Retire: Over 150 Ideas to Help Find Your Retirement. Authors David Saylor and Greg Heffington wrote, “Tracing a family genealogy is a legacy for your children, grandchildren, and great-granchildren. No matter how insignificant something sounds to you today, it may be invaluable to future generations.” Great advice! The ideas in this colorful guide will help you plan for and make the most out of your retirement.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Looking for Sites with Automated Research Tools

The bottom line is that I’m a lazy person. Many would disagree and say I’m a hard-working individual, but the truth is that I don’t like having to do more than is necessary. So, when it comes to technology, I feel the computer should earn its keep. The same goes for web sites. The problem I find with online research is that with good genealogy sites (i.e. ones that add new information regularly), you have to keep going back to see if they add something you’re looking for. Shouldn’t the site (not the webmaster) be able to tell you instead?

Back in 1998 (seems like ages ago), I had the idea to equip my personal web sites with a tool that would allow visitors to be notified of new user contributions by email. I called it GenWatcher, and it is still a popular feature of my sites at the D’ domain. [Read the 1998 announcement, “Test Drive Our New GenWatcher Service“] It wasn’t very sophisticated. Basically you entered a surname and your email address, and whenever someone else added something to one of our databases, the site (while it was saving the information) would check the GenWatcher list and send an email to anyone who was looking for that particular surname.

Surname Tracker - The Genealogy Research Agent (click for close-up)The idea received such good feedback, that a similar service was developed for Genealogy Today in 2003 called Surname Tracker (sample email pictured right). The difference with this new service is that it has access to much more information, and can tell registered users when new names are added to our databases. By the way, I use both of these services for my own research — you never know who may add some D’Addezio information! Well, the Surname Tracker is quite popular, with over 45,000 people registered and monitoring their surnames.

In 2002, the web site CousinConnect added a query notification service similar to our GenWatcher, but for their genealogy query boards. They even added a twist — you can decide if you want to be notified for “exact” surname spellings, “partial” surname spellings, or “soundex” matches.

Then sometime in 2003 (as I can best recollect), finally added an equivalent feature that is now simply labelled “names and locations I’m researching” (it’s under the My Research tab). Later, when they introduced their Obituary collection, they added another agent service called Obituary Hunter. The web site still says it is in a “beta period”, but it been around since December 2003 when I added D’Addezio to my account. I never used the former service, but just added my surname and a few variations as I’m writing this post. It’s simple to do.

While I’m excited that people are using and benefiting from these services, the lazy part of me wants to know when we’re going to see more of them and/or better technology to make this easier for smaller sites to accomplish. Well, perhaps it has!

As many blog readers have learned (some unknowlingly), there is a new technology, called RSS, that allows you to read news feeds offline and quickly and easily see what’s new. You’ve probably seen the little orange XML boxes and others like “+ My Yahoo!”. These are the links for adding an RSS feed to your reader. So, how well could this technology apply to a SURNAME feed?

To my knowledge, CousinConnect is the only genealogy web site to offer a service of this nature. From their home page, search on your surname and then on the results page, scroll down and on the right hand column you’ll see “RSS Newsfeed” and those familiar buttons. Add the RSS feed to your reader and you’ll always see the latest queries for your surname. I just added D’Addezio!

This seems like the right direction for web sites to follow, but I’d like to get some comments from anyone who has used it (or the other services). I imagine it would be great if all sites with real data could provide a similar feed and then every morning when you opened up your reader (e.g. My Yahoo!) you’d see what ancestors have awoken with you.

I’m thinking of adding a similar service to Genealogy Today, and extending it beyond the bounds our own databases by offering to index new information posted by other webmasters. We already do index some other sites, but if I added RSS surname feeds, I would probably expand this to index others.

If you are aware of any other sites that offer either an email-based agent or RSS surname feeds, please let me know.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Anonymous Genealogy

Everyone has pet peaves, right? Well one of mine is the proliferation of genealogy web sites with little or no identification of the owner and/or the source(s) of their information.

How would you feel if you went into a library, picked up a book on your favorite subject and after reading it, wanted to know more only to discover that there is no author or bibliography listed!

The Internet is a publishing platform, and yet so many of the established standards adhered to by authors (for as long as there have been printed documents) have gotten lost along the way.

The webmasters of these sites fall into two categories: those that don’t realize what they are doing, and those that deliberately don’t want you to know who they are. This post certainly will have no impact on the latter.

Genealogy is a hobby with tremendous emotional impact. As people discover information about their ancestors it can affect their lives. So, it is critical that we (as an industry) make sure that the information we publish is accurate and properly sourced.

It’s one thing for a genealogist to be sloppy with their research, but it’s simply unacceptable for webmasters to do likewise.

Well, here’s the bad news. There is no one policing the Internet, so we have no one to turn to for help. The only solution is for YOU, the genealogist, to demand better quality of information from webmasters.

If you come across a web site and cannot tell who created it, or where the information came from, write to the webmaster and complain. Let them know that you want to use their information, but cannot TRUST it without them coming out of their shell.And if you cannot find a way to contact the webmaster on their site, contact me and I’ll do my best to help you identify the owner.

Of course, this does make me wonder if there is a need in our industry for some sort of service where you can find out who is responsible for a certain web site. Hmmmm…

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Look Who's Talking Genealogy

It’s great to see new technology come along, but it’s even better to see it applied to the field of genealogy. What am I talking about? Podcasts!

Podcasts differ from traditional internet audio in two important ways. In the past, listeners have had to either tune in to web radio on a schedule, or they have had to actively download individual files from webpages.I recently purchased a Samsung SCH-a950, the V Cast music phone, and now download these pods every week to my phone and listen to them in the car or anytime that I’m hanging around.

Here are two shows from some familiar names:

The Genealogy Guys - A weekly genealogy discussion by George G. Morgan and Drew Smith (new podcast every Sunday night)

DearMYRTLE’s Family History Hour - Great guests and excellent regular features. (new podcast every Tuesday night)

I hope this trend continues and more “shows” begin to appear. Please give me your feedback on these shows (e.g. length, format, topics covered, etc).

Podcasts are more flexible and much easier to get. They can be listened to at any time because a copy is on the listener’s computer or portable music player, and they are automatically delivered to subscribers, so no active downloading is required. More information…

For a listing of additional shows and details for how to get on our upcoming episode notification list, visit the Genealogy Podcast Schedule and Audio Guide at Genealogy Today.

St. George Jamboree 2006

click to enlarge The Genealogy & Family Heritage Jamboree was held on Feb. 10th and 11th in St. George, Utah, and Genealogy Today attended (booths #120/119) for our second year. Pictured to the right is our booth (click on it to see an enlarged version of the photo)

This event was sponsored by My Ancestors Found’s very own Holly Hansen and Jenni Johnson. Holly was the Jamboree Chair, coordinating all aspects of the event during the past year. Jenni did massive amounts of work behind the scenes including the website, marketing collateral, the program, the 300+ page syllabus and so much more.

Dick Eastman (blog) wrote “My Ancestors, Inc. and the volunteers from the Washington County PAF User’s Group staged a first-class genealogy conference with lots of presentations from some of the leading genealogy experts of today. The vendors’ hall was full of exhibitors and often was full of attendees.”

Our own Betty Lindsay (editor of GenWeekly) handled the Genealogy Today booth, sharing the exciting developments on our site and all of the unique information we have available.

The funeral cards drew a LOT of interest. People were really intrigued. It set them to thinking about what kinds of things could be used as resource material, and it provided a great lead-in to talking about the other “unique” sources we have in the Family Tree Connection.

This show has really seen some great growth with over 1,000 people attending (although the Dixie Center estimated traffic at well over 2,000), and has become a great event to kick off the year’s conference schedule. If you’re not familiar with St. George, it’s in the southern part of Utah, and just a short drive from Las Vegas.

You can count on us being there in 2007! (Scheduled dates are Feb. 9th and 10th)

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Do Less with More?

Seems like the opposite of what some companies are doing, however, it also may be the right tactic for the challenging financial times we’ve been facing since 9/11. Well, this is my mantra for 2006 and I’ll explain why.

If you’ve been to a national genealogy conference in the past few years, there are always a bunch of small booths, and then there is the BIG one. Yes, the Heritage Creations booth run by Leland Meitzler (blog). The vast quantity of books and CD’s and the unique displays for concentrating his inventory in a relatively small area, were an impressive feat.

Well, much to my surprise, Leland blogged that Heritage Creations [was] Filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, and spelled out the history of how his company arrived at this point. Leland and I have exchanged emails over the years, and even had the pleasure to meet and hang out at the 2005 NGS conference in Nashville, TN.

Recently, Leland said something to me that struck a chord. He “wasn’t making a profit at [genealogy conferences] and wasted a lot of valuable time chasing around the country.” It sounded to that he was trying to do more with less (income in return).

Was I following, albeit at a smaller scale, in his footsteps? I reflected on the things I’d accomplished with Genealogy Today, and decided it was time to focus on those things that I was really good at (i.e. core strengths), and had the potential to generate revenue.

Another recent event in our industry was the extensive, Inc. layoff. Dennis Partridge (blog) wrote about the “tragic loss for the employees and families involved,” which I don’t dispute. But the real messages, and the people to “blame”, are that (in my opinion) management allowed the company to grow too rapidly and invested energies in areas that offered less value to the organization.

Rather than haphazardly expand my holdings with smaller, less valuable content month after month, my plan is to stay focused, measure every opportunity against a more refined set of criteria, and begin to grow the company at a faster (yet managable) rate.

If someone were to ask you, “what exactly does your company do?”, would you have a clear answer for them? The ease of Internet technology and the abundance of information floating around us promotes a “heck, why not” kind of attitude when it comes to new prospects. Don’t go adrift, identify your core competencies, and build on them.

(Genealogy Today is an affiliate of, a unit of, Inc.)

Lucky Seven

Image obtained from iStockPhoto.comThis month celebrated its seventh anniversary, and just as people get wiser as they get older, so too has the site evolved (slightly) to better reflect it’s core strengths.

All aspects of the company have been adjusted to follow a more focused direction, everything from how frequently we publish articles, to how we want to appear in search engines, to the messages we give in our printed advertisements, and to the creation of this new blog-formatted corporate site.

The revised home page highlights our emphasis on providing information through articles, news and databases. We moved the search box to top position of the page, and moved the key feature links higher up.

With theses superficial changes, come serious growth in the data we provide. Beginning in 2006, we’ve set a goal of adding 10,000 new names every week. Because we are a firm believer in the importance of balance (you know, Ying/Yang), we’ve also set an internal mandate to ensure that we maintain an equal level of free versus paid information in the databases (collectively).

What’s the ultimate goal? To continue providing our visitors with meaningful value, the most professional service, and establishing long-term relationships built on trust and our integrity. The goal hasn’t changed, but how we approach it has.