Monday, September 1, 2014

An Open Letter to MyCanvas Users

As Ancestry announced recently that they are shutting down MyCanvas as of September 5th, we have been inundated with calls from their concerned users about how they can print charts.  Of course we'd love to help, and while what we offer is a little different, they may find options with us that go beyond what MyCanvas could provide.  I thought you might be interested in what we've been sending out to inquires that come through email:

Hi...
When we create a decorative genealogy chart, we put together a preview and mail you a link to it so you can check it and make sure it is what you are envisioning and the information is all right.  We can create virtually any design you can describe to us.  We work back and forth with you with previews until it is perfect and then when you give us the ok we'll take payment and print and ship it to you.  You can look at some of the custom charts we have done in the past here:  https://familychartmasters.com/php/custom.php and here:http://thechartchick.blogspot.com/search/label/charts.  Unlike the set styles in MyCanvas, anything you can dream up we can do for you here. 

We also do what we call working charts that go far beyond the capabilities of MyCanvas. Here you let us know what you want, ancestor, descendant, etc, you tell us the number of generations, and who you want to start with.  Then we create the chart, we print on inexpensive paper and then ship it to you.  We don't include a preview on these in order to keep the pricing low.

To download your family tree from Ancestry: When you are logged in, scroll down on the home page to where you can see your family tree box (under the "recent activity" box).  Click to "view this tree".  At the top of the tree you'll see "tree pages" with a down arrow.  Click once on the down arrow and you'll see the menu item "tree settings."   On the right you will see a green button that says "Export Tree"  After processing, the button will change to say "Download your gedcom file."  Click on that button and save the file to a place where you will remember where it is (the desktop is a good place to put it if you are unsure.) 

Give us a call and we will help you in uploading the information to Family ChartMasters.  Or you can go to https://familychartmasters.com/php/upload.php and follow the directions there to upload it to us.  You can also upload any graphics that you want included in your chart.  As soon as we hear from you, we'll take a look at the file and get right back to you with options for sizes and prices and a mock up if you are looking for a decorative chart.

As another option, we can also print straight from your Family Tree Maker file.  You are welcome to send us any FTM file or backup and we can take your family information from the file to create a decorative or working chart.  Or if you want to create a chart in FTM yourself, just save the chart in your file and then send it off to us through our free consultation.  Just let us know the name of the saved chart and we can pull it up and print it on any of our seven papers. 

Please don't hesitate to call us if you are having any trouble with it.  We are happy to walk you through it over the phone at 801-872-4278  We want to make it easy on you.  Once you get us the information, we'll take it from there and create what you are envisioning. 

Thank you for your interest in Family ChartMasters, I hope together we can make you a beautiful chart.  Let us know what we can do to make it easy for you.
We hope to hear from you soon.
Thanks,
Janet

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

FamilySearch Blogger Dinner part II

So I promised to tell you about the rest of the blogger dinner.  They had some really interesting things to say about searching on FamilySearch

First Mark Gowan talked about the Record Hints.  They've been there for a while, but they are making things slicker with three new icons.  1) A gold icon for Record Hints.  These are places where indexing has uncovered a document that FamilySearch has been able to determine fits into your tree.  This is the same as the "Record Hints" that were previously on the right hand screen.  But the cute little magnifying class icon fits into other parts of the user experience--the pedigree chart, the descendancy view, etc.  That will help lead alot of the beginner users to the sources more effectively.  A good step in the right direction.  Other icons include 2) a blue icon for Research Suggestions and 3) a red icon for Data Problems.  These weren't really explained, but I'm excited to explore these more.  Anything that brings real research skills closer to the beginner is a good thing.

The power behind these icons is what is important though.  According to Robert Kehrer, FamilySearch has developed a really good algorithm that brings back good hints--not just hints-- an all important distinction.  Robert explained that the algorithm collects all of the person's data, and then collects all of the person's relatives and their data.  They take that whole cloud and compare it with the documents that have been indexed.  Then Robert showed us the new functionality that shows the whole family in that record and puts them on one side of the screen and shows the family from the tree on the other side of the screen.  Seeing those relationships helps a new researcher to make better decisions.  They can then go through and attach the source to each person in the tree.   This is a vast improvement over the previous user interface where you had to attach everyone separately through several steps. 

I applaud the movement toward source centricity and FamilySearch's continued efforts to make it easy for the beginner researcher to get into the documents easily.  This is a great step toward making it easier for newbies to play together with more advanced researchers.  FamilySearch will always need to work more on "newbie proofing"  One of FamilySearch's main agendas is to attract the 90%+ members of the LDS faith to genealogy.  Every step towards making it easy for newbies to focus on documents is a step in the right direction.  And as I've said many times before, that new person may have a box in the attic that solves all of your issues.  We have to love newbies if we are going to thrive as a community. But most of these screens work best with simple documents like the censuses.  Once you get into more complicated documents, it gets a little trickier.

There were the typical concerns in the room about the common tree aspect of FamilySearch.  What about the sources that are hard to interpret?  Once you get out of the censuses it gets trickier.  Judy Russell mentioned a source where her Uncle is listed as Bertie and is listed as a girl when his real name was Bert.  The regular criticism of creating a common tree rather than having individual trees like Ancestry and MyHeritage is that the records aren't clean enough to come to a common consensus.  Robert and Mark had the best answer I've heard yet about FamilySearch's position on that.  He said they are "Idealists" that they believe most of the disputes will come to a consensus.  Lots of people think they are too optimistic.  While there will be some unending disputes, we can hope that they are right.  Time will tell.  I personally love that they ask for a reason when adding a source to the tree and give us a place for discussions.  While that won't help in some sticky situations with ongoing cousin wars, at least they are providing an avenue to capture that all important document *analysis* that most databases have overlooked in the past.  I remember talking to Ransom Love and others about this in our affiliate meetings years before new.familysearch was launched.  Even back then, one could see that the person with the most time to track the database is going to win the dispute--not necessarily the person with the most knowledge.  FamilySearch has always had that optimism.  In a couple more years, it will be interesting to see if the breakdown is 98% settled vs. 2% disputed, or 80% settled vs. 20% disputed, or 30% settled and 70% disputed. One can hope.

It was also good to hear the clearest explanation I've heard yet about copyright issues related to uploading images to the database.  FamilySearch is not policing copyright upfront--they don't require you to click a button to state that you have copyright permission (like we do at familychartmasters.com)  Their approach has been to state in the Terms of Use that the user is responsible for copyright and then deal with any complaints and problems that arise.  Hopefully the users will respect the copyrights of the record holders.  I know I have found some really great stuff that I'd love to add to the database, but really can't--I can only write good source citations that will point people in the right direction.  It was good to hear what the official policy and plan of attack FamilySearch is working with on that.

Finally, the best part of the night was when Robert went to attach a source to a person on the tree and lightning struck outside at that exact moment.  Considering that FamilySearch is sponsored by the LDS church, does that mean that your genealogy research can come with Divine approval?  Now there is something to really hope for. I only wish it could all be that correct.

Report from the FamilySearch Blogger Dinner Part I

I got to go to the blogger dinner last night to catch up on everything that FamilySearch is doing.  It was great seeing everyone and getting a chance to listen to the FamilySearch presenters and have some time to talk to them.  Lots of exciting new things going on.

David Rencher started out by talking about how they are ramping up the camera teams.  They are hoping to have 500 teams around the world doing digitization by next year.  He also said there are 10 images created for every one image that is indexed.  So we are in great need of more indexing.  That's still a great problem to have though.

He also said they are getting better at tracking what is going on in the Family Tree.  They are tracking people with multiple parents (especially many sets of parents--obviously a problem) and that number is starting to go down.  We are making progress on cleaning up the data that was brought in from the myriad of FamilySearch databases when Family Tree was created.  And we are getting better at putting in good data.  So that is good news too.

Then Dan Call spoke about the upcoming RootsTech conference.  I'm really excited about the two lectures they accepted of mine, "Family History Adhesive: The Science of Why History Binds Families and the Simple Tech of How to Do It" and "6 Steps to Choreograph Your Research Across the Internet" (More to come on that in a bit) The theme is "Who Inspires You?"  I don't remember seeing that theme in the call for papers. I wish I had known about it because I might have submitted entirely different stuff.  I'm always talking about being inspired by your family history (for example here and here--besides my books).  I think I have alot to say about that.

One statistic that caught my eye was that in 2013 there were 5250 paying attendees of RootsTech.  And in 2014 there were 5500.  I thought that was interesting that the profitable part of the conference only increased by 250 people.  Yet the exhibitors jumped from 140 to 170.  I think the size of the non-paying attendees (Family Discovery Day, etc.) has made this look like a profitable industry and encouraged new companies to enter the waters, but in reality, the market really hasn't grown that much.  It is disconcerting to me that the expo hall has doubled each year, and is going to double in size next year, and yet the financially vested attendees has not.  This, combined with the fact that a select few RootsTech talks have been broadcast far and wide and spawned a multitude of smaller family history fairs--without vendors--has the potential to affect the industry adversely. 

Next, Bryce Roper talked about the FamilySearch Mobile App that is now available on iOS and Android.  It is looking really good.  It can help you discover something new, add stories and links to the database, quickly add photos of sources with your device's camera, and --coolest part-- create and upload a recording.  Bryce said the recordings can be up to 15 meg (about 30 minutes).  Such a great tool for people to do interviews with.  Soon you'll be able to edit vital statistics and add people to the tree.  I'm excited to see this development as I think it will attract a whole new demographic.  We had seen FamilySearch affiliates try to create a commercial app without success--again disconcerting--but I'm glad the job is getting done.  I wish a commercial app had been a viable option because we need a stronger genealogy industry.  The Memories app is also helping to capture stories and pictures etc but according to Bryce is only available in iOS so far and is not connecting those things to the tree yet.  So more to watch for there.  This is big for youth--of course one of my passions.  I think apps for mobile devices is a game changer for anyone under 30.  It is going to be alot easier to work on this with my kids now. 

We're heading out this morning to get set up for the conference.  Mark Gowan and Robert Kehrer also had some really interesting things to say about searching.  I'll cover that in FamilySearch Blogger dinner part II shortly.  In the meantime, what do you think about these issues? 

Monday, August 25, 2014

San Antonio, Here We Come!

We are heading out for the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference tomorrow, bright and early, and we could not be more excited!  It's happening August 27th-30th in San Antonio, Texas.  Erin is joining me this year and we are so looking forward to seeing many of you there.  We hope you'll swing by the booth to visit us but also to participate in our "Outside the Box" sessions that will be happening in between classes.  We're teaming up with our good friends Lisa Louise Cooke and Maureen Taylor, as well as Diahan Southard on Saturday.  We've joined booth space with Lisa and Maureen before to offer these little mini-classes and it was such a great experience that we decided to do it again.  We really hope you'll look over our schedule and watch for Tweets and Facebook posts to remind your of our classes.  They are free to the public and only 20 minutes long, with two full-length sessions being offered on Saturday.  On Friday I am going way, way "outside of the box" with one of my mini-sessions with a Genealogy Game Show and Pedigree Challenge.  A fun story-telling contest with a twist will be thrown in for good measure.  You'll have a chance to unwind, get silly, and earn prizes.  You won't want to miss it.


I'll be there all week, until Friday night, however, Erin will be staying through Saturday.  I am coming home for a family reunion being held in honor of my great grandparents which I am so excited about.  My mother has been hard at work on a 500 page book that details their lives, including five years (!!!) when they lived in the South Pacific building schools and church buildings.  I have been helping mom with the layout of the book and it has been such a wonderful experience that I just couldn't not be there for the unveiling after mom asked me to come.  Of course I am coming!  Still, Erin will be there on Saturday to visit and help you and the classes will still go on with Lisa, Maureen, and Diahan.  Be sure to come by and see us at booth 218.

You will also want to be sure to sign up for a free e-book and a grand prize drawing from all three of us as well.  If you can't go, feel free to drop me an email at janet (at) familychartmasters (dot) com and I will send you the ebook.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Conference Energy

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

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

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

Monday, July 28, 2014

Conferences

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 24, 2014

I Am Thankful, Part 4

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I Am Thankful, Part 3

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

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

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