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Reaching out to genealogical & historical societies — early results

Posted On: July 19th, 2008 | Posted by: Dean


It’s been a heads-down week here at Genlighten.com, with pretty much every spare moment devoted to trying to recruit more genealogy researchers to our lookup provider network. Beginning last Saturday night, we began composing and sending out individual e-mails to around 760 genealogical societies in the US and Canada. Our basic pitch was simple. It boiled down to:

“We’re building an e-commerce platform dedicated to making it simple to offer fee-based genealogy lookups. If your volunteers sign up to provide lookups through our site on behalf of your society, we’ll return 90% of the fees they earn to you. In return for our 10% commission, we’ll handle payment processing, tracking of incoming lookups, communication between client and provider, etc..”

The last of the e-mails went out last night. Here are some stats we’ve gathered thus far:

  • Number of messages sent out: 759
  • E-mail addresses that bounced: 68
  • Societies that weren’t interested: 5
  • Societies considering our site: 15

Those numbers definitely tell a story, though I’m not sure yet exactly what it is. Here are some preliminary reactions:

  • The bounced addresses all came from sites that I’ve visited within the last several months. Admittedly, some said they hadn’t been updated since 2001(!) so I anticipated plenty of undelivered messages. But it’s still kind of jarring to think that almost 10% of county genealogical sites that currently exist aren’t being actively maintained.
  • Several of the societies that wrote back to say they weren’t interested explained, in polite terms, that they were philosophically opposed to charging for lookups as a source of revenue. That’s a sentiment I both understand and respect. Only one message thus far had any hint of “we’re morally above any such thing.”
  • Many of the interested respondents indicated that they’d need to consult their society’s board of directors before proceeding. That certainly makes sense. But it hadn’t dawned on me that it might be a while before they would next meet. So perhaps some of those “no response” societies will meet and get back to me over the next month or so.

All in all, I’m cautiously optimistic about these results.  Now that we’ve made an initial effort to inform genealogical societies about our online lookup marketplace, we plan to expand our recruiting efforts to encompass an even broader potential audience.  This coming week, we’ll be reaching out to APG members and other fee-based genealogy researchers who we’ve learned about through exhaustive web searches.  Wish us luck!

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