Archive for the ‘Genlighten Lookup Providers’ Category

The Genlighten Research Process: Provider View

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Genlighten Report PageIf you’re thinking about offering research services on Genlighten for the first time, you’re probably wondering how the Genlighten website works. In this blog post, I’ll walk you though it from the provider side with a quick summary of the steps involved.

Create a Research Offering
You can find a detailed description of how to post research offerings in a previous blog post titled Five Steps to a Successful Lookup Offering

Watch for Email
When a client requests your services, an email with the subject “Genlighten: New lookup request from” will arrive in your inbox. Please make sure the email address you have listed on your Genlighten account is current and typed correctly so those messages are delivered to you.

Accept or Decline
Review the information the client has provided, message back and forth, if necessary, and accept or decline the request. I usually send a quick note when I accept to let the client know what the likely turnaround time will be.

Do the Research
If a request involves multiple steps, I often upload documents to the report page for safe keeping and keep my notes in the report box. Clients aren’t able to view the report page if you haven’t selected “found” or “not found.” (Do that as a last step.)

Create the Report
Return to the request page and create a three-part report. Upload image(s), type in your report text, and select “found” or “not found.” You can use HTML to format your report, if you’d like.

Charge the Client
Once you’ve saved the report with all three parts completed you’ll be returned to the request page and a “charge client” button will be visible. Edit the report, if needed. When you’re ready, click the “charge client” button to finish the request.

Let the Site Notify Your Client
When you click the “charge client” button an email is automatically generated to let your client know that the research is finished. The email contains a link back to the request page so that he or she can read your report and view/save the images you’ve uploaded. You can continue to message back and forth on the request page and you can also edit the report, if needed.

Get Paid
Your account will be credited with your fee minus our commission when you click the “charge client” button. Funds for new providers are held in escrow for seven days but that period can be shortened or eliminated for providers who have stellar feedback. (If you’re a five-star provider, feel free to contact us about that.) Available account balances can be transferred to your PayPal account by clicking the “Payout” button.

ExpertConnect’s going away. Can Genlighten take its place?

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

At Genlighten, we’ve tried to take the 37Signals approach towards our competitors:

People sometimes ask us how much we look at the competition. The answer: not much. We can’t control what they do. We can control what we do. So we focus on that.

Still, when I first heard about Ancestry’s plans to debut ExpertConnect just a few months before our beta launch in 2009, my stomach experienced one of those roller-coaster drops that tend to characterize startup life.

Now a year and a half later, ExpertConnect is shutting down. When I saw Ancestry’s e-mail in my inbox yesterday, I went through three reactions in rapid succession:

  • Cool, the 800-pound gorilla has left our market… we don’t have to compete with them anymore!
  • Uh-oh. If they can’t make this business work, how can we expect to?
  • Darn… I wish all our marvelous new features were ready to go right now!

Now that we’ve had a little time to process it, here’s our “official” response to Ancestry’s announcement:

To our current clients and providers:

  • Genlighten will continue to serve you in the months and years ahead. We’ve heard your feedback and we’re working hard to implement the improvements and new features you’ve asked for.
  • Our next release is currently targeted for the end of June. We’ll be inviting some of you to test the new version beginning in March or April. You’ll see an upgraded homepage, simplified navigation, a brand-new search capability, internal messaging, and an overall higher level of fit and finish.

To ExpertConnect users considering switching to Genlighten:

  • We’d love to tell you that we’re ready right now to step in and completely fill the void left by ExpertConnect’s departure. We’re not. But we expect to be there soon.
  • When we first launched, we focused Genlighten on offline record lookups rather than hourly research in order to differentiate ourselves somewhat from Ancestry. In response to client and provider requests, we are now revising our strategy. We plan to fully embrace high-end professional research offerings and online searches in addition to document retrieval and record lookups.
  • By joining us now, you’ll have the opportunity to exert a significant influence on the direction we take in response to ExpertConnect’s closure. We’d love to get your help in making Genlighten all you’d like it to be.

Our next release

When our new release is launched this summer, we plan to offer both new and existing users the baseline functionality ExpertConnect had, plus:

  • a flexible and customizable storefront interface optimized for client discovery and frictionless e-commerce.
  • no one-year “lock-in” of clients you acquire through Genlighten
  • active social media marketing of your profile and service listings
  • tools to let you promote your presence on Genlighten via your blog, Facebook, Twitter, Adwords and more
  • analytics to help you understand how to draw more traffic to your offerings.
  • search-optimized research tools for localities and repositories that will attract visitors to the site and spotlight our providers to prospective customers.

How we plan to succeed

Genlighten lacks Ancestry’s global reach, brand awareness, massive staff and financial backing. Still, size and strength apparently weren’t enough to make ExpertConnect “a winner“. [Note the first comment to that linked post on Dick Eastman's blog. It's a particular favorite of mine!]

We think there are some advantages to our small size that will keep us from getting “blown out of the water.” For one thing, we don’t need to make anywhere near as much money as Ancestry required to justify ExpertConnect’s existence. We’re completely bootstrapped, with no institutional investors, so we’re quite content to be a “lifestyle business.” At the same time, Genlighten is our core product, not an add-on to a much larger offering, so you can expect us to be focused on it for the long term. And there’s another upside to our small size: when you call us on the phone or e-mail us, you’re connecting directly with our founding team.


As you can imagine, this is an exciting time for our little startup. We hope you’ll share it with us! If this is your first time here, please explore the site and contact us with your questions and suggestions. If you’ve been with Genlighten for a while, please help us spread the word to your fellow genealogists. Either way, Thank you for your interest and support!

Nine Questions with Ben Hollister

Monday, July 26th, 2010

ben_hollister_profile_imageOn Mondays, I often publish brief e-mail interviews with our lookup providers. This week I’d like to introduce you to Ben Hollister, our first provider from Australia.

From benhollister‘s profile

Ben’s passionate about teaching, history, and information/knowledge management. His extensive educational background includes a sub-major in Australian Culture and History and a Graduate Certificate in Applied History and Heritage. He’s a member of the South Australian Genealogy and Heraldry Society and NGS. On Genlighten, Ben offers lookups covering South Australia vital records (BMD), Australian Army Service Records, and cemetery photos in the Adelaide area.

Nine Questions with Ben

1) How did you get started doing genealogy research?

I have always loved history. My grandmother had compiled a huge amount of family history research, and for some reason all family papers and heirlooms seem to end up with me. I found out so much that I didn’t know that I just had to do more myself.

2) Do you have a genealogy superpower? If so, what is it?

No superpowers here, just the tenacity to try a variety of searches to see if a record exists.

3) Describe a tricky research problem you’re particularly proud of having solved?

When I first started chasing my BOHLMANN family, I found that previous researchers had identified 2 separate Johann BOHLMANNs in South Australia with 2 separate families. After a certain amount of digging, I proved that it was the same person. He had been widowed shortly after arriving and all of his family had died young, then he remarried and started another family.

4) What are the ideal elements you like to see in a well-formulated lookup request?

Details, Details, Details….and dot points (Ed.: otherwise known as ‘bullet points’.) Don’t leave anything out that may even be vaguely relevant, but make sure that it isn’t buried in too much padding.

5) What’s the most interesting record source or repository you’ve utilized in your area?

The General Registry Office (Old Land Titles Section) is fascinating as the Deeds are produced on parchment and contain a history of so many of the early buildings on Adelaide.

6) What technical tools do you use to produce the digital images you provide to clients?

As much as possible I like to scan at about 600dpi, but luckily my wife is a photographer, so when I have to take photos of documents on site, I sneak out with her digital SLR and table tripod!! I use Adobe Photoshop 8.0 to adjust and edit, and Transcript 2.3 to do my transcriptions.

7) Any new lookups you’re considering offering?

South Australian Land records (old and new system), electoral rolls (all of Australia), and any other series from the State Library or State Archives that I can quantify.

8 ) What advice would you give to someone who wants to get started as a lookup provider?

Be really clear about what you want to offer and make sure that your prices are comparable to others for the service level and quality you provide.

9) What other passions do you pursue when you’re not at the archives doing lookups?

That’s funny!!!! Well I sometimes come home and search archives online(for a change), I am always studying (just finished my 3rd post-graduate degree -one in computer science, one in education, and one in applied history), and occasionally my wife pulls me up for air and we work on renovating our house.

Lookups benhollister offers

Nine Questions with Michael Hait

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Michael Hait

On Mondays, I try to publish brief e-mail interviews with some of our lookup providers. (I apologize that I’ve fallen down on this practice lately.) This week’s interview is with Michael Hait.

From michaelhait‘s profile

Michael is a professional genealogical researcher, author of numerous genealogy-related publications and an APG Chapter Vice President. He specializes in Maryland research, African-American genealogy, and Civil War records. On Genlighten, Michael offers a broad selection of lookups, including Maryland vital records, probate records, wills, and land patents. He can also retrieve and digitize Civil War Pension files (Union) from the National Archives in Washington, D.C..

Nine Questions with Michael

1) How did you get started doing genealogy research?

When I was about eight or nine years old, my grandmother showed me a “family tree” that her sister, an LDS convert, had compiled.  This immediately intrigued me, and my grandmother and I began our own “research.”  When I was about twenty, I really jumped into research vigorously, going to the National Archives in Washington DC every Saturday, writing letters to ancestral hometown historical and genealogical societies, etc., and discovered the Rootsweb mailing lists (no message boards yet). I have been researching ever since then.

2) Do you have a genealogy “superpower”? If so, what is it?

I would say that my “superpower” is my ability to locate evidence in records outside of the everyday record groups.

3) Describe a tricky research problem you’re particularly proud of having solved?

I have researched many tricky problems in five years as a professional genealogist.  I am proud of them all, because each of them helps a family understand their heritage more.  But I guess that I would choose a recent case involving an enslaved family, where the official records only offered indirect evidence and confusion ca. 1824. Then I located a family history book that reproduced pages from a family Bible containing all of the slaves’ births!

4) What are the ideal elements you like to see in a well-formulated lookup request?

The most important is to read every word of the offer.  Sometimes there are outside factors that affect a particular lookup, such as years missing in the records due to fire, etc.  If there are special instructions, etc., then there is also probably a reason for them.  But overall, I feel that a well-formulated request should be very specific — it should include an exact name, relatively narrow date range, and specific location.

5) What’s the most interesting record source or repository you’ve utilized in your area?

One of my specialties is African-American, particularly slave, genealogy, so any record group that provides information specific to individual enslaved people or families is of great interest to me.  One of the most interesting record groups I located were registers of claims submitted to the Slave Claims Commissions during and following the Civil War.  These Commissions were established to compensate loyal slaveowners in the border states whose slaves joined the Union Army.

Each register includes the name and location of the slaveowner, and the FULL name (given and surname) of each slave, as well as in some cases other details like the regiment and company in which the slave served.  I am currently in the process of transcribing and publishing these registers.  I have already published the short register of claims of the Delaware Slave Claims Commission, and am finishing up the much larger Kentucky register.

6)  What technical tools do you use to produce the digital images you provide to clients?

I have a scanner with a top-load feeder so that I can scan many pages at once.  I use the free Photoshop alternative GIMP to edit photos, and the free version of PrimoPDF to compile PDF reports.

7) Any new lookups you’re considering offering?

I am thinking of offering several record groups available at the National Archives in Washington, DC. [Update: Michael recently added Civil War pension file lookups to his offerings. See the list below.]

8 ) What advice would you give to someone who wants to get started as a lookup provider?

Knowledge of the records is key to being able to efficiently and effectively search records.  Before offering lookups, be sure to have a lot of experience with the record group.

9) What other passions do you pursue when you’re not at the archives doing lookups?

I am full-time genealogical researcher, so most of my time is spent conducting research, and writing.  When I do have spare time for other activities, I usually spend it with my family, including my beautiful 4-year-old daughter, Mary.

Lookups michaelhait Offers

The Tao of Genlighten Profile Photos

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

When a new user registers on Genlighten, the first thing I do is take a look at their profile page. Have they added a profile photo? If they have, I get excited! It’s usually a sign that they intend to offer lookups themselves or that they plan to be part of our community long-term.

In this post, I want to focus on the impact profile photos can have, as well as options beyond the traditional “headshot”.

Why Bother With a Profile Photo?

I can understand the anxiety that comes with selecting a profile photo or avatar. You might struggle deciding how to represent yourself, and wonder what others will think of you as a result. Nonetheless, it’s worth it!

If you plan to offer lookups through Genlighten, you should really consider adding a photo to your profile. Here’s why:

  • Potential clients will sense an intriguing personality behind the qualifications you list
  • You can make a statement about the kind of lookups you like to do or your motivation in doing them
  • Depending on the image you choose, you can convey friendliness, reliability, or a sense of fun!
  • Going to the effort of completing your profile says something about the effort you’ll put into your lookups.

Even if you mainly plan to order lookups from our providers rather than offer them yourself, it’s still makes sense to upload a photo:

  • When the provider has a visual sense of who you are, the quality of the service you receive may subtly improve
  • If you come across happy or intriguing in your photo, providers might take on a difficult request from you that they would otherwise decline.
  • Adding an image indicates your long-term investment in the site, which makes you more attractive as a potential client.

OK, ok, I’m sold. What are my options?

Here’s a list of potential profile photo types, along with examples from providers and clients on Genlighten:

pamela_pollard_profile_photoTraditional headshot — by far the most popular choice on the site

jane_schapka_profile_photo“Professional” photo — it helps to know a professional photographer, or a friend with a strong sense of composition

steven_wright_profile_photo“Old” photo — for a genealogy enthusiast, this seems a natural choice

timothy_young_avatarGraphical image — these can create a whimsical touch or signify your “brand”

cewolbert_profile_imageNon-Headshot Photo — here the idea is to show yourself doing something interesting, perhaps genealogy-related, perhaps not

chigen1Novel Composition or Design — something demonstrating your creativity, sense of humor, or both

thekingbug_profile_imageLocation-specific photo — perhaps of a landmark, landscape, or local artifact

Adding a photo to your profile takes just a minute

Just click on “Profile” (in the upper-right-hand corner of any page on the site) then click the red “Edit My Profile” link.  Click the “Browse” button and you’re on your way. A square, high-resolution image that’s 180 x 180 pixels works best. Feel free to contact us at support[at] if you need help.

Nine Questions with Robert Williams of Ulster Ancestry

Monday, April 5th, 2010

ua-logoleftOn most Mondays, I publish brief e-mail interviews with some of our lookup providers. This week’s interview is with Robert Williams, whose Genlighten username is ulsterancestry.

From UlsterAncestry’s profile

Robert is our first provider from Northern Ireland. He can retrieve documents from the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) in Belfast, including wills, probate records, land valuations and baptism/marriage records. He’s pursued genealogical research on a full-time commercial basis since 1998.

Nine questions with Robert Williams

1) How did you get started doing genealogy lookups/research?

I have always had an interest in history, even as a child. I also had a great love of books. I started on my genealogy journey back in the mid 1990’s researching my own family tree for my American, Welsh and English cousins. As more and more doors opened, I found myself caught up in a world that previously I knew nothing of.  I also found I had a “feel” for research  that others did not seem to have, so in 1998 I gave up my previous career and embarked on one in Irish genealogy. I have never regretted it.

2)      Do you have a genealogy “superpower”? If so, what is it?

There is some truth in this. I don’t know about a “superpower” but when primary evidence runs out, I follow my hunches and my gut instincts and they are usually right.

3) Describe a tricky research problem you’re particularly proud of having solved?

Too many over the years to detail here. I had an American lawyer some years ago, seemingly with 300 years of pure German American ancestry, who much to the amusement of his family, was  totally convinced he was Irish. I helped him prove his Irish ancestry, much to his delight. I also do Probate {living heirs} research and every case is a challenge.

4) What are the ideal elements you like to see in a well-formulated lookup request/research query?

We need to know certain basic things: The persons full name; his/her vital dates {birth, marriage, death} to within 5 years; the geographical area to within a Parish.  I get too many “Born Ireland”!!

5) What’s the most interesting record source or repository you’ve utilized in your area?

Without a doubt the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. The archive contains 36 miles of shelving holding millions of records in the form of original and copy documents, many not available outside Northern Ireland, all relating to Ulster/Irish families generally from 1630 onwards. I found 3 leases for a family, just the other day, dated 1495. I was able to get them copies.

6) What technical tools do you use to produce the digital images you provide to clients?

Images must be made by the repository, using their equipment.

7) Any new lookups you’re considering offering?

I am considering offering an “affordable” document retrieval service based on the PRONI catalogue. PRONI must offer this service under the Freedom of Information Act, but it is very expensive. With a new service any available document held in the PRONI archive and listed in their catalogue could be copied.

8 ) What advice would you give to someone who wants to get started as a lookup provider?

Get to know the archives you will use in depth.  Acquaint yourself with what they hold in terms of records. This is essential if a document is to be found and found quickly.

9) What other passions do you pursue when you’re not at the archives doing lookups/research?

I have time for very little else at the moment but I suppose my other passion is Manchester United Football Club!

Lookups UlsterAncesty Offers

100% Digital Document Delivery — except where prohibited by law!

Monday, March 29th, 2010


Early in Genlighten’s development, we made a key decision about the way our providers would deliver the documents they retrieved to their clients. We would require that each provider have access to a digital scanner, so they could take the paper documents they found at the repository, scan them, and upload them to Genlighten in digital form. If the records they searched were on microfilm, a direct microfilm scan would work too. But no paper records were to be mailed to clients.

Rationale For Our All-Digital Strategy

We had five basic reasons for going with this approach:

  1. The client would effectively receive the record as soon as the provider uploaded it. No waiting for the record to arrive in the mail and no danger of the record getting damaged or lost in transit.
  2. The provider could add value to their lookup offering by enhancing the image contrast and otherwise improving the resulting document above and beyond the paper or microfilm record quality.
  3. The client would immediately be able to share the document with friends, archive it on their hard drive, and add it to their genealogy software or website.
  4. All three parties to the transaction would be able to clearly verify that the lookup had been completed successfully, since the client, the provider and Genlighten could each view the uploaded record.
  5. Since no snail-mail was involved, no physical addresses would need to be exchanged, enhancing privacy and security.

But What If…

When we decided to go the all-digital route, we knew that we’d eventually run into requests for exceptions, and we figured we’d deal with them as they arose. One obvious edge case: what to do about 50-page probate files? What if providers couldn’t easily get a hold of a scanner with a sheet feeder and they balked at having to scan 50 pages one-by-one? After much deliberation, we decided that in such situations providers could mail the paper copies to “Genlighten World Headquarters”, and we’d take care of the scanning and uploading ourselves on the provider’s behalf. If the volume got to be too much, we saw ourselves outsourcing the task to a service such as Officedrop and deducting the cost from the provider’s share of the lookup fee. So far, no one’s asked us to do that yet.

An Unexpected Legal Issue

But just recently, we had a new provider — Jade Schmitt — come to us with a unique problem. She wanted to offer lookups for pre-1907 birth, marriage and death records for Wisconsin from the Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS). Cool — that’s just the kind of thing we’re looking for. But there was a weird catch. Jade told us that it’s illegal to make digital copies of vital records at the WHS.

We checked it out with the State of Wisconsin, and the official we talked with confirmed: no digitizing the WHS records. There was, however, an intriguing potential loophole. It’s only illegal to scan those records within Wisconsin. So if Jade drove to the Wisconsin-Illinois state line and handed the paper copies to us, we could scan them on our side of the border. (Or she could simply mail them to us, but that’d be a lot less fun!)

1/4 Mile Ahead, Crazy Pete’s Genealogical Document Scanning

When I heard this, I immediately thought of those signs that always greet us on the other side of the Wisconsin border whenever we drive north on I-94: “Crazy Pete’s Fireworks Stand (and cheese!), 1/4 Mile Ahead.”  Now imagine Jade driving down from Wisconsin, crossing into Illinois, and seeing the sign “Next Exit, Crazy Pete’s Genealogical Document Scanning.” That’s what this law could apparently lead to!

A Temporary Exception

Until we can nail down this loophole a little more, and hopefully get some kind of formal legal document that ensures we’re always going to be on the right side of the law, we’ve decided to make an exception to our 100% digital document delivery policy for Jade. So she’ll be mailing out paper copies to fulfill the lookup requests she receives.

If you’ve got any suggestions to offer regarding Wisconsin public records law and digital scanning, we’d love to hear from you!

Do You Have Lookup Providers for… Yemen?

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

yemenAt genealogy conferences, when I explain to people how our site works and how our lookup providers can help them find source documents , I often get questions like “Do you have anyone in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania?” or “Do you have anyone for Poland?”

I love it when I can respond “We sure do… and they’re great!” By contrast, it’s always disappointing to have to say “Nope, not yet… but if you can tell me what you need there I’ll try to track someone down for you.” Tonight I had both kinds of experiences.

Ahh… Networking. Gotta love it.

I attended a “shindig” put on by the ExcelerateLabs startup accelerator program that will be taking place here in Chicago this summer. We’ll be submitting our application shortly, and I thought it made sense to go and do the networking thing — i.e., meet a bunch of the other applicants and introduce myself to the people running the program. I’m basically useless at this kind of thing, which is why I keep making myself do it.

Thanks to an introduction from Geoff Domoracki of midVentures, I got the chance to talk to Nick Rosa, one of the co-founders of Sandbox Industries. (Sandbox is a key investor in ExcelerateLabs.)

One Out of Two — Not Bad

Nick quickly grasped what Genlighten’s about, and he asked if we had providers in a) Sicily and b) Minsk, Belarus. I had to answer “no” for Sicily (darn, still no providers for Italy!) But I knew we had at least one provider — RusGenProject — who could do lookups for Minsk. So I was batting .500 there. Elsewhere at the same event, though, I had a similar conversation with a much different ending.

“So, What’s Your Startup About?”

At an event like this, the default opening to a conversation with a stranger is basically “So, what’s your startup about?” I met a young Chicago Booth MBA student who answered “We’re going to create a new hot drink category — something in between coffee and tea.” I was impressed… her idea sounded promising.

Then it was her turn to ask the same of me. When I gave some variation of my usual reply (“We help you find genealogy documents that connect you with your ancestors”), she responded “That’s not going to work for me.” I figured she was probably from the Mideast somewhere, and that turned out to be true: Yemen. “You’re right,” I replied, “I don’t have any lookup providers there yet.” I’m pretty sure I emphasized the yet.

“We Don’t Have Records”

“Uh, no, you don’t get it,” she continued pleasantly, “In Yemen, we don’t have records. My parents don’t even know when they were born.” I probed further: what happens at birth? Or when someone needs a passport? She explained that most births in Yemen take place at home, not in hospitals. And when someone needs a document for an official purpose, they basically have to bribe a government official to create a fictitious record. I was floored. My mind reeled at the prospect of trying to perform genealogy research in a place for which few if any records exist.

Looking on FamilySearch, I see that the FHL Catalog lists a few books related to Yemen research, but not many. I’ve obviously got lots to learn before I’m going to be able carry through on our brand promise “genealogy documented” for a lot of the world’s non-Western populations.

Nine Questions with Ray Whidden

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

whiddenrm1-rin1On most Mondays, I publish brief e-mail interviews with some of our lookup providers. This week’s interview is with Ray Whidden, whose Genlighten username is edmontongenealogy.

From edmontongenealogy’s profile

Ray specializes in Edmonton-area vital records, obituaries, land records, wills, and cemetery photos / transcriptions. He has roughly 30 years of experience compiling his own family history and is proficient with a wide array of genealogy software packages and related tools.

Nine questions with Ray Whidden

1)      How did you get started doing genealogy lookups/research?

I was doing Nova Scotia Canadian census lookups on microfilm for my Whidden family in the 1990s and I got an email saying a researcher had found some Whiddens in the Vassar, Michigan cemetery—was I interested? Having Whiddens known to have gone to Michigan certainly I was.  When we were done collaborating with cemetery/court house records, I had three more generations previously recorded as “gone to USA, no further record.”  In return I was able to do Ontario census lookups to help this researcher.

I have been a participant in the “Books We Own” project since it began almost 20 years ago and helped a number of researchers looking for Nova Scotia families.  Once I found out about Genlighten it was an easy decision to join to continue the sharing.

2)      Do you have a genealogy “superpower”? If so, what is it?

Most large libraries have yet to fully include the indices from books in their online catalogues. I find it very helpful to pull book after book off the shelf to check for indices and photocopy whatever I find to be analyzed at home.  I’ve quickly collected a large number of stories I wouldn’t have otherwise ever found if only using the search results on the computer.

3)      Describe a tricky research problem you’re particularly proud of having solved?

Prevailing wisdom is that the “Capt.” James Whidden, m. Abigail Sanborn, who went to Nova Scotia in 1760/61 was at Louisburg in 1745. Yet when I began collecting a large amount of info I discovered another Capt. James Whidden (later established to be the NS James’ uncle), whose sons are found with him at Louisburg, who had a daughter Abigail. It seems this confounded others who use the two James interchangeably.  I haven’t definitively proven this but the clues suggest our James didn’t go to Louisburg after all.   Needless to say some researchers aren’t very willing to accept the new evidence as easily.  The Capt. Samuel Whitten also at Louisburg remains a mystery.

4)      What are the ideal elements you like to see in a well-formulated lookup request?

Provide as much info as you can share: names, dates, places, stories. Identify what you think is speculation. Explain what you found and where. Summarize where you’ve looked with no result.

5)      What’s the most interesting record source or repository you’ve utilized in your area?

I have access to “Worthies of Devonshire [, England]” by Rev Richard Prince published in 1703 – have compiled a table of contents.  I can also access Alberta homestead records on microfilm directed by a computer index.

6)      What technical tools do you use to produce the digital images you provide to clients?

Epson scanner; Pentium IV 2.8 GHz computer; Irfanview image handling software which I use if, needed, to reduce the size of the resulting JPG. I also have Photoshop Elements to stitch multiple files into a panorama view.

7)      Any new lookups you’re considering offering?

Various Edmonton area cemeteries once the snow is gone; that’s a spring/summer/fall activity, except for accessing the office records.

8 )      What advice would you give to someone who wants to get started as a lookup provider?

Consider the benefits of exchanging info with other researchers. It may take three or more researchers to enable this but if you help someone at distant location #1, they may be able to help at location #2 where a third researcher (you being the first) may be able to help you with the location you’re interested in.

9)      What other passions do you pursue when you’re not at the archives doing lookups?

I’ve worked for 40+ years in the computer business as a tech specialist and spent four years supporting high speed internet customers by phone so I enjoy helping others solve their computer/internet problems.

Lookups Ray Offers

Nine Questions with Timothy Young

Monday, March 15th, 2010


On most Mondays, I publish brief e-mail interviews with some of our lookup providers. This week’s interview is with Timothy Young, whose Genlighten username is fwresearch.

From fwresearch’s profile

Timothy has been doing family history research for himself and others for about ten years. For a good portion of his research he utilizes the extensive resources of the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Timothy belongs to the Indiana Genealogical Society and the Allen County Genealogical Society of Indiana.

Nine questions with Timothy

1)      How did you get started doing genealogy lookups/research?

I guess I got started doing genealogy by finding the answers to questions that family members had. I then moved on to answering queries on message boards and volunteering to take cemetery photographs.

2)      Do you have a genealogy “superpower”? If so, what is it?

I don’t think I have any genealogy “superpower”. I realize that the solution to a genealogy problem often involves trips down side paths in order to find answers.

3)      Describe a tricky research problem you’re particularly proud of having solved?

One of my first clients was trying to find out what happened to a great great grandmother. He said he had all the information on her children, census, birth, death records, cemetery locations etc. I took him at his word. I then had an aha moment when I realized he didn’t have any obituaries for anyone other than his great grandmother. The great great grandmother was mentioned in one of her other child’s obituaries. It turns out her disappearance was a result of name change caused by remarriage. I guess this problem stood out for what I gained from it. The importance of not making assumptions and communication between researcher and client.

4)      What are the ideal elements you like to see in a well-formulated lookup request/research query?

A well formulated query is specific in what the researcher is seeking. A well formulated query provides all relevant information. A well formulated query when providing location details, is detailed: giving as much geographic information as possible. If necessary do some homework first before making a query. For example it doesn’t make sense to ask for a birth certificate a hundred years before vital records were even kept for a particular state.

5)      What’s the most interesting record source or repository you’ve utilized in your area?

I am fortunate to have access to the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, IN. Its Genealogy Center contains the largest public genealogy collection in the United States.

6)      What technical tools do you use to produce the digital images you provide to clients?

To scan documents, I use a Canon CanoScan N1240U. It’s light weight and runs off a USB cable, which makes it ideal for taking to the library. The software I use to adjust images is usually PhotoFiltre or Irfanview. For annotating .pdf files I use PDF-Xchange Viewer.

7)      Any new lookups you’re considering offering?

At the moment I am not considering offering more lookups. But I am open to suggestions.

8)      What advice would you give to someone who wants to get started as a lookup provider?

Consider doing free lookups in the areas that you are familiar with to gain experience.

9)      What other passions do you pursue when you’re not at the archives doing lookups/research?

I enjoy playing tennis.

Lookups Timothy Offers