Archive for the ‘Genlighten Lookup Providers’ Category

Five Steps to a Successful Lookup Offering

Monday, March 15th, 2010

create_new_lookup_offering

We’ve gotten a bunch of new lookup offerings submitted for our approval by potential providers over the past few weeks. Some of them we look at and immediately say to ourselves “Wow…this [guy/gal] gets it!” Others give us a little more pause. In this post, I hope to share the things we think make for a highly-appealing lookup listing — one that will get potential clients clicking “Add to Cart”. Here goes:

1) Offer to Lookup Records That Aren’t Available Elsewhere Online

Genlighten is about helping people find offline records from local repositories. Try to avoid offering lookups for documents that your clients could easily find online at Ancestry or FamilySearch. Of course, if a record is offered online for $40 and you can profitably offer to look it up offline for $10, go right ahead!

2) Craft a Concise Headline Referencing the Locality

Here your goal is to get clients to click on “Get Details” from our basic search results page. Limit your headline to about 50 characters so it doesn’t get truncated.

Good examples: “Jefferson County Kentucky Probate Records”, “Bloomington-Normal Obits from the Pantagraph”. You don’t need to include the date range covered in your headline. Just put it in the “date range” field and we’ll insert it at the end of your headline automatically.

3) Don’t Forget to Put Details in Your “Detailed Description”

“Key Lookup Details” should include these elements:

  • The archive or repository where you’ll perform the lookup
  • How often you visit (and the resulting turnaround time clients can expect)
  • How you’ll perform your search (including the information you’ll need from the client)
  • An online index the client can search to obtain an index entry or certificate number for you to reference (if available)
  • What a “found” and “not found” result will mean for the client
  • What information the client is likely to obtain from the record
  • Limitations on the scope of the search you’ll perform (a single individual, a certain range of years, etc.)

4) Set Realistic Yet Affordable “Found” and “Not Found” Prices

Pricing your offerings is difficult, we know. Only you can decide what your costs are and what you need to earn for the time and effort you’ll spend. Set a price that seems fair to both you and your clients. If in doubt, ask yourself, “What would I be willing to pay for this lookup?”

5) Use the “Client Instructions” to Spell Out Exactly What You Need

Your job as a lookup provider will be easiest when you can reduce the process to a repeatable algorithm that takes specific known inputs and produces the desired record on a consistent basis. This obviously won’t work in many cases, but it’s a goal worth striving for. As you compose your instructions to the client, reduce the data you ask for to the absolute minimum necessary. Tweak this based on the queries you receive.

Summary

The main thing that sets the best lookup offerings on Genlighten apart from others is the level of detail they include. Details show that you’ve thought through the lookup process and that you know what you’re doing. They also inspire confidence in potential clients and yield requests that you can successfully fulfill. We’ve had site visitors tell us that they’ve seen lookups they’re interested in but they haven’t ordered because the descriptions were too vague.

We’re happy to offer suggestions and guidance with this process. Please feel free to contact us for help by e-mailing support@genlighten.com.

Nine Questions with Melissa Barker

Monday, March 8th, 2010

melissa_barker_profile_photo

On most Mondays, I publish brief e-mail interviews with some of our lookup providers. This week I’d like to introduce you to Melissa Barker, who goes by the username kaitysmom on Genlighten.

From kaitysmom‘s profile:

Melissa has been doing Tennessee and Kentucky research for about 20 years. She started her own professional research business in 2004. She does single document retrievals, larger research projects and “everything in between.” She completed the ProGen Study and graduated in 2009 with a certificate.

Nine questions with Melissa:

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

About 20 years ago I attended a funeral for one of my husband’s ancestors.  While at the visitation there was a lady running around talking to all the family members and writing in this notebook.  I asked her what she was doing and she and I talked for about an hour about genealogy research and I was hooked!!

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

I don’t give up!  I search every source available to try locate the information that a person is asking for.  Since I have been researching for so long in the Tennessee and Kentucky areas, I have personal knowledge of the records that are available and also records that are not so well known.

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

Just recently I did a research project for a Client where he wanted me to locate the burial location of his Civil War ancestor.  The ancestor died of disease during the Civil War in Bradley County, Tennessee.  I was able to locate burial records where the ancestor had been buried in Bradley County in 1863 and a year later was disinterred and reburied in the newly formed Chattanooga National Cemetery in Hamilton County, Tennessee in 1864.  I was also able to obtain photos of the ancestors headstone.

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

A well-formulated query should include the name of the person in question, all dates necessary to complete the request and the specific location where the records should be found.

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

I conduct most all of my research through the Tennessee State Library and Archives.  This repository is very well known in my area for the amount of information and records they house for all 95 counties in Tennessee.  They also hold a large collection of Kentucky records as well as a large collection of records for all States that adjoin the State of Tennessee.

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

I use a Epson Perfection V350 Photo Scanner.  This scanner produces very clear scans and my Clients are always impressed with the quality.

7)      Any new lookups you’re considering offering?

My looks ups consist of Tennessee records at this time.  However, I am considering including Kentucky look ups since I do research in Kentucky as well.

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

Offer look ups in the areas that you are familiar with the records.  Make your turn around time as short as possible.

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

Riding motorcycles with my husband, reading and writing.

Lookups Melissa Offers

Nine Questions with McNicholl Genealogical Services

Monday, March 1st, 2010

natarchiveOn most Mondays, I publish brief e-mail interviews with some of our lookup providers. This week I’m highlighting Carolyn McNicholl of McNicholl Genealogical Services.

From McNichollGenService’s Profile

Carolyn’s firm specializes in genealogical document retrieval for Scotland. She has convenient access to all the major Scottish record repositories in Edinburgh. Carolyn is a member of APG, the Society of Genealogists, and the Scottish Genealogical Society, among many others. She’s undertaken genealogical studies through the University of Toronto, the University of Strathclyde, and the University of Dundee.

Nine Questions with Kathy

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

Genealogical research has always interested me since I was young. Lookups and research are part of my work everyday as a professional genealogist to help others with their own family history since 1994.   Sometimes a person cannot get to go
to a particular facility to obtain a document, and this is where we step into the gap to help.

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

I would say that my “superpower” would be that I cannot let go of something – dogged determination to find the answer to a problem.

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

A client who could not find the birth of an ancestor in Scotland or Ireland, but I was able to find out that the first name of the person was incorrect in the marriage certificate – the flood gates opened after that.

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

Really just to have as much information as possible that a person may know, especially if it is a very common name such as Smith or McDonald, etc.

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

The National Archives of Scotland is a fantastic place for all those “non-vital” records.

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

Paintshop Pro, MS Paint, Adobe

7)    Any new lookups you’re considering offering?

None at this time.

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

I would say go for it.  If you have some experience in your own family history research than you should have a good chance at providing lookups for others.

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

Hillwalking, Camping, Cooking, Music, Surfing the Web, Reading.

Lookups Carolyn Offers

Nine Questions with Kathy Zavada

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

will_county_mapOn most Mondays, I publish brief e-mail interviews with some of our lookup providers. This week Kathy Zavada was nice enough to respond to my interview invitation.

From Kathy Zavada‘s Profile

Kathy specializes in Will County, Illinois research, especially for Irish ancestry. She has experience with probate records, estate and guardianship extracts, cemetery transcriptions, newspaper article lookups and more.

Nine Questions with Kathy

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

Always interested since high school. I am adopted. Once I had children, I started looking for natural parents for health records. Made a promise to myself to help others if I was able to find info which I did.

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

Civil records of all sorts because I worked as a bureaucrat for many years. Able to assimilate records out of order, put them together in order due to mnemonic memory. My daughter says I have an unofficial degree in paper pushing.

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

Locating my natural birth record. Adopted in one county, natural birth record in another. Got court record of adoption
in one county, then able to locate natural birth record in another.

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

Specific location I work in, names, and general time frame.

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

Will County probate/estate and guardianship records since they begin in 1838 and predate birth & death records by at least 40 years. Records contain listings of heirs, exact dates of death, listing of household items, and other interesting items found nowhere else.

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

Digital camera and Microsoft Picture It!

7)    Any new lookups you’re considering offering?

None currently

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

Start out small, don’t bite of more than you can :)

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

Granddaughters, knitting, science fiction movies, and history

Lookups Kathy Offers

“Just in Time” Genealogy Document Digitization

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

In a fun blog post entitled “The Genealogy Instant Answer Line“, Arlene Eakle educates her impatient (and by implication, naive) clients on just how long it’s going to take to pole vault them over their brick walls:

Please do not expect to have your 20-year problem resolved, with documentation, with full analysis, with pertinent comments and follow-up in supporting sources, in 20 days.  Not happenin’–with your ancestry nor anybody else’s.  When you engage me to solve your hardest-to-find ancestor and link him to an unknown family unit, allow sufficient time for me to do it.

I love this kind of candor. Arlene’s obviously a truly professional genealogist who’s going to be completely straight with you. And she’s clearly right. You probably wouldn’t have come to her for help unless yours was the kind of problem that needed her unique divergent thinking skills and research expertise, applied over months, not days.

But what if the “Instant Answer” was available from a single offline document?

Would it be realistic to expect to have that document retrieved on the same day you decided you wanted it? What about if you wanted it in an hour? A few minutes?

“Just In Time” On-Demand Genealogy Document Digitization

Consider the following (admittedly contrived) scenario. You’re browsing the Family History Library catalog online  at about 9 pm Central time on a Thursday evening. You notice there’s an FHL film (say 1671673) that has a pretty good chance of holding the marriage record for your great-great-grandparents. It hasn’t yet been digitized and indexed on the FamilySearch Record Pilot, unfortunately. You could go to your local FHC tomorrow and order it for $5.50. It’d probably arrive in 2-3 weeks.

genealogy_pagerBut what if you wanted to know RIGHT NOW if film 1671673 contains that marriage record, or if you should try a different research avenue instead, all without interrupting your genealogy flow? What if you could log onto a website, enter that film number, and immediately see a list of people who were at the FHL right this minute and who could go pull the film for you? What if the researcher you selected could then browse through the film on a reader, locate the marriage record you’re after, scan it directly to a digital image, and upload that image to the website for you to view and download, all within about 15 minutes of receiving your request?

We have the technology…

As it turns out, this scenario is completely plausible. In fact, here at Genlighten we’ve already begun building the infrastructure to make it real. It will probably end up relying on web-enabled smartphones and make use of Twitter’s APIs. Clients who want this kind of near-real-time response will need to pay a premium for it. But the cost of this service will still be comparable to that of requesting the film.

So… are you interested?

Can you think of a situation where you might use this? How much would an “Instant Genealogy Answer” be worth to you?

Follow Friday: Taneya’s Genealogy Blog

Friday, February 19th, 2010

taneya_facemangaIt’s high time I offered my Follow Friday endorsement of Taneya’s Genealogy Blog. Taneya Koonce is an absolute dynamo when it comes to online genealogy content. She maintains six separate blogs covering newspaper research and specific county resources for numerous localities in North Carolina. She runs her own TNG-powered personal genealogy site. She’s the webmaster for seven different USGenWeb sites, including the main one for North Carolina. All of these sites display a professionalism in content, design, and functionality that is sorely lacking in many Geocities-era pages out there on the web.

Her main blog covers pretty much every topic you’d expect from a top-tier member of the geneablogging community: her own surnames and favorite research localities; reviews of books, genealogy gadgets and web resources; geneablogging memes like Tombstone Tuesday and loads of personal research stories. Her stellar NCGebWeb work gets frequent mention too.

In a recent post, she riffed on Amy Coffin’s “52 Weeks to Better Genealogy“  WorldCat.org challenge and talked about how she’d reached out to the WorldCat folks and even snagged a guest blogging stint as a result.

Of course, I’m a little biased, since Taneya is one of our providers and offers genealogy lookups for Tennessee. But if you don’t already have Taneya’s Genealogy Blog bookmarked or subscribed in your feed reader, I heartily recommend that you do.

Genealogy Lookups 101 — New Genlighten Presentation at Slideshare.net

Monday, February 15th, 2010

genealogy_lookups_101_presentation_on_slideshareI’ll be giving two presentations at the upcoming South Davis Family History Fair on March 6th in Bountiful, Utah. One will be an updated version of a talk I gave at last year’s SDFHF: “Twitter: Can It Really Help Me With My Genealogy?” The other will be a newly-developed introduction to Genlighten for potential lookup providers: “Genealogy Lookups 101“.

I just uploaded a draft of the “Genealogy Lookups 101″ slides to our account on Slideshare.net. I’d be grateful if you’d take a look and offer any feedback you might have so I can improve it prior to the Fair.

Lots of Slides, But Very Little Text

Please don’t be put off by the number of slides — 137 in all. There’s almost no text on the pages… they’re basically just simple images with brief captions, for the most part — so you can page through it quite quickly.

I’m particularly interested in your impressions of how the talk flows, and if the images I chose seem like a good match to the headline text. But I also hope the presentation piques your interest in becoming one of our lookup providers, and any feedback along those lines would be very welcome too. Thanks for your help!

35 States and Counting…

Friday, February 12th, 2010

Checking our current lookup offerings for a presentation I’ll be giving tomorrow, I find that we have providers offering lookups for 35 states plus the District of Columbia. Here’s a list of states for which we still don’t offer any lookups:no_lookups_found_result_screen

  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Wyoming

I’d love to see a few of these states on the “Yes, we offer lookups there” list soon. How about it? Texas? Pennsylvania? Arkansas? Iowa? I know you’re out there! Let’s banish the “No Results Found” label from Genlighten as soon as possible.

Live Near the Family History Library? Come Have Dessert On Us!

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

I’ll be visiting the Salt Lake area to talk over partnership and collaboration possibilities with several Utah genealogy companies this Thursday and Friday. I’d love to meet readers of this blog while I’m in town, so I’ve scheduled a Genlighten meetup both Thursday and Friday nights. If you’re in the area, please stop in. I’ll answer any questions you have about the site, becoming a provider, whatever you’d like. I’ll even spring for dessert!

Here are the details:

Thursday, February 11thKneaders Bakery in Midvale, Utah

Kneaders Bakery

742 East Ft. Union Blvd.
Midvale, Utah
Time: 7-9 pm
RSVP on Facebook here

Friday February 12thTrio Cafe in SLC

Trio Cafe

680 S 900 E
Salt Lake City, Utah
Time: 7-9 pm
RSVP on Facebook here

Nine Questions with Banai Feldstein

Monday, February 8th, 2010

banai_feldstein_provider_avatar

I first met Banai in August 2009 at the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies Conference in Philadelphia. I was struck immediately by her intensity and passion, her technical savvy, and the degree to which she was connected to other researchers and leaders at the conference. She was one of only a few attendees who “live-tweeted” from numerous conference sessions. I quietly hoped to one day recruit her as one of our providers, and was thrilled several months later to see that she had signed up.

From BanaiFeldstein‘s Profile

Banai specializes in Eastern European research — including Poland, Ukraine, Hungary, Lithuania, and Belarus– and in Jewish research. She’s the President of the Utah Jewish Genealogical Society and an APG member.

Nine Questions with Banai

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

I was living in Nashville when I had a relapse of the genealogy bug. A few years later,  I wasn’t getting any web design clients, so I figured I could move to Salt Lake City and not get any web design clients there, but at least I could do more genealogy research. I also hoped to turn it into a business, which I have.

I’ve read many times that you should find something you love to do, then find a way to make money at it. I’ve always loved puzzles and detective work, and that’s what genealogy often is.

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

I am really good with languages. Some clients ask for records in languages I haven’t worked in before, and I tell them so up front, but they trust that I can do the work anyways. I usually can. Dutch was tricky, but all the Eastern European languages I’ve found pretty easy.

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

My mother has told me numerous times that she had an older sister who was given up for adoption. Late last year, I found her birth record. We’re still in the middle of trying to find and contact her now.

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

My favorite potential clients are the ones who provide me with specifics: locations, dates, religion. When they ask for something generic like “Polish research”, that doesn’t help. If I lived in Poland, maybe I could do something, but I need to know the exact location to know if I have access to any records. When they openly share their information, that’s the best query and gets the most thorough response as to whether or not I can help. Also, it’s good when they’re at least slightly organized. Figuring out what they’re asking and putting their family information in order takes extra time.

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

There is nowhere else on Earth like the Family History Library.

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

The FHL provides the equipment for me. I just need to bring along my flash drive.

If I have to order a record from an archive, then I use my trusty CanoScan LIDE, which I’ve had forever. This scanner has travelled all over with me, scanning photos and documents from relatives too. It’s one of those 1 inch tall scanners that fits right into my large laptop bag.

7)      Any new lookups you’re considering offering?

Plenty. I can do almost anything at the FHL. It’s just a matter of entering it all into Genlighten.

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

They should be very familiar with the archive and the records that they want to provide. Know which record types and years are available, the hours of the facility, any costs involved, and be sure that they can get there often.

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

I love improving my house. It was neglected for at least three owners and empty for two years before me, so it needs a lot of TLC. The current project is refinishing the hardwood floors.

I love ice skating and the Utah Olympic Oval is conveniently a few blocks from my house.

I also love to write. I’m the newsletter editor for the Utah Jewish Genealogical Society (as well as the president now), so I get some genealogy writing in there several times a year. I participate in National Novel Writing Month every November. And I just started a  blog this year; I’m enjoying the extra writing.

Lookups BanaiFeldstein Offers

Jewish Polish Birth Records, 1830-1900
Jewish Polish Marriage Records, 1830-1900
Jewish Polish Death Records, 1830-1900
Jewish Polish Birth Records & Translation, 1830-1900
Jewish Polish Marriage Records & Translation, 1830-1900
Jewish Polish Death Records & Translation, 1830-1900