google-site-verification: google65e716d80989ba07.html The Armchair Genealogist

What do you want to know about preserving your family tree and stories?

What do you want to know about turning your research into entertaining and shareable family history stories? 

What do you want to know about preserving your family tree for future generations?

Every week I get emails from a whole bunch of you about writing your family history stories and preserving your family heritage and stories for future generations. 


How do I structure my story?

How do I write an entertaining story but I want to stay true to the facts?

What’s the best way to publish my stories?

How do I get started, I’m so overwhelmed?

Life keeps getting in the way, I don’t think I’ll ever get done, any advice?

And the list goes on and on.  I love your questions because I am ridiculously passionate about turning genealogy research into family history stories that can be shared and enjoyed today and for generations to come. I want to help everyone find a way to save and preserve their family tree, their ancestor's stories and their own stories for future generations. 

So here is what I’m going to do.  I working on some new courses and expanding some of our current courses for 2019.

2019 is going be a big year as The Armchair Genealogist is celebrating 10 YEARS!

Now, to make 2019 as awesome as possible, I would love to hear what YOUR burning questions are via the form below so I can make sure they are answered.

If you want to be the FIRST to hear about our 2019 courses, you can sign up below, and you will be notified even before my mom (well maybe right after I tell my mom.)

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7 Timelines to Relieve Your Research Overwhelm

 We've all suffered from it - research overwhelm. 

Regardless of whether we are a beginner, or you've been researching for some time, no one is immune from it.
It can sneak up on you, and before you know it, you are suffering. Your symptoms may include not knowing where to go next. You might feel like you are utterly drowning in your research. Maybe your suffering from research exhaustion, a lot searching with no results. The magic pill is a research timeline. 

Research timelines can quickly relieve your pain.  They are just too important not to be a part of your genealogy toolbox. When you make them an integral part of your research process they can advance your research in several ways. Let’s take a look.

1. Organize an Ancestor’s Life– Use a timeline to plot out the history of an ancestor. Gather the events of an ancestor’s life that you have discovered in your research.  Then create a timeline plotting them in chronological order. This helps you to organize your research on the life of a single ancestor.

2. Organize a Family – If you’re currently working on a family unit, timeline again can help put a family life into perspective. For instance, when did the couple meet, marry, the dates of children being born, any emigration or migration, jobs, land, deaths, etc. It’s an excellent opportunity to see a broad view of a family’s life.

3. Organize Several Generations – If you’re tracing several generations of a surname line, it can become quite confusing. Just as you created a timeline for an individual, this time your outline will represent the history of one surname, Each plot point on your timeline represents a generation in chronological order.  Consider adding timeframes, locations to this timeline.

4. Gaps – When we map a timeline either of an individual ancestor, family or several generations we can begin to identify gaps in our research. Missing times, events, and pieces of information all of a sudden become very clear. It becomes an invaluable tool for developing a research list.  

5. Contradictions – One benefit of developing a timeline aside from identifying gaps is recognizing inconsistencies in your research. For instance, an ancestor who may show up in two places at once, a variation in birth dates, different spellings of names are just a few conflicts you'll find when you plot a research timeline. A timeline will shine a spotlight on these contradictions for further examination.  

6. Historical Context – When you plot your ancestor’s life on a timeline it’s essential to also create a parallel outline of significant events happening in the world. Consider not only world events but regional and local events. Identify what was going on in the world around your ancestors. You may begin to see a correlation between these events and your ancestor’s movements. War, political upheaval, change in laws, depression, famine, weather events may correlate with migrations, emigration, change of jobs, the sale or purchase of land, and the death of ancestors to name but a few.

7. Creating a Story – A timeline is an awesome tool for helping you flesh out the story of an ancestor. To restate the life of an ancestor in chronological order has dull written all over it. Plot an ancestor’s life on a timeline to help you identify the achievements in an ancestor’s life. What obstacles he or she overcome in their life to reach that goal. What motivated the journey and what was a stake.
Shape your story around these essential elements, and you’ll have a much more engaging and entertaining story.

Regardless of where you are in your research journey, a timeline can ease your overwhelm pain. 

If you’re a beginner, a timeline can help you put order to your initial information and help you develop a research list.

If you been researching for a while and drowning in research, a timeline can help give you perspective.

However, if you’re further along in your research and ready to write your family history stories, a timeline can help you get started with this stage of your journey as well.

These posts also might interest you: 

6 Tips to Building a Family History Book

1.    Know the scope and span of your book before you begin

Too many family historians start out with no idea the extent their book will take. Will it be one surname, one couple, two surnames? Nor do they take the time to identify how much research they have and just how big their book will be. T

They dive in, and before you know it, their book has taken on a life of its own, and it’s out of control. Usually what happens is the book gets too big and too expensive to print. You must take the time upfront to map out the contents of your book and stay on track.

2.    Don’t start too big

     We all want the big beautiful heirloom book that will be left as a treasure for future generations. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But if this is your first time writing stories, if this is your first time building a book then start small and learn the process of writing and publishing a book. Maybe start with one ancestor, one story. This way when you do build the beautiful heirloom book that you’ll want to leave for generations to come it will be your best work.

3.    Set a budget and stick to it.

This is the one step most family historians don’t worry about until the book is written and they’re ready to go to print. But then they realize the book is too big, and they can’t afford to print it, and no one can afford to buy it. Do some preliminary work before you start. Understand all the costs involved in printing a book and how it will add on to the final cost of your book.

4.    You don’t have to go it alone – build a team

We often get caught in a mindset that we must develop our book alone. Build a team, someone to help scan pictures, someone to edit, a graphic designer, or in the family or has a natural talent for creativity. Surround yourself with people who can help make the project a little easier and much more enjoyable.

5.    Designate a time each week

You can wish it to happen. You have to make it a priority. It needs to go on the calendar. Add a designated time on the agenda each day or week to work on your book. Maybe turn off the TV in the evenings and make this your book creating time. Turn off social media, email, there are plenty of opportunities in our day to take on a special and rewarding project like building a family history book. But if you are serious about it, you must make the time.

6.    Have a deadline

It’s so important to have a timeline for your heirloom book, or you’ll work on it forever. Without a goal, your book can take on a life of its own and never see the light of day. When you have a target, it’s easy to work backwards and set critical dates along the way.  Also, make your goal a public announcement to the family. When you make a public proclamation of your heirloom book, you are more likely to keep your promise.  

Do you want to build a family history book?  

Answer the two questions below so we can help you complete your dream. 

Online contact and registration forms from Wufoo.

Meet Me in Ottawa - BIFHSGO Conference Registration Now Open

I'm thrilled to part of this fall's conference. I hope to see you there. 


Registration Open for BIFHSGO Annual Family History Conference OTTAWA, ONTARIO, 4 May 2018 — The British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (BIFHSGO) is pleased to announce that online registration is now open at for its 24th annual family history conference, to be held from September 28 to 30, 2018, at Ben Franklin Place in Ottawa.

Full or single-day registrations are available. Speakers from Scotland, Canada, and the U. S. will deliver seminars and presentations on Scottish family history research, genetic genealogy, and much more. More than 250 delegates are expected to attend.

 The speakers at this year’s conference are:

Dr. Bruce Durie, Edinburgh, SCT, is one of Scotland’s top genealogists. He founded the graduate program in genealogical, heraldic and paleographic studies at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow and is a prolific author.

Diahan Southard, Coral Springs, FL, graduated with a degree in microbiology, and worked for the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation. She lectures worldwide about genetic genealogy and has produced video tutorials on the topic.

Mark Olsen, Salt Lake City, UT, is an expert on Family Tree Maker genealogical software. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University.

Linda Reid, Toronto, ON, has 35 years of genealogy experience. She teaches courses, facilitates an advanced genetic genealogy special interest group, and administers dozens of family DNA kits.

Lynn Palermo, Simcoe, ON, is a genealogy research and writing coach, and founder of The Armchair Genealogist, an award-winning family history blog.

Sam Allison, Montreal, QC, is a long-time educator. His latest book is “Driv’n by Fortune: The Scots’ March to Modernity in America, 1745–1812.”

Shirley-Ann Pyefinch, Ottawa, oversees the operations of the Ottawa Stake Family History Centre, a branch of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. She also lectures on research resources and methods.

Leanne Cooper, Ottawa, is a federal public servant, BIFHSGO member, and blogger ( She has spoken about her family history research and methodology at BIFHSGO meetings and conferences.

Sadie De Finney, Ottawa, has a long-standing passion for the Celtic nations, their history and folklore. She has studied cross-cultural communication at the graduate level, and applies that knowledge to genealogy and family history.

BIFHSGO President Barbara Tose said, "People are inspired to research their family’s history for a variety of reasons, but they have resources and techniques in common. BIFHSGO’s annual conference provides wonderful opportunities to advance one’s knowledge and research, and meet a community of like-minded people. This year’s event promises to afford the same high-quality educational sessions for which BIFHSGO is known."


BIFHSGO encourages family history research and its dissemination by people with ancestry in the British Isles. Founded in 1994, the Ottawa volunteer-run society holds monthly public meetings, offers special interest groups, hosts a resource-filled website (, and publishes a quarterly journal, Anglo-Celtic Roots.

For more information, contact: 

Duncan Monkhouse Conference Program Chair

Mary-Lou Simac Publicity Director

How to Improve Your Genealogy Business with Google Analytics

I’m sure you’ve heard of Google Analytics. You might even have set up your account and clicked in from time to time. At first glance, it can be a little overwhelming.  But Google Analytics can help you to improve your genealogy business if you take the time to learn what it has to offer.

What is Google Analytics?
Google Analytics is a free service. It is offered through Google, and it lets you monitor visitor movement on your blog or website. You’ll have the ability to see where website traffic is coming from, how many visitors come to your site, when and where they are leaving, and through which search engines and keywords they found your website.

Today, I’ve chosen a handful of reports on Google Analytics that can help get you started in understanding the basic comings and goings on your website. Beginning with these fundamentals, you can gain new knowledge of your site and improve your genealogy business.

1.Where is Your Audience Located? 

Using the map overlay feature in the country view is rather useless and doesn’t provide much information about your visitors. It can help you to know where to focus your ads on Facebook if you don’t already know the location of your audience. However, if you drill down to the city level, might be even more useful. What major cities is your traffic coming from? Once you have an idea of where most of your audience is located, you can then modify your business to those audiences, like promoting speaking engagements to the genealogical societies located in those areas.

2.Do you have window shoppers or returning customers
If you have a genealogy product or service that your customers purchase once and done then your goal may be to bring in new visitors to your website. If you want repeat business from your current customer base, then your goal may be to increase your returning visitor count or perhaps you need a balance of both. Your unique vs returning customers tell how you many of your visitors are new and how many are returning. If you have a large number of new customers, you may need to focus your efforts on getting them to return. If you have a large number of returning customers and a low new customer percentage, then your efforts are best focused on obtaining new customers.  

3.How long are visitors spending on your website?

To increase the sales of your genealogy services and products usually means more traffic and keeping your traffic on your website. Therefore, you need to look at how long visitors are staying on your site. If visitors aren’t hanging around long, it becomes difficult for them to get to know you and your products. The bounce rate measures how long visitors are spending on your website. With Google Analytics you can see the average time a visitor spends on your site and the average page views per visitor. The goal is to offer compelling content that keeps your visitors engaged and spending time on your website. If your bounce rate is high then maybe you need to include better content, add links in your posts to other relevant information or a sidebar widget to promote a blog post series to name a few options.

4.Are you compatible with your visitor’s browsers?

Not all visitors have the same level of computer knowledge, and I believe in the genealogy industry we have clients with a wide range of computer skills.
Google Analytics allows you to see which browsers your customers are using. Armed with that information you want to be sure your website is compatible with those browsers.  If 50% of your visitors are using Edge but your site isn’t compatible with Edge, you might be losing business. Your visitors may have a favourite browser and may not be getting the website experience. When you identify which web browsers your customers are using, you can then determine if your website is compatible with those browsers providing a better user experience.

5.What size of screen are your visitors using?

The screen resolution section in Google Analytics allows you to see what resolution your customers are using.  How can this help your genealogy business? Once again it is an opportunity to improve your visitor's experience. If most of your customers are using monitors with high resolutions, consider increasing the width of your website, which increases the real estate you have available. If your visitors have lower resolutions, you want to make sure the width of your site doesn’t exceed the width used by your users. If it doesn't, they may not be able to see all the information on your website. Again, in the genealogy industry, we are dealing with an ageing population that may not have the best computer skills. It’s important to know how your visitors are viewing your site and if it is delivering the best possible experience.

6.How are people finding you? 
Referral traffic is Google’s method of reporting visits that came to your site from sources other than Google’s search engine. When someone clicks on a hyperlink to a page on a different website, Google Analytics tracks the click as a referral to your site. Google Analytics also monitors search engine traffic and direct traffic.
Google looks at the source of the traffic and reports statistics about user behaviour. Referral traffic also can take the form of tracking codes placed on other websites, including banner ads such as AdWords, to include a referral code linked to a specific marketing campaign.

It’s important to know how people are finding you so that you can encourage more of that referral traffic to your website.

7.How to identify new genealogy  products, services and content
When you figure out what your visitors like and dislike about your genealogy content you can begin to offer them new things that you think will interest them. If visitors like one item, you can provide other products, services or even content that could compliment that item. Google Analytics makes it simple to find what your visitors find most valuable on your website. It will tell you what pages and products are most popular. Do more of that. It can help you to find your niche within the genealogy industry.

8.Why do people leave your website?
There are no perfect sites. They are all a work in progress that you continually need to be upgrading and tweaking. Often there may be small things or big things that promote visitors leaving your website rather than staying.

 If people tend to frequently exit from a particular page, consider modifying it. Review your calls to action or add links to other places on your website. What works and what doesn’t work is a matter of trial and error.  You won’t get it all right immediately, but pay attention to your visitor's actions, and it will help you to know what needs tweaking.

Take some time to get to know how Google Analytics can help you improve your genealogy business.  Tweak, tweak, tweak.  I try to set aside some time once a month to review Google Analytics, what’s working and what’s not and then make a list of some tweaks, changes and adjustments I want to make. Rinse and repeat on a monthly basis.