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

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.

How to Use Video in Your Genealogy Business

Videos are a huge part of business these days. It’s nearly impossible not to be using video in your business either through your website and blog content or through marketing your company and products.

There are a number of reasons why you should be using videos in your business. I’m also offering up a couple of ideas of how you can use video in your genealogy business.

Videos build trust. Videos are engaging and ignite emotions. Consider a video 15-second testimonial from a client that will share the satisfaction and emotional reward they received from your services. Or create short “thank you” videos from yourself to new customers.

Videos allow you to present material in a conversational format. Videos are great for explaining your research services or products. Film a screencast demo of your product.

 People like videos to solve problems. When people are looking to solve a problem, they are more likely to watch a video. Turn a how-to blog post into a how-to video. Use video to share a client success story or to explain your product.

 Google loves videos. If you have a video embedded on your homepage you are more likely going to show up higher in a google search.  Do a short introduction of your company, your mission and vision. Tell potential customers who land on your homepage how you can help them.

Mobile users also love videos. These days it’s all about mobile. Most videos are watched on mobile devices, and so video is must because everyone has a mobile device. Consider using live video from an industry event, conference. Etc.

Consumers find it easier to watch a video than reading a blog post. We live in a time of quick consumable information. We would rather watch a video than read a blog post. I’m not saying all your blog posts need to be videos but change it up from time to time. Maybe once in awhile do a live video or have a Q & A via Skype, Zoom or Google Hangouts. Instead of writing a genealogy tip or writing a story about a genealogy find, share it via a recorded video.

Videos are more likely to be shared across social media. Facebook loves videos. If you’re using video, you’re more likely to get shared. Consider filming one of your presentations with Q & A and then offer it up for free to watch across your platforms. Or consider a quick Facebook live event or a behind-the-scenes look at a genealogy field trip.

Here are some of my favourite video tools.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get started in video. Like I said earlier it’s not about perfection but rather about useful, engaging content.

Screencast-o-matic – for recording my screen and for teaching. I also use it for editing videos. I keep trying new editing programs but always return to this one.

Adobe Spark – is an awesome program for creating short videos.
Smartphone/ Go Pros – They are my go-to for recording myself on video. You really don’t need expensive, complicated equipment to get started. However, I do recommend a tripod with a remote, (affiliate link) here’s the one I have. It really helps to cut down on the editing.

Wistia – I use Wistia to host my videos and to brand them and embed them into my emails and websites.

Want to know just how much video can influence your business. Check out this video for some interesting facts.

Develop a Genealogy Research Plan with 7 Simple Questions

In our previous post, we looked at 10 signs that indicate you might need a research plan. Plenty of you could identify with the signs on the list.  And if you did, then it’s time to start using a research plan to reign in your unfocused approach to genealogy research and stop the aimless wandering.
 Today we will look at 7 easy questions you can ask. By answering each of these questions, you will be on your way to developing a robust research plan.

By the way, we have a template you can download that coordinates with the following questions. Fill in the template as you work through these question. When finished you’ll be armed with a solid research plan and a good chance you’ll have better luck tearing down those brick walls.

Research Plan – Download Here

Question 1 – Who am I researching?

Seems pretty basic, but it’s crucial to identify the ancestor you are researching and develop a plan for each ancestor. Too often we research a surname, a couple or a family group, but each ancestor should have their own research plan. You even want to go so far as filling out one of these templates for each question that needs answering.

Question 2 – What do I know about this ancestor?

This is an important step that often gets overlooked. What do you know about this ancestor? First, by taking the time to identify what you already have in your research, you refresh yourself on what you have.  This will eliminate wasting time searching for information already in your possession. Creating a complete outline of what you know will also help you to identify those gaps in your research. Often, we do so much research we don’t even realize we may have the documents and answers in front of us. So, take the time to look at what you know and create a list.

Question 3 – What is your research goal?

Identify precisely what you want to learn or need to have answered about this ancestor.  What questions are outstanding? The unanswered question is the goal of your research plan. That goal may be to identify a marriage date? Perhaps to identify the parents of an ancestor? Or when an ancestor immigrated? Keep your research goal as specific as possible.  There is nothing wrong with having more than one research goal for an ancestor but deal with them as separated quests with separate plans so that your research time is focused and you stay on track.


Question 4 – What is your working theory?

Before you get into researching, write out what you believe to be the probable conclusion to your research goal. What do you think is the answer to this goal?  By stating your working theory, it gives you some parameters under which to begin to prove or disapprove your theory.

Question 5 – Where can I find my answers?

Brainstorm the various resources that might provide the answers and where you might find these resources. Start with your living relatives, do they contain clues or solutions in their boxes of stuff or perhaps their memory. Next go online and if so which databases might have these records. After that, a trip to archives might be necessary.  Many archives offer online finding aids and indexes. You may be able to collect call numbers, microfilm roll numbers and names of specific collections before going to an archive. Don’t just show up at an archive without doing your homework. Email your archive in advance with your particular research question. Give them what you know so they can help do a thorough search when you get there.

Question 6 – Have I recorded my research results both positive and negative?

Track your research progress. So very important.  You would be shocked at how many of us duplicate our efforts because we forget we’ve already checked a particular resource. Again, seems basic but many do not do this and end up retracing their steps with the same results or aren’t able to determine where a particular piece of information originated from. Don’t let that be you.  

Question 7 – What are my conclusions, or do I have to reassess my theory?

 Now go ahead and write up your conclusions, do they coordinate with your working theory? Or do you need to reassess and develop a new theory and begin the research process over again?

Repeat this method for all your ancestors and their unanswered questions, and you’ll have a very focused and organized process to researching. 

The Genealogy Entrepreneur: Branding Your Business

Branding is a significant aspect of any business, and your genealogy business is no exception.  Developing a brand and creating a brand strategy is going to give you a leading advantage over your competitors. It should be one of the first steps you take when starting your genealogy business.  The process of developing your brand will, in fact, be a journey in business self-discovery.  However, if you didn’t work through this phase when you started your genealogy business, then it’s never too late to take a step back and consider how you want to move forward with branding your genealogy business.

What is Branding?

Simply put, your brand is your identity to your customers. It tells them what they can expect from you, your products and services. It is your uniqueness, what differentiates you from your competitors.

This especially applies to genealogists, as we are most likely the single face of our business. For example, unlike Ancestry, you can’t put one face to the company. But for a genealogist starting out who wants to take clients, conduct classes or speak, you are the brand, and that should always be front and centre.

At first, I know it can be a little uncomfortable. You want to run a business, but you’re an introvert. You ‘t run a business without having to show your face and let others get to know you.

Your brand is a product of who you are, who you want to be and how you want people to perceive you. You are the face of your brand. Your brand is you!

Are you the ground-breaking ninja or the experienced, reliable one? Is your product high-end, high-quality or do you offer a value-added product? Do you like to overdeliver?

You can’t be all things to all people, so you must take some time and decide who you want to be based on who your target customers want and need you to be.

As we discussed last week the basis of your brand is your logo. However, it also includes your website, packaging, promotional materials and social media outlets. They all should integrate your logo and communicate your brand.  If you have several sites and they are all genealogy topic related merge them. If that’s not possible, then they should be branded similar and linked in some manner.

In the best-case scenario, you want to keep your brand to one website, perhaps under your name, a great example, is  Amy Johnson Crow. Your target market may come to know you under a pseudonym like The Armchair Genealogist or Ruth Blair, The Passionate Genealogist or Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems.

What is a Brand Strategy?

A brand strategy is how, what, where and when and to whom you plan on communicating and delivering your message. Where you decide to advertise is part of your brand strategy. Your distribution channels (advertising, paper, radio, tv and social media) and what you communicate visually and verbally are part of your brand strategy. 

When you are consistent with your brand, it adds value to your company’s products or services. For example, Coke is a powerful brand. If you compare Coke to a generic soda, you’ll see Coke can charge more for its product. Its customers are willing to pay for it.

Defining Your Brand

There is a list of core questions you need to ask yourself when it comes to determining your brand. You need to take some time upfront to define who you are about and what you want your company to be about.

Download this branding worksheet as a starting point to help you figure out your brand.  

Branding Worksheet 

Once you’ve completed the branding worksheet, consider the following:

  • Create a mission statement
  • Identify how your clients benefit from your products and services
  • If you’re an already established company how are you perceived by your customers and prospective customers?
  •  How would you like others to perceive your company

Get a great logo. We talked about this last week. It’s an essential aspect of your brand, and it's necessary it shows up everywhere.  

Write down message. What are the fundamental ideas you want to communicate about your brand? Keep it visual to you and your focus until it becomes second nature.

Coordinate your brand into all aspects of your business. Branding extends to every point of your business--how you answer your phone, how you dress at a conference, your e-mail signature, your website, your social media pages.  Everything.

Create a "voice" that reflects your brand. The voice you create should be applied to all forms of communication, written, visual both online and off. What is the voice of your brand? Friendly? Be conversational. Is it luxury? Be formal. Get the idea?

Develop a tagline.  Your business should have a meaningful and brief statement that captures the spirit of your brand.

Create a style guide for your brand. You want to choose a colour scheme, logo, fonts that will help create the look and feel throughout as aspects of marketing your business.   By creating a style guide, your communication will remain consistent.
Pinterest is a great place to create a mood board, grab pictures, colour palettes and font examples to begin to get an idea of the look and feel you want. This is also a great way to communicate with a graphic designer. You can create your own style guide with this brand management software at Frontify. They offer a free 14-day trial.

Be consistent. Branding is consistency. When you are unwavering with your messaging then in your consumer's eyes your brand is reliable.

Recommended Resources
Want to learn more about branding your genealogy business,  here are some books I recommend. (affiliate links)

What Clients Love: A Field Guide to Growing Your Business

Did you miss Post 1 in this series

  5 Ways to Invest in Your Business