Welcome to Scottish Genealogy Tips And Tidbits

A wee bit of info to help you in your journey to discover your Scottish Ancestors and maybe even crack a brick wall or two!

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Monday, 13 March 2017

What Qualifies as a Genealogy Specialty?

Some colleagues and I were discussing areas of specialty. It came about as a result of the article in the APGQ about having a genealogy niche.  My area of specialty is very much a niche. Not only is my base limited to Scottish genealogy but within that, I have niched again into Ancestral Tourism. My niche is about helping others locate their Scottish ancestors while researching using the records IN Scotland.

I give talks and webinars about the different records that are available both online and off. Mostly off. This limits me when being chosen for Conferences. The topics - while plentiful - are limited in scope and don't appeal to the larger audience. Sure I can add in the usual talks on Google, Social Media and even Getting Started but so can hundreds of other genealogists. So I stay limited. If I don't get picked, I don't get picked. Sometimes I'm dismayed but mostly I decide to attend the conference any way, but to attend as an exhibitor/vendor and allow those who are interested to find me.

I am a teacher. I understand the adult learner. I am relaxed and generally very dynamic - unless this is talk 4 or 5 on the same day. Then I know that my audience is just as worn as I am so I keep it short and sweet.  Who doesn't like being dismissed early? And I've yet to hear anyone feeling short changed.

So, what qualifies someone as being a specialist in a specific area of genealogy? Here are my thoughts

1.) The most critical, of course, is a knowledge of the record sets. An intimate knowledge.  What is available? Where it is available? Is it accessible? And what benefit it will be for a family history researcher?

2.) If you are a specialist in any given country, it really is important for you to know the history of the country. That allows you to know what records certain events generated and whether those records might still exist. It lets you know what genealogical value the records might contain.

3.) If you are a specialist who also does client research - that is, researching other people's family history - then you also need to know the basics of methodology, the genealogical proof standard, source citation, and effective report writing. I don't do client research. For a whole lot of reasons. Mostly to do with wanting to teach rather than research. So I would never offer to give talks or webinars on any of the requirements listed above. Ever. Yes, I know them. Yes, I use them in my own research. But I don't even begin to pretend to be as qualified in any aspect of client research as my colleagues who are. I don't want to take away from their expertise nor do I want to provide a less than stellar product to people who are paying good money for my work. I am honoured to be connected to some amazing genealogists who do client work and I am only too happy to pass people along to them. It shows the client that I care enough about them to want them to get expert input and it allows my colleagues to enjoy doing what they do. It is a win-win for all of us.

So, being in a niche, how do I keep from going stale? I am constantly looking at new presentations. But I keep them aligned with my niche. 
  • ·      Is the presentation about Scottish research?
  • ·      Does the presentation showcase Scottish records?
  • ·      Will the presentation assist people who are researching their Scottish ancestry? 

What do I stay away from? Pretty much everything else. 
  • ·       My husband's family were from England. I rocked that research but my knowledge generally is limited to the area where his ancestors lived. So I don't talk on English records. I defer to colleagues who do.  
  • ·       My husband's parents were first generation Canadian. I also rocked that research but don't use the records enough to present on Canadian records. I do share where people can find things that may assist them finding their Scottish ancestors who have emigrated to Canada, but those are the basic records. Beyond that, I pass them off to the teachings of my colleagues who specialize in the Canadian records.

I    If I'm constantly having to ask my colleagues about their area of expertise in order to put a presentation together, then I need to concede it is not my area and I need to pass the presentation off to them. Similarly with client work. If I don't know the history of the country, the records that are available, where those records are available or what genealogically relevant information they contain, I need to pass that off to someone who does know. 

I'm interested to hear from my colleagues who have a specialty or niche on what they think qualifies someone to claim the specialist status. Post your comments below.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Join Me At Jamboree!

I'm thrilled to be speaking at the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree later this year. I am part of the Jamboree's British Isles and Ireland track and will be giving three talks:

Breaking Through Brick Walls

Step Away From the Computer

Underused Databases for Scottish Genealogy

I will also be in the Exhibitor Hall when I am not speaking and would love to have you drop by to say hello. 

The Jamboree runs June 8-11 and is being held at the Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Airport Hotel. 

Click HERE to register

Sunday, 19 February 2017

New eCourses Launched!

After two years in the making, I have finally created and launched two online eCourses for Scottish genealogy research. These courses will allow you to learn about researching your Scottish ancestors from the comfort of your home or office. 


In this beginner level course, you will learn:
  • places to reach out to others researching your ancestors
  • using the ScotlandsPeople website
  • citing your sources
  • legitimacy, irregular marriages and the Scottish naming pattern
  • building a genealogy toolbox for Scottish research

The first 25 people who register for this course can receive a 10% discount by using the coupon code "getstarted10" at checkout. 


In this second level course, you will learn:
  • strategies for breaking through brick walls
  • records available in Scottish libraries and archives
  • court records
  • asylum records
  • poor law records
Both courses use a combination of text and video for a well rounded learning experience. 

MyHertiage After Party at RootsTech

One of the highlights of RootsTech for the past two years has been the After Party that is sponsored by MyHeritage. This takes place on the Friday night and is a fantastic way for the Ambassadors, Sponsors and Vendors/Exhibitors to unwind. There are glow sticks, photo booths, party games, appetizers, drinks and best of all Karaoke. It amazes me how galvanizing the Karaoke stage is for the attendees. 

Thanks to Daniel Horowitz and his team for another fantastic night of fun and friendship. Already looking forward to next year's After Party!

Check out the video!

Saturday, 18 February 2017

A Conversation with FindMyPast

While at RootsTech, I had the pleasure of attending as a RootsTech Ambassador. This allows me access to the Keynote speakers and the top level executive for the major sponsors where I can arrange interviews with them. 

On the Friday afternoon, Kathryn Lake Hogan and I had the chance to catch up with Gail Rivett (Chief Marketing Officer) and Ben Bennett (Executive VP, North America and International) of FindMyPast. We interviewed Gail and Ben last year and were thrilled to be able to catch up with them again this year. We chatted for nearly an hour! 

Kathryn Lake Hogan, Gail Rivett, Ben Bennett, Christine Woodcock
The big news that was announced at RootsTech this year was the release of the Immigration to a New Country records, which are actually from the Treasury Records at the National Archives in London. 

Another big announcement from FMP at RootsTech was the addition of the Catholic Heritage Records from the Archdiocese of New York, Philadelphia and Boston. More records will be added over time.

From my conversations with Audrey Collins at the Commonwealth Dinner, I learned that FindMyPast has also digitized the Treasury Records for the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. Ben tells me that these will be available on FMP later this year. How exciting is that?

We had some interesting discussion about the search interface on the FMP website. And the categorization of the records to countries. There has been lots of upset in Canada with the Canadian records all being lumped under North America. Ben tells me that FMP is well aware of the issues and that there is a large investment in time and resources this year to fix the problems. When FMP was set up, it was set up in the UK. Initially all of the records available were UK records. Then FMP crept into the US market and a new category of records was added "North America" With expansion of acquisition of records from other countries, the records are basically in three categories "UK", "North America" (which currently includes Canada, but not Mexico) and "The Rest of the World" Changes are coming to better differentiate between the various countries, with the larger contributors of records getting their own categories. Another change coming is the search interface itself which will allow searching using additional fields like "Maiden Name" or others in the household. I can't wait to see the changes as they happen.

*Disclaimer: I am an Ambassador for FMP. This allows me a free subscription in exchange for opinions about the website, record sets and subscriptions. All opinions are my own and are not reflective of either FMP or of my relationship with FMP. My opinions do not imply endorsement by FMP.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

FREE February Webinar for Scottish Research

Step Away From the Computer 
Feb 20, 2017 7:00 PM EST 
Your Scottish ancestors are waiting for you to find them. But in order to do that, you need to step away from your computer. There are thousands of records available in Scottish repositories that can enhance your Scottish Genealogy research. Few of these are digitized or available online, but all of them can give you a much clearer understanding of the lives of your ancestors. This talk will assist you in understanding the types of records that exist, where they are located and how to access them

The Week That Was

Where HAS the week gone? One minute we were getting ready for all that RootsTech had to offer and all of a sudden I was on a plane, returning home!

RootsTech really is a whirlwind of activity. And this year, adding an exhibitor to my roles at the conference meant absolutely no spare time. But what an awesome experience!

Tuesday night was the media dinner. The five semi finalists for the Innovator Showdown were announced.

Wednesday was set up day in the Expo Hall. The booth was empty when we arrived - no tables, no chairs, nothing. We had quite a long wait to get everything we needed to in the end this set our schedules back by quite a bit.

On Wednesday afternoon, I had the pleasure of speaking on Underused Databases for Scottish Genealogy Research. The room was quite full and the talk went well, with lots of great questions.

Because of where we were positioned in the Expo Hall, it was good that I had had the chance to speak. It let people know I was in the Expo Hall and they then made the effort to come and find the booth.

Wednesday evening was the Welcome Party. It was great to see everyone that I only get to see in person once a year.

Thursday started off with the Opening Keynote with Steve Rockwood, CEO of FamilySearch. Steve's talk was about food and the memories that food evokes. Following Steve, we had the great pleasure of listening to the Property Brothers, Drew & Jonathan Scott. The duo spoke of family relationships and their pride in their Scottish heritage.

After the talk, I was one of 10 Ambassadors that had the opportunity to interview the brothers. This was a bit chaotic and far less informative than previous interviews where there were only a handful of people and we actually had the chance to interact with the guests.

After the conference was over for the day, I had the chance to enjoy a special get together sponsored by FindMyPast as a thank you to their Ambassadors. 

Thursday evening was the most wonderful experience. We had the immense pleasure of listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing Rogers and Hammerstein. 

Friday was a bit of a whirlwind with Ambassador interviews. I had the chance to join my business partner, Kathryn Lake Hogan for an interview with Anna Broome and Tara Claborn of Forever.com. This was followed by a sponsored luncheon where Glen Meakem, Founder and CEO of Forever, was the speaker. Then it was on to another interview with Kathryn. We managed to get caught up with Ben Bennett and Gail Rivett of FindMyPast. 

Friday night was the much anticipated After Party, sponsored by MyHeritage. This is always such a fun night. And a great way to wrap up a really busy week. 

Saturday was BUSY. SO BUSY. It was Family Discovery Day, where an estimated 30,000 people descended on the Salt Palace Convention Centre. There wasn't one second of down time to breathe or even to take a bathroom break. 

And then it was all over! Just like that. 

We are already planning for next year and although beyond exhausted, we are all deeply satisfied at everything we saw, heard, learned and for all of the connections that were made.