Being Unreliable Leads to Missed Opportunities

Here’s another one of my ‘this should be obvious, but so many people don’t do it’ posts. I am simply in awe just how many people are unreliable out in that big world, so much so that I wonder if they even care just how many opportunities they are missing out on every day. You’re likely doing this to, and it’s a shame because you’re stunting your ability to achieve.

Let me explain.

Every day I see companies and individuals leaving collaborative opportunities on the table. They are complaining about their budgets being too small to accomplish what they are trying to achieve, while at the same time they are saying no to volunteers, no to collaborative partnerships, and no to advice from well traveled subject experts. But they’re not actually saying “No!” they are simply ignoring the correspondence. Tweets that do not get responded to, emails that go ignored, or simply lacking a phone number that can take a call from an eager partner. How unreliable!

If you are building a mobile application to help save birds but you’re short on the development team and decide to post on Kickstarter to get extra funding to bridge the gap, what do you think is going to happen when you ignore that email from a development veteran who offered to help you? You end up not securing the funding and then try to approach the guy who offered to help you. He will either ignore you, or reply back saying that he changed his mind. Why? Because you were unreliable!

Or what if you’re short on cash and looking to bring in some revenue for the month. You tell your friend that you’re looking for extra work. Later your friend comes back to you and gives you a detailed offer to earn some extra cash that month. For whatever reason, you didn’t write your friend back. Maybe you found other work. Maybe you decided his offer was to low. But you didn’t write him back to let him know. Months later you’re in a hole again, and you decide to write your friend about the opportunity. He doesn’t write you back, he’s angry with you, or perhaps just says that the opportunity isn’t available anymore. Why? Because you were unreliable!

Maybe you’re thinking about starting a business and you’re looking for some guidance and help. You reach out to some friends of yours telling them about your great idea. Some of them like your idea, give you some advice, or offer some connections in their network. Maybe you’re busy, but for some reason you decide not to write your friends back. You’re head is down, you’re focused, you don’t have time to talk to them and hear their crappy advice, after all, you only wrote them because you want likes on Facebook, and you want the business to succeed. A short while later, you notice that your friends aren’t helping you out anymore. They’re not liking your posts, sharing your press releases, or helping you in any way. Why? Because you were unreliable!

I find this to be such a common occurrence that I just had to write about it. If you’re already reliable and you get back to people that are trying to help you, then you’re in a good place. I have a theory that the people who are so unreliable aren’t necessarily just selfish people, but that they are ignorant to being the way they are. They are just not aware that they lack the fundamental communication skills necessary to appear reliable and worthy of collaboration.

I see deals dropped almost everyday, and most of the time it isn’t because they aren’t well qualified from a technical perspective or don’t have the business acumen to pull of their ideas, but because they lack the ability to be reliable. Nobody wants to work with someone like that.

Posted in Inspirational, Networking | Comments closed

Being Unreliable Leads to Missed Opportunities

Here’s another one of my ‘this should be obvious, but so many people don’t do it’ posts. I am simply in awe just how many people are unreliable out in that big world, so much so that I wonder if they even care just how many opportunities they are missing out on every day. You’re likely doing this to, and it’s a shame because you’re stunting your ability to achieve.

Let me explain.

Every day I see companies and individuals leaving collaborative opportunities on the table. They are complaining about their budgets being too small to accomplish what they are trying to achieve, while at the same time they are saying no to volunteers, no to collaborative partnerships, and no to advice from well traveled subject experts. But they’re not actually saying “No!” they are simply ignoring the correspondence. Tweets that do not get responded to, emails that go ignored, or simply lacking a phone number that can take a call from an eager partner. How unreliable!

If you are building a mobile application to help save birds but you’re short on the development team and decide to post on Kickstarter to get extra funding to bridge the gap, what do you think is going to happen when you ignore that email from a development veteran who offered to help you? You end up not securing the funding and then try to approach the guy who offered to help you. He will either ignore you, or reply back saying that he changed his mind. Why? Because you were unreliable!

Or what if you’re short on cash and looking to bring in some revenue for the month. You tell your friend that you’re looking for extra work. Later your friend comes back to you and gives you a detailed offer to earn some extra cash that month. For whatever reason, you didn’t write your friend back. Maybe you found other work. Maybe you decided his offer was to low. But you didn’t write him back to let him know. Months later you’re in a hole again, and you decide to write your friend about the opportunity. He doesn’t write you back, he’s angry with you, or perhaps just says that the opportunity isn’t available anymore. Why? Because you were unreliable!

Maybe you’re thinking about starting a business and you’re looking for some guidance and help. You reach out to some friends of yours telling them about your great idea. Some of them like your idea, give you some advice, or offer some connections in their network. Maybe you’re busy, but for some reason you decide not to write your friends back. You’re head is down, you’re focused, you don’t have time to talk to them and hear their crappy advice, after all, you only wrote them because you want likes on Facebook, and you want the business to succeed. A short while later, you notice that your friends aren’t helping you out anymore. They’re not liking your posts, sharing your press releases, or helping you in any way. Why? Because you were unreliable!

I find this to be such a common occurrence that I just had to write about it. If you’re already reliable and you get back to people that are trying to help you, then you’re in a good place. I have a theory that the people who are so unreliable aren’t necessarily just selfish people, but that they are ignorant to being the way they are. They are just not aware that they lack the fundamental communication skills necessary to appear reliable and worthy of collaboration.

I see deals dropped almost everyday, and most of the time it isn’t because they aren’t well qualified from a technical perspective or don’t have the business acumen to pull of their ideas, but because they lack the ability to be reliable. Nobody wants to work with someone like that.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments closed

Help Others Discover Cemetery Records

In my last article about giving back to the genealogy community, I talked about how you can spend a few minutes each week to do some transcription of documents, so that other people’s relatives begin to show up in searchable indexes. The two examples I gave were Ancestry World Archives Project and the FamilySearch Indexing project. If you’ve already decided to sign up and submit a few records, I applaud you. You’re doing the genealogy community at large a huge favor, and you can bet your bottom that others will benefit from your hard work.

These services have quite a few different indexing projects going on all the time, which cover a great many databases. And while they don’t cover cemeteries, they do partner with other cemetery databases that do. So when you search for relatives on Ancestry or FamilySearch, the cemetery records from partner cemetery databases bubble up in the search results.

Cemetery databases often provide information about a person buried, along with a photograph of their headstone. Photographs of headstones can reveal important information, such as birth, marriage and death dates, as well as reveal other family members you didn’t know existed. This is an often overlooked resource when you are stuck on a family member that you knew lived in an area but you don’t have their vital information.

The most popular two cemetery databases are

FindAGrave

On FindAGrave, people can request to have contributors near their relative’s cemeteries snap a picture of their headstone or grave. It’s quite typical that you’ll receive a request photo within a week. And since it’s done by a volunteer, it doesn’t cost anything to request a photo.

To contribute, you can sign up for alerts from other users who are requesting photos for graves at nearby cemeteries. You get to pick which cemeteries you get alerts for, and you can claim the requests you actually want to tackle so that you’re not competing with others to make it happen. Additionally, you can also go to cemeteries and add grave information and photos that are missing if you feel like it (though there are rules at some cemeteries about taking photographs of graves without a family member’s permission so be sure you ask the front desk first).

They have partnered with Ancestry, who will index FindAGrave’s databases over time. This will result in the familiar leaf Hints that Ancestry subscribers are familiar with when a cemetery record on FindAGrave matches a person on an Ancestry tree. Can you picture the warm fuzzies a fellow genealogist will feel upon seeing that?

BillionGraves

BillionGraves takes a different approach. They provide mobile phone apps that take advantage of GPS locations to detect where you are. Contributors are prompted to snap photographs of each grave, which is uploaded with a precise location on a map. This allows people to quickly see which graves are missing in a large cemetery.

Other contributors decide to transcribe the information on headstones in the photos instead of going out to take photos of the headstones. This allows you to contribute from the comfort of your home, and can also greatly benefit a genealogist looking for cemetery records.

The beauty of this model is that the photos provide information (headstone information) that would otherwise be unknown, since cemeteries will typically not give away their plot databases all at once. The FindAGrave model requires users to call cemeteries to get the plot information,  then submit that information to the site, and finally allow users to request photos. But the BillionGraves model gets the photographing out of the way first, and often in batch (a person can walk down a row of graves and take pictures one after the other). Then there is a huge queue of photos waiting to be transcribed by contributors like you.

Which to Contribute To?

My suggestion is that you give both sites a shot. They have very different sets of cemetery data, and I rarely find the same record on both sites. They are both worthy of your contribution time.

I’m only punishing myself for not implementing the idea first. I thought about making a cemetery photo database website for many years, and I just never found the time to get around to making it happen. To make up for that lost opportunity, I try to contribute as many transcriptions as possible.

Posted in Indexing | Comments closed

Giving Back to the Genealogy Community

I wanted to share that even though I’m an incredibly busy person (I run a startup company, consult for clients, research my family history, blog about startups & now blog about genealogy, and raise two very young children) I still find some time every week to transcribe and index a few records for collections that are sitting on an island, totally unsearchable.

Most of you have benefitted from access to great databases, such as the ones at Ancestry and FamilySearch. You also probably realize that most of these records would not be available if it wasn’t for the contributions of tens of thousands of volunteers who transcribe images that contain your documents into indexes that are searchable. The hard work of these people make it possible for you to quickly discover great records simply by searching on the Internet.

The old way of doing things was to search catalogs of repositories to discover collections of records, and then order or request access to a collection (usually on microfiche or microfilm, but sometimes in print) and then manually look through all of the records to see if any records looked like something of interest. It was incredibly time consuming. (And for the vast majority of records out there, they’re still not digitized and you will need to manually look through them, but that discussion is for another day.)

Services like Ancestry and FamilySearch have paid for the rights to copy and digitize a lot of collections that are still sitting there unindexed. In order to get these collections into searchable form, the tens of thousands of volunteers need to transcribe and digitize them. This is a rather interesting process, as the volunteers sort and analyze the images (and toss back any that are unreadable or overly confusing), and then other volunteers manage this new data and review the work of the transcribers. Eventually, this content is published and we all benefit from their hard work.

Unfortunately, there’s always new collections that need to be indexed, and even with the tens of thousands of volunteers there is simply too much work to be done. My call to you is to consider helping out, even if you can only transcribe a few records a week. It only takes a few minutes to index a few records, and there are no time commitments required of you. Giving back to the community will make you feel great. You’ll also get a better understanding of how many records are still out there waiting for you to discover.

Start giving back now!

Ancestry World Archives Project

FamilySearch Indexing

Do you volunteer? If so, tell me more about it in the comments.

Posted in Indexing | Comments closed

10 Ways to Determine Origin of Immigration

If you’re a United States citizen, then you know that nearly everyone’s family once originated somewhere else in the world; your family included. Every budding genealogist dreams of discovering where exactly their ancestors were from, and in many cases this can be a very difficult proposition.

With a strict attention to detail and a determined attitude you can uncover this knowledge. The following ten sources prove to be excellent ways to determine where your ancestors emigrated from. This is the particular order that I search for information about my once foreign family members.

1. Family Discussions

Talking with your close and living family is the best source to learn about your family, in most cases. They often have details in documents that they might be holding onto for safe keeping and stories that they have in their memories. This may seem like an obvious task but you would be surprised to learn how many people are not in touch with their families and feel hesitant to start a dialog to begin this process.

Do keep in mind that information you get from people’s memories may be incorrect, even if they are certain of it. It is very likely that a significant number of years has passed and it is easy to recall information incorrectly. Their anecdotes make excellent dialog for your family stories, and the documentation that they might be sitting on will make reliable sources for facts about the family members you are researching.

2. Family Stories

Many families pass down stories, diaries, and other anecdotes to each other. These often provide detailed scenery of family members’ lives in a way that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to understand. In most cases, stories and diaries are dated, provide personal details about other family members, and reminisce about the old lives they had before they made their way to America.

Family stories are an incredible source of information that is often very reliable because they are typically written during the time and era that the family member experienced the events.

3. Family Documents

Many families have a family bible where they keep a lineage. Additionally, families often keep government documents and pass them down to kin, such as birth, marriage, and death certificates. Additionally, deeds, wills, and other official paperwork can be found in family archives.

These documents provide a wealth of information that is incredibly accurate and can very quickly lead you to the next generation of family members. If your family did not keep these documents, or you’re unable to get copies of them from your family, don’t fret – there are many ways to get access to these types of documents with some diligent research.

4. United States Census

The US Census is performed every decade. Wherever your family members settled in the United States, they are bound to show up on the US Census eventually. This document will list the family members in the dwelling that they were living in, and will detail the origins of each of the family members as well as their parents. The husband and wife of the household will be the most revealing line items since they will hopefully point to the country of their origination (or at least the country that their parents were from).

5. State Census

Just like the US Census (which is performed by the Federal government), many states in the Union perform their own census. This census can be as equally revealing, and often it is offset from the Federal census by 5 years. This can help catch a new residence location if the family member moved within the decade period. Additionally, this will detail the location of origin for each family member.

6. United States Passenger Manifest

Often hailed as the “Holy Grail” of immigration/emigration documentation, a Passenger Manifest is a document that details all the people who got onto or got off of a ship. These records can be paired up on both ends to reveal very interesting information about where a family member (or even entire family) was from.

If you discover a Passenger Manifest corresponding to entry into the United States, chances are that there is a matching Passenger Manifest corresponding to emigration from the country they were from. They often traveled to other countries that had a seaport in order to travel by ship, so it is very common that these illustrate that the point of embarkment is not the same as the country of origin.

7. County Marriage Certificate

Marriage records and certificates are typically issued and kept by counties in each state. They contain the names of the people getting married, and the names of their parents. Generally it will say what their birth dates are and where they were each born.

8. Death Certificate

When someone dies a record of their death is created. The Social Security Death Index will generally include your family member if they had a Social Security Card issued (and in most cases, people who died after 1940 have a SSN since they became increasingly necessary).

Additionally, the state and county where the person died will have a death record. This document will detail their birth date, death date, and potentially other revealing information. The country of their origin is sometimes noted, though it is commonly not revealed. Using the birth and death dates, you may be able to uncover other documents that will reveal this.

9. Obituaries

Obituaries are rife with details. They explain when the family member became diseased, where the public viewing will be (if any), who the surviving family members are and where they live, and some information about where they are from and how they have been involved in the community.

The information is usually summarized by the funeral home as part of their services, and the information is gathered by a family member, usually the next of kin. So this information could be incorrect. It’s usually very helpful, but the information they have is usually based on what the diseased family member shared with the next of kin while they were alive.

10. United States Naturalization Documentation

When you ancestors were aliens (not the ones from space) they dreamed of becoming citizens of the United States of America. This process required that they live in the US for a certain duration of time (this time length changed over the years) throughout the entirety they obey the law and diligently hold their allegiances. Once approved, they would become naturalized citizens.

Certificate of Arrival

A Certificate of Arrival documents the entrance to the United States. During the process of acquiring a Certificate of Arrival, an applicant’s first entry to the United States would be verified, typically by confirming the person on a Passenger Manifest. Once confirmed, the applicant would be assigned a Certificate of Arrival number. You can often find these numbers on the Passenger Manifest handwritten near their name as well on the Certificate of Arrival itself.

The Certificate of Arrival will tell the original name of the family member, the date and ship that the person came to the United States on, and sometimes the country of origin. If the country of origin is not provided, you can look for the Passenger Manifest for the date and ship that the Certificate of Arrival lists.

Petition for Naturalization

When an applicant is ready to apply for citizenship, a Petition for Naturalization is filed. This document contains a wealth of information, such as their current name and address, a spouse and any children, and very possibly some close friends or neighbors who have signed as their witnesses.

The document will also declare the country of origination that they will be denouncing once their application is approved.

Oath of Allegiance

An Oath of Allegiance is a legally binding document that officially denounces the applicant’s country of origin as well as the leadership of that country. Signing the Oath of Allegiance is the final step to citizenship, and the applicant becomes a naturalized citizen.

This document lists the country of origin because the family member must officially denounce their previous citizenship and loyalties.

In future articles I will go into detail how to research each of these categories of resources as well as many others. How have these sources helped you with your search for the country of origin of your family lines?

Posted in Research Strategies, Tips and Tricks | Comments closed