Follow Friday: Design Woop

It is Follow Friday! This is a blogging meme in which authors recommend other blogs, websites, repositories, or anything else. In keeping with the theme of this blog, I will spotlight different resources for professional and aspiring professional genealogists each week: not only genealogy-related, but also others of interest.

I was surprised this past week, that the post with the most views was “21st Century business card designs,” despite having two recent posts on source citations (usually a popular subject) and one about the book Evidence Explained. The uptick in visits came as a result of mentions in two other popular genealogy blogs, ClueWagon and Olive Tree Genealogy. Apparently this is a topic that genealogists find interesting.

With that note, I would like to share another blog about design: Design Woop.

Design Woop generally discusses minimalist design, with popular posts like “18 Best Minimal WordPress Themes” and “20 Minimalist & Typographic Brochure Designs.”

But the blog discusses other aspects of design as well. My favorite ongoing series is the monthly business card design series:

Other interesting recent posts include:

If you are at all interested in design, and how it can affect your business marketing (as well as other aspects of your business), take a look at DesignWoop.

21st Century business card designs

In an earlier post, I discussed “marketing outside of the box.” This previous post demonstrated two unique ways of marketing yourself, taking advantage of modern technology trends, like Internet social media and QR codes.

Now what about that good-old-fashioned standby of marketing: the business card?

How can the standard paper business card be improved to take advantage of modern technology? I have recently seen two ideas that utilize these concepts.

The first is to include a QR code on the business card. The QR code can contain a direct link to your website, scannable by most smartphones. Beyond the presence of the code, however, most of the business card would remain the same as what we are accustomed to. You would still generally include at least your name, and most also contain other personal information. On the other hand, since much of this information can be embedded into the QR code itself, none of it must necessarily appear on the card.

There are quite a few services that allow you to create a custom QR code, and incorporate the codes into your business card design. The example here was created by a free site called TEC-IT.

A second interesting idea that I have recently come across is the “Google Me” business card. This is a very simple idea, but it plays on a very important aspect of 21st century marketing. Let’s face facts: no matter what you try to impress upon potential clients about yourself, many of them will make their decisions based on the results of a Google search.

In an earlier post I discussed the results of a Google search for the title of my website. Try Googling yourself.

Searching for yourself emphasizes the level of control you can have over your web presence. You will see among the results profiles on any of the social networks that you frequent, and some that you may have even forgotten.

Searching for yourself will also emphasize the lack of control you might have over your web presence. You will be surprised the level to which you may appear online in ways that you may not have intended. And of course, these are the hits that your potential clients are sure to see.

Once you have a firm grasp of your online presence, however, the “Google Me” business card is fantastic. It tells your potential clients that you are confident in your abilities. It tells them that you are not afraid of them searching for you online. Most importantly, it tells them that you are an expert in your field, who needs no further introduction. You don’t have to toot your own horn. The Internet will do it for you.

Beyond this, the design of the business card itself is striking for it simplicity. It contains only your name with no further identifying information about yourself. It also piggy-backs on the notably simplistic but instantly recognizable Google home page design.

These business card designs demonstrate just two of the many ways that you can leverage 21st century technology into traditional business marketing techniques.

Have you seen any other business card designs that effectively do the same? Or any other business card designs that are unique or remarkable in other ways?

If you would like to cite this post: Michael Hait, CG, “21st Century business card designs,” Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 22 Sep 2011 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please also feel free to include a hyperlink to the specific article if you are citing this post in an online forum.]

On the transformation from Footnote to Fold3

On 18 August 2011, the popular subscription genealogy database announced two major changes.

For nearly five years, Footnote was the strongest competitor to the market-dominating The site made available improved images of several federal census enumerations, as well as improved image viewing and tagging capabilities. Over time, Ancestry and Footnote became complementary competitors, as separate agreements with both the U. S. National Archives and Records Administration and the Family History Library/FamilySearch provided different record groups to the two sites. Throughout this time, I have consistently recommended Footnote to audiences in my lectures on the U. S. Civil War, specifically because of the site’s strength in records of this era.

Almost a year ago, on 23 September 2010, announced the acquisition of iArchives, the parent company of Footnote. Until the 18 August announcements, there were no noticeable changes to the site.

Two major changes have now occurred, according to the announcement:

  • The site will now focus entirely and exclusively on military records.
  • Footnote has been renamed Fold3.

In my opinion, the first of these two changes is a wise move. Especially now that Footnote is a subsidiary of Ancestry, it simply does not make sense to have two separate teams (e.g. the Ancestry team and Footnote team) both working to increase record holdings without focus. There are already several duplicate databases between the two sites. It would be inappropriate to increase this number. What Fold3 has done is recognized its strengths and chosen a focused path.

As a professional genealogist (or aspiring professional) we must do the same. I wrote before about being “Primary Care Genealogists,” that is, strong in the basic universal research skills that can be applied to any problem in any location. This does not mean that we should not define ourselves more specifically. In fact, most professionals eventually become known for a specialty–geographic, ethnic group, record group, time period, methodological, etc. This specialty can be either a conscious decision or a natural development of personal interests. But once a professional becomes a recognized expert on some subject, the amount of business relating to this content will increase (and consequently the amount of business not relating to this specialty will decrease).

So from this perspective, Footnote did what every professional must eventually do: they have created a focus by which they can become known.

The flip side of this coin is that was already known, and had many loyal subscribers. Yesterday’s announcement has upset quite a few of these subscribers. Just take some time to read the comments left on the Fold3 blog. There were quite a few subscribers, including institutions with small budgets, who were attracted to Footnote due to its lower subscription price, as an alternative to the rather pricey Ancestry subscription. Prior to its acquisition by, Footnote was marketed as a competitor and an alternative, with the promise to someday rival Ancestry. The more specific–and more limited–focus puts an end to the site’s existence as a cheaper alternative.

The name change has also received mostly negative reviews. The most frequent objection is that no one knows what it means. According to the announcement,

We wanted a name that would show respect for the records we are working on and for the people who have served in the armed forces.  The name Fold3 comes from a traditional flag-folding ceremony in which the third fold is made in honor and remembrance of veterans for their sacrifice in defending their country and promoting peace in the world.

This makes complete sense to me as a man whose brother is currently in Afghanistan after having already served in Iraq in the past three years. As a business owner, I feel that, with the new focus on military records, a new name reflecting this focus also seems warranted.

The down side of changing the name to reflect the new focus is that, where Footnote had become a recognizable brand, Fold3 is not yet recognizable. The name change erases years of marketing by Footnote. This is usually bad, but in creating a new name and a new focus, the company has ultimately created an entirely new entity. For some genealogists, this entity will not have any interest. Other genealogists–as well as new markets possibly uninterested in genealogy, such as military historians and reenactors–will continue to find Fold3 useful.

Changes are difficult to accept. But sometimes they are for the best of everyone involved.

The official announcement appears in the following blog post:

“Footnote is now Fold3 (updated),” Fold3 HQ blog, posted on 18 August 2011 ( : accessed 18 Aug 2011).


Every minute on the web…

Earlier this month, a very interesting post appeared in Velvet Chainsaw’s Midcourse Corrections entitled, “Every 60 Seconds These 21 Things Happen On the Internet.” It is pretty short, but includes a beautiful infographic from Shanghai Web Designers.

For copyright interests, I will not reprint the entire 21-point list here, but I invite you all to read the post using the link above.

Several of these items are particularly interesting as an Internet genealogist in general but also as a self-employed small business owner and as a professional researcher.

    • The search engine Google serves more than 694,445 queries

How often do you repeat your genealogy-related Google searches? The way that Google’s search algorithm works (at least the last time I read on the subject — it may have changed, so if someone knows better, please correct me), the more hits a site gets, the higher its search ranking.

With well over a half-million searches every single minute, it is possible that a site that did not show up (or showed up too far down the list for you to find) could find its search ranking improved and move up the search results. This means that a site that was barely visible before could now be made visible.

    • 70 new domains are registered

Do you plan on creating a website? If so, you’d better check on the availability of your ideal domain name and reserve it, before it’s too late! ; )

    • 1,600+ reads are made on Scribd

Are you familiar with Scribd — a great platform for creating and publishing ebooks?

  • As a researcher, I found on Scribd a published transcription of a young woman’s diary from the small town of Lynn Haven, Florida — a diary that just happened to have been written by a young friend of my great-grandfather (who also appears to have had a crush on his younger brother). Reading this was wonderful!
  • I always upload flyers for the genealogy events where I will be appearing, as well as other local events where I will not be speaking, to Scribd. From there I can tweet and post the link on Facebook, etc., to share with others.
  • As an author, I use Scribd to sell electronic copies of all of my books.
  • As a publisher, I use Scribd to distribute copies of all of the 1867 Texas voter registration lists that I have published as PDF “e-books.”

If you are not already using Scribd, please take a look. And be sure to run a search for some of your surnames. You may be surprised at what you find, just like I was!

Also take a look at the remaining items on this list of what happens online in a single minute. I would love to hear your thoughts on these, as both Internet users and as online genealogists. Could any of these statistics change the way you leverage your Internet use?

SOURCE: Hurt, Jeff. “Every 60 Seconds These 21 Things Happen On the Internet.” Velvet Chainsaw’s Midcourse Corrections. Posted 11 Jul 2011. : 2011.

If you would like to cite this post: Michael Hait, “Every minute on the web…,” Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 29 Jul 2011 ( : accessed [access date]).

Marketing outside of the box

How best to market your services is one of the most important factors that a professional genealogical researcher or lecturer must consider. After all, in order to conduct research professionally, someone must hire you to do so. In order for someone to hire you, they must know that you offer your services. This all comes down to how you market yourself.

Marketing has definitely changed in the past couple of years with the growth of the social Internet. How do you make yourself stand out from among other professionals? Obviously, research skill and experience are still essential. But they are no longer enough.

Here are two interesting and unique marketing ideas that I use:

The Visual Resume 

A picture speaks a thousand words. We have heard this a million times, and it is as true today as it was the first time we heard it.

Why not apply this principle to your resume?

I created the following “visual resume” using Microsoft PowerPoint, and have posted it on SlideShare, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

These slides provide all of the most important information about my services, including testimonials from past clients, in an interesting and unique way. The dry format of a resume has been replaced with much more palatable ilustrations.

Trading cards

I have to thank Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers for discovering this company.

Meet-Meme allows you to create your own trading cards. The trading cards contain a QR code (as well a short link for those of us that are i-challenged) that will take people to a profile page that you create at the same time that you create the card. This profile page can contain several links, with special attention to social networking sites. My profile page, for example, contains links to my Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook pages, as well as custom links to my Lulu bookstore, this blog, and the African American Genealogy Examiner column.

At the Institute of Genealogical & Historical Research (IGHR) last week, I ordered and gave out 20 of these fun trading cards to fellow genealogists. They were a hit! Everyone that had a smart phone immediately wanted to run the QR code and go to my profile page.

Your Ideas?

Have you tried either of these ideas? What did you think about them?

Have you tried any other interesting marketing ideas?

I’d love to hear about them!

How do potential clients find your website?

Since I started conducting research for clients over five years ago, I can trace most of my clients back to my website. This has, without a doubt, been my number one marketing tool.

But how do potential clients find my website? One way to check is by using the website’s analytics to identify incoming links. I will explore the analytics in another post.

First I would like to discuss another way to assess your website marketing. This is so simple that many people might not think to do it: use Google (or your favorite search engine) to search for your web address.

When I do a Google search for “” (including the quotes), Google returns “about 940 results.” This does unfortunately include some spam and other undesirable sites that contain links out of any meaningful context. However, the search results also contain the following links to various areas of my website (in order of the results):

This is just a small sample of the pages that contain the words “” There were also several results that led to individual articles written in my “National African American Genealogy” and “Baltimore Genealogy & History” columns for, posts on this blog, additional reviews of various books that I have written, and, because I include my web address in my email signature, several hundred archived posts on various genealogy-related mailing lists and message boards.

Please note that this search will not return all of the sites that link to my site. This search only reports those sites that actually contain the words “” There is another way to search for sites that link directly to a particular website using Google. I will discuss this in a future column.

SpeakerWiki: What it is, and how you can use it

Recently I was alerted to a site devoted specifically to public speakers: SpeakerWiki.

SpeakerWiki is a free website providing an online directory to professional speakers, in many different subject areas, including motivational, business, technology, new media, politics, journalism, health and wellness, education, sports, religion, and now genealogy.

The site is based on the Wiki platform, meaning that content is created by the users. This includes, according to the website’s FAQ, “hundreds of event planners, speakers, and agencies around the world.” The site continues,

This is a collaborative effort. Thousands of people have contributed information to different parts of this project, and anyone can do so, including you. All you need is to know how to edit a page, and have some speaker knowledge you want to share.

To add yourself or another genealogy speaker you know, you simply have to sign up for a free account. Each speaker receives “SpeakerCred” (that is, credibility) by adding links to their official homepage, published books, WikiPedia pages, videos of their presentations, and by receiving reviews.

SpeakerWiki also offers a free online article for speakers, entitled, “The Speaker Wiki Guide: Top 6 Ways to Get More Leads.” For those who are interested in obtaining more speaking jobs, this short guide might help.

For genealogical society event planners who are interested in finding new and fresh speakers, take a look at this site to see if there is someone in your area. You can read reviews of genealogy speakers on this site, and contact the speakers directly to learn more information.

To learn about my speaking experience, visit my SpeakerWiki profile.