Back to base, interesting characters and planning ahead

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May 212017
 

The travels I reported in my last blog seem a decade ago now, but actually I only returned to base ten days ago. Following my visits to 4N Didsbury lunch and 4N Tranmere evening, I spent a lovely two days with my good friends, James and Carla Hutchison of UKPrint.Biz. It’s rare that we have the opportunity to spend time together (for various reasons, not least the distance between our respective homes) and it was great to just fit into one another’s lives for almost 48 hours.

In planning my trip away, I had a ‘day in limbo‘ and so, decided to go to Blackpool, for no obvious reason at all! On arrival, it was dark and dreary and not particularly inspiring. However, I wandered out of my hotel for the night to The Velvet Coaster for a bite to eat and met with a lovely bunch of people who invited me to share their table for dinner. Lots of family history and heir tracing stories later, they went on their pub crawl and I wended my merry way back to the hotel.

Blackpool on a sunny day is far more inspiring. A 10K fun run was taking place along the promenade and so, I took a lovely relaxing walk along the seafront with all the rides, ice-cream vendors, fish and chip shops and donkeys surrounding me, before heading onward to Keighley (the home of FWL Northern Office). Back to research …. yey!

Having heard so much about the neighbours surrounding the Northern Office, I was cordially invited to meet one of them (on a Sunday!) and what a lovely lady too. @HistoryLady2013 and I had a day of work on the Monday before I regaled the local family history society with my Searching for Surnames talk, down at Keighley Library, with visitors from afar to hear me blather on!

Returning to base on Tuesday (a little too swiftly, so Gloucestershire Constabulary have informed me – oops!), a pile of paperwork of rather epic proportions was awaiting me. Most items were attended to before the weekend, with only a few non-urgent items remaining. This past week has been interesting with other companies getting on their high horses and being rather uncordial in their liaisons as well as one “gentleman”, who we are trying to help to deal with an estate, hanging up the ‘phone with two different members of staff and telling one to ‘piss off’. Never a dull moment, as we often say!

The future looks interesting for me (MD@FWL) with travels afoot in just a few weeks. I will be heading to Canada to speak mainly at the Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS) Conference 2017 but also to the Niagara Branch of OGS. Having studied in Ottawa (back in the day), I am really pleased to have several ‘catch ups’ on the cards with friends from yesteryear in Niagara, Toronto and Ottawa. Teaching? Sorry, pardon? Oh yes…. ! I will still be supporting my students whilst I am away as their final exam is during my time abroad. Support, until the very last minute…..

[More on the conference, travels etc. to follow, of course!]

Travels, networking and surprising issues

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May 052017
 

A fair amount of time has passed since the last FWL blog (again)…. To all readers, apologies for this but business has taken very much a front seat and hence, the ‘bloggage rate’ has slipped to an unusually low level. There have also been a few changes at FWL Towers, all of which will improve our services to our customers/clients.

I’ve been off gallivanting again – business networking across the nation and doing talks and lectures all around the place! This week, I had a very interesting issue arise at a Women’s Institute meeting. I arrived in good time to find a lovely shiny parking space was saved for me, right outside the door of the building. I was pleasantly surprised to find that a data projector and screen were not only available but fixed to the Village Hall ceiling and wall, instantly ready for action…. or so it seemed.

I turned up to regale the ladies with plenty of stories about family history and give them some tips and tricks for research, with a very visual presentation – this is not one which can be performed well without visual aids! It took just a few short minutes for one of the ladies to apologise that the screen was not working properly and that the audience would only be able to see the upper half of my presentation screen, asking if I could change the settings on my PC?!?! Erm, the only thing which will change where the projector projects is the projector and it’s a long way north of any reachable position in the hall.

So, undaunted …. the ladies set about finding an alternative. I was a little perturbed to see that the plan was to project my presentation onto a BLACK curtain??! Unsure that this would actually serve the purpose, I gave it a go and, Hey Presto! It worked, thanks to my beautiful presentation on a WHITE background. Not a position I would like to be in again but alternative options on this occasion did not spoil the show!

At 4N meetings, my 4Sights are all NO TECH for exactly the reasons presented above and the trip to Manchester and Tranmere were therefore uneventful on the presentation side of things. Lots of new connections, lots of miles on the clock and lots of friends to re-connect with. And now to the weekend….

It’s a Bank Holiday weekend

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Apr 172017
 

On Thursday (the new Friday), there was (apparently, as I wasn’t there) a sweepstake about how many people would get in touch with our offices over the Bank Holiday weekend. The bets ranged from ‘five or six‘ to ‘north of 20‘ and the ‘north of 20’ bet won….

We, as a company, like to make ourselves as available as much as possible. In the past, we have commented on the fact that it’s useful to be available ‘after hours’ as, in our line of business, people cannot always talk during their working day. The extended working hours at FWL work for us and for our clients. However, there is a limit.

Over the Easter weekend, we set automated replies on our Facebook page and emails. Why? So that people know that we have received their communication, we inform them of our opening hours during this week and let them know when they should expect a reply. Most people accept that but some people message us on various channels and clearly expect/need a reply. Other people call the office telephone number and expect someone to pick up their call. But it’s Bank Holiday!!?

Clearly, if we have made an arrangement with someone that we will provide an update/call them this weekend, that’s completely different but the expectation that we are available 24-7….? Acceptable or unacceptable? Yes, there is the argument that we don’t have to answer the telephone or reply to the rather aggressive Facebook messages but then, we provide excellent customer service and so, if someone on the team sees the message, or their telephone rings, we will oblige.

Thank you Facebook, Twitter, the Internet and email, for making us omnipresent …. I think.

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2017

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Apr 092017
 

It hardly seems possible that it was a year ago since the last Who Do You Think You Are? Live event at the NEC in Birmingham…. that year certainly went by rather quickly. With the aid of my usual amazing scheduling, I managed to get to the church on time…. oh no, that’s a different story…. I managed to get to the train station on time (well, with a few seconds to spare, and a rather faster walk than usual over the footbridge to ensure I actually got on the train!) so as to leave Chippenham at 16:25. Cue minor heart failure. In my mind, the train to Birmingham would have taken me to Bristol Temple Meads first and then, with a change, to Birmingham International. However, this train was travelling towards London! After consultation with my travel assistant at FWL Towers, it transpired that all was indeed well and I would be changing in Reading, not Bristol.

On the Cross Country train from Reading to Birmingham, it would seem that Wifi (despite having a Myfi device) is sporadic at best and a number of reconnects were needed to even send emails, let alone do any genealogical research! Frustrating…. but we arrived on schedule and I almost completed mission one: To walk over the bridge from the train station to the NEC without meeting a genealogist! Failed as @pennysresearch appeared from nowhere, just shy of the escalator!

Mission two was to assist with the setting up of the University of Dundee stand and this was achieved without event. Sylvia Valentine (@HistoryLady2013) and I then returned to the Hilton so I could check in and as we were heading out for dinner, bumped into Aiden Feerick (an Irish genealogist) and so we ended up dining as a trio. A very pleasant evening was had by all.

This year, I had a somewhat busier schedule than I have had at past events and, in my usual fashion, made myself available for additional appointments during the course of the show. I already had four hours of Experting booked in (two on Thursday and two on Saturday) but ended up doing six eventually, along with much networking with fellow genealogists from across the globe and three lectures. I love helping out on the ‘expert’ tables and I was certainly able to help a large number of people to further their research in various ways from adoptions, people telling lies on certificates and in censuses or people simply hiding (or otherwise, being abducted by aliens, as we often say at FWL Towers!). There is still an urban myth that if the record isn’t available online it doesn’t exist, so I also spent some time encouraging people to visit various record offices across the nation.

My three lectures went well it would seem as, not only were they all packed with standing room only, but several people stopped me in the Exhibition Hall to make positive comments and others were heard discussing my lectures over breakfast in the Premier Inn! Rummaging in the Parish ChestsFree sources for the Frugal Genealogist and Using Social Media in your Research will certainly have further airings in the future.

The event comes around very quickly each year and there are so many people to try to ‘catch up’ with, there are always some I seem to miss, or only spend five minutes with before being sidetracked. I was pleased to spend quality time with several genealogy colleagues from overseas who I see even less frequently than the Brits – John Boeren from Antecedentia Research (Netherlands), Marie Cappart from Histoires de Familles (Belgium), Liv Birgit Christensen (Norway)…. some made it back home before those of us in the UK as there were several train strikes affecting journeys.

The trip home after an event is generally an anti-climax and mine was more challenging than most. Birmingham and its environs (for those of you not in the UK and/or those who do not follow football) is the home of many and various football teams. Sadly, a number of those teams were playing at home yesterday and hence, I had to stand in the train corridor with another 15-20 passengers, outside the toilet. Suffice to say, the aroma was not particularly rosy and, having been stood for much of the previous three days, standing on the train on the way home did not go down well. However, ever one with a sense of humour, I rallied the troops and most were at least swearing less/looking less miserable than they might have done otherwise.

And now, back to whatever normality looks like tomorrow (Monday). I am told it’s a four-day week. I am not so sure it will be for me/FWL!

Why wait?

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Mar 282017
 

If I told you how many letters we send out of our offices every single day, you’d be staggered. In fact, we are! FWL – as a company – has expanded beyond our wildest dreams in the last six months alone and the number of ‘heir hunting’ cases which are signed to us in frankly monumental.

Often, I (as MD@FWL) have very similar conversations on a number of occasions over the course of a day. People receive our letters (sometimes, along with letters from other companies) and wonder, “What’s occurring?” Many of the cases we work on are from the Unclaimed Estates list which is published on a daily basis (at varying times) by the Government Legal Department (formerly the Treasury Solicitors). If the family tree is simple to work out, potential heirs may receive anything from one to ten letters along with telephone calls and, from some companies, unexpected house guests.

It’s a tough decision to decide which company to choose to represent you and each individual has their own reasons for making their choice. Once the case is being progressed – whether probate is required or not – as administrators of the estate, our next battle is to ensure that we have located and engaged with all heirs. We never cease to be amazed with the number of people who do not engage with us for ages…. seriously? It’s not hard to comprehend! We hear the word ‘scam’ more times in a day than our combined total of hot dinners in a week…. but when you have been notified that we are administrators in an estate where you are entitled and we are simply trying to pay you the money which is legally yours, why wait?

In recent months, I have been threatened with police action for ‘not administrating an estate fast enough’. Fast enough?? Police action?! Get real! Sorry, Mr/Mrs/Miss Beneficiary but, if your brother/cousin/sister/whatever doesn’t engage, guess what? We cannot just pay their entitlement out without receiving any instructions or proof of identity documentation from them! Nor can we assume they are disclaiming because they aren’t communicating with us! It’s called THE LAW.

At FWL, we are ethical, professional and diligent. We proceed with estate administration as swiftly as possible but we will not cut corners. Simple. So, please…. if you receive a letter from us, reply. We won’t bite, honest!

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