Never shy away from a challenge

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Jul 102017

Oh my, wow….! How has so much time passed by since the last FWL blog? Since we last communicated with all of you, so much has happened/changed, it’s hardly possible to make a list of less than a A4 page of just the highlights. Each and every day is different (part of the reason why we all love working at FWL) and we honestly never know what the day will throw at us.

The morning’s post rules our world….  We collect it from the Sorting Office before the day begins and that helps us to plan the day ahead. Until the ‘phone rings that is…. A friend of mine commented recently about how he has 150 emails or so per day. I replied, “Is that all?!” The amount of correspondence we receive each day at FWL (across the whole team) is staggering. Post, emails, telephone calls …. the enquiries are endless. Of course, that’s a good thing and the team are delighted to be presented with new challenges. Sometimes the challenge is to keep their cool on the telephone when people decide that the best way to engage with us is to shout and be aggressive. That’s not the best way, just so you know….

Over the last four years (nearly) since we’ve been blogging away, we’ve talked a lot about ethics and professionalism. That’s what we pride ourselves on and we will never lower our standards. We are honest when we say that family trees don’t grow overnight and estate claims aren’t resolved in a heartbeat. Often matters cannot be put on a timeline as they are not utterly dictated by us.

So, the highlights since we last wrote…. We have secured a lucrative new contract with a professional organisation. We have resolved an estate out of court thus saving the estate tens of thousands of pounds. We have broken down a family history research brick wall for a client which has stood solid for decades. Our MD has been booked for over a dozen more presentations and we are soon to be featured in a local publication about the Heritage Quarter where our offices are now based.

Life is good at FWL. Why not come and visit us, if you are local? Or call or email us if you want us to look into your research requirement….? We never shy away from a challenge. In fact, we love challenges!

Speaking/globetrotting around the world

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Jun 202017

It has been a little while since I last blogged and a fair few road and air miles have been travelled in between times. One of the perks of being MD@FWL (there are a few actually!) is that often I am asked to speak in front of large audiences about what we do and how we do it. People want to know how to start researching their family history and how they can break down the brick walls they hit along the way. I don’t give out all the ‘trade secrets’ (of course) but I give a whole heap of advice for free at events so people can further their own studies.

My road miles took me to three different 4N meetings in three days earlier this month – Birmingham, Cambridge and Chepstow. Not exactly the best scheduling as the three are not really that close together, but the outcomes were amazing! After presenting, several people had specific requests for the FWL magic wand and we are already making great progress towards cracking some long-standing missions for our new clients. Yes it is even possible to start tracing your birth father without knowing his identity….

For the last ten days, I have been five timezones away from our UK Head Office, in Canada. The weather has been much the same as in the UK with a heat wave as soon as I arrived. The Canadians are far better prepared for weather extremes than the UK so I think I have been in the better place with air conditioning units a-plenty!

The reason for my travels to Canada (aside from the fact I love the country and studied here back in the 1990s!) was to attend and speak at The Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS) Conference in Ottawa. This year is the 150th anniversary of Canada (also known as the 150th anniversary of Confederation) and has been promoted by the Canadian government as Canada 150, marking the sesquicentennial anniversary of Canadian Confederation. Ottawa being the Canadian capital, this year’s conference had to be in Ottawa!

Over the past four years, I have attended and spoken at three of the OGS conferences and been involved in the planning (in very minor ways), recommending a few new initiatives from my experience of other societies/at other events. In 2015, a conference Twitter account was set up and this has continued ever since with this year, a Social Media Team (SMT) being appointed to blog, Facebook, tweet and generally make a lot of noise about the conference. Wow – what hard work that was! Whilst I haven’t blogged until now, I can honestly say I have never tweeted so much during one weekend! The work of the SMT raised the profile of the conference enormously both for those attending and those who were not able to do so. The livestreaming of a few of the keynote speakers was received well, adding almost another 10% to the attendees of one lecture alone.

During the conference, I ran a workshop on Family Reconstruction, lectured on From Rural Devon to PEI: A Migration Story (featuring various Sillifant families) and Community Histories, and gave ‘Fast Track’ presentations about The Society for One-Place Studies and The Surname Society. Networking is key at any conference and due to my Twitter presence, I was contacted by CBC Radio for an interview, but after initial discussions, I passed on the gig to Mags Gaulden of Grandma’s Genes [listen here].

At the end of the conference, I had a key role – announcing next year’s conference. Why? Because I am co-chairing it with Dianna Fulton! It will be at the University of Guelph from June 1 to June 3, 2018. There is still plenty of time to put in a speaking proposal if you are that way inclined. Take a look at the Call for Speakers. 2018 looks to be an exciting time for us at FWL…. definitely, watch this space!

Before I sign off, I just wanted to say a huge THANK YOU to all the people I have met over the past few weeks on my travels and particularly to the Canadian genealogy community for their kindness and hospitality.

Limits and that piece of string

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Jun 042017

Dear Clients (past, present and future),

At Family Wise Limited, we are very pleased to provide a consistently excellent service for you, managing your expectations (where possible) from the start to the completion of a project (whatever that project may entail). That said, there are certain things we are not able to do and so, we want to let you know this, so everything is clear from the outset of our working relationship.

If we are dealing with an estate for you (where someone has died without a Will), we cannot pay liabilities/debts without having funds to do so. You may well want to have your long-lost uncle/aunt/whoever’s ashes interred but, unless the bank will release the funds, we have nothing to pay the bill with. Sadly, it doesn’t matter how cross you are, the funds still aren’t available.

When estates are referred to us, we make copious checks with banks, local authorities, utility providers, the Department of Work and Pensions and many more. If there are personal effects which have been stored by a third party, unless we are informed by that third party, we are not able to read minds (we haven’t been trained by that duo on Britain’s Got Talent, DNA), nor are we able to fathom randomly that someone somewhere might have these items. You may well have been a friend of the deceased and be annoyed that we don’t know about these things but how exactly were we supposed to know?

Ah, so you’d like to find someone in your life who you’ve never met? We can certainly help there. You’d like a quote for how much it will cost? Well, we might need some background information before we can pluck that figure out of the air! In fact, we actually do a lot of research before we provide a quote. We want to know, with confidence, that we can achieve the mission you have set us. We don’t charge for this research time and it doesn’t happen overnight. We totally understand that you want to act now and we could provide a pie in the sky quote with no idea whether we can achieve the end goal but we would rather be realistic in our quotes.

Oh and did you know? Sometimes emails go astray. We cannot know intuitively that you have emailed us. So, if you don’t hear back from your email, why not email us to ask if we received your previous message? Not within 24-48 hours of your last communication …. do give us some time to react! But if you’ve not heard in five working days, the chances are that we haven’t received your correspondence.

We do work research miracles at Family Wise Limited but the above miracles are sadly not possible.

Thank you for reading and we hope this helps you understand us a little better.

~ The FWL Team

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….

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