Oct 212016

lecturerTo me, this is a really interesting question…. I have listened to hundreds of speakers over the years in various guises from education training (my previous career) to family and local history in all its facets (my now career and earlier, a hobby/obsession). In fact, many a seminar and conference have been organised by yours truly since the early 2000’s. Initially, in the world of family history, a Directory of Speakers was published by the Federation of Family History Societies which gave names and addresses (sometimes telephone numbers and occasionally email addresses…. shows the era we are talking about!), along with lists of talks available by each person and a rough idea of their charges. To be in the Directory, speakers had to be ‘nominated’ by a Family History Society they had previously spoken to – but how would you go about getting your name out there if you hadn’t spoken at an event before? And what happened if a speaker ‘fell from grace’ or five societies booked someone and said that they were not ‘up to the job’?

A statistic for most conferences, when booking 8+ speakers, is that (in my opinion and experience) you will always have one who doesn’t quite cut the mustard in someone’s opinion. Knowledgeable individuals may not use today’s technology or may have so much information that they need supporting notes – this may irritate some audience members. Others may talk for too long or go off track too much or have too much information on their Powerpoint slides…. the list is endless!

Nowadays, publicity can be (and generally is more) online and via word-of-mouth. Organising the programme for West Middlesex Family History Society Members Meetings in 2017, I have chosen various people who I know (first-hand) are good (in my opinion). Will others share my opinion? And how do I know that those advertising their talks online are ‘a safe bet’ or better?

I am genuinely interested to hear what you all (our readers) consider makes a good speaker? Equally, what turns you off during a lecture/talk?

Oct 172016

Positive weekend. Check. Achieved plenty. Check. Cracked the back of some really gritty projects. Check.

With the able assistance of Ma & Pa FWL, the old office is now clean and tidy and ready for its new purpose in life…. the FWL external quarters are also now better set for winter and the extra pairs of hands were much appreciated. The Team were therefore set up for a flying start and we sure had one!! Not a massive new BV list today but enough to keep the troops busy. Some potential beneficiaries even regaled Senior Case Managers with the finer details of London politics…. never dull!!

Chasing up the ‘loose ends’ on some cases has proven interesting with tracing needed in the Philippines and plenty Down Under…. Just because a case starts with someone who was born and died in Portsmouth, certainly doesn’t mean that their family are/were there too! Speaking to those who aren’t beneficiaries can often also crack the puzzle with random snippets of recollections from the past. I have to say, a new Law is needed in this country though…. if you have a common surname (Jones, Williams, Brown, White, Smith, Wilson, Evans etc.), you MUST give your child at least one middle name, if not more. Seriously, Lee Brown is not helpful! Maxwell? Richmond? Hypatia? All are wonderful and certainly make for easier searching in our job…. why wouldn’t you give your child a name which makes them easy to locate when they are entitled to money in years/decades to come?!

Still telephone-less, we are managing to survive on mobiles and diverting our calls. However, nine more working days and all will be in situ. Hurrah! Work has continued throughout our move and now, we are very much focussed on Christmas – one of our busiest times of the year. Looking for a present with a difference? Then why not consider a family history package? We have so much more capacity this year (more on the team and more space in the new premise) but we won’t be able to produce a tree with two weeks to spare!

Call us soon and get your order in the pipeline…. we do love a challenge!

Oct 142016

After a long week in FWL land (for both myself, Mr FWL and FWL colleagues), here I sit, on Friday evening, writing a blog to keep our readers informed of the goings-on at FWL Towers (or Empire, as it is now being referred to). Having sat through Eastenders and Would I Lie To You?, inspiration has been lacking on a topic for today’s blather, other than the obvious BT update. So, I’ll begin with that….

With our ineffective engineer’s visit on Tuesday, we were joined (unannounced) by a second engineer on Wednesday in the early part of the afternoon. He appeared to be more knowledgeable as well as having a better grasp of customer service requirements. Well, momentarily…. lost for THREE HOURS and with the team almost resorting to sending out a search party, he returned and we could not have been more excited to hear the right number for our telephone line when his machine dialled the ‘recorded lady voice thing’. Now, we can put in our broadband and telephone order…. only two more weeks with just Mifi and mobiles.

Turning to Mr FWL this evening, I requested some inspired thought for tonight’s missive (this). Following a brief dalliance into suggesting people who may have been named after engine parts, there was a modicum of interest in the ‘bacon’ search. I was almost certain that I must have (a) come across and (b) written about Bacon Albert Thompson Green before. However, it would seem not! (I have searched Google and he appeareth not). Born in December quarter 1873 in Croydon, I was more than a little surprised that his baptism took place in Norfolk! Ickborough, to be precise:


[Source: Ancestry.com, Norfolk Bishop’s Transcripts]

Bacon appears not to marry as Bacon A T Green but dies in 1960 in Great Yarmouth with Mary Alice Green, spinster, as his Executor. His entry in the National Probate Calendar refers to him as ‘otherwise Albert Thompson Green’…. hardly surprising he dropped the ‘bacon’! Gammon appears less frequently than Bacon in the first name stakes and Pork on even fewer occasions. FreeBMD has just three entries for Pork* – PORKER BRAYBROOK death in Sudbury in 1845, PORKEY HENRY HOY birth in East London in 1861 and PORKELL JOHANNESSON marrying in 1956 in Winchester. Oh how unfortunate….

Oct 112016

rouletteMoving to a new office is, we have decided, like a game of roulette. There are outside and inside bets from odd/even, red/black to top line/trio/split. You win some and you lose some. We won…. We managed to find the ideal office in a perfect location (the Heritage Quarter) in Calne. So good that several of us can walk to work.

We won…. because of the hard work of our solicitor at Wards, so we could sign the lease on the day we really wanted to. We won…. and have a fantastic design from Ideal Displays for our interior and exterior walls, after managing to win with the scheduling of our fantastic decorators and electricians.

We won…. when we managed to find three amazing new team members (one researcher and two support staff) in the space of a few months. However, we cannot always win, it would seem. Today was the day for BT to ‘switch on the PSTN line’ – whatever that means. For the avoidance of doubt, we are now working on Three Mifi and copious mobile phones so that we can all work from our new swanky offices but we would be very pleased to have proper landline phones and broadband. The cabling is in and the telephone line is active.

So, BT was booked for ‘between 8am and 1pm’. Oh, and by the way, “if the engineer is not able to access the building, you will be charged £130 + VAT for a failed call-out”! FWL MD arrives at office at 7:50am and the day begins. 1pm comes and goes. Email received from Contact Person (and amazing organising business colleague at Everything IT who has arranged all networking gubbins) to say that Mr BT Engineer is running ‘a bit late’.

4pm comes around, three hours after Mr BT Engineer is running ‘a bit late’ and still no sign. Finally arrives at 4:20pm. No apology, despite the slightly facetious comment about charging BT for their ‘failed call-out’. After losing Mr BT Engineer for the best part of an hour in a location as yet unidentified, it would appear that he has no idea where our line is in terms of the green box and therefore, although the line is live, cannot do what he needs to do (whatever that might be anyway).

What happens next? He’ll raise the call with someone else and they will come out tomorrow. What time we wonder?

Maybe tomorrow, we will be winners again? To be continued…..

Oct 082016

magic-hatWho actually watches the adverts on television these days, or ever? Personally, I prefer to record programmes or live pause them, so I don’t have to sit through the adverts. Each time I do this, I wonder how much companies spend on this type of advertising and what return they see on their investment.

We receive an extraordinary number of telephone calls and emails each week, ‘making contact’ and asking us if we would like to spend £XXX or £X,XXX on a half-page advert here, quarter-page there…. or web developers saying they can improve our SEO or similar…. you know the sort. More often than not, the correspondence is uninvited and, since we have changed our contact form on the website, we receive more communication via this method than any other.

About two months ago, a new company (who will remain nameless) called our offices and offered us a 24-hour free trial on a search package which would be very useful in our day-to-day business. Their sales patter included “a lot of other companies in your field use it”…. and we managed to knock down their initial offer to something we were actively considering. What happened next, you ask? Well, we were plagued with telephone calls from said company. Even when we gave them the time frame when WE would get back to THEM, they still continued to call on a daily (sometimes several times a day) basis. The person in the Call Centre of said company even tried to connect with me on LinkedIn – what lengths will these people go to in their endeavours to get our business?

Generally, as MD, I have been too busy to take their calls but last week, a different number appeared on my telephone screen and a voice explained that he had been asked by X [the individual above who tried to connect on LinkedIn] to call me and suggested that I was “expecting his call“. Oh dear…. bit of mistake that! I proceeded to inform him that no, I was not awaiting his call and that, had his colleague not been so aggressively persistent in her calls, I might have taken up their service offer. Unfortunately (I went on….), we are not the kind of company who responds positively to aggressive marketing (we don’t do it ourselves and we don’t appreciate it being done to us). So, dear company who chose to call without invitation…. will you call us again?

It would seem not. The telephones have fallen silent. Practically magic.

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