Genealogy Expert

Sharon Murphy mentors professional genealogists who are building a new business or growing their existing company.

Is Working from Home as good as it sounds?

While I was having a conversation with one of my clients the other day they asked about the fact that even though they are now working from home, they still feel somewhat overwhelmed and under inspired. They had assumed that once they could devote themselves totally to their business from their home office that all would be right with the world. Well, it appears that things have turned out a little differently.
What we have to remember about working from home is that although we can avoid all the negative chores of commuting, being interrupted at our desks, waiting in line for lunch, and generally having to punch a clock, we actually will need to create another routine that works for us.
Although working alone does certainly increase productivity in many cases, sometimes it has the opposite effect. We are lonely, we are unmotivated and we are falling behind. How do we overcome this challenge so we can feel that we have achieved our goals? We make a plan to keep us ‘socially happy’.

Run yourself like a business and you will feel like your are running a business.  Make a plan and build in time to have interaction with others of like mind. Setup lunch dates, coffee meetings, and online interaction via Skype, Facebook, Google or whatever you prefer to use. By using a schedule this way you can then build in your other tasks and duties around it. Try to keep your plan regulated. Doing the same things at a certain time of day (the best time for you) will produce the best results. As human beings we need to have contact of some sort with others. Smiling and laughing make you feel better. But being genealogists that get lost in their work, makes it too easy to drift away from that personal contact. You need motivation to get your going and results to keep you going. Discussing your day with another entrepreneur helps to solidify your credibility in the working world and at the same time, provides a different view of your achievements. Belonging to organizations that support small business people is also a good move.

Give it a try, it can’t hurt.







Christmas is coming…

But so is your genealogy project’s deadline, so get busy.desk winter scene

Set up your schedule and stick to it. Prioritize and complete your list. Then you can actually settle down and concentrate on that genealogy task,  and meet your deadline without sacrificing family time.


Suddenly it’s September

The air feels different, the sun feels different and the urge to actually get down to business and accomplish something feels right!
Start by organizing your thoughts. Sit quietly and list what’s on your mind, review what your goals are for this year and plan your work accordingly.
If you are on track, congratulations. If you aren’t then get busy.
There is still time to adjust your plan and figure out what you must achieve, then do it. Chances are you won’t reach all your goals but focus on the important ones. They will be the ones that affect your business and your life directly.
As an example: Should you get caught up on your journal reading or should you finish that report and get it out to your client? Should you clean you office or should you get that research done? Should you call a friend or get your bookkeeping up-to-date? You get the message.
Every time you complete something, even the smallest job, congratulate yourself, then start the next one. You can do it! ūüôā

Change of Seasons

There is certainly a chill in the air! At least a preview of the coming Fall, which means it is time to settle down and get back to work. Genealogists love the fall. It signals that it is ok to stay indoors and work or to venture out on that research trip they have been pondering for months now. As a professional it means that your clients will be getting interested in their genealogy again and will be looking for your assistance.

Are you ready? Do you have a plan in place, an updated calendar ready to be put into use, or an urge to complete any outstanding projects? Even though it is only mid August, now is the time to review and prepare. You don’t have to drop everything, just use this time to think about it all.

Remember you are the boss, the person in charge, the person that is responsible for all the little and big details. What can you do now that will help you manage your business? I have found that the “back to school” concept still applies to us all, must be the habit that was instilled in us as children. Fresh start, new books, sharp pencils (well maybe new apps for the phone, software for the computer in todays world), and the excitement of what is to come.

Are you attending any conferences? Are you speaking at any events? Are you ready? Just a gentle nudge…

Beginning a New Client Project

I’m sure you have all heard the old adage “Plan your work and work your plan”. This applies especially well to the genealogy business. It is one thing to work on your own family, you will remember facts because they are often passed down from your family. However, when you are working on someone else’s family tree it is a very different scenario. They have been living with their family memories and history for years, it is all new to you. So, how do you begin to absorb all this data?

Starting from the beginning is always best, and you already know that. However, as you work with clients they will want you to zoom ahead to where they are stuck, without giving you the benefit of retracing their steps and confirming their results. This is wrong for so many reasons.

When you set up your new client there would have been an understanding between you of the time and costs involved. Use these numbers now to plan your approach and strategy. State your clients’ goal, in writing on the top of the page. Refer back to this as you work out the scheduling of time. Unless your client has given you all the time and money you need, you will want to keep a very close eye on the clock and goal.

Start to plan how you are going to breakdown their history/genealogy into reasonable sections and set up a chart of your intentions. Use a checklist and ask yourself the same questions you would if you were looking for your ancestors. Zoom in on what era you will be examining and set the scene timewise and location wise.

Working your way through the file you will notice that you are starting to become more familiar with the characters and events, which will allow you to employ your genealogical skill sets to determine where you go next.

If you are just starting to do this work as a business it will take you longer to get to the report stage and the compiling of the report will also take longer than you thought. This is normal and should be considered as part of your training. If you are experienced but still find it hard to manage your time comfortably it might be wise to review how you are researching. What is your methodology and do you have the will power to stop when you are out of the allotted time? Or, do you keep going because you just know you are almost there? We both know the answer to that one!


Blast from the Past

Came across this the other day, thought it would be of interest.  Note: this was in 2008!! Time marches on!

Ex Libris Association Newsletter

“Bring Out Your Dead or Focus on Genealogy:
Report on the Annual Conference
By Tom Eadie

“At the November 10, 2008 ELA¬†Annual Conference, we were privileged
to hear presentations by Sharon Murphy and Marian Press.
Sharon Murphy has 28 years of experience in genealogy. Currently,
she operates her company, Timelines Genealogical Research, out of Cobourg, Ontario. She spoke on the topic Hiring a Professional Genealogist.
Sharon identiÔ¨Āed why one might hire¬†a genealogist (professional knowledge
of sources, experience interpreting records, etc.) and outlined ways to stay
within your budget (set limits, organize materials you already have). She
suggested ways to Ô¨Ānd a genealogist,¬†(through local libraries and genealogical¬†societies) and advised reference checks.¬†The attentive audience learned what¬†they could expect from a professional¬†genealogist and Sharon gave them¬†what amounts to a checklist for anyone¬†considering a career in genealogy. ”

TIP: Talk to groups and organizations about hiring a professional genealogist. It will allow the participants to ask questions and is a great way to advertise without pressure.

Working Alone

As most genealogist know, we need to work alone to be able to focus and concentrate on our work. Hours go by as we delve deeper and deeper into the past, and often we don’t even notice.

The research seems never ending, the only thing that seems more time consuming is the report. Once immersed into the drafting stage of the report it is best to keep going and keep your focus. However, it is not prudent to push beyond your limits. Set your timer for 45 minutes and get up and move around. Have some water, let the dog out, stretch, and then get back to it. After working intensely for 45 minutes your brain needs to reboot. Trust me, things will be clearer and you will be more productive.

Reset the timer, keep track of your hours, and not just in your head. Write it down, enter it in your computer, note it in your client file. Time is money.

Keep in touch with other genealogists, discuss the newest record collections released, new software, industry news in general. Not only is it good for you, they are the only ones that understand what you do. It doesn’t have to be in person if that won’t work. It can be by Skype, phone, email, etc. It does need to happen regularly though. Its’ like a breath of oxygen, it feeds your mind and your need to exchange thoughts and ideas with a colleague. Join your professional association where you will find others of like mind.

So, now you have spent the biggest part of your day alone. If you have family they will be missing you, save some time for them. Turn off your genealogy brain and join the world. Tomorrow is another day!

Monday Morning

Get Up, Get Dressed, Get Going, Get it Done!

Monday is the start to a brand new week. Start fresh and review your plan. Check your calendar and review your new items.

Don’t spend any time worrying about how to begin, just begin somewhere.

A routine will be your best friend. Try to sort out when you are at your sharpest and when you need the lighter challenges and then adjust your plan accordingly.

Make a list of tasks and then prioritize them according to importance. Keep the end result in mind.

Remember you work for yourself, everything you do will either help or hinder you so make it count.


A tip

Keep your calendar as your diary, not just as an appointment book. You will do many things throughout the day, make a note of them as a reminder of just how much you do accomplish. Record the start and finish time of each task. Time tracking will come naturally to you with practice.  Everything counts!


Off in All Directions

When I first opened my own genealogy research business a client came into my office to actually hire me. She was so excited and pleased to have found a kindred spirit with whom she could share her genealogy successes and dreams. It was energizing for both of us. That first year of business was an eye opener for me. I had no idea how completely I would be immersed into a total strangers’ family history. I also had no idea of how to keep my head above water or how to keep my own priorities sorted.

As a business owner you should remember that your genealogy client is counting on you to direct and guide them with their research project. Managing their expectations, along with their enthusiasm is your task.

When we first start out as amateur genealogists we are truly off in all directions and although that is not necessarily a good thing, it sure keeps it interesting.

Then, as time goes by we become overburdened with all the great information we have managed to discover; so overburdened in fact, that we don’t know which way is up anymore. ¬†This is exactly what will happen to you when you open your business and try to chase all the ‘rabbits’ at the same time. It just doesn’t work. Where do you start, what is most important and how do you keep up? Maybe you need some advice.

Remember what it is like to do your own family history. When it is your own personal genealogy it is difficult to take a step back and breath. It is a time for reason and logic to balance the highs and lows, and this is when you, as a professional genealogist can step in and help the amateur by adding that calming influence.

It all has to to with focus and concentration. Teach your client to learn how to answer your questions Рcall all subjects by their name, not by their relationship to the family for starters, i.e. РElizabeth Green, not Aunt Lizzie. It adds a formality to the process and that is a good thing. You are a professional and therefore must receive factual accurate answers to your questions in a more formal way, to allow you to actually grasp the scenario.  Keep returning to your questions, keep control of the process. Trust me, this works. It defuses the emotional energy enough to sort out this entire new family. Now you can do your job.

How does this impact¬†on you? Remember I mentioned the energizing effect we get when around someone that is¬†so excited? It¬†is a fresh perspective for us as well. When you see it through their eyes your entire outlook changes. You become their support person and¬†mentor. It also provides you with a reality check about why we “do” genealogy in the first place; for ourselves as well as for others. Just a thought to share…