Self-Employed Does Not Mean Jobless!

I am a professional genealogist and am self-employed. In April 2011, a friend said that anyone who was self-employed meant that they had no income. The comment was thoughtless, it stung since my very first tax season as a self-employed individual made me aware of how much I felt like God was blessing me and keeping me alive. It’s been the two lowest income years of my adult life since going into business, but it was part-time on the weekends, and that meant that there was little to no effort going into it.

I did not treat it as reality and had other jobs at the same time. I was scared and did not think highly of my abilities simply because it’s unusual what I do. Plenty of people do it as a hobby, but doing it for a living? That takes the next step. Changing from fluid to solid and adding the infrastructure to make a skeleton that moves. This past summer I received a very expensive business license from the Windy City, and felt quite strongly that it was time that I develop the sole proprietorship into something that is worth my effort. No more second jobs. I like having bosses and being part of an internal corporate ecosystem. There is not the risk involved in a creating a true start-up.

I’ve taken the plunge and added memberships with different societies beyond my Bachelor’s Degree in Family History-Genealogy. My goals presently include certification with either ICAPGEN or BCG and having letters at the end of my name that mean something professionally. More than fifteen years of my life is invested with genealogy, and I’ve had the dishonor of dealing with illegitimacy of my industry. Dating back professionally to about the 1960’s, my field is newer but it does not have the “cool” factor that iProducts do, and it’s based on subjective and often intangible knowledge versus a cold piece of metal deliverable.

So, with all of this background I look around me and see friends with their credentials which they worked hard to obtain for steady jobs and incomes proving their advancement in society and entrance into “real” life with a “real” job. They’re done with school, and now they work and make money and deal with their lives.

I may never be done with school, but I’ve taken a year off for business development. My life revolves around my business, around finding clients, around doing client work and research, and around library and archive schedules for finding the needed documents to finish client work to make them happy.

My livelihood is so different from most of the people I know that I turn into an underdog without really trying. I’m like the plumber, but since they don’t see my labor and since there is no union for me to gouge prices, I don’t charge plumber or lawyer prices.

In a demoralization manifestation, I went to a genealogical workshop yesterday to see whether I could qualify to join the group. I spent months and hundreds of dollars my senior year of undergrad finishing a project that proves that I am related to people from an era of history to which this group adheres. From looking at their database and the documents required, yes, I could qualify if I provide my information and pay more than a hundred dollars for someone else to check my work. (Ouch!) Just about the money, not about checking my work. I expect more documentation for my clients than these people expect in a prestigious group, so that’s not the issue.

My introduction to this group was as a professional genealogist. I see that I will need to prove my worth to their leadership, but the insulting thing was that when I mentioned to their local genealogist that I was self-employed, she later mentioned that most of the young women who were part of their group worked, or had little children and since I didn’t have a job, so I should be able to attend many meetings.

I grew up respecting this organization and felt a desire to be part of them. Now, I am not sure. I deeply hope that this lady meant her statement to sound differently than it came out. Self-employment is NOT for the weak or the wimpy! It takes more than showing up, being in a cubicle and doing the work that someone else gives you all day. You are HR, Marketing, PR, legal, accounting, deliverables, administration, and all of that rolled up in one! You have all of the responsibilities that anyone else has in a large firm shrunken down simply to yourself. You make every decision, and have every liability. There is no such thing as a vacation. Your clients are on your mind 24/6, since in my case I try to use the Sabbath for a rest and do not regularly work on genealogy for hire on Sunday because of it.

This is hard work. I don’t have an MBA, but I know my field and I look up more information on a daily basis. I listen to anyone who has something to say, especially for my grassroots basis in my city where breaking into the field may as well be breaking one’s teeth. I may need dentures by the end of this, but I’m not giving up. I have to be the meat-punching, stair-training Rocky here.

Yes, I have a job where I have to be kind to get respect. I have to deal with under-valuation from a portion of society that should be familiar with my field and regularly doesn’t have a clue. I am frustrated, but have to be patient and gentle with people who have painful issues as I do surgery on their family’s wounds and help them figure out who in the world they may be. It’s a hard JOB, but someone gets to do it. (Me!)

FamilySearch Pictures and Sources: Using the Facelift

Changes in FamilySearch’s user interface spawned new research efforts when sources transfer easily from software to social ware (FamilySearch) for accuracy and depth in ancestral research.

Little inspired me to try FamilySearch for research and posting outside of their LDS-specific uses in ages. As such, I did not keep up with changes until the last two months. Initially, the information I really wanted to review was on new.familysearch.org, After becoming spoiled by Ancestry.com’s instant abilities, I waited while FamilySearch brought their collections “up to code” with the monolith.

For any researcher, the sources are what turns cute family stories into real family history. Pictures (now ubiquitous and essential to Internet life) are easily uploaded and connected to ancestors. Instead of image-less names, dates, and places, uploaded pictures and stories make lives of the dead.

Any information taken out of context is easily misinterpreted, or misrepresented. Although reaching back to the past does not guarantee “accuracy in reporting,” meat on the bones (stories, pictures, and the daily stuff that is often relegated of being no importance to the person at the time) is important in sparking interest for the instant Internet and media-based generation, often a hundred or more years ahead of what someone once thought of as “boring.”

Outside of and including historical professorships, history is bigger and bigger business. Applied and marketable history is not a bad thing and teaches faster than monographs. While considered the standard for “serious” research, unless there is a connection to a direct past event, why read the monograph?

Adding applicable, accessible, and non-copyright restrictive photos and basic source materials gives a reason to review a historic monograph. Consider family history or genealogy as “front lines” history when trying to teach the subject.

The Second Depression and Marks of Discipleship

History repeats itself. It only does if no one learns from the past. Ignoring it does not help anyone, but living as if time were frozen helps no one, either. About every 70 years or so, cycles repeat. In thinking of the Great Depression of the 1930’s, we are going through a similar crisis. As of 2008, the American economy had its initial collapse. Although at the time it didn’t fully hit everyone, it has had enough repercussions to affect the entire country, and now to affect the world markets as the American economy in total shrank this past quarter. And this was Christmastime, the typical savior of the GDP on a yearly basis.

2012 and 1934 are not that far apart. Instead of going into a war to relieve the burdens of economic disparity, we are removing from two wars. There is almost no evidence that says that America will be out of foreign entanglements any time soon, though. Since the American Civil War, there has been a war somewhere on the earth at any given time. The wars continue to increase. The economy limps as if a crawling wounded beast whose body is trying to repair itself even as the crawling further scars and hurts. Not pretty imagery, it’s not a pretty time.

However the parallels intersect between the First Depression and the Second Depression, this seems like a time for re-fashioning phrases. When the first World War happened, everyone called it the Great War. There was no thought that anyone could or would ever allow anything that horrible to happen again. Well, given the next generation and history recycled itself even as there was a crippled economy and no relief in sight besides charismatic politicians who offered a restorative structure to a former glorious empire. As it is, radio stations now play ’90’s music, heralding back to when things were a little less care-worn and back when life was much simpler. Call it the re-invention of a glorious empire when America was on top, when prices were lower, and when there was not the loss of innocence that 9/11 engendered in similar fashion to shooting Kennedy.

My grandparents might have known what to do with this sort of situation, but they’re all dead. Part of the 70-year cycle, we repeat what we do not remember. We do not remember it because the memory keepers are either not alive, or modern society dismisses their records in the fragile state of pompous mind that comes when the people forget their heritage. There is no reason to reinvent wheels. A professor of mine talked once about libraries in advertising agencies where bringing back a campaign that was in 1920 seems so novel in 2012. He’s right. We don’t remember the past, and we repeat it. However, this time around, there isn’t World War II to save us.

The Middle East has been a hotbed for years and will likely continue ad infinitum. Everyone wants the same bits of land and it seems like peace there is an impossible dream. Why are there so many angry people? What did they do to each other to start it in the first place, and would or will it ever stop? Instead of killing each other, feed and clothe each other. Learn more, speak less, and write for the sake of humanity. A lot of hot air rarely assists in cultivating an improved attitude.

I seek something better than Great Depression 2.0. Instead of calling it the Great Depression, it’s time to call it the First Depression. There was nothing happy about it. People starved and died, but according to

Hearts Turned to the Fathers: History of the Genealogical Society of Utah Kindle edition

Hearts Turned to the Fathers: History of the Genealogical Society of Utah, that was the time when there was more temple and family history work done than at any time prior (1930’s). It’s scary to think that instead of the Roaring 20’s with the bootlegging and similar, the 1930’s were a time when there was nothing else to do but repent and become a different world. Economies kept people alive with indexing efforts of the WPA. Infrastructure improvements and creating books and lists collating items that otherwise would be lost to history. Instead of simply “being busy” it became being busy with the best things in some areas for a short decade. Today, if ignored, circumstances could continue to change so that people are not quite so “busy” and the things that need to happen will and can happen. Seems to be universal maladies counter-acted by rises in the things that need attention.

Link

Genealogical Collections Aggregator

Genealogical Collections Aggregator

I built it. The first layer of the Family Place Tracer (C) is done as far as working method. There are other layers that make a difference to the overall scope and vision of the project, but this is done. I have to finish the theoretical NEH grant request, but much of it is already written. Will investigate how to build more layers into this map, but this is the first look for now. We’ll see how far it goes.

Managing Collections for the Home Family Historian

Machu Clan Name in Manchurian

Manchu Clan Name

While reading my management book this evening during homework, I am trying to see how the family historian works as an information disseminator.

“Managers not only gather information, but they also share it with others.” (Stueart and Moran 11)

Family history researchers are notorious for keeping their information to themselves. People are not trained as families, and thus act like their information is as individual as the researcher, whether or not it coincides with efforts of others. There is usually no one with whom to work on the information unless unusual amounts of effort are made. It is a happy family that can share information without griping.

it is not a if there aren’t ways of communicating. While postal mail is an unusual way of sending information today, it still happens and works. “Real mail” is more effective for communicating information than email or Facebook, although the latter are easier methods for disseminating information faster.

How to best communicate is up to every family to choose for themselves. I have a Twitter account but have not used it in possibly three months. I use Facebook perhaps at least every other day, and email many times a day. I use WordPress in spurts, sometimes weekly and sometimes twice a day. Other methods of communication are available for those who use them: Ancestry message boards, Yahoo and Google Groups, forums in places diverse as the audience.

Ask the Missionaries: They Can Help You

During General Conference in October, Elder Nelson mentioned repeatedly in his talk: Ask the missionaries. They can help you. I was watching conference at my Church building and the missionaries for my general area sat a few rows ahead of me. While watching them, they were okay with the things that Elder Nelson was asking them to help with, excepting family history.

Although it is a commandment that people in my Church work on knowing who their ancestors are, the vast majority of Church members that I have come across know almost nothing about the topic. There is not a lot of training  on the topic beyond essentials, at least in the U.S. Outside of the Church, genealogy is a hot topic, and receives much attention. It was not a surprise to watch the sisters look at each other in a mild amount of fear when Elder Nelson asked the missionaries to help with people finding their ancestors. Sister missionaries can range in age but until recently, they were typically in their early twenties. Few people in their twenties are very concerned about their ancestors unless there is a direct need to be so interested such as the death of a loved one.

I became interested in family history (genealogy) when I was a child, and work with the field both inside and outside of the Church with friends and colleagues. It was my Bachelors degree major.

So, I gave the sisters my number to train them in basics. For our first meeting, the computers at the family history center were down. While a little frustrating, that did not stop things very long. We re-scheduled for today, and we ended up meeting at a McDonald’s with wifi near my neighborhood although in their area, and started looking up their family information.

Neither of the sisters knew what to expect. The first sister was pretty shocked when she saw that her ancestors enmeshed with our Church’s historical movements. Some family members were active members, while others went back and forth. However, by the end she knew that the stories she heard were real. She saw what information the Church had on her ancestors in live-time, and saw where the history and her family worked with each other. I gave her explanations as we went to help her see the context of what was happening around the dates in her family’s life.  The dates and places were enough to see that there were multiple stories happening that tied her directly into historical events with which she was familiar but were not real until she saw them on the page.

She took a lot of notes and her eyes bugged out regularly.

For the second sister, she had more questions about modern issues and had other effects where it was unclear what was happening and how things came together but there were still complicated twists and turns in her family’s history. She knew more about her family’s background to start, and in her case it was less of a dramatic unfolding.

Going back to the first sister, I wanted to make sure that she knew that her background was epic. While the first place where we left off was not exactly the happiest, by the end of it she was able to see people who made it through, people who were obviously determined, down to children who made it through when both parents were dead by the age of six. They found their way to being great people. She knew very little about her family’s background coming into our meeting but left with an intense amount of knowledge about herself and her family’s efforts going step by step through Church history starting (in her case) in 1839. Watching the knowledge and paradigms shift was fun.

For me, it was just fun to work with these sisters. I could see that the information whelmed the first sister, but when they were all done, they knew that they could be asked by Church members or others and either help them themselves or knew where the resources were. They also learned that there was a lot more to family history than that they previously understood, including seeing their roles in it. It was a grand afternoon.

I appreciated being able to help, and felt that this was important. One of the sisters will soon be transferred, but they both know more about themselves and their history now. I hope that it made a positive impact and didn’t rock their worldviews out of creation. After a bad week, this was a great thing to be able to help. Now I hope that they can pass it along.

Something New

Because I can, I started another blog in addition to this one. This one deals now more with my musings on politics, religion, and then professional family history, personal family history, and whatever else comes to mind. The other blog is strictly about food, cooking, etc. I can’t get away with writing without something to do with family history in the process, so there are some family stories in there, also. If it goes with the food or explains the results or why we did what we did when we did it, there you have it. Call it a memorial to my Mom. There were some passions that she was more-able to develop in life and instilling a love of food and cooking into her posterity was one of them. So, feel free to look at it, if so inclined. There are maybe five recipes up so far and a lot more to follow.

This semester I start my new program, Digital Humanities, and continue my other program, Library Information Science, with emphasis on the digital aspects. Meta-data, programming, etc. By the time I get through both Master’s programs, I will be a programmer with a solid emphasis in Instructional Design. Was not planning on going into Instructional Design, but if it gets me to making the family history repository app, then I will do what is necessary that way.

The main element I can see coming out of the ID courses is the ability to teach family history better, and to create better online learning portals for doing that. While education is not my primary focus, I am always looking for better ways of teaching the topic, so this major is unusually applicable to where I can find a job. My bedrock skills are always useful. Adding to the research skills knowledge of best practices in teaching, and creating one of the tools that teachers and lay people may use to make teaching much more effective and efficient is kind of sheer genius. I do not give myself credit for the thought process. That’s all Deity. Good things come from Deity, and saying that it is my idea feels strangely like a cop-out.

Not sure what will happen. I am part of a class of a maximum of seven people for a total of tops of twelve people in the program. We are only the second class in this program, and no matter how hard it will be (which I am SURE that it will test me to limits I have never seen before), this will be GOOD!