Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Story Behind The Family History Guide

Now that we've crossed the "finish line" by officially releasing The Family History Guide website, I thought I'd take some time to describe how it all came to be - or, "how the race was run."

You'll notice the allusions to running in this post, and that's not by accident. Just over three years ago, I decided to do something about my sedentary lifestyle. I had just watched an episode of "The Biggest Loser" where the show's contestants were trying to complete a full marathon - 26.2 miles. I remarked to my wife, "I bet I could do that." Big mistake - the next week I had signed up for a gym membership and was on the treadmill. I thought I was going to die, running four minutes without stopping. But with patience and perseverance - and remembering my old high school running days - I completed my first marathon in June 2012. And in the next two years, I completed seven more - from St. George to Bear Lake and points in between.

What does all this have to do with The Family History Guide? For the past seven months, I feel like I've been running a marathon of sorts, assembling a website from thousands of scattered family history pieces across the Internet. It began with a vision of what might be, continued with many small steps, and culminated yesterday with the website release.

Now let's go back to the starting line to see what kind of insanity must have overcome me to tackle a project like this (The Family History Guide, not the running ... although insanity helps in both cases). In December of 2014 I was volunteering at the new Sandy Granite Family History Center. I noticed that guests would often ask the same questions - some answers were covered in our quick reference guide, and some were not. I decided to put together a bigger reference - the Help File, a document with categories and links to documents on the Web. Then I thought about how few of our visitors were taking advantage of the great family history videos available on the Internet, so I created the Video File - a document with links to videos on the Web. But the two documents were not connected to each other ... what I needed was a central place to find resources, and step-by-step instructions on how to use them. I didn't want to create another link repository - those have been done, from small to large (think Cyndi's List).

I knew what I needed do. I asked my brother John, a professional web designer, to create a website that would be attractive and easy to use. My part, as a professional technical writer and instructional designer, would be to create a learning flow that would layer the family history information well, so as not to swallow the new family history learner in a sea of information.

It felt great - the content, design, and direction were coming together well - sort of like I felt the first few miles of a marathon felt, where your body gives you that runner's high. But there were a lot of difficult miles ahead, sorting through oceans of information while keeping the focus on the easy, the doable, and the meaningful.

After a few months, I shared a link with what I had done so far with Bob Ives, Technology Director at the Sandy Granite Family History Center. His reply - "We need to talk." My first thought was that I was in trouble somehow - but Bob had immediately grasped the possibilities of the site and was quite excited about it. Together we formed The Family History Guide, LLC. The next person who caught the vision was Sue Maxwell, noted family historian and blogger (granitegenealogy.blogspot.com), who has lent valuable support to The Family History Guide through social media.

And that takes us to this morning - where I'll wrap up the blog post for now, as Bob & I are scheduled to appear on K-Talk radio in a bit, to chat about ... what else? ... The Family History Guide.


  1. Finally!!! A marathon indeed to pull together so many links into a single, well-organized website that actually simplifies finding what you knew existed somewhere in the bowels of FS or was it Riverton? or was it on Ancestry? or where the #@% was it! Well done.
    Linda B

    1. Yep, turns out the information was spread out all over cyber-space ... this has been a giant project in Lego-sorting, but well worth it!

  2. Bob, it was so great meeting you and Bob Ives at the BYU Family History and Genealogy Conference last week. It was the highlight of the Conference for me and really a Game Changer for anyone who is learning and training at the same time. You were completely inspired on this project. This is the best solution to pulling it all together yet. I just cannot wait to experience the life-changing qualities of this as I work with those I teach in the OFSL and train Family History Consultants that they can be a valuable resource to others. Using this FH Guide will move mountains. Thank yo uso much!

    I wanted to mention that this morning I have been looking at the various aspects of the program again and noticed that under the Computers link the Genealogy Glossary link is not accessible anymore. Never stop running in this marathon...this is great! Bonnie

    1. Hi Bonnie - it was terrific to meet with you and get your insights into family history and training. We are certainly in the business of moving mountains!

      Thanks for the heads-up on the broken link ... I have replaced it with a link to the Wikipedia computer terms glossary, which should be more stable.

  3. Bob,

    I want to let you know that your blog is listed in today's Fab Finds posts at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2015/08/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-august-7.html

    Have a great weekend!

  4. Thank you Linda, Bonnie and Jana. Yep, we have to keep moving and as Bob T always tells me "No grass growing under our feet!". One of the greatest things about working on this project is the wonderful, committed people we are privileged to meet. We just hope that we can continue to measure up to all the great expectations that everyone has. This continues to be an incredible journey for us.

    All kinds of wonderful things are happening. Keep checking the Upcoming Events section on the website. More were added this weekend. More features are also coming so keep checking Facebook as well.

    Happy Hunting (Ancestors that is)!