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  • Writer's pictureFamily History Fanatics

What it is Like to Be a Genealogy Live Streamer

Since April 2018, the Family History Fanatics have offered live streaming sessions every other Friday to talk about genealogy, DNA results, and more.

When Paul Burke and Catherine Mulvihill, from "Are We Live Now? "invited me to appear on their up and coming YouTube show, I was flattered. Not only did I enjoy the walk down memory lane, but I also had many epiphanies while I shared my experiences.

How did the Family History Fanatics get into live streaming?

Although many YouTube channels can live streaming from the start, like Paul and Cat, that wasn't an option for FHF. The Family History Fanatics genealogy education channel began in August 2106 and slowly grew. (Click here to watch my first video, yikes!)

By April 2018, we had 5,000 subscribers. Andy and I couldn't believe our growth, considering we have little background in video production.

Before 2018, YouTube offered live streaming as a perk to larger channels, or so it seemed. I remember receiving a notification that a small channel like ours could begin a live show.

Once Andy figured out how we could go live on YouTube, we overcame the final hurdle left of structuring our show. (Click here to see that first broadcast)

Why did I start a YouTube channel about genealogy?

Few know that I actually wanted to start a YouTube channel in 2014. However, my plan to sit in front of the camera and just talk was thwarted. My dear husband couldn't get my 'in real life' personality to come across on camera. Instead of figuring out how to project my energy, I did what I usually do... I forgot about my venture for awhile.

In the spring of 2016, I wanted to launch a career as a genealogy educator. In my study of how to do this, I stumbled across The Speaker's Lab podcast by Grant Baldwin. In one episode, he suggested using YouTube as a place to host and share demo videos for speakers. I thought I could do that!

My goal was not to become a genealogy YouTuber. Very few family history YouTube channels that had begun in 2009 were active in 2016. Besides the BYU Family History channel and Crista Cowan's Barefoot Genealogy series with Ancestry, genealogy education on YouTube was dead.

I didn't expect to grow an audience. Instead, I tried to demonstrate to genealogy conference planners that I had the personality and the skills to help people learn how to climb their family tree and enjoy the journey. Quickly, I discovered that God had a very different path for me to follow.

What was the biggest mindset shift I had to make to go live?

Being an extrovert who loves public speaking, I rarely follow a script. This leads me to make a lot of verbal mistakes. Since we also do many demonstrations of websites and tools, that creates a lot of lag. Thus, the hardest part for me was losing the ability to edit out my flubs and flops when going live.

Going live means you can have a LOT of awkward moments and mishaps. And you just have to roll with the punches. Since Andy was handling the tech in the early days, I was willing to try this new educational format.

What was the first Family History Fanatics livestream like?

We went live and didn't know about the delay that YouTube creates in sending out notifications. We went live and hemmed and hawed, waiting for folks to show up. Yet, some of our fans did show up, and it was really fun to interact with them live.

In the early days of our streams, I wanted to be an asset to the genealogy community. I wanted to lead off with the latest genealogy news from product and service providers. Then Andy and I would promote FHF projects before finally getting to the topic of the day. While I thought this would be fun, the metrics revealed that our audience didn't like this style.

What do I wish I knew then that I know now about live streaming?

I have three things that I would like to have known in the past, and I would recommend new live streamers.

The most important thing in live streaming is to have quality audio. A good mic involves two pieces - the hardware and the internet connection. Folks are very forgiving of poor video quality IF the sound is clear and our internet connection is stable.

Get to the topic quickly to benefit the live and replay audience. If you're recording a show that becomes a podcast, then you have more freedom to have a 'news show' as I had wanted to do originally. However, if you're just starting out on YouTube and don't plan on having a podcast - get to the topic quickly.

Experiment and change are the names of the game. Andy and I experimented and still experiment with a lot of tech and techniques. If something isn't working, change. If you want to try out a format or feature, give it a go. YouTube is a platform for experimentation.

What helped me prepare to be a genealogy YouTuber who livestreams?

I have a lot of genealogy colleagues who have supported Andy and me. They have come on our channel, shared insights and encouragement. Growing a business is hard, but with such generous support, we are enjoying the journey.

As far as YouTube channel techniques, I have to credit the following:

  • Sean Cannel, Think Media, said, "Start with what you've got and improve as you go."

  • The guys as Income School have said to be the friend, not the expert.

  • Luria Petrucci of Live Streaming Pros had a 30-day live streaming challenge that helped me bring forth my YOUniquely You strengths.

  • Desiree Martinez of Women of YouTube has offered many tactics and encouragement. Most importantly, to find the space where the content I love reaches the audience wants to learn.

↪️ Are you new to genealogy? Grab your copy of this FREE Beginner Guide:

What lies ahead for FHF and live streaming?

In April 2020, I live-streamed or released content every day to support the genealogy community in the pandemic's early days. Then Andy lost his job, and we suddenly had to move a household of nine in four different directions.

Through it all, I tried to deliver on the promises I had made at the beginning of the year, and it just didn't happen. We're finally settled in our new home in New Mexico. Still, the continued isolation caused by the lockdowns has strained our nerves.

Yet, Family History Fanatics continue to offer support and encouragement. They have supported us so much that we're looking for ways to give back in the coming year.

The one thing that will stay true from our YouTube journey is to focus on people like you. We want to continue sharing simple and actionable tips to climb your family tree, understand your DNA, and write your family stories.

I'm so thankful that Paul and Cat invited me on their show. I'm honored and humbled that we have 30,000 subscribers in 4 years in a niche. Even tools like TubeBuddy and VidIQ have a hard time recommending keyword combinations because it's so small.

The conversation we had helped me realize I have learned so much as a genealogist and a YouTuber. I can share much with those coming along the trail behind me, like the duo at Are We Live Now?

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