Lou Szucs and The Best Goodbye

Reflections on the retirement of Ancestry.com's employee #1 - the incomparable and cherished Lou Szucs the genealogy community will miss you!

Last month, I received a brief message from Ancestry.com mentioning that genealogist and family historian Lou Szucs would retire on 31 March 2015. Was I surprised? No. Was I devastated? No. Was I happy? In a certain odd way – and in the best way possible – yes!

I’m happy for Lou since she gets a well-deserved break. I’m happy for the genealogy community because it has benefited from her many contributions. And I’m happy (and a bit envious) because her departure is actually the best kind of goodbye.

The Best Goodbye

Earlier today as I was reading tributes from various bloggers and genealogy vendors, I was not only remembering the first time I ever met Lou, but also about many other genealogy folk who left us suddenly or on different terms. In most cases, they went while they were far too young or had only started making their contributions. Or some were so impaired that we felt our gratitude could not possibly be heard, read or sensed.

For me, retirement and the decision to move on to new things is always the best goodbye, but also the most difficult. I know leaving is not an easy decision, especially when something is more than just a job – it is a passion. Everyone who has ever met or worked with Lou Szcus in the genealogy biz will tell you that they are much better as a person for such an encounter.

Lou Szucs – Genealogy Superhero

The first time I met Lou and had a good long talk was as I was starting to attend and speak at major genealogy conferences. Within the first five minutes, I was saying to myself: “I found my genealogy superhero. This is who I want to be like.”

Lou doesn’t know what an impact she has had on me and she is a probably a bit embarrassed even reading this. After several subsequent encounters, besides soaking up all the knowledge she offered, especially about the genealogy business, I knew I had a role model and started listing the “super powers” I most wanted to emulate:

  • Professional. Lou epitomized genealogy professionalism in that she was a great ambassador for the community, but was always approachable. She always had a smile and a laugh. If you stumbled on terminology or a record set in a conversation, she didn’t correct you. She knew what you meant . . . and you knew it too.
  • Friendly. And the friendliness was genuine. Lou always introduced you to someone no matter if they were a beginning genealogist or the CEO of Ancestry. Fickle she was not. A true friend and a “keeper” as Mom would say.
  • Empathetic.  Lou understood, even as someone who practically wrote the 20th century text book on how to do genealogy, that life never followed the lesson plan in the text book. Whether it was a professional or personal issue, the look of concern on her face and willingness to help was ever present. “What can I do?” will always be something I hear Lou say in my mind when I walk by the Ancestry booth at a conference from now on.
  • Strong. If you thought Lou was a push-over either because of her gender or her friendliness, you learned quickly she was not. Lou knew the biz, she knew everyone in the biz and they knew her. If you were “full of it,” she could smell it a mile away. Quickly, yet politely, you were dispatched and on your way.
  • Resourceful. I could always e-mail or call Lou with a question and I usually got a quick response. Lou knew that I always did my “homework,” meaning I had exhausted all available resources before I bugged her. She was always happy to help and if she didn’t have an answer, she knew someone who did.
  • Generous. This is the greatest quality of Lou’s that I try to emulate each and every day. After years of working in law firms and the corporate world where competition and back stabbing rules, I had forgotten my mother’s life lessons on generosity and abundance. It took watching Lou in action to remember them and re-cultivate them in my own professional life.

I’m not always successful with being the best I can be, both personally and professionally. I simply pick up and start again each day. I know what qualities I want to help build in both my own life and as a mentor, in the lives of others. And I have Lou Szcus to thank for those qualities and that inspiration.

How Do You Say Goodbye to a Role Model?

The fact is you never say goodbye to that person who has had a strong influence on you personally and professionally. You keep their memory in your heart and mind until it is your own time to say goodbye.

©2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

MyHeritage Adds 900 Million Records to its Global Digital Archive

MyHeritage announces the addition of 900 million global historical records to its SuperSearch feature bringing the total number of records to over 6 billion.

TEL AVIV, Israel & LEHI, Utah – February 2, 2015: MyHeritage, the leading destination for discovering, preserving and sharing family history, today announced that 900 million global historical records have been added to its searchable digital archive, bringing the total to more than 6 billion. By combining its huge and rapidly expanding digital repository of historical records with its matching technologies and newly-released Instant Discoveries™ experience, MyHeritage is helping families unlock their past faster and on a larger scale than ever before.

The additional content announced today is among the fruits of MyHeritage’s strategic partnership with FamilySearch, the world’s largest genealogy organization. The records consist primarily of family tree profiles that have been submitted by more than 22 million users on FamilySearch. Integration ensures that this data is refreshed on MyHeritage on a daily basis as it is updated on FamilySearch. Adding this data to MyHeritage alongside the 27 million global family trees submitted by users of MyHeritage, brings together for the very first time 2 of the world’s 3 largest family tree collections. The beneficiaries are the users of the two organizations that will receive matches whenever MyHeritage technologies locate overlaps between the trees. Millions of users will make new discoveries and find new, previously unknown ancestors and relatives thanks to this partnership.

Gilad Japhet, Founder and CEO of MyHeritage said: “Unraveling the family history of the people of the world requires two primary ingredients – advanced technologies and massive amounts of data. MyHeritage is constantly pushing the limits in developing big data technology for family history discoveries, and today’s announcement marks a substantial advancement in our accumulation of data. We’re proud to work closely with FamilySearch to empower families across the globe to learn about their past and, through it, about themselves. Today’s big step helps make the world a little smaller and bring people closer together.”

Dennis Brimhall, CEO of FamilySearch said: “Partnerships are a major focus in FamilySearch’s strategy to increase family history discoveries for more people. We value our strategic partnership with MyHeritage and appreciate their global reach and contribution to technology in the family history space. We believe this integration is paramount to the greater good of the community and look forward to a fruitful 2015 and beyond.”

About MyHeritage

MyHeritage is the leading destination for discovering, preserving and sharing family history. As technology thought leaders and innovators, MyHeritage is transforming family history into an activity that’s accessible and instantly rewarding. Trusted by millions of families, its global user community enjoys access to a massive library of historical records, the most internationally diverse collection of family trees and ground-breaking search, matching and Instant Discovery technologies. MyHeritage empowers families with an easy way to share their story, past and present, and treasure it for generations to come. MyHeritage is available in 40 languages. www.myheritage.com

Calling RootsTech attendees: Ancestry needs you!

Ancestry.com is looking for RootsTech 2015 attendees to provide product and service feedback - you could receive a $50 Amazon gift card and more!

Ancestry.com depends on user input to help mold the future generation of their offerings. A range of opportunities are being planned here at RootsTech for participants to share their impressions of upcoming Ancestry features across multiple products.  These will include both focus groups and individual interviews during the conference.

They are looking for subscribers of all levels of expertise, membership tenure, and tree size. To be considered, please fill out the following online questionnaire and members of Ancestry’s User Research team will reach out to you for scheduling. Incentives will include a 6 month subscription extension to your membership, or a $50 Amazon gift card for an hour of your time. Research sessions will take place Thursday through Saturday in the Hilton across from the conference center.

Please access the survey here: http://ancestry.az1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_3lv4vGiz9N9Qh1P

Please reach out to Ancestry directly if you have any concerns: User-Research@ancestry.com