What Do Modern Business Cards for Genealogists Look Like?

What Do Modern Business Cards for Genealogists Look Like?

by Kerry Scott on 27 September 2011

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Michael Hait at Planting the Seeds wrote a post last week about his new business cards.  In it, he talks about how new technology has changed his business card design.  He’s now including a QR code on his business card along with the traditional contact information.

I’m running low on business cards myself, so I’ve been pondering what changes to make before my next order. My current business card is above.  That’s pretty much the actual size (i.e. the print really is that big).

  • It doesn’t include my telephone number.  For a variety of reasons, email is a better way to reach me.  If someone wants to hire me but refuses to use email…well, I’m not going to be a good fit for them.  This is my way of subtly weeding out the phone-only people (not to mention keeping my home office phone from ringing at 11pm, which happened all the time back when my phone number was plastered all over everything).  It also keeps the telemarketers away; I can put my business card in whatever fishbowl drawings I want without fear that I’m going to end up on call list for timeshares in Las Vegas.  I do, of course, give my phone number to people when it makes sense; I just don’t give it to random strangers.
  • It doesn’t include my address. When I designed the cards, I realized there’s no reason to have it there. Business cards go to strangers, not people I’m already doing business with.  Why would strangers need my home address?  Are they going to contact me by snail mail to start a conversation?  Probably not.  If a client needed my mailing address for something, I’d happily give it to them…but business cards come in well before the you’re-my-client stage.  (I should probably note that in my old line of work, keeping my home address and phone number under wraps was important, because when you fire people for a living you have to worry about stuff like that.  I’m probably more focused on this than most genealogists.)
  • It does include my website.  I like the “Google Me” idea that Michael’s post mentions, but it wouldn’t be a fit for me.  For one thing, I don’t have the easiest name in the world to manage online.  For another, I don’t benefit from driving traffic to Google; I benefit from driving traffic to my own site.  If people want to know all about me, here it is.  This is the place.
  • It includes a link to my Twitter account.  I had these printed at the time I switched from blogging about job-hunting to genealogy.  I had been hanging out with HR people, who were way more likely to be using Twitter rather than Facebook.  Genealogist seem to prefer Facebook, because they’re crazy  Zuckerberg has naked pictures of them  they’re gluttons for punishment all of their friends are already there.  On the next printing, I’ll probably add Facebook and Google+ (or, alternately, just drive them to this website, which has links to all of the other stuff anyway…I don’t want the font to be so small you can’t read it without a magnifying glass).
  • It doesn’t include a QR code.  These weren’t used much when I first ordered this batch of business cards, and I’m debating whether to include them on the next batch.  Here’s the thing, though: Does it make sense to include them on the card itself?  Because the QR code is just going to direct you to my website, which is already printed on the card.  If you have a card, you probably don’t need a QR code.  To me, the QR codes make more sense on objects other than business cards, because they mostly serve as an alternative to them.  For example, I’m probably going to print one on a label that I can affix to my nametag when I’m at RootsTech.  I might add another one to my key chain, because the only time I’m without business cards is when I walk around with just my keys (at daycare pickup, for example).  Inevitably that’s the time I get to chatting with someone and wish I had a business card to give them.  But on the business card itself?  I’m not sure it’s worth the space.
  • It’s shiny.  You can’t tell from the photo, but these are high-gloss cards.  They look really cool, but you can’t write on them, and some people find that annoying (although I always wonder…what are they writing about me on there?  Do they not keep their notes about people in their email contacts notes field?  Are people, like, stapling this card to a Rolodex or something?  Just how retro are we talking about here?).  I haven’t decided whether to stick with the gloss or not.

What about you?  What’s on your business card?  Is every piece of information there really essential?  Is there anything missing that you wish you’d included?

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael Hait September 27, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Great business card! I like the personality of it – it definitely fits with what I can gather of your own personality (from your blog, etc.).

(And FYI – I changed the name of my blog from “Tricks of the Tree” to “Planting the Seeds” back in April or May – new bat-focus, new bat-name, same bat-channel.)


Kerry Scott September 27, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Ahhh, I remember that. I will change it above in a bat-second.

It actually DOES fit my personality. My personality is very informal, and also includes a heavy emphasis on my avoidance of unnecessary telephone conversations. If future generations want to know who great-great-grandma Kerry was, this will give them a pretty round picture. Grandma Kerry was a little goofy, liked big print and hated phones.

I like being able to give that to potential clients/employers too, because in both my old line of work and my new one, chemistry is important. Not everyone is a fit for every client, and that’s okay.


Alison Green / Ask a Manager September 27, 2011 at 12:49 pm

I totally agree with your reasoning about QR codes. Granted, I’m no early technology adopter, but I kind of think they’re being overhyped right now. The vast majority of people still don’t know what they are.


Sarah September 27, 2011 at 12:56 pm

The glossy/matte discussion is tricky. Glossy looks better, but sometimes you really need to be able to make a note on it. I like the ones that I’ve gotten where one side glossy and the other isn’t. That way, I can jot down a phone number, a note about the person to jog my memory later in case I’ve met a number of people in a short time, etc. Back when I had a “grown-up” job, I used to jot down notes about people all the time. I kept track of things like vacation destinations, birthdays, and kids’ ages, whatever was important to that person. It helped me to remember that everyone I came in contact with was an actual person and not just a voice on the phone or the other end of an email.


Ginger Smith September 27, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Hi Kerry, I agree with Sarah about having one side glossy and one side not. I found myself writing stuff down on the back of my card and then giving that to someone. For example, someone had a question during a class I sat in at FGS. I wrote down a website which would help him on the back of my card and then handed it to him after class. He didn’t turn it over until I was walking away and he said, thanks Ginger! The vice versa is true too that it is nice to write stuff down about the people you meet and collect cards from. I would be annoyed if I couldn’t write on your card. But alas I’m not a client :-)


JJT September 27, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Your cards look great – it only makes sense that the “new” generation of business cards solicit contact on your own terms.

Just wanted to mention: A nice tool to have that allows folks to call you without handing out your number is the Google Voice widget. Add it to your contact page, people click on it, enter their number and then it places the call to both of you.

You can also set up Voice to ring any number of your phones and limit ringing each based on time, day, caller’s number and percentage of their tree that is properly sourced. (One of those is a lie.)

The only gotcha I don’t like is that when people use the widget they can click “Keep my number private.” I haven’t seen that abused, but I can imagine it being done. (If they don’t check the box, you get their caller id.)

I use it on my contact page and it works well. You can see more info here:


OnlineGenGuy September 27, 2011 at 2:11 pm

I really like the front of your card but may not remember who you are based on the image.
I would suggest keeping the back of your card just as simple minded as the front.
I just sent you an email with what I would suggest for the flipside.


Dee September 27, 2011 at 3:23 pm

I like your business cards. They’re not the same old name, title and contact info that you get with most.

I would add links to your Google+ and Facebook profiles to give people more options to connect with you. That’s assuming, of course, you can figure out a way to include them without cramping everything up. You might be able to move your intro to the front of the card with the picture of your wagon and then have the back for ways to connect. Just a thought.

I agree with what Sarah said about liking free space to write on the cards though. I do the same thing. If someone gives me a card and it’s so I have their contact information rather than for what the card is advertising (say I meet a distant cousin who gives me a business card for his plumbing business), I jot down a note so I can remember why I have the card in the first place. With businesses, I may write a note to remind me of a sale they’re having in the near future or the good waitress’s name.


Lorine McGinnis Schulze September 27, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Kerry, I’m chuckling over your point about the glossy card and folks being ticked because they can’t write on them. I’m a writer-on-business-cards kind of gal! I always always jot a quick note on the back after someone gives me their card – a reminder of why I wanted it, or why I might want to reconnect. It’s faster and easier for me than entering it in my iPhone.

Also, please don’t faint, but my Roladex is my life. Yes. Me, the big-time techie STILL loves an old-school roladex. And I *do* staple some of the business cards I get to my roladex cards!

In some attempt to salvage what little rep as a sort of techie I might have left, I’ll confess that one of my most favourite apps for my iPhone (and one I wrote about on my blog) is a scanner for business cards.It reads any business card and imports it into my contact list. I can’t live without it! It’s called WorldCardMobile and if you’re interested I reviewed it at http://olivetreegenealogy.blogspot.com/2011/07/worldcard-mobile-app-my-new-best-friend.html

I might redo my business cards too. I like your idea of leaving out the phone number. I think I’ll put in my Google + and Twitter info instead


Debra Newton-Carter September 27, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Your cards are definitely unique…and they, just as your website, portray your personality. I just received my new business cards in the mail last week. My phone number changed a while back and I was tired of the handwritten phone number above the old scratched out number…and, I was tired of the old, cliche tree design…so I decided to use the card to emphasize my blog and my research specialty in a horizontal strip across the middle. I did, however, include my title and email address under my name on the upper left. The bottom right include my address and phone number.
The design is definitely ME. And I think that gives potential clients an idea of who we are…I do give my business cards to people I know, because not everyone I know have been to my home…


Laura Prescott September 28, 2011 at 9:02 am

I’ve used a QR code on the back of my business card since earlier this year. It can be anything you want, not just a website. I’ve also embedded my logo into the QR code so it looks more distinctive. When someone scans my QR code they get my contact information which they can import into an address book.


Laura Prescott September 28, 2011 at 1:08 pm

I should add that I have the QR code on my website (lauraprescott.com) if you want to see what I’m talking about.


Kathy Kult September 29, 2011 at 7:29 pm

I print my own business cards on photo paper with my color printer and cut them apart. That way I can customize them for different events. For example, for the RootsTech 2012 conference in February, I’ll add a line at the bottom that says “We met at RootsTech 2012 in Salt Lake City”.


Linda Gartz September 30, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Very cool and up-to-date. I’m not a professional genealogist but at some point I’ll want business cards to promote the family history/memoir (still in flux) I’m writing. So I like your thinking on this topic — into the 21st Century. I agree on leaving off the QR. Re: glossy vs writeable — people may want to jot down where they met you. Something clever you said (will there be space!) that will remind them of you. Of course they could go to your site, but maybe that quick note will be something memorable that will encourage them to get in touch.


Judy Webster October 6, 2011 at 1:58 am

I wholeheartedly agree with your comments about not putting a phone number on your cards. I once had someone ring me after midnight because they forgot about time zones. As my mother was ill at the time, I feared the worst when the phone rang at that hour. I was shaking like a leaf for a long time afterwards.

When I moved house I got an unlisted phone number. I also rented a post office box so I don’t have to reveal my residential address (and it makes redirection easier if I move again).


Jacquie October 8, 2011 at 9:56 am

This post helped me make an improvement at work. I am a school secretary and write the monthly school newsletter. Our district has been working hard to improve the information and format of our website, so parents go to it for information and updates. Your post gave me inspiration to change the format of the newsletter to highlight the website and it’s address. (instead of the street address). Such a simple idea, why hadn’t I thought of it sooner.


james gross September 3, 2012 at 2:05 pm

genealogy business card:
your smiling photo, your email, your phone#, 1-3 web links. no facebook link on the card. no lamination as everyone adds notes to a card so they will remember why you gave them the card in the first place.


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