On 01 July 2004 I started my own business with my hobby, genealogy, and founded Beyond History. Looking back, this was one of the best decisions I ever made - even though it was not always sunshine and roses. I always like to remember the beginnings and would like to take you with me today on a short journey through the history of our company.
Originally, I trained as a foreign language secretary and then did an apprenticeship in hotel management at the Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten in Hamburg. After 10 years in New York, during which I worked for 1.5 years each at the St. Regis and The Mark Hotel and then for 7 years at an exclusive tour operator, I returned to Hamburg shortly after 11 September 2001.
I then worked for a leading cruise line in my hometown for some time and after about 2 years I started to reorient myself professionally. Genealogy had accompanied me as a hobby for almost 10 years, but in 2003 and 2004 I intensified my research.
Around that time I wrote a list with all the qualities that my dream job would have to have, and for the time being it didn't matter whether I was employed or self-employed. On the list were as must-haves:
- International / US-oriented, lots of English required.
- Occasional travel
- Details (detail-oriented)
- Further advancement
- In Hamburg
The idea of self-employment had been in my head for a while, but I lacked the concrete idea that excited me enough to actually make it happen. In February 2004, I told a friend about my private genealogy research and she asked me, "And why don't you start your own business with that?" While earlier ideas never really caught on, this time my family was also immediately enthusiastic: "We have thought for a long time that you should do that!"
No sooner said than done, the self-employment was immediately planned intensively within the framework of an already started online study program at the University of Hamburg, "Management for Executives". It was an exciting first few months in which a lot had to be considered and set in motion: From the business plan, the necessary registrations to the professional website.
From the beginning I was convinced that my clients would mainly come from the US, I had not really planned for Germany as a market, because genealogy was still considered boring and historically negatively afflicted.
The name "Beyond History" was also quickly found. And the "3rd room" in my apartment was converted into an office, with a desk and a bookshelf.
The first working day
And then there it was, 01 July 2004, the first day of self-employment. I went to my desk at 08:00 a.m., turned on my computer, opened my email program and - had three inquiries! The first inquiry turned directly into an order and I later learned how the couple from California had found me. For the other two inquiries I still do not know how they did find me.
By the way, these first customers were sitting at our kitchen table a few years later on a Sunday, when they were following in the footsteps of their Hamburg ancestors and we also met privately.
Around 11:00 a.m. on the first day of work, my entire family came over with snacks, gifts and champagne to celebrate being self-employed with a surprise party. A fuchsia with trunk, a gift from my father, was declared the "independence tree" and has been cherished for 18 years. It has spent many winter in our kitchen. This year it is weakening a bit, but the nursery told me the other day that 18 years for a fuchsia would be about equivalent to a human age of 200 years! Therefore, the independence tree has now got a little sister. And both are cared for by us with the same devotion.
My dream job!
In preparation for my first lecture on genealogy in September 2004, I found the dream job list again: all items on it are completely covered for my profession! In fact, I have found the perfect job for my passions but also knowledge and skills. I am a service provider through and through and love making a difference for our clients. It's not for nothing that my motto in life is "People living their dreams".
A lot has happened at Beyond History since its beginnings in 2004. In the meantime, I have several employees now doing research with a lot of heart and soul for our clients - all over Germany as well as internationally. By the way, more and more of these clients come from Germany, since genealogy has become more popular here, too. Of course, we have long since moved into real office space and have expanded several times.
In addition to the core business, I have become a sought-after expert for television, radio and print media and give lectures and webinars in the US, UK and Germany. In addition, since 2013, I have been advocating for the professional image of the "professional genealogist" in Germany as chairperson at the Verband deutschsprachiger Berufsgenealogen e.V. (Association of German-speaking Professional Genealogists). The foundation of a Beyond History Academy for courses on genealogy as a hobby and profession is in the works.
By the way, you can find more information about our company history here.
It was not always easy and there were some sleepless nights. Joy and sorrow probably always go hand in hand in self-employment. But I have never regretted this step and still love what I do very much. Here's to the next 18 years!