Learn how WooCommerce helped a popular Family History Society automate its membership subscriptions.

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Launched in 1977, Glasgow and the West of Scotland Family History Society (GWSFHS) is one of Scotland’s leading and longest established family history and genealogy societies. GWSFHS became an early model of innovation and good practice for similar societies across the country, and approached Pooka & Co to reinvent its web presence in 2018.

Our collaborative goal was to re-establish the society at the cutting edge of innovation for family history and genealogy, and in turn to increase online membership subscriptions. However, our challenge included creating a digital local family history and genealogy portal on a budget, when confronted with big players in the market such as ancestry.com and findmypast.co,uk.

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Pooka & Co worked with GWSFHS to understand their “product” and to update the visual look of their website, making it more familiar to users and consistent with the leading online genealogy portals.

We were initially stunned by the quantity and quality of research records and documentation held by the centre in its Partick research centre in the west of Glasgow. It was decided that an immediate way to drive online membership would be to provide access to as many of these records in digital format as possible, alongside an archive of more than 40 years of articles from the Society’s newsletter “Gallus”.

We would trail these digital records and archives, alongside details of all the thousands of publications held in the Society’s library, and then ask users of the site to subscribe for full access to this rich archive.

In addition, Pooka & Co created a section of the website devoted to the sharing of Marriage records from members, allowing the website to crowd-source genealogy information in addition to the archival records held online.

Josie Bateman

“Pooka & Co were highly efficient and well resourced to meet our demanding deadlines, innovative in their approach, and very dependable and honest. We now have a fantastic product and would recommend their services to anyone.”

Josie Bateman

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We then prototyped a powerful website search, to allow users of the site to search and filter all of this information by surname, date, location, year and keyword. It remains one of the most powerful search tools that we have built on a WordPress site, and we are still very proud of what we were able to achieve for the available budget.

The next piece of the jigsaw was to provide online subscription tools, to allow new members to join the Society without friction by paying immediately online, while allowing the Society to administer renewals of existing members – many of whom still prefer to pay by cheque, cash or standing order. We implemented WooCommerce, the leading eCommerce platform for WordPress, alongside WooCommerce Subscriptions, to power the website’s online shop and membership payments and renewals system.

Since the site was relaunched in 2020, online visitors have increased from 4,000 to over 27,000 per month, with 30% of users visiting the website from outside of the UK. The website now includes over 100,000 research records, and the Society is able to bulk-upload their own records to the website as more data sets become available.

From simple WooCommerce sites that allow a few products to be sold online, to vastly more complex projects like GWSFHS’s, we love discovering new client’s goals and helping them bring structure to their online world. Pooka & Co are proud to continue our work with GWSFHS and would love to hear about what you’re looking to achieve.

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