Whenever I see one of those display stands selling family crests I act like the priest and the Levite, and unlike the good Samaritan, and pass by on the other side.
At the Ottawa Historical Association meeting last Thursday I learned that most of these kiosks are franchise operations of Kingston, Ontario-based Swyrich Corporation, operating as Hall of Names: http://www.hallofnames.com/
According to the web site Hall of Names was founded in Toronto researching family surnames in 1971. It now has "over 300 Hall of Names software licensees world-wide and countless more sub-licensees. This product line employs an estimated 500 people world-wide and is blended into hundreds of other products." A recent application by David Richardson, cited as general manager of Swyrich, to join the Kingston Chamber of Commerce states that the company as a whole has 14 direct employees.
Would that make it Ontario's most successful genealogy-related enterprise? The corporation website has an Alexa traffic rank of 1,868,816 which places it below genealogicalstudies.com at 1,093,695,
For potential franchisees the company website advertises that Hall of Names features: Great Impulse Sales, Appeals to All Ages, Appeals to All Walks of Life, Authentic Histories, Full Color Coats of Arms, Excellent Profit Potential, Over 1,000,000 Surname Histories, 50,000 First Name Histories, 35,000 Scottish Clan Histories, 24,000 Irish Sept Histories, and more.
At the OHA meeting I asked how the company had managed to avoid the type of legal problems that Halbert encountered. The reply was they avoided making exaggerated claims, as indicated in the following item from their FAQ:
Question: What information does a history contain?
Answer: The history begins with the earliest record of the surname and then follows the family as it branched through the Old Country and subsequently through the New World. The history lists the names of the earliest settlers as they migrated to North America, modern notables of the family name and variations in spelling.Note that there is no claim, at least on the website, that the material supplied has special relevance to the client aside from the common name. One wonders whether folks making those impulse purchases appreciate the nuance.