I have the pleasure of introducing to you Debbie Kennett and her blog Cruwys news. It is the place where Debbie shares her “day to day activities of the Cruwys/Cruse one-name study” and also discusses DNA testing and personal genomics. DNA testing and analysis are one of the big topics in genealogy and family history today. Debbie’s writing on the subject – at her blog, in her book DNA and Social Networking: A Guild to Genealogy in the Twenty-First Century, and in several published articles, helps to educate the beginner and the more advanced genealogist alike. Debbie’s blog is proof that quality trumps quantity – write when you have something to share with the genealogy community and you will enjoy a loyal following and not burn out. So without further ado, let’s learn a bit more about Debbie, her blog and her experiences in family history.
Debbie, can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got involved in family history?
I live in England. I got involved in family history after the death of my father-in-law. When we sorted out the contents of his house we found a collection of family photographs but we didn’t know who all the people were. I started writing letters to my husband’s relatives, and doing searches on the internet to see what I could find out, and before I knew it I had become addicted.
How long have you been doing family history and has your focus changed over time?
I started my research towards the end of 2001. I was initially only interested in researching my husband’s family tree and my own family tree. I’ve always had a particular interest in my unusual maiden name Cruwys which has a very long history going back to the 1200s. I found that I was spending more time researching that surname than any other. I naively thought that it might one day be possible to link together everyone with the surname in one big tree so I collected all references to the surname even if they weren’t immediately relevant.
As I subsequently discovered, this is a classic sign of an addiction to another form of family history research known as a one-name study! I registered the surname Cruwys with the Guild of One-Name Studies back in 2006. Through my one-name study I now find I spend a lot of time researching families who are not related to me. This has brought me into contact with lots of researchers from around the world, many of whom have become friends and some of whom I’ve now had the pleasure of meeting. I started a surname DNA project in 2007 and since then I’ve become interested in the application of DNA testing to genealogy. This is a very fast-moving field so it’s been fascinating to keep up with all the latest developments.
How do you think family history has changed while you have been involved?
Family history research has been transformed in the last decade or so. When I first started out there were just a few census records available on CDs or microfiche. I had to go to my local record office and search laboriously through microfiche copies of the birth, marriage and death records for England and Wales. It would sometimes take hours to find a single index entry whereas now those references can be found in an instant. We now have the opposite problem. There is so much data available online that it is impossible to keep up.
I’m a great fan of social media, and especially Facebook and Twitter, and I was one of the early adopters for genealogy. Indeed I even wrote my first book on the subject of DNA and Social Networking! I relied on the Rootsweb mailing lists for help when I first started out but I now find that all the conversations have moved over to Facebook. I also have a lot of fun on Twitter.
Why did you create your blog and what are your thoughts on blogging?
I started my blog in January 2007. I thought it would be an easy way to share my ongoing research on my Cruwys one-name study. The blog has evolved over the years and I now seem to spend more time writing about my experiences with genetic genealogy than my one-name study. I tend to opt for quality over quantity. I write when I have the time and when I have something I particularly want to communicate. I don’t always have the time to cover everything I would like to. I find that blogging is a great way of sharing your research and making contacts. I sometimes get people writing to me about articles I wrote many years ago.
What is your favorite blog post from Cruwys News and why?
My favourite blog post is my article on “BritainsDNA, The Times and Prince William – the perils of publication by press release” (http://cruwys.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/britainsdna-times-and-prince-william.html). This post was prompted by ongoing discussions with a number of population geneticists here in the UK about some extravagant claims being made by one UK-based DNA testing company. It was this blog post that was instrumental in my appointment as an Honorary Research Associate at University College London, which was an unexpected honour.
How much time do you get to spend on research vs. anything else you do related to genealogy/family history?
I’ve had very little time recently to do any of my own family history research. My volunteer DNA work on my DNA projects and the ISOGG Wiki seems to have taken up a lot of my free time. I also seem to have spent quite of bit time in the last few years travelling around the UK and overseas to Canada, Ireland and Portugal to give talks and to educate people about genetic genealogy.
What do you think is the most interesting change in the past ten years in genealogy/family history?
Autosomal DNA tests – the cousin-matching tests from 23andMe, AncestryDNA and Family Tree DNA – are starting to revolutionise family history research. There are now numerous cases of foundlings and adoptees who have finally discovered their biological heritage thanks to the power of large matching databases. The databases have not yet reached critical mass outside the USA but it is only a matter of time. DNA also has the potential to allow us to partially reconstruct the genomes of our ancestors. We will be able to determine their eye colour, their hair colour and other physical features, and perhaps even determine which traits we have inherited from specific ancestors. Science fiction is becoming a reality!
What is on your genealogy/family history bucket list?
The top three items on my family history bucket list are:
- Go to the Family Tree DNA Group Administrators’ Conference in Houston, Texas;
- Go to Rootstech in Salt Lake City, Utah; and
- Go on a battlefield tour in Spain and Portugal to retrace the footsteps of my great-great-great grandfather David Tidbury, who was a veteran of the Peninsular War. He was also at the Battle of Waterloo so that is also on my bucket list.
What advice would you give someone who is just starting a genealogy/family history blog?
Blogs are so easy to set up that I think everyone should be doing one. However, a blog does require a certain level of commitment. You don’t have to write every week or even every month but you do need to build up a reasonable stock of posts to become visible. Otherwise just be honest and find your own voice.
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Please take a moment to visit Debbie at Cruwys news and leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. Thank you so much Debbie for sharing a part of your family history and blogging world with us.
© 2015, copyright Tessa Keough. All rights reserved
Tessa Keough divides her time between Arlington, Virginia and Portland, Oregon. She got hooked on researching her ancestors after seeing a pedigree chart at a family reunion. She shares her paternal genealogy at The Keough Corner, her maternal genealogy at Scandia Musings & More, and technology and methodology tips at her YouTube channel TessaWatch. Are you a genealogy blogger who would like to be interviewed for the “May I Introduce To You . . .” series? If so, contact Tessa via email email@example.com.