It is my pleasure to introduce to you Schalene Jennings Dagutis and her blog Tangled Roots and Trees “Where family and history come together.” She describes her blog as an extension of the genealogy research which she took over from her dad and as “a labor of love for a man who gave me a wonderful childhood and still today shows me how to get joy out of life even when it’s hard.”
A Little About Schalene
“I was born in Washington, DC, at the Columbia Hospital for Women, which no longer exists. My parents were so sure I would be a boy they didn’t even have a girl’s name selected. My original birth certificate had to be amended to add Schalene, which is an adaptation of my maternal grandmother’s maiden name.
“I have always considered Virginia my home state as I have lived there all of my life except for a few years when I lived in Michigan and Massachusetts for work. My husband and I now live and work northern Virginia.”
How Schalene Got Started in Genealogy
“I have been doing research off and on for about 20 years but seriously since November 2012. Dad was the genealogist of the family. I tried working on my husband’s family but quickly hit brick walls in every direction as his grandparents all immigrated from what are now Lithuania, Austria, Hungary, and Serbia. Every few years I’d go back to it and find a little more before getting stuck again. I always helped my Dad with his data entry tasks. I would be typing away on his computer and he would regale me with stories about newly found ancestors. Those times are special memories. Dad had a massive cerebral hemorrhage in November 2012 and I took over our family’s genealogy in earnest at that time. And I’ve become obsessed!”
Why Schalene Started a Blog
“After Dad’s hemorrhage, he was in a nursing home for 6 months receiving speech, physical and occupational therapy. He worked hard and went from being paralyzed on his right side to walking. But one thing that did not come back was his ability to speak. He can understand everything we say, but he simply cannot speak very much. When I would visit him in the nursing home, I would tell him about my genealogy finds. Starting a blog seemed like a good way to remember all the stories so I had something to talk to Dad about when we next visited.”
Schalene’s Advice for New Bloggers
“Every person’s blog must feel right to them. What works for one person may not for another. For example, I do not feel competent enough to provide pointers or instructions about research in my blog. I am still learning. I think it’s one of the things I love about genealogy — there’s always something to learn. The only advice I have, perhaps, is establish a schedule for publishing and try to stick to it. In the beginning, I was very enthusiastic and published a post daily. I quickly ran out of stories. I also pre-write posts so they’ve been ready for weeks and have been proofed a few times before publishing.”
Schalene’s Favorite Blog Posts
“I’ve been fortunate to have two of my posts featured on Ancestry.com’s blog in their What We’re Reading feature and have had three articles published in magazines, which all started as blog posts. But I have two favorite posts and they are about my parents:
Schalene’s Time With Ancestors
“Too much! My husband and I do not have children. I spend most evenings and can lose entire weekends researching or writing about genealogy.”
Schalene’s Favorite Ancestor
“I used to say I was inordinately fond of my black sheep until I discovered one who murdered his three young children. It made me consider more seriously why my ancestors may have made the decisions they did. I wouldn’t necessarily call him a favorite, but he did make me slow down and think . . . a lot.
“Now I think I have two favorites and they’re by-marriage ancestors. I like them because they left behind letters and unpublished memoirs that helped me know them as people and provided lots of blogging material.”
How Genealogy Has Improved Schalene’s Life
“It’s given me an avenue for giving back to the community. I now volunteer at a local history society.”
What Schalene Loves Most About Genealogy
“Through genealogy, I have been able to maintain a close relationship with my Dad and have found a topic which provides us a way to communicate. Blogging about my family history has also enabled me to collaborate with my youngest brother in an area of interest for him. He is an amateur World War II historian and is writing a book about the war. Whenever I am working on a post about an ancestor’s WWII experiences, I let my brother know. He either helps me with my research or writes what I call a ‘set up’ post as a guest blogger where he provides the historical context for my post about an ancestor’s personal experiences or history. We have great fun together.”
Schalene’s Genealogy Bucket List
“I would like to go to Ukraine to learn more about my Mom’s father’s family. They considered themselves German but lived in Tsarist Russia. My grandfather emigrated in 1911, the first of his family to do so.”
Schalene’s Time Capsule Message
“Genealogy and family history are never done. Your brick wall will come down; it just may not be you who tears it down. And research is all about collaboration and sharing. Your ancestors are not yours alone; they belong to other people as well.”
* * *
Please take a moment to visit Schalene at Tangled Roots and Trees and leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. Thank-you, Schalene, for letting us inside your blogging world.
© 2015, copyright Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.
Wendy Mathias is a retired teacher who divides her time between her home in Chesapeake, Virginia and Smith Mountain Lake. She enjoys researching her family and digging for the story behind old family photos for her blog Jollett Etc. Are you a genealogy blogger who would like to be interviewed for the “May I Introduce To You . . .” series? If so, contact Wendy via email firstname.lastname@example.org.