Today, I have the great pleasure of introducing you to Sue Fenn and her blog Family History Alive!, described as, “ . . . My blog is tied to my website, Family History Alive, which I began building in December of 2010. In addition to any new pages which I write, and any revisions to previous pages, which are automatically added to the blog. I post news of upcoming webinars, genealogy conferences, discount offers and subscriptions or other genealogy-related materials, and occasional short articles about my own research, such as one entitled ‘Musings on a Brick Wall.’ The latter was with respect to a brick wall of my own that has been a challenge to me personally for at least ten years, and to other family members before that for at least 40 years. At the time, I was wrestling with it once again, and felt that my readers would enjoy seeing that I don’t have all the answers; I, too, have my own brick walls that I keep hammering away at, one brick at a time.”
How Sue Got Started in Genealogy
Sue has lived in the Toronto area of Ontario for more than 30 years and calls it “home.” She has been doing genealogy research off and on, as her schedule and circumstances permit, for at least the past 15 years, “ . . . Although I have always been very interested in knowing more about my family. Both of my parents came from close-knit families; indeed, they intermarried in my mother’s generation, when three male first cousins, all with the same family name, married my mother and two of her sisters! Both families are fairly large, and there are ‘legends’ about family history on both sides which I have heard since I was a child. I have always been one to try to separate fact from fiction, as far as that is possible. As I get further into my research, I am discovering that some of those stories were true, while others, some of which are part of my ‘brick walls’ each branch of the family seems to have a slightly different version!”
Sue’s interest in genealogy, was piqued a number of times as a child and the seeds were sown, as others did family trees on both her mother and father’s side of the family. Both of Sue’s trees were circulated among the family members, “I remember pouring over the documents, looking for my family within each tree, and my mother telling me about various cousins in her tree whom I had not met. Then there was the mystery of the parentage of one of my forebears, which another cousin had been working on. He and I were talking about it one day, at least 15 years ago. Shortly after that, one of us saw a ‘two-for-one’ subscription offer from Ancestry.com, and we both signed up – and that was it, I was hooked!”
In school, Sue always found history dry and boring. However, in the process of doing her family history research and building her website, she has learned more about history, politics, and social circumstances, in England, Canada, and the United States, than she ever learned in any classroom, all as background to her ancestors’ particular circumstances, “And I find it fascinating!”
Sue’s Family and Her Blogs
“My only close family is my husband, and we are both busy building our respective websites. Neither of us have time to read what the other has written! But, I post what goes into my blog on Facebook and Twitter as well, and many of my cousins have responded very favorably.”
Sue knows of at least four friends and family who have signed on to the RSS feed. There seems to be a good number who have signed up for it, but she is not exactly sure who they are. Sue has received some very positive feedback from cousins and friends, both she has known all her life, and those with whom she has collaborated on building their respective family trees, with respect to the website.
One friend, an Alberta librarian, recently advised that she was going to bring the website to the attention of their research/archives department, as he felt they would really like the website and would use it on an ongoing basis for genealogy research. “Generally I post what goes in my blog on my Facebook and Twitter pages, so the news gets out to them one way or another!”
How Sue Follows the Rest of Us
Currently, Sue stays up on her blog reading via her email in place of using Google Reader or similar readers, “There are instructions in the documentation that I have with respect to building my website, on how to access three different types of readers, but I have not had time to read through it as yet and figure it all out. Too busy working, researching and writing content!”
Typically, Sue will read at least three or four and sometimes more, blogs a day. Sue also likes to follow fellow bloggers on Twitter, although not on a daily basis.
Sue’s Thoughts on Blogging
Sue’s blog came about as a part of her website, “A way of communicating with my readers, and providing them with up-to-date information about what’s happening in the genealogy world.”
Sue did a search to see what was available in terms of genealogy website URL (Uniform Resource Locator) and this particular one stood out for her. It stood for what she wanted to accomplish, “That is to make those dry names and numbers on the page come to life, and to discover as much as possible about my ancestors’ lives and their surroundings, and the issues that they and their neighbors all were facing in trying to make their way through life. I liked how this website name reflected my own intuitions about what family history is all about. I chose ‘familyhistoryalive’ as my URL, and called the website ‘Family History Alive . . . Bringing Family History to Life!’ Naturally, the blog name flowed from that.”
In the beginning, Sue had a concern that she wouldn’t have enough content to put into it, “No need to worry about that!” She also had a concern regarding the privacy of her family, especially among some of her cousins. Sue tries to avoid actually naming names, even with respect to deceased family members, where it might result in some embarrassment to living family. Fortunately, Sue never had any hesitations to blogging, “I knew that I needed to do it in order to build up traffic on the website, and develop a loyal following.”
What Sue Loves Most About Genealogy
“I love the detective work involved. As a lawyer hearing appeals from lower-level decisions in the administrative law system, I am accustomed to looking at evidence and evaluating it, and determining what other evidence would be needed to support or refute what I am being told orally. I really enjoy using those same skills to ferret out the little details that break through brick walls, and having the satisfaction of getting to the root of the matter. Over the past year or so, I have helped a number of others work through and solve their ‘brick walls’ – some of which had some very unexpected and complicated twists and turns! – And learned a great deal in the process. I also like looking at old family pictures (which really help to bring a person’s name and dates to life!), looking for family resemblances, and ‘meeting’ (i.e., chatting online or via e-mail) and collaborating with other family history researchers. It also brings me closer to my aunts and uncles, who for the most part are very willing to talk about the past!”
Sue’s Time Capsule Message
“I’m not sure what I would say with respect to family history. I hope that some day to put together a few family history picture books about some of our ancestors, with all the research I’ve done, and share them with all my cousins who are interested. The message I would leave with the books, for future generations, would be something to the effect that these people, their ancestors, are a large part of their heritage, and that I hope that their life stories of triumph through adversity and tragedy might inspire them to follow in their footsteps.”
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Please take a moment to head on over to Sue’s blog and website. Leave her a comment to let her know you stopped by. Welcome Sue, it’s great to have you here!
© 2011, copyright Gini Webb
Gini Webb lives in San Diego, California and manages her own blog, Ginisology, while also researching her own German heritage, recently retired, enjoying life with wonderful husband Steve and visiting with her now seven grandchildren!
Are you a genealogy blogger who would like to be interviewed for the “May I Introduce To You . . .” series? If so, contact Gini Webb via e-mail.