May I Introduce to You . . . Melanie Frick

Come meet genealogy blogger Melanie Frick, author of the Homestead Genealogical Research blog in this interview by Gini Webb at GeneaBloggers.

MAY I INTRODUCE TO YOU . . . Melanie Frick

I have the great pleasure of introducing you to Melanie Frick and her blog, Homestead Genealogical Research, described as, “. . . Homestead Genealogical Research is a collection of vintage photographs and vignettes about the lives of my ancestors.”

Melanie, can you tell us a little about yourself?

“I was born and raised in Iowa and, thanks to a healthy dose of Little House on the Prairie, have been fascinated by history for as long as I can remember. This led to a B.A. in History and then an M.L.S. My husband and I met as undergraduates and bade farewell to the great Midwest in 2010. After spending a few years in the Washington, D.C. area, we now live in Southern California.”

How did you get interested in doing genealogy?

“My father was the genealogist in the family before me and knew how to throw out enticing tidbits from his research that tied into whatever subject I happened to be interested in at the time. It made a big impression on me as an eight-year-old when he told me that one of our French Canadian ancestors was rumored to have had Native American (First Nation) roots. I’m still working on that mystery! I was ten when I began to fill in my first family tree but really began my research journey at the age of twelve. Fortunately, I had a reasonably good eye for detail even at that age, and a benefit of beginning my research so young is that I feel by now that I’m on a first-name basis with many of my ancestors.”

Why did you start a genealogy blog?

“First and foremost, I wanted to share bite-sized pieces of family history with far-flung relatives and other interested readers, and I’ll admit that cousin bait is always on my mind. After spending an inordinate amount of time stewing about the idea of creating a blog, I finally launched Homestead Genealogical Research in 2013 thanks to some inspiration from the Boston University certificate course and the blogger summit at the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree.”

Melanie’s Advice for New and Not-So-New Bloggers

“This may not be the most fun part of blogging for some, but don’t forget to proofread! When you’ve finished writing a new post, take a break and come back to give it a fresh look. Also, cite your sources. Please! Your blog is your own, so really, you can do this as formally or as informally as you want – but in the long run, source citations will be immensely helpful both to you and to anyone who stumbles across your research.”

Melanie’s Favorite Blog Posts

“About half of my research posts center around an antique photograph – picking out clues and gaining context, or sometimes even identifying unidentified individuals – and they are a lot of fun to write. I also love to share interesting bits and pieces about the lives of my ancestors, often highlighting specific records that bring color to an ancestor’s life. A few recent favorites are:

Melanie, who is your favorite ancestor and why?

“It’s impossible to pick a favorite, but one of the first to leave an impression on me was a great-great-aunt who was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in rural South Dakota during World War I. I first read her diary when I was in middle school, and I was completely enthralled when she wrote about her flirtations with a young soldier at a local barn dance. Her diary ended abruptly as she died in the midst of the Influenza Epidemic of 1918 when she was only twenty-one. Several pages at the end of her diary were torn out, and I became fascinated with her story.”

How has genealogy improved your life?

“The perspective that genealogy can bring to one’s life is priceless. There’s something incredibly meaningful about discovering the trials and tribulations of your ancestors’ lives and their place in history, and having the privilege to share these stories with others. My life has also been enriched by the opportunity to connect with countless cousins, one of whom is collaborating with me on a book about our Danish immigrant ancestors. Finally, it’s been fantastic getting to know the greater genealogical community through blogging, conferences, and institutes. There are so many genealogists who inspire me on a daily basis, and I love being able to connect with other young genealogists as a volunteer with the NextGen Genealogy Network.”

What do you love most about doing genealogy?

“Honestly, while I’m all for highly organized research, sometimes there’s nothing more cathartic than curling up on my couch with my laptop, loading up my tree on Ancestry.com, and deciding at random which ancestor is going to be the subject of my search – whether for a few minutes while dinner cooks or for an entire lazy Sunday afternoon. New record sets appear online all the time, and of course, one thing almost always leads to another . . . .”

What is on your genealogy bucket list?

“I would love to explore more of the places where my ancestors once lived. I’ve been fortunate to visit some of my ancestral homelands in the United States and abroad, and am especially excited to one day retrace the paths of my French Canadian ancestors through their villages in Quebec, to northern New York, to the communities outside of Boston where they worked in the textile mills before relocating to the Midwest. Then, of course, along with identifying the origins of a few of my elusive frontiersmen (who could just maybe steer me to the DAR), there are many more stories I would like to write!”

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Please take a moment to head on over to Melanie’s blog. Leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. Welcome Melanie, it’s great to have you here!

© 2016, copyright Gini Webb. All rights reserved.

Gini Webb lives in San Diego, California and manages her own blog, Ginisology, while also researching her own German heritage, retired, enjoying life with wonderful husband Steve and visiting with her 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.

May I Introduce to You . . . Krista Whitehead

Come meet genealogy blogger Krista Whitehead, author of the Exploring Backwards blog, in this interview by Gini Webb at GeneaBloggers.

I have the great pleasure of introducing you to Krista Whitehead and her blog, Exploring Backwards, described as, “. . . Exploring backwards to uncover traces of my family roots!  I travel backwards to explore my family’s past so that I can share them with my family and preserve them for the future.”

Krista, please tell us a little bit about yourself and where you grew up.

“I grew up in the Midwest.  We moved around a bit, so I really wasn’t anywhere for too long.  I moved to Texas in 1994 and have been here ever since.  Texas is my home.  I love it, except when it is 100 degrees in the shade, and then I wish I lived in the Midwest again.”

What got you started in genealogy and how long have you been researching?

“Six years. To be honest, I am not exactly sure how I got started in genealogy.  My spouse knew a lot about her family.  I remember asking my parents questions about our family, and many times they did not know the answers.

I am a curious person by nature.  I work as an investigator in my day job, so researching came quite naturally.  I am fortunate in that I had two previous family members write different family history books.  The (books did not follow) my direct line, so I thought I would write one for my family.  I did not have a clue when I started out.  I think I googled it, and found Ancestry.com.”

When and why did you start or create your genealogy blog?

“My initial desire was, and still is, to write a book. However, after researching for a couple years, I realized I did not know how to begin.  I did not have the ‘stories’ that people were always talking about.  I knew I wanted to share my discoveries, so I would relate a finding to my mother and forget to tell my sister.  Or I would do the reverse.

I was flying home from my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary surprise weekend and I was reading a Family Tree Magazine article about its top blogs.  It was my epiphany.  I did not know people did that.  I did not have a clue as to how many people had already had that idea before me (ha ha).  I knew I wasn’t the first.  I wrote my first blog right there on the plane.  I consider it my family’s blog, because I want them to add supplemental stories.”

Do you have any tips for new bloggers?

  • “New bloggers need to decide what type of blog they are going to write. Mine is all family related.  I   write about what I discover through my research so that my family members can read it and learn too.  And, ultimately, my sister can help me edit it and put it into something tangible.
  • I think adding pictures, when possible, helps the reader understand the subject, the place, and the time.  It makes the blog come to life.”

Are there other genealogy blogs that may inspire you?

“They all inspire me.  I can read them all.  They are like candy to me, short and sweet.  The problem is I get distracted from my own research by reading others.  But they are a great place to find inspiration if you are stuck.  I usually read educational blogs because I still consider myself a novice.”

Krista, what is your favorite blog post?

“This is one of my favorite posts: Playing Craps Chicago Style.   I love it because I finally had gotten my father to talk and share.  He had a colorful childhood, but does not share much.  He is not boastful or flashy.  He has always been a modest man. Listening to him share is one of my favorite things.

How much time do you get to spend researching your family history?

“It comes and goes.  Since I am not near retirement, I have mostly been just a weekend warrior.  Sometimes on a Saturday, I can get lost in the office.  My spouse calls it ‘the vortex’.  I only emerge for nourishment!”

Who are your favorite ancestors?

“I have many.  I will give you two examples.  I have one ancestor who died young, but I love his name.  He was born in 1886 in Amherst County, Virginia; his name was Saint Louis Hicks.  He died by 1907.

George Wiley Whitehead is another favorite ancestor.  He barely survived the civil war.  He was shot by a sniper, wounded and a prisoner of war.  The story goes that he had given the Masonic sign to a Yankee soldier and was ultimately exchanged for one of theirs.

He came home with a bullet in his head, yet he married his sweetheart and they had 7 children.

You can read more about him here:  George Wiley Whitehead.”

What family story or heirlooms do you cherish most?

“My wallets.  I went on genealogical visit to see more about where my mom and her sister grew up.  While we were there, my Aunt Carol gave me four wallets: my grandmother’s, grandfather’s, my grand uncle’s and my great-grandmother’s.  They are grand artifacts of the items that were important in our loved ones’ lives.”

How has genealogy improved your life?

“Genealogy has definitely improved my life.  I have met people that are related to me by doing this.  I have learned so much about my family, I am now the family historian.  It has brought my family closer together.  I talk to some family members more as a result of my hobby then I had previously.”

What do you love most about doing genealogy?

“I love when I make a discovery and I get to share it with my family through my blog.  The discovery is only half of it for me.  I want to share what I discover in a clever and engaging way.”

If you wanted to leave a message for future generations, what would you say?

“My wish for future generations:  Only one, ask your questions now, while you can.  I wasn’t interested in my grandmother (grandmother’s past) when she was around.”

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Please take a moment to head on over to Krista’s blog. Leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. Welcome Krista, it’s great to have you here!

© 2015, copyright Gini Webb. All rights reserved.

Gini Webb lives in San Diego, California and manages her own blog, Ginisology, while also researching her own German heritage, retired, enjoying life with wonderful husband Steve and visiting with her 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.

May I Introduce to You . . . Jack Coffee

Come meet genealogy blogger Jack Coffee, author of The Edward Coffey Project, in this interview by Gini Webb at GeneaBloggers.

I have the great pleasure of introducing you to Jack Coffee and his blog, The Edward Coffey Project, described as, “. . .  A blog hopefully useful for other Edward Coffey researchers.  Really, it’s an attempt to correct a lot of misinformation floating around on Ancestry and other websites.”

“People ask me why my surname is spelled Coffee and not Coffey.  I have a theory that spelling of the surname changed sometimes because of movement out of the Carolinas and into KY, TN, GA and later into AL and on into AR and TX to other points west.  For example, Coffee was and is a rather popular name in AL, GA and TN.  Some officials in counties that had heard of the exploits of such men as Gen. John Coffee – of Mrs. Andrew (Rachel) Jackson kin – would spell the name of a new Coffey arrival the only way they had ever seen it spelled.  A tenuous argument but no one has ever been able to convince me of a better way the spelling changed.  Spelling varies even amongst siblings with some even spelling it Coffia.”

Jack, can you please tell us a little about yourself?

“My hometown and that of my wife is Baton Rouge, LA.  We have been married nearly 56 years and we now live in a small rural area some few miles north of Lafayette, LA and on the outskirts of the town of Sunset, LA.  My military service made us travelers.  We lived for three years in France and a couple of years in Germany.  In all, I served my country for eight and a half years before taking a discharge and a job with Exxon, now Exxon-Mobil Corp.  During the 28 years I worked for them, we lived and worked in Saudi Arabia and in Singapore and Baton Rouge.  I retired in 1995 and we left Baton Rouge and moved to some lake front property we owned in a remote and sparsely populated Parish in the NE part of Louisiana where we lived for 10 years before moving to Sunset where we have lived almost eight years.  In 2012, believing I had appendicitis, I went to the emergency room of a local hospital and came home with a diagnosis of Lymphoma.  After months of chemo I was finally declared in remission and have been now for nearly two years.”

How did you get started in genealogy?

“I never knew my paternal grandparents or any cousins from the three marriages of my grandfather.  Really, I never knew my father while growing up.  He was a real loser, married six times siring another child, a girl, with I believe his third wife.  A co-worker was researching his European roots and knowing that I spoke German – not so much now – he asked if I would translate some letters for him.  We both decided it might be good to take a basic course, me to help restore some vocabulary, him to learn the basics.  That got me interested in my roots but not before reading a bio of John Coffey Hayes, the Texas Ranger.”

How long have you been researching your family history?

“I began to seriously do research in the early 80’s when I discovered Baton Rouge had one of the finest genealogy libraries in the SE.  Since that time I have continued to do Coffee/y research even after learning that none of my Coffees are actually Coffee or Coffey.  It appears that my 3G-grandfather was either adopted or illegitimate and DNA testing shows us to be Mills.  Ironic that we are Coffey Mills.  My research points to an unmarried Coffey woman in Burke Co., NC living in close proximity to a single young man named Hardy Mills.  DNA shows my descent from Hardy’s father.”

When and why did you start or create your genealogy blog?

“I began the blog on Dec. 7, 2004 and wrote regularly for several years.  I am rather slow to write and post because it has become difficult to find anything new and of interest to readers.”

Do you have any tips for new bloggers?

“Jump in and start.  Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.  Well, not too much, anyway!”

Are there other genealogy blogs that may inspire you?

“I rely on Twitter a lot and the professionals who post there.  When I find a topic that one has posted and stirs my interest I will jog on over to their blogsite to see what they have to offer in the way of advice.”

Jack, what is your favorite post on your blog?

“I would guess that my favorite was the one in which I discovered a bigamist and a murderer in my family.  That was only recently (2014) and can be found here:  William Noah Coffey, Bigamist & Murderer.”

How much time do you get to spend researching your family history?

“Being retired and having no other hobbies, I spent the greater part of the day working on both Coffee/y families as well as my wife’s Acadian ancestors.”

What family story or heirloom do you cherish most?

“The walking stick that I inherited from my maternal great-grandfather who died when I was 10.”

How has genealogy improved your life?

“Well, hard to say.  I suspect it helped me forget all of the difficulties I had not only with the cancer but also with the chemo.  I spent a lot of time in my easy chair with my tablet, researching, reading and the like, all the while sending what I found via e-mail to my desktop computer. On those days I felt like moving from the easy chair to the desk chair, they were waiting for me and occupied me for a few hours.”

What do you love most about doing genealogy?

“I love searching old newspapers and finding out who shot who, who went to jail for moonshining, illicit love affairs and divorces, stuff like that! I’m really not a voyeur but it’s kind of cool to find out that even though I am the ‘perfect father and husband’ (tongue in cheek), not everyone in my family even came close.”

If you wanted to leave a message for future generations, what would you say?

“If it was left to my own family, grandchildren for example, I would tell them to take what I have begun and fill in the blanks!”

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Please take a moment to head on over to Jack’s blog. Leave him a comment letting him know you stopped by. Welcome Jack, it’s great to have you here!

© 2015, copyright Gini Webb. All rights reserved.

Gini Webb lives in San Diego, California and manages her own blog, Ginisology, while also researching her own German heritage, retired, enjoying life with wonderful husband Steve and visiting with her 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.