May I Introduce to You . . . Kathy Duncan

Come meet genealogy blogger Kathy Duncan, author of Porch Swings, Fireflies, and Jelly Jars, in this interview by Gini Webb at GeneaBloggers.

May I Introduce to You . . . Kathy Duncan

I have the great pleasure of introducing you to Kathy Duncan and her blog, Porch Swings, Fireflies, and Jelly Jars, described as, “. . . Family Genealogy and History.”

Kathy, please tell us a little about yourself.

“I was born in Texas but spent my formative years in Kansas and New Mexico. Currently, I live near Dallas with my husband and our cat. We have two grown children and one granddaughter. My husband raises daylilies, and I would quilt more if I could stop myself from spending so much time on research.”

How did you get started in genealogy?

“I started doing research in the summer of 1975 after my high school graduation. My mother was researching her family at the time, but no one was researching my father’s family. As a beginner, I dutifully sent off for a copy of my paternal great-grandparents’ marriage license and enclosed the required $1 fee. A few weeks later I received their original marriage license because they had never picked it up from the courthouse. It was magical, and I was hooked. I’ve been researching ever since. I was lucky to begin at such a young age because I had the opportunity to talk with and to question many people who are now gone. I pestered my grandparents, and wish I’d pestered them more. This summer was my big 4-0 anniversary as a researcher.”

Kathy, why do you blog and what do you hope to accomplish by sharing your stories?

“When I realized that I would never get around to publishing a book or be able to afford to publish a book, I decided to ‘publish’ my research on a blog. It has been one of the best decisions I’ve made. Blogs really are excellent cousin bait. My blog has put me in contact with other family researchers, many of whom have additional pictures, letters, bibles, etc. that I would never have seen otherwise. It has been a wonderful way to meet other family researchers. One generous man, who is not a family researcher but is a collector of old envelopes and stamps, sent me an envelope mailed by my husband’s great-grandfather in about 1868/69. He was thinning out his collection and decided to see what he could find out about Rev. D. H. Selph. He found my blog and decided to return the envelope to its family.”

How did you chose the name for your blog?

“My favorite memories of childhood revolve around visits to my grandparents. In the evenings, I raced around the yard with my brother and cousins, catching fireflies that we put in jelly jars. When it got dark, we would take our jars of fireflies and join the grown-ups on the porch. It was always a treat to get to sit in the porch swing. Then we’d listen to the adults recount old family stories that went back as far as the Civil War. My blog’s name is a tribute to those evenings and the stories that drew me into genealogy.”

Kathy, do you have tips or advice for new bloggers?

“Just do it. Blogger is fairly simple to use. Be patient because it takes a while for search engines to find you. The more you post, the better. Eventually, you will start to hear from other researchers. Then the magic happens.”

What other genealogy blogs inspire you?

“I read Randy Seaver’s, Genea-Musings and James Tanner’s, Genealogy’s Star on a regular basis. I am also a fan of Nicolas Weert’s attempt to identify old photographs and to reunite photographs with their families on his Dead Relative Collector blog.”

Kathy Shares Her Favorite Blog Post

“One of my favorite posts concerns my great-great grandfather, James Hogan Dendy and his experience at Elmira. I had known through his widow’s Confederate pension papers that he had been captured during the war and was in prison. When I finally was able to check his service papers, I was surprised to learn that he had been at Elmira. I treated his service records like a timeline and then researched what was going on at Elmira during the same time frame. The result is a glimpse at what he might have experienced while he was there.”

How Kathy Spends Her Genealogy Time

“I do some research every week, but because of my current circumstances most of my research is online. I really need to get back into a brick and mortar library to do some substantial research. As wonderful as online research is, my local library has more information. Of course my ‘local’ library is the Dallas Public Library, which is a gem.”

Kathy’s Favorite Ancestor

“My favorite ancestor to research is my great-great grandfather, Grandison D. Nevill Sr. He has been very difficult to research. I have been able to document the oral traditions about him, located at least four wives for him but only two divorces out of the at least three divorces that he must have had. I’ve documented the surnames of three of the four wives, but not the one I descend from. It is entirely possible that he had more wives than I’ve accounted for. I’ve tracked him to various locations between census years, but cannot locate him in 1850 and 1870. Most secondary sources have him dying in 1878 in Texas, but I can document that he was living in Arkansas in 1880. If it had been easier to find him, I would probably know less about him and would not have honed my research skills. I try to remember that lesson in my research – go beyond census years and birth, marriage, and death dates. There is so much more to be found for each ancestor.”

What family story or heirloom do you cherish?

“My grandmother gave me a photograph album that belonged to her mother. Too many of the photographs are unidentified, but I cherish it.”

How has genealogy improved your life?

“Genealogy makes the world smaller, and I’ve met a lot of interesting people.”

Kathy, what do you love most about doing genealogy?

“The thrill of the hunt. Organizing, not so much.”

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

“This message would be for future generations of researchers: no one has ‘done it all.’ That cousin or aunt or other relative who you believe has ‘done all’ of your family’s genealogy has not. I know because in my family, I am that relative. I can assure you that there are great gaping holes in my research. Questions still to be answered. Please take what I leave behind and continue the search.”

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Please take a moment to head on over to Kathy’s blog. Leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. Welcome Kathy, 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 . . . 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.