May I Introduce To You . . . Smadar Belkind Gerson

Smadar Belkind Gerson

I have the pleasure of introducing you to Smadar Belkind Gerson and her blog, Past-Present-Future, described as, “. . . Past-Present-Future is a family history blog which explores my genealogy journey, one ancestor at a time. The blog is a conversation about how exploring our past, connects us to the present and affects our future. By sharing my own research strive to provide useful tips to fellow genealogist.”

A Little About Smadar

“I was born on a Kibbutz (communal community) in Israel which my grandparents founded, to an Israeli father and American mother. Not long after, my parents moved to a suburb of Tel-Aviv called Kiron. I spent a very happy childhood in this wonderful small town. When I was almost fourteen, my family moved to the Boston area, which is where I’ve been living pretty much ever since with the exception of a thirteen year stint in Cuernavaca, Mexico. I guess you can call me a wandering Jew, as I have immigrated several times in my not so long life, following the footsteps of the ancestors I investigate.

My career life has also been quite a mixed bag. I studied medicine, but never practiced, choosing family over residency. Much later, I founded and managed a small boutique real estate company in Mexico. My husband and I also owned a cultural center and art studio. Four years ago we returned to the Boston due to the drug war, which sadly raged on the streets of our previously quaint and peaceful Mexican town. Uprooting the family was not easy, but turned out to be a blessing. We’ve all enjoyed being back in Boston and my boys (I have three) have particularly loved being here for both the Stanley Cup and the World Series win. We live on the Boston Marathon route, and like everyone in Boston, have been very moved by last year’s bombing. This town embraces our family with open arms and is truly Boston Strong.”

How Smadar Got Interested in Genealogy

“My genealogy journey began about six years ago. I am not one of those people who collected family stories since childhood. I always enjoyed hearing about the family, but I would categorize my interest as average at best. Everything changed when I began working on a Bar Mitzvah project with my oldest son. I suggested he do a ‘roots’ investigation and he liked the idea. A Bar Mitzvah is about becoming a Jewish adult. I felt that gaining an understanding into family history is part of what becoming an adult member of the community and the family is all about. His Bar Mitzvah theme was an ecologic ‘green’ Bar Mitzvah, and therefore a family tree fit very nicely. After all, trees are very green!

For the roots project my son interviewed his grandparents and created a family tree. The interviews were both fascinating and fun, but the tree was more of a challenge. We decided to create an online tree, rather than trying to fit all the information onto a large sheet of paper, chose a website and planted an online family tree. At the heart of the tree was the Bar Mitzvah boy. We worked our way up the generations and invited Bar Mitzvah guests to join the tree. This was my first foray into Genealogy.

Having a child reach Bar Mitzvah age, is a very powerful experience, not only for the child but for the parents as well. This rite of passage, impelled me to reflect about our family traditions passed on for generations. Interestingly, my son, completed the Bar Mitzvah and rarely looked back on this project. The opposite happened to me. As soon as things died down and the guests departed, I found time on my hands to study the family tree. I notice that the tree was almost taking a life of it’s own as family members were joining and adding more relatives as well as photographs, documents and stories. Two interesting aspects of the online drew my attention. The first, was connecting to long lost cousins I did not know existed. The second, the huge gaps in the tree, complete branches which were truncated or bare.

At first it resembled working in the dark. I had no idea what I was doing, and was learning by trial and error. I failed to document any information and hence, I have had to retrace much of that initial work. I was living in Mexico at the time, without access to archives and repositories. Thank God for the internet! Almost all my work was online.

The more I knew and understood about the tree, the more questions I had and the more I wanted to know. And that is how I became hooked onto Genealogy!”

Smadar’s Thoughts on Blogging

“About a year after I began my genealogy research, I came across my great-grandmother, Minnie Crane’s journal. It was a goldmine of family history and I ended up turning it into a memoir called Stored Treasures. I loved writing the book and wanted to do more writing. My mom, who happens to be a social networking guru (with more than 10,000 followers on twitter), suggested I start a blog. I was reluctant at first, but took her advice and started following other genealogy blogs, to explore what genealogy blogs can do. I stumbled onto GeneaBloggers and realized it was an incredibly active and supportive community, so eventually I decided to give it a try.

Past-Present-Future was born, January 1st of 2012. I’ve been writing pretty regularly ever since, with the exception of a four month sabbatical I just took while I was taking the Boston University Genealogical Research course this past term.

At first, I thought the blog was going to be mostly a way to better communicate with my family. I’m blessed with a large extended family, many of whom I met through my genealogy work. They are interested in the research and are true collaborators in this project. What surprised me is that the large majority of my readers are not family, but fellow genealogist. When I realized that, the nature of my blog changed a bit, and rather than just write about my ancestors I tried to include tips for fellow researchers. It’s become a conversation between myself and my readers, many of whom are more experienced researchers than me, and often help me break through a difficult genealogical question.”

Smadar’s Tips for New Bloggers

  • Know your audience.
  • Have a conversation. Ask questions so your records have a chance to respond and give you comments.
  • Follow and contribute comments to other blogs.
  • Write regularly.

Smadar’s Favorite Blog Posts

“This is a tough question, because I am proud of many posts. If I had to choose one, I think it would have to be one of my earliest posts (it’s actually my third post ever): A Photo Worth A Thousand Words. By far, this has been the most popular post on my blog. Even though I wrote it over two years ago, it still gets many new hits every week. The photo of my Kranowitz great-grandparents from Belarus around 1920 is truly striking and probably the reason many readers are drawn to this post. Personally, I love this post, because the story of my relationship with the photo, and how it affected my genealogy journey is very close to my heart.”

Smadar’s Time with the Ancestors

“That depends on who you ask. If you ask my husband or my kids they are bound to say: ‘way too much time!’ If you ask me, I’ll tell you: ‘not enough!’ I guess it also depends on what else I have going on. I try to balance my days with working on my research, studying to improve my skills, blogging and volunteering (indexing Polish records for JRI-Poland (Jewish Records Indexing-Poland) and translating Yizkor Books (Holocaust memorial books) from Hebrew to English.”

Smadar’s Favorite Ancestor

“Another great question. The answer has to be William Bloomfield. William was my maternal great-grandfather. He died before my mother was born. Before I began to research his life story, I knew nothing more than his name. William exemplifies how different aspects of genealogy work can bring back a long lost ancestor. I have now amassed huge amounts of information about this ancestor, thanks in part to his wife’s journal which as I mentioned, I turned into a book. William was Minnie Crane’s first love, and I think I fell in love with him myself when I read about their beautiful romance for the first time. My long lost Bloomfield cousins get almost as much credit as Minnie, for giving me William Bloomfield. The Bloomfield’s, were not in fact lost, they were lost to me. I stumbled upon them thanks to another distant cousin whom I found on Ancestry. Together we have researched our common history, shared photos, document’s and held two family reunions. Another side of William, was unearthed by my own research, which includes not only visiting online databases, but also a road trips to ancestral towns in New Hampshire and Vermont. Finally, sharing this work on the blog, has led to some incredible collaboration with fellow genealogist who offered advice and helped bring down brick walls.

Yes. I admit it. I’m in love with William Bloomfield.  I’m grateful for the sacrifices he made for his family and while striving for a better life. In addition, I’m thankful for what he taught me about myself and about doing genealogical research.”

How Genealogy Has Improved Smadar’s Life

“It may sound cliché, but genealogy has changed my life. It has given me a completely different perspective about who I am and where I came from. It has not only taught me about the past, but also taken over my present and is helping to shape my future as I strive toward becoming a professional genealogist.”

What Smadar Loves Most About Genealogy

“I love the process, the challenge and the learning. I love solving the puzzle. I love that it’s never ending. I love that it’s personal yet universal.”

Smadar’s Time Capsule Message

“A really good, well documented family tree.” 

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

© 2014, copyright Gini Webb

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 . . . Patricia (Dever) Greber

Patricia Greber

I have the pleasure of introducing you to Patricia (Dever) Greber and her blog, My Genealogy Life, described as, “. . . I don’t have any hard set rules when I blog,  I have joined the #52 Ancestor challenge that Amy Crow started, but I am behind because I was working on Elizabeth Norton’s autograph book post and that took some time!”

A Little About Patricia

“I was born in Montreal, Quebec but moved west when I was 7 and have called Alberta home for the last 35 years. I now live in Grande Prairie, Alberta. I married young and when we were calving cows in the harsh Alberta winters I needed something to occupy myself. It was genealogy! I started collecting everything I could about my family. I took courses at the National Institute for Genealogical Studies. I joined the local genealogy society and they were a great support group! I have traveled as much as was possible visiting cemeteries and many hours in libraries looking at microfilm. I am thankful now that things are more accessible on-line. Just 2 days ago I decided to do a search for a relative who moved west from Ontario and I could not track her down. I searched Ancestry and low and behold via Find-a-Grave I found her headstone and now I am on the hunt for her obituary. All from my home. This definitely was not an option when I started!”

How Patricia Got Started in Genealogy

“I started as a young mother who lived out in the country on a cattle ranch. The internet was pretty new and there was not a lot of genealogy on it. I would go to town when I could get a sitter and scroll through microfilm at the local library and Family History Library that was about 16 years ago now.

I think I have always been interested, I took my first genealogy course in grade 7 as it was offered as an option for a year or two at my school. I think the saying – I was born this way is exactly how I feel about my genealogy bug. I have fully embraced my genealogy side!”

Patricia’s Thoughts on Blogging

“I first started blogging in 2009 at,  I Remember You but I wasn’t regular as I had 2 more children (my older two were 10 & 8 and I have been married for 22 years so yes they are all have the same father!). The reason why I started blogging is 3 things:

1) Simply cousin bait, I think it would be fantastic if someone e-mailed me and said they too connect with my family!

2) It is a great way for me to see what research I have done and what needs to be done.

3) But probably the main reason is to share it. I have spent years gathering this information – for what? To sit in my file cabinet and drawers? Not at all, for me I do genealogy to share it and possibly ignite the passion in someone else!

I hope you enjoy my blog and I look forward to connecting with more genealogist! I love how many of us use the internet to share our genealogy journeys and invite others to follow our genealogy lives!”

Patricia’s Tips for New Bloggers

“Network, reach out to other people researching, the genealogy community is wonderful! Join a society or find friends on-line, it is great to know people who share your interest!”

Patricia’s Favorite Blog Post

“Probably my latest post is my favourite, 52 Ancestors – Elizabeth Norton #11. I love using technology and I try to present my genealogy in a way that may appeal to a wider audience!”

Patricia’s Time with the Ancestors

“Is that measurable? I think I am always researching. It is my mind set when I go about my daily life, it is what I am thinking about when I lay my head down at night, sometimes I have broken through brick walls thinking my genealogy through at the end of the day. Genealogy and research happen daily in my world!”

Patricia’s Favorite Ancestor

“I love them all but . . . my favourite ancestor is William Robert Jordan, he was born 1852 in Quebec City, he was involved in the Fenian Raids as a bugler and later the Northwest Rebellion. William was a soldier all his life and later was an instructor at the Citadel in Quebec City. He married 3 times, had a total of 10 children, with 5 surviving childhood. I still haven’t found him on the 1861, 1871 censuses for Canada, I do not know where in Ireland his father Samuel was born (so there are still unknowns) but having said that – I know so much about his life, I feel like I know him. William died at the age of 85 in Quebec City in 1938.”

How Genealogy Has Improved Patricia’s Life

“It has become a way of life for me. I belong to the Grande Prairie & District Branch of the Alberta Genealogy Society and enjoy meetings. I have been secretary of that group for a year and now have stepped down to take on Editor of the newsletter. But probably the biggest and best thing is because of genealogy I have found an amazing job!  While clipping newspapers for the genealogy society’s obit project I saw that the local archives, South Peace Regional Archives, was looking to hire. I haven’t worked outside the home in 20 years but I was determined to throw my hat in the ring! It was a big step – but the biggest surprise was they hired me! I have been working there for almost a year and I feel that this is my dream job! Their website is truly a genealogist dream with all the content they put on-line! It’s pretty amazing with only 3 employees.”

What Patricia Loves Most About Genealogy

“I love the research, looking for clues, I feel like a detective and the amazing feeling when I have found that missing piece!”

Patricia’s Time Capsule Message

“Don’t forget to look back, the people in your past helped you become who you are!”

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

© 2014, copyright Gini Webb

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 . . . Cynthia Berryman

Cynthia Berryman

I have the pleasure of introducing you to Cynthia Berryman and her blog, We’re All Relative, described as, “. . . A place to archive my family’s stories and photos.”

A little About Cynthia

“I grew up in a little town called Encinitas, in the 1950s and ’60s. It was really three towns that adjoined – Cardiff, Encinitas, and Leucadia – and the three together had a population of less than 5,000. It was idyllic. We lived on a ranch, with horses and dogs and chickens, occasionally a goat or a few ducks, with all that open space. Ours was the only house in a valley that was close enough to the ocean that I could hear the waves at night. It was so casual then. After a day of sun and surf I could walk into the grocery store barefoot, and all the other kids in there would be dressed the same – bathing suit with maybe a t-shirt over it. My father and sister occasionally drove a pony cart to town to get a doughnut. And of course, everyone was pleasant.

It’s not like that anymore, of course. I live about 60 miles north of there in a coastal community called Costa Mesa. Southern California is just one big sprawling suburb. My sister and brother both live in the mountains now because the coast is so crowded. But I can’t leave this weather. I’m a wimp for cold or humidity.”

How Cynthia Got Started in Genealogy

“I started doing family history when I was about seven. My father’s family has a long documented heritage, so in my home we had things like christening gowns from the 1800s, old Dutch wooden shoes from the early 1900s, journals written in the late 1700s, things like that. A couple of pieces of furniture had their heritages taped inside drawers. We have a dresser that supposedly came from Isaac Newton’s half-sister. Its genealogy was written on a note some time long ago, probably the late 1800s or so, telling exactly who it passed from at each succession. There is one person I can’t track down, and it drives me crazy!

Getting actively involved in genealogy is something that has been nagging at me for years. I have most of the family treasures – journals, hand-made furniture, photos, china, etc. I have them because to me they’re treasures, and my siblings didn’t seem too interested. But now they’re getting more interested, and would like copies of the photos. It took me a long time to get around to it, but I’m finally starting. My main goal besides the photos is to get the stories down. I know so much about our history, things I know my siblings don’t, so my nieces and nephews don’t have anything to connect them with their past, really. I want to make sure all of what I know gets to them.”

Cynthia’s Thoughts on Blogging

“I only started my blog two months ago. I did it for several reasons. For one, it’s going to take me years to get all the family stuff organized, and I don’t want to be doing this on my deathbed. So it’s been on my mind for a long while. But the reason I started exactly when I did is because I needed to get back to writing. My career is writing, and for the past decade or so I’ve written for investment newsletters. It’s my own business, and I take on as many or as few clients as I want. Well, I kept taking on more and more work, and pretty soon I was working seven days a week, about 12 hours a day. And it burned me out. I literally could not string together the words to make a meaningful sentence. I would write a page, and when I got to the end of it I couldn’t remember what the beginning said. So I took a two year break. Before jumping back in with paying clients, I wanted to make sure I could write again. I love doing the blog now, and I think it will help keep me balanced once I go back to work.”

Cynthia’s Tips for New Bloggers

“Heck, don’t ask me this question. I used to be a creative director. I could talk for a month (and I have!) on learning to write. There’s a popular blog I’ve seen with a perfect message: No story too small. I can see where it might be intimidating for a blogger to think about having enough to say. But don’t look for the great American novel or the universal truth. And don’t worry about perfection. The absolute best writers in the world never — N-E-V-E-R — nail it on a first draft. And blogging isn’t even a novel. Just write from your heart and hit ‘Post. ’”

Cynthia’s Favorite Blog Posts

“I launched the blog with a couple of deeply personal posts, right out of the gate. Then I looked around and thought to myself, ‘uh-oh, I’m supposed to come up with one of these every day? Or even every week? This is going to be like a comet once it hits our atmosphere – a spark of bright light, then nothing.’ I had to step back and start interspersing the very personal posts with ones that might have a few family tidbits within a larger broader theme.

So my favorite posts are from early on, the ones that are most from my heart. Those are:

Stories My Father Never Told Me

The Only Photo of My Mother’s Childhood

My Mother’s Special Drawer.”

Cynthia’s Time with the Ancestors

“Research is my weakness. I LOVE to research. I think all writers do. My husband used to be an ad man at a famous agency, and he remembers the founder of the agency used to say, ‘somewhere, somehow, some time, someone has to sit down and write the *#%$& ad!’ So for me it’s not how much time I get to spend on research, it’s how good I am at dragging myself away from it.”

Cynthia’s Favorite Ancestor

“I don’t have any favorites. They’re all wonderful.”

How Genealogy Has Improved Cynthia’s Life

“I wrote about this the other day. I think it grounds me, gives me a deeper understanding of myself.”

What Cynthia Loves Most About Genealogy

“Everything but trying to reconcile dates and places.”

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

© 2014, copyright Gini Webb

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.