May I Introduce To You . . . Valerie Hughes

Valerie Hughes

I have the pleasure of introducing you to Valerie Hughes and her blog, Genealogy with Valerie, described as, “. . . A Blog that features Genealogy advice, tips and stories of my Ancestors and their lives.”

A Little About Valerie

“I was born in Lexington, Missouri but I have lived in Arizona for most of my life. I currently live in Mesa, AZ.”

How Valerie Got Started in Genealogy

“I began dabbling in Genealogy in 1994 after the birth of my first Grandchild, but I got serious about it 15 years ago.

I was raised far away from both of my parents’ family. I met a few of them growing up but I really didn’t know any of them. My parents hardly ever spoke about their past or our Ancestors so when I started doing Genealogy I was basically clueless.  My Dad passed away 40 years ago so I couldn’t ask him any questions. When I started my Genealogy journey I contacted his youngest sister, who was the last living sibling of 11 and she sent me a handwritten list of their siblings’ names, my Grandparents name and 1 Great Grandfathers name. That was enough to get me started. My Mom absolutely refused to talk about her family and she passed away 15 years ago, so I had to do a lot of digging to get started on her side. I had this irrepressible need to find out where I came from since it had all been such a mystery.”

Valerie’s Thoughts on Blogging

“I started my Blog 3 months ago for three reasons. First, I hoped to find cousins. I have found several on Facebook but as you know there are a lot of people who are not on social media. Second, I have written and published 2 books about Genealogy so I feel I may be able to offer advice or tips that may be of help to others. Third, it is a great motivational tool to help keep me focused on writing my Ancestors stories.”

Valerie’s Tips for New Bloggers

“Just be yourself and write from your heart. Don’t be afraid to write about the ‘hard’ issues or the not so glamorous parts of our Ancestors lives. It is all part of our story.”

Valerie’s Favorite Blog Post

“That would be ‘The Importance of Sharing the Slave History from your Family Trees.’”

Valerie’s Time with the Ancestors

“If there could just be 48 hours in a day…no seriously I am blessed to be able to do as much research as I want. My husband understands my passion and encourages it.”

Valerie’s Favorite Ancestor

“It is hard to pick just one but I think it would most definitely be Permelia ‘Milly’ Loving Allen (1774 – 1866). When I wrote the blog about her, I discovered that she was a woman of great strength and courage, and a woman way ahead of her time. You can read her story here: Permelia ‘Milly’ Loving Allen, a pioneering woman.”

What Valerie Loves Most About Genealogy

“I love discovering the mysteries and finding the answers. One example is:  last year I discovered that I had a half-brother who died when he was 3 months old. He was born in 1938 to my Dad and his first wife.  This really shocked me as I never heard a whisper about this before this.  Also I will be able to pass down all I have found about our Ancestors to my Grandchildren with the hope that their lives will be enriched by what they will discover there.”

Valerie’s Time Capsule Message

“Learning about your Ancestors helps you to understand who you are as a person. Traits like courage, stubbornness, humor, adaptability, generosity can all be passed down to us from previous generations. Knowing that our family overcame hardships, accomplished great deeds, were faithful to their spouses, worked hard for a living, shows us that we too can do anything required of us.”

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

Jodi Bash

I have the pleasure of introducing you to Jodi Bash and her blog, Unclaimed Ancestors, described as, “. . . A place to house old photos that I find and research while I try to connect them with descendants.”

A Little About Jodi

“I was born, and have spent most of my life, in Houston, Texas. I have 3 kids ages 4 to 15, (so I drive a lot!) and a husband who patiently listens to all my genealogy stories. I share my time between genealogy, being a Director of Children and Youth for our church, and spending time with my family. I read, I write, and I hang out in graveyards. It’s a great life!”

How Jodi Got Started in Genealogy

“I started serious research on my own family as an adult in my 20’s. We’ll call that 20 years ago. Then, about 4 years ago, after my last child was born, I branched out to doing research for friends; and ultimately decided to do genealogy professionally.

I was introduced to genealogy while doing a project in High School. We were asked to write a paragraph on our parents and grandparents. I went way overboard, and turned in about 75 pages – one on each ancestor I had researched. Needless to say, I was hooked. But I didn’t get 100 because I forgot to write a conclusion! I’m still kicking myself over that.”

Jodi’s Thoughts on Blogging

“I started my first blog, Unclaimed Ancestors, when I had about 5 old photos that I’d purchased from a local antique store and didn’t know what to do with them. They had names written on the back and a location from a photographer’s stamp. A little research revealed that there were people with online trees that included the person in my photo. I decided that the best way to distribute the photos to everyone who might want it was to start a blog. That was in April of 2012. Later that same year I wanted to share more personal stories so I started a blog on my business page Family at Your Fingertips. They have been so much fun and I’m constantly amazed by what I learn when I write stuff down.”

Jodi’s Tips for New Bloggers

“Keep your butt in the chair. This is the best advice I’ve ever heard from an author I went to see speak. Writing is hard even when you’re motivated to do it. The best thing to do is just sit down and don’t get up until you’ve written anything. Quality doesn’t jump on the paper you have to work at it – forever. But it’s oh so rewarding.”

Jodi’s Favorite Blog Post

“I have several favorites. I especially like the ones that ‘almost got away.’ Photos that you just can’t identify and then a breakthrough and it all falls into place, those are the most fun. Of course when I hear from family members who are so excited to have a picture of their relative – that post is always special. I really enjoyed the post I wrote on my grandmother’s best friend in High School. This was based on photos and notes in her high school memory book from 1931. It was like getting another glimpse at my grandmother.”

Jodi’s Time with the Ancestors

“Not nearly enough in my opinion! Now, my family may feel otherwise. I probably spend 10 hours a week on genealogy right now. A great day is when I get to spend it doing nothing but researching and writing. Throw in a graveyard visit and its perfect!”

Jodi’s Favorite Ancestor

“My mother, who joined the ranks of ‘ancestors’ when she passed away a few years ago. I write a lot about her on my Family at Your Fingertips blog. After her, my favorite ancestor isn’t even a relative. Emma Jane Hadley is my husband’s great-grandmother. She’s exciting because she was an unknown until I figured out who my husband’s grandfather’s parents were. Everything about her and her family is new information and I keep discovering more. She was a sad and fascinating character. One of those ancestors for whom, despite feeling like you’ve learned a lot, there is still so much more you want to know!”

How Genealogy Has Improved Jodi’s Life

“It’s my stress relief! When I’m crazy and busy with kids/work/life, and I take one hour to sit down with an old photo and figure out who that person is, it will change my whole attitude. It gives me a feeling of purpose and a way to be focused and calm. It’s probably like meditation, but I’m not patient enough for that!”

What Jodi Loves Most About Genealogy

“Discovering new things about people I thought I already knew. While getting another generation added to the end of the Bash line is great, I’m more excited when I can add deeper information about a not so distant ancestor. I love focusing a blog post on one ancestor and writing about their life in chronological order to illuminate what I don’t know. It never fails to reveal a new way of seeing someone. Adding depth to my ancestors is the priority over breadth of generations.”

Jodi’s Time Capsule Message

“That’s a great question, and I did this recently actually. Last year, on my 43rd birthday I decided to write each of my children a letter that they couldn’t open until their 43rd birthday. I blogged about it, and it was a very moving experience. When my mother died, we put her ashes in a glass case in a mausoleum. It occurred to me that that would also be a great place to put a letter to future generations – a little about her and why she was ‘buried’ here, why we chose to put the things in the case that we did. I regret that I didn’t do this now. Grief saps you. But each of the glass cases is like a little time capsule; they are a wonderful way to bury a loved one.”

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