May I Introduce to You . . . Helen V. Smith

Come meet Australian genealogy blogger Helen V. Smith of the From the Keyboard of Helen V. Smith blog in this article by Tessa Keough at GeneaBloggers!

One of the best things about the internet and social media is the opportunity to meet and interact with so many genealogists and family historians from around the world. Many of us are unable to attend conferences and seminars that are far away from our home base. However, with live streaming of conferences, webinars offered through genealogy groups and companies, and blogs by writers from every corner of the world, we can broaden our horizons and learn from the locals. In that spirit, this week let’s go down under to Australia and catch up with Helen V. Smith of From Helen V Smith’s Keyboard. 

A Little Bit About Helen – Where She’s From & What She Does

“I am fifth generation Australian on my mother’s side and first generation on my father’s as he emigrated to Australia, aged 9 with his mother, having lost his father in World War II. I started researching my family history seriously in 1986 because my mother had plaintively said that she knew nothing about her grandfather George Howard Busby, due to a family split in the early 1940s (his name was never to be mentioned). All she knew was that her mother saw the funeral notice for him in 1956 a few hours after the funeral.

I did some research and found some really interesting things (he is still a favourite ancestor!), became hooked and have been addicted ever since researching in Australia, England and Wales with side research in New Zealand, Canada and the United States.

I also run a One-Name study for the surname Quested (worldwide –  any time & any place), which I’ve registered with the Guild of One-Name Studies and also the Surname Society.

I work full time as a public health microbiologist/molecular epidemiologist so I have a strong interest in the history of disease, public health, and also DNA testing. I work part-time as a genealogy professional mainly doing presentations (58 in 2015). I have presented in every state and territory in Australia, in New Zealand, England, Canada and the United States and spoke at the FGS conference in Springfield in 2016 (for her perspective on the conference see The 2016 FGS Conference was a Blast!). I also write family history and scientific articles and two books so far with a few more planned. I do some limited private research.

I also do some part-time work with Unlock the Past Cruises where we run a genealogical conference aboard ship which ends up a win-win with the conference on sea days and also touring at a range of destinations.”

How Helen ’s Family History Focus Has Changed Over Time

“I have been researching since 1986. In the beginning as with everybody there is a bit of name and date collecting (the who, when and where) but over the years I’ve become much more interested in the context (the why of our ancestors’ lives). This entails a lot more social, legal, and economic history research in a bid to find out the why!”

How Helen Thinks Family History Has Changed Over Time

“I started researching pre-internet even pre-home computer days so that has been a major change. I was 22 when I started researching and that was unusual at that time although there have always been a number of younger researchers around and it is important the genealogy community welcomes them.

I was working full-time and studying for my degree at night. In the 1980s when I went to an archive I would use my student card for “legitimacy” as family historians had a bad name in the minds of a number of library and archive staff. Luckily no-one queried why a science student was looking at historical material!

I am pleased to say that has changed, although if the “just click on the shaky leaf and all will be revealed by magic mindset continues” all that good work may change.

Due to the fact that the time I had free to research was in the early morning hours, I used to buy a large amount of resources so I could do research and had my own microfiche and microfilm machine from the early days. The advent of the internet and the online databases has definitely made it easier and it is wonderful to have access to so many archival records.

Doing research “the old way” meant people gradually worked their way backward in time learning about record types and becoming familiar with the handwriting etc., whereas now the instantaneous production of records has meant that I am seeing more and more requests to interpret handwriting. The fact that online providers have digitised a will which is available with one click means some researchers don’t realise that there is a probate packet that will likely, depending on time period, contain many more documents in addition to the will. These researchers may miss out on the inventory, trustee documents, and so much more. They might see an English workhouse admission register and not realise there could also be a Creed register, a discipline book, etc., as part of the workhouse archival files.

I do love the many varied educational opportunities from podcasts, webinars, YouTube, other people’s blogs, mail-lists, Facebook, and G+ groups available now with the flexibility to learn in your own time. If you want to learn, there are many opportunities. I am currently doing the Professional Development Certificate with the National Institute for Genealogy in Toronto.”

Why Helen Created Her Blogs and Her Thoughts on Blogging

“I am single and the last of my line so blogging is an ideal way of sharing my research with others. I have a number of blogs and they serve different purposes: my main one From Helen V Smith’s Keyboard (yes scientists are not that creative when naming things!) is the everything blog, the Quested One-Name Study is to promote my research there although I have not been as prolific as I would like on it, and Postcards From Mary was a way of sharing the postcards sent by Mary Christensen nee Rollason to her family after she had emigrated to be married in Salt Lake City in 1904 and then went to Idaho. I was lucky enough to inherit some of the postcards she sent back to her parents and numerous siblings.

Due to constraints of time I have not been posting as regularly as I would like to my blogs although I have a number in draft form that should be ready soon.”

Helen’s Favorite Blog Posts 

Hmm, I have trouble picking these as I have a fondness for most of my topics. The Writing Directed Queries post was written after I had received one too many vague requests for information. A recent one I really liked was based on the Colorful Ancestry idea from J. Paul Hawthorne. What I particularly liked about this was the interaction all around the world, how we all put a spin on it and how it drew people together.” 

How Much Time Helen Devotes to Her Genealogy/Family History

“Not enough! As I am still working full time and have had fairly heavy speaking schedule, some more books promised, am the DNA SIG coordinator for my state genealogy society, the president of my local society and am studying the Professional Development certificate, I don’t get a lot of time for research. I tend to find that I mainly am doing my own research when I am preparing a lecture or a blog post.  I hope to do more of my own research after I resign from the presidency but we will see.”

What Helen Thinks is the Most Interesting Change in Family History

“Certainly the increased online access has had a strong effect, unfortunately as I mentioned earlier, not always a totally positive one. I think we will see in the future a lot more integrated online sites where there will be archival material, crowd-sourced material, personal stories, photos, etc. We have seen this with online trees now. Another site where it is emerging is the Discovering Anzacs site which has the archival service dossiers, repatriation files, links to online newspapers, personal photos, and stories. The most interesting thing is the worldwide volunteer focus and I believe this will increase. There are many volunteers transcribing historical documents and not all are genealogists.”

Helen’s Genealogy Bucket List

“Having done family history for 30 years now I have been lucky enough to have already achieved many bucket list items. My biggest item is to continue and expand over the next few years to doing the whole gamut of family history activities full time: lecturing, writing, publishing and attaining Certified Genealogist status because I love what I do.”

Helen’s Advice to those Starting a Family History Blog

“Now is a fantastic time to start! Don’t wait until you “have finished your research” as we never do and you don’t have to be perfect. Writing and sharing the family stories is a wonderful thing to do to preserve them for the future generations. The posts are also great cousin bait. Geneabloggers is a great community and there is plenty of help available, all you need to do is ask. Most of all have fun with blogging!”

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Please take a moment and visit Helen’s blog From Helen V Smith’s Keyboard. Leave her a comment to let her know you stopped by. And be sure to take advantage of the wealth of blogs showcased at GeneaBloggers – for the variety of writing styles, ethnic interests, methodology, and research tips and suggestions. Give some thought to what the focus of your research will be this Fall and use the search feature to find blogs that will assist you. If you are interested in Australian research, be sure to add Helen’s blog to your list!

© 2016, copyright Tessa Keough. All rights reserved

Tessa Keough divides her time between Arlington, Virginia and Portland, Oregon. She got hooked on researching her ancestors after seeing a pedigree chart at a family reunion. She shares her paternal genealogy at The Keough Corner, her maternal genealogy at Scandia Musings & More, and technology and methodology tips at her YouTube channel TessaWatch. Are you a genealogy blogger who would like to be interviewed for the “May I Introduce To You . . .” series? If so, contact Tessa via email

May I Introduce to You . . . Chery Kinnick

Come meet genealogy blogger Chery Kinnick, author of Nordic Blue in this interview by Tessa Keough at GeneaBloggers.


This interview is something I have wanted to do at least once during our 2015/2016 MIITY season – and today is the day! Oftentimes we meet our writers during the early going of their blogging experience, and we don’t revisit them to see how they have evolved or if their views on blogging have changed over time. This week’s interview is a bit like the “where are they now” interviews that we see on news shows or hear on radio shows. Recently I had the opportunity to meet Chery Kinnick of Nordic Blue.

Chery was a guest speaker in a certificate program class at the University of Washington. As she discussed her own certificate work undertaken several years ago, one of her slides highlighted her blogs Nordic Blue and Nearby Norwegians (one an individual effort and the other a group effort). Two interesting things happened – a few class members asked what a blog was and some others asked what GeneaBloggers was (they noticed the GeneaBloggers’ badge displayed at her blog). I never cease to be amazed (and a bit disappointed) at the large number of genealogists and family historians who are unfamiliar with blogs (and most other social media) and I am pleasantly surprised and impressed that the GeneaBloggers’ badge draws attention and gives us a chance to inform the genealogy community about its terrific resources.

I was also reminded that I first became aware of GeneaBloggers when I was thinking about starting a blog, and I not only looked to the website for information and resources but I also to check out the search feature to look up blogs related to two of my ethnic interests – Irish and Scandinavian genealogy. So I came full circle a last month because I met in person one of the first genealogy bloggers I ever read. I took advantage of the opportunity to ask Chery to provide us with an update since her original interview.

So let’s get to it and learn a bit more about Chery, her blog Nordic Blue, and where life and her genealogy interests have taken her since that first interview!

A Little Bit About Chery

“It is not often that I get interviewed twice for the same publication, but I am happy to share what I have experienced and learned since my first “May I Introduce to You” in 2010!

I currently live in the Seattle area, but I am originally from the San Francisco Bay area.  I identify most with my mother’s Norwegian American family, since I was exposed to that culture through many older relatives while growing up.  On my birth father’s side, my ancestry is a bit more mixed, but with mostly Scottish/Celtic genes–European, in general, but with a couple of small variations thrown in for spice!

I have been with the University of Washington Libraries for 27 years, having served as Public Services Coordinator for Special Collections for the last few years.  Most of my work involves training and supervising student employees.  Working where I do has enabled me to learn about various types of historical records available, and even more about the extensive effort it can take to find just the right ones for your research.  I am fortunate to have many historical records experts among my co-workers.”

How Chery Got Started Doing Family History

“I began researching my family history about 15 years ago, and my main motivation was simply to answer questions for myself.  As I started pulling in information from family members and genealogy resources, a whole new world opened before my eyes.  I realized that you really could piece together the past in an understandable manner, while learning about individuals who were central to your existence, but whom you had never met.  It was a fascinating quest.

From a very early age, I knew I wanted to either work in a library, or to write, and I feel grateful that I have managed to do both.  I have a strong interest in Norwegian American history, and also 19th Century pioneer history and biography.  My academic degree is in History, and if you’d asked me to predict that many years ago, I would not have been able to.  I once considered history, my 7th grade class in particular, to be the driest, most uninteresting topic I had ever encountered (maybe it was the teacher?)  I later learned that studying history involves so much more than route memorization.  I am now passionate about research and can be quite tenacious about gathering information.  I sometimes have to put an uncooperative topic to rest for a while, in order to return to it with a fresh perspective.  That technique often brings a measure of success.

I started my family history research by learning to use online genealogy resources, making inquiries of webmasters, writing letters in the hope of connecting with new family members, and so on.  I networked as much as possible, and “met” relatives that even my mother was not aware of—entire branches of the family that I had never been told about.  I cannot stress how important networking with family was to story gathering.  Though I knew I had a veritable army of cousins in certain parts of the United States, it was up to me to play detective and seek them out.  One not-so-typical treasure I gleaned from networking was a small tin-type photograph of a little girl who died of diphtheria in 1885, when she was only five years old.  I could not be sure that a photograph of her existed.  However, she surfaced when one cousin I gave a “laundry list” of wants to realized that little Hattie’s photo was sitting inside a tea cup she had inherited!”

How Chery Got Her Writing and Blogging Vibe On

“Wanting more detailed instruction in genealogy, in 2005 I enrolled in an eight-month-long certificate program on Genealogy and Family History at the University of Washington.  For three subsequent years after that, I took part in a history research and writing seminar at Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry.  Through both programs, I learned a lot about finding and organizing information, but also how to incorporate social history and utilize creative non-fiction to create a readable family history.

In 2008, I self-published a 300-page family history about my maternal grandfather’s family: A Long Way Downstream:  The Life and Family of Thibertine Johnson Winje, Norwegian-American Pioneer.  One of the best compliments I received about the book was when an older cousin excitedly told me, “It reads like a story!”  The book was 7 years in the making from the very start of my genealogy research.  A writing mentor of mine once said: “…a publication is just a snapshot in time,” so even though I chose to publish when I did, it did not mean that my research is completed, by any means.

I was inspired to started blogging about family history when another writing seminar attendee said it helped her hone her own writing skills.  When I first began my blog, there was a growing online community of mutual supporters in the realm of family history blogging.  Thomas MacEntee was a part of that early blog carnival community, and he has taken the idea to an entirely new level with “GeneaBloggers.”

Chery’s Thoughts on Blogging and How They Have Evolved Over Time

“Although I currently do not spend as much time writing for Nordic Blue as I did in the beginning, my posts remain online, and I know I will eventually again find time to tell more stories.  The inspiration to post another article often hits when I discover something new, and since discoveries are now coming at a slower pace, inspiration has slowed a bit, as well.  But, overall, the writing process for the blog helps me to discern what I know, from what I do not know.  It also keeps me accountable, since the information must be presented in a clear and understandable manner.  Once in a while, I am contacted by a family member previously unknown to me, who has discovered something pertinent on Nordic Blue, and the round of information sharing and justification begins all over again.  A library science professor of mine once said that the library is a “live and dangerous” thing, and the same can be said for blogging—all in a good way, of course.  If I added nothing more at this point, there is enough posted information that some of it will prove useful to someone, somewhere, at some time in the near future.”

Chery’s Advice to Anyone Starting a Family History Blog

“Blogging is still at the top of my suggestion list for new and more experienced family historians alike.  First of all, it gives a taste of what it is like to publish.  You can be creative, tell a research story, submit documents or facts for perusal, and there is no need to tie into the entire family history, as with a book.  Blogging is a bit like sending out family history postcards (emphasis added).  A blog is also a place to share family photographs, as well as discuss your efforts at being a photo detective, keep track of your research, and (you know you want to), tout how you solved yet another family mystery.  My favorite blog posts involve showing how I discovered where a “missing” Civil War soldier ancestor was buried, and also, how I debunked some incorrect family lore about a young woman who supposedly “went down with the Titanic.”  It turned out that she was a victim of the U. S. S. Norge tragedy, eight years before the sinking of the Titanic.”

How Chery Divides Her Genealogy & Family History Time

“Since I am working full time and spend an average of three and a half hours each weekday commuting, and also have a family and home to care for, plus other interests like gardening, walking, reading, and quilting/crafting, there is a necessary ebb and flow to my research and writing pursuits.  But, the development of research skills and the discipline necessary to produce a family history has led me to other publishing opportunities over time.  These include:  Snoqualmie Pass (Arcadia Publishing Images of America series), and local history articles for the Washington State Historical Society’s magazine, Columbia, as well as newspaper articles.  Another writer and I are currently involved in creating a biography of a Pacific Northwest nature photographer, and I am doing research for another new local history article.  So many interesting topics, and so little time!

Another thing of great value to me is my involvement in a research/writing support group.  We call ourselves the Nearby Norwegians, and we maintain a blog about things relating to Norwegian culture and interests.  We try to meet regularly, but have never used a formal agenda.   What we value most is the camaraderie, mutual support, and encouragement we give each other in the pursuit of our research and writing goals.  A family history support group is worth every minute of the effort it takes to create and keep going.  For, unlike many friends and family, your genealogy-minded acquaintances won’t “space out” whenever you begin to talk about your latest research successes.”

Chery’s Genealogy Bucket List

“I never consider my future without envisioning some involvement with genealogy and family history, and I plan to also continue researching and writing about pioneer-era history.

  1. I need to make the time to do a second edition of A Long Way Downstream – perhaps a print-on-demand version this time. I have newly discovered photographs and facts, updated charts, and, inevitably, some corrections to add.
  2. Since I have recently discovered the joy of photo books through online vendors, I would love to do more of these as quick family history publications. One photo book I created includes all the Victorian cabinet card and other photographs that belonged to my great grandparents.
  3. Finally, although travel is not much of an option for me right now, someday I would like to visit Norway and step on the same soil that some of my ancestors left in hope of achieving a better life. There is nothing like that feeling of studying family history, and then communing with it on a very personal level, in the exact location that it happened.  It would be an opportunity to pay homage to them, and to somehow show that their daily toil, pain, patience, and resolve resulted in successes that they could hardly imagine as poor immigrant homesteaders on the Minnesota prairie.”

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Please take a moment and visit Chery at Nordic Blue as well as at Nearby Norwegians (and do check out all of the team members of that blog). These blogs were my first introduction to blogs about Norway and Norwegian resources. Both blogs not only inform and educate, but they also highlight some thoughtful and in-depth research and writing (always a bonus). Do take advantage of the wealth of blogs showcased at GeneaBloggers – for the variety of writing styles, ethnic interests, methodology, and research tips and suggestions. The summer months are a great time to give some thought to taking your blog in a new direction, refreshing your blog format, or sharing your research results, photographs and/or brick walls with the genealogy community.

My rather fortuitous “meet up” with Chery and reintroduction to her blogs provided me with six Aha moments:

  1. Blog when you have something to say – remember it is quality not quantity.
  2. Use your blog to send out those “family history postcards” (I love that visual!).
  3. Go with the ebb and flow in life and in your genealogy – relax and enjoy the trip.
  4. List your blog with GeneaBloggers and use that GeneaBloggers’ badge (it does get noticed and you add to our genealogy and family history community with your listing).
  5. Family history is a never-ending story; you don’t have to be finished before you write it, so why not use your blog to write it as you go.
  6. Everyone’s story is important – those homemakers, farmers, laborers, teachers, slaves, soldiers, merchants, domestics, immigrants, exiles, and pioneers are the combination of so many things including their occupations, their ethnicity, their religion, their race, and the times and places in which they lived. Our ancestors are the building blocks of our past and we are the result of those who went before us and made our lives possible.

Start or kickstart your blog, hone those writing skills, and who knows – there might just be a book of collected blog posts in your future. Start that never-ending story.

© 2016, copyright Tessa Keough. All rights reserved

Tessa Keough divides her time between Arlington, Virginia and Portland, Oregon. She got hooked on researching her ancestors after seeing a pedigree chart at a family reunion. She shares her paternal genealogy at The Keough Corner, her maternal genealogy at Scandia Musings & More, and technology and methodology tips at her YouTube channel TessaWatch. Are you a genealogy blogger who would like to be interviewed for the “May I Introduce To You . . .” series? If so, contact Tessa via email

May I Introduce to You . . . Jennifer Geraghty-Gorman

Come meet genealogy blogger Jennifer Geraghty-Gorman, author of On a flesh and bone foundation: An Irish History at GeneaBloggers.


This week is one of my favorite weeks of the entire year! During the week, and for some of us all week long, we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and all things Irish. All of my ancestors on my father’s side of the family are originally from Ireland and I have been lucky enough to visit Ireland on 4 occasions (once for an extended visit of 6 months). When I started researching my family’s history, one of the blogs I came across was On a flesh and bone foundation: An Irish History.

This week and as a special treat, I get to introduce you to Jennifer Geraghty-Gorman who I think is one of the best genealogy bloggers writing today. I first happened upon her blog a few years ago and was touched not only by her heartfelt and deeply personal writing style, but also her understanding of the complexities of Irish history, her ability to convey the deep sense of longing experienced by her emigrant parents, her willingness to tell the fascinating stories of her family’s experiences at home and abroad, and her generosity in sharing her knowledge of Irish research when she expanded her blog from the personal stories to a wealth of information and tips for those who want to learn how to research their Irish ancestors. The fact that she intersperses her amazing writing with spectacular photographs is simply an added gift to us.  Join me in learning a bit about what makes Jennifer and her blog so special.

A Little Bit About Jennifer

“I am the only Canadian-born member in my Irish family of origin — my father, mother and only brother are all Dublin born — and I have no Canadian ancestors. My life’s work is the study of Irish history, and the research and writing of it as a social historian. I hold three university degrees: B.A., B.A. (Hons.) and M.A. Currently, I am working on two distinct Irish history projects, both of which find their origins in the critically important decade of 1913-1923.

My interest in Irish family history was spurred by my need to understand who my family is, what it means to be Irish, and why my parents approached the world in the way in which they did. When I was growing up, and even into adulthood, discussions with my mother and father about our family history were a rare thing. I treasure those times when Mam and Dad were open to talking about the past.

Growing up in Canada, I keenly felt a sort of great divide. When we travelled home to Ireland, it seemed to me that in the eyes of my Irish family members I was a curiosity of sorts, neither fully the Irish child, nor fully the Canadian one. They doted on me, yet I always felt as though I was the outsider looking in. Although I travel on an European Union/Irish passport, in Irish government records, I am a foreign-born Irish citizen, and will forever be one step away, not quite fully Irish. I believe I am trying to bridge that gap, if only in my own mind.”

How Jennifer Got Started Doing Family History and Her Current Focus

“In collaboration with a maternal uncle in Dublin, I created my first family tree when I was 15 years old. Unfortunately, life got in the way, as it inevitably does. That tree was lost, and I didn’t return to family history in earnest until after my father died in March of 2000. In a Thankful Thursday post entitled What made you fall in love with family history? I wrote about what brought me back to family history.

With respect to areas of emphasis, I tend to focus on whatever inspires me. Sometimes I write about family members in the distant past, other times about those in the more recent past. I also enjoy writing Tuesday’s Tips posts to share what I have learned as a researcher. Over the last couple of years, I focused some of my research on land and property. Using land valuation records I was able to trace the tenancy and then ownership of Warblestown House in Lispopple, North County Dublin — a house still occupied by family members — to show it has been in our family for over 150 years. It was very exciting to be able to trace the house history, and my cousin who currently lives in the house was very pleased with the results.”

How Family History Has Changed Since Jennifer Got Started

“It seems to me there has been an explosion of interest in family history over the last 15 years. With respect to Ireland, there has been a concerted effort by the Irish government, through the Ministry for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, to make materials more accessible to those living outside of Ireland. In March 2015, when I read ‘Maximising Our Cultural and Genealogical Heritage,’ the 48-page report born out of a series of public meetings and penned by TD Catherine Murphy, I jumped for joy at the realization that the Irish government is truly serious about the dissemination of records of Irish heritage. (You can access the Report of the Joint Committee on Maximising Our Cultural and Genealogical Heritage here.)

This is a very delicate dance for the Irish government, since they have to balance privacy concerns with the desire to open records to interested parties in Ireland and beyond. With the creation in 1995 of the official statute known as The Heritage Act of 1995, the government did commit “to promote public interest in and knowledge, appreciation and protection of the National Heritage … (including books, documents and other records, including genealogical records).” This focus by the current government is a continuation of that commitment. However, not everyone on the island of Ireland believes such records should be open to the public gaze, something made clear when the Belt of Crozier (i.e. official clerical admonishment) was given to Taoiseach Enda Kenny by the Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, upon the online release of the National Library of Ireland’s (NLI) collection of Roman Catholic parish registers.”

Why Jennifer Created Her Blog & Her Thoughts on Blogging

“The creation of a family history blog was born out of a couple of things. First, feeling deeply disenchanted, I stepped away from academia, and the pursuit of a PhD. in Irish History, and journeyed down an entirely different path, teaching Pilates body movement. Although I love Pilates practice, teaching it was not my cup of tea. I truly missed academic research and wanted to continue researching and writing about my first love, Irish history. At that time, blogging about the history of my ancestors in Ireland seemed the perfect thing to do.

Second — now don’t laugh — I was inspired by a scene in the movie ‘Julie & Julia’ in which the character Julie says, ‘I have thoughts; I could write a blog’. My husband echoed her husband and chimed in with ‘and you’re a writer’, and so my blog was born.

To be perfectly honest I was on tenterhooks at first, worried about the reception I would receive from my family over me sharing our history, but I’ve had very positive interactions with the majority of family members who have read the blog. In the two years before she died I was able to share the blog with my mother, and she seemed very happy to learn how much research I had done, and how much I had learned about her family history.

One of the most exciting aspects about blogging has been reconnecting with family and friends in Ireland, as well as the world over, and meeting new ‘cousins’ and making new friends. I will be forever grateful to Carol A. Bowen Stevens, one of the first followers on my blog, for encouraging me to set aside my fears and jump in with both feet, as well as to Thomas MacEntee of GeneaBloggers for his encouragement and technical advice early on.”

Jennifer’s Favorite Posts from ‘On a flesh and bone foundation’: An Irish History

“For the most part my favourite blog posts feature those stories about the lives lived by my ancestors and family members, but I’ve also enjoyed blogging about personal experiences ‘inside’ family history.

I’ve chosen the following four posts:

  • 34 days — a deeply personal post about the imminent death of my father, a time I was unable to truly process until more than a decade after my dad passed away (published Friday, February 10, 2012).”

[Please take the time right now to read these posts and then come back here – oh and have some tissues at the ready. So often we forget the transforming power of the written word – Jennifer’s posts remind us. Her posts are a lesson for all of us that it is quality, not the quantity of our writing that is important – whether that is a blog post, an article or a book – Simply brilliant! – Tessa]

How Jennifer Divides Her Genealogy & Family History Time

“Over the last couple of years I have returned to researching and writing about Irish history. As I mentioned earlier, I am working on two history projects. The history work takes me to Ireland a lot — 15 trips, soon 16, over the last 7 years — and when I am there I endeavour to make time specifically for family history and genealogy research. It doesn’t always work out, but I try my best.

My mother used to say ‘Jenn is steeped in Ireland,’ and every single day that is true. I am either working on the history projects, doing history reading and research, or doing family history/genealogy research.”

What Jennifer Considers the Most Interesting Change in Genealogy in the Past 10 Years

“Many of us have long understood the significance of family history and genealogy, but I think one of the most interesting changes over the last ten years is that family history has gone mainstream. Even the major television networks have produced shows about family history and genealogy. Although they don’t always get it right, the fact is the interest is there.

People from all walks of life are deeply interested in what some historians have referred to as ‘the small stories,’ those which detail the lives of so-called ordinary people. For me the small ordinary stories have always been the most extraordinary, and it seems everyone has such a story.”

The Top 3 Items on Jennifer’s Genealogy Bucket List

“The three big things currently dominating my bucket list are:

  1. As a member of a ‘1916 family,’ I have been invited by the Irish government to attend the official State functions for the 2016 Commemorations of the 1916 Easter Rising, so very shortly I will be travelling to Dublin. I am deeply grateful to be attending these events to commemorate the life of my granduncle Michael Francis Magee, who at the age of 18 fought as a Section Commander with the Four Courts Garrison during the Easter Rising, as well as the life of my grandmother Annie Magee Geraghty who joined the Cumann na mBan in support of her elder brother.
  2. The completion of both of my Irish history projects and their subsequent publication.
  3. Long term, I do still hope to complete my doctorate in Irish History.”

Jennifer’s Advice to Anyone Starting a Family History Blog

“Find your passion and write about it. Be open to learning, and go offline to read as wide a range as possible of books about family history, genealogy and the history of the country or countries in which your ancestors originated. Be authentic, and write about what you know.

Open your heart and share your stories. Life isn’t perfect. No matter how great someone’s life might seem from the outside, little do we know how it looks from the inside. We all face challenges, and as human beings we only have each other, so along the way engage with others and offer a little encouragement when you can.

Above all: Find joy in the process!”

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Please take a moment and visit Jennifer at On a flesh and bone foundation: An Irish History. I am never disappointed when I visit her blog. She informs, entertains, reminds, and educates us (the hallmark of a great and gifted teacher) and I often find myself laughing, tearing up, or thinking of my own family. Check out not only her blog posts, but also spend some time getting lost in the various topics she has included at her blog. Must visits (and you don’t even need your passport) include: Faces of Family History, Finding Irish Ancestors: Research Aids, 17 Tips +1 for Family History/Genealogy Research in Ireland, Tuesday’s Tips, and definitely spend some time at the Bookshelf and Films. Why not celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and all things Irish by sitting down with your favorite beverage (whether that is tea or whiskey – my choice is Jameson) and immersing yourself in Jennifer’s blog –  Sláinte.

© 2016, copyright Tessa Keough. All rights reserved

Tessa Keough divides her time between Arlington, Virginia and Portland, Oregon. She got hooked on researching her ancestors after seeing a pedigree chart at a family reunion. She shares her paternal genealogy at The Keough Corner, her maternal genealogy at Scandia Musings & More, and technology and methodology tips at her YouTube channel TessaWatch. Are you a genealogy blogger who would like to be interviewed for the “May I Introduce To You . . .” series? If so, contact Tessa via email