May I Introduce To You . . . Jennifer Holik-Urban

Jennifer Holik

I have the great pleasure of introducing you to Jennifer Holik-Urban and her blogs as well as her website Generations, described as a, “ . . . Professional Genealogy website with information on Chicago area genealogical resources. Both blogs, Chicago Family History and Family History Research, feature website and book recommendations, stories, and information about my ancestors and projects on which I work. Information about repositories and classes in Illinois, Indiana and Missouri, conference information and other miscellaneous things.”

How Jennifer Got Started in Genealogy

Jennifer has been involved in her family history since 1996, when she was finishing her Bachelor’s in History and had to complete a family tree project for a history course.

“At first, it was the history course I was taking. Then I began talking with my family and hearing interesting stories.” Jennifer’s uncle had just retired and decided to jump on the genealogy “bandwagon” and help Jennifer find information in Chicago since she was still living in Missouri at the time. Her uncle joined the local Czech genealogy society with the two of them as joint members and when Jennifer would visit Chicago, they both would attend conferences and meetings together. “The rest of the research took off from there. I was hooked!”

Jennifer’s Family and Her Blogs

“My family likes my blogs,” says Jennifer. Her brother-in-law, Scott Sloan, designed her Generations logo and the cover of her To Soar with the Tigers book, which is featured on all of her blogs. Jennifer’s mom comments on posts now and then and her three boys provide interviews and other things for Jennifer’s Kids Genealogy blog. “In some ways my blogs are more family run rather than solely run by me.”

Jennifer’s best friend likes to follow a couple of her blogs and her mom follows a few as well. All of Jennifer’s blogs feed into her Facebook page, so she knows her Facebook friends are reading and leaving comments on her posts as well. For the most part, Jennifer’s family relies on her to keep them up-to-date on her findings, “Overall they are interested but not addicted like I am.”

How Jennifer Follows the Rest of Us

Jennifer uses Google Reader on her computer and cell phone to keep up with her genealogy blog reading. She does not receive posts via her email, “I prefer to have them all organized in Google Reader where I can sit and go through them when I have time everyday rather than adding to my inbox.”

Jennifer typically follows about 100 blogs in all but will probably read about 20-25 a day. “Not all of them post daily and others post a couple times a day.”

Jennifer’s Thoughts on Blogging

Jennifer’s biggest concern when she first started to blog, “ . . . I worried that no one would find what I was writing about useful. When I take something on, no matter what it is, it has to serve a purpose. Be useful and helpful. One of the things I firmly believe is that we are here to do good, help others, be kind, serve the purpose for which we were made. Even though I ‘knew’ I had useful information, it was scary starting out.

After I felt I had my, Chicago Family History and Family History Tips blogs working well, I started my genealogy business and launched Generations with the generous help of Thomas MacEntee. Thomas is always willing to share knowledge and help you out when you need it.”

What Jennifer Loves Most About Genealogy

“I love the stories I discover. My uncle Rich, when I began researching, helped me a lot. We had a cousin, Robert Brouk, a Flying Tiger, who died at age 25 after being married three weeks. No one in the family knew what happened to his widow or his real story.

Rich copied numerous newspaper articles in Chicago about Robert for me to gain background information. I put all of that away for years until by a stroke of luck, Robert’s widow, Ginny, emailed me. Her grandson saw my post about Robert on a Flying Tiger’s message board. That was in 2005 and Ginny sent me a copy of Robert’s war diary, photos, their story and other things.

We kind of fell out of touch for a few years after she gave up on her computer and email, only to reconnect in late 2009 when I decided it was time to write Robert’s story. Through numerous letters, Ginny shared more of her story, photographs and memories with me.  We became good friends and with additional research, I was able to write Robert’s story. I self-published his book in January 2011, To Soar with the Tigers available on my blog Generations.  I wanted his story to be told because he died so soon after the Flying Tigers disbanded that he couldn’t tell it himself. Ginny and I are very proud of this book.

I also enjoy helping others. I have been working on a family history for a former preacher in Marshfield, Missouri, where I spent many years growing up. In short, this man did not know about his father until just before his mother died a few years ago. The preacher is related to a very good friend of mine and I decided to take on his research and ‘give’ him the part of the family he never had the opportunity to know and to answer a lot of his questions. His family is so different than mine and the records tell a great story.

I am planning to write a short book to give him containing all the research on his father’s line later this year when I receive his father’s IDPF, Individual Deceased Personnel File, and a bit more information. Throughout the research I have shared the information with him and we have discussed various aspects of it, but I think providing it in a book format will let him see the big picture and share it with his children and grandchildren more easily.

The sense of community and connectedness is another big plus for researching my genealogy. Since I started blogging and my business last summer, so many Geneabloggers have encouraged me, given me tips and suggestions, and welcomed me into the community, that I cannot imagine ever leaving it. I get to be one of the FGS2011 (The Federation of Genealogical Societies) Official Bloggers in September and am really looking forward to meeting face to face many of the bloggers I am friends with and follow online.”

Jennifer’s Time Capsule Message

“Start researching now while you still have family alive. Record their stories and the tiny details you hear. Even if you do not pursue certain lines or people right now, you will be thankful for the information you collected when you could. Everything has a time and place, a reason for happening. I truly believe this.

Gathering details today that you don’t see as important, will surface later with great importance. There will be a time for you to search that line more in-depth or write someone’s story. If you do not capture those stories and tell them in some format, whether a blog, a tree on Ancestry, emails or letters to family or writing an article or book, who will? Take the time to gather the information. You will not be sorry.”

* * * *

Jennifer’s additional genealogy projects include:

  • Genealogy For Kids, a blog that is written for a child in short essay posts. “I am using this blog as a platform and idea gather space to write a book for kids at some point in the future. My kids love being featured on the blog and provide entertaining questions when they interview me.”
  • In 2011, Jennifer also started lecturing as a part of her business. Her first presentation was given in April, titled, Visualizing Your Genealogical Research. The lecture addressed ways to use Excel, OneNote, maps, and blogging to locate gaps in information and move the research forward. Jennifer will be presenting this lecture again in January 2011, for the DuPage County Genealogical Society monthly meeting.
  • Jennifer’s newest lecture is in the process of being written called, Finishing the Story. This lecture focuses on World War I and II soldiers who died in service, locating records and stories to tell their stories. The lecture will be given as three case studies on three of her relatives. Jennifer will go through the process of how she began their research, the records she used to work through questions and brick walls and the end results.
  • Jennifer has also added House Histories as a part of her business and is working on an advertising plan for that part of her business to grow. Jennifer has also written a few genealogy tip sheets in addition to her book about Robert Brouk. Her tip sheets are available through her blog, Kindle and Nook, on Using Excel for Genealogy, Chicago Property Records Step by Step, Locating World War I Records, and Kids Family Tree Projects. She will be finishing and releasing a tip sheet on using, OneNote in genealogy in late summer of 2011.

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

© 2011, copyright Gini Webb

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

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