MAY I INTRODUCE TO YOU . . . Lisa Gorrell
At times it can be challenging to keep up with one blog, so I am so impressed when I find an individual who manages to keep up with two! Such is the case for Lisa Gorrell, who, in addition to maintaining two blogs, is on the board of directors for two societies, Contra Costa County Historical Society and California Genealogical Society, and still finds time to volunteer for other projects.
Lisa blogs about her maternal grandmother’s family on her blog, Mam-ma’s Southern Family and on My Trails into the Past, she blogs about her mother’s father’s line, her father’s line and both of her husband’s lines! Whew! If only everyone had a Lisa in their family! Today I am only too happy to Introduce to you, Lisa Gorrell!
Lisa, Tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up and what is your current hometown?
“I have lived all my life in California and in the same county, Contra Costa. I attended parochial school in Pittsburg until third grade and public school in Walnut Creek. After college at California State University Hayward (now East Bay), where I studied Biology, I went to work at the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) as a train operator. After getting my teaching credential, I was promoted to Train Operator instructor and trained new and seasoned train operators another sixteen years until retirement. I’m married with two adult daughters and my husband and I live in Martinez. Besides genealogy, I love to read, play guitar and ukulele, and birding.”
How did you get started in genealogy?
“It was the birth of my first child that got me thinking about the future and the past. The first trip to Sutro Library in San Francisco, where I found my grandfather listed in the 1920 U.S. census, got me hooked to find more. My friend, Susan, traveled to the Family History Library yearly in February and I vowed to go the next year.”
Lisa, you have two different blogs Mam-ma’s Southern Family and My Trails into the Past. When and why did you start each of your blogs?
“On January 15, 2011, I attended a blog writing class at California Genealogy Society and started Mam-ma’s Southern Family. Because the focus was only on my maternal grandmother, I started My Trails into the Past later that year, on June 27, so I could write about the rest of my family.”
What do you enjoy most about blogging?
“I enjoy sharing the stories from my research with my family. I use Facebook to share the blog posts and most of the comments come through that medium. I also love meeting cousins that comment on the blog. Blogging is great cousin bait.”
What do you find is your biggest challenge with blogging?
“I think the hardest thing about blogging is coming up with topics to write about and keeping the blogging up. I sometimes find that weeks might go by without writing a post.”
Where do you get your inspiration for your blog posts? How do you decide what to write about?
“Sometimes I write about a new detail I have learned about an ancestor. Other times, I might find a blogging meme that gives me the idea. I often write using Randy Seaver’s blogging meme ‘Saturday Night Genealogy Fun.’“
What interesting connections have you made through blogging?
“I have connected with cousins that I have never known before. I like that through my blog, other family members who are researching their own families can find out more information. I try to document my stories, so they are getting more than just what they find on online family trees.”
What do you enjoy most about your involvement with the genealogical / historical societies you work with?
“I very much enjoy helping others and interacting with fellow genealogists. I have been on the board of directors for two genealogy societies and a historical society. I also am a regular volunteer with these societies. My genealogy background has been very helpful to the historical society and I spend a lot of time following through on queries that come in.”
What have been some of the highlights in your genealogy research?
“The first highlight was finding the hometown of my German ancestor and being able to jump the pond and conduct research in microfilmed church records in West Phalia. There have been no big surprises or famous people in my family. It has just been fun exploring the everyday lives of common, everyday people. I have farmers, tailors, school teachers, and laborers.”
Do you have an ancestor who particularly inspires you and why?
“My grandmother, Anna Marie Sullivan Hork, inspires me. She was a school teacher and encouraged all of her grandchildren by reading to us, singing songs, and playing games. She was the “fun” grandmother who brought little gifts when she visited or gave out pieces of candy when we visited her.
“My grandmother had a hard life. She was born in Montana in a mining town, but was able to attend Normal School where she excelled in sports and glee club and became a teacher. Her mother died when she was just twenty. She married at age thirty to a man who was seven years younger. Perhaps she was in love, or maybe it was finally a chance to marry and have a family. She had four children in the next eight years, but by the time my father who was the youngest was ten years old, my grandmother was raising them alone. She worked hard in a restaurant, went back to school to get a California Teaching Credential, and taught public school and CCD until she retired. She was also very religious and attended Mass daily in her later years.
“Even so, she never let her hardship show. She wanted the best for her children. She was always cheerful. What was so cool about Nana was she loved just talking to us and listening to what we had to say.”
A post about my grandmother: 52 Ancestors, Anna Marie Sullivan – The College Years
This one with my grandmother & me: Wordless Wednesday –Anne M. (Sullivan) Hork
How has genealogy made a difference in your life?
“Since I have retired from my regular job, genealogy has been a full-time endeavor, where I do something genealogical every day. I am also blessed to have met so many genealogists from around the world. Attending genealogical conferences, seminars, and institutes are my highlights.”
What is on your genealogy bucket list?
- Write more books about my family
- Visit the hometown of my great-grandfather in West Phalia
- Find my Johnston family in South Carolina
What tips can you share for someone thinking about starting a blog?
“Before starting, think about what you want to say. What should the focus of your blog be? Do you want to have a family blog where you write about your ancestors to share with your family? Or maybe you want to write about your adventures researching your family. Perhaps you want to discuss genealogy topics and give out advice to other genealogists. Maybe your blog will be part of your business.
“Brainstorm ideas and topics you might want to write about to see if you can sustain that topic over time. If your ideas are too diverse, you might want to start two or more blogs to keep them separate. That is what I ended up with. The first blog was just to focus on my maternal grandmother’s family. That left out so much more of my family research, so I started a second blog to cover the rest of my family and my husband’s family.
“Read lots of different blogs to get ideas. How do other bloggers handle telling their ancestors’ stories? Do you have anything unique or fresh to say about genealogy research? Perhaps you have access to interesting resources and repositories that you can highlight. Perhaps you have found an interesting way to handle a research problem.
“My last piece of advice is to always use a graphic in your blog post. The posts look more interesting to someone browsing in a blog reader or on Facebook if there is an interesting photo or image. There are many free images you can use on the Library of Congress and New York Public Library websites. Or take your own photos to use in your blog. You won’t have to worry about permission to use or copyright issues. Then have fun!”
Is there anything else you would like to add or share with us?
“Get away from your computers and research off-line. Go to libraries, archives, courthouses, and historical societies to conduct in-person research. Not everything is online. I’ve had the pleasure several times to research in repositories in the hometowns of my ancestors and plan to do more. It is very rewarding visiting the hometowns, seeing the cemeteries, and walking the footsteps of your ancestor.”
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Please take a moment and visit Lisa’s blogs, Mam-ma’s Southern Family and My Trails into the Past. Be sure and leave her a comment to let her know you stopped by. Thank you Lisa for sharing your blog and your thoughts with us!
© 2017, copyright Michelle Ganus Taggart, All rights reserved
Michelle Ganus Taggart lives in Kaysville, Utah, where she enjoys the beautiful outdoors, time with family and researching her ancestors. She shares her passion for her southern research in her blog, A Southern Sleuth. Are you a genealogy blogger who would like to be interviewed for the “May I Introduce To You . . . “ series? If so, contact Michelle via email firstname.lastname@example.org