May I Introduce to You . . . Steven J. Hanley
I have the pleasure of introducing you to Steven J. Hanley, Ph.D. and his blog, The Psychogenealogist, described as, “Exploring the spaces where psychology, genealogy, and history converge. One story at a time.”
Steven, please tell us a little about yourself.
“I was born in Ohio. Growing up my family moved several times between Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan. I currently live outside of Detroit, Michigan. Most of my family ancestors who came to the U.S. made their way through Michigan in some way or another.”
How did you get started in genealogy?
“In 5th grade we did a genealogy project. I remember my parents helping me map out our family tree on an large piece of poster board. It is probably rolled up somewhere in my basement right now. So, I think the interest was there from an early age. I remember the first time I discovered Ancestry.com. I literally stayed up all night (which I never do) excited by each new shaking green leaf that would pop up. That was probably about 10 years ago. Last year I did my first DNA test and that is when I think I became hooked and had the idea to start The Psychogenealogist.”
When and why did you start your genealogy blog?
“As I began exploring my personal genealogy more seriously I realized there were SO MANY stories to tell. I discovered so many interesting people that I wanted to learn more about. It occurred to me that as a professional psychologist and psychotherapist I spend most of my day helping people tell their stories. There seemed to be a natural convergence of these two fields and I wanted to explore that in a creative way.”
How did you choose the name for your blog?
“The name of the blog just kind of emerged. There is a field of “psychogenealogy” that aims to examine how the lives of our ancestors, who we may never have known, influence us today. I am fascinated with this question from a personal and professional perspective. I would like to help people find and tell their stories.”
What are your tips for new bloggers?
“Just write! Try to get out of your own way. There are no bad ideas and there are no perfect blog posts. I’ve struggled with some perfectionistic tendencies that have interfered with my creativity. Write about things that grab your attention. Explore the unanswered questions.”
Please tell us about your favorite post(s) on your blog.
“There are SO many posts I want to write. A couple recent ones that I really enjoyed are:
“Both are about ancestors of mine that I knew little to nothing about. It was exciting to learn about them. Both posts showcase some different genealogy research techniques that I think will help others learn and tell their own family stories.”
How much time do you spend on family history research?
“Sometimes it feels like too much, other times it is not enough! I have a full time psychotherapy private practice and a young family so it is difficult to find the time to research all of the areas I would like to. For example, I have large groups of ancestors from Ireland, Greece, Poland, Germany, and a smattering of other countries. I’ve explored most of them but haven’t even scratched the surface with the Germans. It is on my list.”
How has genealogy improved your life?
“An unexpected benefit of studying genealogy is how it has enriched the relationships I have with my family today. I love sharing what I have found and family members genuinely appreciate it. I have talked to distant cousins and even connected with some that I didn’t know even existed.”
What family story or heirloom do you cherish?
“There is an old photo (I will attach) of the Hanley Tavern, probably taken in the early 1940s (just a guess). It was bar run by my family that was attached to the home of my 2nd great-grandparents. They settled in Atlantic Mine, Michigan, in the heart of Upper Peninsula copper mining country. It was hanging in my grandfather’s den before he passed away. Now it hangs above my piano in the office so I get to look at it often.”
Besides major websites like Ancestry and FamilySearch, what research tool or source has been helpful in researching your family history?
“I love all the newspaper clipping websites. They all have their plusses and minus. The one I use most though is probably Newspapers.com. Seeking Michigan is also a helpful one for many of my Michigan roots.”
Which genealogy blogs inspire you?
“There was a blog that caught my attention a few years ago called Freud’s Butcher: A Blog About Genealogy, Psychology, and Meat.”
“The title is fantastic. The fact that it is really good writing and interesting stories is a bonus.”
What do you think is the most interesting change in the past ten years in genealogy/family history?
“Without a doubt it is DNA testing. It wasn’t until my first DNA test last year that my interest in genealogy really went into overdrive.”
What is on your genealogy bucket list?
“There is no one trip I would like to take or site I need to see. If anything, I would wish for a large chunk of fully funded and uninterrupted time to do research and writing. A trip to Ireland, Greece, or Poland would be nice too.”
If you wanted to leave a message for future generations, what would you tell them?
“There is a quote I have on the home page of The Psychogenealogist attributed to Madeleine L’Engle. I can’t think of a better way to say it:
‘If you don’t recount your family history, it will be lost. Honor your own stories and tell them too. The tales may not seem very important, but they are what binds families and makes each of us who we are.’”
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Please take a moment to head over to Steven’s blog, The Psychogenealogist and leave him a comment, letting him know you stopped by. Thank you Steven for telling us about yourself and your blog. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you better.
© 2017, copyright Jana Last. All rights reserved.
Jana Last is a wife, mom and grandma living in sunny California. She loves family history and enjoys learning about her ancestors. She started her family history research in 1996 after the death of her maternal grandfather. She is the author of three blogs and a website: Jana’s Genealogy and Family History Blog, Grandpa’s Postcards, Jana’s Place and Jana’s Genealogy and Social Media Hub. Are you a genealogy blogger who would like to be interviewed for the “May I Introduce To You . . .” series? If so, contact Jana via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.