MAY I INTRODUCE TO YOU . . . Susan LeBlanc
I have the pleasure of introducing you to Susan LeBlanc and her blog, Gopher Genealogy, described as, “Gopher Genealogy by Susan LeBlanc provides information about research, lectures, published articles and book reviews, and Serendipity Moments that are the results of searching for ancestors both personally and for clients. The objective of the blog is for others to receive insight and inspiration in doing their family history research. It is an evolving method of communication, and input from reviewers is welcome.”
Susan, please tell us a little about yourself.
“My life began in Portland, Oregon. Our family lived in the area of Linton and St. Johns until we moved to northeast Portland when I was about three. I have one sister and two brothers. In 1978 I married David in Idaho Falls, Idaho. We have lived in the Portland area in the towns of Carver, Gladstone and now Scappoose. Our family has grown to include six children, four in-laws and five grandchildren. They are supportive of my interest in doing family history research.”
How did you get started in genealogy?
“When I was in high school my paternal grandmother shared with me her family history. Her mother died when she was four, and while her father and stepmothers did their best in raising her, she found the family history was an important support for her. She also had three sons and they had little interest in this information. That is when I became the family collector for both paternal and maternal artifacts, pictures, documents, etc. In the process our family history is enriched by this collection.”
When and why did you start your genealogy blog?
“In April of 2011 my blog was created with the help of my youngest daughter. All of my children are much more technology savvy than I am. In 2005 I graduated from BYU with a BGS degree in Family History. Then in 2010 I became an accredited genealogist through ICAPGen. In 2011 my background in research had grown considerably and it was time to create a place for sharing those experiences. I write more for me and my posterity than for anyone else. When my clients consent, then I may post something about the experiences with their work.”
How did you choose the name for your blog?
“It just evolved. Several times this name came to me, and probably is the result of knowing how hard gophers work at their jobs. No one else was using the term gopher in their blog titles. It is catchy and easy for people to remember. Doing genealogy research is challenging and demanding work.”
What are your tips for new bloggers?
- “Keep writing as often as possible and carefully edit for errors.”
- “Read all comments and suggestions from readers. They are usually encouraging and helpful.”
- “Organize your blog and keep it updated so readers can use it efficiently. Look at other blogs to see what will work best for you.”
- “Maintain a backup to your blog, make books of your posts, and watch the stats so you can see what interests the readers.”
Please tell us about your favorite post(s) on your blog.
“Genealogy Serendipity Moments – The Riggs Family”
“This is the post with the highest number of views, 1398, written May 13, 2011, just two weeks after setting up the blog. It was just recently published in our local quarterly, The Bulletin, of the Genealogical Forum of Oregon. It was written about an unusual experience when working on a client’s family.”
How much time do you spend on family history research?
“At least two to four hours a day. This depends upon how much family activities we have going on. One day a week I work at our local Family History Center. When I get going on an intriguing project I often work until I am too tired to stay focused.”
Who is your favorite ancestor(s) and why?
“My favorite ancestors are the Tidd family. They are the original ancestors that my grandmother shared with me. This family honored and respected their Revolutionary War ancestors and passed on some interesting artifacts. An original copy of an 1806 newspaper article about Daniel Tidd’s death (linking him to his father), his powder horn, pictures, etc. The women who were a part of this family fascinate me.”
How has genealogy improved your life?
“Genealogy is the basis of my life’s work. When I was recovering from several serious injuries and surgeries it provided me a way to stay focused. My family has been with me to cemeteries, courthouses, libraries, genealogy facilities, and have grown to understand the history of our country. As we packed up our home and moved a year ago they discovered many artifacts that they know little about. That has peaked their interest and concern about preserving the collection.”
What do you love the most about genealogy?
“Genealogy is always providing new learning experiences. My preconceived notions are often adjusted as I study families of varying backgrounds. The building blocks that brought me to where I am today are the teachings of some very knowledgeable genealogists or historians.”
What family story or heirloom do you cherish?
“The basket that my grandmother used to carry her few belongings with her when she moved from Iowa to Oregon as a teenager. It is beautifully woven, about 12” x 24”, with leather straps and a top. This was kept in her hope chest, with the other family keepsakes, and I am grateful she passed all of this on to me.”
Besides major websites like Ancestry and FamilySearch, what research tool or source has been helpful in researching your family history?
“The US Genweb is probably the most important research tool for locating information on the county basis. My favorite was in Carroll County, Iowa where there are translations of German newspaper articles about collateral relatives and some family pictures.”
Which genealogy blogs inspire you?
“Randy Seaver’s blog has great detailed information about genealogy happenings and his own research. Each Monday I review his top favorites of the week and often read some of them. He and I have ancestors in common, so once in a while he posts something for one of them.”
“There are too many others to list.”
What interesting connections have you made through blogging?
“The most interesting connections are people who contact me about family posts that are about their relatives. For clients I let them know about the person wanting to make a connection. For my own relatives we start a conversation about our connections, which often result in sharing of documents, pictures and stories. On my Neppl family I was sent the funeral card for my great grandfather, actually listing the very town where he was born in Germany.”
What do you think is the most interesting change in the past ten years in genealogy/family history?
“The most interesting change has to be internet access to records and research. The key is then knowing where to go for further research. Deep digging in documents and places is where one finds the proof for detailing the previous research. These skills are often learned from years of practice and attending classes, institutes, etc.”
What is on your genealogy bucket list?
“Going to Massachusetts, Maine and Iowa to visit the places where my Tidd family ancestors lived. Having been to England and Norway I know the keen sense of roots when standing on the lands where they lived.”
If you wanted to leave a message for future generations, what would you tell them?
“Never give up. Put something aside if you can’t find the answers. Talk with other people with more experience in working in certain places. Things are still buried in attics and basements just waiting to be discovered.”
An additional message from Susan.
“This month is my all-time high for page views almost 7,000, for a total of 86,568 in 5 1/2 years. My followers are consistent at 71, but many more see my posts through Google and Facebook. It amazes me that while I have not written as much as at first, the page views continue to grow. I still have plenty to write about and hope to do more writing in the coming year.”
* * *
Please take a moment to head over to Susan’s blog, Gopher Genealogy and leave her a comment, letting her know you stopped by. Thank you Susan 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.