May I Introduce to You . . . Vivienne Dunstan

Come meet genealogy blogger Vivienne Dunstan, author of Viv's Ancestry Blog, in this interview by Tessa Keough at GeneaBloggers.

I have the pleasure of introducing you to Vivienne Dunstan and her five blogs, (quite an impressive feat). Viv gives us a brief overview of each of them as follows: “I actually have five history or genealogy blogs. The main one (http://vivsacademicblog.wordpress.com/) is for my academic historian’s musings (I have a PhD in history), which is somewhere for me to vent on ideas that occur to me – a very useful outlet! The next blog (http://vivsancestry.wordpress.com/) is for my general family tree stories, about my ancestors and those of my husband. I started this largely to share the stories with my cousins, but also because I think they are interesting stories in themselves. Another main blog is for my Cavers one-name study (http://caversonenamestudy.wordpress.com/). I’m registered with the Guild of One-Name Studies and research the surname Cavers, which originates in Scotland, and my particular focus is pre-1900. I’d like to compile a book based on my research – because of my computer science background I’m a bit skeptical about current websites and data formats still being readable in 50-100 years, so want some book copies deposited in suitable libraries. But the thought of writing a whole book is scary, so I’ve started to write it one blog post at a time. I post a mix of lineage write-ups (genealogies I’ve figured out) and strays and other interesting stories. And my final two blogs are for my Melrose (Roxburghshire) and Coldingham (Berwickshire) Scottish one-place studies, (http://melroseoneplacesstudy.wordpress.com/ and http://coldinghamoneplacestudy.wordpress.com/) and are mainly used to blog about new resources as I put them online.”

A Little About Viv

“I live in Dundee, a city on the east coast of Scotland, but originally come from the town of Hawick in the Scottish Borders. My first degree, from St Andrews, was in computer science. But after I fell long-term ill with a progressive MS-like illness at 22 I switched to studying history, part-time, with the Open and Dundee Universities and picked up three more degrees (bachelors, masters and doctorate). My PhD looked at reading habits in Scotland circa 1750-1820, and my academic history interests are mainly 17th, 18th and 19th century Scotland, with a focus on social, cultural, urban and reading/book history. I can’t work with my disease, but am lucky to have an ongoing honorary research fellowship at Dundee University, which is helping me to publish my research in academic journals. I also speak at academic history conferences.”

How Viv Got Started in Genealogy

“I was lucky to start really young in genealogy. One of the earliest books I got was Kathleen Menhinick Dewey’s “Monster at the Top of the Tree: How to Make Your Own Family Tree” which was published in 1975. A few years later, at about age 7, I could draw from memory the Scottish royal family tree from Kenneth MacAlpine through to the current Queen Elizabeth – I remember one day sitting out in the patio outside our house with a big bit of paper filling it with the royal family tree! But my genealogy bug started properly at about age 12. My granddad had recently died and left us lots of family papers. And then my history teacher, in my first year at secondary school, set us a project to draw up our family tree, with the best winning a Mars bar. I won! And I was hooked.

My Dad took me to the General Register Office for Scotland in Edinburgh, and we started tracing my Scottish side of the family (Mum’s side), working through original civil registration certificates, parish registers, and census returns. I think you were supposed to be 16 at the time to do research there – but no one threw me out! And one thing led to another, I would go to the local archive centre as a schoolgirl in the Borders, and spend many happy days poring through local records looking for references to my ancestors. Though having said that, school history classes often didn’t appeal to me, though I studied history to O-Grade (the then Scottish age 16 certificate/exam). It took me falling ill after my first science degree for me to start studying history at university, and that wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for my school teacher setting us that family tree project which got me hooked on archival research. That teacher gets a big thank you in the acknowledgements at the front of my PhD thesis.”

Viv’s Thoughts on Blogging

“I think there are a few different schools of thought regarding blogging. Some people advocate blogging to a timetable, so blogging every week, or setting themselves a challenge to blog daily for a month. Others, like me, prefer to blog as the idea occurs to them. And I find that I have enough ideas that I want to expand on, as much for my own benefit as anyone else that my blogs keep going well enough. Equally though I never feel under pressure to blog more often – it’s something I’m extremely relaxed about, and let happen as it will. I also find my blogs helpful as a writing practice tool. And having a different blog for each of my history/genealogy interests is useful, so people can tune into what they want, rather than get a wider variety of topics in a single blog. So for example my fellow Cavers surname researchers can subscribe to my Cavers blog, while my cousins are more likely to subscribe to my general family history blog, where I write stories of our shared ancestors.”

Viv’s Tips for New Bloggers

“My number one tip would be don’t be frightened! Blogging can be a lot of fun, as frequent or infrequent as you want, and about whatever you want to write about. So don’t feel as though it’s an exam – that can lead to blank page syndrome where people are scared to start the writing. Just relax, and let the words flow. It can be helpful to jot down a list of things you might want to blog about, but in a very relaxed way, not as a scary list that you must then work through.

The other advice I’d give is don’t get too worried about which blogging platform to use, whether Blogger, or WordPress, or something else. To be honest they’re all fairly similar, and the content is what counts. Also don’t be intimidated by a getting started blogging book, which at least for WordPress can often tell you far more than you need to know, and make basic blogging look much scarier than it is. I found my blogs very easy to set up, just by going straight to the WordPress site and working my way through the options there. In hardly any time I was writing and blogging happily. So just get on with it, and have fun.”

Viv’s Favorite Blog Posts

“I’m going to give three examples from three different blogs.

One post which meant an awful lot to me, and resonated with many other people, was the obituary I wrote for my PhD supervisor Professor Charles McKean (RIP Professor Charles McKean – a personal recollection). He was held in high regard by those who knew him, and I wanted to express my own thoughts after he died. This write-up was widely reposted and retweeted, and also reported in the local newspaper. I also got some lovely comments in response from Charles’s PA, and from my and Charles’s history colleagues at Dundee University.

Very recently I wrote a blog post describing the World War One service of my great-grandfather John Dodds (Remembering great-granddad’s WW1 service, 100 years after he enlisted). It was then almost exactly 100 years since he had enlisted, in the earliest days of the war, and I wanted to share the story of his service with others, including my cousins. This post is going to be republished in an upcoming academic WW1 website recounting the stories of ordinary Scottish soldiers.

The third post is from my Cavers one-name study blog, and is the result of the Y-DNA tests for three different Cavers branches (A third Cavers branch matching in Y-DNA project results). I started a Y-DNA project as part of my one-name study, and it was really good to get volunteers, and to report on the early results like this. Not least because the results were such that they will hopefully encourage more people to come forward to be tested in future.”

Viv’s Time with the Ancestors

“I don’t get to do as much genealogy now as I’d like, mainly because of my progressive illness which knocks me out for much of the time. I’m lucky that I started researching so young, before I got too bad. In particular it is now very difficult for me to spend long periods in archives, so I’m increasingly reliant on online sites like Ancestry and ScotlandsPeople, and other digitised records. I’m a bit of a magpie when it comes to genealogical research, flitting around my many different branches. If I get stuck with one I can easily switch to another. Recently I made great breakthroughs with my dad’s English and Irish ancestry, and am having particular fun researching those lines now. I’m also making fun breakthroughs now about relatively recent ancestors thanks to the British Newspaper Archive digitising local papers from the Scottish Borders.

Viv’s Favorite Ancestors

“I like them all, but a few stand out, including the ones I’ll mention here.

First there’s my ggg-grandfather John Usher Somner (1829-1879), who had an illegitimate daughter in 1844, my gg-granny. John was in many ways a gateway ancestor for me, opening up an increasingly intriguing line of gentry, aristocratic, noble and royal ancestors. If it wasn’t for him in my tree I’d be stuck a long time ago.

One of his ancestors was James Veitch of Glen and Bowhill (ca1700-1761) who seems to have been a particularly bonkers Jacobite laird. I blogged about him, and the bizarre names he gave some children (Boys Lilias and Theresa in The Family Tree).

Another fun ancestor, Logan Henderson, spent time in Russia during the time of Empress Catherine the Great. He seems to have been a bit of a con man, at least when it came to garden design, but he was apparently an expert in fireworks, which must have been quite something to see back in the 18th century (An Expert on Fireworks in the Family Tree).

And I can’t not mention my ancestor Sir Robert Logan of Restalrig. He was a Berwickshire laird, in southeast Scotland, and died in 1606 of the plague. But he was later convicted of treason, plotting to kidnap King James VI, and Logan’s remains were dug up and brought into the Scottish parliamentary chamber in 1609 to be sentenced. Wow! Gory or what. His children, including my ancestor, were disinherited. It’s because of that family link that con man in Russia Logan Henderson was given his first name.”

How Genealogy Has Improved Viv’s Life

“Genealogy has given me a hobby that I adore, and opened up an academic quasi-career that I would never have followed, without being hooked as a child on genealogy. It’s also made me appreciate more about the past, and has taught me much about logical deduction from clues and evidence.”

What Viv Loves Most About Genealogy

“Mainly I enjoy the detective hunt. I love solving puzzles, chasing ancestors through the paper records, and piecing things together. I often describe my Cavers one-name study as a giant jigsaw puzzle, which I’m trying to solve – but probably never will fully! But genealogy in general is like that. It is addictive and hugely fun.”

Viv’s Time Capsule Message

“I have no children, but for my relatives in future, and anyone else reading this: researching your family tree is a lot of fun. But don’t neglect the present. Talk to older relatives while you still can. Write up your own family’s experiences, and deposit them with a local archive who would gladly receive them. And pass them down to younger members of your family. Oh and be careful about digital records. If you have family photos and stories on the computer try to keep them in a format that your descendants will be able to access. There is a lot to be said for physical copies of things, and there are good reasons why it is paper records we have of ancestors today. And make sure you keep proper backups of your digital data, both onsite and offsite.”

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Please take a moment to head on over to any (or all) of Viv’s blogs. Leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. I have gotten to know Viv through the Guild of One-Name Studies and her study as well as her writing on a variety of topics has added to my understanding of content and methodology (and been a treat to read). Welcome Viv, it’s great to have you here!

© 2014, 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 murkeo01@gmail.com.

May I Introduce to You . . . Cindy Eppich

Come meet genealogy blogger Cindy Eppich, author of the Remembering Family blog, in this interview by Michelle Ganus Taggart at GeneaBloggers.

I am excited to introduce to you Cindy Eppich and her blog, Remembering Family, described as, “This blog contains snippets of history from the lives of my ancestors.  I have shared them with the idea that their descendants can learn of their lives and benefit from their good examples and character traits.”

A Little About Cindy

“I was born in Richfield, Utah, during my father’s summer break from college. After my father graduated from Utah State University, we moved to Idaho where he was employed with Farmer’s Home Administration. We lived in Homedale, Burley, and Preston, Idaho. I am the oldest of six children.

“I attended Brigham Young University and graduated with an associate’s degree in the secretarial field. I worked on campus at BYU, met and then married my husband Kevin while there. When he graduated from BYU, he accepted a math teaching job at North Sevier High School in Salina, Utah.  It was while living in Salina we had our five children and reared them. When our youngest graduated from high school and headed for BYU, we moved to Springville, Utah to be near her, our other three daughters, and our grandchildren. Our son and his family live in St. George, Utah.

“After the move, I went back to BYU with the help of the Bachelors of General Study program and earned my bachelor’s degree in Family History,  doing some work on campus but most at home.  I decided not to find employment until after graduation, but I soon discovered that I had fallen in love with my own ancestors and wanted to spend time with them more than work for someone else.

“I served for 2 ½ years at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City on the main floor where people came in off the street and asked us to help them find their ancestors. That was an amazing experience of which I am so grateful to have had.  My husband has been very supportive of me in my family history efforts—especially since I am not now gainfully employed.”

How Cindy Got Started in Genealogy

“I took a Book of Remembrance class at church when I was 14 years old and became hooked!  My parents and grandparents were very helpful and supported me even at such a young age.  I wasn’t able to do a lot of family history when I had my children living at home and was working as a secretary, but when I became an empty nester eight years ago, I had the time to work on it almost every day.”

Cindy’s Thoughts on Blogging

“I created my blog because I was finding so many interesting things about my family members, and I had an overwhelming desire to share what I was learning.  I was never very good at writing, but the need to share outweighed my fear of being judged. I decided to post only information of which I had proof to back up.  After about six months of blogging, I posted that I had completed everything I set out to do and would be done writing.  But five years later I am still going.”

Cindy’s Tips for New Bloggers

“I have found through comments on my blog that many people are very hungry for anything they can find about their family members. Don’t be afraid to put it all out there and NEVER need or expect any thanks.”

Cindy’s Favorite Blog Posts

Cindy’s Time with the Ancestors

“My family history research probably averages out to about twelve hours per week. I also write about five or six hours per week.”

Cindy’s Favorite Ancestors

“I don’t have a favorite ancestor. That would be like trying to figure out my favorite child.”

How Genealogy Has Improved Cindy’s Life

“I get teary just thinking about this question. I have learned to love each of my ancestors in ways I can’t express. I believe if they were to walk up to me right now, I would be very comfortable talking with them about their lives. When I look at people around me in different stages of their lives, I can’t help wonder what their story is since everyone has a wonderful story to tell.”

Cindy’s Time Capsule Message

“I guess in short, my time capsule message would be to use whatever means are available or popular to keep a family history. Then make sure you can always get it back even when the technology we used to create it becomes outdated.”

Cindy’s Genealogy Bucket List

“I would love to travel to Europe and visit the places from which my ancestor immigrated to the US.

“Before last year I would have said to publish a book. But I published my first one last summer and now I am working on another. I have corresponded and visited personally with so many wonderful family members who have gone the extra mile to share with me. When family history miracles happen to me, I realize my work must be making a difference to someone.”

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Please take a minute to head on over to Cindy’s blog, Remembering Family,  and leave a comment, letting her know you stopped by.  Thank you Cindy for sharing your thoughts and your blog with us!

© 2014, 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 shelltag1@gmail.com

May I Introduce to You . . . Sharon Fritz

Come meet genealogy blogger Sharon Fritz of the Strong Foundations blog in this interview by Wendy Mathias at GeneaBloggers

I have the pleasure of introducing you to Sharon Fritz and her blog Strong Foundations named to honor the strong foundations formed by some very strong and admirable ancestors.  Sharon summarizes the purpose of her blog in this quote:  “You live as long as you are remembered.” Through her blog she shares photos and research to keep memories of people and places alive for current and future generations. Sharon is both proud and pleased that her blog is listed among the archives at the National Library of Australia.

A Little About Sharon

“I am a country girl, who likes her personal space. As children, our family moved often, and I have therefore lived in a large number of country towns across Victoria (South Eastern State of Australia). My father was a Bank Manager, and I followed him into a career in Banking and Finance. I have always worked full time while my husband was ‘Mr. Mum.’ For the past 12 years I have worked as a Financial Planner in North East Victoria. My husband and I are looking forward to becoming ‘empty nesters’ (we think?), retirement and new adventures. When not working, my hobbies are spending time with family, family history research, travel and photography, which very fortunately can all be completed together!

“I am currently studying the Certificate of Genealogical Studies (Australian Records) with the National Institute for Genealogical Studies and have recently also commenced the Certificate in Genealogical Research with the Society of Australian Genealogists, which will lead to completion of the Diploma in Family Historical Studies in the future. Yes, I am now addicted to family history research and there is never enough time for research.”

How Sharon Got Started in Genealogy

“My Nanna (paternal grandmother) died when I was six years old. I remember being annoyed that I was not allowed to attend her funeral and being told I didn’t understand, but I did! Maybe I am an old soul? I was only six years old, but I asked my father if I could have my Nanna’s dressing gown and the ballerina doll in the bottle to remember her.  Was this the first indication that I would respect and preserve family items and history? Yes, I still have the dressing gown and blogged about the doll in the bottle.

“My first history project in Form 1 (over 35 years ago) was to research my family tree. My parents could tell me very little, so I contacted both my aunt and maternal grandmother who had so much information between them (more than I needed for my project). I was fascinated! I received an A+ for my project and this started my family tree journey and the collecting of information and items of family significance. I gathered boxes of information but didn’t do anything with it.

“However it was the death of my maternal grandmother in 2006 (at age 96) which initiated serious research and the sorting and verification of the abundance of information that I had collected over many years. After Gran died, an aunty found many old albums full of labeled and dated photos that my grandmother had taken since the late 1920s. This made me realise the importance of asking questions and preserving information now before it is too late.”

Sharon’s Thoughts About Blogging

“The blog was initially commenced in January 2011 to promote a family reunion and launch of a family history book. However, it was a failure as the majority of people who were interested in the reunion did not have a computer!

“In May 2012, Alona Tester at Gould Genealogy, initiated the ‘Family History through the Alphabet’ challenge and I thought it was a great opportunity to start blogging, and then I was hooked.

“Blogging gives me the opportunity to share my research, not just the dates and names but more personal and informative facts. Writing a family history book is very time consuming and costly. Research never stops and the family keeps expanding so the book was out of date shortly after publishing. I love that blogging enables many small stories to be told and can be updated as additional information becomes available.”

Sharon’s Advice for New Bloggers

  1. Get involved with other blogs and websites that provide prompts such as

Sepia Saturday and Geneabloggers . You will be amazed at the direction that your research and blogs can take. You will write about things that you hadn’t previously considered.

  1. Decide who your audience is and what the purpose of your blog is. Be yourself and don’t be distracted. Your blogging will develop and evolve over time.

When I started writing family history, I completed a writing course to improve my skills. It had been many years since school and even then I was always poor at punctuation. I wanted to learn how to write with emotion and to turn facts into an interesting story that people would enjoy and could picture. The only writing I had completed over the years was business reports so I tended to write with a very factual, blunt and technical slant and struggled to make it emotional. I soon learnt that you cannot change who you are, and it is important to remain true to yourself and your own personal style. Don’t try to be someone that you are not.

Initially I would worry if I did not have any comments, but I don’t anymore. My intended audience is family members who want to know more about their ancestors (now and into the future). They do not tend to comment publicly. If anyone else gets enjoyment and comments, then it is a bonus!

  1. Recognise and comment on blogs that you appreciate or that are well researched. There are many inspirational and interesting blogs out there. Geneablogging is a great, friendly and helpful community. Take the time to get to know your fellow bloggers and you will be rewarded over and over again.
  2. Record your sources from day 1. In addition to the photos from my grandmother’s albums, I have copied so many photos and information from various family members over the past 30+ years but unfortunately did not keep a record of who provided which photo or information until recent years.

Sharon’s Favorite Blog Posts

“I take pride in the large majority of my posts but my favourites would be those that required a lot of research.

  1. Remembering My Grand Uncle Robert John (Bob) Jones

No one in the family knew anything about the Jones family. Starting with a couple of photos, I was able to find out a lot of information about Bob. It was extremely enjoyable and rewarding, and I was overjoyed and amazed when Bob’s youngest daughter (aged in her 90s) contacted me. She was young when her parents separated so did not know much about her father either. She was very thankful and able to give me some very important information to enhance my research. She told me that his three children (Lorraine, Verdon and Norma) were all named after places in France where Bob served or visited during World War 1.

  1. A Family’s Remarkable Journey Overland from Nhill to Mildura in 1901

This was originally written by my great granduncle in 1931, and I came across the article by complete accident when researching for another blog. It is an amazing story of endurance and courage which highlights the difficulties faced in times gone past.

  1. AHS Wanganella

This post started from a photo of a war ship in my grandmother’s album. There was no name or details included. From this one photo, I put together a tribute to my grandfather whom I never got to meet.

Sharon’s Time With Ancestors

“Not enough! Although my husband may disagree. Working full time and studying part time leaves very little time for research, but I am trying to research and write a blog every week. Bring on Retirement!”

Sharon’s Favorite Ancestor

“I really can’t choose favourites as they are all a part of me. However I have a lot of information about:

  1. my grandmother Eva Scott (nee Pilgrim). Since she died in 2006, I have realised that I have inherited so many of her traits and have so much in common with her. I wonder if she recognised this? I believe that she did but never told me. Her photos and the information that she provided me over the years are the inspiration behind MANY of my blog posts. Thank you Gran!
  2. my great great grandmother Nurse Edith Geyer. An amazing woman of great strength and courage who overcame such hardship and adversity to become a well known and respected business owner in the early 1900s. One of the first working mums!
  3. my great great grandfather James Pilgrim Senior. He was a true leader with strong morals, who was heavily involved in the community and really tried to make a difference. Additionally, he was one of the first Victorian farmers to trial superphosphate and crop rotations. He came to Australia in 1858 and now has over 1400 descendants in Australia.

How Genealogy Has Improved Sharon’s Life

“Genealogy has given me a greater connection with my family, both living and deceased. I am a shy, introverted person, who finds it difficult to make conversation with strangers. However I am constantly amazed at the automatic connection with family members and other researchers. There are no uncomfortable silences when I am speaking with a relative or other researcher. I suppose that being a family historian gives me ‘permission’ or the confidence to ask questions and ensure that the conversation flows.

“Researching has also given me the opportunity to travel the country and see many places that I would not have otherwise experienced, reuniting and meeting with relatives, who I now call friends.

“Researching my family history has also yielded some surprising coincidences and genetic traits and characteristics. I feel that I have really gotten to know and understand many deceased ancestors and relatives and feel a greater connection to them.

“I no longer waste time on unnecessary things such as house work!”

What Sharon Loves Most About Genealogy

“I love the hunt! The challenge of locating additional information and putting the pieces together and being able to build a picture or story about an individual, place or object. I also enjoy puzzles and strategic games. Family history is an extension to this, very strategic and a huge never ending puzzle, which gets bigger and bigger with every piece that you find. You are always challenged, learning and discovering new things.”

Sharon’s Genealogy Bucket List

“Taking Long Service Leave and completing a 3 month campervan or driving holiday around UK (will that be long enough??) visiting all the places that my ancestors lived, whilst completing research. Very open to suggestions here as I am in the planning phase.

“I am currently studying genealogy and would like to commence speaking to local groups and clubs about family history. It is my goal to join the genealogy circuit when I retire and to hopefully speak at various conferences and events and help others to learn more and to research and write about their family tree.

“One day I would like to have the time to locate, research and reunite lost photos with their owners. I really enjoy reading these blogs and find them admirable.”

Sharon’s Time Capsule Message

“I feel that there will be a problem in future as the photos on phones and computers will be deleted and/or unlabelled. Emails are not retained. So my message to the younger generations is

  • Do not rely solely on the internet. Go searching and you will be surprised at what you find.
  • Label and Save photos and encourage your friends to do the same thing.
  • Keep a memory diary, for your ancestors about everyday happenings and events.
  • Talk to your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles while you can, before it is too late.
  • Write letters (rather than emails) and ask that they are retained rather than thrown out.

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Please take a moment to visit Sharon at Strong Foundations and leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. Thank-you, Sharon, for letting us inside your blogging world.

© 2014, copyright Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Wendy Mathias is a retired teacher who divides her time between her home in Chesapeake, Virginia and Smith Mountain Lake.  She enjoys researching her family and digging for the story behind old family photos for her blog Jollett Etc. Are you a genealogy blogger who would like to be interviewed for the “May I Introduce To You . . .” series? If so, contact Wendy via email wendymath@cox.net.