May I Introduce to You . . . Mary Kircher Roddy

Come meet blogger Mary Kircher Roddy of Searching for Stories interviewed by Jana Last at GeneaBloggers

I have the pleasure of introducing you to Mary Kircher Roddy and her blog, Searching for Stories described as, “Mary Kircher Roddy is a genealogist, writer and lecturer, always looking for the story. Her blog is a combination of the stories she has found and the tools she used to find them.”

Mary, please tell us a little about yourself.

“I was born in San Rafael, California. After college in Riverside, California (where I met my husband) and graduate school in Austin, Texas, we moved to Seattle. We thought we’d be here for five years while Mark was in graduate school but come June we’ll have been here 31 years.”

How did you get started in genealogy?

“In 1994, when my son was in preschool, I met another mom, Barb, who was into genealogy and she tried to suck me in, but I resisted the temptation. But in 2000 my husband was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to teach at the University of Limerick during his sabbatical from Seattle U. I was sure while Mark was teaching and the kids were in school I could do all my Irish genealogy. As I’m sure you can guess, I didn’t know enough names, dates and places before we went to Ireland to make much headway, but I was totally bitten by the bug and I’ve been at it ever since.”

When and why did you start your genealogy blog?

“I started my blog when I was at SLIG in 2016. On our three sabbaticals I’d kept something of a blog of our adventures (when I first started, “blog” wasn’t even a word), but I hadn’t really ever kept a genealogy blog. I kind of saw genealogy blogging as just one more thing I “should” do, and I wasn’t sure I could keep up with it. But while I was at SLIG I talked to people about it, and Judy Russell gave a wonderful talk about sharing the stories of the children who didn’t make it, and that talk just really clarified for me why I needed to keep a blog. I had stories, some about children, some about people who never had children, some about my family that perhaps my cousins didn’t know about, and I realized all those stories needed to be told.”

How did you choose the name for your blog?

“As long as I’ve been doing genealogy it’s been all about the story for me. I’ve followed stories and done research on people that were not related to me because I was interested in the story. Maybe they somehow interacted with my family or maybe they were just on the same page of the newspaper as my family but the story caught my eye. One story I have researched extensively had to do with a young railroad fireman, Phil Redmond, who was badly scalded in a train wreck and wound up in the hospital. I ran across his name because his uncle, who had been a pall bearer when my grandmother’s wee cousin was buried, went to visit Phil in the hospital. As I researched Phil, I created a list of the many people who donated skin for Phil and discovered my grandfather was one of the donors. If I hadn’t searched for the story of Phil, I never would have learned about the selfless act of my grandfather.”

What are your tips for new bloggers?

“Don’t bite off more than you can chew. I decided I couldn’t be an every-day blogger, but that I could do two days a week. I have “Sunday Stories” and “Tuesday Techniques” where I talk about the tips I use to find the stories. Even twice a week can be a bit daunting, but having committed to that, I know it’s a reasonable goal and I do manage to get it done. I tend to try to write a couple of blog posts one day a week.”

Please tell us about your favorite post(s) on your blog.

“I think my favorite posts were the ones I wrote about a baby in the family that drowned and the effect that death had on her family. The ripples from that loss extended generations beyond the event.”

How much time do you spend on family history research?

“Too much. It’s nice that I have a very supportive husband.”

Who is your favorite ancestor(s) and why?

“Right now, probably my great-great grandfather, John Fields. When I was a little girl, a great picture of him hung in my great-aunt’s house, and now I have that picture hanging in mine. I’ve found a few obituaries of him with tauntingly sparse details. I NEED to know more, and from the sparkle in his eye in the picture, I think he’s purposefully withholding information. Which just makes me want it all the more.”

How has genealogy improved your life?

“I have met some wonderful people by doing this. I’m all about Bagging a Live One and I have been able to connect with some cousins that no one in my family knew existed.”

What do you love the most about genealogy?

“Two things – I love the connections to history. Words like “Prohibition” and “Famine” and “World War II” are huge concepts, but when we find an ancestor involved or affected by these events, it humanizes that history and makes it come alive. And I love the connection with the human psyche – we may wear different clothes or style our hair differently, but at the end of the day, we all have the same hopes and dreams for our families; we like people because they did this, but not that. I’ve seen people written out of wills because they were mean to someone or married the wrong guy, and I’m sure that 2000 years ago and 2000 years hence, someone will still be getting written out of a will for the same reason.”

What family story or heirloom do you cherish?

“I have a number of things I cherish, hard to choose, but among them is a small, leather-bound bible from my great-grandmother. It is written in German. Several years ago I scanned a few pages of the bible, including the page where she wrote of her marriage, and made a collage of those scans. I was able to print out the collage and cut it into the shape of angel wings and share that will all my cousins. I’m glad I could pass on a piece of her to her descendants.”

Besides major websites like Ancestry and FamilySearch, what research tool or source has been helpful in researching your family history?

“I love love love newspaper research. I use the California Digital Newspaper Collection and Fulton History.  And I use Linkpendium at least several times a week.”

Which genealogy blogs inspire you?

What do you think is the most interesting change in the past ten years in genealogy/family history?

“The ever-increasing amount of material that FamilySearch is putting online. I find myself continually circling back to check again for what else new might be available to look at.”

What is on your genealogy bucket list?

  1. Who or what? Ha ha. Will the parents of Jane Graham Ahern please stand up?
  2. Figure out what  that place in County Meath where John Fields came from is. His obituary said “26 miles from Dublin” but didn’t name it.
  3. Get a chance to speak at a national conference (and perhaps even the Australasian Congress in Sydney 2018)

An Additional Message from Mary

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed is the chance to “do what they did.”  I got a chance to spend a week sailing on a tall ship (The Bounty) and felt a bit like my ancestors might have in the 18th and 19th centuries when they crossed the pond. I’ve also had the chance to drive a steam locomotive through an Engineer for a Day program – Sumpter Valley Railroad Engineer For A Day Calendar. It was so cool to see what my relatives did.

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Please take a moment to head over to Mary’s blog, Searching for Stories, and leave her a comment, letting her know you stopped by. Thank you Mary for telling us about yourself and your blog. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you better.

© 2016, 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 jmlast61@gmail.com.

May I Introduce to You . . . Molly Charboneau

Come meet genealogy blogger Molly Charboneau, author of Molly's Canopy, in this interview by Michelle Taggart at GeneaBloggers.

I am excited to introduce to you Molly Charboneau of Molly’s Canopy. As a writer-editor by day and a genealogist on her own time, Molly puts her skills to good use as she takes us inside her ancestors’ lives through stories, letters, pictures and personal remembrances.

Molly Tell us a little about your self.

“I grew up in upstate New York and now live in New York City in the borough of Queens. I majored in history and political science as an undergraduate and environmental health science at the graduate level, and brought knowledge from those fields to my professional career as a writer and editor – working first in print publications and later in digital communications and as a website content editor. So the transition to blogging about family history seemed natural for me.”

How did you get involved in family history? 

“My family’s history always intrigued me because of our varied heritage: French, English, Irish, Welsh, German, Italian and Swiss. But the thrill of finding the 1832 baptismal record of my Québécois great, great grandfather in a Montréal archive was what sparked my interest in doing ongoing genealogy research. 

“My parents had also recently retired, and I realized that their personal histories – and those of family members they knew – could be lost if they were not gathered and preserved for future generations. So I proposed that we take family history trips together – first to Otter Lake in New York’s Adirondack Mountains region, where my dad grew up; then to my mom’s hometown of Gloversville, New York; then to other towns upstate where our ancestors once lived – and my genealogy research just continued from there.”

How did you choose the name for your blog?

“In addition to a love of genealogy, I enjoy being out in nature and have been involved in supporting tree planting in my neighborhood to increase the urban canopy. I got thinking about the word “canopy” and how it embraced both of these worlds – family trees and real ones – so I called my blog Molly’s Canopy.”

Why did you start a genealogy blog?

“On a pre-Internet research trip with my dad, we learned from the 1865 New York State census that we had a Civil War ancestor. I obtained his Union Army pension file, studied the battles he fought in, and knew I wanted to write about him, and about other ancestors. The prospect of a family history book seemed daunting. But as genealogists took to blogging, that seemed like the ideal way for me to begin sharing family stories.

“I started my blog Molly’s Canopy in April 2014 during the Sesquicentennial of the US Civil War – to coincide with attending my first reenactment of some 1864 battles my ancestor fought in. From there, I decided to track his movements throughout the war, examine his life in the larger historical context, and write about it each week. My blog has continued in that vein – looking at the lives of my ancestors, who were average folks but special to me, and examining how they fit into the broader society of their era.”

How have you benefited from blogging?

“The regular discipline of writing a weekly blog post has allowed me to review and analyze my past genealogy research, supplement it where needed with additional research and begin to tell my ancestors’ stories. Having my forbears out in the world, instead of hidden away in files, has been an enriching experience. Along the way I have also connected with many wonderful fellow travelers – genealogists and family historians who share the same passion, new-found cousins who share the same ancestors, and blog readers, including relatives and friends, who leave encouraging comments – and they make the research journey that much more enjoyable.”

How long have you been doing family history research and how has your focus changed over the years?

“I have been doing family history research for 25 years. In the beginning, the emphasis was on bonding with my parents through family history road trips, amassing documents about as many ancestors as possible, and doing oral history interviews of my mom, dad and our older relatives. Though the research continues, my focus has shifted to telling the family stories that those road trips, documents and interviews revealed so they will be there for future generations.” 

What are your favorite blog posts from Molly’s Canopy and why?

Remembering Aunt Rita http://mollyscanopy.com/2015/11/remembering-aunt-rita/

Uncle Fred’s letters http://mollyscanopy.com/2014/12/uncle-freds-letters/
(Because they fulfill an aspiration to pass down the stories of my childless relatives.) 

First blogiversary: A One-Gun Salute
http://mollyscanopy.com/2015/04/first-blogiversary-a-one-gun-salute/
(Because it expresses my gratitude to my ancestors for a magical journey of discovery.) 

The Tiny Road Map http://mollyscanopy.com/2014/08/the-tiny-roadmap/
(Because it reveals how the smallest scrap of evidence can unlock an ancestor’s history.) 

Killer knapsack http://mollyscanopy.com/2014/07/killer-knapsack/

Irritable heart http://mollyscanopy.com/2014/07/irritable-heart/
(Because they synthesized hours of fascinating research into my Civil War ancestor’s war-related illness.)

What do you enjoy most about doing genealogy?

“I most enjoy the ever evolving sense of identity that comes from learning about my family’s history. Every new discovery about an ancestor – and how their personal story meshes with the history of the communities where they lived, worked, raised families and participated in civic life – adds to my increasing sense of connection to a broad, extended family with varied and interesting roots.”

Where do you get your inspiration for your blog posts?

“Everywhere! Of course family history research discoveries provide the framework on which the blog posts are built. But I also do additional historical reading and research on the places my ancestors lived (some of which I have visited), the types of work they did, the lives of women during particular eras, newspaper articles on more contemporary ancestors, and the social, economic and political developments that occurred during their lifetimes. Drawing on all of these resources, my ancestors’ stories begin to emerge – and there often turns out to be quite a bit to tell. I also find that selecting a photo or two for each blog post before I begin to write helps me visualize the focus for that post.”

What other genealogy blogs inspire you?

“I follow Geneabloggers, which is a tremendous asset to the entire family history blogging community, and visit the new and blogiversary blogs publicized there for inspiration. I also follow The Legal Genealogist and Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter.”

What is on your genealogy bucket list?

“Writing a family history book; visiting some of the countries, and hometowns, where my immigrant ancestors grew up; digitizing my family’s huge photo archive; and inspiring other family historians to write about their ancestors’ lives.”

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Please take a moment and visit Molly’s blog Molly’s Canopy. Leave her a comment to let her know you stopped by. Thank-you Molly for sharing your blog and your thoughts with us!

© 2016, 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 . . . Linda Stufflebean

Come meet genealogy blogger Linda Stufflebean, author of Empty Branches on the Family Tree, in this interview by Wendy Mathias at GeneaBloggers.

Linda Stufflebean of Empty Branches on the Family Tree is one busy genealogist, teacher, blogger, and contributor to Facebook genealogy groups. Her blog reflects both her eagerness to share family stories and the desire to help others break through those frustrating brick walls. In addition to her faithful and frequent posts about her ancestors, Linda keeps up-to-date links to sources by state as well as sources for various countries and ethnic groups. Whether you are looking for maps, education opportunities, a list of popular genealogy websites or just a good story about Linda’s loyalist ancestors, your time will be well-spent at Empty Branches on the Family Tree.

Linda, can you tell a little about yourself?

“I was born in Passaic, New Jersey, which is very much a microcosm of the United States’ ‘melting pot.’ Although it is very much an inner city, Passaic was a great place to grow up in the 1950’s and 1960’s. However, I consider myself a Westerner, as I moved to Southern California in 1978 and then to Tucson, Arizona in 2010 when my husband and I retired. I have a B.A. in Elementary Education and Spanish and an M.S. in Bilingual Special Education. I taught in Central Falls and Providence, Rhode Island; Mexico City, Mexico; and lastly in Ontario and then Alta Loma, California. Most of those years were spent teaching special needs children. My main hobby outside of genealogy is travel. We spend a couple of months each year on cruise ships, so we’ve been able to see a bit of the world.”

How did you get interested in doing your family history?

“My mother’s maiden name was Adams, and the family was from Massachusetts and Maine. I had been told, although we weren’t directly descended from the Presidents Adams, that we were related as descendants of Henry Adams of Braintree, Massachusetts. I decided to find out if that was true. It turns out my family is descended from Edward Adams of Milford, Connecticut in 1640, and my Loyalist ancestors were on the 1783 ships to New Brunswick, Canada at the close of the American Revolution.”

Besides major websites (like Ancestry and FamilySearch), what research tool or source has been particularly helpful in researching your family history?

“The most helpful sites definitely depend on the current focus of my research, but I think the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick and the Danish National Archives, both of which happen to be free and have fabulous records digitized and available online, are terrific resources.”

Why did you start a genealogy blog and how did you choose the name for it?

Empty Branches on the Family Tree launched on January 16, 2014, so it’s just over two years old. I had thought about starting a blog for a while and decided it was finally time. Having been a language arts teacher, I enjoy writing and teaching and am a total genealogy addict, so a family history blog seemed to be a great way to blend those interests.”

“One of my blog goals was to share resources and techniques that have brought me success in breaking through brick walls, which could then help others fill in the empty branches on their own ancestral trees. I really wanted a name that wasn’t quite as long as what I have, but a name that reflected the intent to find new ancestors. I couldn’t decide on anything shorter that I liked, so I stuck with the longer version. I also loved the idea that I had a tree in my own front yard that had one dead, empty section, and that became the photo on the home page. No copyright worries there!”

What are your favorite posts on your blog and why?

“Both are multi-part series. The first details my decades-long search to find the family of my great grandmother, Anna Elisabeth Johnson/Jensen Coleman of Calais, Maine and Copenhagen, Denmark. It is by far the most complicated and lengthy project I have ever done in genealogy.

“The second tells of my own life growing up in Passaic. Last year, I read a couple of posts by others which mentioned how important it was for us not to forget to tell our own stories. Since I was one of many who never bothered to share any of my own memories, I started thinking about Passaic and remembering things I hadn’t thought about in years. I loved when I heard from other Passaic natives who left comments like, ‘I went to the Holy Trinity church carnival, too’ and ‘I remember buying candy at Pat’s Luncheonette.’ My son hasn’t shown a lot of interest in the family stories, but if and when he becomes interested, he will be able to read about his own mom’s life growing up, too.”

What is your favorite family story or heirloom?

“I’ve blogged about this, but I think my favorite story is the one my Grandmother Adams told me – Grandfather went to Harvard, but didn’t graduate. Although Harvard had no record of him ever being enrolled there, the story was true. He enlisted in the Navy during World War I and boot camp was at Harvard. He did, indeed, ‘go there,’ and it is very true that he didn’t graduate either.

“My favorite heirlooms are three hand sewn quilts made by my husband’s great grandmother, all of which were rescued from a backyard gardening shed in Oklahoma, and the set of Theodore Haviland china passed down from my own great grandmother.”

What kind of networking do you use to attract readers to your blog?

“I can’t honestly say that I do tons of networking. I follow many blogs and leave comments on those posts which I enjoy or which teach me something new. There are several Facebook groups to which I belong, so I post comments and queries there, too, and occasionally link to one of my own posts. My Pinterest board is updated a couple of times a month. I also bring business cards to share with other bloggers when I attend conferences, but I’m not much of a fan of tweeting, so I don’t use Twitter. Since I am not trying to promote a for-profit business, the networking aspect isn’t anything on which I focus much energy. It just sort of happens.”

What other genealogy blogs inspire you?

“Randy Seaver’s Genea-Musings, Amy Cohen’s BrotmanBlog: A Family Journey, James Tanner’s Genealogy’s Star, Cathy Meder-Dempsey’s Opening Doors in Brick Walls and One Rhode Island Family by Diane Boumenot are just a few.”

What is on your genealogy bucket list?

“To smash through a few more tough brick walls – in particular, finding the ancestral home and parents of Loyalist James Astle of Schenectady, New York and Miramichi, New Brunswick, Canada; finding a death date and probate for Anders Molin of Ystad, Öved and Marstrand, Sweden; and proving the family line of Isaac Sturgell, likely son of William Sturgill/Sturgeon of Lawrence County, Ohio; Ashe County, North Carolina; and Grayson County, Virginia.

“I also would like to visit my ancestral villages in Slovakia and the Stufflebean/Stoppelbein ancestral homes in Langenlonsheim and Laubenheim, Germany.”

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Please take a moment to visit Linda at Empty Branches on the Family Tree and leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. Thank-you, Linda, for letting us inside your blogging world.

© 2016, 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.