May I Introduce To You . . . Summer Vacation 2016

summer vacation

Summer vacation is here and for the next few weeks, the weekly May I Introduce To You posts written by the fantastic MIITY team of Tessa Keough, Jana Last, Wendy Mathias, Michelle Taggart and Gini Webb will be on a well-deserved break.

MIITY posts will return beginning Monday, 12 September 2016, when GeneaBloggers will resume highlighting members and their blogs from all over the globe! In the meantime, here is our Pinterest board of all the May I Introduce To You interviews over the past few years:

Follow GeneaBloggers’s board May I Introduce To You . . . Members of Geneabloggers on Pinterest.

© 2016, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

May I Introduce to You . . . Melyssa Stratton-Webb

Come meet genealogy blogger Melyssa Stratton-Webb, author of The Golden Age of Genealogy blog, in this interview by Gini Webb at GeneaBloggers.

 

I have the pleasure of introducing you to, Melyssa Stratton-Webb and her blog, The Golden Age of Genealogy, described as, “. . . The Golden Age of Genealogy encourages family history researchers to take a second look at their family trees, and introduces them to new innovative genealogy sites.

One of the biggest reasons I began this blog was to let people know how times have changed.  There are so many new websites available to us in doing our research, and I don’t think people are aware of that.  Family History work is no longer something old ladies do when they retire.  This is a worldwide hobby that is growing exponentially!  It is my hope to share these new sites and innovations with a new generation of researchers, and get them excited about doing their family history!”

Melyssa, can you share a little bit about yourself?

“I was born in Alexandria, Virginia.  My family moved when I was quite young.  In fact, we moved a lot while I was growing up.  My father retired from the government when I was a child, and began a career as a genealogist and writer.  At one point, he was the Historian General for the Mayflower Society, so while I was a teen, we actually lived in the Mayflower Society House which is a museum.”

How did you get interested in doing your family history?

“Because my parents were researchers and historians, I spent my childhood vacations touring cemeteries and assisting in research in archives, courthouse basements, and libraries.  Oddly enough, I didn’t mind.  I enjoyed learning about the lives of those who had gone on before us.”

When and why did you start a genealogy blog?

“I actually began the blog a few years ago, but let it fall by the wayside, as I got caught up in other things that needed my immediate attention.  When the New Year began, and I was prepping for RootsTech, it struck me that I should begin writing again.  I am currently working on my BCG certification and I thought this would be a good outlet to practice writing and re-evaluate my research practices.  When I began writing my blog, I had no idea that I would receive the traffic that I have.  It makes me very conscious of what I write and how I present my topics.

I am fortunate to have two great friends, Kevin and Sarah Arrow, owners of SarkeMedia, which is a company dedicated to helping people with their blogging skills.  So, although not genealogists, they are blogging experts, and their guidance has been phenomenal in helping me understand not only how to present my message, but get it visible on social media.”

Melyssa, what research tool or resource has been particularly helpful in researching your family history?

“I am a huge fan of a couple of sites.  First and foremost is BillionGraves.  I blog often about them.  Too often when we are collecting information on our ancestors, we forget about the countless volunteer hours that have gone into making records available to us.  I like to give back to the genealogy community via BillionGraves by photographing cemeteries and transcribing the inscriptions on headstones.  It is an easy task, and I know the recipients of the work appreciate it.

I am also a fan of GenealogyBank.com.  People new to family history research often overlook the value of newspapers.  I think they don’t realize that their ancestors could actually be in a paper beyond an obituary.  I have found GenealogyBank extremely useful in my research, and I encourage others to check out their website.”

Melyssa, do you have any tips for new genealogy bloggers?

“YES!  Before blogging, make a list of the topics you would like to write about.  Perhaps write a few lines that will jog your memory when you go to write on those topics.  This list will help on those days you have writer’s block.

Keep the blog simple by focusing on one topic.  I found that when I combined topics, not only was the writing time consuming, but the viewership would decline.  Include images.  People become more engaged when there are pictures included in blogs.  Images can help emphasize and clarify a point you are trying to make.”

What other genealogy blogs inspire you?

“Until recently I had no idea there were so many genealogy blogs!  Whether it is a blog for a genealogical society or a blog that lists other genealogy blogs, I have been enjoying them all.  I wish I had more hours in the day in which I could just sit and read through them all!”

Melyssa, please tell us about your favorite post on your blog.

“My favourite post would have to be in my 21 Day Genealogy Challenge – Day 12: What To Do With Old Family Letters.  I enjoyed dissecting an old letter from my great grandmother to my grandfather who had recently married.  I think we overlook so many hidden clues that can be found not only in the letters written, but in the envelopes that carried those letters!  You can see more about this post at the link below.”

How much time do you spend on family history research?

“Well, when writing a blog on genealogy, we are drawing not only on current research but past experience as well.  It would be hard to log all the hours it took to obtain the information.  But as far as writing the blog entries, I would say it takes me anywhere from 2-4 hours depending on the topic.  I often will write the posting and then walk away for a time and come back to review what I wrote with a fresh mind.

I try to write every day, and actually I do; however, the posts don’t always appear every day for a variety of reasons.  I find that when I immediately “Post” the article after writing it, there are errors that I need to go back and fix.  To me, that is embarrassing, and I want my readers to take me seriously.  Another reason I may not post right away is that I am verifying information within the article, or I have had to move on to something that need my immediate attention.”

Melyssa, who is your favorite ancestor and why?

“There are so many ancestors that come to mind.  I have an ancestor that has been a brick wall to my family since my great grandfather Judson was born.  Judson’s father died when Jud was only 2 months old.  His name was General Wilson (1852 – 1880).  That is his name, not military rank.  Finding any documentation on General Wilson has been impossible.  Of course, any search using his name bring up a whole bunch of military suggestions.  It’s hard to search for someone whose name is a high ranking military title.  Because he is so allusive, I would have to say General Wilson is one of my favourite ancestors.

I also love Elias Holmes (1820 – 1895) of Fitchburg, Massachusetts.  This ancestor was very popular in his community and would hold public séances in his home.  I came across a number of newspaper articles about him and his activities, and I just have to say, I would love to spend time getting to know him better.”

What family heirloom or story do you cherish?

“I have a couple of heirlooms that I cherish.  I have been fortunate to be the recipient of quilts made by my great grandmothers and great great grandmother, on both sides of my family.  There is something about quilts that is so comforting, and to know that my ancestors actually used these quilts and here I am now with them, just makes me feel a close connection with them.

My grandfather, Frank Watts (1916- 2013), was a carver.  I have a few of his carvings in my home.  He was so very talented.  People from all over the world would ask for his carvings, and he would just give them away for free.  That is how he was, though.  If you have a talent, you share it.”

In what ways has genealogy improved your life?

“When I was a teenager, I learned that my mother had been married before and that I was, in fact, adopted by my father.  It was a hard blow at the time because I was extremely close to my dad.  Researching my family history, all lines – genetic and adopted – has given me the realization that we are truly one united family.  While I am thrilled to learn of the history of my genetic paternal line, and I do claim them as my own, I cling to the family line I was raised knowing and researching.  It is their ideas and values that shaped me into who I am today.  I have taken the experiences I have learned on this journey and now help other adoptees to not only find their genetic line, but come to terms with having so many “additional” ancestors.  It is okay to love and claim them all!”

Melyssa, what do you love most about doing your genealogy?

“I was recently asked by a relative if I ever get frustrated doing family history work.  It has never crossed my mind to be frustrated!  I love the mystery of it all and the thrill of finding new evidence.  No matter which ancestor I am researching at the time, I feel a close connection, as though I’ve always known them.  It is quite spiritual, actually.  I don’t ever want to lose that feeling.”

What is on your genealogy bucket list?

“Before I die, I want to find General Wilson.  I sometimes think that he is my brick wall for the simple fact that while he is ‘out there’ I will continue to do family history research.  But I have promised myself that if it is the last thing I do, I will find General Wilson.  I may end up having to live a very, very long time!

I would also love to go to Kopervik, Norway.  My birth father’s granddad came from Kopervik.  I have been very successful in researching this family line, and would love to see the village they left to come to America.”

If you wanted to leave a message for future generations, what would you say to them?

“Do not take your elders for granted.  If your parents, grandparents or even great grandparents are living, talk to them!  Ask questions.  In our lives we all have times of hardship and trials, but we are not the first people to experience these things.  Our ancestors were young once.  They loved and laughed.  They cried and buried their loved ones.  We can learn so much about ourselves by studying our family history.  I believe knowing their stories gives us confidence to not only endure our own trials, but to appreciate the talents that we have been blessed with.”

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Please take a moment to head on over to Melyssa’s blog. Leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. Welcome Melyssa, it’s great to have you here!

© 2016, copyright Gini Webb. All rights reserved.

Gini Webb lives in San Diego, California and manages her own blog, Ginisology, while also researching her own German heritage, retired, enjoying life with wonderful husband Steve and visiting with her grandchildren! Are you a genealogy blogger who would like to be interviewed for the “May I Introduce To You . . .” series? If so, contact Gini Webb via e-mail.

May I Introduce to You . . . Eric Proffitt

Come meet blogger Eric Proffitt of RootsBid interviewed by Jana Last at GeneaBloggers

MAY I INTRODUCE TO YOU . . . Eric Proffitt

I have the pleasure of introducing you to Eric Proffitt and his blog, RootsBid described as, “Our world-renowned blog has seen a lot of traction around the genealogy circuit. Amie Bowser Tennant (United States) and Liz Palmer (United Kingdom) are among our professional bloggers who have a wide variety of family history topics that they cover effectively with entertaining and introspective angles. The blog is a great resource for genealogy tools and techniques for enthusiasts at all levels.”

Eric, please tell us a little about yourself.

“I was born in Provo, Utah and I have lived in many different states including Ohio, California, Hawaii, and Washington. I currently live in Cardston, Alberta, Canada. My wife, Rebecca, and I have seven children, and I enjoy being part of a large family.”

How did you get started in genealogy?

“I have been interested in genealogy from a young age. As an adopted child, I have multiple family lines that have been of interest to me to help me understand my roots. My paternal grandparents have inspired my interest in genealogy with their example and efforts in family history work. I also worked for Ancestry.com which introduced me to resources and people that helped me break some barriers in my genealogy work. It was an amazing experience to be able to move my family history work forward and find generations of family that were previously undiscovered.”

When and why did you start your genealogy blog?

“The RootsBid genealogy blog began publishing in the spring of 2015. The purpose of the blog is to provide interesting and creative resources to support genealogy enthusiasts at all levels. One of the main purposes of RootsBid is to help connect people around the world to help each other with their genealogy roadblocks. The blog has been very successful as a resource for the genealogy community.”

How did you choose the name for your blog?

“It is the same name as our website service.”

What are your tips for new bloggers?

“Start writing today! Write about anything you are passionate about. As you practice writing, you will find you have a rhythm and style all your own. Embrace it. I would also encourage a new blogger to join groups such as GeneaBloggers and lean on others for support in your new endeavor.”

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

  • 6 Ways in Which Genealogists Have a Servant’s Heart – “This blog post, written by our blogger, Amie Bowser Tennant, is so inspiring. There are many genealogists who have service, and serving others, as their top priority. We love being a part of this community.”

How much time do you spend on family history research?

“I spend a lot less now that I have RootsBid to help me. I would love to spend up to two hours a day on genealogy, but as a husband and young father of seven children, it is not always easy to find the time. We make time as a family and many of my older children have become involved in genealogy work as a result.”

Who is your favorite ancestor(s) and why?

“My favorite ancestor is Juliana Chorjinski. She is my great-great-grandmother. She was a very brave woman who left her home country of Poland to move to America with her husband and two children. Her husband died a few years later in a train accident and she was left to raise her family on her own. She later remarried and had five more children. She is one of several female ancestors, including my mom, who lost their husbands and had to raise their children for a time as a single mom.”

How has genealogy improved your life?

“Genealogy has helped me to feel grounded and to gain an understanding of who I am and what I am capable of achieving. I have been impressed at how many times I have discovered that my personality, character traits, talents and interests are shared by many of my ancestors.”

What do you love the most about genealogy?

“I love the challenge of unlocking the genealogy puzzles and overcoming the roadblocks. Linking generations together is exhilarating.”

What family story or heirloom do you cherish?

“One of my favorite family stories is about an ancestor, Jane Johnston Black, who was a midwife. When she lived in Nauvoo, Illinois, John Taylor, a former religious leader in my faith, was shot. He asked for her specifically to be involved in the operation to remove the bullets and to nurse him back to health. I now live in a community with some direct descendants of John Taylor.”

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

“RootsBid.com was originated from my own experience with trying to break through genealogy barriers that I was experiencing in my ancestral homelands. I have also used Polish and Pomeranian genealogy websites that have been beneficial, but are not always easy to navigate due to language barriers.”

Which genealogy blogs inspire you?

“So many! I very much enjoy FamilySearch.org’s blog so that I can keep up with all the newest things, of course GeneaBloggers is a great one, and I have recently been touched by the adoption stories shared by Dawn Kogutkiewicz at Dawning Genealogy.”

What interesting connections have you made through blogging?

“Amie, one of our RootsBid bloggers, used a death record for a William Partington from Shelby County, Ohio in a recent blog. She later heard from one of his descendants. This descendant was excited to meet someone from the same hometown as his ancestor and they were able to share information about the family’s history. It was a great connection!”

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

“The most exciting change is the capacity of the internet to connect people in ways that have previously been impossible. This is a main part of the vision for RootsBid — to bring the concepts of crowd-sourcing and collaborative economy to the genealogy field. The internet and websites like RootsBid can help people across the world, even in the small and distant corners, to access genealogy resources and specialists to help them discover their ancestors.”

What is on your genealogy bucket list?

“Definitely one of the top priorities on my genealogy bucket list is to visit my two major homelands again, the United Kingdom and Poland. I have had dreams of going there and discovering records and to walk where my ancestors walked. Without the time and resources now, I am grateful for RootsBid and other resources that can help me discover and make my ancestors a part of my life now.”

If you wanted to leave a message for future generations, what would you tell them?

“Understand and learn from the past—a big part of that includes what we can discover about ourselves through our family histories. Family history, like world and national history, can help us to build on what has already been done and not make the same mistakes. I would also encourage future generations to get outside themselves and make a difference with others in the community and around the world.”

When did you start your genealogy-related business?

“The RootsBid concept was originated six years ago when I was facing barriers to getting information from my ancestral homelands. We officially started the business in November 2013.”

What was your motivation for starting your business?

“I was motivated by my own frustration with the roadblocks I experienced in my genealogy research, and I knew I was not alone. I saw a great opportunity to create a win-win situation for those looking for help and potential helpers around the world by developing a collaborative economy in the field of genealogy.”

Blogging is just one aspect of social media. How important has social media been to the growth of your business?

“Social Media is critical to business success for internet-based businesses and is essential in the world of mobile devices. We use it to promote our blog content, to introduce our brand and bring new users to our website, and to engage with our audience. We want our brand to incite confidence with our users and to be part of everyone’s conversation!”

How did you get interested in genealogy and family history?

“I have to give credit to my grandparents who helped inspire and spark my interest in genealogy. They were family history missionaries in my church.”

What types of products and services do you provide to customers?

“RootsBid solves an enormous problem in family history research, where so much can be accomplished in an ancestor’s homeland, but that homeland is inaccessible. Hiring local certified genealogists is not always possible, or reasonable within a limited budget. Much research can be done by professionals and non-professionals alike—both of which can be found on RootsBid.”

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to start their own genealogy-related business?

“Do your research, test your assumptions, and learn from what others have done in the past. If you haven’t seen our blog, you owe it to yourself to read it!”

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Please take a moment to head over to the RootsBid Blog, and leave a comment, letting Eric know you stopped by. Thank you Eric 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.