May I Introduce to You . . . Heather Collins

Come meet genealogy blogger Heather Collins, author of the Of Trees & Ink and Young & Savvy Genealogists blogs, in this interview by Jana Last at GeneaBloggers.
I have the pleasure of introducing you to Heather Collins and her blogs, OF TREES & INK and Young & Savvy Genealogists . Her personal blog, OF TREES & INK, is described as, “where I share and preserve my own family stories and research experiences.” 

A Little About Heather

“I was born and raised on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. I currently live with my husband and a very spoiled cat in Boise, Idaho.” 

How Heather Got Started in Genealogy

“I’ve been doing genealogy for more than ten years. I’ve kept a diary since I was 12 years old. I scribbled my first pedigree chart in the back of a spiral bound notebook covered in stickers, which I still have. I grew up on the Mason Dixon line in one of the oldest cities in Maryland. We often went to Baltimore to visit with family. We took day trips to historic Philadelphia or Washington D.C. Two of my great grandmothers were alive for most of my childhood, and both of my grandmothers are still living. No matter where I went, I was constantly surrounded by history. History was in the air that I breathed for so long, it simply became a part of me.” 

Heather’s Thoughts on Blogging

“Of Trees & Ink was born in spring 2011 because I was going to live overseas in Brazil for 18 months. I was going to have limited contact with my family, and I wasn’t going to be in a position to do genealogy until I came back to the States. I knew I was going to miss my family and doing genealogy, and blogging gave me a way to slowly detach from my research. I picked up where I left off after I came home in late 2012.”

Heather’s Tips for New Bloggers

“For someone doing a personal family history blog like Of Trees & Ink, the most common pitfall is to be ordinary. Don’t do the same thing everyone else is doing. Even if your story is similar to that of other people, find a new way to tell it. Be a character in the stories you tell, not just the narrator. People love to read about new discovery. They love to get inside your head, to find new ideas in your approach. Achieving a good balance between the stories I want to preserve and the methods I used has always been really important to me.”

“I would also say to avoid the bandwagon topics. If you aren’t starting the trend or blowing the first whistle on the controversy, your voice gets lost in the crowd all saying the exact same thing you are. Ask yourself, “Am I only writing about this because other people are doing it? Or do I genuinely care about this? Why do I care? Is there anything new I can say? Are people tired of hearing about this already?” I’ve scrapped a lot of posts because of these questions, and every single one of them deserved it.” 

Heather’s Favorite Blog Posts

“I love this post because I love this story. Annie was one of my longest standing “brick walls,” so anything to do with her always gets me excited. I only know this story because of Pomp’s autograph album, which easily makes it one of my favorite finds. Pomp and Annie Fenity loved each other dearly, and Annie died tragically young. He spent the rest of his life living without her, and I imagine that he missed her every day. Seeing their handwritten love notes from their courtship is something I will always treasure.”

“This post also represents many years of patient, persistent work. My grandmother grew up in a foster home, and told me very little about her birth family. She gave me very incomplete information about her mother, which were the only clues I ever had. She finally let slip that her mother was buried in Mount Royal Cemetery in Montreal, which ended up being the key to the mystery. I added 4 generations to my tree in less than a week after that, which I couldn’t have done without my husband’s help and support. I love that his part is visible in this post.” 

Heather’s Favorite Ancestors

“I can’t have favorites, I love them all for their own unique story. I love Annie Rorer Fenity because I waited and wished so long to meet her, and was overjoyed the first time I saw her picture. I love Charles Pinheiro because he was the secret I was never supposed to find out. I love Pearl Bartlett for being a survivor. And I love Violet Greene for making the hardest choices, many of which have shaped my life today. The more I learn about each of them, the more I love them all for who they were.” 

What Heather Loves Most About Genealogy

“I love the way it has allowed me to connect and reconnect with the older generation in my family. All my life I’ve been surrounded by incredible women, and genealogy gives me something of substance to share with them, to give to them. It has brought us closer in a way I don’t think anything else ever could.” 

Heather’s Genealogy Bucket List

  • Visit Halifax, Nova Scotia and lay a rose on the grave of Charles Pinheiro.
  • Find a missing relative using my DNA test.
  • Find the emancipation documents of one of my slave ancestors.
  • Meet/speak to another descendant from my Barbadian lines.
  • Discover where my Doyle ancestors came from in Ireland.
  • Write my great grandmother’s memoir.

Heather’s Time Capsule Message

“Life is beautiful. Life is simple. Life goes on.” 

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

© 2015, 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

May I Introduce to You . . . Valerie Craft

Come meet genealogy blogger Valerie Craft, author of the Begin With Craft blog, in this interview by Michelle Taggart at GeneaBloggers.

I am excited to introduce to you Valerie and her blog, Begin with ‘Craft’, which Valerie describes as her “journey in genealogy.”  Valerie takes her readers along on her adventure as she researches her southern ancestors, particularly those who lived in Georgia and South Carolina.

A Little About Valerie

“I can trace my paternal family back 9 generations in Georgia, with many other lines arriving just after the Revolutionary War. My maternal lines were similarly situated in South Carolina. Because my ancestors immigrated to America so early, I don’t identify with any specific European ethnicity. Instead, because of my roots in the history of the South, I identify strongly as a Southerner.”

How Valerie Got Started in Genealogy

“I started researching my family history as part of a geography project in college. The assignment had a few different options, including showing how geography affected our family over five generations.  I didn’t know my grandmothers’ maiden name, let alone who my great great grandparents were. But my mom had been longing to research our family history and encouraged me to do the project.  From there, I was hooked and have been researching our family history for over 10 years.”

Valerie’s Thoughts on Blogging

“I started my genealogy blog as a “What’s New” section on my Rootsweb site.  From there, I found out about the Geneablogger community and moved to Blogger. I wanted a place to share my family finds and the strategies I used.”

Valerie’s Advice for New Bloggers

“I would say that it’s not necessarily about the length of your blog posts, but about the content. A short post that is well written, but only a paragraph long, can be more effective than a wordy and meandering post that doesn’t get to the point.  It can also be better to split up your content into a series of posts, rather than have readers lose interest in a post that takes an hour to slog through.  Also, and this is my preference, always include an image in your post. It adds visual stimulation, highlights the point you are making and can help attract viewers who see a link on Facebook, Google or another site that includes a thumbnail image.  If you don’t have a photo of your own, you can find images available through the creative common license at Flickr: Creative Commons.” 

Valerie’s Favorite Blog Post

“One of my most recent blog posts is Cabbagetown – Then and Now.  In this post I share my visit to the home of my great great grandparents and some unique photos – and the surprise I got afterwards.”

Valerie’s Favorite Ancestors

“I honestly don’t think I could pick just one favorite ancestor. I identify with different ancestors for different reasons: my great-aunt, Ollie Britt, who was a riveter during WWII, my Civil War ancestors whose footsteps I’ve walked on local battlefields, my 4th great-grandfather, Willis Craft, who represented his county in the Georgia State House, and my 6th great-grandfather, John Cash, through whom I joined the DAR.”

How Genealogy has Changed Valerie’s Life

“My research has taken me to places I wouldn’t have gone otherwise and connected me with people I would not have otherwise met.  It’s impossible to imagine what else I might be doing if I hadn’t started doing genealogy.  I’m an introvert who is nervous around new people and in new situations.  Although this remains true, I am much more outgoing and self-assured, thanks in part to my experiences with genealogy research.”

“I love that genealogy is like a puzzle. It takes hard work and determination, but when you figure it out, there is a sense of accomplishment. My work has benefited others and will continue to do so for years to come, from photographing headstones and adding them to, to transcribing records and uploading them to the internet for others to find, to buying old photos in antique stores and sending them back to their family, to simply being able to tell my own family who their ancestors were. I truly feel that I have accomplished something and that my research will be of benefit to others.”

Valerie’s Genealogy Bucket List

“I would love to travel overseas and do research in Europe, break through my Waters and Leaphart brick walls, travel to the Family History Library, and make some amazing DNA connections.”

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Please take time to head over to Valerie’s blog Begin with ‘Craft’ and leave a comment, letting her know you stopped by.  Thank you Valerie for sharing your thoughts and your blog with us!

© 2015, 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

May I Introduce to You . . . Julie Goucher

Come meet genealogy blogger Julie Goucher, author of the Orlando One Name Study blog, in this interview by Tessa Keough at GeneaBloggers.

Some readers have met Julie Goucher previously (her Anglers’ Rest blog was highlighted in 2013). But now for something a bit different – I have the pleasure of re-introducing you to Julie Goucher and her blog, Orlando One-Name Study. Julie’s blog is described as, “a way of sharing material I discover about the Orlando surname. There are some fascinating items that I have discovered along the way and the blog enables me to also share a little about the concept of a One-Name Study or surname research.”

A Little Bit About Julie

“I grew up in Surrey England where my maternal ancestors lived, as well as the neighbouring Counties of Hampshire and Sussex for around 300 years. My paternal line hails from a village in the centre of Sicily. I now live in a seaside town in Devon England.”

How Julie Got Started in Genealogy

“As a child I grew up visiting my Great Aunts, mainly from my maternal Grandfather’s side of the family. They shared stories and facts, the small incidental snippets that are almost irrelevant yet when put together with other random snippets build up a profile of an amazing family. I realised that whilst I knew quite a lot of my maternal line I knew very little about my Sicilian heritage. I started researching my family history in the summer of 1988 and since then I have never looked back!”

Julie’s Thoughts on Blogging

A blog is an opportunity to have a conversation with others around the globe. Whilst it appears to be quite an insular activity it is a real opportunity to share information and communicate with others about any chosen topic.

My Orlando blog is part of a process of my Orlando One-Name Study. In essence my blog is the shop window for my study, changing frequently and inviting conversation and visitors. I also have a website, Facebook group and DNA study – all of which tie in together, supporting and promoting my Orlando One-Name Study.”

Julie’s Tips for New Bloggers

“Creating a blog is an opportunity for self-expression. Remember it is your space – for sharing and inviting conversation. Always remember to engage with others, respond to comments left for you and leave comments for others. Use an image so that you have something to illustrate your blog. Remember to share amongst the various methods of social media. Be mindful of what you share on your blog about living people. Share what is comfortable to share.”

Julie’s Genealogy Bucket List

“I probably have a larger bucket genealogy list, but focusing on my one-name study, these are my top five:

  1. Spend some more time and focus on my Orlando DNA Study and increase the number of participants (anyone with the surname of Orlando out there?).
  2. Reduce the mound of paper that is the Orlando One-Name Study into a complete digital archive, with material on my blog and website with a set of material lodged with the Guild of One-Name Studies.
  3. Go back to my Orlando and Sicilian roots – spend some significant time in Sutera, Sicily devouring the records relating to my Orlando family.
  4. Complete a project that I commenced in 2002 about migration from Italy to the United Kingdom
  5. Expand participation in the Orlando Surname Facebook Group – and encourage the sharing of information and conversation across the globe.”

What Julie Loves Most About Genealogy

“I love that as a family historian and genealogist I can get as much out of my interest as I chose to and I firmly believe that we can only get out of something what we put in to it. There are no real rules to researching your ancestry. You can explore whatever line or ancestor that appeals and include those lines that are collateral ones. You can also develop your interests further and undertake research on a broad scale just like a one-name study or surname research.

I was a founding member of the Anglo Italian Family History Society and the Society’s Vice Chair for the first six years of its existence. I then made to the decision that I would undertake some broad research into my Italian surname of Orlando, so I joined the Guild of One-Name Studies and registered the surname of Orlando with two variants, Orlande and Orlanda. That was in 2002 and now thirteen years on the study has grown and continues to do so.

The biggest concentration of the surname outside of Italy is in the United States, but the reality is that there are examples of the surname of Orlando everywhere! I enjoy finding the material that makes its way into my study.

I recently spent three days at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015 (the UK’s largest family history conference). Much of my time was spent on the Guild stand and we welcomed 56 new members, with surnames from all over Europe. Because of the collaborative nature of genealogy and the ease with which we able to meet up online (Facebook, Google+ and Twitter) we have so many opportunities to work with others on studies large and small. While technology has opened new doors, it is also so nice to meet up in person through conferences, seminars and local meetings. It is a wonderful time to be a genealogist.”

Julie’s Time Capsule Message

“There are two certainties in life; death and taxes! So my message is, take the time to plan how your research is going to be shared with others. Will it be archived in a way that others can access it?”

An Additional Message from Julie

“Sadly I didn’t take my own advice about planning how to share my research with others. Last year I started revisiting my own Orlando archive, making the decision to put my Orlando material online at my website and then share material via my blog.

I am also creating a master surname index which is stored in a spreadsheet and can be accessed via my website and blog. It’s early days, there are just under 800 entries in the spreadsheet, but the actual Orlando material sits at around 50,000 entries so I have a lot of typing to do!

I also have a newsletter which I write around four times a year and these can be downloaded from the website. There is a Face Book group and there is an Orlando DNA study available too

I am a firm believer that, in order to meet others researching the surname, the study needs to have a physical online presence and what better way to do that than to write a blog.”

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Please take a moment to head on over to Julie’s blog. Leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. Julie (as you may have noticed if you are on social media) is quite busy with her personal genealogy, her one-name study, her one-place study, her Book of Me project, and the Worldwide Genealogy blog (where she nudges several of us to commit to writing once a month on a topic of our choosing relating to genealogy and family history). I am so impressed with the many genealogists and family historians who share their time and talents with the rest of us – what great learning opportunities they provide. Welcome Julie, it’s great to have you here and it has been a pleasure getting to know you better.


© 2015, 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