May I Introduce to You . . . Sue McNelly

Come meet blogger Sue McNelly of the Kindred Past blog as interviewed by Michelle Taggart at GeneaBloggers!


When I first found Sue McNelly’s blog, Kindred Past, I was amazed by the variety of her blog posts. A few examples of the wide variety of topics she writes about are helps for using the Arizona Territorial Census, her experience with using the “Find A Will” service in England, an ancestral story leading to South Africa and tips for attending Rootstech. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading through her blog and have learned a lot along the way. It is with great pleasure I introduce to you Sue McNelly and her blog, Kindred Past.

How would you describe your blog?

“My blog aims to share all things genealogical, as well as share some of my (and my husband’s) family stories. I try to share tips and ‘how to’ information as I work towards professional certification.”

Sue, can you tell us a little about yourself? 

“I am originally from Johannesburg, South Africa. I hold a B.A. and a B.A. (Hons) degree in Clinical Psychology and worked in that field for many years before immigrating to the U.S.  I’ve lived in the U.S. for about 20 years. I’m married and have two teenage sons.   We started married life in Arizona, but moved to Colorado and later Wisconsin. About 5 years ago we returned to the Phoenix, Arizona area, which I really love.” 

Why did you start a genealogy blog?

“I wanted a place to share my research with others. My family are scattered around the world and a blog felt like the best way to share what I have discovered about our ancestors with them. I want my blog to be a place where they can find accurate, interesting and well researched information. I also wanted to document my journey towards professional certification and share the tips and resources I have gathered along the way.”

What challenges have you faced as a blogger? How are you overcoming them?

“My biggest challenge has been to write more regularly! It takes me a long time to write a post because I want to make sure I am doing it well. I also want to provide content that is interesting, not just to me and my family,  but to other genealogy bloggers.”

Although you are relatively new to blogging, it sounds as if you have been doing genealogy for a while. How long have you been doing genealogy and how did you get started?

“I have been doing genealogy for about 15 years. However, I can remember from a young age being fascinated looking at all the old photographs my parents had.  So many people I didn’t know! All my grandparents were deceased by the time I was born and I remember feeling very sad that I couldn’t get to know them in person. Years later a friend introduced me to FamilySearch and PAF and showed me how to get started.”  

What has been your most exciting discovery in your research?

“I don’t know that I could pick one discovery as the most exciting. I am excited each time I find out more about an ancestor! It doesn’t seem to matter if they led very quiet, uneventful lives, I am thrilled when I can start to put flesh on the bones and fill in that dash between birth and death.

“Perhaps my most bittersweet discovery was locating my grandmother. She had not been in my mother’s life at all from about the age of 3 and I had never met her. When I first started doing genealogy it was the first search that I undertook. It took some time but I did find her, living not very far from my mother.  The decisions she had made had resulted in quite a sad life and the reunion between my mother and my grandmother was not easy at all. She passed away only a few months after I located her. Sometimes our discoveries are wonderful and exciting and other times they can raise difficult memories or be bittersweet.  That’s the nature of genealogy I think.  We don’t know where our search will take us.”

On your blog you indicated that you love to use social history resources. Please share a couple of your favorite social history resources and how they have helped you in your research.

“As I mentioned on my blog, one of the first books I read was ‘Bringing Your Family History to Life Using Social History,’ by Katherine Scott Sturdevant.  It made a big impression on me and I connected immediately with the idea of gaining a better perspective of our ancestors by learning about the cultural, social, economic and historical environments around them.  One of my favorite social history resources is newspapers.  Finding articles that mention our ancestor by name are wonderful but just reading a newspaper from the local area they lived in can give us a great sense of the world as it was happening around them.  I really enjoy the social history resources at the Digital Public Library of America and of course the Library of Congress.  I could easily spend a lot of time on those sites!”

What do you hope to accomplish through writing a blog?

“One of my biggest goals is to become a better writer!  Being able to write an effective and compelling narrative is a skill that I feel I need to work more on. Aside from the professional skills that I hope to improve on, I want to write posts that will be of benefit to other people in their research. The regularity of writing for a blog helps me to take a good hard look at my previous research and make sure what I am writing about is accurate.”

In what ways has genealogy improved your life?

“I believe that knowing where we come from gives us a unique sense of belonging.  We feel part of something greater than ourselves. I love the quote from the 1939 book ‘How Green Was My Valley’ by Richard Llewellyn which says, ‘I saw behind me those who had gone, and before me those who are to come, I looked back and saw my father, and his father, and all our fathers, and in front to see my son, and his son, and the sons upon sons beyond. And their eyes were my eyes. As I felt, so they had felt and were to feel, as then, so now, as tomorrow and forever.’”

Who is your favorite ancestor and why?

“I don’t have a favorite but I do have some ancestors that I really wish I could sit down with and learn more about their lives. Both of my grandfathers served during the Second World War and I would love to hear of their experiences. One grandfather served in France and one in Egypt. My third great grandparents left Scotland in the 1850’s for South Africa. I’m so interested in why they decided to leave and why they chose South Africa.”

I know that you make it a priority to take advantage of genealogy learning opportunities. Share with us some of the things you have done to help you  to sharpen your genealogy research skills?

“I am always looking for an opportunity to learn! I take full advantage of the many webinars available from various different organizations. I completed the NGS Family History Skills  course this year, and also took part in the 6 week University of Strathclyde ‘Genealogy:  Researching Your Family Tree’ course. Next up is to start the American Genealogical Studies courses offered by the National Genealogical Society.

“I participate in one of the NGSQ Study Groups. Every month an article from NGSQ is studied and we are encouraged to participate in discussing the techniques, evidence and research practices contained in the article. I have learned so much from the other members of this group!

“I also read all the academic journals I receive from being a member of various organizations and family history societies. I have been fortunate to be able to attend RootsTech for the last two years and attended again in February 2017.  Attending national and local family history conferences is a wonderful way to meet and learn from experts in the field.”

What other genealogy blogs inspire you?

“I never knew there were so many genealogy blogs out there until I started blogging!  It would be difficult to choose only a few that inspire me because I always seem to learn something from each blog I read. I enjoy blogs that teach me something as well as those that share their personal research in such a way that I become excited for them as they break down brick walls.”

What is on your genealogy bucket list?

“I would love to go back to England and follow in the footsteps of my coal mining ancestors from Cornwall and County Durham. A few years ago my Dad went back to the village he grew up in. I sent him with a long list of cemeteries to visit and photograph, and streets and houses to find. I’d love to go back and see them for myself.  I’d also love to go to the Isle of Man, a small island in the Irish Sea between England and Northern Ireland, which is where my Mom’s family is from.  

“I have two major brick walls that I would love to break through so that would have to go on my bucket list! I would like to finally find out where my great grandfather, Harry Joshua Davis died and was buried. One of my first blog posts was about how he seems to have played ‘hide and seek’ ( in the records. The other brick wall is on my husband’s side, the McNelly’s. They simply seem to appear in Rochester, New York in 1823 with no records to establish exactly where they came from. Family members all have different ideas; some say they’re Irish, some Scottish. I have a lot of work yet to do to figure it out!”

Is there anything else that you would like to share with us?

“Thank you so much for the opportunity to talk a little about my blog.”


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Please take a moment and visit Sue’s blog, Kindred Past. Be sure and leave her a comment to let her know you stopped by. Thank you Sue for sharing your blog and your thoughts with us!
© 2017, 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 . . . Lilian Magill

Come meet genealogy blogger Lilian Magill, author of the Lilian;s Tree blog, in this interview by Wendy Mathias at GeneaBloggers.

May I Introduce to You . . .  Lilian Magill

Remember the little boy in The Sixth Sense who says, “I see dead people”? Lilian Magill does not SEE them (that I know of anyway), but she talks to them. Now don’t worry – Lilian is not troubled like the little boy. Quite to the contrary, she is a warm and caring professional genealogist and family historian who conveys the stories of her ancestors’ lives by “talking to them” in the most charming and often humorous ways. I am pleased to introduce to you Lilian Magill of Lilian’s Tree.

Lilian, can you tell a little about yourself?

“I’m a Sydney girl born and bred. Apart from moving suburbs several times, Sydney, Australia, has always been my home. I’m a trained teacher/librarian, but I no longer teach, having decided in 2007 that life was too short. I took leave and haven’t gone back. I miss the students but not the political side of teaching. When I’m not ‘doing my family tree,’ I read, knit, quilt and spend time with my family. Now that my husband of 40 years is retired, we are free to travel and really enjoy it. Last year we spent six weeks in Europe and loved it.”

How did you get interested in doing your family history?

“My dad died when I was three, and I didn’t know much about him. Mum wasn’t forthcoming with any information, so when I married I started my genealogy journey. It took several years before I really got started. Now I research for other people, with my small business, Research by Lily. I have been doing presentations in the past few years and love that side of genealogy. I think I might broaden that area. I love the family atmosphere when genealogists get together and the encouragement that is freely given.

“I am also studying for my Diploma of Genealogical Studies and am loving it.”

Has the focus of your personal research changed over time?

“With so much being available now online, my research has changed from focusing on the facts, like births, death and marriages, to putting ‘meat on the bones’ of my ancestors. I love that I can search and read newspapers and find snippets of information about them. It makes them real for me. I still love to spend time in archives, libraries and cemeteries.”

What do you think is the most interesting change in family history in the past 10 years?

“The explosion of the Internet, especially Social Media. I can now connect with family, friends and colleagues in minutes, not days or weeks.”

Lilian, why did you start your genealogy-related business? What types of services do you provide?

“I started my business to help those that can’t do the research or don’t have the time. I wanted to use my knowledge to help others. I have two main services. One is where I find where the information, certificates, etc. are located and then give the client the details of how to obtain them. The one I like is my second service where I get to do ALL the research and then give them the full picture at the end. I find this very rewarding. I re-united two brothers several years ago and that was amazing.”

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

“While most of my work comes via the Internet, I’ve yet to know if social media or my blogs have played a part in that.”

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

“Get everything in order FIRST – any tax things organized, any registering of the name and securing the domain name. Build the website. If I was doing it now, I would start a blog first and post my business building trials etc. This way people would know what is going on. Join Linkedin. Look at the types of research you want to specialize in and make sure you have all the details of societies in that area, archives, and newspapers. Then GO FOR IT!  Promote it at every opportunity.”

Why did you start a genealogy blog?

“In answering these questions, I went back to the very beginning and re-read my first post. It was posted at 7:45 a.m. on 21 November 2010 and was three lines. Sometimes, even now my posts are short. So why did I start my blog?  Cousin bait, maybe, but I suppose I started it as a way to write family stories. My Family Fridays have done that. Blogging helps with connecting with like-minded people. I was wearing my Blogger Beads at RootsTech 2016, and people would either ask what they were about or stop as a fellow blogger. Blogging is a way to express what I feel.”

Where do you get your inspiration for your blog posts?

“I look at what others are posting and if I like their ideas, I use them. Things like Surname Saturday, Family Friday, Trove Tuesday and Wedding Wednesday have all come from others. Thomas MacEntee has daily prompts on his GeneaBloggers site and sometimes I use them.

“I did the A to Z of blogging challenge this past April and found it a challenge to find something unique for each day. You had to blog every day except Sunday, using the alphabet. We started with A on Friday the 1st and finished with Z on Saturday the 30th.

Other blog posts are about what I’m doing, researching or feeling. It is a very mixed bag.”

What are your favorite posts on your blog and why?

A Brick Wall Has Fallen! (no not a real one but a family tree one) – I had spent 30 years looking for my maternal great-grandparents’ death and a random newspaper search turned up a death notice that helped me solve it. It was an awesome feeling.

My RootsTech – This was my first visit to RootsTech and I loved it. This post was done after I arrived home and could upload more photos. My poor little iPad couldn’t cope with so many photos.”

What future plans do you have for your blog?

“I’m going to add tags to my posts. This is something that I have seen on other blogs and think it is a good idea. I revamped the blog this year with a new photo and different pages, so I’m happy about that. I think that the blog will continue to evolve as I improve my blogging skills.”

Finally Lilian, what is on your genealogy bucket list?

“I want to go back to RootsTech and also to the Family History Library, expand my range of presentations and develop that side of my business, and continue to expand my knowledge with more study.”

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Please take a moment to visit Lilian at Lilian’s Tree and leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. Thank-you, Lilian, 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

May I Introduce to You . . . Devry Dennis

Come meet genealogy blogger Devry Dennis, author of the Down Home Genealogy blog in this interview by Gini Webb at GeneaBloggers.


I have the great pleasure of introducing you to Devry Dennis and her blog, Down Home Genealogy, described as, “. . . The blog features my genealogy research, along with research tips and anything else I find useful that is related to genealogy. The majority of my ancestors settled in Tennessee and Alabama, but my research spans far beyond.”

Devry, please tell us a little about yourself.

“I was born, raised and still live in Nashville, Tennessee. I am a rare Nashville native. Most people are transplants to Music City USA. I have ancestors who were early Nashville pioneers.”

Devry, what got you started in Genealogy?

“Early on in school I always loved history. During my high school years, I went to a genealogy fair in Wayne County, Tennessee with my mom and Uncle Johnny, where my grandmother (their mom) is originally from. It made me want to learn more about my ancestors. My Uncle Johnny gave me a copy of Family Tree Maker software for my birthday shortly after that, and I started my own research then. It’s been about 14 years now.”

Why Devry created her blog and her thoughts on blogging.

“A few years ago, my mom suggested that I create a website containing our family tree and history. I decided on September 20, 2016 to create a blog to share my research and hopefully turn up in a few Google search results if someone was also researching my ancestors. My mom originally suggested the name “Down Home Genealogy”, because she said as a child her mother always talked about going back to Wayne County, Tennessee as going “down home”. It gives me the feeling of going back to my roots.”

Devry, what research tool or source has been particularly helpful in researching your family history?

“I always do a Google search to see if the county my ancestor is from has a genealogy page. Sometimes they have county records there that you can’t find anywhere else. It has been extremely helpful.”

What tips can you share with someone just starting a family history blog?

“I think genealogy blogging is half research, half heart. Just write from your heart. Find your own writing style. I like to write memorials or short biographies about my ancestors, but your style might be completely different. Whatever you write about, it’s important to really enjoy the topic, or you won’t stick with it.”

Devry, what other genealogy blogs inspire you?

“I am new to the world of genealogy bloggers, so I’ve just started branching out. A neat blog I enjoy is Paper and Roots Genealogy. She posts her research along with paper crafts she creates, which are beautiful.”

What has been your most exciting genealogy discovery through research?

“If I had to pick, I’d say it’s when I discovered the identity of my grandfather’s great-grandmother, Martha Harris Windsor. It was a mix of research and my grandfather’s DNA test. That was the topic of my first blog post.”

Devry’s favorite blog post.

“I wrote a post about Jane Boyd, my third great-grandmother. I have a soft spot for her. She experienced a lot in her lifetime, and was such a strong woman.”

Devry, who is your favorite ancestor?

“My grandmother, Ruth Harper. I haven’t wrote a blog about her yet, because I want to make sure I get it perfect and I’d like to put a lot of time into it. She was my best friend. She passed away 20 years ago, but left a lasting impression on me. I was very lucky to call her my Nana.”

How much time do you get to spend on research?

“Being a mom with a full-time job, I don’t get to spend as much time as I’d like to, but I try to squeeze time in for my favorite hobby. I’d say at least a few hours a week.”

What family story or heirlooms do you cherish most?

“I never got to meet my grandfather Fred Harper. He was in the Army Air Force in World War II. He made a clock out of a wood airplane propeller. It’s very neat and I’m glad it was passed down to my family.”

Devry, how has genealogy improved your life?

“I have a better understanding about where my ancestors were from, some things they witnessed, and how things fell into place for me to end up where I am today. I am amazed by the strength of my ancestors. They ventured to a new country, they fought in the Revolutionary War and spent the winter at Valley Forge, they raised children on their own after losing their husband in the Civil War, etc. It makes me proud to know I am related to some extraordinary people.”

What do you love most about doing your genealogy?

“I love when I make a new discovery, or finally unite pieces of the puzzle for an ancestor. Even small discoveries really excite me. I love preserving my family history for future generations.”

Devry, what is on your genealogy bucket list?

“Too many things to list! I would love to visit places my ancestors are from.”

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

“I would tell them to preserve history now. Talk to your grandparents, parents and family elders. Record precious details and stories.”


Please take a moment to visit Devry at Down Home Genealogy. Leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. Welcome Devry, it’s great to have you here!

© 2017, 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.