MAY I INTRODUCE TO YOU . . . Nicole Dyer and Diana Elder
I have the pleasure of introducing you to Nicole Dyer and Diana Elder and their blog, The Family Locket Blog described as, “Family History Ideas for Everyone.”
Nicole and Diana, please tell us a little about yourselves.
“Hi, I’m Nicole and I am from Seattle, Washington. My husband, three children and I currently live in Tucson, Arizona. We just had our third baby, a sweet little boy, who came along with me to the BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy in July. I try to involve my kids in my love for genealogy and family history as much as possible (although this doesn’t usually mean dragging them to family history conferences along with me). We like to do family tree crafts, ancestor photo coloring pages, and lots of family storytime. I studied History Teaching at Brigham Young University and taught middle school for a year before my first child was born. History and genealogy are my passions, but I also love cooking, swimming, running, listening to books, and playing with my kids.
“Hi, I’m Diana and I grew up in Burley, Idaho. I met my husband and earned my degree in elementary education while attending Brigham Young University. We lived in Seattle for several years, then moved to Highland, Utah in 2002. With the Family History Library just thirty minutes away, how could I not start researching my family! I always thought I would go back to teaching school, but decided I’d rather do family history and genealogy instead. I do teach piano lessons on the side as well as a weekly family history class in my LDS ward. I love to garden, cook, read, do yoga, solve crossword puzzles, and of course play with my grandchildren.”
How did you get started in genealogy?
Nicole: “I became interested in family history when I was 12 years old. For a young women program at church I completed a personal development goal to learn more about my identity and individual worth by collecting stories about incredible women in my family tree. After reading their stories and summarizing them in my own words, I assigned a virtue to each story. The virtues were ones that I wanted to develop: faith, knowledge, charitable service, integrity, etc. Learning about the amazing people who came before me was inspirational. I then did a cultural fair project in 8th grade about my ancestor, the great Charlemagne, Holy Roman Emperor and “Father of Europe.” I felt special for being a known descendant of this great man. Little did I know that most people from Europe are also related to him.”
“My interest in actually researching in genealogical records came at age 16 when my mother began. We worked together to find ancestors on my Grandpa’s side and I became fascinated with “the hunt.” I would work for hours at the computer searching census records and USGenWeb pages. We were thrilled with the success we found. Ever since, I have enjoyed learning more about how to research and helping others along the way. I was a family history consultant in my LDS ward for the last three years and for a time also helped get the region’s youth (ages 12-18) involved in family history research as well. I’m passionate about helping younger people connect with their roots. I know how much knowing my family history helped me to build confidence as a young adult, and I hope others can find the same benefits.”
Diana: “My parents researched their families in the 60’s and 70’s and wrote letters to relatives and courthouses all over the country. By the time I moved to Utah in 2002 my children were all in school and internet researching was getting better and better. I decided it was my time to further my parent’s research. My dad brought me everything he had in a suitcase and the rest is history.”
When and why did you start your genealogy blog?
Nicole: “Last year, my sister-in-law recommended the Jess Lively podcast to me. She interviews creative people about their businesses and lives. They discuss “living from values” and “values-based intentions,” and I began to think about my values and what I would do if I could do anything to make a difference in the world. One of the people she interviewed in the podcast was Pat Flynn, an internet entrepreneur and fellow podcaster. I began listening to his podcast about blogging and online businesses. At this same time, I was teaching family history classes twice a week at church – one for Sunday School and another for the community. It was exciting to connect with beginning family historians! I loved it. Teaching and family history – two of my passions coming together!”
“I decided to try blogging about family history. I had always wanted to do it, and I knew that if I didn’t start now, I never would. Next I had to figure out the focus of the blog. I wanted to write helpful family history articles, but wasn’t sure what to focus on. I researched a lot of other family history blogs and tried to think of my strengths. I asked my mom to contribute to the blog as well, and together we began to figure out our audience. We realized that much of our experience had to do with helping our friends at church, so we decided to include LDS ideas. We also had experience introducing family history to kids and teens, so we added that category. I enjoy creating charts and books, so that became another one of my focuses. Now our main categories are: Creating and Sharing Family History, Research Tips, and LDS family history. I also write a weekly roundup of helpful articles around the web that fall under these categories. We want to include everyone in the love of family history!”
How did you choose the name for your blog?
Nicole: “I wanted our domain name to be short, easy to type, and include the feeling of family connection that we feel to our ancestors. My husband helped me brainstorm several ideas including grandma’s trunk and hope chest. Then I remembered a fun project my craft group and I did to make family photo pendants, and I decided on the name “Family Locket.” It reminds me of keeping ancestors close to the heart.”
What are your tips for new bloggers?
Nicole: “Know your goals. Are you writing to connect with cousins or to help beginners? Know your niche. What are your strengths? What can you add to the already large blogosphere? Know your audience. If you understand what they are looking for and where they are looking for it (pinterest, facebook, twitter, instagram, etc.) then you will be able to better connect with them and write things that they will enjoy reading.”
Diana: “Write a little every day to keep yourself in writer’s mode. Give your posts time to settle before you publish them. Keep a running list of ideas for future posts.”
Please tell us about your favorite post(s) on your blog.
Nicole: “My favorite post is DIY Picture Pedigree. It embodies my goal to share family history with others. Projects like this often spark interest in family history for family members who aren’t interested in researching.”
Diana: “Two of my favorite posts are about how I found meaning in my grandmother’s life from the remnants of her scrapbook ~ The Scraps of a Well-behaved Woman’s Life: Florence Creer Kelsey Part I and The Scraps of a Well-behaved Woman’s Life Part II: Three Steps for Understanding your Ancestor’s Leavings. These posts combined my love of research and my quest to connect with my ancestors. I also wrote about my great grandfather’s mental illness in Do You Have a Skeleton in your Family History Closet? That was the first post that other bloggers shared in their “finds of the week,” and helped me feel that I was making a contribution to the blogger world.”
How much time do you spend on family history research?
Nicole: “I go through spurts of research depending on my family and schedule. Sometimes I try to do 30 minutes a day for a month, and other times I am lucky to get in one day a week. With three children under 6 years old, it’s a challenge to make time for my hobbies, but so worth it. Right now I’m working toward my long term goal of becoming a credentialed genealogist. I’d like to become accredited in the mid-south region through ICAPGen, so I need 80 hours of experience researching in each of these states: Tennessee, Kentucky, North and South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. I made a list of all the ancestors I have in these states. When I get an hour or two to myself, I research the people in these states and keep track in my accreditation hours log.”
Diana: “I am currently in the middle of the accreditation process through ICAPGen, so I research as much as possible. I try to treat this goal like a part-time job and spend 3-4 hours each week day working on my four generation project and state research. I am accrediting in the Gulf South and only have Mississippi left for my research hours!”
Who is your favorite ancestor(s) and why?
Nicole: “I have one ancestor who I have researched more than anyone else. Her name is Sarah Jane Creer and she joined the LDS church in 1856 in Swineshead, Lincolnshire, England, as a 14 year old. She pulled a handcart with her aging mother and stepfather from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to Salt Lake City, Utah. I loved reading about her courage and humble, faithful life. When I was in college, I received a short typed story about her from my grandmother called “The Revised History of Sarah Jane Creer.” The author couldn’t find a birth record for Sarah so she came to some interesting conclusions. She claimed that Sarah must have died at birth and her older sister Elizabeth took on Sarah’s identity for cheaper passage on the ship. I decided to hunt down every record possible about the family. What I found refuted the ‘revised history’ and put me in touch with a 90 year old cousin in England who was a descendant of Elizabeth. Knowing that Elizabeth and Sarah Jane both lived to adulthood and had descendants was enough to refute the ‘revised history.’”
How has genealogy improved your life?
Nicole: “Knowing my genealogy inspires me to have more faith and fortitude like my ancestors. Also, learning how to research at a young age gave me confidence in my high school and college history classes. Learning about history through the personal lens of my own family history gave me a passion for the past that directed my studies in college and choice of career.”
Diana: “Genealogy and family history gives me something meaningful to do each day. Finding a new family member. Discovering a new facet of an ancestor’s life. Becoming completely enveloped in a different time and place while researching. These are the things that keep me coming back for more, even when the records are scarce. Building on the foundation that my parents left, I hope to continue their legacy and leave a sound body of work for my descendants.”
What family story or heirloom do you cherish?
Diana: “My great aunt gave me my great grandmother’s glass compote as a wedding gift. I don’t know the story behind the compote, but I feel fortunate to be the recipient of a cherished item. The compote is a reminder to me to discover the stories before it’s too late. I wrote about my great grandmother and the compote in my post, Honor Your Heritage with Heirlooms. It always amazes me how writing a blog post about an ancestor strengthens my connections to them.”
Besides major websites like Ancestry and FamilySearch, what research tool or source has been helpful in researching your family history?
Diana: “I started using Evernote a year ago and don’t know how I lived without it. I mainly use it to organize my genealogy education: notes of webinars, conference syllabi, favorite articles, etc. I use Research Ties, a web based research log with amazing capabilities to organize my research efforts. As I learn how to use it better, it is becoming a valuable tool to streamline my research.”
Which genealogy blogs inspire you?
What interesting connections have you made through blogging?
Diana: “A second cousin found me through my post on the Kelsey family. She had boxes of photos and documents handed down by her parents, none of which I had seen before. I helped her learn how to put those on FamilySearch for everyone to enjoy and even featured her in one of our Family History is For Everyone Spotlights. I have also met many people interested in my accreditation journey. It helps me to stay on track because I know they’re following my progress!”
What do you think is the most interesting change in the past ten years in genealogy/family history?
Diana: “Accessibility to the masses. I work weekly with people who have never before touched genealogy and now can start to learn about their family and make connections. I love seeing their eyes light up when they discover their ancestor’s name on a passenger list or other original record. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us!”
What is on your genealogy bucket list?
Nicole: “Definitely becoming accredited. Once I do that, I want to solve all the tricky research problems I’ve encountered for ancestors from the south. I’d also like to visit Swineshead, England, where my ancestor, Sarah Jane Creer, was born.”
Diana: “Aside from becoming a professional genealogist and helping others break through their brick walls, I want to write books about my fascinating ancestors. I would love to travel to their places of origin and follow their westward migration.”
If you wanted to leave a message for future generations, what would you tell them?
Diana: “Get the stories now! Ask questions of everyone, you never know what clues will lead you to amazing discoveries. Don’t assume “it’s all been done.” There will always be a contribution that you can make to your family history.”
* * *
Please take a moment to head over to Nicole and Diana’s blog, The Family Locket Blog, and leave them a comment, letting them know you stopped by. Thank you Nicole and Diana for telling us about yourselves 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 email@example.com.