This week we head north over the border to Canada to catch up with Wayne Shepheard and learn a bit more about him and his blog Discover Genealogy. And as they say in the infomercials – but wait, that’s not all! Have you noticed that some of the most interesting genealogists and family historians have a science or technology background? Wayne is one of those genealogists who has both an interesting science background as well as creative writing talents. So this week we showcase not only his blog, but also his varied volunteer and professional writing and editing efforts.
A Little Bit About Wayne
“I was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada almost 70 years ago. (I’ll turn that number in a couple of weeks.) I grew up and was educated here. And I spent over 40 years working as a geologist in the exploration and production of oil and gas here as well.
With two university degrees in science, I learned how to research, assembling what information was available to come up with reasonable conclusions about where to find commercial accumulations of petroleum. Solving genealogical questions, which I have done virtually full-time since retiring from the work force, has many of the same requirements, including the evaluation of sometimes limited data and the creation of plausible stories about people in the past. These are things I enjoy doing, for my own as well as others’ families. [Emphasis added]
Occasionally over the past few years I have taken on consulting projects for people who wanted to know more about their family histories, through my consulting business Family History Facilitated. In that role I have researched information in Canada, the United States, Australia, Britain and Europe. One wonderful result was putting an eighty-year old lady in touch with cousins she did not know she had who came from an earlier family of her father’s. No one had ever told her about that family so she was very excited to learn about them. They have since corresponded and visited in person. The work also showed me some new ways to look for and evaluate information.”
How Wayne Got Started Doing Genealogy and His Current Focus
“I have always been interested in the history of our family. Unfortunately I left until too late asking my parents and grandparents what they knew. With one set of grandparents I was too young to know about the subject; they died when I was eight and ten. My other grandparents did not live close to us but, while I knew they had immigrated to Canada, I did not make an effort to find out when and why. Answering those questions became a major part of my personal pursuit of family history. I have always been a collector of memorabilia and was the person who took on the task of creating and maintaining the family photo albums; so it was a natural progression to find the stories that went along with the pictures and artefacts. I really began to get more involved in the early 2000s but have been most active since retirement.
I’m putting my information in a form that my descendants can access and at least learn something about where they come from.
These days I do a bit of everything: research (my own and others’ families); writing (blogs and articles for journals); volunteer work (I am an Online Parish Clerk for four parish in Devon, England http://www.cornwood-opc.com/); editing (I recently took on the Editorship of Relatively Speaking, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Genealogical Society); and book writing (see below).”
Wayne’s Thoughts on How Genealogy Has Evolved Over Time & The Most Interesting Change
“There is no question that availability of information on the Internet has changed the way most of us research. It is a constant struggle not only to keep up with new data coming online but also to not forget what the other sources of most historical records are.
I know there are many genealogists who are very active with social media but, unfortunately I just don’t seem to have the time to get organized that way – or maybe I’m too old and set in my ways. I do like online courses and webinars – I have taken advantage of many but the budget is limited in whether or when I can attend conferences.
It has been pointed out to me by a few people, and I agree with them, that most people are now doing their own work online which has impacted the work of teachers and professional consultants, not to mention membership totals in family history societies. What they do not always realize is that not everything is online so when they hit an inevitable brick wall they often don’t know where to go for an answer. I like to remind family historians that there is a lot to gain by talking with others, whether as part of a genealogical society or taking a course.
The ease of finding things online, though, can be very exciting if one knows how to go about it efficiently.”
Wayne’s Thoughts on Blogging and Why He Started Blogging
“I reached a point in my research and experiences, especially volunteering as an OPC, where I thought I could help others in their pursuits. You gain a lot of knowledge in reviewing and transcribing documents hundreds of years old and in helping others find information about their own ancestors. Many people who sought out such information I had assembled for the parishes did not have the research skills, at least to start with, and certainly not the database I had to be able to reach back into the past.
A blog seemed like a good way to tell people about my experiences and what I have learned. It has become a regular part of my weekly activities, and something that has put me in touch with many other active bloggers and researchers. It keeps me in the practice of writing as well, which I try to do a lot of for family history society journals.” [Emphasis added]
Wayne’s Favorite Blog Post(s)
“I had several posts early on in my blog about unusual entries in old parish registers that I thought would interest readers. I still find a few neat things as I pore through old documents. There have been a few that dealt with people changing their names over time. These offered insight into how difficult it can be sometimes to track people.
I was pleased to be able to show pictures of pages from a scrapbook my mother put together as part of a school exercise in 1937 – My Mother’s Scrapbook – It showed both information about the time period as well as her creativity and personals thoughts on life.
Recognition of what would have been my father’s 100th birthday was also special – A Special 100th Birthday – Pieces about families, especially mine, are my favourites.
Ones that have attracted the attention of other bloggers, and a mention in their “best of blogs’ have involved the analyses of information to resolve a problem or break down a brick wall. Some of those have grown up to be articles in journals.”
[Be sure to check out both of these posts, not only for the heartfelt writing but also for the great use of images and photos. Wayne’s blog is not only well-written but has an excellent theme and format. I think we can always learn something about color, style and readability from checking out the style and the substance of others’ blogs – Wayne gets an A+ in my book – Tessa]
How Wayne Spends His Genealogy Time (or Dividing That Genealogy Pie!)
“My actual family research time is quite low these days, what with my writing and editing pursuits. I do try to have a look at a particular family or individual once a week or so, especially when I am prompted by a post from a blogger or one of the major database groups like Ancestry or FindMyPast. This week I spent some time with the 1939 National Registry of England and Wales.”
Wayne’s Genealogy Bucket List
“I have a number of articles for publication in genealogical journals on the go and will continue to write more as I come across new subjects and interesting stories. I have published articles in five different journals to date and contribute regularly to another blog, The Pharos Blog: Lighting up Genealogy.
I like putting publications together so my role as an editor of a family history journal gives me that opportunity. Relatively Speaking is not the first journal I have edited. I had charge of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society, for several years as well.
My biggest project is writing a book that combines my experience as a genealogist and my expertise as a geologist (Earth scientist). Research and writing is ongoing for the publication, which is tentatively called, Natural Phenomena and Their Effect on Our Ancestors. I hope to have it completed by early 2016. As I explain in the introduction, the lives and livelihoods of our ancestors were controlled or affected as much by natural conditions and events as by political and societal constraints. Natural phenomena directly affected the land on which people worked and the environment in which they lived. Physical events (storms, floods, drought, erosion by rivers and along shorelines, volcanoes and climate change) caused both negative and positive changes in habitat, which affected the physical health as well as the economic well-being of people. Changes within society were often the result of changes in the natural world. This book mainly concerns the natural processes at work that have significantly affected individuals and communities over the past several centuries.
One thing that should be on the list is getting going on a one-name study for Shepheard. One of these days. . .”
Wayne’s Advice for New and No-So-New Bloggers
“I try to stick with what I know or have learned in my own research. There are many other bloggers out there who are experts in various aspects of genealogy – using technological aids, in specialty subjects such as DNA, knowledge of specific geographic or historical events, etc. I did not want to just pass on news tidbits but actually relate stories I had come across or developed about real people.
I don’t have the time or enough stories to do a daily blog. Sometimes it’s hard to come with a new subject but I keep a list of topics and make notes about unusual bits of information I come across in my reading or in assisting others, and use those to come up with a new piece for the blog. Often articles in newspapers or a passing comment from friends will trigger a question or idea for a blog post. Some posts end up well and others seem to fall flat but I persevere, learning from each one.
Like most genealogists and bloggers, I think it’s important to have fun with the subject and I enjoy writing stories about real people. And if I can pass along tips about how the research was conducted or the sources that were found for information then that will be most useful to readers.
My tips for others? Look for and tell stories about real people, whether happy or sad. The lives and experiences of our ancestors were not all that different from our own as they relate to human interaction. The differences are mostly in the tools they had to work with and the living conditions which they endured.
Story-telling is fun, and that should be reflected in the writing, whether as a blog, a journal article or your own family history.”
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Please take a moment to head on over to Wayne’s blog – Discover Genealogy. Leave him a comment letting him know you stopped by. Learning about Wayne’s background and current research and writing activities has been fascinating and I am looking forward to his upcoming book. Placing our ancestors in their environment, including geography and geology, adds another layer to their story and helps us to understand the effect the natural world had and continues to have on people. 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 Wayne, 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 email@example.com.