May I Introduce to You . . . Robyn Smith

Come meet genealogy blogger Robyn Smith, author of the Reclaiming Kin blog, in this interview by Michelle Taggart at GeneaBloggers.

I am excited to introduce to you Robyn Smith and her blog, Reclaiming Kin: Taking Back What Was Once Lost.  Robyn describes her blog as being “primarily a teaching blog. I try to use my own research to illustrate methodology or introduce a new record set.  As an African-American, I have several lines of enslaved people, so I have many blog posts discussing methods and sources of doing that uniquely complex research.“

I initially heard Robyn interviewed on Blog Talk Radio and knew I wanted to know more about her.  You can listen to her interview here: Do You Have an Artificial Brick Wall?

A Little About Robyn

“I was born in Washington, D.C., and raised and educated in Prince George’s County, Maryland. I am an engineer by day and those analytical and research skills have been put to great use in my genealogy. I lecture locally and have taught an Advanced African-American Genealogy course at Howard Community College since 2008. I have a special interest and expertise in slave research, court records and Maryland research.”

How Robyn Got Started in Genealogy

“In 1997, after the death of my paternal grandmother, I realized that I had one grandparent still living and simply did not know that much about my family history. I started that year with a visit to the National Archives and found my grandmother on the 1930 census. I had no idea at the time that it would become a passion and a lifetime love of discovery.” 

Robyn’s Thoughts on Blogging 

“I started my blog about 6 years ago, mainly as a way to journal my own research. But, the more I blogged, the louder the voice of the teacher became, and now I view it not just about my own research, but about how I can use that research to help others along their own journeys.”

Robyn’s Advice for New Bloggers

“Two things: While genealogists learn from each other’s research, a blog that solely talks about one’s own discoveries may wear thin over time. Try to expand upon your own research and how its lessons can be applicable to others. Also, find your own unique voice. Mine developed over time into something different than how it started.” 

Robyn’s Favorite Blog Post

“That’s a hard one, I like so many of them! I guess my favorite is my 2nd most popular one, Do You Have an Artificial Brick Wall? because it resonates with such a wide swath of people.”

Robyn’s Time with the Ancestors

“I spent a lot of time on it before I had a son four years ago. I now probably average only about 2-4 hours a month. I get to play with Play-Doh and Legos and trains most of the time now.”

Robyn’s Favorite Ancestors

“What a question. I am fascinated by so many of them. I will cheat a little and say Judah Holt (1817-1890) and Malinda Holt (1816-1881), two enslaved women whose families fascinate me. They were both enslaved by the same man in Hardin County, Tennessee, but they do not appear to have been blood-related. Their owner, Giles Holt, migrated from Virginia to Tennessee, but how he acquired them is still unknown.

These women birthed 21 children total, and their families tell so much of the story of African-Americans in the 19th century. Judah’s son Henry ran away and fought in the Civil War, where he died; Judah eventually got his pension. Three of their sons, Phillip, John W. and Samuel, bought about 200 acres of land just a few years out of slavery. John W. and Samuel and another brother George would continue that tradition in Hardin County, eventually owning hundreds of acres. John W. was active in the Republican Party during Reconstruction, became a merchant and Postmaster, and opened a school for black children. Brother Samuel donated the land for a local church that is still in operation today.

The area where they lived was historically called Holtsville, which still appears on many maps. Judah’s son, James, left the area as a minister with the Methodist Church, but later graduated in one of the earliest law schools that allowed black people, Central Law School in Kentucky (now the University of Louisville). He eventually settled in Indianapolis, Indiana with a successful law practice. Many of the Holt women attended college and served as educators in the black schools of Hardin and surrounding counties.

There was of course, tragedy. Malinda’s son George W. was lynched in 1887, a painful reminder of the times. Some of their descendants migrated to Northern cities during the Great Migration, but there are some still there in Hardin County. I could go on and on about the Holt descendants, but it all started with Judah and Malinda. I only wish I had started all of this when my grandfather, Luther Holt, was still alive.”

How Genealogy has Improved Robyn’s Life

“I have such a great appreciation for the importance of history now and I see history everywhere and in everything. I think I have greater compassion for people. You see these relatives and have to accept their entire lives, the good, bad and ugly. You’re able to see how universal our issues are, and how little people have changed. There is nothing going on now that hasn’t been going on for a hundred years! I definitely am able to see my life in greater perspective, in terms of gratitude. Knowing what my ancestors when through, I have nothing to ever complain about!”

Robyn’s Genealogy Bucket List

“I’ve been to Salt Lake City and several national conferences, but haven’t been to one of the excellent institutes yet. I think I’d like to do that. I’ll be publishing a book based on this blog in a few months and I’ve been working for a year on my own book about all of my research. That’ll be a dream come true, to get that done.“

Robyn’s Time Capsule Message

“Your lives are important! Please tell us about your lives, leave us letters and pictures and stories.” 

Additional thoughts from Robyn

“I have a special interest in encouraging and helping others to write and record their stories and family history and get the information out there—by book, by article, by pamphlet, or by blog. Send a copy to your local library, to the State Archives, to the Library of Congress’ Genealogy Room. If we don’t tell these stories who will? Write about the community you’ve researched. I worry that this era of technology and digitization—though wonderfully useful in genealogy—will mean fewer if any actual letters and photographs to pass down since the photos will be trapped in people’s hard drives and SIM cards and phones. So while you’re taking the incredibly exhilarating ride of genealogy, don’t forget to get your findings written down and out there for the world to see.”

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Please take time to head over to Robyn’s blog, Reclaiming Kin and leave a comment, letting her know you stopped by.  Thank you Robyn 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 . . . On Spring Break 2015

Our popular interview series - May I Introduce To You - will be on a short hiatus beginning Monday 30 March 2015 and will return on Monday 13 April 2015!

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 Spring Break hiatus starting today, 30 March 2015.

MIITY posts will return beginning Monday, 13 April 2015, 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.

© 2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee

May I Introduce to You . . . Jacquie Schattner

Come meet genealogy blogger Jacquie Schattner, author of the Seeds to Trees blog, in this interview by Jana Last at GeneaBloggers.

I have the pleasure of introducing you to Jacquie Schattner and her blog, Seeds to Tree described as, “Family, Belgium, Luxembourg and France.”

A Little About Jacquie

“Born in Chicago, I grew up in the Chicago suburbs where I have lived here all of my life; for the last 30 years in Palatine, IL. Earned a B.S. degree in Business from the University of Illinois. I work as a school secretary, allowing me free time in the summer to pursue new information. Happily married for 35 years to Fred Schattner. We have three grown children, two son-in-laws and three adorable grandchildren.”

“My husband’s family originally came from France. My father is from Belgium and Luxembourg. When his family visited, only French was spoken. I studied French second grade through college and have focused much of my research on French speaking countries. I hope to infuse my blog with some of that culture. I also want to write about some of the same genealogical lessons that I teach in my classes.”

“My husband’s family is from the Buffalo, New York area. His family dates back to pre-Revolutionary War. So I have plenty of areas to study. In New York, there are fabulous libraries and historical groups. We visit there and research often. Thankfully Fred is a very patient man.”

How Jacquie Got Started in Genealogy

“I have been actively researching my family’s ancestors since 1996. Although not a member, I volunteered at the local Family History Center (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) for 15 years. Currently I teach weekly genealogy to three different adult education groups and area libraries, and am active on the board of several local genealogy societies. I also volunteer in a local library’s genealogy room.”

“As I look back on my childhood, I realize I was always interested. I was the little girl going up to the oldest person in a group and asking “Tell me a story about when you were little?” I was fortunate that two of my grandparents lived well into their 80’s and one grandmother until she was 99, so I had opportunities to collect many stories. At funerals and weddings (even my own wedding) I would bring a little spiral book and take notes on their stories. I kept all those pages of information and letters in one big shoebox for 20 years and when we got our first real computer in 1996, I bought a genealogy database and entered all those stories and began to actively pursue more information.”

Jacquie’s Thoughts on Blogging

“I have been totally hooked on daily reading of genealogy blogs for about three years. While I have a lot of my family researched, my mother recently reminded me that it is really important to write down the stories I know. When I read about the 52 week challenge, I realized that if I wrote a story a week, I’d have a good start. My daughter blogs about her family, and she helped me set up my blog. She even took the photo of the trees for me.”

Jacquie’s Tips for New Bloggers

“About a year before I started writing a blog, I slowly made a list of 50 ideas to write about, in case I had writer’s block. I still add to that list.”

“For ideas on creating layout and look, check other genealogy blogs. Why do you like the layout of some and not others? Create your blog layout using that information.”

“As an editor of many newsletters (and thus taken many newsletter classes) I use some newsletter knowledge. Rule one is to make it visually easy to read. Font and color is important. Save bright colors for posters. Blogs (and newsletters) should be in colors and fonts that are easy on eyes.”

“Your first blog post should be written about yourself and your background.”

“Publish relatively regularly. If you are going to be away for an extended period of time, write an “away message” blog that you are coming back.”

“I sleep before I publish my newest blog entry, even when I think it’s perfect. The next morning, while fresh, I always find a few words to tweak before I push the publish button.”

“If you want, you are able to change the publish dates of blogs you already published. Also you can write a blog in advance and date it to publish at a future date. (Thomas MacEntee’s advice.) “

“Comment on other blogs, we bloggers love comments.”

“List your blog at GeneaBloggers!”

Jacquie’s Favorite Blog Posts

“Around the first week of every month, I write a blog listing free presentations and classes in the Chicago Northwest suburbs. These blogs are very popular and help others.”

Jacquie’s Time with the Ancestors

“I am a tenacious researcher. I spend anywhere from a few minutes to a couple hours a day and  usually more on weekends and in the summer when I’m off work. Most vacations include a research location.”

Jacquie’s Favorite Ancestors

“I love them all, but the somewhat elusive Hiram R. Dunbar (b.1804 Kentucky – d. 1884 Kansas) is my top pick. In 1828, he married Jamima Wolf and they had 10 children. Jamima lived to 96 years old. Hiram’s life choices reflect much of history during his time period. He was actively involved in the Underground Railroad, saw three sons fight in the Civil War, became wealthy at the California gold rush and homesteaded in Kansas.  He was so proud of this that most of this information is found on his tombstone! Last year, on, I located (and purchased) the only known photo of him. It was found in an album about 20 miles from his birth place.”

How Genealogy Has Improved Jacquie’s Life

“Aren’t genealogists the nicest group of people? Honest, helpful, kind, generous. I enjoy meeting, helping and being helped by other researchers. I’ve also enjoyed the relationships I’ve made with family who I have met or become reacquainted with along the way.”

What Jacquie Loves Most About Genealogy

“Teaching! I love inspiring other to find their roots.”

Jacquie’s Genealogy Bucket List

“A trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.”

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Please take a moment to head over to Jacquie’s blog, Seeds to Tree, and leave her a comment, letting her know you stopped by. Thank you Jacquie 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: Jana’s Genealogy and Family History Blog, Grandpa’s Postcards, and Jana’s Place.  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