May I Introduce to You . . . Claire V. Brisson-Banks

Come meet blogger Claire V. Brisson-Banks of Budding Genealogists interviewed by Jana Last at GeneaBloggers

I have the pleasure of introducing you to Claire V. Brisson-Banks and her blog, Budding Genealogists described as, “The Ancestral Guide for All Age Groups. Budding Genealogists will provide step by step guidance to help you regardless where you are in this new ancestral adventure. Whether you are just taking the first steps in your research, already started to do some research, would consider yourself to know a little bit or you are even a hobbyist, this blog hopes to provide practical guidance in all things genealogical.”

Claire, please tell us a little about yourself.

“I was born in Providence, RI and currently live in Independence, Missouri. I’m the oldest of 6, I had 6 children, 21 grandchildren and we had our first great grandchild this past August.”

How did you get started in genealogy?

“My interest stems from my husband. When we married he had been researching for a number of years and of course he shared it with me. I remember how I would wonder about my own genealogy as I didn’t even know my grandparents at the time, it was a natural progression from there as I began my journey into the field of genealogy.”

“At the time I was living in Australia and doing research from there was a matter of writing letters to my parents and relatives who were living in New England. It took a little longer than normal but I never gave up and once I started to learn all the information I was hooked. After moving back to the states, I was called as a Family History Director and had the opportunity to attend a FHC Directors’ training in Salt Lake City back in 1988 and the rest as they say is history”

When and why did you start your genealogy blog?

“While doing my masters I was introduced to Web 2.0 technologies. Additionally my “Cap Stone” project dealt with the melding of using technological tools to aid family history and genealogy research. I also had the opportunity to create an online learning tool for the FHL consultants while working there that was inspired through my Masters. Helping my colleagues learn how to use these wonderful new tools helped me realize there was a need to share that knowledge through a book which I wrote and through blogs. Additionally I had the opportunity to write many blogs while working at the Family History Library.”

I write many blogs to help genealogists, here are the links to all of them:

How did you choose the name for your blog?

“Over the years I’ve noticed many blogs being written, but not many to help those struggling and wanting to just get started, are a bit curious but overwhelmed by it all. Then there are those who are already dabbling but may need direction and guidance but they are not sure where to get it, they may even think of themselves as having a genealogical hobby. Add in all of the attention from multiple television shows and the commercials by Ancestry and I came up with “Budding Genealogists.”

What are your tips for new bloggers?

“If you make a commitment to do a blog, do it. Plan your time accordingly, don’t disappoint your readers. Let others know about your blog, post it in the various social media outlets. Don’t be afraid to share your knowledge, it’s a good feeling to know that you are helping others who share a similar interest.”

Please tell us about your favorite post(s) on your blog.

“I thoroughly enjoyed writing this post as it is so easy to not recognize a great resource in our aging family members. From my own personal experiences listed below, I would not want anyone to miss out on the opportunity to spend time with an older living relative.”

“Personally I didn’t have an opportunity to interview my grandparents as I never met my dad’s parents and on my mom’s side, her mother passed away when she was 18 and not married.”

“We would visit her father at Christmas and that is all I knew of him, although he passed away when I was a teenager, I never thought to ask him anything relating to family history. I’m sure my mother filled me in on some information about him, however, most of what I learned was from his children later on in life, in fact their oldest child was very generous with her time and shared a lot of her memories with me of her parents, she was 15 years older than my mother.”

How much time do you spend on family history research?

“As this is my profession I spend an average of 35 to 40 hours a week and then some.”

Who is your favorite ancestor(s) and why?

“This one is difficult because my parents are my ancestors and I never knew my grandparents. The one who I admire and miss is my mother’s sister, Ozina. She was like the grandmother I never had and shared her knowledge with me of her parents and siblings. She also taught me how to sew, knit, crochet and showed me through example how to be a better person.”

How has genealogy improved your life?

“I know who I am and where my family comes from. It has helped me to understand why things were the way they were when growing up. I also have the opportunity to research for other’s ancestors through my company, Timeless Genealogies and to teach others how to do research through being an online professor at BYU-Idaho.”

What do you love the most about genealogy?

“I love the hunt, the detective work and then putting it all together for a client and seeing their eyes light up when they learn all about their ancestors.”

What family story or heirloom do you cherish?

“My Aunt Ozina gave me a hand embroidered tablecloth done by her mother, my grandmother. As she died when my mother was still in school I never knew her. It is the only thing I have from her.”

Besides major websites like Ancestry and FamilySearch, what research tool or source has been helpful in researching your family history?

“For my personal families I use all the Canadian resources out there and there are many., The Olive Tree Genealogy, for starters, however, both FamilySearch and Ancestry have a lot to offer those researching Canadian lines.”

Which genealogy blogs inspire you?

DearMYRTLE, The Ancestry Insider, The Legal Genealogist, GeneaBloggers, The Passionate Genealogist

What interesting connections have you made through blogging?

“I’ve actually had people email me who were related to me from my “Who will tell their stories”, and others have told me in person how they follow my blogs and really enjoy all my posts as they always learn something they hadn’t known.”

What do you think is the most interesting change in the past ten years in genealogy/family history?

“The explosion of online records, so many online helps, hangouts, webinars and my favorite is all of the television exposure. In addition, I’ve seen various episodes where genealogy is used to solve a crime or be part of the solution. I feel like it is becoming more accepted as a profession in the business world, however, in the academic world not so much.”

What is on your genealogy bucket list?

  • I’d like to visit some of the homelands of my ancestors and/or my husband’s and do additional research and perhaps meet family who stayed in the home country.”
  • Be able to be a main presenter at some of the conferences. I’ve tried to get into NGS, FGS and the Ontario Genealogical Society’s Conference as my dad’s family is from Ottawa. To date I’ve had no luck but I do keep trying.
  • I’d like to do an update to my book, The Social Media Guide to Ancestral Research: Using Web 2.0 Strategies. I think I would use the same name, drop the 2.0 and add II to the title to look like this: The Social Media Guide to Ancestral Research II: Using Web Strategies

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

  1. Don’t wait to ask those questions about your family, start when you are curious. Don’t be afraid of asking as someday those ancestors will pass away.
  2. Plan and enjoy the things you do as a family, keep a journal about those memories you’ll appreciate it later
  3. Check out all the resources for youth to get involved, I helped create many of them at FamilySearch Wiki, here is the link to one of them:

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Please take a moment to head over to Claire’s blog, Budding Genealogists, and leave her a comment, letting her know you stopped by. Thank you Claire for telling us about yourself 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

May I Introduce to You . . . Jennifer Geraghty-Gorman

Come meet genealogy blogger Jennifer Geraghty-Gorman, author of On a flesh and bone foundation: An Irish History at GeneaBloggers.


This week is one of my favorite weeks of the entire year! During the week, and for some of us all week long, we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and all things Irish. All of my ancestors on my father’s side of the family are originally from Ireland and I have been lucky enough to visit Ireland on 4 occasions (once for an extended visit of 6 months). When I started researching my family’s history, one of the blogs I came across was On a flesh and bone foundation: An Irish History.

This week and as a special treat, I get to introduce you to Jennifer Geraghty-Gorman who I think is one of the best genealogy bloggers writing today. I first happened upon her blog a few years ago and was touched not only by her heartfelt and deeply personal writing style, but also her understanding of the complexities of Irish history, her ability to convey the deep sense of longing experienced by her emigrant parents, her willingness to tell the fascinating stories of her family’s experiences at home and abroad, and her generosity in sharing her knowledge of Irish research when she expanded her blog from the personal stories to a wealth of information and tips for those who want to learn how to research their Irish ancestors. The fact that she intersperses her amazing writing with spectacular photographs is simply an added gift to us.  Join me in learning a bit about what makes Jennifer and her blog so special.

A Little Bit About Jennifer

“I am the only Canadian-born member in my Irish family of origin — my father, mother and only brother are all Dublin born — and I have no Canadian ancestors. My life’s work is the study of Irish history, and the research and writing of it as a social historian. I hold three university degrees: B.A., B.A. (Hons.) and M.A. Currently, I am working on two distinct Irish history projects, both of which find their origins in the critically important decade of 1913-1923.

My interest in Irish family history was spurred by my need to understand who my family is, what it means to be Irish, and why my parents approached the world in the way in which they did. When I was growing up, and even into adulthood, discussions with my mother and father about our family history were a rare thing. I treasure those times when Mam and Dad were open to talking about the past.

Growing up in Canada, I keenly felt a sort of great divide. When we travelled home to Ireland, it seemed to me that in the eyes of my Irish family members I was a curiosity of sorts, neither fully the Irish child, nor fully the Canadian one. They doted on me, yet I always felt as though I was the outsider looking in. Although I travel on an European Union/Irish passport, in Irish government records, I am a foreign-born Irish citizen, and will forever be one step away, not quite fully Irish. I believe I am trying to bridge that gap, if only in my own mind.”

How Jennifer Got Started Doing Family History and Her Current Focus

“In collaboration with a maternal uncle in Dublin, I created my first family tree when I was 15 years old. Unfortunately, life got in the way, as it inevitably does. That tree was lost, and I didn’t return to family history in earnest until after my father died in March of 2000. In a Thankful Thursday post entitled What made you fall in love with family history? I wrote about what brought me back to family history.

With respect to areas of emphasis, I tend to focus on whatever inspires me. Sometimes I write about family members in the distant past, other times about those in the more recent past. I also enjoy writing Tuesday’s Tips posts to share what I have learned as a researcher. Over the last couple of years, I focused some of my research on land and property. Using land valuation records I was able to trace the tenancy and then ownership of Warblestown House in Lispopple, North County Dublin — a house still occupied by family members — to show it has been in our family for over 150 years. It was very exciting to be able to trace the house history, and my cousin who currently lives in the house was very pleased with the results.”

How Family History Has Changed Since Jennifer Got Started

“It seems to me there has been an explosion of interest in family history over the last 15 years. With respect to Ireland, there has been a concerted effort by the Irish government, through the Ministry for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, to make materials more accessible to those living outside of Ireland. In March 2015, when I read ‘Maximising Our Cultural and Genealogical Heritage,’ the 48-page report born out of a series of public meetings and penned by TD Catherine Murphy, I jumped for joy at the realization that the Irish government is truly serious about the dissemination of records of Irish heritage. (You can access the Report of the Joint Committee on Maximising Our Cultural and Genealogical Heritage here.)

This is a very delicate dance for the Irish government, since they have to balance privacy concerns with the desire to open records to interested parties in Ireland and beyond. With the creation in 1995 of the official statute known as The Heritage Act of 1995, the government did commit “to promote public interest in and knowledge, appreciation and protection of the National Heritage … (including books, documents and other records, including genealogical records).” This focus by the current government is a continuation of that commitment. However, not everyone on the island of Ireland believes such records should be open to the public gaze, something made clear when the Belt of Crozier (i.e. official clerical admonishment) was given to Taoiseach Enda Kenny by the Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, upon the online release of the National Library of Ireland’s (NLI) collection of Roman Catholic parish registers.”

Why Jennifer Created Her Blog & Her Thoughts on Blogging

“The creation of a family history blog was born out of a couple of things. First, feeling deeply disenchanted, I stepped away from academia, and the pursuit of a PhD. in Irish History, and journeyed down an entirely different path, teaching Pilates body movement. Although I love Pilates practice, teaching it was not my cup of tea. I truly missed academic research and wanted to continue researching and writing about my first love, Irish history. At that time, blogging about the history of my ancestors in Ireland seemed the perfect thing to do.

Second — now don’t laugh — I was inspired by a scene in the movie ‘Julie & Julia’ in which the character Julie says, ‘I have thoughts; I could write a blog’. My husband echoed her husband and chimed in with ‘and you’re a writer’, and so my blog was born.

To be perfectly honest I was on tenterhooks at first, worried about the reception I would receive from my family over me sharing our history, but I’ve had very positive interactions with the majority of family members who have read the blog. In the two years before she died I was able to share the blog with my mother, and she seemed very happy to learn how much research I had done, and how much I had learned about her family history.

One of the most exciting aspects about blogging has been reconnecting with family and friends in Ireland, as well as the world over, and meeting new ‘cousins’ and making new friends. I will be forever grateful to Carol A. Bowen Stevens, one of the first followers on my blog, for encouraging me to set aside my fears and jump in with both feet, as well as to Thomas MacEntee of GeneaBloggers for his encouragement and technical advice early on.”

Jennifer’s Favorite Posts from ‘On a flesh and bone foundation’: An Irish History

“For the most part my favourite blog posts feature those stories about the lives lived by my ancestors and family members, but I’ve also enjoyed blogging about personal experiences ‘inside’ family history.

I’ve chosen the following four posts:

  • 34 days — a deeply personal post about the imminent death of my father, a time I was unable to truly process until more than a decade after my dad passed away (published Friday, February 10, 2012).”

[Please take the time right now to read these posts and then come back here – oh and have some tissues at the ready. So often we forget the transforming power of the written word – Jennifer’s posts remind us. Her posts are a lesson for all of us that it is quality, not the quantity of our writing that is important – whether that is a blog post, an article or a book – Simply brilliant! – Tessa]

How Jennifer Divides Her Genealogy & Family History Time

“Over the last couple of years I have returned to researching and writing about Irish history. As I mentioned earlier, I am working on two history projects. The history work takes me to Ireland a lot — 15 trips, soon 16, over the last 7 years — and when I am there I endeavour to make time specifically for family history and genealogy research. It doesn’t always work out, but I try my best.

My mother used to say ‘Jenn is steeped in Ireland,’ and every single day that is true. I am either working on the history projects, doing history reading and research, or doing family history/genealogy research.”

What Jennifer Considers the Most Interesting Change in Genealogy in the Past 10 Years

“Many of us have long understood the significance of family history and genealogy, but I think one of the most interesting changes over the last ten years is that family history has gone mainstream. Even the major television networks have produced shows about family history and genealogy. Although they don’t always get it right, the fact is the interest is there.

People from all walks of life are deeply interested in what some historians have referred to as ‘the small stories,’ those which detail the lives of so-called ordinary people. For me the small ordinary stories have always been the most extraordinary, and it seems everyone has such a story.”

The Top 3 Items on Jennifer’s Genealogy Bucket List

“The three big things currently dominating my bucket list are:

  1. As a member of a ‘1916 family,’ I have been invited by the Irish government to attend the official State functions for the 2016 Commemorations of the 1916 Easter Rising, so very shortly I will be travelling to Dublin. I am deeply grateful to be attending these events to commemorate the life of my granduncle Michael Francis Magee, who at the age of 18 fought as a Section Commander with the Four Courts Garrison during the Easter Rising, as well as the life of my grandmother Annie Magee Geraghty who joined the Cumann na mBan in support of her elder brother.
  2. The completion of both of my Irish history projects and their subsequent publication.
  3. Long term, I do still hope to complete my doctorate in Irish History.”

Jennifer’s Advice to Anyone Starting a Family History Blog

“Find your passion and write about it. Be open to learning, and go offline to read as wide a range as possible of books about family history, genealogy and the history of the country or countries in which your ancestors originated. Be authentic, and write about what you know.

Open your heart and share your stories. Life isn’t perfect. No matter how great someone’s life might seem from the outside, little do we know how it looks from the inside. We all face challenges, and as human beings we only have each other, so along the way engage with others and offer a little encouragement when you can.

Above all: Find joy in the process!”

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Please take a moment and visit Jennifer at On a flesh and bone foundation: An Irish History. I am never disappointed when I visit her blog. She informs, entertains, reminds, and educates us (the hallmark of a great and gifted teacher) and I often find myself laughing, tearing up, or thinking of my own family. Check out not only her blog posts, but also spend some time getting lost in the various topics she has included at her blog. Must visits (and you don’t even need your passport) include: Faces of Family History, Finding Irish Ancestors: Research Aids, 17 Tips +1 for Family History/Genealogy Research in Ireland, Tuesday’s Tips, and definitely spend some time at the Bookshelf and Films. Why not celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and all things Irish by sitting down with your favorite beverage (whether that is tea or whiskey – my choice is Jameson) and immersing yourself in Jennifer’s blog –  Sláinte.

© 2016, 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

May I Introduce to You . . . Jeff Ford

Come meet genealogy blogger Jeff Ford, author of The Otter Lake Express, in this interview by Michelle Taggart at GeneaBloggers.

Today we would like to introduce to you blogger Jeff Ford and his blog The Otter Lake Express.  On his blog, Jeff shares his passion for the stories of his great-great grandparents, Michael and Catherine McCormack. Using newspapers, postcards, DNA and shared family stories, Jeff shares his discoveries on his quest to learn more. As an added bonus, Jeff shares his beautiful family photos that help acquaint us with his ancestors.

Jeff, tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up and what is your current hometown?

“I grew up in Walled Lake, Michigan a small town about an hour northwest of Detroit. I currently live in Lebanon, Tennessee and I have been here for just over 20 years.”

How did you get started in genealogy?

“You won’t believe this, but I started because I began reading Mary Stewart’s series, The Merlin Trilogy. It was about King Arthur. I then read all I could get about Arthur. From there I went into Irish mythology books. I think from there I became more curious about my Irish roots. I remember while growing up my father would always tell me that his grandfather, who lived in a big house at Otter Lake, was born in Kilkenny, Ireland.”

When and why did you start your genealogy blog?

“My first post, The Beginning was published on 24 Feb 2013. I had been doing research via for several years and I wanted to do something more to tell the story of Michael and Catherine McCormack (my great-great-grandparents) and their extended family. So I did some research and started my blog.”

How did you choose the name of your blog?

“Otter Lake is the small village that my great-grandfather, William E. McCormack, the eldest child of Michael and Catherine, lived. Michael and Catherine also lived there the last 15 or so years of their lives. I wanted a title that looked like a title of a small town newspaper.”

How had genealogy made a difference in your life?

“It has introduced me to a lot of wonderful people, some of whom have turned out to be cousins of one degree or another. Without those new cousins I couldn’t do what I have done the past two and half years. There is one cousin that I would like to specifically mention. His name is Maurice “Doc” McCormack. I wrote to him, I think, in 2008. He wasn’t interested in his family history but he was kind enough to forward my name to his sister and from there I discovered the largest branch of the McCormack clan.”

What is on your genealogy bucket list?

“My ultimate goal is to find if Michael left any relatives in Ireland or if any might have followed him to America later. If I accomplish that, I would like to visit Ireland to meet my cousins. I also would like to organize a family reunion of all the descendants and relatives of Michael McCormack.”

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Please take a moment to visit Jeff’s blog at The Otter Lake Express. Jeff has been blogging for several years so you will want to browse through the archives to see the variety of methods Jeff uses to weave his ancestor’s stories.  Be sure and leave a comment to let him know you stopped by. Thank you Jeff for sharing your thoughts and blog with us!

© 2016, 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