May I Introduce to You . . . Kathy Duncan

Come meet genealogy blogger Kathy Duncan, author of Porch Swings, Fireflies, and Jelly Jars, in this interview by Gini Webb at GeneaBloggers.

May I Introduce to You . . . Kathy Duncan

I have the great pleasure of introducing you to Kathy Duncan and her blog, Porch Swings, Fireflies, and Jelly Jars, described as, “. . . Family Genealogy and History.”

Kathy, please tell us a little about yourself.

“I was born in Texas but spent my formative years in Kansas and New Mexico. Currently, I live near Dallas with my husband and our cat. We have two grown children and one granddaughter. My husband raises daylilies, and I would quilt more if I could stop myself from spending so much time on research.”

How did you get started in genealogy?

“I started doing research in the summer of 1975 after my high school graduation. My mother was researching her family at the time, but no one was researching my father’s family. As a beginner, I dutifully sent off for a copy of my paternal great-grandparents’ marriage license and enclosed the required $1 fee. A few weeks later I received their original marriage license because they had never picked it up from the courthouse. It was magical, and I was hooked. I’ve been researching ever since. I was lucky to begin at such a young age because I had the opportunity to talk with and to question many people who are now gone. I pestered my grandparents, and wish I’d pestered them more. This summer was my big 4-0 anniversary as a researcher.”

Kathy, why do you blog and what do you hope to accomplish by sharing your stories?

“When I realized that I would never get around to publishing a book or be able to afford to publish a book, I decided to ‘publish’ my research on a blog. It has been one of the best decisions I’ve made. Blogs really are excellent cousin bait. My blog has put me in contact with other family researchers, many of whom have additional pictures, letters, bibles, etc. that I would never have seen otherwise. It has been a wonderful way to meet other family researchers. One generous man, who is not a family researcher but is a collector of old envelopes and stamps, sent me an envelope mailed by my husband’s great-grandfather in about 1868/69. He was thinning out his collection and decided to see what he could find out about Rev. D. H. Selph. He found my blog and decided to return the envelope to its family.”

How did you chose the name for your blog?

“My favorite memories of childhood revolve around visits to my grandparents. In the evenings, I raced around the yard with my brother and cousins, catching fireflies that we put in jelly jars. When it got dark, we would take our jars of fireflies and join the grown-ups on the porch. It was always a treat to get to sit in the porch swing. Then we’d listen to the adults recount old family stories that went back as far as the Civil War. My blog’s name is a tribute to those evenings and the stories that drew me into genealogy.”

Kathy, do you have tips or advice for new bloggers?

“Just do it. Blogger is fairly simple to use. Be patient because it takes a while for search engines to find you. The more you post, the better. Eventually, you will start to hear from other researchers. Then the magic happens.”

What other genealogy blogs inspire you?

“I read Randy Seaver’s, Genea-Musings and James Tanner’s, Genealogy’s Star on a regular basis. I am also a fan of Nicolas Weert’s attempt to identify old photographs and to reunite photographs with their families on his Dead Relative Collector blog.”

Kathy Shares Her Favorite Blog Post

“One of my favorite posts concerns my great-great grandfather, James Hogan Dendy and his experience at Elmira. I had known through his widow’s Confederate pension papers that he had been captured during the war and was in prison. When I finally was able to check his service papers, I was surprised to learn that he had been at Elmira. I treated his service records like a timeline and then researched what was going on at Elmira during the same time frame. The result is a glimpse at what he might have experienced while he was there.”

How Kathy Spends Her Genealogy Time

“I do some research every week, but because of my current circumstances most of my research is online. I really need to get back into a brick and mortar library to do some substantial research. As wonderful as online research is, my local library has more information. Of course my ‘local’ library is the Dallas Public Library, which is a gem.”

Kathy’s Favorite Ancestor

“My favorite ancestor to research is my great-great grandfather, Grandison D. Nevill Sr. He has been very difficult to research. I have been able to document the oral traditions about him, located at least four wives for him but only two divorces out of the at least three divorces that he must have had. I’ve documented the surnames of three of the four wives, but not the one I descend from. It is entirely possible that he had more wives than I’ve accounted for. I’ve tracked him to various locations between census years, but cannot locate him in 1850 and 1870. Most secondary sources have him dying in 1878 in Texas, but I can document that he was living in Arkansas in 1880. If it had been easier to find him, I would probably know less about him and would not have honed my research skills. I try to remember that lesson in my research – go beyond census years and birth, marriage, and death dates. There is so much more to be found for each ancestor.”

What family story or heirloom do you cherish?

“My grandmother gave me a photograph album that belonged to her mother. Too many of the photographs are unidentified, but I cherish it.”

How has genealogy improved your life?

“Genealogy makes the world smaller, and I’ve met a lot of interesting people.”

Kathy, what do you love most about doing genealogy?

“The thrill of the hunt. Organizing, not so much.”

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

“This message would be for future generations of researchers: no one has ‘done it all.’ That cousin or aunt or other relative who you believe has ‘done all’ of your family’s genealogy has not. I know because in my family, I am that relative. I can assure you that there are great gaping holes in my research. Questions still to be answered. Please take what I leave behind and continue the search.”

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Please take a moment to head on over to Kathy’s blog. Leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. Welcome Kathy, it’s great to have you here!

© 2016, 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.

May I Introduce to You . . . Diane Tourville

Come meet genealogy blogger Diane Tourville, author of the Genealogy On My Mind blog, in this interview by Wendy Mathias at GeneaBloggers.

I am very pleased to introduce Diane Tourville of Genealogy on My Mind, a blog covering news and discoveries about her research on the Hubou-Tourville Family. But that’s not all. Diane also maintains the Hubou-Tourville Family website, a database of family charts, historic photos, documents, vital records, cemeteries and more. This ambitious project is linked to her blog where Diane takes the reader by the hand and in a warm and conversational way tells the story of her ancestors. She includes explanations and links that will benefit anyone researching their French-Canadian ancestry.

Diane, can you tell us a little about yourself?

“I am French Canadian, born and raised in Montréal (Québec) Canada. I lived there almost all my life except for the first five years which I spent in Laval (Québec), a northern suburb of Montréal, and for the past ten years, as I am now a resident of Longueuil, a southern suburb of Montréal located just across the St. Lawrence River. I work as a translator in downtown Montréal. My past university studies include German Studies, Italian Studies, History and Translation. Not surprisingly, I love to read and travel.”

How did you get interested in doing genealogy?

“In 1978, there was a special project set up by the Government of Québec called Année du Patrimoine (Heritage Year) whereby all citizens of the province could ask for their genealogy tree to be made. My parents thus applied for it and we received it one year later. I clearly remember my father saying, ‘I remember that my father told us that our real surname was Hubou!’ As many French Canadians, our surname Tourville was actually a ‘dit’ name [an alias, or also known as]. Much later, in 1990, a few years after my father passed away, I asked my mother about our family, knowing there had been marriages between cousins. That conversation led me to the public library and to the Genealogy Section, where I found her grandmother’s marriage record and the answer to my question. I was hooked.”

What do you enjoy most about doing genealogy?

“The detective work for sure. I love a good mystery and I always enjoy knowing more about the historical context that prevailed in periods during which the people I’m investigating lived.”

What research tool or source has been particularly helpful in researching your family history?

Généalogie Québec is a great resource for finding French Canadian church records. We are lucky that this valuable collection has been preserved. Records have been indexed from the time of the early settlers until 1850 and indexing is already in progress for some parishes for the 1850-1860 era. What I appreciate the most about this site is that searches can be conducted by using the name of the parents allowing us to obtain a list of all their children’s names.

“Another database called Parchemin is a very useful tool too when one needs to find notarial contracts to which one’s ancestors were parties from the beginning of New France until 1800. It provides the notary and parties’ names as well as an abstract of the act. This database is available in some public libraries, including the Société Généalogique Canadienne-Française in Montréal, where I volunteer. Examining notarial acts is the next logical step when one wishes to go beyond the vital records.

“Also Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec has started to put online notarial index books or even acts for the 1800-1900 era on its website. Speaking of contracts, the Voyageur Contracts Database is a goldmine!”

Why did you start a genealogy blog?

“I started blogging in January 2013. As I was often receiving emails from distant cousins, I thought it would be a good idea to tell stories that could reach as many people as possible, cousins or not. But I must admit that it wasn’t until I read about Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge that I got the motivation and inspiration that prompted me to blog posts more regularly. From the outset, I made the decision to publish each post in both French and English as many of the emails I get come from Americans inquiring about our common ancestor. Hence, I try to feature a Québec ancestor one week and an American ancestor the next week.”

What is your favorite blog post?

“My favorite post has to be the one I wrote after my mother passed away in 2014: We will call her Helene.”

What interesting connections have you made through blogging?

“Very recently, I was contacted by a second cousin (we have the same great-grandparents). He kindly shared stories and wonderful pictures I didn’t know about. It was the first time I heard from such a close and unknown relative. Very rewarding!”

What kind of networking do you use to attract readers to your blog?

“I am active on social media such as Twitter as well as on my Facebook page for Famille Hubou-Tourville. I am also a member of the Geneabloggers Facebook group where I let people know about my latest posts. The presence of the genealogy community (in both the English and French languages) on these networks is a great inspiration for me.”

What future plans do you have for your blog?

“I recently started a series, The Bangle Files, for a group researching their German ancestors and I think I might do the same for some other families for which I have so much information. With this series, I hope to help people know about the variety of records that can be found in the Québec Archives.”

What other genealogy blogs inspire you?

“I must say that the Genealogy-Do-Over of Thomas MacEntee is very inspiring even if for the time being I cannot and do not plan to start all over again but I am trying to improve my genealogy skills and methods over the long term for better blogging posts.”

What is on your genealogy bucket list?

“I am planning to attend my first genealogy conference in Springfield, Illinois in August 2016. If the odds are in my favor, I would also love to take the opportunity to visit St. Louis, Missouri and Jersey County, Illinois at the same time. I am trying to find all the descendants of Mathieu Hubou who used the name Tourville. Mathieu came to New France in 1641 from France. Some of his descendants were among the people who left for St. Louis in the 1790s and later for Jersey County in Illinois. In St. Louis I want to view some documents in the French and Spanish Archives that are not available online as well as to visit churches and cemeteries.” 

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Please take a moment to visit Diane at Genealogy On My Mind and leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. Thank-you, Diane, 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 . . . Barbara J. Starmans

Come meet genealogy blogger Barbara J. Starmans, author of The Social Historian blog, interviewed by Tessa Keough at GeneaBloggers - May I Introduce To You


This week we head over the border to Canada and we take a slight (though delightful) detour. Many of us are expanding our genealogy and family history to include learning more about our ancestors’ daily lives. We wonder about the best resources to “learn more about it” or wonder how to incorporate what we discover into our research files, our genealogy programs, and our blogs. This year I am taking a certificate course in Genealogy and Social History and so this week’s interviewee is a real treat. Let’s catch up with Barbara J. Starmans and her blog, The Social Historian, a long-form story website featuring social history themed articles from across the centuries and around the world.

For Our Readers Who Are Wondering, Barbara Explains What Social History Is

“Social History is not concerned with politics and wars, or kings and presidents, but rather with the lives of ordinary people. It is a view of history from the bottom up, rather than from the top down. Looking through the lens of the past enhances our understanding of how people lived, worked and played in their daily lives. It is often the minutia of someone’s life that tells the story of who they were and what they believed in. Beyond names and dates, those who came before us have a story to tell, and by learning about their time and place and how they lived in it, we can add to our understanding of who they were.”

A Little Bit About Barbara

“My name is Barbara J Starmans and I live in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada, am ‘Mom’ to two wonderful daughters and ‘Nana BJ’ to two incredible grandchildren. For more than 35 years, I have been searching for my (sometimes elusive) English ancestors. By day, I work as a systems analyst and in my spare time I am a social historian and freelance writer. I am an instructor at the National Institute for Genealogical Studies in Toronto, Canada for the Social History course and contribute regularly to such publications as Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine, Family Tree Magazine UK and Discover Your Ancestors. I am also currently working on my first book to be published next year by Pen and Sword.

My interest in family history goes back a long way. When I was a child, my paternal grandmother lived with us and my interest in family history was first sparked by the stories she told me about her childhood. Nana was just eight years old when the family emigrated to Canada from England in 1905 and I loved to hear her family tales juxtaposed against the wooden sidewalks, horse drawn buggies and dirt roads of early twentieth century Toronto.”

How Barbara Got Started Doing Family History and Her Current Focus

“I’ve been doing family history for a really long time! When I first began researching my family history as a teenager, I interviewed all of my relatives, filled in hand drawn pedigree charts and family group sheets and made note of all the family stories and legends. I then began trying to fill in some of the blanks back in the days when English research meant writing away to archives and churches to locate records and progress was slow. I eventually discovered the local Family History Centre and spent hours searching through microfiche looking for census records and scrolling through the pages of parish registers on microfilm. When the LDS Church released the British Isles Vital Records Index and Census records on CDs and I was able to research at home on the weekends which seemed incredible. Then came the internet and I became an early Ancestry subscriber, and research became even easier. Since then, I’ve done extensive work on my own family, researched for clients, and along the way, I’ve developed a passion for Social History and the stories of the past.”

Why Barbara Created a Blog and Her Thoughts on Blogging

“I first created my first blog, Out of My Tree Genealogy, on back in the early days of blogging as a way to share my genealogical journey with my family and it has existed in various forms for about 15 years. After a few years of blogging, I transitioned to my own WordPress installation and registered the domain so the blog could have its own home. I love that WordPress lets me leverage plugins and themes to present my genealogy in a more visual way, with images and slideshows and videos.

In August of 2015, I launched The Social Historian, also on WordPress, using the Aesop Story Engine plugin, that really lets me be creative with the way my stories are presented. The Social Historian is not a blog in the truest sense of the word but a longform story website and I publish a new article every week that takes anywhere from five to thirty minutes to read but quite a bit longer to research and write. My weekly newsletter features a Social History research resource as well as my article. My subscriber list is growing steadily and that, along with reader feedback, motivates me to keep writing new posts.

As bloggers, we are the researchers, writers, editors, photographers, graphic designers and producers of our family history stories. Blogging gives us the opportunity to share our research, our stories and our passion for family history with other members of the genealogy community and, if we’re lucky, find some distant cousins along the way. What could be better than that?”

Barbara’s Favourite Blog Post

“After all these years, there are a lot of blog posts to choose from but my current favourite one is probably the case study I did of my great-great-grandfather and his battle and subsequent death from the ravages of General Paresis of the Insane on The Social Historian. Finding out what happened to him was a great genealogical adventure that took place over about a decade so finally being able to tell his story gives me a great deal of satisfaction. The day I received his asylum hospital records in the mail from the archives, I certainly did a genealogy happy dance when I found that there was a photograph included as part of the record! Certainly the topic is not one that many bloggers would likely tackle, but I did receive quite a few comments and emails after I published this post from other genealogists who had ancestors with a similar history. All of our ancestors have stories to tell and I think we need to tell them, regardless of what path their lives followed.”

How Barbara Spends Her Genealogy Time

“Between my day job and all of my writing commitments, I don’t find much time these days to do research on my own family history and it probably doesn’t help that the only research left for me to do are the brick walls and the sticky bits. I try to schedule one vacation week a year to focus on my genealogy research, sometimes going to England where my ancestors are from and sometimes researching at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.”

Where Barbara Gets Her Writing Inspiration

“My Out of My Tree Genealogy blog posts frequently relate to research on my own ancestors so they are usually triggered by an interesting find or a new breakthrough. The Social Historian, however, gives me the freedom to fall down whatever rabbit hole I happen to stumble on. Some of the articles I’ve written relate to my own ancestors but mostly my ideas come from some glancing mention in an historic newspaper, an endnote in a scholarly article or a reference in a fellow genealogist’s blog post that triggers a research idea. Occasionally I begin an article about one subject and finish by having to change the title at the end because I took a research detour along the way. That’s the great thing about being both the writer and the editor of my blog!”

Barbara’s Favourite Research Tools or Resources

“I absolutely adore old newspapers and spend much of my research time just reading them, whether I’m searching for specific subjects or just browsing to get a feeling for the time and place. My other go-to resource for research are digitised copies of old books or magazines from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. While reading about history is interesting, reading articles and books that were written during the historical period I’m researching is simply fascinating and really helps me to get to know the people in their place and time.”

The Top 3 Items on Barbara’s Genealogy Bucket List

“Number one on my personal bucket list is to finally write a creative non-fiction book telling my great-grandmother’s story. I’ve hesitated about writing about her in the past because as a genealogist, I did not want to put anything in the book that wasn’t directly sourced and verifiable, but I think I’ve come to accept that in order to be readable, I need to allow myself a certain creative license to embellish descriptive details or create fictitious conversations.

Number two on my bucket list is visiting each of my ancestors’ home towns and seeing where they lived. I’ve crossed a few places off my list but there are a lot more yet to visit.

Number three on my bucket list is probably presenting at a national conference someday. I’ve just recently began speaking to local genealogical and historical societies and found out that I did not spontaneously combust when I stood up to speak after all. I’m hoping some further practice might eventually prepare me for a bigger venue.”

And Now for Something Different – The Social Historian’s Lady Day Contest

Barbara’s 36th post on The Social Historian features the winner of her first contest (be sure to read all about a “pretty sensational murder trial.”) Barbara’s next contest is coming up – she wants to help tell the story of a rogue or an angel (if any of our readers have one of these in their family – why not check out the details of the contest below).

Social Historian Quarterday Contest
Rogue or Angel?

Does your ancestor have a story to tell? Enter the Social Historian’s Lady Day contest for a chance to see your ancestor featured in an upcoming article.

Whether they were a rogue or an angel, if your ancestor has an interesting story to tell, send their genealogical profile to the Social Historian along with your reasons why you think they should be featured in an upcoming article.

One entry will be chosen for an article to be published in the spring of 2016. Deadline for entries is Lady Day, 25 March 2016.

Send your entry to

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Please take a moment and visit Barbara at The Social Historian. Leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. And why not follow her advice and check out newspaper articles written during your ancestors’ life and times. It will help you put your ancestors in their place and bring their stories to life.

© 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