May I Introduce to You . . . Marian Burk Wood
As a reader of genealogy blogs, I am always looking at what other bloggers do that I can steal adapt for my own blog. When I searched the various family tabs at Climbing My Family Tree, – or landing pages, as they are sometimes called – I was both jealous and inspired. Organizing all related stories onto a family page – genius! This blogger is doing something right. In fact, Marian Burk Wood does many things right, from her thoughtful participation in any number of genealogy memes to her useful tips and templates to her ideas on future-proofing our research. In fact, Marian has just recently published a book on that very topic called Planning a Future for Your Family’s Past, which expands on many of the ideas shared in her blog on organizing family photos, documents, and even stories for the benefit of future generations. Without further ado, please meet Marian Burk Wood.
Marian, can you tell a little about yourself?
“Born in the Bronx, I’m the sister of a twin and the daughter of a twin. Because my grandmother dressed her twin daughters alike when they were young, my mother gave her twin daughters the option to dress as individuals – which we did most of the time. My background is in bank and retail marketing, and I’m the author of two college-level textbooks. I’m married to a professional writer, so we spend many companionable days at our keyboards, side by side in our home office. When I’m not researching ancestors or writing, I like to hand quilt, read good mysteries, and watch championship figure skating.”
When and why did you start a genealogy blog?
“Originally, I began blogging partly as cousin bait and partly to ‘think out loud’ about my genealogical adventures. One evening, I typed in the first blog title that came to mind –
Climbing My Family Tree. No other Blogger user had claimed that name, so I grabbed it. Later, I came across several others with that title, including the blog by Jennifer Woods.
“Since I posted my first blog entry in 2008, I’ve written about nearly every surname in my tree and my husband’s tree. I’ve also written about the ups and downs of my genealogy research, confronting brick walls, and techniques that have worked for me. Best of all, I’ve heard from a number of cousins who searched for their ancestors’ names online and got in touch with me after finding my blog. Blogs are terrific cousin bait.”
What do you want to accomplish through blogging?
“Before I become an ancestor, I want to pass along what I’ve learned about my ancestors and my husband’s ancestors. Blogging is very convenient for sharing family history, a few paragraphs at a time. As long as my blog is available online, younger relatives will be able to do an online search for a family surname and find my posts, see the photos, read the stories. But I also see blogging as a way of sharing ideas about the how-to of genealogy. When I read someone’s blog and get inspired to try a technique for the first time, I’ll write about what happens and link back to the person who got me started down that path. And blogging has brought me into the ever-larger community of genealogy enthusiasts who like to write about family history research and the tricks they’ve used to find elusive ancestors.”
What is your favorite post on your blog and why?
“One of my favorites is the ancestor landing page I wrote about hubby’s Larimer ancestors. It shows an excerpt from the Larimer family history printed about 50 years ago, and a handwritten scrap of paper left by hubby’s grandfather Brice. I was quite taken by the legend about Robert Larimer surviving a shipwreck en route from Northern Ireland to America. Thanks to Granddaddy Brice, I had a head start on five generations of his direct line, including some maiden names. Every time I write about the Larimer
family, I add a link to the post on this landing page. Cousins (and possible cousins) can easily click to individual posts of interest.
“Another favorite post is part of my sporadic series showing the colorful postcard greetings exchanged between first cousins in my husband’s family, early in the 1900s.
The postcards are little works of art, and also show how 24 first cousins were encouraged by their close-knit parents to stay in touch. They were hundreds of miles apart, yet the cousins were clearly more than just names to each other. That’s one reason I keep working on genealogy – to bring ancestors alive and make family history more than just a bunch of names and dates.”
What has been your most exciting discovery through research?
“Remember surname message boards? Pre-Facebook, they were my go-to place for genealogy networking. When I attacked the brick wall of hubby’s great-grandfather, Thomas Haskell Wood, I connected with a Wood cousin who’d posted queries about this ancestor. He was a dedicated researcher who broke the news that the Wood family tree includes four Mayflower ancestors. The following year, he and his lovely wife visited and brought the family Bible to show us. Now we’re getting closer to the Wood cousins and collaborating on more Wood research. We also have the Mayflower story to pass to future generations. Did I mention that I married my hubby for his ancestors?”
Besides major websites (like Ancestry and FamilySearch), what research tool or source has been particularly helpful in researching your family history?
“It was an unexpected surprise to discover that Facebook is incredibly valuable for genealogy. My first introduction was when Schelly Talalay Dardashti moved her wonderful Tracing the Tribe Jewish genealogy blog to Facebook. The participants are extremely helpful and know a lot about Jewish genealogy. Another of my favorite Facebook pages is by the friendly Elkhart County Genealogical Society, which I joined to research hubby’s Larimer and McKibbin ancestors. Whether I have an actual question or just want to ‘lurk and learn’ from discussion threads, I get lots of new ideas from these pages.”
How has blogging helped you become a better researcher?
“Making a discovery can be so exciting that I momentarily forget to milk each document or photo for as many other clues as I can find. Blogging forces me to slow down and pay close attention to the details. More than once, I’ve started a blog post, with my genealogy software open and my surname file in hand, and suddenly realized that I had overlooked some seemingly small element that turns out to make a big difference. Like not noticing that great-grandma Tillie was a widow in the 1910 Census, which was a huge clue to when great-grandpa Meyer died – the subject of my very first blog post.
“Sometimes my research makes me a better blogger. I’ve blogged several times about how my research has been enriched by indexing and analyzing diaries and other family documents. Those posts (such as Indexing Your Family’s Records to Solve Mysteries)
have been among the most popular in eight years of blogging.”
Marian, what future plans do you have for your blog?
“More posts about the ups and downs of solving ancestor mysteries, as well as posts about preserving family history for future generations. I inherited a jumble of crumbling photos, tattered old letters, and snippets of family lore. The genealogists of the next generation on both sides of my family tree will get neat files and archival boxes, with inventories, indexes, and – eventually – full photo captions. I’ve already begun posting how-to blog entries and also created a presentation, ‘Planning a Future for Your Family’s Past,’ to share my ideas. If you’re at the 14th Annual New England Regional Genealogical Conference in April, please come to my session and say howdy.”
What is on your genealogy bucket list?
“My husband’s maternal McClure family is closely linked to the MacLeod clan, based in Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye. It would be heavenly to see the glorious countryside in person and learn more about that branch of his family, which came to America well before the Revolution. I would love to walk the streets of Telšiai and other Lithuanian towns where my paternal Birk, Mahler, and Jacobs ancestors lived and have help checking local records and cemeteries for more traces of their lives. If time-travel is ever invented, I want to have a cup of coffee with my great-grandma Tillie, who was nearly 100 when she died in 1952.”
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Please take a moment to visit Marian at Climbing My Family Tree and leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. Also if you are interested in her book, it is available through Amazon. She welcomes your honest opinion in a review. Thank-you, Marian, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.