I have the pleasure of introducing you to Mary Kircher Roddy and her blog, Searching for Stories described as, “Mary Kircher Roddy is a genealogist, writer and lecturer, always looking for the story. Her blog is a combination of the stories she has found and the tools she used to find them.”
Mary, please tell us a little about yourself.
“I was born in San Rafael, California. After college in Riverside, California (where I met my husband) and graduate school in Austin, Texas, we moved to Seattle. We thought we’d be here for five years while Mark was in graduate school but come June we’ll have been here 31 years.”
How did you get started in genealogy?
“In 1994, when my son was in preschool, I met another mom, Barb, who was into genealogy and she tried to suck me in, but I resisted the temptation. But in 2000 my husband was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to teach at the University of Limerick during his sabbatical from Seattle U. I was sure while Mark was teaching and the kids were in school I could do all my Irish genealogy. As I’m sure you can guess, I didn’t know enough names, dates and places before we went to Ireland to make much headway, but I was totally bitten by the bug and I’ve been at it ever since.”
When and why did you start your genealogy blog?
“I started my blog when I was at SLIG in 2016. On our three sabbaticals I’d kept something of a blog of our adventures (when I first started, “blog” wasn’t even a word), but I hadn’t really ever kept a genealogy blog. I kind of saw genealogy blogging as just one more thing I “should” do, and I wasn’t sure I could keep up with it. But while I was at SLIG I talked to people about it, and Judy Russell gave a wonderful talk about sharing the stories of the children who didn’t make it, and that talk just really clarified for me why I needed to keep a blog. I had stories, some about children, some about people who never had children, some about my family that perhaps my cousins didn’t know about, and I realized all those stories needed to be told.”
How did you choose the name for your blog?
“As long as I’ve been doing genealogy it’s been all about the story for me. I’ve followed stories and done research on people that were not related to me because I was interested in the story. Maybe they somehow interacted with my family or maybe they were just on the same page of the newspaper as my family but the story caught my eye. One story I have researched extensively had to do with a young railroad fireman, Phil Redmond, who was badly scalded in a train wreck and wound up in the hospital. I ran across his name because his uncle, who had been a pall bearer when my grandmother’s wee cousin was buried, went to visit Phil in the hospital. As I researched Phil, I created a list of the many people who donated skin for Phil and discovered my grandfather was one of the donors. If I hadn’t searched for the story of Phil, I never would have learned about the selfless act of my grandfather.”
What are your tips for new bloggers?
“Don’t bite off more than you can chew. I decided I couldn’t be an every-day blogger, but that I could do two days a week. I have “Sunday Stories” and “Tuesday Techniques” where I talk about the tips I use to find the stories. Even twice a week can be a bit daunting, but having committed to that, I know it’s a reasonable goal and I do manage to get it done. I tend to try to write a couple of blog posts one day a week.”
Please tell us about your favorite post(s) on your blog.
“I think my favorite posts were the ones I wrote about a baby in the family that drowned and the effect that death had on her family. The ripples from that loss extended generations beyond the event.”
How much time do you spend on family history research?
“Too much. It’s nice that I have a very supportive husband.”
Who is your favorite ancestor(s) and why?
“Right now, probably my great-great grandfather, John Fields. When I was a little girl, a great picture of him hung in my great-aunt’s house, and now I have that picture hanging in mine. I’ve found a few obituaries of him with tauntingly sparse details. I NEED to know more, and from the sparkle in his eye in the picture, I think he’s purposefully withholding information. Which just makes me want it all the more.”
How has genealogy improved your life?
“I have met some wonderful people by doing this. I’m all about Bagging a Live One and I have been able to connect with some cousins that no one in my family knew existed.”
What do you love the most about genealogy?
“Two things – I love the connections to history. Words like “Prohibition” and “Famine” and “World War II” are huge concepts, but when we find an ancestor involved or affected by these events, it humanizes that history and makes it come alive. And I love the connection with the human psyche – we may wear different clothes or style our hair differently, but at the end of the day, we all have the same hopes and dreams for our families; we like people because they did this, but not that. I’ve seen people written out of wills because they were mean to someone or married the wrong guy, and I’m sure that 2000 years ago and 2000 years hence, someone will still be getting written out of a will for the same reason.”
What family story or heirloom do you cherish?
“I have a number of things I cherish, hard to choose, but among them is a small, leather-bound bible from my great-grandmother. It is written in German. Several years ago I scanned a few pages of the bible, including the page where she wrote of her marriage, and made a collage of those scans. I was able to print out the collage and cut it into the shape of angel wings and share that will all my cousins. I’m glad I could pass on a piece of her to her descendants.”
Besides major websites like Ancestry and FamilySearch, what research tool or source has been helpful in researching your family history?
Which genealogy blogs inspire you?
- Genealogy Tip of the Day
- The Ancestor Hunt – feeds my newspaper obsession.
- Genea-Musings – Randy Seaver gets me thinking about ancestors.
- I also make sure I check in with Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter, and I really appreciate that I can get it by email, and if I miss a day or two, I can scroll down and catch up.
What do you think is the most interesting change in the past ten years in genealogy/family history?
“The ever-increasing amount of material that FamilySearch is putting online. I find myself continually circling back to check again for what else new might be available to look at.”
What is on your genealogy bucket list?
- Who or what? Ha ha. Will the parents of Jane Graham Ahern please stand up?
- Figure out what that place in County Meath where John Fields came from is. His obituary said “26 miles from Dublin” but didn’t name it.
- Get a chance to speak at a national conference (and perhaps even the Australasian Congress in Sydney 2018)
An Additional Message from Mary
One of the things I’ve really enjoyed is the chance to “do what they did.” I got a chance to spend a week sailing on a tall ship (The Bounty) and felt a bit like my ancestors might have in the 18th and 19th centuries when they crossed the pond. I’ve also had the chance to drive a steam locomotive through an Engineer for a Day program – Sumpter Valley Railroad Engineer For A Day Calendar. It was so cool to see what my relatives did.
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Please take a moment to head over to Mary’s blog, Searching for Stories, and leave her a comment, letting her know you stopped by. Thank you Mary 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.