May I Introduce to You . . . Jill Ball

Come meet genealogy blogger Jill Ball, author of the GeniAus blog, in this interview by Tessa Keough at GeneaBloggers.

I have the pleasure of introducing you to Jill Ball and her blog GeniAus, described as “a potpourri of genealogy topics with an Australian slant.” Not satisfied with one blog, Jill as added to her repertoire Geneadictionary (an online lexicon of geneajargon), jillballau (Jill’s personal journeys, jottings and joy) and Ku-ring-Gai Historical Society (online news for Society members, the community, and those with links to the district). 

A Little Bit About Jill

(In bullet format – much like her personality – fun, fast and to the point!)

  • Short, white-haired and cuddly.
  • Wife, mother, grandmother and family historian.
  • Formerly librarian, teacher, and IT gal.
  • Lifelong learner.
  • Social media fan and gadget girl.
  • Into Evernote, lists and spreadsheets.
  • Loves geneajaunts, travel and cruising.
  • Takes snapshots not photos.
  • Happy old soul. 

What Got Jill Started in Genealogy/Family History

“I have always attributed this to the Bicentenary year in Australia in 1988 when the celebrations placed a great emphasis on our nation’s history. Looking back I realise it was also the year my maternal grandmother died. I now wonder if that also influenced me to start thinking about my personal history.

Genealogy /family history research draws on the skillset I developed from many years working as a librarian. While I was working in my ‘real job’ I dabbled in family research but once I retired from fulltime work I threw myself into it with gusto. I set out to learn as much as I could by attending talks and conferences, reading journals and joining several societies.

I soon discovered that my background in teaching and Information Technology equipped me to help other genealogists integrate technology use into their family history research so I started giving talks at various venues and online via Google Hangouts on Air. Although I get nervous before each performance I enjoy the opportunities I have to share my knowledge with others (and genealogists are more appreciative of one’s efforts than a bunch of Year/Grade 9 kids).” 

Jill’s Thoughts on Blogging

“Love it! I started blogging on library topics more than ten years ago and when I retired it left a void that I had to fill. It was obvious that genealogy could provide the subject matter that would enable me to continue blogging so GeniAus was born. Since then I have dabbled with a few blogs. Presently I am enjoying my latest venture, the Geneadictionary, this is great fun but the challenge is learning the intricacies of WordPress after being a Blogger girl for such a long time.”

  • Blogging allows me to connect, communicate and collaborate with people that I might not otherwise meet.
  • Blogs educate, enlighten and entertain me.
  • Blogging allows me to share stories and preserve family tales.
  • The dynamic nature of blogs lets me return and update my posts as new information becomes available.  

Jill’s Tips for New Bloggers (and Not So New Bloggers!) 

  • For newbies: Just do it.
  • For oldies: Regular maintenance is essential. Take a critical look at your blog and identify areas for improvement.
  • For all: Remember that blogging is a two-way street, it’s a collaborative medium. Reach out to others by liking and commenting on their posts.

Jill’s Favorite Blog Post(s)

A story of my grandmother, Ethel Jane Pusell, who was widowed at 18. http://geniaus.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/john-bertram-chatfield-trans-tasman.html

The twenty-six posts I wrote for the “Genealogy through the alphabet” challenge. I was pleased that I didn’t give up and managed to complete the whole series. http://geniaus.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/family-history-through-alphabet.html 

Jill’s Time with the Ancestors

“Every spare moment and some I don’t have to spare but I always give precedence to the living.” 

Jill’s Favorite Ancestor(s) and Why

“My two grandmothers, Ethel Jane Pusell and Mary Tierney, who both lived to see me married off. I knew and loved them both they were determined, loyal and lovable women.

Two of my convicts: Elizabeth Phipps from London and Patrick Curry from Limerick. Elizabeth was a villain who obviously used her wits to survive in the penal colony of New South Wales. When she married the much older William Magick she probably thought she was setting herself up for life but she didn’t know William would live to 108. Patrick was an Irishman who, on gaining his freedom, worked as a farmer and had a comfortable life. In 1848 he said ‘I have reared a large family in comfort, want for nothing’.” 

How Genealogy/Family History Has Improved or Changed Jill’s Life

  • It keeps me off the streets
  • It challenges the old brain
  • It provides learning opportunities
  • It has enabled me to keep on teaching
  • It has brought me a whole new set of interesting friends
  • It has connected me with unknown and lost family members who have added to my family stories. 

What Jill Loves Most About Genealogy

  • The people I meet – both dead and alive
  • The thrill of the chase – there’s nothing like a good mystery to pique one’s interest
  • Having opportunities to help fellow enthusiasts. 

Jill’s Time Capsule Message

Don’t sweat the small stuff.” 

Jill’s Expanded Time Capsule Message

“I am an amateur genealogist/family historian so I don’t get hung up on sourcing and citations. I am not concerned about commas, italics and adhering to a particular format. I believe in recording where information comes from and I always try to provide enough information so that anyone who wants to can check out my assertions. Genealogy for me is a hobby not a serious academic pursuit so I don’t see the need for rigid rules. I fear that we frighten off many newbies with terms such as sourcing and citations. We should just tell them to carefully record where they got their information so, if years later they have a memory lapse, they will be able to find things once more.

If I am writing for a journal I will correctly reference whatever I am writing but I will use the Harvard method of citation (or whatever is prescribed by the publication in question).

For me this stuff is a matter of “horses for courses”.

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Please take a moment to head on over to Jill’s blogs. Leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by (and perhaps provide a new word for her geneadictionary!). Jill brings to her blogs a sense of humor and fun. We get the benefit of her years in the education field and she is one of the positive lights in the genealogy community. Jill will be at FGS/RootsTech 2015 and I look forward to meeting this versatile and entertaining blogger (and vlogger – she also makes videos and hosts Google+ hangouts on air!) in Salt Lake City in February. Welcome Jill, it’s great to have you here!

© 2014, 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 murkeo01@gmail.com.

May I Introduce to You . . . Kristina Rees

Come meet genealogy blogger Kristina Rees, author of the Losing My Census blog, in this interview by Michelle Taggart at GeneaBloggers.

I am excited to introduce to you Kristina Reese and her blog, Losing My Census  described as, “ .  .  . On this blog I share what I am currently researching, new finds, stories and pictures of my extensive family.  I am also working on my professional genealogist certification and will be posting the things I’m learning along the way.”

A Little About Kristina

“I was born outside of Boston, MA.  My father was in the US Air Force stationed at Hanscom Field, then when I was three, we were transferred to Wiesbaden, Germany.  He retired when I was six and took a job in Fort Worth, TX where I grew up.  My parents still live there and I am only a half hour away in Duncanville just outside of Dallas.  I have a bachelor’s and master’s degree in education.  I taught middle school math and science for 15 years before I married.  I have been married for 9 years and have three step-daughters and 2 grandchildren. I also have three cats.  I am active in my church and many other organizations that I am a member of especially Daughters of the American Revolution.”

How Kristina Got Started in Genealogy

“I have been officially doing genealogy since 1999. I remember doing a school project in the second grade, filling out my pedigree chart and I remember how I loved looking through the old family photo albums and hearing the stories of my grandparents and extended family, but I really got started because my father wanted to know where our McIntire’s came from.  He was sure his grandmother came from Scotland. I have traced them back to 1740 in Falmouth, ME but can’t seem to break through that brick wall to get any farther.

I have to say I started my genealogy blog because of Lisa Louis Cooke.  I was listening to her podcast and almost every episode she would encourage her listeners to start one.  Then she did some videos on how to start a blog and I’ve been going at it ever since.  That was April 8, 2014.”

Kristina’s Tips for New Bloggers

“Start with WordPress. I started with Blogger and then I decided I’d like to have a genealogy business.  As a business owner I didn’t want blogspot.com at the end of my URL.  I am still trying to get my posts from my blogger blog to my WordPress blog and it is not fun.”

Kristina’s Favorite Blog Post

“My favorite post so far is my story of my McIntire Revolutionary Patriot.  I give a summary of his part in the war.”

Kristina’s Time with the Ancestors

“I try to discipline myself and schedule one evening a week for research and a Saturday a month down at the public library.”

Kristina’s Favorite Ancestors

“My favorite ancestor would have to be John Jacobs the Musician.  He is my 2nd great grandfather on my mother’s side.  He accomplished so much in his lifetime and didn’t let war stop him from accomplishing his dreams.  As a young immigrant from Saxony Germany, escaping the Prussian war,  he found himself in an ironic situation.  Not knowing the English language, he thought he was taking a job as a band leader, which was true enough but his boss was the US Military and he was now a soldier in the Mexican War.  After the war he settled in eastern North Carolina as a merchant and started a family.  He was proud of his new country and when the Civil War broke out, he was one of the first to sign on.  He served as a field officer, Chief Musician for the entire war.  His wife died during the war and so he took his son with him, signing him on as one of the youngest confederate soldiers in the war at age 11.  After this war he went back home and helped South Mills, NC build itself back up.  He opened a mercantile store, started a town band and also helped start Trinity Methodist Church, which is still active today.  He must have taught his children that they could be anything they wanted to be and to never give up on their dreams because my great grandmother was one of the few in her time to get a college degree and my grandmother left the small town of South Mills to live her dream in Philadelphia at the age of 17.”

How Genealogy has Improved Kristina’s Life

“Genealogy has let me see where my passions and desires come from which in turn gives that firm foundation in knowing who I am.”

Kristina’s Time Capsule Message

“Dear descendant, I have spent my life collecting the stories of the ancestors I could find.  However I am limited to what records have been digitized at this time.  I use the computer and internet to do most of my research but hopefully these things will be well advanced in your time.  Also DNA genetic genealogy is still just in its infant stage right now.  My hope for you is that you are not afraid of new ways of doing things.  Stay with those on the cutting edge of genealogical research and you will go farther than I could ever dream.”

Kristina’s Genealogy Bucket List

“My bucket list includes helping my cousins write the McIntire family book, documenting all my Revolutionary War ancestors and after that as many of my other military ancestors as I can find, find where in Sweden my Lindstrom’s are from, visit Whitby Abby in Cleveland England, and finally get all my research in an organized form so the next genealogist in the family can pick up where I left off.”

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Please take time to head over Kristina’s blog, Losing My Census, and leave a comment, letting her know you stopped by.  Thank you Kristina for sharing your thoughts and your blog with us!

© 2014, 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 shelltag1@gmail.com

May I Introduce to You . . . Susan Donaldson

Come meet genealogy blogger Susan Donaldson, author of the Family History Fun blog, in this interview by Wendy Mathias at GeneaBloggers.

I have the pleasure of introducing you to Susan Donaldson, better known as “ScotSue,” and her blog Family History Fun. Susan has the family history bug for researching both her own family history and that of friends, in particular the families of Fylde in Lancashire, her Weston ancestors from Staffordshire and Shropshire, and her Scottish Donaldson connections.

A Little About Susan

“I come from Poulton-le-Fylde, near the popular seaside resort of Blackpool, in Lancashire in north west England. We moved with my father’s work to Edinburgh where I finished my education studying history, followed by the Diploma in Librarianship and Information Work. My first proper job was on a USA exchange scheme, working in the Radcliffe College Library, Cambridge, Massachusetts. I loved Boston and New England but also took advantage of enjoying the Greyhound bus offer of ‘99 dollars for 99 days of travel’ around the States – a great experience.

“On marriage I moved to the Scottish Borders, south of Edinburgh. It is a beautiful rural region with a very distinctive history reflected in ruined castles and abbeys, and tales of Border Reivers and Border ballads.

“My career has spanned working in a College of Education, citizen’s advice bureau, tourist information centres, the local studies department of my local library service and finally the Heritage Hub – home of the Scottish Borders Archive, Local History & Family History Service – where I specialised in family history enquirers. How many people can say they are in a job connected with their hobby? I am now enjoying retirement.”

How Susan Got Started in Genealogy

“It all began with a shoebox of old photographs kept in a cupboard in my grandfather’s house. It was a special treat if I was allowed to look through them. There were photographs of my grandfather’s family (he was one of eight brothers and one sister), pictures of the brothers in First World War uniform, beautifully embroidered cards with penciled messages sent back from Flanders by Grandad to his wife and children, and childhood photographs of my mother and aunt. These are my family treasures.

“But it was the photograph of my great grandmother Maria Rawcliffe which had the most impact. Her name was an evocative mixture of down-to-earth northern Lancashire grit (Rawcliffe) and echoes of a more flamboyant Latin nature (Maria). She looked a formidable lady from this one photograph I had initially of her. To give additional colour there was, no doubt, an apocryphal story that granny’s dark looks came from Spanish descent, after an Armada ship had been wrecked off the Fylde coast of Lancashire and the sailors married local girls. So you see I was soon weaving stories about her and wanted to find out more, which proved equally fascinating. 

“From primary school days, history was my favourite subject. I still have the penciled family tree I drew up when I was around 12 years old after seeing the old family photographs mentioned above. I did not return to it until many years later. In the 1980’s I joined the Lancashire Family History Society and also the Borders Family History Society, not because of any Border family connections but to go along to their talks and improve my knowledge of sources and research.

“Then of course along came the Internet. I became a silver surfer and my research and contacts took off. I had a major boost in 2001 when I regained contact with my mother’s cousin to find she had in her loft a large collection of family photographs, including the only one of my great grandfather.

“Working at the Scottish Borders Heritage Hub (my final job) was invaluable in widening my knowledge of Scottish archive resources and improving my research skills. I have written several family history narratives, and besides my own family history, I am working on my husband’s Scottish connections and have done a number of projects for local history organizations, friends and extended family. My ‘to do’ list is long.”

Susan’s Thoughts About Blogging

“At work I had compiled information sheets and enjoyed creating a style of presentation that made facts easy to absorb. I also had an interest in journalism and have written press releases etc. for various activities I have been involved in. My work had just started a blog which I contributed to, and the magazine article style appealed to me. Then I was reading Woman & Home magazine (aimed at the mature, enquiring woman) and an article said if you enjoyed writing, had time to write regularly  and had something you felt strongly about, set up a blog. So I did and have never looked back. That was in August 2010.

“I am not particularly IT savvy but managed to set up my blog using Blogger. My title of Family History Fun is rather unoriginal, but I wanted to convey the enjoyment that can be gained from family history and also have family history in the title from the point of view of search engines.  I used the name ScotSue, as I thought the Scottish aspect might appeal to readers. Using it in my blog address was a mistake when setting it up, as I thought I had to include my user name – hence the address came out rather longer than I would have liked.

“I wanted to have a medium for my writing, to show my collection of family photographs and memorabilia to a wider audience, and to meet fellow enthusiasts (I don’t count my immediate family amongst them!). Past experience on message boards etc. means I am under no illusion that my family names (Danson, Rawcliffe, Weston and Donaldson) evoke much interest, so I was hoping a blog might produce better results. It did and resulted in contact from two unknown third cousins (one in the USA) who gave me a wealth of information and photographs on their own extended family, and more material for blog posts.

“I used Google to search for other British family history bloggers and a contact pointed me to Geneabloggers, a major stepping stone in building up followers and giving ideas for posts.”

Susan’s Advice to New Bloggers

“In terms of setting up a blog, aim for a clean, unfussy, uncluttered look and play around with backgrounds and colours. In time, I set up Pages and moved ‘Blog Favourites’ and ‘Blog Awards’ from the side bar to a page each which works well. I also like my other Page headings, in giving a long term overview of my activities, e.g. ‘People & Places’ and ‘Timeline.’

“Join Geneabloggers and make use of their blog prompts to develop not only your writing but also a readership.  Build up your followers by making comments on posts. Learn from other bloggers – they are a very supportive community and there are lots of good examples and tips out there.

“Just start writing. Think carefully about the title of your post, as it is crucial in encouraging readers to open your post. Make sure your first sentence/paragraph is full of interest to attract the reader and ensure a high search optimization. Break up heavy blocks of text. Make use of images where you can to add interest. Use the Blogger Drafts folder to jot down ideas for future posts. In many instances it may be no more than a comment, a photograph, or a title to act as a prompt to develop later on.”

Susan’s Favorite Blog Post

“I am most proud of the posts relating to my ten known ancestors (including my father and grandfather) who served in two world wars, notably A Stretcher Bearer in the Field about my great uncle who was killed on the Somme in 1916, a week after his 22nd birthday.

“Blogging in particular has helped me to appreciate more the lives of my parents and I am proud to pay tribute to them though my posts. For my mother Happiness is Stitching, and for my father several posts based on his wartime experiences such as A Wartime Traveller’s Tale.

“I have also touched on topics not purely family history related, e.g. on local history, on featuring photographs of where I live. I am keen to promote my own area of the Scottish Borders which is often a forgotten corner of Scotland, and this was my theme for the last April A-Z Challenge.”

Susan’s Time With Ancestors

“Nowadays not enough and it is largely internet based, as I am dependent on public transport to reach archive centres. Writing is my main preoccupation and I have a long ‘to do’ list to finish writing up my Danson and Donaldson narratives, compile ‘I Remember when…’ memories of my childhood and other local and family history projects.”

Susan’s Favorite Ancestor

“It has to be Maria Rawcliffe, my great grandmother who I mentioned earlier. Maria’s life is at the heart of my family history, and it was the first I turned into a family history narrative. She was the inspiration for my ancestral trail, and research unearthed so many stories on her life which has given me rich material for my blog. Plus there was the discovery that she was born on the same date as my daughter114 years later, which seemed a wonderful coincidence.”

How Genealogy Has Improved Susan’s Life

“It has been wonderful opener to a fulfilling life. It was the basis for a very satisfying last ten years of my work. I have developed my research and writing skills, presented workshops on ‘First Steps in Family History,’ and have taken part in a Hobbies Show. Family history can take you in so many diverse directions, e.g. the study of names, local history, and social history, so it keeps your brain active. Travelling to places connected with my family is a great excuse for a holiday. From the start of blogging, I was amazed how well photographs showed up on screen and this stimulated my interest in photography to better illustrate my posts. Above all I have met online so many interesting people whose comments I very much appreciate. The computer of course has been essential to this and I cannot conceive of a life without it.  I recommend family history to anyone.”

What Susan Loves Most About Genealogy

“Difficult to say which is uppermost – the detective story element in hunting for information and corroborating it with evidence, (I do not like to be defeated), the satisfaction of finding key facts, and writing up the information in an interesting way. I love all these aspects.”

Susan’s Genealogy Bucket List

“Easy – to find information on the early life of my maternal grandmother Alice English who is my proverbial brick wall. I haven’t even been able to trace a birth certificate to find out the name of her mother.  She died when I was a baby and I failed (or somehow was reluctant) to ask the right questions of my mother at the right time. I was always told we shared the same birthday and her marriage certificate and death certificate confirm her birth year as 1884.  I have her father’s name from her marriage certificate but am no nearer finding out her mother’s name, despite lots of different efforts, including using a professional researcher.”

Susan’s Time Capsule Message

“Be proud of your past – of the feisty females in our family, and the men who served their country. They were individuals from ordinary backgrounds who sought to make the best of their lives.

“A time capsule would have to be big! I would include a family tree with copies of favourite family photographs and most valued family documents, e.g. correspondence from both the First and Second World Wars, plus artifacts such as an example of my mother’s stitching, my aunt’s paintings, my father’s writing, and mementoes representing myself, my husband, daughter and granddaughter.”

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Please take a moment to visit Susan at Family History Fun and leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. Thank-you, Susan, for letting us inside your blogging world.

© 2014, 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 wendymath@cox.net.