May I Introduce to You . . . Cathy Meder-Dempsey

Come meet genealogy blogger Cathy Meder-Dempsey, author of Opening Doors in Brick Walls, in this interview by Wendy Mathias at GeneaBloggers.

I am proud to introduce to you Cathy Meder-Dempsey of Opening Doors in Brick Walls. She is a relatively new blogger but has been researching both her American and Luxembourgish families for many years. Old photos and colorful snapshots of the countryside accompany her thoroughly-researched and well-documented stories. Cathy is also a frequent contributor to several genealogy groups on Facebook. 

Cathy, can you tell a little about yourself?

I’ve lived in Luxembourg since 1975, the end of my junior year in high school. I speak fluent Luxembourgish, read French and German fluently, and can get by with French conversation.

My father’s service in the USAF took us to Georgia, France, Idaho, West Virginia, Spain, South Carolina, Texas, and Luxembourg. French was the first language I learned to read and write since my parents sent me to first and second grade in the village school when we lived in France. With all the moving around, I went to three high schools in four years graduating in 1976.

After a year at West Virginia Tech, I was hired by an American bank’s branch office in Luxembourg City, working first in the back office before being promoted to Credit Analyst and later Manager of the Credit Department. In 1982 the office was closed, and I became a stay-at-home mother when my first child was born in 1984.

My husband and I have been married 37 1/2 years and have two grown children. We enjoy riding our racing bikes through the wonderful Luxembourgish countryside, and sometimes we venture into Germany, France, and Belgium. Last year I rode 6,147 km. My total since 2008 is 23,682 km, and I’m hoping to hit the 26,000 km mark by the end of the year.

How did you get interested in doing your family genealogy?

In 1992 my mother received a little package of genealogy information from my paternal aunt after they talked about my sister-in-law’s interest in the family history. Mom made copies for my sister-in-law and passed the information on to me. I couldn’t do research in the USA so I started looking into my families in Luxembourg, visiting or writing to the record offices of an ancestor’s town. My father-in-law, a mailman, was used to reading the old handwriting and helped me with deciphering until his death in 1996.

The friendliness of the people in the record offices was astounding. In one town they opened up the vault and said I could search on my own. They even made free copies of the documents I found. In 2000 we finally had access to the internet. That was the beginning of my serious interest in genealogy. I found others researching my families on the mailing lists on RootsWeb. Several sent large envelopes full of information because they didn’t have scanners. I’m still in touch with many of these people who were so helpful and willing to share in my early years. 

What do you enjoy the most about doing your genealogy?

The thrill of finding a new record! And new cousins! And new branches in the family tree!

What is your favorite genealogy research tool or source?

My most important tool is my genealogy software. I’ve been using it since about 2003 when it was offered free on When they discontinued support, I was almost ready to quit. Fortunately I found a message board discussion by others who were in the same predicament. I learned the program I had been using was an early version of Ancestral Quest.

This year my favorite sources are the browse-only records for Luxembourg at FamilySearch. I’ve been working almost exclusively on my families in Luxembourg, and I couldn’t have gotten the amount of work done from home without these databases. Without these I would have had to make trips to the Archives in Luxembourg City. This is something I have put off doing, but I will one day take the plunge because I know they have even more than I can find online.

Why did you start a genealogy blog?

In December 2012 I started a Facebook page for my genealogy research and named it Opening Doors in Brick Walls, the same as my GEDCOM file. I shared tips, quotes, and some short pieces on my brick walls. I heard about Amy Johnson Crow’s challenge, “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks,” and started writing the stories of my paternal side of the family. I shared them with close family in our private group on Facebook. I soon found the FB group and my page weren’t good platforms to use for the stories I wanted to tell. Others were using blogs to share their 52 Ancestors entries, and I decided it was time to start my own on 23 January 2014.

How did you choose the name for your blog?

Once when we were on vacation I asked my husband to photograph some old doors in a French village. He didn’t understand why but did it anyway. Over the years he has gotten more enthusiastic about keeping a lookout and photographing them for me. One year around Halloween I visited a homepage with a spooky door that opened to enter the website. Around the same time I noticed family trees on RootsWeb had some interesting names and wanted something similar. I combined my passion for old doors and genealogy and came up with “Opening Doors in Brick Walls.” What began as “Our Meder-Dempsey Family” at RootsWeb’s WorldConnect Project in December 2000 was renamed “Opening Doors in Brick Walls” in October 2011. It became the name of my Facebook page, and when I started blogging, it was only natural to use the name for my blog.

Where do you get your ideas for your blog posts?

I’ve been blogging for less than two years, and mostly I’ve only done the 52 Ancestors posts. A distant cousin shared old photographs with me, and I’ve been sharing them one person at a time. I’ve done a couple of posts using prompts but can’t seem to push myself to do these more often or at a regular interval. I’m quite proud of my 3-part post on my ancestor James Sims’ slaves as it helped give Schalene Jennings Dagutis of Tangled Roots and Trees the wonderful idea of creating the Slave Name Roll Project. I’ve been contributing a monthly post since February to the project.

What interesting connections have you made through blogging?

One of my most interesting connections was made last year when payback went full circle with the help of social networking. A Family Bible, an application for DAR, and Genealogy Networking tells the story that was 14 years in the making.

How do you motivate yourself to keep blogging?

Before I started blogging I would work for months on the descendants of one of my oldest known ancestors until I felt I could go no further. Then I would switch to another ancestor and do the same. Genealogy research didn’t have a deadline. Unfortunately I haven’t gotten out of my habit of procrastinating, and when I’m working on a blogpost, I get carried away with finding one more fact before I’m ready to get busy writing. I have my posts planned to the end of the year but have not been able to get myself to write any of the posts ahead of time. I’ve heard of bloggers who have posts written and scheduled for the next few months or even longer. I don’t think I will ever get to that point.

What future plans do you have for your blog?

Once this year’s 52 Ancestors challenge is over, I want to get back to researching my American families. I would like to do one more generation on the Luxembourgish side so both sides are even. But I think my readers need a break from these and from the long posts. I want to do shorter posts about this or that new discovery without telling the person’s entire life story.  

What other genealogy blogs inspire you?

I only started reading genealogy blogs when I began blogging. Joining the Genealogy Bloggers group was the best thing I did following the start-up of my blog. There are so many wonderful and supportive bloggers in the group. I’m most inspired by the genealogy blogs featuring new-to-me websites or databases, step by step tutorials, how-to articles, and posts about bloggers’ ancestors who lived in the area mine lived in.

What is on your genealogy bucket list?

I want to spend more time doing in-depth research and cleaning up the source citations in my database. For the 52 Ancestors challenge in 2014, I spent a couple of hours each day for nearly a week going over information I had on the person I was writing about. When Thomas MacEntee started the Genealogy Do-Over early this year, I realized I had been doing-over my database one person at a time while writing my blogposts. Checking all information, looking for new things, citing sources, and generally cleaning up the database one person at a time. This year I added 1500 citations for civil records and nearly 600 for census records in Luxembourg. By the end of next year I want to be able to say I’ve added just as many if not more civil record and census citations to the American families in my family tree. I also want to link more media files to my database so everything is at my fingertips when I am writing.

* * *

Please take a moment to visit Cathy at Opening Doors in Brick Walls and leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. Thank-you, Cathy, for letting us inside your blogging world.

© 2015, 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 . . . Jack Coffee

Come meet genealogy blogger Jack Coffee, author of The Edward Coffey Project, in this interview by Gini Webb at GeneaBloggers.

I have the great pleasure of introducing you to Jack Coffee and his blog, The Edward Coffey Project, described as, “. . .  A blog hopefully useful for other Edward Coffey researchers.  Really, it’s an attempt to correct a lot of misinformation floating around on Ancestry and other websites.”

“People ask me why my surname is spelled Coffee and not Coffey.  I have a theory that spelling of the surname changed sometimes because of movement out of the Carolinas and into KY, TN, GA and later into AL and on into AR and TX to other points west.  For example, Coffee was and is a rather popular name in AL, GA and TN.  Some officials in counties that had heard of the exploits of such men as Gen. John Coffee – of Mrs. Andrew (Rachel) Jackson kin – would spell the name of a new Coffey arrival the only way they had ever seen it spelled.  A tenuous argument but no one has ever been able to convince me of a better way the spelling changed.  Spelling varies even amongst siblings with some even spelling it Coffia.”

Jack, can you please tell us a little about yourself?

“My hometown and that of my wife is Baton Rouge, LA.  We have been married nearly 56 years and we now live in a small rural area some few miles north of Lafayette, LA and on the outskirts of the town of Sunset, LA.  My military service made us travelers.  We lived for three years in France and a couple of years in Germany.  In all, I served my country for eight and a half years before taking a discharge and a job with Exxon, now Exxon-Mobil Corp.  During the 28 years I worked for them, we lived and worked in Saudi Arabia and in Singapore and Baton Rouge.  I retired in 1995 and we left Baton Rouge and moved to some lake front property we owned in a remote and sparsely populated Parish in the NE part of Louisiana where we lived for 10 years before moving to Sunset where we have lived almost eight years.  In 2012, believing I had appendicitis, I went to the emergency room of a local hospital and came home with a diagnosis of Lymphoma.  After months of chemo I was finally declared in remission and have been now for nearly two years.”

How did you get started in genealogy?

“I never knew my paternal grandparents or any cousins from the three marriages of my grandfather.  Really, I never knew my father while growing up.  He was a real loser, married six times siring another child, a girl, with I believe his third wife.  A co-worker was researching his European roots and knowing that I spoke German – not so much now – he asked if I would translate some letters for him.  We both decided it might be good to take a basic course, me to help restore some vocabulary, him to learn the basics.  That got me interested in my roots but not before reading a bio of John Coffey Hayes, the Texas Ranger.”

How long have you been researching your family history?

“I began to seriously do research in the early 80’s when I discovered Baton Rouge had one of the finest genealogy libraries in the SE.  Since that time I have continued to do Coffee/y research even after learning that none of my Coffees are actually Coffee or Coffey.  It appears that my 3G-grandfather was either adopted or illegitimate and DNA testing shows us to be Mills.  Ironic that we are Coffey Mills.  My research points to an unmarried Coffey woman in Burke Co., NC living in close proximity to a single young man named Hardy Mills.  DNA shows my descent from Hardy’s father.”

When and why did you start or create your genealogy blog?

“I began the blog on Dec. 7, 2004 and wrote regularly for several years.  I am rather slow to write and post because it has become difficult to find anything new and of interest to readers.”

Do you have any tips for new bloggers?

“Jump in and start.  Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.  Well, not too much, anyway!”

Are there other genealogy blogs that may inspire you?

“I rely on Twitter a lot and the professionals who post there.  When I find a topic that one has posted and stirs my interest I will jog on over to their blogsite to see what they have to offer in the way of advice.”

Jack, what is your favorite post on your blog?

“I would guess that my favorite was the one in which I discovered a bigamist and a murderer in my family.  That was only recently (2014) and can be found here:  William Noah Coffey, Bigamist & Murderer.”

How much time do you get to spend researching your family history?

“Being retired and having no other hobbies, I spent the greater part of the day working on both Coffee/y families as well as my wife’s Acadian ancestors.”

What family story or heirloom do you cherish most?

“The walking stick that I inherited from my maternal great-grandfather who died when I was 10.”

How has genealogy improved your life?

“Well, hard to say.  I suspect it helped me forget all of the difficulties I had not only with the cancer but also with the chemo.  I spent a lot of time in my easy chair with my tablet, researching, reading and the like, all the while sending what I found via e-mail to my desktop computer. On those days I felt like moving from the easy chair to the desk chair, they were waiting for me and occupied me for a few hours.”

What do you love most about doing genealogy?

“I love searching old newspapers and finding out who shot who, who went to jail for moonshining, illicit love affairs and divorces, stuff like that! I’m really not a voyeur but it’s kind of cool to find out that even though I am the ‘perfect father and husband’ (tongue in cheek), not everyone in my family even came close.”

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

“If it was left to my own family, grandchildren for example, I would tell them to take what I have begun and fill in the blanks!”

*  *  *

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

© 2015, 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 . . . Amie Bowser Tennant

Come meet genealogy blogger Amie Bowser Tennant, author of the My Kith 'N Kin blog, in this interview by Jana Last at GeneaBloggers.

I have the pleasure of introducing you to Amie Bowser Tennant and her blog, My Kith N Kin described as, “My Kith N Kin is my personal genealogy blog. I write about learning new things, finding great genealogy resources, and occasionally about my own family history.”

“I also write articles for the RootsBid Blog. The RootsBid blog is full of all sorts of genealogy and family history how-to articles, the best of world-wide genealogy resources, and an occasional funny story only a genealogist can appreciate.” 

Amie, please tell us a little about yourself.

“I was born in Miami County, Ohio and grew up in a small, country town surrounded by fields of corn. I left to attend college at Brigham Young University and while there, married my high school sweetheart. We moved around quite a bit. Seventeen years later, we moved our family back to my little home town and bought a house just 2 miles down the same road I grew up on. We live near many close and extended family members and we love it!” 

How did you get started in genealogy?

“I started doing genealogy 16 years ago when my first baby was born. I started by wanting to do scrapbooking. I was surprised when my parents did not know the names of the people in their old family photos. I decided that was unacceptable and started looking for them myself! I was hooked. Many visits to my local Family History Center, lectures, seminars, and a National Genealogical Society Home Study Course later, and here I am.” 

When and why did you start your genealogy blog?

“I started my personal genealogy blog to share all the things I was learning while working on the National Genealogical Society Home Study course. I learned so many things that I knew would be helpful to others on their journey to fill out that pedigree chart. But, I continued to blog because I discovered I had a passion for writing. I had always dreamed of being an author and though it is a little different, my dream came true. Earlier this year, my blog was noticed by In March of 2015, I was hired as lead content specialist for RootsBid and now write for their blog. Now, I have TWO places to blog about my love for genealogy.”

What are your tips for new bloggers?

“Start today. Don’t be intimidated by the other wonderful blogs out there, yours will be wonderful too. Write a little or write a lot, just write regularly.” 

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

“My favorite “how-to” post was “How’d She Do That?! Using Facebook to Break through Brick Walls” at How’d She Do That?! Using Facebook to Break Though Brick Walls. That was a post I wrote after having a major breakthrough on a line my mother-in-law and I had been researching for a combined 20 years!”

“My favorite ancestor story was a blog series I dedicated to my grandmother. One of the blog posts was entitled “Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned” at Story 4: Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned and it was my favorite.

“Lastly, I recently wrote a post for RootsBid entitled “Open Letter to Grandma” at Open Letter to Grandma. It was my first attempt at genealogy humor. What made it so funny was much of it was TRUE!” 

How much time do you spend on family history research?

“I am researching someone’s ancestors every day. I try to set aside one day a week for my own family research. There are never enough hours in a day and I often find myself dreaming at night of family research time.” 

Who is your favorite ancestor(s)?

“I have lots of favorite ancestors for all different reasons. My most colorful ancestor and by far my favorite was my maternal grandmother, Goldie Witt Cole. I was fortunate to spend a lot of time with her in my childhood days.”

“However, if I could meet any of my ancestors it would be my great grandmother Doney Hensley Cole who died when she was 25 years old. A precious family letter from someone who knew her mentioned she was the kindest woman they ever knew.” 

How has genealogy improved your life?

“Like most genealogists, doing family history and genealogy research has made me appreciate all that I have, the time in which I live, and the people who have come before me. I have also learned how to be more organized and creative.”

What do you love the most about genealogy?

“I love finding stories of triumph, finding evidence or proof that turns up in the most unlikely of places, and seeing the faces of children light up when they hear the stories of their ancestors for the first time.” 

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

“I can’t say enough good things about Facebook. It’s a social media site connecting me with knowledgeable researchers all over the world. I also love,, and of course” 

Which genealogy blogs inspire you?

“For inspiration, I follow the many bloggers at GeneaBloggers. There are too many to name! I was inspired to write my family history by reading The Armchair Genealogist blog and participating in the Family History Writing Challenge and will forever be grateful.” 

What interesting connections have you made through blogging?

“I am blessed to have met many, many new friends from blogging. I think the two neatest things were being contacted by Lisa Louise Cooke from Genealogy Gems and GeneaBloggers. Lisa wanted to use the “Open Letter to Grandma” post on an upcoming Genealogy Gems podcast and GeneaBloggers interviewed me for the “May I Introduce To You” series.

What is on your genealogy bucket list?

My genealogy bucket list is a long one, but my three top things are:

  1. Obtain my national certification as a genealogist
  2. Give a lecture at a NGS conference
  3. Finish the Cole Family History book I started 10 years ago!

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

“Three words: FINISH MY WORK.”

* * *

Please take a moment to head over to Amie’s blog, My Kith N Kin, and leave her a comment, letting her know you stopped by. Thank you Amie for telling us about yourself and your blog. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you better.

© 2015, 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