I have the pleasure of introducing you to, Melyssa Stratton-Webb and her blog, The Golden Age of Genealogy, described as, “. . . The Golden Age of Genealogy encourages family history researchers to take a second look at their family trees, and introduces them to new innovative genealogy sites.
One of the biggest reasons I began this blog was to let people know how times have changed. There are so many new websites available to us in doing our research, and I don’t think people are aware of that. Family History work is no longer something old ladies do when they retire. This is a worldwide hobby that is growing exponentially! It is my hope to share these new sites and innovations with a new generation of researchers, and get them excited about doing their family history!”
Melyssa, can you share a little bit about yourself?
“I was born in Alexandria, Virginia. My family moved when I was quite young. In fact, we moved a lot while I was growing up. My father retired from the government when I was a child, and began a career as a genealogist and writer. At one point, he was the Historian General for the Mayflower Society, so while I was a teen, we actually lived in the Mayflower Society House which is a museum.”
How did you get interested in doing your family history?
“Because my parents were researchers and historians, I spent my childhood vacations touring cemeteries and assisting in research in archives, courthouse basements, and libraries. Oddly enough, I didn’t mind. I enjoyed learning about the lives of those who had gone on before us.”
When and why did you start a genealogy blog?
“I actually began the blog a few years ago, but let it fall by the wayside, as I got caught up in other things that needed my immediate attention. When the New Year began, and I was prepping for RootsTech, it struck me that I should begin writing again. I am currently working on my BCG certification and I thought this would be a good outlet to practice writing and re-evaluate my research practices. When I began writing my blog, I had no idea that I would receive the traffic that I have. It makes me very conscious of what I write and how I present my topics.
I am fortunate to have two great friends, Kevin and Sarah Arrow, owners of SarkeMedia, which is a company dedicated to helping people with their blogging skills. So, although not genealogists, they are blogging experts, and their guidance has been phenomenal in helping me understand not only how to present my message, but get it visible on social media.”
Melyssa, what research tool or resource has been particularly helpful in researching your family history?
“I am a huge fan of a couple of sites. First and foremost is BillionGraves. I blog often about them. Too often when we are collecting information on our ancestors, we forget about the countless volunteer hours that have gone into making records available to us. I like to give back to the genealogy community via BillionGraves by photographing cemeteries and transcribing the inscriptions on headstones. It is an easy task, and I know the recipients of the work appreciate it.
I am also a fan of GenealogyBank.com. People new to family history research often overlook the value of newspapers. I think they don’t realize that their ancestors could actually be in a paper beyond an obituary. I have found GenealogyBank extremely useful in my research, and I encourage others to check out their website.”
Melyssa, do you have any tips for new genealogy bloggers?
“YES! Before blogging, make a list of the topics you would like to write about. Perhaps write a few lines that will jog your memory when you go to write on those topics. This list will help on those days you have writer’s block.
Keep the blog simple by focusing on one topic. I found that when I combined topics, not only was the writing time consuming, but the viewership would decline. Include images. People become more engaged when there are pictures included in blogs. Images can help emphasize and clarify a point you are trying to make.”
What other genealogy blogs inspire you?
“Until recently I had no idea there were so many genealogy blogs! Whether it is a blog for a genealogical society or a blog that lists other genealogy blogs, I have been enjoying them all. I wish I had more hours in the day in which I could just sit and read through them all!”
Melyssa, please tell us about your favorite post on your blog.
“My favourite post would have to be in my 21 Day Genealogy Challenge – Day 12: What To Do With Old Family Letters. I enjoyed dissecting an old letter from my great grandmother to my grandfather who had recently married. I think we overlook so many hidden clues that can be found not only in the letters written, but in the envelopes that carried those letters! You can see more about this post at the link below.”
How much time do you spend on family history research?
“Well, when writing a blog on genealogy, we are drawing not only on current research but past experience as well. It would be hard to log all the hours it took to obtain the information. But as far as writing the blog entries, I would say it takes me anywhere from 2-4 hours depending on the topic. I often will write the posting and then walk away for a time and come back to review what I wrote with a fresh mind.
I try to write every day, and actually I do; however, the posts don’t always appear every day for a variety of reasons. I find that when I immediately “Post” the article after writing it, there are errors that I need to go back and fix. To me, that is embarrassing, and I want my readers to take me seriously. Another reason I may not post right away is that I am verifying information within the article, or I have had to move on to something that need my immediate attention.”
Melyssa, who is your favorite ancestor and why?
“There are so many ancestors that come to mind. I have an ancestor that has been a brick wall to my family since my great grandfather Judson was born. Judson’s father died when Jud was only 2 months old. His name was General Wilson (1852 – 1880). That is his name, not military rank. Finding any documentation on General Wilson has been impossible. Of course, any search using his name bring up a whole bunch of military suggestions. It’s hard to search for someone whose name is a high ranking military title. Because he is so allusive, I would have to say General Wilson is one of my favourite ancestors.
I also love Elias Holmes (1820 – 1895) of Fitchburg, Massachusetts. This ancestor was very popular in his community and would hold public séances in his home. I came across a number of newspaper articles about him and his activities, and I just have to say, I would love to spend time getting to know him better.”
What family heirloom or story do you cherish?
“I have a couple of heirlooms that I cherish. I have been fortunate to be the recipient of quilts made by my great grandmothers and great great grandmother, on both sides of my family. There is something about quilts that is so comforting, and to know that my ancestors actually used these quilts and here I am now with them, just makes me feel a close connection with them.
My grandfather, Frank Watts (1916- 2013), was a carver. I have a few of his carvings in my home. He was so very talented. People from all over the world would ask for his carvings, and he would just give them away for free. That is how he was, though. If you have a talent, you share it.”
In what ways has genealogy improved your life?
“When I was a teenager, I learned that my mother had been married before and that I was, in fact, adopted by my father. It was a hard blow at the time because I was extremely close to my dad. Researching my family history, all lines – genetic and adopted – has given me the realization that we are truly one united family. While I am thrilled to learn of the history of my genetic paternal line, and I do claim them as my own, I cling to the family line I was raised knowing and researching. It is their ideas and values that shaped me into who I am today. I have taken the experiences I have learned on this journey and now help other adoptees to not only find their genetic line, but come to terms with having so many “additional” ancestors. It is okay to love and claim them all!”
Melyssa, what do you love most about doing your genealogy?
“I was recently asked by a relative if I ever get frustrated doing family history work. It has never crossed my mind to be frustrated! I love the mystery of it all and the thrill of finding new evidence. No matter which ancestor I am researching at the time, I feel a close connection, as though I’ve always known them. It is quite spiritual, actually. I don’t ever want to lose that feeling.”
What is on your genealogy bucket list?
“Before I die, I want to find General Wilson. I sometimes think that he is my brick wall for the simple fact that while he is ‘out there’ I will continue to do family history research. But I have promised myself that if it is the last thing I do, I will find General Wilson. I may end up having to live a very, very long time!
I would also love to go to Kopervik, Norway. My birth father’s granddad came from Kopervik. I have been very successful in researching this family line, and would love to see the village they left to come to America.”
If you wanted to leave a message for future generations, what would you say to them?
“Do not take your elders for granted. If your parents, grandparents or even great grandparents are living, talk to them! Ask questions. In our lives we all have times of hardship and trials, but we are not the first people to experience these things. Our ancestors were young once. They loved and laughed. They cried and buried their loved ones. We can learn so much about ourselves by studying our family history. I believe knowing their stories gives us confidence to not only endure our own trials, but to appreciate the talents that we have been blessed with.”
Please take a moment to head on over to Melyssa’s blog. Leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. Welcome Melyssa, 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.