May I Introduce to You . . . Melanie Frick

Come meet genealogy blogger Melanie Frick, author of the Homestead Genealogical Research blog in this interview by Gini Webb at GeneaBloggers.

MAY I INTRODUCE TO YOU . . . Melanie Frick

I have the great pleasure of introducing you to Melanie Frick and her blog, Homestead Genealogical Research, described as, “. . . Homestead Genealogical Research is a collection of vintage photographs and vignettes about the lives of my ancestors.”

Melanie, can you tell us a little about yourself?

“I was born and raised in Iowa and, thanks to a healthy dose of Little House on the Prairie, have been fascinated by history for as long as I can remember. This led to a B.A. in History and then an M.L.S. My husband and I met as undergraduates and bade farewell to the great Midwest in 2010. After spending a few years in the Washington, D.C. area, we now live in Southern California.”

How did you get interested in doing genealogy?

“My father was the genealogist in the family before me and knew how to throw out enticing tidbits from his research that tied into whatever subject I happened to be interested in at the time. It made a big impression on me as an eight-year-old when he told me that one of our French Canadian ancestors was rumored to have had Native American (First Nation) roots. I’m still working on that mystery! I was ten when I began to fill in my first family tree but really began my research journey at the age of twelve. Fortunately, I had a reasonably good eye for detail even at that age, and a benefit of beginning my research so young is that I feel by now that I’m on a first-name basis with many of my ancestors.”

Why did you start a genealogy blog?

“First and foremost, I wanted to share bite-sized pieces of family history with far-flung relatives and other interested readers, and I’ll admit that cousin bait is always on my mind. After spending an inordinate amount of time stewing about the idea of creating a blog, I finally launched Homestead Genealogical Research in 2013 thanks to some inspiration from the Boston University certificate course and the blogger summit at the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree.”

Melanie’s Advice for New and Not-So-New Bloggers

“This may not be the most fun part of blogging for some, but don’t forget to proofread! When you’ve finished writing a new post, take a break and come back to give it a fresh look. Also, cite your sources. Please! Your blog is your own, so really, you can do this as formally or as informally as you want – but in the long run, source citations will be immensely helpful both to you and to anyone who stumbles across your research.”

Melanie’s Favorite Blog Posts

“About half of my research posts center around an antique photograph – picking out clues and gaining context, or sometimes even identifying unidentified individuals – and they are a lot of fun to write. I also love to share interesting bits and pieces about the lives of my ancestors, often highlighting specific records that bring color to an ancestor’s life. A few recent favorites are:

Melanie, who is your favorite ancestor and why?

“It’s impossible to pick a favorite, but one of the first to leave an impression on me was a great-great-aunt who was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in rural South Dakota during World War I. I first read her diary when I was in middle school, and I was completely enthralled when she wrote about her flirtations with a young soldier at a local barn dance. Her diary ended abruptly as she died in the midst of the Influenza Epidemic of 1918 when she was only twenty-one. Several pages at the end of her diary were torn out, and I became fascinated with her story.”

How has genealogy improved your life?

“The perspective that genealogy can bring to one’s life is priceless. There’s something incredibly meaningful about discovering the trials and tribulations of your ancestors’ lives and their place in history, and having the privilege to share these stories with others. My life has also been enriched by the opportunity to connect with countless cousins, one of whom is collaborating with me on a book about our Danish immigrant ancestors. Finally, it’s been fantastic getting to know the greater genealogical community through blogging, conferences, and institutes. There are so many genealogists who inspire me on a daily basis, and I love being able to connect with other young genealogists as a volunteer with the NextGen Genealogy Network.”

What do you love most about doing genealogy?

“Honestly, while I’m all for highly organized research, sometimes there’s nothing more cathartic than curling up on my couch with my laptop, loading up my tree on, and deciding at random which ancestor is going to be the subject of my search – whether for a few minutes while dinner cooks or for an entire lazy Sunday afternoon. New record sets appear online all the time, and of course, one thing almost always leads to another . . . .”

What is on your genealogy bucket list?

“I would love to explore more of the places where my ancestors once lived. I’ve been fortunate to visit some of my ancestral homelands in the United States and abroad, and am especially excited to one day retrace the paths of my French Canadian ancestors through their villages in Quebec, to northern New York, to the communities outside of Boston where they worked in the textile mills before relocating to the Midwest. Then, of course, along with identifying the origins of a few of my elusive frontiersmen (who could just maybe steer me to the DAR), there are many more stories I would like to write!”

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Please take a moment to head on over to Melanie’s blog. Leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. Welcome Melanie, 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.

May I Introduce to You . . . Alona Tester

Come meet genealogy blogger Alona Tester, author of the Lonetester HQ blog, in this interview by Jana Last at GeneaBloggers.

MAY I INTRODUCE TO YOU . . . Alona Tester

I have the pleasure of introducing you to Alona Tester and her blog, Lonetester HQ described as, “My blog contains some hints and tips on genealogy, some family stories, and some reviews on products and genie events I go to.”

Alona, please tell us a little about yourself.

“I was born in a tiny country town called Gumeracha, in South Australia which was founded by my great great grandpa (William Beavis Randell). While the town has grown now, when I was there it was the type of town where you knew everyone. It was a great place to grow up. And I work in my family’s genealogy retail business.”

How did you get started in genealogy?

“I was literally born into it. When I  was about three or so my dad started “Gould Books” which was a mail order company selling genealogy books and products mainly to Australians. Nearly 40 years later, this business is still going (now named “Gould Genealogy & History”), and all of my family, myself included still work in the business. My dad had done a lot of research 20+ years ago which then was put on hold, so I picked that up, and with the help of the internet, and discovering what archives hold what records I was able to research further back on a number of lines, and make new family connections along the way.

When and why did you start your genealogy blog?

“I started my Lonetester blog in October 2011, and did so because I wanted to write my own ‘personal’ stories. I had been writing on the work blog for four years, and I just wanted to write some more of my ‘own’ stories, finds and thoughts, and I can do that more casually on my own.”

How did you choose the name for your blog?

“While it is genealogy related, I decided I didn’t want genealogy in the title. So Lonetester is really just a play on my name (Alona Tester), and the HQ as it is the place to go for my posts.”

What are your tips for new bloggers?

“Hmm ok … firstly I’d say write in your own voice, it’ll sound more natural, more like YOU. Also if writing about your ancestors include names, dates and places in your post as Google will index it, and that’s perfect for cousin bait, and it will help your distant-yet-to-be-found relis find you. Also don’t be afraid of hitting that ‘publish’ button. If you wait till you think you have it ‘perfect’ you’ll have deleted it, and rewritten it 15 times. Trust me, I’ve done it.”

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

“I can’t choose just one here, so please bear with me.”

  1. “My Family History Through the Alphabet blog challenge at My Family History Through the Alphabet Collection. I came up with the idea for the Family History Through the Alphabet blog challenge, and ran it through my work blog, Take the ‘Family History Through the Alphabet’ Challenge, while being a participant on my own. It was a lot of work, but it was a whole lot of fun, learning and research throughout the process.”
  2. “Convicts. Honestly, they are “Australian Royalty”. Every Australian researcher looks for them, and rejoices when we find them. For one post, Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge: C is for Convicts, I did a compilation of the convicts that I’ve found so far in both mine and my hubby’s families (19 at the time).”
  3. “Charlotte Phillips. She is my 4x great grandma, and I loved doing research on her.”
  4. “Family Tree Photo Wall. I decided to use a wall in my dining room to show off my family history visually, so created a family tree photo wall. I did a couple of posts about this, showing how I did this.”
  5. “Family Tree Quotes. I love quotes, I find them very inspiring, so I decided to do a post with a collection of my favourite family tree related quotes.”

How much time do you spend on family history research?

“Not enough. I’m sure everyone says that, but it’s true. Actually in the last year I really have only spent maybe a week or two of time on actual solid research. I do need to make more of an effort to spend more time on my research though.”

Who is your favorite ancestor(s) and why?

“I have two. Firstly my great grandpa Otto Winter, who was born in Finland, went sailing around the world on a cargo ship. After 7 years or so he jumped ship in Australia, got naturalised, and fought in WW1, fortunately survived, and even signed up for WW2.”

“And my other fav ancestor is Charlotte Phillips. She had my great great great grandfather (George Phillips) illegitimately, before marrying Samuel Banfield, having further family, and moving to the United States. But she was the owner of a candy store, and I love that!”

How has genealogy improved your life?

“I’m finding this one tough, purely as I don’t have a “before genealogy” and “after genealogy” comparison. But it has certainly given me lots of friends (online and offline), and has enabled me to travel to fabulous places, including a number of ancestral homelands. And it has given me a sense where some family traits come from too, which is always interesting.”

What do you love the most about genealogy?

“There’s two things I REALLY love about genealogy. Firstly, the search … I love the challenge of seeing what you can find about a person. And secondly, the genealogy community.  The genealogy community worldwide is an amazing bunch of people. While many people I only know online, they are there to help out if you have a question, or to offer encouragement. And when I visited the US for the first time a few years ago, I was made to feel so welcome, it was truly incredible.”

What family story or heirloom do you cherish?

“Again, another tough question. I am fortunate that my family has so many family heirlooms still around. To know what is what, and as a way to share them with my wider family, I started another blog, Memorabilia House, which I simply photograph, and document the item, noting who the current  keeper.”

“As for actual heirlooms: I do have my grandma’s engagement ring which is special. I also have a bridesmaids dress she wore to her sister’s wedding, and an original WW1 Anzac slouch hat. I have letters from family dating back to the 1850s, a family bible (complete with family info and photos), and then there are the diaries. In one diary my great great grandma wrote of how  she wasn’t allowed to attend the funeral of her husband due to a family dispute. That was  heartbreaking.”

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

“Despite my lack of actual research this year, the one website I do still frequently end up on, is Trove. Or more specifically the digitised old Australian newspapers at Trove. There’s always a story or two waiting to be found any time you look.”

Which genealogy blogs inspire you?

“There are many that I read, but I shall mention just three. Firstly Kerry Scott’s Clue Wagon blog. If you haven’t read it yet, do yourself a favour and do so. She has an incredible style of writing, and always has me (and all of her readers) in stitches. The second is Judy Russell’s, The Legal Genealogist, which is one that I simply keep learning from. A former lawyer and now genealogist, she educates readers on the law and how they apply to genealogy. The last is Jill Ball’s Geniaus blog GeniAus. Jill writes and anything and everything to do with genealogy. Again I like the casualness in her writing style, and honesty when sharing her opinions.”

What interesting connections have you made through blogging?

“I have had a couple of people come up to me and say “so you’re Lonetester!” which I still find weird, but very nice, to think that they read my blog. But I’ve also had new-to-me-family find me through my blog , which is always a bonus.”

What do you think is the most interesting change in the past ten years in genealogy/family history?

“The acceptance of genealogy as a hobby. Having been in the industry for many years, I’ve seen what it was like pre-internet, and pre-genealogy TV. But now thanks to both of those mediums, genealogy really has become an accepted hobby. And anyone you talk to knows of someone in their family who is “doing the tree.”

What is on your genealogy bucket list?

“I have three that I’m hoping to do in the next few years.”

  1. Go to Finland, and stay with my relis.
  2. Go to WDYTYA Live in England (I’ve never been yet).
  3. Go back to RootsTech (I have been twice, and loved every minute of it).

“But all of those cost a lot of money, so I’m saving my dollars, and we’ll see what happens.”

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

“Write YOUR story down. No-one knows you, better than you, so write your history or memories (even if its just a few pages) – the following generations will truly thank you. And one more, LABEL and DATE your photos. If they’re in albums caption them. If they are in digital form, have them labeled in some way other than the standard P1399389 format the camera assigns.”

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Please take a moment to head over to Alona’s blog, Lonetester HQ, and leave her a comment, letting her know you stopped by. Thank you Alona 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

May I Introduce To You . . . On Holiday Vacation 2015

The weekly May I Introduce To You posts at GeneaBloggers will be on holiday hiatus starting Monday, 22 December 2014 and will return on Monday, 12 January 2015.

For the next few weeks, the weekly May I Introduce To You posts written by the fantastic MIITY team of Tessa Keough, Jana Last, Wendy Mathias, Michelle Taggart and Gini Webb will be on hiatus during the remainder of December and into January.

MIITY posts will return beginning Monday, 11 January 2016, when GeneaBloggers will resume highlighting members and their blogs from all over the globe! In the meantime, here is our Pinterest board of all the May I Introduce To You interviews over the past few years:

Follow GeneaBloggers’s board May I Introduce To You . . . Members of Geneabloggers on Pinterest.

© 2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.