May I Introduce to You . . . Celia Lewis

Come meet genealogy blogger Celia Lewis, author of the Twigs and Trees blog, in this interview by Tessa Keough at GeneaBloggers.

This week we travel up north (to Vancouver, British Columbia to be exact) and I have the pleasure of introducing you to Celia Lewis and her blogs. The first, Twigs and Trees, is a personal genealogy blog where Celia shares her family history research and stories with her family members and the genealogy community. The second, Terwilliger Souvenir Album is a project blog and Celia is documenting her great-grandfather’s souvenir album, 120 pages filled with cards and various ephemera, including political buttons. The album is a snapshot in time, combining a personal history with the times in which her great-grandfather lived. Celia started blogging in July 2012 after lurking on Google+ for a few months, while reading and then commenting on others’ blog posts (that is a great way to get starting – by wading into the blogging waters). Once Celia got started, she was hooked! Celia uses Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to advertise each of her posts. 

A Little Bit About Celia

“I was raised in Vancouver BC Canada, the middle child with an older sister and younger brother. My mother was a very nasty piece of work, targeting me for her sporadic, frequent personal attacks.  Who wanted to belong in that family, eh?!  It was significantly challenging to live with that level of emotional abuse.  I attended the University of BC and received a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing in 1966, working for my first year in Leamington Ontario as a Victorian Order Nurse (home nursing), before eventually returning to B.C., marrying and having 4 children.  Not a good marriage, but wonderful children.  Divorcing after 14 years, I returned to the University of BC for more education, and received a Master’s of Arts in Counselling Psychology in 1987.

For many years I worked in a non-governmental agency in Vancouver BC, with families who had children with disabilities.  The last 10 years of my employment, I was one of two provincial coordinators providing short-term rehabilitation and support programs for children with recent brain injuries (non-automobile caused).  In almost every paid job or volunteer job I had, I wrote and/or edited newsletters, which I enjoyed immensely.  I retired in April 2008, and am enjoying retirement immensely.  My children are doing well, and my six grandchildren are fascinating to watch growing up.”

How Celia Got Started in Genealogy

“Our family never talked much about family history as we grew up.  My mother’s mother told many dramatic lies (so confusing) about herself and her husband’s family, and my father’s mother threw anything genealogical in the oil stove – including her sister-in-law’s professional genealogical report on the Gillespie line in Northern Ireland.  Yes.  She did.  All those pages which could have been so helpful (takes a moment to shiver).  Grandma G. seemed to think it was nothing but elitism and snobbery.

Around 2000, I helped my older sister clean out her basement storage space and came across my maternal grandmother’s old wooden trunk with a variety of boxes and papers, “stuff”.  She agreed I could take it home. When I finally started opening all the items in GrandPete’s trunk, I found a letter from her brother about a few ancestors clipped to pages photocopied from several surname and history books – Griswold, Buell, and others.  He wanted to join The Holland Society which required proving you were a descendant in the direct male line of an ancestor who lived in New Netherland before or during 1675. He was positive our Terwilliger line qualified.  He had sketched-out the names he had proven on a Holland Society application form.  Wow – we were in New Amsterdam in the 1600s?  And who were all those other people in Connecticut in the 1700s – with the surnames Graves, Treat, and Buell?  It was news to me … and I was hooked!  There were also a few photos of my mother’s family which I had never seen before.  I had almost no photos of my mother’s family, even fewer of my father’s, so these new photos were treasures.

I have had a computer since early mid-1980s and loved researching once the Internet began in mid-1990s.  It was so slow I could make tea as I waited for a good connection, but I simply loved the possibilities.  Research was a passion of mine, and I enjoyed trying to search out any details I could, as online genealogy took off!

My major reason for doing genealogy, however, was to experience a “larger sense of family.” I was able to see there were many families in my background and that “my family” was much more than my challenging parents. I have become friends with a previously-lost first cousin, several second cousins, and know of many other family members who continue to contact me, adding bits and pieces to our genealogy puzzles.  These past few years, I have interviewed several of my older first cousins. At the age of 71, I am the ‘kid’ cousin.  This spring or summer several of us will be tackling a number of boxes stored at two cousins’ homes.  I can hardly wait to see what we might find.

By the way, the title “Twigs and Trees” comes from a common nickname for Terwilliger men, Twig.  It seemed apropos as a title!”

Celia’s Thoughts on Blogging

“I never write anything without deciding on a title first – the title comes first and provides a focus for the rest (whether that is a blog, a poem, an article or a novel).   When I decided to start blogging, I came up with the title, and began with the first thing on my mind: “Who will pick up after me?”  After all, I was getting older, and wondered who would care about my photo albums, blog posts, and research once I was gone.

I enjoyed the first few months blogging, although I wasn’t very organized about it.  Thankfully I found the themes from GeneaBloggers very useful and other genealogists (Jill Ball, Randy Seaver and Judy Russell, to name a few) had intriguing suggestions as well. I kept reading, trying out new things, analyzing what I liked and didn’t like, and tweaking my blog as I learned something new.  I learned more and more about blogging as I went along, stretching my usual behaviour of acting like a turtle with my head pulled in!  I don’t mind commenting on people’s blogs – that just seems polite and friendly. However, putting my own writing out there – that was, and still is, a huge step (it does continue to be a confidence builder!).

Recently I completed the year-long challenge by Amy Johnson Crow, 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – oh my, what a challenge that was.  I enjoyed it tremendously. From Zerubbabel Jerome to Reverend Christopher Youngs, I managed to find interesting people to write about and review the many gaps in my research.  It was a fabulous learning experience, and I’m continuing the 52 Weeks challenge this year.

I am also a fiction writer, and will soon need to have a blog/newsletter/platform as an author.  I think all the work I’m doing in genealogy blogging will help me immensely when I become published.  I have three related books finished which are in the edit/revision stage before they hit any agents/publishers.  Blogging is a fun writing journey for many varied reasons.”

Celia’s Tips for New (and Not So New) Bloggers

  • Think carefully about your purpose in blogging. There are many reasons for blogging, and all are valid.
  • Read a number of genealogy blogs to see what you enjoy and what you don’t and then analyze why. Is it the visual aspect of the blog?  Is it that the layout is plain or busy? Is it the content, the style, the images, the length of the posts, or something else?
  • Be willing to learn and tweak as you go. You can change anything so be willing to make changes.
  • If you are concerned about starting a blog, know that you can keep it private – that is an easy way to begin, so why not try it?
  • Whether you use Blogger (which I use with my Google account) or Weebly or WordPress, all of these platforms are easy to use.
  • Be willing to play with your blog (different backgrounds, layouts, widgets and plug-ins). It’s a learning process. I had been blogging for a while before a fellow blogger pointed out I could use “labels” on each blog so that Google and other search engines would be able to find my blog (thanks Christine Woodcock)!  Oh yeah, on the right hand side, “Labels.”
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for help, but also don’t hesitate to do your homework. Read all the detailed notes on how to do each part of setting up a blog. I dashed in and started as if time was running out!
  • Once you have published your first post of your blog, send the details to GeneaBloggers so that Thomas MacEntee can let others know about your blog. He lists new ones each Saturday.
  • People seem to love seeing photographs to illustrate your blog points – but check to make certain those photos are actually yours to post publicly– copyright issues are quite a problem on the internet. Learn about copyright – it’s your responsibility.
  • Be polite and friendly when you comment on people’s blogs. And be polite and friendly when you write a reply to someone who has taken the time to comment on yours! Even if you don’t agree with their point of view, thank them for taking the time to comment.
  • Over time, you will find you have made new friends of the genealogy bloggers you get to know. I haven’t been able to travel to any conferences outside of BC but, if you are able, attend a conference.  Once there, take your list of genealogy bloggers and find them, introduce yourself, and talk with them.  It is so wonderful to be able to talk genealogy with someone whose eyes don’t glaze over!

Celia’s Favourite Blog Posts 

“These four posts were favourites of mine for many reasons – some because I had many views and/or responses on them, some because they were simply precious rare photos I could discuss and examine at my blog.

  • WORDLESS Wednesday – Baby Betty – This very sweet 1911 photo of my grandmother interacting with her 3 month-old first baby was a surprise find in the trunk I mentioned.  She died before one year of age, apparently due to complications from a severe milk allergy (which runs through our family).
  • TERWILLIGER – That SOUVENIR ALBUM – When I posted this and received many comments and suggestions, I realized I had to make a separate blog for it.  That way I would be able to permanently save the album and share it with family members as well as others interested in history and genealogy.  I have found a number of cousins and several other genealogists who have helped me understand some of the items on pages.  Genealogists can be so helpful!
  • WW2 – Canada, Dad on leave at home – A photo of Dad in 1943 with my one-year old big sister.  Taken in early 1943, this photo shows the area where we grew up until I was 10’ish years old.  I loved all the details one could enjoy in this photo.  Every time I look at it, I find more to remember and think about.  The horse-drawn delivery wagon in the background is priceless.
  • TERWILLIGER FAMILY – early 1900s Photo, Roselle NJ – This is the one and only photo of the Terwilliger family I have in my possession. It includes all three children with their parents and grandparents.  It was taken before any of the adult children were married, and is quite precious to me.”

Celia’s Time with her Ancestors

“I could – and sometimes do – spend hours a day researching the details of my ancestors’ lives.  Because of my challenging budget, I do most of my research online, but I love every minute of it!  I think about my ancestor’s life as I’m searching (how did you get through the day – what games did you play with your children – who else did you know in your community – what was it like being widowed with no support around you so that you were married once more within a year – how did you manage all those children – or, alternatively, how on earth did you manage having lost so many children – and, Charlotte Bortle, where on earth did you come from?) So many questions, so few answers.

I don’t have a specific time to work on genealogy, mainly because of my other passion of fiction writing, and then I also have other responsibilities with my genealogy society and with my writing chapter group. I kept track at one point, and realized I normally spend about 30 hours or so each week on the computer, most of it on genealogy; some weeks, more.  Occasionally I find a new resource, and I go full-tilt-boogie to get as much as I can out of that resource for the various ancestors who might be affected.  It is very exciting and satisfying.”

How Genealogy/Family History has Improved or Changed Celia’s Life

“My ancestors have helped me immensely over this past decade or so.  They may not talk directly to me, but finding them, looking at their personal details, the history, and maps of where they lived and when, has been a very positive experience.  I have also been able to share details with my children – stories on Facebook, showing photos to my children, and talking about those ancestors. Specific knowledge about my ancestors provided a positive balance in what was originally a very unhappy sense of what constituted “my family”.  I am immensely grateful they were in my past, helping me become “me.”  I’m not sure I’m able to articulate what a positive influence genealogy has had on my life.  Emotional abuse on the level I experienced – as a child and into my teens – can be extremely challenging, and I’m pleased that with the help of my psychiatrist in the past, and genealogy in the present, I am feeling truly balanced now.  Genealogy research allowed me to be very direct with my own children about the abusive cycle which had continued through the Kuhn line in our family.  And may I say, that abuse cycle has not continued onward – my children are very wonderful adults, in long-term supportive relationships/partnerships, and my six grandchildren seem happy, creative, intelligent, loved.  Whew!  Life is good.”

Celia’s Time Capsule Message

“I have a secret to tell you.  You are the most unique wonderful person on the planet.  Why is that true? Because of all the incredible people who contributed to YOU.  Your parents, your grandparents, even past your 10th great-grandparents – they all added something truly unique.  Honour that uniqueness by learning more about those ancestors of yours.  Play one of their odd-to-you games.  Read one of their stories.  Find a history book about what it was like during their life – the events, the music, the writers, the soldiers, the dancers.  And start to write your own life tory, adding photographs so that others will be able to see and know who is who, when, and where.  Your unique story is so valuable.  My dream for you is that you will understand how much we all helped to make you unique, and therefore you will decide to live and write your own best story on this foundation. Know how much you are loved and cared for, every day, every year, every generation.  This is a secret you can share.  Share it.”

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Please take a moment to head on over to Celia’s blogs. Leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. I appreciate Celia’s honesty and willingness to share her personal family history with the rest of us and I am in awe of her positive outlook and the steps she took to change the learned behavior from her childhood and improve her life and that of her family. Continuing to learn, research and write, as well as embarking on a writing career reminds all of us to set new goals, have new dreams, and continue to reach beyond our comfort zone. Welcome Celia, it’s great to have you here!

© 2015, 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 . . . Elise Ann Wormuth

Come meet genealogy blogger Elise Ann Wormuth, author of the Living in the Past blog, in this interview by Michelle Taggart at GeneaBloggers.

I am excited to introduce to you Elise Ann Wormuth and her blog, Living in the Past, described as, “A history of the Ortman and Berneburg families; thoughts on the practice and processes of genealogy.” Elise has a beautiful blog and shares some great adventures in her pursuit of her ancestors

A Little About Elise

“I was born in Jamaica, New York (part of Queens). My mother brought me home from the hospital in a hurricane and she said we had to huddle near a space heater to stay warm. I’m happy to have that as my birthplace, because two of the branches of my family had lived there since the 1880s. I grew up in Minneapolis, and as an adult, I’ve lived in Boston, Los Angeles, Santa Rosa, CA, San Francisco, and now Santa Cruz, CA. I’ve been in California for 42 years and can’t imagine living anywhere else. I’m proud that my son is a native Californian!”

How Elise Got Started in Genealogy

“Seriously, I have been doing genealogy for about two years. But I was always interested in hearing the stories of my grandmothers. Of course, now I wish I’d asked them more questions!

“My family was and is very small. My father was an only child and my mother had one brother, 16 years older than her. I have one first cousin in the world. So I guess I wanted to expand my family, to find out more about the people who went before. I was especially interested in finding out about my paternal grandfather’s family, since he was one of nine children but was estranged from his family.”

Elise’s Thoughts on Blogging

“I created my blog in January of 2013 for the same reason that many do – to pass the history and stories on to the younger generation of my family. It was touch-and-go for a while because I was still working, but now that I’m retired, I’m devoting a lot of attention to it.”

Elise’s Advice for New Bloggers

“Keep the sense that you’re writing for others, not yourself and that there’s an audience out there that is interested in what you have to say. Also, write about your own history because one day you will inevitably be an ancestor yourself, and your descendants will want to know about you. That also gives you a lot more potential topics to write about on those days when inspiration has deserted you.”

Elise’s Favorite Blog Post

“Oh, that’s like asking which is my favorite child!

I do like the sequence in which the brick wall around one of my maternal great-grandfathers came down in this post:

Some of my other favorites are:

I’m proud of the research and happy with how I wrote about it in this next one:

Elise’s Time with the Ancestors

“Now that I’m retired, I spend quite a lot of time! I probably spend around 20 hours a week, maybe more, maybe less.”

Elise’ Favorite Ancestors

“Oh boy, another hard question. My absolute favorite has to be my Grandmother Berneburg. She lived with us for 12 years or so, and she was a tough, feisty lady who had had a lot of challenges in her life. Even though she wasn’t a warm and fuzzy kind of grandma, we kids adored her.

“I’m also fascinated with groups of relatives – the Langers of Silesia, the three generations of women from Bremen who were all illegitimate, the real story of my grandfather and who his mother was. I’m eager to learn more about all of them.”

How Genealogy has Improved Elise’s Life

“It’s given me something to do in my old age. Genealogy has enriched my life tremendously as I learn about all of the stories of the people who have gone before. It’s also brought me close to a wonderful community of incredibly helpful and generous people both here and in Europe.

“As for what I love about genealogy, I guess I love what everyone does – the chase, the puzzle, the mystery, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. When you get an envelope from an archive, there’s that wonderful moment of anticipation and hope – what will it tell me? I think we all live for that. Even when you discover things that are unpleasant or shocking, it’s still wonderful, knowing the stories.

“The most frustrating thing, if you’d like to know that, is never being able to talk to the people you’re researching and writing about to ask them, “How am I doing? Am I right? Am I telling your story in the way you would want it told?”

Elise’s Time Capsule Message

“Don’t be so self-centered: Talk to your elders! Bug the heck out of them before they pass on! Even if they think their lives are ordinary, they are in fact fascinating to those who come after. Keep saying, “And then what happened?” and write everything down, because the older you get, the less you’ll remember, and that’s a shame.”

Elise’s Genealogy Bucket List

“I want to take a trip to Germany, for sure, to meet living relatives in Erkeln and to track down others in archives. I want to see the places where they lived. I have the route all planned out! I’d like to spend some time in New York/New Jersey, especially looking for gravestones and so on. I’d also like to have a big family reunion where I could do a 10- or 12-hour presentation for my loved ones, because I’m pretty sure they’re not the ones reading my blog every day!”

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

© 2015, 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 . . . Schalene Jennings Dagutis

Come meet genealogy blogger Schalene  Jennings Dagutis, author of the Tangled Roots and Trees blog, in this interview by Wendy Mathias at GeneaBloggers.

It is my pleasure to introduce to you Schalene Jennings Dagutis and her blog Tangled Roots and Trees “Where family and history come together.”  She describes her blog as an extension of the genealogy research which she took over from her dad and as “a labor of love for a man who gave me a wonderful childhood and still today shows me how to get joy out of life even when it’s hard.”

A Little About Schalene

“I was born in Washington, DC, at the Columbia Hospital for Women, which no longer exists. My parents were so sure I would be a boy they didn’t even have a girl’s name selected. My original birth certificate had to be amended to add Schalene, which is an adaptation of my maternal grandmother’s maiden name.

“I have always considered Virginia my home state as I have lived there all of my life except for a few years when I lived in Michigan and Massachusetts for work. My husband and I now live and work northern Virginia.”

How Schalene Got Started in Genealogy

“I have been doing research off and on for about 20 years but seriously since November 2012. Dad was the genealogist of the family. I tried working on my husband’s family but quickly hit brick walls in every direction as his grandparents all immigrated from what are now Lithuania, Austria, Hungary, and Serbia. Every few years I’d go back to it and find a little more before getting stuck again. I always helped my Dad with his data entry tasks. I would be typing away on his computer and he would regale me with stories about newly found ancestors. Those times are special memories. Dad had a massive cerebral hemorrhage in November 2012 and I took over our family’s genealogy in earnest at that time. And I’ve become obsessed!”

Why Schalene Started a Blog

“After Dad’s hemorrhage, he was in a nursing home for 6 months receiving speech, physical and occupational therapy. He worked hard and went from being paralyzed on his right side to walking. But one thing that did not come back was his ability to speak. He can understand everything we say, but he simply cannot speak very much. When I would visit him in the nursing home, I would tell him about my genealogy finds. Starting a blog seemed like a good way to remember all the stories so I had something to talk to Dad about when we next visited.”

Schalene’s Advice for New Bloggers

“Every person’s blog must feel right to them. What works for one person may not for another. For example, I do not feel competent enough to provide pointers or instructions about research in my blog. I am still learning. I think it’s one of the things I love about genealogy — there’s always something to learn. The only advice I have, perhaps, is establish a schedule for publishing and try to stick to it. In the beginning, I was very enthusiastic and published a post daily. I quickly ran out of stories. I also pre-write posts so they’ve been ready for weeks and have been proofed a few times before publishing.”

Schalene’s Favorite Blog Posts

“I’ve been fortunate to have two of my posts featured on Ancestry.com’s blog in their What We’re Reading feature and have had three articles published in magazines, which all started as blog posts. But I have two favorite posts and they are about my parents:

A Tribute to My Father and Celebrating Mother’s Day.”

Schalene’s Time With Ancestors

“Too much! My husband and I do not have children. I spend most evenings and can lose entire weekends researching or writing about genealogy.”

Schalene’s Favorite Ancestor

“I used to say I was inordinately fond of my black sheep until I discovered one who murdered his three young children. It made me consider more seriously why my ancestors may have made the decisions they did. I wouldn’t necessarily call him a favorite, but he did make me slow down and think . . . a lot.

“Now I think I have two favorites and they’re by-marriage ancestors. I like them because they left behind letters and unpublished memoirs that helped me know them as people and provided lots of blogging material.”

How Genealogy Has Improved Schalene’s Life

“It’s given me an avenue for giving back to the community. I now volunteer at a local history society.”

What Schalene Loves Most About Genealogy

“Through genealogy, I have been able to maintain a close relationship with my Dad and have found a topic which provides us a way to communicate. Blogging about my family history has also enabled me to collaborate with my youngest brother in an area of interest for him. He is an amateur World War II historian and is writing a book about the war. Whenever I am working on a post about an ancestor’s WWII experiences, I let my brother know. He either helps me with my research or writes what I call a ‘set up’ post as a guest blogger where he provides the historical context for my post about an ancestor’s personal experiences or history. We have great fun together.”

Schalene’s Genealogy Bucket List

“I would like to go to Ukraine to learn more about my Mom’s father’s family. They considered themselves German but lived in Tsarist Russia. My grandfather emigrated in 1911, the first of his family to do so.”

Schalene’s Time Capsule Message

“Genealogy and family history are never done. Your brick wall will come down; it just may not be you who tears it down. And research is all about collaboration and sharing. Your ancestors are not yours alone; they belong to other people as well.”

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Please take a moment to visit Schalene at Tangled Roots and Trees and leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. Thank-you, Schalene, 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 wendymath@cox.net.