May I Introduce to You . . . Debra van Driel Kluit

Come meet genealogy blogger Debra van Driel Kluit, author of the Moments in Time blog in this interview by Gini Webb at GeneaBloggers.


I have the great pleasure of introducing you to Debra van Driel Kluit and her blog, Moments in Time, described as, “ . . . Family history and family stories.”

Debra, please tell us a little about yourself.

“I was born in Hull, East Yorkshire, England but have moved around a lot as a child and lived in several countries. My husband is a real Dutch Miller, we live in Rotterdam next to a windmill that was built in 1776 and where my husband makes bread and cake mixes which we sell in a little shop inside the mill.

I am a mother of three children and a grandmother of five.

I speak Dutch fluently but my English has deteriorated so please forgive any grammatical mistakes.”

How did you get started in Genealogy?

“I caught the family history bug at a very young age, I was 16 when I was first given a lesson about genealogy and a desire was planted to start researching my own family history. My maternal grandmother was still alive as were two older sisters of my father and they were able to provide me with many stories of their childhood and several other facts to point me in the good direction. My early years of research was before the era of computers and entailed traveling down to London to visit St. Catherine’s house where all the birth, marriage and death indexes were housed. These were huge tomes which caused muscle ache after spending a whole day lifting and carrying them to the tables. Viewing the census returns was no easy matter either as you either needed an exact address or you would have to view the whole micro film roll of a village or town with the hope of finding your ancestors. We are so blessed nowadays that we can do so much research in the comfort of our own homes.”

Why Debra created her blogs and her thoughts on blogging

After completing a genealogical course with Future Learn, I was given a tip to create a genealogical blog, this seemed like a perfect way to share all the interesting facts and stories which I have discovered during my many years of research with my family who are scattered over the world.”

Debra, how did you choose the name for your blog?

“About 10 years ago, I wrote and self-published a book about my paternal line, during the course of writing this book I had been reading Daphne du Maurier’s book ‘The House on the Strand’ and came across the phrase ‘Moments in Time’, this sounded like a perfect description of my book because it is just small moments in time which we are recording whilst doing genealogical research, as we try to build a picture of our ancestor’s lives.  I decided to give my blog this same name as sometimes I will use excerpts from my book as well as adding stories and facts from my maternal line.”

What research tool or source has been particularly helpful in researching your family history?

“I have used Ancestry a lot but I have also found the website from the British National Archives very useful, especially the A2A access to archives section which indexes the records of local record offices throughout the country. I was able to discover many records of my Strickland ancestors in the Cornwall County Record Office through this site which I could then apply for and receive the copies via the post. The great thing about having ancestors from Cornwall is that there are so many mineral rights for the tin and copper so that almost every land purchase or rental is accompanied with an indenture of the mining rights, these can be amazing sources of information about family connections. Recently I have also used the website of the British Newspaper Archive and have found some really interesting articles about my ancestors which have given me more background information about their lives.”

Debra, what has been your most exciting genealogy discovery in your research?

“Every genealogical discovery is exciting, that’s what makes it so addictive, the joy of discovering the name of an ancestor that you have been searching so long for is so exhilarating. My husband is a Miller and works in a real windmill so it was quite exciting to discover that my maternal great great grandfather and his family were Millers. Even more so when I discovered a book in my father in law’s book case about Kent windmills which he had bought in England many years ago, and which made mention of my ancestors and described my fourth great grandmother as being ‘a veritable Amazon, a masterful woman of wonderful personality’ a woman who lived to be 101 and had 26 children.”

Debra’s favorite blog post

“One of my favourite posts is about an ancestor who was so upset about the death of his wife that he killed his young daughter and then tried to kill himself.

It’s not always nice to find a criminal in our family tree but the wealth of information that can be found about a notorious ancestor in old newspaper articles and record offices adds so much colour and interest to your tree.

The 4th great grandfather of my husband was a solicitor and also in charge of collecting taxes, during the French occupation of Holland in the early 18th Century he used some of this tax money for his own means. In 1807 he was held accountable and declared bankrupt, in the National Record Office in Den Haag we were able to find the original handwritten bills of the money he owed to the tailor and the grocer etc., fascinating reading and remarkable that such things had been kept in an archive for more than two hundred years.”

How much time are you able to spend on research?

“This depends on how much my time is taken up with other demands. I could easily spend hours looking for newspaper articles related to my ancestors or trying to get past a brick wall, but being a Grandmother and also looking after my mother in law fills my time as well as working in our Windmill shop.”

Debra, who is your favorite ancestor?

“I think that I would have to say my great grandmother Rose Tozer because she had such a tragic life. Her own father died when she was two years old and her first husband died when her daughter my grandmother was only two, she remarried a widower with 5 children who was unfaithful but ended up divorcing her and accusing her of being unfaithful and separating her from two of her children. Eventually she ended up committing suicide by putting her head in a gas oven. I would love to meet her and tell her that she is loved.”

Debra, what family story or heirloom do you cherish?

“I don’t have many heirlooms but I do have a small cut glass perfume bottle which belonged to my great grandmother Rose Tozer, if I open it I can still smell her perfume.”

In what ways has genealogy improved your life?

“Genealogy has made me realize that I am who I am through the combined choices of my ancestors. I have inherited not only their genes but also their decisions on where they choose to live or work and how they treated their children, all have had an influence in my life and who I have become.”

Debra, what do you love most about doing your genealogy/family history?

“I love putting together the puzzle pieces and building a picture of my ancestors life.

Genealogy is like detective work, finding clues and sometimes unrelated facts that eventually lead you to find someone you’ve been searching years for.”

What is on your genealogy bucket list?

“With my paternal line I have managed to get quite far back but with my maternal line I have hit quite a few brick walls, my 4th great grandfather Robert Orwin, the Miller was married in London and died in Hull just two years before the 1851 census which would have told me where he was born. I have a lot of information about his life and where he lived but not where he was born and who his parents were. I have tried so many avenues but hope one day to find for certain where he came from.”

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

“Sometimes I wish that my ancestors had left more information for me, a diary or a letter telling me about their lives. That is why I think it is so important to keep a record of my own life so that my children and grandchildren and their children will know who I was and what I thought about things.”


Please take a moment to visit Debra’s blog. Leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. Welcome Debra, 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 . . . Jenny Tonks

Come meet genealogy blogger Jenny Tonks of The Disciplined Genealogist interviewed by Jana Last at GeneaBloggers

MAY I INTRODUCE TO YOU . . . Jenny Tonks


I have the pleasure of introducing you to Jenny Tonks and her blog, The Disciplined Genealogist, described as, “Where I post answers to the questions I’ve heard most often as a genealogy instructor. I noticed most of them had an underlying theme: discipline! (i.e., “I don’t want to stop researching to make citations—genealogy is way too fun!” or, “How do you force yourself to stop and process family data instead of just surfing around and collecting records all day?”).”

Jenny, please tell us a little about yourself.

“I’m a mother of five living in rural Virginia. My husband is a counselor, originally from Idaho, and I was born in New England, spent my childhood in Idaho, and my teen years in New York. I have Virginia ancestors who were Mormon pioneers that left this area due to intense persecution (some were even killed by mobs) in pursuit of religious freedom, so living where I live today in relatively peaceful circumstances is poetic justice for my ancestors!”

How did you get started in genealogy?

“My mom has been a genealogy aficionado since she was a teenager. I like to joke that she raised me with more ancestral stories than fairy tales, but it is actually true. Her stories sparked something in me, and I was working in DOS-based PAF files by the time *I* was a teenager, too!”

When and why did you start your genealogy blog?

“Just a couple of years ago, because I was about to inherit a room full of genealogy files from a relative who liked to sit and collect records, but didn’t take the time to process them properly. Now I get to do all that hard work myself—parse the records for important information, create citations, and generate the reports/family narratives. As I mentioned earlier, my genealogy students often complained to me about not wanting to process their records, either, so I’m hoping to teach my readers how to do this, so that the younger generations of the future don’t inherit rooms full of unprocessed documents. All those “maybes” and “might-be-an-ancestor” documents that you think might be important and spent years collecting for possible proof arguments? They’ll become recycle bin fodder for the younger generations who will have no clue what they are worth if you don’t process them properly today!”

How did you choose the name for your blog?

“It was pretty easy: it takes discipline to stop myself from searching willy-nilly and process the records I’ve found before moving on to another search. We all LOVE to sit and search—it is what drew us to genealogy in the first place! None of us joined because making citations was such a blast, but we have to do it or we end up with boxes of MESS and the answers we usually need are typically already buried in the boxes anyway, but we don’t know it because we haven’t sorted out those files for hidden clues!”

What are your tips for new bloggers?

“I bet all the expert blogging tutorials tell you to blog often, but I’m not a disciplined blogger—I’m a disciplined genealogist, which means that I have less time for blogging. I blog rarely as a result, alas. I probably don’t get a lot of traffic compared to other blogs. I don’t even know what counts as a successful blog! I just know that I care about making sure nobody else inherits a room full of unprocessed boxes like I did, because not everybody’s descendants will take the time to process them as I am doing. Can you imagine somebody sending such a large quantity of genealogy work to the shredder, or the garbage dump? Perish the thought! But to an uninformed eye, it does look like junk.

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

“Probably this one, because it shows how I am cleaning up the electronic files of my relative. Plus, it has received the most hits of any other post I’ve ever written—I’m not sure why. For some reason, it generated a TON of web traffic, and I don’t really do much to promote my blog—I don’t do ads or anything like that. But this post must have really excited everyone. Maybe my readers are looking for ways to organize their family data electronically?”

How much time do you spend on family history research?

“I spend about 20 hours per week working for the genealogy business I run out of my home, and every other waking moment working for my living family that includes five children and three pets! 🙂 I would love to spend more time working on my own ancestors, but that is something I rarely have time for—a luxury I will get to enjoy hopefully more often when I retire, as is the case with most genealogy lovers, I understand (who statistically tend to take it up as a hobby in their golden years). For now, client work helps maintain us and my own ancestors do not, so clients have to come first.”

Who is your favorite ancestor(s) and why?

“Three dear ancestresses who are ALL named Helen, because three generations of men in my family tree (a father, his son, and then his son) ALL married women with the same first name! Their stories are all just amazing. Gosh, I can’t wait to spend more time on THEIR research so I can do justice to their life stories—I plan to write a book about my three Helens! SO exciting!”

How has genealogy improved your life?

“As everybody engaged in this work already knows: it is SO fun! The ultimate catharsis. I love it.”

What do you love the most about genealogy?

“The feeling of scrolling through a perfectly polished report. Like that rush you get just before handing in a perfectly crafted thesis to your professor: each citation is worthy of commendation, each paragraph is perfect (no widows or orphans!). Graphics are sharp and add luster to the narrative. The heart swells as you read it—the new discoveries! The heretofore unknown mysteries solved! I’m totally like the boy on A Christmas Story (daydreaming about all the accolades he is going to receive from his joyous teacher when he hands her his term paper) each time I aspire for the tears of joy I want to see from a client when they read my genealogy reports about their ancestors. Like the boy in the movie, that never happens to me, but I picture it just the same, to keep me moving and disciplined! I want an ancestor’s life story to always be presented as accurately, professionally, cleanly, and in as organized a fashion as possible.”

What family story or heirloom do you cherish?

“A vase painted by one of my Helens, with both her signature and the date “1888” on the bottom. Also, I inherited a cookbook from another of my Helens—I dream of one day starting a blog in which I cook everything in her cookbook, and research the newspaper that it came from (all her recipes are clipped from newspapers), along with what was happening at that time, based on the surrounding articles in that newspaper. But who has time with five kids and a full client roster? Not me, lol. I will add that to my post-retirement bucket list, haha.”

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

“Since I spend more time on client family history than my own family, and I specialize in Italian family history, I will say that the Antenati web site at is the site I use most often, because it is the web’s largest repository of original Italian records.”

Which genealogy blogs inspire you?

“Confession: I don’t read blogs for inspiration. I read them for information and education. I troll them for genealogy tips, resources, methods, repository insights, or to learn about obscure record groups, etc. For example, when somebody posts about their trip to a courthouse I haven’t visited yet, I might click on their post to see if they have any helpful photos or insights about obscure record collections I may not have heard of before. I skim the post to see if there is any such content. If there is, then I read it closely and learn all that I can, then pin the post to my “Profession” Pinterest board (where I have collected all of my most valuable mentors’ teachings over the years!). I do the same when they post about an ancestor’s record, to see where they found it, etc.”

What interesting connections have you made through blogging?

“Not many; you will notice maybe two comments on my entire blog. I really am not an expert blogger. Genealogy is more my “thing,” lol. A couple of years ago I tried starting a blog where I answer people’s research questions. Now THAT blog REALLY took off and I met LOTS of people! Folks emailed me daily, to where I couldn’t keep up with all of the research questions I received. I had to call in another genealogist for help! But alas, I had inadvertently given the blog and its URL the same name as a column in a major genealogy magazine, so I took it down. I didn’t have the energy (or money) to restart another one after that. And really, it took up *way* too much time; time that I should be spending with clients. I always ended up doing free research for the blog participants, you know? Genealogy is so addicting that way, lol!”

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

“DNA! I know too many folks who adamantly refuse to participate, either because they so adore their adoptive parents that they want to honor their legal, adoptive family or because they were raised in an era where convention said that legal family equals family, so they don’t want some genealogist to make them acknowledge biological kin as their family. Now that some genealogy publications are starting to require DNA sources in their articles, I find it interesting that there is rarely any distinction between legal (on-paper) family and biological (blood) family in the literature. The industry seems to be adopting a “blood equals kinship” mentality, but I know a lot of adoptees and same-sex couple families who will beg to differ. As time marches on, this should make for an interesting debate as the younger generations grow up and become the leading scholars in our field.”

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

“Don’t become too focused on your blood ties; remember the lessons that history taught us with the British monarchy and the War of the Roses (basically, it is the Game of Thrones, only without the fantasy—it was all real and just as gory/horrific, because of a nation’s obsession with bloodlines). It is okay to keep a separate documentary history of your legal family history, too, even if your DNA kit results lead you to construct a slightly separate tree. If somebody took in and cared for one of your ancestors but turned out not to be their biological parent, I believe that they deserve to be acknowledged for their efforts as a guardian and provider, at least, because their efforts to sustain the life of that ancestor helped result in your eventual birth. Preserve that person’s story somewhere, even if not on the biological family tree chart.”

* * *

Please take a moment to head over to Jenny’s blog, The Disciplined Genealogist and leave her a comment, letting her know you stopped by. Thank you Jenny 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 . . . Michael Dyer

Come meet genealogy blogger Michael Dyer, author of Family Sleuther, in this interview by Michelle Taggart at GeneaBloggers.

MAY I INTRODUCE TO YOU . . . Michael Dyer

Offering a smorgasbord of topics pertinent to genealogy, blogger Michael Dyer truly has something for everyone. When asked how he would describe his blog, Michael said, “Family Sleuther is a family history journal that documents my interest in ancestry and shares helpful, practical research tips. It’s where I detail my excavations into the past, solve family mysteries, and bring life back to those who are history. Readers’ genealogies benefit from my mistakes and successes as I share best practices and lessons learned.”

Not only does Michael take us along on his research trips and other genealogical adventures, he shares his passion for genealogy in a way that ensures that we never get bored. It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you, Michael Dyer of the Family Sleuther.

Michael, tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up and what is your current hometown?

“I was born in Denver and grew up in the shadows of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain foothills. After university, I moved to Washington, DC to work in international development. My day job indulges my interest in other countries and cultures, and affords me opportunities to support the growth of emerging global leaders committed to the development of their communities.”

How did you get started in genealogy?

“In the summer of 2010, I started asking my family questions about our Italian background. There was a large knowledge gap about my Italian great-grandparents who were living just decades prior. How was it possible that my direct ancestors were already unknowns and largely forgotten? The thought was disheartening and I felt like we could do a better job of honoring their memory while growing our family’s sense of identity. That prompted my detective work and initial foray into genealogy.

“My first research project unearthed a remarkable journey: as a 19-year old kid, my great-grandfather sailed to a new country with only $10 to his name. He didn’t speak English, yet he was able to land a job and start a new life for himself.

“While my great-grandfather’s story wasn’t particularly unique, the magnitude of his epic yet forgotten journey ignited an insatiable interest in family history. There’s something compelling about placing your own kin in their historical place and rediscovering people the world has long forgotten. I wanted to learn other forgotten stories. I quickly developed a love for researching my ancestors, and the hunt for the documents that yielded those names and brought them back to life.”

What have been some of the highlights in your family history research?

“Recently, I learned of a Non-Paternal Event (NPE) for my grandfather. I was able to use both traditional and genetic genealogy to identify his father. This was a huge victory because many of the story’s key players are deceased and the NPE occurred nearly 80 years ago.

“Another highlight came in October 2014 after my maternal grandmother passed away. I set off in a cramped rental car with my mother and aunt on a 7-day family history road trip. We covered 2,200 miles, five states, and paid our respects at the graves of 36 of our direct ancestors.”

When and why did you start your genealogy blog?

“I created my blog in June 2013 because I wanted a venue to share the research and stories I was uncovering. My family and friends have a limited threshold for genealogy excitement (you know, the eyes glazing over routine). The blog is a platform to share those stories with an audience that fully appreciates the research and history I uncover.”

You have a good variety of posts on your blog. How do you get your inspiration or ideas for your blog posts?

“I write about whatever I am currently researching. As a result, my posts touch on an array of topics, people, and records. The diversity keeps me engaged, and appeals – I hope – to the readers.

“For example, on a recent trip back to Kansas, I drove by my great-grandparents old farm house. As I studied the century-old home, I realized the house itself was a story. I penciled the idea into my blogging queue. It’ll be my first post about a family home – more new blogging territory.”

You utilize social media as you research. Share with us some of the ways social media has helped you with your genealogy.

“Social media has played an important role in handing me some exciting genealogy wins. Earlier this summer, I used Facebook to organize a reunion that drew 100 family members from across the country after years of dwindling attendance (see A Family Reunion Revived).

“In another victory, I was able to track down a distant cousin on Facebook who confirmed that my 4th great-grandfather was in an unlabeled photograph I own. In fact, she had the exact same photo hanging on her dining room wall! (See Facebook Tags Forgotten Ancestor.)

“Twitter has helped me, too. I caught a tweet by advertising a new record collection of Oklahoma oral histories. On a whim I decided to check for my ancestral surnames and discovered that a maternal great-grandfather had been interviewed about his controversial work assimilating Native American tribes. (see Tweet & Tell: Oral History Surfaces).”

What do you enjoy most about blogging?

“I most enjoy connecting with my readers and hearing their thoughts on a post and their recommendations for advancing my research. That connection is motivating and makes me a better blogger.”

How has blogging helped you in your research?

“Blogging strengthens my genealogy. When I write a post, holes in my research and overlooked next steps become more apparent.

“Blogging also provides me a sounding board that elevates my research. Feedback from my readers with tips and next steps helps me conduct better, more thorough investigations. In a way, blogging is like having my genealogy peer-reviewed.”

What tips can you share with someone just starting a family history blog?

“Write regularly. When I began, I published in fits and starts. My irregular blogging made it difficult for me to stay in the groove, build momentum, or grow readership. Commit and keep at it.

“Also, as soon as you think of an idea, jot it down. If I have an idea but I’m not prepared to write the full post, I’ll quickly log in to Blogger and create just a blog post title. The titled post will sit in my queue until I’m ready to write, and I don’t have to worry that a good idea will be forgotten.”

What are some of your favorite post(s) on your blog and why?

“My favorite posts are usually about discoveries that I didn’t expect or cases I’ve been researching for a while. Among my favorites are:

Disease in the Civil War is the story of conducting research in the National Archives, handling original Civil War pension files, learning about the military service of two of my third-great grandfathers, and discovering that disease was far more prevalent and lethal than battle.

DNA Doesn’t Lie is the concluding chapter of a four-part series where I was able to bust through a Non-Paternal Event’s brick wall and learn the identity of my paternal great-grandfather.”

How has genealogy made a difference in your life?

“It has certainly helped me hone my research and critical thinking skills. Genealogy is a never-ending puzzle that requires careful attention to detail, an ability to think critically about evidence, and synthesize it to make sense of it all while determining next research steps. Family historians are constantly shifting pieces of the Rubik’s cube to figure out the correct relationships and make families whole again.

“But, perhaps more importantly, it’s empowering to know your ancestors’ stories and to understand their lives’ hardships and accomplishments – and to see similarities across time and context. Willa Cather wrote that, “There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.” When you learn your ancestors’ stories you begin to see parallels to your own journey. It shifts your thinking about life and identity to know that you have this wealth of experience behind you in your pedigree and in your genes still today guiding you forward.”

What other genealogy blogs inspire you?

“I read a lot of blogs, usually depending on the topic I’m researching at the time.

“I credit Amy Johnson Crow’s blog No Stories Too Small and her 52 Ancestors Challenge with motivating me to blog more regularly.

“There’s a great community of genealogy bloggers on Facebook and GeneaBloggers that I follow. I also read Judy Russell’s  The Legal Genealogist, Jan Last’s Jana’s Genealogy and Family History Blog for her weekly compilation of must-reads, Linda Stufflebean’s  Empty Branches on the Family Tree, and genetic genealogy blogs like Blaine Bettinger’s   The Genetic Genealogist, Roberta Estes’ DNAeXplained-Genetic Genealogy, and Kitty Cooper’s Blog .

What is on your genealogy bucket list?

“I want to bust through my brick wall for my 5th great-grandfather Thomas Kirk (1778-1846) who lived in Licking County, Ohio. I’m trying to learn who his parents were and what his ancestral background was. My goal is to eventually learn who my immigrant Kirk ancestor was.”

*  *  *

Please take a moment and visit Michael’s blog Family Sleuther. Be sure and leave him a comment to let him know you stopped by. Thank you Michael for sharing your blog and your thoughts with us!

© 2016, 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