May I Introduce to You . . . Robyn Smith

Come meet genealogy blogger Robyn Smith, author of the Reclaiming Kin blog, in this interview by Michelle Taggart at GeneaBloggers.

I am excited to introduce to you Robyn Smith and her blog, Reclaiming Kin: Taking Back What Was Once Lost.  Robyn describes her blog as being “primarily a teaching blog. I try to use my own research to illustrate methodology or introduce a new record set.  As an African-American, I have several lines of enslaved people, so I have many blog posts discussing methods and sources of doing that uniquely complex research.“

I initially heard Robyn interviewed on Blog Talk Radio and knew I wanted to know more about her.  You can listen to her interview here: Do You Have an Artificial Brick Wall?

A Little About Robyn

“I was born in Washington, D.C., and raised and educated in Prince George’s County, Maryland. I am an engineer by day and those analytical and research skills have been put to great use in my genealogy. I lecture locally and have taught an Advanced African-American Genealogy course at Howard Community College since 2008. I have a special interest and expertise in slave research, court records and Maryland research.”

How Robyn Got Started in Genealogy

“In 1997, after the death of my paternal grandmother, I realized that I had one grandparent still living and simply did not know that much about my family history. I started that year with a visit to the National Archives and found my grandmother on the 1930 census. I had no idea at the time that it would become a passion and a lifetime love of discovery.” 

Robyn’s Thoughts on Blogging 

“I started my blog about 6 years ago, mainly as a way to journal my own research. But, the more I blogged, the louder the voice of the teacher became, and now I view it not just about my own research, but about how I can use that research to help others along their own journeys.”

Robyn’s Advice for New Bloggers

“Two things: While genealogists learn from each other’s research, a blog that solely talks about one’s own discoveries may wear thin over time. Try to expand upon your own research and how its lessons can be applicable to others. Also, find your own unique voice. Mine developed over time into something different than how it started.” 

Robyn’s Favorite Blog Post

“That’s a hard one, I like so many of them! I guess my favorite is my 2nd most popular one, Do You Have an Artificial Brick Wall? because it resonates with such a wide swath of people.”

Robyn’s Time with the Ancestors

“I spent a lot of time on it before I had a son four years ago. I now probably average only about 2-4 hours a month. I get to play with Play-Doh and Legos and trains most of the time now.”

Robyn’s Favorite Ancestors

“What a question. I am fascinated by so many of them. I will cheat a little and say Judah Holt (1817-1890) and Malinda Holt (1816-1881), two enslaved women whose families fascinate me. They were both enslaved by the same man in Hardin County, Tennessee, but they do not appear to have been blood-related. Their owner, Giles Holt, migrated from Virginia to Tennessee, but how he acquired them is still unknown.

These women birthed 21 children total, and their families tell so much of the story of African-Americans in the 19th century. Judah’s son Henry ran away and fought in the Civil War, where he died; Judah eventually got his pension. Three of their sons, Phillip, John W. and Samuel, bought about 200 acres of land just a few years out of slavery. John W. and Samuel and another brother George would continue that tradition in Hardin County, eventually owning hundreds of acres. John W. was active in the Republican Party during Reconstruction, became a merchant and Postmaster, and opened a school for black children. Brother Samuel donated the land for a local church that is still in operation today.

The area where they lived was historically called Holtsville, which still appears on many maps. Judah’s son, James, left the area as a minister with the Methodist Church, but later graduated in one of the earliest law schools that allowed black people, Central Law School in Kentucky (now the University of Louisville). He eventually settled in Indianapolis, Indiana with a successful law practice. Many of the Holt women attended college and served as educators in the black schools of Hardin and surrounding counties.

There was of course, tragedy. Malinda’s son George W. was lynched in 1887, a painful reminder of the times. Some of their descendants migrated to Northern cities during the Great Migration, but there are some still there in Hardin County. I could go on and on about the Holt descendants, but it all started with Judah and Malinda. I only wish I had started all of this when my grandfather, Luther Holt, was still alive.”

How Genealogy has Improved Robyn’s Life

“I have such a great appreciation for the importance of history now and I see history everywhere and in everything. I think I have greater compassion for people. You see these relatives and have to accept their entire lives, the good, bad and ugly. You’re able to see how universal our issues are, and how little people have changed. There is nothing going on now that hasn’t been going on for a hundred years! I definitely am able to see my life in greater perspective, in terms of gratitude. Knowing what my ancestors when through, I have nothing to ever complain about!”

Robyn’s Genealogy Bucket List

“I’ve been to Salt Lake City and several national conferences, but haven’t been to one of the excellent institutes yet. I think I’d like to do that. I’ll be publishing a book based on this blog in a few months and I’ve been working for a year on my own book about all of my research. That’ll be a dream come true, to get that done.“

Robyn’s Time Capsule Message

“Your lives are important! Please tell us about your lives, leave us letters and pictures and stories.” 

Additional thoughts from Robyn

“I have a special interest in encouraging and helping others to write and record their stories and family history and get the information out there—by book, by article, by pamphlet, or by blog. Send a copy to your local library, to the State Archives, to the Library of Congress’ Genealogy Room. If we don’t tell these stories who will? Write about the community you’ve researched. I worry that this era of technology and digitization—though wonderfully useful in genealogy—will mean fewer if any actual letters and photographs to pass down since the photos will be trapped in people’s hard drives and SIM cards and phones. So while you’re taking the incredibly exhilarating ride of genealogy, don’t forget to get your findings written down and out there for the world to see.”

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Please take time to head over to Robyn’s blog, Reclaiming Kin and leave a comment, letting her know you stopped by.  Thank you Robyn 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

May I Introduce to You . . . Anne Young


Come meet genealogy blogger Anne Young, author of Anne's Family History and Avoca During World War I, in this interview by Wendy Mathias at GeneaBloggers.

I have the pleasure of introducing to you Anne Young and her two blogs, Anne’s Family History and Avoca During World War I. In her family blog, Anne strives to “add definition and colour to some of the events in [her] family’s history beyond mere names, dates and places.” The high level of research accompanied by photos and documents that readers admire in her family blog continues in her new blog recording the history of Avoca, a small town in the goldfields of Victoria, Australia.  Anne is also a regular contributor to the Worldwide Genealogy Blog.

A Little About Anne

“I was born in Adelaide, South Australia, and grew up in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory. A few years ago we moved to Ballarat, 100 km (70 miles) north-west of Melbourne, Victoria. My ancestors and my husband’s came to the Ballarat district in the mid nineteenth century.”

How Anne Got Started in Genealogy

“My father, his grandfather and other members of his family have been interested in their family history. Because to some degree my family history had been documented but nothing had been researched on my husband’s side, I concentrated first on my husband’s forebears. I started my research in the very early 90s when my children were small.”

Anne’s Thoughts About Blogging

“I started my blog in 2012. I wanted to write about some of the details of our forebears’ lives and make sense of some of the sources beyond merely recording facts and dates on a family tree. There is a great amount of primary material to understand. The explosion of digitized records and the digitization of newspapers have made a wealth of information easily accessible.

“My blog is a record for my children and any others who may be interested in our family stories. My children do actually read my blog :) so it is a good way for me to pass on family history.”

Anne’s Advice to New Bloggers

“Just start writing! Don’t over complicate the story. You don’t have to tell somebody’s whole life story in a blog post; just an incident from their life can be interesting. I find newspaper articles very useful as a starting point for a post. I also enjoy the themes posted by the Sepia Saturday blogging team. I also enjoyed the self-imposed task of writing for 26 days in April set by the A to Z Challenge. This year I am taking part in the 52 Ancestors challenge.

“Suggestions for posts come from other Bloggers. Last year I wrote about immigration in response to a meme proposed by fellow blogger Pauleen Cass.”

Anne’s Favorite Blog Posts

Australia Day:  Climbing Our Family’s Gum Tree, the story of Anne’s immigrant ancestors

Anne’s Time with Ancestors

“For all my blog posts I review and extend the research I have already done. This may take at least a day and sometimes more than a week. I now do research for other people and can get very busy on research on other people’s family trees.”

What Anne Loves Most About Genealogy

“Constructing the tree is like working on a jigsaw puzzle, and I enjoy working out who is related to whom, and discovering more about who they were and what they did.”

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Please take a moment to visit Anne at Anne’s Family History and leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. Thank-you, Anne, 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 . . . Matthew Burt

Come meet genealogy blogger Matthew Burt, author of Burt and Beyond, in this interview by Gini Webb at GeneaBloggers.

I have the pleasure of introducing you to Matthew Burt and his blog, Burt and beyond – a journey in Genealogy, described as, “. . . A personal family blog to learn about my own heritage with a focus on trying to teach through my own experiences from scratch.”

A Little About Matthew

“I was born in The North of England in the historical city of York which is in the County of North Yorkshire. I have lived there all of my life (35 years) and it’s England’s friendliest place in my humble opinion.”

How Matthew Got Started in Genealogy

“I am currently studying towards my BA (hons) in History with the Open University and enjoy all aspects of the field especially the social side. I thought it would be really fun to link my own family to important historical periods and find out how they may have added to their own societies. I have only been seriously studying for 3 months.”

Matthew’s Thoughts on Blogging

“I started building it a month ago and it was a way to chart my own journey for myself and my family initially, but I think it will be pretty cool to share my findings on the way. How I got there as well as who I found, who knows it could be useful for somebody.”

Matthew’s Advice for New Bloggers

“Keep going. First and foremost write about what you love and don’t be too worried about how many readers you get initially.”

Matthew’s Favorite Blog Post

“My favourite post is “Heroes of Hope Street” I love the way families can be inter connected and this story has a coincidence that I love.”

Matthew’s Time with Ancestors

“With all of my study and full time work commitments it is tough but I try to spend 4/5 hours per week.”

Matthew’s Favorite Ancestor

“Harry Burt my paternal Grandad. He used to tell me old war stories and that is what sparked my interest in History. I am currently waiting on his WW2 service records and I hope to share them over the next couple of weeks.”

How Genealogy Has Improved Matthew’s Life

“It has given me a new passion, I know already that I am hooked for life on Genealogy. Plus I have already been in touch with several relatives I had never met before.”

What Matthew Loves Most About Genealogy

“I feel so proud each time I discover an ancestor entering some field of battle. I have learned of ancestors who fought in both world wars, the Boer war and even one Irish ancestor who fought with the Union Army in the American Civil War.”

Matthew’s Genealogy Bucket List

“To visit many of the places my Ancestors come from.”

Matthew’s Time Capsule Message

“Know where you came from and understand from whom you came and be proud of it.”

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