Linda Stufflebean of Empty Branches on the Family Tree is one busy genealogist, teacher, blogger, and contributor to Facebook genealogy groups. Her blog reflects both her eagerness to share family stories and the desire to help others break through those frustrating brick walls. In addition to her faithful and frequent posts about her ancestors, Linda keeps up-to-date links to sources by state as well as sources for various countries and ethnic groups. Whether you are looking for maps, education opportunities, a list of popular genealogy websites or just a good story about Linda’s loyalist ancestors, your time will be well-spent at Empty Branches on the Family Tree.
Linda, can you tell a little about yourself?
“I was born in Passaic, New Jersey, which is very much a microcosm of the United States’ ‘melting pot.’ Although it is very much an inner city, Passaic was a great place to grow up in the 1950’s and 1960’s. However, I consider myself a Westerner, as I moved to Southern California in 1978 and then to Tucson, Arizona in 2010 when my husband and I retired. I have a B.A. in Elementary Education and Spanish and an M.S. in Bilingual Special Education. I taught in Central Falls and Providence, Rhode Island; Mexico City, Mexico; and lastly in Ontario and then Alta Loma, California. Most of those years were spent teaching special needs children. My main hobby outside of genealogy is travel. We spend a couple of months each year on cruise ships, so we’ve been able to see a bit of the world.”
How did you get interested in doing your family history?
“My mother’s maiden name was Adams, and the family was from Massachusetts and Maine. I had been told, although we weren’t directly descended from the Presidents Adams, that we were related as descendants of Henry Adams of Braintree, Massachusetts. I decided to find out if that was true. It turns out my family is descended from Edward Adams of Milford, Connecticut in 1640, and my Loyalist ancestors were on the 1783 ships to New Brunswick, Canada at the close of the American Revolution.”
Besides major websites (like Ancestry and FamilySearch), what research tool or source has been particularly helpful in researching your family history?
“The most helpful sites definitely depend on the current focus of my research, but I think the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick and the Danish National Archives, both of which happen to be free and have fabulous records digitized and available online, are terrific resources.”
Why did you start a genealogy blog and how did you choose the name for it?
“Empty Branches on the Family Tree launched on January 16, 2014, so it’s just over two years old. I had thought about starting a blog for a while and decided it was finally time. Having been a language arts teacher, I enjoy writing and teaching and am a total genealogy addict, so a family history blog seemed to be a great way to blend those interests.”
“One of my blog goals was to share resources and techniques that have brought me success in breaking through brick walls, which could then help others fill in the empty branches on their own ancestral trees. I really wanted a name that wasn’t quite as long as what I have, but a name that reflected the intent to find new ancestors. I couldn’t decide on anything shorter that I liked, so I stuck with the longer version. I also loved the idea that I had a tree in my own front yard that had one dead, empty section, and that became the photo on the home page. No copyright worries there!”
What are your favorite posts on your blog and why?
“Both are multi-part series. The first details my decades-long search to find the family of my great grandmother, Anna Elisabeth Johnson/Jensen Coleman of Calais, Maine and Copenhagen, Denmark. It is by far the most complicated and lengthy project I have ever done in genealogy.
“The second tells of my own life growing up in Passaic. Last year, I read a couple of posts by others which mentioned how important it was for us not to forget to tell our own stories. Since I was one of many who never bothered to share any of my own memories, I started thinking about Passaic and remembering things I hadn’t thought about in years. I loved when I heard from other Passaic natives who left comments like, ‘I went to the Holy Trinity church carnival, too’ and ‘I remember buying candy at Pat’s Luncheonette.’ My son hasn’t shown a lot of interest in the family stories, but if and when he becomes interested, he will be able to read about his own mom’s life growing up, too.”
What is your favorite family story or heirloom?
“I’ve blogged about this, but I think my favorite story is the one my Grandmother Adams told me – Grandfather went to Harvard, but didn’t graduate. Although Harvard had no record of him ever being enrolled there, the story was true. He enlisted in the Navy during World War I and boot camp was at Harvard. He did, indeed, ‘go there,’ and it is very true that he didn’t graduate either.
“My favorite heirlooms are three hand sewn quilts made by my husband’s great grandmother, all of which were rescued from a backyard gardening shed in Oklahoma, and the set of Theodore Haviland china passed down from my own great grandmother.”
What kind of networking do you use to attract readers to your blog?
“I can’t honestly say that I do tons of networking. I follow many blogs and leave comments on those posts which I enjoy or which teach me something new. There are several Facebook groups to which I belong, so I post comments and queries there, too, and occasionally link to one of my own posts. My Pinterest board is updated a couple of times a month. I also bring business cards to share with other bloggers when I attend conferences, but I’m not much of a fan of tweeting, so I don’t use Twitter. Since I am not trying to promote a for-profit business, the networking aspect isn’t anything on which I focus much energy. It just sort of happens.”
What other genealogy blogs inspire you?
“Randy Seaver’s Genea-Musings, Amy Cohen’s BrotmanBlog: A Family Journey, James Tanner’s Genealogy’s Star, Cathy Meder-Dempsey’s Opening Doors in Brick Walls and One Rhode Island Family by Diane Boumenot are just a few.”
What is on your genealogy bucket list?
“To smash through a few more tough brick walls – in particular, finding the ancestral home and parents of Loyalist James Astle of Schenectady, New York and Miramichi, New Brunswick, Canada; finding a death date and probate for Anders Molin of Ystad, Öved and Marstrand, Sweden; and proving the family line of Isaac Sturgell, likely son of William Sturgill/Sturgeon of Lawrence County, Ohio; Ashe County, North Carolina; and Grayson County, Virginia.
“I also would like to visit my ancestral villages in Slovakia and the Stufflebean/Stoppelbein ancestral homes in Langenlonsheim and Laubenheim, Germany.”
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Please take a moment to visit Linda at Empty Branches on the Family Tree and leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. Thank-you, Linda, for letting us inside your blogging world.
© 2016, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.