May I Introduce to You . . . Jennifer Geraghty-Gorman

Come meet genealogy blogger Jennifer Geraghty-Gorman, author of On a flesh and bone foundation: An Irish History at GeneaBloggers.

MAY I INTRODUCE TO YOU . . . JENNIFER GERAGHTY-GORMAN

This week is one of my favorite weeks of the entire year! During the week, and for some of us all week long, we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and all things Irish. All of my ancestors on my father’s side of the family are originally from Ireland and I have been lucky enough to visit Ireland on 4 occasions (once for an extended visit of 6 months). When I started researching my family’s history, one of the blogs I came across was On a flesh and bone foundation: An Irish History.

This week and as a special treat, I get to introduce you to Jennifer Geraghty-Gorman who I think is one of the best genealogy bloggers writing today. I first happened upon her blog a few years ago and was touched not only by her heartfelt and deeply personal writing style, but also her understanding of the complexities of Irish history, her ability to convey the deep sense of longing experienced by her emigrant parents, her willingness to tell the fascinating stories of her family’s experiences at home and abroad, and her generosity in sharing her knowledge of Irish research when she expanded her blog from the personal stories to a wealth of information and tips for those who want to learn how to research their Irish ancestors. The fact that she intersperses her amazing writing with spectacular photographs is simply an added gift to us.  Join me in learning a bit about what makes Jennifer and her blog so special.

A Little Bit About Jennifer

“I am the only Canadian-born member in my Irish family of origin — my father, mother and only brother are all Dublin born — and I have no Canadian ancestors. My life’s work is the study of Irish history, and the research and writing of it as a social historian. I hold three university degrees: B.A., B.A. (Hons.) and M.A. Currently, I am working on two distinct Irish history projects, both of which find their origins in the critically important decade of 1913-1923.

My interest in Irish family history was spurred by my need to understand who my family is, what it means to be Irish, and why my parents approached the world in the way in which they did. When I was growing up, and even into adulthood, discussions with my mother and father about our family history were a rare thing. I treasure those times when Mam and Dad were open to talking about the past.

Growing up in Canada, I keenly felt a sort of great divide. When we travelled home to Ireland, it seemed to me that in the eyes of my Irish family members I was a curiosity of sorts, neither fully the Irish child, nor fully the Canadian one. They doted on me, yet I always felt as though I was the outsider looking in. Although I travel on an European Union/Irish passport, in Irish government records, I am a foreign-born Irish citizen, and will forever be one step away, not quite fully Irish. I believe I am trying to bridge that gap, if only in my own mind.”

How Jennifer Got Started Doing Family History and Her Current Focus

“In collaboration with a maternal uncle in Dublin, I created my first family tree when I was 15 years old. Unfortunately, life got in the way, as it inevitably does. That tree was lost, and I didn’t return to family history in earnest until after my father died in March of 2000. In a Thankful Thursday post entitled What made you fall in love with family history? I wrote about what brought me back to family history.

With respect to areas of emphasis, I tend to focus on whatever inspires me. Sometimes I write about family members in the distant past, other times about those in the more recent past. I also enjoy writing Tuesday’s Tips posts to share what I have learned as a researcher. Over the last couple of years, I focused some of my research on land and property. Using land valuation records I was able to trace the tenancy and then ownership of Warblestown House in Lispopple, North County Dublin — a house still occupied by family members — to show it has been in our family for over 150 years. It was very exciting to be able to trace the house history, and my cousin who currently lives in the house was very pleased with the results.”

How Family History Has Changed Since Jennifer Got Started

“It seems to me there has been an explosion of interest in family history over the last 15 years. With respect to Ireland, there has been a concerted effort by the Irish government, through the Ministry for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, to make materials more accessible to those living outside of Ireland. In March 2015, when I read ‘Maximising Our Cultural and Genealogical Heritage,’ the 48-page report born out of a series of public meetings and penned by TD Catherine Murphy, I jumped for joy at the realization that the Irish government is truly serious about the dissemination of records of Irish heritage. (You can access the Report of the Joint Committee on Maximising Our Cultural and Genealogical Heritage here.)

This is a very delicate dance for the Irish government, since they have to balance privacy concerns with the desire to open records to interested parties in Ireland and beyond. With the creation in 1995 of the official statute known as The Heritage Act of 1995, the government did commit “to promote public interest in and knowledge, appreciation and protection of the National Heritage … (including books, documents and other records, including genealogical records).” This focus by the current government is a continuation of that commitment. However, not everyone on the island of Ireland believes such records should be open to the public gaze, something made clear when the Belt of Crozier (i.e. official clerical admonishment) was given to Taoiseach Enda Kenny by the Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, upon the online release of the National Library of Ireland’s (NLI) collection of Roman Catholic parish registers.”

Why Jennifer Created Her Blog & Her Thoughts on Blogging

“The creation of a family history blog was born out of a couple of things. First, feeling deeply disenchanted, I stepped away from academia, and the pursuit of a PhD. in Irish History, and journeyed down an entirely different path, teaching Pilates body movement. Although I love Pilates practice, teaching it was not my cup of tea. I truly missed academic research and wanted to continue researching and writing about my first love, Irish history. At that time, blogging about the history of my ancestors in Ireland seemed the perfect thing to do.

Second — now don’t laugh — I was inspired by a scene in the movie ‘Julie & Julia’ in which the character Julie says, ‘I have thoughts; I could write a blog’. My husband echoed her husband and chimed in with ‘and you’re a writer’, and so my blog was born.

To be perfectly honest I was on tenterhooks at first, worried about the reception I would receive from my family over me sharing our history, but I’ve had very positive interactions with the majority of family members who have read the blog. In the two years before she died I was able to share the blog with my mother, and she seemed very happy to learn how much research I had done, and how much I had learned about her family history.

One of the most exciting aspects about blogging has been reconnecting with family and friends in Ireland, as well as the world over, and meeting new ‘cousins’ and making new friends. I will be forever grateful to Carol A. Bowen Stevens, one of the first followers on my blog, for encouraging me to set aside my fears and jump in with both feet, as well as to Thomas MacEntee of GeneaBloggers for his encouragement and technical advice early on.”

Jennifer’s Favorite Posts from ‘On a flesh and bone foundation’: An Irish History

“For the most part my favourite blog posts feature those stories about the lives lived by my ancestors and family members, but I’ve also enjoyed blogging about personal experiences ‘inside’ family history.

I’ve chosen the following four posts:

  • 34 days — a deeply personal post about the imminent death of my father, a time I was unable to truly process until more than a decade after my dad passed away (published Friday, February 10, 2012).”

[Please take the time right now to read these posts and then come back here – oh and have some tissues at the ready. So often we forget the transforming power of the written word – Jennifer’s posts remind us. Her posts are a lesson for all of us that it is quality, not the quantity of our writing that is important – whether that is a blog post, an article or a book – Simply brilliant! – Tessa]

How Jennifer Divides Her Genealogy & Family History Time

“Over the last couple of years I have returned to researching and writing about Irish history. As I mentioned earlier, I am working on two history projects. The history work takes me to Ireland a lot — 15 trips, soon 16, over the last 7 years — and when I am there I endeavour to make time specifically for family history and genealogy research. It doesn’t always work out, but I try my best.

My mother used to say ‘Jenn is steeped in Ireland,’ and every single day that is true. I am either working on the history projects, doing history reading and research, or doing family history/genealogy research.”

What Jennifer Considers the Most Interesting Change in Genealogy in the Past 10 Years

“Many of us have long understood the significance of family history and genealogy, but I think one of the most interesting changes over the last ten years is that family history has gone mainstream. Even the major television networks have produced shows about family history and genealogy. Although they don’t always get it right, the fact is the interest is there.

People from all walks of life are deeply interested in what some historians have referred to as ‘the small stories,’ those which detail the lives of so-called ordinary people. For me the small ordinary stories have always been the most extraordinary, and it seems everyone has such a story.”

The Top 3 Items on Jennifer’s Genealogy Bucket List

“The three big things currently dominating my bucket list are:

  1. As a member of a ‘1916 family,’ I have been invited by the Irish government to attend the official State functions for the 2016 Commemorations of the 1916 Easter Rising, so very shortly I will be travelling to Dublin. I am deeply grateful to be attending these events to commemorate the life of my granduncle Michael Francis Magee, who at the age of 18 fought as a Section Commander with the Four Courts Garrison during the Easter Rising, as well as the life of my grandmother Annie Magee Geraghty who joined the Cumann na mBan in support of her elder brother.
  2. The completion of both of my Irish history projects and their subsequent publication.
  3. Long term, I do still hope to complete my doctorate in Irish History.”

Jennifer’s Advice to Anyone Starting a Family History Blog

“Find your passion and write about it. Be open to learning, and go offline to read as wide a range as possible of books about family history, genealogy and the history of the country or countries in which your ancestors originated. Be authentic, and write about what you know.

Open your heart and share your stories. Life isn’t perfect. No matter how great someone’s life might seem from the outside, little do we know how it looks from the inside. We all face challenges, and as human beings we only have each other, so along the way engage with others and offer a little encouragement when you can.

Above all: Find joy in the process!”

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Please take a moment and visit Jennifer at On a flesh and bone foundation: An Irish History. I am never disappointed when I visit her blog. She informs, entertains, reminds, and educates us (the hallmark of a great and gifted teacher) and I often find myself laughing, tearing up, or thinking of my own family. Check out not only her blog posts, but also spend some time getting lost in the various topics she has included at her blog. Must visits (and you don’t even need your passport) include: Faces of Family History, Finding Irish Ancestors: Research Aids, 17 Tips +1 for Family History/Genealogy Research in Ireland, Tuesday’s Tips, and definitely spend some time at the Bookshelf and Films. Why not celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and all things Irish by sitting down with your favorite beverage (whether that is tea or whiskey – my choice is Jameson) and immersing yourself in Jennifer’s blog –  Sláinte.

© 2016, 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 . . . Jeff Ford

Come meet genealogy blogger Jeff Ford, author of The Otter Lake Express, in this interview by Michelle Taggart at GeneaBloggers.

Today we would like to introduce to you blogger Jeff Ford and his blog The Otter Lake Express.  On his blog, Jeff shares his passion for the stories of his great-great grandparents, Michael and Catherine McCormack. Using newspapers, postcards, DNA and shared family stories, Jeff shares his discoveries on his quest to learn more. As an added bonus, Jeff shares his beautiful family photos that help acquaint us with his ancestors.

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

“I grew up in Walled Lake, Michigan a small town about an hour northwest of Detroit. I currently live in Lebanon, Tennessee and I have been here for just over 20 years.”

How did you get started in genealogy?

“You won’t believe this, but I started because I began reading Mary Stewart’s series, The Merlin Trilogy. It was about King Arthur. I then read all I could get about Arthur. From there I went into Irish mythology books. I think from there I became more curious about my Irish roots. I remember while growing up my father would always tell me that his grandfather, who lived in a big house at Otter Lake, was born in Kilkenny, Ireland.”

When and why did you start your genealogy blog?

“My first post, The Beginning was published on 24 Feb 2013. I had been doing research via Ancestry.com for several years and I wanted to do something more to tell the story of Michael and Catherine McCormack (my great-great-grandparents) and their extended family. So I did some research and started my blog.”

How did you choose the name of your blog?

“Otter Lake is the small village that my great-grandfather, William E. McCormack, the eldest child of Michael and Catherine, lived. Michael and Catherine also lived there the last 15 or so years of their lives. I wanted a title that looked like a title of a small town newspaper.”

How had genealogy made a difference in your life?

“It has introduced me to a lot of wonderful people, some of whom have turned out to be cousins of one degree or another. Without those new cousins I couldn’t do what I have done the past two and half years. There is one cousin that I would like to specifically mention. His name is Maurice “Doc” McCormack. I wrote to him, I think, in 2008. He wasn’t interested in his family history but he was kind enough to forward my name to his sister and from there I discovered the largest branch of the McCormack clan.”

What is on your genealogy bucket list?

“My ultimate goal is to find if Michael left any relatives in Ireland or if any might have followed him to America later. If I accomplish that, I would like to visit Ireland to meet my cousins. I also would like to organize a family reunion of all the descendants and relatives of Michael McCormack.”

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Please take a moment to visit Jeff’s blog at The Otter Lake Express. Jeff has been blogging for several years so you will want to browse through the archives to see the variety of methods Jeff uses to weave his ancestor’s stories.  Be sure and leave a comment to let him know you stopped by. Thank you Jeff for sharing your thoughts and blog 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 shelltag1@gmail.com

May I Introduce to You . . . Amy Archibald

Come meet blogger Amy Archibald of Revealing Roots and Branches interviewed by Jana Last at GeneaBloggers

I have the pleasure of introducing you to Amy Archibald and her blog, Revealing Roots and Branches described as, “The generations on either side of me link me to my past and my future. My view of family history involves revealing the roots and the branches. Throughout the blog you will find perspectives related to the doctrines of temple and family history work from revealed revelation given to living prophets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS – Mormon).”

Amy, please tell us a little about yourself.

“I was born in Cedar City, Utah and currently live in Clearfield, Utah. I graduated from Southern Utah University with a B.S. in Business Administration/Accounting and spent 20 years working in the college store industry ordering and selling textbooks. Now I’m focusing on mothering my young family (husband, daughter and son), and diving back into all my hobbies and passions. In addition to my family history addiction, I am a seamstress, gardener, small business owner, bread maker, blogger, speaker and 10 time half marathon finisher (walked them all).”

How did you get started in genealogy?

“I fell in love with my ancestors and they quickly became my friends when I was a young teen in the early 1980s. My father had purchased PAF 1.0 and we had a Commodore 64. If I wanted to play games, I had to enter names. And quickly doing family history was much more exciting than playing Dungeon of the Algebra Dragons. I also had a mentor in Hilda, a little old Australian lady, who told fascinating stories about climbing over brick cemetery walls throughout the British Isles. I was hooked … I could be like Nancy Drew.”

When and why did you start your genealogy blog?

“I started my genealogy blog on 5 February 2015. I had wanted to do a blog for many years, but I wanted it to be “perfect” out the gate. I finally came to the understanding that it is never going to be perfect and that I just needed to start it. I had been teaching others about family history for more than 20 years and decided I needed a home for what I was learning and sharing with others and my blog became that home.”

How did you choose the name for your blog?

“Revealing Roots and Branches is how I see family history. It isn’t just about my ancestors (roots). It is about what I do with my ancestors’ histories in teaching my descendants (branches). I had my sister make my logo: a tree with both heart shaped roots and leaves – because it is really the heart that connects the generations.”

What are your tips for new bloggers?

“Don’t be afraid to try new things on or with your blog. This last year I’ve done so many new things that I would never have tried before. Some of them: setup a Facebook page for my blog, created a Twitter account (and I use it), and ran a Rafflecopter giveaway. I’m always learning about new technology. My best tip would be: “Be Yourself” – don’t try to be like anyone else.”

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

“So far I have two favorite posts and both are because of my father. He passed away 10 August 2015 and we had a great connection together (with family history and with the college store industry).”

Tender Mercies of the Lord

“This post is all about the miracles that occurred the week of my father’s death. To me it is a great reminder to make sure we record the emotion and the miracles in our life history. I look for the miracles in my ancestors’ lives.”

Papa Bears

“This post is about making large teddy bears out of my dad’s shirts for all 27 members of our family for Christmas. I was surprised by the volume of people that read, shared, and commented on the post. It was something that resonated with so many. I’m exploring creating a business where I do this for others.”

How much time do you spend on family history research?

“Not as much as I’d like, but probably more than I should be. Oftentimes it calls to me and I can’t stop researching and recording. I even pass up lunch and dinner … which I should be making to feed my family. I’m looking for that perfect balance where I can accomplish what I’m working on and everyone still eats and is taken care of.”

Who is your favorite ancestor(s) and why?

“I love all my ancestors and I have a handful of favorites. As a young teen, one day I was reading a story about my 4th Great-Grandparents, Elisha Hurd Groves and Lucy Simmons Groves, and I was amazed to find out that they were called by the LDS Church to settle and establish the area in which I was living (Iron County).  My parents had individually moved to this area to attend college and they did not know the story of these ancestors. I promised myself as a young teen that I would know the history of all my ancestors and I would pass those stories, lessons, emotions, and memories to my children. That my children would know their heritage. I believe the Groves Family became favorites because it is through them and their life stories that I grew to love family history.”

How has genealogy improved your life?

“It has been my entire life as I started when I was 13. I don’t know what life would be like without genealogy being a constant part of my life. I learned profound truths at a young age; life continues after death, family relationships can be eternal, and that our ancestors can influence us for good in what we do here in mortality. I have felt my ancestors’ influence and protection in my life. I have also come to realize that family history is in everything that we do. Really, what isn’t family history?”

What do you love the most about genealogy?

“Lately I have loved connecting with distant cousins and finding out that they too love our common ancestors as much as I do. That love for our ancestor bonds us immediately together.”

What family story or heirloom do you cherish?

“Llewellyn Harris (3rd great grandpa) in 1878 went into a Zuni village in New Mexico and found the Indians infected with smallpox. He stayed with a family and during the night gave a Priesthood blessing of healing to three children. They recovered from the illness and word spread throughout the village. Over the course of a few days he blessed 406 Zuni Indians and they were healed from smallpox. An adaption of this story was printed in The Friend Magazine in June 2011 at Healing among the Zunis.”

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

“Local small town libraries, museums, and historical societies are amazing sources of hidden gems. Also the large university libraries have awesome special collections. I believe that some record exists somewhere about everyone, you just have to hunt until you find it.”

Which genealogy blogs inspire you?

“Both of these bloggers have taught me to be myself in my blogging. I have learned so much from reading their blogs.”

What interesting connections have you made through blogging?

“Great friendships with other bloggers. One day I was on my way somewhere and I had an impression that I would see a specific blogging friend that day in a very specific place at a specific time. As I was getting ready to leave that place, there she was, right where I was told by the Spirit she would be. It was at a critical time in my life where I was confused and doubting impressions that I had previously received. She was the answer to much prayer … my new genealogy blogging friend.”

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

“The ability to find and collaborate online with previously unknown distant cousins. We can accomplish more together and we are just beginning to see what kinds of results will come from this kind of collaboration.”

What is on your genealogy bucket list?

“I did a “brain dump” last year and my list is pages long. One of the things I need to do soon is to match up my Ancestral Quest database with what I’ve been doing on FamilySearch. And long term dreams are to visit distant ancestral lands.

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

“I did the best I could do with the time and the tools that I had.” “Write your own history – tell your own stories – love with all your strength.”

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Please take a moment to head over to Amy’s blog, Revealing Roots and Branches, and leave her a comment, letting her know you stopped by. Thank you Amy 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 jmlast61@gmail.com.