May I Introduce to You . . . Krista Whitehead

Come meet genealogy blogger Krista Whitehead, author of the Exploring Backwards blog, in this interview by Gini Webb at GeneaBloggers.

I have the great pleasure of introducing you to Krista Whitehead and her blog, Exploring Backwards, described as, “. . . Exploring backwards to uncover traces of my family roots!  I travel backwards to explore my family’s past so that I can share them with my family and preserve them for the future.”

Krista, please tell us a little bit about yourself and where you grew up.

“I grew up in the Midwest.  We moved around a bit, so I really wasn’t anywhere for too long.  I moved to Texas in 1994 and have been here ever since.  Texas is my home.  I love it, except when it is 100 degrees in the shade, and then I wish I lived in the Midwest again.”

What got you started in genealogy and how long have you been researching?

“Six years. To be honest, I am not exactly sure how I got started in genealogy.  My spouse knew a lot about her family.  I remember asking my parents questions about our family, and many times they did not know the answers.

I am a curious person by nature.  I work as an investigator in my day job, so researching came quite naturally.  I am fortunate in that I had two previous family members write different family history books.  The (books did not follow) my direct line, so I thought I would write one for my family.  I did not have a clue when I started out.  I think I googled it, and found”

When and why did you start or create your genealogy blog?

“My initial desire was, and still is, to write a book. However, after researching for a couple years, I realized I did not know how to begin.  I did not have the ‘stories’ that people were always talking about.  I knew I wanted to share my discoveries, so I would relate a finding to my mother and forget to tell my sister.  Or I would do the reverse.

I was flying home from my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary surprise weekend and I was reading a Family Tree Magazine article about its top blogs.  It was my epiphany.  I did not know people did that.  I did not have a clue as to how many people had already had that idea before me (ha ha).  I knew I wasn’t the first.  I wrote my first blog right there on the plane.  I consider it my family’s blog, because I want them to add supplemental stories.”

Do you have any tips for new bloggers?

  • “New bloggers need to decide what type of blog they are going to write. Mine is all family related.  I   write about what I discover through my research so that my family members can read it and learn too.  And, ultimately, my sister can help me edit it and put it into something tangible.
  • I think adding pictures, when possible, helps the reader understand the subject, the place, and the time.  It makes the blog come to life.”

Are there other genealogy blogs that may inspire you?

“They all inspire me.  I can read them all.  They are like candy to me, short and sweet.  The problem is I get distracted from my own research by reading others.  But they are a great place to find inspiration if you are stuck.  I usually read educational blogs because I still consider myself a novice.”

Krista, what is your favorite blog post?

“This is one of my favorite posts: Playing Craps Chicago Style.   I love it because I finally had gotten my father to talk and share.  He had a colorful childhood, but does not share much.  He is not boastful or flashy.  He has always been a modest man. Listening to him share is one of my favorite things.

How much time do you get to spend researching your family history?

“It comes and goes.  Since I am not near retirement, I have mostly been just a weekend warrior.  Sometimes on a Saturday, I can get lost in the office.  My spouse calls it ‘the vortex’.  I only emerge for nourishment!”

Who are your favorite ancestors?

“I have many.  I will give you two examples.  I have one ancestor who died young, but I love his name.  He was born in 1886 in Amherst County, Virginia; his name was Saint Louis Hicks.  He died by 1907.

George Wiley Whitehead is another favorite ancestor.  He barely survived the civil war.  He was shot by a sniper, wounded and a prisoner of war.  The story goes that he had given the Masonic sign to a Yankee soldier and was ultimately exchanged for one of theirs.

He came home with a bullet in his head, yet he married his sweetheart and they had 7 children.

You can read more about him here:  George Wiley Whitehead.”

What family story or heirlooms do you cherish most?

“My wallets.  I went on genealogical visit to see more about where my mom and her sister grew up.  While we were there, my Aunt Carol gave me four wallets: my grandmother’s, grandfather’s, my grand uncle’s and my great-grandmother’s.  They are grand artifacts of the items that were important in our loved ones’ lives.”

How has genealogy improved your life?

“Genealogy has definitely improved my life.  I have met people that are related to me by doing this.  I have learned so much about my family, I am now the family historian.  It has brought my family closer together.  I talk to some family members more as a result of my hobby then I had previously.”

What do you love most about doing genealogy?

“I love when I make a discovery and I get to share it with my family through my blog.  The discovery is only half of it for me.  I want to share what I discover in a clever and engaging way.”

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

“My wish for future generations:  Only one, ask your questions now, while you can.  I wasn’t interested in my grandmother (grandmother’s past) when she was around.”

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

May I Introduce to You . . . Wayne Shepheard

Come meet genealogy blogger Wayne Shepheard, author of the Discover Genealogy blog, interviewed by Tessa Keough at GeneaBloggers - May I Introduce To You

This week we head north over the border to Canada to catch up with Wayne Shepheard and learn a bit more about him and his blog Discover Genealogy. And as they say in the infomercials – but wait, that’s not all! Have you noticed that some of the most interesting genealogists and family historians have a science or technology background? Wayne is one of those genealogists who has both an interesting science background as well as creative writing talents. So this week we showcase not only his blog, but also his varied volunteer and professional writing and editing efforts.

A Little Bit About Wayne

“I was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada almost 70 years ago. (I’ll turn that number in a couple of weeks.) I grew up and was educated here. And I spent over 40 years working as a geologist in the exploration and production of oil and gas here as well.

With two university degrees in science, I learned how to research, assembling what information was available to come up with reasonable conclusions about where to find commercial accumulations of petroleum. Solving genealogical questions, which I have done virtually full-time since retiring from the work force, has many of the same requirements, including the evaluation of sometimes limited data and the creation of plausible stories about people in the past. These are things I enjoy doing, for my own as well as others’ families. [Emphasis added]

Occasionally over the past few years I have taken on consulting projects for people who wanted to know more about their family histories, through my consulting business Family History Facilitated. In that role I have researched information in Canada, the United States, Australia, Britain and Europe. One wonderful result was putting an eighty-year old lady in touch with cousins she did not know she had who came from an earlier family of her father’s. No one had ever told her about that family so she was very excited to learn about them. They have since corresponded and visited in person. The work also showed me some new ways to look for and evaluate information.”

How Wayne Got Started Doing Genealogy and His Current Focus

“I have always been interested in the history of our family. Unfortunately I left until too late asking my parents and grandparents what they knew. With one set of grandparents I was too young to know about the subject; they died when I was eight and ten. My other grandparents did not live close to us but, while I knew they had immigrated to Canada, I did not make an effort to find out when and why. Answering those questions became a major part of my personal pursuit of family history. I have always been a collector of memorabilia and was the person who took on the task of creating and maintaining the family photo albums; so it was a natural progression to find the stories that went along with the pictures and artefacts. I really began to get more involved in the early 2000s but have been most active since retirement.

I’m putting my information in a form that my descendants can access and at least learn something about where they come from.

These days I do a bit of everything: research (my own and others’ families); writing (blogs and articles for journals); volunteer work (I am an Online Parish Clerk for four parish in Devon, England; editing (I recently took on the Editorship of Relatively Speaking, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Genealogical Society); and book writing (see below).”

Wayne’s Thoughts on How Genealogy Has Evolved Over Time & The Most Interesting Change

“There is no question that availability of information on the Internet has changed the way most of us research. It is a constant struggle not only to keep up with new data coming online but also to not forget what the other sources of most historical records are.

I know there are many genealogists who are very active with social media but, unfortunately I just don’t seem to have the time to get organized that way – or maybe I’m too old and set in my ways. I do like online courses and webinars – I have taken advantage of many but the budget is limited in whether or when I can attend conferences.

It has been pointed out to me by a few people, and I agree with them, that most people are now doing their own work online which has impacted the work of teachers and professional consultants, not to mention membership totals in family history societies. What they do not always realize is that not everything is online so when they hit an inevitable brick wall they often don’t know where to go for an answer. I like to remind family historians that there is a lot to gain by talking with others, whether as part of a genealogical society or taking a course.

The ease of finding things online, though, can be very exciting if one knows how to go about it efficiently.”

Wayne’s Thoughts on Blogging and Why He Started Blogging

“I reached a point in my research and experiences, especially volunteering as an OPC, where I thought I could help others in their pursuits. You gain a lot of knowledge in reviewing and transcribing documents hundreds of years old and in helping others find information about their own ancestors. Many people who sought out such information I had assembled for the parishes did not have the research skills, at least to start with, and certainly not the database I had to be able to reach back into the past.

A blog seemed like a good way to tell people about my experiences and what I have learned. It has become a regular part of my weekly activities, and something that has put me in touch with many other active bloggers and researchers. It keeps me in the practice of writing as well, which I try to do a lot of for family history society journals.” [Emphasis added]

Wayne’s Favorite Blog Post(s)

“I had several posts early on in my blog about unusual entries in old parish registers that I thought would interest readers. I still find a few neat things as I pore through old documents. There have been a few that dealt with people changing their names over time. These offered insight into how difficult it can be sometimes to track people.

I was pleased to be able to show pictures of pages from a scrapbook my mother put together as part of a school exercise in 1937 – My Mother’s Scrapbook – It showed both information about the time period as well as her creativity and personals thoughts on life.

Recognition of what would have been my father’s 100th birthday was also special – A Special 100th Birthday – Pieces about families, especially mine, are my favourites.

Ones that have attracted the attention of other bloggers, and a mention in their “best of blogs’ have involved the analyses of information to resolve a problem or break down a brick wall. Some of those have grown up to be articles in journals.”

[Be sure to check out both of these posts, not only for the heartfelt writing but also for the great use of images and photos. Wayne’s blog is not only well-written but has an excellent theme and format. I think we can always learn something about color, style and readability from checking out the style and the substance of others’ blogs – Wayne gets an A+ in my book – Tessa]

How Wayne Spends His Genealogy Time (or Dividing That Genealogy Pie!)

“My actual family research time is quite low these days, what with my writing and editing pursuits. I do try to have a look at a particular family or individual once a week or so, especially when I am prompted by a post from a blogger or one of the major database groups like Ancestry or FindMyPast. This week I spent some time with the 1939 National Registry of England and Wales.”

Wayne’s Genealogy Bucket List

“I have a number of articles for publication in genealogical journals on the go and will continue to write more as I come across new subjects and interesting stories. I have published articles in five different journals to date and contribute regularly to another blog, The Pharos Blog: Lighting up Genealogy.

I like putting publications together so my role as an editor of a family history journal gives me that opportunity. Relatively Speaking is not the first journal I have edited. I had charge of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society, for several years as well.

My biggest project is writing a book that combines my experience as a genealogist and my expertise as a geologist (Earth scientist). Research and writing is ongoing for the publication, which is tentatively called, Natural Phenomena and Their Effect on Our Ancestors. I hope to have it completed by early 2016. As I explain in the introduction, the lives and livelihoods of our ancestors were controlled or affected as much by natural conditions and events as by political and societal constraints. Natural phenomena directly affected the land on which people worked and the environment in which they lived. Physical events (storms, floods, drought, erosion by rivers and along shorelines, volcanoes and climate change) caused both negative and positive changes in habitat, which affected the physical health as well as the economic well-being of people. Changes within society were often the result of changes in the natural world. This book mainly concerns the natural processes at work that have significantly affected individuals and communities over the past several centuries.

One thing that should be on the list is getting going on a one-name study for Shepheard. One of these days. . .”

Wayne’s Advice for New and No-So-New Bloggers

“I try to stick with what I know or have learned in my own research. There are many other bloggers out there who are experts in various aspects of genealogy – using technological aids, in specialty subjects such as DNA, knowledge of specific geographic or historical events, etc. I did not want to just pass on news tidbits but actually relate stories I had come across or developed about real people.

I don’t have the time or enough stories to do a daily blog. Sometimes it’s hard to come with a new subject but I keep a list of topics and make notes about unusual bits of information I come across in my reading or in assisting others, and use those to come up with a new piece for the blog. Often articles in newspapers or a passing comment from friends will trigger a question or idea for a blog post. Some posts end up well and others seem to fall flat but I persevere, learning from each one.

Like most genealogists and bloggers, I think it’s important to have fun with the subject and I enjoy writing stories about real people. And if I can pass along tips about how the research was conducted or the sources that were found for information then that will be most useful to readers.

My tips for others? Look for and tell stories about real people, whether happy or sad. The lives and experiences of our ancestors were not all that different from our own as they relate to human interaction. The differences are mostly in the tools they had to work with and the living conditions which they endured.

Story-telling is fun, and that should be reflected in the writing, whether as a blog, a journal article or your own family history.”

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Please take a moment to head on over to Wayne’s blog – Discover Genealogy. Leave him a comment letting him know you stopped by. Learning about Wayne’s background and current research and writing activities has been fascinating and I am looking forward to his upcoming book. Placing our ancestors in their environment, including geography and geology, adds another layer to their story and helps us to understand the effect the natural world had and continues to have on people. I am so impressed with the many genealogists and family historians who share their time and talents with the rest of us – what great learning opportunities they provide. Welcome Wayne, it’s great to have you here and it has been a pleasure getting to know you better.

© 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

May I Introduce to You . . . Christine Woodcock

Come meet genealogy blogger Christine Woodcock, author of Scottish Genealogy Tips And Tidbits, in this interview by Jana Last at GeneaBloggers.

I have the pleasure of introducing you to Christine Woodcock and her blog, Scottish Genealogy Tips And Tidbits described as, “A blog to assist those researching in the Scottish records to gain ideas of where to look or how best to search in order to further their ancestral journey.”

Christine also has a genealogy business called Genealogy Tours of Scotland. Her tours provide an opportunity for anyone with Scottish ancestry to spend 10 days in their ancestral homeland, research onsite gaining access to records not available online, and to discover their own Scottish heritage in the process.

Christine, please tell us a little about yourself.

“I was born in Scotland. My mum was one of 21 children. Once I was in school full time, our trips to Scotland decreased in frequency, but we always had a steady stream of company from Scotland right from mid May to mid September. My mum and dad’s friends here in Canada were all Scottish and our house was the gathering place for card games, parties, celebrations, fun. I was completely immersed in Scottish culture, perhaps more so than I would have been had I grown up in Scotland. My parents were so keen to maintain as much of their heritage as they could and that has been passed along to me. I try to do the same with my kids.”

How did you get started in genealogy?

“My maternal grandfather fathered 21 children. My mum and my gran were the storytellers of the family. Every summer we had tons of company from Scotland and with each visitor, the stories were told and retold. Mum died suddenly and 8 months later, Gran went to join her. I was suddenly in a panic that the stories would be lost for my children and future generations. So, I put together a family history book – essentially a record of my grandpa’s descendants where some of the stories could be recorded and saved for those of us still living.”

When and why did you start your genealogy blog?

“In Dec 2009, I was sitting in a genealogy talk listening to someone talk about blogs. The idea to create a blog to share research tips for those researching Scottish ancestry was born that day. I started the blog a few days later.”

How did you choose the name for your blog?

“I wanted it to reflect that the blog was a place for ideas for researching in the Scottish records.”

What are your tips for new bloggers?

“As soon as you get your blog up and running, make sure to submit it to Geneabloggers. You will be amazed at how quickly people start to take notice of what you have to share. Also, make sure your content is original. Even if you are sharing the same idea as ten other people, make it somehow unique to you. People don’t want to read a blog that essentially regurgitates what others have already said on their blogs.”

How much time do you spend on family history research?

“Oh I think any of us who have moved into the professional realm rarely get the chance to research for ourselves. I love when a new record set gets released because it gives me an excuse to research my own ancestors in hopes of learning about the new information being provided.”

Who is your favorite ancestor(s) and why?

“Wow, there are a few. My 3x great grandmother who lost her husband and son in a coal mining accident is a heroine. I can’t imagine how she managed to survive the devastating loss, but she did. My great uncle who left Scotland and ended up in California, and who I am fairly certain was poisoned to death by his second wife is always an interesting topic of conversation. My grandpa for providing the impetus and my granny and mum for nurturing the desire to preserve the stories.”

“Time and time again, I am amazed at how tenuous any of us being here really is and it is all thanks to the courage and fortitude of our ancestors. It really is a matter of survival of the fittest.”

How has genealogy improved your life?

“I am living my dream. I get to help others learn about the Scottish records and to discover their Scottish heritage in the process. I get to travel home every year and reconnect to my history and heritage.”

What do you love the most about genealogy?

“I love speaking. Whether in person or in a webinar. I love the energy that it gives me, knowing how excited people are going to be when they learn something new.”

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

“For Scottish genealogy, you really need to use the ScotlandsPeople website. It is the only website where you can view the actual images. The others are transcriptions or indexes only. There is a wealth of genealogical information in the Scottish records, so it is really, really important to access those documents.”

What interesting connections have you made through blogging?

“I managed to break through a brick wall and learned what became of my great uncle. He emigrated from Scotland, leaving a wife and two young children behind. No one seemed to know what happened to him. In researching his story, I learned that he died fairly young. I believe he was purposely poisoned by his second wife. I did a blog post on my findings and his grandson found it through a Google search. This has made a connection with a part of the family we had lost contact with many, many years ago.”

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

“The easy, online access. Not just to records, but to other genealogists, webinars by presenters we can’t travel to hear and blogs that allow us to learn more about our passion and how to become accomplished at it.”

What is on your genealogy bucket list?

“I would love to connect with the Scots diaspora in North Carolina and Boston. This was the entry point for the first Scots pioneers in the new world. There is so much I would love to share with the descendants about Scottish research.”

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

“Preserve your stories. Don’t let your grandchildren and great-grandchildren wonder about your life. Write your stories down for them to know first-hand what your life experiences were. Being connected to our past helps us build strength of character, a deeper appreciation for the lives we have now and a pride and respect for family.”

When did you start your genealogy-related business?

“I started toying with the idea early in 2010 and launched the business later that same year.”

What was your motivation for starting your business?

“Having been born in Scotland, and having traveled back and forth for my entire life, it was beyond my ken to think that others who had roots in Scotland hadn’t had the same experience. And so, Genealogy Tours of Scotland was born. Every year, I get the honour of accompanying groups of genealogy researchers to Scotland where they can immerse themselves in their Scottish ancestry.”

Blogging is just one aspect of social media. How important has social media been to the growth of your business?

“Incredibly important. Twitter helps me stay on top of what is new,  what conferences are coming up, and any calls for presentations. Facebook helps me connect with potential  tour participants or people who might be looking for a speaker. Blogging provides an outlet for sharing what I do with others. Pinterest is fun but I haven’t really mastered it as well as other genealogists have.  And Google+ keeps me connected to other genealogists.”

What types of products and services do you provide to customers?

“When not traveling or planning tours, I lecture, write, edit newsletters  and am a self-proclaimed ambassador for both genealogy tourism and for Scotland.”

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to start their own genealogy-related business?

“Find a niche. Something that you can offer that others can’t. It may be client work in a specialized record set, lectures in a specialized area of genealogy learning or organizing visits to specific archives. The need is there and  you will have greater success if you are able to provide something that researchers need and that other professionals can’t provide. Once you are up and running, STICK WITH IT. There are so many pitfalls in the beginning. Don’t get discouraged. Find a mentor to keep you motivated. And then market, market, market to get yourself and your special skill set known.”

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Please take a moment to head over to Christine’s blog, Scottish Genealogy Tips And Tidbits, and leave her a comment, letting her know you stopped by. Thank you Christine for telling us about yourself and your blog. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you better.

© 2015, 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