May I Introduce to You . . . Alex Coles

Come meet genealogy blogger Alex Coles, author of the Winging It blog, in this interview by Tessa Keough at GeneaBloggers.
I have the pleasure of introducing you to Alex Coles and her blog Winging It described as “my blog is “Winging It – The Research Journal of the Wing One-Place Study (and other genealogical ramblings)”. It just turned eight years old although I don’t know how that is possible – don’t they grow up so fast!”

A Little Bit About Alex

“I’m a NZ accountant with an interest in family history and a small obsession with the village of Wing in Buckinghamshire where my great-grandfather was born. I’m also on the committee of the Society for One-Place Studies.”

How Alex Got Started in Blogging

“Many people find blogging (or more specifically a blogging platform) an easy way to start establishing their online presence and sharing their family history. I actually did things the other way round – the website for my one-place study came first and the blog was an afterthought. I figured a blog would be a good way not only to let people know about website updates but also to have more of a conversation about what I was up to with the one-place study and my own genealogy. My one-place study website presents records and research and accordingly is more formal in tone, but I don’t have that restriction with the blog.

Alex’s Thoughts on Blogging

“Don’t let it rule your life – sure, if your main aim is to build up readership then follow the rule about blogging regularly and frequently, but simply sharing what you want to share when you have a moment to share it will achieve the aim of getting out there in the world easily accessible by search engines. If you trot over to my blog after reading this you will see that I am a far from regular blogger!

Readers like myself aren’t necessarily going to be visiting your blog, we use aggregator tools like Feedly to flick through the dozens of blogs or RSS-enabled website that interest us and we don’t even see all the effort you may have put into the visual design of your blog apart from the first time we discover you. Content that resonates or interests us (and our magpie brains may have some wacky reasons for that!) is why we’re reading.”

Alex’s Favorite Blog Post(s)

My most popular blog post by far was a whimsical piece I wrote around a couple of postcards of Wing – A Walk Home Along High Street, Wing – from the point of view of an ordinary agricultural labourer plucked from the 1901 census who encounters at least one of my ancestors during his walk home.

Alex’s Time with the Ancestors

“The Wing one-place study has absorbed much of my genealogy time over the past decade so my own ancestors are probably getting a bit cranky due to my neglectful treatment of them. I’ve written up wee books (well, booklets) about the ancestors on my maternal line and I really do need to show the paternal side some love, but like many family historians my attention gets grabbed by the latest shiny database release rather than staying focused on my research plan. Realistically there’s just not that much genealogy time in my week after work, family, the minutiae of daily life and other commitments (hear those tiny tiny violins playing?).”

Alex’s Favorite Ancestor(s) and Why

“I have a soft spot for several – one is Matilda Coleman who made me cry when I discovered her living (as “inmate”) in the Railway Servants Orphanage in 1881. Her father was killed in a railway accident – turns out a bit of whisky doesn’t cure crush injuries.

Another is Brightwell Holyman who wins favourite name in my family tree, and fathered a child (my ancestor) with his future third wife in 1812. Unfortunately he was still married to his elderly 30-years-older-than-him second wife at the time. The whole village evidently knew the story here but I don’t and I’d love a TARDIS to help me learn more.”

How Genealogy/Family History Has Improved or Changed Alex’s Life

“It’s great fun to learn about history through the angle of a particular individual who may not have been particularly special to the world or their community but is special to you. I love the random-yet-not-random-ness of having an in-depth understanding of one particular aspect or event in history because it happened to intersect with your ancestor’s life yet remaining entirely ignorant of other aspects.

One-place studies are a great opportunity to give back to the family history community and hearing from so many fellow descendants of Wing residents over the years has definitely enriched my life.”

What Alex Loves Most About Genealogy

“I do love the research process. It’s like being a detective without the pressure of having to catch the bad guy and make the world a better place. And my dead friends (I consider all those past residents of Wing my friends) are fascinating, as are the potentially distorted stories the various records tell about them. We get quite a clear picture in our mind from the random snippets of their life they leave behind but do we really know them?”

Alex’s Time Capsule Message

None yet – I need to check with Alex to see if she wants to add something.

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Please take a moment to head on over to Alex’s blog. Leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. Alex (as you may have noticed) has a wicked sense of humor. I don’t know that you can do better than the example Alex sets with her one-place study publishing at her blog and her website. Oftentimes, I look to both Alex’s blog and website for ideas on content as well as layout/vision/form. Welcome Alex, it’s great to have you here!

© 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 murkeo01@gmail.com.

May I Introduce to You . . . Elizabeth Ross

Come meet genealogy blogger Elizabeth Ross, author of the Mystery Dancer blog, in this interview by Michelle Taggart at GeneaBloggers.

I am excited to introduce to you Elizabeth Plowe Ross and her blog Mystery Dancer, described as,  “Mystery Dancer is dedicated to discovering who Ursula Cheshire was through clues revealed in an antique photo album, and through online historical and genealogical research based on those clues.”

A Little About Elizabeth

“I was born and raised in South Dakota (with a few years in North Dakota and upstate New York mixed in). After graduating from college in upstate New York, I moved to New York City, where I lived and worked for nearly 25 years. My musician/music-journalist husband and I recently moved to Nashville, our new favorite hometown. I am a freelance writer and editor in the health care field, but my passion lies in researching and blogging about my “Mystery Dancer” project and working on other family history projects, as well as creating visual art (photography and collage).”

How Elizabeth Got Started in Genealogy

“As a child, I was mildly interested in my family history. A great aunt on my mother’s side had researched my maternal ancestors to prove eligibility for membership in the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution), and another relative had traced our lineage all the way back to royalty in the Middle Ages. It was fun learning about that as a kid. My grandmother also wrote down some information and stories that had been passed on to her. On my father’s side, a couple of cousins who had converted to Mormonism researched our family, so that pedigree is filled out for several generations.

“I’ve gotten more interested in family history over the past several years, and have enjoyed poking around on Ancestry.com. While I already know the names of my ancestors, it’s fascinating to learn more about their life stories through such documents as Civil War records, marriage licenses, shipping manifestos, historical newspaper articles, photographs and the like.”

Elizabeth’s Thoughts on Blogging

“I am drawn to stories. I usually read fiction, and when I read nonfiction, it’s usually a memoir or true historical tale centered on a specific person or family. I also love looking at historical photographs of people and places and have found myself buying them here and there at various antique shops and thrift stores. And, I love solving mysteries — studying clues, making connections, discovering new clues and finding answers. That’s why I started this blog.

“Almost one year ago, I went to a huge community yard sale. Among the vendors was a rare book and document gallery that was selling a worn, maroon, velvet-covered antique photo album. Full of old black-and-white photos and yellowed newspaper clippings, the book, said the vendor, centered around Ursula Cheshire, a dancer born in the early 1900s and who died in her 40s. The first photo I saw was of a pretty teenaged girl in costume posing dramatically on one knee with her head tipped back. This family album included more photos of the girl (some in costume, some not), baby pictures, portraits of relatives from the 1800s, handwritten captions. The book intrigued me, and I felt it contained a story I wanted to discover. So, before I even knew if I would be able to find out any additional information about the people featured in the album, I decided to start this blog to share the photos and my experiences of discovery, insight, roadblocks and surprises as I worked to unlock their mysteries. I have been incredibly fortunate that my research has yielded bountiful information about Ursula and her family. I love working on my Mystery Dancer blog, and sharing the journey with my readers.”

Elizabeth’s Advice for New Bloggers

  • “I use WordPress, which I have found to be very easy to learn and use. You can customize it with different widgets and features, but don’t go crazy. Before you start, take a look at other blogs to see what you like and don’t like, and get an idea of what works well, what looks good, etc. If you want to do something on WordPress but don’t know how, Google it! So many people use WordPress that you’ll probably find a solution out there.
  • “If you’re going to be writing a narrative that spans a lifetime or more, it may be helpful to create an Excel spreadsheet to track your positive research findings in chronological order of the events that your narrative is covering. Include any Web links and notes of filenames of images you may want to use in your blog. I have done this with Mystery Dancer, and it helps me with organizing, keeping the timeline straight, citing sources and planning future posts.
  • “Focus each post on a certain topic or event, and give it a narrative arc with a beginning, a middle and an end. In other words, each post should be a mini story within the overall story or theme of the blog.
  • “If you tend to procrastinate, publicly commit to a schedule for your posts. I now post on the first and third Tuesdays of each month. Before I committed to that, my readers never knew when the next post would be — one week or two months later, who knew?
  • “Watch the length of your posts, as well as the length of your paragraphs. I think it is difficult to hold the attention of online readers with lengthy passages and posts that are more than 600 or 650 words. I think around 500 words is a sweet spot. If you need to, break what would have been a long post into two or three parts. And include pictures!”
  • Proofread before publishing! That includes checking any links to make sure they work properly.

Elizabeth’s Favorite Blog Post

“So far, I think my favorite post is,  “She Got Her Start in San Francisco.”

“It features several fun discoveries I made concerning Ursula’s birth announcement and family residence, including a link to real-estate photos of the interior and exterior of the family’s 1902-built Victorian house, which was sold in 2011 for $1.6 million! It was exciting to find resources on the Internet that synced with and expanded upon photos and information I gleaned from the album.”

Elizabeth’s Favorite Ancestors

“My favorite ancestor (aside from those I knew/know in person, of course) is a maternal great great grandmother named Clara. Thanks to a cousin who has shared a cache of letters that Clara wrote to her family in 1867, I’m getting to know her as I work on transcribing them. As newlyweds, she and her husband, Charley (my great great grandfather) had just moved from Brooklyn, NY to San Francisco, where Charley was an Army engineer at Fortress Alcatraz (US Army Coastal Fortification.) Even as she longs for home, her humor, intelligence and positive nature shine through her letters as she writes about the couple’s new life on the West Coast (including her first pregnancy and baby). This will probably be my next family history blog project.”

How Genealogy has Improved Elizabeth’s Life

“Learning about my ancestors has given me more of a sense of connection and belonging in this world. My existence is the result of actions and circumstances stretching back generations upon generations upon generations. Knowing what some of my ancestors have gone through, how hard they have worked and what courage they have shown inspires me and helps give me strength to persevere through life’s ups and downs. For instance, sometimes I think, “After all, if my paternal great great grandmother was brave enough to travel by ship from Bavaria to Ellis Island by herself at age 15; I can do XYZ, too!”

“And, doing the research for and producing my blog about Ursula Cheshire has improved my life because it’s just so much fun. I get to do all the things I love to do and I’m learning interesting tidbits about early-1900s American history along the way. At some point, I hope to be able to find some of Ursula’s living relatives (she has no living direct descendants) and share the blog and photos with them.”

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Please take time to head over to Elizabeth’s blog and leave a comment, letting her know you stopped by.  Thank you Elizabeth 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 shelltag1@gmail.com

May I Introduce to You . . . Kristin Cleage Williams

Come meet genealogy blogger Kristin Cleage Williams, author of Finding Eliza, in this interview by Wendy Mathias at GeneaBloggers.

I have the pleasure of introducing to you Kristin Cleage Williams and her blog Finding Eliza, named in memory of her 2X great grandmother whom she found in the 1860 census as a free woman. Kristin grew up hearing stories about Eliza and her children, and these stories make their way into Kristin’s blog which she describes as “the story of my ancestors and the story of my memories of my own past. Once in awhile I will post something from the present – birthday parties for my 90 year old aunts, group family photographs – but usually it is about the past.”

Kristin frequently shares her outstanding collection of photos and memorabilia from the more recent past – the 1960s and 70s – when her family was very much involved in the Civil Rights Movement in Detroit. Her family was busy shaping history, yet Kristin writes in a quiet and modest style as if their activities were nothing out of the ordinary.

A Little About Kristin

“I was born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1946 when my father was there as pastor of St. John’s Congregational Church, an historic African American Congregational Church. My sister and I were both born in Springfield. In 1951 my father received a call from St. Mark’s United Presbyterian Church in Detroit, so we moved there. This is my hometown, where I grew up, where my parents had grown up, and where both sides of my extended family lived. I lived there until 1972 when my husband and I moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and from there to Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina; to Braxton, Mississippi; to Excelsior Springs, Missouri; to Idlewild, Michigan; and finally back to Atlanta when he retired in 2007. This is where all but 1 of my 6 children and 7 of my 8 grandchildren, plus my sister and 1 of my husband’s brothers now live.”

How Kristin Got Started in Genealogy

“I started doing Family History/Genealogy in 1976 after my second daughter was born and after both of my maternal grandparents died. I became interested in the family stories my mother had told us about Eliza and Dock Allen and also about my family’s story. I started by sending out Individual information sheets and Family sheets and asking about the stories. My mother wrote me about her branch of the family, her great aunts and uncles and great grandparents. Although some of the information was not completely accurate, this information was invaluable to me when I started looking for documentation. I also collected memories and stories that my aunts and uncles had and a bit from my paternal grandmother.”

Kristin’s Thoughts About Blogging

“In 2010 I heard Luckie Daniels talk about genealogical blogging during our Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS) Metro Atlanta Chapter meeting. I decided to dive in and set one up. I thought that blogging would help me organize my material and share my information with my family and anyone else who was interested. It has done that and so much more. I’ve met multiple cousins from a long lost branch of the family who shared information and photographs with me. I’ve made friends with other bloggers who give me ideas about research and records and prompts for blog posts. In writing posts, I’ve had to dig deeper and look further to fill out the stories. They have led me to information I would never have thought about if I hadn’t been blogging.”

Kristin’s Advice to New Bloggers

“Just start! Start with what you have and start writing. Write about the information you have, the information you want and how you found out what you know. Mention names, tell stories. You never know when a cousin will Google a name and find you and your blog and share information you don’t have.”

Kristin’s Favorite Blog Posts

“During my research I made several discoveries that moved me more than most. Both of them involved slave research. The first was when I found a newspaper article validating our oral history that my 2X great grandmother Eliza had been owned by Edmund Harrison before freedom:  ‘She was owned before the war . . . .’ I regretted then and still do that my cousin Margaret was not alive to share my find. We had searched for years trying to find something that would prove the oral history.

“The other, ‘The Will 1860,’ was the story of finding two wills of owners of my Cleage ancestors naming them as a family group. This was a very emotional find, to read my grandfather’s grandparents’ and father’s names as property to be left to wives and daughter.

“Another favorite was ‘Stolen from Africa,’ from the Fearless Females prompt during Women’s history month. When I read those questions in the Fearless Female prompts, I knew I didn’t have answers because my ancestors came here as slaves. At first I didn’t plan to do it because of that, but I did and ended up tying in lack of documentation, DNA, my daughter’s name and a trip to South Carolina.”

Kristin’s Time with Ancestors

“I spend hours every day doing online research, unless it’s the holiday season when I spend lots of time with living relations, or when I go on a rare trip to the beach.”

Kristin’s Favorite Ancestor

“My favorite ancestor is whichever one I am working on at the moment.”

How Genealogy Has Improved Kristin’s Life

“Genealogy has put me in touch with family members I would not know if I hadn’t been doing research. Through those cousins, I have found more pieces in the family story puzzle. One way it has not improved my life is that I spend way too much time sitting in front of this computer.”

What Kristin Loves Most About Genealogy

“I love finding new information that fills in the story. I love talking with other family members who are interested in the family story and have information to share. I love following the ancestors and seeing where they end up. I especially enjoy putting memories and stories and photographs together with facts and records.”

Kristin’s Genealogy Bucket List

“I hope to visit the places my family came from – not the ‘old country’ but Athens, Tennessee; Montgomery, Alabama; Lebanon, Kentucky; and Lowndes County, Alabama to see if I can find more information and the location of the old places. I’ve done that in Athens and Montgomery with some success, but I didn’t do any research while there so I want to do that.”

Kristin’s Time Capsule Message 

“I wish that young people, and even middle aged people, would realize that the old relatives are not going to be around forever and may not be able to remember as much as you wish they did as they age. Talk to them NOW! Ask them to tell you about their lives, their memories and to identify those photographs of family and friends.”

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Please take a moment to visit Kristin at Finding Eliza and leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. Thank-you, Kristin, 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 wendymath@cox.net.