May I Introduce to You . . . True Lewis

Come meet genealogy blogger True Lewis, author of NoTe's To MySeLf..., in this interview by Wendy Mathias at GeneaBloggers.

I have the pleasure of introducing you to True Lewis and her blog NoTe’s to MySeLf … . True writes from the heart with an infectious joy and optimism that feel like a big hug. Her enthusiasm for the stories she shares and her appreciation for her family’s heritage are evident in every post. She describes her blog as “about Family History; it’s my personal diary on my slave granddaddy Ike Ivery and Miles-Daniel family along with my mother’s European heritage.”

A Little About True

“My name is True! Yes. That’s really my legal name. My ancestors come from Bullock County, Alabama and Houston County, Georgia; I also have strong roots in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. I was born up north in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I currently reside in Fort Knox, Kentucky, a Southern girl at heart. Just like my father and grandfather, I am a first-born child and served in the military. My son is a first-born also in the military. We are four generations of first-borns serving our country. I was in the U.S. Army but retired for medical reasons. Then my title went from Soldier to Army Wife and Mom.”

How True Got Started in Genealogy

“My love for genealogy started as a child. In 1977 when I was 9 years old, ‘Roots’ was on television and my grandmother Queen Daniel Miles passed away that August. I knew her and spent time with her in Alabama. After 25 years of marriage, my paternal grandparents legally adopted me. Their children were already grown and out of the house. I was raised around a lot of older people, and that had a profound effect on me. I was always in the shadows, sometimes behind a door, listening for stories. A few times my mother caught me under the table, one of my hiding places to listen to the elders talk. Something told my Soul when I was little, ‘Don’t forget. Keep what they say in your heart.’ I just never wanted to forget all the stories of long ago, so I would sneak to listen. I have held those stories close to my heart ever since.

“I just didn’t know what it was called. I think I really understood it had a name in 1998 after I retired from the Army and had more time on my hands. My quest began with formal oral history interviews. Then I set out to find the documents to the stories I heard along the way, which brings me to where I am now – blogging my oral history with documents.”

True’s Thoughts About Blogging

“I started my blog exactly at 2:32 on November 7th, 2012. That was the time and day my Dad passed away three years earlier. 361 days from my mom. At family gatherings I would talk one on one with relatives to share my stories and the research that I found. Everyone wanted to see and read. It got harder to talk without them actually seeing all that I had done.

“I decided after trepidation and nervousness. Where was I going to put all my work I had researched?  I needed a place, a home for my ancestors, a safe haven in one place collectively where I could keep them in remembrance. Not just my family to see – for everyone. That is why blogging was the perfect choice for me.”

True’s Advice to New Bloggers:

“Always place the ancestors first. Do no harm to the living. If you do that, you won’t go wrong.  Write as much as you can with a passion. Have several pieces before you start. Stay organized. Go at your own pace. Let your ancestors be seen. Let the documents speak for them.”

True’s Favorite Blog Post

“They are all my favorites. I have put a little piece of my heart and soul in each one. My favorite one was when I took a Sankofa Journey back to my ancestral place of origin in Bullock County, Alabama to do my documentary after my parents passed. I saw Alabama with a new set of eyes. I hadn’t really seen my ancestors’ town until my parents passed. I saw Alabama anew.”

True’s Time with Ancestors

“Every day. I don’t let up. I’m relentless in finding as much as I can. There is something always to be done. As the family historian for both sides of my family, it’s my responsibility to leave behind as much as I can. Ordering. Researching. Every year I take a few journeys to Alabama to go to the Archives in Montgomery. I attend my Historical Society meetings and go to the Bullock County Courthouse. I have to do this in the spring and fall to carry me over into my winter hibernation period when all I collected goes into organizing.” 

True’s Favorite Ancestor

“I have to say since I spent time with Grandpa Sam and Queen Daniel Miles, I knew and touched them. They are my Inspiration. I felt someone from the 1800’s and didn’t know it until I was a grownup and found out about my Ol’ Slave Ike Ivery. He was married 3 times and had a total of 23 children. I belong to his first wife Mary Haynes. I have to keep up with him lovingly, his parents and siblings, his wives and their parents and siblings, and all 23 children and their descendants. He is who keeps me up at all hours of the night.”

How Genealogy Has Improved True’s Life

“Patience above all. I’m empowered by my history. I see my place in the world.  I’m able to leave a genuine body of work to the unborn readers in my life: my descendants.”

What True Loves Most About Genealogy

“I’m glad to be part of a larger community who loves and understands what I do. I have many Blog Sisters and Brother Bloggers who I have met in these two years. I love communicating with them and discussing, sharing information and stories. They make me do better in my work. I’m grateful to be in a position were I can honor my ancestors and see life through their eyes.”

True’s Genealogy Bucket List

“To go back to Germany and Europe in general. I want to see as much as I can see on my mother’s European side. That side of me is very complex and fascinating. I want to be able to enjoy it this time around tracing my ancestors’ footsteps.”

True’s Time Capsule Message

“Talk to your elders. Get their stories. Once they go, the stories go. Oral history adds to your documents and stories. Document your family history in all avenues afforded you whether it’s in blogging, book form, a website or documentary.

“I’m a person of color with a German mother and African American father. I have the best of both worlds all my life. We are not so different in a lot of ways.  All these histories of people are one person, me. Honor your ancestors and they will be good to you in your research. Help each other. It’s the Genealogy Community way. Do your part. Stay sincere. Share.

“For my future descendants, I hope I did right by you in my research. Take what I did and run with it. It’s your story. It’s your history. In the words of my Shero author Pearl Cleage: ‘We speak your names.’ Keep speaking the names of our ancestors, for when you do, they will continue to be remembered.”

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Please take a moment to visit True at NoTe’s to MySeLf… and leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. Thank-you, True, 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 . . . 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