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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.

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