I have the pleasure of introducing you to Leslie Robertson and her blog, THE PEOPLE OF PANCHO, described as, “. . . I’ve always been a collector of bits and pieces (especially old photographs), a lover of stories, and a seeker of explanations. The People of Pancho is my attempt to capture the history and solve the mysteries of the vast tribe from which I come. The definition of “My People” is quite loose because it also includes family by marriage, adoption, and choice. The blog encompasses a good amount of genealogy, a bit of memoir, a lot of old photographs, and a great deal of love.”
A Little About Leslie
“I’m a fourth-generation Panama Canal Zonian on my mother and stepfather’s side. For the recent Panama Canal Centennial, I wrote about that very special history here: A Personal Panama Canal Centennial. I was born in San Antonio, TX, where my mother came from the Canal Zone to attend college, so I’m also the inheritor of a lot of colorful Texas history on my father’s side of the family. I spent my entire childhood on the Atlantic side of the Canal Zone, and then came to the United States at age 18 to attend Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. (After a childhood spent running around in a bathing suit in the tropics, my first winter was a revelation. No thanks.) After graduation, I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to work in Silicon Valley, and it’s here that I met and married my husband and raised my family. I currently work at an early-stage technology startup in Mountain View, CA, and I absolutely love bringing technology to bear on my genealogy addiction.”
How Leslie Got Started in Genealogy
“I’ve been doing genealogy for about two years, and I feel like I’m just getting started. There’s so much to learn, and so many interesting stories to chase — I don’t think I’ll ever run out of material to write about.”
“I’ve always loved hearing family stories, and as my collection of old family photographs grew, I really wanted to learn about all the mystery people that appear in those images. For example, I knew nothing about my maternal-great-grandmother’s line when I started, but now I’ve connected with several cousins from that branch of the family tree as a result of my research and the blog. Solving one mystery inevitably leads to others, so it was pretty easy to get (and stay) hooked.”
Leslie’s Thoughts on Blogging
“When my maternal grandmother passed away, I went to help clean out her house to prepare it for sale. My grandma was a bit of a packrat; we found boxes and boxes of photographs, some from the turn of the last century, lurking in closets. One peek and I was hooked — who ARE all these people? I shipped the boxes home to California and began the painstaking process of sorting through thousands of images and attempting to label and scan them for posterity. I started the blog when I came across a particularly juicy mystery that I wanted to solve: The Mystery Wife. This treasure trove of photographs remains an ongoing source of inspiration.”
Leslie’s Tips for New Bloggers
“Spend some time creating rules for yourself before you start blogging. Think about what kinds of stories you will and won’t pursue, and also about how you will approach categorizing and tagging the topics on your blog. Also, give some thought to how you will handle stories that touch living people, as these must be treated with greater sensitivity to feelings and privacy. By thinking about these things up front, you save yourself from wrestling with the same decisions over and over, which can be exhausting and counterproductive. (I think my professional underwear might be showing here; I spend all day thinking about information architecture and content management). Genealogy can be overwhelming, and it’s easy to feel like that dog in the movie Up — “Squirrel?!” — so set yourself up for success by asserting a little bit of discipline on yourself at the beginning of your effort. It will pay off.”
Leslie’s Favorite Blog Posts
“I have a couple of favorites, but this one is very special to me:
Leslie’s Time with the Ancestors
“Not enough, but I think I’d probably say the same thing no matter how much time I had at my disposal. I generally put in an hour or two (or three, or…) most evenings after dinner with my family. I try not to go overboard because I want to maintain my relationships with living people too.”
Leslie’s Favorite Ancestors
“I don’t really have a favorite, but I’ve discovered a few that I think I would have absolutely adored knowing had our lifetimes overlapped. My great-grand-aunt Emma Lessiack Keil falls into this category. I’m working on her story now, but then again, I tend to fall in love with whichever relative I’m working on at the time.”
How Genealogy Has Improved Leslie’s Life
“I find that I’m nourished by stories of how my progenitors met the challenges of life — parenting, illness, work, love, and so on. Even painful history has the power to strengthen and enlighten me, to make me more aware of and grateful for the blessings in my own life. And, being constantly reminded of our finite time here on Earth is very valuable — Carpe Diem, baby.
“I’ve also really enjoyed collaborating with my younger daughter, who is a gifted artist and very skilled in recognizing facial characteristics. I could not have done some of the more tricky mystery photo analysis without her.”
What Leslie Loves Most About Genealogy
“My own mistakes and missteps begin to seem very small in the great sweep of history. There’s comfort in that, and I also appreciate being reminded to consider the kind of information legacy I want to leave to my descendants. Sorting through the muchness at my grandmother’s house — wondering what, in all that stuff, was actually important to her and what wasn’t — has made me more disciplined about uncluttering, and also about taking the time to tell the important stories. Stuff without meaning attached to it is just stuff, and we all know that truly priceless heirlooms often have little dollar value. I don’t want one of those rough diamonds to go unrecognized.”
Leslie’s Genealogy Bucket List
“Heritage trips to Germany, Austria, Ireland, the UK, and Czechoslovakia. C’mon, lottery ticket!”
Leslie’s Time Capsule Message
“Label, label, label. The importance of this photograph or that object is obvious to you now, but in a hundred years it won’t be obvious to anyone else. Do your descendants a favor and take the time to tell them who and what matters to you. (Also, please know that we’re sorry, and we did the best we could. And, that we love you.)”
An Additional Message from Leslie
“What makes genealogy blogging so fun are all the talented, encouraging, and kind fellow genealogy bloggers you meet along the way. It’s wonderful to interact with like-minded people, and I learn a lot from them too. Don’t be a lurker—read and comment on other people’s stories, and they will do the same for you. Comrades on the journey are priceless.”
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Please take a moment to head over to Leslie’s blog, THE PEOPLE OF PANCHO, and leave her a comment, letting her know you stopped by. Thank you Leslie for telling us about yourself and your blog. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you better.
© 2014, copyright Jana Last. All rights reserved.
Jana Last is a wife, mom and soon-to-be 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: Jana’s Genealogy and Family History Blog, Grandpa’s Postcards, and Jana’s Place. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.