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May I Introduce to You . . . Adrienne Whaley

Come meet genealogy blogger Adrienne Whaley, author of the KINterested blog, in this interview by Wendy Mathias at GeneaBloggers.

May I Introduce to You . . . Adrienne Whaley

Some days I like to see what blogs other bloggers are reading. Clicking on one blog after another, like stepping stones, I found Adrienne Whaley. Her story featured a photo of her glamorous grandmother dressed in an evening gown accepting a number of trophies for her bowling achievements. If I could look that good, I would take up bowling. The charm exuding from that photo is everywhere in the blog itself as Adrienne takes the reader along on her research adventures. Her stories are beautifully written and are always accompanied by interesting photos. She also has some clever tricks for creating images when photos are not available. I am very proud to introduce to you Adrienne Whaley and her blog KINterested.

Adrienne, please tell us a little about yourself.

“I’m a 32-year-old Philly girl, born and raised, but with roots that extend through DC and Ohio to New Jersey, Alabama, Georgia, and more. My bachelor’s degree is in African American Studies, my master’s is in Education, and I have very happily been doing work at the intersection of those subjects – in youth development, college prep, and museum education – for a number of years. When I’m not working or researching family history, I’m probably doing something related to travel, cooking (or eating!), or the great outdoors.”

What do you want to accomplish through blogging?

“First and foremost, I created this blog to share my research with my family in an affordable (it’s free to maintain) and easily accessible manner. Relatives have mentioned that much of what I’ve learned is completely new to them – a lot of family history has been forgotten, or never told, even just a few generations back. So I want them to have access to what I know and am learning.

“Second, I want to share my research and research process with my genealogy buddies – members of Philadelphia’s African American Genealogy Group and others I’ve come across who are as passionate about this as I am. And finally, I hope that by putting my materials – and questions – online, that I might connect with others who are researching my lines, who might have suggestions to help me on my journey, or who might benefit from hearing about my successes and challenges as they do their own research. As someone researching African American ancestry, I believe it’s really important to document what I’m finding in an accessible manner, because too many people believe that our history has not been documented (even relatively recently), or that injustices in the past mean that we should leave our history, and our stories, behind.”

How did you choose the name for your blog?

“My mom and I were eating out a few days after the idea of starting a genealogy blog had really settled in my mind and while we were waiting for our entrees, I just started brainstorming possible names out loud and then on paper. A lot of genealogy blogs have names that involve roots, leaves and trees, so I was trying to stay away from those, but I still wanted the name to clearly reference my focus on family, so ideas with ‘kin’ seemed a good direction to go in. KINterested clearly spoke to my motivation for doing this research, plus it felt catchy! My mom concurred, I tried it out on a few friends, and they approved, too, so I went with it!”

Adrienne, how would you describe your blogging style?

“Passion-motivated! I get excited about a particular document, story, or research task, and just dive in. The stories that I’ve already done a fair amount of research on and have found documentation for tend to write themselves. So do the Mystery Monday posts, because I really am asking for help.

“One of my challenges though, especially for deep dives, is that I’m (spoiler alert!) kind of a nerd. My academic background and current career have exposed me to a lot of historical research. Essentially, I often know a lot of tangential information and can be tempted to add more than is absolutely necessary. So I have to remind myself to remember my primary audience – my family – and keep myself focused on the specific story and only the most necessary explanations that will help with context. I honestly still struggle with this.”

What is your favorite post(s) on your blog and why?

“It’s so hard for me to choose! But if I had to, this one, which starts a series on my grandfather’s participation in the Civilian Conservation Corps, is definitely up there. I like it because it places his experience in historical context and – I think – uses images well to illustrate the story. I also like this one, from a recent family reunion, because 1) my family is gorgeous, 2) it celebrates how committed they are to maintaining family ties, and 3) it illustrates my desire that the blog not just be about ancestors, but about how we as living descendents maintain our relationship with each other and our ancestors.”

How do you motivate yourself to keep blogging?

“It’s the idea of sharing what I’ve learned with my family that motivates me to blog – when I come across an interesting story, moment, or document, it’s already begging to be talked about and I want to get it out there so my family knows! And I really just don’t think my ancestors wanted to be forgotten. They paved the way for us to be here; we should speak their names and know their stories.”

What future plans do you have for your blog?

“My hope is that this blog will serve as something of an archive both of my research and of our larger family history. I want it to be a useful repository of family info. This may necessitate a shift towards a more wiki-style in the future, once I am asking fewer questions and have more information – who knows? But for right now, I just want to continue adding research and stories as time allows.”

How long have you been doing family history and has your focus changed over time?

I started doing this research in my senior year of high school, actually as the focus of my senior project (a cookbook with family recipes and stories). I was motivated by two school experiences: 1) reading Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison, which has a strong theme of family history and heritage running through it, and 2) a cemetery research project where my classmates and I had to choose (in groups) and research the life of an individual buried in Philadelphia’s historic Woodlands Cemetery.

“Combined, these two projects really piqued my interest in learning about the stories of my family – where we had come from, what we had done, what forces had shaped where we are today, and what mysteries might be lurking – and helped me to know that it was actually possible to find this information out. It’s been about 15 years now, off and on, and I’m probably even more hooked now than I was then!”

Adrienne, what has been your most exciting discovery through research?

“Actually, my most exciting find wasn’t something archival, it was finding – and meeting – branches of the family that my current extended family had completely lost touch with or had never known about! (Here’s one example.) I have visited family in cities where most of us previously didn’t know we had family, hung out at their homes and looked at pictures and documents and listened to stories that otherwise might have been lost to my more immediate family.

“If we’re talking documents, I have a couple of late 1800s – early 1900s marriage certificates that are pretty darn cool. And, my great-great-grandmother’s will, where she divides land that she – a black woman probably born during the Civil War and living in the 1920s South – bought, probably blows anything else out of the water, for the sheer power of the context and intentionality of it. It’s her hard-fought legacy for her family!”

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

“Maps have been really helpful in understanding where my ancestors lived, so the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection has been really helpful. Ancestry and FamilySearch are givens, but I don’t think a lot of people make use of Ancestry’s message boards or the FamilySearch Wiki, both of which have been very useful for me. Wikipedia is awesome for finding pictures that are in the public domain! And two other things I swear by: My Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner, for getting copies of family photos without those photos ever having to leave my relatives’ sight or homes, and history books! People forget this sometimes, I think, but names and dates are not enough!! Context is everything when it comes to understanding your family members’ lives, and sometimes that context can provide you with new leads or even break down brick walls.”

What other genealogy blogs inspire you?

“I check Dick Eastman’s blog pretty frequently for news and notes about potential resources. I also like to dig into the archives on 100 Years in America, Finding Eliza, 2338 W. Washington Blvd, among others.  The Armchair Genealogist is always inspiring, and I love finding new blogs through GeneaBloggers!”

What is on your genealogy bucket list?

  • Get each of my lines back to 1870, so that I can conduct research into my family’s relationship to slavery and the Civil War.
  • Find out who my maternal grandfather’s father was.
  • Pinpoint the Virginia roots of one of my maternal great-great-grandmothers.
  • Never give up!

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Please take a moment to visit Adrienne at KINterested and leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. Thank-you, Adrienne, for letting us inside your blogging world.

© 2016, 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