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May I Introduce to You . . . Chery Kinnick

Come meet genealogy blogger Chery Kinnick, author of Nordic Blue in this interview by Tessa Keough at GeneaBloggers.

Come meet genealogy blogger Chery Kinnick, author of Nordic Blue in this interview by Tessa Keough at GeneaBloggers.


This interview is something I have wanted to do at least once during our 2015/2016 MIITY season – and today is the day! Oftentimes we meet our writers during the early going of their blogging experience, and we don’t revisit them to see how they have evolved or if their views on blogging have changed over time. This week’s interview is a bit like the “where are they now” interviews that we see on news shows or hear on radio shows. Recently I had the opportunity to meet Chery Kinnick of Nordic Blue.

Chery was a guest speaker in a certificate program class at the University of Washington. As she discussed her own certificate work undertaken several years ago, one of her slides highlighted her blogs Nordic Blue and Nearby Norwegians (one an individual effort and the other a group effort). Two interesting things happened – a few class members asked what a blog was and some others asked what GeneaBloggers was (they noticed the GeneaBloggers’ badge displayed at her blog). I never cease to be amazed (and a bit disappointed) at the large number of genealogists and family historians who are unfamiliar with blogs (and most other social media) and I am pleasantly surprised and impressed that the GeneaBloggers’ badge draws attention and gives us a chance to inform the genealogy community about its terrific resources.

I was also reminded that I first became aware of GeneaBloggers when I was thinking about starting a blog, and I not only looked to the website for information and resources but I also to check out the search feature to look up blogs related to two of my ethnic interests – Irish and Scandinavian genealogy. So I came full circle a last month because I met in person one of the first genealogy bloggers I ever read. I took advantage of the opportunity to ask Chery to provide us with an update since her original interview.

So let’s get to it and learn a bit more about Chery, her blog Nordic Blue, and where life and her genealogy interests have taken her since that first interview!

A Little Bit About Chery

“It is not often that I get interviewed twice for the same publication, but I am happy to share what I have experienced and learned since my first “May I Introduce to You” in 2010!

I currently live in the Seattle area, but I am originally from the San Francisco Bay area.  I identify most with my mother’s Norwegian American family, since I was exposed to that culture through many older relatives while growing up.  On my birth father’s side, my ancestry is a bit more mixed, but with mostly Scottish/Celtic genes–European, in general, but with a couple of small variations thrown in for spice!

I have been with the University of Washington Libraries for 27 years, having served as Public Services Coordinator for Special Collections for the last few years.  Most of my work involves training and supervising student employees.  Working where I do has enabled me to learn about various types of historical records available, and even more about the extensive effort it can take to find just the right ones for your research.  I am fortunate to have many historical records experts among my co-workers.”

How Chery Got Started Doing Family History

“I began researching my family history about 15 years ago, and my main motivation was simply to answer questions for myself.  As I started pulling in information from family members and genealogy resources, a whole new world opened before my eyes.  I realized that you really could piece together the past in an understandable manner, while learning about individuals who were central to your existence, but whom you had never met.  It was a fascinating quest.

From a very early age, I knew I wanted to either work in a library, or to write, and I feel grateful that I have managed to do both.  I have a strong interest in Norwegian American history, and also 19th Century pioneer history and biography.  My academic degree is in History, and if you’d asked me to predict that many years ago, I would not have been able to.  I once considered history, my 7th grade class in particular, to be the driest, most uninteresting topic I had ever encountered (maybe it was the teacher?)  I later learned that studying history involves so much more than route memorization.  I am now passionate about research and can be quite tenacious about gathering information.  I sometimes have to put an uncooperative topic to rest for a while, in order to return to it with a fresh perspective.  That technique often brings a measure of success.

I started my family history research by learning to use online genealogy resources, making inquiries of webmasters, writing letters in the hope of connecting with new family members, and so on.  I networked as much as possible, and “met” relatives that even my mother was not aware of—entire branches of the family that I had never been told about.  I cannot stress how important networking with family was to story gathering.  Though I knew I had a veritable army of cousins in certain parts of the United States, it was up to me to play detective and seek them out.  One not-so-typical treasure I gleaned from networking was a small tin-type photograph of a little girl who died of diphtheria in 1885, when she was only five years old.  I could not be sure that a photograph of her existed.  However, she surfaced when one cousin I gave a “laundry list” of wants to realized that little Hattie’s photo was sitting inside a tea cup she had inherited!”

How Chery Got Her Writing and Blogging Vibe On

“Wanting more detailed instruction in genealogy, in 2005 I enrolled in an eight-month-long certificate program on Genealogy and Family History at the University of Washington.  For three subsequent years after that, I took part in a history research and writing seminar at Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry.  Through both programs, I learned a lot about finding and organizing information, but also how to incorporate social history and utilize creative non-fiction to create a readable family history.

In 2008, I self-published a 300-page family history about my maternal grandfather’s family: A Long Way Downstream:  The Life and Family of Thibertine Johnson Winje, Norwegian-American Pioneer.  One of the best compliments I received about the book was when an older cousin excitedly told me, “It reads like a story!”  The book was 7 years in the making from the very start of my genealogy research.  A writing mentor of mine once said: “…a publication is just a snapshot in time,” so even though I chose to publish when I did, it did not mean that my research is completed, by any means.

I was inspired to started blogging about family history when another writing seminar attendee said it helped her hone her own writing skills.  When I first began my blog, there was a growing online community of mutual supporters in the realm of family history blogging.  Thomas MacEntee was a part of that early blog carnival community, and he has taken the idea to an entirely new level with “GeneaBloggers.”

Chery’s Thoughts on Blogging and How They Have Evolved Over Time

“Although I currently do not spend as much time writing for Nordic Blue as I did in the beginning, my posts remain online, and I know I will eventually again find time to tell more stories.  The inspiration to post another article often hits when I discover something new, and since discoveries are now coming at a slower pace, inspiration has slowed a bit, as well.  But, overall, the writing process for the blog helps me to discern what I know, from what I do not know.  It also keeps me accountable, since the information must be presented in a clear and understandable manner.  Once in a while, I am contacted by a family member previously unknown to me, who has discovered something pertinent on Nordic Blue, and the round of information sharing and justification begins all over again.  A library science professor of mine once said that the library is a “live and dangerous” thing, and the same can be said for blogging—all in a good way, of course.  If I added nothing more at this point, there is enough posted information that some of it will prove useful to someone, somewhere, at some time in the near future.”

Chery’s Advice to Anyone Starting a Family History Blog

“Blogging is still at the top of my suggestion list for new and more experienced family historians alike.  First of all, it gives a taste of what it is like to publish.  You can be creative, tell a research story, submit documents or facts for perusal, and there is no need to tie into the entire family history, as with a book.  Blogging is a bit like sending out family history postcards (emphasis added).  A blog is also a place to share family photographs, as well as discuss your efforts at being a photo detective, keep track of your research, and (you know you want to), tout how you solved yet another family mystery.  My favorite blog posts involve showing how I discovered where a “missing” Civil War soldier ancestor was buried, and also, how I debunked some incorrect family lore about a young woman who supposedly “went down with the Titanic.”  It turned out that she was a victim of the U. S. S. Norge tragedy, eight years before the sinking of the Titanic.”

How Chery Divides Her Genealogy & Family History Time

“Since I am working full time and spend an average of three and a half hours each weekday commuting, and also have a family and home to care for, plus other interests like gardening, walking, reading, and quilting/crafting, there is a necessary ebb and flow to my research and writing pursuits.  But, the development of research skills and the discipline necessary to produce a family history has led me to other publishing opportunities over time.  These include:  Snoqualmie Pass (Arcadia Publishing Images of America series), and local history articles for the Washington State Historical Society’s magazine, Columbia, as well as newspaper articles.  Another writer and I are currently involved in creating a biography of a Pacific Northwest nature photographer, and I am doing research for another new local history article.  So many interesting topics, and so little time!

Another thing of great value to me is my involvement in a research/writing support group.  We call ourselves the Nearby Norwegians, and we maintain a blog about things relating to Norwegian culture and interests.  We try to meet regularly, but have never used a formal agenda.   What we value most is the camaraderie, mutual support, and encouragement we give each other in the pursuit of our research and writing goals.  A family history support group is worth every minute of the effort it takes to create and keep going.  For, unlike many friends and family, your genealogy-minded acquaintances won’t “space out” whenever you begin to talk about your latest research successes.”

Chery’s Genealogy Bucket List

“I never consider my future without envisioning some involvement with genealogy and family history, and I plan to also continue researching and writing about pioneer-era history.

  1. I need to make the time to do a second edition of A Long Way Downstream – perhaps a print-on-demand version this time. I have newly discovered photographs and facts, updated charts, and, inevitably, some corrections to add.
  2. Since I have recently discovered the joy of photo books through online vendors, I would love to do more of these as quick family history publications. One photo book I created includes all the Victorian cabinet card and other photographs that belonged to my great grandparents.
  3. Finally, although travel is not much of an option for me right now, someday I would like to visit Norway and step on the same soil that some of my ancestors left in hope of achieving a better life. There is nothing like that feeling of studying family history, and then communing with it on a very personal level, in the exact location that it happened.  It would be an opportunity to pay homage to them, and to somehow show that their daily toil, pain, patience, and resolve resulted in successes that they could hardly imagine as poor immigrant homesteaders on the Minnesota prairie.”

* * *

Please take a moment and visit Chery at Nordic Blue as well as at Nearby Norwegians (and do check out all of the team members of that blog). These blogs were my first introduction to blogs about Norway and Norwegian resources. Both blogs not only inform and educate, but they also highlight some thoughtful and in-depth research and writing (always a bonus). Do take advantage of the wealth of blogs showcased at GeneaBloggers – for the variety of writing styles, ethnic interests, methodology, and research tips and suggestions. The summer months are a great time to give some thought to taking your blog in a new direction, refreshing your blog format, or sharing your research results, photographs and/or brick walls with the genealogy community.

My rather fortuitous “meet up” with Chery and reintroduction to her blogs provided me with six Aha moments:

  1. Blog when you have something to say – remember it is quality not quantity.
  2. Use your blog to send out those “family history postcards” (I love that visual!).
  3. Go with the ebb and flow in life and in your genealogy – relax and enjoy the trip.
  4. List your blog with GeneaBloggers and use that GeneaBloggers’ badge (it does get noticed and you add to our genealogy and family history community with your listing).
  5. Family history is a never-ending story; you don’t have to be finished before you write it, so why not use your blog to write it as you go.
  6. Everyone’s story is important – those homemakers, farmers, laborers, teachers, slaves, soldiers, merchants, domestics, immigrants, exiles, and pioneers are the combination of so many things including their occupations, their ethnicity, their religion, their race, and the times and places in which they lived. Our ancestors are the building blocks of our past and we are the result of those who went before us and made our lives possible.

Start or kickstart your blog, hone those writing skills, and who knows – there might just be a book of collected blog posts in your future. Start that never-ending story.

© 2016, 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