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May I Introduce to You . . . Don Taylor

Come meet genealogy blogger Don Taylor, author of the D. Taylor's Genealogy blog, in this interview by Wendy Mathias at GeneaBloggers.

Come meet genealogy blogger Don Taylor, author of the D. Taylor's Genealogy blog, in this interview by Wendy Mathias at GeneaBloggers.

I am very proud to introduce to you Don Taylor of D. Taylor’s Genealogy. Don writes primarily about his family lines out of Minnesota, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Michigan. He also writes about general genealogy topics and the use of DNA for genealogy. Anyone researching one of Don’s family names will find the organization of his blog extremely helpful. Family pages provide a family tree with internal links to the stories Don has posted about each ancestor.

Don, can you tell a little about yourself?

I was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1950; I currently live near Portland, Maine. When I was about six weeks old, my mother moved us to Minnesota, where I was raised. My mother moved my grandmother and me many times to find work, so I went to ten different schools before I was eighteen years old. After graduating from high school, I enlisted in the Navy and spent nearly eleven years active duty. After my discharge, I returned to Minnesota and I attended college using the GI Bill; I received a BA from Metropolitan State University with a major in political science.

How did you get interested in doing your family history?

I became interested in family history and genealogy after watching the 1977 TV miniseries, “Roots.” For the next twenty years or so, I was only able to do limited research while I concentrated on providing for my family. In 1994, my mother called and asked me if I remembered returning to Oregon when I was three. Of course, I remembered nothing, so she explained that I had a sister whom she was forced to give up for adoption before we returned to Minnesota. Through a series of what some people may call miracles, my sister found us and moved her family to Minnesota to get to know her birth family. I wanted to share our family history with my new-found sister but I knew very little. I began researching and soon discovered that I enjoyed being the family detective.

What do you enjoy the most about doing genealogy?

I really enjoy getting to know my ancestors. I am fascinated with what happened to them, what their trials and tribulations were, and recognizing what traits and values they passed down to me. I also enjoy dispelling family myths. For instance, my mother-in-law has always strongly identified with her Swiss heritage, believing that she was 50% Swiss. Using all of the tools available to me, I discovered that she was mostly English and that intrigued her. I watched her face carefully as her initial puzzlement dissolved into a fresh realization. In that moment, some of the stories that she heard as a child began to make more sense to her. She began to see the family stories in a new light that may result in aligning the oral family traditions with what actually happened.

What is your favorite genealogy research tool or source?

Certainly, Ancestry.com and Family Search are the sources I use most often. However, my favorite research tool is the one that answers the big questions regarding missing relatives. For example, I used Classmates.com and queried every person who might have attended school with my uncle in 1944 to see if any of them had contact information for him. Finally, one person did have information. My uncle spent his adult life in the Marshall Islands and lost contact with my mother and his mother in the early 1950s. He and my mother finally reunited after fifty years. Sixty-Minutes II filmed their meeting and broadcast it during a segment on Classmates.com.

Why did you start a genealogy blog?

I started my blog in March 2012. Initially, I blogged to share my findings with family members. That quickly expanded to sharing my findings with friends and acquaintances for whom I was also doing research. Subsequently, I’ve added reviews, lessons learned, fresh ideas for describing the eras and environment that our ancestors lived in. For example, at one historical society meeting the group turned to advertising that was done in the year books from the 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s and gained a more personal understanding of the times.

Where do you get your inspiration or ideas for your blog posts?

When I look beyond the vital statistics, locations, and occupations, I am inspired by the things that they did or didn’t do and how they managed living their lives in times of peace, war, and financial and political upheaval. No matter how menial or mundane a life may appear on the surface, everyone has a fantastic story that is waiting to be discovered. I often write about individuals on their birthdays. I do this to honor them and provide an opportunity for their descendants to know more about who they were and what they accomplished.

What is your favorite post on your blog and why?

My grandmother, Madonna Mae Montran, has one of the most interesting lives of anyone I have come to know through my detective work. She was one of Mack Sennett’s bathing beauties in the 1910s, flew in a biplane in 1915, and was in numerous vaudeville shows during the 1920s. She led an extremely interesting and nomadic life. Writing about her various shows and experiences enthralls me and, based on the responses I receive, these stories interest people who research the history of vaudeville. I have a page dedicated to her and dozens of blogs highlighting her experiences and the theatres where she performed.

What interesting connections have you made through blogging?

Blogging helps me maintain established links; however, I do make new connections occasionally. For example, the stepson of my granduncle recently contacted me regarding my blog post about a half-brother that he didn’t know existed. It pleased me to learn that my blog provided new information to a distant relative.

How do you motivate yourself to keep blogging?

My desire to share what I find keeps me motivated. I find that my readers are excited about my discoveries. They are also grateful for the helpful hints I provide. I enjoy turning on people’s lights and fostering bettering understanding of themselves by seeing live through their ancestors’ eyes.

Another reason blogging motivates me is because it is an organic process, something akin to journaling. The blogging process forces me to examine my thoughts carefully and to elucidate those thoughts so that others can understand them as well. Often, the blogging process forces me to analyze and more fully evaluate and express my opinions.

What kind of networking do you use to attract readers to your blog?

Certainly, I use Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus to attract readers but I also talk about my blog at the genealogical society meetings that I attend and other venues.

What future plans do you have for your blog?

I plan to allow my blog to grow organically. I want it to fill the needs of my readers within the framework of the genealogical areas that interest me. I would also like to expand the blog to include more guest bloggers. Finally, I plan to thoroughly document Madonna Montran’s life through my blog then use that information to write a book about her amazing life.

What other genealogy blogs inspire you?

Genea-Musings, particularly Randy Seaver’s “Saturday Night Genealogy Fun,” inspires me. He prompts me to look at things in my family that hadn’t previously occurred to me, for example, “last name unknown” ancestors or couples who were married over 50 years. It energizes me to look at facts in new ways.

What is on your genealogy bucket list?

Learning the identity of my biological father, and perhaps meeting him and/or any of my half-siblings (if they exist) is on the top of my bucket list. I know that I am getting closer. This is exciting and frightening at the same time. My Y-DNA test suggests that my father was a “Roberts” because the five closest Y-DNA matches were all surnamed Roberts. Through my autosomal DNA testing, I have found two matches who share a large segment that all three of us have in common. This strongly suggests that we share a common ancestor. Finding that common ancestor may lead to success.

Do you have any tips for new genealogy bloggers?

If your purpose in writing a blog is to make money, quit now and do something else. If your purpose is to share what you know and love, then keep that purpose in the forefront of your writing and you will be happy with the results.

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Please take a moment to visit Don at D. Taylor’s Genealogy and leave him a comment letting him know you stopped by. Thank-you, Don, 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 wendymath@cox.net.

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