May I Introduce to You . . . Dianne Nolin
I first “met” Dianne Nolin through a genealogy group on Facebook. It was April and several of us were participating in the A to Z April Challenge, which always attracts over 1000 participants who blog on a wide variety of topics – not many about genealogy though. Recognizing that it was difficult to find other genealogy bloggers, Dianne set about finding a solution. Not only did she create a file with links to the genealogy bloggers participating in the A-Z Challenge, but also she contacted the administrators requesting “Genealogy and Family History” be added as a category in the future. That is the same approach Dianne takes with her blog Genealogy: Beyond the BMD. She saw people struggling to unearth their family stories but were limited in their knowledge of where else to look. Her blogs are full of new ideas and unusual resources, particularly for those researching ancestors from Scotland, Ireland, England, Australia, and Canada. I am proud to introduce to you Dianne Nolin and her blog Genealogy: Beyond the BMD.
Dianne, can you tell a little about yourself?
“I was born in Montreal. My Dad was going to college as a veteran of WWII and we lived in a modified Airstream trailer at the Pederson Residence of McGill University. We soon moved to a small town on Ile Perrot off the west end of Montreal, Terrasse Vaudreuil, where my Dad built our house. Dad never stopped working on the house or building things in the evenings and my lullabies were the sounds of the hammer and power saw.
I now live on Vancouver Island and although genealogy takes up most of my time, I also like to read, cook, knit, and I have done a lot of sailing and camping with my husband and our Shiba Inu, Sadie.
“Since the early 70’s I always worked with computers on some level and it has always intrigued me. In 1995 I took a course on Dos vs Windows. I have taken many on-line courses through a university, 5 of them were on web design. It has given me a couple of ideas for future web based projects involving my family history. All I need now is time to do them.”
When and why did you start a genealogy blog?
“While researching my family tree, and that of my husband and a few friends, I amassed pages and pages of links to websites and references in books that either mention a family member or give insight to their trade or how they lived. I belong to a lot of Facebook groups pertaining to where my ancestors lived and I have contributed or helped others as much as I can. I thought about how I could reach and help more people and it was a toss-up between a website and a blog. A blog seemed the more personal way to go, and it was a new challenge for me. So in April of 2014, with a little trepidation, I published my first post. I started writing every day, but circumstances made me unable to continue with that so I write at least once a week except when I am away from home.”
How did you choose the name for your blog?
“I chose the name Genealogy: Beyond the BMD because most people know how and where to get Birth, Marriage and Death records for their ancestors but may not know how or where to look beyond that. Or even what to look for! My blog posts take readers into the realm of guardianships, pew lists, garden shows, dog races, patents, disasters and lighthouse keepers, to name a few.
“Later when researching in newspapers I found many stories about my ancestors and decided to start a second blog – The Days of Their Lives. I write posts when the spirit moves me. These posts are more for my cousins’ benefit, although more people are interested in reading them. I am hoping also that unfound cousins will read them and get in touch, which has already happened a couple of times. Success!”
How do you decide what to write about?
“I look to my ancestors for inspiration for most of my posts. I try to weave together facts with family stories, which I think is more interesting for the reader. Often I come across something I think would interest readers while I am researching something else, and I will write about it even though I may not have a related family story.
“I am all bout Free! Not everyone doing genealogy can afford to subscribe to paying sites so, save for a few, the links I give are to free information. Most have lists of peoples’ names, though there are a few that are more for information on a certain topic or place. No matter what country you are researching in, these posts will give readers inspiration of what to look for on their own.”
Dianne, what are your favorite posts on your blog?
“It is hard to pick a favourite since I slaved over them all, and my favourites are not necessarily the most popular. One of my favourite posts is It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World because it allowed me to tell the story of my Uncle Horace who has no one else to remember him.
“Another favourite is the 4th one I wrote titled What a Disaster! This one challenged my story writing skills to write about a disaster that the ancestors of my children experienced.
“The next fave is a post I wrote titled Medical History – Knowing your Genes. Although it didn’t garner a lot of public interest, it may save the lives of relatives that read it and hopefully inspire others to check into their medical history.
“I also enjoyed researching and writing the posts on the military, having family members that were in the Militia or enlisted in WWI and WWII.”
What is the most frustrating part of blogging?
“I actually don’t find anything frustrating about blogging. I do it for myself because I like to research and I love to write. My friends and relatives like to read my stories, and I don’t care if I have ten or ten thousand followers. All my info is freely found and free for the taking. As long as I enjoy and am interested in writing the blog I will do it, then I will stop and move on to something else.”
How long have you been doing family history and has your focus changed over time?
“Growing up my maternal grandmother used to tell me stories about some of our relatives, and this piqued my interest in our family history. I got into genealogy seriously when my husband bought me Brøderbund Family Tree Maker for my birthday in 1999.
My focus changes every time I discover more ancestors. I know people call being stuck ‘a brick wall,’ but I like to refer to it as a dam: when the dam finally breaks, a deluge of ancestors come pouring through.”
Besides major websites (like Ancestry and FamilySearch), what research tool or source has been particularly helpful in researching your family history?
“Family. I try to find as many living descendants in all family branches as I can and we work together to find and learn about more ancestors. The bonus is finding over 30 cousins I didn’t know I had!
“Email. People all over the world in libraries, churches, genealogy societies, order of nuns, RCMP archives, etc. have been so kind and freely generous of their time in answering my queries and helping me learn more about my ancestors. I am so grateful!
“Internet. I have found a lot of my ancestors’ stories in newspapers, books at Internet Archive and in the Sessional Papers of Canada.”
What is your favorite family heirloom?
“Not all our treasured heirlooms are in our possession. One of my ancestors was a famed goldsmith and some of his pieces are in the National Museum of Scotland. My Dad helped in the building of our church, for which he also made the altar, lectern and baptismal font. I remember proudly watching him make them and carefully cut out the wooden letters that spelled “THIS DO IN REMEMBERANCE OF ME” on the front of the altar. These are still in use today.
“An heirloom that means a lot to me is a spoon dish that belonged to my paternal grandmother, which I gave to my daughter because she had her spoons standing in a water glass, and I knew she would use and treasure it.
“But the heirloom that is close to my heart is my maternal grandmother’s wedding ring that my Mom took to a jewelers and had shaped into a heart and made into a pendant for me. When I wear it, I feel close to my beloved Granny.”
What kind of networking do you use to attract readers to your blog?
“I post my blog posts to Twitter and Pinterest, where I not only participate but I learn a lot from others. I have a Facebook group page called Genealogy Beyond The BMD.
I post comments and queries on many of the Facebook groups I belong to, and I sometimes comment on the blogs I enjoy reading.”
Finally, Dianne, what is on your genealogy bucket list?
“Recently I have discovered that two of my ancestral homes are now B&Bs, one in Ontario and one in Devon, so I would love to go and spend the night – perhaps dream of my ancestors.
“I would also like to find documentation for the family story that our ancestor was at the Battle of the Boyne and carried the banner for William of Orange. I recently found out that one of my new-found-cousins has the piece of this banner that once hung in our ancestral home.
“I have another new-found cousin who has a hand-drawn picture of the Seale Coat of Arms. I have been in touch with the College of Arms in London and when I give the go-ahead, they will do a search on our coat of arms, which includes genealogy. This item on the bucket list will be crossed off soon.”
Please take a moment to visit Dianne at Beyond the BMD and leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. Thank-you, Dianne, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.