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May I Introduce to You . . . Dr. Bill

Come meet blogger Dr. Bill of the Dr. Bill Tells Ancestor Stories blog as interviewed by Michelle Taggart at GeneaBloggers!


While sadly some blogs have a relatively short shelf life, some authors seem to discover the secret to blog longevity. Enter Dr. Bill, a well known blogger and author who has stood the test of time. In his seventh year of blogging, Dr. Bill was first interviewed by Gini Webb in February 2010 and that interview can be found here: May I Introduce to You…. Dr. Bill Smith. Realizing how many years he has successfully blogged and that he has since written and published several books, I was anxious to see what he could share with us. I think you will agree that not only are Dr. Bill’s writings interesting to read, but his interest in his subject is readily apparent and perhaps that is part of his secret.

It is my pleasure to introduce to you, William L. Smith, or Dr. Bill, as he is known by his followers, author of the following blogs.

…and others.

Bill, tell us a little about yourself.

“I am the oldest of five Smith Brothers of Iowa; husband of Nancy; father of Annette, Allison, and Arrion; grandfather of Alex and Kaylee; uncle; cousin; creator of “The Homeplace Saga” series of family saga, historical fiction stories; retired University Professor.”

When did you first become interested in genealogy?

“In 1977 my wife’s mother gave her a sheet of paper with a rough list of her ‘ancestors’ that she had gathered. That started the ‘conversation’ that continues today, though her Mother has been gone many years now. Nancy took up the mantle of ‘family historian’ and takes it seriously, not just a gatherer of ‘family tradition’ hearsay like her mother. Raising a family and making a living, running businesses, took priority, but we added bits and pieces, off and on, over the years until about 1995 when we got really serious. For the first time ever, as a new university professor, we got a whole summer off. We spent the summer traveling to several key states where our ancestors had been. What a summer! In following years, I taught summer school, but that summer got us really hooked.  From 1995 through 2003, I was very serious about genealogy study.  I even submitted a Certification Portfolio. I wrote a 900 page online Family Genealogy that updated my mother’s paternal line (Kinnick) from a 1953 print book that had been the ‘family bible’ so to speak for many, many years. Corrected much information. Confirmed much information. Added much new information, including from the 1600s and 1700s on the eastern seaboard.  What fun! Created One-Name Study blog for Kinnick surname, called “The Kinnick Project.”

What motivated you to begin blogging?

“My first blog was in 2005 and was based on volunteer work I was doing as part of my University Professor work. This was also about the time I learned to teach online courses… among the first to do so, and co-authored a book about online teaching.

September 19, 2009, I began my first genealogy-related blog with that first post on ‘Dr. Bill Tells Ancestor Stories’ – and the rest is history. At first I was only posting things I had previously written about our family – to share with family. It just grew from there. Thomas MacEntee and GeneaBloggers came to my attention and that shaped my posting for several years.”

Bill, you have been blogging your ancestors’ stories for many years. What are some of the biggest changes you have seen in blogging during that time?

“Where blogging fits in the public perception of social media and information exchange is how I would address the issue. Blogging was a major sharing medium for perhaps five years. As Facebook became the primary ‘family sharing’ medium, blogging became just one of several ways to share. It seems to me that is where we are now.”

How have you benefited from blogging?

“I seem to have both a need to write and a need to share what I write. Feedback enhances that need. Blogging is an excellent vehicle for satisfying those needs. I have found blogging to be extremely satisfying, on a personal level.”

What are some of the challenges you have faced in writing your ancestors’ stories?

“What to say and how to say it – we each face that challenge. Some detailed information uncovered requires serious consideration as whether, how and when it could/should be shared on a blog. Suicide, murder, infidelity, illegal actions are part of each family history whether we expect them or not. How and when they are blogging subjects requires great consideration and discretion.”

We often refer to blogging as “cousin bait.” What interesting connections have you made through blogging?

“I’m sure the most exciting has been connecting with cousins in Denmark who have become ‘close friends’ on Facebook. My maternal grandmother was born in Denmark and came to the USA as a teenager. I knew her well for many years. Being able to communicate with people who knew people she would have known has been wonderful. Gaining a better understanding of her home community in Denmark has been special. I’ll not be able to visit, but I expect my youngest daughter, who travels to Europe each year now, will make that visit in a coming year or two. She was able to know her great-grandmother through her teen years, so that is especially meaningful.  The connection came directly from my blog postings a few years ago.”

Tell us about your series of novels and short stories.  How did you get the idea for your series? Are they based on your own family?

“I had actually written the first draft of the novel, “Back to the Homeplace,” in 1987 based on my perceptions of relationships among family and friends in a small rural community. Then I became involved in my PhD studies followed by my work as a new professor. I continued to ‘save’ the story on my computers through the many changes in software programs through the years. Approaching retirement, I pledged to myself to finish the novel in my first year of retirement, which I did. During that process, my family history research spurred me to ‘research’ – that is, create, – the family history of my characters. That turned out to be eight generations, back to the first pioneers in that Ozarks Mountain valley first settled in 1833. I used census records, local histories, and other research techniques to create an authentic, fictional ‘family history’ of those founding pioneers that seamlessly led to the characters in the 1987 and 1996 novels (see “Christmas at the Homeplace,” for example). The stories are based on what I have learned about many, many families and individuals, not my family specifically.”

Did blogging help you in the process of writing your books? How?

“I have used the blog, “The Homeplace Saga” Blog, as the central web site for all of my writing projects: novels, short stories, novellas, e-books:

“Tabs on the blog are useful in navigating the various projects.

“Each of the short stories, back to 1833, are posted on the blog, as well as published in the short story collection, “American Centennial at the Homeplace: The Founding (1833-1876)” and the series of e-books, “The Kings of Oak Springs.” Each of these is available at Amazon (individual titles and author William Leverne Smith).

“Thank you for the opportunity to go down memory lane and share these thoughts with you and your readers. And remember, if you have not read a book or story, it is new to you, no matter when it was written! 😉 “

What tips can you share for those wanting to write their ancestor’s stories?

“I’ve actually written a book about that: “13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories” now in a 2nd Edition. (Available at Amazon and at: Dr. Bill’s Book Store )

Tell your stories your way…not how someone else thinks you should tell them! ;-)”

Many struggle to keep up with one blog or to come up with ideas for one blog. How have you kept up with so many different blogs?

“I have always had multiple interests and multiple projects going at any one time. My challenge has been to focus enough on each one, one at a time and to do them well. Some who have observed my activities closely say I have been very organized in my approach to each. There is quite a bit of truth to that, of course, but not so much at other times! One of the key elements that has made that possible with blogging is the ability to post ahead, on a schedule. When I was most active, I used the daily themes a lot. For example, I could do up to three or four Wednesday posts at the same time and simply schedule them to post each week as that day came up. I still do that on most of my posts. I write them when I can, then schedule them to post on a meaningful schedule. I’ve always liked to post at 3 am so they are available for early risers, even though I am certainly not one. It gives all day for folks to read and leave a comment. I’ve always especially appreciated that part of the blogging process. Also, I always respond to every comment posted. That is an essential element of my blogging life.”

What advice can you give to those wanting to start a blog?

“Understand your overall theme very well and why you want to start a blog. Write several posts ahead, to see if you really are ready to do it. Are these posts you would want to read? Choose your Blog title and domain name very carefully ahead of time. Let it sit, and be sure that is really how you want to be identified.”

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

“Thank you for the opportunity to go down memory lane and share these thoughts with you and your readers. And remember, if you have not read a book or story, it is new to you, no matter when it was written! ;-)”
© 2017, copyright Michelle Ganus Taggart, All rights reserved 

Michelle Ganus Taggart lives in Kaysville, Utah, where she enjoys the beautiful outdoors, time with family and researching her ancestors.  She shares her passion for her southern research in her blog, A Southern Sleuth.  Are you a genealogy blogger who would like to be interviewed for the “May I Introduce To You . . . “ series?  If so, contact Michelle  via email