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May I Introduce to You . . . Sue McNelly

Come meet blogger Sue McNelly of the Kindred Past blog as interviewed by Michelle Taggart at GeneaBloggers!

Come meet blogger Sue McNelly of the Kindred Past blog as interviewed by Michelle Taggart at GeneaBloggers!


When I first found Sue McNelly’s blog, Kindred Past, I was amazed by the variety of her blog posts. A few examples of the wide variety of topics she writes about are helps for using the Arizona Territorial Census, her experience with using the “Find A Will” service in England, an ancestral story leading to South Africa and tips for attending Rootstech. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading through her blog and have learned a lot along the way. It is with great pleasure I introduce to you Sue McNelly and her blog, Kindred Past.

How would you describe your blog?

“My blog aims to share all things genealogical, as well as share some of my (and my husband’s) family stories. I try to share tips and ‘how to’ information as I work towards professional certification.”

Sue, can you tell us a little about yourself? 

“I am originally from Johannesburg, South Africa. I hold a B.A. and a B.A. (Hons) degree in Clinical Psychology and worked in that field for many years before immigrating to the U.S.  I’ve lived in the U.S. for about 20 years. I’m married and have two teenage sons.   We started married life in Arizona, but moved to Colorado and later Wisconsin. About 5 years ago we returned to the Phoenix, Arizona area, which I really love.” 

Why did you start a genealogy blog?

“I wanted a place to share my research with others. My family are scattered around the world and a blog felt like the best way to share what I have discovered about our ancestors with them. I want my blog to be a place where they can find accurate, interesting and well researched information. I also wanted to document my journey towards professional certification and share the tips and resources I have gathered along the way.”

What challenges have you faced as a blogger? How are you overcoming them?

“My biggest challenge has been to write more regularly! It takes me a long time to write a post because I want to make sure I am doing it well. I also want to provide content that is interesting, not just to me and my family,  but to other genealogy bloggers.”

Although you are relatively new to blogging, it sounds as if you have been doing genealogy for a while. How long have you been doing genealogy and how did you get started?

“I have been doing genealogy for about 15 years. However, I can remember from a young age being fascinated looking at all the old photographs my parents had.  So many people I didn’t know! All my grandparents were deceased by the time I was born and I remember feeling very sad that I couldn’t get to know them in person. Years later a friend introduced me to FamilySearch and PAF and showed me how to get started.”  

What has been your most exciting discovery in your research?

“I don’t know that I could pick one discovery as the most exciting. I am excited each time I find out more about an ancestor! It doesn’t seem to matter if they led very quiet, uneventful lives, I am thrilled when I can start to put flesh on the bones and fill in that dash between birth and death.

“Perhaps my most bittersweet discovery was locating my grandmother. She had not been in my mother’s life at all from about the age of 3 and I had never met her. When I first started doing genealogy it was the first search that I undertook. It took some time but I did find her, living not very far from my mother.  The decisions she had made had resulted in quite a sad life and the reunion between my mother and my grandmother was not easy at all. She passed away only a few months after I located her. Sometimes our discoveries are wonderful and exciting and other times they can raise difficult memories or be bittersweet.  That’s the nature of genealogy I think.  We don’t know where our search will take us.”

On your blog you indicated that you love to use social history resources. Please share a couple of your favorite social history resources and how they have helped you in your research.

“As I mentioned on my blog, one of the first books I read was ‘Bringing Your Family History to Life Using Social History,’ by Katherine Scott Sturdevant.  It made a big impression on me and I connected immediately with the idea of gaining a better perspective of our ancestors by learning about the cultural, social, economic and historical environments around them.  One of my favorite social history resources is newspapers.  Finding articles that mention our ancestor by name are wonderful but just reading a newspaper from the local area they lived in can give us a great sense of the world as it was happening around them.  I really enjoy the social history resources at the Digital Public Library of America and of course the Library of Congress.  I could easily spend a lot of time on those sites!”

What do you hope to accomplish through writing a blog?

“One of my biggest goals is to become a better writer!  Being able to write an effective and compelling narrative is a skill that I feel I need to work more on. Aside from the professional skills that I hope to improve on, I want to write posts that will be of benefit to other people in their research. The regularity of writing for a blog helps me to take a good hard look at my previous research and make sure what I am writing about is accurate.”

In what ways has genealogy improved your life?

“I believe that knowing where we come from gives us a unique sense of belonging.  We feel part of something greater than ourselves. I love the quote from the 1939 book ‘How Green Was My Valley’ by Richard Llewellyn which says, ‘I saw behind me those who had gone, and before me those who are to come, I looked back and saw my father, and his father, and all our fathers, and in front to see my son, and his son, and the sons upon sons beyond. And their eyes were my eyes. As I felt, so they had felt and were to feel, as then, so now, as tomorrow and forever.’”

Who is your favorite ancestor and why?

“I don’t have a favorite but I do have some ancestors that I really wish I could sit down with and learn more about their lives. Both of my grandfathers served during the Second World War and I would love to hear of their experiences. One grandfather served in France and one in Egypt. My third great grandparents left Scotland in the 1850’s for South Africa. I’m so interested in why they decided to leave and why they chose South Africa.”

I know that you make it a priority to take advantage of genealogy learning opportunities. Share with us some of the things you have done to help you  to sharpen your genealogy research skills?

“I am always looking for an opportunity to learn! I take full advantage of the many webinars available from various different organizations. I completed the NGS Family History Skills  course this year, and also took part in the 6 week University of Strathclyde ‘Genealogy:  Researching Your Family Tree’ course. Next up is to start the American Genealogical Studies courses offered by the National Genealogical Society.

“I participate in one of the NGSQ Study Groups. Every month an article from NGSQ is studied and we are encouraged to participate in discussing the techniques, evidence and research practices contained in the article. I have learned so much from the other members of this group!

“I also read all the academic journals I receive from being a member of various organizations and family history societies. I have been fortunate to be able to attend RootsTech for the last two years and attended again in February 2017.  Attending national and local family history conferences is a wonderful way to meet and learn from experts in the field.”

What other genealogy blogs inspire you?

“I never knew there were so many genealogy blogs out there until I started blogging!  It would be difficult to choose only a few that inspire me because I always seem to learn something from each blog I read. I enjoy blogs that teach me something as well as those that share their personal research in such a way that I become excited for them as they break down brick walls.”

What is on your genealogy bucket list?

“I would love to go back to England and follow in the footsteps of my coal mining ancestors from Cornwall and County Durham. A few years ago my Dad went back to the village he grew up in. I sent him with a long list of cemeteries to visit and photograph, and streets and houses to find. I’d love to go back and see them for myself.  I’d also love to go to the Isle of Man, a small island in the Irish Sea between England and Northern Ireland, which is where my Mom’s family is from.  

“I have two major brick walls that I would love to break through so that would have to go on my bucket list! I would like to finally find out where my great grandfather, Harry Joshua Davis died and was buried. One of my first blog posts was about how he seems to have played ‘hide and seek’ ( in the records. The other brick wall is on my husband’s side, the McNelly’s. They simply seem to appear in Rochester, New York in 1823 with no records to establish exactly where they came from. Family members all have different ideas; some say they’re Irish, some Scottish. I have a lot of work yet to do to figure it out!”

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

“Thank you so much for the opportunity to talk a little about my blog.”


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Please take a moment and visit Sue’s blog, Kindred Past. Be sure and leave her a comment to let her know you stopped by. Thank you Sue for sharing your blog and your thoughts with us!
© 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