Monday, December 13, 2010

First Blogiversary of Long Lost

Breaking Through Brick Walls
Is Like Icing on the Cake
It hardly seems possible that I've been blogging about my family history quest for a year.

My original idea about the blog was to post queries or "looking for" messages about ancestors and long lost relatives who had become brick walls. My first post, one year ago today, was a query searching for my mother's cousin, Evelyn Bellinger Gibbons. I still have not tied up the loose ends on that search. But I have found the source of her husband's obituary and his burial location, so I'm not too far away.

It didn't take me long to begin sharing the old family photographs, stories and obituaries on the blog. Then I added information about genealogy events in Nebraska. As my Tombstone Tuesday postings increased, I decided to start another blog of my tombstone photographs with a title that aptly describes it, Nothing But Tombstones.

Shortly after I started my blog, I discovered the Geneabloggers blog, managed by the one and only Thomas MacEntee. I was welcomed with open arms by the geneablogging community, and had about a dozen followers sign up within the first few days of my blog being announced by Thomas. Then I got hooked on following my fellow bloggers to see what they were writing about - and learning more and more about genealogy resources and research.

I had dabbled on Facebook before, but decided to focus my Facebook presence primarily on genealogy. I sent friend requests to a few people who I already knew, introduced myself as a genealogist to others with the same interest and my online network started to grow.

The Year in Review

Looking back over the past year, my genealogical world has literally exploded with new found friendships, contacts and distant (and not-so-distant) relatives.

Some of the highlights of the past 12 months:
  • Selecting some of my favorite photographs from my personal collection to share on the blog. Every picture tells a story (remember the old Rod Stewart album of that name?).
  • In January, I took a risk and posted What if Your Ancestor Was a Axe Murderer? - a rather disturbing tale of my 3rd great grandfather killing his teenage daughter and then committing suicide.
  • Genealogy hit mainstream television with NBC's Who Do You Think You Are? and PBS' Faces of America. We all tuned in and it seemed like the number of people researching their family history at least quadrupled overnight.
  • Through shirt-tail kin who I had "met" online, I first saw a photograph of the tombstone of my great-great grandparents, Mark Welch and Sarah Conneally in Litchfield, Connecticut. By deciphering some penmanship and discovering the correct spelling of a surname, I connected one of Mark and Sarah's daughters, Agnes, to the Garrigus family and a wealth of stories and discoveries on FindAGrave emerged.
  • The floodgates opened once I made the connection to my great-great grandfather's brother, Daniel Kelly, whose family remained primarily in St. Paul, Minnesota. A research trip to Ramsey county and a stroll down Summit Avenue is definitely in my future.
  • In March, I took a two session class taught by local genealogists Marcia Stewart and Cynthia Monroe. Tips from the class helped me get out of my comfort zone and try additional research methods.
  • Spring came and that meant some field trips to Wyuka Cemetery and Calvary Cemetery in Lincoln (Nebraska) and Rose Hill Cemetery in Waverly. Later in the summer was an excursion to Sheffer Pioneer Cemetery between Greenwood and Ashland, Nebraska. The cemetery had not yet been added to the FindAGrave site, so I added the cemetery to their database and added the photos of the graves I was able to document. My photographs on FindAGrave became the largest collection of photos of Sheffer Pioneer Cemetery to be housed in one online location. Since then, I've been able to transfer several of the memorials over to the direct descendants of some of those pioneers buried there.
  • On St. Patrick's Day, I attended a wonderful presentation by the Ulster Historical Foundation on Irish and Scots-Irish research.
  • In May, I attended the two-day conference of the Nebraska State Genealogical Society in Norfolk, Nebraska, featuring two fantastic days of lectures presented by Paula Stuart Warren, who immediately became one of my genealogical heroes.
  • In May, I also made my first jump across the pond. Who would have ever thought that my Danish ancestors would be my first European connection? In Danish naming tradition, the surname changes every generation! I had resigned myself to never being able to go back to a prior generation. The Jeremiasens had been elusive to me in immigration records and passenger lists on - until I splurged for Ancestry's world membership and within a few days, I found the Jeremiasens arrival record via Quebec! Shortly thereafter, I found the Jeremiasens in the Danish online database.
  • Enter the power of social networking. I was following William Smith's Dr. Bill Tells Ancestor Stories blog and we are Facebook friends. He had commented on a photograph of the Midwest Genealogy Center in Kansas City that was posted by Jenna Mills and a reference to the upcoming Midwest Family History Expo in July. Within a day I was registered to attend!
  • I was invited to be a Blogger of Honor at the Midwest Family History Expo. Wow! I would be blogging and posting to Facebook about my experiences at the Expo.Within ten minutes after the opening session, I found myself at the Beacon of Bloggers area and my Facebook friends suddenly became my real life friends - Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers and Destination Austin Family, Jenna Mills of Desperately Seeking Surnames, Diana Ritchie of Random Relatives, the previously mentioned Dr. Bill, Lisa Alzo, Cheri Hopkins (aka You Go Genealogy Girl #2), Gena Philibert Ortega of Gena's Genealogy. That weekend went by entirely too fast!
Blogger Get Together at Family History Expo in Kansas City
Diana Ritchie, Thomas MacEntee, yours truly, Jenna Mills
photo copyright 2010 Jenna Mills
used with permission
  • October was Family History Month and that meant a full day with John Colletta at the Lincoln-Lancaster County Genealogical Society fall conference  and another full day at the Greater Omaha Genealogical Society fall conference two weeks later. It also marked the beginning of a six week course on the history of Lincoln (Nebraska) taught by local historian Jim McKee. It was very insightful to be able to place my family in context with local history. I suppose I'm one of the fortunate genealogists who lives in the same county where my family has planted roots for nearly 140 years. The streets where my ancestors worked and lived are all around me.
  • October also marked the arrival of what I believe is the best product to hit the marketplace for genealogists in ages - the Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner. I've made no secret of my enthusiasm for this product. I'm a scanning fool! My other product recommendation this year is to use the Kindle e-reader for genealogy. I'm now carrying thousands of pages of local history books in my purse all the time. I'll confess that I also use my Kindle for some game-playing - probably more than I should!
  • November brought a new adventure when I decided to have my DNA tested at 23andMe. Fellow bloggers Joan Miller and Carole Riley and I decided to become DNA testing buddies. We'll be blogging about our experiences and serve as support for one another as we go through the process. Of the three of us, I probably have the most to learn, since I know nothing about the science of this process. We are located in different countries - Joan in Canada, Carole in Australia and me in the United States, so I think it will be interesting to see what kind of migratory patterns emerge for each of us. You can keep up on our adventure as well as read other pertinent blog posts on the subject by following this RSS feed.
  • I love reading the blogs written by other genealogists and recently made the Follow Friday theme a regular feature on this blog with Around the Blogosphere - a review of my favorite posts from the geneabloggers from the previous week. I have learned so much from the rest of you this year!
It's been a fun-filled and eventful year in my genealogy and blogging world. My heart-felt thanks to everyone who has posted comments on this blog or personally contacted me. The genealogy community is by far the most friendly and helpful group of people with whom I've ever been associated. My thanks to my blog readers, followers, my Facebook friends and Twitter followers. Who would have ever believed I'd be using Twitter after my "Bye Bye Blue Birdie" post!

So, is this post a bit self-indulgent? Of course! It's okay, I'm only going to have a First Blogiversary once. Many thanks to all of the wonderful people I've networked with during the past year. You helped me get here.


  1. Congratulations Susan! I enjoy reading your blog. I have ordered the DNA kit from 23andme and will send it to my adopted son-in-law. The results should be very interesting. I'll be watching your posts with interest.

  2. Awesome post Susan and congratulations on your first blogiversary!

  3. Happy Blogiversary, Susan! You (and your blog) rock! Here's to many more!

  4. Congratulations on a wonderful first year and you've done a great job of detailing its progression! And thanks for the kind words for GeneaBloggers as well.

    I consider you and Long Lost Relatives assets to the genealogy and family history community.

  5. Congrats on your first year. Looking forward to year two....and thanks for that piece of cake.

  6. Happy First Bloiversary to you! It has been a great year! Looking forward to another great year!

  7. Great post for your "anniversary". You are a very talented writer and keep it all interesting. Hope to meet again one day soon!

  8. Happy Blogiversary! You've accomplished so much in the past year. I can't wait to see what you have in store for the next.

  9. Wow! Your comments have overwhelmed me. I guess that's part of the reason why I love the geneablogging community so much. Thanks to all of you for the kind words and encouragement.

  10. Happy Blogoversary! I look forward to more from Long Lost Relatives.

  11. Susan, Although I emailed with a comment, I want to do it here for all to see. You have been so active in the genealogy community and everybody has loved your posts. Just look at your Flip-Pal posts for starters. I look forward to many more because we are richly educated through you. Thanks.

  12. Happy Blogiversary, just a little late - you know, they don't make belated blogiversary cards at Hallmark?!? Obviously a niche market someone has missed.

    I really enjoyed your post - even went back and read a few things I'd missed the first time around.

    Here's to a great year - 2!! Hopefully we will be seeing each other again during the up-coming year.

  13. Congratulations Susan! I'm looking forward to sharing the DNA adventure with you and Carole. All the best for many more years of geneablogging!