Graduation Day

It had to happen sooner or later. At some point you stop being a newbie and graduate to…well, I’m not sure what I graduate to. Post-newbie? Pre-expert? General loud-mouth let loose upon the Twitter-verse? Regardless of the title, this is my last post as the Family Tree Firsts blogger.  It has been an astonishing, amazing, insert-your-favorite-adjective kind of year.

I had  been researching my family for only 6 months when I saw the post online seeking a new genealogist to write a blog called Family Tree Firsts. I was at work that evening and quickly dashed off an entry and hit ‘send’. I wasn’t sure I had the writing skills, but what the heck…I seemed to fit the profile they were looking for. I was sure, however, that there would be many entries and my chances of being chosen were probably pretty small anyway. To say that my expectations were low would be a vast understatement.

After submitting my entry I promptly forgot about it.  So a few weeks later when I got a call from Family Tree Magazine I thought she was calling about my subscription!  When I heard I had been chosen I was absolutely dumbfounded. My first reaction was, “Holy cow, how am I ever going to have enough material to fill a blog for six months!” I guess I must have figured it out, because the six months became a year and 52 posts later I still haven’t shut up.  Nor am I likely to anytime soon.  Just sayin’….consider yourself warned.

Luckily for me, the family tree fun will not end here but continue at my own blog: www.gatheringstories.com. Old genealogy bloggers never die…they just move to a new server.

Among the incredible experiences I have had this year:

  • My father, who in his 83 years on this planet had never met anyone in his biological father’s family,  has now met 40 or so of them and they have welcomed and accepted him as their own.
  • Not one but TWO antique photo albums…filled with 100 or so pictures of my husband’s Shively family…found their way, seperately and miraculously, back to the family.
  • I walked on the very ground my Haworth ancestors homesteaded just a few years after the American Revolution.  The AMERICAN REVOLUTION people!

So I have a few tips for the NEW Family Tree Firsts blogger:

  • When you are blogging, its very easy to get the cart before the horse. You can spend a lot of time online at the expense of your research. The problem is that without research you don’t really have much to say! So make time for it.
  • Don’t be a perfectionist. (Ahem) Genealogy is never finished.  If you wait until you have every little piece nailed down, every mystery solved, every brick wall smashed, you will never be able to share and pass on what you HAVE learned.
  • If you get blogger’s block, sit down to the computer anyway.  Start writing something, even if you think its not worthy. The very act of doing this will bring forth the post you are supposed to write. I have no idea why this works, but it does.
  • Try not to be too intimidated by the Thomas MacEntees and Dear Myrtles of our world. They were once newbies too.  Besides, they are really nice people! Which leads me to my final tip:
  • Remember that genealogists are some of the most friendly, helpful and caring people on earth.  If you need help, just ask. As at Hogwarts, it will always be given.

Please come visit me at my new place. And thanks to everyone at Family Tree Magazine for giving me this remarkable opportunity.  You changed my life. Really.

—Love, Nancy

Photo from the Library of Congress


Family Tree Firsts is an ongoing blog series featuring newbie genealogist Nancy Shively of Skiatook, OK. Read all her posts at Family Tree University. We’ll be announcing our brand-new Family Tree Firsts blogger soon. Stay tuned!


Polish up your genealogy skills with Family Tree University courses! Courses starting Nov. 21 include Find Your German Roots, Time Management for Genealogists, Digital Photography Essentials and more. View the course schedule and register here.

2 thoughts on “Graduation Day

  1. Great finale Nancy! Thank you for sharing so much of yourself over the last year. I (and I am sure many others) am happy to have gotten to know you! See you at Gathering Stories. :)

  2. Nancy, it has been great following you on your journey this year and I look forward to doing so for many more years!

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