08 March 2009

Randy Seaver's True Confessions Challenge

As part of Randy Seaver’s usual Saturday Night Fun feature at Genea-Musings, this week he is asking fellow geneabloggers to unload and confess in True Confessions of a Genealogy Junkie

Randy challenged us to answer the following questions:

1. When did you start doing genealogy research?

I still have my Girl Scout sash, displaying the badge for genealogy that I probably earned in the early '60s. I remember my grandmother's handwritten notes that I used to put the family history together. I wish I still had those notes. I always intended to get back to it researching my family someday. I came close in 1995 when I asked my cousin "Is there anything else I should know?" (For the record, this is a question that you want to ask only if you are ready to deal with the response.) But I took the big leap on Monday, May 6, 2002 at about 11:00 a.m.

2. Why did you start doing research?

That Monday in May, I literally had nothing else to do (other than laundry, housekeeping, etc. but do those count, really?). It was the day after I finished an all-consuming consulting assignment. I had no other clients lined up but that was okay because I'd stashed away a nice bankroll from the project. I was mentally and physically exhausted after putting in two weeks of 18-hour days. I opened an email from Earthlink.net offering a two-week free trial to Ancestry.com. I signed up.

3. What was your first big success in research?

The first time I signed on to Ancestry.com, I just picked the only person I could think of -- my paternal grandmother. I found her right away (with wrong information listed in Ancestry Family Trees, of course) but it was definitely Bessie Mabel Mathena.

I saw a link to "...father of..." and clicked it.
Howard Jackson James Mathena.
I saw a link to "...father of..." and clicked it.
Lewis James Mathena.
"...father of..."
John Wilson Mathena.
"...father of..."
"...father of..."
And within a half hour I was back to medieval times, chevaliers in France, the keepers of the King's bread, fortunes held and lost.
Of course, none of it was my research and I had no proof.
But I was hooked.

4. What is your biggest genealogy regret?

There are several. I started too late to ask questions of my grandparents. I didn't keep track of my research sources. I let myself get distracted and pursued tangential lines. Fascinating ones, to be sure. I had a great time learning about the distant relative who help open the Oregon Trail and carried flax seeds in her pocket to found the flax crop there. I read, astounded and admittedly uncomfortable, about another distant relative who was one of the most successful slave traders in the 1830's.

5. What are you best known for in the genealogy world?

Probably as one of the chairs of the 40th Annual Genealogy Jamboree, sponsored by the Southern California Genealogical Society. I LOVE the job of Jamboree co-chair and cherish the friendships and knowledge that it has brought me. If you Google me, you'll also find lots of lookups and over 16,000 gravestone photos posted on FindAGrave.

6. What is your professional status in genealogy?

Meeting planner. Not certified, or accredited, toying with the idea. Since I just lost my day job as a marketing researcher, I am trying to find a business model that will allow me to provide genealogy-related services starting in July after Jamboree is over for the year. I do free lookups for friends and colleagues.

7. What is your biggest genealogy achievement?

Not the biggest maybe, but the most personally rewarding and, coincidentally, one of the things that "Just Never Came Up." It involved my mother's grandfather, German immigrant Valentine Dinkel. A cousin called on February 14 (Valentine's Day of course) and disclosed the family secret that 66-year-old Valentine had fathered a child with his 17-year-old ward, Cynthia Shaw. In 2005, we tracked down the daughter, Dorothy, found her, and got in touch with her. She still carried with her the letter that she received following Valentine's death, describing the last words he uttered just before he died. She described that her birth certificate was printed on different paper stock because she was illigimate. And she thanked us for giving her the family that she had yearned for all her life. She died last August.

8. What is the most FUN you’ve had doing genealogy?

Jamboree, without a doubt. I've also had great fun collaborating with cousins and helping others find their missing relatives. Then there was that time I took a step backwards into mid-air at Forest Lawn and finding myself rolling 20+ feet down the hill. That was fun in a twisted way.

9. What is your favorite genealogy how-to book?

Today, I'm grooving on Dan Lynch's Google Your Family Tree and anxiously awaiting the new edition of George Morgan's How to do Everything with Your Genealogy which will be out in March. I haven't done much research on my family lately due to time constraints, but I'm looking forward to doing that and vow to go back and reconstruct my citations, so Evidence Explained will be my new best friend.

10. What notable genealogist would you like to meet someday?

That's a very hard question. I have been so incredibly lucky meeting the professionals who have passed through Jamboree's doors.


  1. Well done! Am I your first reader? You're in my Bloglines already.

    See how easy this is?

    Sorry to hear of your job loss. Take good care -- Randy

  2. As a newbee blogger myself ... Welcome !!


  3. couldn't have said it better, especially the regrets. I wish my mom had told me she was born of an affair, that ended with the pregnancy. I wish she would have told me that BEFORE my grandmother died (I only met her 3 times in my life). There is no one to tell me who my grandfather is..that is definitely my biggest regret, an entire side of my family..no clues. You forgot to mention in #5... 'always happy to help'..:)

    Lisa B.

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post, Paula. I am just a beginner, and know just enough to be trouble... But I am totally addicted to genealogy!