Whenever I discover a new blog or website, I’m curious about what is being said and the person saying it. It is one thing for someone to write about what they’re passionate about, but quite another to share it with the whole world.
Throughout my life, I’ve had many passions: the art of letter writing, health and nutrition, the Japanese language, meditation, collecting original works of art and playing the banjo. But the one thing I’ve hung onto for most of my life is genealogy.
Like many, my passion began when I was a kid. In the city where I grew up, there are nearly two dozen cemeteries; unusual for a relatively small community. Lucky for me, I had friends who lived near some of them. When we’d get together we always seemed to end up playing in — you guessed it — a cemetery.
Hiding behind tombstones can be frightening for any boy, especially after dark, but in the daylight you see things from a totally different perspective. I’d make mental notes of unique names; to this day I have an infatuation with names, both first and last. I’d always read the birth and death dates and quickly figure out how old the person was when they died. And I am always curious about how the person six feet under actually died. It’s too bad that information isn’t included on headstones!
I had a great uncle who always made a pilgrimage to the cemetery on birthdays and holidays. Many times I’d ask to tag along, not because I wanted to see him replace the artificial flowers he left the last time he visited, but because I hoped he’d share details of the dead relative. I always liked to compare my uncle’s recollections of the deceased and grandfather’s; sometimes their impressions were totally different.
My mom was always good about helping me understand how I was related to many of these people. She would write down names on a large sheet of paper and connect the dots. Sometimes she would even pull out old photographs to help put things into perspective.
Over the years, I developed a fondness for cemeteries, especially ones where famous people are buried. When I travel out of town, I always make it a point to stop by at least one local cemetery. Walking up and down the rows of headstones can offer a lot of insight into the heritage of the community. Last names offer great clues.
Some of my favorite cemeteries have been the ones where famous people are buried, including Marilyn Monroe (Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery, Los Angeles, CA), Jim Morrison (Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France) and Eva Peron (Le Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina).
Having worked more than a decade at a major newspaper, I had the privilege of working with some very talented individuals who all inspired me in one way or another. Many have since moved onto bigger and better things in life and most of them now have blogs, websites or newsletters about their life’s passions.
These are the folks who are responsible for inspiring me to jump into the social media fray:
When I first met T.L. Stanley, she was an intern copy editor. After graduate school at Columbia University in New York, her career took off. She eventually made a name for herself in Hollywood. She’s a freelance writer for Adweek (http://www.adweek.com/contributor/tl-stanley), the Los Angeles Times and Mashable but her true passion is fitness. She’s a West Coast fitness instructor, who teaches piloxing, strength training and muscle sculpting, among other things, and in 2011 launched The Fitness Freak newsletter and Twitter feed (TheFitFreak) which combine her love of health and fitness. (https://www.facebook.com/TerryStanleyFitness)
Carla Carlton (aka The Bourbon Babe) is the former Arts & Entertainment Editor — and my former boss — at The Courier-Journal in Louisville. Then she decided to leave journalism and join the world of academia. She is now director of Communications & Development at Bellarmine University and has a popular blog site about something Kentucky is known best for: bourbon. (https://www.facebook.com/thebourbonbabe)
Kevin Baker was a Features writer and editor and started the ever-popular Buzz celebrity column at The Courier-Journal which I took over when she decided to get married, start a family and move to jolly ole England. She’s now a stay-at-home mom and when she’s not spending time with her son, Charlie, she’s busy working on her cookie blog, http://about.me/kevinmorrice. (Warning: You may want to grab a glass of milk before you visit her site!)
Elizabeth Kramer is one of those “been there, done that” kind of women. She, too, is a graduate of Columbia University Journalism, served in the Peace Corps in Kenya, worked for the United Nations in New York City, worked for National Public Radio and now works as the Arts and Entertainment critic for The Courier-Journal in Louisville. The landscape of journalism has done a complete 180 since my newspaper days. Not only does Liz write for the daily paper, but she also produces videos for her online stories and manages a blog site as well. (http://blogs.courier-journal.com/artsbureau)
Mary Jacobson was an aggressive crime reporter at The Courier-Journal when we worked together. She, too, would earn her journalism graduate degree from Columbia University in New York and went on to become one of the founders of the weekly crime publication Snitch. She has since moved onto a much better life in sunny California where she is a yoga instructor and runs a blog site: http://yogabits.wordpress.com/your-teacher/
There are good writers and there are great writers. Tamara Ikenberg falls into the latter category. She is by far one of the best writers I’ve ever known. She came to The Courier-Journal as a Features writer by way of San Francisco and New York City. She now works as an entertainment reporter for the Mobile Press-Register in Alabama and manages a blog (http://connect.al.com/staff/Ikenberg/posts.html) and Twitter account (https://twitter.com/TamaraIkenberg).
Because of my newspaper experience, I don’t plan to focus entirely on my family’s genealogy. How boring would that be? Instead, I plan to write about any and all things genealogy related that I think readers will find both provocative and enjoyable. And I truly hope visitors will offer their feedback and comments. So come along with me as I walk among the tombstones; you may make a few discoveries of your own.