Friday, August 29, 2014


When did you first start researching your family history? Was there a moment when you knew you were “hooked?”

​I began in earnest in 1982. I had been taking history courses all along while my children were young. One sparked an interest in a St. Paul business of my grandaunts and that led me to learning more about them. Then I learned my family wasn't always from St. Paul. I was off and running! I delved into records in courthouses and archives, read old newspapers, and gathered the stories of my ancestors who came to the U.S. from eight other countries.

​What record set to you believe is the most under-utilized? What advice would you give students in using this record set?

​Original manuscripts are vastly under-utilized. These hold gems that tell of births, deaths, marriages, migrations, family issues, economics of the family, photos and much more. The finding aids that exist today are extensive and I talk about them in many of my sessions at SLIG. I often hear of past students' success in finding needed details after searching out such records in historical societies, archives, and special collections libraries.

​What books and periodicals would you recommend for ​intermediate to advanced researchers? Are there any lesser-known texts you advise?

​I suggest these researchers look for older publications from repositories that include descriptions of holdings and often these descriptions are not online today or aren't as comprehensive. If someone has reached this level of research, they should have a wide variety of books in their home library. Histories, guides, record abstracts, and others.

​What is the most rewarding thing about being a genealogical educator? What advice would you give for those who would follow in your footsteps?
​I love seeing that proverbial light bulb go off in a student's head. You can tell by the eyes that brighten and the notes that are quickly scribbled. Seeing a student immediately go online to consult a library catalog, finding aid, or database tells me that what I just explained was important to them.

I turned down the first opportunity that I was offered to make presentations at a large genealogy conference. I wasn't ready and knew I needed more experience and knowledge to share competently with my audiences. I also knew that I needed to keep-up-to date but that each person brings something wonderful to the sessions. ​

​Will you share something with us that students may not know about you? Perhaps a non-genealogical hobby?

​I used to have several hobbies before family history took over my life! I was an excellent seamstress, dabbled in calligraphy, and my flower and vegetable gardens were lovingly tended. Nowadays, my passion beyond genealogy is my grandchildren. Seeing them grow and become interested in knowledge is fascinating. My youngest grandson has asked to drive by all the places where his ancestors lived. We have started that journey.

Any parting thoughts or advice?

​Keep learning. Family history resources, techniques, and methodology are constantly evolving. Don't be an island. Interact with others such as at SLIG. Once you have attended you will be saying the same things as the returning students. It's a good habit. ​

Join Paula in January 2015 by registering for her course entitled "Resources and Strategies for US Research." For more information go to The registration page can be found at

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