Hello there, welcome to the 12th Voices of Genealogy Interview! This series will be a collection of interviews from people who were young (early teens to early 20s) genealogists from different decades! These interviews will highlight the stories of professional genealogists, show how the field of family history has changed over the years, and promote younger people in family history by showing that even experienced and professional genealogists started at a young age. Today’s interview comes from genealogist, Carly!
A little info about Carly…
The Interview Questions…
- Give us a brief introduction about yourself; Tell us a bit more about your work as a genealogist.
Hi, I’m Carly! I am a public historian and an aspirational cool, millennial, genealogist, older-sister-type. I graduated with my BA in Family History and Genealogy at Brigham Young University in Utah. I have worked for the Extreme Genes Genealogy Podcast, BYU’s Center for Family History and Genealogy, FamilySearch, and Ancestry. Currently, I am getting my MA in Public History at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio.
- How did you get into genealogy and what inspired you to start researching?
Family history is in my family history. Haha, both my mother and my (now late) grandmother enjoyed doing family history research. Growing up, I heard lots of stories about my ancestors. Sadly, I wasn’t with it and dismissed the activity (despite my love of history in general).
But as a 20-year-old, I began contemplating transferring schools to attend Brigham Young University in Provo, UT. It was weird because I had never had a desire to go there before. However, I came across a magazine article about BYU’s Family History and Genealogy BA program. At that point, I was serving with my church in the community, helping others with their family history. And I began to really love it!
So I transferred to my new school and dove in head first! It’s gone great so far.
- What was it like being a young genealogist in your twenties? Did you meet anyone your age at the time who also was interested in family history research?
I am really lucky that I have a cool cohort of millennial genealogists/friends that I’ve met through school, work, and social media. A lot of us have grown up with the internet, so I feel like we can appreciate both the way things “used to be done” and the awesome genealogy tech/conversations going on right now. I am currently in an IG group chat of genealogists and we will talk about our research problems, conference news, and professional opportunities all the time.
- How do you think genealogy research has changed since you started back in 2015?
Sheesh, well DNA has definitely blown up. It was starting to become a thing while I was in school. But after I graduated, it felt like DNA research skills were in high demand. I believe, now, there is a course for genetic genealogy at BYU. But there wasn’t when I was there. I’m very jealous because it’s something I wish I knew how to do better!
- Have you come across any difficulties while researching your family (e.g., Conflicting sources, brick walls, etc.)?
Why of course I have. Haha, I don’t trust someone who hasn’t dealt with a genealogical brick wall. Because then it’d be too easy, right? Haha. I know there are different records and options and methodologies that can help you knock down those brick walls. And it often depends on the situation. I’m not discounting those, but I think we don’t give enough credit for patiently waiting. There have been times in my research where I made a breakthrough because a new collection was digitized or indexed. Or I met someone later in life who could help me with research. So I’d say, it’s okay to give yourself a break when you hit a brick wall.
- What interesting things have you discovered about your ancestors?
I found out last year that my great-grandmother was eligible to vote when the Nineteenth Amendment was passed. Since it was passed in 1920, many people voted based on how they felt about Prohibition. I never knew my great-grandmother but my mother did. And we had a good discussion about who she likely voted for during this time. Historical context, sheesh, is so great! It can really open your eyes about your family.
- Who/What are you currently focusing on in your research?
I’m doing less research on individuals and families, and more on the field of genealogy these days. I think the conversation these days is less on how to do research and more on why we research. I am very interested in learning about how to process familial trauma and how to unpack systemic racism within the field of genealogy. Your experience with family history can be so different because of the color of your skin and I don’t think we talk about that enough. I think everyone deserves a positive— dare I say, healing and/or spiritual —experience with family history. And I think that requires us to think creatively about records and history, while also having tough conversations about genealogy. My hope is in tandem with my Public History experience to create helpful resources about these genealogical topics.
- What advice would you give to people wanting to start genealogy?
If your family is available to contact, talk to them for help. Often people want to skip over that and go straight to signing up for Ancestry (lol, I’m guilty of this too….) but your family is a treasure trove of information. And they can help you know where to look next. Plus, you have someone you can report back to when you find something cool.
Along the lines of that, the digitized records and databases will be there forever, but living people won’t. What I would give to have more stories about my ancestors. By recording stories of living people today, you are creating a valuable historical record!
If you wish to follow Carly and her work, check out the links below: