Tracy Naber Whittington is the author of Claiming Your History – a delicious idea book full of inspiration on ways to make your family history a part of your life. With ideas ranging from naming your children with names from your ancestry to creating your own heirloom quilt from your children’s baby clothes, you’ll find the book is both a delight to read and a reminder that genealogy is more than just research.
This interview with Tracy not only gives you a peek into what inspired her to write the book but also offers a fascinating look into how people serving our country overseas find the time and resources to carry on their search for ancestors.
How long have you been interested in your family history?
Since college. I was lucky enough to start when three of my grandparents were still alive, and I gathered an enormous amount of information from them and their siblings. After college, I was a Presidential Management Fellow with the Department of Defense. Part of the fellowship program was a 4-month rotation in any federal agency I wanted. I chose the National Archives, which was like being in heaven. I stayed late every night to go through census rolls (this was pre-internet), and I learned so much that I later taught genealogy classes to the public as part of our outreach.
Has being a Foreign Service Officer helped or hindered your genealogy research efforts?
Being a Foreign Service Officer has the potential to help my genealogy research, but so far it hasn’t. I would kill for a posting to Germany or the Czech Republic, where I could spend weekends visiting archives and graveyards. But no such luck yet. On the other hand, I met my husband on my first day of diplomatic training. He’s as much of a family history buff as I am, and together we’ve become much more serious about research. So in that respect, being an FSO has proved very fortuitous!
How do you research from La Paz or the other places you’ve been posted?
Distance has actually proved to be less of a challenge with each passing year. My first overseas posting was in 2005 in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. I had no internet connection at home, so my research came to a standstill. After that, I was posted in Montreal, then Washington D.C., and now La Paz, Bolivia. Here in South America, we have a decent internet connection. We’re able to use Ancestry.com and follow genealogy websites and bloggers.
What inspired you to write Claiming Your History?
As a child, I pretended my grandmother was really an illegitimate descendant of some royal family or that ordinary items in my house were actually priceless heirlooms. I had a romantic vision of history based on Victorian novels – where everyone dressed for dinner, had libraries in their homes (and probably servants), and used titles before their names. I was deeply disappointed to discover my ancestors were all peasant farmers from Eastern Europe. Then, in college, I started reading social history and realized it wasn’t only the elite whose history mattered. Average people – who they were, what they owned, where they lived – that was history, too. Over the years, I came up with more and more ways to incorporate my family’s history into my life and to value it just as much as the history of those Victorian nobles. My idea wasn’t to provide expert guidance on how to conduct research or preserve an old house but to give my readers the inspiration to do those things. That’s why I added an “on the internet” section to each entry – to provide resources for taking my ideas much further.
Your author profile mentions blogging. Are you blogging now? Geneablogging?
Not geneablogging…yet. My husband and I are about to kick off a new blog, StreetDogStory.com, which we hope will bring attention to the plight of street dogs around the world (we have a rescued street dog from Africa). A children’s book we’ve written about her will be e-published this spring. We also write a small travel blog to chronicle our life overseas for family and friends.
Are there any new family history projects in the works?
Yes! We’re developing a history/lifestyle blog called Nostalgia Field Guide. It’s still in the early stages, but I’d love to come back to Moultrie Creek to talk about it when it goes live.
Your book is one of the best designed/formatted ebooks I’ve seen from an independent author/publisher. What software/platform did you use to write, layout and convert your manuscript?
Thank you! I wrote the book in Microsoft Word and hired a wonderful freelancer, Robert Henry, to format it for Kindle. He used Notepad++ to clean up formatting and coding, converted it to HTML, put in into a ZIP, and let Kindle Direct Publishing convert it into a Kindle book. Robert and I are both very detailed-oriented, and we spent a few weeks just making sure spacing, margins, and especially links were all 100% correct.
Tracy, I love the Nostalgia Field Guide idea and can’t wait to learn more about it. Yes! Consider this an open invitation to come tell us more about it at any time.