I met Melanie McComb for the first time at RootsTech2018. She and I were both RootsTech Ambassadors. We hung out in the Media Hub, talking genealogy and blogging. We shared some research interests in Connecticut and Massachusetts. I was impressed with her vision and goals for her genealogy career – many of those goals she has already reached!
Melanie, also known as the Shamrock Genealogist, will be a presenter at the upcoming New England Regional Genealogical Consortium in New Hampshire April 3 – 6, 2019. She is a New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) Genealogist who assists NEHGS library visitors, both on-site and online, with their family history research. She also provides lectures on a variety of genealogical topics.
As an official NERGC 2019 blogger I had the chance to ask Melanie some questions about genealogy and her life.
Why did you choose the name the Shamrock Genealogist?
My Irish roots are a big part of why I started doing genealogy. My father’s line comes from Ireland. I’ve had the most genealogy success tracing my family back to Ireland so I wanted to use a symbol representing good luck. In an Irish bride’s bouquet you may find a sprig of shamrock to bring good luck to the couple. In genealogy there are times that we do get lucky – we find a document that should have been lost, the family bible turns up from a long-lost cousin who got in touch, a DNA match that helps you break down a brick wall on a family line. I’ve been fortunate to have had much luck exploring my family tree and want to help others find their shamrocks.
How did you get started in genealogy?
I was always a very curious child. I would pore through the family photographs and ask about who was in them, what year, etc. When I started scrapbooking as a hobby, I would break out the special pens and start writing on the back all of the details so they would not get forgotten when the photos were added to endless boxes of loose photos.
I first got started officially doing genealogy when I was 18 years old. I was taking a college genetics course and was given an assignment to fill out family group sheets with very specific medical information. I learned how to conduct interviews to get very personal information. It was a good starting point to get family talking about medical conditions to be aware of.
You’ve had a pretty exciting year or two with lots of changes in your life. Can you share some of that with us?
I did have a very big year. First, I moved from Syracuse, NY to Boston, MA last spring. It was a big move and I wanted a place to help grow my genealogy experience by lecturing at local groups, studying at different repositories, and connecting with more friends that I made over the years. The second biggest thing is I changed careers. I left my IT role and became a full-time genealogist at the New England Historic Genealogical Society. It truly is a dream come true to have this opportunity to help others with their genealogy.
Take your time with each record, mining for clues.
What advice would you give to people who are just starting to research their family tree?
Start with yourself and work your way up the tree. Add your siblings, parents, aunts/uncles/cousins, grandparents, etc. Share photographs with family members and ask questions on who is in the photo, where it was taken, what was the occasion, is anyone missing, etc. Take your time with each record, mining for clues. Did your ancestor own land? Was a birth location mentioned on a record? Was there a gap between children possibly indicating there are other children that you didn’t know about?
Why do you think there has been such a surge of interest in genealogy?
Genealogy is becoming more popular with the different media available. There are televisions shows, podcasts, radio shows, social media, conferences, etc. It’s becoming a more accessible hobby with more and more records being digitized and made available. There are also endless opportunities available with webinars and virtual conferences being held frequently throughout the year.
Here’s some additional information about Melanie’s NERGC 2019 presentation:
Saturday 1:45pm – S-132 – B – Prince Edward Island Repositories and Records
Description: This lecture will review the different databases, repositories, and record collections for Prince Edward Island, Canada ancestors. This session will focus on Irish immigrants and the records they left behind.
Check out Melanie’s genealogy blog, The Shamrock Genealogist.