I have the great pleasure of introducing you to Sheryl Lazarus and her blog, A Hundred Years Ago. Sheryl describes her blog as, “ . . . Each day I post an entry from a diary that my grandmother kept from 1911 to 1914 exactly one year hundred years after she wrote it. Grandma began the diary when she was a 15-year old teen living on a farm in central Pennsylvania. The entries cover a wide range of topics: school, daily chores, food, sewing, shopping, friends, etc. I also post background information and reflections about the entries.”
How Sheryl Got Started in Genealogy
“I’m a newbie.” Sheryl has been doing her family history for just a little over a year now – though she has always enjoyed hearing and retelling family stories.
In 2009, Sheryl compiled a family cookbook. Some of the recipes had originally been recipes of her mother and grandmothers. Sheryl would include photos of her paternal grandmother in the book. “When I gave the cookbook to my children, my daughter asked who the old lady was. I told her that it was her great-grandmother. But her question jogged my memory about a copy of an old diary I had.”
After her grandmother died in the early 1980’s, her children (Sheryl’s father and his siblings) went through her belongings and found the diary. It was then circulated amongst family members. While Sheryl had it, she made a copy before passing it on. The copy lay in a paper bag in the bottom of her hutch for more than a quarter century until she pulled it out in January of 2010 and started reading.
“My memories of my grandmother were of a feeble, elderly woman – the girl who wrote the diary was a fun-loving, self absorbed teen. Most days she only wrote three or four lines. Some days she wrote that ‘nothing of importance’ had occurred. Yet as I tried to decipher the handwriting a fascinating young woman emerged, and I wanted to learn more about her and how she evolved into the grandmother I remember – and that was the beginning of the journey that led to the development of this blog.”
Sheryl’s Family and Her Blog
Sheryl’s family enjoys her blog. It has provided a wonderful opportunity for her father and herself to do something together – even though they live miles apart. “Whenever I get a chance to visit him in Pennsylvania, the two of us drive around and take photos to illustrate the diary entries. For example, we took photos of the outside of the house that my grandmother grew up in; we took photos of the abandoned building that was once the high school she attended, and so on. In between trips, my father enjoys thinking about additional sites to take photos of to illustrate the diary. He also enjoys reminiscing when we talk on the phone and always has lots of stories that I can use to add context to the diary.” Many of Sheryl’s relatives regularly read her blog and look forward to the “next installment.”
Sheryl feels that gathering materials for her blog has also provided a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with her extended family and other people she knew as a child growing up in Pennsylvania. Her aunt, uncle, cousins, and others have provided materials for her blog and some have even guest blogged on days when there was no diary entry. “Other’s know much more about the family history and genealogy than I do. They have very generously shared their information with me and allowed me to post it on the blog.”
How Sheryl Follows the Rest of Us
“I’m probably a Luddite, but I don’t use blog readers.” To read other blogs, Sheryl likes to either go to previously book marked sites or just “Google” the blog names. She has often clicked on links in GeneaBloggers to access blogs that she does follow.
“Many of the blogs that I frequently read I first found when they were GeneaBloggers (Daily Blogging Prompts) featured blog (Shopping Saturday, Tombstone Tuesday, etc.). I also check out blogs that are written by individuals who have left comments on my site. Often people who find my blog interesting have similar interests to me, and I discover that I also enjoy their blogs.”
The amount of blogs Sheryl may follow daily varies from day to day. One day she may look at two blogs; the next twenty. On a typical day she will usually read four to six blogs.
Sheryl’s Thoughts on Blogging
Sheryl’s blog and title came about because of her grandmother’s diary. “At first I thought that I’d make the diary into a small book, but the daily diary entries just seemed to lend themselves to a blog. Since I’m posting the diary entries one hundred years to the day after Grandma wrote them, A Hundred Years Ago seemed like an obvious choice for the blog name. I also checked to make sure that the URL was available before selecting it.”
Since Sheryl had never blogged before, she was concerned that it would be very time consuming and that she would find it difficult to post entries, “It’s been much easier than I thought to post entries – though it is time-consuming. But, I have so much fun preparing the postings that I don’t mind the time involved. Working on the blog is a fun way to relax in the evenings.”
Sheryl had another concern, “Since Grandma kept the diary for four years, I realized that I was making a four year commitment when I started this blog. I worried that I’d burn out after a month or two – but that hasn’t happened. I’ve now blogged for five months – and if anything it is easier now to post the entries, and write the reflections and background information than it was at the beginning.” For Sheryl, each diary entry is almost like a writing prompt and she enjoys the challenge of finding information that enables her to write a relevant comment.
When Sheryl first began her blog, she had difficulty working with the photos; but she learned a lot along the way about taking and posting photos and it’s been going much more smoothly now.
What Sheryl Loves the Most About Genealogy
“I most enjoy reconnecting with my extended family and collaboratively learning about the past with them. One quarter of my genes come from the woman who wrote the diary. My cousin says that we are all on the conveyer belt of life. It’s been wonderful to have the chance to learn more about those who were on that conveyor before me.”
Sheryl’s Time Capsule Message
“I’d encourage future generations to look to the past to better understand themselves and their world. I don’t know what future generations will want to know about the past, but I believe that we all have a role in preserving whatever information we have for future generations. I’m sure that I have lots of interesting ancestors – but the ones that I find the most fascinating are the individuals who left behind enough artifacts so that I can get a sense of their personalities.”
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Please take a moment to head on over to Sheryl’s blog. Leave her a comment to let her know you stopped by. Welcome Sheryl, it’s great to have you here!
© 2011, copyright Gini Webb
Gini Webb lives in San Diego, California and manages her own blog, Ginisology, while also researching her own German heritage, recently retired, enjoying life with wonderful husband Steve and visiting with her now seven grandchildren!
Are you a genealogy blogger who would like to be interviewed for the “May I Introduce To You . . .” series? If so, contact Gini Webb via e-mail.