Genealogy Gems: Unpacking History’s Mysteries

When Lisa Cooke was a little girl her grandmother was her hero. The older woman would show Lisa family photo albums filled with black and white pictures of long-lost relatives and eventually Lisa realized that her grandmother wasn’t “totally clear what her mother’s maiden name was.” Between moving to the US and language barriers, the name’s spelling had been lost and Lisa decided it was up to her to solve the mystery. Before long, Lisa was “the only kid in grade school using her allowance to buy death certificates.” Today, Lisa’s passion for genealogy has led to eleven years of creating the Genealogy Gems Podcast, and I’m excited to tell you all about it.

Though Lisa only dabbled in genealogy through high school and college because it was such a time-consuming hobby, in 2000, when Ancestry came out, she re-entered the genealogy world with full-force. “I became obsessed and was working on it every night because there was just so much we could do online from home which really accelerated the whole excitement and research process.” Lisa continued to research and hone her process over several years of work but wanted to do more.

In 2007, while Lisa was speaking to an archive group about some advancements in research processes a woman referred to the information as a “genealogy gem,” and suddenly things fell into place in Lisa’s mind. “I had been looking for a way to teach, to expand what I’m doing, to somehow talk to other people but I don’t want to just reach small groups I want to really reach a lot of people at one time,” Lisa explained. But she hadn’t found the medium until her kids gave her an iPod. She knew that was the answer, and the Genealogy Gems Podcast was born.

The show is a monthly “variety show for genealogy.” “We hit on lots of different topics each month… That could include teaching segments where I’m teaching something… I also have interviews. So I’m interviewing other experts and talking about news and what’s going on in the industry.” As an author and major speaker in the genealogy community, Lisa’s lessons are incredibly helpful to listeners, but the most important thing her show does for listeners is highlight what they need to know most. “There is a ton of noise out there, more than a single person can comprehend. My full-time job is to sort through it and each month bring them the gems.” Each gem is something Lisa thinks will bring “the biggest pay off” for listeners and help them solve their own puzzles.

Over the eleven years of the show, Lisa has learned a lot and the show has grown in many ways. She admitted that, when she started the podcast, she was worried that she would run out of topics to discuss. That fear didn’t last long and Lisa told me that “[her] biggest problem today is that [she] has too many things to talk about and [she] has to whittle it down.” Of course, as the show has grown it has opened up a lot of doors for Lisa to teach about her passion and she has to work hard to make time to put out the show, but she told me it is her “top priority” and isn’t going anywhere.

While watching narrative become more and more popular in podcasting, Lisa thought to herself, “if you want to hear some stories you have to hear them from family history!” Genealogy Gems is moving to a more narrative-centered format that tells stories from listeners’ own family and Lisa is excited to let people know that “everyday people have these riveting, crazy stories of what their ancestors went through if they go digging.” So, if you love genealogies, history, great narratives, research, or top news in the genealogy industry, give the Genealogy Gems Podcast a listen and be sure to leave a rating and review to let Lisa know what you think!

Chasing Pods is a Podchaser blog series dedicated to letting our readers know about podcasts they may not have heard of or provide a sneak peek into the making of their favorite podcast. We talk to podcast creators about their journey into podcasting, the creation of their shows, the ups and downs of the work, and what they’re looking forward to for their podcast

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