November as Native American Heritage Month

In recent years, we have had Columbus Day thankfully replaced in many places within the United States with Indigenous Peoples Day. While, welcome in the attention it focuses on Native and First Nations peoples across North America, it comes with negativity and necessary information.

Columbus and his journey to “discover” America from Spain resulted in, not only the beginning of the invasion of the continent by Europeans seeking freedom and land, but also in the massacre, rape and pillaging of Indigenous peoples – by Columbus and his crew and then the onslaught of settlers in the colonies, the stripping of forests, myriad diseases that dessimated tribal peoples and land grabs that are notable for their violence and disrespect.

So while Indigenous Peoples Day is ONE day of recognition and writings about these first peoples of the Americas, the month of November is meant to offer 31 days of information too. Is it fully respectful, honoring, inclusive and informative? Sometimes. Is it meant to fulfill some goal of assuaging feelings of guilt or shame among European descendants as movements for cultural diversity, inclusion and equity proliferate around the world? Perhaps.

It IS an opportunity for all of us to assess our relationship to, contact with, and possible friendships among the populations of the Indigenous cultures and tribal groups. Mostly invisible to many, Native peoples in recent United States census enumerations give some perspective, as there are 2.9% that have identified as Native/Indian according to recent reports (CNN – Why the jump in the Native American population may be one of the hardest to explain:,according%20to%20the%20Census%20Bureau.). That’s a small percentage of the overall population of our country AND it is believed to be a low count of the actual population of people with full Native identities and those with mixed racial families. And it is also representative of some of the isolation and invisibility of tribal people broadly. While the vast majority of Native people live in urban areas, others are very isolated on the remote reservation systems across the country. The likelihood is that you actually KNOW and perhaps work with Native people but you don’t even know it.

Which speaks to the classic comment heard often: “You don’t LOOK Indian!” as if there is a physical “type” or “look” that all should be. Yes, television and media generally don’t help in this case, as the stereotypical images in cowboy westerns or depictions in movies (think Dances with Wolves) confuse many with historical imagery. Where are the “modern” images that are as diverse as the multiracial communities in which we all live? The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian released a documentary, A Thousand Roads, depicting four modern Indigenous people as they cope within modern communities with the challenges of retaining their identities. The popularity of the Hulu series Rez Dogs (remarkably an entire cast, writing and directing group that is virtually all Indigenous!) gives us a glimpse too of the humor and stories of some young adults and the often hilarious and difficult lives they are negotiating.

Good reading can be found through some great writers.

Books that are especially good for Native history, with extensive footnotes to further works, include Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann, Yellow Bird: Oil, Murder, and a Woman’s Search for Justice in Indian Country by Sierra Crane Murdoch, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer, and for a sweeping history of the North America, please read The Indigenous Paleolithic of the Western Hemisphere by Paulette F.C. Steeves.  All of these books include bibliographies, source notes and/or citations that will lead the reader to even more resources. A fundamentally good resource book, that offers frequently asked questions with answers, comes from the National Museum of the American Indian (part of the Smithsonian Institution) – Do All Indians Live in Tipis? by a group of contributors from the museums’ tribal specialists, Elders and leaders.  It’s just a starting list but can help you to move into more study as you are ready. A book that should be mandatory reading for anyone claiming indigeneity based on their DNA is Native American DNA:  Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science by Dr. Kim Tallbear.

As a genealogist and family historian, in my own family research, I have encountered much of the worse of the stereotypes and the outcomes of negative encounters between the White/European worlds with Indigenous peoples and organizations. I recently wrote articles, hoping to guide researchers in their pursuit of genealogical information about researching among our Native peoples, archives, libraries and tribal governments. Family Tree Magazine has published The Do’s and Don’ts of Respectful Native American Research ( and an earlier article in the Family Tree Magazine, November/December issue covered some of the same information.

So as you may be considering Native American Heritage Month and perhaps activities that will guide you in learning about or studying various tribal peoples, please consider respectful ways of engagement that will help to build good relationships for all of us.

#Native #Indigenous #Heritage #LineageJourneys

Elmer AND Bill Died the SAME Day!

Obituary Notice, Lansing State Journal (Lansing, MI), 24 May 1971, pg 2

Having made a commitment to be more active here in my blog, and being really behind on SO many things, I decided that I would work at putting up family information more regularly. As I’ve written about RootsTech and other conferences, I’ve decided also to include content about our families – mine and Den’s – and information about my work in genealogy, I made the commitment.

So I truly KNOW and believe that our ancestors want us to find them (their information, records, photos, etc.) and know them – from what they did, what the records say, how their lives progressed and more …. it came as no surprise to me that, having made this commitment to myself and these ancestors, my return home from the National Genealogical Society’s 2022 Family History Conference included a discussion with my husband about my “take aways”.

The “take aways” is understandable for most folks … “what did you take away from that experience?”. Den and I, when completing a trip (the plane ride home or the final part of a drive home), will often have a conversation …. like “what were the top 3 things you will remember?” or “what are the top 3 images that will stick in your mind?” – that sort of thing.

Well, on this particular Sunday afternoon of Memorial Weekend, with the washing machine running after my unpacking the suitcase, Den and I were taking a moment for me to process the NGS conference and my experiences there. And our talk then moved further into “do we want to go to Ludwig’s grave tomorrow to honor him?” He’s Den’s Civil War ancestor who is buried in the Elmwood Cemetery here in Detroit. While we decided not to go, it began a conversation about ancestors in his family.

It evolved into this discussion about his grandfather Elmer and uncle Wilson/Bill. As the obituary pictured here states, they died the same day. I didn’t remember it that way …. and that’s a story!

You see, I met Denny in college, Michigan State University. It was in our sophomore year, and his Grandfather Elmer had died two years before, as had Wilson or Bill, Den’s uncle. As I got to know him and his family, I heard the story of Elmer’s death because Den and his parents and two brothers all lived on the same family farm in Alma, Michigan. When Elmer died, he had a heart attack in his home right next door to Den’s family’s home. Den actually heard his Grandmother Vera scream when Elmer dropped in the house and Den ran over to see what was wrong. He performed CPR on his grandfather but Den knew that Grandpa was gone.

The way I REMEMBERED the story was very different, although with parts of it factual and the same. BUT – and this is the key – even when someone tells us the story from their actual presence and knowledge, we can remember it wrong!

The thing about my memory was that there were parts that I remember coming from other people. So Den’s older brother Van and possibly Den’s mom, Melba, had told me their memories of what happened. Now, Van was not in the home or on the farm when Bill and Elmer died, so perhaps that is where my memory got jarred in the wrong direction. What I remember, was “someone” told me that Bill committed suicide and that, after his funeral, Elmer had come home, took a walk around the farm and then had his heart attack.

Well …. parts of that are true. Elmer DID take the walk around the farm just before the heart attack. Den knew that and had actually see Elmer walking around. Den remembered thinking that his grandfather perhaps was thinking through, reflecting on the fact that his eldest son had just passed away and what was the future of the farm? While the family had sold their dairy cows back in the mid-1960s, the farm was still operating but, since 1969, was leased to another farmer to plant, harvest while the family retained ownership and received annual checks from the crops sold. ANYWAY, I digress …

So what was TRUE was that Elmer died after taking that walk around the farm. What was NOT true – Bill died from lung cancer and Elmer died the same day, as you can see in the obituary. Where had I gone SO wrong on these memories? Did Van or Melba tell me elements that I confused? Apparently!

My point in offering this is that we can’t and shouldn’t fully trust our memories! Documentation of the elements of stories really helps and it provides some interesting lessons. In my case, I never documented the stories that I was told (by Van or Melba or whomever!) AND I clearly messed up parts of it. Suicide is awful and so is cancer but they carry a much different trajectory both physically and emotionally in a family! AND the fact that they died on the same day was totally missed by me until I found this obituary. While I have Elmer’s death certificate from our family, I didn’t have Bill’s (and yes, I could connect with his family). That said, I learned a lot on Sunday!

A genealogists, family historians or even just members of an extended family that tells stories and “embellishes” perhaps as the story evolves, please DO keep in mind that finding the key facts, documents and information is important in documenting our families’ lives and stories. I’m so glad that I dug into this more after that conversation with my husband as he was amazed by how much I had wrong. Good to be stopped before I’d shared it SOOO far off from the facts! Keep digging!

I LIVE for This Kind of Learning! RootsTech 2022 has ended … sort of.

RootsTech 2022 is now officially over … well, not really!

It is still possible to watch classes, review what happened on the Main Stage, you can still visit vendors tomorrow, and there are Relative Connections to make (you have to register for a free account at FamilySearch – but it is SO worth it!), and so much more.

I think I spent about 9 to 10 hours online today – live presentations, recorded classes, practicing where to look in the various DNA sites (how many tabs can you have open on your computer!!!), and listening along as I tried out some of the sites and offerings that were shared.

While ALL of the classes, vendor presentations and Main Stage offerings were great, I have to give a shout out to Roberta Estes at DNAeXplained who gave a series of presentations on finding out if you have Native American DNA and from whom, a sequence of DNA presentations that showed how to use the various companies’ (Ancestry, MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA, FamilySearch, etc.) DNA and family tree tools to help you with your research. She had a great presentation style and offered a lot of information – and I’m STILL working through all those open tabs on my computer!

And, while I’m exhausted and my brain is about to explode, I am SO happy that I dedicated myself to this time for the last three days. While I miss everyone in person in Salt Lake, the learning and comfort of doing this from home was not something that I would have passed up. SUCH a great gift for ME! I figure that I’ll be learning for a while, doing more with the tips, tricks and resources that were shared, and I’m really happy with the time spent.

Yes, your story and that of your family matters – please take the time to share it! Make a video, a book of ancestry, or share pictures from an ancestral location. I have such a deep appreciation for what I learned …. and I hope that if you are reading this, you will make every effort to research and share your family’s history.

After a bit of rest and processing, watch for more as I grow in understanding what I learned … I have TONS of ideas and websites to go through and analyze on my family. Wish me luck!

ROOTS TECH 2022 is ON!!!

Roots Tech 2022 is on, open ….. ready, set, GO!!!

SOOO excited, I can’t stand it! Yes, Roots Tech 2022 – FREE and VIRTUAL – is open and there is much to do, see, hear and experience.

FIRST – Pace Yourself! Here’s a marvelous post from Miles Meyer that I found to be really helpful (thanks, Miles!) – you may want to check this out:

Some easy explanations on Miles’ page that will help. AND be sure to go through each days’ offerings and create your own list of presentations to watch, Keynotes, Main Stage and the Expo Hall. In the Expo Hall there is an opportunity to not only learn so much, but also an opportunity to win! Yes! If you visit 20 booths and do a variety of activities (chat, watch a video, explore their presentations), you can be entered to win a prize. It’s fun AND an opportunity to get more.

As an Influencer (that’s the title for those of us who are writing and sharing about our experiences at Roots Tech), you will see posts from me every day with my thoughts about what I’m hearing and seeing. My first experience was to check out the Expo Hall and the sponsor booths. Did you know about all the cool stuff at the Family Search site? Yes, the site – the one that you can access from home, put your family tree on, find documents and SO MUCH MORE!!!

Exploring around this site, you can watch a bunch of great videos, learn about new features on the FamilySearch website (amazing stuff … I hadn’t been on it in a while and WOW!) and find out about your family in new ways. I checked out “Where am I from?” and “Famous Relatives” (yes, I’m related to royalty!! ) and there is also the really fun Roots Tech tool “Relatives at RootsTech” which helps you to meet your relatives who are signed into the RootsTech event – showing your relationship to them (check it out here) – I have 9,045 relatives today and I know from previous RT experience that it will grow! SOOO Cool!!!

Well, I’m off to do more exploring! Join me?

National Genealogical Society 2021 Family History Conference – Virtual Event!

Focus On Societies: Join me for the session – Society Management: Volunteer Motivations – Recruiting & Retaining Volunteers for your Society!

The National Genealogical Society’s Family History Conference is coming! Hope you registered early to get the discount, but register TODAY here: and join one of the most interesting, educational and important conferences of each year.

This year – new – is the fact that the Federation of Genealogical Societies merged with NGS and there is a “Focus on Societies” section, offering help, resources and information to genealogical societies to help them to thrive, grow and engage with their communities and interested researchers. That’s where my session – Society Management: Volunteer Motivations: Recruiting and Retaining Volunteers – appears. Join me?

NGS 2021 LIVE!
 is 19─20 May and continues with NGS 2021 On-Demand! on 15 June. Additional events throughout the week include the Delegate Council Workshop on Monday and the SLAM! Idea Showcase on Tuesday.

#NGS2021LIVE, #NGS2021OnDemand, and #NGSFocusOnSocieties.

Happy birthday to my 2nd Great-Grandfather, Norbert Albert Villeneuve

Here’s Norbert Albert Villeneuve and wife Adele Paquet and their family probably around 1902 in Ishpeming, Michigan (colorized thanks to MyHeritage!).

When Norbert Albert Villeneuve was born on March 3, 1840, in Quebec, Canada, his father, Joseph, was 31 and his mother, Julie, was 33. He married Adele Adelaide Paquet on November 7, 1865, in Maskinongé, Quebec, Canada. They had 11 children in 21 years. He died on May 13, 1914, in Ishpeming, Michigan, at the age of 74.

That doesn’t say a lot about Albert or Al as he was known. He was likely a farmer in Quebec as many in the community of Maskinongé were but we also know from family stories that he made furniture, very solid, functional furniture that was nice looking too. He became a miner in the iron ore mines in and around Ishpeming area. He was a carpenter and worked in and around the mines constructing joists and structures to hold up the rock for the miners, hoping to keep them safer. According to the 1910 census, he was still working for the mining company even at the age of 71. When he died just 4 years later, his obituary stated that he was one of the “early pioneers” and had cut trees to help construct the main road in Ishpeming. The family must have been a bit musical as family stories that I heard over the years about Albert, Adele and the kids included a great deal of music and dancing. And on his death, the inventory of his belongings included a piano that my Great Grandmother Louise Villeneuve Elliot took for her large family. My Grandmother Elsie Elliot Sutinen told me that this family, back in Quebec, were well known formal dancers – participating in waltz and ballroom dancing competitions, often winning. So maybe the family piano helped in teaching the children?!

A recent trip this summer to Ishpeming included driving around the area where the Villeneuve family lived, even finding their home address using the census records. Such a small home for a family of 11 children and 2 adults!

350 South 1st Street, Ishpeming – the Albert and Adele Villeneuve home in 1910.

Happy Birthday, Grandma! Because she was, I am ….

Mary Elsie Cecelia Elliot Sutinen – My grandmother: Because she was, I am.

Remembering my grandma on her birthday….

Today is Grandma’s birthday – Mary Elsie Cecelia Elliot Sutinen – she was of French-Canadian, Acadian, Scottish and First Nations descent. Born in Ishpeming, Michigan to immigrant parents who came from Maskinonge, Quebec. She had five children – my mother was the youngest girl and the fourth child. Her life was not easy … hard work, poverty, difficult circumstances and more. But my memories of her are of a loving, doting, beloved woman who gave us kids sugar-free (she was diabetic) Jello with whipped cream, the BEST snuggles, learning from her about tatting, needlework, hearing occasional Quebecois words from her, her sisters, and the wonderful smells of a grandma’s home. A devout Catholic, she endured a lot and relied on her faith to get her through – AND was happy, smiling, welcoming, gentle and very obviously loving me and my brother, my cousins. Missing her now when I would like to ask SO many questions. Bonne Fete with our ancestors, Grandma!!

And thank you! You birthed my mother, who birthed me … and you loved and cared for all of us in your family, and the HUGE family of your birth (she was one of 16; 14 lived to adulthood). She connects me to my matrilineal ancestors, my distant past, going all the way back to Benouville, Rouen, Normandie, France where my 10th great-grandmother Guillemette Rolleville was born in 1625 and any paper trail further seems to end (for now … ). From Guillemette to her daughter Marie-Catherine and on and on, for generations, it comes to me and my only female first cousin in this line, Karen … Neither Karen or I had children, so this part of the lineage ends with us. Feels sad … but there are others who descend from her in the mitochondrial lines so the DNA continues. Merci, Grand-mere …. je me souviens!


What an opportunity! I’ve been invited to speak about some of my favorite work – researching Indigenous Peoples. This presentation will be in THREE parts as it is about “The Big Five – Researching the Five Largest Tribes”.

Researching Indigenous Peoples can be a challenge, as much of our histories are oral tradition, stories told by skilled orators in our tribes, and lineal descendants in families who are sure to share the stories of the ancestors to the whole family at funerals or births. These beloved leaders can share from memory and long study the names and relationships of the broader tribal community. So mostly, this information hasn’t been written down – partly because it is sacred, important, cultural information that would be misinterpreted or added to by those unfamiliar with the stories and heritage. And some of the information isn’t written down in defiance – we don’t want some of our precious ancestral information shared with outsiders. And it’s not written down because .. well, that isn’t our way. And we are holding on tight to our ways.

HOWEVER there were many reasons and purposes that information WAS written down – census information, school records, military service and more. These resources and some of the cultural constructs of researching Indigenous families will be part of this course.

The session will be offered in THREE parts. RootsTech CONNECT 2021 is entirely virtual and, as such, the organizers wanted to consider good ways to utilize webinar technology while recognizing that people tend to learn best in non-live interaction in 20 minute intervals. So, because each of the five tribes is different, with different records, this session will cover these five tribes in three parts: Part 1 – Broad overview of Indigenous research generally; how to get started; what to do if you’ve been told that you have Native ancestors; how to move backward in time to look for clues, hints, cultural information that can help in finding an elusive ancestor. Part 2 – Will address the specific record sets of the two largest tribes – the Cherokee and the Cochtaw. The Cherokee are the largest tribe in the United States and the Cochtaw are third largest but both originate in the SE of the U.S. and have shared history that can help in your research. Part 3- Will cover the Navaho, Chippewa and Sioux. And, by the way, I will also offer you the names of each of these tribes in their own languages, rather than the English names (names used for them by the colonial people, settlers) that the Europeans gave them.

Interested? I hope you will join me! But in the meantime, as RootsTech is FREE – have you registered? Check in here: Registration

DNA Weekly – An Interview About Lineage Journeys!

The heading on my interview at DNA Weekly – Hope you will check it out!

There are some moments that remind you of why you do your work, why it is more fun to do what you love. I had that moment with Ditsa Keren from DNA Weekly, who had contacted me for an interview about my genealogy work.

It had been some time since I had thought about why I started Lineage Journeys and my motivations for continuing to work in this field. I truly love searching for my family and I love helping others get excited about their family history too. So the combination of the two had been great for me, but reflecting on it to answer Ditsa’s questions was particularly enjoyable. In our interview on Zoom, she had a thoughtful way, was fun and asked good questions. And I was grateful for the opportunity to share about what I do and how much I enjoy working with clients – I LIVE for those wonderful “ah ha” moments that all family historians or genealogists have when they learn something new about an ancestor or where they lived, what they did for an occupation.

While I can’t quite place my hands on the article that I read that shared the importance of sharing family stories, I remember that the psychology of it was that it builds resilience in children to hear about the trials and troubles that their ancestors got through. And for the children to hear those stories from their grandparents (or great-grandparents, as so many are living longer, thank God!), has a direct and deep impact on their own ability to manage in tough times.

Thank you to Ditsa Keren and DNA Weekly for the opportunity to do some reflection. Hope you all will think about checking DNA Weekly out –

Updates – RootsTech CONNECT 2021

Watch here for updates and information to help you have fun with RootsTech Connect – 2021!!

SOOOO much is going to happen at RootsTech CONNECT – 2021!!

As an Ambassador, we get lots of information from the RootsTech’s awesome team – to help us to help you be ready for all of the fun and learning at the 2021 sessions. Wow, just check this out!

So – there is an opportunity for you to share a video that will play during RootsTech CONNECT – yes! Learn how to share a video about your family’s culture, heritage, travel and stories. Click here to check out your chance to share about your family: Learn How To Be Featured DEADLINE December 31, 2020 so please click the link and learn about what you can do!