Welcome to Genealogy Crossroads!  I’m Michelle Keel, a long-time genealogy hobbyist and history buff who is finally turning my hobby into my profession.  For 17 years, I have worked on building my family tree.  What I discovered along the way is that without the history and culture surrounding my family, I wasn’t getting the full picture of my ancestors’ lives.  While gathering all those names and dates is exciting, it wasn’t as satisfying as I had hoped.  What I really wanted was a connection with them that went beyond mere facts. 

Happily, I’m also a passionate history buff. It became obvious that the way to better understand my (mostly mute) ancestors was through learning how they lived, where they lived, and why they were there.  Even though they couldn’t tell me their stories, I could begin to understand them through their history.  Some of them, like my Salem Witch, left reams of documentation.  Others, like the coal miners and farmers, didn’t or couldn’t leave much behind.  But there is hope for piecing together their lives!

More About Genealogy Crossroads

Through Genealogy Crossroads (GC), I want to help you discover more about your ancestors and the times they lived in.  It is through this expanded knowledge that we can break through brick walls, answer important questions, and get closer to the events that shaped their lives and ours. Questions like:

  • Why did your ancestors move across the country? 
  • What was it like to travel across the ocean in a wooden ship? Or fight in the Civil War? 
  • What did they eat? 
  • And the eternal question:  Where on earth did all the records go?
The Porter Baumgardner Family – 1896

What To Expect

GC will look at the big events and small details that impacted our families, including:

  • Daily Life: What life was like, including food, music, clothes and more.
  • Social & Cultural History: What was going on in the community? In the country?
  • Migration: Why the wilderness of Arkansas Territory?  Or the wilds of Wisconsin?!  
  • Wars and Conflicts: No dry battle facts! We’ll look at what these events meant for our ancestors’ lives.
  • Maps and Geographic Challenges: Changing boundaries and place names plus historic map goodness.
  • Last but not least: Genealogy Skill Building, the never ending pursuit!

Never fear, resources to help you on your own journey will be included in the articles. 🙂

The primary focus will be on American history. Some exploration of foreign lands (especially Europe–my area of expertise) will be provided as well.  You’ll get to meet my family along the way and find out how I’m working through my own research challenges. And together hopefully we can continue to succeed by growing our knowledge and family trees!

More About Michelle

My interest in genealogy began back in 2003.  I had been laid off but not yet let go, so I had a lot of free time.  I was also engaged to be married and thinking a lot about family.  And online ancestry was coming into its own. Voila!  A new hobby was born.  

And history? Well, that is a life long love of mine. It developed into a passion when I was a child.  We were a PBS family and history was a favorite topic in our house.  Ken Burns’ The Civil War was a must-watch event. Don’t get me started on the costume dramas! My love for history has fueled many aspects of my life from genealogy to travel to owning a history library that overwhelms my tiny apartment.  

How did I get here? After leaving Corporate America in 2019, it has been a long, strange trip involving teaching, writing, training, surviving a pandemic (knock on wood!), and having to pause a move abroad thanks to said pandemic. After all of these pivots, I needed to decide what to do now instead of waiting for the world to figure things out.

I knew I needed a new career.  What I wanted was a career that would be sustainable, allow me to help people, and also let me to do what I love.  And then it hit me: Genealogy!

Unlike my previous post-corporate adventures, this is more than a passion project (which are important in their own right, of course!). GC is the first step in developing my new career. I look forward to sharing this experience–warts and all–with you.

But that is only part of the GC story. My intention is for Genealogy Crossroads to a be place where we can learn from each other, share our stories, and create a supportive community.

I hope that you will join us on our journey into the past! 🙂

Ellis Island
From “Quarantine Sketches” by The Maltine Company, 1902