Genealogy in the Works: What it Means to be a Genealogist

Genealogy. When you hear it most often images of older folks or Mormons come to mind, but put that aside for a moment. Genealogy is so much more than dates and places. It is people, it is lives, it is stories that we shouldn’t forget.

In this series, Genealogy in the Works we will be interviewing genealogist of every background. This includes gay and queer genealogists. What it means for the family tree when you are a transgender individual or how to approach issues of sensitivity like slavery and indigenous tribes. All of this comes together to create an intersectional  view of genealogy and family history.

This series really wouldn’t make sense without explaining who I am first, so here goes:

Becks Campbell

Becks Campbell at one of her favorite local restaurants, 2016

Who are you?

I’m Becks Campbell. I run The Hipster Historian blog and am the sole owner of Life Stories Transcription Services.  I’ve been an amateur genealogist for most of my life and in the last year have decided to go into my favorite hobby professionally.  I’ve been married to my college sweetheart for 12 years and live in the Pacific Northwest.

Becks Campbell and Spouse

Becks Campbell and her Husband, 2016


Why genealogy?

My mother is a professional genealogist and has been for well over twenty years. As a child growing up in the Mormon Church family ties and genealogy was emphasized heavily to me and after I left the church the passion for genealogy still stuck around. I’m completely obsessed with the stories of the past and who we were and who we will become.

Donna Mae Blocher

Becks late paternal grandmother, Donna Mae Blocher

What does it mean to be a genealogist?

Loaded question. Genealogy, by definition, is the study and research of ancestral lines. But in reality, it is so much more than that. We as genealogists, are tasked with finding long-lost loved ones, records that may not exist and people that don’t want to be found. We pour through years of directories and censuses, and in some cases, it can be quite sobering what you’ve found.

In my narrative writing project Forgotten Women of History I’ve found stories of domestic abuse, child abandonment, and murder — to name a few. We need to be aware that when we are researching a family line either for ourselves, for friends or for clients that there needs to be sensitivity and ethics involved.

What is your favorite genealogy blog to follow?

Right now there are so many amazing blogs to follow but I would highly suggest checking out Geneabloggers by Thomas MacEntee. It is the biggest source of networking and genealogy related blogs on the web right now.

What is your current field of study or research?

After several friends with Italian heritage asked me to research their history, I got hooked. I’m currently researching the Sorrentino’s, Serago’s, Pescatore’s and Bugni’s. In addition because most of my work has been coming from that area I am slowly (but surely!) learning Italian. It is a big task, but I’m ready for it.

Where else can we find you?

I’m all over the web, but my favorite places to hang out are here at The Hipster Historian, working on transcriptions at my business Life Stories Transcription Services and my narrative writing project, Forgotten Women of History.

Thanks for reading and be sure to check by next week for our next Genealogy in the Works interview!







Forgotten Women of History

I’m a sucker for history, especially history that focuses on women. Generally speaking, women have not had it easy for most, if not all of our written and recorded history. I’ve always wondered about the stories of the women behind the Roman generals or the grandmother of famous painters like Vincent Van Gogh. Who were they and what made them tick. And, this is why I’ve created the historical narrative writing project called: Forgotten Women of History.

Forgotten Women of History

Forgotten Women of History or FWOH for short is a blog dedicated to these women. Whether it is your grandmother who became the first female sheriff in rural Arkansas like Thelma Jewel Sanders Harber or Lulu Marie Sayer, your great aunt who abandoned her child in the forest on commands from her new husband, FWOH is telling all the stories of these women.

One the favorite stories I’ve come across while researching genealogy has been that of Philena Mae Fairbanks who was generally considered a beautiful young woman at the turn of the 20th century (see picture below). So much so, that her new husband became jealous of her beauty and locked her in their home while he was away on business trips. As the years progressed and they had more children (eight to be exact), her husband became more and more verbally  and emotionally violent. Philena knew what might happen next and told her husband “If you ever hit me, I will get a divorce.”

Philena Mae Fairbanks

This sorry excuse for a man didn’t listen and gave Philena a black eye after being angry about something or another. Philena went straight to the judge and demanded an immediate divorce from her abuser, which was granted. The story goes on to say that she told one of her daughters that by the time she died she would have a diamond ring for every finger on her left hand for all the travails she had to endure in her life. And wouldn’t you know it, by the time she passed away she had four big diamond rings she had purchased herself.

Forgotten Women of History Banner

Since launching this project late last fall, I’ve been able to write about the lives of several women, but I don’t want to stop there. Here is where you come in. I want to write about your grandmother who entered STEM fields in the early 1900’s or your great-great-great aunt who traveled around the world in search for a better life.

Since launching this project late last fall, I’ve been able to write about the lives of several women, but I don’t want to stop there. Here is where you come in. I want to write about your grandmother who entered STEM fields in the early 1900’s or your great-great-great aunt who traveled around the world in search for a better life.

If you are interested in me telling your families stories, send an email to  thehipsterhistorian (at) gmail (dot) com


  1. Only females and female identified individuals will be considered for FWOH.
  2.  This individual must no longer be living. This is important as we do not want to invade the privacy of any living individuals without consent.
  3.  Stories need to be kept to around 1800 words (at max). The more citations and information you can provide, the easier the editing process will be.
  4. The more pictures and records you have available, the better.

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