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Interview with Mary Milne Jamba, ISGS 2018 Conference Speaker

It’s almost time for our 2018 Fall Conference! Join ISGS and ISGS speaker Mary Milne Jamba in
Springfield, Illinois on October 26 and 27 for two days of genealogical fun! In anticipation of the conference, we asked Mary a few questions.

Illinois State Genealogical Society: How did you become interested in genealogy? How long have you been
Mary Milne Jamba: My maternal grandmother told great stories and I especially loved to hear her talk about her own maternal grandmother. The concept that Grandma had her own Grandma fascinated me as a young child and I always wanted to learn about these family members. I first started doing real research when I was 25, so that's half my life!

ISGS: Who is your favorite person (ancestor or otherwise) to research? Why?
Mary: My 3G grandmother, Rebecca Harris has been fun to research. The family legend told of her living more than 100 years, but neglected to mention three of her five husbands or that she was a bigamist! Researching your ancestors can sometimes lead down unexpected paths.

ISGS: What has been a defining moment in your career as a genealogist?
Mary: Taking that first AncestryDNA test five years ago has set me on a path where I've learned to analyze data to help fill out family trees of numerous people. The hints from DNA matches lead me to places where I would otherwise have not thought to look. It is a game changer for the genealogical community, showing us evidence that we never knew we needed.

ISGS: What are you most looking forward to at the ISGS annual fall conference?
Mary: Learning from the sessions, they all sound so interesting! Also looking forward to meeting all the Illinois researchers.

ISGS: What should conference attendees look forward to at your lectures?
Mary: Learning techniques that I use to find ancestors and fill in the family tree. I enjoy genealogy so much and hope to inspire others to find their family.

ISGS: In what ways are you expanding your knowledge in the field of genealogy?
Mary: Interacting with other genealogists is the best way to get new ideas and inspiration to keep working on my family tree. Attending institute classes, conferences, and local genealogy programs have taught me many new ways and places to research. Social media has also helped me keep up with the latest trends and collaborate with other genealogists.

ISGS: Why do you research your ancestors?
Mary: Understanding how my family fit into history has always been helpful in developing my family tree and this context helps me to connect with them. I feel connected to these relatives even though I never met them personally, because learning about their lives through historical records develops a unique closeness between us. And the way I sometimes catch myself acting like my mother, or grandmother, I realize that many of my behaviors and beliefs have been inherited through nature and nurture going back many generations. While times change, and trends come and go, there are core pieces that endure through the generations.

ISGS: Is there a genealogist or a historian that you look up to? Who and why?
Mary: There are so many, but Deborah Abbott is special. She gives me a wealth of information every time I talk with her. She has been involved in the world of genealogy for a long time and knows everyone in genealogy groups all over the world. She knows how to research and solve complicated cases. If I have any question related to anything genealogical, I know Deborah Abbott is just a phone call away.

ISGS: One of your lectures is on Ancestry DNA. Tell us about one of your favorite DNA discoveries.
Mary: Most of my favorite DNA discoveries are finding birth parents for adoptees. This has become a real passion for me because so many of us take for granted that we know at least our parents and grandparents. To bring that information back to people who so desperately want to know their very beginning, is an incredible gift.

ISGS: How important are maps to your research? How have they helped you learn about an ancestor or tell a story?
Mary: Nothing connects me more to my ancestors than being able to walk in the places where they once walked. Even if it's only virtually, maps helps me get a feeling of understanding my ancestors lifestyle by looking at the terrain, the distance to stores and supplies, the buildings, and the neighborhood all come to life.

The 2018 Fall Conference will be held October 26 and 27 in Springfield, Illinois. Discover more information in the conference brochure and register online. 

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