Sunday, June 4, 2017

Meet our 2017 Sponsor: Past and Present Pathways

Today's interview is with the women behind the genealogy business Past and Present Pathways. Tina Sansone, Roccie Hill, Sheri McNeil Savory, and Carla Maitland. For this interview Jean discusses genealogy and their new business with Tina, Roccie, and Carla.

Jean: Tina, you are not new to the Gena and Jean activities. We did a recording with you last year to promote our cruise for 2016. Your radio program reached a great many folks and I have a sense that it had some influence on your new venture, Past and Present Pathways. Am I correct and, if so, how did the one venture lead to the next?

Tina: When Sheri McNeil Savory and I were doing “A Savory Spotlight”, we covered a number of topics and really promoted DNA, too. During this time, I met Roccie Hill, a published author, and soon I realized that she was a very good genealogist as well. I am also the genealogist for the Royal Society of St. George, California Chapter and St. Lazarus of Jerusalem groups, and I needed a personalized website for those groups. I wanted to branch out more by doing some other specialty fields, such as Probate and Lineage Documentation, so the partnership with Roccie Hill, Sheri McNeil Savory, and Carla Maitland was formed.

Roccie: I have been working as a genealogist, editor, and author for over 15 years, and since leaving my non-profit management career, have dedicated my life to expanding my genealogy research business.  Quickly, it becomes clear that a genealogist cannot answer all questions on all eras and geographies.  Specialization and profound knowledge in a handful of areas is critical because dissecting the repositories of information is so complex.  One of the reasons I was attracted to being part of Past & Present Pathways, is that we are an association of experienced and reputable genealogists, each of us with specializations.  This allows us to find the best answers for our clients in the shortest possible time and with the least possible expense for them.

Carla: I’ve been researching my own family’s history since the mid-1970s, originally trying to prove two family stories that had been told to me my whole life. As it turned out, I honed my genealogical research skills by proving that the one story I did not believe was true, and the other that I did believe was not true! Naturally, I became “addicted” to the research bug early on and being a history teacher helped me pass along that love of family history to my students. I’m delighted to be invited to participate in this wonderful new venture, Past and Present Pathways, along with such a distinguished group of professionals.

Jean: In looking over your website, I am intrigued by your various services. The first one that caught my eye was “Ghost Writing Your Family Histories.” This cannot be an easy task, but my guess is that you have included this because you have already been involved in this type of project. Please tell us how you go about setting up this sort of activity (without giving up your trade secrets, of course). Can you share an experience?

Tina: While all of us have written family histories, Roccie has branched out in this field. I’ll refer this question to her.

Roccie: One of the most interesting and beneficial tasks of a genealogist is to take the bare facts and turn them into a factual narrative, including cultural, political, and economic factors that influenced the client’s family tree to develop in the way it did.  This brings alive to my clients how and why they married the people, traveled the lands, and worked the jobs they did.  This also teaches us more about history than we ever learned in school.  I have written ghost-written books for clients, written my own, and also write reports based on this thought, if the client asks for it.  Genealogy is much more than lineage societies…it is bringing the history of our families to life.

Jean: You also tell your prospective clients that you assist “lawyers in finding heirs for legal cases” and that you assist “those in the legal field look for descendants . . .” A lot of people are unaware of how genealogists are involved in heir research. Is it possible that someone might try to hire you to locate someone, but for an illegal or immoral purpose? And, if so, do you do some sort of background search to be sure you don’t find yourself on the wrong side of a lawsuit?

Tina: Yes, this can very well happen. I have attended Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy conferences and that topic was discussed. Here are a couple of examples: A man in prison wanted me to pull a land deed to find out where a local hospital was and to try and prove it was on federal land, versus state land. It would make a difference on his legal charges. I never answered and turned the letter over to the police. Secondly, I have had people ask me to help find someone, and the only way I have ever done it is after talking to them and making sure it was for legitimate reasons. I never gave them information on the living, but instead I got their information and let the other person involved make the decision whether or not they wanted to communicate with my client. For me, these cases have always had a good outcome, but you do have to be cautious.

Jean: You are not trying to do all of this solo . . . I see that you have a good group of team members and you tell a little about each on the website. How did you four meet? After all, it looks as if you are not in close proximity. I have had this type of arrangement with people I work with and it can be cumbersome. How do you split up the work . . . do you do conference calls, get together at conferences, or have other ways to connect?

Tina: Carla Love Maitland and I served on the Tennessee Genealogical Society Board of Directors a few years ago. Due to both our husbands becoming ill at the same time, we had to slow down our volunteering, but we have always kept in touch. Carla is a retired school teacher, and I rely on her expertise in editing. Sheri McNeil Savory and I met a few years ago when we were promoting her book, A Face to My Name, an early DNA series on her family and client work. Then we were co-hosts for “A Savory Spotlight” on LA Talk Radio and partners at “ResearchDNAWriters,” for which we both still work on cases.  I have learned so much from Sheri about DNA and am in awe of all the work she has done using DNA to solve our cases. Roccie Hill and I met when she hired me to work on a family line where she had encountered a “brick wall.” We instantly became friends, and instead of my working on her family solo, she became a very active researcher along with me. Roccie is an established author and has worked on Ghost Writing for some of her clients. Once I saw what a great researcher she was, I knew she would be a great addition to the team.  We are all independent researchers with our own specialties and fees, but we collaborate on many ventures.

Roccie: Jean, fyi, Roccie has two published novels (Three Minutes on Love, 2008 and Window of Exposure, 2015), many journalistic articles, a Master of Arts degree in English (SF State) with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy and History (UCLA).  She is an award-winning writer; an exhibited photographer; former community college teacher; non-profit executive; lover of dogs; lover of our armed forces (daughter is a Major and pilot in the USAF); and experienced speaker.

She lived for 8 years in Paris, where she worked as the Marketing Officer for the French Statue of Liberty 100th anniversary celebrations, and where she taught Literature and Creative Writing at the American College (now University) in Paris.  She also lived for 8 years in England, and worked as the Director of Resources Development for Sir Peter Scott’s Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust.  There, she produced several short promotional films for non profits, and organized a private educational dinner at the Gloucestershire home of HRH, Prince Charles.
She has studied pre-Roman British history and Biblical history for decades, as well as the history of North American Native Americans, Texas, and the US Southwest.

She is fluent in French, and competent in Spanish, facilitating her ability to read and translate historical documents in these languages.

She has taken many courses, in person and online, in genealogy, and belongs to the following organizations:  NEHGS, DAR, Colonial Dames, APG, NGS, the Ulster Historical Society, the Palm Springs Genealogical Society, the Royal Society of St. George, the Plantagenet Society, as well as others.

Carla: Jean, I’m probably the “senior” member of this exceptional group! Although I’ve spent most of my professional life in the field of education (over 25 years as a history teacher and 15 years in an administrative capacity), my true passion has always been history, genealogy, and writing. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in History, French, and Secondary Education from the University of Memphis, and did my graduate work there in history and economics. Because of the many educational presentations and conferences that I have given and organized over the years, I turned those experiences to the field of genealogy after my retirement in 2011. I have been a lecturer and workshop leader in such areas as beginning genealogy, women’s history, and ways to share research results. I’ve also provided private consultation, helping others develop their family history research and personal family trees. I’m a member of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, the United States Daughters of 1812, the National Huguenot Society, the Huguenot Society of the Founders of Manakin in the Colony of Virginia, and the Clan Maitland Society of North America. I also belong to the Tennessee Genealogical Society, the West Tennessee Historical Society, the Middle Tennessee Genealogical Society, the Southern California Genealogical Society, the Celtic Society of West Tennessee, and a number of other historical/genealogical organizations. I’m very proud to be a member of the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors. I was the First Place Winner in Category IV (Unpublished Authors) in their 2012 Excellence-in-Writing Competition. I love to write about the wonderful family stories I’ve encountered over my years of researching, as well as how I came to discover those stories. I currently maintain two blogs: and
As Tina mentioned earlier, my husband developed an illness that has now caused me to become a full-time caregiver and basically homebound for the most part. So my contribution to this outstanding group will be as a “silent” partner, editing work whenever possible and providing any other support that I can.

Jean: You also have a specialty of lineage research. This is a great service. Can you elaborate some on the St. George Society – you have a page titled “Grand Priory of the United States of the Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem.” I admit, I have never heard of this . . . please explain!

Tina: The Royal Society of St. George, California Chapter is a newly formed chapter. The Royal Society of St. George is the premier English patriotic society, attracting members from all walks of life by: celebrating important dates in English history; supporting and encouraging the young; sharing and maintaining our culture, heritage and traditions; having a voice on issues that affect our country; and supporting charitable causes. I am their genealogist, and Roccie Hill is also a member and the Webmaster. The “Grand Priory of the US of the Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem” is one of the largest chivalric organizations worldwide. It is about the daily emulation of our medieval Lazarite forefathers and their commitment to Hospitaller work and giving from the heart without asking for anything in return. Many groups, such as firefighters, animal shelters and abused children, have benefited from this organization. While this group is not particularly a lineage society, many of its members have a great interest in family history, and I was chosen to be their genealogist to assist them.

Jean: You are a relatively new service so probably most folks have not heard of you. Will you have a booth at upcoming conferences and, if so, which one/s?

Tina: I think I can speak for our group that most of us, due to our schedules and family obligations, will attend local meetings and conferences. Sheri is lucky that she lives in Los Angeles and has been able to represent us at Jamboree.

Roccie: Next year we will definitely be represented at the main conferences!

Jean: You also have a blog and a recent post, by Sheri McNeil Savory, dealing with DNA and understanding the results. Will Sheri work directly with people needing explanation? Any interesting stories you can share about discoveries from that area of genealogy?

Tina: Sheri will definitely be our “go-to” person for DNA, as well as other research specialties. She has done analysis for many of my clients and helped them get a better understanding of what their DNA results really  mean. Many of them have continued using Sheri to help with their DNA cousin matches. Sheri and I worked on two particular cases that were solved using DNA. In one case, our client discovered his surname was not his blood surname. It taught me the importance of educating our clients beforehand about potential results. A current case we are both involved in is helping a man in his late 80s discover his ancestry and go to visit his ancestral land of Wales this Spring. Sheri is also ghost writing his family history to hand down to his descendants.

Jean: Another blog post deals with Facebook resources for genealogical research. This is another way folks can network and assist each other across a great expanse. Do you have any stories of a discovery that happened because of the use of Facebook? Please tell the experience(s)!!

Tina: While I was not directly involved, I attended a local lecture at the Tennessee Genealogical Society. A member was excited as she told us a DNA match cousin was in town and coming to the lecture, and they would meet for the first time. They had corresponded up to that point via Facebook. It was a great moment to share with them.

Jean: One last question from me . . . the photo on the home page of your website is lovely. Is there a story behind it? I love the split of the two roads and wonder what’s down each one . . . can you tell us?

Tina: The entire team has had client work that has delved into their client’s past and present day families. Family history is not only researching ancestors, but also sharing and learning about their descendants, especially today with the important contribution of DNA. Personally, I do Probate, and it involves the ancestor who has died and researching his living heirs.

Roccie: So very happy to hear your comment on the photo, Jean.  Thanks!

Carla: I, too, love that photo and believe that it is a perfect representation of Tina’s vision.

Jean: Is there anything else that you want folks to know?

Tina: We invite everyone to visit our website, or to email us with any questions or comments at While Sherie, Roccie, Carla, and I work as a team, we all know the importance of networking and learning from others. That is why we felt it was important to sponsor an educational opportunity that Jean and Gena are doing on their Cruise.

Thanks Tina, Roccie, and Carla!

--Jean Wilcox Hibben

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