Presenter Interview: Lisa Louise Cooke, Genealogy Gems

(Copyright (c) 2015 Cynthia Shenette) I had the opportunity to interview Lisa Louise Cooke, the owner of the Genealogy Gems genealogy and family history multimedia company.  She is the producer and host of the Genealogy Gems Podcast, a frequent speaker and the author of four books--Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy Powerhouse, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers, The Genealogist's Google Toolbox, and Genealogy Gems: Ultimate Research Strategies.  

Lisa will present "How to Use Evernote for Genealogy," "Mastering Using Google for Common Surname Searches," and "The Google Earth Genealogy Game Show" at the New England Regional Genealogy Conference.  NEGRC will be held at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence, RI on April 15-18, 2015.

Why and when did you become interested in genealogy?

I was an early bloomer, catching the bug when I was about 8 years old. I stumbled across some old photo albums at my Grandmother’s house that contained old black and white photos of people I didn’t recognize. I asked her about it, and we were off and running. I was the only kid in my class using her allowance to buy death certificates!

What do you do to prepare for a Genealogy Gems podcast?

Podcasting is about 10% recording and 90% preparation and post production. Every day I scour the web for anything I think will help my listeners have greater success in their family history journey. I’m also constantly networking and interviewing experts, and most importantly spending time on my listener emails so I can keep my finger on the pulse of what’s important to them. And I LOVE sharing their ideas and comments on the show.

What is your favorite "traditional" genealogy source?

I would have to say the census, simply because it is the backbone of going back in time. It’s such a rich source and is particularly exciting for folks new to genealogy because they can make quick progress with it. I especially enjoy the British census records which were often and written by our ancestor!

Do you have a special tip or trick for finding family history information in newspapers?

One of my favorite strategies that has been paying off big lately is searching for addresses. I talked about this in depth recently in Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode #174. After hitting a goldmine of articles in the British Newspaper Archive on my husband’s family, I switched gears from names and focused on addresses. Two of my most exciting finds: Great Grandfather Cooke’s home listed for sale in the classifieds just before they bought it featuring a thorough description of the property (the house, the gardens, the neighborhood), and an auction, also listed in the classifieds, several years later stating that the owner was “going abroad” and listing all of their household possessions! The newspaper clippings provided a look into their personal world that I could have not obtained any other way.

What is your favorite tech tool for genealogy/family history research?

That’s a hard one to answer. The overarching answer is the tech tool that fits the question at hand. But if I had to pick, I think it would be Google Earth because it combines location with time frame. And it supports our work from a variety of angles: search, research analysis, and storytelling. I could talk about it for hours. How much time do you have?

What one tool do you think every genealogist should have in his or her technology toolbox?

If we are talking hardware, then I would have to say a smartphone and/or tablet. These little computers in our pockets make it a breeze to snap photos, shoot video, capture document images, record interviews with relatives, translate and magnify documents, organize and carry all our research notes, and the list goes on and on. It’s all about mobile these days. The key is to invest a bit of time getting to know your device and how it works and then adding on the apps that get jobs done. I’ll be covering that in depth in my class ["How to Turn your iPad or Tablet into a Genealogy Powerhouse"] at the conference on Wednesday morning.

Is there a technology tool you would like to explore more in depth in the near future?

My passion these days is data visualization. Technology is making it possible to see our data and research in new and exciting ways, opening up opportunities for analysis we’ve never done before. I think I need to give up sleeping to invest the time I would like to in this field!

Who is your favorite ancestor and why?

It’s a hard question to answer because it depends how we define favorite. There are those I find likable and affable. There are those who I admire for their sheer grit and determination. And then there are those who have guided me, sometimes with a hand I swear I can feel on my shoulder or whisper in my ear, that I thank every day for leading me to exciting breakthroughs and the opportunity to reintroduce them to this current generation of our family. My Great Grandmother Lenora Herring is one of those ancestors. You can hear her story and how she guided me in Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode #39.

Have you experienced frustration in researching a particular "brick-wall" ancestor in your personal genealogy?

Yes, just like everyone else I have brick-walls. Probably the one that weighs on me the most is my Great Grandfather Sporowski’s family. He was born in Kotten, East Prussia in 1881 according to his naturalization papers. His wife was born not terribly far away, and I have found all the church records for her family several generations back. But I have come up with nothing for Kotten. I believe it was a small village and that it was located in what was Kreis Johannisburg, but so far dead ends for records from that time period. Just talking about it makes me want to jump back into the search! It’s been a few years since I really sat down and devoted hours to it. Genealogy Gems and traveling keeps me pretty busy these days.

What do you do in your spare time?  Do you have any hobbies?

It might be shorter to list what is not one of my hobbies. I enjoy playing music (piano, guitar and ukulele), swimming, shooting, sewing, decorating, decorative painting, old movies, canning, gardening, cake decorating, knitting…but most of all spending time with family, particularly my grandkids.

Do you have any upcoming projects or books you would like to talk about?

I always have irons in the fire. Some are too early to talk about publicly, but I can say that we have created a new small sound studio where we’ll be filming new content very soon for the Genealogy Gems YouTube Channel, and for Genealogy Gems Premium Members on our website. I’m very excited about that! You will also see a new book from me by the end of the year. Our free weekly newsletter is the best way to stay abreast of what’s coming up. You can sign up on our website’s homepage. I would love to stay in touch with all the genealogists from NERGC 2015.

If you would like more information on Lisa Louise Cooke check out her website, Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems, or listen to her Genealogy Gems Podcast for "nuggets of inspiration and innovation."

Other Posts You Might Like:

Meditation: The Strength of Ordinary Women
A Comedy of Errors: My Family in the Census (Part 1 of 3)
More than Meets the Eye - Tuesday's Tip
Analyzing A Photo: The Holiday Party


Celia Lewis said...

Great interview questions, Cynthia. And very interesting answers. I wonder if Lisa ever sleeps for more than 2 hours!

Barbara Poole said...

Nice article, Cindy. Lisa is a favorite webinar lecturer of mine and I was glad you got to interview her. You always hear a happy person when she speaks.

Jana Iverson Last said...


I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

Have a wonderful weekend!

Cynthia Shenette said...

Celia, Barbara, and Jana,

Thank you all for your nice comments! I enjoyed interviewing Lisa very much and am looking forward to hearing her speak at NERGC.

Jana thanks for the mention in Fab Finds! I appreciate it!

Unknown said...

Very interesting interview.

Cynthia Shenette said...

Thanks, Sharon!