We enable people without access to traditional banks (including many women) to expand their businesses, educate their children, save for the future and raise themselves out of poverty. Through Kiva, a non-profit organisation working with microfinance institutions, you choose a borrower to support with a loan of just $25. Similar loans by other lenders are combined until the required total is reached. As your money is repaid you can withdraw it or lend it to someone else. Money that is loaned over and over again does more good than a one-time donation. Join 'Genealogists for Families' - together we are making a difference!

03 November 2011

Meet the Team: Joan Miller

The Genealogists for Families project began through the generosity of one woman doing what we family historians and genealogists do well - remembering those that came before. Australian Judy Webster has created a worldwide project of like minded individuals helping others, while honouring her father's 'do good' philosophy of making a difference. I am honoured to be part of this project.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Joan Miller and I'm a genealogist from Western Canada. My home is in Calgary, Alberta and I am a retired lab manager of a medical research lab. I enjoy using genetic genealogy, social media and technology to complement the paper trail research. I also love to teach about these topics. I'm a long time member and volunteer with Toastmasters International, an organization that teaches effective communication and leadership. I'm also a self proclaimed Genea-Conference groupie. Happily married, proud mother of two, I enjoy genealogy, soccer (yes, I still play), travel (ideally in combination with genealogy) and public speaking.

How did you hear about the Genealogists for Families project?

I first heard of the project when Judy sent me a direct message on Twitter asking if I would be interested in joining. Members of my online social circle were using Kiva, including genetic genealogy buddy, Carole Riley. Carole had been successfully sponsoring microloans through Kiva for awhile. Whenever she made a new loan she would tweet or post a message about Kiva on Facebook; and each time I thought, "I must check this out". But life was busy and I didn't... at first. Judy's invitation to the project was the incentive I needed. This project began September 27, 2011 and I joined soon after on October 3rd.

What do lending and participating in this project mean to you?

The concept of microloans to those less fortunate resonates with me. We are empowering the individual or group with a loan. This is not charity, this is helping others help themselves. I feel good about this project and I especially enjoy being on a team of like minded individuals. I'm not surprised our project has taken off... genealogists are like that. This is the 'Random Act of Kindness' on a global scale.

Did you choose particular borrowers because their occupations or situations have some significance in your family history or your own life?

Choosing a person or groups to sponsor is a heady responsibility when you think about it. Our $25 means so much to someone. I'm an equal opportunity type of person but do lean towards projects where women have shown initiative to create a business. There are many countries where women simply don't have a voice or opportunities to advance. My family's background in agriculture and ranching may have influenced my first two loans, which were to women in the Philippines, one in fishing and the other in pigs. My third loan was to a sewing business run by a man in Bolivia and the fourth loan went to a group in Zimbabwe in the clothing business. All are small businesses with plans to create growth.

When I choose an individual or group, I often select the area of the world first or let Kiva suggest an area, then I sometimes choose a sector (food, clothing or shelter). I scan the list of entrepreneurs asking for loans in that area. I read everything on the page. Do they have children, are they supporting many people, do they have a long range plan, does that plan sound feasible? I also enjoy looking at the pictures. I check the credibility of the field partner managing the loan, as they are responsible for collecting the repayments. I choose field partners with a rating of 3 stars or more. The delinquency rate is another important factor. If the delinquency rate is high I will move on. (The exchange rate doesn't concern me. If I lose on this, so be it.) When the selection is finally made, I include a small percentage for Kiva administration (this is optional). I plan to continue varying locations and gender, and individual vs group when choosing a project. I will keep re-lending as the amounts are paid back.

Do you have a strategy for raising funds or saving for your $25 loans?

We are so fortunate here in Canada. A $25 loan is a small cost when compared to a world deluxe membership at a large online database (which I have) or a trip to the latest conference.

I enjoy helping the project grow and was delighted when Judy asked me to be a co-captain on the project, blog and Facebook group. I am employing my genealogy public relations and social media contacts to help grow the project. We have exciting ideas brewing to bring more awareness to the project. Stay tuned for more.

What is your Web site?

Luxegen Genealogy and Family History (www.luxegen.ca). I'd love to connect with you there or on Twitter @luxegen or Google+.

What are your family history interests?

My roots are homogeneous UK (Ireland and Scotland) with a tiny bit of French. My ancestors came to Canada for a better life as farmers and homesteaders, to Quebec (KERR, 1840s) and to Saskatchewan (IRVINE, early 1900s). One grandmother (WOODLAND) was born in Ontario and had an Irish and French lineage. My other grandmother (WILSON) was born in north eastern Scotland, not far from Aberdeen. My 9th great grandmother (LEMOINE) was born in Paris, France, and came to Quebec as 'une fille du roi' - a 'daughter of the King'. Alas, no royal blood here. This was a program of the French monarchy to sponsor young women to populate New France. There were a lot of lonely frontiersmen! My list of surnames is on my web page.

I believe that true happiness comes when you are busy helping others. The Genealogists for Families Project gives us an opportunity to help others by working together towards a common goal - a goal to make a difference. I thank each and every one of you for making that difference.

Judy, your father would be very proud of you.
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Join Genealogists for Families. Together we can make a difference!


  1. Joan, thanks for all your support, and for making time in your busy week to do a guest post for today's "official opening" of the 'Meet the Team' series. I was interested to see that you and I both choose a borrower in a similar way. I, too, look at the whole page and consider field partners' ratings and delinquency and default rates.

  2. Congratulations on the work you are doing to promote this project.

    I enjoyed reading about your selection method - it shows your rational scientific bsckground! My approach is more haphazard.

  3. Lovely to find out more about you and your thoughts about the project. Looking forward to making a difference with you through this amazing project.


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