In 2011 we won an award for Best New Community Project. 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 $5 via Kiva Zip or $25 via Kiva. Similar loans by other lenders are combined until the required total is reached. As your money is repaid (often in monthly instalments), 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!

24 November 2011

Meet the Team: Gill Chesney-Green

This week's guest post is by Genealogists for Families team member Gill Chesney-Green from Nottingham in the United Kingdom.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I'm now retired from teaching drama in the UK and divide my time between living there and in Gibraltar. I do a little genealogy (not as much as before because the tree is pretty full now and I'm running out of information that is available until further records are transcribed), astrology, a little counselling, singing and playing guitar in Gibraltar (for fun not a career choice!) and dabbling in little 'crafty' activities as the mood takes me.

How did you hear about the Genealogists for Families project?

I've often found that life throws up a series of 'happy accidents'. I'd been doing some genealogy work and looking for links to mental health and genealogy. I stumbled upon the 'Wandering Genealogist' site and his forebear who ended up in an asylum. It was on his site that I found the Geneameme, which was interesting, so in an idle moment I filled in answers to the questions and sent it off to Geniaus. It was not very long before I received a reply from Judy Webster who'd noticed that my email contained a link to Kiva, and I was invited to join the team.

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

I've been a member of Kiva since 2006. I was initially drawn to them because I felt that the money I gave was going to do more good than any money I donated to charities that filtered money down to the recipients in a less targeted manner. Who would best know what a man or woman wanted and needed but they themselves? I liked that. Peer to peer lending... the person who knew what they needed to get them on their feet and an individual able to lend an amount of money to aid that need in being met. Back in those days one could donate any amount to any recipient and I loaned larger amounts than the $25 now suggested. Once I started, I was hooked, and constantly re-donated my money and added to it over time.

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

The borrowers are not chosen for any other reason than that I like what they are trying to do. I don't concentrate on gender, geographical location or type of business particularly... although I remember being particularly drawn to one man from Palestine who was in such fear for his life that he had to remain anonymous. I couldn't imagine how risky this venture was for him and how 'near the edge' his life must have been. I donated to him because of his determination to better his life and that of his family in the face of such difficulties. Sometimes I just pick borrowers in order on the list, feeling that if they are there asking for help they don't particularly want me to make a judgement about whether they or someone else is more 'worthy' of the money I loan.

Was there a borrower whose success story inspired you?

In the early days of my association with Kiva, when the loans were fewer, I used to follow the progress of the entrepreneurs; but, to my shame, I don't any more. I'm happy to know that the recipients are able to fulfil some of their plans and that their lives and those of their families will be enriched. This is enough for me to know... that their lives are better than before and that, with continued effort, they will carry on getting better.

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

Originally I'd earned some money, in addition to my teaching job, by doing some work for the BBC (writing their GCSE Drama revision pages on the BBC 'Bitesize' website). When I stumbled upon Kiva I felt that this was a good way to use some of this extra money in a sensible way that wasn't purely selfish. I used a good portion of this money for Kiva's benefit and over the years have added to it when I can. It'll never come back into my hands directly now. What I haven't had I don't miss.

What is your Web site?

Astrologica (www.astrologica.co.uk)

Family history interests?

The most interesting areas of my family history are the Swinnocks from Kent (in Maidstone from late 1500s) and Tebbs from Yorkshire (from where my family's mental health issues seem to emanate). I hope my children and grandchildren will carry on the search when I'm gone.
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Join Genealogists for Families. Together we can make a difference!

17 November 2011

Meet the Team: Chris Paton

This week's guest post is by Genealogists for Families team member Chris Paton from Largs, North Ayrshire, United Kingdom.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Although Northern Irish, I have been working as a family historian professionally in Ayrshire, Scotland, for six years, having previously spent 12 years in television documentary production for the BBC and others. As well as genealogical research, I also write regularly for several British family history publications, and have a few books published in the UK and Australia.

How did you hear about the Genealogists for Families project?

My first exposure to Genealogies for Families was through an announcement on Twitter by a fellow Scottish based genealogist, Kirsty Wilkinson, who announced that she had made a loan. I bookmarked it to have a look at in due course, but when contacted by Judy, one of the project's co-ordinators and its originator, I thought I'd better get my act together and actually have a proper look! I did so, and was really impressed by the concept.

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

As family historians, it's our job to uncover and preserve a family story for the generations to come. But you can only do that if there is a story to preserve, and there's something even more exciting about helping people to create such a story in the first place. In due course, perhaps some future family historian can recall such stories, long after we are all gone – but whether that happens or not, in the here and now, one loan can help to change a person's life, and that's got to be reason enough.

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

I chose a 26 year old grocery store owner in Iraq, whose identity remains anonymous because of the political situation in his country. In 1991, when I went to university in Bristol, England, I was given a small bursary from a trust fund set up in the name of an MP called Ian Gow, who was murdered during the Northern Irish Troubles. For various reasons the first year of my course had to be fully funded by myself, and that small bursary made one hell of a difference - it paid my rent in Bristol for a few weeks, which allowed me space to find a part time job to finance the rest of the year. A small loan now to someone else in a troubled area is a privilege to make. If it works for the recipient, the money will be repaid and I can re-invest; if not, it was as much a gamble to try and help someone from a troubled area as was once shown to me.

Is there a borrower whose success story inspired you?

Afraid not, this is a new territory for me! But I do like the concept of Judy's father's 'Do good money'. It seems a sound philosophy. So I will try to invest periodically, perhaps once a month.

What is your Web site / blog?

My research website is Scotland's Greatest Story (www.scotlandsgreateststory.co.uk), whilst I also run two genealogy news blogs, Scottish GENES (Genealogy News and EventS) (http://scottishancestry.blogspot.com/) and British GENES (Genealogy News and EventS) (http://BritishGENES.blogspot.com/).

What are your main family history research interests?

I'm very much interested in Scottish land and church records, and Irish records of all sorts. Not so interested in long lists of names in trees as the stories that can be found out about each of them - an ancestor's name means nothing to me without one.
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Join Genealogists for Families. Together we can make a difference!

16 November 2011

Repayment Day

My emails this morning included good news from Kiva: "We'd like to give you a repayment update on the loans you've made through Kiva. A total of $25.99 has been repaid today." (I made a lot of loans in September and October, hence the large repayment.) Needless to say I will be lending it again. I am looking forward to choosing my next borrower - I enjoy that process immensely!

If you are new to Kiva you may not know that repayments are usually made on the 17th or 18th of the month. Of course, it depends on the repayment schedule for your borrower. To find out what that is, look for something like this on the borrower's profile page (near the photo) and click on 'more info'.


Some of my loans are being repaid in monthly installments. Others are less regular (for example, if the business involves the raising and selling of livestock).

To see the 'big picture' for your repayments, go to 'Portfolio' - 'Estimated Repayments'.


Last month my repayments were only $3, so I added $22 and made another loan. This month's $25+ is very convenient!

10 November 2011

Meet the Team: Thomas MacEntee

This week's guest post is by Genealogists for Families team member Thomas MacEntee from Chicago, Illinois, United States.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I consider myself a professional genealogist specializing in social media and technology. I write articles for publications, I teach classes and give lectures both in-person and over the Internet via webinar. I created and manage the GeneaBloggers website which lists over 2000 family history blogs. I absolutely love what I do and want to make sure that each person who wants to search for their roots can take advantage of the many tools and resources in the genealogy community.

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

Being part of Genealogists for Families actually helps bring me back to my roots, to the way my ancestral families have always operated: being available to assist others in a time of need. Through my research, I've found that in many of the small towns where my families settled, there was an underlying support system and a prevailing attitude that "helping one person or one family succeed means we all succeed."

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

I chose a borrower who actually had a business related to history. She is creating a cultural tour business and since I know that heritage travel is a growing industry, I believe she'll be very successful.

Was there a borrower whose success story inspired you?

What struck me most about the borrower I selected was her determination and tenacity. She is located in New Orleans which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. With practically all the odds against her, she moved back there not only because her roots are there, but because she is committed to the rebuilding of New Orleans.

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

While money is tight for me, I looked around at everything I had and I knew that $25 or even more is an amount I could spare.

What is your Web site?

GeneaBloggers (www.geneabloggers.com)

What are your main family history interests?

Dutch lines of Dence, Putman, and Van Slyke; English lines of Austin, Crandall and Leehive; Huguenot lines of Deyo, Freer and Lefevre; Irish lines of Farren, MacEntee/McEntee, McGinnes and Slattery.
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Join Genealogists for Families. Together we can make a difference!

05 November 2011

Recruiter's Reward

To help the project grow, I am offering a Recruiter's Reward. I will personally email a $25 Kiva Card to the Genealogists for Families team member who recruits the most new members by 15 Dec 2011.

On 15 Dec 2011 (Australian time) I will look at team members' lender pages to see how many names (if any) are listed under 'YourName's Invites'. To see an example, go to my page (opens in a new window) and scroll down to 'Judy's Invites'. The person who has recruited the most new members who have made a loan will be rewarded with a $25 Kiva Card.

If your given name appears on the team members list, you are eligible. If you are there as Anonymous, you may want to change the settings on your lender page so that you can take part in competitions and prize draws.

'Invites' will appear on your lender page if someone joins the team via your unique Kiva invitation link. You can put that link in your emails, blogs etc. To find the HTML code to use:
  1. Log in to Kiva.
  2. Click 'My Teams'.
  3. Click 'Genealogists for Families'.
  4. Click 'Recruit Friends'. You will see a screen that looks like this (but with your referral link, not mine, in the field at the bottom).

The recruiting strategy that has worked best for me is a brief email to friends, relatives and other people who know me (including family historians with whom I connect online). Here is a sample email:

Genealogists worldwide, and their friends and relatives, are working as a team to help small family businesses in low income areas. Our motto is, 'We care about families (past, present and future)'. Already the Genealogists for Families project has 63 members helping 91 individuals or groups. It would be great if you'd join our team at [insert your Kiva referral link here]. More information is on http://genfamilies.blogspot.com/. If you know someone else who may be interested, please forward this email.

I avoid using the word 'loan' in the email in case it gets marked as spam. To get the latest stats on members and loans, scroll down the team page at Kiva.

So... the race is on! Be creative, have fun, and know that someone out there will have a better life because of your efforts.

UPDATE, 15 Dec 2011: The winner of the Recruiter's Reward has been announced.

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!

01 November 2011

Col Webster: inspiration for Genealogists for Families

Joan Miller (co-captain of 'Genealogists for Families') has asked me to write about my father, Col Webster, who was the inspiration for this project.

Col Webster at the age of 86
Colin Clifford Webster (son of William Donald Webster and Florence Hudson) was born in 1919. He was proud of the fact that he had the same address for seventy years ("Plain View", Cunnamulla, Queensland, Australia - an outback grazing property where he raised sheep and cattle). My sisters and I grew up there too. Dad loved the land and the way of life, and some of his reminiscences are in Outback Story.

In 1989 my parents moved to southeast Queensland. Before my mother died in 1996, she said, "Your father will be lonely. Promise me you'll visit him often." That was an easy promise to keep, as I was only an hour's drive away and I enjoyed Dad's company. We worked together in the garden, he taught me about birds, we swapped books and we talked for hours.

Dad was quiet, unassuming, kind and considerate, with a great sense of humour. He was a true gentleman who lived his whole life with honesty, integrity, compassion and generosity.

He loved to give away fruit, vegetables and flowers from his large garden; and he was also generous in less conventional ways. A few weeks before Christmas, Dad and I would go to the local country markets where one of the stalls sold homemade goodies to raise money for charity. Dad would pay for a Christmas cake or pudding and tell the stallholder to give it to the next person who came by.

For as long as I can remember, my father set aside a sum of money that he would periodically lend to a hard-working person in urgent need of help. We called it his 'Do Good Money'. Dad passed away last year at the age of ninety, and I want to honour his memory by continuing his tradition. That is why I joined Kiva and established the 'Genealogists for Families' project.

My father was my friend and my hero, and I miss him. If his story can inspire others to join Genealogists for Families and establish the 'Do Good' tradition in their own lives, the world will be a better place.