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!

19 January 2012

Meet the Team: Leona Thomas

This week's guest post is by Genealogists for Families team member Leona Thomas from Scotland.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born in, and live in Edinburgh, Scotland - but I'm not Scottish, having an Irish Mum and an English Dad! I was Primary teacher for 20 years and am now an EAL (English as an Additional Language) teacher. I adore animals and have an elderly lady cat (Smokie) at the moment. I am also an enthusiastic amateur genealogist. I have taken on some commissions lately to do research for friends (who insisted on paying me) and word is spreading so hope to have a few more projects on the go soon! It all started when I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of 9 people whose family tree would be researched for the TV programme 'Extraordinary Ancestors' made by Channel 4 in 2000. I was taken to Germany where we filmed for 5 days to put together my Prussian family history roots - back to 1620! Perhaps the most rewarding thing lately has been making links to living cousins and being able to tell them their family history - and even meeting up - which we have done a few times in the last couple of years.

How did you hear about the Genealogists for Families project?

Through the newsletter from LostCousins by Peter Calver. He runs a super website and I've found a few of MY lost cousins this way!

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

So often you put money in a collecting tin or donate to some good cause or other - but you never really feel in touch with who you are helping - and maybe even wonder if it DOES get to the people who need it. This seemed to address those concerns.

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

I worked with a little girl from Africa today who has such potential, and having heard of what her life had been, I thought I would look for an African cause to support.

Is there a borrower whose success story inspired you?

I chose the Sikulu group in Kenya. Solomon is a father of three children. He joined One Acre Fund in order to access fertilizer and hybrid seeds and ensure food security for his family. With income from maize sales, Solomon wants to educate his children. I looked for a specific child-centred or education project but there wasn't one at this time and this seemed a good alternative.

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

I decided to take this amount from the money paid to me to do family research. I felt that I might have spent that amount on something trivial without thinking much about it - but the same amount of money could do so much more used this way.

Your Web sites?

I am co-administrator of the Kannenberg Surname Group and administrator of the Thomas Family Tree group - both on Facebook.

What are your main family history interests?

Kannenberg (from Prussia), McCarthy (Co. Down, N.Ireland), Thomas (Portsmouth and St Germans / Landrake, Cornwall), Chissel / Chiswell (Cornwall), Campbell (Co. Down, N.Ireland), Butler (Buckinghamshire), Besant (Portsmouth), Ruse (St Germans, Cornwall).
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Join Genealogists for Families. Together we can make a difference!


  1. Leona, thanks for supporting the Genealogists for Families project. Peter from LostCousins did a great job of recruiting new members via his excellent e-newsletter.

    You mentioned education projects. From what I've seen, loans in the Education sector tend to be either for businesses who train people, or young adults wanting loans for further education. Many borrowers in other categories need a loan to expand their businesses so they can pay school fees for their children.

    Being on the TV show 'Extraordinary Ancestors' must have been an amazing experience. I would love to hear more about it.

  2. How long have you got?! It was a wonderful experience! Wish I had a copy of the programme - I only have an old video version we taped off the TV when it was screened - need to get it put on to a DVD!

    1. Leona, if you decide to start a genealogy blog, you could tell the story there. (Hint hint) :-)

  3. Sounds like great fun being involved with the TV program. Isn't it great how Genealogists for Families have brought so many diverse people together.

    1. Yes, it is. There are lots of benefits. An Australian team member will (on her travels) be meeting an overseas member for a personal tour of a record office there. A team member in Britain is coming to Australia later this year, and hopefully some of us can rendezvous with her. Our social get-togethers in Brisbane have been a great success, and there will be more here and in Adelaide, Sydney and possibly other areas. The Meet the Team series of posts introduce us to new people and resources. The possibilities are endless!

  4. Leona, you said that you looked for specific child-centred or education projects. You may be interested to know that Strathmore University in Kenya is now a Kiva Field Partner handling loans to some students.


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