Kathleen Brandt - After 20 years of Corporate
Management: New Business Development, System/Network Engineering Training,
Marketing, Product/Project Management and 5 years of teaching college level
English writing intensive courses, and Spanish and French, Kathleen Brandt is now able
to do Genealogical Research full time. She has 10 years experience as a
Professional Genealogist in the Midwest and Southern regions of the USA (to
include Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee). She is called upon to do
nationwide documentation retrieval, look-ups, free-colored research, military
and civil war record retrievals, and tracing slaves. Kathleen Brandt is also a
translator of Spanish and French into English records.
What got you interested in Genealogy?
I love to research anything. In business I used to research new technologies
and dissect them until I could figure out how they meshed with the old and then
write the technology manual or training guides. Now I use those same skills to
research families. Tying research with social, political and family history,
while tracing and assembling the puzzles of families, is very rewarding and I
still stay abreast of new technologies; those applicable to genealogy.
I first began
doing research on my own family which led me to Irish research (Morris) and
free-coloreds (Griffins) of North Carolina. I realized that my early research
defied the standard educational teachings of our American history. I had
questions like why was part of my family classified as free-coloreds in the 1860
How did this classification differ from Whites? Why were free-coloreds
allowed not only to own land but slaves? Why did the free-coloreds in my family
choose to live in communities where they were the only coloreds except
for nearby slaves?
Early on I
learned how politics affected the Melungeons, the emancipation of slaves, and
life in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. And, with just a handful
of knowledge I became addicted to learning more about American and world
history, social history, and politics and how they shaped the lifestyles and
decisions of our ancestors.
I have always
loved reading. But Iíve exchanged my Nora Robertsí books for anything on
genealogy and family histories. Itís more fun following real people with real
travels and travails than fictional characters. (OK, excluding the Harry Potter
You have knowledge and experience in researching African American ancestry.
Can this be more difficult than researching other cultures?
I get excited at every opportunity to research African American ancestry.
I donít find it more difficult but I get to use probably every genealogical
research tool available. I personally believe that researching African
American ancestry makes you more aware of genealogical resources and how to use
them. Certain states required more accountability for free-coloreds and
slaves (property) which if used, the resources of bibles, deeds, will and estate
records, church, and military records, especially Civil War pension records, can
reveal quite a bit.
What I believe makes it more difficult is that everyone wants to use the
Internet and maybe newspapers, and books to do research, but often the
information needed for African American ancestry is tucked away in an archive or
basement of a government building. Iíve seen my share of ďcellarsĒ
researching these records.
So, I would say it costs more (travel) to do African American ancestry than
other cultures, but it isnít necessarily any more difficult, however I do find
it more time consuming.
What are your favorite Genealogy research websites?
Like most genealogists, probably Family Search and
Ancestry.com. After that I love using the various state archivesí online databases.
Each state is different, but I find them to have a plethora of information.
One of your services include translating Spanish and French records into an
English format. Do these countries have good history documentation
comparable to the United States?
Depending on which country. As you probably know today there are 28 countries
with French as its official language, and like English, is considered a global
language since it is spoken on five continents. France has great
documentation back to 1792. The registres díťtat-civil (civil
registration records) gives us information on births, deaths and marriages.
the African country, you may find some African ancestry information
through French records, but due to wars and colonization changes, records are
usually difficult to find. Canada, eastern side, also has French records
that are thorough. It seems that these are the most sought out French
records for translation.
I find that
the Caribbean island records can be spotty. But Iíve had requests in the
past on Garifuna records.
As far as
records from Spain, probably the Judeo-Spanish records are the most
sought out ones to be translated, but of course the hardest to research due to
have a Masters in Romance Linguistics, Languages, Literature and Arts, so
I find the translations fascinating, but still very tedious.
DNA technology has exploded in the Genealogy world. Have you seen the
benefits of DNA testing for family history?
I offer DNA
testing to clients and I often recommend it when Iíve hit a wall. It can
reveal a lot to a genealogist. I like working with the migratory paths, and
with African American ancestry it can be used to prove or disprove a
relationship to a slave master. Even though DNA testing can be a useful tool, I
like to use it as a supplement to research since there are many reasons and uses
for DNA tests.
When researching family history, what are the biggest challenges you have faced?
Time and Money.
Genealogy takes time, but many customers do not understand this. So, I try to
use my blog
a3Genealogy@blogspot.com to educate customers, and I also provide a
realistic timeframe upfront on any job. I also give frequent updates.
I first do as much as possible electronically and locally. In the Kansas City area, we have
the Mid-Continent Genealogy Center which is a genealogical treasure of
books, periodicals and research tools, and of course I can always (usually)
order available microforms.|
But after exhausting these tools, I want to DIG in
the written records. I want to spend days referencing and cross-referencing
county and state records which cost money in travel, hotel, etc.
customers, however, have a limited budget, but traveling to the site, after
exhausting everything else, can be worth every penny of their research dollars.
I have learned a lot from you as I know our readers will. This is the most
rewarding knowledge someone can gain, to understand their history
as opposed to the the general history that dilutes our reality of the past.
Thank you for your valued time.
Kathleen Brandt provides a wonderful service -
Please take the time to read her blog
You can also email her
This concludes the interview with Genealogist