Faces of NextGen LIVE! Meet Sara Cochran

The NextGen Genealogy Network’s Faces of NextGen LIVE! is a popular feature hosted by Education Coordinator Eric Wells. In this recorded interview, get to know Sara Cochran, The Skeleton Whisperer!

Want to say hello to your fellow young genealogists during a fun and informal interview with Eric? Let us know at info@tnggn.org.

Don’t forget to bookmark our YouTube Channel to keep up with the latest on Faces of NextGen LIVE!


Advocating for Diversity

Editor’s Note: This is one of a series of guest posts highlighting the ways in which intergenerational connections have inspired young genealogists. To learn more about how the NextGen Genealogy Network encourages young genealogists to build connections between all generations, see the NextGen Connection Challenge.

For some, joining a new community can be exhilarating – what could be more thrilling than an opportunity to interact and make new connections? For others, this question would only be uttered with heaps of sarcasm – could there be anything worse than interacting with strangers and making small talk? I happen to fall somewhere in between these two extremes – an introverted genealogist, who also enjoys learning from and teaching others. As a result, my first endeavor to join a genealogical society began with a mix of reluctance and anticipation.

My first meeting with the local genealogical society took place at the city library. The group was small and unassuming, and I was pleased (though not surprised) to discover that I was the youngest attendee. Because I have always held a deep reverence for my elders, and particularly enjoy listening to their recounts of the past, it was a reassuring setting. At the close of the meeting, I was asked to join the board. The invitation was a surprise, and a kind gesture that immediately made me feel welcome. In short, day one with my new community was a success.

Fast-forward 3 years. After many more meetings, a few frustrations, and a great deal of learning and growth: I have learned how better to collaborate with members of a different generation, have proposed technological solutions to problems (some met with excitement and others with bewilderment), and have learned research tips from experienced researchers.  It has been a fulfilling journey. However, I have also discovered what I feel is missing from my small genealogical community: diversity. Though I have learned to appreciate society members’ form of interacting and their passion for sharing family stories, I have also realized that our group is very homogeneous – a circumstance that inevitably moderates the depth and richness of our interactions.

At one point, I considered looking elsewhere for this diversity. I thought my time would be better spent working with a group already successful in diversifying its membership. And then I thought better of it – as a valued member of my society, I have an opportunity to propose a new direction for accomplishing our mission. I can leverage my newfound friendships to cultivate collaboration and innovation within and across generations. It’s an exciting prospect.

And with the lessons I have learned over the past 3 years, I believe I will be successful. I am looking forward to the challenge – and the inevitable outcome of increased diversity (of people and of thought) in our little society. Perhaps even this introvert can make a difference!

Lisa Medina is a devoted family historian with experience researching American and Mexican genealogy. She lovingly shares much of this research with her family – a husband of 8 years and a captivated 5-month old son. When not researching, Lisa is a busy University Registrar. She is also currently a Board member of the Escondido Genealogical Society.

Faces of NextGen: Meet Joseph Haines

Joseph Haines, 35, Ohio

What five words would you use to describe yourself? Five words I would use to describe myself would be wise, witty, loyal, passionate, & prudent.

 Why genealogy? Why genealogy? Wow, that is the toughest easy question I’ve ever had to answer. And I only say it’s tough to answer because there are so many excellent reasons why genealogy is extraordinary. But for me, I find it fascinating how genealogy connects the past to the future in a very interpersonal way via the present actions of us genealogists.

 What’s the coolest discovery you’ve made? The coolest discovery I’ve made involved DNA testing. Prior to getting mine done, I had hit a brick wall as far as the identity of the father of one of my great-grandmothers. No father was listed on her birth certificate and the wrong person was listed as her father on her death certificate. However, a Social Security Claims Index gave me yet another name that I could not confirm anything about. Fast forward years later to me uploading my raw DNA to GEDMATCH, and my closest match shared the same surname as the man listed on that S.S. Claims Index. I knew I was on to something. Sure enough, I eventually discovered that the man listed was indeed her father. Contacts through GEDMATCH put me in contact with a granddaughter of his that was born from different relationship. She is now in her late 70’s and has provided a wealth of information about my 2nd great-grandfather and his lineage. And if it wasn’t for DNA testing, I may have never met this 1st cousin, 2x removed to obtain any of this information.

What are you working on this week? This week I am working on accurately naming the file names of over 4000 family photos I have recently scanned. I know, it doesn’t sound very exciting, but it has to be done. And when I’m not working on that, I am working on writing material for a blog I plan to launch soon.

What’s the number one secret to your success in genealogy? The number one secret to my success in genealogy is my desire to learn as much as I can about the subject. My mind is a sponge when it comes to genealogy-related topics. And no matter how far I end up going down a genealogy career path, I’ll always be a student because there will always be something new to learn.

 What superpower would you want to help you uncover your family history? I’ve tried to come up with a “not so obvious” answer to this question, but let’s get real. It would have to be the ability to travel through time. However, I’ve seen Back to the Future enough times to know that I could only observe and not interact. You know, that whole space-time continuum thing can get pretty messy if you interfere with history. Although, it would be a little difficult to not drop a couple anonymous tips to certain fire departments regarding impending courthouse fires!!!

 What are we most likely to find you doing when you’re not researching family history? When I’m not researching family history, I’m learning about it. Whether it be podcasts, books, webinars, etc…I’m always learning. And genealogy is my life. But that’s ok. Because that is the life I want!

The NextGen Genealogy Network is made up of young genealogists with diverse backgrounds, interests, and experiences. Faces of NextGen showcases a different member of our community each month. If you would like to be considered for an upcoming feature, simply complete our questionnaire and submit a selfie.

NGGN Welcomes Treasurer

The NextGen Genealogy Network welcomes Joseph Haines as our new Treasurer.



Joseph replaces Barry Kline, the 2013-2017 NextGen Treasurer.  Joseph is an avid genealogist who currently resides in Ohio.  He specializes in courthouse research and has an interest in forensic genealogy.   He also hopes to become a Certified Genealogist within the next few years.

He can be found online on Twitter @beardedrootsman.  Contact him at The NextGen Genealogy Network at info@tnggn.org