Faces of NextGen: Meet Shelby Ward


Shelby Ward, 30, Tennessee

What five words would you use to describe yourself? Creative, passionate, purpose driven, contextual

Why genealogy? My mom is a natural storyteller, so I grew up hearing family stories. My overall interest in history coupled with my upbringing contributed to my involvement in genealogy.

What’s the coolest discovery you’ve made? Professionally, I am a lawyer. In my genealogy research, I discovered that an ancestor was a plaintiff in civil litigation that went up to the federal Circuit Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in the early 20th century. I think it’s pretty cool to learn how my ancestor came to pursue his case and to explore court records older than I normally see in my everyday work.

What are you working on this week? A relative gave me a cache of funeral programs. I am scanning them and entering information from the programs into a spreadsheet for additional analysis.

What’s the number one secret to your success in genealogy? Always learning from others. I would not have grown as much as I have over the years without learning from other genealogists, reading books, etc.

What superpower would you want to help you uncover your family history? I was going to suggest an automatic interview transcriber (I’m in the process of transcribing oral history interviews). But if I want to uncover new information, I would say a device that magically presented unknown family artifacts and heirlooms.

What are we most likely to find you doing when you’re not researching family history? Listening to podcasts, reading, spending time with my family, scrapbooking, or modern quilting.

Anything else you’d like to share? Join your local genealogy societies! The local resources and information they offer are invaluable. I have joined societies based in Tennessee, Texas, Mississippi, and Arkansas.

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.