Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Conversation with Pamela Boyer Sayre

Last week, as part the effort to share some information at the upcoming New England Regional Genealogical Conference (NERGC), I had the opportunity to talk to one of the speakers, Pamela Boyer Sayre. I have never met Pam before, but I will meet her a couple of weeks before NERGC at the Fairfax Genealogical Society’s Spring Conference. It was a fun conversation (although interrupted by my toddler who refused to nap like he was supposed to…) and I am looking forward to meeting Pam. I thought you might enjoy learning a little about Pam too – and learning a little about her “life before genealogy” and the path that led her to where she is now.

Pam has nearly always been curious about her family’s history. When she was a child, she would listen at the door to the stories of the “old days.” In 8th grade, her teacher gave the class an assignment to find out about the origins of their surname. Pam started looking into it, and before she knew it, she was hooked! Genealogy has been part of her life ever since. Still, it has been a winding path from 8th grade to being the well-known genealogy teacher and writer she is now.

While Pam was in college, she worked for a police department in New Mexico. She didn’t have good enough vision to get a job in a high profile police department, so she worked for the New Mexico University Campus Police, mostly investigating sex crimes. Pam enjoyed the problem solving aspect of her job. She liked thinking logically and reaching conclusions that she could prove – and that would stand up in court. She also honed her skills writing solid reports. After a while though, Pam began feeling restless in her job, and got tired of the focus on the negative that was inherent in investigating crimes.

So, Pam made a career change. And no – it wasn’t to being a genealogist. Not yet! First, she worked in personnel administration, first in New Mexico, then in California, and finally in Boston, Massachusetts. Here, her boss persuaded her to learn some computer programming. Pam soon became involved in technical writing, documenting software program, and seeking to make technical subjects understandable to the average person. This new career path led her St. Louis.

Pam enjoyed her job – but there was something she loved even more. Her love of genealogy had only increased through the years. She spent her lunch breaks reading family history journals and her evenings at the local Family History Center. One day, she said to herself: There’s got to be a way to make a living doing this. And there was! As Pam said, “I finally found my niche. And I was able to use everything I had learned along the way.” Pam draws on her background of problem solving, writing reports, developing proofs, and using – and explaining how to use – computer programs to be a more effective genealogist.

Today, Pam is an integral part of the genealogy community (and a resident of Virginia). She has run a genealogy business entitled Memory Lane and has been involved in numerous societies, serving on boards for groups such as the Federation of Genealogical Societies, the National Genealogical Society, and the Genealogical Speakers Guild. Pam's real passion, though, is teaching and writing. And she has certainly been busy in these fields. Pam is the co-author of Online Roots: How to Discover Your Family’s History and Heritage with the Power of the Internet and Research in Missouri, and is the past editor of the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly. She has spoken in 31 different states and has taught at Samford University, Boston University, and in many other settings.

Pam will be giving two lectures at NERCG. She will speak about “Effective Editing and Writing” and on “Maps: Where to Find Them And How to Use Them.” You can check out the entire program for NERGC on its website here. And, you can register – because you won’t want to miss it! – online here. NERGC will be held April 6-10 in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Watch for interviews of other NERGC speakers being posted on other genealogy blogs this week – and get a more personal view of some of these fabulous speakers!


  1. I can't wait to see, hear and meet Pam too!

  2. Very nice profile, Leslie. Pam is a great genealogist, and it's nice to hear a little of her story.

  3. I have heard Pam give presentations a couple of times - she is great! A wonderful teacher, develops audience rapport very easily, and has a great sense of humor.