Discovering Brave Beginnings: Tracing Your Herstory With Dominique Luster

Brave Women at Work | Dominique Luster | Tracing Your Herstory

 

So, I met today’s guest, Dominique Luster, at a Women’s Leadership Retreat in Lake Las Vegas earlier this year. I took Dominique’s workshop, Your Mother’s Mother’s Mother, which I found fascinating. The premise of the workshop was to learn how to start tracing the powerful lineage of the women in our family, so we can better understand our brave roots. Maybe your mother went to college when it wasn’t popular, maybe your grandmother or your great-grandmother was a first-time immigrant to the U.S. or another country. Whatever the stories of the women in your family, they start to light a fire of power underneath you, showing you that you, too, can do brave and amazing things. I know that when I started learning more about the women in my family, I was inspired. If you take the time after this show to start tracing your herstory, I’m sure you will be, too.

 

During our conversation, Dominique and I chatted about:

 

  1. What led Dominique to be an archivist and why the work is so important.
  2. A piece of poetry Dominique shared from her site, the lustercompany.com.
  3. Some tips and tricks Dominique shared to get started tracing our female lineage.
  4. Why doing this is important for our personal and professional lives.
  5. And how she can help you if you don’t know where to start.

Listen to the podcast here

 

Discovering Brave Beginnings: Tracing Your Herstory With Dominique Luster

Introduction & Background

Welcome to the show. I’m so glad you’re here. How are you doing out there? I met this guest in an interesting way. I met our guest, Dominique Luster, at a women’s leadership retreat in Lake Las Vegas earlier this year, 2024. I took Dominique’s workshop. It’s called Your Mother’s Mother’s Mother, which I found fascinating. The premise of this workshop was to learn how to start tracing the powerful lineage of the women in our families so that we can better understand our brave roots as women.

Maybe your mother went to college when it wasn’t popular. Maybe your grandmother or your great-grandmother was a first-time immigrant to the US or another country. Whatever the stories are for the women in your family, they light a fire of power underneath you that you too, once you know these stories, can do brave and amazing things.

I know when I started learning more about the women in my family, I was inspired. My grandmother was whipper-snapper smart and was a card shark. My other great-grandmother lived to well over 100. She had longevity on her side. If you take the time after the show to start tracing your, and I’m calling it herstory instead of history, herstory, the story of the women in your family lineage, I’m sure you are going to be inspired and motivated too.

During my conversation with Dominique, we chatted about what led her to be an archivist and why the work is so important. Dominique shared a piece of poetry from her site, TheLusterCompany.com. She also shared some tips and tricks to get started tracing the female lineage in your family. She highlights why doing this is important for our personal and professional lives. If you’re like, “I can’t do this. I don’t have time for this,” she shares how she can help you if you don’t even know where to start.

Here is more about Dominique. Like National Treasure meets the Great Migration, Dominique is 1 part archivist, 1 part researcher, and full parts natural-haired bourbon connoisseur with a dash of genealogy for taste. Dominique has been working in the cultural heritage and memory fields for over ten years. In this time, she’s coming to be known as a champion for Black history and Black-centered storytelling.

After working at universities, libraries, and museums across the country, she came to understand that history is not merely a listing of events in chronological order but rather a meticulously curated phenomenon of power. All too often, the stories of marginalized communities are suppressed, oppressed, erased, or forgotten. With this as a North Star, Dominique started The Luster Company to rechart that path. The Luster company is an outpour of spirit by way of helping individuals and organizations uplift, honor, and tell stories that represent the lived experience of the Black diaspora.

Dominique Luster is an experienced and dynamic speaker, researcher, archivist, and CEO. She has demonstrated enthusiasm for uncovering the truth of African American history through her various roles as a Teenie Harris Archivist at the Carnegie Museum of Art, a Liaison Librarian for the University of Pittsburgh, and as CEO and Principal Archivist for The Luster Company.

Her meticulous research and storytelling abilities have been showcased at presentations across the country. Dominique remains committed to bringing out stories that are often left forgotten in order to honor those who came before us and provide a legacy for future generations. Dominique has dedicated her professional life to exploring and documenting the stories of Black people in America. Her passion for research paired with her ability to communicate her expertise makes her an excellent speaker on any topic related to Black history, arts, and culture.

One last thing is Dominique gives us tips for everyone. While Dominique has a focus in her work on Black history, arts, and culture, the nuggets she shares in our conversation can be used by each and every person.

Before we get started, if you are enjoying the show, please make sure to leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. As I always say, if the show has made an impact on you, be sure to share it with a friend, family member, or colleague. Hit the little plus button to subscribe so it gets into your weekly feed, which comes each Thursday. Your readings and reviews help the show continue to grow. If you’ve already left a review, I thank you so much. I’m giving you a virtual hug and high five.

Also, if you haven’t yet downloaded the freebies or my website, please check them out at BraveWomenAtWork.com. I’ve created three for you. The first two deal with mindset. The 1st one is 24 career and leadership affirmations. The 2nd one is 5 steps to manage your imposter syndrome, which I do a lot of work in this area with my coaching clients. Also, we want you all to get paid, so getting paid ten negotiation tips. These are workbook-style guides, so you can put notes in there. You can do them at your own leisure. You can do them when you are ready. They are free, so go and get them on my website at BraveWomenAtWork.com. Let’s welcome Dominique to the show.

 

Brave Women at Work | Dominique Luster | Tracing Your Herstory

 

Dominique, welcome to the show. How are you?

I am really good. How are you?

I’m so good. Let’s dive in. Why don’t you tell us all about your background and how you’ve gotten to where you are?

First, thank you. I’m happy to be here. Everybody, thank you so much for being here. I’m an archivist. To dive right in, my path is not different or complicated, but it has been the path of an archivist. At least my expression or iteration of being an archivist is like National Treasure meets the Underground Railroad kind of a thing. It is the record-keeping, treasure hunting, and saving the lost records stuff of the world. It’s not necessarily in 3D objects like ephemera, textiles, objects baskets, or things like that, although we can collect those things too.

My work as an archivist really specializes in historic documents and collecting, saving, and preserving historic documents all over the country and all over the world. I particularly work with archival documents related to African American history and culture. These are documents that are either by or about the history of Black folk in America and across the diaspora.

I came into this work not having any background in African American history and culture. Besides being a Black woman being raised in Kentucky, which has its own story to it, I came to this work through the mentor of a Black woman. I needed a campus job back in the day when it was $15 an hour for an on-campus college job. Your student job in college was big money. It was a lot of money at that time.

That job happened to be in the special collections library on my campus. They were looking for archival students to work in the special collections library. I was like, “I don’t know what an archivist is,” but it was really interesting. The work is cool. It’s indoors. It’s in the library. It paid $15 an hour. You’re like, “Check.”

It was like, “I don’t have to work at the concession. I don’t have to work in the food hall. I’ll take it.” It was super interesting.

I’m a bit of a nerd. I’ve always been a nerd. I love learning. I’ve always been a really great student, so a library job made perfect sense for me. Had I known then what I know now, I would’ve still done it, but I had no idea that I would find this job on campus as a student worker. You have no privileges or anything here. You are here to shelf the books and print papers. It’s a library job.

My manager in that job is a Black woman who is an archivist. She was like, “You know there are people who have PhDs in this. This isn’t just a summer job. This is a whole career path. People do this for years. There’s a whole history of an archives field.” I was like, “What?” Long story short, she locked me in her office one day and was like, “You’re really good at this. You’re going to go to library school.” I was like, “First of all, why is that door locked? Second of all, what is library school?” She was like, “Don’t worry. We signed you up.” I was like, “What?”

They signed you up?

Yes. They called a friend who called a friend who phoned a friend who phoned somebody. The next fall, I was enrolled in attending my first semester of library school. It’s that wild, and I’m so glad I did. I trusted the arms and the support that were around me. I’m so glad I did because it has been the greatest blessing I could have never seen coming.

First of all, I have to admit I’m jealous because your path was pretty clear. In fact, people were telling you, “You don’t have a choice. We’re locking the door and we’re taking you to library school.” For all of us that don’t have it that clear, I applaud you. I have a little bit of jealousy in there too. That is pretty amazing. I know that I’m going to be sharing more about your snazzy bio and all that stuff. Can you tell us a little bit more? You were at the library school. Is it a traditional four-year? Is it longer? I don’t think I know anyone who has gone to library school, so tell me about that.

For you and anybody reading, it’s very likely that if you use the library at your university or if you’re working with a librarian at your public library who is buying books or things like that, that person went to library school, believe it or not. It’s most likely. You don’t have to. There are plenty of pathways into the work. If you are working with somebody who works in an archive, often someone who may have worked in a local historical society or maybe a genealogist in your state’s local libraries and things like that, most likely, we all went to library school at some point.

It is a two-year program often. I did it in one because I don’t know what else I was thinking. It is typically a two-year program after your undergrad. There’s often a Master’s of Library Science or a Master’s of Information on Library Science. I find it to be one of the most universally applicable degrees to many things, but one of the many things that people do with it is to become a librarian. You can get in archives and special collections or just in archives. You can become an archivist. I’ve seen people go into museum work. I spent a great deal of time in museums. I’ve seen people use it and go to law school.

People have become historians, scholars, writers, and lawyers. I’ve seen people take it into the corporate space and use it to work in knowledge management. I’ve seen people work in banks. It’s a very universally applicable degree because it really teaches you the practical science and understanding of information and information architecture. How is information created, organized, retained, and/or destroyed? There are simply so many applications in which you can apply an understanding of how information is formed that you can take that degree and apply it more or less anywhere.

That’s really cool. I did not know that you could take library school and translate it into many different careers and career paths. That’s cool to hear.

You could get a library degree and become a knowledge manager at a technology company.

Let me fill everybody in on how Dominique and I met. We met through, I believe, Natalie Benamou and my colleague and business partner, Hope Mueller. You were at a retreat that I was at in February 2024, and then I attended one of your workshops and I was enthralled. Is it My Mother’s Mother’s Mother? The workshop, is that what it’s called?

That’s it.

It would be wrong for me to talk about your lineage. Do you mind sharing that piece on your website, For My Mother’s Mother and My Daughter’s Daughter? You went into what I would call a specific niche field, but then you decided to strongly stand in your roots as an African American. I want to have you talk a little bit about that if you’re okay with that.

Sure. I never necessarily intended for this piece to be a piece. It was not long ago that I realized through a conversation with other people that it is considered maybe a piece or a piece of poetry or something like that. The way I envisioned it or the reason why I even have what I’m going to share on the website is because it’s the truth.

I am from Kentucky. That’s going to be really important throughout the conversation. I’ll start by reading that this is for my mother’s mother and for my daughter’s daughter. I am the daughter of Shenita. Shenita is the daughter of Othella. Othella is the daughter of Lula. Lula is the daughter of Daisy. Daisy is the daughter of Prudie. Prudie is the daughter of Charity. Charity was born enslaved in Oldham County, Kentucky. I am because of them. I tell Black stories in order to tell theirs.

It’s so good. Keep going.

It’s the truth of my matrilineal heritage. It’s who I am, who I am for them, who I show up, and how I show up in the world. What makes me ‘me’ is a lot of the little bits and pieces that I have from them, what I’ve learned through them, and what I’ve learned through reading more and learning more and studying more about my heritage and my maternal ancestors. There is something to be said about being clear and knowing who you are, whose you are, and where you come from. It gives me a bit of solidity in this world, especially in this work. It provides a sense of an anchor.

Kentucky folk, our heritage goes pretty deep. My family, through all the generations that I named, has pretty much always been in Kentucky. It goes back into a period of enslavement in which the records are simply either lost or destroyed and can’t quite be traced. Charity’s mother is the story for many African Americans and for many Black folk descendants from a period of enslavement in the United States where the trail runs cold. What I do know is that I have a baptism record or a church record from Kentucky where I know Charity’s birth date because she was baptized in Oldham County or at least at some point lived in Oldham County.

The story is fascinating. The story has helped anchor who I am as an archivist and helped me shape work that is about the upliftment, encouragement, love, care, and support of Black families and Black heritage because I love and care for my own Black heritage and Black families. It’s been a really pivotal part of my work. I wouldn’t say necessarily that it was holistically what we do in terms of genealogy. The Luster Company has expanded a little bit beyond genealogy, but this is where it starts.

I’ll have people on and they’re like, “How does this relate to some of the other topics you talk about?” Once I met you and went through your workshop, I was like, “It’s everything.” In my lineage, I’m a Caucasian woman. I could fill out the first two lines. I was like, “I’m the daughter of Gail, and Gail’s the daughter of Bernadette.” I didn’t know I had any lineage beyond that.

I think about why I do the work that I do with Brave Women at Work, the show, the coaching, the books, and all the things. I’m doing it for my daughters. Understanding my ancestry and my own lineage and how I can learn from it, heal from it, and heal the lineage if necessary is really important. You highlighted that for me in that workshop, so thank you.

Thank you. That’s very kind. I’m glad that that was the takeaway. That’s why we do the work.

Genealogy Exploration

Exactly. I want to turn to giving people instruction here. Since this show focuses on women, why should we start with our mother’s mother’s mother? Why not start with a cousin’s, cousin’s cousin? Why our mother’s mother’s mother?

I’m going to preface this by saying that I’m an archivist, not a geneticist or a genetic scientist in any way. I did not score that high on the science portion of the SAT. I wanted to caveat before I say that as a woman, there is a very small part of our genetic DNA that scientists believe is a carbon copy of our mother, mother’s mother, and mother’s mother’s mother. It goes back to the furthest woman in our line.

At least to my understanding and knowledge because I’m an archivist and not a geneticist, it’s how I understand that you can trace whether or not you have the Eve gene or not. That’s how where it comes from. It’s being able to trace your genealogy back as many generations as science can go. I would recommend speaking to someone who specializes in that, but from my research, matrilineal DNA is a carbon copy that is passed from mother to daughter.

I don’t know if other people are aware of this, but when a woman is carrying a daughter or when she’s with a child or her daughter, that daughter that is growing inside of her womb will also have developed all the eggs that that little girl will have ever had in her lifetime. At any given point, while a woman is with a child or a daughter, she’s also holding her own future. She’s holding her daughter and technically the eggs of her granddaughter.

That’s so interesting.

If you tie that with the idea that that small part of matrilineal DNA is a carbon copy of all the women before you, if you think about it, you extend infinitely in both directions.

I’m stupefied. I’m like, “What?”

I’m sure there’s far more science to it than I’m expressing, but the idea is that everything or every bit of strength, fortitude, fear, and pain that you may have or that your ancestor may have moved through, whether it be for the positive or the negative, all the lessons that they learned, all the strength that they acquired, and all the wherewithal that they had to endure, you inherit a piece of that by simply being. You then pass along a piece of that if and when you have a daughter. Parts of that we can also pass to our sons through how we raise them. Genetically, if we keep it to the genetic portions, you’re tracing in both directions infinitely. There’s a lot of power in that.

To get it back to archives, how we tell that story is supremely important. That’s why I personally recommend starting with your mother’s mother’s mother or even your mother. Name your mother. What’s her first name, maiden name, and married name? Your grandmother or your mother’s mother, what’s her first name, maiden name, and married name?

Oftentimes, when we get to our grandmother or even our great-grandmother, we may not know their first names. We’ve always known them as grandma, BB, or whatever that may be. You certainly may not know her maiden name. You may have no idea. Knowing who these women are, I find to be incredibly powerful because knowing gives you something.

The stories of these women exist in the dash between dates of our lives. You get a birth date and a death date, but more of the story exists in the dash in the middle. By knowing their true name, you’re starting to fill that in. Where they grew up, where they went to school, places that they’ve seen or been, what they may have done in their lives and their communities outside of raising families, and things like that, those start to fill in portions of the story, and then you can pass that story to your daughters. You have to slow down to speed up. You have to go backward a little bit in order to go forward.

A long time ago, people wanted boys because they carried the name. What’s interesting about what you are saying is girls are also super powerful because they are carrying the DNA code. It’s very interesting to me how we’re on the name, but what about what you said that we extend, on the female side, an affinity on either side?

I’m not a geneticist here, but I do understand that there is a male side to this as well. I understand and accept that. I’m talking about the brave women at work.

Exactly. That’s our audience. We’re starting with the mother’s mother’s mother. I gave an example that I know my mother and my grandmother, but I don’t know beyond that on my mother’s side. I’m an example of wanting to get started and look between the birth dates and the death dates. If women are interested and they’re like, “I don’t know,” or, “I don’t know deep enough. I’d like to learn more,” how do they start tracing their lineage?

If the option is available to you, my first recommendation is always to start with yourself and to work with what you know, and then to ask the person that you know what they know. For example, start with what you know. I would write down my name, my mother’s name and maiden name if I knew it, which if I didn’t and I was able to, I would ask her, and then my grandmother’s name.

I would start with those 2 and maybe 1 more, like your mother’s mother’s mother, which is why the workshop is scoped to 3 generations. It is scoped to three generations because typically, that’s about what we can handle without vast amounts of additional research resources and lift. Typically, someone can get to their great-grandmother without needing to make massive financial investments in pulling archival resources. I would start there.

The most overlooked resource is oral history. Doing an oral history with your mother can be an incredibly powerful way to learn more about her and learn more about her mother. You learn things that she maybe never thought you’d be interested in, stories that she never shared, or things that she didn’t think were important.

Brave Women at Work | Dominique Luster | Tracing Your Herstory
Tracing Your Herstory: The most overlooked resource is the oral history.

 

Another way to do it is through photographs. I know that we are in an era where all the photos are on our phones. As an archivist, I would highly encourage you not to just have photos on your phone. Oftentimes, our parents or our grandparents will have photos because they lived in the era prior to the phone or prior to the prevalence of all photos being on the phone. They may have photos of their childhood or of their parents that are hung up on the wall, on the mantle, or in a photo album, a box, or something like that.

I know that’s something that we had talked about. Get those photos, go through them with your mother or with your grandmother, and write down on the back of it in pencil names, information, and locations. Where was it? I had conversations with other people who tried this, and then they realized their grandmother wasn’t even from where they thought they were from. Being from Kentucky, you assume that your family this whole time has been from Kentucky. I was talking to someone and they tried this. They were doing photographs and whatnot and found out that their grandmother was from Chicago

Where did they think that this person was from?

 They thought she was from Kentucky. She was from Chicago. How often do our grandparents tell us, “When I was ten, we moved from Chicago.” 40, 50, or 60 years later, they may not think that that information is interesting to you until you ask. Much of it is the power of asking and being brave enough to move through any awkwardness and ask.

I’m hearing a caution for us in the digital age. You’re saying, “Please, those key photos, print them off of the phone.” What if they hang out in the Cloud and you’ve hit the other end of your dash and it gets lost? Is that a fear you have as we’re getting more digital?

It’s not necessarily a fear because we do have archivists and other information technologies and libraries developing tools to handle the digital era. I wouldn’t say that we have it perfect or nailed out yet, but we’re developing tools to handle the digital era, handle archiving the internet, and handle large amounts of big data from maybe someone’s computer or phone.

However, you would have to intentionally be a person who utilizes those kinds of resources in order to make that a reality for you and for your legacy-making. History is one of those things where history favors the person who wrote it down. If you didn’t write it down or you didn’t create a way for it to be archived, it might not. That’s not to say that it won’t, but it might not, and/or if it is, it might not be archived in the way that you would prefer or that describes or holds the information that you would like to hold.

History favors the person who wrote it down. Share on X

I have it too. I have probably 10,000 or 15,000 photos on my phone or in the Cloud. One, you don’t own the Cloud. It’s not yours. Hypothetically, it could disappear at any point. It could be corrupted at any point. It could be hacked at any point. We do live in a digital era where you have to be mindful of security, privacy, and cyber safety.

There are so many things that live on the internet. When it comes our time to transition, so many things have to happen from wills, probates, testaments, houses, children, life insurance, and things like that. One of the things that can happen is that if you don’t assign a custodian or a beneficiary, another person will simply be locked out of everything that you have.

Unless they have the code to your phone or unless they have the password to your iCloud, and there are safe ways to share that information, but unless somebody has that information, it’s stuck on your phone, iCloud, or what have you. God forbid if something should happen to you and there’s simply no one else who has the iCloud password, those photos are gone.

I never thought about that.

No one else can get into your phone. Apple is pretty strict about not giving out passcodes.

There are some learnings in there. I was talking with someone about how they were working with their parents on estate planning and planning for when they inevitably pass away. This might be something that’s in those files or somehow somebody knows about it so they can access those memories.

If there’s one takeaway here that would be it, it’s to set up some estate plan or a password transition plan. There are software companies, like password manager companies, that if something were to happen to you, you could set up someone who receives your password vault. It’s something like that where you can place the iCloud password or something like that in there and then it goes to them.

It’s the same thing with our social media accounts. I don’t know all the details of how they work, but I know for Facebook and maybe Instagram, there’s something like that. For Facebook, you can memorialize a Facebook site or something like that where you can set it up where it goes to someone else in the event that something should happen to you.

If you have things that you’d like to be remembered, history favors the person who wrote it down. It has to be written down in a way that someone can discover access and use it. Archives require both parts. It requires the existence of the document, and it requires the ability to access and use that document to form a story in the future. You have to have both parts in order to make your lane or your stamp on how your history is remembered in your own words.

We’ve given them a few tools already, the physical photos and the oral conversations. You said in pencil on the back of the photos. Don’t destroy those photos. You talked about password managers and estate planning. Are there any websites like good old-fashioned Google? Are there any websites you would recommend people use to start searching?

There are always your basic genealogical websites. Forgive me. I’m not really sure how much they cost any more, but I know that you can go on your basic genealogical websites, build a tree, and start putting things together there. Depending on where you live, there might also be a local historical society. If you’re in a metropolitan area, they are usually quite large, but even in more rural areas, they can be quite amazing and extensive. You can check out online your run-of-the-mill genealogical places to start building a tree. You could also check out maybe your state libraries if they have resources online.

There are also a couple of sources. As someone who does this for a living, if it’s me looking for a name and looking for information, I’ll get started online, but I could probably find more by going to maybe a vital statistics office in whatever state I’m trying to look for. I’m from Kentucky. Most of my family, at least I believe, were born and passed in Kentucky.

I’m going to Google the capital of my state, Google Vital Statistics Office, and then insert the state. Go to Google, and in the search bar, put Vital Statistics Office and then whatever state I live in or whatever state I’m researching. Usually, the first thing that comes up should be some sort of state government website that says, “Here’s the county clerk’s office,” or, “Here’s the state clerk’s office of Kentucky,” or, “Here’s the state clerk’s office of Virginia,” or what have you.

They will give you instructions on how to do what’s called a requisition. It’s a fancy word for putting in a paperwork order that says, “I am the granddaughter of this person. I would like their birth certificate.” You are entitled to that so long as you can prove that you are biologically this person’s grandchild, especially if maybe that person was Military. If you have a grandfather or grandmother who was a nurse or something in World War II or what have you, you can pull those records.

The reason I would do that is because often on vital statistics records such as marriage certificates and birth certificates, which are all types of vital statistics, there’s often a mother and father’s name listed on that document. For example, if you have children, on your children’s birth certificate, your name is listed. It’s the same thing typically for your grandmother. If you could not find your grandmother’s maiden name or your grandmother’s mother’s name, I would go find her birth certificate because her mother’s name is most likely going to be listed on it.

It’s like lineage gold because it allows you to keep tracing down.

There are limits and limitations. Some communities have stronger traditional Western record-keeping practices than others. Metropolitan areas like New York, DC, and Chicago are going to have stronger practices of record-keeping such as birth certificates. More rural places may not. A lot of times, especially in the African American community, people are often born at home. At least in our grandmother’s era, people were more born at home, so there might not be as many records.

That’s where I’m going to start. I’m going to do some basic research online. I’m going to use a basic genealogical website and form a tree. I’m then going to go to the state office and start looking for vital statistics like birth certificates and marriage certificates. There are often maiden names on those marriage certificates. You would use that maiden name to then go find a birth certificate. You have to become like Indiana Jones a little bit.

That’s cool. There were a couple of things when I started mine. Number one, there were name changes in my family’s history and my mother’s mother’s mother because they were immigrating from Europe. Their names were probably too hard to pronounce. You said when we talked that it was pretty easy to change your name at that time or those periods, correct?

Correct.

Time And Energy Commitment

That’s something to be watching out for. The other piece that we need to be really clear on is if we want to go three generations deep, it requires time and energy commitment. This is so people know and they’re not like, “This is interesting to me. I want to trace my lineage,” and then they’re like, “Dominique and Jen, thanks. You’ve sent me on like Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Is it a huge commitment? If it is, then we need to tell them.

It is a huge commitment. Fair warning, it can suck you in. You look up and it’s been six hours and you have found the rabbit hole. I find it fascinating. It’s fascinating work. You start learning about where people lived. I’ve had scenarios where people have changed their names, or maybe you didn’t know that your grandfather was your grandmother’s third husband. That’s a story. You have to go and figure that out because you can’t get up on the computer until you find out why she has had three husbands. It happens so often.

We see our mother, our mother’s mother, and our mother’s mother’s mother in that role and capacity, but they have their own lives and their own stories. When you start to unearth that, it becomes this never-ending source of inspiration and drive, but it can take quite a bit depending on how much you’re well-interested in finding.

Brave Women at Work | Dominique Luster | Tracing Your Herstory
Tracing Your Herstory: We see our mother, our mother’s mother, and our mother’s mother’s mother in that role and capacity. Each woman has her own life and her own story. When you start to unearth that, it just becomes this never-ending source of inspiration and drive.

 

If you are wanting a birth date, a death date, and a place of birth, that might only take you an hour or two or maybe four and you could be done. If you are going through photographs with your grandmother, that could take you weeks based on the age and capacity of your grandma and how much you want to tax her at any given time.

It could take weeks to put in a requisition request at a certain state and get an answer. It could take weeks if your grandmother or great-grandmother was one of the Army nurses. We’re getting into an era where there were many more women in World War II and the post-war era who served our country as women in the Military and had really pivotal roles. They have fascinating stories, but getting those documents out of the National Archives and Records Administration can take a long time. It’s worth it, in my opinion. It’s a rabbit hole. I find that it’s one worth diving into, but it does take a while.

That’s good, honest feedback for everybody. You’ve really re-highlighted why we do this. It’s for a sense of pride, inspiration, and motivation, and knowing more in-depth the stories of the women that came before us. The beautiful things that we’re accomplishing, doing, moving, and shaking in the world, we want to share with our daughters and their daughters so that we don’t get forgotten. If we train and inspire our girls to do this, they’re going to pay it forward for us.

100%.

Services Offered

Let’s say someone’s like, “I don’t have six hours. I’m not going to get sucked down the rabbit hole. Can you help me?” What services does The Luster Company provide?

The Luster Company is not exclusively but predominantly a consulting firm for galleries, libraries, archives, museums, and philanthropic organizations. We work with organizations that have archival material that can have photography collections, record collections, archives of written material collections, and print material collections. They are typically organizations that have structured or formalized archival records. That is not exclusively but predominantly who The Luster Company works with.

However, one of the things that Jen knows on the back end of this is that we’re also starting a new lane in which we help individuals learn about how to do this for themselves. We offer a couple of online courses, some tools, binders, books, work kits, and archival supplies. There’s a lot of stuff that we offer on a completely other side, which you can check out called Roots and Records.

It’s where we teach people how to do this at length for themselves, whether you want the high-level version, “I want six hours or less and I want some answers.” There’s something there for you if you were like, “I got bit by the genealogy bug. I really want to dive deeper.” There’s a smorgasbord of options to teach you how to do it for yourself.

We have decided not to go the route of doing genealogical work for individuals and communities mostly because I personally believe in teaching women to fish. It’s harder work, but it’s braver work. It’s more fulfilling to me to teach women how to do this work, so everything that we offer for individuals is teaching you how to do it for yourself.

That’s amazing because then, you’ll know as you get deeper into it what to do rather than completely outsourcing.

There’s this secret thing that I’ve hidden in the work where I know personally because I work in this field that history favors the person that wrote it down. As you do this work for yourself, you learn how to write it down in ways that will be remembered. You learn how to do it. Therefore, you teach your daughter how to do it because you know, “If I don’t write this down, no one will,” theoretically.

You’re like, “If she doesn’t write this down, no one will. The last thing that I want is for my daughter to be forgotten. I have worked really hard to raise this amazing human being. I would never want her to be forgotten, so it’s important that I have a skill that I can teach her on how to do that.” The more that you discover your own story and your own genealogy and learn how to do it, the more that you can teach your daughter how to do it.

We’ve tried to make the world a little bit of a better place by democratizing or equalizing the power platform that is history-making. History is this modicum of power that can be wielded. If you know how to play the rules, then you can play it better. You can wield power a little bit better or at least a little bit more where you are not left out of it and forgotten. My hope or prayer for this work is that regardless of what your background is, as we teach women how to do this and as we teach women how to find other women despite name changes, which is very easy to do, that will make the world a more equitable place.

History is a monocle of power that can be wielded. If you know how to play the rules, you can play it better. Share on X

That’s amazing. For clarification, I know that your lineage is African American and you have deep passion and conviction to help with that work. No matter what a person’s background is, if they want to do Roots and Records or they want to take a course and they want to learn, they can learn, correct?

Correct.

Bravery At Work

I want to make sure it’s universal and you can get it no matter what your background. You can start now. You can get your own history and lineage. You can start working on it. What do you believe 1 to 2 ways women can be braver at work are?

I was thinking about this. The thing that I kept coming up with was what we were talking about before. The way that you can be braver is by knowing truly who you are and unpacking that. Wrestle with that. Figure out what trauma lies in that, what harm lies in that, and what bravery lies in that. The more that you are clear on who you are, the braver, the clearer, and the more authentic you can show up in any capacity, including at work when you are not swayable because you know who and whose you are. You have to watch out for those brave women.

That’s awesome. Someone told me that a confident woman and a brave woman are the most dangerous pieces on the chess board. I don’t know if there are any chess players out there, but if you think about it, the queen on the chessboard is quite a dangerous piece.

It is. We have lived in a Western society for 2,000 years or so, plus or minus. We have lived in a very male-dominated Western society in which male actions and activities, positive or negative, derive from history-making. History is often written by or directed by a male-dominated society. In other cultures, communities, and practices that are not Western, that is not necessarily the case. It can either be a lot more equal and/or it could be more led by women. Those history-making practices can often be led by women.

For example, in the Jewish tradition, Jewish heritage is handed down on the female line or on the women’s line. In Eastern African societies like ancient Egypt, for example, women could rule, own businesses, and do all kinds of things. When we look more holistically outside of that, we realize that modern society has shaped the way that women view themselves a little bit. If you look outside of what’s directly in front of us, you can say, “There are still and were brave women all around us. Their stories weren’t kept to the same degree as men.”

Connecting With Dominique

That’s some inspiration for you to get started if that’s any right there. I love it. How can women find you and The Luster Company? How can they connect with you online?

We are @TheLusterCompany pretty much everywhere. The website is TheLusterCompany.com. You can find us on Instagram @TheLusterCompany or on Facebook @TheLusterCompany. Technically, you can also find us on Twitter, X, or whatever it’s called, but if you go there, you’re on your own because I am never there.

That’s honest. It’s not always the nicest or safest place.

I’ve heard that. Since I’m an archivist and I work so much on historic records and in the past, my brain doesn’t work at the pace of Twitter.

Family Lineage

That’s honest. I appreciate that. I encourage everyone to connect with you and to find you and The Luster Company online. I love what you’re doing. I love that you have stayed true to your heart and what your intuition is. Those wonderful women who locked you in that room knew that this was your path. I’m so excited that you stayed true to that and you love the work you’re doing. Thank you so much for being a guest.

Thank you so much. Go be brave.

That does it. In my discussion with Dominique, I hope you found our conversation both valuable and inspiring. As a reminder, please rate, review, and subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. The show is also available on any other platform you enjoy. Until next time, show up. Discover your story and be brave.

 

Important Links

Book Your Discovery Call

How much would you give to sit across a coach who was trained to help women just like you get clear, overcome their obstacles and take action to achieve their career goals? Well, for anyone serious about their career, the price would be quite high and worth every penny. But for a short time, for a small number of people, I’m offering that opportunity…without charge.

That’s right, with my Discovery Call you have the chance to work with me one on one, absolutely free. Typically a session like this is $250, but I’m waiving the fee for anyone who applies today.

Because I hold these calls personally, there are very few spots available, so if you’re serious about about finding your dream career and would like the guidance and support of a trained expert, use the calendar provided to apply for your session now.

Get ready for your next negotiation with our Free Guide

Get Paid: 10 Negotiation Tips from Brave Women at Work

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.