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Honoring Our Ancestors
February 15, 2017

www.megansmolenyak.com

Greetings Fellow Family History Sleuths,

Happy February, y'all! In honor of Black History Month, I thought I'd re-share a little known snippet of African American history through the story of Lin-Manuel Miranda's (LMM) maternal roots. Texas and Mexico have a starring role in this saga. And LMM is right when he says it's complicated. I was hanging on for dear life trying to wrap my head around what I was uncovering during the course of my research, and then figuring out how to place it in context and share it with others. I hope you find it as interesting to read as I did to research.

Aside from this, you'll find a mish-mash of genealogical goodies including an upcoming orphan heirlooms book, the card catalog of the Library of Congress (yes, it still exists!), articles on a couple of my Army repatriation cases, and a heads up on two of the celebrities who will be appearing in the next season of "Who Do You Think You Are?"

Enjoy!

Megan


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Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Revolutionary Ancestors

It makes perfect sense that someone who has as much respect for history as Lin-Manuel Miranda would be well acquainted with his roots, but I couldn’t help but be curious about them myself, so decided to climb the branches of his family tree. And what I discovered is what everyone already knows – that he’s Nuyorican, a New Yorker of Puerto Rican heritage. Well, mostly.

One of the things I love most about genealogy is tripping across the unexpected and getting sucked into a historical wormhole you might otherwise never have explored, and that’s exactly what happened here. Before I came up for air, I found myself following the trail of an early nineteenth century, interracial love story, peppered by war and rebellion, all interwoven with a decades-long struggle to outrun slavery that began in Virginia and ultimately unfolded under a handful of flags even though most of it occurred in one place – Nacogdoches.

Click here to continue reading.

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Seton Shields Genealogy Grants

In honor of Black History Month, I thought I'd feature a past grant recipient who sought books about famous African Americans from the South to share with her students. Through this project, the students learned about Ruby Bridges, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman and George Washington Carver.

I'll be considering applications for my next genealogy grant before long, so here's a reminder to get yours in if you've been intending to. Submissions remain active candidates for six months from the date I receive them.

To apply for a Seton Shields grant, fill out and submit the form here. To see the types of cool projects I've had the opportunity to contribute to over the years, look here.

Seton Shields is my remarkable mother. Naming this grants program after her is one small way to keep her memory alive, though she’s no longer with us.

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Genealogy Round Up, February 8


Photo Credit: Ian Freimuth

The George Peabody Library – Check. Out. This. Library. Happy to have married in New Zealand, but this would be a close 2nd choice for my wedding.

You'll have to click through to see as it's whole-screen. Might also want to browse through the photo gallery.

h/t Messy Nessy Chic

Marcel's Letters: A Font and the Search for One Man's Fate – Just blurbed a fun history mystery book. Rarely do this as I don't have much time to read for pleasure, but it was an orphan heirloom case, so couldn't resist!

The Cork girl who was first through Ellis Island’s gates

Researcher maps hidden graveyards of slaves who once tilled Louisiana sugar cane fields

'Cake Boss' talks about the importance of family, legacy – Interesting read about his Italian heritage.

How To Plan The Trip Of A Lifetime With Your DNA – I've worked with a high end travel company to plan specialized roots travel, so have no problem with that, but is it just me or is this DNA travel stuff a case of oversell?

Who's had experience with Living DNA? Can you offer any insights?

I suppose I'm wary of them because I once caught a tweet of theirs that essentially said that DNA testing was the best/only way to go (a tweet which they subsequently deleted after I brought attention to it).

To be clear, I am as much a fan of genetic genealogy now as when I began waaaay back in 1999, but I'm always concerned when I see a vendor that seems - from my perspective - to be over-promising as it tends to lead to a backlash for genetic genealogy as a whole (i.e., media attention claiming to reveal the hype).

Thoughts?

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Genealogy Round Up, February 1


Photo Credit (Gustave Eiffel’s secret apartment): Serge Melki

11 Secret Spaces Hiding in Famous Places – I'm all about the secret apartments!

Ian McKellen reflects on being 'the last McKellen' during appearance on Who Do You Think You Are? – He's the last in the McKellen line, but he's a memorable last

Colonial America Tavern Signs Collection – So this evening, I might just get nimptopsical...

Family Fight Over WWI Medal of Honor Recipient's Grave Goes to High Court

The Vast Library of Congress Card Catalog Is Gathering Dust in the Basement – "Despite the advent of the internet, Library of Congress employees fought hard to keep the old cards around as a backup.":

Good for them!

A Letter from Langston Hughes regarding Sgt. Henry Johnson – 1958 letter from Langston Hughes re: Henry Johnson who finally received Medal of Honor for WWI in 2015.

Derry women discover heirlooms of heroic aunt who defied the Nazis and died in Auschwitz

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Genealogy Round Up, January 25

Joe Biden to return to Mayo this summer – Some of the Irish cousins I found for Joe Biden were invited to the White House for his medal ceremony last month - though they were kept in the dark as to the reason.

Courteney Cox shows off stunning Malibu mansion before selling off furniture to make room for beau Johnny McDaid's possessions – Courteney Cox to be on "Who Do You Think You Are?"

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Genealogy Roundup, January 18


Photo Credit: remster_9

Maeve In America: The Annie Episode: Annie Moore Room? – So I did an interview last December with Irish comedian, Maeve Higgins, about Annie Moore of Ellis Island. If you've got a chance, give it a listen!

Two Irish Girls Who Made It to New York – Thought I'd add links here to other recent bits on Annie, starting with this one also by Maeve

125 years of Ellis Island: a living monument to the land of the free

Remembering Annie Moore, Ellis Island’s First Immigrant

Chesapeake family hopes for closure, new clues 7 decades after WWII airman crashed at sea – Hmm...this is interesting. An article about another one of my Army cases, but oddly, this is the second in recent memory where the soldier is being written about before an identification has been made. And I can't recall that ever happening before. Two isn't enough to be a trend, but I'll be keeping my eye out.

In the meantime, you might want to check out this article because there's a lovely, personal touch to it.

Actress Liv Tyler spotted in Plattsburgh – Liv Tyler taping for "Who Do You Think You Are?" in NY

Found: A Hoard of Gold Hidden Inside a Piano – Having second thoughts about that piano I donated a couple of years ago - nah, not really, but this is a cool story!

TLC to Premiere New Season of Hit Docu-Series LONG LOST FAMILY, 2/12 – Long Lost Family returned on 2/12/17 and also had a spin-off series which premiered last month

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Upcoming Events

After traveling around and speaking in 40 states and half a dozen countries, I decided to take a breather from the road to tend to some projects. That said, I'm sharing exceptions here. And by the way, you can see if I’ll be in your area any time by checking my Events Calendar.

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