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Honoring Our Ancestors
July 31, 2017

www.megansmolenyak.com

Greetings Fellow Family History Sleuths,

This month's issue is grant-heavy - mainly because I'm celebrating the occasion of my 200th genealogical grant! So read on to learn about the latest recipient, a behind-the-scenes peak at the selection process, and a charming update from a previous awardee. Then continue on to learn about recently identified soldiers from WWII and Korea, the science of wanderlust, and goat yoga in cemeteries. Yup, goat yoga in cemeteries.

Until next month!

Megan


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Seton Shields Genealogy Grant #200

Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center: Seton Shields Genealogy Grant #200!

When I began my grants program back in May 2000, I was just hoping to be able to make a living as a genealogist. Little could I have imagined that I'd still be plugging away 17 years later about to award the 200th grant.

During that time, virtually nothing has remained the same in Genea-Land, so for this special milestone, I decided to celebrate one of the few constants: the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center.

If you’re an American genealogist, ACPL Genealogy Center needs no introduction, but those overseas may wish to view this brochure to learn more. Suffice it to say that it’s the Stefon of genealogy in that “this place has everything” – countless books and microfilms, online databases, events ranging from national conferences to summer camps, and world class genealogists like Curt Witcher, one of the first to welcome me into the fold.

The 200th Seton Shields Genealogy Grant goes to ACPL Genealogy Center for whatever use they think would be most helpful.

If you or your organization would like to be among the next 200, please consider applying here. And continue reading below for an interview about this program to improve your odds of being selected!

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Celebrating 200 Seton Shields Genealogy Grants Awarded

To mark the 200th grant awarded, I thought it would be fun to share a behind-the-scenes peek into Seton Shields Genealogical Grants. To that end, I hope you'll enjoy listening in to a conversation I had with my assistant, Nicole, as she picked my brain about my grants program.

How do you go about choosing who you'll award the grant to each quarter?

My husband, Brian, and I actually make a sort of date of it. I print out all the applications from the past six months and we take them with us to a local coffee shop to review them. We have a rating system we use to identify top contenders and once we've done that, we debate their merits until we have a clear winner.

That sounds like fun! Can you tell me more about how you decide which applications make it to the round of finalists? What makes an application stand out to you?

Well, there are a number of things I like to see. For one, I'm always attracted to the novel, so a request for something new catches my eye, especially if it's for something I think could serve as a useful model that others can copy.

Do you have an example you can share?

Hmmm . . . One that comes to mind is the first time I heard of ground-penetrating radar being used to find unmarked graves – this was for a grant way back in 2003, as I recall. I thought it sounded space age!

Another thing I remember about that particular grant is that it concerned a native burial ground. I'm a sucker for the historically neglected – women, minorities, and immigrants, for example – so that also grabs my attention when I'm reviewing applications.

What else?

It excites me when I see something that has real potential for a ripple effect, something that can end up helping a lot of people. For instance, I’ll be giving a grant soon to Reclaim the Records, which started as one person's successful effort in New York City to get records opened which, by law, should already have been made open to the public. Now the effort is going national and that has potential to help a whole lot of people as they research their roots.

I also love it when there's a matching initiative, since that means the money I give can go further, can do more good. I remember a grant from late in 2015 – the Sequoia Genealogical Society – where that was the case.

And because I started my own genealogical journey in the sixth grade, I have a soft spot for youngsters. When I see someone young showing an interest in genealogy, I like to encourage it.

All that said, I've also given grants to help fund things like shelves or scanners for libraries, picture frames and archival and preservation-friendly materials for a museum, and books about famous African Americans from the South for a classroom. It's sad, but that's where budgetary realities are now, so things that seem to fall more on the mundane end of the spectrum are certainly still in the running.

Is there anything that would cause you to eliminate an application from consideration?

Click here to continue reading.

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Update on Q2 2016 Seton Shields Genealogy Grant: Cecilia Chien, West Chester, PA

It's always fun to get a peek at the outcome of one of my grants, so I was really happy to hear from Cecilia Chien, one of the Seton Shields Genealogy Grant recipients of 2016. Cecilia has given me permission to share her photos and the story of her research trip, so I'll let her take it from here, in her own words:

I know you don’t require a final report, but I thought it would be fun to briefly share the results of the genealogy fieldwork I did in China this Spring 2017.

I planned my 2-week visit to coincide with the annual Grave-sweeping Festival, which fell on April 4 this year, to pay respects to one’s ancestors. This traditional event was condemned by the People’s Republic from 1949 on as “feudal,” but the government restored it in 2008, creating a 3-day public holiday from the 15th day after the Spring Equinox. Hundreds of millions of Chinese travel to visit cemeteries during this time, burn offerings of fake money and paper luxury items, and light firecrackers to frighten off evil spirits (though the government is trying to ban burning, which adds to pollution).

I visited half a dozen sites in eastern China related to the Chien family’s history. First, in Shanghai are the Shanghai Museum, Shanghai Library, and a research society dedicated to King Chien, the 10th century ancestor from which the clan reckons its genealogy. In Tongling City, at Immortal Mountain Cemetery, my own father’s ashes are buried. In Pengshan Village, where my father was born, is the family plot where paternal other relatives rest; headstones list family trees. In scenic Hangzhou, are the Chien Ancestral Hall compound as well as the tomb of King Chien’s #7 son and successor. Finally, in Linan City, over 1,000 descendants of King Chien from across the diaspora (including Europe, Southeast Asia, and the US) converged at his tomb for a ceremony marking the 1,100th anniversary of his investiture. Genealogy is definitely hot in China today.

I learned so much from this trip! I took 2,800 photos (2 shown here of the Linan ceremony), have self-published three volumes on it, and will be presenting my work at various forums. Thanks again for all your generosity in making not just my project but so many historical projects possible!

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.

If you haven't already, be sure to read the article above, which will give you a behind-the-scenes peek into my grants program and the woman who continues to inspire my life and work.

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Genealogy Round Up, July 19

Coldplay & Big Sean - Miracles (Someone Special) - Official Lyric Video – Love this! Very grateful to my great-grandparents who were brave enough to leave everything familiar and come to the USA.

Also, you know you're a genealogist when you know exactly which images are original Ellis Island ones!

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Genealogy Round Up, July 12


Photo Credit: Laura Wolf

Congressional Cemetery Can Have Yoga, and It Can Have Goats. But the DC Government Says It Can’t Have Goat Yoga. – Goat yoga in cemeteries - for or against?

Guest Blog Post: Grants for Writers--As Diverse As You Are – So apparently I'm a "private entity" that offers humanities grants. . .

Soldier Captured In The Korean War Accounted For (Mullins) – Welcome home, Cpl. Thomas H. Mullins. Honored to have researched your family.

Soldier Missing From World War II Accounted For (Wipfli) – Wow, 2 in one day! Rest in peace, PFC Gerald F. Wipfli, and welcome home. Honored to have researched your family.

A Year Gardening the Grave of a Stranger – “There’s two groups of people . . . the ones that think this is the coolest thing ever ... and the ones that think it’s the weirdest thing ever.”

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Genealogy Round Up, June 28


Photo Credit: Heather Mull

How the Rusyns Could Save Civilization – An oldie, but a goodie for those who have ever wondered about Rusyns. And yeah, we're still here! h/t Maryann Sivak

Airman Missing From World War II Identified (Betchley) – Welcome home, Lt. George W. Betchley. Honored to have researched your family.

If You Have a Big Family, You'll Want to Steal This Grandkid Photo Idea – Color-coded (and sequenced) grandkids! Brilliant!

Four covers help tell the narrative of immigration through Ellis Island

The Science of Wanderlust – I have *seriously* got this gene. And Anthony Bourdain's grandfather was a stowaway at 13. Just sayin'.

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Genealogy Roundup, June 21

This Italian family tree with 250 descendants is a work of art

Diaries Dating Back Nearly A Century Reunited With Family

Famous face Lulu spotted with a film crew at the People’s Palace – Lulu filming for #WDYTYA? Anyone else remember "Boom Bang-a-Bang"? P.S. Americans will probably recall "To Sir with Love"

10 Time Capsule Rooms Left Untouched for Decades – I could spend hours exploring these places. Still remember wandering the John Hanson mansion in Maryland when it was abandoned and boarded up (now known as Oxon Hill Manor and used for weddings, etc.). There's something so cool about stepping back in time!

Chloe Sevigny dishes about her Lizzie Borden film – Chloe Sevigny to be in next "Finding Your Roots"

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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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