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Honoring Our Ancestors Newsletter

July 15, 2008

By Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak

Megan Smolenyak SmolenyakGreetings Fellow Family History Sleuths,

I'm so excited because by the time you read these words, I'll be on vacation with eight family members! Because of this, next month's issue is apt to be a little on the light side since I don't intend to make this trip a tour of Internet cafes. But here's wishing you plenty of R&R and/or genealogical adventures in the coming month!


In this newsletter. . .

Nine-Year-Old Unclaimed Persons Case Solved in Six Days!

When RootsTelevision.com launched Unclaimed Persons last month, the hope was to bring attention to a virtually unknown epidemic, but also offer a potential solution. The epidemic? Literally unclaimed persons. Many of us are familiar with John and Jane Does, but very few are aware of the struggles of coroners' offices across the country to find the next of kin for the ever-growing number of people who are identified, but have no one to claim them. The solution? An unlikely teaming of coroners and genealogists working together to find the families of the unclaimed.

Tripping across a newspaper article about this little known problem, genealogist Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak realized that she and fellow family history sleuths were perfectly equipped to help. Offering her assistance to coroners' offices in Scranton, Pennsylvania and San Bernardino, California, she quickly located next of kin for cases that had remained unresolved for months or even years. Two such cases are highlighted in Unclaimed Persons. A supplemental video, Unclaimed Persons Research: Joseph Higgs, allows the viewer to watch over Megan's shoulder as she surfs her way to a solution in one of the cases.

From the day the show launched, sympathetic and skilled genealogists started to tackle the unsolved case of John Finch that ended the Unclaimed Persons episode. One of them was well-known professional genealogist and author, Kimberly Powell. Eagle-eyed Kimberly spotted a particularly important clue -- a brief snippet in the St. Joseph News-Press about a likely niece of the deceased. Apparently, her car had been broken into just a week earlier. Piggy-backing off of information provided, several possible addresses for the niece were found and passed on to the Lackawanna Coroner's Office, which then wrote to each of them. Yesterday, the coroner's office received a call from John Finch's brother. Thanks to Kimberly's genealogical detective skills, a case that had been open since 1999 was solved in just six days. John Finch is no longer an unclaimed person.

"We realized that almost everything about this was experimental," said Marcy Brown, co-founder of RootsTelevision.com. "Not only the pairing of coroners and genealogists, but also the use of online video to bring attention to a serious, but hidden problem of national scope. We hope that this is just the beginning and are trying to figure out the best way to facilitate the resolution of additional cases. As a first step, we invite people to join the Unclaimed Persons group we've just launched on Facebook" (those who are new to Facebook will need to register).

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Happy 10th Anniversary to Juliana Smith!

Wow! Juliana Smith of Ancestry (Ancestry Daily News morphed into 24-7 Family History Circle) just hit her 10th anniversary of continuous service to the genealogical community. That's about 50 in normal years! You can read what she's learned in that decade here:

Things I've Learned in Ten Years of Newsletter Editing, by Juliana Smith

I'd also like to suggest that you consider posting a comment to congratulate her. I know from traveling across the U.S. (and occasionally Canada and England) that Juliana is one of the most beloved genealogists out there. Folks constantly single her out for mention with no prompting -- they just like to tell me about their favorites. And Julie's always there. If you read her articles, you feel as if you know her, as if you're chatting with her over a cup of coffee. She's funny and approachable and doesn't take anything too seriously. And now on top of everything else, she's just demonstrated tremendous endurance! Here's to the next decade, Julie!

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Another Korean War Soldier Repatriated

I was so happy to read about this because this was one of the toughest cases I ever worked on:

Local soldier's remains found nearly 60 years after his death in Korea

Remains of Korean War MIA soldier identified

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In Vietnam, I'm my own grandmother

Well, this is surreal. I recently stumbled across what appeared to be an article about me in Vietnamese. The giveaway was my photo (likely snagged from my blog) and the frequent sprinkling of "Smolenyak Smolenyak" amidst a sea of Vietnamese words.

Curious, I asked my amazing assistant, Alyssa Gregory, to see if she could find a Vietnamese-to-English translation tool online and put together a rough translation. She managed to find two and the comical result (with some remarks interspersed by me) follows. How much of this was lost in translation and how much is attributable to other causes, I can't say -- but I think you'll find it entertaining!

Write U.S. history across DNA

[Huh?? Maybe "US History Written in DNA," although the article isn't really about that]

While history can shape and develop a nation, a country might be enlightened in another very interesting way: family trees of patriarchal clans.

[Not sure why just patriarchal]

The U.S.'s premier historian and genealogy-builder is Ms. Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak. She has revealed that Diana is a relative from 11 generations before with U.S. President George Bush. Bush is also a generation 11 relative with Senator Barack Obama, one of the people in the upcoming U.S. president election. Obama is a far relative with actor Brad Pitt, husband of actress Angelina Jolie. Eight generations away from Obama and Pitt is a common tie to Edwin Hickman. And despite Clint Eastwood is American, he and Arnold Schwarzenegger are descents with each other.

[This is obviously giving me way more credit than I'm due. The part's that accurate has to do with Obama. In my capacity as Chief Family Historian for Ancestry.com, I researched the Obama-Pitt connection: Brad Pitt and Barack Obama - long lost cousins. Ancestry.com has shared these other connections in assorted articles and press materials. As I recall, Eastwood and Schwarzenegger are cousins by marriage.]

This was just announced on the web recently, by the force of Ms. Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak. For years Ms. Smolenyak Smolenyak has tried every effort to accomplish the families of many across the U.S.

Every life is interesting

In part this project is already building to go find the ancestor in prison of a grandmother. Ms. Smolenyak Smolenyak, 46 year-old, says it's a matter of the heart: "I often say to everyone without family, the story which is all together, and the word is fact."

[OK, my best guess here is that I have a tendency to tell folks that there's no such thing as a boring family. And if you're confused about the connection between grandma and prison, so am I.]

Ms. Smolenyak Smolenyak learned in the 1980s, that the grandmother was a graduate of the diplomatic department of the university.

[Given that my undergraduate degree is in Foreign Service, I this is insinuating that I'm my own grandmother.]

"The story can be novel size." She has helped many people draw their family tree, including the grandmother and has become an expert in the U.S.

The four seas is brother

Smolenyak Smolenyak is a leader on the web page ancestry.com and helps people in the world who have a request to look for relatives and establish a family tree. The information archive is of people who register their own name, the name of parent or grandmother, birthday, day of death, day of immigration. Her web page automatically processes and announces some circumstances and information from some joins each other.

Information dovetails

15 million people use the service of this web page, among them 800,000 people pay money to use enhanced service, from 74 USD for every time.

One of the famous discoveries was finding out empress Marie Antoinette of France, she was executed in the French revolution, belonged a group DNA call Haplogroup H together with about half Europe now. CBS television station's television announcer Katie Couric came together with Muliebrity to go back to the same gene as people who lived in ice and snow. After 5,000 years people found human bones in a mountain range in the Alps.

[This is probably referring to the fact that Katie Couric's mtDNA haplogroup is K. Incidentally, while we're on the topic of genetic trivia, so is Stephen Colbert's.]

Also, Seaborn Brinson, the first mayor of the U.S. with black skin, has mother and four brothers and sisters once slaves. Ms. Smolenyak Smolenyak did special research on the topic about black skin in the U.S. "Most everybody, even me, is a descendant from Africa," Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak says, "and I think everyone will treat each other better when we identify people's origin."

[This refers to some research I did for the Cleveland Plain Dealer about Carl Stokes, the first African American mayor of a major U.S. City. I can't find a link for the original article (1845 document connects Stokes family to slavery's grim reality), but most of the content is in this blog posting. I was asked to find out who owned Stokes's great-grandfather, Seaborn Brinson, and learned that it was a woman named Tarver who had married a fellow named William Brinson. And yes, I often mention that Africa is the cradle of mankind.]

Side box:

Ms. Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak assembles collectively 101 stories about families in U.S. who find a photograph, certificate sheet or other document.

A tale of someone who suddenly discovers a wife is a relative of five generations, a person who is in a family of someone famous, a woman who finds information about her father who died in war when she was three-months old, and another across the internet has discovered a far away sister.

[I believe this is probably referring to my first book, In Search of Our Ancestors.]

Ms. Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak has widespread success finding family trees and this has caused many people to imitate her and establish other sites that help people look for relatives like Genealogy.com, Myfamily.com, Ancestry.ca. Nevertheless, ancestry.com and Ms. Megan still remain impeccably the first.

[It's kind of funny that Ancestry.com is described as being "impeccably the first," given that all the other examples given are also part of the TGN corporate family, but I understand the intent. As to myself, well, I guess I'll make it a goal to try to one day live up to the high praise this curious article showered on me.]

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Everton's Genealogical Helper Adds New Online Edition

You know, back when I was taking my baby steps in genealogy, I remember how excited I would get each time I snagged a new issue of Everton's Genealogical Helper. For the longest time, it was the only genealogical magazine out there -- something of a lifeline. So I'm pleased to share with you the following news about EGH's continuing evolution:

New Online Edition of Everton's Genealogical Helper will debut July 1! Subscribe today for only $10.00!

LOGAN, Utah, June 12, 2008. Genealogy Online, Inc., publisher of Everton's Genealogical Helper, today, announced the publication of the Genealogical Helper in an Online Edition. The Online Edition is an identical copy of the 176-page paper edition -- complete with hotlinks to the hundreds of website addresses found therein.

Launch Date -- The new Online Edition will launch on July 1 -- simultaneous with the home delivery and newsstand date of the paper edition of the July-August issue.

Free Access -- Subscribers to the traditional Genealogical Helper will have 100% FREE online access to the magazine -- with no extra fees whatsoever. See http://www.everton.com for sign-up information.

Online Edition subscriptions -- Everton's Genealogical Helper, Online Edition, will sell for just $12.00 per year! That is only $2 per issue! And it's only $10.00 for subscriptions made before July 1 at http://www.everton.com or phone 1-800-443-6325.

Net Family History -- An important feature of Everton's Genealogical Helper is the magazine within a magazine entitled Net Family History. New information specific to using the Internet for genealogy is always found in this portion of the bimonthly publication. Extensive website reviews are always located here, as well as articles dealing with Internet-related activities.

Why an online edition? -- Every issue of Everton's Genealogical Helper now contains hundreds of website addresses. The Internet is where some of the most exciting genealogical resource advances are taking place, so it's required that information about these resources be disseminated to the Helper's thousands of readers in every issue. Everton's Genealogical Helper, Online Edition, will allow readers to go from their paper edition to the hotlinked Online Edition and access any of the websites with just a keystroke or two -- no more typing in those lengthy website addresses! The Online Edition offers more than just the links found in the magazine -- it is the entire magazine itself!

Format & hosting -- Everton's Genealogical Helper, Online Edition, will be in pdf format, readable by anyone, with any computer running an Adobe Acrobat Reader (Available at Adobe.com as a FREE download.) The Online Edition will be hosted by FamilyLink.com, Inc.

Why subscribe to the Genealogical Helper? -- Subscribe to have access to the Helper's how-to & historical articles, Net Family History (see above), genealogical sharing, extensive book and CD-ROM reviews & announcements, queries, the most complete event calendar available anywhere, and hundreds of ads detailing new products and services. In addition to these day-to-day features, you will also have access to the NEW updated, hotlinked Directory of Genealogical and Historical Societies -- to be published in the Sept/Oct and Nov-Dec issues! Edited by Leland K. Meitzler, the Helper is guaranteed to help you extend your lines and fill in those blanks in your family tree.

WHAT A DEAL! -- Your cost for a full subscription (the paper magazine & online access both) is less than 3 cents per page -- delivered to your home, and now accessible online. Subscribe to the Online Edition alone for just over a penny a page! Subscribe by July 1 and it's less than a penny per page!

Subscribe NOW at: http://www.everton.com or phone 1-800-443-6325.


About Genealogy Online, Inc. Genealogy Online, dba Everton Publishers, is the publisher of Everton's Genealogical Helper, now in its 62nd year of helping genealogists find their ancestors. Genealogy Online, Inc. also publishes the Handybook for Genealogists, 11th edition, a top-selling guidebook for family historians. Their website is found at: http://www.everton.com. Also see: http://www.GenealogyBlog.com.

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An Orphan Heirloom Rescue in Oregon

Just goes to show that no one can resist a good mystery!
Readers help expose photos' origin

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Genealogy Book in Slovenia

I recently received this update from Ksenija Yoder Batic, a woman from Slovenia I gave a grant to a few years back. I thought it was interesting that there's been a genealogical mystery published in Slovenia! Apparently, Ksenija set it in Wales and one of the characters is named Megan -- very appropriate since it's a Welsh name! I wanted to post the cover here, but am having problems with my blog, so I'll post it to my Facebook profile for anyone who might be curious.

Hi, Megan.

Well, I have finished the 2nd level of genealogical studies course at The University of Toronto and soon after that I started with my thesis (at my own Faculty in Slovenia) that was, much to everybody's surprise, based on genealogical and family history research and was connected to my studies of Ethnology and Cultural anthropology through Social Anthropology.

I successfully defended my thesis, got the best grade possible for it and was awarded with special award of the Faculty called "Presernova nagrada" for the year 2006.

After that I got a bit more realistic in connection to what is possible and what is not possible to do with Genealogy at my Faculty. So I redirected myself from the Faculty, Professors and Students towards young adults from 15 to 25 years of age. My goal was to introduce young adults to Genealogy and Family History in an interesting and appealing way.

So I connected my love for Genealogy and Family History with my vivid imagination and my writing skills. As a result of that, at the end of March 2008 my very first book was published - The Curse of the LeRoy's - a suspense/mystery novel for young adults where the main character is researching her roots ... I included detailed family trees and placed the story in a real historical and geographical context, so many readers ask me if the book is based on a true story. :-) I was also told that I must be one of the first writers including Genealogy in fiction book in Slovenia (if not the first). I didn't check if that is true, but it is still a great compliment to receive.

Despite the title, the book has overall positive message and that is also one of the reasons why the book was so well accepted.

The feedback I get from my readers is fantastic, though it turned out the book is appealing to ALL generations not just young adults as it was my original idea. I have more books (for young adults) coming and I intend to include genealogy in those aswell.

Well, here is my very loooong up-date. :-)

Have a nice day!


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Lots of Links Over Here . . .

I haven't had time to blog the way I'd like lately, but I have been popping interesting links I've spotted into my Facebook profile. So if you're curious about what's caught my eye in the genealogical world over the last week or so, please check out the mini-feed and Wall on my Facebook profile. [Note: if you're not already a member, you'll have to join, but it's free.] For better or worse, it's much easier for me to post there, so in general, it might be a good idea to pop in there from time to time to see what I've added that I didn't have time to blog about.

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Cool Search Engine!

Read about this visually oriented search engine (think iPhone) in Dick Eastman's newsletter and thought it was pretty darn cool:


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Chicago/Cook County, IL Vital Records Online!

Trust Joe Beine to spot it first!

Chicago and Cook County Vital Records Now Online

$15 a pop, but still a treasure trove of documents immediately accessible. Anyone with Chicago ancestors should start digging!

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Honoring Our Ancestors Grants

Congrats to our recent grant recipient! Don't forget that you can apply here.  

July 2008
This grant was made in the form of a donation to pay for Social Security application requests stemming from the Unclaimed Persons group (now over 300 volunteers) on Facebook, created to help coroners locate relatives of identified persons for which no next of kin has been found. The group was a spontaneous outgrowth of the Unclaimed Persons series recently launched on RootsTelevision.com.

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Upcoming Events

If you plan to be near any of the events where I'll be speaking, I would love to meet you. It's always a kick for me when folks mention that they read this newsletter, my blog, Ancestry Daily News or whatever, so don't be shy about introducing yourself!

For more information on these events, please see my Events Calendar. And if you're interested in scheduling me, just click here.

  • August 15-16, 2008 - Indianapolis, IN - Indiana Historical Society Midwestern Roots Conference - Topics TBD
  • September 3-6, 2008 - Philadelphia, PA - Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference - "Trace Your Roots with DNA" and "Beyond Y-DNA: Your Genetic Genealogy Options"
  • September 20, 2008 - South Portland, ME - Maine Genealogical Society - "Trace Your Roots with DNA," "Beyond Y-DNA: Your Genetic Genealogy Options," "Reverse Genealogy: Techniques for Finding Your Lost Loved Ones" and "Remembering Our Ancestors"
  • September 27, 2008 - Naperville, IL - Fox Valley Genealogy Society - "Reverse Genealogy: Techniques for Finding Your Lost Loved Ones," "Find That Obituary! Online Newspaper Research," "Trace Your Roots with DNA" and "Beyond Y-DNA: Your Genetic Genealogy Options"
  • October 18, 2008 - Huntsville, AL - Huntsville-Madison County Public Library - "Trace Your Roots with DNA," "Beyond Y-DNA: Your Genetic Genealogy Options," "Reverse Genealogy: Techniques for Finding Your Lost Loved Ones" and "Welcome to Roots Television!"
  • October 26-November 2, 2008 - 4th Annual Genealogy Conference and Cruise, hosted by Wholly Genes, Inc. - "Beyond Y-DNA: Your Genetic Genealogy Options", "Right Annie, Wrong Annie"
  • January 16-20, 2009 - Auckland, New Zealand - Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations 12th Australasian Congress on Genealogy & Heraldry - Topics TBD
  • February 14, 2009 - Secaucus, NJ - Hudson County Genealogical Society - "Trace Your Roots with DNA"
  • March 7, 2009 - Surrey, BC - Surrey Public Library - "Trace Your Roots with DNA," "Reverse Genealogy: Techniques for Finding Your Lost Loved Ones," "Introduction to Ancestry.com" and "Cases That Made My Brain Hurt"
  • April 18, 2009 - Anchorage, AK - Anchorage Genealogical Society - "Introduction to Ancestry.com," "Reverse Genealogy: Techniques for Finding Your Lost Loved Ones," "Find that Obituary! Online Newspaper Research" and "Cases That Made My Brain Hurt"
  • April 22-26, 2009 - Manchester, NH - The New England Regional Genealogical Conference 2009 - Topics TBD
  • June 20, 2009 - Wichita, KS - Kansas Council of Genealogical Societies - Topics TBD
  • September 11-13, 2009 - Spokane, WA - Eastern Washington Genealogical Society - Topics TBD

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Please forward this newsletter to your family and friends who are interested in genealogy -- thank you!

Wishing you an abundance of genealogical serendipity!
Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak


Note: You are receiving this because you have demonstrated an interest (e.g., you have a story in one of my books, applied for a grant, attended previous events, etc.) or subscribed via my website, but please let me know if you do not want to receive any further emails, and I will promptly remove you from my list. And rest assured, this is my personal list and not shared with anyone else! Thanks, Megan

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