Honoring Our Ancestors Newsletter
September 15, 2007
By Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak
Change of seasons. Time for some fresh resolve in our genealogical endeavors? Hereís hoping the autumn breezes inspire renewed vigor that results in some new discoveries in your genealogical quest! And for those in Virginia, Iowa and Delaware, Iíll be in your area soon trying to nudge you on!
In this newsletter. . .
I always say there's no such thing as a boring family, and here's yet more proof:
How odd it must be to learn about your family history in the papers. Of course, it's also true that the best way to get your roots researched for free (or close to it) is to be a celebrity! I suppose there are many of us who would like to borrow at least this small aspect of celebrity-life.
Scotland's only too happy to claim Elvis Presley's heritage, although some aren't terribly fond of his music:
P.S. You'll have to read all the way to the end of the article to learn about the bonus the journalist got while researching this article!
This is the kind of news I like to read. Five more soldiers -- shot down in a helicopter in Laos -- were identified. One of them was a particularly challenging case I worked on. You can read more here:
Nancy Friedman's got a great posting in her blog with links to a handful of name-related articles and resources. As she explains, if you think you've been noticing a disproportionate number of kids running around with names that start with K, it's not your imagination: If Any Letter Defines Modern American Name Style, K Is It
But I need to warn you about the Baby Name Voyager because it's pretty darn addicting. I played with my own name, of course, and see that my plan to knock a few years off my age when I get older should work very well -- given that I was apparently one of the first with that name to walk the planet! Enjoy!
I do a lot of research and crank out lots of articles, but I found this quest especially challenging and rewarding -- and I think it's a pretty good example of developing a strategy to tackle a somewhat elusive research objective (in this case, finding a pair of family members whose overlapping lives had spanned the entire 19th and 20th centuries, along with a touch of the 18th and 21st centuries -- in other words, lived through every U.S. president other than George Washington). So if you've got a few minutes to spare, I hope you'll give it a read.
During FGS, I had the opportunity to give a talk at the banquet on Friday night. I had been asked to speak about Annie Moore, the first immigrant through Ellis Island, and the quest to find her true story. Coincidentally, just leading up to the conference, there had been both a play and a film produced about Annie, so I shared previews of both. The reaction? Folks were blown away by the reality of a genealogical play (long overdue!) and many of us (yeah, me too) got choked up after viewing the movie made entirely by Irish youngsters. But don't worry if you're disappointed that you missed them, because both are now available at Roots Television! Here's a press release that recently went out:
Roots Television Presents a Pair of Tributes to Ellis Island's First Arrival
What were you doing when you were 11-years-old? Jumping rope -- playing dodge ball? The 5th Year students at Scoil Oilibhéir in Cork, Ireland were writing, producing, directing, and starring in their own motion picture. Their short film "From Cork to New York: The Annie Moore Story" documents Annie's life in Cork and her journey to America. Before they even began filming, the students did their homework, discovering Annie's birth records and locating several sites important to Annie's life, including St. Patrick's Church where she was baptized.
Click here to see a preview.
In another tribute, "Making up History: The Search for Annie Moore" playwright Alia Faith Williams tells the compelling story of Annie Moore's journey to America, paralleled with the efforts of Megan Smolenyak and other avid genealogists to uncover Annie's true identity.
Click here to see a preview.
In addition to these new programs, you can also see the original press conference held at the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society in September 2006, announcing the discovery of the "real" Annie Moore. Learn about how Annie's story was lost and another Annie Moore assumed her place in history, as well as how the detective work of Smolenyak and fellow genealogists revealed what became of the true Ellis Island Annie and her family, including her present day descendants.
Click here to view.
All of these programs -- and 24 channels of history and heritage-oriented programming -- are available online, on-demand 24/7, and for FREE at www.rootstelevision.com, a pioneering online television network. To view the Annie Moore productions, just tune in to our Irish Roots Channel. Please contact us at email@example.com for inquiries.
NOTED AUTHORITY ON GENEALOGY AND DNA
The Ruth E. Lloyd Information Center (RELIC) will host the third annual "RELIC After Dark," Saturday, September 29, 2007, from 7 to 11 p.m. at Bull Run Regional Library in Manassas. RELIC is Prince William County's special collection for genealogy and local history. This event will allow our patrons after-hours access to the library's resources, as well as the opportunity to hear a celebrated author in the field of genealogy.
Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, will speak on "Trace Your Roots with DNA," the title of her best known work. She will tell how to use DNA tests to solve your own history mysteries. Ms. Smolenyak is chief family historian at Ancestry.com, has been a consultant for PBS television programs, and is a frequent speaker at national and regional genealogical conferences.
Price of admission, $25, includes a buffet dinner. We suggest dressy casual wear. This is an opportunity to become familiar with and use the library's research facilities and resources after normal hours, with the assistance of library staff. Those resources include books, serials, microfilm, electronic databases and internet services. Free printing will be offered from library resources. Door prizes will be drawn. To register for this event, please contact RELIC at 703-792-4540, (TTY) 703-792-4524, or RELIC2@pwcgov.org. Proceeds will support collection development and preservation.
I had the opportunity to see Chris Haley speak a few years ago, so I knew he'd be good, but Chris knocked everyone's socks off last week at FGS when he strode into the opening session belting out, "Day-o! Daaaaay-o! Daylight come and me . . ." Not what most folks were expecting shortly after 8 in the morning, but his energy and enthusiasm were contagious. Smiles all around -- especially from those Chris sang to individually, including FGS President, Wendy Bebout Elliott! If you'd like to see for yourself, watch the video here.
Roots Television invited Chris to speak at FGS partly because it's the 30th anniversary of the much-beloved Roots book and mini-series and Chris happens to be Alex Haley's nephew. But Chris is much more than that. He's also Director of the Legacy of Slavery department of the Maryland State Archives, consultant to the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation, a radio host, an accomplished actor and singer (watch the video -- you'll hear he's got some powerful pipes!), and a popular speaker. And I suspect he's about to become even more popular as a speaker and performer. In fact, I know it for a fact since I've already had several inquiries asking where we discovered Chris and how to get in touch with him (if you're interested, please email me privately for his contact info at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Fortunately, Chris was kind enough to spend the day with us interviewing folks at the FGS conference about the impression Roots made on them, their favorite ancestors, and the like, so keep an eye out for these interviews on Roots Television in the near future. He was also interviewed by Dick Eastman, so you're sure to enjoy that as well.
If you have an upcoming event even tangentially related to genealogy or history, please consider inviting Chris. I promise, your attendees will be charmed, revitalized and inspired -- and you'll look brilliant and get far more kudos than you deserve!
P.S. His presence caused such a stir that Chris was also interviewed by the local media. Here's a clipping:
I woke up recently to an email requesting access to a private Member Tree I have at Ancestry.com. Nothing unusual about that. But what caught my eye is that the request was in Italian. Why? Because Ancestry.com recently launched Ancestry.it -- and it appears that Italians, including a distant cousin of my husband, are into genealogy too! Actually I already knew this because some of his Italian cousins interact frequently with the extended clan at a MyFamily.com site I set up for them, but this was a real kick to wake up to. I love that it's becoming easier and easier for all of us to find our scattered cousins!
After a long spell tending to other business, I finally "got back to my roots" a bit and wrote an article for Ancestry.com's 24/7 Family History Circle. It's about my long, but finally successful search for a photo of one of my great-grandfathers, David Shields, an immigrant from Northern Ireland. Those of you who haven't played with passport application records yet might find a fresh idea.
What's especially nice for me is reading the remarks -- some sharing their own experiences of finally discovering a photo and some warmly congratulating me. And by the way, I also received an email from a distant cousin. One of the perks of being a genealogical writer!
If you're curious, you can read the article here.
Blaine Bettinger, aka The Genetic Genealogist, has a two-part discussion on his blog about the ethics of DNA banking.
Personally, I'm for it. You might think that's because of my borderline obsession with genetic genealogy -- and that's definitely a factor. But I'm more interested in what might be possible medically in the not-too-distant future -- and how having access to our DNA samples from today might be able to help future generations with health issues.
Yes, there's a matter of ethics. I was confronted with this situation last year when we learned my mother was terminally ill. Fortunately, she consented to providing a DNA sample which I then banked.
Blaine's discussion focuses more on the recently departed -- banking services offered by funeral homes and so forth. But what his postings really bring home to me is that I should bank my own DNA sample (along with information about where it's being kept) so that survivors are not left to wrestle with this ethical issue. I've got a will and my husband and I are in the midst of trying to purchase a cemetery plot (an activity I'm hoping proves to be wildly premature) -- so now there's one more item for the to-do list.
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!
Please forward this newsletter to your family and friends who are interested in genealogy -- thank you!
Wishing you an abundance of genealogical serendipity!
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