Honoring Our Ancestors Newsletter
June 15, 2008
By Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak
It's been a comparatively quiet month, but I'm getting ready to head out to Louisiana and Southern California soon. Hope to see lots of you while I'm on the road. And by the way, if you haven't checked my schedule lately, take a look as I'm heading everywhere from Auckland, New Zealand to Anchorage, Alaska to Manchester, New Hampshire! This genie gets around! Here's hoping that you're all off to a summer full of genealogical adventures and discoveries!
In this newsletter. . .
As a Catholic myself, this really disappoints me:
Now, Catholics around the world will have a tougher time of tracing their roots, as if it isn't already challenging enough in places like Ireland.
Kimberly Powell does an excellent job of summarizing the situation:
The part that got my attention is that the Vatican declared back in 2001 that baptism conferred by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not valid. This is the disconnect for me. I have no objection to what the LDS Church does because, given that I don't hold the same beliefs, I don't perceive my own ancestors as being baptized into the Mormon faith. Moreover, if you watch this interview I taped just a few weeks ago with Ahmad Corbitt, Public Affairs Director (NYC) of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you'll see that he explains that members of the LDS Church believe that those who lived before us have a choice about the baptism as well.
I personally will gratefully accept and use any Catholic records the LDS Church chooses to make available. And I sincerely hope that some additional thought will be given to this issue and a reversal will be made. Otherwise, all Catholics better start leaving an excellent trail for their descendants!
Well, bad news for Catholics (see above), but good news for Czechs!
Return of a Slave-Owned Bible
As I surf around, I come across all sorts of interesting and useful sites, so every once in a while, I like to do a bit of a round up. So here's a recent batch:
-- The latest issue of The Journal of Genetic Genealogy
-- For my fellow military brats who know what it's like to have no home town: Military Brats Registry
-- For those interested in playing with Ancestry.com's recently released income tax records (1862-1918): A Taxing History
-- A really cool, recent database release by Ancestry.com: U.S. Army, Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914
What's especially disappointing is that this one is driven by an article that apparently appeared in Ancestors, a popular British genealogy magazine. The person who took the testing is mentioned as a deputy editor, so given that genetic genealogy has been around since 2000, you would think that she would be fairly savvy about the topic. But sadly, she's not. In fact, based on the information included in the online newspaper articles, she's impressively clueless. It sounds, for instance, as if she tried to compare her mtDNA results with autosomal ones. Here's a comment I posted on one of the newspaper sites to try to explain why this makes no sense:
In my opinion, we either sadly have an editor from a genealogy magazine failing to do even the most basic of research before publishing an article or we have a magazine just trying to attract attention. Unfortunately, it's succeeded in gaining attention for badly distorted information. What really blows my mind is the fact that it's a genealogy publication that's done this. Why would they, of all people, try to scare folks off with misinformation?
At any rate, I apologize if I sound beyond frustrated with this, but it's because I'm been here so many times before. Check out this posting of mine from last October that referenced an earlier posting of mine from June of 2006 that referenced something I wrote in early 2004. If folks are going to continue to attack genetic genealogy, they should at least try to be accurate and/or original!
Just when I think I've seen it all, I spot this article on an underwater cemetery:
I hope they keep good records because this would be a tricky one to transcribe!
CEO Tim Sullivan is at NGS on this, Ancestry.com's 25th anniversary. Among other things, he's sharing some highlights of what the company has been up to over the last year or two. Pretty amazing, eh?
P.S. Yes, I'm Chief Family History of Ancestry.com, so my opinion is -- let's say -- gently biased. But seriously, 7 billion records and all those other toys?! Not too shabby.
Category I-Newspaper Columns
Category III-Original Research Story
Category IV-Want-to-Be Writer/Columnist
P.S. Here's a link to the one I wrote, a story that's now become part of my "Cases That Made My Brain Hurt" talk!
Sure hope this is true!
If it is, I bet we have Marian Smith to thank!
Two years ago, my mother passed away. For those of you who happen to be Catholic, you'll know what it means when I say that my sister and I had our own Mother Seton.
Several months after she passed away, I wrote about the experience of finding Mom in the Social Security Death Index for the first time. Apparently, it struck a chord for both emotional and practical reasons, so there are more than 30 responses posted. I think it probably remains the most authentic piece I've ever written, so today, in memory of a remarkable, before-her-time woman, here's a bit of a replay, a link to the original article:
I can't help it. I see genealogy everywhere I look. Here are some random recent spottings that caught my attention:
Who's your daddy?
Dutch first in decoding female DNA
A Case of MisTaken Identity?
Unearthing bones can also unearth family secrets (might have to sign in)
For 60 years, her birth date was wrong
Springfield construction site turns up mystery skeleton
And finally -- and I heartily agree with this:
Please help spread the word about our latest show at RootsTelevision.com. It's about a serious epidemic that most folks are clueless about -- and it just so happens that genealogists are in a good position to help. In addition to an episode about a couple of actual cases I worked on, you'll also find a bonus video showing the research I did to solve one of the cases. Please read the following, watch Unclaimed Persons, and tell others! Thanks! -- Megan
PROVO, UT, May 28, 2008 -- What happens to people when they die with no next of kin to claim their bodies? RootsTelevision.com, an online channel dedicated to all aspects of genealogy and family history, has launched a new show, Unclaimed Persons, to bring attention to this largely unknown epidemic. Coroners' offices across the country are struggling to cope with thousands of unclaimed people whose identities are known, but for whom no family can be found.
"I knew about John and Jane Does," said genealogist Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, "but I had no idea about all these unclaimed people who are usually cremated and buried in unmarked graves, and that's often after several months on a shelf in a morgue. We hear about abandoned pets, but you never hear about these abandoned bodies."
Accidentally stumbling across an article about one such case is what prompted Smolenyak Smolenyak to cold call a couple of coroners' offices and offer her sleuthing skills for tracking down family members. Unclaimed Persons features cases -- one involving a man who was found in his jeep in the desert and had been lost to his family for more than 50 years -- from Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania and San Bernardino County, California.
Says RootsTelevision.com co-founder Marcy Brown, "We hope this show will create awareness, and that viewers will help with unsolved cases. But most of all, we hope it will motivate folks to pick up the phone and call that brother they haven't spoken with in decades. I think it will make people ask themselves if maybe it's time to call home."
Unclaimed Persons can be viewed at www.RootsTelevision.com.
I don't know who Clif is -- clearly a fellow who watches his pennies -- but I had to laugh when I read his remarks about Trace Your Roots with DNA. Still, it may be the single, kindest comment ever made about our book, so thanks, Clif! Here's the gist:
I've been toying around with Facebook now for several months, and I have to say that I really like it. Like many taking their baby steps, I was borderline obsessed for a short while -- throwing strawberries at my friends, insisting on more cowbell, and mapping out the countries where I've traveled. If some or all of this doesn't make sense to you, don't worry -- it didn't to me either until a short while ago.
I haven't written about it before because I suspected that I might be going through a honeymoon phase and would grow bored after a while, but that's not been the case. In fact, if anything, I've become increasingly enchanted because -- over the last month or so -- genealogists seem to be flocking to Facebook.
I think what especially appeals to me is the ability to socialize between conferences. So many of us just see each other once a year or communicate only by email or message boards, but Facebook provides the means to link with folks and lots of alternatives for letting someone know that you're thinking of them. And yes, I know you can socialize in a sense by email, but this is frankly a lot more fun. Facebook overall is pretty darn playful.
As I've become more familiar with Facebook, I've started experimenting to see how this social networking tool can also be used for practical applications, such as communicating in a public forum with RootsTelevision.com viewers and -- my latest experiment -- using this environment to assemble a team of genealogical volunteers to help coroners' offices tackle the problem of Unclaimed Persons. And so far, I'm impressed.
So please consider this your invitation to join me on Facebook in any or all of three ways:
-- as my friend
-- as a friend of RootsTelevision.com
-- as a friend of the Unclaimed Persons research initiative
If you're already on Facebook, you already know how to add me to your friends. And if you're new, you'll have to register, but it's free. And I suspect you're going to have lots of fun finding all your other friends who are already on there!
Congrats to our recent grant recipient! Don't forget that you can apply here.
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