Greetings Fellow Family History Sleuths,
Happy summer, everyone! I'm riding a bit of a genealogical high at the moment as I just spent a day digging through old photos at the New York Public Library (bliss!), so my wish for each of you is a similar experience of some kind - whether it be at a cemetery, an archives or visiting new-found cousins! And if you hit the road, don’t forget to set your DVRs for "Family Tree" (Sundays at 10:30 pm on HBO) and the July 23rd return of "Who Do You Think You Are?" on TLC. We've got a lot to look forward to!
LUCKY 13: A Modest Proposal Regarding Genealogy Grants
Earlier this month, I had the honor of speaking at the banquet of the annual National Genealogical Societyconference. In a sense, I was the opening act, since Mark Hall-Patton of Pawn Stars was the featured speaker, and that makes it wildly appropriate that we were in Las Vegas.
I had been invited to speak about my Seton Shields Genealogical Grants program (Seton Shields being my mother's name), which you may or may not know about. Because genealogical and historical initiatives and organizations are notoriously under-funded and because I'm so darn grateful to be able to make a living doing what I love, I decided to launch this program soon after I became a professional genealogist. Each month, I review new applications submitted to my website (it's a simple form that was designed to take perhaps 5 minutes to complete), as well as those from the previous 5 months (applications remain active for 6 months). Typically, I pop them all in a folder and my husband and I head off to a local coffee house where we rate each one and debate the merits of our favorites. Once we settle on one, I send off a check. It's as simple as that.
Summaries of all the grants I've given to date are included on the website, and if you take a good look, you'll notice that it makes no difference whether the application is from an individual or an organization (non-profit or otherwise) or whether it pertains to New Jersey or New Zealand. What does matter to me are factors such as the nature of the undertaking, whether it's a new approach that can serve as a model for others, and how many it could potentially affect. Scan the summaries and you'll see grants for documentaries, ground-penetrating radar rental, cemetery restoration, digitization projects, and bookshelves for a library that just can't afford them.
All told, I've given 161 grants and this month - May 2013 - just happens to be the 13th anniversary. When I was invited to speak about these grants at the NGS conference, I wanted to find a way to make it relevant to Mark's talk, and after some noodling, it finally hit me. Vegas, 13th anniversary, pawn stores - Eureka! What about 13 orphan heirloom rescues originating in pawn stores?
Over the years, I've done a number of orphan heirloom rescues -- that is, I've used my genealogical skills to track down the descendants of the original owners of particular family history treasures that have gone astray. They may have turned up at a flea market, at an antiques store, on eBay or wherever, and when they do, people sometimes submit them to me. I've then gone into sleuthing mode, and once I find relatives (hint: I recommend finding descendants who live somewhere other than where the item was purchased so it doesn't end up getting re-sold), the submitter returns the photos, Bible, military medal or other treasure to the family. Occasionally, I write about these rescues.
Though I've never done a rescue for a piece of family history found in a pawn store, being invited to speak on this occasion made a light bulb go on in my head. Pawn stores are exactly where many such items wind up, so I decided to do a genealogical mash-up blending my grants with orphan heirloom rescues. At the banquet in Las Vegas, I announced what I'm calling my LUCKY 13 initiative and committed to giving 13 grants for the purpose of purchasing family treasures from pawn stores, doing the detective work to track down descendants of the original owners, and returning the item to that family.
Once you've made a rescue, apply for a Seton Shields Genealogical Grant. Over time, I will select a minimum of 13 such applications and cover the costs. It goes without saying that your odds of a successful rescue will improve considerably if you select an item with some form of identifying information, but if you happen to get stuck in your research efforts, consider submitting for my help with that aspect.
The way I see it, this is a win-win-win. Pawn stores will get sales from what is likely a fresh batch of customers. Genealogists will get to go on a mini-shopping spree and apply their research talents for this worthwhile purpose. And at least 13 lucky strangers out there will get a piece of their past back out of the blue.
Those at the banquet that evening were the first to hear about LUCKY 13, but now, I'm asking for your help to spread the word. Tell your genealogical buddies about this, include it in your society's newsletter (might make a fun group project!), share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ or wherever you hang out online. Do whatever is easiest for you and let's get these LUCKY 13 rescues under way as soon as possible!
P.S. Feel free to borrow the LUCKY 13 image above!
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Genealogy Round Up, June 10
Amazing images. Suitcases left in a NY insane asylum by patients who were locked away for the rest of their lives.
The chilling pictures of suitcases left in a New York insane asylum by patients who were locked...
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Unclaimed Persons (video)
I've started uploading videos that used to reside on RootsTelevision (RTV). One of the fortunate aspects of waiting to do this is that YouTube now accommodates longer videos, and many RTV ones exceed their earlier length restrictions. Now I have the luxury of uploading a single, complete video, rather than a sliced-up version in two or three separate sections.
This week, I decided to share one of our classics - Unclaimed Persons. In case you're not familiar with this concept, it's essentially "lost and found," but for human beings instead of gloves and umbrellas. It's a quiet but disturbing epidemic. People are going to their graves with no family to claim them. Medical examiners and coroners' offices — frequently overstretched with burgeoning case loads — are turning to an unexpected resource for help: genealogists.
This video shows me tackling cases from Lackawanna County, PA (heads-up - the Finch case mentioned has been solved!) and San Bernardino County, CA. I started assisting coroners and medical examiners back around 2005, and several years later, we figured that this would make an interesting topic for RTV to cover, so we produced this video. When we shared it, I was inundated with requests from fellow genealogists saying that they wanted to help,and that's how the volunteer organization organization known as Unclaimed Persons was born.
If you like this video, please tell your friends and keep your eyes open for more!
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Genealogy Round Up, June 3
A Memorial Day Tribute to Dad for his Service in Vietnam
"Here Is Where" by Andrew Carroll!
Exploring our forgotten history | BookPage
In case you haven't heard yet
PBS lines up “Genealogy Roadshow” for the fall
Long-lost dog tag returned to NY WWII vet who lost it in France; it was found in barley field
Chris O’Dowd on Family Tree and being in the market for a castle
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Genealogical Cruising (video)
Many people have asked me about the thousand or so videos that were once featured on RootsTelevision. I've been meaning to share at least some of them, but frankly, have a busy life with lots of competing priorities. Still, I've been wanting to do this and am delighted to finally start! I set up a personal YouTube channel, and over time, will upload selected RootsTelevision videos.
The first one I've popped up is all about genealogical cruising. I've had the good fortune to be invited to speak on about half a dozen cruises (hope to see some of you this September on Legacy Family Tree's Panama Canal cruise!), and highly recommend it. This is a homemade video my husband and I put together on the second genealogical cruise we went on. It's nothing fancy, but we figured that folks who hadn't tried it yet might want a taste of what it's like. You'll recognize a few faces, no doubt -- Dick Eastman, John Grenham, Cyndi Howells, Bob Velke, and others -- and get a sense of the ship, food, events, and so forth. But perhaps most importantly, you'll also hear reactions from the participants themselves toward the end. Enjoy!
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Genealogy Round Up, May 23
Who Do You Think You Are?' Back on July 23rd w/Christina Applegate, Cindy Crawford, Zooey Deschanel, Kelly Clarkson & Chelsea Handler TLC Brings NBC's 'Who Do You Think You Are?' Back From the Grave (Exclusive)
Whoa! I've seen this buildings, but not with people.
History in Pictures
Look what's next to Melissa McCarthy! Thanks, Irish America Magazine! http://s.shr.lc/14Snmsp #luckyme
Look What's Next to Melissa McCarthy! - Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak's Roots World
How many did you spot?
8 hilarious things you might have missed in the background of Family Tree HBO
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Seton Shields Genealogical Grants
Congrats to our recent grant recipient! You can apply for a Seton Shields Genealogical Grant here.
The Daviess County Public Library in Owensboro, KY has the largest collection of genealogy and local history materials in a public library in Western Kentucky. They have partnered with the Owensboro Museum of Science and History for a local history project called "Voices of Elmwood." As part of the project, they will research people who have been buried in Elmwood Cemetery, create a script, and have actors reenact their lives during an October hayride through the cemetery. The grant award will support this and other initiatives at the library.
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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, Huffington Post 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.
- September 22 - October 7, 2013 - Legacy Family Tree 2013 Genealogy Cruise - Panama Canal Cruise
- November 9, 2013 - Pensacola, FL - West Florida Genealogical Society - "Right Annie, Wrong Annie," "Trace Your Roots with DNA," "Find That Obituary! Online Newspaper Research" and "Honoring Our Ancestors"
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