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Honoring Our Ancestors
November 19, 2014


Greetings Fellow Family History Sleuths,

As you'll see from this issue, it's been another busy month in genealogy-land. Take a quick scroll and be sure to check out the photo I took when I spoke a few weeks ago at the Central Jersey Genealogical Society (anyone who's been mistaken for a gynecologist or geologist will be able to relate)!

And while it's true that Finding Your Roots is winding down for this season, you'll see (under October 27th) that we don't have long to wait until the next season of Who Do You Think You Are? If you need a fix over the holiday season, please consider checking out my YouTube channel where you can find videos about the roots of Bruce Springsteen and Pharrell Williams, genetic genealogy, and other ancestry-related topics to tide you over until the new year.

Until next time, stay warm!



Melvina's Descendants, Michelle Obama's Cousins

Back in 2009, I traced the then-new First Lady's family tree back four or five generations on all branches, but of all the ancestors I uncovered, it was a great-great-great-grandmother named Melvina Shields McGruder who captured my attention. Sadly, this remarkable woman who was born into slavery and lived until 1938 had no tombstone.

Fast forward to 2014. Descendants -- mostly still living in the vicinity of Kingston, Georgia where Melvina spent the last half of her life -- raised funds for and installed an impressive memorial. This video includes not only scenes from this moving ceremony, but also brief interviews with more than a dozen of Melvina's descendants, who also happen to be cousins of Michelle Obama's. While holding a board with their relationship to both Melvina and the First Lady stated, each one shares their thoughts about their notable relatives.

In addition to those seen here, Melvina and Michelle Obama share another relative of note: retired basketball player Cuttino "Cat" Mobley who spent a decade in the NBA playing for the Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic and Sacramento Kings. Whether he knows it or not, he is Melvina's third great-grandson, making him a fourth cousin of Mrs. Obama and her brother, former basketball coach turned ESPN analyst, Craig Robinson.

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September 2014 Seton Shields Genealogy Grant

I loved the book, Five-Finger Discount, by Helene Stapinski. Then to learn that a documentary about this dramatic, multi-generational saga – featuring a cast of swindlers, bookies, embezzlers, political "fixers" and mobster wannabes – is in process...well, how great is that? The film will explore how families and cities grow and change, through the medium of Helene's journey from past to present. It's a great story and I'm proud to be supporting the film with a grant award. If you feel as drawn to the story as I am, you'll be happy to know that you can help bring this film to life, too, by supporting the crowdsourcing project here.

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August 2014 Seton Shields Genealogy Grant

The Genealogy & History Department of the Shelby County Public Library provides housing for documentation dating as far back as 1822 for Shelby County, Indiana and surrounding counties. Over 3,500 family and history folders contain invaluable information from Shelby County’s earliest organizations and settlers. The grant award will fund the purchase of a mobile scanner that will be used to help visitors preserve valuable family photos and documents, as well as to quickly share these with the library so more information can be added to the department's family files.

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Genealogy Round Up, November 12

At L.A. County cemetery, unclaimed dead await a final resting place - Compelling article about the unclaimed persons of Los Angeles County, CA. For potential family members and would-be sleuths, it includes an online database of about 1,400 who will be buried on Dec 10 if not claimed by relatives. The Unclaimed Persons volunteer group is mentioned, as is Joyce Kato, the LA County coroner who was one of the first to work with us. I'm also quoted toward the end.

A tribute to our veterans

Memories from the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial

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Genealogy Round Up, November 5

11th and 12th generations return to revive family homestead

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Genealogy Round Up, October 27

The Happy Genealogy of Pharrell Williams - Thanks very much to Cindy Clayton and The Virginian-Pilot / pilotonline.com for their wonderful article about my sleuthing on the remarkable roots of Virginia Beach, Virginia's own Pharrell Williams and his unexpected connection to Liberia.

If you've got some Norwegian ancestry, but have never been to Norway, you need to check out this TV show - "Amazing Race" meets "Who Do You Think You Are?"

Oldest Kentucky WWII vet dies at 107

An interesting peek at the behind-the-scenes process for "Who Do You Think You Are?" in Holstein, MO - and yes, the next season starts in January 2015, so you'll just have a small gap between "Finding Your Roots" and another dose of #WDYTYA!

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Genealogy Round Up, October 20

We've all been there...mistaken for a gynecologist or geologist!

How Iceland's genealogy obsession leads to scientific breakthroughs.

Jerome woman reunites with siblings after 73 years.

Way back in 2008, when I traced then-candidate Obama's roots to the village of Moneygall in Ireland, I had no idea what that discovery would trigger. This article provides an update with both positive and negative perspectives.

114-year-old woman has to lie about age to join Facebook.

French soldier’s room unchanged 96 years after his death in First World War. Love that they've honored the request.

One of the better pieces I've read on genetic genealogy in a while - not a how-to, but rather, a real life experience.

I know you've been wondering . . .What the Statue Of Liberty would look like as a $300M condo.

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Upcoming Events

After traveling around and speaking in 40 states and half a dozen countries since 2000, 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.

  • No upcoming events at this time

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