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Honoring Our Ancestors
October 21, 2015


Greetings Fellow Family History Sleuths,

Well, I reported it last July, but PBS has finally confirmed the return of "Finding Your Roots" on January 5, 2016 to be dovetailed with the next season of "Genealogy Roadshow" starting in May 2016. Check out this article to see the names of 24 of the celebrities who will be featured this time on FYR. To help tide you over until next year, though, please take a browse of the eclectic genealogical offerings of this month's newsletter, including two pieces about musical roots - in this case, of Bruce Springsteen and Prince!

Until next time, happy roots sleuthing!



On the Prowl for Springsteen’s Irish Roots

Several years ago, I had the pleasure of watching Bruce Springsteen accept the Ellis Island Family Heritage Award with his lively mother and aunts whose parents were Italian immigrants (for a charming video, Google Springsteen Ellis Island). I love researching immigrant roots of all origins, but admit that my ears perked up when he mentioned that he and his wife, Patti, were carrying on the "Irish-Italian mating tradition of Central New Jersey" and described his father as "a turbulent Irishman."

You can continue reading here Or, you can find a digital version of the article on pages 90-91 of Irish America Magazine. You might also like to check out page 88 of the same issue for a companion article about the National Library of Ireland's online Catholic parish registers.

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Hey, Prince, Your Roots Are Showing

Prince Rogers Nelson, better known simply as Prince, recently released his thirty-eighth album. I thought that made this a fun time share a peek into his past -- and by that, I mean his pre-Minnesota, pre-purple, ancestral past. Here are a few of the discoveries I found scattered in the branches of his family tree:

  • Among the surnames that appear in Prince's family tree are Bonnell, Brooks, Hardy, Head, Jenkins, Nelson, Phillips and Shaw, so those sharing these names could be related.
  • As with other gifted musicians such as Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Prince has a concentration of Louisiana roots. In fact, all four of his grandparents were born there, though Minnesota, Georgia, and Arkansas can also claim a piece of his heritage.
  • Twins run on both sides of Prince's family. His mother was one, and there were also twins in the Nelson branch on his father's side.
  • Due to the Great Migration, his once mostly Louisiana-based family dispersed to Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey and Tennessee. His maternal grandfather, a Pullman porter named Frank Shaw, went north to Minnesota by way of Iowa. Though this might sound like a peculiar route, this same pattern can be seen in the family tree of Cory Booker, whose ancestors were drawn from the South to Iowa for mining jobs. And as a result of all this meandering, one of Prince's great-uncles is buried at Burr Oak on the outskirts of Chicago, the same notorious cemetery where one of Michelle Obama's uncles is buried.
  • Prince's paternal grandfather had 11 children by two wives over a 36-year period. This grandfather's parents also had 11 children, but in a more concentrated 14-year period. 22 offspring from just these two generations means that Prince undoubtedly has dozens, if not hundreds, of Nelson cousins in both Arkansas and Minnesota.
  • Six of Prince's eight great-grandparents were born into slavery, and as was unfortunately so common, one of his great-grandmothers was apparently the daughter of her one-time owner.
  • Within Louisiana, Prince has roots in Claiborne, Webster, Bienville and Lincoln Parishes. More specifically, the towns of Homer, Cotton Valley, Arcadia and Vienna, are all ancestral hometowns for the Purple One.

  • One of his great-great-grandmothers could be considered a 19th century version of a cougar. After her first marriage, she took a second husband less than half her age. Her new, teen-aged husband was only five years older than his eldest stepchild. Even so, she managed to outlive him.

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Q3 2015 Seton Shields Genealogy Grant

As I mentioned in a blog post a few months ago, I'm now awarding Seton Shields genealogy grants on a quarterly, rather than monthly basis. This quarter, as both requests were modest, I'm awarding two grants – one to Rich Custer and the other to the White Lake Area Historical Society.

Rich Custer has invested a couple of decades traveling around gaining access to Rusyn records that would otherwise vanish, so he's an amazing gift to the Carpatho-Rusyn community. The grant will assist with costs associated with a week-long research trip to archives in eastern Pennsylvania and northeastern New Jersey. Rich's aim is to provide detailed accounts of the development of all Carpatho-Rusyn (and related) immigrant communities in Pennsylvania, based substantially on primary sources, and to describe the patterns of chain migration in each place (and by extension, within the state and in other Rusyn communities in the U.S.), thus aiding genealogists to trace the movement of their families and relatives or fellow villagers. (Photo above is used with the kind permission of Rich Custer.)

The White Lake Area Historical Society is dedicated to preserving their area history for future generations. They've created a museum and a Historical Center, both open to the public and full of early photos and local artifacts. Also featured is a family banner collection, which includes over 100 pioneer families so far. Many families walk their banners in the annual 4th of July parade, as shown in the photo below, used with the permission of the White Lake Area Historical Society. The Society's latest project is the creation of a series of books that will showcase area families and notable people, places, and events; the grant will help defray the initial costs associated with this project.

To apply for a Seton Shields grant, fill out and submit the form here. You can see examples of past grant awards here.

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Genealogy Round Up, October 14

Final reunion: Two sailors from Naval Academy Class of 1940 to meet for one last time – touching reunion tale - one last time, 96 and 98 years old

Orphaned sisters reunite while working on same floor at Sarasota hospital – love, love, love reunion tales like this!

Estonia Wants to Collect the DNA of All Its Citizens – Estonia is kind of fascinating - so often ahead of the curve.

Boy Wears Same Sweater as Dad, Grandfather for School Picture – Another example of a fun family tradition . . .

New Book - In Search of Our Ancestors – The good folks at Legacy Family Tree now have my genealogical serendipity book available! While you're there, please be sure to check out their webinars, if you haven't already!

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Genealogy Round Up, October 7

Photo Credit (Dennis Wolfe, a Cherokee indian in Cherokee, North Carolina, 1980.): Carol M. Highsmith/Library of Congress

Why Do So Many Americans Think They Have Cherokee Blood?

Reclaim the Records – A victory for genealogists!

Brooke Shields: My ancestor Louis XIV influenced jewellery line – Having done most of the research on Brooke Shields for Who Do You Think You Are, I never anticipated this after-effect. Now if she would just launch a line based on her hard-suffering non-royals!

Dead Fred – Cool article about Joe Bott and the origins of DeadFred!

Poor Relations – Read this book and while she occasionally makes some sweeping generalizations about genealogists that I don't entirely agree with, I found it to be an excellent book overall. Through the exploration of her own family history, she offers insight into life in England over the last couple of centuries, and anyone with Portsea/Portsmouth ancestry will find it especially intriguing.

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Genealogy Round Up, September 30

Photo Credit: Alex Crick / @crickontour

Artists use DNA designs to honor Francis Crick — and fund the fight against cancer

Digging Up the Past – Well, this is different. Dick Eastman on Sputnik Radio!

Something borrowed for the tenth time: Woman will be the 11th member of her family to get married in the same wedding gown that's been handed down for 120 years

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Genealogy Round Up, September 23

How I discovered the guilty secret of my Titanic violinist grandfather – This is one of the best genealogical sagas I've read in a long time! Thanks for sharing it, Roger Moffat!

New Jersey girl traces heritage through region

DNA-based advertising redefines commercial ‘ad-targeting’ – DNA-based advertising??

Bono First To Hear The Corrs’ New Album? Group Announced Their Comeback – This makes me happy on several levels. First, I've always liked the Corrs, so I'm pleased to hear they're making a comeback. Second, I'm delighted to hear of the prospect of two Ellis Island songs! I can't help but wonder whether the one the Corrs have recorded is the one by Mary Black that I've long loved.

What Your DNA Says About Medieval History – Two Mongolian waves, eh?

10 Things You Didn't Know about (long overdue Emmy winner) Jon Hamm's Roots

Wimberley family reunited with decades of memories

J.K. Rowling reveals Potter family history on new Pottermore site

Genealogy Roadshow, Season 3, taping in Houston, Los Angeles, and Albuquerque

She went to college to study anthropology and found her slave ancestors nearby

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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.

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