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Honoring Our Ancestors
October 26, 2016


Greetings Fellow Family History Sleuths,

Lucky me – I've been to Ellis and Liberty Islands three times in the last two weeks! A great way to reinvigorate your genealogical aspirations as it reminds you how many compelling tales are still out there waiting to be told.

Going back to Ellis Island also reminded me of seeing Bruce Springsteen there, and since he just came out with his remarkable memoir, this seemed a good time to re-share my research on his Irish roots. Also in this issue, you'll find everything from secret apartments in libraries (who knew?!) to the developing trend of folks buying back family homesteads. And of course, a gentle nudge to get your application for the next genealogy grant in soon!

Until next time, happy sleuthing!



On the Prowl for Bruce 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.”

Preparing to write about the National Library of Ireland’s recently released Catholic parish records, I flashed back to that day and thought that an ancestor of “The Boss” would be a fun addition. But to do this, I would need to clamber up his family tree, identify one or more Irish immigrants, and then ferret them out of this new database, and as anyone who’s ever dabbled in Irish genealogy knows, that’s often easier said than done.

This article originally appeared on pages 90-91 of the October/November 2015 article of Irish America. Click here to access the digital version and continue reading.

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Seton Shields Genealogy Grants

Photo Credit: Irish America – “Photo Album: The Shields Family” by Megan Smolenyak
and Irish America Digital Magazine [Page 96] – “My Irish American Mother” by Megan Smolenyak

I'll be considering applications for my next genealogy grant before long, so here's a reminder to get yours in if you've been intending to. Submissions remain active candidates for six months from the date I receive them.

To apply for a Seton Shields grant, fill out and submit the form here. To see the types of cool projects I've had the opportunity to contribute to over the years, look here.

Seton Shields, pictured above, is my remarkable mother. Naming this grants program after her is one small way to keep her memory alive, though she’s no longer with us.

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Genealogy Round Up, October 19

Photo Credit: Oleg Moro

Dargavs Village: City of the Dead

True Bruce: Springsteen Goes Deep, From Early Trauma to Future of E Street – Not genealogy-related (though he knows his roots quite well and references his family history frequently), but greatly enjoyed this thoughtful interview.

Theatre Icon F. Murray Abraham to Be Honored on Ellis Island – The ceremony has since taken place, but still an interesting read about Abraham and the Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards.

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Genealogy Round Up, October 12

Inside the New York Public Library's Last, Secret Apartments – You used to be able to live above a library?? #heaven

Alt-right trolls are arguing over genetic tests they think “prove” their whiteness – As someone who's been playing with DNA for 16 years, I'm happy to report that these folks are the exception. From my experience, the ones who are most disappointed with their results are those who are 100% anything. That said, it's both sobering and heartbreaking to see genetic genealogy being used for such purposes.

It's also interesting (and honestly, sort of a relief) to learn that my half-Slavic heritage makes me non-white in the eyes of these folks. Who knew racism had so many rules?

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Genealogy Round Up, October 5

Father And Daughter Recreate Old Wedding Photos To Say Goodbye To Late Wife And Mother

Meet the Woman Who Is Preserving the Smell of History – Now if this scientist would just partner with Demeter Fragrance Library, maybe we could all buy Eau de Bibliothèque for our homes!

10 Bars at the End of the World – OK, I just found my next life goal - to visit all 10. Who's with me??

Homeowners Buy Back the Family Homestead – I wanted to do this in Slovakia, but the house was gone!

Cave where Turner hid becomes vanishing legacy

The Family Tree of Pharrell Williams and Why He Almost Didn’t Exist – Weird history intersection: Nat Turner and founding of Liberia, as illustrated by ancestor of Pharrell Williams

A park ranger at Ellis Island discovers her own family's history

You’ve Never Seen 1930s & 40s America Like This – More interesting stuff from Messy Nessy Chic. Check out these photos from the 1930s and 1940s!

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Genealogy Round Up, September 21

Photo Credit: dilettantiquity

This obscure London memorial is filled with heart-wrenching tales of everyday heroism – This is - but should not be - obscure.

For a while she was a name and a status — enslaved. Now we know more

DNA of long-lived Italians wasn’t stolen after all

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen review–inside the mind of the Boss – His Dutch, Irish and Italian ancestors all get a shout-out in this review of Springsteen's new autobio

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Upcoming Events

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