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Honoring Our Ancestors
December 21, 2016


Greetings Fellow Family History Sleuths,

This month's featured article isn't purely genealogical, but it seems appropriate for the holidays since it's about appreciating and supporting others - especially those we admire. I wrote it last January, and had no clue how innocent I was in terms of what the rest 2016 had in store for us, so now I'm practicing what I'm preaching by going on a retro-concert kick to see performers from my younger days. I just went to see Melissa Etheridge's Christmas concert and have tickets for Steve Martin/Martin Short, Dionne Warwick, and The 5th Dimension, so lots of blasts from the past coming up for me!

Here's wishing all of you all sorts of wonderful blasts from the past - genealogical and otherwise - as you gather with family and friends! See you in 2017!



My #NotAllowedToDie List

First David Bowie. Then Alan Rickman. This week and cancer both suck. Sixty-nine years is not enough, so we all take to Twitter, Facebook, and countless other platforms to lament. This is now familiar territory and not in a good way.

My first memory of this kind of grief was watching my nana's reaction to the death of Jimmy Durante back in 1980. I barely knew who he was, but he had clearly made a lasting impression on her and his passing hurt. Since then, I've had my share of Durante moments - Michael Jackson, Robin Williams, Diana, Freddie Mercury, Whitney Houston, Gilda Radner, Luther Vandross, and John Lennon, to name a few - those special, mind-blowingly talented souls I never met whose loss still felt personal, the grief only compounded if they were unexpectedly young. Whenever one of these icons passes, we all feel robbed of a piece of our youth, fond memories, and future smiles.

I don't want one more morning of waking to a gut-punch on Twitter followed by frantically googling to see if by some miracle it's just a false alarm, so I've decided to make a not-allowed-to-die list. Because I'm as self-centered as everyone else on this planet (well, maybe not 48-minutes-a-day-taking-selfies level narcissistic, but I'm no slouch either), here's my list (in no particular order) of those I'm requesting to kindly stay alive indefinitely:

  1. Steve Martin
  2. Paul McCartney
  3. Oprah
  4. Bill Gates
  5. Billie Jean King
  6. Bruce Springsteen
  7. President & Mrs. Obama
  8. Tina Fey
  9. Tom Hanks
  10. Stevie Wonder
  11. Steven Spielberg
  12. Steven Tyler
  13. Stephen Colbert
  14. Betty White
  15. Elizabeth Gilbert
  16. Eddie Izzard
  17. Edward Rutherfurd
  18. Barbara Streisand
  19. Jon Stewart
  20. John Goodman
  21. Lisa See
  22. Mick Jagger
  23. Ben Stiller
  24. Pharrell
  25. Helen Mirren
  26. Joe & Dr. Biden
  27. Meryl Streep
  28. Bill Nye
  29. Madonna
  30. Dikembe Mutombo
  31. Ellen DeGeneres
  32. David Sedaris
  33. Pope Francis
  34. Emma Thompson
  35. Sarah Vowell
  36. Monty Python members (thank you, Eric Idle and John Cleese, for coming to Florida about five minutes after I moved here)
  37. Martina Navratilova
  38. Al Jarreau
  39. Cheryl Richardson
  40. Jimmy Carter
  41. Judd Apatow
  42. Rachel Maddow
  43. Tony Horwitz
  44. Amy Poehler
  45. Ken Burns
  46. Pat Ewing
  47. Bill Clinton
  48. Melissa McCarthy
  49. Gloria Steinem
  50. Bill Murray

I realize there's a bit of an age bias built in here, but I decided to include 40-somethings as doing so means that they've already left as much of a mark as their senior mega-talents, and yet, I drew the line at under-40 (I'm talking to you, Beyoncé, Amy Schumer, John Green, Pink, Serena Williams, Kate McKinnon, and Saoirse Ronan) to avoid coming across as even creepier than this probably already seems to some.

To those on the list, I'd be grateful if you could set an alert for my obituary. Once you receive it, you're welcome to pass over to the great wild yonder, but before then, would you mind staying alive?

What? You've never heard of this silly list, and even if you had, wouldn't have time for such nonsense? Well, maybe I should take another approach then.

What if I make it a point to travel a few hundred miles or even catch a flight to see you in concert rather than wait to download your music after the fact? What if I watch your latest TV show to see what you've been up to lately instead of turning to Roku once you've passed? What if I read that book I never got around to now instead of when it hurts to realize that I'll never get another first-time escape into your magical storytelling voice again? What if I make a minor contribution to your wealth instead of to your estate? What if I use my #NotAllowedToDie list to support these gifted individuals here and now?

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In Search Of Our Ancestors

Reminding everyone that a .pdf version of my latest book – a feel-good collection of 101 tales of genealogical kindness and serendipity – is available from the good folks at Legacy Family Tree.

And if you prefer, it's also available in ebook format for your Kindle, Nook, etc. here.

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Seton Shields Genealogy Grants

When some people hear about my Seton Shields Genealogy Grant program, they ask who Seton Shields is. She was my mother, and I shared the image above just before the 10th anniversary of the day we lost her. I hope these little life lessons she left me with will give you at least a hint of the kind of person she was. Very fortunate to have been her daughter.

Watch for information about the fourth-quarter grant recipient shortly. And then, I'll be considering applications for the first quarter of 2017, 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.

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Genealogy Round Up, December 14

The Secret Story of the POWs Who Tunneled Through a Toilet to Freedom

Bean Puzzle Tombstone

The Library of Congress Is Putting Its Map Collection Online – Yes!

National Park Service photographer captures "essence" of American history – Thanks to Jan Brandt for telling me about this! Interesting piece with official Ellis Island photographer.

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Genealogy Round Up, December 7

Central Park Was Once Seneca Village, Home to a Thriving Free Black Community

Baby is 75th to wear family baptism gown

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Genealogy Round Up, November 30

Photo Credits: Danny Dyer photo - Hilton1949, Patrick Stewart photo - NASA/Bill Ingalls, J.K. Rowling photo - Daniel Ogren

Who Do You Think You Are?: how to reduce celebrities to tears

The Family Tree on The Why Factor from BBC World Service – Interesting exploration of genealogy - a curious mix of insightful and obvious with a dash of iffy - more Else Churchill, please!

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Genealogy Round Up, November 23

Sketchbooks of a 21 Year-Old World War II Soldier

The Scott Brothers (HGTV's Property Brothers) Will Keynote RootsTech 2017 – So the Property Brothers are going to keynote RootsTech, eh? You just know they're going to be rocking their kilts!

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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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