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Honoring Our Ancestors
April 21, 2016


Greetings Fellow Family History Sleuths,

Yes, I know it's April, but you'll notice a bit of an Irish spillover from March as the past month has been overflowing with adventures pertaining to Annie Moore of Ellis Island. But there's plenty more here for the non-Irish among you - especially about genealogy on TV (which I officially declare a genre) and genealogical grants (check out the latest batch). I even got to interview Aisha Tyler for her episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?," and she was remarkably candid in her responses about the entire experience, so take a look if you're interested in a peek behind the scenes.

Until next month, keep on sleuthing!



The Latest Chapter in the Story of Annie Moore, Ellis Island’s First Immigrant

A few weeks ago, in honor of the start of Irish-American Heritage month, I shared a colorized photo of Annie Moore, the first immigrant to arrive at Ellis Island, along with her brothers, Anthony and Philip. My hope was that the colorization would bring that moment in history more vividly to life.

Well, a lot has happened since then, including a first-time meeting between two of Annie Moore's Irish and American relatives! The picture above shows us enjoying a laugh together, along with that same colorized photo, this time enlarged to poster size. Paul Linehan, of Ireland, is to my left and Michael Shulman, representing the American side of the family, is to my right.

Pictured below, Paul Linehan closed out the evening at the 2016 Irish America Hall of Fame Awards with a final song, "Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears," a ballad chronicling Annie Moore's experiences of immigration. I was able to record a video of Paul singing, which you can enjoy here (or just click the picture below).

You might also enjoy finding out how I found Annie's Irish family (see pages 76-78). History lives on through all of us and helping to facilitate a meeting between these two branches of Annie Moore's family was more than satisfying for this genie.

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Genealogy Is Officially a TV Genre

It only took about two decades, but this genie’s wish has finally been granted: genealogy is now officially its own TV genre. With current offerings including Who Do You Think You Are?, Finding Your Roots, Relative Race, Genealogy Roadshow, Long Lost Family, and Follow Your Past, it’s clear this is no passing phase. Family history on TV is here to stay.

Some of us can remember back to the late 1990s when PBS took the lead by introducing Ancestors which ran for two seasons, and way back in the dark ages of 2007, I had a deal with TLC for a genealogy program which unfortunately crumbled when the executive producer insisted on “no history” (no kidding). But look how far we’ve come since then!

Oh, we’ve flirted with it in the past. African American Lives, Ancestors, Ancestors in the Attic, Faces of America, Find My Past, The Generations Project, and Searching For all come to mind as series that entertained us for a season or two. Family history has been served up in barely disguised versions such as History Detectives and If Walls Could Talk, and discreetly tucked into non-genealogical shows such as Top Chef.

But Who Do You Think You Are? is now in its eighth season and has run for 12 in the United Kingdom where it originated, and both Finding Your Roots and Genealogy Roadshow are three seasons in. Relative Race pushes the genre in a new direction by turning it into a game, and there are enticing, overseas formats such as Sweden’s Allt för Sverige and the U.K.’s The Secret History of My Family just begging to be imported. Yes, we’ve reached the “me, too” stage where network and cable outlets that don’t yet have a genealogical show should be shopping for one.

We’ve seen this happen before with cooking, design, and home-buying genres to name but a few, and it’s finally our turn, but at the risk of sounding greedy, this genie has one more wish.

When you watch cooking shows, you see chefs - or at least wannabe chefs. When you watch design shows, you see interior or fashion designers, and when you watch home-buying shows, you see realtors. Why then is there such a scarcity of genealogists on genealogy shows?

Genealogy Roadshow is the exception that proves the rule since it features three genealogists. Who Do You Think You Are? tends to include a cameo by a genealogist every other episode or so (though there are many experts in the show, most are professors rather than those who did the sleuthing) and Finding Your Roots typically incorporates one appearance per season where a genealogist speaks. And that’s it.

So thank you for all the family history-themed shows. We love them all and are truly grateful. But if it’s not too much to ask, could the next one include some genealogists?

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Q1 2016 Seton Shields Genealogy Grant

This quarter, as all of the requests were modest, I’m awarding four grants – to the Morgan County Public Library, the Scott County Historical Society, Oak and Laurel Cemetery Preservation, and to support 'The Rising' film.

Emily Ford, of Oak and Laurel Cemetery Preservation, LLC, works to reunite families with their burial places and tombs in New Orleans Cemeteries. The grant will assist with costs related to transcribing the records in interment books (located at Louisiana State University) for the tomb of the Société Française de Bienfaisance et D’Assistance Mutuelle, one of the largest structures in Lafayette Cemetery No. 2 in the Central City neighborhood of New Orleans. The tomb has no names inscribed upon it, so without these efforts to make the names of those buried in this tomb available to family researchers, who in turn can reconnect with their family burial place, those who are buried in this tomb will never be remembered and the tomb will eventually collapse from neglect. (Photo above, showing the tomb and its corresponding interment book is used with the permission of Emily Ford.)

The Scott County Historical Society of Indiana makes family history available to the community as a way to provide support and encouragement to a community dealing with some significant challenges. To this end, the grant will assist with purchase costs for a digital camera, digital voice recorder, CDs and CD cases.

'The Rising’ is a film-in-process that will dramatize the Easter Rising Rebellion, the heroic story of a revolution against the British Empire that led to the the birth of a nation, the Irish Republic. Liam Neeson's son, Micheal, is slated to play Michael Collins, the role played famously by his father two decades ago in the movie Michael Collins.

The Morgan County Public Library houses a wonderful collection of family histories for Morgan County. Janice Kistler, pictured below with her permission, oversees requests for genealogy assistance and provides genealogy research when requested. The grant will assist with the purchase of a wand to scan photographs and documents for digitization and sharing online.

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

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Genealogy Round Up, April 13

Photo Credit: OhJuliaAnn.com

Grandpa walked these 3 generations of women down the aisle — in the same dress!

Making a Life: Oral History Interviews -- Johnstown Heritage Discovery Center – A taste of the Slavic immigrant experience in America

The Grave of the Female Stranger

Beverly Hills of the Dead: Luxury Tombs complete with Kitchens & Air Conditioning

All the Colour they Left Behind

I called a hotline and got connected to a random Swede. Here's what I learned. – This makes me wish I had Swedish roots. DNA-wise, I've got a bit of Scandinavian. Does that count?

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Genealogy Round Up, April 6

Photo Credit: Facebook/Rebecca Churan

Man receives preserved love note from his wife 51 years after it was written

Aisha Tyler Isn’t Afraid to Dig Deep on Season Premiere of ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ – Lucky me! I had a chance to interview Aisha Tyler about her "Who Do You Think You Are?" experience, so naturally I asked her all the questions we genealogists wonder about! Love her attitude about the roots-seeking journey: "I don’t get when people are worried about what they’re going to find out about their family. Human beings are complex and frail and brave and transcendent and terrible."

Silver Lake and GIC to Acquire Substantial Stakes on Ancestry.com

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Genealogy Round Up, March 30

Aisha Tyler was featured in the season premiere of "Who Do You Think You Are?". Still to come this season are episodes about Lea Michele, Chris Noth, and Molly Ringwald.

Iconic emigré Annie Moore had roots in North Cork

When Washington Met Hollywood: At Lunch With Cory Booker and Susan Sarandon – Oh, this is so bizarre. For whatever reasons, Cory Booker and Susan Sarandon had lunch. In the interview/discussion that followed, there's a question/statement posed:

"Here's a weird coincidence. You both appeared on TV genealogy shows, looking for a missing ancestor."

What's stranger to me that is that I did the sleuthing on both cases – figuring out who the father of Cory's grandfather was and tracking down Susan's grandmother who had gone missing around 1940. Cory's was for Finding Your Roots while Susan's was for Who Do You Think You Are? Cory's was much harder than the show made it seem, and Susan's was easier!

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Genealogy Round Up, March 23

Classic New York Streetscapes, Then and Now

Generation saga: Relatives of Annie Moore traced – Only took me 10 years, but I finally found Annie Moore's Irish cousins!

This map shows the most common surnames in Europe

Recognize These Television Celebrities? – Serious flashback. 2nd season of "Ancestors" was the first TV show I ever worked on. Was the lead researcher. And only the 2nd show I ever appeared on. Recognize these folks?!

Next Generation DNA Sequencing – This might explain why an Army case of mine from 2001 was finally resolved recently. If so, I hope to see a lot more soldiers identified soon-ish!

Texas soldier accounted for from the Korean War to be buried in Humble – I'm pleased to say that this was one of my cases, but the article is a little off. You'll note, for instance, that it says that the Y-DNA matched a nephew and sister (would that this were possible!). Though this case was way back in 2004, I remember it well because his mother was an orphan train rider, so stands out in my mind.

The Spy in the Castle – Here's my latest article for Irish America Magazine about a double agent for Michael Collins, and his perspective years later.

Pioneering female colonists changed Jamestown

Fascinating Photos from the Secret Trash Collection in a New York Sanitation Garage – Oh, please, can't we rescue those family photos??

Loneliness in Waitrose – The title of this story makes you think it's a sad one, but it's actually warm and touching. Give it a read if you have a chance. Genealogists, especially, will appreciate it.

The Man Who Develops the World's Found Film

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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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