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Honoring Our Ancestors
May 19, 2016


Greetings Fellow Family History Sleuths,

This month's issue has got everything from Prince's roots (RIP) to Siberian journeys to the NYC origins of English muffins - and oh yeah, me venting about a forthcoming genealogy TV show that's decided to deliberately exclude women (sometimes you just have to speak up!). I also just realized that my Seton Shields Genealogy Grant program is 16 years old this month! If you or someone you know has a roots-oriented project or worthy cause, be sure to apply. Hoping you find plenty of interest here until I see you next month!



When It Comes to Genetic Genealogy, Women Need Not Apply

Not long ago, I observed that genealogy is now officially a TV genre. One of the reasons I felt confident in making this claim is the frequency with which I am approached by television producers about forthcoming shows. They reach out to pick my brains and I generally do my best to help because I have a conspicuous bias: I'd like to see as much genealogy on air as possible. But recently I received an inquiry that made me check the calendar to be sure it was 2016.

After briefly explaining that the series would focus on the use of genetic genealogy to solve personal history mysteries, it went on to say:

"Since this show is for a very male-oriented network, we're looking for authentic, engaging male hosts between the ages of 30-55, who have a dynamic personality fit for television, and would be able to help people prove or disprove people's claims ..."

This struck me as ... well, peculiar. In this age of ever-increasing chord-cutting, do the traditional demographics of the host network still override all other considerations? I'm a middle-aged woman, but watch Impractical Jokers on TruTV (60% male demo). Isn't this kind of á la carte viewing rapidly becoming the norm?

Even if the answer is 'yes,' is it a given that men won't watch women do something that interests them? History Channel demographics lean heavily male, but does that mean I shouldn't watch American Pickers because I'm a woman? Or are we to believe that women will watch men on TV, but not the reverse?

And do they really want to toss aside potential female viewers? After all, every survey I can find about genealogy concludes that 63 to 72% of genealogists are female, so why did this show wind up on a network that apparently skews so male that all the hosts must be men? Is it only for the other 28-37%?

Perhaps those behind the series aren't that well acquainted with genetic genealogy yet, so here's a bit of a primer:

  • Founder of ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogy)? female
  • CEO and both co-founders of 23andMe? female
  • All genetic consultants to Finding Your Roots and Who Do You Think You Are? to date? female
  • Majority of researchers for U.S. military repatriation efforts? female
  • Authors of best-selling genetic genealogy book? female
  • Sleuths behind news-making, genetic history mysteries ranging from Richard III to Alex Haley? female

To be clear, I'm not dissing the boys. There are plenty of well known and admired men in the genetic genealogy community we'd all be happy to watch, but when your casting eliminates such candidates as Katherine Hope Borges, Judy Russell, Diahan Southard, Joanna Mountain, CeCe Moore, Debbie Parker Wayne, Emily Aulicino, Ann Turner, Debbie Kennett, Angie Bush, Roberta Estes, Rebekah Canada, Anna Swayne, Linda Parker Magellan, and Julie Granka simply because they don't sport a Y chromosome, you're needlessly handicapping the show well before launch (Incidentally, Anne Wojcicki isn't included because she's too busy running 23andMe to consider hosting a TV show).

I'm deliberately not sharing specifics because I'm hoping those behind this show will reconsider and let some girls at least have a shot at gaining entrance into their playhouse. Genetic genealogy is not and never has been divided by gender, so it would be a pity to start now.

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Seton Shields Genealogy Grants

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 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, May 18

Photo Credit: Walters Art Museum/Public Domain

Over 3,000 Years of Humans Exaggerating Their Lineage on Family Trees

Brendan Graham, Annie Moore and 'Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears'

70-year-old woman in India has baby — Well, that's going to throw off a future genealogist who'll be looking for the non-existent middle generation.

World's oldest person dies — We just lost the last American born in the 1800s . . .RIP, Susannah Mushatt Jones and the 19th century.

Genetic Family Reunion: DNA Reveals Alex Haley's Scottish Roots — Since the new version of "Roots" will be airing soon on History Channel, now seems a good time to share this video about Alex Haley's Scottish roots.

A Look Inside Florence's Strangest Archive — Whooooaaaa . . . imagine if this were your family. You'd probably be experiencing the same kind of overwhelm our descendants will when confronted with all our selfies, tweets, Facebook posts, etc. Still, seriously cool!

Caribbean family wanted to go Back in Time for BBC Two

After more than 100 years, American Indian children buried in Carlisle begin a journey home

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Genealogy Round Up, May 11

'I've waited for it all my life:' Nephew of WW II pilot being buried this week — Delighted to see another one of my soldiers home where he belongs.

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Genealogy Round Up, May 4

Photo Credit: Russian Collection, Hamilton Library, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Inside the Bizarre, Racist Scheme to Import Siberian Workers to Hawaii in 1909 — Had never heard of this weird pocket of immigration history . . .

This chef is much bigger than her 'Lemonade' cameo, though that was pretty great too.

Prince made secret donation to support Louisville's historic Western Branch Library in 2001 — Did you know Prince helped save a library? One of the many anonymous donations he made over the years.

English Muffins and Burglars. No. 161-163 9th Avenue — In case you were wondering where English muffins come from . . .

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Genealogy Round Up, April 27

New York's first ever landmark and oldest townhouse is under threat

LETTERS IN THE ATTIC: Father's long-lost messages returned to Seneca Falls family — Wouldn't we all love to find letters in the attic like this?!

'Roots': Tribeca Film Festival preview and Q&A with Malachi Kirby, Erica Tazel and producers

Thief with a conscience returns Belfast family's WWI medals

Hey, Prince, Your Roots Are Showing — Hurtin' my heart . . . Here's a bit about the ancestors that Prince has gone to meet far too soon.

Prince's ties to Louisiana

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Genealogy Round Up, April 20

The 'girl reporter' who exposed terrors of immigration

Barack Obama's Sixth Cousin: I Love the President But Not Genealogy — Um . . . This is a bit of a strong reaction, eh?

I walked 2,000km to trace my grandfather's escape from a Russian gulag — Yikes! Talk about following in your ancestors' footsteps!

When the dead at Lincoln Cemetery speak, she hears — and helps — This 22 year-old is already loaded up with wisdom - "It's like you look around and you can almost feel the despair: 'Hey, uncover my name'"

Twila Van Leer: This trash was a real treasure — That was close! What were her children thinking??

Woman travels 12 hours to USS Wisconsin to reconnect with her late grandfather

Hildersham church loo flushes out ancient skeletons — Insert your own headline . . .

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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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