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Honoring Our Ancestors
June 22, 2016


Greetings Fellow Family History Sleuths,

This month's edition is heavy on Ireland (Joe Biden, Judy Collins and Bruce Springsteen), but also includes unclaimed persons in New York, Uzbek Koreans, a mystery mansion in London, and 1950 census enumeration maps. You might also want to read on to discover why I gave away a lawnmower (yes, it's genealogical!).

Stay cool!



Joey From Scranton — Vice President Biden’s Irish Roots

How can you not love a name like Finnegan Biden? I find it charming when family names are given fresh life in ensuing generations, and that’s exactly what happened in the lineage bracketing Vice President Joe Biden. His beloved mother Jean’s full name was Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden. Subtract “Catherine Eugenia” and you have the name of one of his granddaughters — Finnegan Biden. Whether she knows it or not, there’s a lot of history tucked into her first name.

My guess is that she’s heard some of it from her grandfather, who likes to tell tales about his own grandfather Ambrose Finnegan, but she probably doesn’t know everything I’m about to share. As a professional genealogist, I’m something of a retro-journalist who delves into people’s family histories, and given my own Irish roots, I have a soft spot for anyone who shares that heritage — from Barack Obama to Barry Manilow. So I suppose it was inevitable that Vice President Biden would take a turn under my past-seeking microscope. Before probing more deeply, let’s step back and take a look at the big picture — well, the Irish part of that picture.

Click here to continue reading.

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Judy Collins and a Song for her Ancestors

A few years back, I did some research for Judy Collins about her roots and thought it might be interesting for folks to get a peek into that process. (The photo above shows my husband Brian, Judy, me, and Judy's husband, Louis.)

Here is a photo of a copy of the little book I put together about her heritage, signed by Judy.

Learning about her roots inspired Judy to write the song, New Moon over the Hudson. If you click the screenshot below, you can watch and listen to her sing it.

Subsequently, Irish America did an interview with Judy in which she spoke about her experience learning more about her forebears and how this affected her. You can read this article in blog form here or in digital magazine form here (see pages 94-95).

Hope you enjoyed!

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Q2 2016 Seton Shields Genealogy Grant: Daughters of Zion Cemetery, Charlottesville, VA

Not long ago, I announced that I was shifting from a monthly to a quarterly schedule for my grants program — the reason being that I hoped to award larger amounts to deserving groups and individuals. Well, wouldn’t you know it? Right after I did that, I started getting irresistible applications for modest amounts, so last quarter, I wound up giving three grants. And it turns out that’s what I’m doing this quarter, too. So I’m sticking to my quarterly schedule, but will decide each time whether there’s one awardee or multiple.

With that said, let me introduce you to the first of this quarter’s recipients. Edwina St. Rose of The Preservers of the Daughters of Zion Cemetery told me of the organization’s goal to restore and preserve a historic African American burial ground (listed on both the Virginia and National Registers of Historic Places) that was purchased in 1873 by a women's charity. In addition to their restoration work, the group is researching those buried there in order to help descendants learn more about their ancestors. The funding from this grant will be used to assist in repairing a damaged grave marker.

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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Q2 2016 Seton Shields Genealogy Grant: Terry Cemetery Fund, Victor, WV

I know what you’re thinking. Two cemeteries in one month? Yes, two. I mean, c’mon. I’m a genealogist!

So when Becky Shuff contacted me on behalf of Terry Cemetery, she already had a point in her favor. She explained that it was established circa 1835 and holds approximately 250 graves, including three Civil War soldiers, and that it had no means of continuous care, so she had undertaken the role of caretaker. She and her sister, Betty Fox, sought to identify as many of the unmarked graves as possible and published a book, Terry Cemetery, Victor, WV, which included a list of identified graves, obituaries, death certificates, photographs, and military data, as well as a Terry genealogy report. All proceeds from the sale of the book go to the Terry Cemetery Fund for mowing and upkeep expenses. Clearly, Becky is dedicated to this cemetery.

But then she said two more things that grabbed my attention. The first is that she was asking for a lawnmower. In 16 years of running the Seton Shields Genealogy Grant program, no one else has ever asked for a lawnmower. And by the way, the one you see pictured here is exactly the one she wants because she was very specific!

She also mentioned that she had been approved by the Mt. Olive Correctional Facility for the provision of six inmates and one guard to help with the upkeep of this cemetery. Her responsibility is to provide equipment and meals for the inmates and guard.

How smart, I thought. I’ve long believed that genealogy and inmates make a good combination (to understand why, read Inmates Indexing Genealogy Records), and that this solution Becky had come up with might benefit the inmates as much as the cemetery. So for the first time ever, this grant is for a lawnmower.

Watch for the third Q2 grant recipient in next month's newsletter!

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, June 15

The Most Mysterious Mansion in London is For Sale — What genealogist wouldn't love to explore an old mystery mansion??

Good idea! — Crowd-funding for historic preservation

Cllr McGahon excited ahead of visit of Vice President Joe Biden — Well, things have come full circle. Some of you might know that VP Joe Biden is visiting Ireland in a few weeks to explore his roots so a number of articles are starting to appear on the topic - but this one caught my eye because my research on his heritage includes an article from 1850 from this same newspaper, the Dundalk Democrat!

Snapshot USA: 1950 Census Enumeration District Maps — Only 6 years to go . . .

You Can Become a U.S. Citizen at Mount Rushmore or Yosemite — I've been to one of the naturalization ceremonies on Ellis Island!

TLC Renews ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ and ‘Long Lost Family’ — There will be a season 9 of ?#?WDYTYA?!

NYPL Milstein Suspense Trailer — Oh, the gems I've found at NYPL The New York Public Library! Who says genealogy isn't dramatic?!

Born on the Same Day: a smart approach to exploring the extraordinary in every life story — Contemporary genealogy show of sorts in UK . . .

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Genealogy Round Up, June 8

Who's the man in the 'mirror'? Historians investigate mystery photo booth portraits

#IAmAnImmigrant Starring Lupita Nyong’o, Wilmer Valderrama and More! — Though every school child knows that America is a nation of immigrants, I think we as genealogists are hyper-aware of this - which is why I love this. As a French-born, Irish-Rusyn American, I am so grateful to those in my family tree who had the guts to leave everything familiar behind to take a chance on something better. Members of my family were illiterate as recently as the 1940s, and now I get to be a writer.

In Philadelphia, finding dignity for bodies left unclaimed — Here's the recent interview Janis Martin and I did re: Unclaimed Persons (radio & text).

Taken from life: The unsettling art of death photography

Lost and Found in Uzbekistan: The Korean Story, Part 1 — This is a new one to me. Uzbek Koreans. Who knew?

How do your 20,000 genes determine so many wildly different traits? They multitask.

Obama Fest returns to Moneygall — One of the more unexpected outcomes of my previous research

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Genealogy Round Up, June 1

Photo Credit: The James and Sophia Clemens Farmstead, one of the oldest and last remaining landmarks in Longtown, Ohio. The Clemens house is listed by the National Register of Historic Places and Longtown is recognized by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Photo by Nyttend via wikipedia.org

An Ohio town where races have mixed freely for more than 200 years

A grandmother’s trove of Civil War photos goes to Library of Congress

Genealogy lesson from Michelle Obama on Twitter . . .

Forgotten Lives Remembered in Special Funeral Service — Love this. Ann Lacertoso-Berardelli, who works with the Lackawanna County Coroner's Office, was the one who sent it to me. Lackawanna was the first county I ever worked with on Unclaimed Persons cases. They're the ones I cold-called after reading an article about this phenomenon that was entirely new to me at the time. They invited me to visit and entrusted me with cases when no one else was even thinking of genealogists in this capacity. So ultimately, they were the impetus behind the creation of the volunteer Unclaimed Persons group. Lovely to hear of local students getting involved this way.

Trace the face: how tech has changed the way we find missing people — "Google for refugees"

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Genealogy Round Up, May 25

Photo Credit: George Washington's Mount Vernon 12, by smilla4, via Flickr

Mount Vernon Exhibit Looks at Washington as Slaveholder

Mildred Gale's Burial Site: The final resting place of George Washington's Grandma.

Odd ones out: share your photos of the most out of place city buildings — I've always loved these one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-others buildings!

Unearthing the Secrets of New York’s Mass Graves — No matter how familiar you are with the concept of unclaimed persons, hearing the individual stories always gets to you . . .

New ‘Purple Rain’ tartan created in tribute to icon Prince

Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive — You want to read this. You know you do! Check it out!

On the Prowl for Springsteen’s Irish Roots — With Bruce Springsteen having recently performed in Ireland, now seems a good time to re-share this about his Irish roots from Irish America Magazine

'Roots' Reborn: How a Slave Saga Was Remade for the Black Lives Matter Era — Sounds as if the new version of "Roots" is hard to watch, but for all the right reasons.

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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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