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Honoring Our Ancestors
December 20, 2017


Greetings Fellow Family History Sleuths,

The holidays are a wonderful time to reflect on family, and I recently received the most unexpected gift in the form of an email from Richard Fong, who worked with my mother years ago. As many of you know, my genealogy grants program is named after my mom, Seton Shields, so it seems fitting to share this from someone who knew her well. I've mentioned before that she was a CEO, so this will give you a little more insight to her from that perspective. Here's wishing that you might be lucky enough to receive an out-of-the-blue tribute to one of your loved ones.

Happy Holidays!



Remembering Mom: An Unexpected Gift

Dear Megan:

My name is Richard Fong. I worked 5 years at HMS, circa 1986-1991 - first as a financial analyst and later as Director of Finance. Your mom, Seton was my Boss. In fact, of course, at HMS she was everyone's boss.

As a boss, she was tough but fair. She was also kind. Many of us at HMS were relatively young. I think it would take the perspective of years yet to come to more fully appreciate the great person that she was.

I last spoke to her, possibly in 1998 or 1999 by phone after I had returned to Maryland from a long stint – 6 years – abroad in China. I had called to say a few words but most of all to find out how she was. She was well and she updated me on some things about HMS.

Regrettably for myself, the moment to call and talk to her again did not arise as the years seem to have just rushed by. But I certainly thought of her from time to time.

Therefore, just a few weeks ago, by chance it was with surprise but also sadness that I learned of her passing in 2006 – in an online Washington Post obituary.

My memories of HMS will always be deeply linked to my memories of your mother who ran the place.

I have probably met you at the Arlington home where she had invited the HMS management. I remember you and your sister (I think) doing a great slide show of her when she was younger.

She once told me at the office that her daughter, Megan, was completing studies in foreign service at Georgetown University and that she was thinking about a career in foreign service.

On your website, MeganSmolenyak.com – I particularly appreciated the web page for the 200th Grant – which of course featured your mom. That picture of her sitting in her executive chair, in the cream-colored business suit is an image I know very well. I think the suit is one of her favorites. I had been in that office dozens of times to report to her or be told what to do. Sometimes, her tone was terse and that made us rush out and get the work done faster or better.

On the website, IrishAmerica.com – the page on "The Shields Family" is amazing.

I like to think I am good with faces. So, in the first picture I already can see your mom's eyes in the little girl with the cap. And then there is her graduation picture further below. That to me bears the quintessential Seton Shields expression – serious, focused and determined.

I am very glad to know that you are keeping her memory alive with the Seton Shields Genealogy Grants. I think it is a great idea.

There are also those such as I – whom you may not know or have met – in whose hearts and minds lives the memory of your mom.

I wish I were able to know a little more of her last years in both Arlington and Naples, Fl.

My best regards to you and your family.


Richard Fong

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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 in her later years, she went on to become the rarest of creatures – a female CEO in the 1980s (more on that, told by someone who worked with her, in the preceding section). To this day, she’s the only CEO I’ve heard of who could run a corporation by day and whip up a feast for a dozen or sew Halloween costumes for her grandchildren by night. The photo above shows Mom with the first of her grandchildren.

Watch for information about the next grant recipient shortly. And then, I'll be considering applications for the first quarter of 2018, 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.

You can apply for a Seton Shields grant here. Don't miss checking out the cool projects I've had the opportunity to contribute to over the years, plus an article that will give you a behind-the-scenes peek into my grants program (and might help you increase your odds of being selected when you apply)!

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Genealogy Round Up, December 13

Melange Dance Company explores the immigrant experience in Journey of Dreamers – Story of Annie Moore, first to arrive at Ellis Island, was told in dance in New Orleans.

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Genealogy Round Up, December 6

Photo Credit: RadionicPsychotronic

40 Times People Realised Their Grandparents Were Cooler Than Them – Yes, they were.

After 46 years, Oregon couple thought wedding ring was lost forever, then fate intervened – Reunion! (and some good sleuthing)

The Winner of the Online Death Marketplace – Death for sale.

‘Handwritten letters belong to you like your DNA’

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Genealogy Round Up, November 29

Family is ‘Thankful’ for Treasure Returned to Them 73 Years Later

Schumer warns of genealogy test privacy concerns; says there should be protections – Aaaaaaand here we go again.

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Genealogy Round Up, November 22

After 72 years, son finds German father killed in war

Grandma’s Secret – So now our DNA discoveries are fodder for advice columnists. Raise your hand if some version of this has happened to you.

Aisha Sultan: Black O'Kelleys and white O'Kelleys meet and a new history is revealed

Letterjoy – An unusual gift idea for that history buff who misses snail mail. Maybe you?

Local World War II Pilot’s Remains Identified After 73 Years – Lovely to see 1st Lt. Homer Spence welcomed home by his family. Honored to have found them.

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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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