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Honoring Our Ancestors
September 28, 2017


Greetings Fellow Family History Sleuths,

This month's issue is perhaps a touch more somber than most as it features a 9/11 story, but please don't let that discourage you from reading it. It's sad, but at the same time, sweet and uplifting.

You'll also find articles about several of my Army cases (one a work in progress and a few others who have recently been identified and interred), some Ellis Island, Ancestry.com, and TV news, and a fun interview I did with a kids magazine! And oh, having just spent my 16th anniversary hiding from hurricane Irma, the genie in me feels compelled to prod y'all to back up your files!

Until next time!



From the Archives - 911: Roots and Wings

I decided to delve into the world of ancestral tribute and was rewarded with countless examples that demonstrate our endless well of creativity. I quickly realized that there is no "right" way to honor our ancestors, but rather, as many approaches as there are people with an inclination to do so. Back in May of this year, I shared the account given by James H. Culbert of Virginia, whose great-grandparents started a family tradition that centered on a diaper.

The tribute below is a eulogy given by Richard Deuel on 12 January 2002 for his twenty-eight-year-old sister, Cindy Deuel, who was killed in the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001. Cindy was an avid genealogist who was passionately seeking her roots up to the day of the disaster, and Richard was her family history partner. She had even dreamed of starting a genealogy business to help people with their own family research.

Richard commissioned a specially crafted headstone with Cindy's family tree on one side (much of it information she learned through her own efforts) and the Twin Towers on the other. He also chose a particularly meaningful place for her burial.

911: Roots and Wings by Richard Deuel

I'd like to share with everyone why we chose Cedar Lawn Cemetery for Cindy. It wasn't long ago that Cindy and I stood over this very spot, as we posed for a picture to document the final resting place of our great-great-grandfather, Henry Deuel. Cindy found this spot even though there is no headstone to mark his grave. Many have asked how she was able to find Henry, who was interred here in 1874.

As with everything Cindy did in life, she was fired with an unlimited determination, guided by a passion for a good mystery, and inspired by a love of things historical. Most importantly, she was touched by the lives of the families of those who walked before—those forgotten men, women, and children who paved the path for us. Every time Cindy and I scanned a pre-1900 census record, we knew the thousands of names slowly scrolling by were no longer with us. A respectful sadness makes you want to know about these people and especially your ancestors.

And the more you learn, the more you want to know. Our great-grandfather, John J. Deuel, was just one of these people. He ran a poolroom and tobacco shop on Main Avenue in Passaic, New Jersey, in the early 1880s. Cindy was scanning the Passaic newspaper for advertisements he had placed when she found an obituary for John's infant son, George. The paper mentioned that George was interred at Cedar Lawn. With one call to Cedar Lawn, Cindy then learned who else was buried with John's son in the same plot. She had found our great-great-grandfather, Henry.

How Cindy loved Henry! We could talk about him for hours on end. Where was Henry from? Who was Henry's father? We would spend hours at the library, looking for him in census records. I used to buy O'Henry candy bars in the hope that it would bring us luck in finding out about him. I got the biggest kick when I found out that Cindy followed my lead and also started snacking on O'Henrys.

Henry is still a mystery to me, but no longer to Cindy. Along with Henry's grandchild, George, who is bured here, there are twin boys, Henry and John. All three died as infants—like Cindy, long before their time. Cindy is now their guardian angel.

We chose Cedar Lawn because the people Cindy brought back to "life" are buried here, some of whom made it possible for Cindy to come into our lives. Some others here at Cedar Lawn are our great-grandmother, Maggie Deuel, and our grandfather's sister, Annie Deuel, someone my father and his siblings didn't even know about until I discovered her two months ago. (She named one of her sons, of course, Henry John.) Also there is our great-great uncle, Arthur Constantini, who came over from Italy. Also next door at Cavalry Cemetery is Grandpa's first wife, Anna Earle, and his first son, John.

As we stand here above the Deuel plot, I think of Grandpa's three siblings who are buried here. What if Grandpa had been the one who had died as an infant instead of the others? Then most of us might evaporate from this scene. I think of our great-grandmother, Maggie. Both she and her mother had fifteen children. As an old woman, Maggie died a horrible death in a kitchen fire. And then there's Grandpa's first son, John, who died at twenty-two when he fell out of a window.

Cindy understood this rhythm of life, the uncertainty that goes along with it, and was not afraid of anything. I admired that quality about her more than any other. Cindy's favorite movie was Contact, with Jodie Foster. In it, the character Jodie Foster plays loses her father as a young girl. She then spends her life searching boundless space for any sounds of life. When she does make contact and travels to the source, who is in the form of her father, he tells her that we all must take baby steps toward understanding, and that one day it will all make sense. Her father always assured her there was more life out there, because if there wasn't, it would be a great waste of space.

One of the last things Cindy asked was if we thought she would ever get to travel in space. I believe that is where she is now, soaring on wings of comets, exploring strange new worlds and life forms, and truly going where no woman has gone before.

Cindy and Richard's Example

Cindy's life was all too brief. I would much rather share a story by her than about her, but I like to think that we can at least take some solace in knowing that she was able to solve a few family mysteries during her time here and that Richard conceived such an appropriate way of honoring our fellow roots-seeker. Cindy and her contributions will be remembered for generations to come because of Richard's efforts.

And while hers is admittedly an extraordinary situation, wouldn't it be nice if more of our ancestors—remarkable and ordinary alike—were commemorated in some way, the same way Cindy did in seeking out Henry's resting place? If even one of you reading these words is inspired to follow the Deuel's example, your actions will also become a part of Cindy's legacy. I can't think of a more fitting tribute.

This excerpt is from an article originally published in the July/August 2002 issue of Ancestry magazine and the book Honoring Our Ancestors: Inspiring Stories of the Quest for Our Roots

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Seton Shields Genealogy Grants

I'll be announcing the third quarter grant recipient shortly, so stay tuned for that. Meanwhile, here's a reminder to get your grant application 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.

And be sure to check out this article, which 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, September 13

Photo Credit: amslerPIX

Ancestry postpones IPO after longtime CEO steps down – Whoa, big news at Ancestry. Tim Sullivan stepping down as CEO.

Gold Fever: The Shiny, Shady Past of Katy Perry’s Irish Great-Great-Grandmother

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Genealogy Round Up, September 6

N.J. 'Island of Hope' quarter introduced into circulation – New Jersey reminding everyone that Ellis Island is actually in NJ, not NY

Solar Eclipse Viewing Party at National Archives – When science and history collide!

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Genealogy Round Up, August 30

Photo Credit: Beverly & Pack

After decades apart, Stamford war veterans buried together – Oh, this one got me. The sister featured in this story was 90 years old when I found their family back in 2008. Please read it to the end.

TLC Renews ‘Who Do You Think You Are’

The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation: Meet the 2017 Family Heritage Award Honorees – Delighted to help out with Robin Roberts - again!

With a Simple DNA Test, Family Histories Are Rewritten – Raise your hand if you can relate.

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Genealogy Round Up, August 23

In Search of Capt. Lawrence E. Dickson, Tuskegee Airman – Interesting video about a case I'm working on at the moment. Have done the research - now in the making contact phase. Hope to submit shortly!

5 Questions That’ll Bring You Closer to Your Dad – One of those situations where our half-hour discussion got boiled down to a paragraph (I'm the last in this series), but may be of interest to my fellow genies.

What Is It Like To Be . . . a Genealogist? – Did a fun interview with Kidsville News about being a genealogist!

Soldier Killed During World War II Accounted For (Johnson, R.) – So pleased that Pvt. Rudolph Johnson is coming home. Honored to have researched his family.

Airman Killed During World War II Accounted For (Fazekas) – Welcome home, 1st Lt. Fazekas. Privileged to have researched your family.

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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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