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Honoring Our Ancestors
December 19, 2018


Greetings Fellow Family History Sleuths,

If, by any chance, you should have a few moments to catch your breath over the holiday season, I hope you'll take a little time to browse this newsletter starting with the "War Letters" video about a remarkable initiative that grew out of an initially tragic event – a Christmas house fire. I thought it was timely given the recent 100th anniversary of the WWI Armistice. It's also a reminder of what one person – in this case, Andy Carroll – can accomplish. Along with that, you'll find my latest grant, a captivating Irish tale, more Army cases, a 100 year-old subway crash, and for good measure, Lin-Manuel Miranda!

Happy holidays!



War Letters: An Interview with Andrew Carroll

Best-selling author Andrew Carroll (most recently of My Fellow Soldiers: General John Pershing and the Americans Who Helped Win the Great War) explains The Legacy Project initiative that sparked the book War Letters to protect and preserve letters written during times of conflict. The author also shows some of the more memorable and remarkable letters in the collection.

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Seton Shields Genealogy Grant #208: Donna J. Weathers

My latest grant has been awarded to Donna J. Weathers.

Donna is creating a digitized record of the men who served as Surfmen in the U.S. Lifesaving Service. In her own words:

"About a year ago, I stumbled upon the records of the U.S. Lifesaving Service (NARA RG 26). As I explored the Cape Lookout National Seashore logbooks, I realized what a true genealogical treasure they are. Spanning the years 1780-1915, with over 30 stations in North Carolina alone, each station employed an average of 40 men during the active service years. The logbooks themselves, held at regional NARA locations, reveal information about illness and deaths of the men and sometimes their immediate family. The employment records, held at NARA DC provide vital information on the men who served including original primary evidence of birthdates and family relationships as well as physical traits.

"My goal is to produce and publish an index of RG 26 as it relates to the men who served as Surfmen in the U.S. Lifesaving Service. Though they are publicly available, the records are not digitized. To peruse the logbooks for genealogical nuggets is tedious but the reward is priceless. I feel very strongly that folks researching Coastal U.S. Families, especially in the South, should be aware of these records which can fill in significant gaps in vital records and the missing 1890 census.

"I am working with the U.S. Lifesaving Service Heritage Association to provide a list of men's names to each station, but my goal is to produce an index or reference which would provide researchers with more specific information."

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 12

The Most Fantastic Tale of Squireen Paddy and the Clurican – Fellow Irish Americans! Or anyone who enjoys a good yarn! Please take a few minutes to enjoy this tale by my one-time pen pal (yes, we're still friends after all these years!), world explorer, and raconteur, Brendan Farrell. And if you enjoy it, please consider "clapping" for it by clicking on that little pair of hands at the bottom of the article (anywhere from 1 to 50 times). Thanks!

I finally finished researching a doozie of a case. Soldier was an only child born in 1911, so I had to trace the children of his 17 aunts and uncles - born between 1862 and 1899 - to identify his cousins for next of kin. He had exactly 50 first cousins, but they were all deceased.

So then I traced the children of these 50 first cousins to find all his first cousins once removed. All told, there were 65 of them, and the oldest 2 will be his next of kin.

This is one of those old Southern families with Harvard doctors in the mix - the kind that have multi-part names that are different combinations of surnames from the family history. It's a tradition I appreciate, but I encountered so many variations of the same dozen or so names that I had the sense they were tossing them in the dryer, letting them tumble about, and just going with the first 2 to 4 that spilled out.

As a result, the next of kin for the soldier - I can't use his real name, so for illustrative purposes, let's say it was SHELBY JENKINS - turned out to be a first cousin once removed named - wait for it... - JENKINS SHELBY.

And just for fun, the next in line for next of kin are 88 year old twins, so I have to find out which one was born first!

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Genealogy Round Up, December 5

Remains of Tuskegee Airman missing since WWII identified – I'll be honest with you. I'm not quite sure why this particular soldier's case has been announced multiple times, but for whatever reason, there's a fresh round of articles. Was an especially compelling case to work on. I love that he brought an electric guitar to war and his effects included a harmonica. He is the first Tuskegee airman to have been identified and I'm honored to have had the privilege of finding his family. Incidentally, one of his brothers was also a Tuskegee airman. His burial is scheduled for next March, and I suspect, will be a stand-out ceremony. RIP, Cpt. Lawrence Everett Dickson.

Historians Reveal Thousands Of Immigrants Were Forced To Change Hairstyle At Ellis Island – Let’s start a new Ellis Island myth! ;-)

A Common Ancestry Metric Is Based On a Century-Old Discovery by a 19-Year-Old: CentiMorgans Explained – a peek behind the (early) curtain and flies - lots of flies

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Genealogy Round Up, November 28

Photo Credit: New York Transit Museum

100 Years After New York’s Deadliest Subway Crash – Well, the journalist didn't give me a shout-out, but a bit of my handiwork is in this article

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Revolutionary Ancestors – One of my favorite research deep-dives ever!

Harry Leslie Smith: What tweeting from hospital could tell us about men – Followed and interacted with Harry on Twitter before he was well known - mainly because I was so impressed to find a nonagenarian there, and he since evolved into an international phenomenon - world traveler, elder guide (with so much perspective to offer from his 95 years), opinionated campaigner, author, etc. Harry passed passed away on November 28th. Let's remember 'the world's oldest rebel'.

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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.

  • May 7, 2019 – Morning Forum, Los Altos, CA

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