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Honoring Our Ancestors
August 22, 2018


Greetings Fellow Family History Sleuths,

I'm delighted to say this month's issue is heavy on stories about soldiers whose families I've had the privilege of researching, including Capt. Lawrence E. Dickson, a Tuskegee airman who was finally identified from WWII, and Master Sgt. Charles H. McDaniel, a soldier whose dog tags were just returned to his sons from Korea. I worked on these cases in 2017 and 2004, respectively—which is to say, there's always hope. Here's hoping that one of your long-held history mysteries decides to give up its secrets before the next issue!



Meet Your Great-Great-Grandmother, Ron DeSantis

Image Source: Ancestry

Luisa would have preferred to never leave home. Her husband had gone to the U.S. about a dozen years earlier, and she and their children had managed to live on the remittances he sent back, but things were tougher since their only son had joined her husband a few years ago. And the situation at home was deteriorating rapidly. True, the journey to America would be perilous, but now it was even more dangerous to stay, so she and her teenaged daughters decided to make the voyage—one that was all the riskier for her since she was pregnant.

If things went as hoped, she would give birth perhaps a month after entering the U.S. She wondered how her husband would respond to the child, but her more immediate concern was how she and her daughters would be treated upon arrival. Would any or all of them be sent back? She had heard the rumors…

This scenario is all too familiar and variations of it apply to numerous immigrants attempting to cross America’s southern border in 2018. We hear the horror stories about the arduous trek from their hometowns and further sorrows awaiting them if they’re lucky enough to succeed. Those with even a basic awareness of what’s happening might wonder whether the woman profiled is from Guatemala, Honduras, or maybe El Salvador—but she was from Italy and arrived a century ago.


The story above is true, except that the immigrant’s name was Luigia, not Luisa. She and her daughters made the journey to Ellis Island in 1917 to try to reunite the family. Her husband had come initially in 1902 and again in 1904 leaving her at home with their adopted son and two daughters. Their son had good timing and left for America in 1913.

Perhaps Luigia had intended to follow soon after, but by 1915, her country was at war, and while her little town wasn’t in the crosshairs, all the usual side effects of war—scarcity of food, men, labor, and so forth—were in play. Women and children were left to fend for themselves as duty-bound men departed to serve their country. Some were coming home, but in caskets.

It was the worst possible time to cross the Atlantic. German U-boats and mines meant that any ship could be the next to sink just as the Lusitania had. As a result, immigration figures to the U.S. plummeted. Fewer than 18,000 Italians ventured to America in 1917, compared to more than 150,000 in 1914 and well over 200,000 in 1920. Even so, there were compelling reasons to go. Circumstances at home coupled with the fact that America was flirting with comprehensive immigration restrictions created a now-or-never situation.

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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.

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)!

Seton Shields, pictured above, is my remarkable mother. Naming this grants program after her is one small way to keep her memory alive, though she’s no longer with us.

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Genealogy Round Up, August 15

Tuskegee airman's daughter gets a golden ring found at his wartime crash site – Love this piece re: hero, Capt. Lawrence E. Dickson. So honored to have had the chance to research his family.

The Crack Squad of Librarians Who Track Down Half-Forgotten Books – I love librarians.

Sons Get 'Certitude' After Receiving Their Missing Father's Korean War Dog Tag – Honored to have researched family of Master Sgt. Charles H. McDaniel. Hoping his remains have also been recovered.

New Port of New York Passenger Records

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Genealogy Round Up, August 8

Photo Credit: Niagara Falls, N.Y., Public Library Local History Room

Sean Kirst: Scow rescue tribute brings together legendary Falls family – Happy to have contributed to this steeped-in-history reunion

How the Defense Department Identifies the Remains of Our War Dead – "I don’t expect to have any trouble getting DNA from these remains so we expect success rates to be very high, I think near 90 percent."

Laura G. Prescott SLIG Scholarship – Seriously worthy cause for any of my fellow genies who might not have donated yet!

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Genealogy Round Up, August 1

Photo Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Amara Timberlake

DNA to X-ray: Military has variety of tools to ID remains – I’ve been telling folks that we already have DNA reference samples from relatives of most of the Korean War soldiers who remain unaccounted for, but didn’t know the exact figure. It’s 92% of the 8,100. Also, this piece neglects to mention that we also do occasional WWI cases.

Pentagon identifies Tuskegee Airman missing from World War II – So, so honored to have had the opportunity to research the family of Tuskegee airman Capt. Lawrence E. Dickson. Welcome home, Sir.

He found 15 books in a Sierra dumpster. Then he found out they belonged to Thomas Jefferson. – Check those dumpsters, y’all!

In a Historic Building, Your Feet Might as Well Be Jackhammers – An aspect I hadn't given a lot of thought to before. Delighted that they featured the Tenement Museum, one of my favorites!

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Genealogy Round Up, July 25

Image Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

An L.A. hero of World War II is buried, nearly 74 years after he was killed by the Germans – Another article about Staff Sgt. David Rosenkrantz, one of the soldiers I've had the privilege of researching.

MacKenzie-Childs founders selling NYC historic ferry turned into floating home – If I were rich, I'd totally buy this Ellis Island ferry.

The New Jersey Death Index – Big news for genealogists with NJ roots & relatives! Please consider a donation if you can to support this kind of initiative.

These Viral "DNA Braids" Are Perfect for Science-Obsessed Beauty Lovers – Who do you know that should get these DNA braids?

Judy Collins Shines a Light on Individual Immigrants With 'Dreamers' Video: Premiere – New from Judy Collins. Please give it a listen/watch.

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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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