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Honoring Our Ancestors
November 20, 2019


Greetings Fellow Family History Sleuths,

As you read these words, I'll be on vacation (crossing the Atlantic in considerably more comfort than my immigrant ancestors), so I decided to share a vacation-themed tale from my book, In Search of Our Ancestors: 101 Inspiring Stories of Serendipity and Connection, in this issue. Since many of us will be on the road and in the air this next month or two, it's a lovely reminder that there can sometimes be a silver lining when we encounter the inevitable travel hiccups. Aside from that, you'll find genetic genealogy, military identification, and orphan heirloom rescue tales to browse. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to wave at Lady Liberty!

Until next time, keep on sleuthing!



The Benefits of Lost Luggage

Photo Credit: Strange Luke

I really got into family history after my mother died. She had often spoken with nostalgia about her roots in Vidlin, Shetland off the northern coast of Scotland so I decided to visit this place which sounded like the end of the earth to me.

Our trip got off to a rocky start when our luggage was lost by the airline. Grouchy and forced to wait at Lerwick airport while it caught up with us, I passed the time browsing a local tourist guide. I noticed a mention in the guide that the local family history society was meeting that evening. Well, why not? That seemed as good a starting point as any.

I attended the meeting and asked about my grandfather, Gilbert Sutherland. Someone produced a local history indicating that he was born at “the Pund.” Then I went to Vidlin and asked the first person I met if this peculiar name meant anything to him. He kindly offered to take me there.

A mile or so down the road, he pointed to a derelict croft. I stood on the threshold of my grandfather’s home, not much more than a shanty, and looked across the loch. It was totally quiet and very beautiful and must have been exactly as he had seen it. This moment became even more meaningful when I discovered later in my stay that my great-grandfather Robert had been born in this same spot in 1826 and lived there until his death in 1908. It awed me to ponder all the blustery, wet winters he had endured in this crude shelter of stone and thatch.

To stand where they had spent their whole lives and realize that the scene had remained unchanged for over 170 years was a deeply emotional experience. And much as I hate to admit it, the credit for the whole chain of events that had so effortlessly led me there belonged to my lost luggage. I’ll think twice before complaining the next time!

This story, told by Don Rutherford of the United Kingdom, was originally published in the book In Search of Our Ancestors: 101 Inspiring Stories of Serendipity and Connection

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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 I shared the image above on the 10th anniversary of the day we lost her. I hope these little life lessons she left me with will give you at least a hint of the kind of person she was. Very fortunate to have been her daughter.

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. Generally, grant applications remain active for 6 months, but since the program will be winding down in 2020, any made from this point on will stay under consideration until the end.

You can apply for a Seton Shields grant here. Be sure to check 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). And remember, the clock is ticking!

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Genealogy Round Up, November 6

Photo Credit: Natalie Keyssar | The Wall Street Journal

A White Woman Searches for Her Black Family – Thought-provoking DNA tale

Soldier Accounted For From World War II (Franco, P.) – Welcome home, Pvt. Porfirio "Junior" Carrasco Franco. Honored to have researched your family.

‘Game-Changer’ Warrant Let Detective Search Genetic Database – Grrrr ...

“That’s a huge game-changer,” said Erin Murphy, a law professor at New York University. “The company made a decision to keep law enforcement out, and that’s been overridden by a court. It’s a signal that no genetic information can be safe.”

Soldier Accounted For From Korean War (Phy, H.) – Welcome home, CPL. Herman Raymond Phy. Honored to have researched your family.

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Genealogy Round Up, October 30

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fraser
The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

Military Funeral Honors With Funeral Escort are Conducted for U.S. Army Air Force 1st Lt. Seymour Drovis in Section 57 – Welcome home, 1st Lt. Seymour P. Drovis (orginially Drozdowitz). Honored to have researched your family.

Soldier Accounted For From World War II (Cagle, C.) – Welcome home, Pvt. Connie Cagle. Honored to have researched your family.

World War II Bible of Pittsburgh man, found in Belgium, now 'home' with grandson in Clarion – Orphan heirloom reunion with a few twists and turns!

VFW returns Vietnam artifacts home thanks to help from American veterans – More of this kind of thing, please.

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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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