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Honoring Our Ancestors
February 24, 2021


Greetings Fellow Family History Sleuths,

Brrr – hope everyone is staying warm! This month features some discoveries about the roots of Amanda Gorman, the remarkable poet who captured our attention on Inauguration Day. And as always, there's plenty of other genealogical content – an orphan heirloom rescue from Antarctica(!), corporate shuffles going on in the family history world, DNA (a constant, eh?), and an initiative to identify those lost on WWII "hell ships." Here's hoping you find a couple of pieces to keep you company as you pile on the layers and blankets!

Until next month, keep looking for early signs of Spring blossoms!



5 Things You Didn’t Know about Amanda Gorman’s Roots

We were riveted. Even those who don’t “get” poetry understood on Inauguration Day because Amanda Gorman spoke for all of us. This self-described “skinny Black girl descended from slaves” made us gape at our screens in silence as she led us up “The Hill We Climb.”

Like the countless others ambushed by her presence and immense talent, I had to know more about Amanda Gorman, so contributed to her inaugural Google spike. But as a genealogist, I kept going and dug deeper — four to six generations on every branch of her family tree to be exact. As a result of that sleuthing, here are a handful of discoveries about her ancestry.

Click here to continue reading.

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Genealogy Roundup, February 17

Memorial Service of Capt. Lawrence E. Dickson – Tuskegee Airman Capt. Lawrence E. Dickson gave his life for our country in WWII. Recovered and identified 75 years later, he received his long overdue honors at @ArlingtonNatl. (VIDEO) 🇺🇸

The Family Tree of Pharrell Williams and Why He Almost Didn’t Exist – Pharrell Williams recently appeared on 'Finding Your Roots,' so I thought I'd share some of my unexpected findings when I took a deep dive. Both Liberia and Nat Turner's Rebellion play a role. This is a video version (if you have any kids or grand kids, they might enjoy it) and here's a text version, if you prefer reading.

Name Game: Celebrities Have Nothing on the Rest of Us – Hope you'll enjoy my latest! Please feel free to comment, too.

DNA doesn't lie! 😂 Today's comic from theargylesweater.com/

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Genealogy Roundup, February 10

Photo Credit: Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune, via Associated Press

Lost in Antarctica, a Wallet Is Returned 53 Years Later (Memories Included) – Fun orphan heirloom rescue!

WWI and WWII: Legislation, Recovery, Identification and Burial of Human Remains – On the one hand, am glad this issue exists. On other, not a single article on US efforts despite 20+ years of doing this?

23andMe to go public via Richard Branson’s SPAC – So Ancestry just got a new CEO and now this. I mean, it's not unexpected, but lots of changes going on in the genetic/genealogy world. 🧬

The Gift of the Double Census – Wrote a little something about that experience we all love - finding ancestors in the census twice in the same year!

Always fun when Amazon recommends one of your own books!

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Genealogy Roundup, February 3

Photo Credit: Hein Boekhout

Companies and foreign countries vying for your DNA – The U.S. military recently issued a warning to all service members instructing them not to use direct-to-consumer genealogy tests, like those offered by Ancestry, 23andMe and other companies, because the DNA data collected could be exposed or exploited.

Hundreds died on World War II ‘hell ships’. Now there’s an effort to identify the dead. – Am fortunate enough to have researched a number of these cases. I hope they're able to make some identifications before much longer.

Ursula, Under by Ingrid Hill – OK, who's read this surreal book? It's been out since 2005 so I imagine some of my fellow genealogists have. Have some questions (e.g., why was the Polish part left unexplored?), but certainly a creative way to share the story of your ancestors.

Much is based on the real roots of the author, though as a novelist she allows her imagination to take flight running back countless generations. Points for the cool Chinese-Finnish combination!

President Biden’s Irish Roots and Latin America – Joe Biden inherited his wanderlust from those Irish ancestors of his. Chile, Brazil and Mexico figure in the mix. 🌎

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Genealogy Roundup, January 27

While doing a bit of work file decluttering, I came across papers for Army cases of long ago lost to a computer crash back around 2003. Went through and logged them, googling as I went along. Turns out 31 soldiers I researched in those early days have subsequently been identified and received their long overdue honors.

January 26th would have been the 85th birthday of my father, Col. George C. Smolenyak, if we hadn't lost him in November. He was one of those quiet fellows, but always appreciated the work I do with the Army.

Learning about these 31 soldiers makes me feel as if I was the one receiving a gift on Dad's birthday.

Stumbled across English translations of Native words in Salem, NJ town book (1684, copied in 1868). Pages 248-251. Lenape?? – Thought some historians and/or genealogists might find this interesting/useful. Please share if you think so. Thanks!

Solving the Mystery of Arne Pettersen, the Last to Leave Ellis Island – Remember how I said I was going to occasionally re-share articles, especially ones I've put a lot of research into? Well, this is one of them. Many of you know that I've spent years delving into Annie Moore, the first to arrive at Ellis Island, but I've also done a lot of digging into Arne Pettersen, the last to depart Ellis Island. And I've finally uncovered his story and what became of him. so now I've got Ellis Island bookends - the first and the last!

Still grinning about and grateful for this. You never know where your research will make an appearance:

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