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Honoring Our Ancestors
July 21, 2021


Greetings Fellow Family History Sleuths,

This issue is one of the most personal I've ever done. It wasn't intended that way, but like so many during our weird pandemic world, I did a little decluttering - including the digital kind - and decided to share some of the files I dug up. This month, you'll find my first ever TV appearance with my second cousin, Jack Ford, and the weekend Today show. I also had another memory quilt made - this one focused on my travels in all seven continents (a result of decluttering physical stuff, like t-shirts)! Totally unrelated to this, I started sharing some experiences real-time with my Army cases (look for the colored squares with commentary). And then the memorial service for my aunt (who passed away last year) was held, resulting in an unexpected family treasure being sent my way (I'm the family genie, y'know?), and I couldn't help but write about it for the featured article. So yeah, there's a lot of me in this issue.

But if none of that is your cup of tea, you'll still find plenty of other genealogical content, especially tales of military heroes and oh-so-many genetic tales!

Until next month, stay cool!



I Was the Only One Who Knew

I’ve written an entire book of genealogical serendipity tales, but have been something of a wallflower in this regard. With a couple of cherished exceptions, these magical moments of happy coincidence have mostly eluded me in the course of my research, but my dry spell just ended.

Like so many last year, my family lost loved ones, including my Aunt Bea, and due to the pandemic, her memorial service was delayed. When it took place last week, the family — gathered together for the first time in who knows how long — tended to overdue business, including divvying up her jewelry. The plan was to rotate through her children from oldest to youngest with each picking pieces to remember her by, so everyone spent a few minutes looking at the collection beforehand.

One item — a small, metal square on a ribbon — provoked curiosity. My sister who was also present suspected it was a mourning locket. Prying it open, they discovered two photos. One was recognized by all as Aunt Bea’s father, the grandfather of most assembled, in his WWI uniform. The locket, it was agreed, must have originally belonged to Aunt Bea’s mother, our nana. But who was the woman in the other photo? No one — including six members of my generation — knew.

But they knew who to give it to. I’ve been the family genealogist since I was about ten years old. Every family has one. Even as you were reading these words, you were thinking of either yourself or that cousin or aunt or nephew everyone knows is obsessed with dearly departed relatives. Luckily for me, there was swift consensus to send the locket my way (thank you, cousins!).

Click here to continue reading.

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Genealogy Roundup, July 14

Photo Credit: MudflapDC

Remains of South Carolina soldier killed in Korean War to be returned to family – Welcome home, PFC Louis Nelson Crosby. Honored to have researched your family. #hero (2004 case)

So I had another quilt made - this one from t-shirts from some of my travels over the years. Lots of memories in here! Just realized all 7 continents are represented!

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Genealogy Roundup, July 7

Illustration Credit: Mother Jones

A Bronx Tale: One Sperm Donor, 19 Siblings, and Six Decades of Secrets: How DNA home test kits can lead to family joy—and anguish – "He was her biological father, and his father was not his biological father. “For him it was a double whammy...”"

In case you're wondering what it's like to be a genealogist on Twitter. 😆

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Genealogy Roundup, June 30

Photo Credit: Hong Chang Bum

Your Consumer DNA Test Could Get Your Distant Cousin Convicted of a Crime – A more balanced discussion than the title would suggest. 🧬

A Tribute to Anthony Bourdain and His Wild, Vagabond Roots – Anthony Bourdain was born 65 years ago on June 25th. Whether he knew it or not, his roots claimed him. What a remarkable man and life.

Two women chatted in a bathroom. They soon realized they were each a match for the other’s husband, who needed a kidney. – If you need a lift, take a couple of minutes and read this.

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Genealogy Roundup, June 23

Photo Credit: Mike Ellis / Independent Mail

Veteran's remains come home to Anderson, seven decades after attack in North Korea – Welcome home, CPL William James McCollum. Honored to have researched your family. Note: This is a soldier from the Korean War I was assigned way back in 2006.

Jack Ford explores his Irish Reynolds Roots with Genealogist and 2nd Cousin Megan Smolenyak – Time to share another digital nugget excavated from my past. This was my first time ever appearing on TV. I had a local access show so was familiar with TV, but highly resistant to being on camera. Preferred to be behind it.

I think it was 1999. A second cousin of mine, Jack Ford, was a weekend host for the "Today Show" and the show decided to do segments on everyone's roots, so yours truly got a call. I tried my best to steer them to his mom, Peggy White, one of my favorite partners in crime genealogy-wise! And you'll see her in there. But the producer kept calling with more and more questions, and finally asked if I would just come up to New York to be in it.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Revolutionary Ancestors – On this, our first nationally recognized Juneteenth, it's worth remembering that Texas was not only the last place to free the enslaved, but was also where many well-heeled Confederates from other states brought those they had enslaved in an effort to keep them out of the reach of the Union during the Civil War. And then there's the fact that slavery was a major factor in the founding of Texas to begin with.

I got an intensive education in the last aspect when researching Lin-Manuel Miranda's roots. LMM's? Yup.

A branch on his mother's side - a mixed Black-white couple and their children - got swept up in Texas's revolutionary days and it was a constant struggle to retain their freedom, even for those in the family who had been born free.

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