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Honoring Our Ancestors Newsletter

March 10, 2009

By Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak

Megan Smolenyak SmolenyakGreetings Fellow Family History Sleuths,

Catching my breath from a pair of whirlwind trips to Vancouver/Surrey, Canada and London, England (both of them were lots of fun!), so will keep this short. Please take a few minutes to watch the RootsTelevision.com video about the Haley family (yes, the Haleys of Roots fame) and their experience with DNA testing that led to the discovery of their Scottish cousins. I don't think you'll regret it. And if you enjoy it, please tell others about it! Thanks!


In this newsletter. . .

Haley-Baff Genetic Reunion

It was an exciting time this past week at WDYTYA? Live! Chris Haley, nephew of the late Alex Haley (author of Roots) and Director of the Study of the Legacy of Slavery in Maryland at the Maryland State Archives, discovered he has ancestors in Scotland! Here’s the story.

At the 2007 FGS Conference, Chris Haley took a DNA test from Ancestry.com at the suggestion of Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak. It was a fun test that produced one immediate match for Chris, although this person was listed as anonymous. Fast-forward about 18 months to the WDYTYA? Live! event in London last week.

Chris Haley and June Baff Black

Right before the event, Chris received word that his DNA test received another match, which led to the opportunity to meet his newly discovered Scottish cousin, June Baff Black. So the Haley family of Roots fame is Scottish! June, new to genealogy, had been exploring her family history for a mere three weeks when this connection was made! The two met for the first time in London.

Watch the video!


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Obama's Multi-Cultural Roots Interesting in Any Language

The day after Barack Obama's inauguration, the New York Times published an article by Jodi Kantor about the "we are the world" aspect of the extended Obama family:

Nation’s Many Faces in Extended First Family

I was fortunate enough to get a fleeting mention in the article, making a few remarks about Michelle Obama's roots. And I always get a kick out of watching something I've played even a tiny role in popping up around the globe. Here, then, is the same article in:

Spanish (Argentina)



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Genealogical Round Up, February 12

24-7 Family History Circle » RootsTelevision Contest

Where our future is headed. Time to start getting smart about it.

Gene Expression: Personal genomics, Pinker, 23andMe, Counsyl, etc.

Loved this. Thanks for posting, Laura and Cyndi.

Lost Generation

Check out this contest to win an autographed copy of In Search of Our Roots by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.!

Roots Television | Og Blog: In Search of Our Roots Contest!

See you in Marion, IN. I think this will be the fifth year in a row I've spoken in Indiana!

DNA Seminar in Marion Indiana May 30, 2009 - Featuring Megan Smolenyak

Check out this line up of talks at Pratt Library in Baltimore, MD! I have the opportunity to speak there a year or so ago and had a great time. If you're anywhere in the area, you'll want to consider putting one or more of these talks in your schedule!

Genealogy and Ethnic Heritage

Wow, props to Highmark Blue Shield. Half a million for 150 oral histories.

Highmark donation aids anniversary effort - PennLive.com

My heart goes out to this family. 140 years of family history gone -- and likely because of some arsonist.

Family history lost - Local News - News - General - The Advertiser

Getting excited about this as I'm a participant -- as is my physician!

Gene Sherpas: Personalized Medicine and You: Coriell Goes Live!!!

Cool exhibit shedding light on Japanese-American family history.

Riverside museum exhibit to chart Japanese-American experience | Inland News | PE.com | Southern Cal

Remember doing this local news segment, but didn't know there was an article until a gentleman mentioned in it contacted me!


Makes me sort of wistful. If only I had the time! Interesting find, Paula!

Coloring Fun for Adults

You can't make this stuff up.

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Malaysian twins spared death row

FBI seeks to match DNA of unidentified bodies in Mexico - On Deadline - USATODAY.com

I've kind of figured that this would be one of the fall outs of our current economic situation. If this describes you and you're into genealogy, be sure to check out www.RootsTelevision.com. Plenty of free videos for your enjoyment!

More turning to Web to watch TV, movies - CNN.com

Unclaimed Persons is looking for volunteers to step into the role of Case Administrator. Please consider it!

Unclaimed Persons

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Video re: James R. Fenwick, Sailor on USS Monitor

If you're like me and enjoy history mysteries -- or if you're a Civil War buff -- check out this video about the attempt to identify the skeletons found in the turret of the USS Monitor. You'll have to turn to BBC's timewatch to see the whole thing (look for the episode called The Iron Coffin), but you'll see a few highlights here.

The amazing thing to me is that -- with only about a month for research -- it was possible to learn some things about James R. Fenwick that had been missed all these years. I especially enjoyed speaking with his great-niece in Scotland who had heard of a family member who went to America, but had no clue what had become of him. With something on the order of 60,000 books on the Civil War, I didn't think there was much new to discover, but I was definitely wrong about that!

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Genealogical Round Up, February 19

Wow! Thanks to all the kind mentions we've been getting the last few days, we're up to 529 members!

Unclaimed Persons

If you'd like to help, please either visit www.unclaimedpersons.org to learn more or go directly to our group here on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1057803118&ref=name#/group.php?gid=24101365049&ref=ts. We have 493 volunteers at the moment. Perhaps you can help us get to 500! More importantly, we've solved 44 cases since last June.

Sadness, reality attach themselves to unclaimed persons list - News 24/7

Searching for relatives of unclaimed dead


Free Genealogy, Family History Videos on Roots Television

Have to do see this the next time I'm in the area.

Angel Island center for immigrants reopens - USATODAY.com

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Honoring Our Ancestors Grants

Congrats to our recent grant recipients! Don't forget that you can apply here.  

February 2009
Alice Yeager of Alabama Neighbors produced two documentaries last year, and is now recording cemetery tours led by local historians in towns all over Alabama. The main focus will be on tombstone artwork and motifs and the amazing stories of the people who are buried within the cemeteries (both the famous and the infamous). The grant will be applied to filming, editing, and production expenses.

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Upcoming Events

If you plan to be near any of the events where I'll be speaking, I would love to meet you. It's always a kick for me when folks mention that they read this newsletter, my blog, Ancestry Daily News or whatever, so don't be shy about introducing yourself!

For more information on these events, please see my Events Calendar. And if you're interested in scheduling me, just click here.

  • April 18, 2009 - Anchorage, AK - Anchorage Genealogical Society - "Introduction to Ancestry.com," "Reverse Genealogy: Techniques for Finding Your Lost Loved Ones," "Find that Obituary! Online Newspaper Research" and "Cases That Made My Brain Hurt"
  • April 22-26, 2009 - Manchester, NH - The New England Regional Genealogical Conference 2009 - Topics TBD
  • May 30, 2009 - Marion, IN - Marion Public Library - "Trace Your Roots with DNA," "Beyond Y-DNA: Your Genetic Genealogy Options," "Reverse Genealogy: Techniques for Finding Your Lost Loved Ones," "No Man Left Behind" and "Mini-Film Festival"
  • June 20, 2009 - Wichita, KS - Kansas Council of Genealogical Societies - "Trace your Roots with DNA," "Welcome to Roots Television," "Reverse Genealogy" and "Find that Obituary!"
  • September 11-13, 2009 - Spokane, WA - Eastern Washington Genealogical Society - Topics TBD
  • March 20, 2010 - Round Rock, TX - Williamson County Genealogical Society - Topics TBD

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Please forward this newsletter to your family and friends who are interested in genealogy -- thank you!

Wishing you an abundance of genealogical serendipity!
Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak


Note: You are receiving this because you have demonstrated an interest (e.g., you have a story in one of my books, applied for a grant, attended previous events, etc.) or subscribed via my website, but please let me know if you do not want to receive any further emails, and I will promptly remove you from my list. And rest assured, this is my personal list and not shared with anyone else! Thanks, Megan

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