Honoring Our Ancestors Newsletter

March 15, 2007

By Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak

Megan Smolenyak SmolenyakGreetings Fellow Family History Sleuths,

The last few weeks have been a blur, mostly thanks to the Sharpton-Thurmond story that you might have heard about (more on that next time), so this issue is a little shorter than usual. On the upside, I've finally caught up with my grants! Congrats to all the awardees.

Here's hoping you still find a few useful tidbits in here, and that you have a wonderful St. Patty's Day whether you have a drop of Irish in you or not!


In this newsletter. . .

Preserving Coal Mining History

If you happen to sport Northeastern Pennsylvania coal mining roots like I do, then you'll be interested in this article: Digging area history from records, sites Let's hear it for the John Dziak's of the world!

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How Many of You Are There?

Well, there's only one Genealogue -- and 1,556,837 Christophers and 26,997 Dunhams in the United States -- but there are apparently 139 other people running around with our friend's name.

You can play around with your own name at How Many of Me -- but with one caveat. You're out of luck if you have a name like Smolenyak because it only works for the 88,799 most popular surnames. Still, it's nice to know that I was one of the first of the more than 220,000 Megans! (warning: site sometimes sports tacky ads)

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Digital Crack

In February, I appeared on a morning talk show in Utah called Studio 5. They asked for a few genealogical basics to pop on their website and recently added them here:

Easy ways to get started with genealogy

On this show, I demonstrated Ancestry.com's "shaky leaf" system by poking into one of the host's roots. More than a million family trees and 400,000 photos have been uploaded just since July 2006 using this new functionality (see the press release for more details), and once you play with it, you'll discover why -- it's pretty darn addicting. In fact, one New York Times reporter described it as "digital crack."

If you'd like to try it, just enter some date or upload a GEDCOM into Ancestry.com's Member Trees. Here's wishing you many shaky leaves (and if that doesn't make sense to you now, it will once you give it a go)!

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Great Online Research Links Pages

This might be a bit intimidating if you're new to genealogical research, but if you've been at it for a while and are comfortable online, you'll want to check out these great pages of links from ProGenealogists (incidentally, the company I use for virtually all of my Family History Library research).

United States Genealogy Sleuth

International Genealogy Sleuth

These are links that they use themselves when tackling their case work, and they've been kind enough to share them with all of us. Definitely worth a careful study. You just never know what terrific resource you might have been overlooking!

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Playing the Odds, Vegas Style

Did you know that 7% of U.S. marriages take place in Nevada -- even though the state only represents about 1% of the U.S. population? You can learn this and a gazillion other details about marriages and divorces in Nevada (yup, including all those celebrity marriages and quickie divorces) at VegasWeddingOdds.com by Ancestry.com.

While you're there, though, take some time to play the slots and learn about the odds on your own marriage. I entered my name and my husband's -- Brian -- and found out that I had better keep him away from anyone named Michelle. Should Brian ever decide he's had enough of me and my genealogical ways, my best bets for another marriage would be Robert, James, Joseph, Daniel, Timothy, Matthew, Eric, Joshua, Gary and Sean. So if you sport any of those names, don't say I didn't warn you!

If you'd like to read more, check out this press release. And when you're playing the slots, you might want to take a peek at the disclaimer as well.

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Feeling Bookish

An article of mine that appeared in Ancestry.com's 24/7 Family History Circle is another in my series about books with a genealogical theme that aren't overtly genealogical -- although one of the two I review this time is pretty darn genealogical. Check out Feeling Bookish -- not only for the article itself, but for the additional suggestions in the comments. And you can look for a lot more ideas for your next book binge here in the book category.

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Podcasting Irish-Style

Had a great time chatting with Mike O'Laughlin of Irish Roots Cafe recently, and you can listen to our discussion -- mostly about Annie Moore, the first immigrant through Ellis Island -- by checking out podcast #10. While you're there, take a little time to explore. There's a lot to this virtual cafe!

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Medal of Honor Going Home Soon

I don't blame her for playing it safe. I recently spotted an article entitled Mystery Surrounds 1865 Medal of Honor in the Indianoplis Star. Unfortunately, the article (written by Virginia Hilbert) is already tucked into the archives and only available on a fee basis, but the gist of it was that a Civil War Medal of Honor had strayed from its family of origin, and the present owner, Marjorie Grismore, was seeking descendants of Joseph F. Carter from Maryland.

How could I resist? It took about half an hour, but I tracked down a great-granddaughter in Baltimore, and gave Ron Wilkins, the fellow doing the sleuthing on behalf of the current owner, her contact info. He called and she confirmed her relationship. You can read about it in this follow up article by Ms. Hilbert -- Medal of Honor could be back in family soon.

Not surprisingly, Ms. Grismore wants to be absolutely sure about the relationship, so I'm awaiting her call so I can provide the details she needs to feel reassured. What's especially nice, though, is that the descendant was aware of the medal and had been looking for it for 20 years. She shouldn't have much longer to wait!

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Bob Hope on FindMyPast

FindMyPast recently announced that they had added another decade's worth of UK emigration records, so now the site covers 1890-1909. I use Bob Hope's immigration record as an example in my Ellis Island talk, so I knew that he left England in 1908. Of course, I had to go see if I could find his departure, and sure enough, I could! Here we see toddler Leslie Hope with his mother Avis and siblings:

View image

When I first reviewed FindMyPast, I mentioned that I wasn't keen on the pay-as-you-go approach. It sounds good in theory (and is the norm for most European genealoical sites), but doesn't work well with my search style. I was impressed that Elaine Collins, FindMyPast's Commercial Director, took the time to explain (you can see her complete remarks as a comment on my earlier posting, but here's a selection):

"The minimum expiry time on the findmypast.com is three months, rather than one month, for the $10 package, and most packages are valid for one year. We send emails to remind you when units are about to expire and you have an opportunity to extend the life of units.

Finally, you may be pleased to hear that we will shortly be introducing unlimited access subscription packages for the passenger list records alongside the pay-per-view options, so each researcher can decide which payment method meets their needs. It's about customer choice."

Well, that's the best of both worlds! Let the searching begin!

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Congrats to Christina Jacko!

How cool is this? Since the Annie Moore story broke back in September of last year, I've been contacted by a number of students working on immigration-related projects. As best I can, I try to answer questions and be generally helpful.

Well, Christina Jacko of Martinsburg, WV just sent me this snap of her recently completed Annie Moore project which scored an impressive 98 out of 100 points! Check out those models! Great work, Christina! Thanks for sharing your project with us -- and for keeping Annie's memory alive!

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Cases That Made My Brain Hurt

It isn't often that you get to speak at a venue that's only a couple of blocks from your home, but I recently had one of those times when I broke in a new talk at the Haddon Fortnightly.

The new talk is called "Cases That Made My Brain Hurt," and you can learn more about it here -- although the content is probably fairly obvious from the title! This and a talk on Annie Moore are my new ones for the year. I really enjoyed last evening, but probably my favorite part was the Q&A which meandered all over the place! Lots of fun!

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Flat Stanley Does His Roots

The handsome fellow below is Austin. He's my nephew and the instigator behind the Flat Stanley piece we've just added on Roots Television. He sent me Flat Stanley a few years ago (if you have no clue who that is, be sure to watch!), and of course, I made F.S. do his roots! Thanks for the adventures you prompted, Austin!

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Honoring Our Ancestors Grants

Congrats to our January, Feburary and March grant recipients! Don't forget that you can apply (and view summaries of several years' worth of monthly awardees -- just use the drop-down menu) here.

January 2007
Clark County Internet Library provides research on local history, genealogy, and a host of transcriptions designed to assist family research of Clark County, WI ancestors. Information posted on the site is collected by 200 volunteers in 16 states and 3 foreign countries. They plan to use the grant toward the purchase of suitable shelving for newspaper microfiche used by all of the libraries in Clark County. And by the way, check out the cool book shelf on their home page!

Seymour, IN is a town with rich history -- founded by "builders and busters, entrepreneurs and scoundrels" and the site of the nation's first train robbery. To document this history, the Seymour Museum board is in the process of creating a living history tour through the Riverview Cemetery to celebrate its 125th year. In this project, historians and actors will research primary documents and family histories to accurately portray notable individuals throughout Seymour's history. The grant will be used to help fund this tour, which will be held in April 2007.

February 2007
The Cemetery Surveys, Inc. website, run by Rose Birdwell, posts pictures of every stone in each surveyed cemetery (over 1,000 currently online), plus panoramas. They also post birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, obits and other material with genealogical value. In the past two years, website traffic has increased to over a quarter million per month, slowing the server down and creating problems for their Internet service provider. They plan to use the grant to upgrade their server and to pay for a year of business internet.

March 2007
The Wachusett Writers and Poets Club in Westminster, MA is a group of seniors, all over age 55, who met through a course in Creative Writing at the local junior college. They write short stories, poems, essays and more and self publish a text of their individual works once a year. Their love of writing continues to grow, as they explain: "We all have been bitten by the bug of writing since childhood. Retirement has allowed this love to blossom into the joy of telling for posterity." The grant will be used to fund a workshop for the group, guided by the Central MA Genealogical Society to enrich their research skills for the telling of family stories.

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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.

  • March 17, 2007 - Baltimore, MD - Enoch Pratt Free Library - "Trace Your Roots with DNA"
  • April 13-14, 2007 - Oconomowoc, WI - Wisconsin State Genealogical Society Gene-a-Rama - "Reverse Genealogy: Techniques for Finding Your Lost Loved Ones," "Building a Village Based Community," "Remembering Our Ancestors," "Trace Your Roots with DNA" and "Beyond Y-DNA: Your Genetic Genealogy"
  • April 21, 2007 - Boston, MA - New England Historic Genealogical Society - "Trace Your Roots with DNA," "Beyond Y-DNA: Your Genetic Genealogy Options," "Cases That Made My Brain Hurt" and "Right Annie, Wrong Annie"
  • April 26-29, 2007 - Hartford, CT - The New England Regional Genealogical Consortium Conference - "Trace Your Roots with DNA" and "Beyond DNA: Your Genetic Genealogy Options"
  • June 8-10, 2007 - Burbank, CA - Southern California Genealogical Society - "Reverse Genealogy Techniques for Finding Your Lost Loved Ones," "Remembering Our Ancestors" and "Trace Your Roots with DNA"
  • August 4, 2007 - Newport News, VA - Tidewater Genealogical Society - "Trace Your Roots with DNA"
  • August 15-18, 2007 - Fort Wayne, IN - FGS/ACPL Conference: Meeting at the Crossroads of America - "Beyond Y-DNA: Your Genetic Genealogy Options," "Find That Obituary! Online Newspaper Research," "Reverse Genealogy: Techniques for Finding Your Lost Loved Ones," "Trace Your Roots with DNA" and "The Quest for Ellis Island Annie"
  • September 29, 2007 - Manassas, VA - Ruth E. Lloyd Information Center (RELIC) for Genealogy and Local History - "Trace Your Roots with DNA"
  • October 4-6, 2007 - Marshalltown, IA - Iowa Genealogical Society Annual Fall Conference - "The Quest for Annie Moore," "Find That Obituary! Online Newspaper Research," "Maximizing Your Results from the Ellis Island Database," "Trace Your Roots with DNA," "Beyond Y-DNA: Your Genetic Genealogy Options" and "Cases That Made My Brain Hurt"
  • October 21, 2007 - Wilmington, DE - Delaware Genealogical Society - Topic TBD
  • October 28-November 4, 2007 - 2007 Genealogy Conference and Cruise - hosted by Wholly Genes Software - Speaking topics TBD.
  • March 1, 2008 - Tallahassee, FL - Florida State Genealogical Society - Details TBD.
  • April 12, 2008 - Pittsburgh, PA - Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society - Details 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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