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Honoring Our Ancestors Newsletter

March 15, 2007

By Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak

Megan Smolenyak SmolenyakGreetings Fellow Family History Sleuths,

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all my fellow Irish-Americans, and to all the rest who are Irish once a year! I've been a little busy so this issue's a bit shorter than usual, but here's hoping you find a couple of useful tidbits!



In this newsletter. . .

National Archives Restores Hours!

Recently spotted this on the APG Mailing List!

January 31, 2008

I am pleased to inform NARA staff that we will restore the evening and weekend hours in the archival research rooms in the National Archives Building and the National Archives at College Park. Effective the week of April 14, 2008, the extended hours will be 9 A.M. to 9 P.M. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. Saturday. Hours on Monday and Tuesday will continue to be 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. When we restore evening hours we will provide the additional service of pulling records from the stacks at 3:30 P.M. on the three weekdays that we are open in the evening. As was the case prior to October 2006, there will be no records pulled on Saturday.

We are publishing an interim final rule in the Federal Register on February
1 to make the change to our regulations. Congress and the President provided a one-time appropriation of $1.3 million in the NARA FY 2008 budget to restore these hours. The funds will be used to hire new archival research room staff and to cover the costs of utilities, maintenance, and security during the extended hours. We set the effective date of the new hours as April 14, 2008 to allow time to hire and train the additional research room staff and to adjust the terms of the security guard contract.

Research room hours at the National Archives Building in Washington DC and at the College Park facility were reduced in October 2006 as a cost-savings measure. Since then, the National Archives has had extended hours only once a month-on Thursday and Friday evenings and on Saturdays. Prior to October 2006, the National Archives extended hours were Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. The change from Tuesday to Wednesday evening late hours was implemented to make it more convenient and cost-effective for out-of-town researchers who travel to the National Archives for research.

I appreciate the efforts our research room staff have made since the beginning of FY 2007 to serve our researchers well despite the reduced hours and staffing constraints. I?m pleased that we are able to provide the additional access.

Archivist of the United States

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Return of a Slave-Owned Bible

On Sunday -- slightly earlier than the Super Bowl -- I had the opportunity to speak to the Morristown, NJ chapter of the DAR. The venue was charming -- the house where Alexander Hamilton met his bride-to-be -- and the audience was delightful as well (thanks for inviting me!).

But there an extra bonus this time. On behalf of Marilyn Syx, I got to return a family Bible to Harvey Oliver, a descendant of one of the original owners. What made this case particularly special is that the original owners were Green and Louvenia Hawk, former slaves. In fact, the first entry in the Bible is their 1864 marriage.

I'll be writing an article about it for Ancestry Magazine for my Found! column, but in the meantime, here's a photo. I rarely take possession of the orphan heirlooms I rescue, but in this case, it turned out that the descendants lived in NJ (where I live), so it made sense for me to hand the Bible off directly to Harvey. Thanks, Marilyn, for your generosity! And Harvey, here's hoping that you and your descendants enjoys the Bible for many generations to come!

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Are You My Blue-Eyed Cousin?

Here's a cool article in The Genetic Genealogist about those of us with blue eyes. Looks like we might be our own special branch of mutants! Can't wait to get myself tested at one of the new companies to check out my own rs12913832!

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On My Coffee Cup

Stopped at Starbucks the other day and liked what I found on my coffee cup, so thought I'd share. Imagine how this felt!

"Once, when excavating the house of a medieval sailor on the coast of the Red Sea in Egypt, I found a still-preserved reed mat in front of a door. Under the doormat was a wooden key with the name of the owner painted on it. It was an extraordinary sense of connection with the last person to walk out of that building 700 years ago."

-- Fred Hiebert, Archaeologist and National Geographic Fellow

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New Series on RootsTelevision: Down Under

You can always tell a true genealogist by the way they respond to the word "cemetery." If you detect a shiver of excitement or outright glee, you know you're talking to a genuine genie. That's why I'm delighted to announce that we've just launched a new cemetery-centered series on RootsTelevision.com!

Check out the much beloved Genealogy Guys in this first episode, taped in Tampa, Florida. The story revolves around a tombstone that was ahead of its time. Take a look and let us know what you think!

Down Under: Florida

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New Genealogy Magazine

I'm delighted to see that my friend, Halvor Moorshead, is at it again with the launch of a new genealogy magazine, this one geared toward beginners. For a free, digital issue, just click below:

Discovering Family History

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Save GINA!

The question isn't who's Gina, but what's GINA -- and why should you care? You can learn everything you need to know here, but an official of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG) managed to wrap it all up succinctly when she wrote:

"I don't think people realize how important GINA is for them; its kind of like a seat belt law, you don't realize how much you need it until your head hits the windshield. They won't realize they need GINA until they are denied health insurance or a job based on what their DNA shows. And on the opposite end, there are those who won't test until they know they are protected."

This is genuinely important -- and not just for those of us who are into genetic genealogy. Please take the time to contact your senators and register your concern. As an added incentive, ISOGG is holding a contest with a prize worth $150. Please take a few minutes to read all about the Save GINA Contest -- and spread the word!

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What Census Records Don't Show

12-year-old Robert Wadlow appears to be a normal boy in this 1930 census, but click here to see what this record doesn't show. And yup, that's his dad, Harold, with him. If you're really curious, you can also check out the 1920 census that shows Harold and Addie with their exceptional toddler. Just search for "Robert Wadlow" in Illinois, born 1918.

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Megan TV

We're experimenting with some new functionality at RootsTelevision.com and one of the outcomes is this player of videos of random genealogical adventures I've gotten myself mixed up in. It's a little like my greatest hits -- DNA, Annie Moore, Al Sharpton, etc.! I'm looking forward to adding new videos over time. Take a peek if you've got a few minutes. As an added bonus, one of the videos features my dad mocking me for using both of my Smolenyaks!

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For the WWII Vet in Your Family

This has apparently been around since 2005, but I had never seen it before. And I don't mind admitting, it really choked me up. Here's the song -- and here is how it came to be:

The elderly parking lot attendant wasn't in a good mood!

Neither was Sam Bierstock. It was around 1 a.m., and Bierstock, a Delray Beach, Fla. , eye doctor, business consultant, corporate speaker and musician, was bone tired after appearing at an event.

He pulled up in his car, and the parking attendant began to speak. "I took two bullets for this country and look what I'm doing," he said bitterly.

At first, Bierstock didn't know what to say to the World War II veteran. But he rolled down his window and told the man, "Really, from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you."

Then the old soldier began to cry.

"That really got to me," Bierstock says.

Cut to today.

Bierstock, 58, and John Melnick, 54, of Pompano Beach - a member of Bierstock's band, Dr. Sam and the Managed Care Band - have written a song inspired by that old soldier in the airport parking lot. The mournful "Before You Go" does more than salute those who fought in WWII. It encourages people to go out of their way to thank the aging warriors before they die.

"If we had lost that particular war, our whole way of life would have been shot," says Bierstock, who plays harmonica. "The WW II soldiers are now dying at the rate of about 2,000 every day. I thought we needed to thank them."

The song is striking a chord. Within four days of Bierstock placing it on the Web, the song and accompanying photo essay have bounced around nine countries, producing tears and heartfelt thanks from veterans, their sons and daughters and grandchildren.

"It made me cry," wrote one veteran's son. Another sent an e-mail saying that only after his father consumed several glasses of wine would he discuss "the unspeakable horrors" he and other soldiers had witnessed in places such as Anzio, Iwo Jima, Bataan and Omaha Beach. "I can never thank them enough," the son wrote. "Thank you for thinking about them."

Bierstock and Melnick thought about shipping it off to a professional singer, maybe a Lee Greenwood type, but because time was running out for so many veterans, they decided it was best to release it quickly, for free, on the Web. They've sent the song to Sen. John McCain and others in Washington. Already they have been invited to perform it in Houston for a Veterans Day tribute - this after just a few days on the Web. They hope every veteran in America gets a chance to hear it.

GOD BLESS every EVERY veteran... And THANK you to those of you veterans who may receive this!


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Huckabee: Elder liked 'em younger

A couple of months ago, Ancestry.com was approached by Fox News to have someone on to answer questions about the candidates' roots. At the time, there were a lot more candidates -- about eight, as I recall. At any rate, I was selected to do the spot, so had to study up on everyone. I was pretty darn sure I would get asked about Huckabee since he had just won Iowa earlier that week, but in fact, I was only asked about Obama and Clinton.

With Huckabee now out of the race, I thought it might be time to share one of the vignettes I had ready to go if asked that evening in the studio. It concerns his grandfather, William Elder (appropriately named), who leaned toward younger ladies. When he was 36 years old, he married a 17-year-old, and then when he was 57, he married a 21-year-old. He's must have felt a little sheepish, though, because as this doc shows (his second marriage), he only admitted to being 52.

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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 29, 2008 - Virginia Beach, VA - Virginia Beach Genealogical Society - "Trace Your Roots with DNA," "Beyond Y-DNA: Your Genetic Genealogy Options," "Reverse Genealogy: Techniques for Finding Your Lost Loved Ones" and "Find That Obituary! Online Newspaper Research"
  • April 12, 2008 - Pittsburgh, PA - Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society - "Trace Your Roots with DNA," "Find That Obituary! Online Newspaper Research," "Building a Village-Based Community" and "Cases That Made My Brain Hurt"
  • April 26, 2008 - Topeka, KS - Topeka Genealogical Society - "Trace Your Roots with DNA," "Beyond Y-DNA: Your Genetic Genealogy Options," "Building a Village-Based Community" and "Reverse Genealogy: Techniques for Finding Your Lost Loved Ones"
  • May 2-3, 2008 - Lincoln, NE - Nebraska State Genealogical Society - "Cases That Made My Brain Hurt," "Trace Your Roots with DNA," "Reverse Genealogy: Techniques for Finding Your Lost Loved Ones," "Jump-Starting Your Eastern European Research" and "Remembering Our Ancestors"
  • May 10, 2008 - Thousand Oaks, CA - Conejo Valley Genealogical Society - "Reverse Genealogy: Techniques for Finding Your Lost Loved Ones," "Cases That Made My Brain Hurt," "Find That Obituary: Online Newspaper Research" and "Right Annie, Wrong Annie"
  • June 21, 2008 - Mandeville, LA - St. Tammany Parish Genealogical Society and the National Knowles/Knoles/Noles Family Association - "Trace Your Roots with DNA," "Beyond Y-DNA: Your Genetic Genealogy Options," "Introduction to Ancestry.com," "Reverse Genealogy: Techniques for Finding Your Lost Loved Ones" and "Remembering Our Ancestors"
  • June 27-29, 2008 - Burbank, CA - Southern California Genealogical Society - "Right Annie, Wrong Annie," "Welcome to RootsTelevision!," "Trace Your Roots with DNA," "Beyond Y-DNA: Your Genetic Genealogy Options" and "Jump-Starting Your Eastern European Research"
  • August 15-16, 2008 - Indianapolis, IN - Indiana Historical Society Midwestern Roots Conference - Topics TBD
  • September 3-6, 2008 - Philadelphia, PA - Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference - "Trace Your Roots with DNA" and "Beyond Y-DNA: Your Genetic Genealogy Options"
  • September 20, 2008 - Bangor, ME - Maine Genealogical Society - "Trace Your Roots with DNA," "Beyond Y-DNA: Your Genetic Genealogy Options," "Reverse Genealogy: Techniques for Finding Your Lost Loved Ones," "Cases That Made My Brain Hurt' and "Remembering Our Ancestors"
  • September 27, 2008 - Naperville, IL - Fox Valley Genealogy Society - "Reverse Genealogy: Techniques for Finding Your Lost Loved Ones," "Find That Obituary! Online Newspaper Research," "Trace Your Roots with DNA" and "Beyond Y-DNA: Your Genetic Genealogy Options"
  • October 18, 2008 - Huntsville, AL - Huntsville-Madison County Public Library - "Trace Your Roots with DNA," "Beyond Y-DNA: Your Genetic Genealogy Options," "Reverse Genealogy: Techniques for Finding Your Lost Loved Ones" and "Welcome to Roots Television!"
  • October 26-November 2, 2008 - 4th Annual Genealogy Conference and Cruise, hosted by Wholly Genes, Inc. - Topics TBD
  • January 16-20, 2009 - Auckland, New Zealand - Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations 12th Australasian Congress on Genealogy & Heraldry - Topics TBD
  • April 22-26, 2009 - Manchester, NH - The New England Regional Genealogical Conference 2009 - 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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