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Honoring Our Ancestors
March 15, 2012

Greetings Fellow Family History Sleuths,

Wow, the last month flew by fast, but being half-Irish, I'm pleased that St. Patrick's Day is almost here! I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who were kind enough to post comments on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and other websites about my latest book. Thanks a million! May the road rise up to meet you!


Unexpected Irish

It's been said that on St. Patrick's Day we're all a wee bit Irish, but here are a few celebrities who truly are, though they probably wouldn't be the first you'd guess:

  • Katy Perry: It's Eyrecourt in County Galway that can lay claim to the singer's Irish ancestral hometown.
  • Beyoncé: Like President Obama, Beyoncé is 1/32nd Irish.
  • Barry Manilow: Who knew the Jewish boy from Brooklyn could trace a quarter of his ancestry to Ireland?
  • Pink: Pink and Carey Hart's baby girl, Willow, is part-Irish on both sides of her family tree.
  • David Boreanaz: Like Pink, Detective Seeley Booth from Bones has a Moore branch that leads back to Ireland by way of Pennsylvania. Maybe they're cousins!

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Genealogy Round Up, MaRch 8

Please join me 3/15 in NYC! 
Book Talk at NYG&B: Hey America, Your Roots are Showing!

Wow! Blown away by this! "the best #genealogy book I've ever read" per Leland Meitler
Review of “Hey, America, Your Roots are Showing"

USS Monitor series. 
Who were the skeletons in the turret?

Bodes well for a 4th season, eh?! 
Ratings: Who Do You Think You Are? Hits High 

My kind of story: 
World War II Love Story: Letters help Newnan couple find soldier's family 

Rashida Jones taping at the NYPL for WDYTYA today!

Fun video from NYPL!

Webinar on 4/25. Please consider joining us!
Reverse Genealogy: Finding the Living

Join me at NJ State Archives on 3/20!
Author Talk: Megan Smolenyak | State Library Information Center 

New Jersey family's history told through dozens of quilts

Another kind book review! 
Genealogy Today: Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing

St. Patrick's Day In the White House Will Be a Family Reunion

Honoring Our Ancestors Newsletter: Special Edition 

Traveling with the Dead Ancestors

Just snagged some for St. Patrick's Day! 
The Charms of Ireland

Something to ponder . . . 
How to Prepare for the Social Networked Afterlife

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Traveling with the Dead Ancestors

Hey Everyone,

I'm delighted to host my first ever guest blog, and doubly so, because it happens to be from an author whose book -Running Away to Home- I genuinely loved (yes, I had already read it when we tripped across each other on Twitter). Having dragged two groups of 40 Americans to an ancestral village in Slovakia, I could totally relate to so many of the escapades that Jennifer Wilson shares, but I promise, you don't have to be a world traveler to smile in recognition at her family's adventures and mishaps! If you enjoy what you read below (and I expect you will), please consider adding Jen's book to your library. 



(P.S. Sharing of this post encouraged!)

How to follow the roots of your family tree across the globe

by Jennifer Wilson

A few years back, when the economy tanked, my husband Jim and I took a life time-out.

We'd been feeling restless, running around too much with the kids, spinning on The Great Hamster Wheel. It was time to get our family back on track before our daughter headed to the mall with some skeevy dude and our son started wearing black eyeliner. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

At about that time, my great aunt, Sister Mary Paula Radošević, passed away—the last of the immigrant relatives. I inherited her personal papers and became immediately enchanted by our ancestral home: the ancient Croatian mountain village of Mrkopalj (pronounced MER-koe-pie). It's like the dead relatives were whispering in my ear, tempting my mom-frazzled brain with a simpler life in the Old Country. I wanted my kids out of soccer practice and into the branches of apple trees in this place that looked like it was built for gnomes in a cleave between forested mountains. I wanted Jim out from behind from his office computer screen, walking with me through fairytale meadows.

Losing half our savings in the 2008 stock market crash was the final nudge we needed. It was just a crazy enough time to follow our roots back to the beginning and start over as a family. We sold our stuff in a name-your-own-price garage sale, worked extra jobs and saved every penny. And then we ran away.

We lived in Mrkopalj for several months, milking the neighbor's cow (which lived in her house), turning sheep on a spit at village festivals, shooting nosehair-burning rakija with the neighbors. I wrote about the whole fabulously messy adventure in my new book.

You really can't beat roots travel for insider access. If you're curious about building your own journey -- whether it's for one week or one year -- here are some tips.     

  • Scout It Out. Just as my great-grandfather before me, I took a short scouting trip to Mrko palj before we moved there. Sure, it worried me when the tourism guy was too drunk to help me. But the dead ancestors whispered in my ear that this trip would be worth it. They were right. Short-term travelers: You can scout from home on the interwebs.
  • Scour for Connections. Consult your genealogy papers. Call local ethnic clubs. Ask relatives about family members in the Old Country. Any contacts to greet and guide you will enrich the experience. Even if you're just visiting cemeteries, let people know you're coming, because it could shake a distant relative out of the woodwork. And then they might feed you.
  • Call Tourism Honchos. Contact national/local tourism boards for travel advice. Ask directly for specific things: lodging recommendations, cultural cues you need to know, potential translators, things like that. Tourism employees are busy, but they know everything. A short, friendly email that says: “I'll be in the area researching my family, and am looking for a good B&B in San Sebastian,” will generate the information you want. A long, rambling letter about how you miss your Spanish granny will not.
  • Assemble Your Documents.In addition to the usual stuff, I traveled with a letter from the Croatian Tourism Board, introducing me as an American researching my roots. It helped when my Croatian language skills couldn't communicate why I was wandering around a post-Communist country with a camera, tape recorder and reporter's notebook. The letter al so listed a name and number at the consulate if I got in a jam.
  • Be Flexible of Mind. Prepare for surprises. As you well know, things aren't all sunshine and daisies when you're sifting through family history. Like the time I learned that the ancestral village was perhaps (probably) aligned with Nazis and Fascists in World War Two. It's a long story. In fact, there's a whole book about it! It's called Running Away to Home and I believe you will like it.
  • Live Local.Once you're walking the streets where your ancestors lived, consider yourself one of them. Expel all preconceived notions to make room for new ideas. My kids ran feral in an open meadow where the main worry was whether that mountain viper would show up again. We ate suspicious local stuff like fried dormouse. I drank the village moonshine before noon with a group of old ladies hell-bent on teaching me to knit with four needles.

We were learning about our roots through our bodies and our taste buds and our connections to another country that remain close to our hearts.

 Is your own ancestral home tempting your travel muse now? I hope so. When we traveled in the footsteps of our ancestors, it changed our lives forever.

Happy travels.

Jennifer Wilson writes for Esquire, National Geographic Traveler, Better Homes & Gardens, and many other national magazines and newspapers. Find out more about RUNNING AWAY TO HOME at http://www.jennifer-wilson.com.   

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Genealogy Round Up, MaRch 1

Kind review of "Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing" by Joan Griffis: Researcher's new book garners praise 
Researcher's new book garners praise » Local News » The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Another kind piece, plus Q&A ...
The Readers' Writers: Genealogy detective Megan Smolenyak

My schedule is filling up! Please join me if I'm in your area! #Genealogy expert/author Megan Smolenyak Calendar
Calendar - Speaking Engagements - Genealogy expert and author Megan Smolenyak

Michelle Obama's Ancestors: Purnell Shields

Marian Pierre-Louis knows me better than I know myself!
Marian's Roots and Rambles: What Professional Genealogists Can Learn from Megan

Well, this is pretty cool. From my publisher . . . 
Meet the Ancestor Rescuer

Video about Michelle Obama's roots - overview of entire tree.
Michelle Obama's Ancestors: The First Lady's Multicultural, Great Migration Past (VIDEO)

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WDYTYA Photos!

Who Do You Think You Are

Lisa Kudrow, moderator extraordinaire, Maira Liriano of the NYPL, Megan Smolenyak, and Kim Cattrall.

Who Do You Think You Are

Blair Underwood and me - and yes, he really is that good looking!

Who Do You Think You Are

Got a copy of my companion book to "Who Do You Think You Are?" signed by Blair Underwood (UL), exec producer Alex Graham (UR), Kim Cattrall (LL) and Lisa Kudrow (LR).

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Genealogy Round Up, February 16

Marisa Tomei Investigates a Family Murder Mystery

It's like genealogical Christmas every week! The latest from FamilySearch.org 
Records Update 9 Feb 2012

Please join us for this genealogy webinar:
Legacy News: Megan Smolenyak to present webinar on April 25 - Reverse Genealogy: Finding the Living

Wow! Love this review by Randy Seaver!
Genea-Musings: Book Review - "Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing" by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak

Wow, this fellow is badly informed on the important uses of the SSDI. Pls sign the petition! 
RootDig.com: Commissioner Astrue's SSDI Comments

Michelle Obama's Ancestors: Fraser Robinson

Fun review from fun publication! 

PA records today! 
New Access to State Birth, Death Records Eases Genealogical Research - sacbee.com

Great initiative, ignorant comments:
Initiative aims to find lost grave sites of slaves 

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Honoring Our Ancestors Grants

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

January 2012
A researcher of the gold strikes in Alaska, Susan Gibson is writing short biographies of the thousands of early pioneers who lived, worked and mined in the Fortymile country of Alaska. The biographies will be gathered into a book, with copies to be donated to the University of Alaska Elmer E. Rasmuson Library and the Fairbanks North Star Borough Noel Wien Library. The grant award will be used for travel expenses to and from the Dawson City Museum Archives, where many records of these pioneers are located.

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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, Huffington Post 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 15, 2012 - New York, NY - The Frank DeCaro Show, Sirius XM Radio - 11:15 a.m.
  • March 15, 2012 - New York, NY - The New York Genealogical & Biographical Society - "Hey, America, Your Roots are Showing"
  • March 20, 2012 - Trenton, NJ - New Jersey State Library - "Cases That Made My Brain Hurt"
  • April 18-20, 2012 - Houston, TX - Texas Library Association - "Next Generation Genealogy"
  • April 22, 2012 - Haddonfield, NJ - Haddonfield Friends of the Library - "Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing"
  • April 24, 2012 - Princeton, NJ - NovoNordisk - "Who Do You Think You Are?"
  • April 25, 2012 - Legacy Family Tree - "Reverse Genealogy: Finding the Living" Webinar
  • May 3, 2012 - New York, NY - White and Williams LLP - "Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing"
  • May 19, 2012 - Valley View, OH - East Cuyahoga County Genealogical Society - "Trace Your Roots with DNA," "Reverse Genealogy: Techniques for Finding Your Lost Loved Ones," "Find The Obituary! Online Newspaper Research" and "Cases That Made My Brain Hurt"
  • June 5, 2012 - Short Hills, NJ - Millburn-Short Hills Historical Society - "Trace Your Roots with DNA"
  • June 8-10, 2012 - Burbank, CA - 2012 Southern California Genealogy Jamboree - Family History Writers Conference Session, "Reverse Genealogy: Techniques for Finding Your Lost Loved Ones," "Giving Back: A Look at 10+ Years of Genealogy Grants" and "Find That Obituary! Online Newspaper Research"
  • June 26, 2012 - Basking Ridge, NJ (delivered live via Skype) - Bernards Township Library - "Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing"
  • June 29, 2012 - Annapolis, MD - Kunta Kinte - Alex Haley Foundation - "Hey America, Your Roots are Showing"
  • July 20-21, 2012 - Indianapolis, IN - Indiana Historical Society Midwestern Roots Conference - "Adventures Behind the Scenes" Panel, "Reverse Genealogy: Techniques for Finding Your Lost Loved Ones," "Cold Cases: Genealogists, Coroners and the FBI," "Hey, America, Your Roots are Showing" and "Trace Your Roots with DNA"
  • August 1, 2012 - Legacy Family Tree - "Neglected History" Webinar
  • August 18, 2012 - Williamsburg, VA - The Tidewater Genealogical Society - "Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing"
  • September 12, 2012 - New York, NY - New York Public Library - "Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing"
  • September 29, 2012 - Manassas, VA - Ruth E. Lloyd Information Center (RELIC) for Genealogy and Local History - "Cases That Made My Brain Hurt"
  • November 3, 2012 - Pensacola, FL - West Florida Genealogical Society - "Right Annie, Wrong Annie," "Trace Your Roots with DNA," "Find That Obituary! Online Newspaper Research" and "Honoring Our Ancestors"

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