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Honoring Our Ancestors Newsletter

August 15, 2008

By Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak

Megan Smolenyak SmolenyakGreetings Fellow Family History Sleuths,

I've been traveling a fair bit (check out my Facebook profile to see some photos from the Baltics), and frankly, have been putting a lot of my genealogical musings on Facebook just because it's so darn easy (if you register -- it's free -- please be sure to add me as your friend). So this month's issue is a little lighter than usual, but sort of suits summer, don't you think? Enjoy the rest of your August!


In this newsletter. . .

New Online Obits Resource

I wanted to share the following from eagle-eyed reader Gloria (Queen) Hoppe:

Monster founder sets sights on online obits

The fellow behind Monster.com (the career board) has launched Tributes.com with an interesting model. I'm trying to discipline myself to get a little work done, but when I come up for air, I'm looking forward to playing with this new resource. Would be interested to hear others' thoughts on it.

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Chicago/Cook County, IL Vital Records Online!

Trust Joe Beine to spot it first!

Chicago and Cook County Vital Records Now Online

$15 a pop, but still a treasure trove of documents immediately accessible. Anyone with Chicago ancestors should start digging!

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The Jamboree Microphone Incident!

Last month, when I was speaking at the banquet at the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree (pencil it into your schedule for next year now!), I had an unusual experience. By the time I joined a bloggers panel the following morning (which, BTW, was blogged while we were still talking about blogging), Craig Manson (aka GeneaBlogie) had already blogged about the previous night, along with -- I have to say -- one of the kindest reviews of one of my talks ever. Among other things, Craig said:

"Megan's story of the search for Annie Moore may be the single most interesting discussion of solving an historical mystery that one may ever hear." (Thanks, Craig!)

At any rate, if you read the following, you'll find the incident referenced at the end:
More Jamboree

Since then, several others have blogged it as well, so I thought I should offer my version of events! In a nutshell, what happened is that the battery pack from my lav mic went down my slacks while I was speaking! I didn't discover until I got up to speak that the hook was missing, so I tucked it in as best I could and hoped for the best.

I made it a fair way through the talk when my left leg started vibrating. It took me a bit to process what was happening, so I would love to have a photo at that exact instant. I'm sure my expression was perplexed to say the least! When it happened, I looked down at my leg and spotted the battery pack on the floor next to my foot. Then it suddenly all made sense. OK, so what do to?

Well, I decided there was no way I was going to bluff my way through this situation, so I simply announced to the audience what had happened. Thanks to Craig of GeneaBlogie, I know exactly what I said:

"My mike just slid into my pants! . . . Actually, kind of an interesting sensation!"

Fortunately, it turned out to be easy to fish the battery pack back up through my pants leg, so I did so as we all laughed and got back to Annie's tale! I have no idea how many talks I've done in the past and how many more I might do in the future, but somehow, I have a sneaking suspicion that this will remain one of the most memorable ever!

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Expert has riveting take on genealogy

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke in Mandeville, Louisiana to the St. Tammany Parish Genealogical Society and the National Knowles/Knoles/Noles Family Association. While I was there, organizer Rob Noles set up an interview with Carroll Devine, a journalist with The Times-Picayune. Even before reading this, I was looking for an excuse to head back to Louisiana, but now I'm even more gung ho! A thousand thank you to the kind folks who came to my day of talks. Hope to see y'all again soon!

Expert has riveting take on genealogy

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In case you were wondering where to get immigrants for your next party . . .

. . . here's the answer.

Entertainment Goes Extra Mile

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Hybrid Blogging: Here and Facebook

You might have noticed that I haven't been blogging quite as often as I used to. Well, in one sense, I've actually been doing a lot more than I used to, but unless you're on Facebook, it wouldn't be that apparent to you.

Since I began playing with Facebook earlier this year, I've just found that it's an even easier way to share info than conventional blogging. For instance, if I'm in the middle of something, but get a google alert about something I think is really cool, I can simply snag the URL and pop it on my "Wall" in Facebook in seconds, whereas I'd have to stop, sign in, write, make links, etc. in my usual blogging environment (admittedly, not one of the friendlier ones out there).

Because it's so darn easy, I do it -- and my Facebook profile reflects that with plenty of recent postings that I didn't have time to write about in my blog. Better yet, any postings I make here in my blog are automatically pulled into my Facebook profile, so folks can read my blog and all that other random stuff in one place. I also tend to snag videos and other content in Facebook as well, so it's more comprehensive.

So bottom line is that I will continue conventional blogging (as well as my newsletter), but if you'd like to read more or be more up to date or see what else has attracted my attention in the genealogical world, join Facebook (it's free, but you have to register) and invite me to be one of your "friends." Then you can view my profile and the genealogical mash-up I have going there any time you like.

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Tracking JFK's Honor Guard

Here's another one of my history-mystery cases I did for my Found! column in Ancestry Magazine. This one involves some sleuthing I did for Bob Velke's father-in-law, trying to track down the family of a member of the honor guard that served at JFK's funeral:

Where Is the Honor Guard?

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Why Obama's Irish Kearney Ancestors Came to America

The other day, I blogged about the recent flurry of articles about Barack Obama's Irish roots. Now that I've had a chance to take a closer look at what the skilled researchers at Eneclann have uncovered, I see that there's still a little piece of the puzzle missing -- and that's what prompted Senator Obama's Kearney ancestors to leave Moneygall and emigrate to Ohio. There will be an article coming out on this shortly, but I thought I'd share a bit more of what I learned while conducting research in my capacity as Chief Family Historian of Ancestry.com.

Barack Obama's great-great-great-grandfather, Fulmoth Kearney, came to New York in 1850. At first I assumed that this was a typical famine-driven emigration, but it turns out that's not the case (although the famine could obviously have been a contributing factor). What caused Fulmoth's family to come to America was the offer of land.

In a nutshell, here's what happened. Fulmoth's uncle Francis died in Ohio in 1848 and left land to his brother Joseph (Fulmoth's father), but only if he came to the U.S. to claim it:

Pockets of the Kearney family had been chain-migrating to the U.S. since the late 1700s, but this will is what triggered the emigration of Fulmoth's immediate family. His father Joseph arrived here in 1849:

Fulmoth and his sister Margaret came in 1850:

And Fulmoth's mother Phebe, as well as sister Mary and brother William, came in 1851:

I was actually surprised when I did this research as it's rare to have such a clear picture of motives emerge, but in this case, I'd have to say it's quite clear!

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Genealogical Round Up

There's been a lot of interesting stuff happening in the genealogical world, and these days, I find it easier to just pop the latest news into my Facebook profile (if you'd care to join me there, just register for Facebook (it's free) and invite me to be your friend). It's also easier for folks to comment there, but I realize that there are many folks who aren't on Facebook, so I thought I'd gather up some of my recent postings and blog them, so here you go . . .

Hmmm . . . I assume this means they use DNA testing in identifying unclaimed persons as well.
Cuyahoga County coroner's office hoping to increase revenue through DNA testing

We keep hearing this, but folks keep investigating it . . .seems some of us really want to believe it.
Did Neanderthals and Humans Mate? The Answer, Again, is No

New Jewish genealogy content on RootsTelevision.com
Jewish Roots Tuesday

I can't say that I'm ever happy to hear of someone going to jail, but just maybe this will make other folks who have considered lifting historical treasures from repositories think twice.
Former Archivist to Receive Jail Term for Sale of Historic Documents

Matt's my kind of guy!
He Proposed to Her at the National Archives

Say what! DNA testing for matchmaking? And somehow this links to genetic genealogy? I think I smell a start-up . . . although I have no clue what kind.
DNA Testing and Genetic Profiles Help Avoid Broken Hearts Polls Reveal

I had a great-grandfather who was a bigamist and murderer -- am thinking it's time to pull out all my teeth.
Kensit 'upset' by family history

Who knew doing a comic would reveal a connection to the flu epidemic of 1918?
Artist uses comic to learn family history

From one of my favorite genies . . .
20 Things That Make Genealogy Fun

Wonder how many of the new folks on Facebook are genealogists?
Social Networking Stats: Facebook and LinkedIn Surging in US

Already did it -- works just like Facebook.
Customize Your Ancestry Homepage

Yay! Another great resource -- especially for those of us with Ellis Island-era immigrant ancestors.
Welcome to the new USCIS Genealogy Program Homepage

More toys for my iPhone!
MobileFamilyTree brings genealogy to iPhone

For anyone with Irish roots, this is pretty darn cool . . .
Online Irish Family Name Search

Mo. Museum Works to Save Becky Thatcher House

Lost Letter Makes It Way Back Home 60 Years Later

DNA Heritage Success in Patent Battle Helps Keep Genealogy DNA Test Prices Low

Letters reconnect Roar Koppang with long lost American family

Tracing Family Roots in Vilnius

Mourning the Internet Famous: Randy Pausch's Distributed Funeral

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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.

  • August 15-16, 2008 - Indianapolis, IN - Indiana Historical Society Midwestern Roots Conference - "Beyond Y-DNA: Your Genetic Genealogy Options," "Mini-Film Festival," "Cases That Made My Brain Hurt" and "Remembering Our Ancestors"
  • 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 - South Portland, 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" 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. - "Beyond Y-DNA: Your Genetic Genealogy Options", "Right Annie, Wrong Annie"
  • January 16-20, 2009 - Auckland, New Zealand - Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations 12th Australasian Congress on Genealogy & Heraldry - Topics TBD
  • February 14, 2009 - Secaucus, NJ - Hudson County Genealogical Society - "Trace Your Roots with DNA"
  • March 7, 2009 - Surrey, BC - Surrey Public Library - "Trace Your Roots with DNA," "Reverse Genealogy: Techniques for Finding Your Lost Loved Ones," "Introduction to Ancestry.com" and "Cases That Made My Brain Hurt"
  • 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
  • June 20, 2009 - Wichita, KS - Kansas Council of Genealogical Societies - Topics TBD
  • September 11-13, 2009 - Spokane, WA - Eastern Washington 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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