Honoring Our Ancestors Newsletter

October 11, 2006

By Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak

Greetings Fellow Family History Sleuths,

Life continues to race at mach speed, so I'm tardy at getting this issue out. My apologies! For those who prefer not to wait for monthly newsletters (well, close to monthly, anyway!), please consider checking out my blog at http://rootstelevision.com/blogs/megans-rootsworld.html (new address for those who haven't visited in a while). There's an option (look in the right column) to subscribe to daily emails from the blog (no messages on the days I don't post, so I won't clutter your mailbox needlessly!). Otherwise, have a great October! I'll be back in touch soon.


In this newsletter. . .

Got a Book in You?

Well, this seems appropriate to share since I recently spoke on writing in the genealogical world up at FGS in Boston. I received the following from John Logan (thanks, John!). Those of you who are hankering to write a book involving CT, MA, NJ and PA have an interesting opportunity here . . .

The History Press is searching for archivists, librarians, museum curators, and historical societies who are interested in publishing books about towns and regions in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

History Press books focus on a particular town or region. We have developed a variety of series that 1) provide authors with guidance on how to present their work and 2) attract readers and encourage sales. We also accept books for publication on history subjects not captured by the series we have established.

Examples of the types of books we publish include the following: brief or comprehensive histories of towns, the history of significant buildings and sites, natural history, oral history, historical walking and driving tours, collections of essays on historical events and people, folklore, crime history, architectural history, Native American history and the historical role of a town industry. I invite you to visit our website at historypress.net, where you will find our catalogue and information about publishing with The History Press.

The History Press is a traditional trade publisher, meaning that we handle all stages of publishing including financing, sales, marketing, and distribution and compensate in the form of royalties. We are not a vanity press. For more information and to view our catalogue, see historypress.net or e-mail Commissioning Editor, Maureen Benes.

Maureen Benes
Commissioning Editor
The History Press
PO Box 7111
Gloucester, MA 01930

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Goodwill Hunting

Many of us know of eBay as a source for family treasures -- vintage photos and the like -- but not so many know about another source: Goodwill. Yes, the same folks you donate all your old clothes and beat up furniture to.

There's not as much to search here, but the upside is that the bidding is less intense. So happy hunting!

P.S. Thanks to Cindy Furman for this tip!

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A brief piece of mine recently appeared in Ancestry.com's 24-7 Family History Circle. It's about Marge Rice and DeadFred -- and if you're not familiar with them, you owe it to yourself to find out more (here's a clue below). Anyone on the hunt for elusive family photos will be especially interested! Take a peek.

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Annie Moore's Youngest Descendant

Oh . . . my . . . gosh. September was a blur. I had no idea when I launched this contest how it would all mushroom. What began as a simple contest-winner announcement morphed into an event that was part-family reunion and part-press conference. Front page of the New York Times?? Wow! And then this follow up with family details.

I'm still catching my breath, but wanted to take a moment to share my favorite photo. Above is 9-month-old Dylan, Annie's great-great-great-grandson. Off in the background is me filling the audience in on Annie's descendants. I know it's hard to make out the slide, so let me just tell you that hers is an all-American family with just about every ethnicity respresented. Surnames in her family include:

  • Schayer
  • Somerstein
  • Smith
  • Salm
  • Shulman
  • Dondero
  • Donovan
  • DeHesus
  • Devous
  • Peterson
  • Kraus

(lots of S- and D- names for some reason)

By far, one of the most amazing aspects of this experience was having a front row seat to the family reunion. It was such a kick seeing Annie's family together for the first time, comparing photos and figuring out relationships! They came from NY, NJ, CT, MD and AZ (one branch from WI couldn't make it on such short notice). When I called them, most branches already knew they were related to Annie, but one had no clue.

As to the lack of a tombstone for Annie, that's already being addressed. The winners both donated their prizes back, so that was a quick $1,000. And then the owner of NYC's Annie Moore Pub kicked in another $1,000. Not a bad start, eh?

On a personal note, I wanted to mention that ProGenealogists.com, Sharon Elliott and Tracy Stancil were singled out at the press conference for their contributions to this quest. Unfortunately, none have been mentioned in any of the articles I've seen so far, so I wanted to be sure to recognize them here. Without their superior research skills, amazing turnaround times (if you ever need anything done at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, ProGenealogists are the folks to go to, as far as I'm concerned), and brainpower, we'd all still be looking for Annie.

I also wanted to thank the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society for agreeing to host this announcement-turned-press-conference on such short notice. Thanks especially to Leslie Corn for treating my outrageous request as perfectly reasonable and putting the machine into motion, and to Lauren Maehrlein for sacrificing much of her long-planned vacation to the cause.

At any rate, there's so much more I should say and so many more I should thank, but I'll end here for now. Don't you just love being a genealogist??

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Annie on the Air

I promise this won't become all-Annie-all-the-time, but I've been getting a lot of questions, so I'll continue to post about Annie Moore in an attempt to satisfy some of the curiosity out there.

I'm still trying to get a handle on the assorted articles that have appeared, but in the meantime, I thought some folks might be interested in listening to this interview on NPR's Morning Edition.

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Database Reunites Holocaust Survivor Siblings

How amazing is this?! Siblings reunited 65 years after being separated

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Operation Homecoming Book Tour

As I've said many times before, I'm a huge fan of Andrew Carroll, one of those wonderful people who does great things simply because he can. Author of several best-selling books, including Letters of a Nation and War Letters, Andy -- although he would never take the credit for it -- is almost personally responsible for the preservation of some 75,000 war letters from every conflict you can think of. And for that alone, we are all indebted to him. Think of all the history that would have been lost without his efforts!

Now he's on the road again with his latest book, one which he edited pro bono for the NEA. It's called Operation Homecoming and is an anthology of writings that range from the humorous to the gut-wrenching:

"The first book of its kind, Operation Homecoming: Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Home Front in the Words of U.S. Troops and Their Families, is the result of a major initiative launched by the National Endowment for the Arts to inspire U.S. Marines, soldiers, sailors, and airmen and their families to write down and share their personal wartime experiences.

Encouraged by such authors as Tom Clancy, Mark Bowden, Bobbie Ann Mason, Tobias Wolff, Jeff Shaara, and Marilyn Nelson, who visited military bases throughout the U.S. as part of the larger Operation Homecoming initiative, American troops and their loved ones wrote openly about what they saw, heard, and felt while in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as on the home front.

Almost 100 uncensored and never-before-published eyewitness accounts, private journals, short stories, letters, e-mails, poems, and other personal writings are featured in the book, and they show an extremely intimate and human side of war . . ."

You can read more here.

Andy's tour started last week at the Library of Congress, but there's a peculiar reluctance by the mainstream media to cover the book -- I suspect because they fear their readers are war-weary.

Regardless of how you feel about the current conflicts, though, this is a must-read in my view. It's compelling. It helps you understand the experiences not only of the soldiers and civilians involved, but of the families back at home. For the first time, we hear the voices of women in combat. And all perspectives are included. The NEA, to its credit, didn't censor. And finally, some of it is simply outstanding literature. Remember that old adage about not mincing words in a fox hole? It's true. This book is an important slice of the history of tomorrow.

Between now and December, Andy will be on a book tour, speaking in CA, CT, IL, DC, VA, WA, FL, TX, TN, NC, MA and NJ. You can find details here. If you live in any of these areas, please consider attending -- and spread the word. Andy is a captivating speaker himself, but he's joined by people whose letters, poems and emails are in the book, and that elevates an already eye-opening evening to a whole new level.

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Annie in the Echo

There have been a number of articles about Annie Moore over the month, ranging everywhere from the New York Times to Washington Jewish Week. I especially enjoyed the latest pair by Ray O'Hanlon in the current issue of the Irish Echo:

Putting things right

If only Annie could have seen this

These are a follow on to There's more to Annie, and for those who are curious about Annie herself, Mr. O'Hanlon does the most thorough job of explaining the research trail and results (I did a bit of a show-and-tell with a PPT presentation at the press conference, and he was actually able to make sense of the meadering trail).

And yes, for those who have been asking, I will write something myself, but for the moment, I'm still playing catch-up. Here's hoping this troika of articles will satisfy your curiosity in the meantime!

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A Pair of DNA articles

The Arizona Republic seems to be on a bit of a DNA-kick lately. Here are two articles that recently appeared on very different aspects of genetic genealogy:

DNA helps American Blacks 'go home'

Hope for making families whole DNA project may link Holocaust dead, survivors

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Put Your Relatives in the Smithsonian

Remember when I suggested putting your baby in the Smithsonian by entering the PhotoStamps contest? Well, it looks as if some of you decided to put your grandmothers and great-grandpas there instead. Check out August's finalists, two of which are about as genealogical as you can get!

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Do you have the write-stuff?

Ever considered putting your ancestors' trials and tribulations down on the page? Well, here's a great incentive for finally doing it. The Southern California Genealogical Society is having its annual writing contest, and they're looking for your stories.

You might be thinking that this is a Southern California thing. It's not. It's a global thing. I know because I've had the privilege of judging this contest several times, and the entries come from everwhere -- San Diego, New Zealand, Israel, you name it.

Think you've got the write-stuff? Why not find out? Submit your entries between November 1st and December 31st. Your forebears will thank you for it.

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A Must-Read

Boy, I get tired of folks who just don't get it clinging to outdated notions that genealogists do what we do for bragging rights. That's just so 1924.

It's even more frustrating when people like this get to spread their antiquated ideas in a significant forum. This piece, in fact, teeters on the brink of accusing us of racism -- especially ironic, given that genealogy is all about connection.

Fortunately, The Genealogue -- as only he can -- has written a rebuttal for us! You'll want to read what he has to say.

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A Tree Grows in Ireland

At least it will if you arrange to have it planted. Somehow I managed to miss Rooted in Ireland at the recent FGS conference, but Leland Meitzler didn't: "Rooted in Ireland" Sets Out to Plant Trees.

Interesting concept -- similar to the Wall of Honor at Ellis Island, all those memory-brick projects you see in town centers, and so forth. Just a living version -- and one that will obviously be of particular interest to those of Irish heritage.

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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.

2006 Events

  • October 21, 2006 - Ramapo, NJ - David Ackerman Descendants 1662 - "Trace Your Roots with DNA"
  • October 28, 2006 - Poughkeepsie, NY - Dutchess County Genealogical Society - "Trace Your Roots with DNA" and "Beyond Y-DNA: Your Genetic Genealogy Options"
  • November 11-18, 2006 - 2006 Genealogy Conference and Cruise, Hosted by Wholly Genes Software - "Trace Your Roots with DNA" and "Find That Obituary! Online Newspaper Research"

The Diamond Princess
The Diamond Princess

2007 Events

  • February 13, 2007 - Haddonfield, NJ - Haddon Fortnightly - "Cases that Made My Brain Hurt"
  • February 24, 2007 - St. Charles, IL - DuPage County Genealogy Society Conference - "Trace Your Roots with DNA," "Beyond Y-DNA: Your Genetic Genealogy Options," "Reverse Genealogy: Techniques for Finding Your Lost Loved Ones" and "Jump-Starting Your Eastern European Research"
  • 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 - Details TBD
  • 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"
  • 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 - Des Moines, IA - Iowa Genealogical Society Annual Fall Conference - 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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