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Honoring Our Ancestors
November 15, 2011

Greetings Fellow Family History Sleuths,

Am I the only one who can't believe the holiday season is almost upon us again? Where did 2011 go? Ah, well, it's been a great one genealogically, and I hope you've had half as much fun as I have. For those who keep asking me, yes, there will be another season of Who Do You Think You Are? starting on February 3, as well as another series from Henry Louis "Skip" Gates, Jr. on PBS, but I can't say more than that at the moment! Just know you have a double helping to look forward to!



10 Things You Didn't Know About Josh Groban's Family Tree

Last week, Josh Groban made a guest appearance on The Office as Walter Bernard, Jr., the younger and apparently more successful brother of Ed Helms's Andy Bernard. As a genealogist, seeing him with this television family naturally made me curious about his real life family, so I decided to take a peek into his past. Here are ten discoveries that emerged from my research:

  • If you were to Google your way around the Internet, you'd probably be left with the impression that Josh is half-Jewish (from Russia and Poland) and half-Norwegian, and you wouldn't be too far off. He's actually 5/8 Jewish and 1/8 Norwegian.
  • The remaining quarter of his family tree has been in America for quite some time, so as you might expect, is adorned with a combination of names that are primarily English and German in origin (e.g., Leonard, Wrightsman, Moorman, Zimmerman, etc.). Among the states that can claim a piece of his past are California, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Ohio, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas and Pennsylvania.
  • I would imagine that there were more than a few twisted tongues when his Blumberg great-grandfather married his Brunsberg great-grandmother slightly over a century ago.
  • Josh may have inherited at least some of his musical talent. According to an oral history with a relative of his, his grandmother Evy could play piano at the age of three and went to Juilliard. And during a recent visit with this same grandmother, he learned that her father was a tenor. Afterward, he tweeted, "She sent me on my way with a book of Yiddish theater songs. Score!!"
  • When Josh was born, his immigrant Groban great-grandfather was still alive. This branch of his family hails from Berdychiv in present-day Ukraine, and the naturalization record of one family member notes that he had legally changed his name from Grabanski to Groban.
  • Sadly, another immigrant ancestor of Josh's - a great-great-grandfather and rabbi named Abe Levin - died from third degree burns when his "clothing caught from (a) grate fire."
  • The occupations of Josh's forebears run the gamut from salesman of theatrical films to maid in a sanitarium. One of them owned a cigar store and, as can be seen from this article, had the misfortune of being robbed in 1903.

Chronicling America
The Minneapolis Journal, July 6, 1903

  • In several interviews, Josh has claimed that he has roots in Toten, Norway and visited there with his family. He's absolutely right as his Brunsberg branch leads back to Østre Toten, Oppland. In fact, it takes a little doing, but if you search the digital archive from the National Archives of Norway(if only more countries had such valuable resources online!), you can find this 1852 birth record of Theolina, Josh's future great-great-grandmother and one of several generations in the same family to emigrate to America:
  • As this letter to the editor by Theolina's then 13-year-old daughter, Julia (Josh's great-grandmother), shows, she was nickled and dimed by a clever friend when she was only four years old.

Chronicling America
The Minneapolis Journal, April 6, 1901

  • Josh's middle name of Winslow was the maiden name of one of his great-grandmothers, and winds back in time to the earliest days of colonial America. Though it would require extensive research to be absolutely certain, the consensus is that it leads back to John Winslow who was not on the Mayflower himself, but had both a brother and wife who were. And through the wife at least, Josh is a Mayflower descendant.

So Josh has a combination of Jewish, Norwegian and Mayflower roots, making him, of course, quintessentially American.

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Genealogy Round Up, November 10

Statue of Liberty: A Look Back On Her 125th Birthday

Mixed Roots Foundation Helps Adoptees Know Where They Come From and Know Where They Are Going Through

TheWildGeese.com ... Irish Genealogy And Family History: ‘Connecting Across Oceans and Time’: Q&A with Celebrity Genealogist Megan Smolenyak

8 Easy Ways to Build Your Family Tree | Lifestyle | Mainstreet

My cousin Thom bought his grandmother's old home in Osturna, Slovakia! 
u Muržina (YouTube)

Here's a clue. If you think you've found a relationship to Chaucer in your first week of research, you're deluding yourself. 
The Fortnightly Review › Genealogy in America

Feeling very fortunate. One of these was a particularly tough case. 
Defense.gov News Release: Soldiers Missing from Vietnam War Identified

Intelius quietly buys Facebook genealogy app Family Builder - GeekWire

USS Monitor: Could William Bryan Be One of the Skeletons in the Turret?

TheWildGeese.com ... Irish Genealogy And Family History: Connecting the Past and Present: Chatting With Genealogist and Author Megan Smolenyak, Part 2 of 2

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Genealogy Round Up, October 27

Proud to be a small part of this JPAC mission
Watch video: http://youtu.be/Z_xNH5uWj2c

Best reason ever for a name change.
Name changers: 285 Indian girls no longer 'unwanted'

Iceland, where everyone is related to Bjork (& where someone named Smolenyak Smolenyak would be normal!)
Wanderlust: Iceland, where everyone's related to Bjork

"In less than five years, the cost of DNA sequencing will be on par with the cost of other routine lab tests."
Google hopes deal with genomics company will make it easier for scientists to manage flood of DNA

I was the 76,719,135,0757th person to have lived on Earth (give or take a few!). What's your number?
7 billion people and you: What's your number?

I guess "an American genealogist" is my new name. At least, that's how I seem to be identified lately (note: they were kind enough to insert my name later!).
TV show ‘Who do you think you are?' prompts spike in genealogy research in Ireland

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Genealogy Round Up, October 20

Rosie ODonnell says Irish roots trip changed her life forever

Will it reveal the secrets of longevity??
DNA of 'world's oldest woman'

Solid advice for reporting your family story.
Reporting your family story: A user guide - CNN.com

What an eye-opener!
Richard Resnick: Welcome to the genomic revolution | Video on TED.com

10 Things You Didn't Know About Josh Groban's Family Tree

Who is YouWho? Got to say I'm curious (check out who's behind it), but the video just sort of confuses me.
YouWho is Close to Launch - Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter

Thanks to Your Family History for this fun interview!

More counties like this, please! "If the project is as successful as Cook County's genealogy website, it should pay for itself within ... 18 mos"
Daily Chronicle | County to start website for genealogy searches

Who lived in a house like this? A Brief Guide To Researching the History of Your NYC Home | The New.

Yesterday launches new family history series — seenit.co.uk

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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.

  • February 7, 2012 - Philadelphia, PA - Barnes & Noble - "Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing" Book Signing
  • February 8, 2012 - Princeton, NJ - Present Day Club - Topic TBD
  • February 9, 2012 - Cherry Hill, NJ - Barnes & Noble - "Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing" Book Signing
  • March 10-11, 2012 - Tucson, AZ - Tucson Festival of Books
  • March 20, 2012 - Trenton, NJ - New Jersey State Library - "Roots Showing: Brain Hurt"
  • April 18-20, 2012 - Houston, TX - Texas Library Association - "Next Generation Genealogy"
  • 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 7, 2012 - Short Hills, NJ - Millburn-Short Hills Historical Society - "Trace Your Roots with DNA
  • July 20-21, 2012 - Indianapolis, IN - Indiana Historical Society Midwestern Roots Conference
  • September 29, 2012 - Manassas, VA - Ruth E. Lloyd Information Center (RELIC) for Genealogy and Local History - "Cases That Made My Brain Hurt"

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