< Go back to newsletter archive

Honoring Our Ancestors
December 15, 2011

Greetings Fellow Family History Sleuths,

Am I the only one who feels as if 2011 just started? Where did this year go? Well, 2012 is shaping up to be a great one with Who Do You Think You Are? starting again on NBC on February 3rd and Finding Our Roots on PBS on March 25th. Between the two of them, we're in for roughly 5 months of genealogy on TV! Now that's something to look forward to! Happy 2012, everyone!


Thanks for the kind words on 'WHO DO You Think You Are?'

Wow!  I hadn’t taken a look at the comments on Who Do You Think You Are?, my latest how-to genealogy book for quite a while, but I’m so glad I did!  Here are just a few of the remarks folks made (BTW, not doctoring these and that includes leaving typos intact!).  More info available on this book (and my forthcoming one, Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing) at www.honoringourancestors.com/books.html.

“I have been doing genealogy for a long time, and have a sizable book collection. Megan, to me is one of the best Genealogist to come along. She seems to have the heart and soul of family history flowing through her viens. First of all, she gets it, one of the few who understands that the overwhelming majority of family researchers are not of the Mayflower gendre, and are not looking for Generals and Gentry. Also she realizes all immigrants did not own vast amounts of land, and her books are not dedicated to looking for wills and deeds. The Royals and the very rich did not emmigrate to North America. She is one of those professional who understands this intuitively.

This book is the best, so much good information and so understandable. She actually explains DNA, both types for research on 2 pages. If you are interested in DNA this book sums it up in a very understandable form. Again I will say that she is the best that has come along to genealogy since I have been researching, and that says alot since I do not consider myself an amature. You will also love her book on serendipity. Therefore, stop looking for famous people and attaching your family to them, instead, start with yourself, and begin the fabulous journy called "Family". Most of all, be proud of who you are and who you find.

Megan's books are the best for helping you achive your genealogical adventure.”—Lauren

“As a newbie genealogist, I've learned a bit here and there about how to search for my ancestors. I wasn't sure how much I'd get out of this book, but I loved the television series, so I purchased it. I'm SO glad I did! It is written in a very straightforward manner, and I've picked up many tips that aren't listed in other online articles or help sites. Such as a way to look at the 1850 to 1860 census to find possible Civil War veterans - just one tip among many. I've got dozens of little flags and highlights that will help me to narrow down my searches. I would highly recommend this book to anyone starting the genealogy journey.” – A. Sprott

“get this book to learn all about the different places to research and how to go about it. If you start off without this information and do the "hunt and peck" method it will take longer and you will just repeat searches you have already done. This book is your "map" to places you did not know existed.” – Parmalat

“I will get right to the point:


I've been tracing my family history for a few months now so not quite a beginner but still rather new at this. I've read many articles looked at several websites and read about 4 or 5 books on the subject and without any question whatsoever this is the very best bay a mile! Ms. Smolenyak is an experienced and respected "genie" and the information, insights, tips and tricks she gives you are invaluable but the best part to me is she writes like she is talking to a good friend. Her enthusiasm and excitement for genealogy is obvious and contagious. I can go on forever but I'll just stop here and say if you are ready for any exciting trip into your past, get this book and get going. It will be the best 10 bucks you have ever spent!” – J. Fischer

“I've been doing genealogy research for close to five years, and this book still helped me find more. It's entertaining to read and also informative. It covers so many areas and points you directly to where you need to go to find what you need, whether you consider yourself a seasoned researcher, a casual hobbyist, or just a beginner. Any other book I've tried to use for genealogical reference just sat around collecting dust, but this one has a permanent spot on my desk next to my computer.” – J. Jones

Back to top^

The latest from FamilySearch.org

New records were recently added to FamilySearch.org from Canada, Estonia, Jamaica, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, Sweden, and the U.S. Begin searching for your ancestors now at FamilySearch.org

Back to top^

Genealogy Round Up, December 8

"I confess that, as a professional historian, I did not always take her efforts seriously."
A convert to family history

Another genealogy skeptic converted! Bit of a pattern, eh? 
Dead interesting - FT.com 

First, findagrave.com, now tendagrave.org. Both terrific ideas!

Loved this! Who knew how important pandas are to genealogy? 
Who do you think you are? Tracing my Hindu ancestry - Sacred Cows

Back to top^

Genealogy Round Up, December 1

Social Security Administration extends FOIA restriction to 100 years

Touring the USS Monitor: George Frederickson of Denmark and Philadelphia

How books work

Here we go again:
Senators try to block ID theft of the deceased

Mind = blown! FamilySearch has 1865-1906 Greek Catholic church records for Osturna, home to all Smolenyaks, online!
FamilySearch.org — Free Family History and Genealogy Records

This is the 2nd in a series I'm writing about some of the men who lost their lives when the USS Monitor went down on Dec 31, 1862. I wrote about William Bryan earlier and now, George Frederickson:
Touring the USS Monitor: George Frederickson of Denmark and Philadelphia 

World's Tallest Lego Christmas Tree in London - ReflectionOf.Me

Back to top^

Social Security Administration extends FOIA restriction to 100 years

Unfortunately, it’s now official.  I have been ordering Social Security applications for several decades, and have found them especially valuable over the last decade for assisting with my Army cases.  A few years ago, I noticed that they were starting to block out names of parents on the applications – which is very unfortunate since that’s the primary reason for ordering them.  Still, the restriction seemed to pertain to applications for those born from 1940 or so on, and the explanation was that their parents could still be alive.  So though I wasn’t keen on it, I could understand the logic. 

But recently – without any announcement – the Administration extended the restriction to 100 years – that is, 100 years from the birth of the applicant, so you can now only obtain this record in an unaltered state for those born prior to 1912.  This letter is in response to one I wrote where I explained how it would negatively impact the ability to locate soldiers’ family members and that the parents whose privacy was suddenly being protected would have to be somewhere on the order of 120 to 150 years old, if alive.  I can apparently receive the full application if I can prove that the parents are deceased, but 1) that’s a catch-22 since that’s exactly why I usually ordered the document in the first place, and 2) many of my cases are for foreign-born soldiers who immigrated to the U.S. so I would have to seek death certificates from places ranging from Finland to the Philippines.  

For similar reasons, this perplexingly long restriction will obviously also affect the 40% of Americans of Ellis Island heritage, which is also regrettable as this was the best tool for learning the names of the parents of immigrants so you could then extend your research overseas.  I’m very disappointed in this decision and truly can’t grasp what has caused the Administration to put such a severe restriction in place – far in excess of that of most states that have limits on death certificate access – but I wanted to at least let the genealogical community know as it would be unfortunate for others to spend money needlessly.  Because this policy was never announced, I have spent money on four requests ($27 or $29 each) for people born in the 19-teens, only to receive documents of no value to me.  You might want to let your friends in the genealogical community know.

Back to top^

Genealogy Round Up, November 17

So so sorry to hear. Thousands benefited from Bridgett's generosity and she only recently suspended RAOGK. RIP, Bridgette Schneider
DearMYRTLE's Genealogy Blog: RIP Bridgette Schneider of RAOGK

Who Do You Think You Are? back for season 3 in U.S. on Feb 3!!
NBC Shakes Up Midseason Schedule: 'Whitney,' 'Up All Night' and More Change Nights

Another state opens records! 
Adoptees seek birth certificates under new Illinois law - Lake County News-Sun 

Osturna! Home to all Smolenyaks! Church Birth Records of Slovakia
Genealogy - Tourist Guide - Slovakia - Kosice - Bratislava - Guide to Travel Trip Hotel Info Roots

"Finding Your Roots" series to launch on PBS March 25, 2012
PBS Confirms Season Premiere Dates for 'Downton Abbey' and 'Sherlock'

‎1940 census online free on 4/2/12! Please spread the word!
Archives.com Partners with the National Archives on 1940 Census 

Back to top^

Honoring Our Ancestors Grants

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

November 2011
Established in 1983, the Fayette and Raleigh County Genealogical Society is a small, yet very active organization. Some of their current projects include reading and recording all of the cemeteries in Fayette and Raleigh counties, publishing a quarterly newsletter, converting records from microfilm to DVD, updating previously published census records to include slave records, and developing a Research Guide which will be made available at the Courthouse and Visitors' Centers. They have also published seven Fayette County cemetery books to-date. But like so many genealogical societies and libraries, they are struggling to cope with the impact of a down economy. They recently lost storage space in the local county library due to space constraints, and have been required to move all materials to a storage unit until a new space is made available. The grant award will help alleviate the financial burden of paying for temporary storage so they Society can continue their good work.

October 2011
Cemeteries are an important part of genealogical research, and Helen Sharpe understands that as well as anyone involved in genealogy. She has spent the last year locating, photographing and researching cemeteries in Nash County, NC. In fact, she has personally researched 234 cemeteries. The information she has gathered is being used to trace ancestors of both the American Revolution and the Civil War. She is working on developing two books, one on her cemetery research and one on Civil War veteran gravesites, for use in the Braswell Memorial Library. The grant award will help fund the printing and binding of the books, and other costs associated with compiling and preserving Helen's research.

Back to top^

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 - "Hey America, Your Roots are Showing
  • February 9, 2012 - Cherry Hill, NJ - Barnes & Noble - "Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing" Book Signing
  • March 9-10, 2012 - Tucson, AZ - Tucson Festival of Books
  • 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"
  • 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"

Back to top^