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Honoring Our Ancestors
March 23, 2020


Greetings Fellow Family History Sleuths,

Well, this newsletter arrives in times that are anything but normal, but I hope that it will provide a welcome distraction from the real world for a little while. This month I've indulged myself – partly because it's Irish American Family Heritage Month – by featuring an article about my own Irish roots. Even if this topic isn't a particular interest of yours, I hope you'll consider giving it a read because there are a couple of clever research tactics embedded in the story. It also addresses an issue we all deal with – ferreting out the true bits in all the family lore that's passed down to us.

Aside from that, you'll find the latest Seton Shields Genealogy Grant (don't forget: the next quarter will be the last quarter, so get your application in ASAP!) and the usual random collection of all things genealogical!

Until next time, please stay safe and take this time to listen to and/or share family tales with your loved ones whether in person or remotely! Your ancestors are counting on you!



There’s Always a Kernel of Truth

Solving a Long-held Family History Mystery Leads to an Enigmatic Playwright

I couldn’t understand it. My nana had an amazing memory. As a professional genealogist, I’m more aware than most that we should take our family lore with a grain of salt. Whether deliberately or accidentally, it’s distorted as it travels through the generations, but everything she told me had turned out to be accurate, consistently borne out through my careful research. Everything except that one story.

Click here to continue reading.

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Seton Shields Genealogy Grant #218: Nicka Sewell-Smith of BlackProGen LIVE

I’m happy to announce that the first of two grant recipients in the first quarter of 2020 is Nicka Sewell-Smith of BlackProGen LIVE.

Here's who they are and what they do in their own words: "BlackProGen is a group of professional genealogists who research and document African American families. We share research strategies, thoughts, ideas, experiences, and whatever comes to mind while working for clients and in our own research endeavors through conference and webinar presentations, blogs, podcasts, video, interviews, and more. Our twice monthly broadcasts, called BlackProGen LIVE feature a panel and friends discussing a myriad of topics in the world of genealogy. Shows generally take place on Tuesdays or Wednesdays with exceptions. In 2020, we added a hosted Twitter meetup, #CREWChat, and History: Unscripted, a new series focused on current events and pop culture from a family history point of view."

Grant funds will be used to help cover the costs of the platform used to host these live broadcasts. Check out the 2020 schedule below:

Watch for an announcement about the second grant recipient shortly. Meanwhile, though, you can apply for a Seton Shields grant here. Don’t miss checking out the cool projects I’ve had the opportunity to contribute to over the years, plus an article that will give you a behind-the-scenes peek into my grants program (and might help you increase your odds of being selected when you apply). Time is running out, so don’t delay!

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Genealogy Round Up, March 18

Photo Credit: Raúl AB

Trace your heritage and find your family tree on a visit to Ireland – This is a little surreal. Just a few days ago, people were still publishing travel articles. This one for Ireland happens to mention 2 of my discoveries: Annie Moore of Ellis Island and Barack Obama's roots in Moneygall. Maybe next year??

Remains of suspected WWII US airmen repatriated from Myanmar – Had the privilege of researching some of these heroes. Hoping that DPAA will be able to identify them.

Daði Freyr - Think About Things (Daði og Gagnamagnið) – A delightful distraction. Written about his 10-month-old daughter. Iceland’s Eurovision entry.

9 ways to make working from home more joyful – I know many of my fellow genies already work from home, but for those who might find themselves entering our world before long (or who just recently have), here's a little advice.

A message from me and my dad, @Melbrooks – For those on Twitter, this is both charming and good advice regarding the current situation with COVID19.

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Genealogy Round Up, March 11

The Griffith Monument – this tombstone...

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Genealogy Round Up, March 4

Fun coincidence! Was researching a case and stumbled across this in a local newspaper. I had the honor of doing the research for the Army for two WWI soldiers to receive the Medal of Honor back in 2015, and these are the daughters of one of them!

Flashing back to when I helped Emmitt Smith with his roots on Who Do You Think You Are? I talked him through his DNA results and got to reveal to him that he was going to Africa later that day.

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Genealogy Round Up, February 26

Photo Credit: aehdeschaine

Johni Cerny Dies at 76; Helped the Famous Find Their Roots – Lovely tribute for a remarkable woman. RIP, Johni.

Artist pays tribute to DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin with DNA-laced paint and DNA-coded images – Take a closer look.

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Genealogy Round Up, February 19

Photo Credit: Laurita Blewitt

Joe Biden’s Irish Roots – Some of you will have seen this before, but I've updated it for 2020 - starting with this photo of Barack Obama and Joe Biden's Irish cousins!

Michelle Obama's Roots, Part 1 – This is a video of a PPT I put together about Michelle Obama's roots in Aug 2009 - a couple of months before the New York Times featured my research on their front page. I've learned more since then, but this covers a lot of ground.

I researched her roots on my own time and dime out of respect and admiration for Michelle Obama, and I'm so glad I did. She has classic Great Migration heritage with ancestors from 11(!) southern states, so it's interesting from that perspective as well.

Decided to give the MyHeritage colorization a whirl. I was wondering if it was deoldify and it is. So below is a 1935 photo from Osturna, Slovakia - ancestral home of all the Smolenyaks in the world.

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Upcoming Events

After traveling around and speaking in 40 states and half a dozen countries, I decided to take a breather from the road to tend to some projects. That said, I'm sharing exceptions here. And by the way, you can see if I’ll be in your area any time by checking my Events Calendar.

  • July 29, 2020 – FEMA Book Club: "Who Do You Think You Are?"

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