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Honoring Our Ancestors
June 23, 2021

www.megansmolenyak.com

Greetings Fellow Family History Sleuths,

This month, I'm continuing with my decluttering mission, so you'll find plenty of flashbacks concerning various aspects of my genealogical career, but you'll also spy me playing with AI and doing a bit of venting (about those who still insist names were changed at Ellis Island and ancestors who named all their kids John 🙄). To balance things out, the feature article celebrates the happy accident of double entries in a census! And of course, this issue has the usual helpings of genetic genealogy and military tales, supplemented with side orders of Beatles, Anthony Bourdain, and President Biden's English roots. Here's hoping there's something on the menu that appeals to you!

Until next time, stay cool!

Megan

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The Gift of the Double Census


Photo Credit: Ancestry

Census records are a building block in genealogy for the simple reason that they provide so much information about our ancestors, particularly those since 1880. Every ten years, we get a snapshot — if we’re lucky, Mom, Dad, the kids, maybe another stray relative or two, their ages and birth places, occupations, and other data genealogists crave.

Admittedly, they can be frustrating as the details contained are only as accurate as the combination of census taker and respondent allow. Was the enumerator meticulous? Did he or she go to every door, rely on neighbors, or maybe skip some residences? Were they careless with spelling and names unlike their own? And what about the person answering the questions? Did they knock a few years off their age? Guess incorrectly at the birth places of their spouse’s parents? Anyone who’s been poking into their forebears’ lives for a while can tell you a tale or two of census-based confusion.

That said, they’re critical to our sleuthing, and as you get to know your ancestors, even misleading information can be valuable as it can give a sense of them as living, breathing people. You know for a fact that great-grandpa was born in Poland, but he kept saying New York in later census records? Here was a fellow who was in a rush to leave the old country behind and become as American as possible as fast as possible. And that relative of yours who kept adding extra years to her age every ten years? It wasn’t all that long ago that living into your 80s or 90s was the exception, so being elderly gave you bragging rights. Why not pad your age to get a little attention?

So yes, we roots-seekers will take any census we can get regardless of the inherent flaws. And every once in a great while, if we’re genealogically blessed, we’ll get that rare gift: ancestors who show up twice in the same year. This can happen for a variety of reasons. Maybe they moved or were visiting relatives, or someone messed up and visited the same residence a second time. Whatever the cause, we welcome it.

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Genealogy Roundup, June 16


Photo Credit: Nicholas Casey

My Father Vanished When I Was 7. The Mystery Made Me Who I Am. – An intriguing read if you've got the time. Another mystery solved by genetic genealogy. 🧬

Joe Biden: Unearthing the president's unsung English roots – This “no one wants to be British” framing is odd. The reality is that many Americans now have a very mixed heritage, and if they’re part English, that bit is often minor and/or distant. That said, plenty of Americans are proud of their British roots!

'A beacon for all to see': Naturalized citizen transforms damaged tree into Statue of Liberty – Here's an idea if your trees get bashed by a bad storm 🗽

Playing with the 'Voilà AI Artist' app

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Genealogy Roundup, June 9


Photo Credit: The Daily Beatle

The Irish Mother, the Race horse and the Beatles – Another really interesting article about The Beatles by my friend Brendan Farrell! First time I heard most of this.

Biden’s understated UK visit will be in stark contrast to Trump’s triumphalism – Not everyone is looking for their 15 minutes - including Biden's English cousin.

A Tribute to Anthony Bourdain and His Wild, Vagabond Roots – It's been three years since we lost Anthony Bourdain. Hope he's swapping tales with his Bourdain grandfather who stowed away to America at the ripe old age of 13.

Finding Adelia, Val Demings’s Great-Great-Grandmother – Adelia's great-great-granddaughter is running for Senate. 🗳️

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Genealogy Roundup, June 2


Photo Credit: Jasmine Clarke for The New York Times

They Went to War. They’re Now Back, Burying Their Own. – Worth a read.

Sean Kirst: 'I would give my life': A WWII platoon leader's letter reaches generations – Another moving article from Sean Kirst! Delighted as always to help out with the sleuthing.

So this was apparently my photo with the most comments in 2009. Between these FB reminders and the digital discoveries made while decluttering, I’m becoming reacquainted with my own life. For quite a stretch, it was so fast paced that everything was a blur. Almost feels as if I’m doing for myself what I’ve spent a lifetime doing for our ancestors.

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Genealogy Roundup, May 26

Sunday, May 30th, was the 10th anniversary of this special moment: You don't often see a president thanking a genealogist, but that's what happened in Dublin. My sister shouted me out (thanks, SAS!), and those in the crowd near us pointed me out (we had been chatting while waiting). Thank you, Verna Williams, because you're the one who made this possible! 🙏

8 Things You Didn’t Know about Jon Stewart’s Roots – Thought I'd re-up this since he testified on the Hill so recently.

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Genealogy Roundup, May 19


Photo Credit: Steve Evans

AfricanAncestry.com Becomes A Path To Sierra Leone Citizenship For Black People Whose Roots Trace To The West African Country

The story behind Paul McCartney’s “Magic Piano” – Hey, Beatles fans! Check out this article about Paul McCartney's magic piano by my friend Brendan Farrell!

The Amazing Women in Stephen Colbert’s Family Tree – On his (recent) birthday, celebrating the ancestors who brought us the amazing Stephen Colbert! 🎂

TJ Holmes interviews Megan Smolenyak about her research on President Obama's Irish roots – Continuing to share some of the videos I've unearthed during my decluttering, and given that Sunday, May 23rd was the 10th anniversary of meeting President Obama when he went to Ireland to explore his roots, this seems a good time to share this fun interview with TJ Holmes leading up to it. ☘️

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