Friday, May 26, 2006

POW Bracelets/Memorial Day

Since I'm not quite back to writing mode yet, I thought I'd share a link to this article, Get Out Your POW Bracelet, that I wrote for's 24-7 Family History Circle. The comments I've been receiving are incredible. I've heard from folks who knew Newk & Evie and others who wore his bracelet. Truly a small world.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Reason for Silence

Those who have already discovered this blog would be well justified in thinking I've abandoned it. After all, it's been a long time since I posted anything. I just wanted to take a moment to say that's not the case. The truth is that I lost my mother on Sunday, so my heart and mind are elsewhere. I'm going to take a little time until the fog starts to lift and then I'll be back. For those of you I do business with, please know that I will be in touch, but am just catching my breath for a bit. Thanks very much for your patience and understanding -- Megan

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Read Any Good Genealogical Mysteries Lately?

Until recently, I didn't realize there was a whole literary genre (albeit a sparsely populated one) of genealogical mysteries. Here's an article I wrote for's 24-7 Family History Circle on the topic.

Since then, I've read another book by Jimmy Fox. It's called Deadly Pedigree and was his first -- and I have to say, a little harder to swallow. This time, virtually every action the lead character, Nick Herald, took was something an actual genealogist would never do. He still displays an in-depth knowledge of our world, but I spent a good portion of my reading session cringing -- and it wasn't the plot that made me do it. Of course, the fact that I read it while stuck on the tarmac for a few hours might have influenced my opinion. Environment does have an effect, I guess!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Oaklyn Memorial Library Event Reminder

Megan will be presenting "Remembering Our Ancestors" on May 23, 2006 at the Oaklyn Memorial Library in Oaklyn, NJ at 7:00 p.m. Hope to see you there!

Tidewater Genealogical Society Event Reminder

Megan will be presenting "Trace Your Roots with DNA" on May 20, 2006 for the Tidewater Genealogical Society. The event will be held at the Main Street Library in Newport News, VA. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Who Are Your Favorite Genealogical Writers & Speakers?

Here I go again -- blogging in my blog about a piece I did for another blog -- but I'd really like your help. I'm developing a talk for an upcoming conference (FGS) about genealogical writers and speakers and would genuinely appreciate your input. To learn more, please click here.

I don't care whether you post responses at the 24-7 site or here or simply email me, but I'd sure like to hear your opinions! Thanks!

Rescuing the Rep of Interns

Yeah, I know, this isn't genealogical -- except that it's about research. But it's my blog, so I figure I'm allowed to brag about my niece. Lindsay just attended the annual conference of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), where she's an intern. Ted Koppel delivered the keynote address, and spoke about the difference between immediacy and importance in news-gathering and reporting. A worthy topic, but as this article demonstrates, it might have been a good idea to do a little more homework before making one of his points. Specifically, here's an excerpt from the article that I especially enjoyed:

"One comment made by Koppel raised some hackles in the audience – and may not, in retrospect, stand up to examination.

In talking about the war on terrorism, Koppel noted that there have to be concerns about the safety of the food supply – and said that a large percentage of the honey imported into the United States comes from Lebanon, which also is home to Hezbollah, the militant/terrorist organization. The question, he said, is whether enough attention is being paid to where food comes from and how safe it is from tampering by terrorists.

Forget for the moment that this came dangerously close to suggesting that honey exporters are potential terrorists. FMI put one of its crack interns on the case – Lindsay Neuberger of Wake Forest University (who also happens to be the 18th ranked woman shot putter in the nation). And Neuberger found put that Koppel must have been thinking of another industry, since Lebanon exports virtually no honey to the US. (FMI CEO Tim Hammonds was expected to correct the record during his remarks at Monday's session.)"

So it looks as if an obsession for research might be in the genes. Coincidentally, the first time I ever made the local newspaper (at that time, that meant The Washington Post for me) was when I was interviewed while researching at the FMI's library in Washington, D.C. The topic? The marketing of sea urchin roe. Fortunately, I get to research more interesting topics these days.

Famous DNA: Are You Related to Geo. Washington or Jesse James?

Believe it or not, there's a growing trend in the world of genetic genealogy (which I like to shorten to genetealogy) to use DNA testing to confirm or refute tales of famous relatives. Genetealogy is largely a matchmaking game -- you compare your results to those of others (and fortunately, just as with conventional genealogy, there are databases that do most of the work for you).

So when it comes to evaluating possible famous connections, the key is obtaining DNA samples to represent the famous individual -- so that others can compare against this "standard." For instance, there's a concerted effort underway now to test direct-line, male descendants of a known ancestor of George Washington. Normally, you would try to find a descendant of the person of interest, but since GW doesn't have male descendants of his own, it was necessary to go further back in the family tree to find an appropriate line to trace "back to the future."

And guess what? Two such DNA samples have now been obtained! Go see for yourself at the Washington DNA Project. If you've already been tested -- and especially if your surname is Washington -- whip out your results and go see if you match, or at least, come fairly close to the results presented.

Have a tale in your family about some other famous connection? Well, then check out the International Society of Genetic Genealogy's Famous DNA page. For that matter, take a little time and explore the other resources offered by ISOGG. If you have any interest in genetealogy at all, I promise it will be time well spent.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Looking for an Unusual, Last-Minute Mother's Day Gift?

I'm a big fan of StoryCorps, "a national project to instruct and inspire people to record each others' stories in sound," and just received this from the organization:

Dear StoryCorps Listeners and Supporters:

This Mother's Day, honor you mother, grandmother, or someone else important to you by making a gift to StoryCorps in her name.

If you have already made this gift, we thank you and your loved one for your support. If not, we hope you will take this opportunity to give the gift of listening to someone special this Mother's Day.

Each week, StoryCorps records interviews between mothers and children, grandmothers and grandchildren, and stories remembering mothers and grandmothers no longer with their families. You can find several examples of these stories right now on our website at

These stories are treasures for each of these families and are at the core of the StoryCorps oral history archive we are creating at the Library of Congress. Without the wisdom of our mothers and grandmothers, the StoryCorps archive would be incomplete, as would many of our daily lives.

This Mother's Day, honor your mother or grandmother with a gift to StoryCorps and help us to capture more experiences and lessons from mothers and grandmothers across America. Please click to make your gift today.

Thank you for your support.

Dave Isay

President, StoryCorps

P.S. When you give, you will be able to print out a beautiful certificate from StoryCorps to give to your mother or grandmother this Mother's Day.----------

StoryCorps is created in partnership with NPR and the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress. Our 2005 MobileBooth Tour is made possible by major funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Saturn - People First!

If you don't have something for Mom yet, why not consider this? Or how 'bout this for another idea? Get a recorder -- audio, video, whatever -- and ask your Mom some questions on Sunday. About her life. She'll enjoy it -- and one day, you'll thank your lucky stars that you did this. New Resource for Genealogists Coming Soon!

I've been keeping an eye on NewsBank, a service I've been using for several years (for their and services). Perhaps a month or so ago, Dick Eastman wrote that they would have a new product offering for genealogists. Today, I spotted this on their site:

Coming soon, consolidates the core genealogical records of the United States from the 17th to the 20th centuries into a single, robust Web-based resource. Like no other research tool, makes it easy for genealogists to instantly search and browse digital facsimiles of American historical genealogies, obituaries, marriage notices, local histories, casualty lists, military documents and many other types of primary source materials published over the course of four centuries. [continue reading . . .]

Here are a few of the highlights according to their "Quick Facts":
  • Provides convenient online access to a vast number of primary source records and documents through a core collection of American historical resources
  • Includes American historical newspapers, books, government documents and other publications
I, for one, intend to be one of the first in line for this service! It ought to help tremendously with the Repatriation Project I work on for the U.S. Army. And I can't wait to see what I might be able to find on my own family!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Double Whammy: of Developers, Graves and Shaving Cream

This article hits two of my pet peeves -- developers destroying cemeteries and folks still using shaving cream on tombstones. Overall, though, my sympathies are definitely with the family . . .

Do developers trump descendants on grave sites?

By CATHERINE KOZAK, The Virginian-Pilot
© May 8, 2006

Among the large homes and well-groomed yards in the upscale community of Martin's Point, there's one tree-shaded corner where a neat white picket fence frames two graves and a monument.

In recent weeks, orange survey sticks have appeared, surrounding the fence and disappearing into the twisted underbrush behind it.

Willis Gallop and his wife, Mary, have been buried there, the only private cemetery in the community, since 1848. Rightfully so, since it's near where the reputed pirate built his plantation house and tied his schooner.

Six generations later, Gallop family members are fighting to keep a developer from relocating the resting place of their ancestors and one of the Outer Banks' more colorful citizens.

Continue reading Do developers trump descendants on grave sites?

Will You Be Remembered in the Year 2098? (Canadian Census)

Just received this and wanted to share it since I have plenty of Canadian cousins!


Will you be remembered in the year 2098?

Canadians can now choose to take their place in the country’s history

Toronto, ON May 8, 2006 -- Canadians have 8 days to make a difference. On Tuesday, May 16, 2006, the National Census questionnaire will find it’s way to the 32.5 million people living in Canada. Unlike previous censuses, for the first time in the history, it will ask Canadian’s for their permission for their personal information to be included in the census of 2006.

The confidentiality question is of particular concern to genealogists and historians who fear that survey participants won’t realize the importance of saying ‘yes.’

Why should Canadians care about what happens almost a century from now?

The personal information of those who answered “no” or don’t answer the question will be irretrievably erased from the census. Important information about where and how we lived could be lost to our grandchildren and great-grandchildren, as well as to future historians and researchers.

“Important studies in the field of social history by Canadian scholars…have relied heavily on raw data found in census records,” adds Ian Wilson, Librarian and Archivist of Canada, in his March 31st address to Canadians regarding the census. “Historians have collectively shaped our national memory by shedding light on the history of the Canadian family, immigration and rural life. Without census records and the valuable information they contain, these…historians would lack the resources necessary to weave the tapestry of Canada’s rich and textured past.”

Recent changes to the Statistics Act mean that census information will be made available to researchers and genealogists on the 92nd anniversary of each census.

If Canadians don’t opt-in to have their information released to Library and Archives Canada in 2098, a family’s descendants may never be able to access this important research regarding where they came from and how their ancestors lived. One of the dangers is that typically one adult per household participates in the census, answers the questions and makes the decisions on behalf of the entire household. As a result, some young children will have no say in whether their grandchildren and great-children will be able to retrieve information about them in the year 2098 and beyond.

For genealogical services like online family research site the information gleaned from the national Census is critical for Canadians who wish to trace their family history or build a family tree. According to Senior Vice President, International, Andre Brummer, “There is a growing interest in family history research worldwide as people search for more information about where they came from and their backgrounds. We have to say “yes” to enable future generations to make a connection back to us.”

Although Canadians are legally required to fill out Census forms, answering ‘yes’ to the confidentiality question is entirely voluntary. This May 16th, say ‘yes’ and be a part of Canadian history. For more reasons to say ‘yes’, visit

For more information or to speak to a Canadian genealogist please contact:

Communications MECA on behalf of Lindsay Peterson, 416-425-9143 x229,; Tonisha Robinson, 416-425-9143 x230,

More Unsung Heroes: Dick Eastman & Others

Here's a link to an article (second in a series) I wrote recently that appeared in's 24-7 Family History Circle. What unsung heroes do you know??

Earlier this year, I wrote an article about unsung genealogical heroes, the few who have done so much for so many. Several months have passed, so I thought it was time to recognize the contributions of a few more heroes. I’d like to start with a long time favorite of mine, Dick Eastman.

Continue reading More Unsung Heroes

Finding 20th Century Ancestors

In a recent article in's 24-7 Family History Circle, I shared a few guidelines for locating living kin, based on my experience finding thousands of individuals for the U.S. Army:

Sounds strange to say “twentieth century ancestors,” doesn’t it? There are those who would scoff at the notion of research within the last century being true genealogy. And fortunately, many of our twentieth century ancestors are still very much with us! In fact, many of you reading this are technically twentieth century ancestors yourselves.

But still, a lot can happen in a hundred years; whole generations can enter the stage and exit within that time frame. So how do you go about finding those most recent of ancestors–or even, some living kin?

Continue reading Finding 20th Century Ancestors

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Federation of East European Family History Societies, June 2006

Friday, May 05, 2006

Megan on BBC's Timewatch Tonight, May 5th

Much to my surprise, I've just discovered that I'm going to be on TV tonight in the U.K. (on BBC Two at 9:00 p.m.). Late last year, I worked on a documentary called The Iron Coffin for BBC's Timewatch -- and it's airing tonight. You can catch a brief video preview here.

Civil War fans will be particularly interested because it's about the USS Monitor -- about its classic battle with the Merrimack and its recovery several years ago. My involvement had to do with attempts to identify the two sailors whose remains were discovered in the turret during the recovery efforts (you'll have to watch to learn more!).

I've only seen a rough cut, so those of you watching in the U.K. tonight will know just how deeply I managed to embarrass myself before I do. I believe the show will air down the road a bit on Discovery, but I'll need to check into that. If anyone catches it, please let me know what you thought!

Sharon DeBartolo Carmack to be on Good Morning, America

Set your Tivo or plan on watching Good Morning, America this Sunday, May 7, 2006, to see well-known genealogist, Sharon DeBartolo Carmack. She was filmed at the recent Ohio Genealogical Society's annual conference. Good to see genies getting national airplay! Congrats to Sharon!

There Are a Few of My Favorite Blogs . . .

One of the best ways to keep up on the latest and greatest in the genealogical world is to monitor blogs. While I still love my hard-copy monthly and quarterly periodicals, I confess to being equally enamoured with the instant-gratification provided by blogs. I've been following quite a few -- and while variety is the spice of life, I can't help but have my favorites . . .

The Genealogue
Chris Dunham is hands-down the funniest genealogist out there. The first word that springs to mind when I think of him is 'irreverant.' His humor is smart -- sometimes delivered slyly and sometimes in-your-face -- what the British might call 'cheeky.'

I love that he sees the lighter side of family history -- and that he finds it in so many surprising places! He's also consistent (new stuff every day) and right on top of the latest happenings. And BTW, he's also an outstanding researcher and recently contributed his talents to a BBC documentary I worked on (more on the doc shortly . . .).

24-7 Family History Circle
OK, yeah, I might have a bias on this one. I suppose the fact that I write for this blog sort of disqualifies me from commenting on it, but I'm going to break the rules and include it any way. Long-time readers of Ancestry Daily News have had to make the transition from a daily newsletter to a blog/weekly newsletter combo over the last month or so. I've heard a bit of grumbling, but folks are making the adjustment -- and a big part of the reason is Juliana Smith, the editor.

Juliana Smith is a not only a dream editor for any writer -- she's a terrific writer herself. And that's not just my opinion. I travel the country speaking all over the place. Whenever I do, folks come up to me mentioning my articles in Ancestry Daily News -- and then they mention one other writer: Julie. Time and time again, it's Juliana that the readers relate to -- and it's no surprise with her friendly, approachable style. If you're not already a fan, do yourself a favor and check out Julie in her new 24/7 environment.

Genealogy Roots Blog
Joe Beine gets my vote for the world's best unknown genealogist. I include screen-captures from some of his online resources in a number of my talks (my all-time favorite being, the best place on the internet to find what's out there that might lead you to the details of the deaths of your ancestors). Whenever I do, I poll the audience on who knows Joe Beine -- and I'm lucky if I see one or two hands.

This is probably largely due to Joe's modesty -- the fact that he's a I-don't-need-the-credit kind of fellow. But he's got some of the best (and cleanest and well-organized) resources out there. And they're current. I don't know how he keeps on top of everything, but he does. Check out his latest batch of recent vital records updates. And once you get done exploring his blog and death indexes, spend a little time browsing some of his other offerings, such as resources for immigration and military records.

Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter
Talk about timing! About a month ago, I wrote an article called More Unsung Heroes, featuring Dick Eastman. Guess what just appeared minutes ago in 24-7 Family History Circle? You got it -- that article. So I guess I'm going to cite a piece in another blog in my own blog to tell you why I like Dick's blog! Is that legal??

Thursday, May 04, 2006

David Ackerman Descendants Reunion on October 21

Megan just scheduled a new event for October 21, 2006. She will be presenting "Trace Your Roots with DNA" at the reunion for David Ackerman Descendants 1662 at the Ramapo Reformed Church (West Ramapo Ave. & Island Rd.) in Ramapo, NJ at 1:00 p.m.

Never Too Late to Reconnect (and AZ Vital Records)

Loved this piece in the May 3, 2006 issue of The Arizona Republic about siblings reuniting after 60 years. It really reaffirms Alex Haley's remark about our hunger to know our roots being marrow-deep. Sooner or later, every one of us feels the pull!

The article also includes a link to online Arizona birth and death certificates, including birth certificates for 1887-1930 and death certificates for 1878-1955. When you conduct a search, you're actually presented with a (.pdf) image of the document itself! If you'd like to experiment with it, try entering "Baron Goldwater" and take a peek at the death certificate of Barry Goldwater's father. If only all states would follow Arizona's lead!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Wanna Win an Autographed Book??

Those who read my Honoring Our Ancestors newsletter know that I occasionally have contests -- and more often than not, the prize is an autographed book. Not one of mine, but usually one from other authors I admire -- and of course, always with some genealogical aspect to them. So if you've never participated in one of my little contests, here's your shot at a signed book. Actually, two chances.

I have The Queen of the Big Time autographed by author Adriana Trigiani ("For a dear reader! Much love!"). If you're even part Italian, I don't have to say any more because you already know about this bestseller. I really enjoyed meeting Adriana Trigiani, partly because she's so exuberant and partly because she shares roots with my husband, Brian (here's a big shout-out to anyone with Roseto, Valfortore roots! If that describes you, drop me an email because my sister-in-law has a private site for folks from Roseto).

And I have Behind the Lines: Powerful and Revealing American and Foreign War Letters -- And One Man's Search to Find Them, autographed by one of my all-time favorite authors, Andrew Carroll. This would make an amazing gift for the veteran in your family -- or for yourself! By the way, for other Andy fans out there, he has yet another terrific project underway and I can't wait until I can share some details with you!

So what's this contest?? I need to test out another new feature in my Honoring Our Ancestors website. I'm looking for ancestral look-alikes! Is your son the spitting image of your great-grandfather? Do your older relatives always tell you how much you resemble a great-aunt you never met? Have you ever done a double take at a sepia-toned photo because the Civil War soldier staring out looks just like your brother? If so, please share your images

If you'd like to enter this contest, but don't have any look-alike ancestors, here's an alternative. Send me an email telling me your favorite books, shows, movies or documentaries with any kind of genealogical or family history theme to them. Maybe Far and Away appeals to you because of your Irish or Oklahoma land-rush roots or you have a favorite documentary that no one's ever heard of -- but you love it because it was filmed close to where your great-granddad emigrated from. Perhaps you're a big fan of Howard Fast's The Immigrants or one of Edward Rutherfurd's books. Let me know what you love and why, and you'll be entered in the contest.

I'll select two of the entries submitted as winners, so please be sure to mention your preference between the two books if you have one. Good luck!

24/7 Obituary Hunter

I received one today -- a notice of an obituary for an individual named Sydorko, my grandmother's maiden name. As it happens, I can't find any relationship to this person, but sad to say (I suppose a reflection of our somewhat disjointed, or at least, far-flung families these days), this alert system is how I have learned of the passing of a few of my great-aunts over the years.

I'm a heavy user of and suspect the
Obituary Hunter tool is one of their most under-utilized features. I have it set to constantly monitor a variety of newspapers nationwide for surnames of interest to me. Whenever it spots ones with my specifications, it sends me an email with a link to check it out.

Because the names on the Eastern European side of my family are fairly unusual, I'm interested in anyone who shares them. But for folks with more common names, you can qualify the search by including additional factors, such as a first name, location, newspaper title, the names of someone else who would likely be mentioned in the obituary, or just any keyword. Used strategically, you can back into married names of females, find out where that missing branch of the family went after the 1930 census, or simply keep an eye on your hometown.

Give it a try. Go set up a few alerts and then just forget about it. Let the Obituary Hunter do the work for you!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

7,000 Images of Death Certificates Online

As if you didn't have enough ways to squander your time surfing the 'net, I'd like to suggest another one. Go to Google Images and type in "death certificate." I just did this and came up with 6,990 hits.

Click on any that interest you (click on the thumbnail version that appears at the top of the resulting page to go straight to the image) and meander your way through thousands of death certs that folks have popped online for one reason or another.

If you're the kind who actually likes to accomplish something while meandering through cyberspace, qualify your search by adding a surname. Almost everyone who uploads an image of a death certiticate includes the relevant surname in the file name. When I tried this with one of my family names -- Shields -- I instantly located four certificates for individuals named Shields. None from my branch, but it was worth a try.

BTW, in case you're curious, "birth certificate" results in 8,930 hits (as of this writing) and "marriage certificate" produces another 6,070. So about 22,000 certificates to browse in all.

The Popularity of Genealogy

If you want some recent indications of just how popular genealogy is, check out this article from the May 1, 2006 issue of Financial Times. The figures from the U.K. are especially impressive. The British are coming! The British are coming! And I, for one, am delighted!