Friday, June 30, 2006

Taking a Few Days to Chill

Heading to Colonial Williamsburg for a few days to enjoy the festivities of the 4th. They didn't blog in colonial days, so I don't expect to either (unless I just can't help myself). Will be back next week. Here's wishing you and yours a great holiday weekend!

Another DNA Book Coming from Bryan Sykes

I guess the marketing gurus think it's necessary to have different titles for the same book in the U.S. and the U.K., so once again, they're doing it with Bryan Sykes's next offering -- Saxons, Vikings and Celts or Blood of the Isles, depending on which side of the Atlantic you live on. Read New Books on DNA Announced at the Anglo-Celtic Connections blog to learn more.

The book's not due out until November, but if you don't want to have to remember to order it then, you can pre-order it now:

I'd like to buy -- er, trade a vowel, please

Lucky British Getting Another Genealogical TV Series

That's it. I'm moving to England! When are we going to get some genealogical programming here in the U.S.???

Wall to Wall, the same folks who produce the U.K's runaway hit, Who Do You Think You Are?, are at it again with a new show called You Don't Know You're Born (I confess, I don't quite follow the title). Read more in ITV greenlights celebrity genealogy series.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

9 More WWII Airmen Identified

According a press release from the U.S. Department of Defense, nine more missing World War II airmen have been identified. Since I work on the Army's portion of this repatriation effort, I like to share success stories like these. This is exactly the kind of outcome we all hope for.

Is Genetic Genealogy Being Oversold?

If you're interested in genetic genealogy, you might want to take a few minutes and read Is Genetic Genealogy Being Oversold?, an article of mine appearing in's 24-7 Family History Circle. I don't think my take will be a huge surprise to anyone, but I'd be interested in hearing the reactions and thoughts of others.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

That Was Then, This Is Now -- Or Is It the Other Way Around?

I've always liked odd juxtapositions. I remember back in the mid-1990s, when I was doing a lot of work in Jerusalem, snapping a photo of a monk with his videocamera just outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Somehow, I hadn't expected to see Friar Tuck with a camcorder, so I had to capture the moment.

It seems as if Greta Pratt has a similar sensibility. Photographer snaps America's past in today's scenes is about her latest book, Using History -- a collection of photos where America's history and the present collide. You can see a few examples in this article (be sure to check out Lady Liberty noshing popcorn) or at Amazon:

Deep Ancestry: Inside the Genographic Project

Are you one of the more than 100,000 who have already participated in the Genographic Project? And if so, are you a little perplexed about your results and what they might mean? Looks as if an answer may be coming.

Spencer Wells, who heads the project, is coming out with a new book in November of this year, but you can pre-order it now. I already have.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

What Do Thomas Jefferson and Kylie Minogue Have in Common?

According to an article that recently appeared in Wales, Thomas Jefferson, Kylie Minogue, Tom Cruise, Naomi Watts, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe and the Osmonds all have Welsh roots. Ancestry site set to trigger visitor boom optimistically predicts a large influx of foreign tourists in search of their roots. Sounds like a good time to go get your Welsh on!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Keeping Up with the (Tom and Catherine-Zeta) Joneses

Are you one of the 100% percent of people of Welsh ancestry who have a Jones or two in their family tree? If so, you might want to check out the Keeping Up with the Joneses exhibit that opened today at Ellis Island. It'll run through September of this year and features a history of Welsh immigration to America.

Bull Run Regional Library Event on March 31, 2007

Megan just scheduled a new event on March 31, 2007 for the Ruth E. Lloyd Information Center (RELIC) for Genealogy and Local History at the Bull Run Regional Library in Manassas, VA. She will be presenting "Trace Your Roots with DNA" at 8:00 p.m. Hope to see you there!

Time to Build a Draw Bridge to the National Archives?

According to CNN, the rains are having their way with Washington, D.C.:

"Even the National Archives was closed -- the moat surrounding the building on Pennsylvania Avenue had flooded, spokesman Susan Cooper said. She said a preliminary assessment indicated all records held there were safe and dry."

That's a relief! Still, if you were planning on searching for great-great-granddad's Civil War records today, better make other plans.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

More Servicemen Repatriated

Some of you know that I'm under contract with the U.S. Army (under the Repatriation project) to locate the families of soldiers still unaccounted for from Korea, and to a lesser extent, WWII and Vietnam. I'm an Army brat, so this work is very meaningful to me.

At any rate, every once is a while, a serviceman is identified, so I'll aim to share that news here. Just recently, there have been several identifications and burials. It's bittersweet for the families, but it does bring a degree of closure to have their brothers/husbands/fathers/uncles/cousins/sons (yes, I sometimes find, say, a 100-year-old mother still alive) back where they belong. Here are the latest repatriations to make the news:

Airman Missing from Vietnam War is Identified

Father's Day Bittersweet for One Airman's Family

Woman relies on faith with the return of her WWII-airman brother's remains

Pentagon Identifies Missing Airman from Vietnam War

Friday, June 23, 2006

Dental HyGENE

Well, give 'em credit for creativity when it comes to dreaming up new channels of distribution. Thanks to DNA Print Genomics, the next time you go to your dentist, you might want to swab before you rinse. Now you can have a brighter smile, healthy gums and a genetic profile. Read more in Dentists enlisted for genetics.

Library of Genetic Genealogy Articles

Shhh! Here's a well-kept secret. I have links to articles I've written on "genetealogy" back to 2001 on one of my websites. If you're new to the world of genetic genealogy, you might want to take a browse through this mini-library. If you're looking for a primer -- an introduction to the various types of tests that are available and what you can learn from each of them -- be sure to check out Demystifying DNA in .pdf format (thanks to the good folks at Family Tree Magazine for letting me share it with online readers).

Was Grandpa Reincarnated?

A few months ago, I ran a contest in my Honoring Our Ancestors Newsletter. To enter, you had to either submit photos of ancestral lookalikes or tell me your favorite book or film with a genealogical theme.

Today, I thought I'd share a pair of the lookalikes, starting with the winner, Robert Cassella. He's the fellow on the right below. To his left is his grandfather, Guiseppe Cassella. I'd say the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree. For his submission, Robert won a signed copy of The Queen of the Big Time by bestselling author, Adriana Trigiani. So now Robert can get a sense of what life might have been like for Guiseppe. BTW, if you're of Italian ancestry and haven't read any of Trigiani's books, do yourself a favor and go snag one.

The winner of the other book, a signed copy of Andrew Carroll's Behind the Lines: Powerful and Revealing American and Foreign War Letters -- And One Man's Search to Find Them, is Carol Anderson of California.

She wrote, "I very much enjoy the Butter in the Well book series by Linda K.
Hubalek. Many years ago, I won the first book in the series called Butter In the Well and loved it. It's about a Scandinavian Woman's Tale of Life on the Prairie. My father and his family immigrated here from Norway when he was eight years old and it is easy to imagine from these stories how things were for them back in those days!"

I had never heard of this book series myself, but if I were of Scandinavian origin, I suspect I'd order every one! Besides, I can't help but be intrigued by a bison-farming writer.

Congrats to both Robert and Carol!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Put Your Baby in the Smithsonian

As contests go, this is pretty cool. is holding a contest in conjunction with the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum. There are assorted prizes (trips, cameras, etc.), but the best aspect to me is that all winners get their photo-stamps displayed at the Smithsonian! As the site says, "Your winning image will become a part of American history." How's that for a little slice of posterity?

I haven't played with photostamps in a while (as you can see from the fact that those seen below are for 37 cents), but when I did, it wasn't possible to use sepia or b&w photos. With a bit of luck, that's changed by now. So time to start digging through all your family photos for the winning image. In the meantime, here's a peek at a pair of my nephews, Austin & David.

What Folks Are Saying about the 1910 Every-Name Census

Well, word is spreading about's completion of the indexing of all U.S. census records for 1790-1930, a remarkable accomplishment by any standards. Here's some of the early commentary:

Everton Publishers Genealogy Blog

ABC News

The Genealogue

Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter


My take? Based on an experiment I did essentially performing forensics on a series of cases I had solved (mostly for the U.S. Army's Repatriarion project and assorted orphan heirloom rescues), every-name census indexes were a key ingredient in 80% -- pretty compelling evidence that these are a powerful resource.

I took some time today to use the freshly indexed 1910 to tackle some of my current cases, and in general, was well pleased. The usual cautions apply. I found a Loretta Quinn I was seeking indexed as Lovett Arian, so be sure to make heavy use of wildcard functionality and the various fields. BTW, this is not necessarily a reflection of the transcription quality as the 1910 census was in particularly bad shape. I found some of my Smolenyaks as Inolenak, and it really does look like that in the original.

And for whatever reasons, I had difficulty working with the census in Explorer, but once I swtiched to Moxilla Firefox, everything functioned as it should. So if you find certain fields not working, consider trying a different browser.

Finally, if you don't have a subscription to, now is a good time to try because everyone's being offered 3 free days of access to the 1930 census. Happy hunting!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

So Much for the Trip to Mongolia

The New York Times today shared something that was already known in genetic genealogy circles. Many newspapers have reported recently on a Florida professor's link to Genghis Khan -- discovered via DNA testing.

But it turns out not to be the case. See Falling From Genghis's Family Tree for details about why the poor fellow will no longer be traveling to Mongolia.

The problem is that the initial test used was low resolution (only 9 markers). And the problem with low resolution tests is that they can lead to false positives -- as in this case.

In other words, two fellows who get DNA tested and match 9-for-9 markers might only match, say, 28 for 37 markers if tested at a higher resolution (incidentally, tests are now available for up to 66 markers). In short, they don't really match at all and therefore do not share a common ancestor.

This is exactly why I'm always discouraging low-res testing when I speak. On a village project of mine, I've found about a 20% rate of false positives.
So please, if you decide to enter the world of genetealogy, invest in a test with at least 20-some-odd markers -- preferably more. Sure, the low res ones are cheaper, but as this amply demonstrates, they can be extremely misleading.

You Might Be Rusyn and Not Even Know It!

I'm half-Rusyn, but it took me a couple of decades to figure that out. How can you tell? Here are a few signs to look for. You might be a Rusyn if:
  • you're of Eastern European origin, but fuzzy on the specifics
  • records for your family provide a hodgepodge of ethnic/geographical references, including any or all of the following -- Austrian, Hungarian, Austro-Hungarian, Ukrainian, Polish, Slovak, Ruthenian (a big giveaway), Galician, Lemko, etc.
  • anyone in your family was or is Greek Catholic, Byzantine Catholic, or Carpatho-Russian Orthodox
  • you celebrate (or used to celebrate) the Eastern Christmas and/or Easter (slightly later than the Western ones)
  • your parents or grandparents used to lapse into a strange-sounding language when they wanted to discuss something privately while in front of others
  • you have weird family traditions, including dressing up and going from door to door at Christmas time scaring the kids (see below) -- or throwing water on the girls at Easter
  • your idea of dancing strongly resembles wrestling, skipping or a combination of both
  • you're partial to foods with poppy seeds

If any of this resonates with you, be sure to check out Greg Gressa's Carpatho-Rusyn Knowledge Base. It might just bring an end to your identity crisis.

If Your Name Is Motyczka or Nelligan . . .

I'm about as addicted as they come to genetic genealogy (which I like to shorten to "genetealogy"). I was introduced to the topic via my work on the Army's Repatriation project back in 1999 and have been personally involved since January 2001 -- starting with a vanity study for the surname Smolenyak.

I now run or participate in the following projects:
  • the village of Osturna, Slovakia (both those who live there today and those who trace their roots to the village)
  • surname: Shields
  • surname: Reynolds
  • surname: Nelligan, Neligan
  • surname: Motyczka, Motichka and other variations
  • assorted deep-ancestry (e.g., I1c-Y-clan)
The Motyczka and Nelligan projects are my newest DNA-centered initiatives, so I'd like to selfishly ask everyone reading this to direct anyone they know with these names to me for more info about these projects. As with traditional genealogy, the more participants, the better for all of us, so I'm on a recruitment mission! Please help this needy DNA-junkie!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Where Were You When . . .?

One of my virtual, genealogical buddies and fellow-blogger (not to mention, the mastermind behind, Joe Beine, recently wrote about Paul McCartney's Irish roots -- but more specifically, about him turning 64:

"When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now..."

OK, this is soooo revealing my age, but I'm gonna 'fess up. My earliest memory ever is being pulled from the crib to watch the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. Apparently, it's a real touchstone for a lot of folks because many people have written to Joe privately sharing their recollections. So where were you for this piece of musical history?

Oaklyn Memorial Library Event Reminder

Megan will be presenting "Remembering Our Ancestors" on June 29, 2006 at the Oaklyn Memorial Library in Oaklyn, NJ at 7:00 p.m. Hope to see you there!

How to Provoke Ancestral Chart Envy

Want to show off at your next reunion? Or one-up that fellow who's always bragging about his illustrious roots? Why not consider having an impressive ancestral chart produced by Ancestry Graphics & Printing?

No, this isn't a commercial, but it is a recommendation from a satisfied customer. I remember maybe 6 or 7 years ago trying to get an oversized, descendancy chart printed for a Reynolds family reunion. I had to scour the internet and the country to finally find a single printing firm that would do it - and even then, it was extremely laborious for me to see the process through.

Fortunately, there are several companies that specialize just in genealogical charts (you'll often see a few of them at the major genealogical conferences), and recently, I had cause to use one -- as it happens, for the Reynolds reunion again. I selected Ancestry Graphics & Printing and was delighted with the process and the outcome.

It was easy to follow their instructions for submission, which can be done via email if you like. Then they called me and made a few suggestions. Apparently, size does matter, so I took their advice and allowed them to tweak my file a bit. Within a few days, I received the massive chart (about 20 feet long) in a protective storage tube, even though I had requested a last-minute diversion of mailing address. Over 150 one-inch square faces smiling up at me! Even my 10-year-old nephew, David, was intrigued.

Sad to say, the reunion was called off for reasons unknown to me, but I'm still pleased to have this chart. Someone got the bright idea to laminate the ones from the last reunion, so they're -- yup, sort of washing out. This one is better, more vivid and made to last.

I'm sure there are other great printing firms out there, and I'd love to hear about them. But Ancestry Graphics & Printing definitely gets a big thumbs-up from me!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Massachusetts Records Alert

I just received this on the APG list. For the life of me, I don't understand why we have to keep on fending off these attacks on record access. Politicians claim this kind of legislation is designed to protect us -- from everything from fraud to terrorism -- but anyone who has actually studied the issue is well aware that very little fraud has occurred due to this kind of record access (criminals are too lazy -- the most likely way to become a victim of identity theft is still to use your credit card in a retail establishment) and if you can tell me how a terrorist can use a 90-year-old birth record to harm anyone, I'd be intrigued to hear.

Please contribute your voice to this issue, especially is you live in MA. And please be sure to spread the word to other genealogists.



MGC urges all genealogists who care about access to vital records to act now!

Legislative bills (H-3642, H-3643, and H-3644, petitioned by Plymouth Rep. Thomas J. O’Brien, et al.), currently pending in the Massachusetts House Ways and Means Committee, are being pushed for passage within two weeks. They will close public records that have been open for nearly 400 years as well as the indexes to them.

We all must contact our Massachusetts state Representatives and Senators to oppose these three (O’Brien) bills for the following reasons:

The bills call for restricting access to all birth records since 1915 and all marriage and death records since 1955. These records are currently open public records and are the entry point for genealogical and medical history research.
Restricting public access to the indexes of these records is unprecedented. It will deny use by all non-governmental individuals:
researchers in genealogy, medical history, probate heirs, banks, journalists, and historians.

Contact should be made immediately. We stopped these bills in 2003 – but now support for them in the legislature is formidable.

If YOU don’t speak now, these bills will change the face of genealogy in Massachusetts and beyond.
MOST EFFECTIVE: a signed letter with your reasons for opposing these closures, using your own words.
To view a sample letter for your legislators, click here

ALSO: telephone calls, face to face meetings, and e-mails.

SHARE THIS ANNOUNCEMENT: urge your sympathetic relatives, friends, neighbors, and the professionals listed above to do the same.

Contact information for your representatives and senators is available at:
your town clerk
the state house at (617) 722-2000
the postal address is:
Representative (or Senator) _______, State House, Room _______, Boston, MA 02133.

If you have any questions, please respond to Sharon Sergeant, MGC Director of Programs, and member of the MGC Civil Records Committee or visit our website at

June and July Honoring Our Ancestors Grants

Here are the latest grants, so now I'm current again. By the way, May of this year was the 6th birthday of the Honoring Our Ancestors Grants Program! I believe there have been about 76 so far, but I haven't actually counted. At any rate, if you'd like to apply, just go here.

June 2006
The Great Falls Genealogy Society of Great Falls, MT runs a library for genealogists in the area. The library is completely staffed by volunteers, open to the public, and contains over 5,000 books and other sources for avid researchers. The society’s library will use this grant to acquire copies of tribal records for Montana Indian tribes around Great Falls, a topic of great interest to locals and other with roots there. Great Falls is home to the Little Shell tribe of Chippewa Indians; less than 100 miles from the Blackfeet Indian Reservation; less than 100 miles from the Rocky Boys Indian Reservation (Chippewa-Cree tribe); and less than 150 miles from the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation (Assiniboine and Gros Ventre tribes). Also in Montana are the Fort Peck Indian Reservation (Assiniboine and Sioux tribes), Crow Indian Reservation, Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, and Flathead Indian Reservation.

July 2006
The Hartington Public Library of Hartington, Nebraska serves the patrons of Cedar County and genealogists across the country with local history resources and microfilmed newspapers. According to director, Tami Anderson, “It is becoming more apparent that the stories and pictures of our early ancestors are being lost due to deaths of our older generation.” Tami was recently contacted by a former county resident who now lives in Arizona, but is willing to travel and help preserve this forgotten history for the library. Fortunately, this former resident is a genealogist and retired librarian! Her first project will be to scan old photos from local families and burn them to disc. She’ll also help re-organize, index, and otherwise enhance the library’s current local history section. This month’s grant will assist with this effort.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Going through Your Parents' Stuff

This article couldn't have been better timed for me. Heirs should sift slowly through attic is a look into an issue more and more of us are dealing with -- sifting through a lifetime's worth of memories and memorabilia left to us by our parents:

"Much has been made of the ongoing "transfer of wealth" from the World War II generation, but the old soldiers and their wives are leaving behind a lot of stuff along with their stocks and bonds. Puzzled middle-aged children, some ready to downsize their own households, are left to decide what to keep, what to sell, what to donate to charity and what to haul to the dump."

With my mother's recent passing, I'm in this midst of this process right now, and even as a genealogist, there's a temptation to rush it. Just so much stuff. But it pays to go slowly. I found my father's original baptismal certificate. He and my mom divorced about 30 years ago, but she still had this document. Until now, even my father did not know where he had been baptized.

I found a prayer card given to my mother by a nun in the family at the time of my birth. The convent records of this distant cousin of mine turned out to be the key to unlocking a lot of mysteries about the Nelligan branch of my family tree. But until now, I hadn't realized that my mother and Sister Aldegonde had even known each other.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, and as the family historian, I'm the recipient of countless boxes and bags of photos. It will take me ages to sort through and organize, but it will be worth it.

Please take a moment to read this article -- and ponder it not only in terms of dealing with your parents' stuff, but also in terms of others dealing with your stuff.

Are Your Family Treasures on eBay?

A recent "Tips from the Pros" piece (Keep an Eye on eBay) I wrote for's 24-7 Family History Circle provoked a bunch of great examples and additional tips about "working" eBay to find your family treasures. I found the comments posted very useful and suggest you take a peek if you've got a few minutes to spare. Who knows? Maybe a piece of your roots puzzle is for sale . . .

Friday, June 16, 2006

Barbara Walters Joins the Swishers Club

I was delighted to catch Dr. Scott Woodward of the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF) today on CBS's The View. Barbara Walters gamely took a DNA test for SMGF on the air. Those of you who are familiar with this process know that this means she swished mouthwash for 45 seconds and then spit it out -- as gracefully as possible.

I'm a big supporter of the SMGF project and bring the foundation's kits to my talks. Recently, I've started taking photos of what I call the Swishers Club -- folks who are willing to all take their tests at once and swish away while I snap away. The gang below attended a conference I did in Port Charlotte, FL for the Charlotte County Genealogical Society. Good sports, all!

P.S. Keep an eye out and I'll post more photos of swishing genies!

More Famous Roots: New York Times

Amy Harmon recently wrote another article in a series she's been doing on various aspects of genetic genealogy. This one's called Who's Your Great-Great-Great-Great-Granddaddy? and talks of genealogists who are using DNA testing to discover connections to famous people. While it's not an especially common practice at the moment, I predict it will become a growing factor in people's motivation to dabble in the genetic arena.

Ms. Harmon was also kind enough to give a shout out to Trace Your Roots with DNA: Using Genetic Tests to Explore Your Family Tree in the follow-up Q&A session she did with readers.

Latest Honoring Our Ancestors Grants

OK, so these are a little late. I've been distracted the last few months, so I'm just now awarding the Honoring Our Ancestor grants for April and May 2006. And once I hear back from the June and July awardees I've selected, I'll have a couple of additional ones to share. For those of you who aren't familar with this grants program, click on the link above and do a little exploring. You'll find brief summaries of the awardees back to May 2000 when I launched this little program. Congrats to both Sylvia and LaVaun who are both prime examples of what a single person can accomplish! Those of you with Brandon, VT and Lipscomb County, TX roots are very lucky!

May 2006
Sylvia Manning of Vermont is a genealogical researcher on a mission. While reading through an old series of newspapers for marriage and death notices, she realized how helpful it would be if they were indexed and made readily available to others. So between 1998 and 2005, she indexed 57 years’ worth of weekly papers and posted that index online. Now she’s working on a fresh round of projects including one that will be incredibly valuable for anyone with roots in Brandon, Vermont or the surrounding area. The library there has a collection of index cards and information compiled by a local man who passed away. Apparently, the collection includes census records, land information, vital records, civil actions, etc. – and much of it is not available elsewhere. Due to space considerations, the collection is stored in the library’s attic, and because some researchers pilfered documents or badly misfiled them, the local librarians have restricted access. Since there are only two librarians, the boxes of index cards and notebooks – that fill shelves that are roughly 6 feet high and 8 feet wide – are mostly untouched these days. Sylvia offered to scan the cards and put them on CDs for accessibility and distribution, and the library has agreed, so Sylvia will use her grant for a scanner to support this project. She’s aware that this initiative will take years, but says, “I have the patience to stay with the job until it’s completed, even if it turns in to another seven year project like the newspaper project I did.” I think the genealogical world could use a few more folks like Sylvia!

April 2006
LaVaun Kraft of Texas recently inventoried and published her second edition of nine Lipscomb County, TX cemeteries. She personally walked each cemetery many times to record names and vital information on the existing tombstones. During the inventory, she discovered that many graves were unmarked or had deteriorating, tin markers. LaVaun will use her grant to purchase small, granite head markers that will record names and birth and death dates. She has already contacted many family members to secure funds to mark their families’ graves, and has personally paid for ten markers herself. This donation will help her continue her admirable efforts.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Tidewater Genealogical Society Event Rescheduled

Megan's event with the Tidewater Genealogical Society has been rescheduled to August 5, 2006. Megan will be presenting "Trace Your Roots with DNA" at the 1st Advantage Credit Union in Newport News, VA at 9:00 AM. Hope to see you there!

Oaklyn Memorial Library Event Rescheduled

Megan's speaking engagement with the Oaklyn Memorial Library has been rescheduled for June 29, 2006. Megan will be presenting "Remembering Our Ancestors" at 7:00 PM at the Oaklyn Memorial Library. Hope to see you there!