Sunday, July 30, 2006

Holding Family History Hostage

I'm sorry, but stuff like this article -- Man finds 188-year-old Bible in dump bin -- really irks me. It basically glorifies a fellow who's -- in my view -- holding family history hostage. He's hanging on to a family Bible that he found in a dumpster, waiting for the top bid, which he believes should be at least $1,000. Yes, he found a family member and sent him a copy of the family details, but he'd rather sell the Bible itself to a rare books dealer.

The reason this irritates me so much is because there are good folks out there who regularly rescue and return family heirlooms, usually for just for the cost of their original purchase and mailing -- and sometimes not even that. And they do this regardless of the actual value of the item.

What about Marge Rice (check out the Marge-o-Meter) who's personally returned over 1,000 photos to family members? What about Joe Bott and the other good folks at DeadFred, which is also crowding the 1,000 mark (BTW, keep an eye on for an upcoming article about both Marge and DeadFred)? What about the amazing Tracy St. Claire of And yeah, even I've been known to do the odd rescue here and there.

So how 'bout it? How 'bout a little credit for the folks who do this just because they can and not because they expect to "make a killing" on someone else's family treasure? How 'bout a few kudos for them? If you agree, why not send an email to Marge (, Joe ( or Tracy (via her website) today? And if, by chance, you're sitting on someone else's family treasure (it's amazing how many people accidentally wind up with other people's stuff) and don't know how to rescue it, please consider submitting it here for possible rescue.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Decaffeinated DNA Tests?

How many times have you had a hankering for a latte with your DNA test? Well, good news. Now you can get both in one place.

I read about this, but had to go see for myself. Sure enough, at City Coffee in Camden, NJ, you can order up paternity and other DNA tests with your iced chai.

That might sound a little peculiar, but it's all about location, location, location. You see, City Coffee is situated very close to the county courthouse -- where an occasional dispute over paternity has been known to arise. Now folks can ponder their testing options over a relaxing cup of joe.

I checked, and so far, they're not offering any genealogical DNA tests, but I sort of like the notion. Imagine if we could somehow combine courthouse research with ancestral DNA tests -- and all while indulging in a tasty beverage!

Contest Update 3: Following Annie Moore's Trail

The search continues! Still no claims on the $1,000 I'm offering for proof of what became of Ellis Island's true Annie Moore.

In an attempt to keep folks in the loop about the research that's being done -- at least the research that folks are sharing publicly -- I'm periodically providing a list of links pertaining to the quest. I'm hoping in this way to maximize the chances that this mystery will finally be solved!

Starting with my initial posting and going in chronological order, we have these four links that I've mentioned previously:

$1,000 Contest Announcement

More on Moore

Joe Beine's Annie Moore page

Randy Seaver's Genea-Musings

Since then, I've spotted another pair of search summaries:

Randy Seaver's Genea-Musings, take 2

Sharon Elliott's BackTrack
and Annie Moore Research Notes

Suggestion: If you want to join the chase and don't want to spend your time re-inventing the wheel, be sure to review Sharon Elliott's excellent research notes. This is how research is done!

Friday, July 28, 2006

SMGF Launches mtDNA Database

Here's the latest news from the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation. A new toy for genetealogists! Plus improvements in one we've been using for a while . . .

No Man Left Behind

Chris Dunham (of The Genealogue) just wrote about the project I work on for the U.S. Army -- the effort to repatriate our servicemen who are still unaccounted for from earlier conflicts -- especially Korea, Southeast Asia and WWII.

I won't repeat what Chris has said (please take a moment and read his posting), but I'd like to second what he's written and encourage you to contribute remembrances for any soldiers you might be related to or might have known. In this way, you make it easy for the Armed Forces to locate you or the serviceman's family. (And in case you're wondering why it's so challenging to locate families, read here about the 1973 fire that destroyed so many 20th century military personnel records.)

The following are the best places to search for servicemen and leave postings for each of the conflicts:
As an Army brat whose father served in Vietnam, it's my privilege to work on this project, and I'm proud of our military's efforts to ensure that no man is left behind. This is one time I would be delighted to be "worked out of a job," so please help spread the word.

Why I Love the Tenement Museum

One of my all-time favorite museums is the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York City. If any of your ancestors spent some time in a tenement in a major American city, you can step into their shoes by taking a tour -- and it's pretty darn authentic. They've recreated actual residents' apartments, and if you go in summer (as I did), you'll likely find yourself soaked to the skin (no A/C for this place!). They did, however, draw the line at sanitation (a compromise much appreciated by many 21st century wimps, I'm sure). I like this place so much that one of my grants was designated for a field trip for a 4th grade class from Spanish Harlem.

But if you're not near New York -- or not tempted by the prospect of a sweat-drenched tour -- the good news is that you can
visit virtually! If you go here, you can click on the hand that indicates "enter here" and/or listen to the audio tour (just look for the little headsets right under the photo of the tenement). You can also select one of the families across the top of the page to learn more about their story.

And BTW, I couldn't help but notice that they're in the process of re-creating another family's apartment -- the
Moore family from Ireland. For those of you who have been following the Annie Moore contest, that's just a coincidence and has nothing to do with her family.

It also turns out that there's a freshly released book available, Biography of a Tenement House in New York City:

But one of the coolest features of this site has to be the
folk songs toy. It lets you create your own city tune by mixing the sounds of a seafood salesman, a street busker, kids playing, a train and other noises you would typically hear in NYC. Don't ask me why, but I love playing with this, and I suspect you might, too.

Genetic Genealogy Article: 6.0

For those who are new to my blog, I decided not long ago to start rating articles on genetic genealogy (which I often call genetealogy) that appear in the popular press. I don't know if it's really fair to rate this article from the Austin American-Statesman because it's an editorial, but it has one statement that's so glaringly wrong that I had to include it.

According to this piece, "Genetic genealogy is based on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)." That will come as quite a shock to the many thousands who have been using a combination of Y-DNA, mtDNA and autosomal DNA to trace their roots. In fact, in terms of popularity, Y-DNA leaves mtDNA in the dust.

Mitochondrial DNA is often the only option when it comes to tackling history's mysteries -- and that's why it makes so many appearances in those PBS and BBC documentaries where they're always disinterring someone. But in terms of folks actually out there getting tested to learn more about their roots, Y-DNA (which is passed from father to son down through the generations) is the test of choice.

Having said that, the underlying theme of this article -- the notion that we're all related -- is valid. And that's why I'm giving it a score of 6.0 (on a 0 to 10 scale).

Thursday, July 27, 2006

More MIAs May Be Coming Home

From time to time, I mention the work I do on the U.S. Army's repatriation efforts to locate families of those still unaccounted for from WWII, Korea and Southeast Asia. Here's what it's all about (you may have to register to see the article, but it's free). As an Army brat, I love doing this work and I'm pleased to say that I worked on one of these cases.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Contest Update 2: Following Annie Moore's Trail

Wow, still more folks are coming on board in the search for the true Annie Moore of Ellis Island fame, and some are posting research ideas and results. I'm trying to keep tabs on what folks are doing and will occasionally try to provide links here, so others can join the hunt, too.

So just to get everyone up to date, here are the scattered postings so far (note: be sure to read comments because some of them are very useful):

$1,000 Contest Announcement

More on Moore

Joe Beine's Annie Moore page

Randy Seaver's Genea-Musings

Now for a little more good news. I'm sure there are some folks out there toiling away in private, hoping to solve the mystery themselves and claim the $1,000 prize. To those folks, I say more power to you!

But for those who prefer the online group approach, ProGenealogists in Utah has agreed to do some limited research for us at the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City. I've worked with the ProGenealogists folks for years and they're terrific! If you ever need some research done at the FHL, they're the ones to go to.

So what do I mean by "limited" research? Well, that means that if we think it would be a good idea to pull a particular death certificate or whatever -- and it's available at the FHL -- they'll snag it for us. But no "let's search the entire country's civil registrations for a 10 year period" requests. For reasonable, one-off requests, they'll search for the record, scan it and email it to me, and I'll post it here for the benefit of all. How's that?? Pretty generous, eh? Thanks very much, ProGenealogists!

An Inebriated History of Britain

I'm not making this up. Check out this book at:

Or learn more here. Cheers!

Bad News for National Archives Users

This is another one of those spread-the-word, let-your-voices-be-heard situations (why is it we genealogists always seem to be on the defensive?). What are we trying to protect this time? Acess to the National Archives on Saturdays and weekends.

I used to live in the D.C. area and know from frequent research at NARA that these time slots are often the most crowded times -- because some of us actually have jobs that don't allow us to research our family trees during conventional business hours. And even the professional genealogists you rely on in the area may have "regular jobs" that only permit them to tackle your research after-hours or on weekends.

Here's the Federal Register notice of a rule that proposes changing research and exhibit hours at the National Archives:

"The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) published today, July 25, 2006, in the Federal Register an interim final rule requesting public comment on a change in the hours for conducting research at the National Archives Building (DC) and National Archives at College Park (MD) and for visiting the Rotunda and National Archives Experience on the Constitution Ave side of the National Archives Building. This rule and the changed hours will go into effect October 2, 2006. Comments on this document must be received by September 8, 2006. See the rule at for information on the ways to submit comments. A public meeting relating to the rule will be held at the Jefferson Room in the National Archives Building at 1 pm on August 3. Please enter through the Special Events entrance on the Constitution Avenue side of the building (between 7th St. and 9th St. NW). Reservations are not required but space may be limited."

Click here to view the actual Federal Register notice.

If you live anywhere close to Washington, D.C., please consider showing up for the meeting on August 3rd and letting them know what you think about this plan. Alternatively, you can contribute your comments by:
  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: Follow the instructions for submitting comments. (note from Megan: I just went there, selected "National Archives and Records Administration" from the dropdown Agency menu, and submitted my comments. It's easy.)
  • Fax: Submit comments by facsimile transmission to 301-837- 0319.
  • Mail: Send comments to Regulations Comments Desk (NPOL), Room 4100, Policy and Planning Staff, National Archives and Records Administration, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001.
  • Hand Delivery or Courier: Deliver comments to 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD.
So c'mon! Let's clog up their email box and jam up their fax machine! Share your opinion and ask others to, too!

Tidewater Genealogical Society Event Reminder

Megan will be presenting "Trace Your Roots with DNA" at 9:00 a.m. on August 5, 2006 for the Tidewater Genealogical Society. The event will be held at the 1st Advantage Credit Union in Newport News, VA. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Married Daughters No Longer "Spilt Water"

As I just learned from this post at The Genealogue,

Tree's Family Man

Makes you think for a second, doesn't it?

I'll post more of these from time to time, but if you've got some time for surfing, you can check them out yourself at

A New Generation of War Brides

When I hear the term "war bride," I always think of WWII. And there's a lot of sense to that because it's estimated that some 300,000 foreign women married U.S. GI's between 1944-1950. But the reality is that this phenomenon occurs with every war -- including Iraq. Here's an interesting article about one couple's story. Won't they have some interesting tales for their kids and grandkids?!

Contest Update: Following Annie Moore's Trail

Some folks are sharing clues and questions about Ellis Island's Annie Moore. If you're late to the game, you might want to catch up by checking out these links:

$1,000 Contest Announcement

More on Moore

Joe Beine's Annie Moore page

Monday, July 24, 2006

Wisconsin State Genealogical Society Gene-a-Rama on April 13-14, 2007

Megan just scheduled a new event for April 13-14, 2007. She will be presenting a series of talks at the Wisconsin State Genealogical Society Gene-a-Rama at the Olympia Resort and Conference Center, 1350 Royale Mile Road in Oconomowoc, WI. Hope to see you there!

DuPage County Genealogy Society Conference on February 24, 2007

Megan is scheduled to speak at the DuPage County Genealogy Society Conference on February 24, 2007. She will be presenting "Trace Your Roots with DNA," "Beyond Y-DNA: Your Genetic Genealogy Options," "Reverse Genealogy: Techniques for Finding Your Lost Loved Ones" and "Jump-Starting Your Eastern European Research" from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn, 4070 East Main Street in St. Charles, IL. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Mapping Your Roots

JDR of the Anglo-Celtic Connections blog recently wrote about a fun mapping tool that you can find here. It's an online toy you can use to designate the countries you've been to, but JDR suggests the alternative of using it to show the countries your ancestors hailed from (well, reflecting today's boundaries, so an approximation).

I went ahead and followed JDR's suggestion (immediately below) and then -- as best as I could recall -- attempted to highlight the places I've traveled (second map). Only gripe: no Antarctica!

And for those Americans who like to stay close to home or and/or have deep domestic roots, there's a U.S. states map as well.

create your own visited countries map

create your own visited U.S. states map

Friday, July 21, 2006

A Little More on Moore

I'm delighted to see that the word is spreading about the Annie Moore mystery/contest. The more sleuths out there, the better the odds that we can find the truth. I've been responding to some comments folks have made, but wasn't able to pop an image into the comments, so decided to post here again.

Joe Beine kindly transcribed a New York Times article that will be of interest, so I thought I'd share this segment (above) of an article from The World (2 January 1892) as well. Let's get the clues circulating!

Diane Rigden commented about searching for the "32 Monroe" address in the 1890 city directory and not finding anyone named Moore. I searched a few city directories for New York City for the 1890-1895 period, and failed to find any Matt Moore on Monroe St. as well. But here's an excerpt from a directory for 1891-1892 showing a few fellows with the name of Matthew Moore:

Also, it's worth mentioning that there was a Monroe St. in both Manhattan and Brooklyn.

So it's up to you to decide whether any of these is the right Matt -- or for that matter, whether Annie's father was truly named Matt (have any of you found the conflicting clues over the names of her brothers yet?). This is a real life case, so it includes all the usual real life uncertainty that we deal with in researching our own families!

Feel free to post more comments, questions or clues here. I'll do my best to respond and invite others to do so as well.

You Can Still View DNAPrint's e-Symposium on Genetic Genealogy

Back on July 12th, I wrote about an upcoming online e-symposium on Genetic Genealogy being hosted by DNAPrint Genomics. I attended the conference a couple of days ago and found most of the presentations to be quite interesting.

In particular, I was intrigued by Edward Ball's talk on his upcoming book (to be published next year by Simon & Schuster), which he describes as a "genetic memoir." I had read two of Ball's captivating books, Slaves in the Family and The Sweet Hell Inside, so probably shouldn't have been surprised that he would venture into the world of genetic genealogy.

He had the good fortune to be born into a fascinating family, and as it turns out, his luck hasn't run out yet. As you can see from the mini-screen capture below (this will give you a sense of how an e-symposium works -- you hear a voice narrate over what appear to be PowerPoint slides), he discovered a bunch of hair samples from his ancestors -- each one carefully labelled and dated. Who gets that lucky?

At any rate, he decided to delve into genetealogy to see what these hair samples might reveal. Unfortunately, it's a bit of a myth that hair is a good source for DNA. Unless there are roots involved, you'll probably only be able to get mtDNA -- and if the sample is old, even that is questionable. So I wasn't surprised to hear that Ball found the results somewhat disappointing -- less than precise and occasionally conflicting (as he consulted geneticists around the globe).

While I'll be one of the first in line for his new book, I hope he doesn't come out as anti-genetealogy based on his hair expedition. Avid genetic genealogists are well aware of the limitations of mtDNA, which is why it's such a distant second to Y-DNA.

When I speak on the topic, I always explain that mtDNA is primarily a deep ancestry tool and is usually not all that helpful in a genealogical sense. There are a few exceptions -- and as testing advances, mtDNA will likely become more useful in the future -- but right now, mtDNA is mostly used to give you a sense of roughly when and how your direct maternal line migrated out of Africa.

I may be way off-base, and perhaps I didn't listen carefully enough (I freely admit that I haven't listened to his talk a second time yet, so my memory could be faulty). And Ball may be withholding a lot of information about the measures he took until the book comes out. Maybe he did all sorts of testing on all sorts of people. Maybe he sought out all the necessary distant cousins to create a genetic pedigree. I don't know.

But the impression I was left with the other day is that he had relied primarily on mtDNA and was disappointed with the results -- as those acquainted with genetic genealogy would expect. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that my initial sense is off -- that he used several types of testing on both the dearly departed and his many living cousins. We'll see what next year brings.

Now here's the good news. If you'd like to see Ball's talk yourself -- or any of the others -- you still can. Go to and register (it's free). Then click on the speaker you want to hear, and you're good to go! (One suggestion: do it using Internet Explorer. I tried initially with Mozilla Foxfire and it hung up.)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Someone Should Tell Diane to Change Her Name

Well, I feel as if I've truly arrived. Why? Because complete strangers are blogging about what an idiot I am! In this case, my idiocy apparently stems from the "uber ridiculous" decision to use my name. I admit it's tempting to toss off a wicked comment in return, but I have to give them credit -- they read Newsweek and never once misspelled "Smolenyak." I'll be sure to tell Diane so she can claim her t-shirt . . .

Another Orphan Bible Goes Home

Some of you may know that I have a bit of a habit of rescuing items that stray from their families of origin. You can find a bunch of examples here.

Well, here's the latest rescue - a Bible that went from one nursing home to another. If you happen to be one of those people who's somehow wound up with other people's stuff (that you'd like to return), you can submit the details to me. I can't get to and solve every single case, but I have a pretty good hit rate!

Monday, July 17, 2006

$1,000 Reward for Ellis Island's Little Orphan Annie

OK, that’s a bit of a misnomer. The Annie in question wasn’t an orphan in the usual sense, but she is in a genealogical sense because her true story has been lost. What am I talking about?

Devout Ellis Island fans like myself are well aware that the first immigrant to land there was Annie Moore, who arrived from Ireland with her brothers, Anthony and Phillip, on January 1, 1892. She was greeted with much fanfare and a $10 gold coin. You can read all about it here and see her arrival record here (note: you may have to sign in to view it; registration is free).

Since then, she’s been commemorated in statues at both Ellis Island and the Cobh Heritage Centre, and has crept into American national lore. She’s celebrated in St. Patrick’s Day parades. Pubs are named after her in New York City and St. Pete Beach, Florida. Books have been written about her.

This is all well and good, so what’s my point? Well, not surprisingly, since she’s a historical celebrity of sorts, folks want to know what became of her. And many sources gratify this curiosity. Here's an online example. And here are a couple of additional examples, the first from Coming to America, a children’s book based on her story (registered users can see the whole page by going to, searching on "Coming to America," selecting the "search inside this book" feature, and entering "1958"), and the second from a booklet I purchased at the Cobh Heritage Centre over in County Cork, Ireland.

Of course, this is a great story. It’s a classic go-West-young-woman tale riddled with tragedy. Who doesn’t like that? If only it were true.

The problem is that the Annie Moore whose story is told time and time again – and whose photo is even displayed in the American National Tree (and companion book) at Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center – is the wrong one.

How do I know? I researched her for a documentary. Guess what? This Annie Moore was born in Illinois, not Ireland.

I didn’t want it to be true. In fact, I tried for document after document, hoping to discover that it was just an accident that “Illinois” had been scribbled on a single paper. But nope, it was Illinois. I've got this Annie's marriage record. I've got her obit. I've got her death record. I've got all her census records. I know where she's buried. I even have a recollection from one of her daughters printed in a local history publication -- no mention of Ellis Island anywhere. And her parents and siblings don’t match those of Ellis Island Annie in any of these docs either.

I actually did enough research to figure out how this myth started circulating. Let me be clear about one thing: there’s been no attempt to deceive on the part of anyone. What happened is that a family fell prey to an elderly relative’s fanciful tale – an innocent exaggeration that morphed into indisputable family lore. How many times have we all seen this happen? Over time, this now-deceased woman’s wishful thinking claimed more victims, as folks simply accepted her version of reality as truth without questioning it.

I’ve let this be for a while. Occasionally, I’ve made an attempt to learn the truth – to discover what became of the real Annie Moore of Ellis Island fame. But so far, I haven’t succeeded. It’s a bit of a needle-in-a-haystack situation. And that’s where you come in.

I’m offering $1,000 for the first proof of what became of Ellis Island’s true Annie Moore. This is not a joke. Those of you who are familiar with my Honoring Our Ancestors Grants program know that I put my money where my mouth is.

I want to know the truth, and I’m hoping some great genealogists out there can unearth it. So try to solve the mystery yourself or join up with a research buddy and tackle it. For that matter, why not make it a project for your local genealogical society? Or just spread the word. Together, we can find out what happened to Ellis Island's Annie Moore.

Genetic Genealogy Article: 7.5

As I mentioned a few days ago, I've decided to start rating mainstream media articles on genetic genealogy. I'm still playing with names for the rating system. What do you think of a Gigi Score? I often use "gg" as an abbreviation for "genetic genealogy," so I'm thinking this might be an appropriate name for my little rating system. Any opinions?

Anyway, there's another article of interest today in The Saginaw News, entitled Finding the lost tribe Science gives people with lost history a glimpse at origins (phew! out of breath!).

I'm giving this one a 7.5 out of 10. It focuses on the roots of an African-American woman who took a test from African Ancestry. I found it slightly confusing because it interweaves her genetic results with her family history lore, and it's not entirely clear where the two intersect. Also, the article neglects to mention an important nuance of this particular testing -- that it's slightly overstating things to say that her direct maternal line (I believe this is the line she tested) definitely came from the Hausa and Masa tribes of current-day Cameroon. It's very possible over time that this same genetic signature will be found elsewhere in Africa, given that mankind has longer to migrate in Africa than anyplace else. So these results are a strong indication, but fall shy of absolute fact. If you caught PBS's African-American Lives earlier this year, you know what I'm talking about. Most of the featured celebrities found that their genetic signatures matched folks in perhaps 4 of 5 places around Africa.

Having said that, virtually every article on African Ancestry tests neglects to mention this. And aside from that, the piece is well-balanced -- not wildly pro-genetealogy, nor anti-genetealogy. And perhaps this is biasing me, but I'm quoted a couple of times in the article -- and I'm quoted accurately! And that hardly ever happens.

P.S. One other tiny quibble -- the piece notes that mtDNA "is passed from mother to daughter without much change." Yes, this is true -- and in the context of the testing that was done, it's a key point. But just to be technically correct, mtDNA is passed by mothers to both their sons and their daughters. But the sons don't pass it on; they become a genetic dead-end for mtDNA.

Friday, July 14, 2006

See You in Pittsburgh!

I'm heading out to speak at the Roots in the Boot conference in Pittsburgh, so hope to see some of you there!

Rating Popular Media DNA Articles

I've been a little frustrated with genetic genealogy articles in the mainstream media of late. It's such a hot topic that folks who don't know much about it are writing up a storm. And while I'm grateful that genetealogy is finally getting its due, I'm also concerned about the confusion created by pieces that -- in the defense of the writers -- have to be cranked out under impossible deadlines.

So I've decided to rate the articles I stray across. For instance, just a few days ago, I mentioned an article that appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. It was one of the better ones I've read -- well-researched and explained through effective examples -- so I'm retroactively scoring it 8.5 out of 10 (have to leave myself wiggle room for future articles!)

Today, there's a piece called Finding Out Who You Are in the Lawrence Journal-World. Unfortunately, I think it's one of those that confuses more than it enlightens, so I'm giving it a 4.

I'm not sure which test Alice Lieberman, who's profiled in the article, would have taken from Family Tree DNA that provides the kind of results she shares (it sounds like a BioGeographical test, but FTDNA doesn't offer them). Also, the article states that Lierberman can't be tested for the "Cohen marker," as she desires, since she's female. Well, there isn't a "Cohen marker" (it would be a collection of markers -- or haplotype -- that would provide insight), and all she has to do is get her brother or father (or other paternal relative) tested as her proxy. There are other shortcomings to the article, but that will give you a feel.

If you trip across any articles on genetic genealogy or have opinions about ones shared here, please feel free to add your comments. Thanks.

Report Cards for Funeral Homes

This is one of those things I never thought about, but apparently, funeral homes are rated in some states based on how they handle death certificates. Folks in Arkansas should be relieved to hear how well Kirby-Boaz Funeral Directors is doing:

"The Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services Division of Vital Records awarded Kirby-Boaz Funeral Directors a certificate of appreciation for quick and accurate completion of death certificate registration during 2005." [continue reading]

Wonder if this information is publicly available to help consumers select the best funeral homes to deal with?

Another WWII U.S. Airman Goes Home

Because of my work on the U.S. Army's Repatriation Project, I like to keep tabs on these situations. Fiji villagers hand over US pilot's remains tells of the latest recovery of WWII remains.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Interested in Genealogical Cozies?

If genealogical cozies appeal to you (don't worry, I didn't know what they were either), check out this piece of mine that just appeared in's 24-7 Family History Circle.

And by the way, if you're interested in books with something of a genealogical theme, but not necessarily a how-to, check out 24-7's Book and Movie Club where you'll find plenty of suggestions and review.

An Overly Literal Interpretation of "Family Tree"?

Nothing like having your grandkids (including the triplets, of course) contribute to the family tree -- er, trees.

Hamster on the Loose

Yes, I know. This has absolutely nothing to do with genealogy. But I saw it while on a walk the other day and just had to take a snap (blocked out part of the phone number here so there wouldn't be any false hamster claims). Think I should move?

DNA Testing Company Partnership

If DNAPrint Genomics can sell their genetic genealogy products through dentists, why shouldn't relative newcomer, Chromosomal Laboratory, team up with a medical testing company, eh? More details available in this press release: and Chromosomal Laboratory Announce Partnership to Deliver Cutting-Edge DNA Testing Directly to Consumers.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

You Say It's Your Birthday

Shhhh. Don't tell anyone about this or they'll take it off the internet:

NYT: Access to NYC Vital Records

Alex Mindlin does a nice job of capturing our collective anguish about vital records access in a short piece for the New York Times called Genealogists' Lament: Yesteryear Is Gone. As Mindlin reports, "In most cities, birth certificates become accessible to the public after 75 years. But in New York, the last certificates turned over to the Municipal Archives by the Department of Health are now 97 years old, and that transfer took place more than a decade ago."

Frustrating. I know from trying to get certificate for my Army cases. Well known genealogists Gary Mokotoff, Jordan Auslander and Patricia Law Hatcher are all quoted. And I feel Gary's pain.

Ancestry e-Symposium by DNAPrint Genomics

Well, this should be interesting: DNAPrint Genomics Announces Ancestry e-Symposium. In case you're not into genetic genealogy already, these are the folks who offer the BioGeographical test, sometimes also called AncestrybyDNA or simply, DNAPrint. And this is the test that breaks your heritage into four large geographic chunks: Indo-European, Sub-Saharan African, East Asian and Native American. I've taken the test and am supposedly about 86% Euro, 8% Native and 6% African (give or take those good old margins of error).

Anyway, the online conference is next Wednesday, July 19th, and will go from 11:00 to 2:30 p.m. EST. The slate of speakers? Pretty interesting actually:
  • Gavin Menzies, author: 1421: The Year the Chinese Discovered the World
  • Jason Eshleman, Trace Genetics: Ancient DNA
  • Edward Ball, author (think I've read all his books): Genealogy & DNA Technology
  • Brian M. Kemp, Dept of Anthropology, U of CA, Davis: Peopling of the Americas
  • Jeff Long: Prof of Genetics and Adj Prof of Biostatistics, U of MI: Raced Global Analysis of Human Genetic Structure
  • Toomas Kivisild, Sr Scientist, Estonian Biocentre (I've dealt with these guys before - they really know their stuff!): Genetic Variation in Asia
  • Tony Frudakis, Chief Scientific Officer, DNAPrint Genomics: Ancestry by DNA

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Forebear's Forearm

One of the things I love about Chris Dunham of The Genealogue is that he finds the most incredible stuff out there. In I'd Give My Right Arm to See That, he writes about Dan Donnelly of California whose ancestor was a bare-knuckle fighter. Lucky for him(?!), some crazy 19th century doctor removed his forebear's arm after his death as something of a souvenir. And now the arm's on display in New York at an exhibit call "Fighting Irishmen: A Celebration of the Celtic Warrior." Check out Chris's blog for a link to an actual photo.

What does it say about me that my first thought on reading this was pondering whether it might be possible to extract DNA from the arm to verify the living Dan Donnelly's claim??

Darryl Peebles meet ... Daryl Peebles

Darryl Peebles meet ... Daryl Peebles shows you what can happen when you do a vanity search on the internet. Apparently, Peebles people have a lot in common. What I want to know, though, is where the first Darryl got his extra "r."

Pardon My Learning Curve

I just tried to post a link to a video a short while ago and I've been having a doozie of a time. Truth is, I'm not sure whether it's worked or not -- and if it has, it seems to be overlapping the right-hand column. I'm new to all this mysterious blogging stuff, so please excuse me as a fumble in public.

Roots Travel

This segment appeared on Good Morning, America back in May, but may interest those of you who are into genealogical tourism. And for good measure, you get a peek at well-known professional genealogist, Sharon DeBartolo Carmack.

Thank You!

There are a lot of really nice folks out there. On July 5th, I went out with the latest (and long overdue) issue of my Honoring Our Ancestors newsletter, and many were kind enough to write with some comforting words about the recent loss of my mother. I think I've responded to everyone, but please know that if you haven't heard from me, it's an oversight. Each message is deeply appreciated.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Caveman DNA

Code of the Caveman shares the latest (genetic) evidence that humans and Neaderthals went their separate evolutionary ways a long time ago -- about 500,000 years, give or take a few millenia.

Milk Chocolate Caskets

Finally, a place to buy milk chocolate caskets! They're soooo hard to find! You can find these and satisfy your morbid curiosity at the Museum of Funeral Customs in Springfield, Illinois.

Nicely-Knisely DNA Success Story

I was delighted to spot DNA: It's a small world after all by Jennifer Reeger in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. It covers a number of genetic genealogy applications, starting with a classic little case study of folks named Nicely and Knisely.

BTW, if you happen to live in or near Pittsburgh, I'll be speaking there next weekend at the Roots in the Boots conference. Even if you don't have Italian roots, come and join us! There's a great slate of speakers and plenty of talks to choose from. See you there!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Genetic Genealogy Conference in November 2006

Just received this about Family Tree DNA's annual genetic genealogy conference on November 3-4, 2006:

While many of you have already noticed the announcement of our 3rd International Conference on Genetic Genealogy on our home page - and many have already registered - we are taking this opportunity to bring to your attention some exciting features that we are offering this year:
a) we will have several breakout sessions on various topics, including the best use of your Group Administrator tools.
b) we will have a well-known ethicist, Josephine Johnston - who has published on the subject of Genetic Genealogy - addressing one of our full sessions as well as a breakout session.

We are looking forward to the 3rd Conference as it will mark several milestones already announced, and still to be announced. The conference will be hosted at the Sheraton Intercontinental Hotel in Houston, on November 3 and 4.

Here are the links to the press-release and schedule. The link to registration is at the bottom of the schedule:
Schedule and registration:

The only catch is that you have to be the administrator of an active surname project at Family Tree DNA in order to register. That's how they keep attendance to a manageable level. I've been to the first two conferences, and it's great chance to mingle with other avid genetealogists and find out the latest and greatest.

Confucian Roots to Remain Confusing

Want to prove you're related to Confucius? Well, get in line. Apparently, a lot of folks want to prove kinship to this great philosopher-leader, but don't expect to use DNA testing to join his 1.2 million registered descendents. DNA tests do not grant inclusion to Confucius family tree explains why.

The Genies Are Coming! The Genies Are Coming!

Anyone else out there remember that great movie The Russians Are Coming? I love when the Russians are running around, screaming at everyone with their heavy accents, "The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming! Ev-er-ee-bod-ee to get from the streets!" Seems that's the way some react to genealogists these days.

Massachusetts Prepares for Invaders, always hilarious Chris Dunhum (of The Genealogue) tells of Massachusetts's efforts to batten down the hatches for the upcoming onslaught of genealogists at this year's FGS conference.

It's tongue-in-cheek, of course, but sadly, it seems that genealogists find themselves on the defensive more and more often -- particularly with regard to attempts to deny, or at least, severely curtail access to vital records.

Whenever you hear of one of these initiatives, please take the time to add your voice by contacting the relevant politicians and expressing your concerns. Such attempts are usually sold to the public on the notion that they somehow protect us from fraud, identity theft and/or terrorism, but the reality is that they don't. To learn more, take a quick read of Dick Eastman's So Why Lock Up the Birth Records?

When You Just Can't Wait to Get to the Cemetery

Turns out I'm not the only one who just can't wait to get to the cemetery, but maybe there are limits. Check out Hearse driver fined for speeding.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Boy, I Love My Job!

Many of you know that I work on the U.S. Army's Repatriation project, tracking down family members of soldiers still unaccounted for from Korea (and occasionally, WWII and Vietnam). Working on these cases, I encounter some truly peculiar circumstances -- and one of my latest cases is definitely on the unexpected side.

I just contacted a gentleman in his 70s informing him that he had a brother who was killed in Korea in 1950. Until my call, he had no clue that this brother ever existed. Fortunately, he's an open-minded fellow and fascinated with all this -- curious to know more about his roots.

It's a strange call to make -- to tell someone about a sibling they've never heard of -- but this isn't the first time I've dealt with this set of circumstances. And this -- in addition to the prospect of some soldiers finally being identified and properly interred -- is why I love doing this work.

I just love the curves it tosses at me and the opportunity to give folks pieces of their family history that they never knew about -- just as I got to do on the recent BBC show where I tracked down a woman in Scotland to tell her about her Civil War hero great-uncle. He was one of the fellows who went down on the U.S.S. Monitor, but that knowledge had been lost to the family. Lucky me to get to dwell in history's mysteries practically every day!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Roots in the Boot Italian Genealogy and Heritage Conference Event Reminder

Megan will be presenting "Trace Your Roots with DNA" and "Building a Village-Based Community" on July 15, 2006 during the Roots in the Boot Italian Genealogy and Heritage Conference at the University of Pittsburgh. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Bush & Cheney: Of Course They're Cousins

Discovery has yet another article on a topic I see time and time again -- the remarkable discovery that some celebrities are related to each other. In In Politics, Some Ties Are by Blood, the writer is surprised to discover that George Bush and Dick Cheney are distant cousins. This is a popular angle for articles these days. In fact, it's become something of an election ritual to "reveal" that the candidates are related. Personally, I'm astonished at their astonishment.

Take any two families that have been in the U.S. for a few centuries, and odds are -- if you care enough and are willing to work at it -- you can find a connection. We're all cousins, and if you do the math (2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents, etc.) and toss in the collaterals, we're cousins much sooner than most folks suspect. Add other ingredients, such as having affluent ancestors (as is still the case with most politicians), and the convergence will occur still sooner.

At any rate, I'm pleased to see genealogy get a little PR in the mass media for any reason, so if this does the job, I'm all for it!

Monday, July 03, 2006

May The Source Be with You

Those of you who have been at genealogy for 20 minutes or longer know that The Source is one of the must-have items for your genealogy library. Fortunately, a freshly updated version has just been released. I haven't been able to see it yet (still waiting for my copy), but I caught Joe Beine's review at the Genealogy Roots Blog. Looks like a keeper, although I wouldn't have expected any less.

P.S. I've got a brief section in there on finding those ancestors in the Ellis Island database, so take a look if great-granddaddy is still playing hide-and-seek with you. Hint: start at Steve Morse's site.

I'm glad I'm not Estonian

Nothing against any Estonian folks out there, but after reading this, I'm glad my husband is Italian-Rusyn. I'll bet he's glad, too.