Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Bull Run Regional Library Event Rescheduled to September 29, 2007

Megan’s speaking engagement with the Ruth E. Lloyd Information Center (RELIC) for Genealogy and Local History at the Bull Run Regional Library in Manassas, VA has been rescheduled to September 29, 2007. She will be presenting "Trace Your Roots with DNA" at 8:00 p.m. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

See you at FGS!

I've been a bad blogger this week. Things have just been a little hectic, so I haven't posted as much as I usually do, but I'll try to do better once I get back from Boston. And yes, I know I could blog from FGS, but these events are usually a bit of a blur for me, so I kind of doubt I'll get around to it. Anyway, looking forward to seeing lots of you there and will try to be a more responsible blogger when I get home! In the meantime, I'll just leave you with this to ponder . . .

Sunday, August 27, 2006


Sorry for the caps, but I'm just a little bit excited! The real Annie Moore has been found!

Back on July 17th, I announced a contest to find out what happened to Annie Moore, the first immigrant to enter America via Ellis Island. In a persistent myth, the story has often been told that she moved to Illinois, Texas and eventually New Mexico, married and had a handful of kids, and was killed in a tragic accident. It makes for a great go-West-young-woman tale, but it's just not true -- as I discovered by accident while researching for a documentary several years ago. The IL-TX-NM Annie Moore (whom I've affectionately dubbed "wrong Annie") was born in Illinois, so had no need to immigrate!

I dabbled a few times at trying to learn the truth, but because it was a bit of a needle-in-a-haystack situation, I was unable to crack it. Growing increasingly frustrated, I finally decided to launch a contest and offer a $1,000 prize. I figured there had to be some talented and curious genealogists out there, and that working together, we could probably learn the truth.

Well, now we know the truth -- and contrary to colorful rumor, Annie isn't 129 years old and living in an Iowa nursing home!

So the contest is officially over. The $1,000 will be split between two people -- Brian Andersson, who was the first to identify the correct Moore family, and a great-niece of Annie's who provided the critical last few clues. Credit is also due to ProGenealogists, which contributed vital research at the Family History Library and kept pace with my entirely unreasonable research requests (without complaint, no less!). And an honorable mention goes to Sharon Elliott, who did a terrific job of sleuthing and sharing her findings.

As to what actually happened to Annie, stay tuned for a more formal announcement and additional details!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Roots Television Coming Soon!

QUESTION: There's a horse channel, a wine channel, a sailing channel, a poker channel, a guitar channel, and now even a shipwreck channel. Why isn't there a channel servicing the millions of people interested in genealogy and family history?

ANSWER: There is – launching in September 2006! Keep an eye on
Roots Television.

Contest Update 6: Following Annie Moore's Trail

Oh, I think we're getting close!

Check out Sharon Elliott's latest research summary (boy, does she do a nice job presenting research findings!) and keep an eye out here. I think there's a decent chance that my next update will be the last one!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Genealogical Speakers Guild and International Society of Family History Writers and Editors Luncheon Reminder

The Genealogical Speakers Guild and International Society of Family History Writers and Editors will be holding a luncheon at the FGS conference in Boston, MA - “Finding Your Voice: Speaking and Writing in the Genealogical World.” Hope to see you there!

Dutchess County Genealogical Society Event on October 28, 2006

Megan is scheduled to speak at the Dutchess County Genealogical Society on October 28, 2006. She will be presenting "Trace Your Roots with DNA" and "Beyond Y-DNA: Your Genetic Genealogy Options" at the Hyde Park United Methodist Church, 2 Church Street in Hyde Park, NY. Hope to see you there!

Monday, August 21, 2006

SSDI Blues

An article of mine just appeared in's 24-7 Family History Circle.

It's actually one of the riskiest pieces I've ever written because it captures my honest reaction just moments after finding my mother listed in the SSDI for the first time. I debated writing about something so personal, but I went ahead because I figured this was probably something most genealogists could relate to -- finding a lost loved one in there for the first time. And maybe because it is so personal, you just never hear about it.

Based on the reaction I've been getting so far, I'm glad I did it. I've had one person taking me to task for my attitude, but I guess that's the price you pay when you write about something of this nature. Everyone else has been very kind and several have shared their own experiences -- and that's what makes it worth it for me.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Contest Update 5: Following Annie Moore's Trail

Well, it seems a few folks are getting warmer, but no one's found Annie yet.

So I thought it was time to at least recognize the first to locate the real Annie's family -- and that's Brian Andersson. He came to me initially with a theory about Annie's family, then more evidence, and finally, a particularly compelling document indicating that, yes, this is the correct family. He did some remarkable detective work to piece this all together.

And now I've learned that Sharon Elliott is on the same trail and has also zeroed in on the same family.

So congratulations and tons of respect to Brian -- and now Sharon -- for being the first to ferret out the real Annie's family from all the Moore's out there!

But now comes the tricky part -- finding Annie herself. Even with the context of her actual family, Annie remains elusive. Keep an eye on Sharon's blog and mine, as we'll both be sharing research findings in the hope that -- together -- we can get to the finish line of this mystery!

You know who you look like? You look just like . . .

I haven't written about MyHeritage before now because any technology that declares me a 70% match for Heather Locklear clearly has some serious flaws, but another article about the company just appeared, so I figured it was time to mention its see-which-celebrity-you-look-like feature. Despite its apparent shortcomings, it is a fun distraction. And genealogists who register will appreciate the ability to play the face-matching game with relatives, both living and deceased (assuming, of course, you have photos of the dearly departed!).

Here's a video to show you how it all works (FYI -- you'll have to sit through a commercial first).

The site also includes interesting search functionality, which I'll address in another piece at some point. It's slow and sort of takes over your PC (best to run it at night), but has the potential to turn up some pieces of the family puzzle you might have missed. In the meantime, enjoy the matchmaking game -- and may you all be declared visual twins of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt!

I know where you're coming from

I still have yet to master some of the basics of blogging -- in fact, most of the basics of blogging. But there is one fun thing I can now do, and that's see where my most recent visitors come from -- on a google map!

If folks out there are game, I'd love to try a little experiment. Share this blog address with anyone you know in different countries and ask them to visit -- even if only for a moment. I'll periodically check the latest map and see if we get any interesting variations in visitor patterns. If so, I'll post the resulting map(s) here. I'm curious to see whether we can get those little red pointers to travel!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Looking for an Ethnofunkologist?

We hired Roger Latzgo, who bills himself as an ethnofunkologist, to perform at last weekend's village reunion and he was terrific! He's available for all sort of events and willing to travel, but those in the PA/NJ area and/or with Eastern European roots should especially take note.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Friday Night in the Smolenyak Smolenyak Household

My poor husband. How sad is it that my idea of a good time on a weekend evening is sitting in front of my computer solving mini-mysteries? And how lucky am I that I married a fellow who actually joins me?

Tonight I tackled a pair of mysteries that just came my way late today. On my primary website, I have forms where folks can submit brick walls, orphan heirlooms and the like. A brick wall submission came in late today. The stumbling block? A grandfather named Jacob Jasenzak. Where did he come from and what were his parents names?

I almost thought this was a joke. I know the Jazenzak name well because it's prominent in Osturna, where all the Smolenyaks come from. Osturna -- as in the village we just had a reunion for last weekend. And oh, by the way, we opened the reunion with a song from Michael Yasenchock -- one of the many variations of the Jasenzak name.

So what were the odds that I might be able to help out with this brick wall? Oh, about 100%. I just happen to have all the church records for this village back to 1787, as well as some census and other records. It took me maybe 20 minutes to track down the birth of Jacob and his alleged brothers (2 really were brothers, while one was a cousin who had grown up in the same house). And yes, no problem finding the names of Jacob's parents.

The woman who submitted is thrilled. She responded saying, "Are you kidding me?" And it's fun for me, too. It isn't often that I just happen to be sitting on top of just the necessary clues to crack a mystery in less than half an hour!

These evening weekend surfing sessions are sometimes accompanied by a little wine or beer, as was the case tonight. And I suppose in celebration over this unexpected connection, I made up a little Osturna-inspired ditty: "I'm gonna Tivo my pivo, so I can drink it all over again . . ." If you don't know any Slovak, here's a clue.

At this point, I decided to check one of my sites, and found a posting by a second cousin once removed. Apparently, she just learned that she might have a half-sister through her father, so she was asking about courthouse research in the county (Luzerne County, PA) where she and I share our Smolenyak roots. She had no clues to go by other than this possible sister could have resulted from a first marriage of her father's.

I won't be going there for a while, so I decided to have a go with what I might be able to find online. Using a combination of mostly census, SSDI and newspaper records, I wasn't able to locate her half-sister (and yes, it appears she did have one), but I was able to locate a first cousin of this half-sister. So if she's feeling brave tomorrow, she just might just find herself speaking with her long lost sister. I'm crossing my fingers!

That's a good Friday night, so I'm calling it quits here!

Long journey ends in Arlington for Korean War medic

Well, this is appropriate. I was sitting here working on one of my Army cases and the mail came. Took a peek and a fellow researcher had sent me an article about the burial of one of the soldiers whose family I located. Fortunately, the full article from the Newark Star-Ledger has been transcribed online.

Hey baby, what's your haplogroup?

Yes, genetic heritage is now the new horoscope! No more tired, "Hey baby, what's your sign?" Now it's all about haplogroups -- sort of like asking which branch of the world's maternal or paternal family tree you come from.

In case anyone's curious, I'm H (mtDNA) and I1b2a3 (Y-DNA). Check out these latest designs from JMK, including one for my twig of the world's paternal family tree that Jimmy kindly customized (any other I1b2a3's out there??). They're available in a variety of shirts, bags, buttons and the like.

To see Jimmy Kavanaugh's entire DNA collection, click on the shirt immediately below and then select "Genetics & DNA" in the menu on the left. I already have the "It's in my DNA" design, as well as the "Irish DNA Inside" one. Guess it's time to add to my collection!

Hey Baby!, whats your haplogroup?

Haplogroup I1b2a3

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Contest Update 4: Following Annie Moore's Trail

For those who are just tripping across this for the first time, I refer you to earlier posts about this $1,000 contest centering on Annie Moore, the first immigrant to enter the U.S. via Ellis Island:

Most recent update, including contest announcement

Wrong Annie evidence

So what's new? Well, folks are struggling. This is a tough case.

As of this moment, no one has contacted me to claim that they've located Annie. But there is hope.

One person has contacted me with compelling evidence that they've at least located Annie's birth family -- so the real Annie is out there! And it may well be that others are getting close, but just haven't told me. So Annie remains elusive at the moment, but we're getting warm!

Looking Over a Beginner's Shoulder

I found Going online to mine wealth of genealogy data a bit like being a voyeur. It's like watching someone who's Internet-savvy, but genealogy-clueless, doing their first online roots-seeking session. Apparently, for instance, it hadn't occurred to her to ask for details readily known by her in-laws before hitting the Internet -- so not surprisingly, she was overwhelmed with candidates. Ah, well . . . she'll learn!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

DNA Article Rating: 7.5

Arrrggh. This one was so promising! I read about 295 out of the 320 or so words in Genealogical Research Provides New Level of Family Tree Search Through DNA and found it remarkably accurate until this fatal last sentence:

"Although testing of this sort can be costly, it certainly can trace ancestral lines more accurately than the old-fashioned ways of following paper trails."

Noooooo! Ah, so close!

Yes, it's true that genetic genealogy is exceedingly accurate, but the way this sentence is written gives the reader the impression that it's something you do instead of traditional genealogy, rather than in conjunction with it. And that's just not the way it works.

Doing nothing more than taking a DNA test to learn about your roots is roughly equivalent to doing a vanity search on the Internet -- you know, typing your name in google? -- and expecting your entire family history to pop up.

The reality is that traditional and genetic genealogy go hand in hand -- and fortunately for us, they "play nice" together. Genetic genealogy -- which I like to call genetealogy -- helps you go further faster. Just like the Internet. But just as with the Internet, it doesn't replace traditional genealogy.

Sadly, this is such an important misconception that I have to deduct a full 2.5 points from the maximum rating of 10. Well, I guess my search for a perfect-10 article on genetealogy continues . . .

Missing You May Soon Be Missing

Figures. Just as soon as I discover this site (thanks to the latest issue of Family Chronicle), it's up for sale. So if you have anyone in your family who's MIA in the UK, I suggest you hurry over to Missing You while it's still there and free.

The site is for adoptees, old military buddies, family members who have wandered, old school mates -- just anyone who might have gone missing in some manner. I experimented by searching on some family names (Reynolds turned up 186 hits) and locations (Camberley, where I lived as a youngster, surfaced 23). Since it's been there since 1998, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that there's some depth to the site.

And I have to say, even if you have no one missing from your family in that neck of the woods, it's just interesting to read some of the entries. Many are three-sentence soap operas -- only they're true.

Little Miss Sunshine

Occasionally I write about topics that are not directly genealogical. Well, it’s not so much that they’re not genealogical as the fact that my peculiar mind sees connections between all sorts of things. And since I’m so taken with genealogy, it’s not surprising that I should play mental games of connect-the-dots and somehow tie almost any topic back to genealogy.

And that’s what I’m about to do with a movie I saw yesterday, Little Miss Sunshine. It’s true that it’s not for everyone (in many respects, the movie is the antithesis of its cheery title), but I can’t remember the last time I saw so much story stuffed into a single movie.

It’s not really genealogical – aside from the fact that it revolves around a tri-generational family. And this is as dysfunctional a family as you’ll ever find. But remarkably, this story -- that features just about every flaw a family could possess -- is about what I would call (with apologies to Stephen Colbert) “familyness.” In its twisted and unexpected way, it captures the very essence of what it is to be a family.

And family relates to genealogy, doesn’t it?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I'd Rather Be Rusyn Than Russian

Several have already written about Helping People to Uncover Their Ancestry, an article that just appeared in The Moscow Times. I remember in the "Ancestors at Risk" episode of the second Ancestors series that we covered the fact that many archived records in Russia were destroyed under Communism for no more reason than a simple lack of paper (check out the second video on this page), and this article seems to echo the special kinds of challenges confronted by those seeking out their Russian roots.

This article was actually brought to my attention by Martha Fish because of a mention of the destruction of records for Smolensk. I found that wildly appropriate since I had grown up being told -- incorrectly, as I would later learn -- that I was Russian with roots in Smolensk (seems logical, eh?). Fortunately for me -- at least in the genealogical sense -- I turned out to be Rusyn from a collection of villages now located in Slovakia, Poland and Ukraine.

At any rate, this article is unfortunately a case of deja vu for me. I have dealt with research firms over in Ukraine, for instance, and wrestled with currency transfer complications, as well as the expectations of inexperienced researchers. I noted that this article says research takes a year to 18 months and costs $100 to $5,000 -- and I harkened back to the time I received what I call "wholesale genealogy" (that is, all the records for a name, rather than the ones that pertained to my family) and an invoice for $3,000 -- after I had authorized a maximum of $1,000. Ah, the joys of Eastern European roots!

I was also amused when the site's translation tool informed me that one of the services available was "manufacturing of the nobiliary arms," probably an accurate description of what those little carts in so many malls and tourist areas crank out for the unsuspecting.

At any rate, I'm sure these folks have the best of intentions -- and probably waaaay more demand than they can handle -- but these days, I prefer to check the Family History Library Catalog (by place) every few months for anything new that might have appeared on one of my villages, deal with folks (especially mayors and clergy) still in the villages today, or work through Utah-based ProGenealogists (which has a network of researchers based in Eastern Europe).

Andy Warhol's Mom's Podcast

Just when you think you've seen everything, you trip across The Julia Zavacky Warhola Recordings. More than a podcast really, it's a mini-video, complete with lots of Warhol family photos and Julia singing the old country blues. And if you watch and listen, you'll discover that Andy Warhol, the man who claimed to be from nowhere, actually had roots like the rest of us.

Andy was extremely close to his mother, Julia, who had emigrated to the U.S. as a young woman. In fact, she was something of an artist herself, and if you look at her sketches of angels and the like, you can see the seeds of some of what Andy would create later.

I occasionally mention that I'm half-Carpatho-Rusyn -- and because that frequently produces blank stares, I often give Andy Warhol as a frame of reference. He was one of us. In fact, I recently went as far as to DNA test a Zavacky gentleman from Andy's mother's family to determine if they might be related to the Zavacky's who come from the same village as the Smolenyak's, but no -- no relation.

At any rate, if you've ever asked yourself, "What's a Rusyn?," this little podcast will give you a good sense. Props to Jerry Jumba for his efforts to catalog and transcribe these Warhol family treasures!

Monday, August 14, 2006

79-year-old's life story captivates young

79-year-old's life story captivates young

Now this is a way to share your life story! This is just the first in a series of videos posted on by a fellow from England over the last week or so -- and he already has a fan club!

Timberlake Tree Tales

Ah, who knows what's true? I don't have the time to go digging into Justin Timberlake's claims about his roots -- although I'm more inclined to believe the part about being of British origin than the romantic tale about a soldier running away from a war because he fell in love with an Indian girl.

Chris Dunham of
The Genealogue did a little poking around and learned about an apparent brick wall in Timberlake's roots. If you're so inclined, you can see a couple of family trees -- click here for one that purports to go back to a Joseph Timberlake born circa 1650 and here for one recently uploaded by Patricia Hansen who's mentioned as part of the brick wall gang -- uploaded at that appear to have gotten past the 1867 impasse.

Of course, there's a conspicuous lack of detail and the first one notes, "Nothing is carved in stone except time. This database is a work in progress." It also states, "Included are notable entertainers, artists, politicians, scholars, humanitarians, journalists and athletes, figures literary, military, and victims of circumstance." I'll leave it to you to decide how many of these apply to Justin.

As for me, I'm keeping an eye out for Sharon Elliott of BackTrack to see if she tackles this one.

DNA Article Ratings: 6.5, 8.5 and ?

Boy, I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I decided to rate articles on genetic genealogy that appear in the mainstream media! I knew it was a trendy topic, but it seems there's been a constant stream of articles in recent weeks. So here are some remarks on the latest batch I've spotted:

Unearthing roots of family tree
This article is a short one and it's hard to assess its accuracy because it doesn't really say a whole lot, but after some consideration, I'm giving it a 6.5. It gives a mini-case study about a fellow named Gerstenberger, claiming that he had hit a brick wall in his research due to a church in Poland being destroyed during WWII. It's very possible that a church his family attended could have been destroyed, but when you're dealing with Eastern Europe, "the records were destroyed in WWII" is frequently one of those myths, rating up there with the likes of "our name was changed at Ellis Island" and "three brothers came to America . . ." And believe it or not, they do have archives over in Eastern Europe, so one church being destroyed does not necessarily a brick wall make.

The article says that DNA testing showed that he matched other Gerstenbergers, and recently, he left to attend a family reunion in Germany. This I can believe, but I wanted to do a little more checking. So I went to
Relative Genetics (the testing company cited in the article), and sure enough, 18 Gerstenbergers had been tested there (and perhaps others elsewhere since many use multiple testing companies these days). This led to a link to a Gerstenberger genealogy site, and yes, I can see from the posted results that the fellow featured in the article does indeed belong to the same genetic cluster of Gerstenbergers as those holding the reunion in Germany. So the story is credible.

It is, however, somewhat alarming that he posted results under the names of those actually tested and even includes some of their birth dates. While there are no formal standards in genetic genealogy, it's a widely accepted practice -- in the interest of privacy -- to post results under codes or the name of the earliest known ancestor of a testee. But this quibble doesn't affect the accuracy of the article. In fact, his sharing this info is largely what made it possible for me to assess its accuracy.

Then we get to this statement: "Chromosomal Laboratories in Phoenix offers a $160 test that claims to be able to trace ancestors back 70,000 years." This is an attempt to bring some local flavor into the piece since it's for an Arizona publication, but it's an awkward juxtaposition because the average reader will assume that the same kind of testing was used for the Gerstenberger test and this one. I went and checked the website of this company just to be sure, and yes, they test for haplogroups, so we're talking "deep ancestry" here.

Unfortunately, novices will read this -- and believe it or not -- will interpret this to mean that there's some sort of magical DNA test that will reveal all when it comes to their roots. And that's the main reason I'm giving this brief article a 6.5 -- because this is exactly the sort of inflated expectations that popular press articles tend to create.

DNA tests can prove Boone blood
This article discusses the fact that it's now possible to get DNA tested to determine once and for all whether you're related to Daniel Boone. This is an example of what I suspect will be a growing trend -- that is, getting tested to find out whether the family tale of being related to someone famous is true or not.

This article stands up well to scrutiny. The writer didn't overstate things by saying that you could determine whether you're descended from Daniel Boone. Rather, the examples given underscore the reality that many who think they're descended from him are actually descended from his brothers or other paternal relatives. Of course, DNA tests can only confirm a connection to Daniel -- not reveal exactly how a test taker and the frontiersman are related -- but the article manages to avoid raising false hopes by simply using the word "connection."

And if you check out the Boone DNA project (which includes a number of variations), you'll see that a pedigree chart is required to participate -- usually an indication of a well-run project.

The piece even goes on to dispel a couple of other myths associated with Daniel -- the coon skin cap and all that. So primarily because the writer valiently resisted the urge to exaggerate, I'm giving this article 8.5.

Think you're a real Scot? Try checking your DNA
This is a really tough one to assess. On the one hand, it's tantalizing as folks keep asking me whether there are tests to determine if they're, say, Scottish or Sicilian or Rusyn. And I have to explain that that's a little pipe-dreamish at the moment. And oh, by the way, people have been intermingling for millenia, so it's always an iffy proposition to spout out any absolutes.

On the other hand, the company offering this test is Ethnoancestry and they know a thing or two about this topic. Jim Wilson, featured in the article, is an Edinburgh-based population geneticist and he and David Faux, VP of the company, have a near-obsession with those of Scottish ancestry.

So these folks seem to think they've identified a Pictish genetic signature. And they're using 27 markers. Hmmm . . . OK, I'm going to wimp out on this one and not assign a score. To me, it's one of those remains-to-be-seen situations. I'm always wary when folks make claims of having identified a genetic signature that neatly categorizes people (remember the Genghis Khan test?), so the skeptic in me is on full alert. But I don't have evidence to contradict it, nor am I an expert in Scottish history or genealogy. To be continued . . .

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Genealogy of Dance

Comedian Judson Laipply calls this "the evolution of dance," but I think it could just as easily be called "the genealogy of dance." See which generation(s) you hail from!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Zabava Time! Osturna Rodina Reunion!

We're having a zabava (party)!

I won't be posting tomorrow because I'll be at the Osturna Rodina Reunion in NJ. We have a village association for anyone currently living in or originally hailing from Osturna, Slovakia. This will actually be the 10th anniversary of our first reunion back in 1996 -- when 40 Americans whose parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents came from Osturna traveled over there to meet their kinfolk (hint to would-be reunion planners out there -- practice domestically before going overseas!).

A century and an ocean can't separate us! Anyway, I'll be back after hanging with my 6th cousins, swapping a little DNA chatter, taking lots of photos, and maybe tasting a bit of pivo and slivovitz!

Dick Eastman's Maiden Skypecast

One day, I'm going to be able to say, "I was there!" I joined in Dick Eastman's first skypecast last night along with 20-some-odd others from around the world -- and I do mean around the world. I spotted Australia, Argentina, Mexico, Belgium, Scotland, New Zealand, Canada and the U.S. -- pretty impressive representation for a group of that size, eh? Bob Velke of Wholly Genes Software was there, and I also spotted a few fellow bloggers -- Lee Anders, Jasia and John Reid.

You can read Dick's take here, Jasia's here, Lee's here, and I'm sure it's just a matter of time before John shares his views. It was a grand experiment and I look forward to when the sessions can focus on particular topics. Another fun toy for genealogists!

Genealogical Conference at Sea!

You only have until August 25th to register for the 2006 Genealogy Conference and Cruise hosted by Wholly Genes Software. In fact, you may not have that long because it's 95% booked.

I'm really looking forward to this because I've never done a genealogical cruise before, but I'll be joining the likes of Tony Burroughs, Dick Eastman and Hank Jones (pretty good company, eh?) speaking on all sorts of roots-oriented topics -- everything from digital video to dead Germans (just look at the program).

I don't have the schedule yet, but each speaker will also host a couple of breakfasts and provide a number of one-on-one consultation sessions. Hmmm . . . wonder if the speakers are allowed to sign up for sessions with other speakers?

Anyway, to get a feel for what you can expect, check out Dick Eastman's review from last year's cruise.

Another Soldier Comes Home

Some of you know that I'm part of the U.S. Army's Repatriation project to locate the families (next of kin and mtDNA donors) of soldiers still unaccounted for from WWII, Korea and Vietnam. I like to post here about soldiers who have been identified from these conflicts, and lately, there have been quite a few.

I just came across the latest announcement --
Soldier Missing in Action From the Korean War is Identified -- and learned that Cpl. Edward F. Blazejewski of Elizabeth, N.J., who lost his life in November 1950, has been identified and will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery today.

I recognized his name immediately because I had the pleasure of locating his family, and I'm delighted that Cpl. Blazejewski will finally receive the appropriate honors for his sacrifice. This, to me, is the meaning of "no man left behind."

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Wear Your Genetic Heritage Proudly!

As an avid genetealogist, I've thought for a while now that it's just a matter of time before "Hey baby, what's your haplogroup?" replaces "Hey baby, what's your sign?" It's just a 21st version update of a longheld tradition.

But now there's a way you can let folks know your genetic roots without their having to ask. You can advertise your genetic heritage proudly! Check out this R1b example that applies to a huge chunk of men who hail from Western Europe:

But what if you're not R1b? No problem. Just request your own haplogroup (Y-DNA or mtDNA) here:

Haplogroup A-Z

Shop owner, Jimmy Kavanaugh, will customize one for you -- and your fellow haplogroup-mates will thank you for adding it to the menu. Better yet, if you're a real stickler for accuracy, I already checked -- yes, I could request a customized shirt for I1b2a3 -- which I happen to be -- rather than just plain old "I."

And finally, if you like genetic genealogy, but aren't so haplogroup-minded, you'll find plenty of additional options here:

Genetics & DNA

I think it would be great if everyone attending the upcoming 3rd International Conference on Genetic Genealogy for Family Tree DNA Group Administrators would wear these shirts, so they can easily spot their genetic kin!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral

Well, it didn't really happen. It's fiction. But it could have. And Hollywood apparently likes it because it's already been optioned.

If you happen to read any of my articles at's 24-7 Family History Circle, you know I've been on a bit of a book binge lately -- and this is the latest one I greedily snarfed down.

This one was little tough for me initially. The first 40-50 pages or so were a little too fresh and close to reality, laced as they are with an abundance of references to cancer and hospice. But I stuck with it because, well, Kris Radish is a terrific writer and I figured it would be worth it. And it was.

This is the tale of a 50-something woman who dies from cancer -- but not before engineering a trip for a handful of her closest friends to distribute her ashes at a collection of places that meant the most to her. And in so doing, they rediscover her life and learn a lot about themselves. Not a bad idea for a funeral -- especially when the recently departed led such a full life.

It may sound like a downer, but it's not. Really, this book is about living. Perhaps it resonates with me because my sister and I plan on taking just a bit of our mom's ashes to the Baltics, the one place she regretted not getting to during her 7-continental tour of this planet. So I suppose I was already pro-traveling-funeral when I spotted this book. But still, I think the notion of celebrating a life so thoroughly will appeal to many genealogists -- who, in a sense, do this on a routine basis with their ancestors (just minus the ashes).

Family's important in Chicken Capital USA

KFC and BET are co-sponsoring KFC's Ultimate Family Reunion contest because "family's important in Chicken Capital USA" (not to flaunt my ignorance, but until now, I was unaware that Louisville, KY apparently holds this honor). So dig out those photos and sharpen those essay-writing skills because that's what it takes to win. The contest ends September 13th, so you've got about a month to snag you and yours a ton of chicken and some together time. Good luck!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

DNA Article Ratings: 7.5, 6.0, 8.5 and 5.0

Lately there's been an epidemic of articles about genetic genealogy in the mainstream press. Those of you who read this blog know that I've taken to rating these articles -- partly because they have a tendency to be less than accurate.

In a sense, it's not the fault of the writers. They're expected to absorb and report on a topic that takes a little time to truly master -- and they have to do this very quickly and under strict word limits.

I've started rating articles not to be a "critic" in the classic sense. In point of fact, I'm delighted that all these folks are writing about genetealogy! I just thought it would be a good idea to bring attention to these articles (unless you live where they're published, you might not even be aware of them) and to help clarify some of the misunderstandings that crop up.

So here we go with the latest batch . . .

Students take part in ancestral study
I'm giving this one a 7.5, but first, I have to confess a bias. This article is about high school kids taking tests from National Geo's Genographic project as part of an effort to learn more about DNA and see how it applies in their own lives. I love this -- especially because I'm still smarting from a review of the book I co-authored with Ann Turner, Trace Your Roots with DNA. The review appeared in The American Biology Teacher and concluded, "This book is a wonderful and interesting read, but I feel it has limited usefulness in the classroom." Ouch!

So it's no surprise that I'm pleased to see an article that promotes the use of genetealogy as a means of sparking kids' interest in genetics. Having said that, I have two minor quibbles.

First, the article states, "New DNA studies suggest that all humans descended from African ancestors who lived 60,000 years ago, National Geographic reported on its Web site." Well, the writer has it half-right. She's alluding to what's sometimes referred to as the genetic Adam and Eve, our most recent common male and female ancestors. But in this case, 60,000 years pertains only to this Adam, who is estimated to have lived about 60-65,000 years ago. The genetic Eve is believed, by contrast, to have lived roughly 140-150,000 years ago.

Also, the articles says, "The latest DNA research has found that most genes that are passed from a mother and father to a child are mixed up." Well, this isn't exactly the latest DNA research. What she's talking about is autosomal DNA, the kind that's shuffled at each birth event, as opposed to Y-DNA and mtDNA, the types most heavily used for genetic genealogy.

So a pair of tweaks, but fortunately, they don't heavily affect the accuracy of the rest of the article, so that -- and my personal bias! -- are why I'm giving it a 7.5.

DNA helps identify distant ancestors
Randy Seaver's already shared some remarks on this article in his blog and he's not too keen on it. After reading it, I'm giving it a 6.0.

OK, let's break it down:
  • There's a person quoted as saying that genealogy is the number 1 hobby in the country. That's an exaggeration, but it's a quote and I can easily believe that someone said this.
  • It then goes on to say that "the practice of using DNA in genealogy was started in 2000 by the Family Tree DNA . . ." Close, but not quite. Family Tree DNA was second to market. Oxford Ancestors in the U.K. was first. (Also, I'm not sure why, but the writer keeps saying "The Family Tree DNA," just as many folks tend to say "The Ukraine." It's quirky, but doesn't really affect accuracy.)
  • The article mentions the Southern California Genealogical Society "which is also affiliated with the organization," the organization being Family Tree DNA (FTDNA). While it's true that SCGS folks are big fans of FTDNA, I don't know of any formal affiliation.
  • Next comes a remark that Randy thinks is far-fetched: "Miller predicts that within 10 years DNA technology will be able to tell people what family line they are related to - before they do any other research." In the interest of full disclosure, I have to point out that I know Doug Miller, but that doesn't influence what I'm about to say -- because, in a sense, I've been saying it longer than Miller. I've been saying for several years that in the not-too-distant future, genealogical newbies will start their research with a DNA test -- or at least, take one very early in their research. And in point of fact, this is already happening with the Genographic project where all sorts of folks who previously had no interest in their roots are getting into genealogy because of the DNA test they took via National Geographic's project. DNA testing is really good at telling you to "look over here" and "don't even waste your time here." It doesn't solve your mysteries (well, sometimes it can), but much like the Internet, it helps you go further faster. Also, what I suspect Miller is alluding to here is what we might be able to learn in the future by combining results from a combination of tests -- particularly from Y-STR and Y-SNP tests. So overall, I agree with Miller's remarks more than I disagree with them.
  • Randy also points out some confusion over a mini-case study given that involves a man named Yung searching for his Chamberlain roots. The writer doesn't take the time to clarify, but Yung was undoubtedly tested by proxy by some Chamberlain cousin of his since his own Y-DNA would represent his Yung family. And yes, the remark that, "He turned out to be a perfect match, so now I can trace my lineage all the way back to 1535 in North Cadbury, where there are still relatives," is certainly an exaggeration. This kind of testing can tell two people that they share a common ancestor, but it can't say who that ancestor is or exactly when he lived. So this is a bit of a stretch, but whether Yung was misquoted or whether he was just so gung ho that he elevated the power of this testing is hard to say.
  • Finally, this closing remark by Doug Miller is curious: "It's well-established science that we're all related to the same black man and woman out of Africa about 200,000 years ago," Miller said. "I've had some people get angry at me for telling them that in my DNA seminars. It's a very touchy subject." Please refer to the comment I made earlier about genetic Adam and Eve, but it's true that it's a touchy subject. I deal with this in some of my talks and it really comes down to personal belief systems, but scientifically, yes, the gist of this is true.
My primary concern with this article is the impression it leaves that a pair of Y-DNA tests can identify a common ancestor, rather than just confirm the existence of such a person. And that's why I'm giving it a 6.0.

A chip off the auld sod
This is one of the better articles I've read, so I'm giving it a whopping 8.5. It includes a couple of case studies, but also offers the proper cautions -- one of them coming from Bennett Greenspan, the head of Family Tree DNA. My only gripe on this one has to do with one of the people interviewed who claims that Ukrainian and Polish roots are about impossible to research. This person took a BioGeographical test to help break this alleged impasse. Well, as an individual with roots in Ukraine, Poland and Slovakia, I can tell you that it's not anywhere near impossible to research this kind of heritage. In fact, I find it much easier than my Irish side. And expecting the BioGeographical test to shed much light for this set of circumstances suggests that the test-taker didn't really understand what it could and couldn't reveal. But I believe that the writer accurately captured what was said. In fact, it's pretty typical of the unrealistic expectations that many articles create (by glossing over important nuances) -- and that I then encounter when I go out and speak to folks about genetealogy. And for that reflection of reality alone, I really like this article.

DNA offers avenue to black ancestry
I found this article somewhat frustrating. First, it sort of leaves the impression that certain realities are just hypothetical, such as the notion that mtDNA is passed from mother to children down through the generations. And of course, it cites the only known exception that's ever been encountered as sufficient reason to doubt all this. Also, it leaves the reader with an impression that mtDNA is somewhat more useful than Y-DNA, while the reverse is actually true. Yes, mtDNA was used for 9/11 identifications -- because it's resilient and more likely to survive in degraded remains, not because it's better than Y-DNA for identification purposes.

But what irked me most about this article was the following:

"What worries me most is people overselling the technology,” said Hank Greely, a Stanford University law professor and bioethicist. "I don’t think it can accurately give people the details they want." The article continues, "Greely said results showing just one-sixteenth of one’s heritage can be misleading. What if the other fifteen-sixteenths are completely different?"

This is the old, hackneyed objection that we used to encounter back in 2001 and 2002 -- an academic who thinks that those of us doing genetic genealogy are too dense to understand the fundamentals, such as the fact that a test only represents one branch of our family tree. And if you're going to use this tired claim, what is it about great-great-grandparents that makes you stop there? Why does a test supposedly only represent 1/16th of your heritage? Why not make it great-great-great-grandparents, 1/32nd? or great-great-great-great-grandparents, 1/64th? And so forth. These tests don't represent 1/16th of your heritage -- they represent one branch. So if you're concerned about others' inabilities to grasp the basics, master them yourself first! (There, I feel better! Sorry for that little outburst, but I battled that particular objection for several years, and am just frustrated to see it rise from the ashes.)

And if you want to challenge these tests, why not raise the more legitimate issue that many who take African Ancestry tests wind up matching folks in several locations in Africa? That because Africa is the cradle of mankind, we've had longer to migrate there than anyplace else, so it's a little on the optimistic side to expect that your genetic signature (whether Y-DNA or mtDNA) will be found in only one location on the continent?

Then the article goes on to note that other companies have sprung up in recent months to address other ethnic groups, such as Trace Genetics which provides Native American tests. Trace Genetics has been around for several years -- in fact, long enough that they were actually absorbed by DNAPrint Genomics about a year ago.

Finally, the article concludes with some remarks by Tony Burroughs, noted professional genealogist, who points out that DNA tests are not a panacea and that they don't replace the need for traditional research. This, at least, I can get behind. But overall, I found this article flawed, so I'm giving it a 5.0.

And so ends today's genetealogical rant! If you actually made it this far, thanks for your patience!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Round Up: Rehab, Legacy, Politicians' Roots & A Man of Honor

Every once in a while, I like to share a few articles with a genealogical theme that I've tripped across. Generally, they're ones that I especially liked or disliked or just found quirky or interesting for some reason. There have been so many articles pertaining to DNA recently, that I've decided to address some of them separately (probably tomorrow). In the meantime, here's a batch of non-genetic articles for your perusal:

Rehab preserves history in Cherry Hill
OK, maybe I like this one because it's practically in my backyard (I'll wait a moment while everyone inserts their favorite turnpike exit jokes here). I live in Haddonfield, the historic town that's mentioned a few times here -- and one that appeals to folks with an interest in the past for obvious reasons. But the real reason I'm including this article is because I think what this family has done with a house that apparently dates to at least 1759 is terrific.

Passing On a Legacy
Think maybe I could get Harold and Betty Kelsey to adopt me? If only I came from a family that cared so much about gathering, protecting and sharing its stories (and yeah, the data, too). Share this with that relative who doesn't understand why you want to hear about what life was like "back then."

Family trees help debate grow
I was wondering if I was the only one noticing this, but apparently, I'm not. All sorts of politicians have been telling tales of their roots as part of the current debate about immigration. Lisa Friedman writes about this recent tendency of
Congress members to "whip out personal immigration tales."

A Man of Honor
When I went to Williamsburg, VA this weekend, I came across this heart-warming series of articles (about 10 in all) about
a former slave named Edward Ratcliff who earned the Medal of Honor in the Civil War and "then disappeared into an unmarked grave." You'll want to be sure to check out the accompanying video (it's not the greatest quality, but some of the images are really moving). My favorite? Marine Corps Cpl. Edward Radcliff (the spelling changed slightly) giving the flag from the ceremony to his grandfather, also named Edward Radcliff, who also happens to be the grandson of the original Edward Ratcliff.

The ABCs of mtDNA

If you, like many, are a bit confused about how mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) can be used for genealogy, you might want to check out this article of mine that just appeared in Ancestry's 24-7 Family History Circle. Many seem to think it's a maternal version of Y-DNA testing, but while there are some similarities, there are also some distinct differences. In fact, all the confusion floating out there is what motivated me to write this piece. Here's hoping a few of you find it useful!

Tidewater Swishers and a Special DNA Story

I spoke this weekend to the Tidewater Genealogical Society in Newport News, VA, and boy, did I have a good time! As you can see from the photo, they were a game bunch and some were even kind enough to join the Swishers Club (that is, folks who immediately take the SMGF tests I bring to my events!).

What was especially fun for me is that I was given a whopping 2.5 hours (with a 10 minute break) to talk about various types of DNA testing. What a luxury! That allowed me to explain all sorts of nuances, share lots of examples and answer tons of questions. I appreciated this format because I felt that folks left knowing a lot more than they did before they arrived. So thanks to the Tidewater Genealogical Society for giving me all that time -- and for the swanky digs as well! Just love places with all the latest high-tech toys!

I also wanted to share a terrific application of Y-DNA testing I heard from one of the fellows who attended. It's a classic example of the personal history mysteries (you know, those whispered tales many of us have in our families?) that can be tackled via DNA testing.

A gentleman named Bob (I'm withholding his surname for now) shared his rather remarkable story. His mother died when he was only 6, and his father always denied Bob -- insisted that his mother had had an affair with a particular fellow and that Bob was that man's child. Bob spent his whole life believing this, so when he ventured into the world of DNA testing, he tracked down a grandson (son of a son) of his alleged father. Fortunately, the fellow agreed to get tested (at Bob's expense, of course!). Bob was stunned when the results arrived and he and this other fellow didn't match -- not even close. So after all these years, he learned he wasn't this other man's son.

So he then took the next obvious step. He had four brothers, all now deceased, but one of his nephews agreed to get tested. You guessed it -- a perfect match. The man who had denied he was Bob's father all these years truly was his father. Sadly, he's no longer with us, but Bob had finally ended 60 years of wondering just the day before this event in Newport News and generously shared his experience with all of us. He was still trying to take it all in. 60 years of not knowing ended with three Y-DNA tests. That's pretty powerful in my view.

Haddon Fortnightly Event on February 13, 2007

Megan is scheduled to present “Cases That Made My Brain Hurt” for Haddon Fortnightly in Haddonfield, NJ on February 13, 2007. Hope to see you there!

Friday, August 04, 2006

See You in Newport News!

Well, I'm heading out shortly to Newport News, Virginia where I'll be speaking on genetealogy for the Tidewater Genealogical Society tomorrow morning. If you happen to be in the area, please join us! You can find all the details here.

Genetic Genealogy Article: 6.0

As you may or may not be aware, I've recently taken to rating articles (on a 1 to 10 scale) on genetic genealogy (which I call genetealogy). Well, here's an interesting one from that features Bryan Sykes of Seven Daughter of Eve (a great book, by the way) and Oxford Ancestors fame (a person plea to Oxford Ancestors -- please start offering higher resolution tests!).

Overall, it's a fairly innocent article, so I might have given it a higher rating, but this sentence got my attention:

"Both men and women can also choose to have their maternal ancestry traced, using the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) that is passed down in the X-chromosome in an unbroken line through the generations."

Nope. Not true. MtDNA does not get passed down in the X-chromosome. Click here for an explanation. It may not sound like a big deal, but this is the kind of statement that starts rumors. I already received an email from someone who was all excited about the prospect of testing using the X-chromosome (which may be possible, but we ain't there yet!).

Thanks to John Reid of the Anglo-Celtic Connections blog for bringing this to my attention.

Internet Genealogy Magazine Already Tops 10,000 Subscribers

I just received the following -- and actually, it's really good timing because I've been meaning to write about this:

"We hope you'll join us in celebrating Internet Genealogy's 10,000th subscriber by telling your readers about the all-new, extra issue of Internet Genealogy they can download from our website,, absolutely free! This online edition is a complete magazine containing the same great features and articles that you would find in our printed edition.

To further celebrate, we are offering a special subscription rate of $22 for one year of Internet Genealogy magazine (the regular rate is $28). This special $22 rate is only valid until October 31, 2006."

I'm a big fan of all of Halvor Moorshead's publications, but I'm especially loving this one since I'm one of those genealogists who lives online. Apparently, I'm not the only one since they've already hit the 10,000 mark -- and by the way, to put that into perspective, they hit 10,000 subscribers (not including newstand and one-off sales) shortly after their second issue. That should give you an indication of just how good this magazine is.

I just read the latest issue and it's terrific -- a nice mish-mash of all sorts of things you probably never knew you could do online. I've got half the pages dog-eared for one reason or another. If you want to see for yourself, take advantage of the free issue online. It's 64 pages long in .pdf format, so you can either read it on your computer screen or print it out. They didn't skimp -- this is a genuine issue available for free! Check it out -- you won't be disappointed!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Genealogical Fantasy #127

As the author of four books on genealogy, I can only say -- I wish!

Genetealogy: Jamestown & Shoah Initiatives

Thought it was time to prove that I actually think about something other than Annie Moore from time to time! So a few thoughts on some recent genetic genealogy news, starting with a pair of somewhat similar -- and yet, very different -- large-scale DNA projects:

Jamestown DNA Project
This one, I confess, has me a little confused -- perhaps because the press release is slightly vague. Apparently, there's going to be an effort to link folks "genetically and historically" around the
Jamestown 2007 initiative. I'm a part-time resident of Williamsburg, VA (5 miles down the road from Jamestown), so I know from the local paper that the Jamestown 2007 project itself has a troubled history -- late in starting and getting organized. So perhaps that's part of why a project of this ambitious scope is being launched in August 2006 when the celebration begins in just a few months. But it seems it would have been a good idea to start this in, say, 2004.

I'm also a little unclear on what they're going to do. I would assume that they're going to locate direct line male descendants of Jamestown founders (and at this late date, they're going to have to rely mostly on previously conducted research) and snag Y-DNA samples from them to create some sort of mini-database that others could get tested and compare against. Now, that's just a guess, but otherwise, I'm not sure how they might tackle this. If this is the approach, though, they better use very high resolution testing (or perhaps a combination of STR and SNP testing) because the founders were primarily British -- and that means lots of haplogroup R1b -- sort of the genetic equivalent of being a Smith. And that sets the bar higher on the testing that has to be done. Otherwise, there's going to be a ton of false positives -- folks thinking they're related to Jamestown founders whose connection is perhaps thousands of years in the past.

I'm a fan of attempts to combine history and DNA in general, and I like
Relative Genetics -- folks who certainly understand these genetic testing nuances better than I do -- but I find it a little concerning that this effort is so last-minute.

DNA Shoah Project
This is a project to create a genetic database of Holocaust victim families that, according to the site, will be used to:

  • Assist in the identification of Holocaust victims whose remains continue to surface
  • Aid in the future identification of mass-graves projects
  • Assist global orphan-placement organizations to identify siblings and close relatives separated by World War II
  • With signed permission, DNA data can be used to help in genetic disease research

You can learn more about the project here.

The organizers and advisors -- who include the likes of Dr. James D. Watson and Dr. Michael Hammer -- freely admit that this will be challenging and is just the beginning of what will likely be a 20-30 year initiative. Add to this the fact that most Holocaust survivors who are still alive today (estimated at roughly 300,000) have been identified (some 52,000 have been interviewed on videotape by the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation), and that DNA samples from their children and grandchildren can also be used, this sounds tough but ultimately doable. And teaming with organizations like the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and Gene Codes Forensics (which developed software that helped identify 9/11 victims) can only help.

I, for one, will be very interested to watch the progress of both these initiatives.

Thank You to ProGenealogists and The Genealogue!

I wanted to thank for assisting with the Annie Moore research. As I explained earlier, they've agreed to do research at the Family History Library (FHL) in support of this quest. In the "wrong Annie" series I recently uploaded, for instance, they located and provided the 1905 marriage record, the 1907 birth register and the 1923 death certificate. Very nice of them, eh?

I remind those who are participating in this search for the true Annie Moore that the good folks at ProGenealogists stand ready to assist by snagging some documents for us -- within reason (we don't want to take their generosity for granted)! So if there's a particular item you're convinced would move the search forward, post here and we'll see if it's available at the FHL.

I also wanted to thank The Genealogue for his hilarious declaration that the search is over and the 129-year-old Annie -- and a very cranky one at that -- has been located in Iowa. Check it out!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Wrong Annie Photo Album

If you'd like to follow my explanation about the wrong Annie Moore, but aren't too thrilled with my jury-rigged blog style, here's an alternative. You can view the explanation slide by slide with accompanying commentary. So now let's go find the right Annie Moore!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Wrong Annie Moore

You may or may not have heard that I launched a contest to find the family of the true Annie Moore – that is, the first immigrant to enter Ellis Island. Initially, folks were very kind and took me at my word when I said that the Annie Moore featured in all the stories – the one who ventured West and wound up dying tragically in an accident – was the wrong one.

As the hunt continued and genealogical instincts kicked in, though, folks started questioning me. How did I know this was the wrong Annie Moore? That’s a fair question. So I thought it was time for an answer.

Documentary Blues
A few years ago, I was working on a documentary about immigration. It seemed natural to track down the family members of Annie Moore and somehow feature them in the show. So I did what any genealogist would do – I did a little research on Annie to try to pick up the trail. Fortunately for me, there had been plenty written about her, so it was easy to learn about her Westward-ho life tale.

At that point, I stated to tackle the paper trail – partly to locate her descendants today, partly to find visuals for the documentary, and partly to substantiate the oft-told story. So I went and pulled a census record. Hmmm . . . her birth place was listed as Illinois. No matter. How often have we all tripped across errors like that in census records? So I pulled another census record. Illinois again. OK, maybe she was one of those who wanted to be perceived as American in spite of her foreign birth. So on to the next document. Uh-oh. Illinois a third time. Now I knew I was in trouble.

I continued to research in the desperate hope of finding evidence of her Irish birth, or at least, a reasonable explanation as to why an immigrant would so consistently give her birth place as Illinois. But ultimately, I had to give up and admit that this was simply the wrong Annie Moore. Yes, she was about the same age and had the same name, but that was all they had in common.

I continued to dig enough until I realized how this all happened. One of Annie’s daughters had apparently become enchanted with the notion that her mother – who had died back when she was a teenager – was the Ellis Island immigrant. This happened around the time of the Bicentennial when commemorative plates of Annie Moore were made, so who wouldn’t want to claim little Annie? Naturally, she told the family – and how many of us truly question the stories our elders tell us? Grandma or great-aunt Tillie never lied, of course, so why would we even think to question what they tell us? And before anyone thought to double check, she passed away.

Show and Tell
So how can I demonstrate in an online environment how I reached this conclusion about Annie? What I’ve decided to do is to play a little show and tell. I’m going to show some of the documents I came across during the course of my research and provide a running commentary. And not knowing how best to show them, I’ve opted for chronological order.

Unfortunately, blogging is not the best method for sharing something like this, but it sure is the fastest! So I’m going to suggest that you print out this particular posting and use it as a map as you inspect the images I’ll upload to accompany each comment. I’ll upload the images in reverse order, so that they’ll appear sequentially in the blog. I’m also working on having a photo gallery added to my website, so it will be easier to refer to and follow. And finally, I’m going to bookend this series of images with identical postings of this explanatory message so that folks can easily find this “map” regardless of whether they start with the first image or the last. So here we go . . .

Slide 1
There are lots of red herrings with the Annie Moore documents, including the fact that the 1880 census index for her family lists her Irish-born parents as having been born in Indiana. If you take a close look at the record, though, you’ll see that they were born in Ireland. The reason I didn’t include the whole family is because the ink practically fades away to nothing after the parents. Check it out on or Heritage Quest. You’ll see what I mean. And yes, Annie is listed as having been born in Illinois – which wouldn’t have been scribbled as a default out of laziness by an inattentive census-taker because the family had already moved to Texas.

Slide 2
Here we have the family – still in Hill County, Texas – in the 1900 census. Annie’s mom has been widowed – and once again, Annie’s listed as having been born in Illinois.

Slide 3
1905 and Annie gets married! It’s Hill County, Texas, but not too many juicy clues. Still, we have proof that Anna O’Connell was once Anna Moore.

Slide 4
I could have included the 1905 birth of Patrick and Anna O’Connell’s first child, but believe it or not, it’s even harder to make out than this 1907 birth of this daughter. See those columns I’ve highlighted in the center? I know they’re hard to read, but they’re for “nationality of father, where born” and “nationality of mother, where born.” And for the O’Connell birth, both columns include the remark “native.”

Slide 5
Now we have a married Anna in the 1910 census in Clovis, Curry County, New Mexico. And look – she’s born in Illinois. Of course, you have to ponder how much weight to give this instance, given that the census taker has incorrectly listed Anna’s husband as having been born in Ireland. Not so. He was born in Indiana. All those I’s!

Slide 6
This one is another red herring. It looks as if we’re seeing Pat O’Connell with his kids in the 1920 census in Clovis, New Mexico, but take a closer look at the gender column. Yup, “Pat” is female. Anna O’Connell had a habit of going by Mrs. Pat O’Connell – and her husband passed away in the 19-teens, so it’s clearly her and not him. And once again, she’s born in Illinois.

Slide 7
Here’s an article that appeared at the time of Anna O’Connell’s accidental death. No particular details to support Illinois or Ireland, but the family details simply underscore that the family followed in the assorted census records is the correct one.

Slide 8
Now we have Anna O’Connell’s Texas death certificate. And yes, I know the birth place is about impossible to read. In fact, I had it researched twice in the hope of getting a better copy – but both researchers who were able to see the microfilm directly said the birth place looked like Illinois.

Slide 9
Now we have the cemetery details of Anna and her husband. Again, nothing new that helps with the Illinois/Ireland debate, other than the fact that we’re dealing with an Anna who truly was born about the same time as the Ellis Island Annie Moore. And once again, we have confirmation that we’re dealing with the correct family – based on the death dates of both Patrick and Anna.

Slide 10
And finally, we have a recollection from one of Anna and Pat’s daughters. There are plenty of family details cited, including a series of firsts for Pat – but not a whisper of Ellis Island. If the daughter had believed that at the time, I suspect she would have included it. This was published in 1978 – so slightly after the Bicentennial – but my guess is that it was written slightly earlier. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if providing her memories for this book is what sparked her interest in her family’s heritage and made her link her own Annie Moore with the Ellis Island one.

Bottom line: Multiple documents with an Illinois birth and not a single one with Ireland. And of course, this Annie Moore was already in Texas by 1880 – long before Ellis Island’s Annie came to America. So my conclusion is that this is not the Annie Moore who was the first person to immigrate via Ellis Island.

Wrong Annie Moore: slide 1

Wrong Annie Moore: slide 2

Wrong Annie Moore: slide 3

Wrong Annie Moore: slide 4

Wrong Annie Moore: slide 5

Wrong Annie Moore: slide 6

Wrong Annie Moore: slide 7

Wrong Annie Moore: slide 8