Saturday, September 30, 2006

I'm Moving!

Yeah, Megan's Roots World is moving. I'm still going to ramble on about all the same genealogical stuff I've always babbled on about, but in a different location.

Please come visit me because it would be really boring to write for myself. I get a kick out of all your comments and feedback. And for those who have subscribed here, I invite (beg?) you to subscribe at my new location.

By the way, if you haven't already, check out Roots Television when you come to visit! See you there!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A Tree Grows in Ireland

At least it will if you arrange to have it planted. Somehow I managed to miss Rooted in Ireland at the recent FGS conference, but Leland Meitzler didn't: “Rooted in Ireland” Sets Out to Plant Trees.

Interesting concept -- similar to the Wall of Honor at Ellis Island, all those memory-brick projects you see in town centers, and so forth. Just a living version -- and one that will obviously be of particular interest to those of Irish heritage.

Annie Makes the Rounds

Well, now that Annie's been found, she's already contributing to the genealogical world. Randy Seaver posted about how he used Annie's case study to develop the research muscles of a group in California. Check out the details here: CVGS Research Group does Annie Moore

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Must-Read

Boy, I get tired of folks who just don't get it clinging to outdated notions that genealogists do what we do for bragging rights. That's just so 1924.

It's even more frustrating when people like this get to spread their antiquated ideas in a significant forum. This piece, in fact, teeters on the brink of accusing us of racism -- especially ironic, given that genealogy is all about connection.

Fortunately, The Genealogue -- as only he can -- has written a rebuttal for us! You'll want to read what he has to say.

Do you have the write-stuff?

Ever considered putting your ancestors' trials and tribulations down on the page? Well, here's a great incentive for finally doing it. The Southern California Genealogical Society is having its annual writing contest, and they're looking for your stories.

You might be thinking that this is a Southern California thing. It's not. It's a global thing. I know because I've had the privilege of judging this contest several times, and the entries come from everwhere -- San Diego, New Zealand, Israel, you name it.

Think you've got the write-stuff? Why not find out? Submit your entries between November 1st and December 31st. Your forebears will thank you for it.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Put Your Relatives in the Smithsonian

Remember when I suggested putting your baby in the Smithsonian by entering the PhotoStamps contest? Well, it looks as if some of you decided to put your grandmothers and great-grandpas there instead. Check out August's finalists, two of which are about as genealogical as you can get!

A Pair of DNA articles

The Arizona Republic seems to be on a bit of a DNA-kick lately. Here are two articles that recently appeared on very different aspects of genetic genealogy:

DNA helps American Blacks 'go home'

Hope for making families whole DNA project may link Holocaust dead, survivors

Friday, September 22, 2006

Annie in the Echo

There have been a number of articles about Annie Moore over the last week or so, ranging everywhere from the New York Times to Washington Jewish Week. I especially enjoyed the latest pair by Ray O'Hanlon in the current issue of the Irish Echo:

Putting things right

If only Annie could have seen this

These are a follow on to last week's There's more to Annie, and for those who are curious about Annie herself, Mr. O'Hanlon does the most thorough job of explaining the research trail and results (I did a bit of a show-and-tell with a PPT presentation at the press conference, and he was actually able to make sense of the meadering trail).

And yes, for those who have been asking, I will write something myself, but for the moment, I'm still playing catch-up. Here's hoping this troika of articles will satisfy your curiosity in the meantime!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Operation Homecoming Book Tour

As I've said many times before, I'm a huge fan of Andrew Carroll, one of those wonderful people who does great things simply because he can. Author of several best-selling books, including Letters of a Nation and War Letters, Andy -- although he would never take the credit for it -- is almost personally responsible for the preservation of some 75,000 war letters from every conflict you can think of. And for that alone, we are all indebted to him. Think of all the history that would have been lost without his efforts!

Now he's on the road again with his latest book, one which he edited pro bono for the NEA. It's called Operation Homecoming and is an anthology of writings that range from the humorous to the gut-wrenching:
"The first book of its kind, Operation Homecoming: Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Home Front in the Words of U.S. Troops and Their Families, is the result of a major initiative launched by the National Endowment for the Arts to inspire U.S. Marines, soldiers, sailors, and airmen and their families to write down and share their personal wartime experiences.

Encouraged by such authors as Tom Clancy, Mark Bowden, Bobbie Ann Mason, Tobias Wolff, Jeff Shaara, and Marilyn Nelson, who visited military bases throughout the U.S. as part of the larger Operation Homecoming initiative, American troops and their loved ones wrote openly about what they saw, heard, and felt while in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as on the home front.

Almost 100 uncensored and never-before-published eyewitness accounts, private journals, short stories, letters, e-mails, poems, and other personal writings are featured in the book, and they show an extremely intimate and human side of war . . ."
You can read more here.

Andy's tour started last week at the Library of Congress, but there's a peculiar reluctance by the mainstream media to cover the book -- I suspect because they fear their readers are war-weary.

Regardless of how you feel about the current conflicts, though, this is a must-read in my view. It's compelling. It helps you understand the experiences not only of the soldiers and civilians involved, but of the families back at home. For the first time, we hear the voices of women in combat. And all perspectives are included. The NEA, to its credit, didn't censor. And finally, some of it is simply outstanding literature. Remember that old adage about not mincing words in a fox hole? It's true. This book is an important slice of the history of tomorrow.

Between now and December, Andy will be on a book tour, speaking in CA, CT, IL, DC, VA, WA, FL, TX, TN, NC, MA and NJ. You can find details here. If you live in any of these areas, please consider attending -- and spread the word. Andy is a captivating speaker himself, but he's joined by people whose letters, poems and emails are in the book, and that elevates an already eye-opening evening to a whole new level.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Database Reunites Holocaust Survivor Siblings

How amazing is this?! Siblings reunited 65 years after being separated

Annie on the Air

I promise this blog won't become all-Annie-all-the-time, but I've been getting a lot of questions, so I'll continue to post about Annie Moore in an attempt to satisfy some of the curiosity out there.

I'm still trying to get a handle on the assorted articles that have appeared, but in the meantime, I thought some folks might be interested in listening to this interview on NPR's Morning Edition.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Annie Moore's Youngest Descendant

Oh . . . my . . . gosh. This last week has been a blur. I had no idea when I launched this contest how it would all mushroom. What began as a simple contest-winner announcement morphed into an event that was part-family reunion and part-press conference.
Front page of the New York Times?? Wow! And then this follow up with family details.

I'm still catching my breath, but wanted to take a moment to share my favorite photo. Above is 9-month-old Dylan, Annie's great-great-great-grandson. Off in the background is me filling the audience in on Annie's descendants. I know it's hard to make out the slide, so let me just tell you that hers is an all-American family with just about every ethnicity respresented. Surnames in her family include:
  • Schayer
  • Somerstein
  • Smith
  • Salm
  • Shulman
  • Dondero
  • Donovan
  • DeHesus
  • Devous
  • Peterson
  • Kraus

(lots of S- and D- names for some reason)

By far, one of the most amazing aspects of this experience was having a front row seat to the family reunion. It was such a kick seeing Annie's family together for the first time, comparing photos and figuring out relationships! They came from NY, NJ, CT, MD and AZ (one branch from WI couldn't make it on such short notice). When I called them, most branches already knew they were related to Annie, but one had no clue.

As to the lack of a tombstone for Annie, that's already being addressed. The winners both donated their prizes back, so that was a quick $1,000. And then the owner of NYC's Annie Moore Pub kicked in another $1,000. Not a bad start, eh?

On a personal note, I wanted to mention that, Sharon Elliott and Tracy Stancil were singled out at the press conference for their contributions to this quest. Unfortunately, none have been mentioned in any of the articles I've seen so far, so I wanted to be sure to recognize them here. Without their superior research skills, amazing turnaround times (if you ever need anything done at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, ProGenealogists are the folks to go to, as far as I'm concerned), and brainpower, we'd all still be looking for Annie.

I also wanted to thank the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society for agreeing to host this announcement-turned-press-conference on such short notice. Thanks especially to Leslie Corn for treating my outrageous request as perfectly reasonable and putting the machine into motion, and to Lauren Maehrlein for sacrificing much of her long-planned vacation to the cause.

At any rate, there's so much more I should say and so many more I should thank, but I'll end here for now. Don't you just love being a genealogist??

Friday, September 08, 2006

See You in NYC

I have to go on the road again, so there won't be much blogging here (if any) over the next week or so. But for those who have been asking about Annie, yes, her story will be shared in other ways. So if you're able to come, terrific! But if you're not, don't worry -- you won't be left out!


A brief piece of mine just appeared in's 24-7 Family History Circle. It's about Marge Rice and DeadFred -- and if you're not familiar with them, you owe it to yourself to find out more (here's a clue below). Anyone on the hunt for elusive family photos will be especially interested! Take a peek.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Annie Moore Announcement on 9/15/06 in NYC

If you've been following the Annie Moore saga, you know that a gang of online genealogists recently cracked a stubborn history mystery -- that of what became of Annie Moore, the first immigrant through Ellis Island. I'm delighted to say that we'll be sharing her tale next week at the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society.

I'll also award the prizes (well, one prize split between two people) at that time -- and better yet, some of Annie's descendants -- and Philip's (remember that she arrived here with her younger brothers, Philip and Anthony?) -- will be joining us! If you're anywhere near NYC, please consider coming.

After the announcement, awarding of prizes, and a Q&A session with family members, Brian Andersson and I will give a presentation to share more detail about the actual search. Thanks again to for all their research assistance at the FHL, Sharon Elliott (who did an extraordinary job of research, analysis and sharing of results) and Tracy Stancil (who I recently realized made a blog comment that triggered some of the initial research that wound up leading in the right direction -- follow that?).

Here's the press release with the rest of the details.


Truthiness Invades Our Shores: The Real Story of the First Ellis Island Immigrant

Note: Announcement to be made at 3:00 p.m. on September 15, 2006 at The New York Genealogical & Biographical Society, 122 East 58th Street, New York, NY 10022-1939.

NEW YORK, September 6, 2006 -- It’s a classic case of truthiness. For years, we’ve chosen to believe an oft-told myth about Ellis Island when the truth was readily available. But on September 15th, that will change.

13-year-old Annie Moore was the first immigrant to enter our country via Ellis Island. She tripped down the gangplank on January 1, 1892 along with a pair of younger brothers, and was greeted with much fanfare. Officials welcomed her arrival and presented her with a $10 gold coin in commemoration of the special event.

Her statue stands both at Ellis Island and the Cobh Heritage Centre, the Irish emigration counterpart in Co. Cork. Everything from Irish-American cultural awards to pubs has been named after her, but she remained a mystery until the 1990s when Ellis Island was refurbished and opened to the public. Then we learned what happened to Annie after Ellis Island -- how she ventured to New Mexico, married a descendant of an Irish patriot, had a handful of children, was widowed, became a businesswoman, and died in an accident.

It was a terrific go-West-young-woman tale tinged with tragedy. Just one problem. It was wrong.

40 percent of all Americans have at least one ancestor who entered the country via Ellis Island, and in the midst of our current immigration debate, politicians allude to their Ellis Island roots on a daily basis. It’s part of the fabric of American history and who we are as a people – and yet, we’ve got the wrong Annie.

That irked genealogist Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak (her real name) when she accidentally discovered that the much-touted Annie was actually born in Illinois. Determined to learn the truth, she launched an online contest with a $1,000 prize for the first proof of what became of the right Annie. It took only six weeks and an eager gang of amateur, history-mystery detectives to uncover the real story.

The true story will be shared by Smolenyak, Brian G. Andersson (Commissioner, NYC Department of Records), and family members of the real Ellis Island Annie at 3:00 p.m. on September 15, 2006 at The New York Genealogical & Biographical Society.

Merry Brickley


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Let's Make Our Voices Heard!

I blogged about this earlier, but now it's even more critical. Please take one minute to add your name to the petition below -- by this Friday -- if you don't want your National Archives access severely curtailed. And please ask all your genealogical buddies to sign as well. So far, there are fewer than 7,000 signatures. We can do better than that!

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is proposing a reduction in the hours it is open to the public, especially weekend and weeknight hours. This will be a major hardship on genealogists and others who rely on access to our nation's archives. The proposed reduction in hours effectively reduces access time by two days each week, a hardship for researchers who rely on "after work" hours for research, and additional expenses for visitors researching in the DC area who would need to extend their stays.

At the FGS genealogy conference in Boston last week, the following proposal was presented to Dr. Allen Weinstein, Archivist of the United States and head of NARA. We encourage you to sign the petition online before September 8, write to NARA directly, and contact your representative. Please go to: (case sensitive). Additional contact options are listed after the text of the petition.

Dear Conference Attendee:
We were honored to have Dr. Allen Weinstein, Archivist of the United States attend the FGS/NEHGS 2006 Conference in Boston and to address us in the Opening Session on Thursday, August 31, 2006. Following his remarks, he was presented with a letter by the Chair of the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC) addressing concerns about the proposed changes in the hours of operation for the Research Rooms at the National Archives.

It has come to our attention that very few of our constituencies are making their voices heard on this issue. This lack of response sends a loud signal to the Archives that this is not a serious issue and that closing the Archives on evenings and Saturdays is irrelevant. The RPAC has recommended the following suggestions for the Archives to consider:

1) To accommodate the needs of those who need access on Saturdays, we propose that you close one other day per week. This would be at your discretion. Other archives often close Sunday and Monday.

2) Users who need evening hour access could be accommodated by opening the archives later in the day, again at your discretion.

If you agree with the recommendations stated above, we are asking your support by immediately going on-line and adding your "signature" to our petition to substitute the hours of access and still help the archives to meet their need to consolidate their hours of operation. Before 8 September 2006, please go to: (case sensitive).

If you would like to send your own personal letter, send it prior to 8 September 2006. Address it to:

Regulations Comments Desk (NPOL)
Room 4100, Policy and Planning Staff
National Archives and Records Administration
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD 20740-6001

More information and contacts:
E-mail your representative in Congress through the "Write your Representative" webpage at

For comments sent by postal mail, NPOL will accept any comments on the rule postmarked by September 8. As long as the postmark is before or on September 8, NPOL will consider the comments.

Hand-carried delivery to the address in the interim final rule: Before 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time on Sept. 8.

Other methods of submission:
Via and fax: Comments should be sent before 5:00 Eastern Time on Sept. 8. The system might be able to accept comments until midnight Eastern Time (i.e., 11:59 p.m. or earlier), but earlier is better to avoid a comment being missed because of time calculations.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Goodwill Hunting

Many of us know of eBay as a source for family treasures -- vintage photos and the like -- but not so many know about another source: Goodwill. Yes, the same folks you donate all your old clothes and beat up furniture to.

There's not as much to search here, but the upside is that the bidding is less intense. So happy hunting!

P.S. Thanks to Cindy Furman for this tip!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Got a Book in You?

Well, this seems appropriate to share since I just spoke on writing in the genealogical world up at FGS in Boston. I received the following from John Logan (thanks, John!). Those of you who are hankering to write a book involving CT, MA, NJ and PA have an interesting opportunity here . . .

The History Press is searching for archivists, librarians, museum curators, and historical societies who are interested in publishing books about towns and regions in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

History Press books focus on a particular town or region. We have developed a variety of series that 1) provide authors with guidance on how to present their work and 2) attract readers and encourage sales. We also accept books for publication on history subjects not captured by the series we have established.

Examples of the types of books we publish include the following: brief or comprehensive histories of towns, the history of significant buildings and sites, natural history, oral history, historical walking and driving tours, collections of essays on historical events and people, folklore, crime history, architectural history, Native American history and the historical role of a town industry. I invite you to visit our website at, where you will find our catalogue and information about publishing with The History Press.

The History Press is a traditional trade publisher, meaning that we handle all stages of publishing including financing, sales, marketing, and distribution and compensate in the form of royalties. We are not a vanity press. For more information and to view our catalogue, see or e-mail Commissioning Editor, Maureen Benes.

Maureen Benes
Commissioning Editor
The History Press
PO Box 7111
Gloucester, MA 01930