Monday, September 23, 2013

Hmmmmm! Did Genealogy Roadshow intentionally create the atmosphere of a local genealogical society meeting?

Last night PBS proved what I have always said. Most of the time there is some truth in family folklore. Even with the rumors that were not proved on Genealogy Roadshow, there may still be something there. Don't disregard the stories just because they don't fit right now. Maybe Davy Crockett was confused with Daniel Boone or Simon Kenton. There still might be a connection somewhere. Maybe one of these guys just lived in the next cabin over. Or maybe they all traveled together. Who knows?

The one thing I do like about the show is that they make it very clear that the research is being done by professional genealogists. However, I do hope they slow the pace in the next 3 episodes. There were places where if you blinked, you missed the segment. It will be interesting to see if people who are new to genealogy are able to follow the research. I know I had a few hiccups and I have been doing this for well over 50 years.

Aside from the value of folklore, this episode did showcase the many pieces of information that can be found through genealogical research. I just wish they would have spent a little more time explaining how history and pop culture  guided their research. But that will come with time, I am sure.

I believe Genealogy Roadshow is going to be a very entertaining show that will give viewers an overall view of the results of family research. It is not a lecture on basic genealogy. It is designed to show viewers how much fun genealogy can be. And, how genealogists interact with each other.

Maybe this was an unintended consequence, but by having a "studio audience" the show created the atmosphere of a local genealogical society meeting. There were people there who were interested in the success of others. They learned about methods they might be able to incorporate into their own research. And in some cases they found family members within the group. 
Hats off to Kenyatta Berry and Josh Taylor for reaching out and finding a new way to get people interested in their ancestors.


Genealogy Roadshow

A new genealogy show based on the concept that everyone has a place in history  airs tonight on PBS. Genealogy Roadshow will run on Mondays from September 23 - October 14.  No more celebrities; just ordinary people!

Nashville, Austin, Detroit, and San Francisco will be the settings for the research. Family folklore (we all have it) will be the basis for the research. Genealogy, DNA, and history will be the tools that are used to prove or disprove the rumors. 

I think this is going to be a fun show with lots of surprises. Tonight 2 participants in Nashville find out if they are really related to Davy Crockett. 

Don't miss it. The first episode airs tonight at 9pm on your local PBS station.

The Right Place at the Right Time

Sometimes we see our ancestors in ourselves. It could be as simple as a photograph or drawing where we recognize the family resemblance. Or as vague as a characteristic that has been passed down through the generations. When you look at Chris O'Donnell's family tree you get a strong sense of family loyalty. History repeated itself in his family, but in a good way. 

This episode of WDYTYA was, in my opinion, one of the best. Real people in the right place at the right time to witness history in the making. Nothing fancy. Nothing giving anyone a place in line to the British throne or a ride to the New World on the Mayflower. Just someone who had a small role in American history. And a lot of our ancestors have been there. In their own way.

Go back and look at a map of America in the early 1800's. There were not that many people and America wasn't very big. It wasn't that difficult to witness what most of us now take for granted. My 4X great grandfather was there when the British surrendered at Yorktown. He had just lost his ship and everything he owned was sitting at the bottom of the York River thanks to the British. I really don't think that he was concerned about being a part of history at that moment. Personally I think he was more interested in revenge. And he got it because he just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

This is what makes Chris O'Donnell's family research so interesting.  Most of us can relate to him and his ancestors. He has an ordinary family and they did ordinary things. Not that difficult to research. We are not going back across the Pond. At least not right now. Maybe someday.

Census records, military records, city directories were used to research Chris' family. These are easy to understand and readily available to beginning genealogists both online and in libraries and repositories across the country. Combine this with a basic knowledge of history and we can understand what motivated the decisions that his ancestors made. This is basic genealogy with a kicker.

Most of us are going to find that we have ancestors who were affected by the cholera epidemics that occurred in the 1800's. Sanitation and location seem to determine how much your ancestors' lives were affected by this horrible disease. Cholera originated in Asia and spread westward through Europe. Eventually it was taken to America by immigrants. You can easily follow the path of this disease on a map. Once it entered the country, since it spread from person to person, it followed the migration paths of the westward movement.

Another problem with the cholera epidemics was slums. Many immigrants began their American dream in slums where living conditions were crowded and water was contaminated. They could see the epidemic coming, but could do little to avoid it. Fleeing only added to the problem since it merely spread the disease to other areas. Lower classes suffered the most. More affluent citizens were not hit as hard due to better living conditions.

As you can see cholera is a very good example of how events affected our ancestors' lives. It was reason for people leaving an area or in Chris' ancestor's case - a reason to return home. 

In researching the military records of Chris O'Donnell's family, the genealogists used a source called Fold3. I received a complimentary membership to this website at the FGS Conference in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Of course I immediately started searching for my ancestors with amazing results. I don't recommend that because at some point you are going to have to take a break and visit the Training Center where you will learn how to get the best results from the website. You might as well go there first. (Look on the home page for a little picture of Uncle Sam pointing at you. That is where you will find directions to the tutorials and videos that will enhance your research.)

If you are wondering where the name Fold3 originated, it refers to the traditional flag folding ceremony. If you have ever been to a funeral with military honors, you will have witnessed this event. The flag is folded 13 times until it forms the shape of a three-cornered hat and then handed to the next of kin. The third fold is made to honor and remember the veteran. 

For more information about the 415,689,063 records available at Fold3 go to: 

In today's world with 24/7 cable news coverage we often ask each other, "Do you remember where you were when . . . . . . happened?" I wonder if our ancestors did that. Probably not! It was probably more like, "Grandpa, tell us the story about getting even with the British after they sank your ship."

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Coincidence? I think not!

I thoroughly enjoyed the Zoey Deschanel episode of Who Do You Think You Are. The reason: I learned a few things. I know a lot of genealogists complain about the fact that the research is "harder than it looks in the rear view mirror" and that fact should probably be dealt with. Personally I know most people would tune out if they had to watch the hundreds of hours of research it takes to create this show. Make that thousands of hours. Like watching the grass grow. It would be boring and the idea is to introduce viewers to the wonderful world of family research.

The idea is to show people how much fun it can be to find your 4X great grandparents without scaring them. And if someone does not realize that the research is more difficult than the producers  make it look on the series, we all know they will figure it out soon enough. Just like the rest of us. (Remember, we were all wide-eyed novice family researchers at one time.) But hopefully by then they will have caught the bug and there is no turning back.

So, getting back to Zooey. (By the way, I had a Corgi named Zoe. Love the breed, love the name. Must be the Welsh in me.) Zooey has one of those family members that can be Googled with amazing results.  I have a couple of those. It's great! Really speeds up the process! Sarah Pownall was also a women who left records. Whoo Hooo
Seems like her 4X great grandmother, Sarah Pownall, had a front row seat for the Abolitionist Movement. She watched the Christiana Resistance from her home and was actively involved in what happened. This is no big secret. That fact made Zooey's family easier to find. Note: I did not say easy.

So what did I learn? Pennsylvania and Ohio contained some of the main tracks on the Underground Railroad. I personally have always associated the Ohio River with the Underground Railroad. My ancestors lived in Clermont, Brown, and Hamilton Counties in Ohio so when I think of the "muddy road to freedom" I naturally think Ohio/Kentucky, but never Pennsylvania/Maryland/Virginia. Until now. Interesting.

Also, I never took a good look at the Fugitive Slave Act of 1851 I assumed, incorrectly, that it was in favor of the people aiding the  slaves. I knew being an abolitionist was a dangerous job, not only for the people directly involved but also their families. But I just never thought it was illegal and punishable by a fine and jail time. Holy cow! And then I found out that the bounty hunters were legal and also got away with kidnapping legally free slaves. I can see where this more than likely fueled the abolitionists. 

But what really caught my attention -- The Abolitionist Movement led to the Suffragettes. One more Holy cow!! How could it not have? Women passionate about freeing the slaves soon realized that those inalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence did not apply to them either.

Whether you use this information as a clue to finding sources for researching female ancestors or just for your own information, it is no less fascinating. Now fast forward 100 year and what do you have? The Civil Rights movement followed by the Feminists. Coincidence? I think not.  

Note: Even if they glazed over the research involved in this series and made it look easy we need to understand that the series is not just geared towards the novice genealogist. I am sure they want to provide a few programs that are informational to the advanced and intermediate researcher. Much the same as the conferences we all attend.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

What I learned in Fort Wayne last month!

Whew! The past few weeks have been fun and busy. Getting ready for, attending, and coming back home from the FGS Conference took up the major part of August. I, myself, have wonderful experiences from the conference. One of my goals, in addition to learning some "new stuff" for my own research, I also wanted to see what others learned from the conference. So. . . . . .

Social media is playing a major role in connecting families. Whether it is Facebook, forums on Ancestry, Family Search trees, or blogs -- people are connecting to share family research information. Of course you have to evaluate the information. Just remember everything is a clue. Never disregard anything you are told. There is always a certain percentage of truth in family folklore.

Vera Bradley bags at the Allen County Library are usually "to die for".  I guess that means we should ditch those old bags from former conferences and only use Vera Bradley for research in Fort Wayne. Thank goodness I chose Vera Bradley for my iPone. 

Researching in courthouses still means you need to dress like a lawyer and never let on that the person you are looking for is your 4 times great grandfather. I thought those days were over. I really thought we had gained a little bit of respect. 

Biggest regret: Not printing out adhesive name/address/phone number labels to attach to door prize tickets. 

Most surprising (that a few people even knew about): Did you know there are Library Cart Drill Teams? That could give you a little bit of clout in the stacks!! Seriously. Google it. Fun!