Thursday, February 26, 2015

I Have Only Seen Photos of Her When She Was Much Older

In addition to helping me break through many of my research brick walls, my Ancestry.com DNA testing has reconnected my family with not so distant cousins. This past week my Uncle's DNA results lead me to a match with a second cousin twice removed. 

That removed business confuses people. All it means is a generation apart. This cousin would be my grandma's second cousin, my dad's second cousin once removed, and my second cousin twice removed. Get it? No? Well, moving on...

This cousin had a photo of my paternal grandmother's paternal grandmother. My great-great grandmother, Annette Hinch-Henry. 


Annette Hinch-Henry circa 1889
I have only seen photos of her when she was much older.

I say this often. It is important to spread out and not just go back in time. Research more than just your direct ancestors. Research their siblings and in-laws. Sometimes those are the people who inherited the good stuff. 



Friday, February 20, 2015

Genealogy Roadshow Review - Philadelphia Historical Society (S2E6)

 I have been watching this program every week online. And sadly, I'm just not that into it. The genealogist presented six very compelling family stories but I'm just not into it. I appreciate that these are family history stories of everyday people and not celebrities but there is something about it that just doesn't captivate me.

The only story that struck me this week was that of the first guest. Genealogist, Joshua Taylor, revealed to a woman the full story of how her grandparents helped others escape the Holocaust.When in her early 20s, the guest's grandmother offered to buy her a car using money she inherited from a Jewish family. That family were cousins of the guest's grandfather. Using ship manifests and naturalization papers Joshua was able to show the guest photos of relatives; a brother and sister who escaped Austria at the beginning of WWII. She also learned the fate of their sister.

We don't know why the older sister didn't leave Austria but on the night of October 5, 1942, 549 Jews were removed from Vienna to an extermination camp outside of Minsk. The trip trip took 4 days and upon arrival the passengers were executed, including the older sister.

So very sad. It moved the guest and me to tears.

But it did show that European Jewish ancestors can be researched. I've had several friends of Jewish heritage sort of shrug off the idea of being able to research their family history. Yes, thousands of Jews were annihilated in the Holocaust and many European records were destroyed during the war but many records still exist and research can provide you an even more meaningful bond with those who survived the war as well as those who lost their lives.

You can view this episode online at http://video.pbs.org/video/2365424297/

But in all honesty, I am looking forward more to seeing the new season of Who Do You Think You Are? which airs Sunday, March 8, 2015 on TLC. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Genealogy Roadshow Review - St. Louis, Union Station (S2E5)

This episode aired on February 10, 2015 on PBS. You can watch it online up until March 11, 2015 at http://video.pbs.org/video/2365406940/

While at St. Louis’ historic Union Station, this program's team of genealogists revealed many family histories including one to a pair of sisters who believed they had a link to a survivor of the infamous Donner Party, a man descended from a saint, an Italian-American woman seeking the validity of the royal family crest, a musician looking to determine if her great-grandfather was a famous jazz composer, a son and his elderly mother who never knew her own mother hoping to regain that half of her family tree, and a woman whose mother was adopted and wanted to know more about her biological ancestry. 

One of the two things that really stood out to me was the use of DNA testing in this episode. In the first reveal DNA was used to substantiate the family lore that the sisters were descendents from members of the Donner Party. In the second reveal DNA was used again but this time to dispel the belief that the race of the guest's great-grandfather was a big family secret. Both examples underscore that fact that DNA is useful genealogy research tool to both confirm and refute assumptions and family lore. It is not a substitute for documentation but when documentation just does not exist it is a very powerful form of evidence.

The story that stood out the most to me was the last one in which Joshua Taylor revealed to a woman the history of her biological family. It began with the guest explaining that family means so much to her but other than her mother and her daughter she knew no other biological relatives because her biological mother was adopted. 

In my mind, that statement alone sparks an incredibly powerful question of how one defines "family" and if DNA really is a factor at all. I feel that family are the ones that you surround yourself with but as you stretch back in history to individuals you did not personally know, is DNA the defining factor? It's a question I need to work through a bit more on my own before writing about it I guess. Anyway...

Josh uncovered for the guest incredibly examples of information resources for this woman whose ancestors' lives were ravaged by early deaths, abandonment, mental illness, and divorce. Through the use of adoption records, Josh was able to track down a marriage record for the guest's biological maternal grandparents. That document revealed the maiden name of the biological maternal grandmother. This in turn made it possible to research that family in the U.S. Federal Census records.

Census records can reveal quite a bit about the make up of a "family" as I defined it earlier; the people one surrounds himself or herself with. A census record shows who is living together and the relationships among the residents as well as their occupations, ethnicities, races, genders, and ages which can to some degree let a researcher make assumptions about the interactions among the "family" members.

In the case of this biological maternal grandmother, the 1940 census reveals that she too was an orphan and raised in an orphanage. Josh then shares film footage from 1940 of the very same orphanage. To think that the guest could have been seeing the face of her very own biological grandmother in that footage was riveting. Of course the woman's biological grandmother was not identified by name in the video but those children and nuns would have been her grandmother's playmates and caretakers. 

Just the string of resources that were used in this reveal were so overwhelming.For that alone, I recommend you watch this episode.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Genealogy Roadshow: New Orleans - Board of Trade (S2E4)

So Genealogy Roadshow is back in NOLA (New Orleans, LA) for this episode. Hmm, I guess they didn't want to do too much traveling around on this season of Roadshow because there are so many other cities out there to visit; they have already been to New Orleans this season. Anyway...


In this episode, the team of genealogists revealed:
  1. A reestablished family history to a man who lost his family records during Hurricane Katrina
  2. A mufti-racial family with a common slave ancestor
  3. A man with link to the famous New Orleans residents Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau and jazz clarinetist Barney Bigard
  4. A woman seeking to determine if her grandfather really did have a sister who died as a child
  5. Another woman curious about her great-grandfather's adoption from Honduras
  6. And a woman who had ancestors on both sides of the Civil War.

The two stories that stood out the most to me were that of the family history lost in Hurricane Katrina and the woman with a grandfather that had a vague recollection a sister.

Although I do not think of my community as "coastal" it is. I live on Long Island which although it's considered suburban, let's face it, it is urban. I feel like I live in a city. BUT it is an island. It is surrounded by the sea. So it is coastal, April.

Being coastal means that Hurricanes hit and in recent years Long Island has been hit hard by several hurricanes. In October 2012 we suffered a great blow from Hurricane Sandy which is often called Superstorm Sandy but let us not forget that just the year before in August 2011 Hurricane Irene ripped through my area as well.

In these impactful storms, many people lose everything they own; irreplaceable things. And although it is true that you can't get back everything you can rebuild. You can even rebuilt your family tree. This episodes shows how sometimes - **sometimes** - you can find books, documents and photos from and about your family in a library or archives. Cousin Mary over at Threading Needles in a Haystack wrote a great review of this episode in which she talks about how she found a family photo though an archive.

The other story about a woman who's great-grandfather had vague memories of a sister he might have had a sister who died when she was a child was very touching. I thought it also showed how sometimes, I would say more often than not, fragile memories and hard-to-believe family lore are true.

The woman told of how her great-grandfather would often stare off into space and when asked, would say he thought he might have had a sister named "Alice" who died when she was little. Sure enough, this man who wound up in an orphanage after the death of his parents and abandonment by his step-mother, did indeed have a sister. Mary Tedesco presented this woman with the death certificate for an unnamed female infant that dies shortly before this man's biological mother died.

Often death certificate state the place of burial and so I pray that the genealogist encouraged this woman to see if the cemeteries held more information - perhaps the baby sister's name would be listed there, maybe there is even a family plot with a headstone. Even if there is not, it was evident that this reveal meant an awful lot to this woman, to know that her great-grandfather's memories were real.

You can view this episode online at PBS until March 4, 2015: http://video.pbs.org/video/2365408988/

Monday, February 2, 2015

Family History Object Number 1: My Claddagh Ring

The claddagh ring is probably one of the most well know symbols of Irish heritage. 

This is my Claddagh ring. It was given to me as a Christmas gift when I was about 13. I cannot remember the exact year but I got it from my mom. She said I was old enough then to own a real piece of jewelry.

The ring represent love, loyalty, and friendship. Love is represented by the heart, loyalty by the crown, and friendship by the two hands coming together.

My ring happens to be tricolor which I do not often see on other Claddagh wearers. The hands and the band itself are gold, the heart is rose gold and the crown is silver in color. I don't know if the crown is white gold or silver but the band is marked "10K 6" and thus I'm pretty certain it is all 10 karat gold because I know the 6 represents the ring size. I have little fingers; this is big on me.

The way one wears their Claddagh ring also has its own meaning. If someone is single then the ring should be worn on the right hand with the point of the heart toward the fingertips. If someone is in relationship the ring will be place on the right hand with the heart pointing to the wrist. If one is engaged then the ring should be worn on the left hand with the heart pointing to the fingertips. If it is worn on the left hand with the heart pointing towards the wrist then it means the person is married.

I don't prescribe to those wearing rules. I wear mine on my left hand simply because I cannot stand jewelry in my right hand. It bothers me when I write and yes, I still write with a pen or pencil. It's not all typing you know.

I wear it on my middle finger, though. As cynical as I am about marriage, I still believe the left ring finger should be reserved for wedding and engagement rings. And because I am not currently in a committed relationship, I do wear the heart pointed outward towards my fingertip. Tradition is the one who makes the commitment to you should turn your ring around; if not actually give you the ring.

My DNA ethnic profile shows that I am 44% Irish. I have Irish ancestry on both my mother's and father's side of my family. Family lore on my mother's side, though, is that I am descended from the man who invented the Claddagh ring, however, there is more than one person given that credit and I have not been able to trace myself family back to either of them. 

One of the men credited with the design was named Richard Joyce. I do have the Joyce name in my family tree but it is a very common Irish surname. Although, my Great Aunt Ann did say the Joyces were from Galway which would jive with the story of Richard Joyce. Claddagh is a town in Galway County, Ireland where Richard Joyce returned to after his enslavement.

Oh yeah, Richard Joyce was captured by pirates in 1675, according to multiple online sources. He was on his way to serve as an indentured servant when pirates capture the ship. He was then enslaved to a man in Tangier, Morocco which is where he learned to be a goldsmith. In 1689, King of England, William III, managed to get the enslaved people back to Ireland. Among them was Richard Joyce who took his skills back to Galway, settled in the town of Rahoon, not far from Claddagh, married, had kids, and might have invented this ring design. He undoubtedly made rings of this design. Researchers just aren't sure if he invented it.

Like I may never know for sure if I am descended from him but I have Irish Joyce ancestry all the same and so it speaks to me just fine.

Friday, January 30, 2015

My Family History In A-Yet-To-Be-Determined-Number of Objects: Introduction

I am working on a second masters degree in public history. When told this almost everyone asks, "What is public history?" I tell them that it is like museum studies. If they nod knowingly I clarify further by stating, "It is how the public engages with history." Usually then they glaze over and if they hadn't already, they ask me what I do for a living or they move on to someone else, typically someone taller.

If they pursue a line of inquiry into the type of classes I take: "Ooo, what are you taking this semester?" Currently I tell them,"The History of Material Culture." And then they most definitely move on to someone else, definitely someone taller.

But since I have you here and you can move on of your own freewill, and I don't have to know about it, let me tell you what material culture is. In the simplest of terms it is the study of artifacts and what objects tell us about a people and their culture.

We have what hopes to be one of the coolest class projects in this course. The class is going to define the history of the University in a specific number of objects. We don't know what that specific number is yet - - maybe each student will research one object, maybe more. The assignment, however, is based on the book The History of New York City in 101 Objects by Sam Roberts.

This project has gotten me to thinking about how I might define my family history, or even just myself, in a objects. Like what would it be like to have a museum exhibit on me. How utterly insufferable that would be. This pondering also has me thinking up synonyms for self-absorbed: egotistical, narcissistic, conceited, pompous, megalomaniac...

Eh but who knows, maybe someday you'll want to do an exhibit on me. You could call it: "April Lynne Earle and The Shit We Had to Clean Out of Her Room."

I've been thinking how would I define myself in objects. Like what are the quintessential objects that people associate with me? What are those things I would take with me were - God forbid - if my world were on fire? And also if in those objects one might be able to see my family history. Hmm.

Maybe you can help me figure out what these things are and what they say about me and/or my family. I think there is no better place to experiment with this idea then right here on my blog. So be prepared to see some upcoming posts about the stuff I own. And feel free to contribute to the list of things I should include.

Or the synonyms for self-centered.
Egocentric
Prideful
Vain
Smug

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Genealogy Roadshow: Philadelphia - Franklin Institute (S2E3)

This episode of Genealogy Roadshow aired on January 26, 2015 on PBS. You can view it online at PBS.org: http://video.pbs.org/video/2365405513/

It took place at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA. If you ever have the opportunity to visit this wonderful science museum, you should. It holds a dear place in my heart because as a child I had the opportunity to sleep there... Yes, sleep there ...with my Girl Scout troop. Yes, we spent a night in that museum, assigned to sleep in, of all places, the clock room. Tick tick tick tick tick - - all night. Not much sleep was had that night. But I digress...

In this episode the team of genealogists revealed many fascinating family histories including uncovering the validity of one mans claim to Viking ancestry;  the events that drove another man's family out of South Carolina and into The City of Brotherly Love (Philadelphia), events which also impacted change in the history of race relations in the U.S.; the facts about a Portuguese great-grandfather's romanticized journey to the U.S. as a stowaway; and another family's connection to a big financial scam.

The story which spoke most strongly to me though was one that genealogist, Mary Tedesco, revealed regarding Loyalist ancestry. 

If you read my blog you know that I recently became a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). Membership requires documenting one's lineage back to a patriot; an individual (not always a man but most often one) who fought or supported the efforts of the colonists to win the American Revolution.

Yes, I have Patriot blood in my veins. But if you know me, you know I have long standing roots in Long Island, NY. Roots that date back to the 1640s. And during the American Revolution, New York was a Loyalist stronghold; a location where most residents were loyal to the British Crown, the King of England. I have Loyalist ancestors as well as Patriot ancestors. In theory I had ancestors on my father's side shooting at ancestors on my mother's side. Makes sense.

The word "Loyalist" has entered my daily vernacular though as I currently have a friend rehearsing for a role in the musical 1776 in which he plays one of the most noteworthy Loyalist founding father; John Dickinson, of Pennsylvania. Yes, there were representatives at the Continental Congress who wanted to remain loyal to England.

Additionally, last week there was a 3 part mini-series that aired on the History Channel called the Sons of Liberty which portrayed the events of the American Revolution specific to Boston and Patriots such as Samuel Adams, John Hancock, John Adams, Paul Revere, and George Washington; but marching around in that program were a lot of Loyalists.

So Loyalists and the American Revolution have been swimming around my head a lot lately.

In this family history reveal by Mary Tedesco, she presents a great deal of documentation solidifying the family lore of Loyalist ancestors absconding to Canada.Canada was indeed the land of refuge after the Revolution for those colonists who chose to stay loyal to the English. Not only did the colonists not want them around anymore, they didn't want to be around. So many went off to Canada.

The documents Mary shared revealed that the guest's ancestor was not only a Loyalist but really subversive in his efforts to keep the colonies British. He joined a colonial regiment of the army only to desert, he was found guilty of passing counterfeit currency in an effort to financially bankrupt the colonies, and ultimately he defected to a British regiment lead by the most notorious defector, Benedict Arnold.

You may know the name Benedict Arnold to be the most infamous traitor in U.S. History. Arnold started out as a General for the Americans' Continental Army, though. He actually fought at the Battle of Saratoga where my patriot ancestor also fought. 

Arnold was a very successful General for the colonists. We won the Battle of Saratoga; it was the turning point in the American Revolution. But after being passed over for promotion by the Continental Congress and having other officers claim credit for his accomplishments, Arnold became very bitter and decided to change sides. He began secret negotiations with the British to surrender the New York fort, West Point, to them. His plans were foiled and he narrowly avoiding capture. He lived out the remainder of his days in England labeled a traitor to America.

Having ancestry that was loyal to England during this time in American history is not uncommon. Many colonists consider themselves to be English, although the English did not consider them to be English citizens - they were merely colonists. If you wind up having Loyalist ancestors it is certainly not anything to be ashamed of, however, you probably wouldn't want it to be that Arnold guy.