Saturday, April 18, 2015

Some Genealogical Mysteries

Back in March I started a new job. Once a month for half a day I am the genealogy librarian at a public library. I have four 1 hour one-on-one sessions with library patrons who sign up in advance.

So far it has been a wonderful experience really but I think some of these genealogy television programs have given people the impression that a genealogist clicks a few buttons and all your family mysteries can be solved lickety-split. Au contraire mon frère! That is not the case, my brother.

If you are just starting your genealogy research, I can show you tons of things; websites, resources. I can give you pointers on how to read census records, or ship manifests. And I might quickly be able to find your relatives in those kinds of records BUT those shows you see, Genealogy Roadshow, Finding Your Roots, Who Do You Think You Are?, they have lots of lead time and many genealogists at work behind the scenes. Me? I'm just me; learning about your family for the first time.

If you have done in depth research on your own and you can't unpuzzle the mysteries then I probably can't either in a one hour session.

And sadly, some genealogical mysteries will forever remain unsolved.

Say it ain't so, April!
No, it's true!

Records do not extend back to the beginning of man. In fact, most people would be lucky to get through the 1800s. We just weren't that big on record keeping until the mid 1800s. And not all records remain intact. Unbelieveable, I know, but shit disappears. Where are my tax returns from last year...hmm. But I digress.

Some genealogical mysteries are just part of they mysteries of life.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Finally a Match!

For those of you who regularly read this blog you may know of Cousin Mary over at Threading Needles in a Haystack. She and I are 6th cousins once removed. My father and Cousin Mary have the same 5th great-grandparents; Jacob Raynor and Rebecca Raynor-Raynor. Jacob is a solid brickwall and although I grumble about him frequently, pretty convinced he was an alien dropped here from a far-off solar system, he is how Mary and I met. We connected through a shared record on Ancestry.com probably 10 years ago now.

When I initially took my AncestryDNA test, a year or two ago, it said it could match with relatively good confidence genetic matches up to 6th cousins. I had hoped Mary and I would match, but we did not. That is not to say that we are not related. Oh we are but due to the recombinant nature of DNA she and I do not share the same sequence of DNA proteins from Jacob or Rebecca.

Since I took my test I have had several of my close relatives also take the test. It helps to both widen and deepen the pool from which to discover connections. So far, my dad, my sister, half-sister, two uncles, and two second cousins have taken the AncestryDNA test. Today the results came in for my Uncle Thomas and for the first time the results show that Cousin Mary and Uncle Thomas have a DNA match!

YAY!!!

Now really all that does is scientifically confirm what Cousin Mary and I already knew. We're cousins! But oh, it's exciting to see one's research confirmed.

YAY!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Who Do You Think You Are?: Groban, Harmon, and Hayes

Although I have not had the time to write my review for these last three episodes of WDYTYA? until now, I have been watching them as soon as they aired on Sunday nights at 10 p.m. on TLC; March 15, March 22, and March 29, 2015 respectively.  I hate cramming 3 reviews into one post but to do so means the highlights really rise to the surface.

JOSH GROBAN
Episode 2 of this season, Season 6, featured the family history of musician Josh Groban. (God, my mother loves him.) With the help of several genealogists, Josh tracked down his German ancestry. He learns that his 8th great-grandfather, Johann Zimmermann, was not only a religious leader, but also a music teacher & astronomer. In fact, he was such a well known astronomer in his time that Issac Newton referred to him in his own writings. Impressive!

But Josh's ancestor's astronomical sighting of Haley's Comet in 1682 lead him to predict cataclysmic doom which put him at odds with the church and thus forced him to head to the New World. Sadly, he never reached these new shores because he dies at sea. Sort of an anticlimactic ending for him.

What I loved most about this episode was Josh's reaction to learning of his ancestor's musical ability. I find that people love to credit their talents to genetics but the more and more I research family histories, the more inclined I am to believe that environment dictates talent so much more than genetics.

ANGIE HARMON
On her journey, actress Angie Harmon uncovered the life story of her 5th great grandfather, Michael Harman, who came America as indentured servant in the 1770s and went on to fight in the American Revolution. That means that, like myself, Angie could join the Daughters of the American Revolution. I hope that she does because Angie was so enamored by this man. In fact, she was so in love with him that it felt that some significant part of his story was left out. I mean I am sure tons get edited out of these episodes, and I do understand what it is like to deeply connect with an ancestor, but she was just SO in love with Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Grandpa Michael Harman, it seemed a little - - much. That being said though, it kind of was my favorite aspect of this episode. You really can build significant bonds with your ancestors even though you have never met them, never will, probably will never even get to see a picture of them. It's a magical thing this genealogy research; the way it connects you to history and people.

SEAN HAYES
Episode 4 featured one of my favorite actors, Sean Hayes. He played Jack on Will and Grace, the ever flamboyant gay neighbor. Sean's research lead him through a history of estrangement between his forefathers and their sons. Well, technically, those sons were also Sean's forefathers, hmm, but again, I digress. This is a type of family story is one that I am quite familiar with researching.
Estranged from his own father, Sean traveled to Chicago to learn the sad details of his paternal grandfather’s life. Not only did his grandfather die very young, at the age of 40, he also suffered an obvious decline into poverty. He didn't "die in the gutter" though, as Sean had been told but he was living in a flop house and died destitute.
Sean then follows the Hayes ancestral line back to Ireland, where court records show deep roots of estrangement and many relatives' brushes with the law. Through his research Sean comes to more deeply understanding his own broken relationship with his father. What I truly admire and appreciate is Sean's ability to not place blame.

Next week's episode features actor/director Tony Goldwyn. Tony is the grandson of media mogul Samuel Goldwyn which lends this episode to potential be quite dramatic.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Who Do You Think You Are?: Julie Chen

Quite honestly, I didn't know who Julie Chen was but it didn't matter to me. I was so excited for the start of a new season of Who Do You Think You Are? that it could have been about an inanimate object, I would have tuned in to see it. Not surprisingly, though, Julie Chen and her ancestry is a whole hell of a lot more interesting than say a rock.

Chen is an American television personality and has been the host of the reality show Big Brother since it debuted in July of 2000. Obviously, it is not a show I watch. She is also a host on The Talk and an anchor on The Early Show. Again, I obviously don't watch morning television.

A few aspects of her upbringing struck me as intriguing right away. One, she was born and raised in Bayside, Queens. I had friends that grew up there and are around her age. maybe they knew each other...

And she is of Chinese descent and I have distant cousins who are also of Chinese ancestry and I know next to nothing about Chinese genealogical research. So I was captivated by this episode.

Not knowing a language other than English has impeded my genealogy research in European and even Canadian records. Reading Chinese seems even more challenging to me than trying to read French or German or even Czech. And Chinese naming patterns are entirely foreign to me. Julie, even though she is able to speak Chinese and knew some written Chinese, had various translators with her throughout her journey through China.

Julie first visited the National Library of Singapore where she met with Jason Lim, a historian from the University of Wollongong. Julie had seen her grandfather's English language obituary but there was more detail revealed in the Chinese language newspaper. There it described her grandfather as  having an "improper" childhood without an explanation as to what about it was "improper." This description perplexed and stayed with Julie through most of the episode. I could relate to that feeling of having to unpuzzle that description.

It was later revealed that her great-grandfather was appointed by the Emperor to oversee the Imperial Examination of young scholars. That position ended when the Dynasty abolished the exam, forcing Julie's grandfather to enter the workforce at just  13 years old in order to help support the family.

She learn the grandfather she never knew but had thought had always been so privileged actually made his own way in this world. I liked that this episode that further research into the lives of our ancestor can correct our sometimes improper and inform our always incomplete vision of the lives our ancestors led.

It was worth the watch and you can check it out online at TLC.com: http://www.tlc.com/tv-shows/who-do-you-think-you-are/



Monday, March 9, 2015

Quoted

Did you catch Who Do You Think You Are? last night?

I plan to write a review of the episode sometime before the next episode airs on Sunday, March 15 on TLC; time permitting of course.

But I wanted to document last week's event on my blog...
 
A week ago today I received an email from a gentleman inquiring if I was indeed the April Earle quoted in this issue of Family Tree Magazine. Shock to me, I am the April Earle quoted in the publication. The issue talks about how to organize your family tree research and the author quotes this blog. I created a database to hemp me manage my genealogy documents a long time ago for a database design class I took. It's a simple Access database consisting of just three tables but what it has allowed me to do in terms of reducing my load of paper documentation is amazing. Sometimes technology really does help solve problems and make life easier....sometimes.

http://www.familytreemagazine.com/cmsassets/pdfs/family_tree_tips_23_secrets_organize_your_genealogy.pdf

That is me in paragraph 2 on page 7!

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.