Genealogy Roundup, January 28

I love you: Holocaust survivor salutes American soldier who saved him. – Love that they were able to meet again. Remarkable.

Elderly man finds son after discovering letter hidden by deceased wife for decades. – Imagine finding this letter!

Fatherland comics review – Family history in comic/graphic novel form. Looks interesting!

Stephen Colbert: One Last Report (It's Genealogical) | Irish America – Better late than never? I researched Stephen Colbert's roots back around 2006/2007, and am finally getting around to writing about it! Here's an article that's just coming out in the latest issue of Irish America Magazine (and BTW, if you're part Irish, you really should consider subscribing to this magazine - whether in print or for your tablet!).

Dartmouth Alumni Columnist, at 100 Years Old, Is Still Looking for New Stories – A really interesting read - inspiring, but realistic. Anyone who's done a family newsletter will relate.

Heirloom Homecomings: Rescuing other people’s heirlooms brings out the hero in family historians. – Delighted to have been interviewed by Sunny Jane Morton for an orphan heirlooms article in current issue of Family Tree Magazine - pages 8-9! P.S. Please considering subscribing. I get it on my ipad.

Genealogy Roundup, January 21

"Arranging Family:" First Solo Exhibit by Carlee Fernandez. Photographer and sculptor Carlee Fernandez uses the central theme of family - and how the past intersects with the present and gives hope for the future. – Love this baptismal cup!

On Meet the Press: Finding History in Everyday Places – Great video about Andrew Carroll and his book, "Here Is Where" about the hidden history all around us.

Husband finds wedding ring lost 64 years ago.

Genealogy Roundup, January 14

These 5 women are the last living people born in 1800s – OK, I haven't verified this, but I'm guessing it's at least mostly right and I found it really interesting to see them . . .

National Archives Sleepover Giveaway – Might have to borrow some kids to enter this contest!

Hmmm . . . could Josh Groban have been exploring his German roots for "Who Do You Think You Are?" Get acquainted with his family tree here.

Melissa Etheridge est Quebecoise? She's clearly loving every minute of her "Who Do You Think You Are?" experience in Quebec.

Professor finds long-lost home movies playing at NYC museum – Imagine strolling into a museum and seeing your home movies playing!

Historical Accuracy as Prison?

Bilge Ebiri opens his article, "Oscar Films and the Prison of Historical Accuracy," saying, "You know it’s Oscar season when the historical-accuracy hit squads show up." The genealogist in me bristles.

But read it all, I tell myself, and I do. And as I continue, I can't help but concede some of his points. After all, these are movies, not documentaries, and don't the director, producers, and screenwriters have the right to take some liberties in order to craft and deliver the best possible story?

As a genealogist, I'm borderline obsessed with the truth, but then, I'm a writer as well, and three of my books have been collections of stories, so I can appreciate the importance of storytelling. Frankly, good storytelling is all that makes history palatable to many.

I found myself being persuaded to his point of view until I got to the part where he wrote of The Imitation Game. This film about Alan Turing is on my to-see list and I was excited to learn more about this tragic genius - and still am. But it wasn't until reading Ebiri's article that I learned about the Poles who had begun cracking the Enigma code years earlier.

Ashamed of my own ignorance, I realized that this is my true gripe with liberties taken in historical films - for the vast majority of the people who watch, the movie will be the only version of events that they'll ever know. It will become their truth, their reality. 

I understand that I'm a relic, feebly shaking her fist at the sky, insisting that historical accuracy does indeed matter. But then I think of Annie Moore, the first immigrant to arrive at Ellis Island, and how her story had been hijacked and later corrected, and I realize that small victories are possible. And though I genuinely believe the truth is usually fascinating in its own right, it's next to useless if no one knows about it, so some compromise with movie embellishment is in order. 

I suspect that in the battle between story and accuracy, story will almost always win, but at least these slices of history will be out there, and the almost inevitable debates about the veracity of this or that aspect of this or that movie will themselves lead to greater understanding. So while I'll instinctively continue to at least clench my fist, I'll console myself with the historical awareness that films generate.

Even so, with all due respect to Alan Turing, I'd be very grateful if someone would make a film about Marian Rejewski.

Abandoned Home, Lost Photos, and Found Money

Ah, this one kills me. It's a happy story in a sense - honest urban explorer returns money to family. But the photos - the photos! They protect the identity of the family in the article, but I can see from the photos that they are Slavic, and given that the money was American and Canadian, I'm guessing the vicinity of Detroit. And as someone with Slavic cousins who were drawn to Detroit for the auto industry, back when it was the Silicon Valley of its time, I could all too easily see this happening to my own family. That said, the place is a time capsule, the family now knows (and has presumably taken at least the photos home), and there's the kindness of strangers aspect. So all in all, a happy tale, but still tugging at the heart, you know?

Here's MESSYNESSYchic, where I first read about this:

The Abandoned House of Money and the Honorable Urban Explorer

And here's FREAKTOGRAPHY, the person who explored and photographed the house (photos for sale, if you're interested):


Down Under: William & Nancy Ashley of Florida

The Genealogy Guys, George Morgan and Drew Smith, explore Oaklawn Cemetery in Tampa, Florida, and tell the story of William and Nancy Ashley, hinted at by their tombstone which describes them as "master and slave," but reveals more about the true nature of their relationship:

"Faithful to each other in that relationship in life, in death, they are not separated. Stranger consider and be wiser, in the Grave, all human distinction of race or caste mingle together in one common dust. To commemorate their fidelity to each other, this stone was erected by their Executor, John Jackson."

What makes this especially remarkable is that this tombstone was erected in the 1870s.

Waiting for Wine

© Scukrov | - Three Red Wine Bottles In Wood Case Photo

As I write this, I'm waiting for a case of wine. If not for a delivery hiccup, this would be a complete surprise, but I was forewarned by the sender this time so the second attempt would not go astray.

The reason for the wine? To thank me for research I did for a friend of one of my cousins. She contacted me last month hoping to track down some maternal cousins to surprise her mother at Christmas, and fortunately, I was able to assist.

Oddly, this is the second time I'm welcoming a case of wine (yes, a case) into my home for poking around in someone's family tree to solve a long-standing riddle, and that got me wondering about the gifts my fellow genealogists have received. I'm not talking about paying clients, and of course, most of us routinely get thank-you emails (I hope!) when we lend a helping hand, but what else has come your way? In addition to the simple satisfaction of using your research powers for good, what's the most unexpected "I appreciate your sleuthing" bonus you've ever received?

November 2014 Seton Shields Genealogy Grant

Alex Trapps-Chabala began, at age 15, to research his 5th Great Grandfather, Jordan B. Noble, a drummer in Andrew Jackson's militia who played an important role in the Battle of New Orleans. Alex will be attending commemorative events to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans. While there, he will be presenting information on the life of his ancestor, who gained fame throughout his life both for his music and his role in the history of New Orleans. The grant award will fund copies of records at the New Orleans Public Library to help further Alex's research.