Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Happy New Year's & a little bit of family history :)

Tomorrow might be a new year, but tomorrow is always another chance to start anew. 2013 was a wonderful year for me, but here's hoping 2014 is even better, for us all! Here's a little throwback to New Years' past...have a fun but safe time tonight everyone! Happy New Years!

From The Queens County Sentinel from Jan. 6, 1898, a short story about a New Year's party thrown by my great-great grandmother, Delia Dauch Berg. My 3rd great grandfather, Thomas Dauch, was the guest of honor, and my great-grandmother, Amelia Berg Raynor, (listed in the story as Mildred E. Berg - her nickname was Millie) was also there. She was 13 years old.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Baby's first Christmas

Just a few photos of my daughter's first Christmas. We bought her a stocking, took photos with Santa, put up her special "Baby's First Christmas" ornaments, sang Jingle Bells over and over again just to see her dance, traveled to New Jersey to spend Christmas Eve with her cousin and the hubby's side of the family, and traveled far away, well just upstairs, to spend Christmas day with my side of the family. The holidays can't help but be about family and as genealogists, we all know the importance of family. And everything we did with my daughter to celebrate - well, that's how family traditions get started and handed down from generation to generation.

It's still the Christmas season, so a only somewhat belated merry Christmas and happy holidays to all of you and all your loved ones, both living and dead! :)
Christmas Eve in New Jersey

Opening gifts Christmas morning
 And probably my most favorite photo of the day - visiting my grandmother, my daughter's great-grandmother, at the nursing home Christmas day. My grandmother is 98 years old and the original family historian in my family - love seeing her light up when my daughter comes to visit!

Visiting with Great-Grandma Raynor on Christmas, 2013.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sunday's Obituary: Hannah Gorry, June 4, 1930

From the Brooklyn Standard Union, June 4, 1930:

Hannah Gorry was the aunt of my great-grandfather, Elmer Gorry Sr. After Elmer's father and siblings all died, his mother continued to live and work in Manhattan and Elmer went to go live with his bachelor uncle, Michael, and his spinster aunts, Mamie and Hannah, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Hannah is a bit of an interesting character. She didn't want anyone to know how old she was, so anything we have of hers that used to have a date, the date has been scratched out. She's listed in several census records so we can approximate her age, but even there, she's a different age in every one - meaning, even though each census is 10 years apart, she does not age 10 years in subsequent records. She's listed as 9 years old in the 1870 census and there's a family legend that she was alive when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. As an adult, she worked as a seamstress, and she lived with her brother and sister her entire life.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Thursday: What I'm thankful for

Today, as with every Thanksgiving, whether we spend it surrounded by family or on our own, we remember whatever it is we're thankful for - our loved ones, a job, a home, our independence, the peace and quiet. This year I am especially thankful for my daughter, who is celebrating her first Thanksgiving - we already watched the Macy's parade together (as much as an 8 month old will sit still to watch a parade) and being the sap that I am (and because of my new parent lack of sleep), it made me cry, just a little bit. And as always, I'm thankful for my health and the health of my loved ones, a roof over my head and a home filled with love and laughter, and of course, family - whether it's family by blood or the family we choose, whether they're here with me in person or here with me in spirit. If you do genealogy, I don't think you can NOT be thankful for the gift of family - and we remember all of them today. And it's nice to know that even if you're alone on Thanksgiving, a genealogist knows that you're never really alone - our family is with us through the generations and through the years.

They don't bring dessert, but they also don't overstay their welcome ;)

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The dead person whisperer

That's how I feel. A lot. Not for nothing, but I think dead people (well, most of them anyway) want me to find them. And not just me, but all of us who do genealogy. Some people, like the Long Island Medium, can speak to or channel people who have (recently) passed but when it comes to grandparents or great-grandparents or fifth cousins twice removed, I am like a fricking Nancy Drew detective, Jennifer Love Hewitt ghost whisperer. I just get these hunches or gut feelings about documents or records I come across and I just know it's those spirits nudging me in the right direction. Unless you're Jacob Raynor or John Meinberg, in my particular family tree anyway. There are just some ancestors that didn't want to be found while they are alive, and now that they're dead, that's certainly not going to change. You know what I'm talking about. We all have them. And we hate them. And they're the ancestors that keep us going when we have nothing else to prod us along...

Anyway, I had a really great experience, obviously, with a recent client. She wanted some more information on her husband's father but she was also hoping to find some evidence about the identiy of her husband's father's parents. I looked for the more than 2 hours she hired me for. I couldn't help it. Once my curiosity is piqued, I can't turn it off...and those dead people know it! This guy, her father-in-law, was an elusive S.O.B. I found a few things to supplement her own research, but not the names of his parents, and decided to finally call it a night. I was in bed but I couldn't shut my brain off. Had I checked this database? What if I framed my search with different information? So I got up and kept looking. And you know what? I found a marriage certificate for this guy for an earlier marriage my client hadn't known about, and on the back of that document? The names of his parents.


I feel like this particular dead person didn't NOT want to be found...he was just testing my worthiness and dedication. And once he saw I was committed and was going to keep going, he gave it up. I know it sounds crazy...but if you're somebody who has found herself immersed in genealogical databases and a variety of search terms at 3 a.m. (which I'm sure all of my regular readers and many more of you are), then you know what I'm talking about, and I don't sound so crazy. Sometimes it's about thinking outside the box - don't search with a name, use just a date and place of birth instead; do a boolean search instead of a soundex search; when all else fails, just Google the darn thing...and of course, realize you may have to rely on real life cousins for help or take your whole search off the Internet into the real world instead. And when you come across that elusive record that might be, but might not be, what you're looking for, trust your instincts. If something is saying, "This is probably it," go with it. It might be your gut. Or it might be a supernatural nudge from the other side, somebody who's glad they're not going to be forgotten.

So when you get discouraged, remind yourself that you are a dead person whisperer. You've done it in the past. You'll do it again. Put your work aside and come back to it with fresh eyes in a day or so. Go to sleep and come back to it at 3 in the morning. Our ancestors WANT to be found. Well, most of them anyway.

Jacob Raynor & John Meinberg - I'm coming for you! :)

Friday, November 22, 2013

The 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination

The Kennedy assassination is just a moment in history for me and my peers - a tragic moment, yes, but just another historical moment such as World War II or the assassination of Abraham Lincoln for that matter. For my parents' generation, however, it is probably a defining moment. Like 9/11 is for me, but won't be for my daughter. It wasn't the first time an American president was assassinated, but it was the first time in modern memory that Americans felt that vulnerability and in a very scary Cold War era to boot. And I think the mystique continues because 50 years later we still don't have answers to what happened. But 50 years later, I know everyone who lived through that moment can still remember where they were when they heard the news November 22, 1963.

This picture was taken earlier in Kennedy's term and I've posted it before, but I'll post it again. My grandfather is in it, and it's just one example of how our own personal histories are intertwined with world history at large, History if you will; that the family members we look for and remember are not just names and dates or part of our own personal stories - they are people in a larger time and place.

President John F. Kennedy and my grandfather, Elmer Gorry (second from right)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Follow-up to my AncestryDNA results: Connecting with cousins (or not!)

As you all know, I had taken the AncestryDNA test last year and the results for those tests were recently updated to reflect more specific ethnic populations. Cousin April took the test about a month ago and just got her results (yes, they do tend to come that quickly, though if you're thinking of ordering one for the holidays, I would expect there to probably be a bit of a backlog) - you can read her wonderfully written blog post here - unfortunately, our tests failed to link us genetically. Boo :( - very disappointing. But as April points out, that doesn't mean we botched our research and that we're not related - it just means we didn't inherit the same DNA. As I try to explain to my siblings and anyone else who (doesn't) ask, we have so many ancestors, we couldn't possibly inherit DNA from every single one of them. Just look at how different you might look from one of your siblings - even though you are super close genetically, you each inherited different bits of DNA from your parents, your grandparents, your great-grandparents, and so on. Which is why, if you can afford it, it's totally worth it to get even close relatives tested, because they might show results for something totally different than what you got. And even though that piece might not be a part of your genetic ancestry, it's definitely a part of your genealogical ancestry. Just because it doesn't show up in your results genetically doesn't mean it's not there genealogically. That's what I tried to tell my fiance when he was disappointed that he didn't get any Middle Eastern ethnicity in his AncestryDNA results. DNA is proof of what IS there. It's not proof of what ISN'T there, if that makes any sense.

So anyway, Cousin April and I did not show up as being genetically matched at all. Interestingly enough, though, she did get matched to someone on our common Raynor branch. So it seems that even though I'm closer to the Raynor name than she is (my mother was a Raynor), she's closer to Raynor DNA (at least on that branch - I have, like, 3 other Raynor branches)!! 

I did find my first criticism of AncestryDNA, though, thanks to Cousin April's results. One of the things you get, in addition to your results and your matches, is a common ancestor hint, the infamous green leaf. It shows up, I assume, when your tree and the tree of one of your genetic matches has a common ancestor. Duh. Because, for the most part, your matches are at least fourth cousins (meaning you have 3rd great grandparents in common), unless you have a well documented tree, like the Raynors do, you might not get one of these hints. Cousin April got one. I got none, even though when I narrowed my matches search down to people who had Raynors in their tree, somebody showed up. We both have Joseph and Elizabeth (Lester) Raynor in our trees, and we were connected as 5th-8th cousins, yet I didn't get a hint. So, that leaves me wondering how many other people I can actually genealogically connect to who showed up as genetic cousins, because it's kind of annoying that I had to do a manual search for this person. Has anyone else come across this problem?

So, if you want to read a little bit of a more in-depth analysis of inheriting DNA, please check out April's post. And any one of my immediate family members should expect the possibility of getting AncestryDNA kits as Christmas presents, even though it's more a present for myself than for anyone else! :)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: The littlest Raynor in Raynortown

My daughter on the corner of Raynor St. & Main St. in Freeport, NY (formerly Raynortown)

Took this picture on Halloween as we were walking past Raynor St. My daughter's grandmother (my mother) was a Raynor and we still live in what used to be Raynortown, Long Island. She might not be the absolute youngest Raynor living in the town her many-times great grandfather founded in the 1650s, but at 7 months, she's got to be one of the littlest. It's been 350 years since Edward Raynor came to this place and we're still here! :)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Cousin April's Family History Month project

Every year, Cousin April does a project to commemorate Family History Month, which is October. Last year, she started her genealogy blog Digging up the Dirt on My Dead People, and this year, she asked her cousins to contribute a guest post.

In case you're not familiar, Cousin April and I are sixth cousins once removed. That's right - our common ancestors, Jacob and Rebecca Raynor, were alive shortly after the American Revolution. In fact, the quest to discover the as-yet-unknown-parentage of Jacob Raynor is what brought us together. Cousin April has been both a wonderful genealogy teacher and collaborator, a great support system for when the going gets tough, which is always does, and someone to spitball and brainstorm ideas and strategies with - she has shared invaluable research with me that she conducted on her own, and I think we've made some interesting discoveries and had some fun genealogical adventures together. So it was an honor for me to be included in her cousin-round-up and asked to contribute a post for her blog. I'm very much looking forward to seeing what she comes up with for a Family History Month project next year!

You can read my guest post on her blog here, and make sure to check out the rest of her blog while you're over there!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

It's here, it's here! AncestryDNA updates finally available!

In case you couldn't tell, I've been like a little kid anxiously awaiting the arrival of Christmas morning. I've been checking Ancestry.com every day, even though I really thought I'd have to wait another couple of months to get my updated results. Then today I checked and, bam, there they were...Christmas morning had finally arrived! Ha ha. My poor daughter was in my lap as I looked it over. She may be traumatized for life from me squeezing her and repeating over and over again, "This is so cool. This is SO COOL!"

So what, exactly, is so cool? Okay, if you took an AncestryDNA test in the past, you had gotten results - mine, if you recall, were extremely surprising to me, a girl of English, Irish, German, and Danish descent - 88 percent Scandinavian, 11 percent Eastern European. Now, everyone has much more detailed results, particularly in regard to region and ethnicity - DNA results, as you probably know, link you more to a people and sometimes a region than too a particular country, since people tend to be migratory, and oftentimes these results reflect deep ancestry, as opposed to just a few generations back. Since the results just came online today and the site actually crashed for awhile, I haven't had a whole lot of time to digest and explore the new data, so I'm not entirely sure how these more detailed results came to be - whether or not the testing itself has become more accurate over the last year or so, whether or not the control population gene pool has become more numerous and more varied, or a combination of those two or other reasons. There are a video and written explanation on the website, but to be honest, I was so excited, I barely paid attention.

So, my new results actually reflect much more accurately what my own genealogical research has turned up - my top 4 results are Great Britain, Ireland, Scandinavia, and Western Europe. Now take for example my Great Britain results, which come in at 32 percent. That's the average of the 40 tests Ancestry did on random bits of my DNA sample, with a range of 1-59 percent for the 40 tests. The results tell me that Great Britain DNA is found in England, Scotland, and Wales, as well as Ireland, France, and Germany, due to migration. It then compares my results to those of a native of Great Britain, and gives you a run down of the history of the region. Okay, so of those 4 results I got, none was a surprise, though I was surprised that my largest percentage was Great Britain, since I'm half Irish and a third German, but I assume that at some point, some of my Great Britain DNA traveled over to Ireland (now I'm picturing a double helix strand sitting in a boat in the water...)

Now, for the exciting part - I actually have 10 percent trace regions - I think that means any DNA results that are less than 10 percent in and of themselves. There's only a trace amount there, but even though it's miniscule, it still counts. So, Eastern Europe again pops up. I can only assume that at some point, some of my ancestors from Eastern Germany were themselves descended from people who emigrated from Eastern Europe. And then two shockers - I am 3 percent Iberian Peninsula, which is primarily Spain and Portugal, and also found in France, Morocco, Algeria, and Italy. Since I am none of these, not even close, I never expected to see that result. I can only assume from THIS result that someone from that area somehow found his or her way to either Germany or the British Isles. Lastly, my results show 2 percent European Jewish, which is found primarily in Eastern Europe but could be basically from anywhere on the continent. I would assume that my results are Ashkenazi Jewish as opposed to Sephardic Jewish, due to my German ancestry, but as far as I have traced, I don't have any Jewish families in my tree, but apparently, somewhere down the line, one of my Christian ancestors had a child with a Jew. I assume somewhere in my German lines, but who knows.

Now, the European Jewish result was surprising, but at the same time, not, because when my dad took the mtDNA test a few years ago, tracing his maternal line (which is 100 percent German as far back as I can go), his haplogroup was K, and a line in the description always caught my eye, that this haplogroup is found at a notable rate among Ashkenazi Jews. So, there you go. That matches up.

So there you have it. Very cool, right? And since just because it doesn't show up genetically doesn't mean it's not there genealogically, and because every person inherits a different set of DNA meaning your sister's DNA could show only partially matching or even completely different results, it makes me want to get all my siblings and my dad a DNA test for Christmas, even though that's more a gift for myself than for them! :)

Have you taken the AncestryDNA test yet? Did you get any surprises in your new detailed results? Do your results support what you already know or suspect about your family tree?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

(Somewhat) Wordless Wednesday: newspaper article about John & Celena Casey

I love newspaper articles. These are how you find out who your relatives really were. I often stumble upon the most interesting things just by typing in random family names. This is an article from the Sept. 13, 1905 issue of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle about my great-great grand uncle John Casey and his apparently very easy-going relationship with his wife, Celena.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Revisiting the Italian Genealogy Group website - facelift and updates!

As you might recall, the Italian Genealogy Group's website is one of my top go-to sites for genealogy research, and I'm not even Italian! If you have any New York City family from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s, Italian or not, their website is a must-visit. Their indexes (indeces?) have been invaluable in helping me locate vital records located at the city's Municipal Archives.

For the most part, the content of the site is the same - mostly birth, marriage, and death record indexes for the five boroughs of New York, though I believe their records, like most other genealogy sites, are constantly being updated and added-to. The site, however, has a fresh, new look - more modern, and definitely more user-friendly. But probably my most favorite part of the update is the addition of an index for records from the Fresh Pond Crematory in Middle Village in Queens. That's where my great-great grandfather Rudolph Stutzmann was cremated in 1946 and though he's one of my most well-rounded ancestors, research-wise, any additional records are only a plus. "No thank you, I already have too many records on that ancestor," is something I would never, ever say. In addition to vital statistics such as age, marital status, last residence, birthplace, date of birth, date of death, information on the next of kin, and funeral home, some files apparently contain obits and correspondence, so that's awesome. As it turns out, my great-grandmother, Helen Meta Haas Stutzmann, was also cremated there in 1968, as was what appears to be a previously unknown, at least to me, stillborn child of hers. Though my father has stories about his grandmother, I know very little about her life and death. So I'm very excited by this new find, and having a new course of research action to pursue. To be honest, there may be even more new features but I got so excited by the crematory addition I haven't gotten past that yet!

And just FYI, the IGG works closely with the German Genealogy Group - if you check out the latter's website, their databases have also been updated with the same information. So if you've used either website before, and if you have NYC ancestry I hope you have, it's probably worth your while to check them out again and see if you can find out anything new. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to all the volunteers from these groups who have given much of their time to provide us all this invaluable info for free.

You can visit the Italian Genealogy Group website here. The German Genealogy Group website can be found here.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Thoughts on Genealogy Roadshow: Indian Village, Detroit episode

A week late, but what the hey...

  • On connecting to a famous person as a distant cousin in your family tree - if you have to go back to 1630 in order to find that common great-grandparent, it's really not much to brag about. Yes, Abraham Lincoln is your distant cousin. He's also the distant cousin of about a bazillion other people alive today. Okay, his relatives are probably not as prolific as, say, Charlemagne's, but the point is, if everyone you know can claim that same distant cousin, it doesn't make it all that special.
  • That was the cynic in me. The exception to that, I would say, is something like the woman who discovered she was a direct descendant of Ponce de Leon. Direct descendancy is a little more exciting and a little more obscure than the famous distant cousins we can all claim. Plus, descendancy from a famous explorer rather than a European royal is also a little more obscure and exciting, at least in my opinion. That, I thought, was very cool.
  • As much as the famous distant cousin discovery is boring to me, I do find interesting the questions like the guy who wanted to know if Blackman was the name his Eastern European ancestors originally had or if it evolved from something else. Anybody who has a non-English last name can probably relate to some extent - whether it was the guy at Ellis Island who wrote down the last name phonetically or didn't hear it properly in the first place, or the second generation American who changed the spelling/pronunciation of a name to blend in more, it is good to remember that not only can the spelling of a name change in our research, but we might end up looking for another name altogether!
  • The Polish woman who worked for Ford - very interesting that her grandparents were from America! But they went back to Poland, and so that's where she was born. Unfortunate time to return to Europe, though, right before World War II. 
  • I've realized that the reason this show really doesn't grip me or draw me in the way other genealogy shows do is because we don't get to see any of the steps leading us from Point A to Point B to Point C in the research. I don't like just being handed information. I want to know the steps you took to acquire it - first you found this photo, then you looked at this document, then you visited this cemetery, etc. It's the detective work that's half the fun, and even if I'm not doing the actual discovery, I like you to tell me your research journey, for my own curiosity AND for verification purposes.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Thoughts on PBS' Genealogy Roadshow: Nashville episode

So last night on PBS was the premiere episode of Genealogy Roadshow. I believe there's going to be a 4-episode run - last night's episode took place at Belmont Mansion in Nashville. On to the bullet points! :)

  • I guess I should have expected it from the title, but I didn't, that this would be oh so similar to Antique Roadshow. I thought the episode was going to focus on a couple of people from the Nashville area and their connections to local notables from history. But there were literally lines of people there to ask questions regarding their family histories, and the episode featured a bunch of them.
  • The editing made it seem like people came and were given answers that very same day, but those of us who do this frequently know that never happens - I assume people lined up with their questions, PBS took the most interesting or most verifiable ones, and had them come back at another time for their answers. I mean, not for nothing, but I WISH I could get DNA results back in a day!
  • Due to the number of people featured, the genealogists really didn't go into the details of HOW they arrived at their conclusions - at one point, my fiance was wondering how they knew to look for one girl's great-grandfather in Connecticut. I'm sure they followed a bunch of clues that led them there, but due to time constraints they just showed, boom, here in New York, then five years later, boom, there in Connecticut. 
  • I know I go on and on that genealogy is not about connecting to famous or infamous people (although, yes, that can be very cool), but for a show like this, that actually works. As average American viewer #276,591, it doesn't mean anything to me that you are related to Jim Bob Smith of Nowheresville, Tennessee, although I'm sure you are thrilled to discover that info, because you have a personal connection to him. For me, I know and recognize names like Jesse James and Davy Crockett, so you being related to them means something to me. I can connect to that.
  • On a related note, though at first glance this show appears to be about connecting people genealogically to notable people in history, I think it's more about using genealogy to either prove or disprove oral history and tradition that has been passed down through the years, and I thought that was interesting.
  • As we saw, a lot of times, oral history or tradition can be wrong (I kinda felt like I was watching Antique Roadshow at times, where people were hoping to connect to someone famous only to be shot down, like when people show up with what they think is a valuable family heirloom and it turns out their grandfather bought it at Ikea for 20 bucks, hee hee). But as the one genealogist pointed out, family stories aren't always flat out wrong - there's often a kernel of truth in a family's oral history. A cousin of I have just recently connected with on my Lindemann side of the family wrote to me that they had always heard that one of the Lindemann sisters drowned on the Titanic in 1912. Well, she didn't, but she did die in 1904 when the steamboat General Slocum caught fire and sank in New York's East River, resulting in the worst loss of life in the New York area until 9/11. See, kernels of truth.
  • Though we were only treated to snippets of each person, I did get misty-eyed twice. No surprise there, right? The girl who had never known her father, who ended up meeting her cousin and getting all this info and all these photos, definitely struck a chord, and also loved the man who brought the photo of his ancestor as a young boy being held by an older black gentleman, and the two of them smiling and actually seeming happy, and then bringing out the descendant of that man...well, that also brought a tear to my eye. Nothing gets me like when genealogy helps people make those personal connections.
  • Intrigued so far by the show. Not loving it like "Who Do You Think You Are?" or "Finding Your Roots," but I'll take my genealogy fix where I can get it. Without fail, watching a genealogy show gives me the shot in the arm I need to feel excited and motivated to just keep going!

Did you catch Genealogy Roadshow? What did you think of the episode?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Quaker ancestry: the Mollineaux/Molyneaux/Mullinex/Molliner family of Westchester County and Flushing, New York

The Zooey Deschanel episode of this season of "Who Do You Think You Are?", where she researches her Quaker ancestry, made me want to look a little closer at my own Quaker ancestry. I know a little bit about that line, the Mollineaux/Molyneaux/Mullinex/Molliner family (gotta love those names with a bajillion spellings...makes it soooo fun to do any kind of search on them...), which married into my Raynor line, but not very much. While Zooey was looking at her Pownall line in Pennsylvania during the mid 1800s, just prior to the Civil War, my Quaker roots are in Long Island and Westchester, New York in the 1600s and 1700s - but even that far back, I can find anti-slavery sentiment among my ancestors. In fact, one of my ancestors was one of the earliest New York Quakers to raise opposition to the issue of slavery, and to free his own slaves.

So, here we go: My 6th great-grandparents (yes, we have to go THAT far back) were John Raynor and Phebe Mollineaux. They are the parents of my 5th great grandfather, Whitehead Raynor, whom I know quite a bit about and who intrigues me more and more the more I find out about him (he seems to have been quite wealthy and influential around town, and according to my grandmother, he is our family "celebrity," having been quite involved and influential in the Ku Klux Klan...guess he didn't take after the Quaker line of his family!)

Anyway, John was from Long Island. I don't know if Phebe was born on Long Island or how she and John met, but apparently her family is from Westchester. God bless the Quakers, who much like the Germans, kept pretty organized records. You can find minutes from their monthly & quarterly meetings on Ancestry.com (and I'm sure other places...I would imagine the Society of Friends today still keep those records pretty organized; I may have to go to them directly to find out more about this line), and those minutes include birth, marriages, and deaths of their members.

If you have New York Quaker ancestry, Swarthmore College, the same place Zooey went for info on her family, has a great database of names available online. You can find the database here.

Okay, so Phebe Mollineaux was the daughter of Moses Mullinex and Hannah Farrington, who lived in Westchester County, New York. Moses' father was Horseman Mullinex. What a name, huh? Horseman (or Horsman as I've sometimes seen it spelled - that's a name, like the name Whitehead, that I would LOVE to know where it came from!) died in 1725. That's more than 50 years before the start of the American Revolution. He lived in Westchester County and in Flushing, Queens. And we have it on public record that in 1701, Horseman freed one of his slaves, a man named Jack. We also have it on public record that at the quarterly and yearly meeting of the Friends in Flushing, New York, Horseman and a man named John Farmer publicly voiced their opposition to slavery. It is said they were the first New York Friends to raise opposition to slavery.

Now, New York is not a southern state. So how prevalent was slavery in the North? If you go back far enough, even your northern ancestors probably owned a slave. Maybe not a plantation full. But certainly one or two. It was just commonly accepted, a societal norm, as unbelievable as that can seem to us today. It's something most of us in genealogy have to deal with and confront, learn about and then learn from. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Rudolph Stutzmann aids Colorado flood relief in 1921

This terrible, devastating flooding currently happening in Boulder County, Colorado jogged a memory of a newspaper article I came across on the newspaper archive website http://www.fultonhistory.com/ about another Colorado flood almost 100 years ago and how my great-great grandfather helped those who had been affected by it.

On June 3, 1921, the town of Pueblo, Colorado was devastated when the Arkansas River and Fountain Creek flooded. 1,500 people lost their lives and there was $20 million worth of damage. It is referred to as the Great Flood of 1921. You can read about it here.

On the other side of the country, a June 8, 1921 story in The New York Times tells how the citizens of New York City banded together to raise funds for those affected by the natural disaster. Sixteen men were named to a citizens' committee to receive donations toward the cause, with a goal of raising $5,000, the equivalent of more than $65,000 today. My great-great grandfather Rudolph Stutzmann, an undertaker and banker in Brooklyn, was always active in his neighborhood and within the German-American community, and even though he had done well and become successful in life, he seemed to always give back. This time he gave back to people who had suffered outside of his locality, as he was named one of the committee members. The story doesn't say, but I hope and believe he gave not just of his time, but of his wealth as well.

Let us all keep those affected today by the flooding in Boulder County in our thoughts and prayers, that everyone remains safe and that their ordeal ends soon.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

'Who Do You Think You Are?' renewed for second season on TLC

Yay! Or as one of my ancestors might say, "Huzzah!"

From The Hollywood Reporter by Michael O'Connell:

"The second wind for Who Do You Think You Are? will continue on TLC. The cable network announced Tuesday that it's picked up the unscripted series for another 10-episode season.
News of the reality show's renewal comes just a few months after TLC revived it after a three-season stint on NBC ended in cancelation. Who Do You Think You Are?, based on a British format, is executive produced by Lisa Kudrow and Dan Bucatinsky Is or Isn't Entertainment and Shed Media.
Exploring celebrity ancestry for a total of 35 episodes by the conclusion of its current run, the TLC season has featured episodes focused on Christina Applegate, Kelly Clarkson, Cindy Crawford, Zooey Deschanel, Chelsea Handler, Chris O’Donnell, and Trisha Yearwood. It concludes Tuesday with an episode following Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons.

The next season sees the episode order upped from eight to 10. This season has averaged 1.8 million viewers in first runs."

The article can be found here.

Thoughts on "Who Do You Think You Are?" episodes: Trisha Yearwood and Jim Parsons

Can't believe the season is over already! It flies by so quickly...boo! :( Anyhoo, onto my thoughts:

  • Quick two things about the Cindy Crawford episode that I thought of after I wrote my post...one, that I've met Chris Child, the genealogist who presented Cindy with her New England ancestry at the New England Historic Genealogical Society. I thought I had, but Cousin April over at Digging Up the Dirt on My Dead People confirmed it. Nice guy, good genealogist! And two, that some of the information on her Thomas Trowbridge ancestor was found in another man's military records (I believe...correct me if I'm wrong, please! It's been awhile since I saw the episode and my brain is wonky from sleep deprivation!) Anyway, whether it was this ep or not, the point is, that sometimes you can find mention of your ancestors in the records of neighbors, friends, colleagues, etc. It basically means you should look everywhere, ha ha...but seriously, obviously you can't. But when you hit a dead end or brick wall, remembering this little factoid could be the key to getting to finding out more and getting to that next step!
  • Okay, now on to Trisha! I really don't know her...not much of a country music fan. But she seemed down-to-earth and nice, although again, we had somebody who seemed, jokingly or for real, disappointed that her immigrant ancestor was not going to lead her to a royal relative. Hey, I'm not royalty, but I hope one day, 200 years from now, one of my descendants will be interested in finding out more about my life!
  • I learned quite a bit from this episode, which I always enjoy - did not know about the black act in England that made poaching a capital offense. It seems like a sad piece of history, as the poor struggled to survive. I also was not familiar with the fact that England sent convicts to the Americas. Everybody knows they sent criminals to Australia - in fact, there are quite a few Gorrys Down Under, which leads me to believe there were some colorful, not quite law abiding characters in that Irish branch. But I didn't know that in the 1700s they were sent to America as well.
  • I liked when Trisha referred to 1700s Georgia as the "wild west" of its day, because back then, with the land stakes and not-quite-friendly Indians and being on the fringe of civilization, it WAS the "wild west." I often think of my Raynor ancestors, who never made it off the East Coast but who arrived at a time when it was nothing but woods and not-quite-friendly Indians and was on the fringe of civilization, as having lived in the "wild west."
  • I was quite curious about what happened to Samuel Winslett's brothers, at least two of whom were arrested with him. Were they also shipped to the colonies? Were they hanged? I wish they had addressed that at least a bit.
  • Samuel sounds like quite a tough character, someone who knows how to survive, from poaching the noble's deer to apparently escaping his servitude in Georgia. He might not be nobility or royalty, but these are the interesting stories we all hope to find!
  • It reminded me of my own criminal cousins...or uncles, actually. Well, I guess the only commonality is the criminality. Samuel gave me the impression he committed that crime in order to survive - sort of like Jean Valjean, y'know? Ha ha...my relatives, John Ricklefs and Charles Ricklefs, were just career criminals. But boy, are they some of my most interesting relatives and two of my favorite to research.
  • Okay, last night's Jim Parsons episode, which I watched this morning - maybe it's the fact that today is 9/11 and already an emotional day for me, but I started crying when Parsons was talking about his father, and how much his father had loved him and supported his dream of becoming an actor.
  • I think we all look for things in ourselves in our relatives, and when we don't see it in anybody else - like in Jim's case, nobody else in his family is artistic - we wonder where it comes from, so it was nice that he was able to find someone on his line who was a different kind of artist, but an artist nonetheless.
  • It's always nice to have family rumors substantiated - glad Jim was able to document the New Orleans and the French connection (get it? The French Connection? Ha ha ha...) - his surprise that he had entrenched New Orleans roots, when everyone he had known about in his family came from Texas, reminded me of my discovery that my Haase/Reinhardt family lived in New Jersey for at least two generations - until then, everyone in my family who wasn't a Raynor or Raynor line connection had lived in New York (and even the Raynors hadn't lived in a place other than New York since the 1600s...) - and even though it was just the next state over, that was an amazing discovery for me, that my 4th great grandfather Charles Haase fought for a New Jersey regiment in the Civil War, that my 3rd great grandfather Edward Haase was born in New Jersey, and that my 5th great grandfather John Reinhardt is buried in New Jersey (John's daughter Barbara was Charles' wife).
  • I think part of the reason we all want to find royalty in our lines, besides the obvious name-dropping rights, is that when all we have are the ordinary, every day folk, eventually the paper trail dies, and usually sooner rather than later. History does not remember the names of the little people. I can't trace any of my Irish roots past my immigrant ancestor because in many cases, there just aren't any records. This is a huge problem that I face in tracing my fiance's Latin American roots as well. So part of what I loved about Jim's discovery about the Trouards is that, for the most part, they were everyday folk, but because they worked in influential circles, there is a paper trail for them at least a little further back than if they had just been run-of-the-mill architects.
  • How cool would it be to stand in a building your ancestor designed almost 300 years ago?
  • I think the next coolest thing to being related to John Adams, Ben Franklin, or King Louis XV is to be related to someone who hung out with them!
  • I don't watch The Big Bang Theory so I'm not really all too familiar with Jim Parsons, but he just seemed so down-to-earth and nice and I totally want to hang out with him! His awe at every discovery, even the mundane, was refreshing - he wanted to know more about the people, not necessarily see how far back he could go - and he seemed so sincere in his thanks to everybody who worked to help him on his journey.
  • It was a nice change to see someone trace their French roots, instead of the go-to English ancestry...and I say that as somebody with a loooot of boring English ancestry. I joke. I love it. But damn, after awhile, it gets boring! On my tree, on the show - throw in some variety! I feel like the first season, and maybe the second, I don't really remember, featured a greater variety of backgrounds, and I miss that. When I'm doing my family tree research, I always pray that maybe this time I'll find somebody who wasn't English, Irish, or German! 
  • I do have Danish ancestry, but that's been next to impossible for me to trace at this point because I don't read Danish - so thank God for all that English and Irish ancestry! Lol - Jim needed a translation for all the records he looked at in France, and whenever I do German family research, I have to bring a million notes on German words, German lettering, etc. The grass is always greener, right? 
  • His Hacker great-grandparent's involvement in the yellow fever epidemic of 1853 made me think of my 3rd great-grandmother, Mathilda Rau Stutzmann. She died in Brooklyn in 1880 at the age of 35 from bilious fever - more commonly called yellow fever. I know very little about her or about the disease - reading the description Hacker wrote of the illness was a little disturbing, to think that's how poor Mathilda died. But I wonder if she was an isolated case or if yellow fever always occurs as some kind of epidemic...I really don't know. But I'd love to find out - if anyone knows anything about this, please leave me a comment!
  • One last thought - once again, as with the Chris O'Donnell episode, I love that what stood out for Jim Parsons was not the great achievements, but the little things, so to speak, that were passed down from generation to generation - the love of education he saw over and over, the love of a father for a son, and helping that son achieve his dreams...things he could relate back to qualities he remembered about his own father, whom he obviously loved very much, and qualities he saw in himself.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: where Clifford Raynor was born

Nothing special. The house on the left is 97 Archer Street in Freeport, Long Island. The house was built in 1908 and my grandfather, Clifford Monroe Raynor, was born there in 1914. You can find him living there with his parents, Monroe Raynor and Amelia Berg Raynor, and two older sisters Helen and Norma in the 1915 New York Census. I just happened to be walking through that part of Freeport last week and decided to take a slight detour to take a look at the house again. By 1920, they were living on South Main Street, a few blocks away, where his neighbors, Dan Cronin and Mary Cronin, became his best friend and eventually his wife, respectively. I always think it's cool to see the actually buildings my family lived in...little bits of history all around us!

97 Archer Street, Freeport, NY - where my grandfather, Clifford Monroe Raynor, was born in 1914.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Thoughts on "Who Do You Think You Are?" episodes: Chris O'Donnell & Cindy Crawford

I feel like this season of "Who Do You Think You Are?" on TLC is just flying by! Last night was the Cindy Crawford episode; last week we saw Chris O'Donnell. Just some random thoughts on these two eps:
  • Chris O'Donnell always seemed like a nice guy by the roles he played. Obviously, just because you play a nice guy doesn't mean you are in real life - hence, the acting. But on his episode, he still came across as nice, family-oriented, and down-to-earth. It's always nice when people turn out to be the way you always imagined them. Chris talking about not knowing what love was until he had children and tearing up while talking about his dad? Heartwarming...
  • Once again, so jealous that, like Chelsea Handler's grandmother's memoirs about post-WW I Germany, O'Donnell has a relative who wrote a memoir, this time a great-grandfather remembering his time helping others through the St. Louis cholera epidemic. Such a great way to learn not only a part of your personal history, but putting that personal family history into the context of world history. 
  • Love that Chris had to go to his niece to learn about the McEnnis family line - young genealogists unite! Somebody has to carry on the research for this generation! :)
  • Loved that for Chris, his ancestors Michael McEnnis and George McNeir were "heroic" not for their military participation but for choosing to leave the military and return home to care for their families.
  • I know I always get excited when I come across a photo of one of my ancestors, so it was exciting for me that Chris found photos of Michael McEnnis.
  • Learned a little bit about our American history, as I'm not well versed in either the Mexican-American War or the War of 1812.
  • The only two things I know about the War of 1812 - that the British burned Washington D.C. on my birthday, August 24; and what the episode was building up to as Chris was standing in Fort McHenry and learning about the battle his ancestor took part in - that this was what inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that eventually became our national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner. I was surprised Chris didn't see that one coming. I thought everyone knew about that...
  •  Okay, onto the Cindy Crawford...wow, she looks incredible still! Even if she's had work done, it's very natural looking...
  • Couldn't get over that Cindy knew many of her great-grandparents...I hope she realizes now how rare that is and how lucky she was. 
  • I could identify with A LOT of her story - I, too, consider myself an American mutt. When your family has been here so long that you have to go back past your great-grandparents to get to an immigrant ancestor, you really can't help but just feel American (although my great-grandfather Timothy Cronin WAS born in Ireland and I do identify with my different ethnic backgrounds on different days...but one of those "ethnic backgrounds" I sometimes identify with is American...). And she didn't know anything about her ethnic background. We might like being "American," but like she said, everybody came from somewhere, and it's nice to know where.
  • Nice to see that she actually is related to Ernest Hemingway, if only as a distant cousin. I wish Ernest Hemingway was my distant cousin...
  • I thought it was very typical that she was hoping to find somebody famous on her tree - I think everyone does at some point or other, and especially those who don't really do genealogy. But I appreciated her amending that statement to say that really she wanted to know her personal history in the context of history on a whole, that by learning about someone on her tree, that it personalizes world history and makes it more interesting. I totally agree. Finding people on my tree makes me interested in what was going on in that time and place in general.
  • Love that Cindy had to go to the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston. That place is a great resource for anyone with New England ancestry, and the genealogists working there are very knowledgeable. They've featured the Society in past seasons, but since those episodes aired, I've been there myself with Cousin April and it was cool to see the building and rooms where we had actually been...too bad Cindy Crawford wasn't in the house then!
  • Another reason I could identify with Cindy's story is I also have Great Migration ancestry. The Raynors, of whom I speak much, and the various families who married into the Raynors, were Great Migration families.
  • My Raynors, like Cindy's Trowbridge ancestors, also left the Massachusetts Bay Colony because they were unhappy with the state of affairs there re: people's religious convictions. My Raynors also went to the New Haven Colony, where they were one of the founding families of Stamford, Connecticut, before once again leaving and eventually settling in Hempstead, Long Island, New York (well, that's where my ancestor, Edward, finally put down roots - his wanderlust-suffering uncle, Thurston, uprooted one more time before settling in Southampton, Long Island). But anyway, that parallel between her family and mine was pretty cool.
  • I did not like how they skipped over whole generations, like 300 years worth, to focus on Thomas Trowbridge, because I hated seeing all those names and dates with no further information leading back to Thomas - but Cindy's question was about where her family had come from, and they had to skip over all those generations to answer her question. 
  • Then talk about skipping generations, when she went to London and was handed that scroll of her family tree all the way back to Charlemagne! Cousin April and I have an inside joke that just once, while researching our family tree, we'd love to go someplace and just be handed a scroll of our family tree, without having to do any of the work for the information!
  • It was very cool that Cindy, who knew nothing about her family's origins, was able to trace her family back to Charlemagne. I would've liked the episode to address the fact though that this wasn't really anything special - okay, it's special, but it's hardly unique. Charlemagne had 20 children. If even only half of those children had children who had children...well, you can see why many, many, many, many, MANY people of European descent can count Charlemagne as one of their ancestors. The key is to be able to trace your family back to someone of nobility - once you have that in, it breaks everything wide open. If you're related to one noble person from back then, you're related to them all, and you can almost definitely count Charlemagne as one of your forebears. I am actually one of those lucky few...I mean, millions. (Hey Cousin Cindy...call me! We'll compare notes on Great-granddad Charlie! :)) 
  • I DID like the first person account Cindy got to read describing Charlemagne. Like she said, it put a human face on an almost mythical historical figure - and that's really what she was looking for, a personal connection the history.
Next up: Trisha Yearwood. It's hard to discern from the promos, but her family tree story sounds like it includes some colorful, law-breaking characters - and let's face it, we all have these rascals hidden somewhere! So it should be interesting!

"Who Do You Think You Are?" airs on TLC Tuesdays at 9 p.m. (Repeats from the previous week air at 8 p.m. prior to each new episode, which is great because my DVR keeps cutting off the last 30 seconds or so...grrr)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Thoughts on the first four episodes of Who Do You Think You Are this season

So, so far we've seen Kelly Clarkson, Christina Applegate, Chelsea Handler, and Zooey Deschanel research their family trees (or, more accurately, they've had their trees researched for them) - This show is always a little spotty for me. Some episodes just don't interest me, although they still usually make me cry by the end - I'm a sucker, what can I say? - but some episodes are just so full of emotion and soul-searching and thought provocation and just show what genealogy can really be all about. Anyway, thoughts so far:

  • Despite my own Civil War ancestry, Kelly Clarkson's episode just didn't really grab me. I guess a lot of times, I relate to the reactions of the celebrities and she just wasn't all that emotional about what she found out. And despite Isaiah Rose's time spent in the Andersonville POW camp, which sounded absolutely horrific, his story just didn't do it for me. I can't even describe or explain it...emotions are arbitrary like that. 
  • Christina Applegate's episode was possibly one of the best episodes and stories I've ever seen on this show. What a tearjerker. And usually I don't get pulled in to stories that go back only one or two generations, but Christina's empathy for her father's troubled upbringing and her horror and sadness as she learned more and more as her grandparents' story unfolded, the closure she was able to bring to her father regarding his complete lack of knowledge about his mother and her life and death, and how it seemed to bring her and her father closer together...ugh. Talk about a compelling story. I think this is an episode everybody interested in genealogy should see. We all want to find the heroes and royalty that we're related to, but we forget that genealogy is really a study of the lives of normal, everyday people, people who were flawed, who made mistakes, who hurt people, who were just trying to get through each day and live their lives. I think I also related to the gravesite with no headstone. That's the story of just about everybody on my dad's side of the family. But as you can see in this episode, even without a headstone, you can still find out who is buried in the plot - cemeteries are great resources!
  • Chelsea Handler. Eh. She doesn't do it for me as a comedian, and her story had the potential to be so compelling, researching her grandfather's past in Nazi Germany - so many ordinary Germans who weren't necessarily Nazi sympathetic but actively or passively participated in a great evil to protect themselves and their own families...makes you question what you yourself would've done in that situation. This episode is an example I guess of how one or two generations back doesn't usually interest me. I guess I also don't always love when the celebrity goes into the show with a burning question about one particular ancestor they already know about - although, as you can see by my reaction to Applegate's episode, I don't always hate that. I guess I'm just more drawn in usually by the episodes where the celebrity doesn't really have much knowledge about their tree, or only knows rumors and stories, and gets drawn along for the ride, the discovery. Anyway, I think the most interesting parts of this episode were the translation of Handler's grandmother's memoir about everyday life in post World War I Germany - that was a fantastic family find. We should all be so lucky to have relatives who did that! - but also the Jewish-American soldier Chelsea talked with in France who recounted his war story and his personal thoughts on the enemy soldiers he was fighting. I also didn't know about the World War II POW camps here in America, so that was an interesting historical factoid to pick up. But Handler didn't really seem all that emotionally invested in her grandfather's story and so I guess I wasn't either.
  • Zooey Deschanel. Her story had the potential to be blah like Kelly Clarkson's, but I actually rather enjoyed her journey. I found it a little heartbreaking that she didn't begin looking into her family until after her granny died, but I guess it's those life events that usually prompt us to begin the journey. I don't like when people are LOOKING for a specific person or personality, a la Zooey's "long line of strong women," but rather when they FIND that this is the case, but I did like when these people really start to identify with a specific ancestor. Loved hearing Zooey say that she felt protective of Sarah Henderson Pownall. I also loved that even though she was handed a tree back to Sarah and her parents, that Zooey stated that as she went on her journey, she discovered Sarah's identity - genealogy for me is always about more than collecting names, dates, and places. It's discovering the people themselves, and Zooey realized that. I was also particularly intrigued by the Quaker history she was researching. I did not realize that Quakers were quite so progressive on all equal rights fronts, and it was interesting hearing her family's personal connection to Underground Railroad activity. I actually have Quaker ancestry as well, which I know very little about, so this has made me interested in finding out more about that. I will post what I do know in an entry as soon as my little girl lets me (she's sitting in my lap right now trying to type this blog post with me...genealogist and blogger in the making!!)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Thoughts on HBO's show Family Tree

I don't get HBO but my dad does, so whenever I've been going over there I've been checking out the Christopher Guest series Family Tree on HBO On Demand. If you haven't heard about it, it's a mockumentary format wry comedy about a man, played by Chris O'Dowd, who inherits a box of mementos from his late great-aunt and not knowing much about his family to begin with, finds a picture of someone he assumes is his great-grandfather. Investigating that mystery sets him off on finding out more and more about each of the crazy and colorful characters he learns about on his family tree.

I'm a genealogy buff - how could I not love it? But to be more specific:

  • Even if you're not a genealogy fan, if you are a Christopher Guest fan you should check this series out - it is classic Guest. It's a mockumentary in the vein of Guest films like Best in Show and Waiting for Guffman, with the usual wacky cast of characters and many of Guest's usual suspects, such as Bob Balaban and Fred Willard, popping up. It's funny in a wry, dry, deadpan sort of way.
  • Chris O'Dowd is great. You might know him as the police officer/love interest in the movie Bridesmaids, but I knew about him years before that from his role as an Irish IT nerd in the Britcom The IT Crowd. 
  • The specific genealogy bit that I love about this show is that yes, O'Dowd's character uses the Internet and yes, he takes a DNA test, but his genealogy journey is about photographs of unknown people and other family heirlooms and mementos that raise questions about who he is and where he came from. He goes to genealogy research centers but he also goes to cemeteries, he connects with cousins, he visits old homes of his relatives and talks to neighbors and old co-workers, anybody who might know the stories, anybody who might be a living resource. And I guess that's what I love the most about the genealogy aspect. He's not collecting ancestors. We all do that to an extent. I know I do. He wants to know the stories - he finds a picture of a great-grandfather he never knew but also wants to know what he did for a living and what others thought of him and funny stories about his days performing as the rearend of a two-person horse. And just as we all do, he's trying to connect himself to those stories - he's trying to find bits of himself and his personality and his journey in the ancestors he's discovering and learning about. And he finds cousins during his journey! I have found cousins, amazing cousins who are both great people and great resources - that's one of the best parts. Strangers won't care about your personal family tree finds. Friends and even some family members won't even care. But cousins, fellow researching cousins, will! There's really no point in finding the stories unless you also find people to share them with!
I haven't finished the season yet but I'm enjoying it so far. Have you watched Family Tree? What are your thoughts on the show? 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

"Who Do You Think You Are?" returns next week, y'all

I don't know about you, but after NBC failed to renew the family history program "Who Do You Think You Are?" I was definitely disappointed. For anyone who reads my blog regularly, you know that I cry at pretty much every episode. And that my genealogy passion gets reinvigorated after each viewing. Well, in case you didn't know, TLC picked up the show and new episodes air beginning next Tuesday, July 23, 2013.

Also in case you haven't heard, the Kelly Clarkson episode is available to download for free from iTunes. In it, she traces the journey of her Civil War soldier ancestor Isaiah Rose. As someone with my own Civil War ancestor, Charles Haase, I find those stories intriguing. Clarkson herself didn't really draw me in so much but in answer to your most pressing question, yes, I did tear up anyway during the episode. I blame it on the hormones and on being a new mother, but the trend continues. And while I didn't LOVE this first episode, it did whet my appetite for more stories. I always get a little jealous when I see people who don't know anything about their family history finding out all these new things. I just have to remind myself that even though I feel like I know everything about my family tree, I don't. Even though I've made a lot of those new exciting discoveries, there are still stories and people and hidden gems to find.

WDYTYA isn't a perfect show. It's basically an advertisement for Ancestry.com. I'll admit that. It's no secret. And while the celebrities involved do pretty much NONE of the research, they DO go beyond using Ancestry.com to go to actual research repositories and visit actual historical and research locations, which is SO important in any genealogical pursuit. But no matter how you feel about that, you have to appreciate anything that makes genealogy more mainstream and brings it to people's attention - the more people who become interested in researching their family trees, the more personal family history knowledge and heirlooms and stories and records will be available for all of us!

So, July 23 on TLC - be there!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Independence Day discoveries: United Methodist Church cemetery, established 1859, in East Meadow, NY

I love cemeteries. If you read this blog regularly, you know this. If you're my father or siblings or fiance, you know this. I am very easily distracted by cemeteries, and the older, the better.

So two days ago, on a very hot, very humid Fourth of July, my fiance and I took our daughter for a walk around the neighborhood. We live in East Meadow in Nassau County on Long Island, not far from where my Raynor ancestors settled in Hempstead in the 1600s. But East Meadow is also an older settlement (though not colonial old) - my great grandmother, Amelia Ellen Berg, born in 1884, grew up in East Meadow, and her father, Theodore Peterson Berg, and his father, Peter Hansen Berg, both had farms in East Meadow. In fact, very cool fact, if you drive from my apartment to where my Raynor ancestors lived in Hempstead, you pass right by the house Amelia grew up in on Front Street. It's still standing, although it's a chiropractor's office or physical therapy place now or something.

It's not really a digression. The point is, I have deep roots in East Meadow as well, but I don't really know the town well and you don't really see much history around here. Except for the small patch of original Hempstead Plains still standing in nearby Eisenhower Park, there's really just a lot of 20th century housing and mini strip malls, like most of Long Island. So my fiance and I were walking down East Meadow Avenue, a pretty busy commercial-residential street. I was looking at the churches we were passing (I love old churches, too, bt dubs) and on the walk back, a sign caught my eye. It was a historical marker for the United Methodist Church cemetery, established in 1859. It's funny the things you notice when you're walking, not driving. Now, the current Methodist Church is in a modern 1950s building about a block or so north, but there was another church across the street that looked a lot smaller and a lot older, that probably once housed the Methodist Church until the congregation outgrew it. But I had never noticed a cemetery, and I *still* didn't see one. But we did see an apparently empty yard behind the church, so we decided to take a walk over. Now, it was super hot and sticky out, like I said, and my fiance had *just* told me he had to pee...see how easily I am distracted by even the possibility of a cemetery?

There was in fact a sign on a fence saying United Methodist Cemetery established 1859. Looking at the empty field I figured the graves had been moved. A lot of people buried in small graveyards around here have ended up in Greenfield Cemetery in Uniondale. But when I saw the gate wasn't locked and walked in, I discovered the church yard wasn't empty - all the headstones were lying flat! It was like I had entered the past - here was this tiny, old cemetery off a modern busy road right around the corner from where I lived and I never knew! And on Independece Day no less, when we think about the past, and our families, many of whom came here for the freedom we celebrate every July 4th. I'll have to go back to see if I recognize any of the names of the people bried there.

So always keep your eyes open - look around, especially around corners. History - our own history - is everywhere!

Dorothy Wright headstone in the United Methodist Church cemetery in East Meadow

Historical marker at the old United Methodist Church on East Meadow Avenue, East Meadow, NY

United Methodist Cemetery, established 1859, East Meadow, NY

A seemingly empty field is covered in headstones at the United Methodist Cemetery in East Meadow, NY

United Methodist Church Cemetery

Friday, July 5, 2013

PBS announces new genealogy show: "Genealogy Roadshow"

And the interest in genealogy television shows continues to expand...

Television will hop onto any bandwagon that seems to be gaining popularity or steam, which has been happening over the past few years in regards to genealogy. This then causes people in the general population who watch these shows and become intrigued to hop on the genealogy bandwagon. It's a vicious cycle. I don't mind. The more people even peripherally involved in genealogy, the more info (hopefully more good than bad) that circulates, the more we can all help each other fill in our trees.

 PBS is the latest to hop on the band wagon, premiering a new genealogy show, "Genealogy Roadshow," which will attempt to investigate ordinary, everyday people's unverified claims that connect them to a historical person or event. I think that's the draw for a lot of newbies, that they might discover they're connected to somebody or something famous. Seasoned genealogists, I think, tend to find the ordinary just as exciting as the extraordinary. Still, I wouldn't say, "No thank you, not interested," if it was possible to connect to something or somebody historically significant not just to me and my family but to the general public, too! :)

So, the show sounds interesting. I will definitely be checking it out. How about you?

Find the full press release here.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Fourth of July!

Today is the Fourth of July. In America, this is our Independence Day.

On a side but related note, I am a European mutt. I have family from all over and then some, and I love tracing all those lines to their immigrant roots back to the motherland...and then some. But on a day like today, I think of all my Italian-American metro NY friends who are second generation Americans, whose grandparents were born in Europe. My best friend and fiance are both first generation Americans - their parents were born in Latin America. Even my daughter is a second generation American. My most recent immigrant ancestor generation wise is my great-grandfather, born in Ireland. Timewise, it's my great-great grandmother, who came over from Germany. They were both here before the turn of the 20th century. I have no ancestors who came through Ellis Island because they were all here already. In fact, a whole branch of my tree was here 150 years before the United States even won their independence from England. They've been here for more than 350 years. So I don't have any cultural traditions handed down to hold on to, because my family has been here for so long, but because my family has been here for so long, I am unequivocally American.

Oh, except for the fact that most of my colonial ancestors were AGAINST independence during the Revolutionary War...yep, them Raynors be Loyalists!

Oh well. They lost, but they stayed, so here I am, an American, wishing everyone a very happy and safe Fourth of July!!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Family Tree: The Next Generation

Today I took my daughter to visit my grandmother, Mary Cronin Raynor, for the first time. My cousin had a son last June, but Elena is my grandmother's first great granddaughter. They almost had the same birthday - I went into the hospital on April 5th, my grandmother's 98th birthday, and Elena was born the next morning. My grandmother, god bless her, will probably outlive us all, but at 98, I was afraid she and my daughter would never get a chance to meet. So I was very excited once Elena was cleared by the doctors as being old enough to go out to public places once she hit 2 months. Although we didn't actually make it to the assisted living facility until now, just shy of her turning 3 months. But everything finally went smoothly! Elena took a (very rare) nap today and was on her best behavior - she and Grandma were both so excited! My grandmother is still fairly with it for an almost-centenarian so was asking me all sorts of questions about the baby, and it was so wonderful to see Grandma want to hold the baby and to see her making faces at her and talking to her. In addition to the fact that I had been wanting to visit my grandmother since I hadn't seen her since my baby shower in March, it was a weight off my shoulders for them to finally meet each other - Grandma's the one who got me interested in genealogy and laid the groundwork for not only the research on my mother's side of the family tree but also some of my dad's branches, so I think it was especially meaningful for both of us for her to meet one of the members of the next generation, one of the next budding branches on our tree.

Three generations of Marys
Great-grandma and Elena finally meet!

98 years and 1 day apart...but finally close enough to hold hands!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day to all the dads in the world, past and present

Family history pays a majority of its attention to patrilineal lines of genealogy but besides passing along to us our names, fathers have a great influence on their children and who their children become through both their presence and their absence, in that way influencing each successive generation. So today we remember all the fathers on our trees, as well as the mothers who act as both father and mother either through choice or loss, we remember the good and the bad about them, because everything they did or didn't do, whether it be your father, grandfather, or seventh great grandfather, has influenced the person you are today...isn't that cool?

A special shout out to my own father, Tim Gorry, who is the only member of my immediate family who thinks genealogy is as fun and interesting as I do...thank you for letting me share all my discoveries with you and not have your eyes glaze over, and thank you for all the research and fieldwork you do yourself to help grow and enrich our family tree! And another special shout out to my fiance Sam, who is celebrating his first Father's Day today - thank you for the gift of our beautiful baby girl, the next generation of our now combined family tree!

Sam and our 10 week old daughter Elena.

Old school - with my dad at the beach. Probably Jones Beach, probably 1980.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Indiana Jones and the genealogical pursuit

My 2-month old is down for a rare nap and not only was I inspired yesterday to write about this but Cousin April over at Digging Up the Dirt on My Dead People just wrote about this too so it look like it was meant to be!

First, the thoughts that were going through my mind - yesterday I was watching a documentary on Indiana Jones and real life archaeology and as with anytime I see or hear anything about history, it was making me itch to do some genealogy. And while I was thinking how cool it would have been to be out in the field, in search of mystery and adventure, like an archaeologist like Indiana Jones and lamenting the fact that the golden age of archaeology was long over, I was thinking about how genealogy is kinda like archaeology, because the fieldwork is so important to finding and solving those mysteries about our family trees.

So Cousin April was talking about the broadcast yesterday on Radio Boston about the impact of technology on genealogy - please visit the link above to read more about the interview and April's opinions on it. As I've stated before, I love that the Internet has exposed more people to genealogy and piqued their interest in it, that it's made more documents and databases available to us and helped us break down previously impassable brick walls, and that it has helped us connect with distant family members and share our collective knowledge about our trees. The Internet has also, unfortunately, helped spread a lot of bad information, because it's so easily accessible; it has made genealogy a copy-and-paste hobby for a lot of folks; and it has made some people forget (or maybe they never realized!) the importance of genealogical fieldwork. It's not just about finding your grandparent's address in a census on Ancestry.com - it's, if possible, visiting the address or neighborhood and seeing if the house is still there and how much the neighborhood has or hasn't changed. It's not just finding a death certificate or record on Familysearch - it's going to the cemetery to visit the headstone (or lack thereof - that alone will tell you whether or not your family was poor or well-off) and seeing if you can find out who else might be buried there and who the plot belongs to. And it's realizing that some of the most pertinent information you are seeking probably ISN'T online - it's in a tiny church's hand-written recordbooks, or in an old newspaper that's only available on microfilm at the library, or in the dusty archives of your local town hall, or maybe even in your own grandmother's photo album or diary.

So, technology, yay; but also, fieldwork, yay.

The other thing I was contemplating as I fell asleep last night was how multi-disciplinary genealogy is, which Cousin April also touches on. Genealogy doesn't happen in a vacuum. It happens in a geographical area, and it happens in a historical time period. It's not just about collecting names and dates, although that can be fun. It's about what happened in between the birth date and death date, about our ancestor's lives. I love a name and date when I've finally broken through a brick wall, but eventually, I want a place, too, and maybe an occupation. In my dreams, all my ancestors would be fleshed out individuals - I would be able to know their whole stories. That will never happen. But each of us has at least one ancestor we can round out - when and where did they live? Did they grow up on a farm or in the city? Did his mother die when he was young? Did he have any siblings? Did he follow in his father's occupational footsteps? Did he emigrate to another country? Why did he - were the reasons economic? Religious? Was he escaping a war? Was he a youngest son with no other prospects? Was he just an adventurous spirit? Are there any newspaper articles about him? Was he a productive member of society? Was he a social misfit or pariah? When he died was he able to afford a funeral? His own cemetery plot? A headstone? Are there any photos? Do I have his eyes or his mouth? His temperament? These are the things I want to know as a genealogist. These are the mysteries I want to solve. When it comes to genealogy, I want to be Indiana Jones - how about you? :)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

TLC Brings NBC's 'Who Do You Think You Are?' Back From the Grave (Exclusive)

Thanks to Cousin April of Digging Up the Dirt on My Dead People for passing along this info to me. As anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, I love this show (even went to a panel discussion for it  featuring Lisa Kudrow, Blair Underwood, and Kim Cattrall at the Paley Center last year), so all I have to say is...woo hoo! :)

TLC Brings NBC's 'Who Do You Think You Are?' Back From the Grave (Exclusive)

New episodes premiere July 23. 

Read about the WDYTYA panel discussion I attended, which was awesome by the way, in my blog post  here.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Introducing the newest blossom on my family tree...

Happy birthday, Elena!

Elena at 5 days old, already deep in thought and contemplating the world around her...

On April 6, 2013, I welcomed my daughter, Marielena "Elena" Luz Hall, into the world, the newest blossom in my family tree, and the first of the next generation on my particular branch (my parents' first grandkid).

If you can't tell, she's named after me, Mary Ellen. Her father is Honduran, and so it was important for me to incorporate his ethnic and cultural heritage, and therefore my daughter's, into her name, especially since her last name, Hall, doesn't reflect her Latina heritage at all. Hence, Mary Ellen en espanol becomes Marielena - and because that's such a mouthful for such a little girl, it becomes Elena for short.

Mary Ellen in particular is an important family name for me, a tradition that goes back generations on my father's side of the family. But Mary and variations of Ellen individually are important recurring names, and so, Marielena is the latest in a long line of women I'm so proud to call family, and her name honors them all, including but not limited to my mother, Margaret Mary; my aunts, Mary Ellen and Ellen; my grandmothers Helen Stutzmann Gorry and Mary Cronin Raynor; my great-grandmothers, Mary Ellen Tormey Gorry, Helen Haase Stutzmann, Amelia Ellen Berg Raynor, Ellen Marie Casey Cronin; my great-great grandmothers, Mary Ellen Horgan Gorry, Ellen Prendergast Tormey, and Mary Enright Casey; my 3rd great grandmothers, Mary Corr Gorry, Ellen Prendergast, and Mary Story Poole, and I'm sure many, many more even further back than that.

On top of it all, Elena came very close to sharing a birthday with her great-grandmother, Mary Cronin Raynor...I went into the hospital April 5, which was my grandmother's 98th birthday. I was kinda hoping for them to share a birthday but I think my grandmother was happy her first great-granddaughter got her very own day (happy belated birthday, by the way, Grandma!)

Having a newborn and being a new parent is both extremely exciting and extremely overwhelming, so I probably will not be updating this blog for awhile, and at least not as frequently as I have in the past - to everyone who has followed me over the years, thank you so much, and I promise I'm not disappearing forever - please check in on me every once in awhile to see when I start back up again. In the meantime, continue all your good genealogy work, and the best of luck in finding all the family you're searching for!!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Social media breaking down family history barriers

Great story by Dana Rimington of the Standard-Examiner out in Utah. If you've seen this story or follow this blog (or any blog or tweets or Facebook posts etc etc), you already know how influential social media has become in helping us share our family history stories and research. A couple of good quotes from Thomas MacEntee over at Geneabloggers.com. The physical legwork of genealogy remains largely the same - for example, a cousin of mine trekked out to Lutheran Cemetery today to visit a gravesite and get info on that site from the cemetery office, but social media has changed the availability and dissemination of that info - for example, this is a cousin I've never met, and we've connected through the online genealogy community. His physical visit is helping grow my family story, and vice versa in other situations. All I can reiterate is - keep sharing!

Social media breaking down family history barriers

Monday, March 18, 2013

From Aintitcoolnews.com: ‘Jesus!!’ The Christopher Guest HBO Comedy Series FAMILY TREE Gets Its First Tease!!

From Ain't It Cool News:

"Christopher Guest, who co-wrote “This Is Spinal Tap” before he went on to co-write and direct the similarly improvised comedies “Waiting For Guffman,” “Best In Show,” “A Mighty Wind” and “For Your Consideration,” writes, directs and co-stars in “Family Tree,” the tale of a man researching his own genealogy.

Hitting HBO in May, it stars Chris O’Dowd (who played love interest to Jemima Kirk and Kristen Wiig in “Girls” and “Bridesmaids,” respectively), with support from Guest’s usual movie repertory company (Fred Willard, Michael McKean, Ed Begley Jr., Bob Balaban, Don Lake, and so on)."

If you've never seen any of Christopher Guest's movies, you're missing out on some wry, dry, ridiculous humor. And for the record, I would just like to say that I knew about and loved Chris O'Dowd way before anybody ever "discovered" him in "Bridesmaids."

So between Guest and O'Dowd and of course, the subject matter - genealogy, yay! - I definitely want to see this show. I think we all know that besides the frustration and joys that genealogy can bring, it can also bring the funny and ridiculous. Plus, anything that puts genealogy in the mainstream? More, please!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Women's History Month: The Casey women

Cousin April over at Digging up the Dirt on my Dead People posted a lovely old photo of some of the women in her family and their children, which made me remember I also have a favorite old photo of some of the women in my family, so I thought I'd post it for Women's History Month.
And for once, it's a photo that's been labeled!!! (Thank you Grandma (Mary Cronin Raynor)!!! It is most definitely her handwriting...) Although, unfortunately, there is no date. We can guess though! My grandmother looks similar in age to her wedding photo, but she's labeled herself with her maiden name, so let's guess she's about 30 which would make this photo from about 1945.

The location is Coney Island - getting photos taken at Coney Island was a big thing for the Casey and Cronin families in my tree. This photo is of the Casey women. From left to right we have: Maggie Casey Booth Casey (yes, her maiden name and second married name are both Casey), Mary Cronin, Molly Casey Murray, Elizabeth Casey Costello, Jenny Casey Travers, Ellen Casey Cronin, and Swanhild Nelson Casey. Maggie, Molly, Elizabeth, Jenny, and Ellen are sisters, and Swanhild is their sister-in-law. Mary Cronin is the daughter of Ellen. Ellen Casey Cronin is my great-grandmother, and Mary Cronin (later Raynor) is my grandmother. It's nice seeing all these women together, seeing all these sisters still close to each other even as adults, still traveling to Coney Island like a bunch of young girls to take a souvenir photo together.