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.