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# Monday, March 08, 2010
Behind the Scenes of "WDYTYA?": Researching Sarah Jessica Parker's Roots
Posted by Diane

For those of you yearning to know more about how a small army of genealogists uncovered Sarah Jessica Parker’s Gold Rush and Salem Witch trial ancestry, shown Friday night in NBC’s “Who Do You Think You Are?” premiere, Ancestry.com has provided a look at the behind-the-scenes research process.

I'll send you over to Geneabloggers, where Thomas MacEntee has posted it.

For even more details, see Kimberly Powell's About.com Genealogy post about a letter she found that mentions Parker’s ancestor John S. Hodge.

The show came in second in the ratings for the 8 p.m. time slot, with 6.85 million viewers—not bad for a Friday evening. If you missed "Who Do YouThink You Are?" you can watch on Hulu.

And set your DVR to record "The Oprah Winfrey Show" Tuesday, which promises to be a geneafest as Sarah Jessica Parker, Susan Sarandon, Lisa Kudrow, Brooke Shields and Emmitt Smith talk about their family history finds for “Who Do You Think You Are?” Historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. also will discuss his findings on the PBS series "Faces of America" and, it looks like from the video clip, touch on Gates’ July 2009 arrest for disorderly conduct (which occurred upon his return from filming Yo-yo Ma’s family story in China).


"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots
Monday, March 08, 2010 10:49:48 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, March 05, 2010
'Who Do You Think You Are?" Episode One Recap
Posted by Diane

We’ll be doing quick recaps of every “Who Do You Think You Are?” episode right here. So if you haven’t yet watched the Sarah Jessica Parker episode and you don’t want to know, stop reading this second.

Here are some of my thoughts (and Facebook posts) while I watched:

Sarah Jessica Parker (SJP) and her brother are joking about being related to a Mayflower passenger. I smell foreshadowing.

SJP's father is Eastern-European Jewish, but she has lots of questions about her mother’s side. Her mother born and raised in Cincinnati’s German Community (just like my mom’s dad). SJP visits her mom and learns her great-grandmother's last name was Hodge.

SJP goes to Cincinnati's Clifton Public Library, about 10 minutes from where I am right now, meeting with genealogist Natalie Cottrill. (Read more about her visit in this Cincinnati Enquirer article.)

SJP’s great-grandfather John Hodge is reported dead in 1849 in a newspaper article, but appears in the census in California the next year.

First Ancestry.com commercial.

Now she’s at the Museum Center, formerly Cincinnati’s Union Terminal train station (a great place to visit if you're ever in town), meeting with UCLA history professor Stephen Aron.

Hodge invested $200 in a gold-prospecting company. He left for California, leaving his wife (whom he may or may not have known was pregnant). It’s neat to see SJP’s genuine excitement and curiosity. Now off to California.

I’m concerned viewers will think you actually have to visit every place your ancestors lived in order to research. That might make it even more fun and exciting, but it’s definitely not required!

John Hodge did die after he arrived in California. Sad.

SJP says it's “extraordinary” to think your ancestor was part of such a profound event in history. That’s what I love about genealogy.

Now Josh Taylor from the New England Historic Genealogical Society is telling her about John Hodge’s family. 1849 to 1635 in 15 seconds flat.

Now we’re on to the Massachusetts Historical Society. (You can read more about the MHS visit here.)

SJP is looking at an online index and sees the word “warrant” by her ancestor’s last name. Cut to commercial!

I love the little review after every commercial break.

SJP’s ancestor Esther Elwell was arrested for performing witchcraft against her neighbor, Mary Fitch, causing Fitch to die. SJP is so surprised, she’s stammering.

Another commercial break!

Whew! SJP’s relative was arrested near the end of the trials, and ended up never having to go to court. She lived to age 82.

I feel like there should be a disclosure telling us how many hours and how many people all this research took. But, I really enjoyed watching someone else enjoy the process of genealogy. It was fun watching along with my Facebook genealogy friends. I think the show told a great story, introduced us to (or reacquainted us with) historical events, and got across how meaningful family history research can be.

Update: For more details on how the research into SJP's ancestry was done, see our March 8 post.


"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots
Friday, March 05, 2010 9:20:21 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [8]
Genealogy News Corral: March 1-5
Posted by Diane

  • The National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, DC, is holding its sixth annual Genealogy Fair April 14 and 15th. Look for free classes and workshop, as well as a "Help! I’m Stuck!” table staffed with genealogy experts. Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, author of the “Who Do You Think You Are?” book, will present a talk April 14 at 7 p.m. Also appearing is Andrew Carroll, editor of the books War Letters and Behind the Lines.
  • The state of Georgia announced a partnership with Ancestry.com to offer grants for local governments and historical repositories. Eight organizations will receive up to $10,000 in scanning services. Ancestry.com will digitize and index records and make them available to subscribers. Repositories will receive digital copies of the records and index; they can make the index public immediately and the index after three years.

  • In other Ancestry.com news, the site's version of the Social Security Death Index will now be updated every week.
It seems like there was something else I wanted to add .... let's see ... oh, right: Remember to watch the premiere of “Who Do You Think You Are?” tonight at 8 pm (7 pm central) on NBC!


Ancestry.com | Genealogy Events | Libraries and Archives
Friday, March 05, 2010 2:41:15 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Thursday, March 04, 2010
Maine Legislature May Close Vital Records
Posted by Diane

Dick Eastman’s blog caught my eye with a post about a Maine bill that might close birth and marriage records.

The bill is LD 1781, An Act To Allow Electronic Filing of Vital Records and Closing of Records To Guard against Fraud and Make Other Changes to the Vital Records Laws, was the subject of a hearing yesterday before the legislature's Health and Human Services committee.

You can see the text of LD 1781 here. It was sponsored by Rep. Anne C. Perry of Calais, Me.

Sec. 12. 22 part 2706, Disclosure of Vital Records, reads “After 100 years from the date of birth for birth certificates, after 100 years from the date of death for fetal death certificates and death certificates, after 100 years from the date of marriage for marriage certificates and after 100 years from the registration of domestic partnerships, any person may obtain informational copies of these vital records in accordance with the department's rules.”

That would effectively close records to all but immediate family or legal representatives for 100 years after they’re created, throwing a big obstacle in the way of family historians with Maine ancestors.

It’s an unnecessary obstacle. As Dick says, vital records are rarely used for fraud. Most identity theft happens when people with access to sensitive information, such as employees of financial institutions or government agencies, steal data and sell it. Stolen wallets, credit cards and mail are other sources. (Follow the links in Dick's post for more details.)

The bill does let record custodians “permit inspection of records, or issue certified copies of certificates or records, or any parts thereof, when satisfied that the applicant therefore has a direct and legitimate interest in the matter recorded.”

But there’s no allowance for uncertified records, unofficial documents that many states issue for genealogy research.

Visit Maine's state legislature website for legistators’ contact information.


Public Records
Thursday, March 04, 2010 11:15:47 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Easy Ways to Help Your Friends Get Started in Genealogy
Posted by Diane

So pretty soon, your friends who’ve seen “Who Do You Think You Are?” and know you’re into genealogy might start asking you how they can start digging into their family history.

Here are some beginner friendly resources:
Also don’t miss our “Who Do You Think You Are?” landing page, where beginning and experienced genealogists can learn more about the show, see the latest Tweets about it, discuss episodes on our Forum and get the lowdown on even more celebrities’ family trees.

Related resources from ShopFamilyTree.com:
  • Census Secrets CD with in-depth information on one of the most-used genealogical records


"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Research Tips
Thursday, March 04, 2010 10:17:32 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, March 03, 2010
We're Bundled Up
Posted by Diane

…. and we don’t mean because of the weather.



We took our CDs, books and webinars that offer genealogy help with three of the topics you’re most interested in, packaged them up into themed “bundles” and discounted them to give you a great deal. Three bundles are available at ShopFamilyTree.com:
  • The Organized Genealogy Bundle: Organize Your Genealogy Life! CD, Organization Made Easy webinar recording, Organize Now! book, 2010 Family Tree Magazine Desktop Calendar
You'll find more details on the contents of each bundle in ShopFamilyTree.com.

Editor's Pick | Family Heirlooms | Genealogy books | Research Tips
Wednesday, March 03, 2010 4:40:40 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Video: "Who Do You Think You Are?" on "Today"
Posted by Diane

Lisa Kudrow appeared on "Today" this morning to talk about “Who Do You Think You Are?” which premieres (in case you hadn’t heard) this Friday on NBC at 8 pm (7pm central).

She describes the episode about her own roots (airing March 19) as “relentless” because it deals with the Holocaust—but if you hang in there, she adds, there’s a "happy surprise" at the end. Kudrow also calls Emmitt Smith, whose episode airs March 12, a “great teacher.” Here’s the "Today" video:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


Looks like the Today anchors, who’ve explored their own ancestries for television, plan to tune in.

See the Genealogy Gems blog for a schedule of upcoming “Who Do You Think You Are?” promotional appearances.

And here’s an episode lineup:
  • March 5: Sarah Jessica Parker
  • March 12: Emmitt Smith
  • March 19: Lisa Kudrow
  • March 26: Matthew Broderick
  • April 2: Brooke Shields
  • April 9: Susan Sarandon
  • April 23: Spike Lee


"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Videos
Wednesday, March 03, 2010 1:23:44 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
Genetic Genealogy: Oh, the Possibilities
Posted by Diane

Interest in genetic genealogy was expanding beyond genealogy circles by April 2006, when this week’s “Best of Family Tree Magazine” article was published. Colleen Fitzpatrick shared an example of how DNA testing can help you theorize how and where your family may have migrated.

Though not everyone’s looking to trace their roots back to the Vikings, I like this example because it shows some of the possibilities of genetic genealogy—a field where scientists continue to make door-opening discoveries for family historians.
Follow genetic fingerprints to new theories. DNA can point to a previously unrecognized episode in your family's past. “Oddball” test results sometimes signal nonpaternity events (adoptions, name changes, illegitimacies), which can link you with unexpected people and places.

Take my Fitzpatrick surname study. Although the DNA profiles (haplotypes) are relatively diverse, most of the 75 participants match one another on 20 or so markers out of 26. This shows that we share a common background—it's just far back in the past. Three people don't fit that mold, however: They match the rest of the group on no more than seven markers.

Two of these three men—a Catholic priest from New Jersey and a retired engineer from New South Wales, Australia—match each other exactly. And they've traced their families back to two small towns only 10 miles apart on the west coast of Ireland. The American's Fitzpatrick family immigrated during the Great Famine; the Australian's Fitzpatrick ancestors went “down under” in the early 1900s. How could these men match each other exactly but be so different from the rest of the Fitzpatrick study group?

Our questioning has led to some interesting theories, developed from what we know about the history of western Ireland. One potential explanation is that the men descend from a Viking who made a pit stop on his way around coastal Ireland, leaving behind a genetic souvenir. Another possibility: The pair descends from a survivor of the Spanish Armada's 1588 wreck on the west coast of Ireland.

As online databases grow to include a more diverse collection of haplotypes, we may find more matches to these men. If they match an Erikson or a Peterson, we can further probe the first possibility. If they match a Lopez or Garcia, we can explore the second theory. Or we may devise altogether new theories. But whatever we discover, they'll have a fascinating new chapter to add to their family sagas.
Family Tree Magazine Plus members can read the entire article online.

Related resources from Family Tree Magazine:


Family Tree Magazine articles | Genetic Genealogy
Wednesday, March 03, 2010 12:20:10 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, March 01, 2010
Roots Television Site to Close
Posted by Diane

Roots Television, a website launched in 2006 with genealogy videos, will close March 10—unless an interested party acts quickly to adopt the site.

An e-mail to Roots Television mailing list subscribers from Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, who launched the site along with media producer Marcy Brown in September 2006, said other outlets are now helping to fill the “genealogy channel” void.

“Genealogy is finally going mainstream. Some of you are probably already watching 'Faces of America' on PBS and 'The Generations Project' on BYU,” Smolenyak writes. “And many, I'm sure, have heard of the imminent launch on NBC of 'Who Do You Think You Are?' (a series I'm proud to be affiliated with, and for which, I wrote the companion book). The non-genealogical world is finally waking up to the long overlooked potential of what we roots-sleuths do on a daily basis.”

The message linked to an online article about genealogy popping up in mainstream media such as "The Simpsons," "Faces of America" and “Who Do You Think You Are?”

“I hope that you have enjoyed the hundreds of high quality videos that RootsTelevision.com has produced or selected. From the viewing numbers and kind comments, I know that many of you have. It's been a privilege to give the genealogical community this resource, but this seems the appropriate time to move on,” Smolenyak writes.

The message ended with a note that anyone interested in acquiring the site should contact Smolenyak immediately.

RootsTelevision.com will feature some of the most popular videos in the coming days. A few of my favorites: “Heir Jordan," the Unclaimed Persons videos and the Down Under series.


Genealogy Industry | Genealogy Web Sites
Monday, March 01, 2010 8:12:53 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, February 26, 2010
Genealogy News Corral: February 22-26
Posted by Diane

Here are some of this week's genealogy news bits:
  • Ancestry.com is holding an Ultimate Family History Journey Sweepstakes to help launch “Who Do You Think You Are?” The grand prize is $20,000 in travel money (!), expert help with your genealogy research, and Ancestry.com subscriptions. Twenty first prize winenrs get a World Deluxe Subscription. Enter at Ancestry.com (scroll to the bottom of the home page and click on the sweepstakes promo) before April 30, 2010, at 11:59 pm ET.
  • British subscription and pay-per-view site Findmypast has launched a London Collection with baptism, marriage and burial records dating as far back as 1538. It also has London and West Kent Probate Indexes from 1750 to 1858, and names of participants in the Matchworkers' Strike of 1888. (Many of these records are also in Ancestry.com’s London Parish Records collection, launched last year.)

Ancestry.com | Jewish roots | UK and Irish roots | "Who Do You Think You Are?"
Friday, February 26, 2010 3:10:04 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]