Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Who Do You Think You Are?: Julie Chen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Monday, March 9, 2015

Quoted

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

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

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

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

That is me in paragraph 2 on page 7!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

I Have Only Seen Photos of Her When She Was Much Older

In addition to helping me break through many of my research brick walls, my Ancestry.com DNA testing has reconnected my family with not so distant cousins. This past week my Uncle's DNA results lead me to a match with a second cousin twice removed. 

That removed business confuses people. All it means is a generation apart. This cousin would be my grandma's second cousin, my dad's second cousin once removed, and my second cousin twice removed. Get it? No? Well, moving on...

This cousin had a photo of my paternal grandmother's paternal grandmother. My great-great grandmother, Annette Hinch-Henry. 


Annette Hinch-Henry circa 1889
I have only seen photos of her when she was much older.

I say this often. It is important to spread out and not just go back in time. Research more than just your direct ancestors. Research their siblings and in-laws. Sometimes those are the people who inherited the good stuff. 



Friday, February 20, 2015

Genealogy Roadshow Review - Philadelphia Historical Society (S2E6)

 I have been watching this program every week online. And sadly, I'm just not that into it. The genealogist presented six very compelling family stories but I'm just not into it. I appreciate that these are family history stories of everyday people and not celebrities but there is something about it that just doesn't captivate me.

The only story that struck me this week was that of the first guest. Genealogist, Joshua Taylor, revealed to a woman the full story of how her grandparents helped others escape the Holocaust.When in her early 20s, the guest's grandmother offered to buy her a car using money she inherited from a Jewish family. That family were cousins of the guest's grandfather. Using ship manifests and naturalization papers Joshua was able to show the guest photos of relatives; a brother and sister who escaped Austria at the beginning of WWII. She also learned the fate of their sister.

We don't know why the older sister didn't leave Austria but on the night of October 5, 1942, 549 Jews were removed from Vienna to an extermination camp outside of Minsk. The trip trip took 4 days and upon arrival the passengers were executed, including the older sister.

So very sad. It moved the guest and me to tears.

But it did show that European Jewish ancestors can be researched. I've had several friends of Jewish heritage sort of shrug off the idea of being able to research their family history. Yes, thousands of Jews were annihilated in the Holocaust and many European records were destroyed during the war but many records still exist and research can provide you an even more meaningful bond with those who survived the war as well as those who lost their lives.

You can view this episode online at http://video.pbs.org/video/2365424297/

But in all honesty, I am looking forward more to seeing the new season of Who Do You Think You Are? which airs Sunday, March 8, 2015 on TLC. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Genealogy Roadshow Review - St. Louis, Union Station (S2E5)

This episode aired on February 10, 2015 on PBS. You can watch it online up until March 11, 2015 at http://video.pbs.org/video/2365406940/

While at St. Louis’ historic Union Station, this program's team of genealogists revealed many family histories including one to a pair of sisters who believed they had a link to a survivor of the infamous Donner Party, a man descended from a saint, an Italian-American woman seeking the validity of the royal family crest, a musician looking to determine if her great-grandfather was a famous jazz composer, a son and his elderly mother who never knew her own mother hoping to regain that half of her family tree, and a woman whose mother was adopted and wanted to know more about her biological ancestry. 

One of the two things that really stood out to me was the use of DNA testing in this episode. In the first reveal DNA was used to substantiate the family lore that the sisters were descendents from members of the Donner Party. In the second reveal DNA was used again but this time to dispel the belief that the race of the guest's great-grandfather was a big family secret. Both examples underscore that fact that DNA is useful genealogy research tool to both confirm and refute assumptions and family lore. It is not a substitute for documentation but when documentation just does not exist it is a very powerful form of evidence.

The story that stood out the most to me was the last one in which Joshua Taylor revealed to a woman the history of her biological family. It began with the guest explaining that family means so much to her but other than her mother and her daughter she knew no other biological relatives because her biological mother was adopted. 

In my mind, that statement alone sparks an incredibly powerful question of how one defines "family" and if DNA really is a factor at all. I feel that family are the ones that you surround yourself with but as you stretch back in history to individuals you did not personally know, is DNA the defining factor? It's a question I need to work through a bit more on my own before writing about it I guess. Anyway...

Josh uncovered for the guest incredibly examples of information resources for this woman whose ancestors' lives were ravaged by early deaths, abandonment, mental illness, and divorce. Through the use of adoption records, Josh was able to track down a marriage record for the guest's biological maternal grandparents. That document revealed the maiden name of the biological maternal grandmother. This in turn made it possible to research that family in the U.S. Federal Census records.

Census records can reveal quite a bit about the make up of a "family" as I defined it earlier; the people one surrounds himself or herself with. A census record shows who is living together and the relationships among the residents as well as their occupations, ethnicities, races, genders, and ages which can to some degree let a researcher make assumptions about the interactions among the "family" members.

In the case of this biological maternal grandmother, the 1940 census reveals that she too was an orphan and raised in an orphanage. Josh then shares film footage from 1940 of the very same orphanage. To think that the guest could have been seeing the face of her very own biological grandmother in that footage was riveting. Of course the woman's biological grandmother was not identified by name in the video but those children and nuns would have been her grandmother's playmates and caretakers. 

Just the string of resources that were used in this reveal were so overwhelming.For that alone, I recommend you watch this episode.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Genealogy Roadshow: New Orleans - Board of Trade (S2E4)

So Genealogy Roadshow is back in NOLA (New Orleans, LA) for this episode. Hmm, I guess they didn't want to do too much traveling around on this season of Roadshow because there are so many other cities out there to visit; they have already been to New Orleans this season. Anyway...


In this episode, the team of genealogists revealed:
  1. A reestablished family history to a man who lost his family records during Hurricane Katrina
  2. A mufti-racial family with a common slave ancestor
  3. A man with link to the famous New Orleans residents Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau and jazz clarinetist Barney Bigard
  4. A woman seeking to determine if her grandfather really did have a sister who died as a child
  5. Another woman curious about her great-grandfather's adoption from Honduras
  6. And a woman who had ancestors on both sides of the Civil War.

The two stories that stood out the most to me were that of the family history lost in Hurricane Katrina and the woman with a grandfather that had a vague recollection a sister.

Although I do not think of my community as "coastal" it is. I live on Long Island which although it's considered suburban, let's face it, it is urban. I feel like I live in a city. BUT it is an island. It is surrounded by the sea. So it is coastal, April.

Being coastal means that Hurricanes hit and in recent years Long Island has been hit hard by several hurricanes. In October 2012 we suffered a great blow from Hurricane Sandy which is often called Superstorm Sandy but let us not forget that just the year before in August 2011 Hurricane Irene ripped through my area as well.

In these impactful storms, many people lose everything they own; irreplaceable things. And although it is true that you can't get back everything you can rebuild. You can even rebuilt your family tree. This episodes shows how sometimes - **sometimes** - you can find books, documents and photos from and about your family in a library or archives. Cousin Mary over at Threading Needles in a Haystack wrote a great review of this episode in which she talks about how she found a family photo though an archive.

The other story about a woman who's great-grandfather had vague memories of a sister he might have had a sister who died when she was a child was very touching. I thought it also showed how sometimes, I would say more often than not, fragile memories and hard-to-believe family lore are true.

The woman told of how her great-grandfather would often stare off into space and when asked, would say he thought he might have had a sister named "Alice" who died when she was little. Sure enough, this man who wound up in an orphanage after the death of his parents and abandonment by his step-mother, did indeed have a sister. Mary Tedesco presented this woman with the death certificate for an unnamed female infant that dies shortly before this man's biological mother died.

Often death certificate state the place of burial and so I pray that the genealogist encouraged this woman to see if the cemeteries held more information - perhaps the baby sister's name would be listed there, maybe there is even a family plot with a headstone. Even if there is not, it was evident that this reveal meant an awful lot to this woman, to know that her great-grandfather's memories were real.

You can view this episode online at PBS until March 4, 2015: http://video.pbs.org/video/2365408988/

Monday, February 2, 2015

Family History Object Number 1: My Claddagh Ring

The claddagh ring is probably one of the most well know symbols of Irish heritage. 

This is my Claddagh ring. It was given to me as a Christmas gift when I was about 13. I cannot remember the exact year but I got it from my mom. She said I was old enough then to own a real piece of jewelry.

The ring represent love, loyalty, and friendship. Love is represented by the heart, loyalty by the crown, and friendship by the two hands coming together.

My ring happens to be tricolor which I do not often see on other Claddagh wearers. The hands and the band itself are gold, the heart is rose gold and the crown is silver in color. I don't know if the crown is white gold or silver but the band is marked "10K 6" and thus I'm pretty certain it is all 10 karat gold because I know the 6 represents the ring size. I have little fingers; this is big on me.

The way one wears their Claddagh ring also has its own meaning. If someone is single then the ring should be worn on the right hand with the point of the heart toward the fingertips. If someone is in relationship the ring will be place on the right hand with the heart pointing to the wrist. If one is engaged then the ring should be worn on the left hand with the heart pointing to the fingertips. If it is worn on the left hand with the heart pointing towards the wrist then it means the person is married.

I don't prescribe to those wearing rules. I wear mine on my left hand simply because I cannot stand jewelry in my right hand. It bothers me when I write and yes, I still write with a pen or pencil. It's not all typing you know.

I wear it on my middle finger, though. As cynical as I am about marriage, I still believe the left ring finger should be reserved for wedding and engagement rings. And because I am not currently in a committed relationship, I do wear the heart pointed outward towards my fingertip. Tradition is the one who makes the commitment to you should turn your ring around; if not actually give you the ring.

My DNA ethnic profile shows that I am 44% Irish. I have Irish ancestry on both my mother's and father's side of my family. Family lore on my mother's side, though, is that I am descended from the man who invented the Claddagh ring, however, there is more than one person given that credit and I have not been able to trace myself family back to either of them. 

One of the men credited with the design was named Richard Joyce. I do have the Joyce name in my family tree but it is a very common Irish surname. Although, my Great Aunt Ann did say the Joyces were from Galway which would jive with the story of Richard Joyce. Claddagh is a town in Galway County, Ireland where Richard Joyce returned to after his enslavement.

Oh yeah, Richard Joyce was captured by pirates in 1675, according to multiple online sources. He was on his way to serve as an indentured servant when pirates capture the ship. He was then enslaved to a man in Tangier, Morocco which is where he learned to be a goldsmith. In 1689, King of England, William III, managed to get the enslaved people back to Ireland. Among them was Richard Joyce who took his skills back to Galway, settled in the town of Rahoon, not far from Claddagh, married, had kids, and might have invented this ring design. He undoubtedly made rings of this design. Researchers just aren't sure if he invented it.

Like I may never know for sure if I am descended from him but I have Irish Joyce ancestry all the same and so it speaks to me just fine.