Who Do You Think You Are?

Mark your calendars.

It is not often that prime time television has a series about family history.
Friday, March 5th – NBC is starting the popular series: Who Do You Think You Are?

Gather the family – watch the show and then dig in to GenealogyBank to find your ancestors. Discover the stories of their lives.

Michelle Obama’s – Slave Roots – Friendfield Plantation & Grover Cleveland

(CNN Photo of a slave cabin)

CNN has produced Tracking Michelle Obama’s slave roots - a video tour of Friendfield Plantation in Georgetown, South Carolina – where Michelle Obama’s 2nd Great-Grandfather James Robinson was a slave.

At least one President has been to Friendfield Plantation – in 1894 President Grover Cleveland hunted there. Read the complete news account – Bagged Twenty-Nine – The President’s Fine Shooting on the Second Day Out – 19 Dec 1894 – State (SC)

(Illustration of Pres. Grover Cleveland hunting – from his book: Fishing and Shooting Sketches. NY: Outing Pub., 1906.)

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National Archives Celebrates 75th Anniversary this Friday!

National Archives Celebrates 75th Anniversary on Friday, June 19th.

Susan Logue (Voice of America) distributed this commentary on the 75th Anniversary of the National Archives.

Before the National Archives was founded, many governmental records were kept in poor conditions. On June 19, 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the legislation creating the National Archives. “There was a recognition by historians, by public officials and others that the history of the nation was being lost,” says assistant archivist Michael Kurtz. “Records were kept by the agencies that created them. Fires, floods and other disasters really ate away at the nation’s documented heritage.”

A visitor to the National Archives examines the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the U.S.

Constitution Seventy-five years later, it is home to some of the most treasured documents in the United States. Every day, visitors fill the rotunda of the National Archives to get a glimpse of the documents that are the foundation of the United States government: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

But there is much more to the National Archives than just the so-called Charters of Freedom. More than 9 billion records preserved.

Since 1934 it has been responsible for all official governmental historical records: judicial, legislative and executive. Of course, not every government document is saved. Only one to three percent are deemed valuable enough to permanently archive. But, as Kurtz explains, that still adds up to more than nine billion records. While the paper records are vast, there are records in other formats as well including video, film, and digital.

“You have wikis and blogs, digital e-mail, all capturing government business,” says Kurtz. He notes they present new challenges to the Archives. “Preserving them is not like having temperature- and humidity-control vaults for paper records, which will ensure the paper records last for hundreds of years. Digital media is much more fragile.”

On the other hand, Kurtz says, the digital age has presented some opportunities for the National Archives, which can provide access to holdings to people who will never be able to come to the National Archives in person.

The National Archives is celebrating its 75th anniversary with lectures and panel discussions, screenings of films, and an exhibit called “Big!,” featuring some of its more unusual holdings. “The original premise was to showcase some unique items that normally don’t get displayed because of their size,” says exhibits specialist Jennifer Johnson.

Those items include a Civil War-era battlefield map of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, that measures four meters square and a bathtub modeled after the one made for President William Howard Taft, the largest U.S. president. He weighed about 145 kilos (320 pounds). “There were a series of items that were custom made for him, including his bed,” says Johnson. “We have a telegram where it is asking for a bathtub, listing the dimensions and describing it as ‘pond-like.’”
When the exhibition, Big!, closes next January, Shaq’s shoe will go to the George W. Bush presidential library. Presidential libraries are also part of the National Archives. There is also a shoe that belonged to basketball star Shaquille O’Neal, which was given to President George W. Bush, and a casting of dinosaur footprints.

Johnson says that was presented to Richard Nixon by two boys who discovered the fossilized prints in New Jersey. “When they discovered these footprints they petitioned Nixon to preserve that area of land so they could study it, and he did. So they gave him a casting of the footprints.” Today, she notes, one of those boys is one of the leading paleontologists in the U.S. There are also more conventional records in the exhibit, illustrating big events and big ideas in American history, like the lunar landing and D-Day, the Normandy invasion that led to the Allied victory in World War Two.

Exhibits like “Big!” give visitors a glimpse of the vast holdings of the National Archives, but the stars of the collection remain the Charters of Freedom.
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Disciples of Christ Historical Society sustains severe water damage

DeciplesWorld is reporting that “the Nashville-based Disciples of Christ Historical Society suffered severe water damage the last weekend of April when what the organization believes was a faulty valve in the heating and air-conditioning system allowed gallons of water to pour from top to bottom of the half-century-old Thomas W. Phillips Memorial Archives that houses the society.” (See the complete article by Ted Parks. Disciples Historical Society sustains severe water damage).

“On Tuesday, staff packaged 115 boxes of damp items, including books, periodicals, church records, and video tape, for shipment to a company in Michigan that freeze-dries archival and museum materials to remove moisture. Out of the 12,000 cubic feet of material the society stores, only about 130 cubic feet of books and other items got wet and required repair, Harwell explained.”

The Disciples of Christ Historical Society Library contains “37,000 books, 35,000 biographical files, 25,000 congregational records, and 2,000 audio-visual items.”

Sara Howell, DCHS Chief Archivist sent me this link to other pictures of the damage.

Need help writing an obituary?

You can find all types of helpful advice in newspapers.
This humorous advice on writing an obituary is from today’s New London (CT) Day (3 April 2009). It wasn’t written on April Fool’s Day – but it sure could have been.

This video clip is by Day reporter Rick Koster.
You can view the video clip of his column here.

Have you noticed that more and more newspapers are adding video clips of their columnists and in depth expanded coverage of local news stories?
These “news clips” are a terrific 21st century bonus in today’s newspapers.

One of my favorite newspaper video clip stories is the New York Time’s report on Green Wood Cemetery’s (NYC) Civil War Graves Project. See it here. McDonald, Brett & Donald Glenn Collins. Green-Wood Remembers the Civil War Dead. (NY Times, 28 May 2007).

Both of these newspaper video clips are must viewing by genealogists.

Obituary key to finding missing heir – Tulsa, OK man receives $200,000

Nicholas Grod of Portland, Oregon used an online obituary to track down the rightful heir to a fortune in US Government bonds that he found hidden in his basement.

KATU-TV (Portland, OR) reports that last year Grod was cleaning out the basement of his Portland, Oregon home and found a homemade box wedged under a shelf. In it he found $200,000 in US Bonds, family photographs, a letter and clues to the person who had left them there.

Nicholas Grod used the Internet to track down the details about the previous owners of the house. He had reached a dead-end in the census – but “but an online obituary led Grod to a grandson named Thomas Fagg who lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma.”

From that online obituary Nicholas Grod made contact with Thomas Fagg, now 2,000 miles away, and sent him the box and valuables that he had found hidden in his basement.

Wow – Thomas Fagg was thrilled to receive those family photos – he didn’t have any pictures of his grandfather – he was also pleased to receive the bonds. “There are no words in the English language that can express the gratitude and admiration I have for this man for being so, so honest,” Fagg said.

You can see the entire KATU-TV interview with Nicholas Grod and Thomas Fagg at: http://www.katu.com/news/39350242.html?video=YHI&t=a

Green-Wood Cemetery – Brooklyn, NY – Honors Civil War Vets

Newspapers are producing more than newsprint – they are adding video news clips.
Here is an example from the New York Times – “Green-Wood Remembers Civil War Dead”

Click here and watch in depth report about Green-Wood Cemetery’s effort to document the graves of Civil War veterans.

It’s must viewing!

Even more Genealogy Blogs …

Earlier this week I wrote: A genealogy blog? What’s that?

I told you about key genealogy blogs that you read daily. But wait, there’s more.
Here are even more genealogy blog sites that are must reading:
Tracing the Tribe: The Jewish Genealogy Blog – knowledgeable blogger Schelly Talalay Dardashti has one foot planted in her home in Israel and another with her relatives and family here in the States. Her articles go beyond resources focused on Jewish research and cover technology and opportunities that will help genealogists researching other lines as well. Schelly will be speaking on genealogy blogs at the Southern California Genealogical Jamboree next weekend in Burbank.
The Genealogue: Genealogy News You Can’t Possibly Use is one of the funniest and informative sites out there. Written much in the spirit of TV’s Colbert Report this is must reading for genealogists. Here is his official portrait on his blog … and be sure to click here and read his About Me page.
Another must read site is: Roots Television Megan’s Roots World written by Megan Smolenyak – the prolific lecturer and author. Her brief blog posts are tech savvy – often speak to DNA research – or to her break through research findings. She is a key leader in genealogy today.
Click here to learn more about her presentations at the Southern California Genealogical Jamboree next weekend.

It was Megan’s Roots Television that arranged for Dick Eastman’s interview with me about GenealogyBank. This short upbeat interview gives a good look at the “Wow” value of GenealogyBank - and that was a year ago at the 2007 FGS Conference. We’ve added more than 30 million items to GenealogyBank since then. Click here to watch the video.
Everyone reads Genea-Musings by Randy Seaver – his daily posts focus on his research on the Seaver family, new technology and items he has spotted on other blogs – in the news and beyond – all of it useful.
GenWeekly has been published since 2004 by Steve Johns, Kristin Bradt and Illya D’Addezio. Illya is also the publisher of Genealogy Today which has regular columns; articles; a newsletter and databases that genealogists read, use and rely on.
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