I went looking for an ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) of this title after catching an exchange between @CleverTitleTK (Fight on #resistancegenealogy!) and the author. @weiss_squad and @PRHLibrary came through for me!

Cover ImageFamily secrets, DNA, nature and nurture…

As a memoirist Shapiro has written extensively on her family and relationships which no doubt made the results of her DNA test all the more disconcerting. In Inheritance she presents a heartfelt chronicle of the discovery of a non-Jewish 1st cousin in her results, the research to discover her surprise biological paternal family, and the initial correspondence with her genetic father, all alongside her anguish over what that meant for her relationships with her social father and mother—both deceased.

For me this was a bit close to home and I will admit to putting it down briefly as her pain and confusion came off the page. As a genealogist this isn’t a particularly new story to me but, given recent revelations in my own family, it was a timely and emotional read. As the popularity of commercial DNA tests grows it is obvious that stories like this will continue to come to light and Dani Shapiro offers here a thoughtful examination of her feelings, motivations, and fears that can be of comfort to people with similar stories.

Happy reading and hunting!

Jess

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Labor Day commemorates the American Labor Movement and the contributions of workers to the country. In the past in the blog I’ve focused on the range of occupations in my family and encouraged people to think about what their own relatives did in life. But I’m hoping that researchers are going the extra steps to read up on those occupations and see if your families were involved in unions and other pro-labor organizations—whatever their occupations. I’ve come across subjects that were stone masons, teachers, railroad workers, auto workers, porters, farm workers, etc.

Remember, we’re looking for more than dates. We’re looking for the stories as well. Were they organizers? Members? Strikers? Negotiators? What were the realities of their work life that unions sought to improve?

If you know the union or organization your subjects were associated with you can look them up in Worldcat.org, Archivegrid, or Google to find possible collections to explore possibly including journals such as the The Stone Cutters’ Journal  below (available on Google Books) or more detailed record sets.

Cover of the February 1922 issue of the Stone Cutters' Journal.

Here are a few examples of collections that may be of use:

Note: Multiple institutions may hold different collections for the same organizations.

What other groups might your families have been members of?

Happy hunting!

Jess

There are lot of reasons to take advantage of the educational opportunities offered through the genealogical communities—local, regional, or larger. Keeping up with new resources, learning new shortcuts, or having it hammered home that there are places where there are no shortcuts. But another reason I have heard echoed at many an event is the simple reminder that there is work to do still. So, this weekend saw me wandering through New England records after seeing a couple of great presentations by David Allen Lambert of the New England Historic Genealogical Society at the 2018 Abrams Foundation Family History Seminar hosted by the Archives of Michigan and the Michigan Genealogical Council last week.

I’d been neglecting my New England lines lately and this was a good kick to get me checking my documentation and filling out parts of the tree I hadn’t worked on since very early in my research—meaning it needs a lot of clean up. Most of the weekend was spent on the Laphams, Gilberts, and Johnsons whose lines trace back into Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Not only did I track down the collaterals that I had missed before, but it confirmed something I had been told but never located good sources for… that Hannah Johnson Gilbert DuBois’ father did serve in the Revolutionary War. As is happens his widow, Mary Joiner, had a hard time getting her pension so it turned out to be a nice sized file of information including the extract below confirming their marriage.

Proof of marriage between David Johnson and Mary Joiner from Mary's Widow's Pension Application.

Find out what’s happening around you–Conference keeper is a good resource: http://conferencekeeper.org/–and get inspired to do the work!

Happy hunting,

Jess

P.S. Thanks all who sat in on my TB & Genealogy talk, you were a great audience and I hope it gave you some ideas for your own research!

It’s one thing to know the bare facts of a story but a totally different thing when you find a more personal or intimate view of a person. This was a heartbreaking find tucked among my Great Aunt June’s belongings.

The following is an entry from my 2nd Great Aunt Ethel Augusta Packer’s diary. She was born 12 November 1887 in Oxford, Ontario to Cornelius and Flora (Massy) Packer. The family came to Michigan and settled in a house on 163 Shirley St, in Grand Rapids around 1891. At the time of the entry she was twelve years old and stricken with tuberculosis. She died the following September just short of her thirteenth birthday. My grandmother was named after her.

January 18, 1900 Entry from Ethel Packer's Diary.

It reads:

Freddie Ellingham is sick and so am I and he sent me two oranges. I am setting up and I have been in bed six  weeks. Papa is sitting by the bed reading my story book and mama making me a tidy. I have taken my medicine good all day to day. I had me bed drown up by the window to see the children snow ball.

For more information on the TB epidemic in the late 19th and early 20th Century check out this post.

Happy hunting,

Jess

Robert James Shea

This is just your friendly reminder to don’t forget to look at  the times that shaped your ancestors. I’ve been delving deeper into the background of my Great-Grandfather Robert Shea entering the Michigan State Hospital in Howell–including looking into the records of the Michigan Tuberculosis Association held by the Michigan State University Archives. The association coordinated the state’s efforts to get rejected (due to TB) World War I soldiers into treatment. And while trying to get a better understanding of their campaign, I ran into notes specifically about my Great-Grandfather!

The background information into the response to the TB epidemic in Michigan is extremely helpful to understanding how my family was shaped by the disease and more than worth the search, finding references to my Grandfather was just a fabulous bonus.

In related news my presentation for the 2018 Abram’s Foundation Family History Seminar next month is “TB in the Family Tree.”  David Allen Lambert of the New England Historic Genealogical Society is the featured speaker for the event. Join us!

Happy hunting,

Jess

20180602_151241So, in the realm of way overdue… I’m jumping back into the blog and I want to start out by saying a HUGE thank you to everyone who made my first national conference presentation a success last month at NGS. That includes fellow speakers, WMGS family and friends, Michigan Genealogical Council friends, and NGS staff.  Another big thanks to everyone who made it to my session on Cluster Research at the end of Saturday after a long week of events. I basically told them to slow down and put more work into their research. It can be an overwhelming but so very fruitful. And finally, I’d like to extend a special shout out to my friends at the Archives of Michigan and The Genealogy Center at ACPL…. You all are fabulous!

Also, as a follow up to the Cluster Research program. I am in the same boat as everyone. Unless you’re lucky, you don’t start out doing it all correctly—properly analyzing every part of a document, properly sourcing your information, following out all the possible leads, etc. I’ve still got my share of things to clean up, follow out, and just do more work on. Writing and prepping for presentations helps me figure out what I’ve missed and work on what might otherwise feel like an overwhelming backlog of clean up.

Happy hunting (and research clean up when necessary),

Jess

DNAimage

I’ve been an advocate for DNA testing from the moment it became affordable (to me) as a fabulous source for crowd-sourcing research, possibly confirming theories and outright conquering brick walls. And as I started presenting more, I’ve tried to remind people that you do have to be ready for what you find. While DNA can confirm your research, it can also completely undermine it.

My family has now confirmed that one of my close relatives is not the genetic child of the man that raised them. Needless to say, after working on these lines for 20+ years, this was a surprise. I can’t say I didn’t have an inkling that something was up (based on matches over the years—or lack thereof), but I assumed that any discrepancy was farther up the line. But now that a few more close relatives have tested, I’m starting to research a new line and luckily the relative with the “new” father seems to be taking it in stride. That whole experience—which really, we’re still working through—has put me in the middle of a lot of DNA discussions, found me attending every DNA related class/webinar/discussion I can squeeze in, and forced me to re-evaluate how I use my DNA results. In fact, this may just end up being a DNA focused year for me.

With that in mind if you’re in a similar position, just getting started with DNA testing, or have tests but don’t know what to do with the results, here’s a few things I’ve found and wanted to share—especially for Michigan area researchers:

I think it’s going to be a fascinating year!

Happy hunting!

Jess

Note: If you have DNA SIGS in your area, have go-to DNA resources people should know about, etc. Feel free to post to comments!