Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sacramento Archives Crawl

This is a fairly new event (it appears to be the third year), and I had not heard of it until a fellow board member from the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society mentioned it to me.  The Sacramento Archives Crawl is held during Archives Month (never heard of that before either!).  The purpose of Archives Month is to educate people about the importance of historical records.  Four archives in Sacramento host the crawl, and each host repository has representatives from several archives from around the area set up with information.  Participants visit each host, learn about the different archives' holdings, view items on display, and collect stamps in a "passport" to earn a set of coasters depicting artifacts from four of the archives.

The Sacramento Archives Crawl will be held on Saturday, October 5, from 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.  The four hosts this year are the California State Archives, California State Library, Center for California History, and Sacramento Public Library.  I wish I could go, but I already have a commitment to be on Angel Island for the Family History Day being presented by the California Genealogical Society and cosponsored by the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation and the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society.  Three speakers will discuss Chinese, Japanese, and Jewish immigration through the island.  That's what happens during Family History Month — many special events take place, and it can sometimes be difficult to choose which to go to.  And since Archives Month is also in October, that just multiplies the options.  Maybe next year I can make it to Sacramento and crawl the archives.

Monday, September 23, 2013

"The Mexican Suitcase"

One of the boxes of negatives
I recently saw the documentary The Mexican Suitcase (2011), about the discovery of 4,500 photo negatives from the Spanish Civil War.  I particularly wanted to see the movie because a cousin of mine fought with the Lincoln Brigade, and I was hoping there might be something about the brigade in the movie.

The movie focuses primarily on the story of the negatives and the three photographers who took the photos.  Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, and David "Shim" Seymour — born Endre Ernő Friedmann, Gerta Pohorylle, and Dawid Szymin, Jews from Hungary, Germany, and Poland, respectively — were said to be the first photographers to work in live war zones.  Prior to this, we were told, photos were taken before battles and afterward.  These photographers changed the way people saw wars by their work.  All three died while taking photos in war zones — Taro in 1937, during the Spanish Civil War; Capa in 1954, during the First Indochina War; and Shim in 1956, while covering the armistice of the Suez War.

The negatives had been kept in Paris by Imre "Cziki" Weisz, the darkroom assistant used by the three photographers to develop their film.  He was also Jewish.  Sometime around 1940 he became concerned about his survival in Europe.  He managed to deliver the negatives, which he had carefully catalogued and stored in handmade boxes (the "suitcase" of the movie title), to Francisco Aguilar González, a representative of Mexico to the Vichy government in France.  Aguilar apparently took the negatives with him when he returned to Mexico, because in 2004 his daughter gave them to filmmaker Ben Tarver in Mexico.  Eventually this led to an exhibit at the International Center of Photography in New York City and to the documentary by Trish Zeff.

Interspersed with interviews with several people about the photographers, the negatives, and the story of the negatives' survival were interviews with Spanish survivors of the Civil War and their descendants.  These interviews focused on feelings of loss, being uprooted, and having to make new lives.  The movie said that some 200,000 people fled Spain during the war.  Most of the interviewees were in Mexico; a few were in Spain.

I found some parallels between what happened to the Spaniards who supported the Republic and to Jews during World War II, though obviously not on the same scale.  For a time there was a concentration camp in Argelès in France that housed about 100,000 people who had fled Spain.  Most countries would not accept the Spaniards as refugees; this was because they recognized Franco's regime as legitimate, but Mexico and the Soviet Union (incorrectly called Russia in the film) did accept the refugees.  There are mass graves in different parts of Spain filled with bodies of those who "disappeared" during the war and later.  And most of the survivors were unwilling to talk about their experiences for decades.

One of the descendants who was interviewed was participating in an archaelogical dig at one of the mass graves in Spain.  She said she was trying to find out what happened to her grandfather, one of the many people who "disappeared."  Her story was presented in pieces throughout the movie.  It was not clear how many different skeletons they showed, but it certainly didn't appear to be more than two, making the identification of the site as a mass grave confusing.  Then, near the end of the movie, the young woman said that she was disappointed she hadn't found her grandfather at the site but that she would keep looking.  Nothing was said about how she was able to determine that none of the skeletons there was her grandfather, and since all they had shown in the movie was a few bones at the site, I don't know how any identification could have been made at all.

One of the most touching moments in the film was a short scene at the exhibit of the negatives at the International Center of Photography.  A woman found three photos of her grandmother sitting at a desk, writing a letter.  The family had been told about the photographs having been taken, but the woman had never seen them before.

As for the Lincoln Brigade, it was mentioned only obliquely in the movie.  One of the nurses who helped take care of Gerda Taro the day she died was interviewed for the movie; her on-screen credit said she was a nurse with the Lincoln Brigade.  And a dedication at the end of the movie included a man in the Lincoln Brigade (not my cousin).

Even though I didn't find a family connection, overall this movie was interesting, but in trying to present the two stories concurrently the narratives sometimes were difficult to follow.  You saw a snippet of one interview, then another, then another, not necessarily all talking about the same thing.  This choppy style did not lend itself well to a coherent storyline.  The photographs tell a story of their own, but most of them were not identified.  The movie is worth seeing, but you will probably want to supplement what you learn from the movie with additional research of your own to give a more complete picture of what happened.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

"Who Do You Think You Are?" - Jim Parsons

The good thing about having a lot of work recently is that I can keep paying the bills and feeding the birds and cats.  The bad thing is that I get behind on things like blog posts.  But I'm finally catching up.

This was the last episode of the first season of Who Do You Think You Are? on TLC.  I haven't heard anything about the numbers, so I don't know how well the eight episodes did for audience share, but the program was renewed for a second season, so it couldn't have been too bad.  Perhaps what appeared to be skewing to a younger audience helped draw more viewers.

Jim Parsons was the celebrity who closed out the season.  The first voiceover told us that he would be researching his two French lines of his paternal ancestry in honor of his late father.  Then we learned that he is a classically trained actor who has acted on Broadway and the "big screen", but his breakout role was on The Big Bang Theory (some friends used to tell me that I'm just like Sheldon, which is kind of scary).  He has won two Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe, and was working on the HBO film adaptation of The Normal Heart at the time of the taping.

Parsons tells us he is from Spring, Texas, a suburb of Houston.  His parents are Milton and Judy, and he had a good childhood.  He started acting in the first grade and pretty much got hooked on it, including going to graduate school for more theater.  His father was positive about his choice of acting and was supportive, loyal, and hard-working.  Family and friends were extremely important to him.  He died in 2001 in a car accident at the age of 52, when Parsons was only 28.

Even though his father is gone, Parsons is comforted to feel like he's still along for the journey.  He thinks his father would be very interested in family history.  What you come from is fascinating, and people are the sum of their parts.  He is doing the research in honor of his father's memory.  He knows little of his family's history; he has always been curious but doesn't know of any other artist in the family (ah, we have a theme).  He's been told his father's family was French and believes part of the family came through Louisiana, but doesn't know who those family members might be.

Parsons starts by talking to his mother to get family stories.  Judy travels to New York and brings some documents with her.  We first see a photo of Parsons' great-grandmother Jeanne (that's a French spelling!) Hacker, who married Thaddeus Parsons.  Judy has Jeanne's death certificate, which says she was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on January 24, 1882, and that her parents were Adele Drouet and Charles P. Hacker.  There's also a photo of Adele at age 90, which might have been taken in Louisiana.  Parsons and his mother decide that his next step should be to go to Louisiana to see what he can find there.  Parsons says that now he has "proof" of his Louisiana roots.  (After all, it isn't like anyone ever made a mistake on a death certificate before, right?)

In New Orleans, Parsons begins by saying that it's nice to have his French ancestry confirmed already.  Whether he goes to France or not, he's already happy with what he's learned.  (C'mon, we know you're going to go to France.)  At the Louisiana Historical Center (part of the Louisiana State Museum; in the "small world" category, my daughter is the executive director of the Louisiana Museum Foundation) he meets genealogist Judy Riffel.  He says he has contacted her to ask for information on his Hacker and Drouet family names.  Riffel tells him that Hacker is French, even though it might not seem so, and Drouet is definitely French.  Parsons asks, "Where do I go from here?"  (Calm down, you just started!  At least he looks a little sheepish.)  So Riffel tells him, "Let's do a little bit of digging on Ancestry.com."  (Did you see that coming?)  They find a Charles Hacker in the 1850 census in Iberville Parish, Louisiana.  He is 5 months old and born in Louisiana; his father, J. B. Hacker, is a physician, also born in Louisiana.  (This, of course, is not the way you should do research.  They should have shown Jeanne with her family, so we could have some context for Charles having been born about 1850 in Louisiana.  But remember, this is entertainment, not a research class, and only the sexy parts make it on air.)

Riffel explains that it was rare at that time for a doctor to be in as rural of a parish as Iberville, and he was probably the only doctor there.  Parsons asks again, "Where do I go from here?"  (Well, we know he isn't doing the research.)  Riffel says he should look into the Hackers, and that she has found someone familiar with 19th-century Louisiana history to help him.  She'll look into the Drouet family.  As he leaves, Parsons says that he is surprised to find three generations of his family in Louisiana, as he and all the relatives he knows are from Texas.

Parsons next goes to Tulane University, where Jeanette Keith, a professor of history at Bloomsburg University, greets him.  Parsons has asked her to look into Dr. Hacker's medical practice, and Keith has several documents ready.  First is a list of medical graduates from the Medical College of Louisiana.  The list includes Jno (short for John or Jonathan) B. Hacker of Louisiana, who graduated in 1842 at the age of 32.  He was the 55th graduate from the school, which was one of the best medical schools in the South.  Established in 1834, it was only the second medical school in the South.  (The medical college eventually became what is now Tulane University, the only state public university ever to convert to a private one.)  Keith explains that at the time it was not necessary to get a medical degree to practice medicine.  The profession had little regulation, and anyone could hang out a shingle and start a medical practice, with or without the appropriate education.  So Hacker put in extra effort for his profession.

Next Keith showed Parsons a book with Hacker's name and a reference to other degrees, honors, etc.  A note refers to an article published in New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal (still being published today).  Dr. Hacker wrote about "Yellow Fever in Plaquemine" (Plaquemine is the parish seat of Iberville), which was published in volume 10 of the journal in 1854.  He wrote about the 1853 yellow fever epidemic (8,000 died in New Orleans alone) and documented it for other doctors.  At the time people did not know how yellow fever was transmitted.  Parsons likens Hacker's experience to that of doctors working with HIV patients in the 1980's.  He is impressed with Hacker's commitment to his work and to humanity, to be willing to work closely with patients suffering from the disease when he didn't know if he would catch it himself.

courtesy of GenealogyBank
Parsons asks Keith, "Do you have more that takes us even further?", and in one of the most honest lines I've ever heard on this program, laughs and follows immediately with, "Of course you do."  Keith has Parsons go online to GenealogyBank.com (this is the second or third time I've seen GenealogyBank shown on the program; they must have paid a healthy "product placement" fee) and search for "Dr Hacker" in the time range of 1810–1900 (well, that's pretty specific, isn't it?  I guess she knew there was something that didn't include his given name).  Up pops an article titled "Loss of the Steamer Gipsy" (which came up as the top result once I sorted by oldest articles first) from the New Orleans Times-Picayune of December 8, 1854.  Parsons exclaims, "I'll be damned."  (I was surprised that wasn't edited out.)  The article reported that Dr. Hacker, his daughter, and his nephew died in a fire on the Gipsy.  Parsons says, "I just figured out who he is and now he's gone."  He talks about how Hacker died in the prime of his work and how Hacker was only four years older than Parsons is now.  Now he wants to find out what happened with the steamer to cause the fire.  He's very impressed with Hacker and realizes that even though he's researching his own family, it's connecting him beyond that.

To learn more about the Gipsy, Parsons visits Robert Gudmestad of Colorado State University, an expert on 19th-century Mississippi River steamboats, at a tourist boat named the Natchez, which Gudmestad says is a rough approximation of the 19th-century Gipsy.  Gudmestad explains that one difference is that a 19th-century boat was made all of wood and was powered by steam generated on the boat with live fires.  He also shows Parsons an 1853 painting of the Gipsy.  Parsons asks if Hacker and his daughter and nephew would have been traveling on the Gipsy for pleasure, but Gudmestad explains it was the normal and fastest way to travel in 1850's Louisiana.

The boiler room on a steamboat was in the middle of the boat.  The day of the Gipsy's fire was very windy, and someone opened the door to the boiler room; the wind blew fire onto the deck.  The men's cabin, where Hacker was, was above the boiler room.  He probably didn't realize there was a fire until it was too late.  Gudmestad has a copy of the Plaquemine Southern Sentinel newspaper of December 23, 1854, which has an obituary for Dr. Hacker.  The obituary shows that he was well loved. Members of the Cannoniers, a local civic group, were going to wear "black crape" on their left arms for 30 days in remembrance of him.

Parsons finds it touching to learn about the reach of Hacker.  He compares Hacker to his father and the number of people who came to his funeral, which surprised him at the time.  He feels a sense of pride and says it isn't a far reach to think that the admirable qualities of Hacker were passed down through the family.

After leaving Gudmestad, Parsons visits Riffel again to learn more about his French roots, but this time at Hill Memorial Library of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.  Riffel tells him that she tried to find more information about the Hacker family but was unable to do so.  For the Drouet family, however, she has prepared a pedigree chart for Parsons to look at.  It shows that Adele Drouet's parents were August Drouet and Anaïs Trouard.  They then follow the Trouard line.  Anaïs' parents were Prosper Trouard and Eliza Delery Chauvin (Parsons' fourth great-grandparents); Prosper was born in La Rochelle, France.  Prosper's parents were Alexandre-Louis Trouard, born on March 15, 1761 in Paris, and Anne Marie Louise Gome Lagrange (Parsons' fifth great-grandparents).  Interestingly, they had all those names for Anne Marie but apparently couldn't find when or where she was born.  But Parsons now has a family line that goes solidly back to France.

Parsons says he's going to extend his journey and travel to France, to the French National Archives.  He loves the idea of traveling to France with these ancestors and wants to see what they were doing in 18th-century French history.

Parsons lands in Paris and goes to the French National Archives.  He had asked Professor Drew Armstrong of the University of Pittsburgh to "sift through the archives" for him.  Armstrong found the baptismal record of Alexandre-Louis Trouard and after letting Parsons stumble through trying to read it presents a translation.  (I liked the way they showed the original French writing overlaid on the translated text.)  It says Alexandre-Louis was the son of Louis-François Trouard, which takes Parsons back to his sixth great-grandfather.   It also says that Louis-François was the architect to the king, which it turns out was Louis XV of France, blowing Parsons away.  The godfather shown on the baptismal record is Louis Trouard, Parsons' seventh great-grandfather.  Louis was a marble supplier to the king, which would not have been aristrocratic but was still middle class and a good position.

Armstrong says Louis-François was groomed as a professional and that Louis would have positioned his son to become a member of an elite artistic circle.  Parsons wants to know how one became an architect to the king, as it couldn't have been easy or common to do so.  Armstrong shows him an 18th-century register and a transcription of an official document from September 20, 1754.  The translation says that Louis-François had "great aptitude" and had studied hard and in 1753 won the first prize, a scholarship to school in Rome.

Louis-François studied in Rome from 1754–1757, then returned to Paris.  As evidence that he had been cultivating supporters (his father wasn't the only one working on his professional improvement), Armstrong produced a letter dated February 26, 1769, when Louis-François was 40 years old (the same age as Parsons now), that says that the king had elected him to become a member of the second class of the Royal Academy of Architecture.  The Academy had thirty-two seats, with two classes.  One had to wait for someone to die for a vacancy.  It was the greatest honor possible for an architect, so Louis-François had to have been extremely good and very talented.

Parsons asks whether Louis-François had lived in the palace.  Armstrong says no but that Louis-François had an apartment in a chateau near Versailles Palace.  He suggests that to get a feel for Trouard and his work, Parsons should visit Versailles.

As he is leaving Parsons is still excited about what he has learned and says, "Damn it, we found somebody!"  (Again not edited out.)  He feels his own father was like Louis.  Even though he's not on the level of a royal architect, each father had supported his son in his academic endeavors.  Parsons says his father found a way to help him do the work he wanted to.

Cathèdrale St-Louis
(La Chapelle de la Providence)
Versailles, which is just outside of Paris, is absolutely beautiful.  Parsons goes to La Chapelle de la Providence, where he meets Ambrogio Caiani (now at the University of Kent, but apparently still at the University of Oxford when the episode was filmed).  The on-screen credit says he is a specialist in 18th-century French architecture.  Parsons says he wants to learn more about Louis-François Trouard and his work.  Caiani tells Parsons that Louis-François designed the church they are standing in and it was one of his masterpieces.  Parsons describes the church as elegant and classy, but inviting.  Caiani tells Parsons that in 1787 Louis-François was named an Architect First Class of the king, when he was 60 years old, and only two years before the French Revolution.

The French Revolution was sparked by the Age of Enlightenment.  The monarchy was abolished and King Louis XVI was beheaded (along with his wife, Marie Antoinette).  Many people associated with the king were also killed.  Even architects were executed or put in prison.  They were considered to be corrupt and associated with the old regime; their designs were part of the French court tradition and were ornate and heavily decorated.  Louis-François could have been executed, but he was a key figure in the redesign of churches.

Parsons of course wants to know what happened to him.  Louis-François was friendly with the liberal thinkers of his age.  He was also friends with Abbé Raynal, a forward thinker who was very radical for the time and was even against slavery.  Raynal used to stay at Trouard's apartment in Paris.

Caiani hands Parsons a book written in French.  Parsons is able to pick out some names and nothing else, but sees "John Adams" and "Mr. Franklin."  Parsons asks if it's Benjamin Franklin, which it is.  Caiani finally feels sorry for Parsons and hands him a translation.  It's a letter dated February 2, 1779 and addressed to Benjamin Franklin.  The letter is an invitation to Franklin to get together with Raynal and John Adams at the "House of Mr. Trouard."  Parsons was surprised to learn that all of them would have stayed there and asks why they would have been meeting.  Caiani suspects that Franklin and Adams were interested in Raynal's ideas about slavery.

Louis-François knew some of the greatest thinkers of his day.  Parsons comments that now he is learning about his ancestor beyond his architectural career.  Louis-François' thinking was not in line with the regime.  Caiani tells Parsons that Louis-François was not executed but died in 1804.  Apparently people didn't think he was corrupt or part of the old regime.

Parsons asks if Louis-François ever visited America.  Caiani says no, but that his children did.  Alexandre-Louis went to the French colony in St. Domingue, now known as Haiti.  His younger brother transferred to Louisiana.  This brought everything in a full circle back to Louisiana.  Parsons thanks Caiani for all of the information, and Caiani leaves him to look around the chapel.

In his closing monologue, Parsons talks about how both Hacker and Trouard were hard-working.  He thinks his father would have identified with that aspect of the two men.  Louis-François' father helped him achieve the highest level in his profession.  Now that Parsons himself is older, he has realized how much his father helped him.  He doesn't know what he would have become without his father's help but knows he would have been much less happy.

It was particularly enjoyable in this episode to see how sincere Parsons was when he thanked all the researchers.  He really seemed to appreciate all of the information he had learned.

Something I found interesting was how Parsons kept focusing on how old Louis-François was for each of the events that was discussed.  I figure he was thinking about Louis-François' age in relation to his own age or maybe his father's, possibly because his father died young.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Heirloom Prayer Shawl Stolen in San Francisco

the missing tallit
I'm doing some signal-boosting here.  On local news in the San Francisco, California, area tonight was a report about the theft of a tallit (Hebrew prayer shawl) from the porch of a family home in San Francisco.  This shawl is an heirloom that has been in the family for several generations, and it even survived the Holocaust.  The family lent the tallit to a cousin for a bar mitzvah, and the cousin sent the tallit back via FedEx.  The FedEx box was left on the porch, which is probably what attracted the attention of the thief.  The tallit has no monetary value but immense sentimental value to the family.  Anyone knowing anything about the missing prayer shawl, please contact Kathy Rosenberg-Wohl as soon as possible.  Please help return this family heirloom to its rightful owners.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Restitution, Competition, Preservation, Memorials, and Football

The Government of Lithuania has authorized compensation payments for Lithuanian Jews who survived the Nazi Holocaust and Soviet terror during World War II.  Criteria for eligibility and the application form can be found at http://www.gvf.lt/.  The deadline for applications is September 30, 2013.

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The National Archives "Files on Film"

If you can come up with an idea for a film based on a record from the National Archives of the United Kingdom, you could win £450 for first prize or £200 for second place.  I didn't see anything in the rules that says entrants need to be from the UK; it says "anyone can enter."  The only criterion is that the person submitting the film must be 18 or older.  The National Archives has provided a selection of ten documents to choose from, ranging from 1806 to 1968 and covering topics such as lunatics, illegitimate children, and lesbianism.  The film must be 3 minutes or shorter, and the deadline is midnight British Standard Time on September 24, 2013.  The documents and all rules are available here.

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English Football Association's Founding Fathers

To celebrate its 150th anniversary, the Football Association began a search earlier this year to find living descendants of football’s "Founding Fathers."  Apparently not much is known about the men who met on October 26, 1863 in the Freemasons' Tavern in London to form "The Football Association" and who later drafted the original laws of association football.

The Founding Fathers of English football included Charles William Alcock (1842–1907), John Forster Alcock (1841–1910), Francis Maule Campbell (1843–1920), Ebenezer Cobb Morley (1831–1924), Arthur Pember (1835–1886), Herbert Thomas Steward (1839–1915), James Turner, and George Twizell Wawn (1840–1914). Any living descendants who can be identified and located will be invited to a special ceremony at Wembley to honor their ancestors in October.

Since not much is known about the eight Founding Fathers, I figure some of their descendants might have ended up in the United States.  I didn't see anything on the FA site about invitations being restricted to only British citizens, so maybe an American descendant will attend the ceremony in October.

A few more details (though not many) are in the Football Association's news release.

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California Audiovisual Preservation Project

Primary-source sound and moving image recordings of the 20th century are endangered by physical deterioration, lack of playback equipment, and format obsolescence.  The California Preservation Program, through the California Audiovisual Preservation Project (CAVPP), has started an online collection of historic Californiana called California Light and Sound, available through the Internet Archive.  So far, 697 recordings are available online from 23 project partners.  CAVPP is now reaching out to more California archives and libraries to identify new partners and preserve more historic Californian recordings.  If you have historic, unpublished recordings of local, regional, or statewide significance, consider joining CAVPP.  CAVPP's free services include digitization, metadata management, quality control, and long-term preservation and online access.

The California Preservation Program has been leading a series of workshops to introduce the project and to train partners on how to use the CALIPR tool to assess the preservation needs of their audiovisual collections.  Potential partners assess the needs of their collections before recordings are selected and digitized through CAVPP.

The final dates for the northern and southern California workshops are:
University of Southern California Doheny Library (I used to work there!), Wednesday, October 2, 2013, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Berkeley Public Library, Thursday, October 10, 2013, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

RSVP for a workshop near you.  If you have audiovisual recordings that document California history in your collection or if you have any questions about joining CAVPP, contact Project Coordinator Pamela Vadakan at pamelajean@berkeley.edu or (510) 642-4665.

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Kentucky Historical Society Seeking Governor Memorabilia

Five governors served Kentucky during the Civil War.  Three were Union — Beriah Magoffin, James F. Robinson, and Thomas E. Bramlette — and two were Confederate provisional governors — George W. Johnson and Richard Hawes.  The Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary project, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, is looking for almost any document associated with one of these men while serving as governor.  This includes manuscripts and printed materials written by a Kentucky Civil War governor, documents addressed to a governor, documents endorsed by a governor, documents written by a secretary or assistant but signed by a governor, and documents reporting a governor’s words (e.g., speeches printed in newspapers).  If you have anything relevant to the project, or if you have any questions, contact the project’s editorial assistant, Whitney Smith, at whitney.smith@ky.gov or (502) 564-1792.

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Municipal Library of Nuremberg Seeking Descendants of Book Owners

The Municipal Library of Nuremberg houses looted books from World War II on permanent loan from the Jewish Community of Nuremberg.  The collection of about 9,000 items was taken from Jews, Freemasons, priests, and other groups during the period of Nazi rule from 1933 to 1945.  This collection was found at the end of World War II in the editorial offices of the anti-Semitic periodical Der Stürmer and in a private residence.

To aid in the search for the previous owners of these books the Municipal Library of Nuremberg has published a list of 1,390 names of individuals, corporations, and institutions from 300 towns across Europe.  (This is similar to the efforts of the Central Library of Berlin, about which I have posted previously.)  Many books have already been restored to their former owners or legal successors, from Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Switzerland, and the United States of America.  This effort is being done pro bono.

Please look at the current lists, which are sorted by name and place.  If you recognize one or more of the names, contact information is at the end of each file.

You can read more about the collection (in German) here.

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New Stolpersteine Project

Stolpersteine are memorial stones placed for individual victims of the Nazis.  Borken, Hesse's (Germany) first stolpersteine are being planned.  Bernd Hessler, the mayor of Borken, is very supportive and is encouraging descendants of any Borken Holocaust victims to consider memorials for their families.

Anyone interested in having these memorials placed in Borken for their family members should contact Hans-Peter Klein.  Klein lives near Borken and is a tireless keeper of the memory of the Jewish community of North Hesse.  Some Jewish family names from Borken are Appel, Blum, Gottlieb, Hain, Katzenstein, Kaufmann, Lehrberger, Nussbaum, Rosenbusch, Rothschild, Speier, and Stern.

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World War I Memorial Projects

As we approach the centenary of World War I, many memorial projects are being planned.  Roads to the Great War, a blog dedicated to the history of the war, recently discussed two of these projects.

The aim of the World War I Memorial Inventory Project is to create an online listing of all World War I memorials and monuments in the United States.  One post shows images of several memorials that have already been catalogued.  A second post explains the project and asks for volunteers to help.

The Michigan in World War I Project is hoped to be the first in a series of commemorations in different states.  Currently the Michigan project has a Facebook page and a YouTube channel.

If you know of a World War I state memorial project, contact Roads to the Great War editor Mike Hanlon.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"Who Do You Think You Are?" - Trisha Yearwood

The commercial that advertised this episode of Who Do You Think You Are? was probably the most entertaining one I've seen for the program.  Trisha Yearwood said she didn't know what she might find — murder, intrigue, or circus performers.  She sounded like a person with a good sense of humor, so I had been looking forward to seeing how the episode turned out.  The opening monologue from the narrator mentioned loss, criminals, and perseverance, so it appeared it was going to lean toward the murder and intrigue angle rather than the circus.

The overview of Yearwood explains she is from a small town in Georgia and is a successful country music artist.  She has had nine #1 hits and has won three Grammy Awards.  In 2008 she published her first cookbook and in 2012 began a program on Food Network called Trisha's Southern Kitchen.  Her husband is country singer Garth Brooks, she has three stepdaughters, and the family has two homes, one in Oklahoma and one in Nashville.

Yearwood begins her narrative by saying she is from Monticello, Georgia.  Her father was a banker and her mother was a schoolteacher.  In a small town everyone knows everyone and looks out for everyone (I know about that, having lived in Niceville, Florida), which she didn't appreciate until she moved.  Then she learned how special that was.  At five years old she already knew she wanted to be a singer, and her parents encouraged her dream.  Both of her parents have passed away; she knows about her mother's side of the family, but not so much about her father's.

Yearwood's father was an only child.  His mother, Grandma Elizabeth Winslett, lived with the family since Yearwood was a teenager but wouldn't tell stories about her side of the family.  Now Yearwood wants to learn more about her father's side of the family and particularly wants to find her first immigrant ancestor.  That's actually kind of a vague goal — any line of the family?  the earliest from all family lines? — but because the only ancestor mentioned had been her grandmother, it was a good guess it would be from that side.  Then we got the quote from the commercial:  "There could be murder, there could be intrigue, there could be circus performers. . . . I have no idea what to expect."  It's a great line.

Yearwood does not start off talking with a family member or even making the almost obligatory personal foray onto Ancestry.com.  She goes to the Nashville Public Library and meets genealogist Kyle Betit (an Ancestry.com employee, who apparently actually specializes in Irish research), pronounced "Beatty."  She tells him her grandmother was from Eatonton, Georgia.  He says he has built a tree he wants her to look at on (of course) Ancestry.com.  Yearwood is very human; she says she needs her glasses to read the screen.

The Winslett family tree shows that Elizabeth was born March 17, 1908 in Putnam County, Georgia.  The tree continues with Yearwood's great-grandfather Cary Winslett — Yearwood says that her grandmother had mentioned him — great-great-grandfather Thomas Jefferson Winslett, third great-grandfather Seaborn Winslett, fourth great-grandfather Jonathan Winslett, and fifth great-grandfather Samuel Winslett, who was born in 1744 in Binsted, Hampshire, England and died in 1829 in Georgia.  During all of this, Yearwood is shown writing notes, which was nice to see.  But we've already reached the immigrant ancestor!  What will we do to fill the rest of the hour?

Betit has Yearwood click on Samuel's name.  His entry shows that he was baptized on December 28, 1744 in Hampshire.  Yearwood asks why Samuel would have migrated, what kind of trade the family practiced, and how he ended up where he did.  Betit says that now that Yearwood knows where in England her ancestor was from she should go to England and find out why.  (Why not, it isn't coming out of his pocket.)  Yearwood is very excited "to find out on the first day of my journey" her immigrant ancestor (as with Cindy Crawford, a journey that was months in the making; could the behind-the-scenes research team get just a little on-screen acknowledgment here?).

And Yearwood flies to England, knowing only her immigrant ancestor's birth year and hometown.  At the Hampshire Records Office she finds genealogist Les Mitchinson, who tells her that for 1744 they will need to look in parish registers to find more information.  He sits her down in front of a laptop computer and puts in a CD.  The screen shows a search page and says Hampshire Genealogical Society.  Yearwood types in Samuel, but instead of letting her type Winslett for the last name, Mitchinson says that names could be spelled in different ways and suggests she type only "Wins" (gee, maybe he's already done this search ...),  And amazingly enough, up pops an entry for the baptism of Samuel "Winslut" on December 28, 1744.  His parents were John and Mary Winslut, which Yearwood astutely deduces are her sixth great-grandparents.

Mitchinson then has Yearwood search for other children by using the Winslut spelling and Binsted as the search terms.  Mitchinson says he will look for more information in marriage and burial registers.  Yearwood finds three more children, all boys older than Samuel — James, William, and John Winslut.  When Mitchinson returns Yearwood announces her discovery and says she can assume that the boys are all siblings, but Mitchinson says only that it is more than likely that is the case.

Mitchinson returned with registers, where he has found an entry.  The books are the original records, which go back to the 18th century, and they do not use gloves.  (I'm definitely starting to think the gloves versus no gloves is based on the individual repository's rules.)  In a register of burials, for the year running from Easter of 1753 to Easter of 1754, there is an entry for Mary "Winslat", wife of John, on May 3, 1753.  Yearwood says that Samuel would have been 7 to 8 years old.  Apparently they teach math differently in Georgia, because the way I do it, 1753 – 1744 is 9, possibly 8 years old.

Mitchinson then shows another burial.  This one is for John "Winslat", on April 3, 1759.  This time Yearwood says that Samuel would have been about 14 years old, which is a little better.  So the four boys were orphaned after the death of their father in 1759.  Yearwood comments that they were just "young boys", but John, the oldest, would have been about 20, which was probably considered an adult at the time.  Mitchinson says that no other events are listed for the family in the county, so they must have moved out of the parish.  The next logical step is to search in other counties for them.  Surrey and Sussex are nearby, so he suggests checking them.

Searching for Winslett in the West Sussex Records Office online database produces a hit on Shilinglee for MSS 3/29:  "Action in the King's Bench, concerning Deer stealing at Shillinglee" by Samuel, James, and John Winslet.  (Where did brother William go?)  Yearwood comments, "I think we can pretty much rule out that I'm going to find royalty" but that it's more interesting this way (she really does have a sense of humor).  Mitchinson tells her that Shilinglee still stands and that he will call a colleague to look at records there.  As she leaves, Yearwood says she has so much information in her head she doesn't know where to start.  (Heaven knows how she would handle it if she were actually doing the research.)  She can empathize with the Winslett boys on losing their parents.  She lost her parents as an adult and found it devastating; they lost theirs as children, so they had to grow up fast.

The Deer Tower
Yearwood meets Dr. Emma Griffin, a professor of 18th-century English history at the University of East Anglia, at the Shillinglee Estate in West Sussex, in "The Deer Tower."  Yearwood says she wants to know what happened with her ancestor.  Griffin points out that where they are sitting has been converted but was the original Deer Tower, which was at the center of the hunting area for the estate.

Griffin has pulled several documents from the Sussex Records Office.  The first states that the deer stealing incident took place on Lord Winterton's property on June 18, 1765.  Yearwood says that Samuel was about 19 years old; by my math, he was 20 or 21.  Two brace and a half of fat bucks were killed (a brace is a pair of deer, so that's five total) and they were looking for the thieves.  A reward of 30 guineas and a complete pardon were offered by Lord Winterton.  It must have been a serious crime, because the reward is equivalent to a year's wages.

Griffin explains that deer had significant symbolic importance at the time.  People couldn't buy venison at the market.  Deer were owned only by wealthy, elite landowners and were protected under the Black Act.  Poaching deer was punishable by death.  Going out to the commercial, we see a different document that has in the margin, "Let them be severally hanged by the neck until they be dead."  We know Samuel survived, because he died in Georgia, but it isn't looking good.

The second document Griffin has is dated June 22, 1765 (which Yearwood says is "a couple weeks" after the first one; time must fly for her, because by my count it was four days).  Thomas and James White confessed to poaching the deer and implicated the three Winslett brothers and another young man.  Thomas and James were both illiterate, as evidenced by the X's they made as their marks on the confession.  They apparently came forward only to claim the reward and the pardon, and blamed the worst parts of the crime on the others.

The third document is undated.  John Newman took the Winsletts to Horsham Gaol and was supposed to listen to anything they said.  Samuel said he hoped that he would not be hanged but if he was he had no wife, child, father, or mother to cry for him, so it didn't matter.  Yearwood is struck by the despair and desolation Samuel felt.  She feels sorry for him, even though he had committed a crime.  She knows he survived, but wants to know how and asks Griffin if there are more documents.  Griffin replies that no more are in Sussex; Yearwood will have to go to the National Archives (I refuse to capitalize "the" for them; it's just too pretentious) because it was a serious crime.

Yearwood says that if she didn't know his history, she would think of Samuel as a common criminal.  What she knows of her family is that they were people of good character and that it had to come from something good.  She really wants to believe that Samuel changed at some point.

Yearwood's next stop is the National Archives in Kew.  There, they use the conservator's gloves.  The researcher is James Horn, a historian with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.  He shows Yearwood records from the Assizes, which were the highest courts, presided over by the highest justices.  Twice a year they went on circuit around the country to handle cases; he has found a record from the summer circuit.  I didn't see a date, but now we see the document with the marginal note of "Let them be severally hanged by the neck until they be dead."  But in another place on the document is a note of "Reprieved" for Samuel and John.  (What happened to James?)  Quite reaonably, Yearwood wants to know why.

Horn has another record, this one from February 19, 1766 in Whitehall.  James and Samuel had been given royal mercy and were to be transported to the colonies and plantations in the Americas, with a sentence of 14 years.  The sentences of all the convicted prisoners that day were changed to transportation.  The Transportation Act of 1718 made it common for criminals to be sent to the Americas, where a cheap manual labor force was needed.  (After the American Revolution, criminals were transported to Australia.  And apparently the act was not repealed until 1993!)  They would have been transported in chains and auctioned off to businessmen and plantation owners when they arrived in North America.  They would then have become the property of the winning bidders.  Yearwood laments that Samuel would have been merely a 20-year-old boy; my math says 21 or 22.

Horn discusses what kind of owners they would have had when they arrived.  Many owners were harsh, and the transportees had no rights.  Their alternatives weren't that great, though — it was transportation or hanging.  So it did give Samuel a new life.

Yearwood wants to know where Samuel landed.  Horn explains that convicts are hard to trace and that her best course may be to go where he ended up:  Georgia.  Yearwood goes back home to Georgia to learn where her family started in North America.  In her voiceover as she leaves she says she is rooting for Samuel.  He had had obstacle after obstacle since he had been born but then got a reprieve.  (A little exaggerated perhaps; nothing was said about his life before his mother passed away, or at least not that survived the editing process.)  Being transported saved him.

In Georgia Yearwood goes to the Georgia State Archives, which seems to share a building with the National Archives at Atlanta (which is actually in Morrow), because the sign lists both of them.  Joshua Haynes, a researcher of early Georgia history (his dissertation was "Patrolling the Border: Theft and Violence on the Creek-Georgia Frontier, 1770–1796", which was appropriate for this segment) is on hand to assist Yearwood.  He says the first step in researching records from the period is to look at registered land grants.  In November 1770, four years after Samuel had arrived, George III granted him 100 acres of land in Riceboro, in Liberty County.  It doesn't look as though Samuel served his complete 14-year sentence; convicts couldn't own land.  Haynes can't tell Yearwood what happened, but it's unlikely his sentence was commuted, so maybe Samuel had escaped from his owner.  However he did it, Samuel went from being a convicted poacher about to be hung to a landowner a mere four years later.  And James, the third brother, now drops out — no more mention is made of him.

Yearwood asks why the king was giving away land.  Georgian settlers had recently forced the Creek Indians to give up their land and pushed them out of the area, and people were needed to make the land productive.  The king was handing out land to just about anyone who asked for it.  It was a great way to make a new start and escape one's past, because no one was checking credentials.

1748 map of Georgia,
by Emanuel Bowen
Yearwood wants to know if there's anything after that, and Haynes says there is one more document, from May 17, 1784.   (Yearwood's math has improved; she says Samuel was about 40 years old.) Samuel acquired 287 1/2 acres in Washington County.  Yearwood comments that Samuel then had almost 400 acres, which is a big assumption; it's 14 years after the first grant, and there's nothing said as to whether he still owned it.  She also says there has to be a catch, becuase it's Samuel.  Haynes shows her a 1748 map of the area (see map on the left) and says it's close to the landscape Samuel would have recognized (36 years later?  I would have guessed there would be significant changes during those 36 years, but it must have been the closest map to the right time they could find).  Haynes explains that between the Oconee and Ogeechee rivers was Creek country.  The Creeks had tried to stay neutral but the colonists forced them out.  They didn't want to let go of the land, so the land was contested.  Samuel had just acquired land in the "Wild West" of Georgia.  The Creeks looked at Samuel and his neighbors as threats, border jumpers, and squatters on the land.

We know that Samuel was 85 when he died, so he survived being in Indian territory.  Yearwood asks the obvious question of how.  Haynes doesn't answer but says he has found the land that Samuel got in 1784.  They're going to take a road trip.

In her voiceover Yearwood says how it's ironic that Samuel became a big landowner and was lord of his own manor.  Since he had been oppressed when he was poor, she hopes that he didn't oppress the Creeks.  Samuel had a knack for going from one volatile situation to another.  (Has she considered that the common factor in all of this was him?)

Yearwood drives herself and Haynes to Washington County.  The land where Samuel settled is only about 30 miles from Monticello, where Yearwood grew up.  The family apparently didn't stray far.

Then Haynes tells Yearwood he actually has one more document.  This one is from September 3, 1831 in Greene County.  Samuel made a deposition in court for a deprivation claim, which was done when property had been taken.  Samuel stated one of his mares had been stolen by Creeks about June or July of 1778.  (The transcription which Yearwood is reading actually says 1878, which Haynes explains is incorrect.  Why in the world did they not edit that out?)  In March 1779 the Creeks took and destroyed food and furniture.  From October 1787 to April 1788 he lost cattle and other livestock to them.  His claim was for thefts over about 10 years.  The question of why he was making this claim in 1821, more than 30 years after the last theft, wasn't brought up, though I'm certainly curious about it.  He died a few years later, in 1829.

I noticed that Samuel signed the deposition with his mark, an X; he had remained illiterate.  Haynes brings this to the attention of Yearwood.  Even though Samuel never learned to read or write, he became a wealthy landowner anyway.

Yearwood acknowledges the irony that Samuel had been caught and tried for stealing and then swore out a deposition about the Creek thefts.  Haynes says that while Samuel's property was taken, it was not his entire estate.  He was kind of on the cusp of being an elite planter.  (That statement to me implied that Samuel had owned slaves, so I looked; in the 1820 census for Greene County, a Samuel Winslett has 22 slaves.  Not a topic for this episode, apparently.)
Samuel Winslett in Greene County, Georgia, 1820 census; enumerated slaves are in the red box
Yearwood wants to know how long Samuel lived on the land in Washington County.  Haynes tells her he was there up to a few years before he died.  One of his last transactions was selling the land and moving to Eatonton in Putnam County, where Grandma Elizabeth had been from.

In her closing comments, Yearwood talks about how we draw strength and character from what comes before us.  In Samuel she sees resilience, strength, and courage.  He did what he had to out of necessity and was a man who made the most of his opportunities.  (Well, that's certainly putting a good spin on it.)  She hasn't done anything remotely as dangerous as what Samuel did, but feels it was brave of her to dream to be a singer when she didn't know anyone who had done anything like that.  She feels that the inner desire to make that happen she got mostly from her parents, but a little probably came from Samuel.

Yearwood must be a very forgiving person, because even though she kept learning about questionable things that Samuel Winslett had done, she was able to view them in a positive light.  I can see excusing the poaching, but then he apparently escaped from his owner after transportation, had to have lied to get land, and became an oppressive landowner like Lord Winterton.  And they didn't even address the slave-owning issue on air.  Yearwood said she wanted to believe that Samuel had changed, but I didn't see evidence of it.  Even taking into account that he was a man of his time, I question whether he did everything out of necessity.

One thing that particularly struck me was why Samuel would have filed the deprivations claim in 1821, so many years after the events in question.  Perhaps it had something to do with efforts to move the Creeks and other Indians west, but having no context for it makes Samuel look like a grasping, petty individual.  Another possibility is that he was desperate for money at the time, but were people able to collect on judgments made against the Creeks?  Or did compensation come from a governmental body?

I also found it interesting that Yearwood's unanswered questions were kept in the episode.  She asked about where Samuel arrived in North America, what happened to his 14-year sentence, and how he survived being in the contested Creek territory.  It would be nice to think it was done deliberately to show that answers can't always be found, but I doubt it, because that wasn't brought up.  It was more like the questions were just glossed over.  It's also possible that the questions were answered but those parts didn't make it on air.  Who knows?  Kind of like what happened to Samuel's three brothers, those of us on this side of the television are simply left wondering about the rest of the story.

Finally, Yearwood didn't bring any family members into the experience with her.  She started and ended alone, and there was no discussion about sharing the information with others.  Was that because Samuel wasn't quite the model of an upstanding citizen?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

I've added pages to my blog!

So before this past Friday, I didn't even know what pages were on a blog.  But I attended Dear Myrtle's "More Blogging for Beginners" Webinar (viewable online for free until September 14; you can also buy your very own copy of it) and learned how to create them.  (Hey, I've only had a blog for a couple of years; as far as I'm concerned, I'm still very much a beginner.)  If you look up at the top of the page, just under the paragraph talking about how genealogy is a big jigsaw puzzle, you'll see tabs for "Genealogy Presentations" and "Who Do You Think You Are?"  "Genealogy Presentations" shows my scheduled talks and also has a list of all the presentations I have available.  "Who Do You Think You Are?" has links to all of my posts about the program.  I hope this little bit of "added functionality" makes it easier to find some things on my site.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Registration Opens for the 2014 Forensic Genealogy Institute

The Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy has announced it is offering two series of courses at the 2014 Forensic Genealogy Institute at the Wyndham Love Field Hotel in Dallas, Texas.  Registration for the institute is now open.

"Foundations in Forensic Genealogy" will be held from Monday, March 24, through Wednesday, March 26, 2014.  "Foundations" is designed as a basis for the study of forensic genealogy.  It assumes the student has an intermediate or advanced level of understanding of genealogical research and explores the forensic genealogy landscape, application of forensic genealogical techniques to research, and career paths available to forensic genealogists.  It is a prerequisite course of study for the advanced-level courses.

"Advanced Forensic Evidence Analysis" will be held from Thursday, March 27, through Saturday, March 29, 2014.  New in 2014, this year's advanced program will explore in depth a number of applications of forensic genealogy, to include the development and use of DNA in solving forensic genealogy problems, the repatriation process of military remains presented by the U.S. Department of Defense, forensic genealogy in mineral rights cases, and forensic document analysis.  These topics, along with others being formulated, will be "hands on" discussions, case studies, and workshops.

I attended the most recent institute, which was held in April of this year.  At that time the only courses offered were what is now called "Foundations."  It was an intensive educational experience and well worth it; I wrote about how valuable the lessons were.  I've already registered for the advanced series of courses, so next spring I'll be taking another trip to Dallas.

Registration is open to the general public.  Hotel accommodations and further information about the Institute may be found on the Forensic Genealogy Institute Web page.  Those wishing to attend are encouraged to make their hotel reservations now via the hotel link on the site due to sporting and other events scheduled in the Dallas area.

Wordless Wednesday


Monday, September 2, 2013

"Who Do You Think You Are?" - Cindy Crawford

Instead of playing on the idea that she was very much like her ancestors (à la Kelly Clarkson and Chris O'Donnell), this episode of Who Do You Think You Are? went in the opposite direction.  It was emphasized several times that Cindy Crawford is just an ordinary girl-next-door from the Midwest, but we learn that she has ancestors who were extraordinary.  They did, however, maintain the trend of no pretense that the celebrities are doing any real research; at every location Crawford said that she had requested someone to do research for her.  That in itself is still a sham, of course — the program sets everything up with the researchers — but it is an improvement.

Crawford's introductory biography tells us that she was one of the first true supermodels, when they went "from mannequins to superstars."  At one point she was the highest-paid model in the world.  She has been on the cover of more than 400 magazines and has fronted for several brands of merchandise.  She now lives in Malibu, California with her husband and two children.

Crawford tells us she was born in DeKalb, Illinois, a small town about 60 miles west of Chicago.  She still thinks of herself as a small-town girl and grew up surrounded by her family, cousins, and extended family.  She was extremely fortunate that all four of her great-grandmothers and two of her great-grandfathers were still alive when she was a child (wow, that is fortunate!); they lived in Minnesota, and she visited them two or three times a year growing up.  She doesn't know anything about her family prior to them and considers herself a mutt.  She is pretty sure all of her grandparents and even her great-grandparents were born in the U.S.

The excuse for her to investigate her genealogy is that one of her children has a 6th-grade family history project.  She thinks it would be cool if she had an ancestor who was historically relevant (foreshadowing!), both for herself and her family.  Being American is great, but we all had to come from somewhere before that, and it would be nice to have a connection to history.  So we know there will be at least one important ancestor, and we'll be leaving the U.S.

Her father's mother was Ramona Hemingway, and she has a photo of Ramona and herself taken at a Hemingway family reunion, probably in Mankato, Minnesota.  She's always wondered if she might be related to Ernest Hemingway.  Ramona's parents were Frank Hemingway and Hazel Brown.  Apparently Frank, a popcorn farmer, wanted a son, but he and Hazel had eight daughters.  Frank's parents were called Grandpa Lou and Grandma Lou, and she thinks they probably both weren't named Lou (why couldn't it be short for Louise?).  That's as far back as she knows, so she decides to start with them.

Crawford goes to Ancestry.com, which is expected, but I was pleasantly surprised by a couple of her comments.  She says she's going to assume that her great-great-grandfather Lou's name was short for Louis — very nice to hear someone admit that a search is based on an assumption.  Then, when she sees the results, she says there sure are a lot of Louis Hemingways — this is the first time I can remember on this program that the person searching didn't just go unerringly to the right person.  Crawford even vocalized how she was choosing which person to look at — she focused on the Louis in Vernon, Blue Earth County, Minnesota, which is where her family lived.  Wow, an actual example of the research process!  Who would have thought?

That said, she clicks on an 1880 census result.  The page shows Louis was born in Minnesota, but his father Frank was born in New Hampshire.  Frank makes sense for Lou's father's name, because he named one of his own sons Frank.

Then we stray from reality.  Crawford decides that since Frank was born in New Hampshire, she should look for him in New England, and she's going to go to the New England Hitoric Genealogical Society in Boston.  Um, say what?  Let's see, she found one record — one measly record — that says Frank was from New Hampshire.  She doesn't even try looking for earlier or later censuses to see if they agree on Frank's birthplace.  She just says Frank "was actually born in New Hampshire."  And then she doesn't go to New Hampshire.  Nope, let's just take off for Boston!  On top of which, how does someone with no experience doing genealogy even know about NEHGS?  Geez, I wish I had this travel budget ....

As she is walking toward NEHGS, Crawford wonders how far back she can go with her research.  She says she has asked genealogist Chris (Christopher) Child to do some research for her.  At NEHGS, the first thing Child tells her is that he traced her Hemingway line back and that she is indeed distantly related to Ernest Hemingway.  Her grandmother Ramona is Hemingway's 8th cousin (yup, that's distant), so Crawford is an 8th cousin twice removed.  Considering all the suicides in that branch of the Hemingway family, though, best not to dwell on that side so much, so Child tells her he found a more impressive ancestor, in her Trowbridge line.  He has a basic family tree which shows Crawford's fifth great-grandfather Ebenezer Hemingway married Ruth Gates.  Ruth's parents were Amos Gates and Mary Trowbridge (born 1788).  Skipping back four more generations (magic!), Crawford's tenth great-grandfather was Thomas Trowbridge, born 1600 in Taunton, England.

The Trowbridge family is well known, and Child hands Crawford a book about the family, History of the Trowbridge Family in America (available as a free download from Google Books).  She is surprised that the entire book is about just the Trowbridges.  The book indicates that Thomas Trowbridge married Elizabeth Marshall on March 24, 1627, they had four children in England, and their son James (Crawford's ancestor) was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1636.  So between 1633–1636 the Trowbridges must have moved to North America.

Crawford asks for some historical context on why the Trowbridges would have made such a big move.  Child explains that during the 1620's and 1630's many people left England due to religious reasons, and it was a time of political upheaval.  It is known as the time of the Great Migration, when many Puritans, including Trowbridge, were seeking escape from religious persecution.  They moved to North America to establish a church and practice religion as they wished (they did not extend that privilege to other religions, by the way).  In 1636 many Puritans, among them Trowbridge, moved to the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Soon after that, however, there was dissension among the settlers on religion, and a group who thought religious practices should be stricter created a colony at New Haven.  Trowbridge moved with that stricter group.  New Haven was an ideal religious community for these Puritans.

Crawford asks if the Puritans were like the Quakers (please!).  Child tells her that they were more like Congregationalists.  (Seriously, if you were going to describe Puritans, is that the first term you would think of?)  Crawford immediately identifies with this because she grew up Congregationalist (nothing like a leading question).  Religion and the church had been important for the Hemingway family, so Trowbridge's Puritan family values had trickled down through the centuries.

Crawford asks where she should go next.  Child suggests the Connecticut State Library, which has a lot of original records about the New Haven Colony.  In the outro to this scene, Crawford comments that she's amazed at what she's done in her "first day doing this" — going back to 1633 has set the bar high (why not 1600, when Trowbridge was born?).  Well, yeah, maybe it was her first day, but how many days and weeks and months before that were the researchers working so that Child could show her that big family tree?!  Geez!

And then we go to Hartford, Connecticut.  Crawford wonders what happened to Trowbridge in New Haven after 1636.  At the library she meets Judith Schiff, chief research archivist at Yale University Library, whom she says she asked to "pull any records she could find" (researchers just love requests like that).  Schiff has found some New Haven court records relating to Trowbridge.  The first she points out is from November 3, 1641 and says that Trowbridge owed taxes and was not paying them.  The second, from April 5, 1644, states that his estate is being taken to pay debts and his family is to be "dissolved", which means that the children are being placed with other families, similar to foster care.  No mention is made of Mrs. Trowbridge in the court records; Schiff says that "no record of Mrs. Trowbridge" was found.  Crawford says she probably died, but Schiff replies only that it's possible.  Either way, it appeared that Trowbridge had left New Haven and not returned.

The next document shown is for a wedding, between Trowbridge and a Frances Shattuck in 1641, back in Taunton, England!  (Hey, that isn't in New Haven!)  Crawford points to the word "weddings" on the page, but the year shown where she points is 1640.  The hypothesis is that Mrs. Trowbridge died, and Trowbridge needed to find a new wife to take care of his children.  Since most of the colonists came as family groups, it would have been difficult for him to find someone to marry in New Haven.  The only unmarried women would have been servants (not an appropriate social class for Trowbridge) or elderly.  So he returned to England to look for someone, but then didn't come back.

Crawford wants to find out more, so Schiff says she should go to England.  Crawford wants to know why Trowbridge would move his family from England if all he was going to do was abandon them.  She does not look happy at the prospect of her ancestor having been a deadbeat dad but says there must be a reason why he left his children.

In Taunton, which is in Somersetshire, Crawford visits the Somerset Heritage Centre, where she speaks with Dr. Susan Hardman Moore, a professor of early modern religion at the University of Edinburgh.  (Something that surprised me with this scene was that other people were actually in the room doing research during the filming; maybe British facilities can't be bought off as easily as American ones to clear them for celebrity film crews.)  Moore explains that it was not uncommon at the time for people to go back to England, either temporarily or permanently.  She goes on to talk about how King Charles I had ruled without Parliament for eleven years but reinstated it in 1640 because he wanted to raise money to wage a war.  Many people returned to England between 1640–1641 because of this.

Crawford sits through the history lesson and then asks, "What have you found?"  Moore has her put on conservator's gloves and shows her a document from the Taunton Quarter Session, a local court.  Crawford gamely stumbles along trying to read it and finally admits, "I can only read about every third word," at which point Moore hands her a transcription of the record.  The document, dated October 6, 1652, is a petition for the award of a pension to a man who fought with Captain Trowbridge (yes, our Trowbridge) under Colonel Robert Blake in the Parliamentary Army.  The petition is signed at the bottom by Trowbridge (which Crawford didn't get nearly enthusiastic enough about).  This was during the time of Oliver Cromwell, and Taunton was a center of resistance to King Charles in the events leading up to the English Civil War.

Putting the best light on the situation, Trowbridge left England in 1636 to escape the tyranny of King Charles, but when given a second chance, he stayed to fight.  He helped defend the council in Taunton for Parliament.  The petition in the Quarter Session indicated that he stood by the men who had fought for him.  As for leaving his children in the New World, Moore says that it was not unusual at the time for families to be separated by the Atlantic.  It is possible that Trowbridge intended to return to New Haven or to bring his children to England, but the war would have made either plan impossible.  After the war he apparently just didn't follow up on it, and the children remained in North America.  (I wonder if he had more children with his second wife?)

Crawford, now caught up in learning about the Civil War, asks what Trowbridge did during the Siege of Taunton.  (This was poor editing, because Moore doesn't use that phrase before Crawford does, and Crawford wouldn't have known about it before meeting Moore.)  Moore suggests she go to Taunton Castle and meet with a colleague.  As she leaves Crawford says that when she travels she has always tried to get cultural experiences, but the fact that this is about her ancestor humanizes the history, which is a great point.

At Taunton Castle Crawford meets Bernard Capp, an emeritus professor of history at the University of Warwick.  He explains that in 1664 Taunton was the only Parliamentary holdout in Somersetshire.  Royalist forces laid siege to the town for seven months.  The town's residents had supplies for only three months but managed to survive; at the end horses were being fed thatch from roofs.  In 1656 the Royalists broke through and gave an ultimatum to Colonel Blake to surrender or be massacred, but they suddenly had to withdraw to face Cromwell, so Taunton survived.  Trowbridge helped protect the people of the town during the siege.  A report written after the siege described the townspeople as being in awe of the soldiers.

Crawford said that Taunton must have been a decisive victory in the war, but Capp corrects her and says it was just one siege.  In 1646 the war ended and King Charles surrendered.  (Capp didn't mention that that was merely the end of the First Civil War; it wasn't until the end of the Second Civil War that the Parliamentarians really won.  Well, until the monarchy was restored with Charles II.)  Trowbridge stayed in Taunton to help the town start again, because there had been a lot of destruction during the siege.

Being at the castle, Crawford imagines what life was like for Trowbridge, who took the opportunity to fight when it was presented to him.  She decides it is an "honor to be descended from such a brave and committed man" (just not commited to his children, apparently).  And then, of course, she wants to know if she can go farther back than Trowbridge.  Capp tells her she should go to London.  That's it — just go to London.  Nowhere specific to go, no one mentioned by name.  Can you imagine wandering around in London hoping to find someone who can help you research your family past 1600?

Charlemagne
Somehow in the huge city of London Crawford ends up at the Banqueting House of Whitehall Palace, where she is greeted by Charles Mosley, a "royal author."  He tells her that he has traced her family beyond Thomas Trowbridge.  He unrolls a massive scroll that shows Thomas' father, John, whom we heard about back at NEHGS, married a Prowse, who was gentry.  Going up the tree, Crawford finds counts, dukes, and a king of Italy (probably not actually Italy, but rather one of the Italian states, considering that Italy as a country didn't exist until beginning about 1859; so maybe he wasn't even really a king?).  Then she starts counting up the generations on the tree, until she's gone back twelve centuries and 41 generations, to — wait for it — Charlemagne!

The narrator said at the beginning of the episode that Crawford would find an "unbelievable connection to early European royalty."  But as Dick Eastman has explained, pretty much anyone alive today with Western European ancestry is descended from Charlemagne.  So it is eminently believable that Crawford is descended from him also.  What is more impressive is that she can actually trace her connection to Charlemagne.  (And what caught my attention on the family scroll was the name Walter de Gant of Lincolnshire, because in my family I have Gants and Gaunts floating around England.  I watched that scene again a couple of times to catch more details.)

Charlemagne is listed as being born April 2, 748 in Aachen, Germany (which wasn't really Germany, either, because it also was a bunch of city-states), and Crawford is amazed.  Mosley tells her she is "off to Germany" to find out more.  She wants to learn more about Charlemagne and says she learned about this stuff when she was studying history, but a lot of it she remembered just for tests.  Then she makes a great comment:  "You listen differently when it's connected to you."  This is what really gets people hooked on genealogy:  finding the connections between themselves and historical people and events.

In Aachen Crawford goes to Aachen Cathedral, where she finds Rosamond McKitterick, a professor of Medieval history at the University of Cambridge.  McKitterick tells Crawford that Charlemagne was the king of Frankia (France) and expanded his kingdom by conquering a lot of Europe.  By around A.D. 800 he ruled most of Western Europe.  As a father he was very protective of his daughters and wouldn't let them marry, but they were educated equally with his sons.  He had 20 children from several different mothers.

McKitterick gives Crawford a passage from Einhard's Life of Charlemagne (a translation of which is available on Google Books).  Einhard was at Charlemagne's court and wrote the biography after Charlemagne had died.  The passage McKitterick chose describes Charlemagne as a person.  Einhard wrote that he was tall and healthy, with long fair hair and large animated eyes.  He walked with a firm gait and had a manly carriage.  Toward the end of his life he had some health problems and his physician wanted him to give up roast meat.  Crawford is excited to learn personal, rather than just historical, information about the man.  She then wants to know what people actually thought of him.  McKitterick says he wasn't just a conqueror or a bully, but that he promoted culture and learning.  She points out that his empire must have been peaceful, because his palaces were not fortified, and that people could travel throughout the kingdom.

Crawford asks about the cathedral they're standing in.  McKitterick explains it was Charlemagne's palace chapel.  From about A.D. 796 he was a Christian ruler, after his conversion.  He went to mass every day in the cathedral, and toward the end of his life spent most of his time there.  Crawford is happy to have more understanding of Charlemagne's legacy and now thinks about him as a person, not just a name.

In her wrap-up, Crawford says again that she's always thought of herself as just a Midwestern girl, but now she has this connection to Charlemagne, her 41st great-grandfather.  She's looking forward to sharing what she's learned with her children, husband, and family and sounds pretty enthusiastic about history.  She had thought that maybe she'd be able to get back to around 1600 with the research and never imagined she'd go back so far, and that real people like her are linked to history.  She feels very fortunate to have participated in this experience.

The example of the research process at the beginning was good, and it was nice to hear Crawford sound excited when talking about history, but some of her comments, such as how far she had gotten on her "first day doing this", were unbelievable.  And I realized during this episode that the way the celebrity goes from expert to expert collecting information reminds me of computer games where the character has to run around and pick up puzzle pieces to get to the next level.