Fri, 21 October 2011
Published Oct 20, 2011
Fire up your Kindle! In this episode I'm going to introduce you to the author or a riveting book full of secrets, family history, and discoveries!
GEM: Interview with Steve Luxenberg, author of Annie's Ghosts
We’re going to mix things up a bit in this episode, and I want to start off with an email I received recently from Jay in New York who writes:
“I have been catching up with all of your family history podcasts. Over the years I have collected a wealth of information on the family. Some good, some not-so-good, some out in-the-open, some hidden.
How do you deal with revealing "forgotten" items about family members to other family members? I had an uncle who had a marriage at a very young age, and would like to have forgotten about it. My mother told me about it. I put it on the tree. While showing off the fruits of my labor to his family this "forgotten" marriage was revealed with not happy responses.
The things we find in our tree may not always be "good", How does a person deal with that? and revealing it to others?”
This is a great questions, and it’s sort of a cooincidence that this episode’s publish date coincides with Family history Month and Halloween because we’re going to explore ghosts and skeletons in the closet.
But actually there’s nothing really spooky here, but rather these are things that can be found in many family. Secrets, small and large. Skeletons in the closet that are often closely guarded by others in our family.
It’s a tricky business navigating your way through the shakier branches of the family tree, so I’ve invited a special guest to the show who has done an incredible job of climbing those branches in his own family.
Steve Luxenberg is a Washington Post associate editor and award-winning author. In his 25 years at The Post, he has headed the newspaper’s investigative staff and its Sunday section of commentary and opinion. Steve is going to join me for the full episode to talk about investigating and dealing with family secrets as he did in his book Annie’s Ghost. It’s a riveting tale that kept me feverishly tapping the “Next Page” key on my kindle.
Annie's Ghosts: A Journey Into a Family Secret is about a family secret that Steve stumbled upon in the late 1990s. His mother, who had always claimed to be an only child, had a sister, Annie. And while that was a big surprise all by itself, it was just the beginning of a series of secrets and revelations that Steve unearthed by tapping into his long career as an investigative journalist, and employing newly found genealogy techniques and strategies.
In this interview we talk about being aware of what’s missing in records and stories, rather than just focusing on what is on the page. For those of you who are Premium Members this discussion is a great follow up to Premium Episode #77 where we talked about being more keenly aware during our research.
Steve’s also going to share he thoughts on storytelling, which he truly masters in this book.
And then we get into some of the genealogical techniques he used. How to avoid Tainting Memories in Interviews, and how to balance the give and take as well as win trust with the person you are interviewing. And speaking of trust Steve describes how he was able to be incredibly successful in obtaining sensitive documents and getting cooperation from various government agencies and other repositories.
He’s also going to tell us about a little known legal maneuver that he made that really made the difference for him in obtaining some of the most closely held documents and how you can use it too!
And finally he’ll share his personal feelings about what it was like to get a add a new member to his family, his long lost Aunt Annie.
Dillingham Commission's report on immigration, in digitized form, courtesy of the Stanford U. library. Vol. 4 describes immigration conditions in Europe (much of it focusing on Italy, if I remember correctly), and Vol 37 examines voyage conditions, focusing on steerage.
Quotes from Annie’s Ghosts:
“What I didn’t expect, as the week wore on, was that the family would expand to take in a new member. But that’s what happened. As people dipped in and out of the records, as the debates flew about what we knew and what we didn’t and whether we should be digging around in the past, Annie gradually became a part of the family consciousness. She was no longer just a name on a hospital record. She was no longer just a secret.”
“I stopped thinking like a son and started thinking like a journalist.”
“I offer to send her the letters; it’s an unexpected present for her, and I’m glad to be able to make the offer, because it allows me to give as well as take, something reporters can’t often do. It’s also a good way to win trust.”
“I want to make sure that if she knows about Annie, she tells me before I tell her, so that I capture her spontaneious memory first.”
Stay tune - Episode 121 wil feature part 2 of this interview. App users: check out the Behind the Scenes Steve and Lisa video!
Stay tune - Episode 121 wil feature part 2 of this interview. App users: check out the Behind the Scenes Steve and Lisa video!
Thu, 6 October 2011
Published Oct 5, 2011
When you were little did you play in card table tents or forts? I sure did. When I was wandering around the house complaining of being bored on a rainy day, my mom would pull out the old folding table used for card games, throw an old blanket over it, pull out some old pots and pans and hand them to me and tell me to go play house. Something magical seemed to happen when I crawled under the fabric walls. My imagination would let loose and I could happily play for hours. So I’ve decided to create a special card table house / fort for my grandson Davy.
Davy loves the old TV show "Blue’s Clues" which was hugely popular here in the U.S. when my kids were little. Nowadays the only place I seem to be able to find it is on Netflix and YouTube. Blue is a dog and she lives in an adorable little yellow house with a red roof with her friend Steve who follows her clues.
Last week I headed to the fabric store with my trusty iPad full of photos I found online of the inside and outside of the Blue’s Clues house, and I spent two hours up and down the aisles looking for the closest matching fabrics I could find.
Each side of the house is double sided – the outside fabric is the bright yellow and the inside is one that looks like the wall paper in blue’s house. And of course it will have the windows and curtains, and flowers and lizards and frogs on the outside and I even found a little unfinished wooden mailbox at the fabric store that will be transformed into the purple mailbox outside Blue’s house. If Davy has half the fun playing in his Blue’s Clues house as I am having making it then it will be a big success!
In addition to creating The “Blue’s Clues fort” for Davy’s birthday which is in December, I also still need to come up with Christmas present for the family. Last year I did calendars for everyone in the Cooke family that sported images for events related to each month.
This year I’m thinking about framing charts. It’s amazing I haven’t gotten around to this already, but I think it’s about time. My friend Janet Hovorka just happens to own the company Family ChartMasters and she’s going to be here in a day or two for the Family History Expo being held in my area (Northern California) this weekend. So I will be picking her brain and spending a good deal of time on their website. She told me that I have there are loads of new styles of charts to choose from.
If you’re looking for Christmas present ideas for the family this year, why not consider a family tree chart? Hopefully you’ve got your genealogy data in a database so you can just export your gedcom and make it gorgeous for a gift they can enjoy for years to come.
If you decide you’d like to check out Family ChartMasters– which of course I highly recommend – I’d really appreciate it if you would click the image above to visit their website because when you do you are also supporting this podcast and making it possible for me to keep the free podcast episodes coming. So thank you very much!
And by the way, many of you have asked what happened to our Amazon links on the website which were another way that you were helping to support the podcast. Well, Amazon dropped their California affiliate producers because of some recent tax law changes. But I just got an email saying they are reversing that. This is awesome news because I just can’t get through all my Christmas shopping without Amazon, and I know that many of you shop online too. So I’m going to get that reinstated asap – keep an eye out for the Amazon links on the homepage at genealogygems.com and I will also return it to the toolbar. Thanks for being patient and being such incredible supporters of this little old podcast!
Entertainment Weekly website is reporting that Marisa Tomei has just been added to the roster of celebrities who will be featured on the new season of Who Do You Think You Are? here in the US. Joining here are Martin Sheen and actor Blair Underwood.
FamilySearch has added records for
China, Hungary, Mexico and U.S. Records Include Illinois, Maryland, New York and Washington.
Ancestry.com announced the release of the 1930 Mexico National Census and it’s free to the public.
Ancestry.uk also recently added some new records. Two million railway employment records from the UK National Archives are now available on the site.
Convict records available for free online for Australia
The free Convict Records website at http://www.convictrecords.com.au is based around the British convict transportation register compiled by the State Library of Queensland - it includes about three-quarters of the 160,000 convicts transported to Australia between 1787 and 1867.
Database of Virginia Slave Names
The RVA NEWS is reporting that the Virginia Historical Society has launched an online and searchable database called “Unknown No Longer: A Database of Virginia Slave Names.” It’s a free service featuring a sizable portion of the over 8 million records in VHS archives.
RootsMagic just released the long awaited Personal Historian 2. This is their software that helps you write the story of your life and of other individuals. If you’d like to learn more about the new Personal Historian 2 you can watch a recording of their recent free webinar at
For a limited time only, RootsMagic is offering a special introductory offer for Personal Historian 2. Through October 31, 2011, Personal Historian 2 is available for a special introductory price of only $19.95, saving $10 off of the regular price. The discount is available only on the Personal Historian website at http://www.personalhistorian.com or by calling 1-800-766-8762.
RootsTech conference, RootsTech 2012 which will be held February 2 - 4, 2012 at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City Utah.
The Convention Center is a very easy walking distance from the Family History Library so you can really make a time of it. I’ll be there again this year, I’ve been booked to give three presentations and I’ll be once again recording some videos as well. It’s going to be a ton of fun,
Take advantage of the early bird special! It’s $129 for the 3 day event instead of the regular $189 so it’s a nice discount, but it ends November 30, 2011.
There is also a $35 student rate (you just have to show a current student ID at admission) and there are Single day passes are available.
New Aussie Genealogy Podcast
There is a new family history podcast focused on Australian Genealogy called Genies Down Under.
A while back Maria Northcote, herself a Genie Down Under, wrote and asked me my thoughts on podcasting and said she was thinking about putting a show together, and I’m very happy to say that she has done it. She has launched a brand new website called Genies Down Under and she wrote me again to tell me all about it and she writes:
“I really must say thanks for you for your inspiration to podcast in general, to blog and to get deeper into family history – one of my big passions in life. I dated the first podcast with a 1 October date as I didn’t expect the launch to become live so soon!”
You can subscribe to Genies Down Under through iTunes.
Visit the Genies Down Under Website
The background music for this segment is called “Bethena” and is available on the fantastic CD by Frederick Hodges called Picnics. Visit http://www.frederickhodges.com
Grandparent Terms of Endearment
I think I struck a chord with so many of you out there when I told you in the last episode who I’m hanging in there waiting for my little grandson Davy to call me Grandma. My email box was over flowing with the most wonderful stories of the terms of endearment you use in your family for grandmothers and grandfathers.
Maria in Australia: In her family they distinguish between her mother’s parents and her father’s parents by using their married surnames: Grandma Northcote or Grandfather Walters.
Elizabeth in Needham, Massachusetts:
“While we've used Grandmother and Grandfather in my family, my uncle was known as "Grand Sir" to his grandchildren. (My aunt is known as Grandmother.) I really must find out how that name evolved and write down the story.
In my husband's Jewish family, grandparents are Bubbie (for grandmother) and Pop-pop or Zaydee (for grandfather), though when Bubbie's mother was still living, she was Bub-bub to her great-grandchildren, to differentiate her from Bubbie.”
Suzanne in Panama City, FL:
“…my husband(‘s family) was much more creative. Two of his grandmothers were named after what kind of road they lived on: one was "Bumpy Road Granny" the other was "Smooth Road Granny". He had another grandmother called "Chicken Granny" because she had chickens running around her yard. And a fourth grandmother was called "Big Ole Granny". She was called that not because of her size but because she was actually the Great-grand mother.
Liz posted on my Facebook page:
“When my daughter was learning to talk, she called my mother Daygar, my sister Elaine was E.T. and then became Aunty and my father was Pa. She had her own language! She called marshmallows yesyellows, O'Henry Bars were YoHomy Bars and gingerbread men were Bundermen. She was very inventive!”
Laurie in Calif. writes:
“(This photo) was taken on the front porch of my great grandparents' home in Reeseville, Wisconsin c. 1928. The names were written right on the bottom of the picture, thankfully, and the writer referred to Lena (my great aunt) first as "Bammy" before crossing it out. I always appreciate it when someone writes names on photos, but this one is more appreciated as it reveals the quirky nickname "Bammy" for Grandma. Gotta love it.
I just received my "Ultimate Google for Genealogists" Collection from Family Tree Magazine. I can't wait to delve into it & get my "Lisa fix" between podcasts! When my maternal grandparents were alive, they affectionately called each other "Pappy" for some reason. Apparently when I was a toddler, I heard that as "Happy" & that's what my sisters & I called my grandmother for the rest of her life. It was a well-fitting name, too, because she always was happy!
Teri in Iowa writes:
My oldest daughter called her grandmothers "Little Grandma" and "Big Grandma" because my mother lived with her mother so that she could remain in her own home! Memories!
“I have 3 grandchildren, girl twins, Ryan and Riley who are my son's children and a 2 year old boy, my daughter's son. When the twins were about 16 or 17 months old, Ryan couldn't say the "grr" sound of "Grandma and Grandpa" so she came up with the name "Mo-ma" and when I pointed to my husband and asked "What is his name?". She quickly replied "Mo-pa". Her twin Riley, quickly picked up the name and started to call us "Mo-ma" and "Mo-pa". 3 years later when my grandson arrived he fell into step with his cousins, Ryan and Riley, and has started to call us "Mo-ma" and "Mo-pa". These grandchildren have 3 sets of grandparents: me and my husband; my ex-husband and his wife and my daughter in law's mother and father, who are called "Nanny" and "Pop Pop".
“My parents were named Bumpa and Nini. Bumpa started with the first born grandchild being unable to pronounce Grandpa and somehow it came out as Bumpa and stuck. Nini because my mom didn't want to be called grandma :) They ultimately had 17 grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren before their passings in 2007. I'm Noni to my 7 grandchildren but dad is just plain ol' grandpa. Thanks for all the informative podcasts-love listening to them on my walks with my two Jack Russells, Leroy and Mabel!”
And then there was this terrific message from JT:
“When our son Miles was just starting to talk, he had trouble with the usual consonants so "Grandma" just wouldn't come out no matter how hard he tried. One day when my mother-in-law stopped by he was so excited to see her he just stood in the center of the room, his arms held out as he tried to call her.
You could see in his face how hard he was trying. He rose up on his toes, his hands opened wide and he almost began shaking as the word traveled up his body and burst our his mouth.... "HEM-MIE!"
Not even close to "Grandma", but it seemed to work for him - seemingly satisfied, that's what he called her from that day on. Little sister Lily has adopted it as well and my mother-in-law couldn't be happier that she has what must be a completely unique name from her grandkids.
I enjoy your podcasts and always learn something new - thanks so much!”
But I have to say, I think my favorite email came from Tim in San Jose CA who writes:
“I recently listened to your podcast which included your discussion of names given to grandparents. I thought I would share some of the names we used for our grandparents growing up.
When I was born, I had 4 living grandparents, and 5 great-grandparents, who were all direct ancestors -- not from second marriages. During my growing-up years, they all lived within 5 miles of my family and we saw them often. So, it was a challenge to uniquely identify each grandparent.
There were the usual names, such as Grandma and Grandpa McBride for one set of grandparents, and Grandma and Grandpa LaMonte for a set of great-grandparents. Another set of great grandparents were Granny and Louie. Why we called him by his first name, I don't know -- all of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren called him my his first name. I guess "granny" comes from my Ozark heritage.
But there were also a couple unusual names. If someone was just listening to my sister, cousins and me talk, they would hear something like Grandma In-da-green, or Grandma and Grandpa In-da-ellow. When my older sister was quite young (she was the oldest of all the cousins on that side of the family), she identified one of our great-grandmothers as Grandma In The Green House (which, over time, was shortened to Grandma In The Green) and one set of grandparents as Grandma and Grandpa In The Yellow House (which became Grandma and Grandpa In The Yellow).
I have not previously included these names in my genealogy data base. But, I have now added these names and stories behind them since I know we used these terms in family letters. It would be good to have notes how these names came about for when future generations are reading these letters so they know who we are talking about.
Thanks for the podcast. I enjoy listening to each one as soon as it come out!”
I think that is priceless! Tim really got the message I was hoping to send in bringing this topic up. This is part of your heritage. Take a few moments and get these wonderful terms of endearment and their origins into your family history records and database. You’ll be glad you did!
I’m sending out a 1 year premium membership to JT for recording his terrific story, and also to Tim for his Green House and Yellow House Grandparent story. Simply wonderful!
And thanks to all of you who took the time to write in. Thanks for being part of this podcast episode. It’s most fun when it truly is a conversation!
Genealogy Gems Premium Membership
Clíona from Ireland wrote in with a questions about Premium Membership
She writes: “I’ve been listening to some of your podcasts and I’m interested in signing up to see the Premium Videos. Would my subscription give me access to previous Premium Videos such as those mentioned in your podcasts, or just the future ones? Thanks and well done on some very good podcasts.”
Well Cliona, thank so much, I’m so glad you’re enjoying the free podcast! When you become a Premium Member, you get:
. The 6 most recent Premium Podcast episodes
. The Google Earth for Genealogy video series (7 videos)
. The Google: A Goldmine of Genealogy Gems video series (13 videos)
. The 2 part Hard Drive Organization video series
As each new premium podcast episode is released the oldest drops off. For now, all of the videos listed above remain - when I'm going to change some out I provide advance warning. So as you can see there's lot of video content waiting
for you :-)
Interview with Michael Katchen, Director of Business Development at
Here’s one more email from a listener. Kate in Ann Arbor Michigan took the time to write in and just make my day. She says:
“Thanks for the updates to your podcast. Your app is wonderful. Each day I find new ways to enjoy your presentations. Now I can share your podcast by text. I can now easily share your podcast with my tech challenged friends. Your discussion with "ole Myrt about quilting will be sent to my sister-in-law who is part of a large quilt group inLancaster Virginia. You inspire me with both genealogical info and your tech info. Last week I was at an Apple store. The young geek saw my ipod touch and asked me my favorite app. Of course your app was the first mentioned. I think he was impressed. We shared info on "DropBox". I learned about that from you.”