Genealogy Professional Podcast

I listen to many podcasts. They cover a wide variety of subjects, including genealogy, history, education, business, music, film, politics, current events, and comedy. One of my favorites genealogy podcasters has always been my friend Marian Pierre-Louis.

Among her many activities is the Genealogy Professional Podcast. It targets professional genealogists as well as those transitioning from hobbyist to professional. She interviews professionals who make their living as genealogists in a variety of ways. She has covered a wide variety of professionals from around the world in almost 50 interviews. Among them are:

  • Blaine Bettinger
  • Audrey Collins
  • Lisa Louise Cooke
  • Cyndi Ingle
  • Thomas MacEntee
  • Megan Smolenyak
  • Mary Tedesco

You can see a complete list of her guests with links to the individual podcast on her Episodes page.

I had the pleasure of appearing on her most recent episode, discussing my wide and varied career as a professional genealogist. My path has certainly been very different from most. From working at a large non-profit to a small startup; researching, writing, editing, teaching, speaking, and more, for more than twenty years I’ve had the pleasure of doing work that I love and helping people reconnect to their families. You can find out more about my interview on the page for episode 49. Thank you to Marian for having me as a guest.

If you are thinking about becoming a professional genealogist, you should definitely take a listen to this podcast. And thank you to Marian for having me as a guest.

5 In the News

The following stories captured my interest this week. African-American neighborhoods in Maryland, the history of zero, hobos in the Great Depression, the history of tea in Britain, and mirror balls.

Amid Festival Fun, a Serious Pasion for African-American History in Baltimore County
The Baltimore Sun reported on the Baltimore County African American Cultural Festival, which had some different groups this year.

“They told the stories of Marylanders who played on Negro Leagues baseball teams, of men who served their country as Buffalo Soldiers, and of Henrietta Lacks, whose cells sparked medical discoveries that her family never knew about for years. And they shared the stories of Baltimore County’s 40 recognized historically African-American neighborhoods, which few residents know about.”

Carbon Dating Reveals the History of Zero is Older than Previously Thought
For numbers people, the history of math can be as interesting as family history. The first known text describing zero as a number was written in India in 628 C.E. New carbon dating, however, has shown that date to be off . . . by hundreds of years.

Residents Embrace Rail History at Hobo Fest
The Port Huron and Detroit Historical Society recently held its 13th Hobo Fest. The festival remembers and tells the stories of those who rode the rails in the 1930s and 1940s to find work during those dark economic times.

The True Story Behind England’s Tea Obsession
Tea is universally thought of as a very British thing. But history shows us that it was actually a Portuguese woman who introduced the drink to the English. Catherine of Braganza, who married King Charles II after the restoration of the monarchy, brought the drink with her and introduced it to a nation.

 

Last of the Disco Ball Makers Still Hustles
 Yolanda Baker has been making mirrored balls for half a century. The Kentucky woman is still going strong, working at the last American manufacturer of the items, keeping Madonna, Kid Rock, and Beyonce (among others) in mirror balls.

5 In the News

The following stories captured my interest this week. From ancient earthquakes and Viking DNA to modern crimes and architecture, they tell us much about out past.

DNA Proves Viking Women Were Powerful Warriors
“An elaborate Viking Age grave in Sweden holds the remains of a decorated female warrior from the 10th century, providing the first archaeological evidence that women held high-status positions in Viking culture.”

What Crime Most Changed the Course of History
The Atlantic asked a number of writers, directors, producers, crime specialists, and average readers to answer this question. Some of the responses may surprise you.

Nashville’s Fort Negley  Nominated as Globally Recognized Site for Slavery
“Fort Negley, a Civil War-era fort in Nashville that is getting renewed attention amid the debate over a proposed development nearby called Cloud Hill, is now nominated to join a worldwide registry of historically significant sites for slavery.”

The Deadliest Earthquake Ever Recorded
“Humans have been recording earthquakes for nearly 4,000 years. From the ones we know about, the deadliest by far happened in China in 1556 A.D. On January 23 of that year, a powerful quake rocked the province of Shaanxi as well as the neighboring province of Shanxi, killing an estimated 830,000 people.”

Five Architects on the One Building They Wish Had Been Preserved
Another survey, this one from the Smithsonian. The publisher asked five prominent architects to name the one building that has been destroyed that they wished had not been. Interesting answers, including one who changed the rules and did not name a building but something else instead.

Ste. Marie de l’Incarnation et les Ursulines de Québec

In 1639, Marie de l’Incarnation left France for the wilderness of Nouvelle France. At forty years old, she had already lived an interesting life. She had no way of knowing what a lasting difference she would make in the world.

Marie Guyart was born at Tours, France, 18 October 1599, daughter of Florent Guyart and Jeanne Michelet and baptized there in the parish of St. Saturnin the following day. From the age of seven, when she had a vision of Jesus, she felt drawn to religious life. Ignoring her wishes, her parents made her a match with a silk worker named Claude Martin. Married at 18, she became a mother a year later and a widow just months after that. She lived with her parents for a time, then her sister. In 1631 she joined the Ursuline convent, and in 1639 she went to New France, where she founded a convent in Quebec City.

The Jesuits had been teaching young native boys their European Christian values for years. Now the Ursulines took upon themselves the education of young native girls in these ways. They were the first female religious order from Europe in North America. After three years in the lower town, they moved to the upper town and built a new monastery. The land was donated to the nuns by the Company of New France. The Ursuline convent has been located on this property ever since.

Since its founding, the Ursulines have been dedicated to teaching. From the natives, to the children of colonists, to the children of wealthy merchants, the nuns have taught girls of all ages. More than two dozen convents and monasteries were founded, starting in Trois-Rivières in 1697 and ending in Yagi, Japan, in 1974. Many members of our ancestral families joined the Ursulines to continue their mission of teaching.

From small beginnings, the Ursuline Convent is now a large complex of buildings. In 2014They remained a cloistered order until the 1960s. Unfortunately, that was a harbinger of greater changes to come. The sisterhood is dwindling. The numbers of those joining religious orders in general has diminished greatly since that time, and the Ursulines are no exception. Today there are only 40 nuns living at the convent, the youngest of whom is in her 60s.

A recent story broke the news that the sisters have made a difficult decision. After 375 years of living on the same land, the remaining Ursuline sisters will move into a modern assisted living facility in 2018. In 2017 the Musée des Ursulines de Québec was founded. It will work to preserve the monasteries and convents, artifacts, and the archives of these valiant women. In these archives is doubtless a great deal of information about those in our ancestral families who became Ursulines.

Little could young Marie Guyart have known what a difference she would make around the world. After more than thirty years toiling in her new home in Canada, Marie de l’Incarnation passed away on 30 April 1672, just two weeks after Easter. Pope John Paul, II, beatified her in Vatican City.  More than 340 years after she died, Pope Francis canonized her on 2 April 2014, making her now Sainte Marie de l’Incarnation.

 

For more information about Marie Guyart and the Ursulines of Quebec, visit the following resources:

The Canadian Encyclopedia entry for the Ursuline Convent

The Catholic Encyclopedia entry for Marie de l’Incarnation

The Musée des Ursulines de Québec

 

 

Five in the News

With this post I am reintroducing a popular feature from my days at Mocavo. A weekly roundup of interesting stories of interest to genealogists. This week’s stories include ancient explanations for eclipses and explorations of trigonometry, maritime mysteries of the Pearl Harbor survivor USS Indianapolis and Confederate submarine Hunley, and the historic significance of twentieth-century Black Beaches of Maryland.

How Maryland Black Beaches are Becoming Staples of American History
Between the 1920s and 1960s, there weren’t many beaches where African-Americans could freely enjoy themselves without encountering discrimination. So, Carr’s Beach and just a few other beaches in the D.C. area became a safe space. Legends such as James Brown and Jackie Wilson would perform at Carr’s.

How 5 Ancient Cultures Explained Solar Eclipses
Solar eclipses have been fascinating—and often terrifying—humans throughout the course of history . . . As millions prepare to witness the phenomenon, find out how some early cultures and religions tried to explain and understand a solar eclipse.

This 3,700-Year-Old Babylonian Clay Tablet Just Changed the History of Maths
A Babylonian clay tablet dating back 3,700 years has been identified as the world’s oldest and most accurate trigonometric table, suggesting the Babylonians beat the ancient Greeks to the invention of trigonometry by over 1,000 years.

How the USS Indianapolis, WWII Navy Ship with a Dramatic History, was Finally Rediscovered
On July 30th, 1945, the Indianapolis was at sea, having just completed a top-secret mission delivering key components of the atomic bomb Little Boy to a naval base in the Northern Mariana Islands, when it was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. Just 15 minutes later, the ship that survived the Pearl Harbor attack was underwater. . . Ultimately, only 316 survived the ordeal. For decades, the final resting place of the Indianapolis was lost to the ocean.

Solving the Mystery of What Killed a Civil War Submarine Crew
The dead submarine crew hadn’t moved from their stations for nearly 150 years when the vessel was raised from the ocean in 2000. Whatever killed them happened so suddenly that they never made a run for the escape hatch. What’s more, they had no obvious physical injuries.

ASG Scholar Award

For 77 years, the American Society of Genealogists is the most prestigious organization in our field. Membership is limited to 50 individuals who are leading published scholars in the field of American genealogy. It promotes the highest standards of scholarship in the field.

Each year they present the ASG Scholar Award. This annual scholarship provides a stipend of $1,000 toward tuition and expenses at one of five major education programs:

Applications are being accepted now for the 2017 award. To apply, submit the following:

  • a résumé that emphasizes activities relating to genealogy and lists the applicant’s publications in the field, if any (prior publications are not necessary).
  • a manuscript or published work of at least 5,000 words, demonstrating an ability to conduct quality genealogical research, analyze results, and report findings in an appropriately documented fashion. If the submission is to be returned, it should be accompanied by an envelope or bagging with sufficient postage.
  • a statement (100–150 words) which (1) identifies the individual’s choice of program and (2) explains why the individual feels that attendance will enhance his or her growth as a genealogical scholar.

Applications should be sent to ASG Vice-President Joseph C. Anders, II, at jca2nd@gmail.com by August 31. The award recipient will be announced by October 15, 2017.

This is a great opportunity to not only hone your writing skills, but to also get financial assistance to get high-quality genealogical education. Find out more on the ASG website.

Sons and Daughters of the U.S. Middle Passage

Lineage societies have long played a role in honoring the history of our nation. We tend to think of them as old (sometimes stodgy) organizations. But new lineage societies are formed all the time. One of the newer ones and one that is long overdue is the Sons and Daughters of the U.S. Middle Passage (SDUSMP). It is a non-denominational, interfaith nonprofit, 501 (c) 3 charitable organization “dedicated to the memory, education, and historic preservation of artifacts and landmarks of slavery in the United States and its economic, psychological, and cultural impact on today’s society.”

The Middle Passage was part of the Atlantic slave trade, the segment of the triangular trade where millions of people were taken from their African homelands and shipped to the New World as slaves. SDUSMP is focused on those who were sent to the British colonies that became the United States, as well as the early years of the country when the slave trade was still active. (You can read and download the Society’s first newsletter for free).

The organization’s objectives are Historical, Education, Memorial, and Patriotic (from the website):

  • To promote the connection of descendants of the Forced American Heroes, the American slaves of African descent, to their ancestors through genealogy research;
  • To proclaim, through education, the role played by the Africans forcibly brought to United States in creating our great nation, including their patient endurance of the cruelties of American slavery, their resourceful intellect; their extraordinarily strong will and spirit, and their connections to their descendants who have gone on to make our country even greater. We want to especially commemorate the connections to all military soldiers;
  • To educate the nation and world about the contribution of the enslaved and their descendants;
  • To cherish and to strengthen the family ties among the members of the SDUSMP; and
  • To collect, protect, and preserve the materials necessary for a complete history of slavery, and to mark the places of the sacrifice of these men, women, and children; our ancestors.  This is including, but not limited to, historically significant sites such as churches, battle sites, freedom trails, grave sites, plantations, and museums.

Membership is open to any person 18 years of age or older who can prove that they are a blood descendant of someone who was an enslaved person in the United States or those colonies that became the United States. Discover more about the organization and becoming a member at www.sdusmp.org.

On May 20, 2017, the society will host a conference in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. The daylong program will run from 7:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., following by an awards banquet starting at 5:30 p.m. The event is open to all, with members receiving a discount. The program includes a variety of topics including, DNA, enslavement, documenting stories with video, forgotten patriots, and more. Find out more on the SDUSMP website.

Trust But Verify: The Story of Dr. Benjamin Church’s Family

Family historians utilize a large number of sources for our research. This includes compilations as well as original records. We must read all of these carefully and critically in order to reach properly supported conclusions. This includes published information on major historical figures as well as average everyday people, and works by well-known individuals as well as those who are little-known. Anyone can make mistakes, or miss key pieces of information.

I have an article in the latest issue of The New England Historical and Genealogical Register that is a great illustration of this point. When one thinks of traitors of the Revolutionary War, most Americans will quickly turn to Benedict Arnold. While he is today one of the best-known traitors, there was an earlier one who was infamous in his time: Dr. Benjamin Church, Jr. Originally a member of the Sons of Liberty in Boston, he served as George Washington’s surgeon general at the start of the war in 1775. That summer his treachery was discovered and he was quickly jailed.

That he had a wife and children was a well-known fact. But generations of historians and genealogists have misinterpreted documents and published materials over and over. Sometimes conflicting information was morphed away by combing the conflicting bits into a single strand of information with no source or evidence provided.

Even the best of researchers and authors can make mistakes. And sometimes the problem is not a mistake, but an evaluation and conclusion based on insufficient evidence. It is not unusual for new evidence to come to light after one has already published one’s conclusions.

All of this is to say that even work complete with source citations and written by the best of researchers must be reviewed. In the case of this article, examining original records instead of using long-published extracts provided critical evidence; evidence that while extremely significant was omitted from the abstracts. A letter from the papers of Robert Treat Paine was well known, but was misinterpreted by researchers, and the error propagated by later researchers and authors. As recently as 2014, a book on Dr. Church that continued the misinformation was published by a well-known and excellent historian.

It was only by going back to original sources and reexamining other sources based on new information that the truth began to emerge. All of these records have been freely available to researchers for centuries, but nobody ever took the time to examine everything in the context of the whole. And this case well illustrates the importance of going back to original documents to verify information in abstracts.

NEHGS members can read “The Wife and Descendants of Revolutionary War Traitor Dr. Benjamin Church, Jr., of Boston” on AmericanAncestors.org. Non-members may be able to read the article in the current issue of the Register at their local library or genealogical society,  or by obtaining a copy from their local library through interlibrary loan.