31 March 2010

WDYTYA: Library feedback and more

Our friend at Ancestry, society partnership manager Suzanne Russo Adams sent Tracing the Tribe some feedback received from libraries and how the Who Do You Think You Are? series is helping them.

Midwest Genealogy Center (Independence, Missouri):

We have seen an increase in foot traffic in our center. We usually don’t start our busy time of year this early. We have had lots of first-time patrons and are handing out many beginning genealogy materials. The television show is hitting people at an emotional level and they, too, want to find out about their ancestry. Our staff has spent many one-on-one hours with these ancestor hunters and has found it to be a rewarding experience.
Denver Public Library (Denver, Colorado):

Denver Public Library has seen a lot of foot traffic in the past few weeks. With the airing of “Who Do You Think You Are?”…our use statistics have spiked. Not only are many of our “regulars” excited by the program but there are many fresh faces coming in full of expectations.
Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center (Ohio):

We had a meeting Tuesday night, and one member presented an idea about the “Who Do You Think You Are?” series…. An officer of the Seneca County (OH) Genealogical Society thought we could find 3 – 5 “celebrities” of our county and ask them if they would like us to dig into their genealogy…. After we get permission…[we] will do some research and track down what we can on each individual. Then we would have them come to a meeting of the Society and present our findings to them. We have already discussed this with the local newspaper feature writer and she was interested.
Tracing the Tribe thought this idea was particularly useful, and could be utilized by societies around the world. Ask a local celebrity to participate and get a lot of local publicity!

Suzanne also noted a change in the episode schedule. Here's the new schedule:

April 2 – Brooke Shields
April 9 – Sarah Jessica Parker (Repeat)
April 16 – No episode
April 23 – Susan Sarandon
April 30 – Spike Lee
Here's some info on this week's episode with Brooke Shields:

Brooke Shields’ episode is the most royal of the series, taking viewers to New Jersey, Rome, and Paris. In the episode, Brooke seeks to learn more about her father’s aristocratic roots and to learn the origins of the “Torlonia” family name. Watch for Brooke’s visit to the New Jersey State Archives in Newark and the New York Historical Society.

Check out the
teaser featuring Brooke Shields, and tune into NBC for the full episode on Friday at 8/7c.
Last Week’s Episode – Matthew Broderick

In last week’s episode, award-winning actor and performer Matthew Broderick set out to learn more about his father’s side of the family. Matthew begins his journey by visiting battlefield grounds of north-eastern France, where he finds out his grandfather served as a medic in World War I. Matthew is surprised to learn that through his grandfather’s heroic military sacrifice, he was awarded the Purple Heart and recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross. But Matthew’s military roots don’t stop there. On a trip to Connecticut, Matthew discovers his great-great-grandfather served in the Civil War and fought in the Battle of Gettysburg. The last leg of Matthew’s journey leads him to Marietta, Georgia, where he visits his great-great-grandfather’s grave site and also solves a 150-year-old mystery.
If you missed the episode, watch it here. [CAVEAT: The link doesn't work if your computer is located outside the permitted geographic area of the US and its territories. See Tracing the Tribe's earlier post explaining the limitations. Tracing the Tribe wonders if those in the permitted area can download it to a CD and send out the CD? Is there some sort of tech coding that would prevent such a CD from playing on an "internationally located" computer? Anyone up for the challenge?]

Suzanne also sent along more on Matthew Broderick's episode and how the team of genealogists discovered his military heritage. Here's some insider information:

Go-to resources: U.S. military records, U.S. Federal Census

How they helped

Matthew Broderick knew little about “Joe the postman” – his grandfather – at the start of this family history journey. But a conversation with his own sister provided Matthew with a valuable clue: their quiet, somewhat ill-tempered grandfather served in World War I and was said to have received money because he got “gassed.” What else could Matthew learn about this side of the family – a side that rarely mentioned its past?

Resource #1: 1919 military service record
Searching through military records at the National Archives in New York City, Matthew learns his grandfather was stationed in France and transferred to the medical department while there. But what did Joe do in the war?
Resource #2: Purple Heart citation and Distinguished Service Cross recommendation
On a French battlefield, Matthew learns more about his grandfather’s job in World War I – he tried to save people. Joe the postman was to go through the battlefields and attend to the wounded while waiting for the stretcher bearers and other medical personnel to arrive. Because of an injury sustained while performing his duties, Matthew’s grandfather was awarded a Purple Heart and recommended for a Distinguished Service Cross, neither of which Matthew nor his sister had known about.
Resource #3: 1910 U.S. Federal Census at Ancestry.com

Matthew decides to take a look at the family of Joe’s wife, Mary, as well. In the 1910 census, Mary is living in an orphanage, another fact of which Matthew and his sister were unaware. Orphanage records explain how Mary’s father, William, died in a work-related accident. Were there more stories about the family that this generation could uncover?
Resource #4: 1850 and 1870 U.S. Federal Census

Matthew continues his search for this side of the family through the census. In 1870, great-grandfather William is living in the same house with his mother and siblings. But where is William’s father? Searching the 1860 census turns up no trace of the family, but the 1850 census does. In that year, William is living at home with both his mother and his father, Robert. What happened between 1850 and 1870?
Resource #5: Civil War enlistment record

The 1860s raise a red flag: Civil War. Was Matthew’s great-great-grandfather involved? An index of individuals from Connecticut who served in the Civil War indicates that yes, Robert did serve in the Civil War, and enlistment records for Robert go a step further, giving a physical description of him and his date of enlistment. Civil War service records and muster rolls place Robert in the Battle of Gettysburg, but that wasn’t the end of the line.
Resource #6: Inventory of Effects from Final Statements
An Inventory of Effects offers the final details: Matthew’s great-great-grandfather died at the Battle of Peachtree Creek.
Why didn’t the “gassed” story steer the research off course?
Matthew mentions at the start of the show that it’s easy to lose family history connections when you don’t write them down. But you can also lose the true stories to faulty memory and recounting, which may have been what happened over the years as the tale of Matthew’s grandfather’s military service became progressively fuzzier.

It’s easy to get hung up on the small stuff, but if Matthew had limited his search to battles in which Germans employed chemical warfare in World War I, he may have never discovered the place where his own grandfather was injured. However, using the “gassed” story as a starting point did trigger Matthew’s search into military records and helped Matthew make a very important discovery: that his grandfather was more than Joe the postman – he was also an American military hero.
Check out www.ancestry.com/spreadtheword for materials you can use to tell others about the series.

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