Thursday, April 16, 2015’s Guess My Family Heritage Blogathon Contest

Crestleaf is running a contest where you post a photo to your blog and ask your readers to guess your family heritage.  That sounded like fun, so here's my entry!  If you have a guess about my family heritage based on this photo, please post a comment!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wordless Wednesday

Help Celebrate National Volunteer Week!

It's National Volunteer Week, so it seemed like a perfect time to post another collection of research and volunteer projects looking for help.  This time most are looking for assistance in identification or finding relatives.

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A woman who was imprisoned in the Gabersdorf labor camp in Czechoslovakia during World War II kept a diary, in which she wrote not only an alternative Passover haggadah but also a list of other women who were at Gabersdorf.  Yad Vashem, the center for documentation, research, education and commemoration of the Holocaust, is seeking information about the women on the list and about Gabersdorf in general.  A recent article lists all of the women's names and includes contact information if you can assist with Yad Vashem's research.

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The UK's Commonwealth War Graves Commission, begun after World War I, cares for cemeteries and memorials at 23,000 locations in 154 countries, to ensure that 1.7 million people who died in the two World Wars are not forgotten.  The Commission is trying to make contact with relatives of around 70 soldiers, sailors, and airmen who are buried at cemeteries in the United Kingdom.  A list of the servicemen can be found here.

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The Central Registry of Information on Looted Cultural Property 1933–1945 exists to coordinate the return of property stolen during World War II to rightful owners or their descendants.  The lists of owners of identified property have been recently updated.  Looted property consists of art, books, and more.

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Ernst Bienenfeld resident certificate
Loyola Marymount University in California has digitized a photographic collection of Shanghai from 1937–1947 that includes photos of Jewish refugees, Chinese citizens, and others.  They are trying to crowdsource information about the people in the photos, and translations of the German and Chinese documents.  The digitized images have been posted to Flickr.  The information page about the collection includes a link to the Flickr pages.  Take a look if you had family in Shanghai during that time or if you can assist with translations.

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Lisa Taylor, writing for the Library of Congress "Folklife Today" blog, is asking people to pledge to interview at least one veteran during National Volunteer Month, the extension of National Volunteer Week to the entire month of April. Visit her blog post and make your commitment in the comments section.  Then go to the Veterans History Project site to find out how to make it happen.  Return to the site the week before Memorial Day to see a new “Experiencing War” feature dedicated to more Veterans History Project volunteers, with links to some of their interviews.

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The Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland (FODŻ) tries to protect and commemorate surviving monuments of Jewish cultural heritage in Poland.  It is active in areas away from major cities and covers nearly two thirds of Poland.

FODŻ is looking for volunteers to adopt Jewish cemeteries in Poland.  A current town list of Jewish cemetery projects that are already "adopted" and "seeded" is available on the Web site.  Each entry has a descendant, survivor, family historian, or organization that is concerned and has contacted FODŻ.  Projects range from clean-up and maintenance work to hopes of erecting a memorial to commemorate a specific family or a whole community lost in the Holocaust.  The size, scope, and concept are for the volunteers to decide and to finance, either alone or with partners.  FODŻ can help with the necessary permits, advice on material and labor, and arranging installation and final dedication events.

Jewish cemeteries, especially those that have no headstones, are vulnerable to being forgotten.  Please contact FODŻ if you are ready to start a new project that can make a difference in preserving these precious relics.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

"Who Do You Think You Are?" - Tony Goldwyn

I have figured out why I've been running late with my posts about Who Do You Think You Are? this season.  With my current schedule, I don't have time to rewatch the episodes until late in the week, and before I know it, Sunday has arrived again.  They say that recognizing the problem is the first step toward dealing with it, right?

The April 5 episode of WDYTYA was about Tony Goldwyn.  The teaser told us he would learn about a remarkable couple who pioneered women's rights, braved great danger, and helped shape the American West.  Sounds pretty impressive, doesn't it?  While I certainly recognized the name Goldwyn from Hollywood history, I didn't actually know who Tony was.  We learn he is an actor and director, particularly known for his role as President Fitzgerald Grant on Scandal (sorry, never watched that).  Almost as an afterthought, the narrator mentions that his breakout role was in Ghost.  Well, at least I saw that, even if I don't remember Goldwyn in it.  I'm feeling old.

Goldwyn, now boasting an acclaimed career in Hollywood and on stage, is the father of two grown daughters.  He lives in Connecticut with his wife, Jane, a film production designer, but spends a lot of time in Los Angeles due to work.  For this program, he appears to be staying with his daughter Anna.  She is around for a short time only, seemingly as window dressing and to support Goldwyn's comment that one of the reasons he is doing this research is for his daughters, because it's their history also.

Goldwyn says he grew up in California.  His parents are Jennifer Howard (her stage name) and Samuel Goldwyn, Jr.  Samuel Goldwyn is the son of the Samuel Goldwyn of MGM, well known as a pioneer of the movie business.  Goldwyn adored his grandfather.  Jennifer Howard was the daughter of Sidney Howard, a Broadway playwright.  Goldwyn tells us that Howard wrote commercially viable plays but also included commentary on social issues, society, and politics.  After moving to California, Howard turned to writing screenplays and was the original writer (but one of several) of the screenplay for Gone with the Wind, for which he received a posthumous Oscar.

Being born into this family (both of his grandmothers were actresses, and other family members were also well known performers), it was almost inevitable that Goldwyn would be interested in a performance career.  He says the romance of the profession drew him to the theater.  He never knew his grandfather Sidney Howard, as Howard died in 1939 (in a pretty horrible accident, not mentioned on screen), and knows very little about him, so is interested in learning more.

Since Goldwyn is in Los Angeles, and apparently because WDYTYA doesn't have any other handy venue, he begins at the main branch of the Los Angeles Public Library, as Josh Groban did.  Instead of Kyle Betit, however, he meets Jennifer Utley, "family historian" (and employee), whom he has asked to find more information about his grandfather.  She begins by showing Goldwyn one of those fancy calligraphed family tree scrolls, à la D. Joshua Taylor.  It isn't as detailed as many of the ones we've seen and hops back and forth between different family lines.

The tree begins with Goldwyn at the bottom.  His parents are Samuel Goldwyn, Jr., shown with no birth or date information (probably because he was alive when the episode was filmed; he died in January 2015); and Clare Jenness (Jennifer) Howard, born 1923 in New York, died 1993 in Los Angeles, California.  "Clare"'s parents were Sidney Coe Howard, born 1891 in Oakland, California, died 1939 in Tyringham, Massachusetts; and Clare Jenness Eames, born 1894 in Hartford, Connecticut, died 1930 in Richmond, England (both and Wikipedia have it as London, England, but the New York Times obituary says Richmond).  Howard's parents were John Lawrence Howard, born 1849 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, died 1914 in Oakland, California; and Helen Louise Coe, born 1860 in The Dalles, Oregon, died 1916 in New York, New York.  Helen's parents were Lawrence White Coe, born 1831 in New York, died 1897 in San Francisco; and Mary Louise Graves, born 1843 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, died 1917 in New York, New York.

For whatever reason (did they cue him?), Goldwyn latches onto not the oldest generation shown, but his great-grandmother Helen Louise Coe and the fact that she was born in The Dalles (which he mispronounces) in 1860, supposedly because he's never heard of that place.  She was born there right after Oregon became a state.  Goldwyn asks Utley where they should go from the tree, and she of course says  She has him enter Lawrence Coe in the search form and somehow the second hit shown on the page is a link to the "Early Oregonians Index" (even when I enter Lawrence White Coe, it shows up as the sixth hit).  Utley tells Goldwyn to click on the link and he is taken to the Early Oregonian Search (Ancestry apparently felt the need to rename it on its site).

The entry they see says that Lawrence Coe was born in Nunday, Livingston County, New York on March 17, 1831 and died October 20, 1897 in California.  (Currently the database specifies that Coe died in San Francisco and is buried in Mountain View Cemetery.  It appears more information has been added to the database since the filming, or possibly some was hidden for purposes of the program.)  They don't discuss it, but Coe is listed as an agent for a navigation company.  The page shows the names of Coe's parents, and Goldwyn clicks on the link for Coe's father, Nathaniel Coe.

Nathaniel Coe's record indicates he was born September 6, 1788 in Morristown, New Jersey and died October 10, 1868.  It includes an alternative date of birth, September 12, 1888, and now has an alternative date of death, October 17, 1868, which I did not see when I watched the program.  Nathaniel was a farmer.  His father was Joel Coe (and his mother was Huldah Horton, something else I don't remember seeing on the program).  Goldwyn either remembers his history or was given another cue, because he asks if Nathaniel was a pioneer on the Oregon Trail.  (I think it was a cue, because he doesn't ask anything about Nathaniel's father, something that would interest most people.)  Utley says it's possible (big hint that it wasn't the way he came?).  Goldwyn then comments on the fact that Nathaniel was buried in Hood River in Wasco County, Oregon.  The entry on screen shows the place of burial was K of P (Knights of Pythias?) in Hood River; the online record now includes Mountain View Cemetery.

Goldwyn begins to work out his 3rd-great-grandfather's path:  New Jersey to New York, and then to Oregon.  He thinks it would be interesting to see what he was doing in New York at that time.  Utley says they can look on (not mentioning it is owned by Ancestry, of course!) and disingenuously adds that they are "looking at all the historical newspapers that are digitized", with a straight face, no less.  I'm going to hope she didn't actually say that as a stand-alone comment and that it was just poor editing that cut off more at the end.  Someone really needs to look at these things more critically in post, because I'm sure, ProQuest, NewsBank, and several other companies would be really surprised to hear that.

That said, Goldwyn enters Nathaniel Coe in the search box on the home page, not even using quotation marks, and finds a useful hit as the second hit on the page.  (You also can find this as the second hit, as long as you restrict your search to New York newspapers, which of course they didn't show.)  In an article titled "Legislature of New-York", the New York Evening Post of November 14, 1843 shows a complete list of the legislature members for the upcoming year.  Included is Nathaniel Coe, a Whig from Allegany County.

New York Evening Post, November 14, 1843, page 2 (image edited)
Goldwyn is excited to know something about his ancestor.  He notes that Nathaniel was in the Whig Party and also that being born in 1788, he was at least 55 when he left for Oregon.  He wonders why Nathaniel would have left.  Utley tells him to go to Albany, New York and find a political historian who can tell him about the political climate of the time.  (Like Goldwyn is going to find a political historian on his own.  This silliness is repeated later in the episode.)

In the outro to this segment, Goldwyn says his big question is why Nathaniel went to Oregon.  He also wonders why Nathaniel would have reinvented himself at the age of 55.  Was it some sort of trouble or controversy?  Was he just restless?  It was a significant trip to make, so it's a puzzle.  He hopes he finds something juicy, like a political scandal, at the root of it.

And onward to Albany we go, to the New York State Library and historian Daniel Feller of the University of Tennessee.  Goldwyn admits he knows very little about Nathaniel Coe and asks about the Whig Party.  Feller says the Whigs were the party of progress and reform.  They believed in public education and were against slavery.  In 1848 the Whigs had a majority in the state legislature and were able to pursue their agenda politically.  Coe was an enthusiastic Whig.  Feller has a New York Assembly Journal from 1848, the 71st session.  It shows that on February 23, 1848, "on motion of Mr. Coe", "an act to punish seduction" was introduced to the legislature.  Feller says that it eventually was passed.  The purpose of the law was to hold the man responsible for engaging in sex with an umarried woman, with her consent or not.  The charge was a misdemeanor, but it carried a prison term.

This was a new and controversial idea at the time.  Nathaniel's fellow Whig Party members had to be convinced to support it.  Goldwyn wonders why Nathaniel proposed the law and whether it was a personal crusade or if it came from his constituents.  Feller tells him the answer might be in Nunday and that he should look for an expert in social and cultural history, particularly the antiseduction crusade.  (Maybe Banai Feldstein is right, and Ancestry is trying to illustrate how research is actually done, though I don't think the effort is particularly successful.)

Now Goldwyn prepares to head to Nunday.  He's happy that his ancestor was a champion of women's rights and was progressive for his time, but he's wondering what inspired him.

When we get to Nunda we discover that it's spelled without the "y."  Goldwin goes to the Nunda Historical Society, saying that he wants to learn more about the antiseduction movement and Nathaniel's involvement in it.  He meets historian Nancy Hewitt, a specialist in feminist reform movements (shown as a professor of 19th-century women's studies at Rutgers University).  She immediately suggests looking at reformist newspapers (yeah, that would have been first on my list also).  She has a copy of the Advocate of Moral Reform (not exactly light reading, I'm sure) of April 1, 1838 (April Fool's?).  Goldwyn says, "19th-century print is very small, so I'm going to put on my glasses."  An article with a dateline of March 3, 1838 refers to a meeting of a female society supporting moral purity, held on November 8, 1837 at the house of Nathaniel Coe, Esq., of Nunda Valley.

Hewitt explains that Mary Coe would have been the one who actually hosted the meeting.  Goldwyn asks if Nathaniel was involved, and Hewitt says that he had to have been supportive or it wouldn't have happened at all.  It was memorable because at that time no one actually talked about rape; they talked in a more abstract way about "seduction" and were trying to "protect women."  They were essentially trying to challenge the sexual double standard that allowed men who assaulted women to get off scot-free but that tainted women forever.  A woman who had been raped was considered unmarriageable.  Part of the concern was that such women would turn to prostitution because they had no other recourse.

Goldwyn wants to know if Mary was always a reformer or if this issue was of particular concern to her.  In response, Hewitt has him go into the storage area of the historical society to get a copy of the 1889 Nunda newspaper.  There he speaks with Tom Cook, the society president.  Cook says the society has the complete run of the Nunda News and takes one of the books off a shelf, warning that the book is old and brittle.  You can even see a piece of a torn page hanging down.  Why in the world are they having him carry this around?  Is this really the only way this information is available?  Hasn't anyone ever microfilmed this newspaper?  If Ancestry really is trying to make an effort, no matter how small, to educate people about how to do research, encouraging them to use fragile resources that are available in other formats is not a good direction to go.  Even if this is the only available copy, having someone unaccustomed to research handle this is simply inexcusable.

So when Goldwyn brings the book out to the front room, Hewitt has him put on conservator's gloves (not actually that great of an idea when something is this fragile, because you lose tactile sensation with these gloves, and it's much, much easier to tear something).  But then what does she have him do?  Go through the book page by page, instead of having marked it ahead of time and letting him go directly to it.  Boy, are they sending mixed messages.  At least Goldwyn seems to be very careful.  Hewitt has told Goldwyn that the date he's looking for is July 20, so he keeps going until he gets there.  In that issue he finds a retrospective article talking about what was going on 60 years ago.  It mentions Mrs. Coe was a reformer and a radical but is not specific about anything, so even though the question is not answered directly, we are to believe that the issue of "seduction" was probably not her only concern.

Hewitt explains that at this time, women collected signatures on petitions to show that citizens were concerned about an issue.  Nathaniel would have been the one to work on passing any legislation.  Goldwyn is impressed by the obvious partnership and close bond the Coes had.

Albany Evening Journal, April 28, 1852, page 2
And now we come back to a question Goldwyn has already asked:  Why did the Coes go to Oregon?  They appear to have been leaders in the community, so why leave?  Again we find information in a newspaper on  The Albany Evening Journal of April 28, 1852 has a letter from Nathaniel, written from Portland and dated March 24.  Though the letter takes up a column and a half, the only part discussed is the opening paragraph, where Nathaniel is identified as a U.S. mail agent in Oregon.  After Goldwyn asks how Nathaniel would have become a mail agent, Hewitt explains that it was a position nominated by the U.S. president.  In 1852, the president was Millard Fillmore, a fellow Whig from New York, so the connection is easy to see.  It was a privilege to be nominated as a mail agent, and probably considered a great assignment.

The narrator pops in and says that special mail agents were liaisons between the federal government and settlers.  Their responsibility was to scout locations for mail routes.  They were crucial in 1850's Oregon because they helped make communication and trade with the eastern U.S. possible.  They negotiated with local Indian tribes to ensure safe passage for settlers.  Unfortunately for an agent, because it was an appointed position, it ended with a change in presidents.

Goldwyn asks if Mary went with Nathanial.  In another of the fake "suggestions", Hewitt says that to discover that, Goldwyn should go to Oregon and talk to an expert there.  And where will he find an expert without the assistance of and WDYTYA?

As he leaves, Goldwyn goes back to how Nathanial and Mary had a great partnershp and worked together as a team.  He comments on how now he knows "genetically where I got my taste for liking strong women."  He also says that Nathaniel and Mary were "obviously so close" and couldn't be separate from each other.  I think he's extrapolating a lot, at least based on what we were shown.

So back to the West Coast he travels, heading now to Portland and the Oregon Historical Society.  There to greet him, boxes in hand, is historian Lissa Wadewitz, a professor of the American West at Linfield College.  The boxes she brings out are labeled "MSS 431 Nathaniel Coe Family Papers."  It looks like Nathaniel may have been well known in this area, but Goldwyn doesn't ask that question.  (I would have.)  The first item Wadewitz has Goldwyn look at is a book, which turns out to be a scrapbook of Mrs. M. W. Coe (Mary White Coe) of Hood River, Oregon.  It appears to be filled with obituaries, based on a comment from Goldwyn, but also includes photographs of Nathaniel and Mary.  Goldwyn thinks Nathaniel reminds him of his grandfather but doesn't comment on Mary.  Wadewitz has to tell him, "Let's move ahead," or maybe he would have continued to look at the scrapbook.  I guess they had a schedule to keep.

The next item of focus is a letter dated January 19, 1853.  It was written by Mary from Portland.  She was reunited with her husband and wrote about the perilous journey she had made.  She had left New York on December 6 (probably 1852, but not stated).  She said it had taken ten days by land before she reached Aspinwall Navy Bay, which Wadewitz explains was on the east coast of Panama.  (She does not mention that Aspinwall is the former name of the city of Colón.)

The narrator tells us that at the time there were three ways to travel from the East Coast of the U.S. to the West Coast.  The most common method was the Oregon Trail, which took longer.  Going around Cape Horn or across the Panama isthmus were faster but cost more money.  The trip by the latter methods could take only six to eight weeks.

Mary's letter goes on to say that Lawrence (her son, Goldwyn's great-great-grandfather) had hired a boat for $100 to take them on the Chagres River.   They then went by canoe, and finally across the isthmus by mule.  This was a pretty intense journey for a 52-year-old woman.

A letter from February 12, 1854, also written from Portland, talks about the primitive conditions.  She comments that the "native inhabitants" "must soon submit to their 'manifest destiny.'"  Goldwyn appears a little stunned at this heavy-handed commentary.  Wadewitz tells him that this was the common racial ideology of the the time:  Whites were physically and culturally superior to everyone else.  (It certainly makes an interesting contrast with the Coes' high-minded ideal of saving young women from "seduction."  On the other hand, they probably were only concerned with saving white women.)  Goldwyn asks, "Is it worth reading more of this letter?"  Wadewitz says no, which made me wonder if there was more inflammatory material further on.  Or maybe they were still behind schedule?

Mary's next letter was not written from Portland but from Fort Dalles (which Goldwyn now says correctly), on March 6, 1856.  The Coes left Portland and went to Fort Dalles for protection by the Army unit posted there.  They were concerned about attacks by the Yakima chief "Camiacen" (which Goldwyn somehow pronounces correctly the first time).  Wadewitz tells Goldwyn that to learn more about what was going on, he should go to the Fort Dalles Museum.

As he leaves the historical society Goldwyn talks about the hardships that Mary faced on her journey and living in the wilderness, and then being "forced out" of her home.  (Um, what about the Indians' homes?)  He's looking forward to learning about the Indian conflict and what impact it had on Nathaniel and Mary's lives.

Fort Dalles surgeon's quarters,
now home to the Fort Dalles Museum
He drives east, following the Columbia River, until he arrives at the museum.  There he meets Dr. Andy Fisher, a specialist in American Indian history from the College of William & Mary.  Fisher gives a little bit of history about the fort, including the fact that when the Coes came here for refuge, it had no palisade and was just a collection of buildings.  It was apparently strong enough to deter attacks, however, at least in part due to the number of people there and the presence of federal troops.  The reason for concern was the beginning of the Yakima War, which took place in the mid-1850's.  It was a conflict between white settlers, looking for more land, and the local Indians, nervous about losing more land than they already had.

The narrator tells us that gold was discovered in Oregon in the early 1850's, and the federal government wanted to control the land.  Local Indians were pressured to cede the land, and a treaty in 1855 forced them to give up more than 6.4 million acres, leaving them a small area supposedly as a permanent homeland.  Gold miners were trespassing before the treaty was even ratified, however, which helped lead both sides toward war.

Fisher says that relations with the Indians were peaceful until the war and that there had been little violence.  He then shows Goldwyn a newspaper article from the New York Tribune, dated April 4, 1856:  "Indian War on the Pacific."  It roundly criticized the white settlers for how they were conducting themselves toward the Indians but was extremely disparaging of the Indians themselves.  This causes Goldwyn to ask what Nathaniel's opinion was of the situation.  Fisher produces a letter written by Nathaniel and mentions that it came from the Nathaniel Coe Family Papers at the Oregon Historical Society.  (So why didn't he get to look at it there?  Oh, that would have messed up their narrative, wouldn't it?)

Nathaniel is responding to a missive from someone else, as he begins with "Your letter."  (It could have been written in response to the Tribune article.)  He says that the other person is doing an injustice to Oregon citizens who reside in the vicinity.  The cause of the war was the yearly increase in the white population but the tribes had been greatly reduced and some were extinct.  He also wrote that "Aborigines melt away with the presence of civilization."  (Boy, that white ideology is getting to be just a little arrogant.)

Fisher tells Goldwyn that the war in this area was mostly over by 1856.  If the Coes would have probably felt safe by 1857, Goldwyn wants to know why they stayed here, in such a wild place.  Fisher tells him he should look at official records, such as land grants and probate, which he can find at the Oregon State Archives.

As he leaves the museum, Goldwyn is amazed at the extraordinary comment expressed by Nathaniel about the Indians melting away.  He acknowledges that human beings are complicated, however, and that his 3rd-great-grandfather was progressive but not always so.

Goldwyn drives down Interstate 5 to Salem and the Oregon State ArchivesCynthia Prescott, an expert on the American West (history professor at the University of North Dakota), is there to welcome him.  He asks about records relating to Nathaniel and Mary Coe and why they stayed around the Hood River area.  What was in it for them?  Prescott points him to the Historic Oregon Newspapers database (hosted by the Oregon State Archives), one of those few cherished instances when allows acknowledgment that not all information on the Internet belongs to them.  The Oregon newspaper database is available free to everyone and can be viewed anywhere.  The article we see is "Story of Nathaniel and Mary Coe" from the Hood River Glacier, October 7, 1915.  (A subhead says "Continued from last week", but they don't discuss the first part of the article.)  Goldwyn reads highlights from the article:  The Coes went back to Portland.  They had more children.  He wanted to continue his farm, which was in a relatively protected area with hardly any snow.  He grew lots of fruit and vegetables; one bit Goldwyn didn't read said that seeds came from the Lewellyn Nursery in Milwaukie (Oregon) and from Rochester, New York.  Mary is credited with renaming the Dog River as the Hood River, a more attractive name that helped establish the town of Hood River as a desirable place to live.

Goldwyn returns to the unusual partnership between Nathaniel and Mary and asks again why they would have stayed.  Prescott points out that here they had land and tremendous opportunity.  Nathaniel could reinvent the area and do something different.  (It takes a lot of self-confidence and ego to believe you can do that, which I think they showed Nathaniel had in abundance.)  The Hood River area was good for growing tree fruits, which Nathaniel did for market, not just to feed his family.  Building a successful business helped start the town itself, which the article points out was build over the old Coe homestead.  The Coes were buried in a family plot on the farm.  The article ends, "Their graves should be kept with loving care."  Goldwin says he would like to go to Hood River, and Prescott tells him that the graves still exist there.

As he leaves, Goldwyn says, "This was really fun and interesting."  Now he knows why Nathaniel and Mary didn't go back to New York.  They had a perfect oasis on the Hood River.  He concedes that maybe it took ego to start something as substantial as Nathaniel had.

The final scene is at Mountain View Memorial Cemetery in Hood River.  Goldwyn says he's going to meet Nathaniel and Mary, whom he likes to think of as great-great-great-grandpa and great-great-great-grandma.  He finds their gravestones, which I suspect are modern replacements, as both are flat and flush with the ground.  They're very simple, with only names and dates:  Nathaniel Coe 1788–1868 and Mary Coe 1801–1893.

Goldwyn has been inspired by learning about his ancestors.  He talks about how the Coes were really leaders, coming to this new "universe" and creating what they did.  He knows his family has a long line of very strong women who were equal and indispensable partners to their men.  The Coes helped build the next stage of the American story.  He can't forgive their attitude toward Indians but won't let that define them.  He had already known that his two grandfathers were pioneers who achieved great things, and now knows that the same applies to Nathaniel and Mary.  He can see it's been carried down in his genes.

I was not that impressed with this episode.  Having the researchers tell Goldwyn that he needed to find an expert in a given field just sounded stilted and phony.  The facts that Goldwyn appeared to focus on didn't ring true to me.  Maybe they're really what caught his interest, but they're not the types of things I've seen others latch onto.  There were also several points that were mentioned but then not resolved.  We never actually learn why the "seduction" issue became one the Coes supported.  My gut reaction is that they knew someone who had been raped and it became a personal crusade.  Goldwyn asked whether Nathaniel took the Oregon Trail, but that point was never addressed in the episode.  (According to the first part of the "Story of Nathaniel and Mary Coe" article, Nathaniel also crossed the Panama isthmus.)  The question of why the Coes went to Oregon was never answered:  Did Nathaniel ask for the appointment?  Did Fillmore offer it as a political thank you and Nathaniel decided it would be impolitic to refuse it?  Did Fillmore offer it because Nathaniel did suffer politically for some reason and it was a way to help a fellow party member?  At Fort Dalles Museum, Fisher told Goldwyn that searching official records such as probate and land grants would help him learn why the Coes stayed in the Hood River area, but the only document we see at the state archives is one newspaper article.  That might have been just a continuity problem, but it stuck out for me.

Something which was never mentioned at all in this episode was the somewhat significant age difference in the three older generations of the family tree.  Nathaniel Coe was 13 years older than Mary White; Lawrence Coe was 12 years older than Mary Graves; John Howard was 11 years older than Helen Coe.  Based on when these people were born and married, none of the marriages should have been affected by the loss of so many young men during the Civil War, so why the big age differences?  I was wondering if the three men might have been married previously.

I've noticed that in all the episodes for this season, except Julie Chen, the celebrities have talked about acquiring personality traits genetically.  I don't believe it's credible that one can acquire persaonality traits in that manner.  I'm starting to wonder if the celebrities are being "encouraged" to use that terminology for some reason (in order to help promote AncestrayDNA sales, maybe?).  I know from friends who have done "talking head" pieces for TV "documentaries" that they are often steered toward saying things in certain ways.  But maybe I'm just cynical. is still airing the commercial with the actress who says, "I got a leaf!" and misidentifies a World War II Old Men's draft registration card as being from World War I.  How can the company not find that embarrassing?  I saw it twice during this episode.

And I had an amusing coincidence occur while starting to write this post.  One episode of Forensic Files from 2003, "Bio Attack", deals with events that happened in The Dalles, Oregon.  The announcer, Peter Thomas, who usually seems to take great care in pronouncing names correctly, also mangled Dalles.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Slaves Advertised for Sale during 1827 Probate Proceedings

As a contribution to the Slave Name Roll Project, I have recovered the names of the following individuals, who were listed for sale in the Louisiana Advertiser of September 10, 1827.

Court of Probate—Sale by the Register of Wills—On Tuesday, September 11, 1827, at 12 o'clock, I shall expose for sale at the New Exchange Coffee House, the following slaves belonging to the estate of the late Antoine Marigny d'Auterive, to wit—

Antoine, a negro aged about 45 years;

Jean, do 70;

Magloire, do 55;

Edward, negro boy, do 14;

Euphrosine, negro girl, do 13;

Joseph, negro man, do 40;

Lindor, do, blind, do 30;

Francoise, negro woman, do 40, addicted to drinking.

Terms—6 and 12 months credit, in approved endorsed notes, with special mortgage.

By order of the Court.

august 13            Martin Blache, Register.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

"Who Do You Think You Are?" - Sean Hayes

This episode of Who Do You Think You Are? was about Sean Hayes, whose name I vaguely recognized.  The teaser said that he would learn about dark mysteries connected to his father's lineage, an estranged ancestor living in squalor, and patterns of dysfunction going back generations.  Sounds like one happy family, doesn't it?

In the introduction, we hear that Hayes is an Emmy-winning actor known for his role on Will & Grace (at least I've heard of that, though I've never watched it).  He was nominated for a Tony award for his performance in Promises, Promises.  He also has been a producer of Hollywood Game Night and Grimm (now there's a show I watch!).  He lives in Los Angeles with his husband, music producer Scott Icenogle.

Hayes tells us his full name is Sean Patrick Hayes and that he is "named after no one I know of."  He was born in Illinois and at the age of 1 his family moved from Chicago to the suburbs (known to many as Chicagoland).  He is the youngest of five children.  He had a rather tumultous life growing up, as his mother worked all the time and his father was mostly not present.  He concedes that his father probably has some good qualities, but he doesn't know any of them.  He's never had a relationship with his father, as the man left when Hayes was 5 years old.  He doesn't know anything about his father's side of the family.

Hayes has always been drawn to comedy, probably as an escape.  It's a way of enjoying life without dealing with the real world.  Now that he's older, he has started to wonder about his family history and wants to learn about his father's side.  He knew his grandmother and was told that his father was in an orphanage at one time.  His parents met when his father had just come out of the Army.

We get some more information about the family through a letter from Hayes' brother, Dennis, which Hayes reads to Icenogle.  As background, Hayes doesn't know his grandfather's name, but his sister told him that the grandfather died literally in the gutter.  Hayes comments that his family history has been mostly full of bad luck.

From Dennis' letter we learn that the father (whose name is never used in the entire episode) was born in Chicago in 1936 and that his parents were William and Barbara.  Hayes notes that Dennis' middle name is William, so that appears to be a connection.  In 1947 the four children in the family were placed in an orphanage.  At some point Barbara broke both of her hips and was in the hospital; it wasn't clear to me if this was the same time that the children were in the orphanage (and therefore maybe the cause of the latter).  Dennis doesn't know if William was around, though it appears he was out of the picture.  He says their father's grandfather was from Ireland but doesn't know his name.  He ends by saying that he has run into lots of dead ends and hopes that Hayes has better luck than he did.

Included with the letter is a photograph of Hayes' grandparents, and it's actually labeled!  The photo is of four people; the person on the left is unknown, and then come William Hayes, Aunt Sally, and Barbara Hayes.  The photo is supposed to be from 1941.  Hayes has never seen a photograph of his grandfather before.  Going by the year, this was taken six years before the children were placed in the orphanage.  There is also a photo of Barbara in the hospital (just how did she break both of her hips, anyway?).  Hayes hypothesizes that maybe William wasn't able to take care of the children with Barbara laid up but then also says that "we know" he was out of the picture at that point.  Um, how do we know that?

The Hayes family in the 1940 census:
William, Barbara, Patricia, Ronald, and Kathleen
We go straight from the letter to "Let's see what we can find out about William on!"  For someone who has had little to no interest in his family history, that was a fast turn-around.  He apparently even has an account, because he's logged in.  He has also already figured out how to do searches and looks for William Hayes with a wife's name of Barbara, then finds them in the 1940 census.  The image shown on screen carefully does not include Hayes' father's name.  William is listed as a photo engineer (at an engineering company, though that was not stated), with an income of $3,400.  Hayes comments that his own father was also a photographer, and then that William was the richest guy on the block (well, actually just this one census page), so what happened?  That segues directly into how it seems that everything happened in Chicago, so he should go there.  (Boy, when he decides to do something, he jumps right on it, doesn't he?)  In the outro he wonders whether his grandfather was alive or dead when the children were in the orphanage.

Two things struck me with the census page showing the family.  The first is that Hayes' father, he of no name, must be Ronald, as he is not only the correct age but also the only boy in the family.  The second is that Aunt Sally does not appear to have been born yet (unless Sally is an unusual family nickname for Patricia or Kathleen).  With the family photo dated 1941, that would mean Sally shouldn't be more than 2 years old.  Admittedly, we didn't get the world's greatest view of the photo, but she didn't look that young to me.

Moving on to Chicago (I love Chicago!), Hayes heads to the Chicago History Museum to meet historian Mark Largent (an associate professor of social relations and policy at Michigan State University), whom Hayes has asked for "anything he can find out" about his grandfather.  Largent tells Hayes that he has found a document, and right before they cut away to a commercial, we hear Hayes exclaim, "Oh my god!  That's really, really sad."  When they come back to the program, we learn that Largent found the death certificate for William Hayes, who died November 16, 1951 in Chicago.

I have to admit I was pretty impressed with the way that Hayes appeared to be reading all the details on the certificate.  He noted that William was 40 years old when he died and said that he had to go back to his makeshift timeline.  His big question had been whether William was alive when the children went to the orphanage, and the answer is definitely yes.  Now he knows that his father and his grandfather were living in the same city but with very different lives.  William's address at the time of his death was 66 West Van Buren, which is now totally different but at the time was a slum. 
Cook County Hospital facade
Largent explains that in 1951 it was populated mostly by single men, a lot of whom were unemployed and/or suffered from mental illness.  William didn't die in the gutter, as Hayes' sister had claimed, but in Cook County Hospital.  He died from advanced pulmonary tuberculosis.  Of all things, Hayes asks if the hospital is still around.  (Is that something you would think of?)  Largent says it was shut down but the facade still remains, and that's where they go next, to look at what remains of the hospital.  (On the other side of the facade there is now a sports field, of all things.)

Hayes sees powerful parallels between his father's and his own experiences.  He says he was the same age when his father left as his father was when his grandfather left (though I don't know how he knows his grandfather left when his father was 5).  He doesn't understand how his grandfather could have gone from seemingly being the richest man in his neighborhood to skid row.  After the thrill of seeing the hospital facade, he asks how he can learn more about his grandfather's final days, and Largent says they can go to the medical library.

At the library (I couldn't figure out where exactly they went for this segment) Largent has a file folder with the police department report on finding Hayes' grandfather.  The page shows the report was for dealing with sick or injured persons.  Dated November 1, 1951, it shows that an officer went to 66 West Van Buren, found William, and took him to the hospital.  Hayes notices that nothing is entered in the field for relatives or friends.  Elsewhere on the report the officer noted that William could answer his questions intelligently, so apparently William simply had nothing to say in response to the question about relatives.

William's hospital admission record (I wish these types of records were available and accessible for more locations!) says that his father's name was Patrick, which Hayes seems surprised to realize is also his middle name, indicating he was likely named for his great-grandfather.  (It also seems to indicate that Hayes' father still had some feelings for his own father.)  Since an address was given for Patrick, he must have been alive at the time, but he does not appear to have been at the hospital.  (And now we have Patrick, William, and Ronald, all living in Chicago but apparently totally disconnected from each other.)  The doctor's synopsis says that William was suffering from anorexia; he hadn't been eating regularly for four to five months.  The report also says that William's liver was 3FB, meaning three fingers below median, a possible indication of alcohol abuse.  Largent is quick to emphasize it's only one piece of evidence that could support that.  William was noted as being extremely emaciated, pale, and having a red nose — another possible indicator of alcoholism.

Hayes wants to know if Patrick was an absentee father or if he just didn't know what was going on with William, but Largent says there's no way to know from the records they have.  Hayes then asks if Patrick was an immigrant.  Largent tells him that information about immigrants is in the Cook County court archives, so that's where he should look next.

As he leaves, Hayes talks about how this is the end of William's story.  He feels sorry for William and how he must have felt alone, and that his story was sad and frightening.  He now sympathizes more with his own father and what he must have gone through with William.  He wonders if some of the same issues were at play with Patrick.  He also wonders about a pattern of absentee fathers.

Still in Chicago, Hayes goes to the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court archives.  There he meets Margaret Garb, an urban historian from Washington University.  He says he had sent her the information he had and asked her to look for his great-grandfather.  Garb begins by showing him the 1930 census page which has William living with his father Patrick; Patrick's wife is Jennie.  William, at the age of 18, is already a photography engineer (which is what, exactly?).  Patrick is 48 years old, meaning he was born about 1882.  He owned his home and was a motorman for the street railway.  Garb explains he worked on the streetcars, which was a good, stable job, so during the Depression (or at least the beginning of it), he was working and the family was doing well.  (The program didn't show Patrick in the 1940 census, but he was at the same address, widowed, and the census taker gave the extra information that he was from County Kerry.)

Patrick and Jennie were both born in Ireland (the census actually says Irish Free State, meaning the Republic of Ireland, as opposed to Northern Ireland), and all the children were born in Illinois.  Hayes is excited to identify his great-grandfather as the first person in the Hayes family to come to the U.S.  The census says he came in 1900.  Hayes reads the naturalization column as "no", and Garb corrects him, saying that it actually says "na" for "naturalized."  Hayes asks about finding those records, and Garb tells him they are in the same building, so that's the next search.  They look through index cards for men named Patrick Hayes.  Hayes uses a magnifying glass to read the cards on the microfilm reader.  He finds one Patrick with a birth year of 1879 and arrival year of 1901; Garb explains that the years could be off a little bit and tells him to write down the certificate number, 54916 (gee, I guess it must be the right guy).

From the microfilm reader the two walk to a shelving area with lots of stacked books.  It reminds Hayes of the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark (what a great analogy!).  They walk down the aisle looking at the spines of the books, and Hayes spots the one that has 548–553.  They bring it to a table, and Hayes pages through until he finds 54916.  He almost sounds in awe when he's told that this is the original paper, with his great-grandfather's actual signature on it.  It shows that Patrick Francis Hayes, a streetcar operator, was from Ballylongford, Ireland.  His wife's name was Jennie.  Hayes declares this "has to be the guy!"  He had brown hair and blue eyes, just like Hayes.  He came to the United States on the Umbria, arriving in New York about April 1901.  He signed his Declaration of Intention on February 11, 1918.  (I have to wonder why they didn't show his Petition.  Maybe it didn't have as much information, or wasn't as accurate?)

Hayes is thrilled to see all this information and wants to know how he can learn more about Patrick's life in Ireland.  Garb, of course, tells him that he should go there.  Hayes responds, "I'll go to Ireland!  Thanks, Maggie!"  He sounds genuinely enthusiastic.

As he leaves the archives Hayes says he feels as though he has now met Patrick.  He's enamored of Patrick's drive and ambition.  He finds it inspiring that Patrick wanted a better life for his family.  It's a contrast with William's story, which was a great tragedy.  (On the other hand, he didn't follow Patrick all the way to his demise, so we don't know what happened to him later.)  Patrick seems to be the opposite of Hayes' own father.  He wants to go to Ireland to learn more about Patrick's surroundings and why he would have wanted to leave.

In Ireland, Hayes says he had a bizarre feeling when he landed that he was connected to the country.  (Maybe he's very suggestible.)  He's going to the National Archives of Ireland (in Dublin, which is where I thought he was, though they don't tell us that for quite a while) to speak with historian Shane Kilcommins (head of the School of Law at the University of Limerick).  Of course, Hayes has "asked" Kilcommins to look into Patrick's life before he left Ireland.  The first document Kilcommins has for Hayes is a 1901 census page.  It's for a prison in County Kerry, which causes Hayes to say that "my great-grandfather wasn't as great as we thought."  The page doesn't show full names but only initials, so Hayes looks for PH, whom he finds on line 12.  That person is from Ballylongford and is the right age.  His crime was assault.

Hayes asks if there's any more beyond that, and Kilcommins brings out a book and has Hayes put on conservator gloves.  The book is for Tralee Prison records for 1901–1905.  Patrick shows up on page 1.  His entry shows he was 21 years old and from Ballylongford.  He was sentenced on January 30 to hard labor for three counts of assault.  The sentencing options were a fine, bail, or hard labor.  The narrator pops in at this point to explain that prisons in Great Britain and Ireland commonly used hard labor as a punishment.  Examples were to repeatedly carry a cannonball around, turn a crank, or walk on a treadmill endlessly.  The labor was exhausting, monotonous, and deliberately unproductive.  (Obviously, there was no concept of rehabilitation at this time.)  Kilcommins continues to explain Patrick's record, which shows that he was "entered into recognizance" on March 1, 1901, which meant that he promised to behave himself.  He accomplished that by leaving the next month for New York.

Now Hayes appears a little confused.  He had thought his great-grandfather was ambitious and driven, but it seems he may have just been running away from trouble.  He asks Kilcommins if there's more.  Kilcommins says that they can go back to previous criminal records.

The general register for Tarbert(?) Prison for 1896 shows that Patrick Jr.—which Hayes realizes implies that his father was Patrick Sr., so now he knows his great-great-grandfather's name—was 17 years old when accused of assault.  Right above Patrick's entry is one for a William Hayes, also accused of assault.  Both Patrick and William were from Ballylongford and posted bail on the same day.  Were they related?  It looks like they probably were, but right now they don't know how.  Kilcommins says that the Tarbert petty session records can probably shed more light on the subject.  Tarbert is a small town in northern County Kerry.  Hayes asks if the courthouse is still there, and Kilcommins tells him that the building is.  They arrange to meet the next day at the old courthouse.

Hayes has found this information on Patrick to be enlightening (to say the least!).  Patrick served his time, then left Ireland.  (But what happened to William?)  It does look as though he made a good life for himself in the U.S.  Now Hayes is going to Tarbert, where he can stand where his great-grandfather stood when he was sentenced—a very proud moment!

Tarbert, County Kerry, is about 150 miles west of Dublin.  Hayes and Kilcommins meet outside the old courthouse, which Kilcommins points out was also the jail (is it "gaol" in Ireland?), or "House of Corrections."  We see a statue of a guard as they go in.  Hayes admits it's weird to be excited to see where Patrick met his judgment.  (Some books were on the judge's bench, but they were not used during the segment, so they may have been only window dressing.)  Hayes stands in the dock and says it doesn't feel very comfortable.  Kilcommins tells him that since it was an assault case, he would have been only two feet away from the person who was accusing him.  Patrick might have been there with William, possibly his brother.

Moving on to the research, Hayes asks if Kilcommins has been able to glean more information, which of course he has.  And of course, he also has the records.  He takes some large printouts from the bench and brings them to a table to show Hayes.  The records show that two complaints were registered by Patrick Hayes, Sr. against defendants William and Patrick Jr., both for assault  (William and Patrick Jr. were laborers; Patrick Sr. looked like a farm something, but I couldn't read it, even after multiple attempts.  They lived on Kilcolgan Lane.)  Hayes is astonished to learn that a father filed assault charges against his sons and says, "This is one f-ed up family," but admits it's consistent with the other information he's been learning.

Specifically, on August 11, 1896, the record says that William "did unlawfully assault said complainant by attempting to stab him with a knife."  The complaint against Patrick Jr., filed the same day, says that he assaulted his father "by throwing a stone at him."  These revelations engender a "Holy <pause> moley!" and "This is crazy!" from Hayes, who asks what the fight was about.  Kilcommins says "another <something>" that I did not understand.

Then we learn about Patrick Sr., not exactly an upstanding citizen himself.  Kilcommins has compiled a list of his criminal infractions from the petty sessions from 1864–1914.  There was a crime of some sort almost every year, but Hayes notices that from 1878–1888 there was nothing.  After that most of the crimes were drunk and disorderly.  He wonders what changed, and Kilcommins produces a death certificate for Patrick Sr.'s wife, Bridgett, dated May 22, 1888.  Apparently the ten years Patrick Sr. was married (we didn't actually get to see anything that said when he and Bridgett married) were happy ones, and everything fell apart when Bridgett died.  It affected the children as much as it affected their father.  Patrick Jr. was born about 1879, so that would have been the beginning of the good years for Patrick Sr.  He had about ten years of a calm environment, and then his mother died.  Hayes says, "No one knew how to deal with it, they just drunk about it."

Hayes asks if there's anything more about Patrick Sr., but Kilcommins says that was all he could find.  (He couldn't find the death?)  He suggests that Hayes can go to Ballylongford to see the area, which hasn't changed much. As he leaves the courthouse, Hayes says he's been fortunate to learn this information.  It's proven that history repeats itself, and his family has had an endless chain of chaos.

Hayes goes to Ballylongford (Beál Atha Longfoirt) and simply walks around.  It's special to walk in the footsteps of his ancestors, but he hopes he doesn't follow their later paths.  He recognizes more connections now to his family.  His name, Sean Patrick Hayes, has new meaning now that he knows his great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather were named Patrick.  Patrick Jr. left Ireland at the age of 21 because he couldn't take it anymore, looking for something better.  Hayes himself left home at 24 because he had to get away, and went to Los Angeles.  He feels a kind of camaraderie with Patrick Jr.

Hayes realizes the knowledge of his ancestry he's been given is a great gift.  His family has a clear cycle of leaving, albeit for different reasons.  He can't excuse his own father but what he's learned has maybe helped him understand a little better.  He can't forget what his father did, but he can forgive him.

And just to prove how obsessive I can be, I watched and rewatched the scenes with the list of Patrick Sr.'s infractions until I could construct this list.  I'm sure I still missed a couple.

1900 Drunk and disorderly on the public highway
1900 Refusing to pay the poor rate
1899 Refusing to pay the poor rate
1899 Trespassing cows
1899 Refusing to pay debts
1898 Refusing to pay the poor rate collector
1898 Refusing to pay the poor rate collector
1898 Refusing to repair boundary fence
1898 Unpaid debts
1897 Drunk on the public highway
1897 Refusing to pay debts
1896 Assault
1896 Assault
1896 Assault
1896 Unpaid debts
1895 Trespassing cows
1895 Unpaid debt for trespassing cows
1895 Drunk on the public highway
1895 Drunk on the public highway
1895 Drunk on the public highway
1895 Drunk on the public highway
1894 Drunk on the public highway
1894 Drunk on the public highway
1894 Drunk on the public highway
1894 Unpaid debt
1892 Assault
1892 Unpaid debt
1891 Assault
1891 Assault
1891 Drunk and disorderly on the public street
1891 Drunk and disorderly on the public street
1891 Drunk and disorderly on the public street
1890 Assault
1890 Drunk and disorderly on the public street
1890 Drunk and disorderly on the public street
1890 Drunk and disorderly on the public street
1890 Unpaid debts
1889 Cruelty and torture toward someone's donkey
1889 Violent threats
1889 Drunk and disorderly on the public street
1889 Drunk and disorderly on the public street
1889 Drunk and disorderly on the public street
1889 Refusing to pay the poor rate
1888 Drunk and disorderly
1888 Drunk and disorderly
1888 Drunk and disorderly
1888 Drunk and disorderly
1878 Dog off leash
1875 Trespassing donkey
1874 Cow and goat trespassing
1873 Dog off of leash
1871 Assault
1865 Drunk and disorderly
1864 Assault
1864 Attemped assault with an iron bar

Monday, March 30, 2015

"Who Do You Think You Are?" - Angie Harmon

I'm feeling kind of old lately.  This was yet another episode of Who Do You Think You Are? where I had not heard of the celebrity.  After looking up her credits, I see why.  She really doesn't have that many, and I don't watch the shows she's been on.  But I did say the first season that WDYTYA was on TLC that the list of celebrities looked as though they were trying to skew to a younger audience, and that ain't me.

The announcer said in the teaser said that Angie Harmon would learn about a relative who was bought and sold, and that her ancestor had something to do with a pivotal point in American history.  Considering the dramatic delivery, at first I wondered if it might have something to do with the Civil War, but since there was no hint that Harmon was going to learn she had a black ancestor, and I really didn't think WDYTYA would spring that on everyone with no warning, I figured they used that phrasing just to throw us off.

Harmon is shown in the opening segment with her three daughters.  She tells them that she is going to learn about their ancestors.  We are told that she is an acclaimed actress ([cough, cough] two awards over a "career" [such as it is] of twenty years do not an "acclaimed actress" make).  She went from being a model to appearing in movies and on television.  Her best known series are Law & Order and Rizzoli & Isles (which at least has Sasha Alexander, who used to be on NCIS; and speaking of NCIS, no, Angie Harmon does not appear to be related to Mark Harmon).  She is an ambassador for UNICEF, particularly focusing on campaigns against child trafficking.

Harmon lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with the aforementioned three daughters.  At no time on the program is their father mentioned; apparently Harmon and her husband separated in 2014.  Harmon herself is an only child, but her mother and father each have three siblings.  She grew up knowing all her cousins, who were her age, so it was like having siblings of her own.

Harmon grew up in Dallas, Texas.  She was with her mother until she was 11, and then "switched over" (her phrase, not mine) to be with her father.  She knows her mother is 100% Greek, but doesn't know as much about her father.  She is convinced he has Irish or Scottish ancestry but has less actual information about his family.  His parents were Henry Harmon and Velma Daugherty.  And that's about all she knows.  She also talks about how she is a very strong person and very resilient, and how she would like to know where in her family that comes from.

Next we see Harmon walking with her daughters again.  She says she hopes she finds some pictures of ancestors during her research and asks the girls if they think some pictures might look like her.  Then she talks about how she loves family and is really interested in learning about her ancestry.  Her father was a history teacher, and she loves history also.  She wants to share the information she learns with her daughters, because it's their heritage too.

The "research" begins with a letter from Harmon's father.  She is at home with her daughters and reads the letter to them; she says it came from "Poppoo" (that's the closest I can come to approximating how she pronounced it; apparently it's what they call their grandfather).  He said he was sending pictures of people she had never known and how dedication to family was part of her genetics.  (Gee, I didn't know that was a genetic trait.)  However many photos he actually sent, we get to see only one, of Harmon's grandparents, Henry Jefferson Harmon and Estella McGoldrick Harmon, with five children.  When Harmon prompts the girls what Henry and Estella's relationship is to them, one correctly answers great-grandparents.  When Harmon says she's going to a genealogist for help to learn more about the family, however, we hear a small voice in the background say, "Or a genie?"  I think that's a great idea — can you imagine how much easier your research would be if you had a genie to help you find documents?

Harmon begins the next stage of her learning experience by driving to the Charlotte Museum of History.  On the way we hear that she had sent the information she had to genealogist Joseph Shumway (of; I think it's at least his sixth appearance on the program?), who will be meeting her at the museum.  Shumway says that he took the information and used vital records, land records, newspapers, and other information to go back on the Harmon line.  (It's nice to see the show acknowledging more of the records used in research, even if it's only a quick passing mention.)  Now the ubiquitous computer appears, a little later than usual recently but already logged into, and Shumway says he has put together a family tree.  Harmon sounds genuinely enthusiastic and sincere when she says, "Thank you!"

The initial shot of the tree, which shows Harmon and her parents, is not focused (living people, you know).  Her father, however, is Larry Paul Harmon.  His parents were Henry Harmon, Jr. (1914–1994) and Velma Evelyn Daugherty (1916–2012).  Henry's parents were Henry Jefferson Harmon, Sr. (1882–1956) and Celia Estella McGoldrick (1878–1966).  Harmon mouses over each, and we see more details:  Henry Sr. was born June 20, 1882 in Missouri and died September 5, 1956 in Oklahoma; Estella was born December 11, 1878 in Missouri and died December 17, 1965 in Cushing, Payne County, Oklahoma.  From there we go to the floating sky tree and travel back to Harmon's 5th-great-grandfather:  Larry to Henry Jr. to Henry Sr. to James George Harmon to Thomas Jefferson Harmon (how patriotic!) to Peter Harmon to Michael Harmon.

At Michael we return to the computer screen shot.  The icon shows that Michael was born in 1754 but has no death year.  As Harmon mouses over it, we see that he was born in Germany.  This flabbergasts Harmon, who had no inkling she had any German ancestry.  After Shumway tells her to click on the box for more details, the computer goes to a different view, which includes an entry that says Michael Harmon arrived in 1772 to Philadelphia.    (If you look quickly, you can also see that Michael's son Peter lived 1782–1853.)  Harmon notes Michael was about 18 years old when he arrived in Phillie.

index entry from
When she wants to know what happened before that, Shumway instructs her to click the arrow next to where it says "1 Source."  She does, and we see that the source is "U.S. and Canada, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s–1900s."  Clicking on that links takes her to an index entry for Michael Harman from "Record of Servants and Apprentices Bound" (which isn't actually an immigration list, as the Ancestry database title states, but it's certainly not the worst mislabeling the site has).  Harmon notices that the last name is spelled differently, and Shumway explains that spelling was very fluid at this time; people usually spelled phonetically, according to how they heard things.  (Nice to hear them finally acknowledge that on the show.  That may actually help people with their research!)  Harmon and Shumway discuss how this suggests that Michael was an indentured servant, and Harmon wants to know if Michael was brought here or came on his own.  Shumway says that the original document would say more about that and tells her that it is held in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia.  Harmon disingenuously asks if that means she should go to Phillie, and of course Shumway says yes.  As she leaves the museum, Harmon excitedly says it's like she's on an adventure where she's putting the puzzle pieces together.  (That's funny, we haven't seen her working on the puzzle . . . .)

Harmon has never been to Philadelphia before.  She goes to the Historical Society, where James Horn, Ph.D., of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation greets her.  (On the WDYTYA episode with Reba McEntire, we were told he specializes in indentured servitude as a research subject.)  Horn has a book with records for apprentices and servants in the city of Philadelphia.  Michal Harman appears in the index; when Harmon goes to the referenced page, the entry at the top of the page shows that he arrived December 23, 1772 and was contracted for 5 years and 7 months to William Will of Philadelphia, who paid £23..5 (23 pounds and probably 5 shillings) for his passage from Rotterdam.  (After previously noticing Harman versus Harmon, she doesn't seem to note that his name is spelled Michal on this page.)  They discuss how people didn't have to pay their fares up front but could contract to pay at their destinations.  Those passengers were then hoping that a merchant, ship's captain, or someone else would pay when they arrived.  Horn explains they were auctioned off to the highest bidders.  Indentured servitude was common in this period.  The servant was bound by contract, had no say in the choice of bidder, and received no wages during the period of servitude.  Horn adds that Michal would likely have known before he departed on the ship what he was getting himself into.

Harmon asks what happened to Michal next, and Horn says that she "might actually be able to learn a little bit more" by reading the second entry on the same page.  That entry shows that William Will turned around and assigned Michal's contract to John Houts, a tanner, for the same period and same amount of money.  This leads to a discussion about the type of work a tanner did — skinning carcasses and processing the leather, pretty hard work.  Harmon looks a little uncomfortable but manages to carry on.  (Maybe she's a vegetarian?)  Horn also emphasizes that indentured servants were essentially a commodity.  (But what did William Will get out of it?  There's no profit in the way he appears to have done the two transactions.  Maybe Houts was a friend and he was doing a favor?)

Harmon wants to know why Michal would have left his home and asks what Germany was like at the time.  The big problem for young men such as Michal was that little land was available.  Horn says that land was the ultimate test of worth.  This situation convinced many people, who often became indentured servants, to leave just for the opportunity to have land of their own.

Doing some quick math in her head, Harmon figures out that Michal should have been finished with his contract in 1778.  Horn agrees but points out that the American Revolution against the British was going on by that time.  He asks Harmon what was going on in Philadelphia and where Michal was.  She sounds concerned and asks him, "Do we know?"  He responds, "That's what we've got to find out!"

Going to, Horn explains that it is the online place for American military records (it's owned by Ancestry, of course, which he doesn't mention, but it is nice to see the show use a different Web site).  He has Harmon enter Michael's name as "Harman" and says she should do so because that's how the name appeared on the records they've looked at (conveniently sidestepping the fact that the search on Fold3 is not very flexible; I still wonder why Ancestry doesn't port its more robust search pages over).  Among the results is Michael's Revolutionary War service record.  He served under John Lewis in the 4th Pennsylvania Regiment of Foot, an infantry unit.  The account date on the card is January 20, 1778.  Harmon is very proud that he fought on the American side.  Michael enlisted on May 10, 1777 for three years, which was standard (plus he got a bounty!).  Harmon notes that he was only 23 years old.  Horn has to point out that 1877 was before the end of Michael's indenture period and says that Houts would have received compensation because of that.  This causes Harmon to wonder if there was a draft or if Michael volunteered.  Horn says it was the latter and that she should think about the risks Michael subjected himself to by being a soldier.

When Harmon asks what happened to Michael after that, Horn says that he sent the documents to his colleague Scott Stephenson, an expert on the Revolutionary War, and that Stephenson "might be able" to tell her more about her ancestor.  (Wow, that's pretty impressive!  Harmon hasn't even left yet, and Horn has already sent the documents on to someone else.  Oh, wait, you mean this was all found ahead of time?  Like it's scripted or something?)  Harmon effusively begins to thank Horn, then gives him a big hug.  She seems very genuine in her enthusiasm (unlike Kelly Clarkson).

In the outro to this segment, Harmon talks about how impressed she is with Michael and all the risks he took, beginning with coming here at only 18 years old.  She apparently has a soft spot for troops and really appreciates that Michael volunteered to serve his new country.  She also mentions that he went in wholeheartedly, but that's just her embroidering on the story, because we have no idea about that.  For all we know, he could have hated his work as a tanner and thought it would be an improvement to be a soldier.

Still in Philadelphia, Harmon now goes to the Free Library to speak with R. Scott Stephenson, Ph.D., director of collections and interpretation (I am so sorry they are using that word that way) at the Museum of the American Revolution.  (He helped Valerie Bertinelli with Quaker research.)  He says they can reconstruct a lot by using documents.  He hands Harmon a (copy of) a voucher dated May 7, 1778 that says "camp near Valley Forge."  Michael received $6; this was essentially a pay stub for his work in the army.  Stephenson explained that pay in the Continental Army was intermittent and that this was actually back pay.  Harmon looks on the voucher where it appears that Michael signed for his payment.  Stephenson points out that it actually shows an X and says "his mark", indicating Michael was illiterate.

George Washington and the
Continental Army, 1775
For all of Harmon's professed interest in history, hearing "Valley Forge" didn't make much of an impression on her, so Stephenson has to be very heavy-handed to get the next point across, asking her, "Does Valley Forge mean anything to you?"  She says she vaguely remembers studying it but could use a reminder.  Stephenson tells her that in September 1777 the British captured Philadelphia, which was the capital of the newly minted United States.  Congress fled Phillie entirely.  Michael and the 4th Pennsylvania, along with the rest of the Continental Army, had to find a place to hole up for the quickly approaching winter.  There was no city nearby, so on December 19, 1777, they created an encampment at Valley Forge, under the direct command of George Washington.  This finally gets Harmon's attention, as it slowly dawns on her that her ancestor was in the same place as the father of our country.  Suddenly she is excited, and she says her father will love to hear about it.  Stephenson says that Valley Forge is only about 30 miles away from Philadelphia and asks if she wants to visit.  Now that she understands its significance, she happily says yes.

Stephenson and Harmon drive to Valley Forge National Historical Park.  Stephenson explains that the cabins in the park are reconstructions of those that the soldiers, including Michael, used for shelter during their winter encampment.  Each "hut" would have housed twelve men.  Harmon says, "It's amazing," and I realized she had been saying that several times during the episode, to the point it had become meaningless (but I restrained myself from watching again to count the number of times).  When Stephenson and Harmon go into one of the cabins, Harmon discovers that it's pretty cold inside; Stephenson tells her that the buildings were not windtight or sealed from the rain because the men had to make do with minimal tools and no nails to put them together.  So while the British were in reasonably comfortable brick buildings in Philadelphia, 2,000 of these cabins housed the Continental Army at Valley Forge.  During the winter of 1777–1778, they suffered through shortages of food, clothing, and other supplies, because the Continental Congress was in chaos and couldn't help them.  Men caught pneumonia, typhoid, and other diseases, and about 2,500 men died there.  But Michael survived, and Harmon is elated to think that she could be walking on the same ground where he had stepped.

Stephenson talks about how these men were fighting for a country with power resting in the people, not a king, which was a radical idea at the time.  When Harmon asks whether Michael would have understood the historical significance of what he was taking part in, Stephenson tells her that Washington often told the men that "the fate of millions unborn" depended on what they were doing.  Unless Michael still hadn't learned any English, he probably had some idea.

And what happened to Michael after Valley Forge?  Stephenson says that most records are in the Pennsylvania State Archives in Harrisburg, and there should be more documents about Michael.

As she leaves Valley Forge, Harmon says how impressed she is with Michael and the strength he had in his heart (um, and where did she learn about that?).  He persevered through horrible conditions and was a remarkable man.  (Well, he did persevere, I'll give her that.)  Obviously, her resilience must have come from him (and now we're back to that theme).

Next up is a visit to Harrisburg and the Pennsylvania State Archives, of course.  As Harmon approaches the entrance, she is greeted by Major Sean Sculley, listed as an assistant professor of history at West Point (and boy, does he have a bunch of ribbons on his uniform!).  Information about Michael had been sent to Major Sculley, and as expected he had found more to share with Harmon.  First is a letter to George Washington from January 2, 1781, letting him know that the 4th Pennsylvania, the regiment Michael was in, had committed mutiny.  The unit's captain had been mortally wounded.  This sends Harmon into a tizzy — how could Michael do this?!

Major Sculley explains that the sergeants, corporals, and privates in the regiment had mutinied against General Anthony Wayne (apparently known by the nickname of "Mad Anthony").  The men then planned to march to Philadelphia to ask (ok, maybe demand) that Congress give them what they believed they were owed.  Michael and the other men had served for up to three years, or more, with hardly any food and little pay.  As far as they were concerned, Congress had committed a breach of contract.  Men whose enlistment periods had expired were not allowed to leave.

Harmon starts to get all worked up.  She goes on about how sad the situation was, that the men couldn't get food or clothes, and really gets a head of steam up.  Major Sculley interrupts her to point out that now she's beginning to understand how the men felt at the time.  Harmon responds that they had been honorable men (which she really doesn't know; I'm sure not all of them were), and the mutiny was going to be connected to all of their names.  Major Sculley points out that it was actually worse than that — mutiny was a capital offense, so they were risking hanging or a firing squad.

Major Sculley adds that Wayne was not really worried about the men going to Philadelphia, but rather that they would head to New York to join up with the British.  He shows her another letter, this one from the British to the Pennsylvania Line.  The British had offered to provide the men food, clothes, and the back pay that they were owed.  All the men had to do was turn their backs on the upstart rebels and return to the British side.  Under the circumstances at the time, this was a hard offer to pass up — but they did.  When two British spies arrived at the camp with the letter, sergeants involved with the mutiny arrested them and took them to General Wayne.  Hey, there's some hope after all!  Wayne was able to negotiate with the 76th and 77th (but where does the 4th fit into that?):  Men could be discharged and then re-enlist with a new bounty, or simply be discharged and head home.

So which did Michael choose?  Major Sculley has a book from the Pennsylvania archives.  I didn't see the title, but it has a list of NCO's.  Michael's period of service is given as May 5, 1777–1781, so he opted out.  Harmon figures out that when he was discharged, he was about 27 years old.  And where did he go after that?  Major Sculley says that Michael's son Peter was in Mercer County, Kentucky (though I didn't get how he determined that), so he had looked at tax lists for Mercer County.  Michael appears on the 1795 list with 130 acres of land, so he actually got land, nominally the reason that he might have left Germany.  Harmon comments that Michael was about 41 at the time of the tax list.

Harmon asks Major Sculley if he can tell her anything else.  He says they have reached the end of his expertise (Kentucky tax lists actually fall into his field of research?), so if she wants to learn more, she's going to have to go to Kentucky.  (Ok, that was expected.)

As Harmon leaves, she admits that her heart had sunk when she heard about the mutiny, but she understands why the men were driven to do it.  But Michael had a strong will and strong convictions (again, where did she learn that?  did I miss that scene?), and he had been denied what had been promised to him.  Then she brings it back to herself (really, is it always about her?):  Why does she have such a need for justice?  Where could it have come from?  Now she knows that she got it from Michael!  (Sure, uh-huh.)  She gets over herself for a moment and wonders what she will learn about Michael's life in Kentucky.  She asks whether he was married — probably, because we've already heard that he had a son — and how many children he might have had (still looking for that big family).

At the Harrodsburg Historical Society, in Harrodsburg, Kentucky (yes, in Mercer County), local historian Amalie Preston meets with Harmon in a curiously empty-looking room.  After some disingenuous introductory conversation, Harmon asks if Michael might have left a will.  (Of course he did.)  Preston has her look at an index, which indicates that a will for Michael Harmon is in Book 3, page 279.  After going to page 279 in that book (conveniently on the table), we see the will for M. Harmon, "signed" on July 21, 1807.  As with his pay voucher from 1778, there is an "X" and the notation of "his mark."  Forty years later, Michael is still illiterate, but he's managed to accomplish a lot.  We only get a couple of quick camera shots of the recorded copy of the will, but family members mentioned in bequests are Michael's wife, Peggy (£70), and his children Peter (we heard about him earlier; he's Angie Harmon's ancestor), Michael, Jacob, Peggy, Barbara, Kitty (also £70), and John.  Harmon is a little concerned at the bequest to Peter, which says "any of my plantations", and hopes that doesn't mean Michael owned slaves.  Preston explains that "plantation" can also be used to mean a big farm, and no, Michael did not own slaves.  And now Harmon finally has the big family she has been dreaming about, even if it's from two hundred years ago:  "This is where I get my need for a large family."  (Seriously?)

Preston tells Harmon she has one more treat coming:  She can go to the site where Michael lived.  Preston has contacted the present owner and asked for permission for Harmon to visit, and the owner said yes.  "Is that something you would like to do?"  Of course she would!  I actually did like what Harmon said next:  "I would love to take my daughters."  Now that's a way to try to get the younger generation interested in genealogy and history.

Leaving Harrodsburg, Harmon talks about Michael's bravery and courage (which she couldn't possibly know about, unless one of those researchers showed her some kind of commendation that we didn't get to see on air, but she's bound and determined to make Michael bigger than life) and what an exceptional man he was.  She is excited and nervous to see the land he had owned, and is happy that the girls are coming.

As Harmon drives toward the farm with her daughters in the car, she's enthusiastic, and she asks the girls if they're excited.  One of them pipes up, "Are we there yet?"  As they're pulling up in the car, Harmon admonishes, "Remember your manners, please."  (Some things never change, not even for celebrities.)

They are met by a pleasant-looking man, who introduces himself as Michael Harmon (the name was passed down!) and says they are fifth cousins once removed.  Harmon introduces her daughters, who have very modern names for girls:  Finley, Avery, and Emery (please forgive any misspellings on my part).  This Michael says that the land is still owned by Harmons 220 years later, which even I think is great.  He tells Harmon that they can see the whole farm from a higher spot and drives the car up there.  He points out that the distant treeline is the boundary to the property; all the land, cows, and everything else to that point is the family farm.  The girls start running around and playing, and Harmon gets philosophical.

All the fighting, suffering, and hardships Michael (the ancestor) went through were for this.  He had a beautiful life and was able to pass that down to herself and the generations to come after her.  Being here with her girls has made the journey complete, and now she feels whole.  This has given her a new light for the rest of her life and will affect everything she will do, and she is so thankful she was able to experience all of this.

I was kind of surprised at this emotional outpouring, but learning about her ancestor definitely seems to have affected her.  Personally, I think it's more than a bit of a stretch to think she "inherited" all the traits she went on about, but if it makes her happy to think Michael Harmon passed that down to her, who am I to burst her bubble?

Something I was struck by was how Harmon kept track throughout the episode of about how old Michael was at each event in his life she learned about.  I don't understand why it was so significant to her, but she was pretty consistent about it.  The only time I didn't hear her figure out his age was when she was looking at the will, which seemed counterintuitive.  After all, that was around the time he died, an age more people tend to be interested in.

Something else I noticed was that even though Harmon did find her big family, she didn't get the other tidbits we heard about in the beginning:  She didn't find any paintings or other pictures of her ancestors (no photos, as Michael died about 1807, before the age of photography), and even though she was "convinced" her father had Irish or Scottish ancestry, we didn't hear about that again.  Usually when the celeb talks about something like that, we see it later on.  Could the producers be deliberately giving us false leads so we don't automatically know what to expect in an episode?

I saw that same advertisement where the actress says she found her grandfather's World War I draft card but what's shown is a card for World War II.  I'm beginning to consider the possibility that the reason it isn't being changed is the same as why we don't see quality control in the databases on the Web site:  It isn't costing them any business to air such an egregious mistake, so why spend money to fix it?

Now that we're in the third season of WDYTYA on TLC, I am beginning to see a little bit of a "formula" for the celebrities chosen.  First is the apparent marketing to a younger demographic, with actors generally more relevant to that group.  While on NBC each season had at least one black and one Jewish celebrity, on TLC each season has had at least one gay celebrity.  We still have somewhat of a nod to having a Jewish celebrity — Chelsea Handler (first season) is half Jewish; Josh Groban's father grew up Jewish but converted for marriage.  Previously we have had only white Western European celebrities, but this season has Julie Chen and America Ferrera.  It'll be interesting to see what happens going forward.

In a fun little coincidence, the night after this episode aired, Antiques Roadshow had an appraisal of a letter written by George Washington from Valley Forge in 1778.  (The link is currently having some problems, but I hope PBS fixes it soon.)

And I actually had finished writing this before tonight's episode with Sean Hayes, but I wasn't able to post it before the episode started!