Thursday, April 26, 2012

Wow! I Was Mentioned in a Megan Smolenyak Webinar

On Wednesday, Legacy Family Tree hosted a Webinar by Megan Smolenyak (one of the few genealogists who might qualify as a household name) on how to find living people.  Genealogists usually focus on finding dead ancestors, but sometimes -- whether it's to contact living relatives for health information or DNA studies, put together a family reunion, or look for people you grew up with -- the search is for people who are still alive.  I was registered for the Webinar, but I didn't get to bed until 6:00 a.m. after a long day of work, so I managed to sleep through the presentation.

Imagine my surprise when I woke up and checked my e-mail, and a friend had sent a message saying that I was featured in the Webinar as an example!  The Webinar, Reverse Genealogy:  Finding the Living, discussed several strategies, one of which was "broadcasting" -- having a Web site, blog, Facebook page, etc. that relatives can find if they search for their surname.  One of the examples used was a post from my blog when I was contacted by a cousin.  The cousin found me because I have a Web page listing the family names I am researching.  Smolenyak mentioned that I was a professional genealogist and that I also post about my own family research.

You can view the Webinar free online until May 7, 2012, and it's also available for purchase.  My blog post is mentioned about 20 minutes in.

It's always nice to have someone cite your work, but this was really exciting.  Who knew that Megan Smolenyak read my blog?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

New York City Photographs Online

The New York City Department of Records has announced a free online photo database of more than 870,000 images of New York City municipal operations.  The photographs were selected from the Municipal Archives collection of more than 2.2 million images dating back to the mid-1800's.   Some images have appeared in publications but most were viewable only by visiting the archive offices in Manhattan.

The bulk of the online collection is currently more than 800,000 color photographs taken of every city building in the mid-1980's to update municipal records.  Also available are photos taken by NYPD detectives and more than 1,300 images of the Depression-era Works Progress Administration.  There are plans to add more images, but this free collection does not include the 720,000 photographs of every city building from 1939-1941.  Genealogists were mentioned (yay!) in an AP article about the collection as being one of the groups that will find the collection useful.

The website for the New York City Department of Records is  The direct link to the gallery is but it is currently overwhelmed.  If you wait a few days it will probably be easier to visit the site.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness Resurfaces

Bridgette Schneider
Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK) was a Web site where people volunteered to help others with genealogy questions, look up records local to them, take photos of tombstones, etc.  Bridgette Schneider, the woman who created RAOGK, passed away and the site stopped working.  The new RAOGK is at

Many people worked together to recreate this very helpful service.  They were able to transfer over all the volunteers' names and locations and what they were willing to do, but they lost the contact details.  As the former volunteers find out about the new site and revolunteer, more of the entries will have links to contact them.  If you were a volunteer, info about signing up again is on the main page.

All users must now create accounts to use the site.  Because the new site is a wiki, discussions and chats are available.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Evolution of Family Names in China

ScienceDaily has an interesting short article about a study of the evolution of family names across China.  The study, which was published in American Journal of Physical Anthropology, was conducted by Chinese researchers.  One statistic mentioned is that 100 family names account for 85% of the population.  A key assumption that seems to have been made, or at least that is not accounted for in this article, is that people did not change their names.

Be Careful What You Ask For

I just hit one of those milestone birthdays -- I turned 50 a week ago.  I'm proud of every gray hair and all the crow's feet that tell the tales of my journey.  I had told a friend that I wanted a fuss for my birthday.  After all, it isn't every day that you turn half a century.  Said friend and her S.O. took me out to dinner for sushi, which was enjoyable and quite tasty, but no fuss.  So I figured, eh, very nice of them to take me out, I'm still having a nice birthday, no problem.

Coincidentally, this year was also the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.  The same friend and I attended a big costume dinner to commemorate the event.  Everyone was in beautiful reproductions of period clothing (and a few of us in vintage dresses).  I was just one of the crowd.  So imagine my surprise when the S.O. tells me that my friend needs my help out on the dance floor.  I was confused, because I didn't think my friend was one of the event coordinators, but I dutifully went over -- and my birthday was announced.  The small orchestra played and about 150 people sang "Happy Birthday" to me.  Now *that* qualifies as a fuss!  It was a wonderful surprise that I will always remember.

I wonder if my "little brother" will have 150 people singing "Happy Birthday" for his 50th birthday next year ....

Saturday, April 14, 2012

"Who Do You Think You Are?" - Edie Falco

Apparently we were on a very short roll last week on Who Do You Think You Are? when Rita Wilson was so honest about the fact that she wasn't doing any of the research.  With Edie Falco we're back to pretending the celebrity is doing the research and it isn't all done ahead of time.  And of course the buildings are all empty of other patrons and the celebrity meets with the head of the archive.  Maybe the only reason there was no pretense with Wilson was because she was in foreign countries where she obviously didn't speak the languages and couldn't possibly be reading the original documents.

That said, the introduction talked about Falco's career in television, film, and stage and that she was the first woman to win Emmys for outstanding actress in both comedy and drama.  She was born in Brooklyn, grew up on Long Island (let's not forget that Brooklyn is actually on Long Island, so she wasn't going very far), and now lives in Manhattan.  She talked about how her parents "split" (I don't know if that means divorced or separated) but family is very important to her.  She has adopted two children of her own and wasn't sure what to tell them about the family research she was going to be involved in.  Is family merely bloodlines, or something more than that?  She found a definition of family that said it was a group of people living together with someone as the head of the household, and that fits her life.

Falco's father is Italian, and she knows his side of the extended family fairly well due to visits and get-togethers.  Her mother's parents had died long ago and there was "less cohesion", so she wanted to know more about that side.  To get more information, she went to visit her mother, Judy Anderson, on Long Island.

Anderson had a copy of a family tree that "cousin Linda" had made.  It had a lot of details written on it, and I wish we had had the chance to see more of it (and it isn't one of the documents available on the Web site).  The tree showed Judy's mother as Ruth Megrath and her father as George Megrath from Wales.  Anderson also had a photo of her grandfather sitting outdoors in a chair.  The story was that Megrath was his mother's maiden name, his father's last name was Brown, and his mother had left his father in Wales and brought him to the United States.  This, of course, begged the question of why?  Falco had never heard of Wales in connection with her family but assumed he had to have been born there because of the story.  Without knowing more about Wales, however, she decided to start her research in New York, because she knew he had been there.

Falco immediately contradicted this last statement as she was heading to the New York Public Library by saying, "Mom thinks George was living in New York."  (Thinks, knows, same thing, right?)  With that amount of reliability, it's a good thing she wasn't going far out of her way.  At the library she met Maira Liriano, who works in the library's Milstein Division.  (I recognized her as having been one of the researchers on the Gwyneth Paltrow episode.)  They found George Megrath in the 1920 census in New York City, but the census said that he was born in Wisconsin, his mother was born in New York, and his father was born in England.  It seemed to be the right person, however, because the rest of the family matched exactly.  Falco asked Liriano for confirmation that England was a separate country from Wales (duh!) and commented that her mother's family tree was wrong.  She then said, "Let's see what else I can find on"  Heaven forfend any other site could be used!

Falco found someone's personal family tree on Ancestry that said Megrath had died in 1947 in Massachusetts at the age of 70.  The tree had a link to a scan of an obituary that said he was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  From that Falco concluded that Megrath had not been born in Wales after all but in Wisconsin.  So first she took the word of her cousin that Megrath was born in Wales, and then because an obituary said he was born in Wisconsin she decided her cousin was wrong and information from the second person, whom she didn't know from Adam, must be right.  This is a way to show analysis of information?  What happens if a third person says he was born somewhere else?  But take his word she did, and off she went to Wisconsin with the comment, "I hope Milwaukee will give me more clues."

In Milwaukee she went to All Saints Episcopal Cathedral, and said she was doing so because it holds a lot of historic baptismal records.  Normally a church will only hold baptismal records for its own denomination, so we had to assume that Megrath must have been baptised as an Episcopalian, but the way it was phrased seemed to imply that All Saints held baptismal records for the city.  Very misleading scripting here.  She met with Christie Manussier, the office manager for the cathedral, and told her she was looking for baptismal information for her grandfather.  Manussier brought out books for a range of years and said that the church had been pretty diligent about including most information about babies.  Unsurprisingly, Falco found George MeGrath Brown, born March 21, 1876 in Milwaukee, whose parents were Charles Childs Brown and Mary MeGrath Brown.  Charles Brown was present for the baptism, as he was listed as a sponsor.  So Megrath's father was part of his life after all, at least at the beginning, which differed from the family story Falco had been told.

To find more information about Charles Childs Brown, Falco next visited the Milwaukee County Historical Society (not Center, as was listed on screen) and spoke with archivist Amanda Koehler (more accurately the Assistant Curator of Research Collections).  She told Koehler an incredibly vague story of what she was trying to find:  My ancestor was here in 1876 to attend the baptism of his son and I'm trying to find more information about him.  Magically, of course, information was there to be found.  Koehler told Falco to look in city directories to see if he was listed, and she (Koehler) would look in censuses.  Falco found a Charles C. Brown in the 1870 directory who was an apprentice with the Milwaukee News, but she conceded it could be a common name.  Koehler found no Charles Browns in Wisconsin after 1870 (What about before 1870?  We didn't even know how old he was or when he and Mary MeGrath were married.) but did find a 32-year-old C. C. Brown in the 1885 Minnesota state census in the town of Little Falls.  Now, Little Falls is more than 400 miles from Milwaukee, so there was no reason to assume it was the same person, especially only with initials, but he was born in England, which matched the information from the 1920 census.  At least for this there was not an automatic leap; Falco said it was compelling (maybe for varying definitions of the word compelling) but that they didn't know for sure if it was him.  Then Koehler produced a book she called Historical Sketches of Royalton, Minnesota (actually Historical Sketches of Royalton and Vicinity), which had an entry for Charles C. Brown.  It said he had been a printer and writer and started Royalton's first newspaper in 1885.  He then moved to Duluth, where he was the night editor, and died there.  There was no reference to any family.  Royalton is only about 10 miles from Little Falls, so it was not unreasonable to think this was the same man from the 1885 census.  The fact that he worked for newspapers made a connection to the Charles C. Brown in the 1870 Milwaukee directory, but it was still not a strong case.  That's what we were going with, however.  As the program cut to commercials the teaser for the next segment showed a newspaper article with the title, "What Happened -- A Sad Accident."

Legal notice for estate of
Sister Kathryn Brown,
Albany Evening Journal,
November 16, 1903;
George MeGrath Brown
and Walter Bacon Brown
(probably George's half-brother)
are mentioned by name
When the program returned Falco was meeting with Dr. James Mueller, an associate professor of journalism at the University of North Texas.  They appeared to still be at the Milwaukee County Historical Society.  He said he had been researching Charles Brown and had found an article from the Duluth Daily News of April 10, 1892 (the "Sad Accident").  It said that Brown's son (not named) had died in Albany, New York, from being struck by a "surface car."  If this was supposed to be George Megrath Brown, we knew he hadn't died in 1892, so Falco was confused.  There was some discussion of how someone might have jumped the gun with the article and maybe George had been hit but not killed, but the question was not resolved.  Mueller then showed an article from the Albany Evening Journal from 1905 which said that an heir to the estate of Sister Katherine Brown, who had died January 25, 1902, had come forward.  Katherine apparently was the sister of Charles Brown, and George had claimed the estate as Katherine's nephew.  We then learned that Mary Megrath Brown had divorced Charles in 1878 in Minnesota.  Charles had married a second time in Chicago and had two children; that marriage ended in divorce.  (Maybe it was a son from that marriage who died in 1892, but that was not brought up on the show.  Also not addressed was if either of these children put in a claim for Katherine's estate.)  His third marriage also ended in divorce.  He had a fourth wife, to whom he was apparently still married when he died, because nothing was said to the contrary.  Mueller said divorce was common for newspapermen of that time, as they worked long hours and drank a lot.  Mueller is apparently knowledgeable about the history of journalism, but this struck me as a very broad generalization.  Falco said she was left with a sad image of George.  I'd say that was an understatement.

Falco decided to look for Sister Katherine Brown in the 1900 census, which actually was a logical thing to do if she wanted to find more information about the family.  She somehow found her (with a name that common, heaven knows how she picked her out, though); the census said she was born at sea and that her mother was born in England.  (What about her father?  And one of the many interesting things not addressed in the episode, why was she Sister Katherine?  Was she in a religious order?)  So Falco said, "I think I have to go to England to find out more."  Yeah, right!  How about more research to figure out where in England you should be looking?  But that would be too logical, so off she went.  We next saw her in London, where she said she needed to find a family historian.  All she had to go on was a birthplace at sea.  Somehow she connected with Jo Foster, credited as a family history researcher, at Fulham Town Hall.  Do you feel there's a magic wand being waved over all of this?  Where's the fairy godmother?  Is this a Disney movie?

Foster had a book with birth registrations and said, "See if you can find your" great-great-grandfather.  Falco found Charles' birth record for August 16, 1853.  His mother was listed as Catherine Brown formerly Kindley, and next they looked for more information about her.  (Why not look for information about the father?  This was the second time he had been bypassed.  Obviously, the show's researchers must not have found anything about him, or else he was boring.  Therefore he shouldn't be mentioned.)  Foster had Falco look for Catherine Kindley in the 1841 English census (on Ancestry, of course), but she didn't find her.  Foster disingenuously suggested looking under the name Kate (they're getting less and less subtle about the way they lead the celebrities), and amazingly enough Kate Kindley, age 10, born in Cornwall, was found in Penzance.  She was living with 69-year-old Jane Childs, possibly her grandmother?, and 28-year-old Elizabeth Childs, but no other Kindleys.  To find more about Kate, she went to Penzance.  Before we saw Penzance, there was an introspective segment where Falco talked about how these people actually existed and that it was unnerving to find records of family members.  (I guess she's never considered what kind of paper trail she has created during her own lifetime.)  She wondered why Kate wasn't with her parents and if she really had been born at sea.

In Penzance archivist Chloe Phillips of the Morrab Library was on hand.  Falco told her she was trying to track down information on Kate Kindley, who was 10 years old in 1841.  (See how far you get with a request like that at a library.)  Phillips brought out a book cushion and conservator's gloves for Falco to wear, then set out a book and said to look for Catherine in the book.  If you're going to go to the trouble of using conservator's gloves (which, as I've commented before, are now considered by many to be a deprecated practice for handling paper, because you lose your tactile sensation and can damage the paper more than with your finger oils), why have someone page through a book instead of just going directly to the relevant page?  But Falco eventually found Catherine, who was baptized in October 1831, the daughter of Ralph and Dorothy Kindley.  Ralph was a master mariner from Penzance.  We then had a short narrative on British maritiime history and how a mariner would have spent most of his life at sea.  That could explain why Kate's father was not enumerated in the census, but not her mother, so Falco wanted to find more information about the parents and why Kate was with her grandmother in 1841 (assuming that was her grandmother, of course; we had seen no research to confirm that).  Phillips suggested she look in the newspaper, and the West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser of March 8, 1833 had a note that Dorothy, the daughter of Childs and wife of Captain Kindley, had died at age 28.  Now we knew why Dorothy wasn't in the 1841 census, and this did seem to indicate Jane Childs was likely Kate's grandmother, but what happened to Captain Kindley?

The final segment took Falco to Charlestown, Cornwall to meet Dr. Sam Willis, a maritime historian and author.  This location was purely window dressing, as none of the research revealed had anything to do with Charlestown.  Willis took Falco out to the Earl of Pembroke, which he said was similar to the types of ships her fourth great-grandfather Ralph Kindley would have sailed.  Falco asked if it were possible that Catherine was born at sea, and Willis said Dorothy easily could have been used to being on a ship.  He had found that in 1831 Kindley was the captain of the Lord Cochrane, which had put into New Orleans.  While there wasn't direct documentation of Catherine's birth, the pieces did fit.  (In the middle of this we suddenly got a beautiful piece of unexpected eye candy in the form of a shot with a rainbow in the background.)  Falco wondered where Kindley had been during the 1841 census.  Willis had also found New York Public Administrator papers from October 1840 regarding the estate of Ralph S. Kindley, mariner, who had died about July 20.  He had been on a voyage from Africa to New York on the schooner Africanes.  He died of fever and was buried at sea.

Falco said how very disheartening it was that "little Kate" had lost both of her parents before she was 10.  So much of family is about nurturing, but George's mother had divorced and Kate had been left without parents.  She talked about the "emotional clouds you were surrounded in as you grew up" and how it was really about the people who loved and cared for you.  It struck me as a little overdramatic; why focus only on the negative?  What about the other generations that did not have such events?  So even though from a research perspective this episode had a lot of flaws, what Falco had learned did appear to have resonated with her.  Again we did not see a reprise with the family member we had started with.  Maybe Falco's mother was unsettled with the information that had been found.

I squeaked through with my prediction on this one.  Most of the research focused on general background in the U.S., not any major historical events.  They did go to England and Cornwall, so we had an ancestral country, but it wasn't Italy or Sweden, which is what I had been anticipating.  And I was right with Rita Wilson, so I'm still batting a thousand, but barely.  Not only that, but WDYTYA has reruns for this week and next, so I'm actually caught up!

I watched through the credits at the end of this episode and learned that Apple is officially listed under "Promotional Consideration" (otherwise known as product placement).  I have noticed the ubiquitous Macs before but had not actually noted the credit.  I find this amusing because Ancestry "optimizes" its site to work on PC's using Internet Explorer.  Mac browsers simply cannot get all the functionality Ancestry offers.  They get even less functionality than using a PC with Firefox.  (Maybe they're running Windows on the Macs.)

Monday, April 9, 2012

"Who Do You Think You Are?" - Rita Wilson

Well, I thought I was going to get caught up this week, but then I realized it was Passover and I was hosting my annual seder, and then I had to recover from hosting the seder, and there went my schedule again.  Maybe next week ....

I very much enjoyed the Rita Wilson episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?"  Not only was Wilson totally honest about the fact that she was not doing any of the research, she appeared to be very engaged and interested in the information that was discovered.  The introduction discussed how Wilson is a "passionate Greek" and close to her family.  She knew about her mother's (Dorothy Wilson) side of the family.  Her father, however, had not talked about his family.  (This is getting to be a habit; the previous three episodes all had one side of the family that was known and one "mystery" side.)  He died in 2009.  She knew he had been born in Greece and had moved to Bulgaria, and that he was born in the late 1920's, but other information was sketchy.  He had spoken about being in a "work camp" of some sort and escaping from it.

Wilson talked about how when most people research their family trees they are starting with their grandparents or further back, yet she needed to find information about the recent past.  America had been the dream for her parents.  Her father was a Muslim in the Ottoman Empire.  There was a comment about how people in his village had been told they had to change religion, but it was not clear if her father's family was Muslim before this or only became Muslim when this was mandated.  Her father's original name was Hassan Ibrahimoff, which he changed to Allan Wilson in the United States.

Wilson began her search herself on  (I wonder if that's one of the criteria to be accepted as a celebrity on the program -- your family has to have a record on Ancestry.  Maybe if you have a really compelling story and there's no record, they'll add one?)  She found her parents' marriage record from June 10, 1951.  Her father had stated that he was born in Oreon (now known as Oraio), Xanthi, Greece.  Wilson recalled how in 1972 she and her brother had driven through Greece and had gone through the village.  This was now the first stop for her research.

In Oraio she met with interpreter Deniz Hacihalil.  (The on-screen credit said "translator", which is incorrect.  Translators work with written material, interpreters with spoken words.  Hacihalil, by the way, is Turkish.)  Wilson asked if the house where her father was born was still standing, so of course it was.  Hacihalil took her to the building, which did not appear to be inhabited.  Drying tobacco leaves, boxes, and some onions and garlic were in various rooms, but otherwise the house looked empty.  Near the end of Wilson's wandering through the house something was said about it now being used for storage.  Even though there wasn't much to see, it was moving for Wilson because she knew nothing of her father's childhood.

Wilson asked Hacihalil about her father's move to Bulgaria and whether there were any family members still in the area who might know something.  The two women went to the (nearby?) home of some cousins, who described Wilson's grandfather and showed a photo of him.  They did not have a photo of her father, however.  They told her that her grandfather had been a funny man.  She asked how old her father had been when he moved to Bulgaria.  The cousins did not answer directly but said that Hassan and his brother Falik had gone to Smolyan, so off to Smolyan Wilson went.

In Smolyan Wilson met Dr. Vania Stoyanova from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.  Stoyanova had a family register that covered the years 1927-1934, in which she had found the Ibrahimoff family.  It showed Khalil Ibrahimoff and his children:  Hassan, born 1920, and his brothers and sisters.  We were shown a family tree graphic with all the siblings.  Stoyanova said she had nothing else until September 15, 1941, when Hassan was drafted into the Bulgarian army.  Bulgaria had allied with Germany, and in 1941 had invaded the Xanthi region of Greece, so Hassan had invaded his own birthplace.  Stoyanova then showed translated documents which explained how Hassan had been dismissed from the 4th Battalion (on July 20) and sentenced to 3 years, 8 months imprisonment.  Wilson, of course, wanted to know what he had done.  Stoyanova produced his parole document, which stated he had stolen 28 siphon bottles and 5 levs, a very small amount of money.  Even though this seemed a very minor crime, the army had strict discipline and had imposed a fairly long sentence.  Hassan had worked in prison and was paroled at 2 years, 1 month, and 10 days.  Wilson commented that this was not a labor camp, as her father had talked about.  Stoyanova took out another family register, this one from 1935-1946.  Hassan had asked for permission to resettle in Plovdiv, about 60 miles from Smolyan.  Wilson asked if she might have any relatives still in Smolyan and said it would be great to meet someone.  (Did I hear some foreshadowing?)

Wilson of course now traveled to Plovdiv on the trail of the new information.  She wanted to find out why her father had come there and was wondering if he had ever actually been in a labor camp.  She met with ethnographer Meglena Zlatkova of Plovdiv University.  They appeared to be in an archive of some sort.  Zlatkova showed Wilson a marriage record (#905) for Hassan and Alice Agop Markaryan from October 26, 1945.  October 26 is coincidentally also Wilson's birthdate.  Zlatkova then showed a record (#3737) for the birth of Emil Hasanov Ibrahimoff on December 26, 1945.  Wilson was stunned, because she had never heard that her father had been married before or had had any other children.  She wanted to know if her half-brother or Alice were still alive.  Unfortunately, Alice died December 29, 1945 of eclampsia gravidarum (seizures during pregnancy).  Little Emil followed soon after; he died April 1, 1946.  Zlatkova said that he had probably been very weak because of his mother's difficult pregnancy.  Wilson was taken by the fact that her son was born on December 26.  She said her father must have had great inner strength and resiliency to come through all of that and yet five years later be in the U.S.

Zlatkova suggested that Wilson go to Sofia to talk with historian Daniela Koleva, of the Department of History and Theory of Culture at Sofia University.  Wilson mentioned that Koleva had been sending for documents.  Koleva had information from the Secret Files Commission about labor camps.  In 1944 the USSR had invaded Bulgaria, and the Bulgarian Communist Party had engineered a coup d'état.  One hundred labor camps had been created.  Koleva also had Hassan's secret file; he actually had been in a labor camp.  She explained that everyone who had been interned had a file.  Some statements from his file were that he had "led a wild lifestyle" and was "one of the most important targets" the government had.  At this time you couldn't trust anyone, and many people spied on their neighbors.  Though it was not commented about on air, I noticed that many names had been redacted from the translations shown to Wilson.  I wish the archives' policy had been explained, so that we would have had some context for why the names were deleted.

Koleva also had documents pertaining to Hassan's interrogation and imprisonment.  More names were redacted.  Hassan was said to have had friends in the Turkish consulate in Plovdiv.  He had tried to escape to Turkey but had been caught, and then was labeled a traitor to the fatherland.  He had arrived at a labor camp on October 18, 1946 and then was transferred to other camps, including a mining camp.  The camps had harsh labor conditions and inmates were tortured.  A translated record about a former inmate in Bogdanov discussed how dangerous the camps were and how some people were shot and killed for attempting to leave.  Wilson asked, "Can you tell me how he escaped?" right before a cut to commercials, so I anticipated that the information had been found.

An informer had reported about the escape of Hassan and some other men on May 8 (of 1947?).  They had emptied a wagon and gone for coal.  They hid for five minutes and then left.  Searchers did not find them.  They figured it was worth it to try to escape because they had nothing to lose.  Twenty-six years later, in 1973, Hassan was still considered an "enemy of the state", shown in another translated document.  If he had gone back to Bulgaria, he could have been arrested.

After learning about her father's labor camp experiences, Wilson returned to Smolyan, where Meglena Zlatkova had found Hassan's 90-year-old half-brother Ferhat.  (We had seen his name earlier in the family tree graphic, but there was no indication at that time that any of the children were not full siblings.  There was obviously more interesting family information here, but not that the episode was sharing.)  Denny Jicheva was the interpreter this time.  Wilson was overjoyed to meet Ferhat, who looked like a tired old man, but he appeared to be happy to meet Wilson.  She wanted to know what Hassan was like when he was still in Oraia.  He remembered being happy to see Hassan in the Bogdanov camp, where he had been interned also.  When Hassan escaped, they interrogated Ferhat.  Ferhat had wanted to go also but felt he couldn't because he had a wife and two children.

Ferhat had saved a letter that Hassan had written to his family on January 11, 1950 from the United States.  He gave the letter to Wilson.  Hassan said he came to America on May 4, 1949 as a stoker on a ship.  He had well paid work and was going to school at night to learn English.  He was working on the American dream.

The wrap-up segment was Wilson and her brother Chris, who had flown to Bulgaria.  She shared all the information she had learned about their father.  At the close of the episode she said, "Wherever you are, dad, I love you."

This was an interesting episode, and the producers must have been thrilled to find such good historical material to work with.  Wilson's father was one of the many millions who suffered during World War II, and he was fortunate to have escaped and made a better life.  I'm sure Wilson considers herself lucky to have had the opportunity to learn so much about her father and his family, albeit after he had passed away.

America's Most Renewable Resource?

I have noted previously a New York Times article about some of the ethical questions being raised regarding sperm donors and genetically transmitted diseases and numerous half-siblings.  Now Time has an article about how sperm sales are big business and the U.S. is in the forefront due to the fact that donors can maintain anonymity.  While addressing the same issues the New York Times raised, the Time article also discusses new potential problems, such as estate claims, and why American donors are in such high demand.

The article is available in the April 16, 2012 print edition, and online to Time subscribers.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

My First Find in the 1940 Census

Like many people, I was waiting anxiously Monday at 9:00 a.m. Eastern time (which was 6:00 a.m. for me in California) to make my first search in the 1940 census.  I had prepared ahead of time -- I had looked for my person in a 1940 San Francisco city directory and then used Steve Morse's One-Step site to determine the enumeration district ahead of time.  And like many, many people, I was disappointed when images would not load.  After seeing lots of reports about how the system was overloaded or crashed, I decided to wait yet another day and see if the glitches were worked out quickly.

My patience was rewarded tonight.  I found the person I was looking for (the name on the clip above is actually Elmira, not Elmer; it's a good thing I knew what it should be) in exactly the place she was supposed to be, and it was only the fourth page in the E.D.

Unfortunately, I haven't had time to look up any more addresses yet!  But from what I gather, Steve Morse's site did not crash as he had anticipated, so soon I hope to be merrily collecting lots of census pages and learning more about family members.  I hope everyone else has had at least one success -- tell me what you have found!