She was a beautiful, young Irish maid, working in a wealthy English household. Her employer’s oldest son fell in love with her. When he announced intentions to marry her, his parents said they would disown him. He married her anyway. Then, bride and groom ran away to live happily ever after. “Her name was Mary Cordial,” my maternal grandmother Marilyn Matilda Dietz told me, that distinct glimmer of pleasure in her eyes—the one she always had when she retold this story. “And you are her legacy.”

This blog is a resource for those who want to--have to--find out more about who they came from.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

New York Genealogy Resources

I've been knee-deep in research with no time to write as of late. So, in the interest of being something more than just a personal family history blog, here are some useful NYG&BR links.

If you're interested in getting started with family research and aren't sure just how to begin, click here:

Getting Started On Your Family History

If you have relatives that lived in New York back in the day, you'll want to view this helpful article:

Guide to Finding New York Vital Records

Of course, you also might want to consider perusing the links to Genealogy Books and Software in the sidebar to the right of this post.

Have a happy and healthy new year!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Quote of the Day

“You have a choice. Live or die. Every breath is a choice. Every minute is a choice. To be or not to be.” -- Chuck Palahniuk, Author

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Quote of the Day

"You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough." - Mae West, Actress (1893 – 1980)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Going with the Flo (or Maybe, No)

When I began this kind of research, I looked forward to the prospect of meeting distant family. Who wouldn’t? But then I encountered some people who made me rethink all that. One of them was an older woman who'd been documenting our family history for a long time.

Let’s call her “Flo.”

I contacted Flo after finding her name in several genealogy inquiries in publications which shall remain unnamed so as to protect her in her guilt. She was looking for descendants of my family in the 1980s, a time at which I was wearing too much eye makeup and watching too much MTV. She was easily found via a Google search, so I shot her a friendly email.

The first thing Flo writes is that she's "glad to meet" another family relation. She then tells me that she's spent A LOT of money and A LOT of time doing this research, which is not-so-subtle code for I-don't-feel-like-sharing-family-information-for–free.

No problem, I say; I understand. There's nothing more annoying than a lazy family researcher who wants to sit back and have information rained all over them, which they'll immediately post online (of course) and for which they'll take complete credit, with no polite mention of the generous person who helped them get the information. I've been there and done that a dozen times now.

Flo is also plain regarding her jealousy about my having managed to get as far back as I have in only two years using the Internet when it took her over twenty years to amass the same amount of data. There's not much that I can do, however, to remedy her resentment of modern technology.

What I propose is an information exchange. I'll share what I've discovered (or tripped over, in some cases) in exchange for being pointed in the right direction. Flo agrees, and we're off. Or so I think.

Flo tells me lots of things. Names. Places. Dates. I keep everything she states on file and send her what I have—which isn't much, so I offer to send her scans of various certificates. Interestingly, she doesn't take me up on the offer.

And then, after I mention that I've sent away for some other certificates based on information she's shared, Flo suddenly and inexplicably stops emailing me. Poof. All gone.

The reason becomes obvious when the certificates arrive. She's altered information, changed death dates to be one day and one year off. She's given me her dead ends; for example, a death certificate she says is my great-great grandfather's lists the wrong parents—it isn't him. She's also withheld information, giving me the exact date of birth for my great-great grandmother, but neglecting to mention that she obtained this information from my great-great's grandmother's death certificate (which I obtain a few months later anyway with the help of an obituary located online), even though she knows I'm desperately trying to figure out where that great-great grandmother died.

Obviously, Flo didn't owe me anything information-wise. She did, however, owe me some basic human honesty in what she shared. Her misinformation cost me both time and money. If she didn't want to exchange information, she should have just said so and shuffled back off into the void of cyberspace.

So, Flo, here is a revised Irish prayer for you: May all the family history information you gain going forward be similarly polluted. May you encounter "family" who know exactly what information you need most, and may they decide not only to NOT tell you, may they purposely mislead you. You so richly deserve it.

The oft-repeated moral of such a story as this: Confirm everything you're told with documentation. A lazy family historian would have just posted the phony information in a family tree and let a thousand people pick it up and spread it—Genealogical VD. That's why professionals regard posted GEDCOMs with appropriate suspicion. Don't be apathetic about your family history; do your own research before posting online.

Also, be sure to take what any "Flo" may tell you with a softball-sized grain of salt.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Kathleen's Genealogical Dictionary - Entry #2

GEDCOMrhea (noun): a form of genealogical venereal disease, obtained by mindlessly adopting information found in unsourced family trees online. Symptoms include parents being only six years older than their children, people being married to two people or more at the same time (unless, of course, they're living in Big Love, Utah), and ancestors showing up in one or more censuses after they're declared dead.

Used in a sentence: "GEDCOMrhea can be avoided by confirming vital statistics with official documentation."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Kathleen's Genealogical Dictionary, Entry #1

JACKPLOT (noun): A burial plot that contains a multitude of unexpected relatives, breaking down a brick wall or two, allowing the researcher to trace his/her family back several more generations.

Used properly in a sentence: "I found eight relatives I didn't even know I had in the family jackplot!"

Friday, May 13, 2011

Food for Thought

"The dead don't die. They look on and help." – D.H. Lawrence, Author, 1923

Friday, February 11, 2011

Record Yourself for Posterity!

A friend recommends StoryCorps, a project which endeavors to document personal histories for storage in the Library of Congress. Check out the video here:

To learn more about StoryCorps, visit their website:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

"Stranger On The Shore"

My aunt recently posted this on Facebook, noting that her parents loved this song. So, this is for them.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Great Quote

“Death is a challenge. It tells us not to waste time. It tells us to tell each other right now that we love each other.” - Leo Buscaglia