Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 158

In the new Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode 158, get an exclusive Chronicling America tutorial from the manager of this enormous, free historical newspaper website. Also: a loving daughter hears her father answer important questions 35 years after his death;, a fallen soldier’s remains are identified, a DNA question about Native American ancestry, and reading picks from the Genealogy Gems Book Club.

The newest episode of the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast has a headline-worthy interview for everyone with U.S. roots! Newspaper research guru Lisa Louise Cooke goes deep into the free, fabulous Chronicling America historical newspaper website with Deborah Thomas, Library of Congress manager for the sponsoring National Digital Newspaper Program. Premium eLearning members will get the scoop on how the site came to be and who chooses what content gets digitized. Hear about a lesser-known tool on the site that can help you find copies of your ancestors’ local papers. Best of all, get tips from both Deborah and Lisa on how to search the site for newspaper stories that reveal your family history.

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast 158: More newsworthy highlights

Here’s what else Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning members will find in this exclusive podcast episode:

  • A family finally lays to rest their fallen U.S. soldier in Arlington National Cemetery–and solves the mystery of his fate after decades.
  • A listener writes in to tell us about a precious discovery, 35 years after she lost her father: recordings of his voice, telling the stories she always wanted to hear from him.
  • A fascinating DNA question about identifying Native American ancestry.
  • Great reading suggestions for fans of the Genealogy Gems Book Club–a listener recommendation and two more titles inspired by the episode itself.

Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning opens doors

The new Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning (previously known as Premium Membership) opens doors to new ideas and inspiration for your family history research. Premium Podcast episodes such as this one are published every month–and Premium eLearning has the entire archive. New Premium Videos publish regularly, and now include a full DNA tutorial series (click here to see a list of all the videos). All Premium eLearning materials are packed with genealogy strategies, tips, how-tos and links you can use right away. Click here to learn more about Premium eLearning and how it can help you open doors to your own family stories.

These UK Suffragette Records Tell Amazing Stories

UK suffragette records tell amazing stories about the women and men who fought the British government for women’s voting rights a century ago. Nathan Dylan Goodwin, the popular Genealogy Gems Book Club author, shares three of his favorite sources for discovering suffragette stories like the one that unfolds in his new short story, “The Suffragette’s Secret.”

Thanks to Genealogy Gems Book Club author Nathan Dylan Goodwin for contributing this guest blog post.

My new short story, “The Suffragette’s Secret,” features a fictional main character, Grace Emmerson, a suffragette living on the South Coast of England in Brighton. But many of the events and supporting characters described in the story are real. In the story, forensic genealogist Morton Farrier uses real historical documents while working in the modern day to uncover Grace’s suffragette past. Many of these historical records (over 55,000 of them) are now available online in the FindmyPast Suffragette Collection.

Morton and I would recommend spending some time browsing this fascinating collection from a pivotal moment in women’s history. Even if your own ancestors did not make the headlines, they may have been involved at a more local level. And the lives of both women and men in your family may have been affected by suffragette activity, whether or not they are mentioned by name in the records. So it is a collection definitely worth exploring.

UK suffragette records I love

1. Suffragette Amnesty register (HO 45/24665)

With the threat of war and its having become inevitable in August 1914, most of the dominant suffragette organizations, including the Women’s Social and Political Union suspended all militant activity. In response, the British government gave an amnesty to more than one thousand women (and some men) who had been arrested for the cause. Their amnesty records are part of the Findmypast Suffragette Collection and also searchable at Ancestry.com (if your subscription includes UK records).

Alongside the names of those arrested comes the date and court where the charge was originally brought – an excellent starting point for further research.

In “The Suffragette’s Secret,” I referenced the real-life case of Nellie Godfrey. In the Amnesty Register of 1914, her name and references appear thus in the image shown here (the links lead to Google Maps references of the Bow Street magistrate’s court):

Godfrey, Nellie
Bow Street 9/7/09 180.782
Bolton 8/12/1909 186.626
Bow Street 27/11/11 203.651

Taking the second reference as an example of where this record can lead, this shows that Nellie appeared on the 8th December 1909 before Bolton Magistrate’s Court. 

Searching for these criteria in Findmypast’s Suffragette Newspaper Collection brings up the following story: ‘Nellie Godfrey, of London, was charged at Bolton yesterday with throwing a missile at a motor car in which Mr [Winston] Churchill rode to his meeting on Tuesday night, and was fined 40s or seven days. Defendant went to prison. It was stated that the missile thrown was a piece of iron wrapped in a paper bearing the words “Thrown by a woman of England as a protest against the Government’s treatment of political prisoners.”’

For most of these records, further information exists at the National Archives. Prefixing the reference number with HO (for Home Office) and typing it into the document search box (HO 186626) on the National Archives website brings up a link to a document which details Nellie’s arrest and time in prison. (Unfortunately, these records are not yet digitized, but can be ordered.)

2. Calendar of Prisoners

These records, about suffragette prisoners who were tried in the London courts between 1911 and 1914, feature some of the prominent names from the movement, including the famous Pankhursts (one of whom is shown in the Calendar of Prisoners image below):

One record found in Crim 9/58 is that of Emily Wilding Davison, shown here. She was killed when she threw herself under the king’s horse at Epsom on 8th June 1913. Among several interesting details found in a document pertaining to an earlier arrest in December 1911 are to be found the following facts:

Emily Wilding Davison, 36, a tutor, arrested for ‘unlawfully and maliciously placing in a Post Office letter box a dangerous substance likely to injure the same and its contents and attempt to commit like offence.’ She was jailed at Holloway for six months.

This type of militancy, placing dye or some other kind of corrosive liquid into a letter box in order to render the letters inside illegible, was common among suffragettes and an act often making the local newspapers, which can be read about as part of the Suffragette Collection.

Further records for Emily Wilding Davison exist in the FindmyPast Suffragette Collection, including HO 144/1150/210696, which details several of her actions and subsequent convictions.

3. Suffragettes’ Complaints against Police (MEPO 3/203)

During my research for “The Suffragette’s Secret,” I visited the National Archives and accessed the Suffragette’s Complaints against Police, which was then not available online. At 286 pages, “Complaints against Police” provides an illuminating account of how the police handled a large group of suffragettes who had converged on Downing Street, intent on gaining access to the Prime Minister’s (Herbert Asquith) residence. A sample appears here, to the right.

The file includes several accounts from the perspective of the police involved, in which they all strenuously deny any harsh treatment of the women whom they encountered there. In contradiction to this are the numerous and varied statements from men and women involved in the altercation in which physical abuse and violence by the policemen was described as wide-spread, as this statement from the file attests:

‘About 2.15 in Parliament Square PC A.R.82 struck a Women’s Social & Political Union member in the face. At about 2.30 between Parliament Square and Cannon Row, almost opposite Palace Chambers, PC R.R.21 twisted the arm of and shook furiously a lady he had arrested. She was not resisting arrest. During the raid in Downing Street yesterday evening PC 449B got his knee into the middle of one woman’s back and knocked her down. PC 456E afterwards banged the same woman’s head repeatedly against the railings. I can produce my witness at any inquiry.’

This Suffragette Collection from FindmyPast contains a wealth of information useful to genealogists, social historians and those interested in women’s history. Other records available include cabinet papers, the treatment and force-feeding of political prisoners and various actions and imprisonments of the women men and men involved in the fight to gain the ability to vote.

Nathan Dylan Goodwin is one of our favorite Genealogy Gems Book Club authors! He’s a must-read for anyone who loves a good mystery–especially when the solving is led by a skilled (and very likable) forensic genealogist. Nathan first joined the Genealogy Gems Podcast to talk about his book The Lost Ancestor, but he now has several Morton Farrier, Forensic Genealogist books out. The newest one is a 2-for-1 bonus: “The Suffragette’s Secret,” the short story, is published with his new full-length book, The Wicked Trade. Click on these titles to order them–or check out all his books (and other great titles) on the Genealogy Gems Book Club webpage.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

Genealogy Book Club Gems: Add These to Your Must-Read List

These three must-read titles from our Genealogy Book Club would be great stocking stuffers for yourself or someone you love. See my newest book recommendations for family history lovers by best-selling authors Christina Baker Kline (Orphan Train) and A.J. Jacobs (The Year of Living Biblically)–and another author I recently discovered and couldn’t stop reading.

genealogy gems book club must reads

3 Must-Read Books for Family History Lovers

1. A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

“You can never escape the bonds of family history, no matter how far you travel. And the skeleton of a house can carry in its bones the marrow of all that came before.” So says the Prologue to a new novel by best-selling novelist Christina Baker Kline, whose novel Orphan Train has been loved by millions around the world (and a lot of Genealogy Gems Book Club fans–we featured it in 2014).

A Piece of the World is a unique and irresistible story about a woman whose physical disabilities and family’s demands keep her adventure-loving spirit firmly homebound. Granted, her home is a fascinating place: a 1700s-era home on the coast of Maine that has been passed down for several generations. But the noble legacy of the home instills a sense of obligation in those who live there now: do they stay on the family land at all costs, even the cost of their happiness and health? What happens when a family’s heritage becomes a burden, not a blessing?

Those who love American art will love that the main character, Christina, was inspired by the subject of the Andrew Wyeth painting, Christina’s World. (You can see an image of the painting here.) Christina was a real person who lived in this home. Andrew visited her and her brother and painted them many times. So the characters and setting are real, and the house is actually a National Historic Landmark now. Christina Baker Kline’s “fictional memoir” gives this historical Christina a powerful, honest, and insightful voice: the voice of a person who sees and tells it like it is–except the parts she just can’t see for herself.

2. It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree by A.J. Jacobs

You could say A.J. Jacobs is famous for asking questions that seem both important and inane, and then pursuing the answers and writing about it. That’s what he did with his best-selling book The Year of Living Biblically, a chronicle of the time he tried to obey every rule in the Bible. Now he’s done it again in his new book, It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree.

The questions A.J. set out to answer here were, “Who is really my family? And what would happen if I tried to host the world’s biggest family reunion?” He’s been working on this topic for a while. Remember the Global Family Reunion in 2015? That was his brainchild. He also spoke at RootsTech in 2016.

A.J.’s voice is witty with lots of digressions, pop culture references, and a definite urban beat (NYC, specifically). He meditates on what genealogical connections mean to him and the larger story the world’s family tree tells us. Like, we’re all related, and therefore shouldn’t we get along better? But with the quick disclaimer that he’s not inviting us all over for New Year’s brunch. He did that already at the Global Family Reunion–which he reports on in detail. (Did it succeed? Did it fail? I’ve been wondering myself since 2015). In the appendix, he recommends all kinds of genealogy how-to resources, including Genealogy Gems.

If you yourself are somewhat relaxed and perhaps even a little irreverent about your genealogy hobby, you’ll likely really enjoy this book. What about the more earnest family historians? It’s still worth a glimpse into how others see us. A.J. comes peeking into the world of genealogy ready to crack jokes. And he does plenty of that. But he also comes away with a great deal of respect for the stories and relationships that can–and should, he says–bring us closer together.

3. Shannon by Frank Delaney

This isn’t a new book this year–it’s a classic I only recently discovered and can’t recommend more enthusiastically! I listened to the audiobook version, which the author narrates himself with great skill. Now I’m going to buy the print version so I can re-read, underline, and dog-ear all the passages that made me swoon. Oh. My. Goodness. Frank Delaney is a MASTER storyteller. He crafts every sentence, every image. You can practically see the story lines unfold, hear every action, smell it. I gasped, I cried, I laughed–all out loud in the car as I listened.

Shannon is a stunning tale: Father Shannon, an American Catholic priest of Irish descent, has serious “shell-shock” trauma after serving in the trenches of World War I. His archbishop sends him on a respite trip to Ireland to travel up the Shannon River looking for his family roots. He lands in the middle of an Irish Civil War—but also encounters person after person who helps him rediscover his faith in humanity and the restorative balm of daily life. Meanwhile, intrigue is afoot within his home archdiocese. A killer, who has his own traumatic backstory in Ireland, is dispatched to make sure Father Shannon never returns home. Their stories converge in a place of love, but also far too close to a place of pain. And that’s all I’m going to tell you about it. Read it or listen–and then clear a spot on your reading list for his epic novel, Ireland, which I read immediately after this one and also loved.

Genealogy Book Club: It’s All about YOU

genealogy book club family history readingThe Genealogy Gems Book Club is a service we provide the genealogy community because we love giving you more to talk and think about! We handpick our favorite mainstream fiction and nonfiction books that have great genealogy themes, such as someone searching out their family history, the complexities of family relationships, and the fascinating times and places our ancestors experienced.

As a special bonus, we sometimes invite authors of our Book Club titles to join us on the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast, available by subscription. It’s so fun to hear my favorite authors gush about the same kinds of topics I love! Hear from beloved and best-selling writers like Fannie Flagg, Annie Barrows, Helen Simonson, Lalita Tademy, and a favorite of genealogists around the world, Nathan Dylan Goodwin. Click here to see our full book list and where you can hear these interviews.

No More Late Fees! Check Out Free Genealogy Magazines and eBooks at Your Local Library

Your local library may offer free genealogy magazines and ebooks. Why choose them over print? So many reasons! No more late fees. Read on the go. Choose your font size. So go ahead: check out digital versions of that Genealogy Gems Book Club title you’ve been meaning to read, or the current issue of Family Tree Magazine. Here’s how.

genealogy library freebies

Here in the U.S., it’s my favorite time of year: back-to-school! The weather slowly cools. My children shake off summer’s mental lethargy. My own schedule resumes a more predictable, productive rhythm. And after months spent outdoors, I rediscover my local library. Top on my library list this fall: free genealogy ebooks and magazines I can check out on my mobile device. It’s on-the-go reading for my favorite hobby–with no searching under my bed when items come due to avoid those pesky late fees.

Free Genealogy eBooks and Magazines

Genealogy Gems Premium Member Autumn feels the same way about free genealogy gems at her local library. Here’s a letter she wrote to Lisa Louise Cooke:

“I’m really enjoying both the Premium and free podcasts. I also like the addition of the Genealogy Gems Book Club. I haven’t read all the books yet but am adding them all to my wishlist on Overdrive, a free app that allows you to check out digital books for free from your local library. They don’t have every book but they have many, many books including some from the book club. Most libraries have a lot of biographies and histories available through Overdrive for free that are of interest to genealogists as well. Some libraries are adding video to their Overdrive offerings too.

Many of these same libraries offer magazines free as well.  My library…use[s] Zinio, a magazine app. I only subscribe to a couple of magazines now because I can get so many for free through my library (not to mention keeping my home neater by not having them laying everywhere).”

genealogy book club family history readingIt makes me happy that Autumn is enjoying the Genealogy Gems Book Club. We hear from many avid readers who love browsing our list of mainstream fiction and nonfiction picks for family history lovers. As part of our book club, we interview every book club author, too–from beloved novelists like Fannie Flagg to acclaimed journalists, memoir writers, and historians who take their own unique approaches to family history themes. Hear excerpts of these interviews on the free Genealogy Gems Podcast; full interviews run on the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast, available by subscription.

Overdrive and Zinio

At Autumn’s recommendation, I started using Overdrive through my local library. I love it! I’ve listened to several digital audiobooks on the road and at the gym through Overdrive and have read several ebooks, too. (I’m always on the hunt for the next Genealogy Gems Book Club title.) The books just disappear at the end of the lending period (hence the “no late fees” bonus).

Genealogy Gems Service Manager Lacey Cooke loves Overdrive, too. She sent me these four reasons why:

1. Download for Offline Listening: “You can download the ebooks, audiobooks, magazines etc. to your device so that you can enjoy them offline (great for traveling). They’ll still disappear once your lending period expires, but having them available offline is awesome. You don’t have to worry about data charges or slow internet connections.

2. The Wishlist: Autumn briefly mentioned the Wishlist feature. I love this feature because it gives me somewhere to save book titles that I’m interested in reading at some point, but I’m not ready to check out just yet.

3. Bookmark/Syncing: You can bookmark a page, then pick up where you left off. If you have the Overdrive app on multiple devices, the app syncs. I can start reading on one device, and pick up on another right where I left off.

4. Format Adjustments: You can adjust the font style, size, and color to make it easier for you to read. I like to pick a nice, clean font in a big size so there’s no strain on my eyes.”

It’s worth noting that if you don’t already have a library card with your local library, you may be required to sign up in person to get a card, even if you only plan on using the Overdrive app to request items online. New releases or popular titles may have a wait list to check out the ebook or audiobook (especially if the library only possesses one copy). If you do have to place an ebook on hold, you will be notified via email when it becomes available to you, so if you don’t check your email regularly, keep that in mind when you place a hold. Each library system is different, so of course, your experience may vary.

Another helpful tip: not every library offers Overdrive ebook checkouts. But sometimes you can use another library’s Overdrive privileges. Autumn sent a link to these instructions on how to do so. (Thanks, Autumn!)

Autumn also mentioned the Zinio app. My library doesn’t offer Zinio yet, so I spent a little time on its public search portal. That doesn’t have a browsable genealogy category, and searches for the terms family history, genealogy and ancestry came up empty. But I did finally find these titles:

Lisa Louise Cooke, Genealogy Gems DNA expert Diahan Southard, and I are all frequent contributors to Family Tree Magazine, which we {heart} and recommend for its easy-reading research tips, hands-on tech and DNA tutorials, and the eye-candy layout. (Click here to subscribe personally, if you don’t want to read through a library app.)

More Free Genealogy Resources at Your Local Library

Of course, your local library may offer many additional free genealogy research and reading materials. Of tremendous value is access to Library editions of popular genealogy databases such as Ancestry, Findmypast, Fold3, and MyHeritage, along with institutional versions of historical newspaper databases. (Click here to learn more about the differences between the major genealogy websites.) Call your library or browse its website to see what resources may be available with your library card on site or even remotely from your own home or mobile device. And remember to watch for your library’s e-media options like those recommended by Autumn.

As a special shout-out to all the free genealogy resources at your library, Lisa Louise Cooke has granted free access for everyone to Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode #125. In this episode, Lisa has a full discussion about more free genealogy gems at public libraries with Cheryl McClellan. Cheryl is not only my awesome mom, she rocks professionally as the Geauga County, Ohio public library system staff genealogist!

This Premium episode is usually exclusively for Genealogy Gems Premium members. If you love it, and you’re not already a member, consider gifting yourself a “back to school” subscription. It’s the most fun, energizing, apply-it-now genealogy learning experience you may ever have.

A Family History Murder Mystery: The New Genealogy Gems Book Club Pick

“A  true story of passion, family, and forgiveness in Southern Italy.” The subtitle to this family history murder mystery promises a LOT–and it delivers! It’s the new pick from the popular Genealogy Gems Book Club.

As a child, Helene Stapinski heard stories about her great-great-grandmother who fled Italy–with young children in tow–after being involved in a murder. Parts of the story were vague: who was killed? Why? When? How? Nobody knew. But other details were startlingly precise and consistent. She had to leave her husband behind. A man named Grieco helped her escape. A child was lost on the way to America.

Years later, Helene embarked on a 10-year quest to learn the truth behind this family legend. Her journey took her to Matera, Italy, “a province tucked away in the farthest reaches of Southern Italy…filled with such intense poverty that no one really liked to talk about it.” On her first trip, Helene got to know the region, some distant cousins, and a bit of local history–but came away with few answers about any actual murder. Other than that some of the locals didn’t want her prying into it.

But she didn’t give up.

And eventually, after traveling again to Italy, her determination and a small band of helpers led her finally to a 600-page criminal file from November of 1872.

It was true: there was a murder. But it wasn’t exactly as the family had said. In fact, the truth was SO different that Helene realized her family was not who she thought they were. And that meant Helene herself was not who she thought she was.

The rest, you can read for yourself in Helene’s new memoir, Murder in Matera: A True Story of Passion, Family, and Forgiveness in Southern Italy. It’s part history, part re-imagined family story. It’s a story of poverty and power, love, tragic decisions, and a courageous and desperate woman’s leap for a new life across the ocean. Helene continues to unravel a past that she explored in her fantastic first family history memoir, Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History, an all-time favorite of mine. I read it again whenever I need a little boost of motivation to keep my own research going. Helene is so fantastic at telling her family stories within the bigger picture of the times they lived in–and her personal response reminds me how important my own family stories are to my own identity.

The rest, you can read for yourself in Helene’s new memoir, Murder in Matera: A True Story of Passion, Family, and Forgiveness in Southern Italy. The noted journalist continues to unravel a past that she explored in her fantastic first family history memoir, Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History. This new book is part history, part re-imagined family story. It’s a story of poverty and power, love, tragic decisions, and a courageous and desperate woman’s leap for a new life across the ocean.

Watch below as Helene introduces us to her genealogical journey:

New to the Genealogy Gems Book Club?

The Genealogy Gems Book Club serves up delectable reading choices for family history lovers! You’ll find top titles from best-selling authors from around the world: novels and true stories about families, family relationships, the search for identity or fascinating times in history. Click here to see what’s been on the menu lately.

…And thanks for sharing this recommended reading with your genealogy buddies!

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