April 21, 2015

Ben Affleck and The Can of Worms


For those who haven't seen the dozens of news stories online, Ben Affleck was featured on Henry Louis Gates' PBS show Finding Your Roots. During the course of filming, Affleck learned that he has a slave owner ancestor. Leaked emails from Sony between Gates and Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton reveal that Affleck did not want this aired in public and wanted that part edited out. 

You can read the emails yourself but basically Gates made it clear he didn't like the idea of hiding the facts (truth). The producer then said as long as no one else had seen it and it could never be found out, humour Affleck and don't use it. Affleck was referred to as a "mega-star" and both men worried about making sure he got what he wanted.

And so his true family history was hidden. Affleck got the white-washed version he wanted where all his ancestors were public-spirited justice-seeking good guys.  And of course all genealogists know that's a crock! Our ancestors were real people. They include the good and the bad, the farmer and the daredevil. Some we would like if we met them, others ... not so much. 

The bottom line is that what our ancestors did is no reflection on us. Just as we cannot blame ourselves if we discover we had a "bad seed" in the ancestor mix, nor can we take credit for those who did amazing things. We can feel proud of them, or we can feel sorrow over misdeeds. But we need to accept who they were, and that their actions good or bad were in a different time and place. 

It is only by learning about the past that we can stop evil from happening in the future. We learn from mistakes and they should not be hidden or deleted from our family tree or from history.

It's a shame Affleck didn't adopt Bill Paxton's approach on TLC’s "Who Do You Think You Are?", when he learned he had a slave owner as an ancestor. Mr. Paxton's response was that it was a shame but "your history good and bad is your history" And that, Mr. Affleck is the point. 

Embrace your history, both the positive and the negative! Learn from it. Don't attempt to create a fictional family tree full of heroes and noble ancestors. 

But as the saying goes "Karma will out" and now Mr. Affleck's request for an edited  version of his family tree has bitten him in the (ahem) with the truth now known world-wide. What would have been seen by a small number of viewers watching the show, and truly not a big deal has become a huge deal with many casting stones Affleck's way. The perception by many, including me, is that it was a misuse of celebrity status to facilitate censorship. And this is never a good thing.

Credit:  Photo by Stoonn.

April 20, 2015

Are You Brave Enough to Eat Like a Dutch Settler in New York?

This is kind of cool. A local restaurant in Brooklyn New York is offering food items that our early Dutch settlers in New Netherland (present day New York) might have eaten.

Read the full story at Brooklyn Brewery Dares Diners To Eat Like Dutch Settlers

Credits: Image from Brooklyn Brewery

April 19, 2015

Nursing Sister Philips WW1 Photo Album 30R Sisters in Front of Tent

This Photo Archive consists of a small autograph album (6.5" by 5.25") kept by Constance (Connie) Philips as a memento of her time serving as a nurse during World War One. 

The majority of the photos and items are from 1915, when she served as a nurse in France and Britain.

Nursing Sister Philips WW1 Photo Album 30R Sisters in Front of Tent


The album and all photographs, postcards, and other ephemera contained in the album belong to Karin Armstrong and may not be copied or republished without her written permission. The images will be published on Olive Tree Genealogy with permission.

Each image has been designated an "R" for Recto or a "V" for Verso plus an album page number. Recto is the right-hand side page of a bound book while Verso is the left-hand side page.

I will be posting the entire album and my additional research on the individuals identified in Connie's album over the coming months so please check back frequently to view these historic photos. The easiest way to see what has been published is to click on the topic "Nursing Sister WW1 Photos" in the vertical menu bar on the right side of your screen. You can also click on that phrase at the bottom of this post.

April 17, 2015

Get Ready for Who Do You Think You Are? This Sunday

This week on Who Do You Think You Are? Bill Paxton researches his paternal lineage, uncovering the life of an ancestor who was a war hero in an historic battle; and struggling with the morality of actions his four times great grandfather took. 

The episode airs this Sunday, April 19 at 10/9c on TLC.

Who Do You Think You Are is sponsored by Ancestry.com

Photo Credit: TLC

April 16, 2015

April 15, 2015

Case #25: Send Theodore G. Harding's Dog Tags Home

Nancy B. wrote to Olive Tree Genealogy:

HELP ME FIND THIS SAILOR! I found this vintage dog tag 2 years ago (shoved into a heating duct) while renovating our 70-year old house. Out of respect, I just wedged it back in. However the more I think about it, the more I wonder if he is still alive, if he had any children, and how this might be a sentimental treasure. I DID find that a "Ted Harding" lived in this house in the past and that he would now be in his 80's.

The dog tag reads

Harding, Theodore G. 
259 05 79 AB
USN  P

April 14, 2015

Help send W.T. Waterston's WW1 Medals Home

The Absolutely Literate blog has a plea for help in finding the family of WW1 soldier William Thomas Waterston. Some Medals once owned by this soldier need to go home. 

His Attestation papers are found in the online CEF (Canadian Expeditionary Force) database

If you want to help, please read the full story at Help send W.T. Waterston's Medals Home