Australian Genealogist Keith Johnson Elected a Fellow of The IGRS

The following announcement was written by the Irish Genealogical Research Society:

Keith A. Johnson

It is with pleasure that we announce that high profile Australian genealogist Keith A. Johnson, AM, FSG, FSAG, FRAHS, has been elected a Fellow of the Irish Genealogical Research Society.  The formal, public announcement of his election would have occurred at the IGRS Annual General Meeting in London on Saturday, 9th May, but due to the Covid-19 health crisis that event has been postponed.

In announcing this award IGRS Chairman Steven Smyrl said “Keith has had a long and distinguished career in genealogy and he has been to the forefront of developments in the field in Australia for decades. He is the 92nd person to have been honoured with the Fellowship of the IGRS in its 84-year history.  He is the sixth Australasian (and fifth Australian) to be so elected, following Andrew Clifford (New Zealand, 1995), Rosemary Coleby (2005), Nick Reddan (2006), Lindsay Bellhouse (2009) and Terry Eakin (2012).”

Virginia Beach Man Finds a Receipt for the Sale of Four Slaves in 1858. He Now Wants to Find Their Descendants.

About 15 or 20 years ago, Andy Ott, as typical, bought a couple of volumes from an antique store. As typical, a folded piece of paper remained stuck in its pages. One side of the light blue paper contained a perfunctory notation: “Bill of Sale from Daniel Fisher. $1300”

The other side contained a passage that still haunts Ott.

Zvi Bernhardt, R.I.P.

Zvi Bernhardt of Yad Vashem died suddenly Thursday night. He was Deputy Director of the Hall of Names and the Deputy Director of Reference and Information Services at Yad Vashem (Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust) and had spoken at several International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies conferences. He was 57 or 58 years old.

A tribute to the life of Zvi Bernhard may be found on the web site of the Israel Genealogy Research Association (IGRA) at:

101-Year Old Cancer Survivor Has Now Survived Two Pandemics in Her Lifetime

Angelina Friedman survived cancer, miscarriages, internal bleeding, sepsis and now not one, but two pandemics. More than 100 years after living through the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, the 101-year-old woman recently was infected by the coronavirus but now has recovered.

Details may be found in an article by Mallory Hughes in CNN at:

Bill Wyman: Amateur Historian and Would-Be Archivist

This article is not genealogy-related but it does deal with history. I also found it interesting.

Bill Wyman in 1975 while a member of the Rolling Stones

83-year-old Bill Wyman is an amateur historian and a metal detector enthusiast. Treasure detecting adventures in the British Isles are detailed in Wyman’s 2005 illustrated book Treasure Islands, co-written with Richard Havers.

“I’ve found 200 old coins, Roman brooches and an axe from 1700 BC. I’ve discovered Roman sites, all manner of 15th-century artifacts, all of which are verified by the British Museum.”

Wyman says that he should have been an archivist. However, he missed his calling and did not follow that career path. Instead, he spent the past 60 years as a singer and guitarist.

Bill Wyman’s best-known career was when he was a member of the Rolling Stones from 1962 until 1993.

In a related note, a member of the Rolling Stones is now 83 years old! (gasp)

Since 1997, Bill Wyman has recorded and toured with his own band, Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings. I have several of the Rhythm Kings’ albums and listen to them often.

A more recent photo of Bill Wyman

OK, so they are not really record albums. I own them as MP3 audio files. I’m not THAT old-fashioned, even if I am an aging Stones fan and have been to several of their concerts over the years (and Mick Jagger doesn’t look so young these days either)!

Last Survivor of the U.S. Transatlantic Slave Trade Discovered

There may be people alive today who remember this woman! Matilda McCrear lived until 1940 – the last survivor of the transatlantic slave trade. Matilda died in Selma, Alabama, in January 1940, at the age 83 – and her rebellious life story was the last living link with slaves abducted from Africa.

Matilda had been captured by slave traders in West Africa at the age of two, arriving in Alabama in 1860 on board one of the last transatlantic slave ships. With her mother Grace, and sister Sallie, Matilda had been bought by a wealthy plantation owner called Memorable Creagh.

You can read the full story in an article by Sean Coughlan in the BBC News web site at:

Bob McLaren, R.I.P.

It is with sadness that I learned of the death of Bob McLaren, a friend for many years and a genealogy expert. Bob was a fixture at many of the national genealogy conferences, always dressed in a kilt and usually talking about Scottish history. If you ever attended one of the Saturday evening dinners that I sponsored after a conference, you probably met Bob McLaren. I believe he attended almost all of them.

Roberta Estes wrote a nice tribute at that describes his activities and his personality perfectly. You can find Roberta’s tribute at:

Carol Skydell, R.I.P.

Longtime Marha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, resident, Carol Skydell died on March 4 in Camarillo, California, at age 94. Quoting from her obituary:

“Carol thrived in her role as town clerk for eight years before finally retiring. She was seldom idle and followed her evolving and diverse interests with an all-encompassing and tireless passion. For several years she devoted herself to genealogy and through her extensive work with the Jewish Genealogical Society, she assisted hundreds of people the world over in finding their roots, and in at least two notable cases she discovered close living relatives of people who were thought to have died many years before.”


“Long before she left the Vineyard for the last time, Carol gave instructions to her sons that when the time came, her ashes were to be spread along the Squibnocket shore at sunrise. On rare moments of indecisiveness, she would change that request to Menemsha at sunset. While this dilemma remained unresolved at the time of her death, Carol had already placed a granite marker at the foot of her husband Marvin’s grave in the Hebrew Cemetery. The marker bearing her name is engraved, ‘She’s at the Beach.'”

You can read the entire obituary at:

Massachusetts Governor Baker Appoints Brenton Simons Vice Chair of State Commission

The following announcement was written by New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS)–American Ancestors:

Brenton Simons Named Vice Chair of Plymouth, Massachusetts, 400th Anniversary Commission by Governor Charles D. Baker

March 5, 2020—Boston, Massachusetts ― Massachusetts Governor Charles D. Baker has appointed Boston nonprofit executive Brenton Simons as the Vice Chair of the State Commission tasked with organizing commemorations of the Plymouth 400th anniversary this year. Since 2005, Simons has served as President and CEO of the nation’s largest genealogical society, New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS)–American Ancestors. The organization, founded in 1845, has grown exponentially during his tenure ― now serving more than 325,000 members and millions of online users with 1.4 billion searchable online names.

Dusty Rhodes of Conventures serves as Chair of the Commission, formed in September 2016 by the two-term, Republican Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to ensure a befitting national and state observance of the settlement of Plymouth Colony in 1620. “I’m delighted that Brenton has accepted this appointment as the new Vice Chair of the Commission,” said Rhodes. “He brings talent, vision, and an enthusiastic team spirit to the organizational efforts of this important leadership group—charged with creating a commemoration which is a true reflection of Massachusetts’ rich history and diverse cultural contributions.”

Johni Cerny, R.I.P.

Fascinated by family trees since childhood, she became, Henry Louis Gates Jr. said, “the proverbial dean of American genealogical research.”
Johni Cerny, the chief genealogist for the PBS series “Finding Your Roots,” who helped some 200 famous people — among them Oprah Winfrey, Quincy Jones, Senator Bernie Sanders, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi — trace their ancestry, died on Wednesday in Lehi, Utah, near Salt Lake City. She was 76.
“Johni Cerny was the proverbial dean of American genealogical research,” Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Harvard professor who is a host and executive producer of “Finding Your Roots,” said in a statement. In an email message on Thursday, he described her work as “transforming raw data into narratives and metaphors about diversity and our common humanity.”
You can read her full obituary in the New York Times at
My thanks to newsletter reader W David Samuelsen for telling me about this sad story.

Ruth Gray, R.I.P.

Well-known Maine genealogist Ruth Gray passed away on December 28, 2019 at the age of 103. She was born in Old Town, Maine, on April 15, 1916, to Samuel Braley Gray and Bessie Pendleton Benson Gray. She was a descendant of George A. Gray who helped start the Old Town Canoe Company in 1901.

Ruth Gray accomplished many things in her busy life. During World War II, she was appointed by the Governor of Maine as the Municipal Chairman of the Women’s Division of the Civilian Defense Council and served with the American Red Cross driving a Clubmobile just behind the front lines in the European Theater with the 19th Corps. As a Red Cross volunteer, she drove a halftrack through the Battle of The Bulge to bring coffee and doughnuts and other food to soldiers behind the front lines.

Destroyed Identities – the Digital Reconstruction of Auschwitz-Birkenau Victims’ Data

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum is dedicated to the former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp in Oświecim, Poland. The museum is attempting to identify all the former prisoners who were incarcerated there. According to the museum’s web site:

“More than 1,200,000 entries from the post-camp documentation have been created by the Digital Repository of the Memorial Site. So far, more than 60 per cent of the 400,000 prisoners registered in the German Nazi concentration camp have been identified.

Human Remains Found in Idaho Cave Identified as Outlaw Who Died Over 100 Years Ago

Talk about a “cold case!” Joseph Loveless most likely died in 1916 at age 46. His remains were preserved in a Cave for as long as 63 years, researchers say.

The dismembered and headless John Doe, whose remains were found in the Civil Defense Caves near Dubois, Idaho, in 1979 and 1991, was identified as those of Joseph Henry Loveless. His remarkably preserved remains are thought to have been placed in the caves in 1916.

You can read the full story in an article by Janelle Griffith in the NBC News web site at:

While the human remains have been identified, the “cold case” is not yet solved. The cause of death has not yet been determined. If Joseph Loveless was the victim of a crime, such as murder, the perpetuator also has not yet been identified. Admittedly, for a crime committed 63 years, the perpetrator probably will not be arrested. He or she probably is deceased by now. Of course, Joseph Loveless may have died of natural causes.

My thanks to the several newsletter readers who wrote to tell me about this story.

Another Interesting Obituary: Katy Lynn McDonald

This isn’t so much a humorous obituary as it is a thoughtful remembrance of what sounds like a very nice lady. Here is the beginning:

“Katy Lynn McDonald escaped this mortal realm on December 14, 2019. She was 80, we think. The family believes she did it on purpose to avoid having to cast another vote in the American elections.

“Katy was world-renowned (#itsasmallworldafterall) for her generosity and kind disposition. She never met a stranger but she brought a few home (David W., you were our favorite). Mom offered a charm, wit, and undying love to those who were her friends. She was simply an amazing gal, part saint part sinner all bundled up into one marvelous package. If you were fortunate to have met her, you’d have liked her immediately… she was just that kind of person.”

Steven Smyrl Elected a Fellow of the Society of Genealogists

The following announcement was written by the Accredited Genealogists Ireland:

The prominent Irish genealogist Steven Smyrl has been elected a Fellow of the Society of Genealogists (SoG). The London-based organisation is one of the most prestigious bodies dedicated to ancestral research and it is, indeed, an honour to be granted its Fellowship. His election may be seen as due recognition of his long years of distinguished service to the field of Irish genealogy.

Steven’s most significant contribution to the wider genealogical community, and to society at large, relates to civil registration in Ireland. He was the driving force behind a successful campaign which achieved fundamental change on both sides of the border.

American Society of Genealogists grants ASG Scholar Award for 2020 to Denise Cross and Candace Marx

The following announcement was written by the American Society of Genealogists:

The ASG Scholar Award rewards talented genealogists with stipends to pursue advanced academic training in genealogy. At its meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, on November 2, 2019, the American Society of Genealogists granted the ASG Scholar Award to two recipients:

To Denise Cross of Berlin, Massachusetts, for her article “Uniting the Identity of Samuel Fletcher of New York and Vermont.”

To Candace Marx of Norridge, Illinois, for her article “A Luxembourger Family Comes to America: The Wagners of Aurora, Illinois.”

Ms. Cross will use her award to attend the Genealogical Research Program of Pittsburgh (GRIP) and Ms. Marx will use her award to attend the Excelsior College Genetic Genealogy Program.

American Society of Genealogists awards Certificate of Appreciation to David E. Rencher

The following announcement was written by the American Society of Genealogists

David Rencher

On rare occasions the American Society of Genealogists awards a Certificate of Appreciation to an individual or organization in recognition of extraordinary contributions to the discipline of genealogy. At its Annual Meeting November 2, 2019, the Society awarded a Certificate of Appreciation to David Rencher, A.G., C.G., Chief Genealogical Officer of FamilySearch and, from 1999 to 2002 and again since 2018, Director of the Family History Library, in recognition of his vigorous and visionary efforts to serve the aims of scholarly genealogy at the Family History Library and at FamilySearch.

Laboratory for Advanced Medicine Inc. has Hired a new Chief Executive Officer: Kenneth Chahine, a former Executive

Friends and former co-workers might be interested to know that Kenneth Chahine, Ph.D., J.D., has moved to Laboratory for Advanced Medicine Inc. He is the new CEO and is competing with several venture-backed startups in a new market for blood tests that detect cancer in its early stages.

Laboratory for Advanced Medicine is an AI-driven healthcare company focused on commercializing early cancer detection tests from a simple blood draw.

You can read the announcement at:

Matt Menashes Tapped as Executive Director of the National Genealogical Society

The following announcement was written by the (U.S.) National Genealogical Society:

FALLS CHURCH, VA, 1 NOVEMBER 2019—The National Genealogical Society (NGS) Board of Directors welcomes Matt Menashes, a veteran executive with twenty years’ experience in association management, as executive director. He will begin his employment with NGS on 1 November 2019. Menashes will lead all operational aspects of the national membership organization, while working with the Board to develop a shared vision for the future as NGS moves toward a merger with the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) by October 2020.

Menashes comes to NGS from the natural resources sector, where he was a senior executive in associations in outdoor recreation, coastal and marine management, wildlife, and forestry. He has driven increases in member engagement, revenue, and educational programming for multiple organizations. He is a Certified Association Executive (CAE) and a longtime member of both the American Society of Association Executives and BoardSource. Menashes currently serves on the Board of Leveling the Playing Field, a charity that provides sports equipment to underserved youth throughout the Washington, DC/Baltimore region.

American Ancestors Presents Lifetime Achievement Award to Author, Historian Joseph Ellis

The following announcement was written by American Ancestors and New England Historic Genealogical Society:

American Ancestors and New England Historic Genealogical Society Present Lifetime Achievement Award to Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author and Historian Joseph J. Ellis

Two Local Luminaries of Boston’s Cultural World—Vivian Spiro and Donald Friary—Are Honored for Leadership in History and Preservation

October 29, 2019—Boston, Massachusetts—On Thursday evening, October 24, 2019, New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS)—known to many as American Ancestors—honored one of the nation’s leading historians and most popular authors, Joseph J. Ellis, with its coveted NEHGS Lifetime Achievement Award. Ellis is the author of many acclaimed works of American history including Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, and American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson, which won the National Book Award.