Tracking Black Ancestry: Lessons from Genealogist Tony Burroughs

Tony-BurroughsTony Burroughs is an expert on Black American genealogy and also is an all-around good guy. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Tony for years and have always been impressed by both his knowledge and his delightful personality. Today, I was pleasantly surprised to see an article about Tony’s work written by Branden Hampton and published in the Northwestern University’s Medill news service.

Hampton writes:

“If you think that black lives matter, then ancestors’ lives matter as well: Without them, we wouldn’t be here today, says renowned African American genealogist Tony Burroughs.

Joanna Francis Lives Like It’s 1939

Joanna Francis of Burton upon Stather, Lincolnshire, England, was born too late. She prefers the lifestyle of 1939 and she lives it every day. She doesn’t own a television and the last time she used a washing machine was at least a decade ago. She doesn’t drive but does have an 80-year-old pedal bike. As to owning a computer, she would ask, “What’s that?”

In Joanna’s world, the clock is permanently stopped at some point in 1939 and her home in the picturesque village of Burton-upon-Stather in North Lincolnshire is an exact recreation of how we used to live, right down to the bomb blast tape on the windows.

Update: Lewis Bunker Rohrbaugh, R.I.P.

As mentioned in yesterday’s newsletter, Lewis Bunker Rohrbaugh passed away recently. He was the proprietor of Picton Press in Maine and also was well-known as an expert Swiss genealogist. He was also a Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists. His obituary has now been published:

Lewis Bunker Rohrbach, F.A.S.G., of Marco Island, Florida, and Worb, Switzerland, one of genealogy’s most dynamic and widely-respected writers and publishers, passed away in Naples, Florida, on 2 January 2016, after a short stay at Avow Hospice. Despite an illness that became critical several months ago, he was able to continue his research in early Swiss records up until a few days before his death.

Lew was born in Philadelphia on 28 October 1941, son of Lewis Henry and Ruth Elizabeth (Bunker) Rohrbaugh, and a Birthright Quaker. He attended Westtown School in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and then Amherst College, where he was a member of Phi Delta Sigma fraternity. After graduating in 1963 with a degree in Economics, he completed six months of training in the U.S. Army Reserves. He then began a professional career in the banking industry as credit analyst for Provident National Bank in Philadelphia, but quickly moved into the investment banking business, first with Butcher and Sherrerd brokerage in Philadelphia, and then with Endowment Management & Research Corporation in Boston. His final stint as an employee was a year as a vice-president of Arnhold and S. Bleichroeder in New York. In 1973 he formed his own consulting company and became one of the first securities analysts to extensively cover the burgeoning Japanese market; primary clients during that 15-year period were Endowment Management, Nikko Securities of Tokyo, and GT Management of London. His first marriage, in 1964 to Suzanne Potts, ended in divorce a decade later. He married, second, on 28 June 1980 in Rockport, Maine, Carol Allen Cressman, daughter of Dr. Paul Gerhardt and Betty (Allen) Cressman, who survives him. It was at the time of his second marriage that he changed his name from Rohrbaugh to its original spelling, Rohrbach.

Patricia Moorhead appointed Emeritus Member of AGI

The following was written by the Accredited Genealogists Ireland:

Accredited Genealogists Ireland (AGI) is pleased to announce that its very first Emeritus Member is Patricia Moorhead. She is a popular figure in Irish genealogy, known particularly for her witty and entertaining talks. Pat, as she is familiarly known to her friends, has been involved in family history research for over two decades. She was passed by the APGI (now AGI) assessors in 1999 and retained membership until a year ago, when she chose to retire.

At AGI’s Annual General Meeting in December 2015 a constitutional amendment was passed, allowing the Council to confer emeritus status on members or associate members who have retired. The status is not automatic on retirement. It recognised a long and valued association with AGI. Immediately after the AGM, a Council meeting was held at which Patricia Moorhead was named as the first person to receive Emeritus Membership. The decision was announced later that day at the annual lunch.

Patty Limerick named Colorado’s State Historian

The following was written by History Colorado:

Professor_Patty_LimerickDenver (January 11, 2016)—History Colorado and the University of Colorado Boulder have formed a collaborative partnership to advance the understanding and appreciation of Colorado’s vast history. As a key component of the partnership, Governor John Hickenlooper has named CU-Boulder Professor Patty Limerick to serve as the new Colorado State Historian.

“This strengthened partnership between these two Higher Education agencies is a demonstration of Colorado’s collaborative spirit and is a testament to the work that state agencies can do together,” said Governor Hickenlooper.

Curt DiCamillo Appointed Curator of Special Collections at New England Historic Genealogical Society

The following announcement was written by the folks at the New England Historic Genealogical Society:

CurtDiCamilloBoston, Massachusetts, January 11, 2016 ― Curt DiCamillo, the internationally recognized authority on English country houses and the decorative arts, has been appointed the New England Historic Genealogical Society’s (NEHGS) first Curator of Special Collections, a new position commencing February 29, 2016.

A longtime member of NEHGS, Mr. DiCamillo has led highly successful heritage tours for the organization to England and Scotland, has lectured extensively in the United States and abroad, and has taught classes on British culture and art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and elsewhere. Previously, he was for many years Executive Director of The National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA, based in Boston, where he successfully raised over $7 million and initiated many innovative programs. In addition, he worked at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, for 13 years. The New England Historic Genealogical Society, founded in 1845, is the leading nonprofit genealogical society in America, serving more than 150,000 constituents and millions of online users through its award-winning website,

D. Joshua Taylor Appointed President of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society

The many friends and acquaintances of Josh Taylor will be pleased to learn of today’s announcement from the Board of Trustees of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society:

Josh_TaylorNew York, New York, January 7, 2016. D. Joshua Taylor, the prominent genealogist, author, and lecturer, has been appointed President of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, effective February 1, 2016. He succeeds McKelden Smith, who is retiring after serving as its highly-regarded President of seven years.

Jeanne Sloane, chairman of the board of trustees of the NYG&B, said, “We are thrilled that Josh has accepted this position. He brings to the NYG&B dynamic energy and his well-known passion for the mission of genealogical societies in general. He has broad experience as an advanced researcher and riveting lecturer. Plus he has the expertise we require in the innovative use of technology in our field.”

Ms. Sloane also said that Mr. Taylor already knows the NYG&B unusually well. “Most recently,” she said, “Mr. Taylor was Director of Family History at While he was in this position he coordinated the integration of the NYG&B’s eLibrary with the Findmypast platform.

Twins Born in Different Years

This will cause confusion for future genealogists. Twins were born a few minutes apart on Thursday evening/Friday morning in San Diego, California. The confusing part is that the clock struck midnight during those few minutes. Not only were Jaelyn and Luis Salgado born on different days, they also were born in different years.

They became the last baby of 2015 and the first baby of 2016 at San Diego Kaiser Permanente Zion Medical Center.

Pictures and a video are available at

A Techie’s Obituary: “Bill’s Application has been Migrated to the Cloud”

This has gone viral on Reddit. William Fink was a life-long techie and lover of computers and all sorts of other assorted modern devices. His obituary in the Belleville (Illinois) News-Democrat, written by his bother Matthew, reads (in part):

William Ralph ‘Bill’ Fink, 46, encountered an unhandled exception in his core operating system, which prematurely triggered a critical ‘STOP’ condition on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015.

Update: John Martino, R.I.P.

John Martino, a very active genealogist and the Project Coordinator for the Italian Genealogical Group, passed away earlier today. John dedicated all his spare time to coordinating the funding and digitizing of our online databases which have been so helpful to researchers worldwide.

UPDATE: John Martino’s wake will be held at the M. A. Connell Funeral Home, 934 New York Ave, Huntington Station, NY 11746 (Phone: 631-427-1123) from 2 until 4 and again from 7 until 9 on Saturday and Sunday, December 5 and 6.  A Mass will be held at 10 AM Monday at St. Francis of  Assisi Church, 29 Northgate Drive, Greenlawn, NY. A military funeral will follow at Calverton Cemetery.

John Martino, R.I.P.

John Martino, a very active genealogist and the Project Coordinator for the Italian Genealogical Group, passed away earlier today. John dedicated all his spare time to coordinating the funding and digitizing of our online databases which have been so helpful to researchers worldwide.

UPDATE: John Martino’s wake will be held at the M. A. Connell Funeral Home, 934 New York Ave, Huntington Station, NY 11746 (Phone: 631-427-1123) from 2 until 4 and again from 7 until 9 on Saturday and Sunday, December 5 and 6.  A Mass will be held at 10 AM Monday at St. Francis of  Assisi Church, 29 Northgate Drive, Greenlawn, NY. A military funeral will follow at Calverton Cemetery.

New York Centenarian Makes the Rest of Us Look Like Lazy Slackers

Felimina Rotundo works 11 hours day, six days a week at a Buffalo Laundromat. She works from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. six days a week washing clothes and handling dry cleaning at the College Laundry Shoppe on Main Street in Buffalo. Born in 1915, Felimina celebrated her 100th birthday in August.

Felimina says she likes being out and working because it “gives her something to do.” She hasn’t considered retirement and will continue working as long as her health is good. She also says too many people retire too soon. Her advice to her peers: “Get out and do some work.”

Gordon Honeycombe, R.I.P.

Former broadcaster Gordon Honeycombe, the face of ITN news between 1965 and 1977, has died in Australia aged 79. UK genealogists will remember him best as the presenter of the BBC Television programme (broadcast first in 1979) called Family History. He was twice voted the UK’s most popular newsreader.

He also helped maintain the Honeycombe Family History Archive on the web at

Pat Couture, R.I.P.

The many friends of Pat Couture will be saddened to learn that she passed away yesterday. She suffered from pancreatic cancer. Pat was a mother, professional singer, genealogist, ham radio operator, member of Mensa, an expert on African violets, and many other things. She was well known as a French-Canadian genealogist and, in recent years, became active in a couple of Jewish genealogy societies as well. She was a frequent public speaker, usually speaking about French-Canadian topics.

Pat Couture shown here with her husband and constant companion, Paul

Pat Couture shown here with her husband and constant companion, Paul

In a Facebook posting early today, Pat’s daughter, Amy, wrote: “To all who knew my mother and have been sending warm wishes, Mom passed away yesterday after her year long battle with cancer. She made a big impact on everyone that knew her. She was a mother, professional singer, genealogist, member of Mensa, and many other things. I miss her already! Thank you all for your nice words in the end. They made her happy.”

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

Elmire Conklin and Jennie Sweetman Presented with Special Awards for their Five Decades of Genealogical Research

On Thursday, September 24, in a brief ceremony held at the Warwick (New York) Town Hall, Supervisor Michael Sweeton and Historian Dr. Richard Hull presented special awards to Elmire Conklin and Jennie Sweetman.

“I’m honored to introduce to you two long-time Warwick residents,” Hull said, “who through more than five decades of genealogical research have quite literally done more than anyone today and through the deep past to identify and exhaustively research many dozens of Warwick families, many of whom were distinguished citizens of our community and some of them with roots going back many generations.”

Update: Pamela Weisberger, R.I.P.

This is an update to the sad news about Pamela Weisberger published earlier at

For more information on the celebration of life and how you can leave a message of remembrance, please visit

Pamela Weisberger, R.I.P.

pamela_weisbergerAcquaintances of Pamela Weisberger will be saddened to hear that she passed away this morning after a very brief illness.

Pam was a professional genealogist with a long list of accomplishments. She was the president of Gesher Galicia Inc. as well as 1st Vice-President & Program Chair of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Los Angeles, and was on the the Advisory Board of the Global Family Reunion.

She leaves her husband Ken, and her three children.

Diane Clemmons honored as the Outstanding Volunteer Genealogist

Diane Clemmons, registrar of John Bartram Chapter-DAR, has been honored as the Outstanding Volunteer Genealogist by the Florida State Society of Daughters of the American Revolution at its fall convention in Orlando this past weekend. Clemmons qualified for the award by helping so many prospective members that John Bartram Chapter became DAR’s fastest growing chapter in the nation in 2014.

Details may be found at

She Went to College to Study Anthropology and Found Her Slave Ancestors Nearby

This story seems ironic although I doubt if it is the first time something like this happened. Michelle Taylor recently graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University. Like millions of other people, Taylor started researching her own ancestry. She was surprised to not only find dusty old records, but to even visit the cabin where her ancestor, freed slave George Gilmore, lived. He was a man who had been enslaved by James Madison at Montpelier, about 30 miles northwest of her school.

You can read the full story in an article by Moriah Balingit in the Washington Post at

“I love the Victorian era. So I decided to live in it.”

Many genealogists try to imagine the lifestyles of their ancestors. Gabriel and Sarah Chrisman decided to do more than imagine. They live that lifestyle in a Victorian house in Washington state. They have:

  • a period-appropriate icebox that they stock with block ice
  • no modern lightbulbs in the house
  • oil lamps
  • 19th-century gas heaters and an antique kerosene space heater
  • a cast-iron clawfoot bathtub
  • high-wheel bicycles
  • and more.