Noah Wyle – Who Do You Think You Are? – “Shaken to the Core”

On this Sunday’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? at 10/9c on TLC, actor Noah Wyle unravels the mystery of his mother’s family line, searching for answers to a lifelong question about his family’s participation in the Civil War.

Battle of Shiloh Military Park

One of the things I really like about this series is that often, they open by showing the individual talking to their older relatives about their ancestry. I hope this example encourages others to do the same, because often, so much slips away with our older relatives.

Courtesy TLC

Many times they can identify people in photos, tell us where and when the photos were taken, and stories about the people. Noah’s mother points to her grandfather. This photo was taken in Lexington, Kentucky, but the next generation earlier was from much further north (New York) and much further south (Mississippi), both. Tantalizing tidbits.

Another thing I like about this series is that there is so much “on location” history. In some cases, they visit locations where my ancestors lived too. In other cases, like this week, places I’ve never visited and enjoy seeing from a historical perspective. And then there are snippets from episodes that can connect with just about everyone.

Courtesy TLC

Can’t you almost see your ancestor sitting in this old schoolhouse? I can. A portal to the past.

History Buff

Noah tells us that he has always been a history buff and fascinated with the Civil War. He asked his now-deceased Uncle Sandy about his own family’s participation in the Civil War and Uncle Sandy told him that more well-to-do families hired replacements to fight for them, in their place, and their family had probably done the same. Noah was disappointed with that answer. Knowing his relatives lived in Kentucky, a state clearly deeply involved in the Civil War with regiments who fought for both sides, Noah was more disappointed that his ancestor had not stood up and fought for what he believed, regardless of which side of the conflict.

Noah’s mother was able to help him track their family back through several generations to John Henry Mills, born in New York in 1843 but found in 1860 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Noah’s mother had no idea they had relatives in or from Louisiana.

Noah wants to go further, find an objective truth about his ancestors, beyond just a photo and a third generation anecdote, to put meat on their bones.

Noah looks at his mother and asks, “Where do we go from here?’ Well, of course, we know the answer to that!!!

Louisiana

Noah began his journey of discovery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana at the Louisiana State Archives, hoping to discover more about his ancestor John Henry Mills who married in Mississippi in 1863, right in the middle of the Civil War.

Noah discovers that indeed, John Henry Mills did serve in the Civil War, joining for a 90 day enlistment, which was typical for the timeframe. Almost exactly 30 days later, John fought in the Battle of Shiloh, one of the bloodiest battles of the war in which 23,000 men were killed on April 6th and 7th of 1862.

I had to ask myself how a person with literally no military experience, “an amateur” as Noah said, would feel about finding themselves in that situation.

I so wanted to tell Noah to search for John’s compiled service record at www.fold3.com or to order his compiled service record from NARA, but so far, TV is a one way communications!

Noah already knew that John survived the battle, because his mother had told him that John married Mary Emily Brown in 1863 in Summit, Mississippi, which was Noah’s next destination.

Mississippi

Noah discovered in Mississippi that his 3X great-grandfather retired in 1899 after 24 years as a public servant, much loved, as the local Treasurer, a career he began in 1875.

However, nine years later, by 1904, John’s life had spiraled out of control. Surprisingly so, so much that I gasped when I saw the headline. So did Noah.

I’m not going to give it away, but I will say that John’s tragic end and the very unusual circumstances really gave Noah pause to reflect and reconsider.

The entire town closed on the day of John’s funeral and the church’s bells were tolled for the man “whose love for his family was as beautiful as it was great.”

After discovering the shocking news about John, and the selfless lengths that he went to in order to attempt to save his family, Noah wanted to know what happened to John’s wife, Mary Emily.

Mary Emily

The historian had found Mary Emily Mills on a 1913 list of Mississippi Confederate widows who had applied for a pension. This pension was state funded, not like the federal pensions for the Union widows, and was restricted to those impoverished. The message here, sadly, was that John’s attempt to save his family had failed and his death had been both tragic and pointless.

Mary was on the pensioner’s role until 1927, when she disappeared. Being a genealogist, I, of course, assumed that she died at that point, but that’s not the only reason one was removed from the rolls. Remarriage or a move out of state would also cause removal.

It was suggested that Noah visit the Beauvoir Soldiers Home in Biloxi, Mississippi and his response was a surprised, “there’s more?” As irony would have it, Beauvoir was the original home of Jefferson Davis, the President of the failed Confederacy.

The Beauvoir home for the aged in the early 1900s was for those pensioners or their widows who were destitute. Mary was admitted in 1926 under emergency circumstances, where she lived out her final days.

The photo below shows Noah sitting in the rocker on the porch of the buildings that were built for the residents.

Courtesy TLC

Noah went in search of his ancestors, and he certainly found more than he bargained for.  John Mills was described as a “gentleman of the old school,” his wife, an educated lady who was caught up in a tragic spiral in a turbulent time in our Nation’s history.

I hope you enjoy the episode. Remember, if you can’t tune in, episodes are available online within a day or so of airing. You can also watch back episodes.

Jennifer Grey – Who Do You Think You Are – “Her Name Was Shendyl”

I have such fond memories of Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze in their Academy Award Winning timeless love story, Dirty Dancing.

My friend and I used to have Dirty Dancing stitch-a-thons, watching and stitching, both of us being cross-stitchers at the time. It’s hard to believe that was almost 30 years ago now. That friend moved away long ago, Patrick, sadly, passed away, but Jennifer is the same lovely lady – matured a bit.

On this Sunday’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? at 10/9c on TLC, Jennifer is the star once again, uncovering the truth about the emigrant grandfather she thought she knew, learning how he survived adversity to become a beacon of his community. Jennifer also uncovers the devastating tragedy that stopped her great-grandmother from ever making it to America.

Jennifer says that “beyond my parents’ story, I knew so little.” I think that’s true for many, especially today with the hustle and bustle of our hectic lifestyles. By the time we realize we want to know, it’s too late.

Jennifer knew her grandparents, but didn’t know the name of her grandfather’s mother. That struck her as very odd, that her mother, still living, didn’t know her own grandmother’s name. How could they not know her name?

As a child, Jennifer’s grandfather, Izzy, below, struck her as beaten down and sad.

Photo courtesy TLC

Izzy’s real name was Israel Brower. He was a Jewish immigrant at the age of 16, in 1907, from Russia. He and his siblings traveled alone to American onboard a ship to join their father, already here. The family story was that Izzy had immigrated with the family silver sewn into the lining of his coat.

If that’s true, that’s probably all they had.

It’s worth noting that even in the 1900s, surname spellings can differ dramatically. Brower here, Braver on the ship’s manifest and Browerman in Russia.

Izzy, even as a young person, exhibited a great deal of drive and ambition. Many job postings of that time included phrases such as “Jews need not apply,” which motivated many Jewish people to enter the professional world, where they were not beholden to anyone for a job. Izzy went from being a printer, his occupation upon arrival, looking for work, to a pharmacist, owning his own drugstore by 1910. For some people, including Izzy, deprivation, anti-Semitism and challenges translate into the development of tenacity.

Jennifer visited the pharmacy school that Izzy attended and was able to view original documents. No white gloves needed this time!

Photo courtesy TLC

It’s interesting to see how different the pharmacy profession was then and now. Drug stores were an integral part of every community and neighborhood, with the druggist dispensing medical information as well. The line between practicing medicine and filling prescriptions was much greyer then.

Jennifer goes on to discover more about Izzy, bringing the story of his life to light in ways she certainly didn’t expect.

Still, pieces were missing. She had found Izzy’s siblings and father, but what about his mother? Where was she? What was her name?

Jennifer wondered why she didn’t know. Why her mother didn’t know. Why no one spoke of life before America in her Jewish family. Why?

As the Jewish historian told Jennifer, “Immigration is a rupture.” The stories get left behind. As someone else said, which is so true, “What the son wishes to forget, the grandson wishes to remember.” What we view today as interesting heritage, they viewed as bad memories that needed to by confined to the past.

Many immigrants didn’t immigrate because they simply wanted to. In the case of Jewish families, they immigrated for survival. Their memories of the homeland weren’t good ones, and they wished to put the bad, whatever it was and however awful it had been, behind them forever. They only looked to the future. Sometimes that future didn’t hold everyone from the past…

Her name was Shendyl. Shendyl. And as for what happened to Shendyl, you’ll need to tune in or watch online after the episode airs.

Julie Bowen – Who Do You Think You Are – “Pride and Forgiveness”

I just love the Who Do You Think You Are? series. Each episode is like a genealogy “who done it,” chocked full of history and sleuthing, travel and of course, good guys and bad guys. Try to ignore the unfortunately huge commercial load. The mute button works miracles and you’ll have plenty of time for a BR break or to pop some popcorn or even to go online and check your DNA results if you haven’t done that yet for the day.

On this upcoming Sunday, March 12th, the new episode of Who Do You Think You Are? airs at 10/9c on TLC.  Actress Julie Bowen uncovers fascinating stories of her ancestors on both sides of her family.

First, Julie travels to Chicago to learn about her mother’s side of the family. She knew that her ancestor, “Big Charlie” was the artist in the family. Born the son of a plumber in Denver, Big Charlie headed east, instead of west, to Chicago, the land of opportunity for an up and coming artist.

Big Charlie’s art was fresh and new and even by today’s standards, looks quite contemporary. Still in his early 20s, he founded his own company and was the “big bright light of advertising illustration.”

Charlie was the poster boy for the American dream, ambitious and talented, but then…the rest of the story. You knew there had to be a “rest of the story,” right?

The next revelation pulls Julie down a dark hole…one that affected my ancestors too, but that I had never heard of before this episode. A dark chapter in American history that is oh so relevant once again today and is guaranteed to make you think.

You’ll have to watch this one for yourself. All I can say is that you’ll never, ever guess this plot twist…and I don’t want to spoil it for you. Big Charlie wasn’t exactly what he seemed, nor quite how he was remembered by the family.

Next, Julie looks to discover more about her father’s ancestor, a man rumored to have been a doctor associated with the underground railroad. Is this story too good to be true? Julie said she had never looked into this family lore because she loved the legend so much just the way it was. She didn’t want to risk finding out that maybe it wasn’t accurate, that maybe her ancestor had been a slave-owner instead. I think, in one way or another, we can all identify with that sentiment.

Julie travels to Washington County, Pennsylvania, and you know it’s going to be a good story when your ancestor’s home is now the local historical society. How often has that ever happened to me? Exactly none!

Julie learns that her 3 times great-grandfather, Francis Julius LeMoyne, was a highly sought after speaker and a radical abolitionist who risked his life and the lives of his family repeatedly, for years, decades actually, to help free fugitive slaves. Francis’s activism began long before the movement to free the slaves became a reality. Francis signed on early, before 1837, as a founder of the American Anti-Slavery Society. All of this was at incredible personal risk to Francis and his family who clearly supported his efforts.

Francis’s lectures and meetings didn’t always go well, even in the North where he lived. At one event, when a group was meeting at his house in the garden, an unhappy crowd gathered outside. Standing on the balcony, surveying the unruly crowd, Francis’s father, also a physician, suggested that if the crowd became threatening, that he kept bee hives underneath the porch roof. I’ll let you guess what happened next!

The revelations that Julie experienced in Washington County are as heart-warming as the ones in Chicago were bone-chilling.

Julie, in the end, can’t help but notice the parallels between the acts of her ancestors with what’s going on in today’s world. She reflects that it’s nice to have heroes and that your ancestors, for bad or good, make you ask yourself “who you want to stand up for.” It’s certainly “not the easy choice to fight for people who had no choice.”

It’s difficult to discover ancestors whose actions and sentiments chafe at everything we believe. It’s emotionally unsettling, and for Julie to find both a hero and a villain in such a short time must have been akin to an ancestral emotional roller-coaster ride. Her perspective is both encouraging and enlightening. She closes by saying that we must “love them, hear their story, and find a better way.”

A great episode that will keep you on your toes all the way to the end.

Seventh Season “Who Do You Think You Are?” Airing March 5th

I received a very welcome e-mail this week about the 7th season of my favorite genealogy program, WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? (WDYTYA). I can hardly wait!

These programs are inspiring to everyone, novices to experienced genealogists. They embody the search and the discoveries we all seek. Not only are the shows just plain fun and interesting, we can pick up valuable research tips and historical information relevant to our own family.  We all seek those AHA moments that the featured celebrities often find – and you just never know where your AHA-producing tidbit will be found.

I mean, let’s face it (pardon the pun), who among us DOESN’T want this expression on our face relative to a genealogy discovery?

wdytya-season-7

From the press release:

TLC’s Emmy Award-winning series, WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? returns this spring with a new group of celebrities ready to delve into their lineage and get answers to the questions they’ve wondered about their entire lives. Eight new one-hour episodes bring more unexpected turns and surprising discoveries of great historical significance. Executive Produced by Lisa Kudrow and Dan Bucatinsky, the new season premieres on Sunday, March 5th at 10/9c.

This season’s celebrity contributors include:

  • Jessica Biel makes surprising discoveries that change what she thought knew about her heritage.
  • Julie Bowen uncovers the story of two relatives whose moral codes are from opposite ends of the spectrum.
  • Courteney Cox traces her maternal line back seven centuries to the Medieval times to discover royalty in her lineage and an unbelievable tale of family drama.
  • Jennifer Grey uncovers new information about the grandfather she thought she knew, learning how he survived adversity to become a beacon of his community.
  • Smokey Robinson searches for answers behind the mystery of why his grandfather disappeared from his children’s lives and finds a man tangled in a swirl of controversy.
  • John Stamos digs into the mystery of how his grandfather became an orphan, and learns of tensions between families that led to a horrible crime.
  • Liv Tyler learns that her family is tied into the complicated racial narrative of America.
  • Noah Wyle unravels the mystery of his maternal line, uncovering an ancestor who survived one of America’s bloodiest battles.

For a sneak peek, take a look at this link.

I’ll be writing about each episode and I hope many will include DNA. If not, we’ll discuss how DNA might aid and abet the search!

Assassin’s Creed and Family Tree DNA Collaboration

“See, hear and feel the memories of your ancestor…”

This is really exciting, both the movie itself and the new testers this collaboration will bring forth.

And maybe, just maybe, some of my ancestors are portrayed in this movie.

I know my ancestors were warriors.  Am I???

The Warrior Gene and Family Finder tests will be bundled at $89 and that price also includes a findmypast subscription and a chance to win a trip to Las Vegas.  At this link, click on “learn more” to see details and order – and scroll down for the trip entry form.

10-25-2016 Update – Press Release

Family Tree DNA and 20th Century Fox Team Up for Historical Adventure

Genetic genealogy pioneers announce exciting partnership with the theatrical release of Assassin’s Creed.

Houston, Texas — October 25, 2016:

In association with the upcoming theatrical release of the epic adventure film ASSASSIN’S CREED, in theaters December 21, Family Tree DNA is pleased to announce a new partnership with 20th Century Fox and Findmypast, which features the Assassin’s Creed DNA Testing Bundle and Assassin’s Creed Sweepstakes.

Loosely based on the popular video game franchise of the same name, and starring award-winning actors Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, the movie’s main character Callum Lynch—through a revolutionary technology called the Animus—travels deep into the past to discover that his genetic ancestor, Aguilar, was part of a mysterious secret organization, the Assassin’s, in 15th Century Spain. The action-adventure follows Callum as he relives Aguilar’s memories in present day.

As pioneers in the direct-to-consumer DNA testing industry, Family Tree DNA was tapped by 20th Century Fox to be the exclusive testing partner for the film. The company’s premier suite of DNA tests along with the world’s most comprehensive matching database enable users to trace their lineage through time, explore ancestry and connect with relatives across the globe.

Family Tree DNA Director of Product Development, Michael Davila, noted that “The opportunity to partner with 20th Century Fox on the release of Assassin’s Creed is not only exciting but serendipitous. The storyline of Callum Lynch connecting to his ancestral past ties in completely with what our company does in helping people discover their origins and explore family history,” said Davila.

“We are excited to be partnering with Family Tree DNA,” said Zachary Eller, Senior Vice President, Marketing Partnerships, 20th Century Fox. “They provide a fantastic opportunity to bring the central themes of Assassin’s Creed to a real world application by allowing consumers to actually discover their past.”

With the purchase of the special limited-time Assassin’s Creed Bundle, customers will be mailed a sample collection kit which, when processed, will provide both Family Tree DNA’s signature Family Finder test and the Warrior Gene DNA test. They will also receive a free one-month premium subscription to Findmypast’s online genealogy service.

According to Belinda Hanton, Global Head of Partnerships at Findmypast, “We are thrilled to be teaming up with Fox and Family Tree DNA to promote family history research and genetic genealogy. It’s partnerships like this that allow us to speak to completely new audiences and help spread the word that anyone can start exploring their heritage at the click of a mouse. The lives of our ancestors are not only recorded in historical records, but are also written in our DNA and it is now easier than ever before to unlock the incredible stories hidden in our families’ past.”

Using a simple cheek swab and step-by-step instructions, users return the sample collection test kit by mail, in a provided envelope, directly to Family Tree DNA. Results typically take four to five weeks and are delivered through a private customer dashboard with email notification. Unlike other testing companies, Family Tree DNA results are kept completely confidential and secure privacy settings put users in control of how much information they choose to share.

Family Finder is an autosomal (non-sex) DNA test that finds matches within five generations and includes myOrigins, a powerful mapping tool that provides a detailed geographic and ethnic breakdown of personal genetic ancestry. The Warrior Gene test determines whether a person carries the Monoamine Oxidase A (MAOA) gene variant, dubbed the “Warrior Gene,” which some researchers say may cause certain carriers to engage in more risk-taking behaviors and be able to better assess their chances of success in critical situations.

Together with the Assassin’s Creed DNA Testing Bundle is the Assassin’s Creed Sweepstakes and a chance to win a Grand Prize trip for two to Las Vegas for an Assassin’s Creed-themed adventure. The experience includes a series of high-octane Assassin’s Creed-inspired activities like a master parkour class, nighttime zip lining and an electrifying sky jump from the tallest tower in the city.

Although no purchase is necessary to enter the contest, purchasing the Assassin’s Creed Bundle earns customers ten additional entries into the Sweepstakes for a greater chance to win a trip to Las Vegas as well as other prizes. Followers will also have the opportunity to earn bonus entries by sharing Sweepstakes social posts on their Facebook and Twitter pages.

With the exclusive DNA Testing Bundle and Sweepstakes movie tie-in, Assassin’s Creed fans everywhere will be able to jump back in time, embrace their inner warriors and unlock their genetic memories.

“The partnership between Fox’s Assassin’s Creed and Family Tree DNA is a perfect fit,” Davila said. “Test-takers get to find out if they carry the “Warrior Gene” in their DNA, and while they’re at it, will be able to delve into the exciting world of genetic genealogy and discover their own family histories…all through DNA. Everyone has a story to tell…so it’s an absolute win-win scenario.

To learn more about the Assassin’s Creed DNA Testing Bundle and Sweepstakes, visit: https://www.familytreedna.com/assassinscreed

About Family Tree DNA:

Since pioneering the field of direct-to-consumer DNA testing for genetic genealogy in 2000, Family Tree DNA has grown to become the most trusted source for providing beginners, enthusiasts, to serious genealogists with innovative ways and powerful tools to break through conventional barriers in unlocking their family histories. The company’s premier suite of DNA tests along with world’s most comprehensive ancestry database are what set Family Tree DNA apart, and led to their being selected as the official testing provider for the Genographic Project launched in 2005 by National Geographic and IBM. Located in Houston, Texas, Family Tree DNA is the only company in the industry with its own state-of-the-art Genomics Research Center. By offering the widest variety of DNA tests to help determine genetic relationships and ancestral origins, Family Tree DNA has continued to experience unprecedented growth and success worldwide. To learn more, visit www.familytreedna.com.

About Assassin’s Creed:

Through a revolutionary technology that unlocks his genetic memories, Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) experiences the adventures of his ancestor, Aguilar, in 15th Century Spain. Callum discovers he is descended from a mysterious secret society, the Assassins, and amasses incredible knowledge and skills to take on the oppressive and powerful Templar organization in the present day. Directed by Justin Kurzel, Assassin’s Creed stars Academy Award® nominee Michael Fassbender and Academy Award® winner Marion Cotillard. The film is distributed by 20th Century Fox and opens in theaters worldwide on December 21st, 2016. 

About 20th Century Fox

One of the world’s largest producers and distributors of motion pictures, 20th Century Fox produces, acquires and distributes motion pictures throughout the world. These motion pictures are produced or acquired by the following units of 20th Century Fox Film: Twentieth Century Fox, Fox 2000 Pictures, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Fox International Productions, and Twentieth Century Fox Animation. 

About Findmypast:

With an ever-expanding collection of over 2 billion historical records from around the globe, Findmypast is the world’s best resource for researching family history and documentation. Censuses from as far back as 1790 help identify long-lost relatives, the world’s largest collection of Irish records reveal unknown connections to the Emerald Isle, while US military data going all the way back to the American Revolution prove if a person is descended from war heroes. Users can fill in blanks in their ancestors’ stories by searching millions of newspaper records going back to 1710.  http://www.findmypast.com

For further information, please contact:

Elena Collot, Product Marketing Manager – Family Tree DNA, a division of Gene by Gene, Ltd.

elenac@genebygene.com

(832) 691-7282

 

Leslie Sachnowitz Meimoun, Senior Writer-Marketing|Communications –

Family Tree DNA, a division of Gene by Gene, Ltd.

lesliem@genebygene.com

(832) 877-0683

Rockstar Genealogist Voting Now Open

Keep Calm and Vote Now

I’m pretty sure that John D. Reed who writes at Canada’s Anglo-Celtic Connections didn’t mean for the Rockstar Genealogist voting to become a Labor Day tradition – but it has become just that.

Once again, John is sponsoring the Rockstar genealogist voting. The contest is a very beneficent contribution on John’s part, because it’s an easy way for all of us to say thank you to a genealogist in the public space who has contributed to our own lives and enriched our experience as genealogists. As we all know, genealogy is a collaborate sport and we depend on the research and expertise of others, regularly. No one can know it all.

The great news is that you can vote for as many people as you would like. I counted 159 people who were nominated (if I counted correctly) from the English-speaking world and there are amazing people in this gathering of eagles.

So, please, take a minute to say thank you to those who are deserving.  John doesn’t say when the voting closes, but it usually only lasts for a couple days, so don’t wait, vote now before you forget and miss out on the opportunity.

Here’s the link to John’s blog and the link to vote is at the bottom where it says “Vote Here.”

I voted

I voted! It was quick and very easy. Thank you John, from the entire community, for doing this once again.  You, indeed, are a Rockstar!

Molly Ringwald – Who Do You Think You Are – “The Swede”

Molly Ringwald wearing a white sweater while sitting in her dad's house.

If you have Swedish ancestors, you’ll enjoy this episode immensely. There is a great deal of historical content in addition to lots of records available in Sweden.

Additionally, I learned something about the Homestead Act of 1862 here in the US I didn’t know before as well, so this episode might be helpful if you’ve ever wondered how the heck your ancestors picked some location west of the Mississippi to settle.

Film star Molly Ringwald was born in Roseville, California to Robert “Bob” Ringwald and Adele Fremd. She knows a considerable amount about her Ringwald line, but knows next to nothing about her father’s maternal family. Molly thinks she has Swedish origins because of rumors her father’s grandfather was called “The Swede.”

Extremely close to her family, Molly is interested in learning about her paternal grandparents’ ancestors and sharing the information with her parents and children. Molly thinks her dad, Bob, might have additional information about The Swede, so she meets with him in Brooklyn. Bob recalls that “The Swede’s” real name was Edwin Jenson and believes he came to the US when he was about three years old, but that’s about all knows.

Molly heads to a local library to meet with genealogist Brian Schellenberg to learn more about her great-grandfather Edwin Jenson. Molly reviews Edwin’s death record which shows that he was indeed born in Sweden – in 1885. Molly continues to scan the record and sees that Edwin’s parents, Gustaf Jenson and Carolina Grip, were also born in Sweden.

This is the first time Molly hears the names of her two-times great-grandparents and wants to know more about them. She searches for clues on a 1900 US census and finds an entry showing Gustaf and Carolina Jenson living in Nebraska with their six children, including their son Edwin. She wonders where the family came from in Sweden and why they would have left for America. Brian suggests Molly visit an archive in Sweden to dig deeper into her family.

Molly travels to the regional archive in Lund, southern Sweden, where she meets with archivist Petra Nyberg. There, Molly discovers that her two-times great-grandparents Carolina and Gustaf were from a nearby coal-mining town called Höganäs, and that Gustaf was a laborer in the mines.

Reaching farther back, she uncovers the names of Carolina’s parents and Molly’s three-times great grandparents: Carl and Kjersti. Molly heads to Höganäs to visit with a historian well versed in mining communities.

Together with historian Erik Thomson, Molly experiences a coal mine first hand, encountering the narrow, dark, and dangerous conditions both her ancestors endured. I have to tell you, it was all I could do to watch this – even though my own family worked the mines – just not in Sweden.  (Yes, I’m a bit claustrophobic.  So it Molly, but she perseveres anyway.)

But that’s not all, there is more to this story. But I can’t tell you without ruining the story line.  I have to say, I don’t know how this woman endured…but she did…and her daughter Caroline succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.

Molly marvels at how Kjersti’s daughter Carolina – Molly’s great-great-grandmother – escaped with her miner husband Gustaf and wonders what life was like for them in Nebraska.

Molly heads back to America and meets with historian Tonia Compton in Nebraska. Molly reads a warranty deed and discovers that Carolina personally purchased land for her family in 1905, an incredible feat for a married, immigrant woman! Molly locates the land on a 1908 Plat Map, which shows that the acreage is only about 15 miles from where she stands. Before Molly leaves to visit the land, Tonia hands her an obituary notice, which highlights Carolina’s incredible reputation in the community and the love felt for her by her family.

Molly arrives at the property and takes in the landscape as she walks in her ancestors’ footsteps. She regards with deference the life that Carolina made for herself and marvels that her 2x great-grandmother changed the narrative of her family.