Sean Hayes – Who Do You Think You Are – “Endless Chain of Chaos”

Sean Hayes

Sean Hayes, probably best known for his role in the sitcom, Will and Grace, finds more than he bargained for when he set out to search for his roots.  Growing up without his father, Sean searches for the cause of his estranged father’s troubled past and uncovers a shocking trail of tragedy with tendrils that reach back generations.

I had to laugh, because in the realm of “famous last words,” Sean introduces himself as “Sean Hayes and I’m not named for anyone I know of.”

Well Sean, you should have included your middle name, Patrick, because it’s going to become important!  And by the way, um….yes you are named for someone.

No one really writes letters anymore, but Sean’s brother does, and in the letter is a photo of Sean’s grandparents. Sean didn’t even know their names, and now he has their picture.

Sean Hayes 1

What Sean does know, is that for some reason his father and his father’s 3 siblings wound up in an orphanage after their mother broke her hips. He had also heard that his grandfather, literally, “died in the gutter.” Was that true?

To find out more, Sean heads to Chicago to begin his journey, where his father and grandparents were from and where he was born.

Unfortunately, alcohol and alcoholism play a huge part in many family histories. It did in mine and it does in Sean’s as well. And unfortunately, all too often alcohol abuse and self-medication is generational until someone steps up to break the cycle of abuse.

Sean discovers that his grandfather, William, was once successful, but met an early demise on skid row – a death that was most likely the result of alcoholism. Sean finds that at the time of his grandfather’s death, his grandmother was an invalid, which Sean concludes led to his father and his siblings being placed in the orphanage.

Inside of a ten year span, Sean’s grandfather, William, had gone from being the wealthiest man in his neighborhood to destitute, without food, anorexic and living in a flop house. This pains Sean, visibly, but while making this discovery, Sean also discovers the name of his great-grandfather, Patrick.

Digging past his grandparents, Sean discovers that his great grandfather Patrick Hayes immigrated to Chicago from Ireland in 1901. Patrick appears to have been a responsible, ambitious man – someone who’s broken the chaotic family pattern.

Sean is really very visibly excited and moved to find Patrick, his namesake’s naturalization records, along with his signature. I just love it when people get this excited about their ancestors. It bring them to life again.

Sean Hayes 2

So, it’s off to Dublin for Sean where an unwelcome surprise is waiting. Sean finds his great grandfather, Patrick, actually had lengthy court records for various crimes and did hard labor in jail.

I hope Sean didn’t think too badly of Patrick, because the charges were for assault which certainly could have resulted from a variety of circumstances. In fact, Patrick was with his brother, and sister, when the assault occurred. And are you ready for this – they assaulted their father.

Surely, there is far more to this story.

Both Patrick and William were sentenced to hard labor, which was literally just that, and Patrick immigrated immediately upon release. He did, indeed, set forth to find a better life. A very brave man. Sadly, it appears that he had been raised with alcohol playing a large role in the life of his father, although things aren’t always as they seem.

Sean Hayes 3

Further research reveals that much of the Hayes clan – including Sean’s great, great grandfather, Patrick Hayes Senior – constantly ran afoul of the law, and even faced each other in court over family brawls. These assaults fell more into the realm of family spats – throwing stones at each other. Seriously….hard labor for that. That seems a little harsh.

But what’s priceless is Sean’s face when he sees these records. And I’m sure that “Holy Moley” was not what he said on the first take:)  I must admit, this part of the segment just kept on getting better and better.

Next we discover that Patrick’s father, Patrick Sr., who prosecuted his own children, spent much of his life in trouble as well. It seems that before he married, he was a bit of a wild child, had 10 years of good behavior and after his wife’s death, when his children were still quite young, was constantly in trouble in the village where he lived for drunk and disorderly conduct, along with other offenses as well.

While this isn’t a legacy that Sean wants to pass on, and he’s glad he has broken the cycle personally, it certainly helps to understand why this may have happened – that Patrick Sr. was probably medicating his grief – albeit in a very unhealthy way. Patrick Jr. saw it and lived with the results, and his son William, continued the unhealthy behavior as did Sean’s own father.

Sean comes away with a sense of forgiveness for the circumstances beyond the control of his ancestors as well as a sense of gratitude for what they contributed to him – traits that he has used in a positive way. Sean is able to find their commonality in spite of their differences.

Sean Hayes 4

My husband said he felt badly that this episode didn’t have a happy ending, but I think it does have a happy ending. Watch on Sunday and let me know what you think.

Want a sneak peek? Click here.

Sunday, March 29, 2015 at 10/9c on TLC

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

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Angie Harmon – Who Do You Think You Are – “Mutiny”

This week’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are features Angie Harmon, probably best known for her role in the television series, Law and Order.

angie harmon

Angie Harmon, Courtesy TLC

Angie’s adventure begins at her kitchen table in Charlotte, NC, with a package she receives from her father, Larry, that includes a photo of her great-grandparents.  Like many people, up until this time, Angie only knew the names of her grandparents and not much more.

Angie becomes deeply curious (I think the genealogy bug bit her) and she sets out on her adventure to discover her ancestry.

Unlike many of us, Angie started her adventure close to home, meeting professional genealogist, Joseph Schumway at the Genealogy Library at Charlotte Museum of History. Thanks to Joseph’s magic wand, Angie’s tree was able to magically grow to reveal her 5x great grandfather Michael Harmon.  I want one of those magic wands….just saying.

Angie discovers that Michael was the first immigrant ancestor on the Harmon side, and to her surprise, from Germany, arriving on December 23, 1772.  Of course, then Angie needs to visit a different location to continue.

Angie arrives at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to meet with Colonial Historian Jim Horn.  Angie pours over the immigration document and finds an entry that details a transaction binding Michael Harmon as an indentured servant! Jim explains that a primary motivator for a poor young man like Michael to agree to servitude would have been the potential opportunity to eventually buy land, which was near impossible in his homeland. Looking through the details of the agreement, Angie sees that Michael was required to assist a tanner for 5 years and 7 months, which was grueling work. Angie then deduces Michael would’ve been released from servitude in 1778, right in the middle of the Revolutionary War! Angie discovers an online record that shows Michael enlisting with the 4th Pennsylvania Regiment on May 10, 1777. Jim suggests she meet with Scott Stephenson, a Revolutionary War Historian, to learn about her ancestor’s time in the war.

I actually found this part very interesting because it delved a bit into how indentured servitude in the US worked.  That is a much-overlooked method of immigration.  Many indentured servants didn’t survive, so we don’t know about them today.  Those that did simply went on with their lives after their indenture and didn’t seem to dwell on that time.  It’s a piece of oral history that hasn’t made its way to current for many lines.  It was simply a means to an end.  One way to end a servitude early was to enlist to serve in the war – although I’m not so sure that wasn’t akin to jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

Furthermore, I didn’t realize that there were additional records for indentured servitude in at least some cases.  Angie may simply have been very lucky, but I need to go and check on my own indentured servant ancestors.

At the Free Library of Philadelphia, Scott Stephenson tells Angie that Michael entered the war at an unfortunate time; the British had just captured Philadelphia, America’s capital at the time. After that, things didn’t get better for the Patriots. Scott hands Angie a paystub for her 5x great grandfather that is marked “Camp near Valley Forge, May 7, 1778.” Angie is excited to discover that her ancestor camped at Valley Forge under the command of George Washington! Scott explains that Valley Forge is the site of a winter encampment that was one of the lowest points for the Continental Army during the war. He suggests that they visit Valley Forge for themselves.

I could tell by Angie’s demeanor at this point that she didn’t know what “Valley Forge” meant historically – what those men suffered through. But she would shortly.

At Valley Forge, Angie gets a feel for what her ancestor endured as she and Scott visit the site on which Michael Harmon lived. Inside a hut that replicates where Michael would have stayed through that treacherous winter, Scott explains the brotherhood that formed during those very trying times, with little food and clothing and disease rampant, but that by Spring a remarkable renewal happened. General Washington brought the acclaimed General von Steuben to Valley Forge to develop a unified code and train the men so they would be capable of going toe to toe with the British.

I found George Washington’s commentary to the men enlightening:  “The fate of millions unborn depends on what we do here today.”  I don’t know if Washington was visionary or simply trying to inspire his cold, hungry men, but regardless it worked and it was indeed, prophetic.

It was at Valley Forge that I could tell that Angie truly felt what her ancestor was felling, as best we can across more than 200 years.  She said, “I can step in the same steps he did.”  Yes, Angie, you can.

Angie wants to know what happened to Michael after Valley Forge.  Scott sends her to the Pennsylvania State Archives in Harrisburg, PA, which houses many of the soldier’s records for the Revolutionary War.

Angie meets with Historian Major Sean Sculley, where a letter from a General that reveals Michael and his entire Pennsylvania line mutinied! – that was unexpected!  Things are getting juicy now!

Major Sculley explains that the troops were fed up with the lack of food and clothing – and they weren’t receiving promised payment, either. Not to mention, they weren’t being allowed to leave when their enlistment was up AND the new recruits were being paid more, plus an enlistment bounty.  It’s no wonder they were unhappy.  According to a letter from that timeframe, the soldiers “had suffered every kind of misery.”

Angie Harmon 2

Courtesy TLC

Angie’s curious to know how it played out, and Sean hands her another letter. Angie discovers that British spies offered to meet their demands and take Michael’s line over to their side! Angie’s dying to know if Michael changed allegiances and Sean explains that the soldiers were merely fighting for their rights and had no interest in switching sides. Eventually the U.S. army met their terms, and the soldiers were able to leave service if they chose. Reading a compiled regiment list, Angie finds that Michael’s war service ended after the mutiny.

Angie reflects upon not only his military service, but his servitude and coming to the colonies knowing he would be sold into servitude.  She says that she has always wondered where her personal resiliency came from, and now she knows.  And of course, I’m left wondering if there is a resiliency gene.  Are those traits passed from generation to generation genetically, culturally, or are they simply forged in the fire of the moment?

Angie wants to know what her ancestor did after leaving the army, so Sean passes her a tax record.  In it, Angie discovers that in 1795, Michael owned 130 acres of land at Doctors Fork in Mercer County, Kentucky!  Angie wonders how he finally became a land owner?  And of course, Sean suggests she go to Mercer County to find out.

Angie arrives at the Harrodsburg Historical Society in Mercer County, Kentucky to meet with local historian Amalie Preston. To find out about Michael’s life in Kentucky, Angie searches for his will, and of course she finds one and miraculously, the will book is laying right on the table. In it, she discovers that Michael owned multiple plantations, had married and named 7 children in his will! Wondering how he got the money for the land, Angie looks into Michael’s inventory list, which shows that Michael appears to have used the skills from his indenture to open a tanning business. Angie then finds her ancestor’s land on an old map, and Amalie tells her she made arrangements with the current owners if she would like to see it.  Angie agrees and heads out to see her ancestral land.

Angie Harmon 3

Courtesy TLC

Angie and her daughters who have joined her for this part of the journey pull up to a farmhouse where the current owner… are you ready for this…another Harmon, greets her.  Amazingly, this land is still in the Harmon family 200+ years later.  Angie’s cousin invites her to take a look around the land to see where it all started.  Angie heads up a hillside to fully survey all that Michael Harmon accomplished. One must admit, it’s a beautiful, traditional fall Kentucky farm scene.

Angie Harmon 4

Courtesy TLC

Standing on Michael’s land, Angie says, “All of that fighting, all of that suffering, all of that hardship – was for this.”  Yes, Michael got his land, although he didn’t live terribly long and died with underage children. Yet, he clearly accomplished the American dream…land…a family…freedom – a legacy he literally passed to his descendants.

Angie’s commentary about how whole this process made her feel really rang a bell with me.  I was glad to hear her say, “This gives me new light into the rest of my life and how I’m going to live it.”

My one regret with this episode was that there is an absolutely perfect opportunity for Y DNA testing.  I realize that Ancestry is sponsoring this series, and that they no longer offer Y DNA tests, but DNA testing is an important part of genealogy today.  In fact, having Michael’s Harmon Y DNA proven through two lines, Angie’s father and Angie’s cousin, could help secure Michael’s descendants membership in organizations like the DAR and SAR.  I hope that even though DNA testing isn’t part of the episode, that someone explains this opportunity to Angie and her Harmon cousin.

Who will enjoy this episode?  Anyone who is interested in the Revolutionary War, and in particular, if your ancestor was at Valley Forge, you won’t want to miss this episode. If your ancestor served in the Pennsylvania line between 1777 and 1781, this is for you.  And of course, if you have a contact with Mercer County, KY, this is a wonderful opportunity to see a lovely hilltop view of Mercer County in the fall.  It’s a great feel-good genealogy story.

Would you like a sneak peek?

Watch the full episode Sunday, March 22, 2015 at 10/9c on TLC.

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

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Genealogy Research

Josh Groban – Who Do You Think You Are – “A Desperate Need”

josh germany

Courtesy TLC

Josh’s new World Premier Video says it all – “I can’t regret what I did for love.”

Before you watch Josh’s TLC episode, I really encourage you to watch the trailer for Josh’s new album, Stages, in the lower right hand corner of this link.  You’ll see why.

Oh Josh, you couldn’t have known about your ancestor,  JZ, when you filmed this new song ….could you?  Did you?

It’s only fitting that Josh, one of the world’s most inspirational musicians with a voice powerful enough to touch the souls of the dead…it’s only fitting that his ancestors would be so….so….so….committed.  Devoted…and fittingly, a musician, among other amazing things.

I have to make a confession, right here and now.  This episode of Who Do You Think You Are is my favorite – ever – hands down – bar none.  And that includes any other similar programs too.

And now I have another confession to make – I’ve seen the episode already – yes – in full.

It’s a press courtesy provided by TLC to those in the media.  The good news is that I receive some pre-release info and I can share it with you.

So, when I tell you this is a wonderful can’t-miss-it-episode, take my word for it – it really is.  If you can’t see it, record it.

Josh starts in LA, where he was born, of course, but it doesn’t take long for him to find his ancestor in Pennsylvania.  You know how that works with these shows – Josh’s pedigree chart magically grows by 3 or 4 generations like a vine on steroids.  However, Josh’s Pennsylvania ancestor in question was a she, and she had young children with her when she immigrated, alone.  Where was her husband?  What happened?

The answer is – should I tell you????

Maybe not.

But, let’s say this….Josh traveled back to Germany, tracking his ancestor to the village of Bietigheim, sat in the pews of the very church where his ancestor preached.  Yes, preached.  Stood at that very lectern….oh my, the history.

josh church

Courtesy TLC

I can see Josh’s ancestor, singing, passionately singing in that church….and I can see Josh, singing the historical songs from his new album, Stages…the song from Lez Miz.  Sharing that same passion, more than 330 years and several generations removed – but still so unquestionably connected.

Then Josh climbed the rickety wooden stairs to the top of the church tower where that same ancestor, also an astronomer, saw and measured the passing of Haley’s Comet on the cold night of November 23, 1682.

josh stairs 2

Courtesy TLC

Josh’s ancestor trod these same steps on that fateful night – as he climbed to his destiny.

josh stairs

Courtesy TLC

That night changed his life – and the fate of Josh’s family.  It was that comet, that darned comet, that would unravel his mind…..

Josh visited the University where his ancestor studied, not for 4 years, but for 8 – because at that time in Germany, theology was the foundation for higher skills and studies, like math and astronomy…and music.  But God, and the church, were the foundation for everything in life.

Math and astronomy were believed at that time to be a better way of understanding God.  And music, we know it feeds the soul and was heavily incorporated into churches at that time.

But Josh’s ancestor didn’t understand God in the same way everyone else did, certainly not like the Lutheran church of the time did.  He became a rather free thinker.  And Josh’s ancestor interpreted the comet and other events to predict a rather grim future…that of cataclysmic doom.

You see, he was, what what we would call today, a “seer,” and he wrote under a pen name as such.

But then, his activities came to the attention of the church hierarchy……

If you like religious history or just a good mystery, if you had ancestors from Germany in the 17th century, if they became pietists, if you are interested in astronomy, if you love old churches – and especially, if you are a Josh Groban fan…this is a must see.

You can see and feel this ancestor in Josh today.

I think my favorite scene in this entire episode was the one where Josh was holding the actual music book his ancestor taught from.  I don’t know if Josh wanted to cry, but I surely did.

josh music book

Courtesy TLC

This made Josh very happy, gave him cold chills.

“I’m so excited to know that he was passionate about music….that he was a music teacher at the time when there were no music teachers.”

josh smile

Courtesy TLC

Josh, you definitely found your ancestor.  I wonder if there is a music gene.  You have clearly both excelled and bring the same depth of passion to everything you do.

What did Josh have to say about all of this?

Upon embarking on his journey: “I’m excited, a little scared, but excited.”

“My imagination is going wild.”  Mine was too at that point, Josh.  Whoever would have guessed???

“A desperate need.”  Things were getting dicey!

“It is a little strange, isn’t it.”

Uh, yes, to put it mildly…..that part gave me cold chills.  Wait until you see what happened in 1693, the year of the prophecy of doom.

I wonder if Josh’s ancestor ever regretted his decisions.  You’ll have to let me know what you think.  Would you like a sneak peak?  Here you go.

One thing is for sure, if JZ can see Josh today, he can see that same love of music, passion and strength of character – and he could never regret the steps that he took that led to Josh.

Don’t forget, TLC, Sunday, March 15th, at 10, 9 central.

josh playing

Courtesy TLC

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

 

Sixth Season – Who Do You Think You Are?

WDYTYA 2015

Who Do You Think You Are returns this Sunday, March 8th at 10 eastern, 9 central on TLC for its sixth season.

Each week, a celebrity goes on a journey to trace their heritage, making discoveries and generally creating envy for the rest of us.  Of course, we have those same kinds of discoveries to make in our own family history too.

I love this series, in part because it makes genealogy so personal and real and encourages people to become interested in their past that may seem inaccessible, but really isn’t.

To quote TLC, “To know who you are…you have to know where your story began.”

“Lives will change forever.”

That may seem an exaggeration, but often, it’s not.  Understanding your ancestors and how their decisions shaped you today can be very powerful.

To quote one of the celebrities:

“This gives me new light into the rest of my life.”

Plus, the stories are just so, well, juicy!  And moving.  I mean, someone cries in every single episode.  And its not because they discovered the courthouse burned.

This season’s lineup of well-known personalities discovering their ancestry include:

  • Julie Chen
  • Angie Harmon
  • Sean Hayes
  • Bill Paxton
  • Melissa Etheridge
  • America Ferrara
  • Tony Goldwyn
  • Josh Groban

I just want to know one thing.  Is Josh Groban going to sing when he finds his music teacher ancestor????  That would be worth watching all by itself!

Looking forward to “date night” and tweeting with other viewers #WDYTYA.  Come along and join the fun.

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Who Do You Think You Are? Returns

wdytya

It’s back. I really like this series for a couple of reasons.

First, it’s real and I think these search stories are universally appealing to lots of people. These stories encourage people to become curious, begin searching, asking questions, to take up the gauntlet – in other words, it recruits new genealogists, which is good for all of us!

Watch Who Do You Think You Are? Wednesdays, 9/8c on TLC, starting July 23.

You can see past episodes here:

http://www.tlc.com/tv-shows/who-do-you-think-you-are

The first episode on July 23rd will feature Cynthia Nixon, but lots of celebrities are on tap in future segments.  Episodes will be available to see in summary on Ancestry, below, after they air.

http://www.ancestry.com/cs/who-do-you-think-you-are?o_xid=61231&o_lid=61231&o_sch=Email

Later this fall, more genealogy shows will be available, including Finding Your Roots and Genealogy Road Show.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/megan-smolenyak-smolenyak/genealogy-on-tv-28-celebr_b_5452222.html

July 23rd…..put it on the calendar!  I hope to see a lot of the various kinds of DNA testing, used appropriately, in these upcoming episodes!

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

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The Genealogist’s Christmas Lament

Santa

My family tree, it seems, is quite a mess,
John’s Y DNA did not match Mackness,
John instead matches up to an Ibling,
But then the Ibling did not match his sibling,
Instead the Ibling matched up to a Rolland,
But Rolland wasn’t from here, but from Poland.
The only thing in common I can remember
Is that all of them were born in September.

Good Heavens, I might have figured this out,
There’s one magical man, roly-poly and stout,
That visits worldwide just once a year,
In just one night, bringing gifts and good cheer.
Cookies and milk are left for his snack,
With a wink, he finds gifts for good kids in his pack,
But maybe he had something extra special in stow
For a few grateful Moms under the mistletoe?
My gosh, I think there’s even a song,
About kids seeing Santa kissing on Mom.
All this time, I thought sure it was Dad,
And Dad surely is going to be mad.

Do you think it’s possible that all these odd matches at play
Could be related to the man with the reindeer and the sleigh?
He’s been around forever it seems,
But not in even my wildest dreams,
Does it seem possible that the man with the twinkle and jingle,
Would be the guy doing the Mistletoe Mingle?
However, the modus operandi really does fit
And all I need now is some Santa Claus spit,
Cause, of course, I’m just dying to know,
If John, Ibling and Rolland all line up in a row.
And the name they all match, of course, would be Kringle,
Which would explain all about that wink, twinkle and jingle….

mistletoe

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research