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Texas Heroes and Google Books

I’d like to share a fascinating ancestral history gem I discovered at Google Books this week. 

It involves early Texas heroes, and the essence of it has now been digitally lineage-linked in the Family Forest® to a more recent national hero from Texas. Literally millions of people, including probably you (I know I am one of them), relate to this story through their own family ties. 

Audie Murphy was a national hero from Texas, the most decorated American soldier in World War II. His biography, No Name on the Bullet, mentions that his family tree included such men as one of his great-grandfathers, John Berry, but gives no identifying details about John Berry or what he did. So I turned to Google Books in search of answers.

I found more than I was hoping for. It was hidden in a book from 1900 by A. W. Sowell titled Early Settlers and Indian Fighters of Southwest Texas. 

Within a six-page section about John Berry’s wife (titled Mrs. Hannah Berry) are details about who he was, what he did, and in particular the noteworthy service he performed for Davy Crockett shortly before the Alamo. But it was a statement about his wife, also an ancestor of Audie Murphy, which caught my attention. 

While she was still alive, Grandma Berry is said to have had “seventy-four grandchildren that she knows of, and one hundred and twenty-four great-grandchildren, and two great-great-grandchildren.” 

We now know what the author A. W. Sowell could not know; a half century later, Grandma Berry would become an ancestor of at least one Hollywood actor, the most decorated American soldier in World War II. 

How many thousands (tens of thousands?) of living descendants might Grandma Berry have now, a full century after she finished her historically eventful and productive life in Texas at the age of 91? How many of her descendants do not yet know of their own family ties to her, the Alamo, and Audie Murphy?

The National Treasure Hunt begins in Texas. See for yourself.

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Filed under A People-Centered Approach To History®, Ancestors, Ancestral History, Ancestry, Audie Murphy, Family Forest National Treasure, Family Forest® Project, Family Trees, Genealogy, Google, history, Hollywood, National Treasure, Texas, World War II

Jack Nicholson’s Cousins and the Emmy Awards

Jack Nicholson has some known cousins who have been nominated for an Emmy at the 62nd Emmy Awards, according to his Family Forest® relationship report.

These Emmy nominees include Glenn Close, Ted Danson, John Lithgow, Sissy Spacek, Alec Baldwin, and Georgia O’Keeffe (although she’s not up for an Emmy, the movie Georgia O’Keeffe is).

Certainly you will find Jack’s Family Forest® relationship report quite fascinating. After tens of thousands of hours of connecting the dots of recorded history, I can ask the computer for a list of all of the people that Jack has been linked to and Voila! (after a couple of hours of calulation and formating), a 5,715-page report appears with the names of over a quarter of a million different people from the last few thousands years of human history who are related to Jack.

Finding President Obama, myself, and over 1,200 knights that Jack is descended from or related to seems amazing enough, but you may be more interested in his family ties to the Hollywood community, both past and present.

Within this one computer-generated report, which spokes out with Jack at the hub, are thousands of well-known people who have profile pages at IMDb.com, and a surprising number of them have worked with him during his career on many popular films.

I found the main star from his upcoming film How Do You Know, one of the main stars from Something’s Gotta Give, two stars from The Departed, two stars from Mars Attacks!, China Kantner from The Evening Star, his co-star from Ironweed, a co-star from The Witches of Eastwick, the producer of The Shining, the author of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, and both of the co-stars from Easy Rider.

The Family Forest® Project is, among other objectives, Networking Family History with Hollywood (TM).

Are you or any of your ancestors, or some of your favorite Hollywood stars, already networked to Jack Nicholson in the Family Forest? You can find out now.

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Filed under 62nd Emmy Awards, Cousins, Emmy Awards, Family Forest, Family Forest® Project, Genealogy, Hollywood, Jack Nicholson, Ted Danson

Did You Hear About the Morgans?

After enjoying watching Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant in this movie, we tried one of the really cool features of our new Roots Magic program. We asked if it could create a Relationship Chart in the Family Forest® between the two co-stars. 

Almost instantly a chart appeared showing generation-by-generation exactly how Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant are distant cousins. They share ancestors in the Family Forest®. Who would have guessed? (Well, maybe those who read our last Sarah Jessica Parker blog.

And there are other surprising family ties from “Did You Hear About the Morgans?” as well. Although Mary Steenburgen’s ancestry is not in the Family Forest® yet, the ancestry of her husband Ted Danson (subject of my favorite ancestral coincidences [or not?] story is. So through marriage, Mary is related to both Hugh and Sarah Jessica.  

But the bigger and better story than how these three stars are related is about how so many individual fans are related to one or more of them through their own family ties. 

We’re looking forward to sharing these fun connections with more Family Forest® customers personally.

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Filed under Ancestry, Family Forest National Treasure, Family Forest® Project, Genealogy, Hollywood, Mary Steenburgen, National Treasure, Sarah Jessica Parker, Ted Danson, Who Do You Think You Are

Virkus Clarification and Correction

Those of you who are unfamiliar with Virkus’ The Abridged Compendium of American Genealogy (later The Compendium of American Genealogy) should know what it is and what it isn’t, what’s wrong with it, and if there are any redeeming qualities.

In short, you should know the truth about it, and far more importantly, what’s been done to it recently since it was published more than a half century ago. 

This massive work in seven volumes, published over a decade and a half between the 1920’s and the 1940’s, maps out verbally an enormously large swath of generation-by-generation American family history over basically a three century period. 

Despite the potential ancestral history value that promises, and the fact that it is the one genealogy resource that can be found in most libraries, conventional wisdom these days says that it should be avoided like the plague. 

It has been known for a long time that it contains many errors, but I’ve never seen anyone quantify that statement. Is it 30% errors? 40%? 50%? The much lower answer may surprise you. 

But what if the correct answer was that it contains 50% errors? That would mean that one out of every two statements or dates is wrong. 

The glass-half-empty thinkers will say this massive genealogy resource is useless. The glass-half-full thinkers will say “Wow! Wouldn’t it be great if we knew which half of this massive genealogy resource is correct?” 

Highly respected genealogist Donald Lines Jacobus said about it “because of the high proportion of known errors, conscientious genealogists do not use statements in this work without verification.” 

“It is often a useful reference work for those who know how to use it properly” he went on to say. 

Suppose a conscientious person with Mensa-level intelligence spent 15 years digitally indexing, in lineage-linked format, the Virkus collection along with hundreds of other books and periodicals, filtering out annoying and confusing duplication, error checking each entry against everything else that had been previously entered, and connecting them to each other wherever appropriate? 

There’s no need to imagine the enormous upgrade in quality and usability that has already happened to Virkus’ massive work (as well as to hundreds of other books and periodicals, including many from NEHGS and NYGBR). Just explore for yourself in the National Treasure.

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Filed under Ancestors, Ancestral History, Compendium of American Genealogy, Family Forest National Treasure, Family Forest® Project, Genealogy, National Treasure

The Heart of Bruce

No, this is not going to be a story about my own heart, but it is about a very memorable story, at least for me, concerning the heart of one of my ancestors. 

Almost every day I enter many facts into the Family Forest®. There are over 900,000 source citations in the National Treasure, so it’s safe to assume that I can’t remember many of them. But a few of them evoke a powerful visual image that stays with me. This is about one of them. 

Do you remember Robert I, also known as Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland [PIN 7910] from Braveheart? When he died, two of his companions in arms, Sir James Douglas, Lord of Galloway [PIN 29237] (known in Scotland as “the good Sir James Douglas” and in England as “the Black Douglas”) and William St. Clair, Lord of Rosslyn [PIN 29273] (remember Rosslyn Chapel from “The Da Vinci Code”?), set out on a mission to take the heart of Bruce to Jerusalem. 

This was a vivid image to me, reminiscent of Brad Pitt taking his brother’s heart home in Legends of the Fall, and Brooke Shields feeling the need to touch the container of her ancestor’s heart in Who Do You Think you Are? 

I wondered who these two great warriors were who would undertake such an unusual mission for their friend and king. So I clicked on “the Black Douglas” and asked for an 8-generation descendant view (the default setting) in the National Treasure. 

His descendant who caught my attention was Lord William Sinclair [PIN 29306] who died in 1570. I knew the surname Sinclair is a derivation of St. Clair, so I was curious to find out if this descendant of “the Black Douglas” was also a descendant of the companion of “the Black Douglas,” William St. Clair, Lord of Rosslyn.  

So I reversed direction by asking for a 10-generation ancestor view (the default setting). Sure enough, Lord William Sinclair is a descendant of both of them. More surprisingly, he is also a descendant in five different lines of Robert the Bruce.

So two centuries earlier two of his ancestors set out on a mission to take the heart of another one of his ancestors to Jerusalem. Who was this guy with the colorful ancestral heritage? 

I asked for a 20-generation descendant view (to reach down to present day) and I was really surprised this time. In one of the 941 boxes this chart filled in was my name! According to recorded history, it is one of my own ancestors who has this colorful ancestral heritage. He is also an ancestor of Princess Diana, Sarah Ferguson, Winston Churchill, Montgomery Clift, The Thornbirds star Rachel Ward, Admiral Dennis Cutler Blair, Prince Albert of Monaco, and Madonna’s son Rocco Ritchie. 

P.S. I hope I will be forgiven for not recognizing some of my own ancestors, as my own 40-generation ancestor view chart in the National Treasure fills in 3,074,306 boxes with the names of some of my ancestors.

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Filed under Ancestral History, Braveheart, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Family Forest, Family Forest National Treasure, Family Forest® Project, Genealogy, history, King Robert I of Scotland

Lost Cousin links to Ancestral Mother

I pulled up a 30-generation ancestor chart last night for my “Lost” cousin, Matthew Fox, to see if he has ancestral pathways into the new Robin Hood movie, and indeed he does. 

Right away I saw one of his ancestral pathways to one of my favorite ancestral mothers, who is portrayed in Robin Hood. Then I saw another, and another, and another. By the time I finished counting, I found that Matthew has at least 48 different ancestral pathways to Eleanor of Aquitaine in the Family Forest® National Treasure. 

There are 16 through King John (son of Eleanor by King Henry II), 30 through Eleanor (daughter of Eleanor by King Henry II), and two through Mary (daughter of Eleanor by King Louis VII of France). 

Seeing these types of connections all the time does not keep me from being surprised by new ones I am continually discovering in the Family Forest®. 

The Family Forest® Project is Networking Family History with Hollywood™, as well as with American and Old World history.

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Filed under Ancestral History, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Family Forest, Family Forest National Treasure, Family Forest® Project, FamilyForest, film, Genealogy, Hollywood, Matthew Fox, Robin Hood

Getting to Robin Hood via eBay

An old friend asked me to call a friend of his in Atlanta early last week. Something about frustration with his experience at Ancestry.com, and wondering if I could help him. 

Within two hours, I was able to email John a PIN of one of his ancestors in the National Treasure who has a generation-by-generation ancestral pathway to Katharine Hepburn’s character in The Lion in Winter. 

That same character, Eleanor of Aquitaine, is also portrayed in Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood. So John can take his kids to the movies this week to see their own ancestors portrayed larger than life on the silver screen. Cool, huh? 

Maybe we don’t actually make joy, as BMW does, but we certainly enjoy spreading joy. So we’re announcing our Personal Connection Service to Hollywood this week and introducing it via an eBay auction

The Family Forest® Project is, among other objectives, Networking Family History with Hollywood™, and we’re trying to make it as easy as possible for you to connect your children personally to history, and to ignite their interest in life time learning.

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Filed under Ancestors, Family Forest National Treasure, Family Forest® Project, film, Genealogy, Hollywood, Katharine Hepburn, Robin Hood, Russell Crowe

Ancestral Movie Premiers

I just discovered that one of my favorite ancestral mothers is being portrayed in Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood

It’s exciting to see someone portrayed at the movies who documented human history says is one of your own ancestors. It’s a much more powerful attraction than just seeing one’s cousins acting in the movies. Maybe because distant cousins appear so frequently, while portrayals of actual ancestors only happen occasionally. 

From personal experience, one seems to naturally develop an affinity for a Hollywood star who has portrayed one’s own ancestor. For me, the top four so far are Katharine Hepburn (who also portrayed President Obama’s ancestor and is mentioned in the new Hawaii 24/7 article about him, Peter O’Toole, Charlton Heston, and Sophia Loren. 

I’m having a lot of fun with our Family Forest® Project while Networking Family History with Hollywood™, and I’m looking forward to seeing a new Hollywood blockbuster visually illustrating our digital system of family links. 

Most people who read this posting have ancestral pathways that lead directly to one or more characters in Robin Hood.

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Filed under Ancestral History, Family Forest, Family Forest National Treasure, Family Forest® Project, Genealogy, Hollywood, IMDb, Robin Hood

One of my favorite ancestral mothers

Maybe it’s because she was the first of my ancestors I saw portrayed in a movie (The Lion in Winter), and maybe it’s because she was portrayed by one of Hollywood’s most beloved icons (Katharine Hepburn), but at or very near the top of the list of my favorite ancestral mothers is Eleanor of Aquitaine. 

She was married to a king of France and a king of England, and was the mother of at least ten children, including two of history’s most remembered kings, Richard the Lionhearted, and King John who signed the Magna Charta. 

Eleanor is a very key gateway ancestor. Her ancestral pathways lead back thousands of years to and through exciting ancient worlds, some of which are already being re-created in 3-D virtual environments.

She is probably an ancestral mother of everyone who reads this. You can see Eleanor’s Ancestors-at-a-glance™ here

Moms have been making it all possible since before recorded history, and that’s why we are proud to emphasize them so strongly in the National Treasure. Happy Mother’s Day Mom!

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Filed under Ancestral History, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Family Forest National Treasure, Family Forest® Project, Genealogy, history, Hollywood, Mother's Day, National Treasure, Royalty, Uncategorized

Susan Sarandon on Who Do You Think You Are?

Kristine and I are eagerly awaiting the return of our new favorite program. We are very curious to find out where Susan Sarandon’s ancestral pathways lead. 

Anyone can now click on Susan’s sons in the Family Forest® National Treasure Edition and visually explore their paternal generation-by-generation ancestral pathways for thousands of years. 

In fact, her sons’ ancestral pathways lead to some of the same ancestors as another famous Hollywood actress who has previously portrayed Susan’s daughter, Who Do You Think You Are? co-star Brooke Shields. 

If you like Who Do You Think You Are?, you’ll love exploring in the Family Forest® National Treasure Edition. For some of the episodes (please see previous blog posts about Sarah Jessica Parker and Brooke Shields), it continues on well beyond where the program leaves off.

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Filed under Ancestral History, Family Forest National Treasure, Family Forest® Project, Genealogy, National Treasure, Sarah Jessica Parker, Susan Sarandon, Who Do You Think You Are