Last night’s “Genealogy Roadshow” visited the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. This was the last regular episode this season, but it looks like next week, we’ll see a “Best of Genealogy Roadshow” season finale with highlights from both seasons.
The stories, along with genealogy tips and resources gleaned from them, included:
- A woman (above) had been told that her grandmother inherited money from someone she’d helped to escape the Holocaust. Roadshow host Josh Taylor shared documents showing that her Kriwer grandparents had indeed helped two cousins escape from Nazi Germany. Sadly, Nazi deportation records (more here on Yad Vashem’s project to make these accessible in the Pan-European Deportation Database) show that a third cousin, Serafine Kriwer, who stayed behind, was sent to a death camp and murdered.
- A Methodist minister had heard that her ancestor was a horse thief and counterfeiter who’d given his spoils away, Robin Hood-style. Kenyatta Berry revealed that the great-grandfather, Ed Harmon, was indeed part of “Boss” Buck‘s gang of horse thieves in an area known as the Pennsylvania Wilds. Newspapers and court records recounted how gang members were arrested for trying to sell counterfeit money. There was no evidence, though, that the gang gave away their money, but Berry said later records did indicate that Harmon managed to become a law-abiding citizen.
- Mary Tedesco helped a family get to the bottom of the story about a great-grandfather, Charley Flynn, who’d gone missing. Tedesco noted that the show’s researchers were suspicious when they discovered the July 18, 1929, date of birth for Flynn’s younger son was the same date Flynn’s wife gave as her husband’s death date. They found no evidence he died that day or even that year—but they did find a 1989 obituary with a matching name and other details. Charley appears to have simply left his wife in 1929, and later married another woman.
- A young lady with her aunt and uncle brought a family story that their relative had started the world’s longest-burning fire. It turned out that her great-great-grandfather, a miner, had been involved in a long, contentious strike in Ohio. A small group miners set the New Straitsville mine on fire, not expecting it to be burning more than 100 years later. The only person to admit his involvement never named his accomplices.
- A woman with a family story about a seafaring ancestor found out her third-great-grandfather John Griffis was indeed the captain of a merchant ship, who was authorized by Congress to act as a privateer during the Quasi-war with France from 1798 to 1800. His ship’s arrivals and departures were reported in newspapers, helping Roadshow researchers trace his whereabouts.
- An African-American family had a story that a formerly enslaved ancestor, Orin Fulp, was fathered by a slaveowner. Berry traced him back in census records, comparing his 1910 listing as “mulatto” to his 1880 listing as “black.” She pointed out that former slaves didn’t always take the last name of their owner, but in this case, post-slavery census records show Orin farming on land he’d purchased near other Fulp families, white and black. (Use our guide in the January/February 2015 Family Tree Magazine to trace enslaved African-American ancestors.) No paper records provide a conclusive link, but a DNA test showed a match between the guest and a white family, suggesting her family story is true.