• Newsreel,  US Civil War

    Introducing GC Newsreel!

    Welcome to the first Newsreel article!  This is a new feature for sharing quick genealogy news and updates. I know this isn’t (yet?) a short news film but it does include a video so close enough. 😄 

    Civil War Widow Dies…in 2021

    After starting my family research I realized something that blew my mind: My grandmother was partially raised by/near her grandparents (not the mind-blowing part).  And her grandfather had served in the Civil War.  Though her grandparents passed away before I was born, I did know my grandmother before she passed away.  This meant that I knew someone who knew someone that was in the Civil War! A war fought 150 years ago was suddenly much closer at hand! 🤯

    Which brings me to more recent news:  A 101-year old woman passed away this month, which is news in itself.  But more surprisingly, she was the last known (and plausible) Civil War widow.  Apparently, at the age of 17, Viola Jackson married 93-year-old former Union Soldier James Bolin.  She was his caretaker and he married her in part to pass on his service pension as a thank you for her care.  She never applied for the pension after his death, however. And there is talk of his children threatening her with exposure of her “sin” if she did apply. 

    Setting aside the unfortunate family drama, this makes my own connection pale in comparison.  It is an excellent reminder that the past is never as far away as it seems.  We may now have few if any living connections to the Civil War. But we don’t have to try too hard to make a connection similar to mine:  the people who knew people.  And to take it a step further, those who fought in the Civil War would have known the last of those who witnessed the American Revolution.  So we know people who knew people who fought in or survived the American Revolution. 

    Of course we could take this to its absurd extremes, but it is a powerful reminder that we are all connected.  Past, present, and future!

    Research Tip

    If you have found your own Civil War ancestors, you can order their service and pension records from the National Archives for a fee. Check out the NA’s site for Civil War Records. For any Confederate soldiers, note that the pensions were received from the state they served in. You’ll need to contact the state’s archive department for those.

    New Season of Finding Your Roots

    It’s back, baby!  The amazing and dapper Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and the team will be back with a new season of Finding Your Roots on Tuesday, January 19th.  Check out the preview: 

    Consult PBS for your local schedule.  If you, like me, have cut the cord, you can stream it live when it airs (click on the Live TV button in the upper corner).  For past episodes, you can find some online and all of them through then PBS Passport (which requires a monthly membership donation of $5+)

    Are you as excited as I am for FYR’s return?  What connections to historic events have found in your research?  And what do you think about the Newsreel idea?  Please let me know below! Thanks!

    Happy Viewing!


    Image Credit

    Newsreel Graphic: by author, ©Michelle Keel 2021

  • Holidays,  News

    Happy New Year!

    Just a quick note to say we made it!!

    May this year be a much better year for everyone! Stay safe and stay tuned for some organization tips to get the year started right! They will hopefully be more helpful than the weight-loss tips we forget by January 15th. 😀

    In the interim, check out New Yorkers going wild on New Year’s in this footage from 1938! Have you or your family ever been to Times Square for New Year’s Eve? Let me know below!

    Image Credit: 2021 Images created with Canva

  • News

    Welcome to the Crossroads!

    Welcome to Genealogy Crossroads, where your ancestors and history meet. 🙂 Today marks the launch of a new adventure!

    Genealogy Crossroads

    The adventure starts here with the blog. Genealogy Crossroads’ primary purpose is to explore where our ancestors intersect with history. We often get caught up in the pursuit of finding more family members and data but don’t spend much time thinking about what life was like for them.

    However, it is important to also think of them three-dimensionally. They were living, breathing people whose lives and choices have brought you to where you are today: reading this blog on technology they couldn’t have dreamed of!

    Exploring the history around our ancestors can also help us break through brick walls, answer important questions, and bring us closer to the events that shaped their lives and ours. Why did your ancestor move across the country? What was it like to travel across the ocean on a wooden ship or fight in the Civil War? What did they eat? And the eternal question: Where on earth did all the records go?

    Just a few members of the family

    Who am I?

    After leaving corporate America last year, I’ve been on a long, strange trip involving teaching, writing, training, surviving a pandemic (knock on wood!), and stalling out on a move abroad–thanks to said pandemic. After all of these pivots, I needed to figure out what to do now instead of waiting for the world to figure things out.

    What has emerged in these uncertain times is that you just have to grab the bull by the horns. And buy the toilet paper when you see it.

    I needed a new career. What I wanted was a career that would be sustainable, allow me to help people, and also let me do what I love.

    When I reviewed my skills and passions, I realized that there had been an obvious choice all along: genealogy!

    My interest in genealogy really blossomed back in 2003. I had been laid off but not yet let go, so I had a lot of free time. I was also engaged to be married and thinking a lot about family. And online genealogy was taking off. Voila! A new love was born!

    Remember when?

    What To Expect

    Genealogy Crossroads (GC) will look at the big and small events and the details that were a part of our ancestor’s lives, including:

    • Daily Life: What life was like, such as food, music, clothes and more.
    • Social & Cultural History: What was going on in the community? And in the country?
    • Migration: Why the wilderness of Arkansas Territory? Or the wilds of Wisconsin?
    • Wars and Conflicts: No dry battle facts! Instead, we’ll look at what these events meant for our ancestors’ lives.
    • Maps and Geographic Challenges: We’ll examine changing boundaries and place names plus historic map goodness.
    • Last but not least: Genealogy Skill Building–the eternal pursuit!

    Never fear, resources to help you on your own journey will be included in the articles. The primary focus will be on American history, though also expect some exploration of foreign lands (especially Europe–my area of expertise).

    You’ll get to meet my own family along the way and find out how I’m working through my research challenges. Like what happens when your ancestor’s regiment burns down the courthouse full of family documents. 😣

    My goal is to help expand your understanding of your ancestors and their lives. I also hope to help you with your own research as we go along.

    I look forward to our journey through the past. Please let me know below what area of your family’s history interests you most or that you find most challenging!


    Michelle 🙂