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Schuylkill Roots Book Helps "Who Do You Think You Are" Guest Celebrity Find His Roots

May 01

Is there a genealogist out there who is not familiar with NBC’s, “Who Do You Think You Are?

Quoting from the web site, “NBC's acclaimed alternative series "Who Do You Think You Are?" follows some of today's most beloved and iconic celebrities as they embark on personal journeys of self-discovery to trace their family trees. From Ireland's freedom fighters to the American Revolutionary War, and from the African nation of Cameroon to Bulgaria, this season will reveal the fabric of humanity through everyone's place in history.

During each episode, one of the celebrities is taken on a surprising and deeply emotional quest into his or her family history, resulting in a compelling reality format. Each week, viewers follow some of America's best-known celebrities into their ancestral pasts, as they uncover stories of heroism and tragedy, love and betrayal, secrets and intrigue that lie at the heart of their family history.

At the same time, "Who Do You Think You Are?" celebrates the twists and turns of a great nation and the people who made their way here in search of freedom and opportunity. As each celebrity discovers his or her unknown relatives - most of whom overcame hard times, the show will take viewers back through world history to expose how the lives of everyone's collective ancestors have shaped our world today.”

On March 9, Closson Press received an e-mail from Heather Ross, the story producer of “Who Do You Think You Are” asking if a book published by our press could be used in one of their genealogy documentary shows. The book would be shown in a scene at the PA State Library, where their main character would use it to find out about the death of his great-great-grandfather.

Mary asked who the celebrity was and Heather could only reveal that it was a male and he was a nice guy. He will remain anonymous until it is officially announced. This episode is slated to air On May 11th at 8/7c on NBC. We hope you’ll tune in to find out who HE is. If you’re searching that area, he could be one of your “kin.”

The book: Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania Coroner’s Inquest Records by Phillip A. Rice and Indexed by Jean A. Dellock

AND IT IS OFFICIALLY ANNOUNCED: American actor and comedian best known for starring as a cast member on Saturday Night Live. He also has had a notable breakthrough in the film industry in 2011, starring that year in Hall Pass, Horrible Bosses and A Good Old  - JASON SUDEIKIS!


Phil and Jean are cousins and have pooled their time and genealogical talents to produce over 80 books on Schuylkill and surrounding counties. Their books have opened doors for many genealogists since 1989.

Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania Coroner’s Inquest Records, Volume 1 was published in late 2010. Phil was approached by Joanne Vaughn to see if they could strike a reciprocal agreement. She was willing to photocopy the material if Phil would agree to put it in book form. Noticing the poor condition of the records, he wanted to help preserve them so the answer was yes. Colleen, in the County Courthouse Archives, was happy about this arrangement also because it simplified her research.

Phil said the hardest part of producing the book was the sadness he felt in finding a significant number of unknown infants in the records. There were also many unknown men and women which was understandable because in those days men and women used to jump the box cars to travel and often missed their target and were run over by trains.

Life was harsh in the coal regions during the 19th and 20th Century. Safety was nonexistent, because it cost the mine owners money to provide a safe workplace for their employees. Shoddy workmanship, on the timbers; old or unsafe explosives, usually resulting in a premature explosion are just a few of the horrors. This book is a record of coroner’s inquests into deaths from 1811 to 1909 and includes well over 11,000 entries including many immigrants (primarily Irish and later into the 1800’s, an influx of Eastern European (Poland, Czech, Lithuanians, etc.) as well as Italians.


Mar 08


During the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium, the United States Army was faced with the daunting task of burying those who perished. One of the locations chosen was the small village of Grand-Failly in France, 53 miles south of Bastogne. The cemetery opened on December 20, 1944, just 4 days after the beginning of the Bulge offensive. It was operated and maintained by the US Government, but citizens of the town helped tend the graves.

 Oliver A. Simmers, one of the soldiers buried there, was the uncle of Donna Paszek. When he died her grandmother, Mary, was devastated. She wrote to the military asking if there was anyone who would put flowers on his grave. A young French girl by the name of Josy Simon (now Pernot) volunteered. She wrote to Donna’s grandmother and sent pictures of the cross with flowers. This was the beginning of a lifelong friendship between the two women and a friendship that continues today between Josy’s son, Guy Olivier Pernot (Oliver), and Donna. 

In 1948, the decision was made to relocate the fallen, and they were interred in private and national cemeteries in the United States and in military cemeteries in Europe. July 11, 1948 was the last tribute before exhumation of the bodies. The cemetery in Grand-Failly no longer exists. What was once a field of crosses is now a field of corn. 

In 1985, the 40th anniversary of the end of WWII, the people of Grand-Failly erected a memorial on the site. The dedication reads: “Here rested in peace 2967 American soldiers from December 1944 to 1949. These brave men made the ultimate sacrifice during the Ardennes Offensive. They will always have our utmost respect, admiration and remembrance.” A modest memorial in a small town, the memorial reflects  the gratitude of its people. 

To honor these men and to thank the citizens of the town who 63 years later still remember, Donna decided to do her best to identify them. She solicited the help of military and genealogical researcher, John Bowen of Maryland, who kindly photographed the original plot maps at the National Archives in Washington, DC and sent them to her. 

The maps contained only names, first initials and serial numbers. Donna was able to identify the plot, row, grave number, full name, rank, serial number, state of enlistment, and when possible the date of death and permanent burial site. She used the following websites: National Archives, Military Personnel;, US Rosters of World War II Dead 1939-1945; American Battle Monuments Commission; Nationwide Grave Site Locator; National WWII Memorial; and Google. 

When Donna completed the tedious task of memorializing these men, she sent a copy of the completed book to Oliver Pernot and asked him to present it to the town and Memorial Committee. His attempt to do this was rejected. The people  felt it deserved a special memorial service in honor of the book which was scheduled for October 8, 2011. They insisted that they wanted Donna to attend the service and present the books in person. Donna wasn’t in a position to afford a trip to France and she told them so. In September she received an email from Oliver telling her to pack her bags. He, with the help of the committee and town, purchased airline tickets for her. 

Donna found it overwhelming to be a part of this ceremony and to know just how much the people of France – especially this small town – appreciated what our soldiers did for them in WWII. This cemetery was only there for four years but they have held three ceremonies every year for over 60 years. Donna found this very touching. The love they have for America is something to experience especially when you realize most of them were very small children or not even born during WWII. 

Donna says: “It was not a chore to research these men. It was an honor. To know for years to come they will be remembered not only as a cross in a photo, but each of them will hold a place in my heart and will be remembered by Oliver  and the people of Grand-Failly, is very special. My Uncle never got to marry or have children so his legacy ended on January 2, 1945. I feel in some small way I have given him a place in history and his deeds will live on.” 

Donna is Treasurer for the Pittsburgh Chapter, DAR; member of the United States Daughter of 1812; Treasurer for the Ruth F. Barnhart Tent 56, Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War 1861-65; member of the First Families of Western Pennsylvania; member of the Butler County Historical Society; former Trustee and Member of East Union Presbyterian Church; and a member of the Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society. She has compiled and published three family histories: Descendants of William and Samuel Cooper of Butler County, PA; Family Tree of Valentine Braun and Marguerite Bender; and Descendants of George Simmers of Chester County, PA. 

Note: Closson Press printed Donna's original book which was prepared exclusively for the French. We thought it might be of interest to people in the US who are searching their ancestors and asked Donna to make it available in a more research savy edition for the genealogist.

Click here to view book details.

The "Big Four" Irish Online Databases for the Family Historian

Jan 21
Closson Press is proud to say that we were one of Brian Mitchell's early publishers. We still keep in touch with Brian and those first books are still available. He was very generous in donating some information for our Blog that we think will be of benefit to those with Irish ancestry. We'd love to know if these sources help you and what lines you are researching. I will definitely be checking out these sites for my own Irish lines.

Irish genealogy has been totally transformed in the past couple of years with the availability of online databases of important Irish record sources such as 1901 and 1911 census; mid-19th century Griffith's Valuation; indexes to Irish civil birth, marriage and death registers; and last, but not least, the very significant county databases of church and civil records built up over the last three decades. Thus, Irish family researchers, to get the most from their hobby must be guided to the internet and how to use online databases

1. - Search, for free, the 1901 and 1911 census returns, which includes images of original documents, for all counties in Ireland. These returns, arranged by townland and parish in rural areas and street and town in urban areas, detail, for every person, their name, age, religion, education, occupation, marital status, and county or city of birth, or country (if born outside Ireland.

2. - Search, for free, the mid-19th century Griffith's Valuation for all Irish counties, which includes images of original documents and maps, by Family Name and Place Name. Griffith’s Valuation was a survey carried out for every parish in Ireland between 1848 and 1864, detailing every rateable head of household and occupier of land in Ireland by townland or street address.

3. - Search, for free, the indexes (21 million entries) to Irish civil birth, marriage and death registers by clicking on ‘Europe’ or 'All Record Collections' and then selecting from country list, which is in alphabetical order, 'Ireland, Civil Registration Indexes, 1845-1958'. In Ireland, all births, marriages and deaths were subject to civil registration from 1864 (1845 for non-Catholic marriages.

4. - Search, for free, the indexes to 18 million births, marriages and deaths extracted from civil and church registers for 27 of Ireland’s 32 counties, with option to purchase, on a pay-per-view basis, any selected record. You can either search across all counties or search a particular county.

Courtesty of Brian Mitchell
Derry Genealogy Centre

Resolve to Write More This Year!

Jan 01

It is an annual tradition of mine to send a Christmas letter sharing the challenges and successes of the year and to share the lives of our children and grandchildren and others who are dear to us. The letter is filled with photographs of the grandchildren or others with enumerations of their accomplishments along with love and good wishes to family and friends. I keep a copy of this annual letter in a file to preserve those annual memories for myself and for the family.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of writing, reflecting and sharing family moments. We should all be writing annual Christmas letters and beyond that – writing more.

My second cousin’s grandmother unknowingly left a special treasure for the family. A letter written back in the late 1890s was found when they were moving a large dresser out of her bedroom after she had passed. Lodged behind the dresser was a letter a grandfather had written to his son who had immigrated to the United States from Germany. My cousin had it transcribed to English from German and shared copies with family members.

The son and father had lost touch and the father had handwritten several pages expressing his love for his son, love of family, and took the time to bring his son up to date on family members including where they lived, what they were doing, mentioning those who had passed, and so much more. I never personally met this grandfather, but I felt like I knew him after reading this letter. He was a devout Christian who loved the Lord and family more than anything else in his life. I was grateful for that opportunity to see into his heart.
Memories of Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations are still fresh. Holiday get-togethers almost always include sharing stories and memories of days past. Take the time to write down those stories and preserve them for future generations. The best gift you can give to your descendants is your life and the lives of those you knew in your time and in your words.
In fact, with a new year beginning, why not set a genealogy resolution? It could be to allot so much time each week to research, or to write down what you remember about a favorite ancestor or a branch of the family, a holiday gathering, or to scan and organize family photographs so they can be shared with other family members. You could resolve to interview some of your living relatives and preserve their memories. Challenge yourself to chronicle your life for future generations.

The unintentional treasure left behind by my great aunt could very well be the intentional treasure left behind by you. The love I feel for my ancestor could well be the love felt by your children and grandchildren for you.

A New Year’s resolution to preserve your family history could be the best gift you could leave your family.

Happy New Year, Friends!


Welcome to our new web site and blog!

Sep 29

Dear Genealogy Friends,

Welcome to our new site and Blog. This web site has been a long time in the making with the promise of many new features to be added in the near future. A huge thank you goes out to the people who stood by me in my struggles and were there to make it happen. They know who they are.

When our web server offered a Blog option, I immediately purchased Blogging for Dummies. The more I read, the more nervous I became. After reading about all the things I could say or do to get myself into trouble, I came up with a name for the blog, "Out on a Limb." Then I learned;a name was unnecessary because it was part of the new site. There are so many options and so many things to consider in setting up an independent blog, it was a relief when I learned everything is set up by the Shopify system and it would be as simple as writing an e-mail.

Years ago, when our son was six weeks old, we drove from our home in Apollo, Pennsylvania to North Carolina to introduce him to his paternal grandparents. My husband handed me a map, knowing full well that I cannot read a map, but he thought he would have some fun at my expense. After hours of driving around circles he finally realized that I was not going to get us there with or without a map so he took the map from me and we finally reached our destination. Who had the last laugh?

Today a GPS would have helped avoid the situation. The trip would have been outlined. If I had made a wrong turn, it would have led me along the way, pointing out wrong turns, and the ride would have been much smoother.

This Blog is for YOU. I’m directionally challenged here too and have new roads to travel. I want this site to be a place where you can feel comfortable to ask questions, find information, and can post and share information that can help others -- the question is: What route should we take?

I’m inviting you to be my GPS not only for this Blog but for the upcoming newsletter. Societies have the advantage of limiting information for their particular group of followers and staying within those bounds. Since the web is national (actually worldwide), I am open for ideas on where "we" want to go.

Since this blog is for your benefit, I would appreciate your recommendations for new blog postings as well as your comments on the new web site.

I’d like to start by suggesting that we share favorite informational genealogy web sites and take it one step further by adding a genealogy moment that might be associated with it. Please feel free to share that story and the reason it is your favorite site. I'm totally convinced that those things that seem to fall into our laps do not happen by coincidence. If that moment has not yet arrived, sharing a favorite web site is more than enough.

Tell your genealogy friends we are here. Feel free to mention our new site in your society newsletters. Let’s get this BLOG on the road!

Positively genealogy,