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Win an Applebee's Gift Card
Genlighten 2.0 Update: Add Attachments to Messages
New Provider Spotlight
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Issue: #28
 8 January 2013

I was delighted recently to discover artist Ashley Gilreath's* project entitled "I Am Who They Were." It's so much more than just a necklace made from family photographs. Here's how she describes it:


"This necklace was made to represent the memory of my grandparent's long staircase in their house. I want the viewer to see my history as the necklace wraps around, and to feel the sensation of climbing up and down the stairs as the images of my family line the walls. More importantly, I wanted my skin to show through as my family's skin, so that my stories, my life and who I am as an individual is shown as the sum of all of the people that came before me."


Necklace by Ashley Gilreath I love the idea of her taking in the sweep of her family history as she traverses her grandparents' stairs. Giving the photographs a transparent background so her skin shows through them is a deft and remarkably creative touch, conveying powerfully her belief that she is "...the sum of... the people that came before [her]." As intuitively appealing as this idea is, however, it does not ring completely true to me, either as a genealogist or as an occasional dabbler in linear algebra.


Nature vs. Nurture


As I research my family history, I can see how characteristics such as appearance, health, temperament or talent may have been passed down to me, whether via genetics or simply through family culture. I like to think I've inherited the Smith family's entrepreneurial drive, for example, or the Ingersolls' passion for education. And it was just last week that someone told me "you look just like your mother."


But I also believe I control the extent to which my progenitors determine "who I am as an individual." If I am the sum of my ancestors, than I'm confident it is a weighted sum, that the weights are unequal, and that I can adjust those weights as I see fit over time. Furthermore, I'm also the sum of my education, experiences, and other non-hereditary factors. Many of you will recognize the familiar Nature vs. Nurture debate here. I'm squarely on the side of "both"!


I suspect Ashley would agree with me that genealogy isn't destiny -- that our lives are influenced and informed, but not pre-determined, by those of our ancestors. My efforts to catalog my progenitors' stories are fueled by the desire to incorporate the best of what they have done, learned, and become into my own being, while leaving their less desirable characteristics emphatically behind. I can only hope that my children do the same.


Happy New Year from all of us at!


Dean Richardson

Genlighten Co-Founder


*Thanks to Ashley for giving kind permission to use text and images from her website in this article. Please visit to see more of her thoughtful and inspiring work.

Your Know-How Could Win You an Applebee's Gift Card

Locality Page Image
Sure, you can Google to  
  • see if documents or indexes are online
  • figure out where records are held and what's available
  • learn about a historical society's hours and holdings
  • try to find a local researcher 
  • look for a place to ask a quick research question

but navigating search results takes time and it's not always productive. We want to make it easier.


Genlighten's community-curated locality pages are designed to bring together the most useful resources for any given area and make them accessible through one simple-to-use dashboard. For new researchers, they'll offer a quick overview and a jumping-off point. For seasoned researchers, they'll provide an easy-to-bookmark reference.


We could tell you all about these pages, but it would be better for you to just take a look. So, how about a little incentive in the form of a prize drawing? 


Here's how it works:


  • 2) See what's there. See what's missing. Think about what would be the most useful to you if you were going to use the page.
  • Send us an email ( and tell us what you think we should add. We're interested in three things: 1) the best online resources for the locality; 2) web addresses for the best repositories for on-site research; and 3) been there/done that tips to make research easier for others.


We'll update the page with your suggestions and drop your name in a virtual hat for a drawing for a $25 Applebee's gift card. 


An email with 3 or more suggestions (mix and match in any of the 3 categories above) for 1 locality = 1 entry. You are welcome to submit multiple entries in separate emails as long as they are for different pages. Emails must be received before midnight on 31 Jan 2013. The winner will be notified by email and the gift card will be sent online.


You might be wondering if we're just trying to reinvent the wheel. Nope. We're installing pneumatic tires. Pulling everything together in one easy-to-use place. Same function. Much smoother ride.


We're looking forward to hearing from you!

Genlighten 2.0 Update: Add Attachments to Messages
Have you noticed that you can now add attachments to messages sent through the site? Just click "Choose a File" to select a document or image and it'll be posted when you click "Send Message." To view an attachment, just click the thumbnail image.

We've also made updates to the site search. It now returns lists of offerings as well as lists of providers and repositories. Try it! For example, if you search "civil war pension" it will return three offerings from providers who can retrieve those files.
New Provider Spotlight
Provider Image The Genlighten community continues to growWe'd like to introduce you to four of our newest research providers. 



Yvette Hoitink says she has "helped hundreds of people from around the world find their Dutch ancestors." She can visit repositories throughout the Netherlands including the National Archives in The Hague.


Los Angeles-based kdholland specializes in German-American research, Catholic records, and Southern California research. She holds a certificate from the National Institute of Genealogical Studies and is working on a ProGen certificate.


Planelady says "Having beaten through some very stubborn brick walls I found that what I learned for myself could be used for others." She offers research in Spartanburg, South Carolina and can also help you "untangle" your GEDCOM and "tune up" your family tree.


Chicago editor and writer Terri O'Connell specializes in Midwestern, Mid-Atlantic and Mid-South genealogy with a focus on Illinois, New York and West Virginia." She offers heritage photography, document retrieval, and full-service research.


If you have questions about anything Genlighten-related, please ask! We're always happy to help.

Phone: 302-LOOKUP1 (302-566-5871)

If you email, we check messages frequently and we'll reply promptly. If you telephone and we don't pick up, please leave a message so that we can call you back.