Stories Behind the Stars

I would like to make you aware of a project that may be of great interest to your organization and many of your members.

I am the director of a non-profit initiative known as Stories Behind the Stars, under the auspices of The Greatest Generations Foundation.

The ambitious goal of this project is to collect short profiles of all of the 400,000+ US World War II fallen in one online database. There will be a smartphone app that will allow anyone visiting a war memorial or cemetery to scan the name of the fallen and get a link to automatically take them to his/her story. This will work at Arlington National Cemetery, Honolulu’s National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, even memorials in Washington state. It will make visits to the final resting places of our World War II fallen a much richer experience. Whereas now, a visitor just sees names and dates, when this project is finished, a visit to any WWII memorial or gravesite will come with that person’s story.

As a genealogy organization, you are aware that resources online now make genealogical research easier than ever. I learned this first hand over the past three years. I have had a lifelong interest in history, and particularly enjoyed reading memoirs. After the 2016 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, a lot of news coverage was given to the remaining World War II veterans. It bothered me that little attention was given to any of the 400,000+ fallen who did not come home. WWII memoirs all mentioned how much these fallen meant to a victory they did not enjoy. I decided to do something about this.

I began a daily personal passion project to start writing about these mostly forgotten heroes. Each day I wrote a profile of one of the fallen on the 100th anniversary of his/her birthday. I recorded these stories in a  blog at I shared it with various World War II groups on Facebook. Others started joining me to write these stories and there are now more than 1,200 of these short profiles, including more than a dozen from Washington (see that have been read more than one million times. The newspaper in the town where I grew up, the Pueblo Chieftain, did a story about my efforts that was picked up by many papers around the country (see The project was slated to end this September with the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. However, at the encouragement of others, I decided to expand this project so that the stories of all of the 400,000+ US World War II fallen can be told.

The 400,000+ number is very daunting, but it is much more manageable for western states. In the case of Washington, WWII losses were probably around 6,000. I already have access to a database that has 5,000+ Washington related names. I just need help finding people who want to write profiles of the Washington fallen. has generously agreed to provide free access to their research tools (,, and to anyone helping me with this project.

I created the website to promote and manage this project. Though it just barely started, I already have volunteers helping from a dozen states.

The reason I am contacting WSGS is that I am sure you know of many, many Washington residents who would be interested in helping with this project. I need volunteers to research and write the stories of these ~6,000 Washington World War II fallen. It takes less than 45 minutes to research and write the average story. I have created a YouTube page (see with short training videos showing how to do the research.

Can you share information about my project with your members? At this time of social distancing, I think this project would be a wonderful use of time for those with their skills.

Feel free to call or email me to move this discussion further.


Don Milne

Stories Behind the Stars Founder and Director

Free Census Access Extended

Following last week’s email announcing free access to all U.S. census records on MyHeritage, I’m writing to let you know that we’ve decided to extend this for another week. You can now access the entire U.S. census collection for free through April 12. 

Search all U.S. Censuses on MyHeritage

The MyHeritage collection includes the full set of U.S. census records taken since 1790 and includes 650 million names.

Please share this update with your audiences. Enjoy and stay safe Daniel Horowitz
Genealogy Expert

MyHeritage (USA) Inc.,
2975 Executive Parkway,
Lehi, Utah

GENEALOGICAL FORUM’s Thursday 2020 E-News

THE GENEALOGICAL FORUM’s Thursday Evening E-News Edition April 2, 2020
Memberships will not expire during the crisis, and will be extended a month beyond the date of our re-opening. You may renew online with a credit card now; membership materials will be sent later after the closure ends. We are grateful for all your support. | 503-963-1932 | Be sure to check the complete GFO CALENDAR.
Also, don’t miss the current issue of The Forum Insider
GFO Remains Closed
Originally, we announced the GFO Library would be closed until April 1. Unfortunately, that’s not long enough. Medical experts currently say the peak of COVID-19 cases may come in mid- May. It will take several more weeks after that of steady decline before we can safely get together. If they’re wrong and it peaks earlier, we still have to wait for substantial declines, which could take weeks. ▪ Therefore, the only responsible thing to do is to close the GFO Library through May. ▪ Boot Camp is canceled, as are all Special Interest Group meetings. ▪ A few of our Special Interest Groups have expressed an interest in meeting online by video. Read the next article below for the first one!The Forum Insider for May and the Bulletin in June will be available only in electronic format.
We’re Minding Your Donations & Membership Dollars Safety is the first thing we consider in all our decisions during this pandemic. But we’re also trying to find ways to save money. It’s disheartening to pay monthly bills on a library we cannot open. We are fortunate to be all-volunteer. It would be much more complicated – and expensive – if we had employees. We’d like to publicly thank three vendors who have shared the pain with us to help save us money. Pacific Office Automation is giving us three free months on the lease of our copier. That machine is our workhorse, printing the Insider, Bulletin, and scanning thousands of pages in our digitizing project. It’s also our second largest expense. We agreed to an extended lease with them and they lowered our payments too, when we start paying again. Likewise, WAVE Broadband agreed to suspend our internet service while the library is in “hibernation.” AbeBooks, through whom we sell used books, has also refunded us monthly fees while we are unable to fulfill book orders. They all accepted less money knowing we’re bringing in less. Unfortunately, our landlord, NAI Elliott, only offered to delay payments until later, if we accepted a lease extension. They did not offer any actual savings. Since it does not help our bottom line, we declined. Suppliers of our pricey genealogy databases say they’re not able to suspend service. So, how do we stand overall financially? I’m confident we will weather this storm. That’s because previous GFO leadership saw the importance of creating an emergency reserve fund, and an Endowment. Thank you predecessors! We are setting the budget for the new fiscal year which starts in July. We are certain to need to draw from our reserves. The coming year will be one for tight belts. GFO’s Board will consider the budget at its meeting on April 14 (via video link) and I’ll report back to you after that. If you’d like to continue supporting us, we welcome any donations online with a credit card. Also, you may renew your membership (or join) online with a credit card. Your membership materials will be sent after the library reopens. We cannot accept checks at this time. Please don’t mail anything in; no one is there to receive it. Most important, be safe, and stay well. ▪ Vince Patton, GFO President
Italian Group Goes Virtual
GFO Italian Interest Group leader Stephanie Silenti passes on this invitation: It looks like we have a good amount of interest to move the SIG to digital/video next week, so let’s do it! I will figure out those details and get them out to you this week. For now, please hold our USUAL TIME SLOT for Tuesday, April 7, 10am PT, for a digital gathering. The topic, I think, will be twofold:
a. Check in, say hello, remind you that it’s COMPLETELY NORMAL if you’ve struggled to continue your research while we adjust to these new circumstances.
b. Sharing which genealogy resources have opened up for free in the last few weeks. There have been several. I will try to pull a list together but perhaps we can collaborate. Keep a list of any you know of, and we can share them on Tuesday. Also, if video meetings are new technology for you, don’t worry. This is how I earn a living — I do it daily. I’m confident we can get you all up to speed. If you would like to join in on this webinar, please email
ORForum—An Interactive Way to Get Answers to Your Genealogy Questions
Did you know that the GFO has an online community of members who can help answer your genealogy questions and point you to the resources you need? Or help you figure out the handwriting on a census or baptism record? Or even recommend a great place to eat when you visit Salt Lake City? If you would like to join this group or just check out the posts simply click below.
Go to ORForum
Flashback: 1918 Pandemic Shutdown
Here’s how the newspaper in Brownsville, Oregon, covered the 1918 pandemic shutdowns. Thanks to Linda Lewis McCormick from the local historical society there for finding this, and to GFO Members Don & Doxie Cook for passing it along.
GFO Board Election Now Open
We have an official ballot now for this year’s GFO Board election. Vince Patton is running for re-election as president. Alexa Waddle is running for secretary. Joyce Grant-Worley seeks re-election as a Director at Large. And Geoff Smith has offered to serve again on our Endowment Committee. While voting on a GFO election may not seem like a top priority right now, our bylaws require that the election be held. We are attempting to follow our bylaws despite the difficult circumstances. Only active GFO members are eligible to vote. The Forum Insider for April included online voting instructions.
Hall of Fame Nominations Sought
We are still looking for GFO Hall of Fame Nominations! Any GFO member may nominate another member by May 1. Nominees must have a well-documented history of service, leadership, and accomplishment in more than one facet of the GFO, over a long period of time.
Please include:
* Name, list of services, activities, positions, and accomplishments;
* A narrative describing the nature of their work in terms of its importance to the success of the GFO;
* A short biography.
Please send to by May 1.
The board will decide if any merit selection. Winners are awarded in June and receive a free Life Membership and their name on our Hall of Fame plaque.
What’s New in Online Digital Resources
Since we are unable at this time to process new books and new digital content for the GFO Library, we will be temporarily suspending our “What’s New” weekly feature. In this time of physical distancing and responsible sheltering in place, we will instead share online resources so that you can reach out and connect as well as continue to learn and build on your genealogy skills from home. • In a recent GenealogyBank blogpost, Gena Philibert-Ortega describes five ways family historians can use library services even when the building itself is closed. Check out her entry entitled Genealogy during Quarantine: 5 Things to Do When the Library Is Closed. • How many of us wish we had a diary or journal from an ancestor who lived through the 1918 Spanish Influenza Pandemic? The Genealogy Reporter, Amie Bowser Tenant has some suggestions for creating your own journal of memories related to our current Covid-19 experience in her post, Journaling about the Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020. • Looking for fun ways to engage kids in finding family history? The National Archives is providing downloadable family trees and charts for kids of all ages. What a great way to spend some of your time with your loved ones in this time of physical distancing. While there, check out some of their other Educator Resources.
Survey Results: Spending Time
Just as we suspected, most of our survey respondents say they’ve been doing more genealogy during the current health crisis. Organization is high on the list. Here’s a sampling of what they’ve been doing:
Writing a family history of one of my ancestral couples. I also wish I had time to organize my files, etc. My room looks like I’m a CPA! Trying to read old French, Spanish and German documents.
Focusing on records I have collected but not put into my data base. Reading newly acquired reference books and preparing for upcoming presentations. Finding people to send old “non-family” photos to. Working on my Ancestry ThruLines, writing to DNA matches. I have been trying to get back to people who have contacted me from my DNA matches. It is hard to maintain ongoing conversations with all these people, but they are so important to moving my research forward. I’ve been researching, organizing, and reading the book “Tracing Your German Roots Online” by James Beidler. Investigating Family Tree webinars through the link the GFO provided (Thanks so much!).
This has given me a chance to catch up on some online classes. I am going through a lot of loose papers to extract information and organize things. I have a new great-grandson, and I have been working on a booklet for him. I am transcribing an old school/cemetery ledger book from 1871 to 1892 for our community. I’m finally taking time to watch some webinars, and I’ve begun to tackle the gargantuan task of organizing my digital images. Pounding my head on brick walls.
New Survey: Acquiring New Skills
Some of you told us you’re reading books, others are watching webinars. We love to hear about any new skills or tips you’ve learned in the last few weeks.
Take our survey now
This week at GFO …
The Week Ahead: The GFO Research Library is closed, and all on-site groups, classes, and work parties are canceled. Tuesday, April 7 10 a.m. – Noon Italian Special Interest Group meets by video conference. (See article above for details.)

Thanks for Your Help

I want to thank all the people that have been sending me the information on cancelled or postponed meetings, and hope all of you are well and not too bored to work on your genealogy while you sat away form other people. Lets hope it ends soon so we can get back to work before we all look like shaggy dogs. There are many free seminars this month so I hope you can find the one that will give you the clue to break all your brick walls.

Seattle Genealogical Society Tip of the Week


Thanks to Karen P for this tip she shared with the Seattle Genealogical Society Networking Facebook group. 

Recorded class sessions from the RootsTech 2020 Conference  are available for anyone to view for free! Karen highly recommends Blaine Bettinger’s presentation “DNA, Genealogy, and Law Enforcement: All the Facts”.

Here’s the link where you can watch free video of many of the sessions from RootsTech 2020, as well as RootsTech 2019:

Seattle Genealogical Society News


  While the SGS Library may be closed for the month of April, the dedicated volunteers at Seattle Genealogical Society have put together an array of online programs to help keep you engaged. Why not join Heidi Mair, Jill Morelli, and Lisa Oberg for their online presentations – each presentation will be followed by a discussion period.  And don’t forget the online Coffee Klatch and SGS Membership Meeting on April 11, 2020. Hope to “see” you all there. Just Zoom in. Here are the details for each of April’s online events. 

Discovering Amelia: 
The Story of a Pennsylvania Dutch Woman, 1854-1931  
(Online Class and Discussion)
Thursday, April 2, 2020 
6:00 pm to 7:30 pm

Follow this link to join:

Join Heidi Mair for an online presentation summarizing the search for her maternal great-grandmother. 

Topics include:
Major events and changes during Amelia’s lifetime  included the Civil War, technological advances from the telephone to the sewing machine, World War I, labor unions, prohibition and more. How did these changes affect life in small town America?

Who are the Pennsylvania Dutch and what are some of the challenges researching their records?
Genealogical research spanning more than 30 years – what worked and what didn’t? 
Read the story of Heidi’s search in  Discovering Amelia.

This 50-minute presentation will be followed with a discussion period. 

Coffee Klatch and Membership Meeting  
(Online Special Event)
Saturday, April 11, 2020
12:30 pm to 1:30 pm

Follow this link to join:
  This is an informal and “virtual” meet up. We will review the past year as well as look at upcoming events. The conversation starter is “What online resource have you found particularly helpful?” It does not have to be about genealogy, but you get a gold star if it is!  

Using the Parish and Census Records of Scandinavia  
(Online Class and Discussion)
Tuesday, April 14, 2020 
7:00 pm PDT
  SGS is helping the Tacoma-Pierce County Genealogical Society put on their first Zoom,  webinar style online event in April and to reciprocate TPCGS is inviting SGS members and friends to attend. While the event is free, registration is required. If you plan to attend, please register by sending an email to Let them know you are an SGS member. A link will be sent to those who register.  

Jill Morelli, SGS president and CG, will speak on Scandinavian records. Don’t know the language? No problem! She will review the parish records and census records for the three Scandinavian countries and explain how they work together to give you an amazing amount of information.  

Dancing with the Spanish Lady: 
The Influenza Pandemic of 1918  
(Online Class and Discussion)
Thursday, April 23
6:00 pm to 7:30 pm

Follow this link to join:

Here’s a timely topic to be presented by Lisa Oberg. 

Schools canceled, closed theaters and churches, social distancing… all of these public health measures in effect today were used to help combat the influenza pandemic of 1918. Lisa will share how influenza affected Seattle and the country in 1918. Just as today’s pandemic is impacting all of our lives, 1918’s influenza affected the lives of our ancestors. After the presentation, we will share stories of the impact of the flu on our ancestors and how we’re getting along, too!

I, for one,  know my own 29 year old, great grandfather was among the more than 200,000 US citizens that died from this influenza in October of 1918.  
Read Mary Watkinson McRae’s diary of her week-long journey aboard the newly constructed Northern Railroad from Portland, Oregon to Ontario in 1884. Mary’s mother Jane had traveled with her family to Oregon from Missouri along the Oregon Trail in 1852. That trip took most families four to six months to complete. In just 30 years the continental train system transformed not only travel, but the lives or our ancestors. Thanks to this month’s contributor, Mary Ellen McRae for sharing her grandmother’s diary with us.     


Jeanie Fisher, reference archivist at Seattle Municipal Archives, would like everyone to know about their online crowdsourcing project to transcribe early handwritten City of Seattle Records.

Anyone who can read handwriting is welcome to join in! The project encourages participants to discover and index names and other information in the documents, making them more easily accessible to everyone. Early petitions, letters, claims, and reports – these documents contain nuggets of gold for genealogists researching Seattle-area ancestors. 

If you have some free time and are interested in helping out, the project is available here:

Create a free account, pick a document, start reading, and transcribe what you see. It’s that simple.       SGS NEW ACQUISITIONS for MARCH 2020
Nebraska:  Illustrated History of Nebraska: A History of Nebraska from the Earliest Explorations of the Trans-Mississippi Region with Steel Engravings, Photogravures, Copper Plates, Maps and Tables. Volume 1 and Volume 2  (in the Rare Books Section)

Family Collection:  Morris Collection — William A Morris and Andrew J Morris  

West Seattle High School:  West Seattle Chinook Newspaper Volume XXIX Number 27 –  May 3, 1945   


Spring 2020 SGS Seminar
with Fritz Juengling,
Fairview Christian School,
844 NE 78th St,
Seattle, WA

Saturday, May 16, 2020 *** Canceled ***   Mr Juengling is the German, Dutch and Scandinavian Research Specialist at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.    SGS CALENDAR OF EVENTS   Unless otherwise indicated all programs will be at the SGS Library, 6200 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle. Check the SGS Web Site for additions, changes,  and corrections. Programs may be canceled or postponed because of inclement weather.  APRIL
*** In consideration of COVID-19 social distancing recommendations, the SGS Library is closed for the month of April and all SGS in-person events for April have been canceled or postponed. Stay tuned or check the SGS Website for library status updates. 
Stay home – stay healthy – but stay engaged by attending the online events highlighted in this issue of the eNews!  

Seattle Genealogical Society News

24 March 2020
Dear Seattle Genealogical Society (SGS) members and friends,
The SGS Board met in special session on Monday to discuss the Covid-19 recommendations of our health professionals and our responsibilities to our members and friends.
Your safety is our primary concern. We are making it as easy as possible for you to remain safe and still participate in the activities of SGS. Here are some of the actions taken by the Board on Monday:
The SGS Library at 6200 Sand Point Way will extend its closure date through May 4. This action will be reassessed at our next regular Board meeting on April 13.
All in person meetings of Special Interest Groups (SIG) are cancelled. Please check with the group leader or the eNews! to determine if the meeting will be held virtually.
All members, friends, and volunteers should shelter in place and not enter the facility at 6200 Sand Point.
We discussed many options and made the difficult decision to cancel the May Seminar with Fritz Juengling. We are working with Fritz to discuss alternatives and will let you know as soon as possible.  
While our physical facility is closed to all volunteers and patrons, we are committed to bring you online educational opportunities and to nurture a close community of genealogists, wherever you live. In an effort to fulfill this promise, SGS is moving more program content online. Watch the eNews! for the online links.
On 19 March, we held a very successful Pop-Up Presentation on line using our Zoom host, attended by 20+ people from Seattle, Washington, and other states!  Based on that success, we are scheduling additional online events.  All links will be published in the eNews!
The next Pop-Up Presentation will be 2 April,   “Discovering Amelia; The Story of a Pennsylvania Dutch Woman, 1854-1931” given by Heidi.
The 11 April “Second Saturday” session has been moved to 9 May, Heidi Mair will present “1890-1920: The Progressive Era & Women’s Rights.” Watch the eNews! to determine if this will be held at the Library or virtually.
On 11 April, we will hold an online “Coffee Klatch and Membership Meeting” at 12:30 pm.  This is an informal meet up but will review the year in the past and upcoming events. The conversation starter is “What online resource have your found particularly helpful?” It does not have to be about genealogy, but you get a gold star if it is!
We have a number of online classes starting up. Sign up through our website (
“Level 1: Genealogy Basics and Beyond” will start the first part of May. This is a highly interactive class for five students. Our guarantee? Your genealogy research will be improved after the course. The first class is already full, but Valerie Lair, the instructor, is willing to run the course again if five of you sign up on the wait list which is now open. “Certification Discussion Group”: If you are interested in becoming a Certified Genealogist or just want to know more, we are taking names of those interested for the fall session, dates to be announced.
“WAYtoGo: A Methodology for Writing Efficient Research Reports” will be taught twice this spring/summer. This online workshop will start you on solving that brick wall problem by systematically recording your findings. We will use the wait list to identify the next group of attendees, but you can’t be notified of the program, if you aren’t on the wait list. If you want to write better reports, sign up now. Dates and times to be determined.  
Attending an SGS online event is as easy as  – 

1) Log onto your internet and click on the link for the meeting you wish to join that was supplied to you in the eNews! No pre-registration is necessary;

2) You may have to accept Zoom’s invitation to download the application (app) which takes 2-3 minutes, but after you do,

3) You’re in the meeting!! You do not have to have an “account” with Zoom, but you do need to download the app.

SGS is focused on our mission—to deliver the best genealogy education and provide for the preservation of genealogical resources for our members and friends.
Flatten the curve!

Jill Morelli, CG
President, Seattle Genealogical Society

Colorize your Black & White Photos

I’m happy to share that My Heritage is giving everyone FREE and unlimited access to MyHeritage In Color™ from March 23 to April 23, so that people everywhere can join in the fun of colorizing their black and white photos. Ordinarily only 10 photos can be colorized by users who do not have a Complete plan, but now, you can colorize as many photos as you’d like for free.

Colorizing photos is the perfect activity for anyone who is isolated at home. We invite everyone to pull out their family photo albums, colorize their photos, and start reminiscing. Over the coming month, anyone who shares their colorized photos on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram with the hashtag #ColorBeatsCoronavirusBlues and tags @MyHeritage will enter a weekly draw. Each week we’ll select one lucky winner who will receive a free MyHeritage Complete subscription!

Please share the news on your social channels and with your audience so they can make the most of this opportunity and colorize their photos.