Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Original Question was....

     The original question asked by the family was to find out more about their great grandfather, Louis Roberts. They had always heard whispers and secret comments that he might be the son of a Tennessee governor, but they didn't know who exactly.  The question asked wasn't to find out if there was any specific relation to Governor Austin Peay.  Those of us who have done genealogy research as a hobby or profession know that you might be surprised as to what you find.  Even those of you who have requested research on your ancestors know that sometimes there might be a surprise on the next document, maybe even a “bombshell”.  
     I believe I stated in an earlier blog posting that I was given a limited amount of information on the Roberts family. The goal was for me to thoroughly complete my research and easily fit the puzzle pieces together without redesigning the pieces to make them fit. At the same time I was not allowed to speak with the family or their friends. When doing research it’s helpful to speak with others in collecting some additional information, but I wasn't allowed to do that in this case. I understand why as I’m sure most of you do; the producers wanted this to be a surprise to the family. They wanted capture their honest reactions on tape when the reveal took place. In watching the show you had to opportunity to see all of the reactions from all of the reveals. I can say after speaking with Marguerita Page she was honestly surprised on a couple pieces of information given to her that day. One being as I stated earlier she wrote in asking for information on her great grandfather thinking he was related to a political figure in Tennessee. So imagine her surprise when the family member she is receiving information on isn't her great grandfather but her great grandfather’s cousin and information about his connection to the deceased Governor Austin Peay.  Before that shocking unexpected reveal she also learned about some of the unflattering activities that Albert Roberts had participated in. She acknowledged some of this activities but wasn't aware of all of them.

      I know many of you have questions and have requested more information on the process that brought me to that box, how I was contacted and what information was found that didn't make it on air.  I will be doing my best to answer those questions over the next few blogs, I can’t answer all of them in one blog or it would be a book. Please keep in mind that I can’t answer everyone’s questions out of respect for the family, my clients.  With all of that being said my next blog post will be about how I was contacted and some of the research process. 

     Again I look forward to hearing your comments and questions. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Letter and Envelope in Question Revealed

     Yesterday I was so happy to finally have a meeting with two wonderful ladies, June Esquilin and Marguerita Page who are both sisters here in Clarksville. You might recognize the name Marguerita Page that’s because she appeared on the first PBS “Genealogy Roadshow” episode that aired this past Monday.  Their family reveal was about their great grandfather’s cousin, Albert Roberts and the “bombshell” letter stating that Governor Austin Peay was his father. As you can only imagine we had a lot to discuss, they shared some insight and information that I wasn’t aware of. That’s only because as researchers for the show we couldn’t discuss the research we were doing, not even with the families. I in turn was able to turn over my research along with the documents and a few photographs.  I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to meet with both of these funny, caring and interesting ladies. Its moments like that, when I hand over my research and see the smiles, shocked looks and tears that remind me how lucky I am to do this type of work. At times we run into some controversial issues, which of course all of you are aware there was some controversy over one document that was reviled on the show. Yes I’m referring to the letter, there was only a portion of the letter that was reviled and that caused many and I mean many questions. Two of the major questions are 1) who the letter was sent to and who wrote the letter and 2) what else was said in the letter.  
     So after yesterday’s meeting, both of the sisters and I signed an agreement giving me permission to discuss the results of the research that I conducted for the show and the process in which I collected the information. We have been asked many questions and for that reason they have asked that I address those and share the experience with the public and media. With all of that being said I now want to take this opportunity to answer the two questions that I mentioned earlier. Below you will see scanned copies of both the front and back of the letter along with a copy of the envelope. If you have a hard time reading it, don’t worry I transcribed both for you. I hope this answers at least two of the questions. But don’t think I have forgotten about the remaining questions I will address all of them on blogs to come.  The next question answered will be what led me to this box to begin with.

P.O. Box 122
      Well I suppose you thought I never would write you again. Your letter was relieved and contents duly noted.
     I spent the Holidays in Evansville, had nice time, but didn’t get an opportunity to see George Hester or Hervie Slaughter. Moss was in Clarksville at the time I think.
     I sent those pictures you were to receive on Friday Dec. 13th. Perhaps I shouldn’t have picked such a day to do so, anyway here is what happened. They were opened by the assistant Post master and returned to me with the admonition they could not he sent by mail. Of course it could have been serious but they did nothing about it.
     They were securely sealed, then wrapped in more paper and tied. I imagine he was tipped off by the town photographer.  
     I might perhaps send them to you later by express but by mail, never!
     I didn’t know until recently that Albert Roberts was former gov. Austin Peay’s son. It must have been a bomb shell when it exploded.
     We are looking forward to a good spring season.
     Tell Alexander if he writes the hotel Dining Room c/o Head waiter about Feb 15th he may get booked for April, May and part of March.
     Of course I am sure he knows it will be as Bus boy as it will take some time to become a waiter unless he has already had lots of experience.
     I suppose the flow of spirits during the holidays brought back memories of the days between 1910 and 1919.
     Our man is busy at present making25,000 post cards will see him when he has finished.
                                 Yours sincerely,
                                         Ben F. Rogers

P.O. Box 122
French Lick, Ind.
                                                                  Mr. Charlie Garnett
                                                                  532 Poston St.
                                                                  Clarksville, Tennessee

After reading this I'm sure it will bring on some additional comments and questions, I honestly look forward to reading them and responding. Thank you for taking time to read my blog. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Governor Austin Peay Letter

     Now that the “Genealogy Roadshow” premiered I feel comfortable answering one of the questions. After attending the premier earlier last week I found myself in a question and answer situation; with the number one question being asked, “How and where did you get that letter?”  I would love to tell you it was as easy as clicking a mouse, but that would be a lie. Face it nothing is ever that easy, and if you do come across a document that quickly and easily then you better look at it closely.

     As a genealogist we find ourselves solving those family mysteries of our clients and our own families.  It reminds me of a class lecture and the example I gave to a couple 4th grade classes last year.  Genealogists are like private investigators, Sherlock Holmes if you will. Private investigators use clues, information they collect from witness and family, they research the scene, documents, photos they even look at the DNA. Private investigators use a wide range of tools to help them solve these mysteries.  Computers, reference books, measurement tools, data bases, forensics and yes even those handy magnifying glasses.  They aren't able to sit behind a computer and solve their cases just like genealogist, we aren't able to sit behind a computer and thoroughly research ours either. We also collect information from family including but not limited to, documents, family bibles, family albums, journals and photographs. We then take the information we've collected, lay it all out and the in-depth research begins.  As genealogy researchers we are lucky to have access to many locations that house additional documents to assist us in our search. Of course we can sit behind a computer and begin the construction of our research, through genealogy sites, i.e.,, just to name a few.  But they won’t give us all of the answers we are in search of.  

     Back to the question, how I got the letter, and where I found it.  Once I received some of the information about the Albert’s family I laid it all out and began matching names, dates and locations. Yes, I then logged into the computer to collect some additional bits of information to aid in my research.  Once I had it all organized and ready to go that’s when I began the “boots on the ground” style of research. I made many trips to the Montgomery County Library and Montgomery County Archives going back and forth continuously collecting more information, scanning documents, newspapers and more. I even contacted the county court house to retrieve archived court records.  I didn't even stop there I made a trip to a local cemetery, carefully walked the cemetery in search of headstones that held family information. With all of this research it led me back to the Montgomery County Achieves, that’s where I was able to locate the letter. It was in a box that had yet to be cataloged, I had to read it a couple of times before I realized what I was reading.

     This isn't the only post I will make in reference to the research and all of the interesting things that I found during this episode of the “Genealogy Roadshow”. All comments and questions about the research I did for the show please ask and comment away. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

"Genealogy Roadshow" countdown....

     The time is fast approaching for the new PBS series “Genealogy Roadshow” and it’s one of my best kept secrets or should I say hardest kept secrets. I say that only because while doing the research I couldn't discuss any aspect of it with anyone, not even the family that lived here in Clarksville. For those of you who have done any type of genealogy research know that not being able to approach the family can be difficult. But I completely understand why. They wanted it to be a surprise for the family who wrote in asking for help in solving the story that was passed down through generations.

     I’m extremely happy with the show and how it’s being aired, as I’m sure the families who are receiving those long unanswered questions will be.  Time to toot my own horn, if you don’t mind, the first family who will be receiving their answers is the family I researched here in Clarksville. If you click on the link below you can get of taste of what’s about to come. You might catch a glimpse of me in a pink shirt standing behind Josh Taylor, who I might add is a great genealogist.  You might also get an idea of why it might be a shocker to some of those here in Tennessee. I will say I received a mixture of responses and questions at the premiere that I attended on the 17th in Nashville. I’m anxious to hear how all of you feel and answer any questions you might have. So make sure to grab a bowl of popcorn and watch, but if you can make sure to set your DVR to record every exciting, emotional adventure that the families will be taking. 

Taken during the taping of the show in June at the Belmont Mansion in Nashville, TN

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Wow! Look Over There....

     You never know where your next research project will take you. I found that out a few months ago while traveling through Clarksville researching a family; yes the same family that will appear on PBS, “Genealogy Roadshow”.   While driving your always told to keep your eyes on the road, but that’s kind of hard to do while searching for a cemetery. Okay maybe not everyone looks for a cemetery but those of you who are genealogist know what I mean.
     With Google map instructions in hand I knew, or thought, I would have no problem finding this cemetery. That was a joke that lost its humor about 30 minutes after driving on narrowing county, yet paved, road. I finally realized that it was time to put the map down, enjoy the drive and maybe the cemetery would magically appear. The moment I did that it was amazing all of the interesting things I began to see.
     Did I forget to mention that three of my kids were with me?  Some of you might be concerned that I took my kids out to look for a cemetery; then again some of you might see a different way. I considered this as not only a bonding moment but also a chance for them to possibly learn a little something. Well I defiantly learned something; they never get too old to stop asking questions. All of you parents will remember these questions. “How much longer is this going to take?”   “I’m getting hungry; I have to use the restroom, what time is it?”  Then my favorite, only because I love my response, “I’m thirsty, can we get something to drink?”  I then responded, with a smile, “Lick your lips and swallow.”    
     Back to the cemetery search and the interesting things we, yes we began to see. I handed one of them my camera, one got my cell phone that was camera ready and then appointed one as look out. The job each of them received was to find unusual things, interesting things. It didn't matter if it was buildings, signs, cemeteries, statues; whatever they found interesting point it out to each other and start taking pictures.

“Hinton Haven” dairy sign is directly across the street for the dairy farm.  Registered Jerseys, Since 1928, David Hinton, Owner. This was along that narrow county road siting back in the wooded area. Good eye!

This building was sitting in a wooded area up on a hillside. It belonged to the same family that owns the “Hinton Haven” sign.  Yes I found this out when I stopped at that local church asking for directions, the land has been passed down through generations and they are trying to restore this “old house”.

    The questions and complaining stopped; I started hearing comments and the click of the cameras. “Wow look over there...” “How did they build that…” “I wonder if they still sell milk…” my favorite “this is pretty cool”.  I started out in search for a cemetery; one that I can’t even mention the name of it until after the 23rd of September. How many of you have heard the old saying…”take time to stop and smell the roses”. Granted we weren't looking for roses but we did have a great learning and bonding moment that we continue to talk and laugh about.  

Thursday, September 19, 2013

So Excited...."Genealogy Roadshow"

       I'm so excited and thrilled with my experience in the new PBS "Genealogy Roadshow". I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. Genealogist in Tennessee and many other states who conducted the research on so many interesting families and the families themselves can't wait to share the results. It's only days away from airing, September 23rd at 8 PM on PBS, so circle that date on your calendars. I wanted to share this article with you written by one of our local reporters, David Snow, with "The Eagle Post". Thank you Mr. Snow for the interview, kind article and the time you took to write it.

 Local genealogist lands on PBS

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Posted: Wednesday, September 18, 2013 12:00 am
Whether people know it or not, everybody has an interesting family history. There is something noteworthy in everyone’s historical background, and the search to discover one’s roots is as exciting as finding the secrets.
Now, imagine a group of people seeking expert help in finding out about their families’ past — something like the TV show “Antinque Roadshow,” where people bring artifacts to be appraised, but instead seeking information about themselves instead of their treasures.
That’s what you will get with “Genealogy Roadshow,” a new TV series that airs on PBS at 8 p.m. Monday. The show will feature Angela Rodesky, a professional genealogist from Clarksville who helps one person find the truth about his family tree.
Rodesky began pursuing genealogy as an hobby nine years ago while she and her husband, Lt. Col. Terry Rodesky of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) were stationed in Germany. When they returned to the States, she turned that hobby into a profession.
“I was subcontracted through PBS to do the research on a family that happens to live here in Clarksville,” she said. “As far as being ‘on the show,’ I am on the show standing in the background as (the family) is receiving their information.”
The four-episode show is hosted by Josh Taylor, and originated as a reality show in Ireland. It will feature families from Nashville, Detroit, San Francisco and Austin, Texas, seeking their past based on a family story or heirloom.
“I was the ‘boots on the ground,’ so to speak,” Rodesky said. “I did the research for the whole family that will be airing on Sept. 23.”
Rodesky’s research began from tidbits of information provided by the family. The family that she researches thought it may be related to a well-known Tennessean, so the information led Rodesky to death records, birth certificates, newspaper clippings and a trip to a cemetery where the headstones were sinking at the site.
“I had to make sure that wherever I stepped, I didn’t fall into a grave, which was kind of an adventure in itself,” she said.
Rodesky said her research took a month to complete. Along the way, she found murder, questionable legal counsel, drugs, liquor and a letter that confirmed what the family suspected.
“Now, not only does the family have proof, but now, the whole state of Tennessee is finally going to know the truth,” she said.
In becoming a professional genealogist — her business is called ARodesky Genealogy — she finds many aspects of her work interesting.
“Learning about the different journeys that the individuals went on, how tough or easy it was for them, solving those mysteries that families always want to find out,” she said. “It seems that some of the clients I have come to me and say, ‘Oh, I know I’m related to royalty” or Jesse James. Everyone seems to want to be related to Jesse James.
“The path that you take in finding out what their life was like, and then you get to take what it is that you find and you give it to the client and you see the expression on their faces and they say, ‘That makes so much sense now why I like this or why my daughter looks like that.’ History does repeat itself. There are many aspects about it that I love doing.”
Rodesky said a lot of her clients are intimidated by what she may find in her search through their family history.
“What you find is part of the history and the past,” she said. “You might not agree with what you find that your ancestors have done, but that doesn’t make it wrong for you to want to learn about it. It’s just interesting to know where you came from and the trials and tribulations that they went through to get to where they were at and to make you who you are today.”
To contact Rodesky for genealogical research, call her at 913-702-6489 or e-mail
David Snow is the editor of The Eagle Post. Reach David at 270-887-3295 or

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Preview Screening of "Genealogy Roadshow"

     So happy that last night I was invited to attend the preview screening of the new upcoming show on PBS, “Genealogy Roadshow”. If you’ve been following my Tweets and Facebook postings you’re aware that I announced how happy I was to be one of the researchers on the show. Last night the Nashville Public Television (NPT) and the Belmont Mansion hosted a premiere of the Nashville episode.

   They had a fabulous turn out in such a beautiful location; Belmont Mansion, this was the same location they taped the show in back in June. They showed the full episode in the same room that most of the show was taped in. After the screening they followed up with a question and answer segment between Joe Pagetta, NPT Director of Media Relation & Online Strategies, Kenyatta Berry, APG president who appears on the show and the audience who came to the preview. I was even asked a few questions on my research for this episode. Before the showing you had the opportunity to grab a bag of popcorn, soda and some sweets at the candy cart and socialize with all of those who attended. I wish I could tell you more about all of the big reveals that took place, even some of the questions that were asked, but you’ll have to wait.
  The show is going to premiere next week, Monday September 23rd at 8 PM. I’m so excited for everyone to watch and hear all of your thoughts. There are so many wonderful family stories to be told, and this new series will be a hit at sharing those stories.  
  By the way, the first family revel they show is the Clarksville family that I researched, and yes some of you might be shocked to hear what I found.