More Unsung Heroes, by Megan Smolenyak

Earlier this year, I wrote an article about unsung genealogical heroes, the few who have done so much for so many.  Several months have passed, so I thought it was time to recognize the contributions of a few more heroes.  I’d like to start with a long time favorite of mine, Dick Eastman.

Dick Eastman
Way back in the Dark Ages of the internet–that is, the mid-1990s–there weren’t too many genealogists online yet.  I had Compuserve at the time and remember being thrilled to spot fellow genealogists out there on a Compuserve forum in cyberspace!  Among those others was a fellow named Dick Eastman.

Dick had the foresight back in January of 1996 to send out a newsletter of sorts–an email of genealogical bits and pieces that he decided to share on a weekly basis.  Now we’re bombarded with newsletters, but at the time, they were a bit of a novelty, mostly used in the high tech world.

He’s now been doing it for a whopping ten years.  Think about that.  Ten years, 52 issues a year, and only seven missed issues in that whole time.  Unless my math is wrong, that’s 513 times he’s consistently shown up in people’s mail boxes (although now, of course, you can also get a fix whenever you’d like via RSS feeds).  There was the time he broke both arms on the same day (one missed issue) and the time he landed his open cockpit plane upside down in a tree (another missed issue), and five more assorted emergencies over the course of a decade.  But other than that, he (and his trusty editor, Pamela Clark Cerutti) have been there with the latest goings-on in the genealogical world.  You can learn more about this remarkably consistent journey here. 

I’ve always been a big fan of Dick’s writings (and lectures, as well) because–while I don’t quite qualify for geek status, I’m strongly attracted to things of a technological nature–and Dick is a techie guru.  He’s always up to speed on the latest gadgets and resources that could possibly be applied in the quest for roots. 

But even more than his consistency and technical prowess, I admire his candor.  Dick tells it like he sees it–no sugar-coating, no politicking, no kowtowing.  And that’s both rare and valuable.  So that’s my nomination, but here are a few of the others submitted by fellow genealogists who also deserve a lot more than a moment’s recognition in an article.

Murray Pletsch
“Here’s one individual who has built his single-handed work into a website with multiple contributors and over 75,000 grave marker photographs. His name is Murray Pletsch and his site is Northeastern Ontario Canada Gravemarker Gallery. — Ted Fielder

John Martino
Regarding “Unsung Hero,” you should definitely include John Martino of Huntington, Long Island, New York.  Go to the Italian Genealogy Group to see what he’s done with the naturalizations and NYC vital statistics, and more. — Rosemary Ardolina

John Martino and Don Eckerle
I would like to call your attention to two gentlemen who have put in many years of dedicated service in providing access free of charge to researchers.  John Martino of the Italian Genealogy Group (see above) and Don Eckerle of the German Genealogy Group.  If it were not for them, I would not be able to give my services toward helping others.  They provide me with the records I need to enter the information into a database, which is eventually put up on their websites.  Beside giving of their time, they have spent a lot of money in traveling expenses, gas, parking fees, etc. in order to get these records to people like myself so we can give back for all the help we have been given. — Gloria Anderson

Any More?
This is the first time someone’s been nominated twice, so congrats to John Martino!  I have a stash of submissions for future tip-of-the-hats, but welcome additional suggestions for others to recognize down the road.  Please consider taking a moment to send your recommendations my way!

Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, co-author (with Ann Turner) of Trace Your Roots with DNA: Using Genetic Tests to Explore Your Family Tree (as well as In Search of Our Ancestors, Honoring Our Ancestors and They Came to America), can be contacted through and 

Upcoming Events Where Megan Will Be Speaking
— Virginia Genealogical Society
(April 22, 2006, Richmond, VA)
— Rockland County Genealogical Society
(May 6, 2006, New City, New York)
— Tidewater Genealogical Society
(May 20, 2006, Newport News, VA)
— Roots in the Boot
(July 15, 2006, Pittsburgh, PA)

Details and links to upcoming events


2 thoughts on “More Unsung Heroes, by Megan Smolenyak

  1. I too, have subscribed to Dick Eastman’s newsletters for as long as I’ve been pursuing family research and he’s the reason I carry my family history on my PDA. Let’s hear it for Geekdom:-)

    Marina Dececo

  2. Because of You, Dick Eastman and Elizabeth Shown Mills and a host of unsung heros my genealogy has leaped forward nearly every month of every year since I first began. The ideas and methodologies y’all share with us are priceless.

    Thank you, THANK YOU!

    Happy Dae.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *