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We often talk about historical context like a side dish: it adds color and life to our narratives and deepens the analysis in our client reports. Rarely, however, do we think of historical research as a main course, a proactive strategy. This case study demonstrates not only the potential of historical research as a tool, but how that tool can be effective in the most challenging cases.

Thomas Chapman wasn’t typical of New York City immigrants at the turn of the nineteenth century. His reported birthplace of Bengal prompted more questions than answers, and FAN searches in New York produced no leads. Ultimately, a combination of historical research, DNA evidence, and traditional genealogical methods across three continents revealed the identities of his parents.

Presenter: Meryl Schumacker, Certified Genealogist®, is the founder of We Go Way Back LLC in New York City. Meryl specializes in New York City genealogy from the 17th-20th centuries; Jewish genealogy in the United States, Europe, and Central America; and genetic genealogy. Meryl has compiled multigenerational family histories and located elusive ancestors for private clients, biographers, nonprofits, and corporations. Her work has been published in The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, as well as NGS Magazine and the APG Quarterly. She has contributed research to The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (Comedy Central), Who Do You Think You Are? (NBC), and several biographies. In 2017, Meryl was awarded the Walter Lee Sheppard Jr. Prize (BCG/IGHR) and the Association of Professional Genealogists’ Young Professional Scholarship.

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