Crushing on Colleen

I have a crush. It doesn’t happen often, but I am completely intellectually smitten with Colleen Fitzpatrick after sitting in on her sessions this past Sunday at the Alberta Genealogical Society convention.

Dr. Fitzpatrick (she has a PhD in nuclear physics) is a forensic genealogist, author, and speaker, now that she isn’t doing contracts for NASA. In the first of the three talks I heard, she led us through her three-pronged approach to her craft (DNA-History-Geography) in a talk aptly named “CSI Meets Roots.” The next was about the Misha Defonesca Holocaust “memoir” fraud, where she helped debunk an imposter and save a publisher from a crushing lawsuit. Finally, she took her spellbound audience on a journey from Alaska to Brooklyn to Ireland in search of the identity of a frozen hand found near the crash site of Northwest Airlines Flight 4422.

She manages to take complex ideas (DNA mapping, etc) and turn them into bite-sized, teachable concepts. She makes transcribing 1851 hospital records and database interpretation sound fun (for those of you out there who don’t already get excited at this history-geek stuff). She is also at the cutting edge of making sure that no fallen armed forces personnel – past, present, and future – remain ‘unknowns’ or are buried as such. Plus she helps nail bad guys (or women, as the case may be)!

There’s one thing in particular that lines up with my current aviation interests: she is now involved in the possible discovery of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan’s remains on Nikumaroro (Gardner Island) in the western Pacific Ocean. I will certainly be tracking her progress on this and reporting on it through the Canadian Aviation Historical Society.

It is always nice to meet other people who are equally interested in the historical chase – who are part Terrier like I am… and who manage to make a healthy living at it. Dr. Fitzpatrick, please know you have a new disciple in Edmonton whenever you need one!

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