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Archive for May, 2010

The Philadelphia Church Project is a unique website that describes itself as a “wild and wacky guide to the best religious architecture the city has to offer.”   The site offers the following questions for readers to ponder:

What does a building mean to you? Is it just a thing, a purely physical being? Or is there substance beyond the bricks and mortar? Might there be something more there—something more than the sum of its parts?

The site author visits various churches in and around Philadelphia and provides a glimpse into the history, architecture, and current status of the parish.  Most of the churches are Roman Catholic, but several Protestant churches have also been visited.  While the primary focus is the wonderful architecture of these old churches, the site also offers a comical take on the neighborhood or history of the area.

In addition to the Philadelphia Church Project website, there is also a Philadelphia Church Project blog.  The blog offers additional photos – sometimes of the vintage variety – and information.  Sample the site with these posts:

As a genealogist with solid Catholic roots in Philadelphia, these sites are wonderful in documenting some of the grand churches of my ancestors’ neighborhoods.  Take, for example, the Project’s page on St. Adalbert’s.  The parish was founded in 1904 – and my great-grandfather was one of the founding parishoners.  While you won’t find out that sort of information on the Project’s pages, they will help you “see” some of the churches of your ancestors!

Even if you are not from Philadelphia, if you have an interest in architecture I encourage you to browse the site and see what our city has to offer.

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Even God Laughed

“There is hope for the future because God has a sense of humor and we are funny to God.” ~ Bill Cosby

My memory for today’s edition of “Memory Monday” is forever linked with the feast of Pentecost, which is celebrated in Christianity next Sunday. Not that this memory actually happened on Pentecost – I can’t even remember when exactly this event happened.  But every single year I sit in church on this feast and listen to the readings.  And every year, I can’t help but break out into a huge grin during the first reading.  The smirk is unstoppable; I just can’t help it.  This is the story of my secret smile.  To some this story may seem irreverent, but I’ve always thought God has a sense of humor.  And if He does, He was likely laughing along with me all those years ago.

When I was between the age of 20 and 24, I had a certain group of friends.  We called ourselves a “prayer group” and we were a mix of single and married 20- and 30-something Catholics.  Each Saturday night, we would gather in each other’s homes for an evening of singing and charismatic prayer, which was followed by socializing and fellowship that cemented our friendships. We were a loosely defined group of 15 to 25 people.  Some people came and went, some were always there, and occasionally invited guests or friends would expand us into an even larger group.

One Saturday night, one of our larger crowds gathered in Debbie’s basement apartment.  We usually spread ourselves around the room in a circle, using all available sofas and chairs as well as the floor. Fortunately, Deb’s living room was large enough for at least 20 of us to gather comfortably.  There was no agenda to our meetings; sometimes we would sing – several members played the guitar for accompaniment, sometimes we would read from the bible or share a story, sometimes we would pray loudly, and sometimes we would sit in silence.  Usually we would do all of these things in the course of our “meeting” – as the spirit moved us.

This particular evening, a quiet came upon the group and we all sat in silence either praying or thinking.  In this deep silence, one member of our party – I will call him Harry (not his real name) – had the embarrassing misfortune to…  Well, there are a lot of ways to say it – “broke wind” or “passed gas” –  he farted.  Rather loudly, and the surrounding silence made the sound seem even louder.

Harry was clearly embarrassed, and he apologized to the group as he blushed a deep shade of red.

To our credit, we remained silent.  After all, we were adults.  But, while silent, we were each desperately trying to keep our eyes on the ground and away from each other.

The sheer humor of the event was simply too much for our friend Sue. She could no longer stifle a laugh and let out a loud cackle.

One laugh was all it took – the entire group exploded with laughter.  As it turns out, farts are as funny to adults as they are to toddlers, and the fact that we were all supposed to be “seriously” praying made it even funnier.

This group had several people with what I call “contagious” laughter – if you heard their laugh, you’d laugh even harder.  We laughed until we all had tears streaming from our eyes.  Every time we tried to settle down, someone else would begin laughing again.

The waves of laughter continued for several minutes.  As the group began to calm down, one man spoke up – Tim.  Tim had a wonderful sense of humor and a penchant for story-telling.  Although he had been laughing along with everyone else, he suddenly had a rather serious expression on his face and was holding an open bible in his hands.  He spoke loudly: “I’d like to share a reading.”

A shocked calm settled over the group.  I, for one, was surprised that Tim, of all people, would bring us back into seriousness and lead us back into prayer.

In the newfound silence, Tim cleared his throat and began to read from the bible, choosing the second chapter of Acts of the Apostles.  He proclaimed: “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were…”

He had us at “wind”.  We laughed until our sides hurt, and the “prayer” meeting was officially over for the evening.

Thanks to Tim – and Harry – for making me smile every year at Pentecost!

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Last week at the NGS 2010 conference, I grumbled to someone about something I disliked about searching for information in the Family History Library catalog.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I grumbled to someone who works  for FamilySearch with the catalog.  Because I happened to grumble to the “right” person, I ended up learning an important search tip that I previously did not know.

My complaint involved searching the catalog for place names to see what records have been microfilmed for that place.  If you search for the name of a town that has records cataloged under the name of that town, it obviously will come up as a search result.  But sometimes other towns or villages are included in the records of a larger town nearby,  and these names will not show any results if searched.

"Classic" Family History Library Search page at http://www.familysearch.org

For my searches, I used the current FamilySearch page at www.familysearch.org (more on the new “beta” site later). Go to “Library Catalog” under “Library” on the top menu bar.  Next I choose “Place Search” to find a locality.  As an example of my dilemma, if you search for the place name “Scheyern” in Bavaria, the result is  “Germany, Bayern, Scheyern.” Clicking for further details, you find that church records are available.  Drilling down further into the title itself, the notes section indicates:

Transcripts of catholic church registers of births, marriages, and deaths in the parish of Scheyern and the towns of Scheyern, Vieth, Mitterscheyern, Sulzbach, Paindorf, Niederscheyern, Hettenshausen, Triefing, Winden, and Ilmmünster.

However, if you search again under the place name of Paindorf or Niderscheyern or one of the other villages, the result for the Scheyern parish records will not show up and the result will say “No matching places found”.

This was my complaint.  But it pays to complain if the right people are listening.  I learned that if you search for keyword in lieu of place name, the appropriate record will be found (in the case of the town of Paindorf, there are records listed not only under the town of Scheyern but also Reichertshausen and Kemmoden).

Frankly, this was a revelation to me.  It may seem obvious to my readers, but I had never tried using a keyword search for place names before.  This is a very helpful hint, because many small villages in Germany, Poland, and other countries did not have a church of their own.  Instead, residents traveled to the next larger town and that is where the records will be located.

Beta FamilySearch page still under development at fsbeta.familysearch.org

I thought I would attempt similar searches in the Beta FamilySearch site since it will eventually replace the current FS site.  Randy Seaver gave the new site a big “thumbs down” in his review, FamilySearch Beta Library Search – FAIL, for several reasons.  One reason was due to a lack of information when performing a Place search, including the list of microfilm numbers.

I also tried the “Beta” FamilySearch site at fsbeta.familysearch.org.  Under “Library Catalog”, the “Place Names” search still brings up the same information as the “classic” site, which means those smaller village names are not recognized in the results.

Under this Beta site, there is no keyword search.  Instead, I tried the option to search “Entire catalog”.  Using this search parameter, you will get the same results as the “classic” keyword search.  With one minor exception – no microfilm roll numbers, as Randy noted.

When it comes to searching the “Beta” library catalog for place names, I have to agree with Randy that the Beta site lacks the information found in the “Classic” site.  However, if you read the comments on Randy’s post, the “Beta” is still in development and not yet ready for prime time.  I am optimistic that this will be fixed.

In the meantime, enjoy the tip of using either a Keyword Search (on the classic FS site) or an Entire Catalog Search (on the Beta FS site) if you have towns or villages that you have not been able to find in the Family History Library Catalog.  If you hadn’t used that search option before (like me), then you may find that the town you are looking for really does have some records available!

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On March 28, 2010, I posted Lessons Learned from WDYTYA in which I found some element of the research process in each of the first four episodes that offered  valuable lessons to genealogists.  The “lessons” I highlighted in that post were:

1) Don’t trust everything you read in the newspapers; try to find primary sources for vital information.

2) If you uncover something distasteful about an ancestor – and who among us has not – you might want to consider you have become something better.

3) Don’t overlook the obvious when searching for relatives!

4)  It becomes our responsibility to honor our ancestors by remembering them.

Now that the first season of NBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? is complete, I’d like to comment on lessons learned from the final three episodes.

Episode #5 – Brooke Shields

Brooke Shields’ episode focused on two branches of her family: her maternal grandmother and her father’s long line of noble Italian ancestors that initially came from France.  While both stories were interesting, the comment that struck me the most was during the portion of the episode about Brooke’s grandmother.  Brooke knew her grandmother, but was not very close to her, and her main interest in researching her grandmother’s life was to determine what events may have “caused” her to be distant.  Brooke said, “I want to be able to like her.”  In finding out facts about her grandmother’s early life and the tragic events she endured, Brooke was able to understand her better.  Lesson:  Don’t judge a relative’s personality until you learn what shaped them into the person they are (or were).

Episode #6 – Susan Sarandon

I enjoyed this episode the most because the mystery surrounding Susan’s grandmother was so interesting, several resources were required to solve the mystery, and both Susan and her son participated in the research themselves.  But the key moment for me was when Susan visited her family’s grave – only to discover that there is no grave marker.  I knew exactly what she was feeling at that moment, because most of my ancestors have no tombstones or markers.  Lesson:  You may not always find what you are looking for.  Susan had a great idea when she said she’ll have to get a grave marker for her family.

Episode #7 – Spike Lee

Spike Lee’s episode was exciting because I got to watch it with several hundred other genealogists in Salt Lake City at the 2010 NGS conference last week.  It was a very poignant story about Spike’s ancestors transcending slavery to success.  Spike’s grandmother, who was an important influence on his life, lived to be 100 years old.  But, despite his career as a filmmaker, he never thought to record her stories for posterity or ask her questions about her family’s history.  Lesson: Don’t wait until it is too late – talk to older relatives and record their stories!

On May 4, 2010, the Ancestry.com blog had an article along this same idea called Seven Great Lessons from Who Do You Think You Are? Jeanie Croasmun also found a genealogy lesson in each episode.  Only one of our “lessons” is the same; Jeanie focused more on resource-related lessons while I focused on something that just struck me personally in each episode.  There is one thing we all can agree on…we can’t wait for Season 2!

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Regular readers of What’s Past is Prologue might wonder where I’ve been for the last month due to the lack of activity here.  I have been gone, but only for a week – earlier in the month I was busy (and lazy).  But last week was my “genealogy vacation”!  I attended the 2010 National Genealogical Society conference in Salt Lake City.  Even though I have been researching my family history for 20 years, this was my first visit to Salt Lake City and my first genealogy conference.  I had three reasons for wanting to attend this conference:

Location, Location, Location

1 – Research – the location of the conference was a major draw for me.  How can I pass up an opportunity to research at THE Family History Library?

What Do I Think I Know?

2 – Education – No matter how much you think you know about genealogy, or how many years you have been researching, or what initials appear after your name, there is always something new to learn.  The 2010 NGS schedule had dozens of interesting topics on the schedule.

“It’s friendship, friendship, just a perfect blendship.” (Cole Porter)

3 – Community – In the last two-plus years of blogging, I’ve made many friends in the geneablogger community…but I had only met one in person.  The conference was an opportunity to put some faces to the names I’ve come to know online.

So how was my genealogy vacation?  Great!  Here is how the results exceeded my expectations:

1 – While I didn’t have a specific research plan, I came prepared with some families and places I wanted to research.  I was able to find a lot of information that I still need to process, translate, and record.  I found:

  • ten documents confirming information I already knew, but did not have copies
  • thirteen “new” events
  • six “negative” results in which people were not found in the expected time and place – despite the lack of information, this negative information will now force me to come up with a new plan to find this information

I spent the majority of my research time on Polish research, with only a small amount of time researching Bavarian records.  Some of the documents I found include

  • a 1689 birth in Puch, Bavaria, of my 6th great-grandfather
  • Several Polish birth records from the early 1800’s for some 3rd great-grandparents in Wilczyn and Ślesin, and some 4th great-grandparents in Mszczonów and Osuchów
  • Biographical information on my great-grandfather’s cousin who was in the Polish Resistance and died at Auschwitz
  • My great-grandparents’ 1902 marriage in Dobrosołowo, Poland

Plus, I added more names to my family tree by learning the identities of four 5th greats and two previously unknown surnames of two 4th great-grandmothers.  I probably learned even more, but I have not had time to process all of these documents, translate some Polish and Russian, and organize the research.

2 – The pull of the library actually kept me from going to many of the talks that I wanted to attend.  But I did attend several interesting sessions that provided great information.  Just a few of the sessions I attended included

  • Five Ways to Prove Who Your Ancestor Was by Thomas Jones
  • U.S. Passenger Arrival Records, 1820-1957 by John Philip Colletta
  • Polish Court Record and Census Records by Stephen Danko
  • Polish Archives: Behind the Scenes by Ceil Wendt Jensen
  • German Ahnentafeln by the Thousands by John Humphrey

A group photo after watching the Who Do You Think You Are? Spike Lee episode

From left to right: author/blogger/tv star Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, author/speaker Loretto “Lou” Dennis Szucs, Randy Seaver, Kathryn Doyle, the Photo Detective Maureen Taylor, Family Tree Magazine editor Diane Haddad, Stephen Danko, Sheri Fenley, Donna Pointkouski, and Elizabeth Hansford

3 – In my high school, there was a corny proverb painted on the wall of the main hallway: “There are no strangers here, only friends that haven’t met.”  This was true of the conference!  Through blogging, emails, and Facebook, the geneabloggers had already formed a little family and it was great to finally meet and socialize with bloggers like Sheri Fenley, Steve Danko, Denise Levenick, Lisa Alzo, Kathryn Doyle, and Matthew Bielawa (and Randy Seaver, who I had already met last year).  I also met Dear Myrt (Pat Richley-Erickson), the Chart Chick (Janet Hovorka), the Genealogy Geek (Elizabeth Hansford), Michelle Goodrum, my Internet Genealogy editor Ed Zapletal, and Family Tree Magazine’s Diane Haddad and Allison Stacy.  Besides fun conversation and socializing at dinner (and a showing of Who Do You Think You Are?), the mutual assistance was phenomenal.  Everyone wanted to hear about each other’s research.  I can’t tell you how lucky I was to research Polish records with Steve Danko and Matthew Bielawa nearby!

So in my week off from work, I did not do any sight-seeing around Salt Lake City.  We did not have great weather (unless you happen to enjoy extreme wind, rain, and snow flurries).  I did nothing that my non-genealogy friends would find the slightest bit fun (other than discover some nice pubs).  But, all in all, it was a wonderful genealogy vacation!

How I Spent My Genealogy Vacation

Regular readers of What’s Past is Prologue might wonder where I’ve been for the last month due to the lack of activity here.  I have been gone, but only for a week – earlier in the month I was simply busy or lazy.  But last week was my “genealogy vacation”!  I attended the 2010 National Genealogical Society conference in Salt Lake City.  Even though I have been researching my family history for 20 years, this was my first visit to Salt Lake City and my first genealogy conference.  I had three reasons for wanting to attend this conference:

Location, Location, Location

1 – Research – the location of the conference was a major draw for me.  How can I pass up an opportunity to research at THE Family History Library?

What Do I Think I Know?

2 – Education – No matter how much you think you know about genealogy, or how many years you have been researching, or what initials appear after your name, there is always something new to learn.  The 2010 NGS schedule had dozens of interesting topics on the schedule.

“It’s friendship, friendship, just a perfect blendship.” (Cole Porter)

3 – Community – In the last two-plus years of blogging, I’ve made many friends in the geneablogger community…but I had only met one in person.  The conference was an opportunity to put some faces to the names I’ve come to know online.

So how was my genealogy vacation?  Great!  Here is how the results exceeded my expectations:

1 – While I didn’t have a specific research plan, I came prepared with some families and places I wanted to research.  I was able to find a lot of information that I still need to process, translate, and record.  I found:

-ten documents confirming information I already knew

-thirteen “new” events

-six “negative” results in which people were not found in the expected time and place – despite the lack of information, this negative information will now force me to come up with a new plan to find this information.

I spent the majority of my research time on Polish research, with only a small amount of time researching Bavarian records.  Some of the documents I found include
a 1689 birth in Puch, Bavaria, of my 6th great-grandfather

Several Polish birth records from the early 1800’s for some 3rd great-grandparents in Wilczyn and Ślesin, and some 4th great-grandparents in Mszczonów and Osuchów.

Biographical information on my great-grandfather’s cousin who was in the Polish Resistance and died at Auschwitz

My great-grandparents’ 1902 marriage in Dobrosołowo, Poland

2 – The pull of the library actually kept me from going to many of the talks that I wanted to attend.  But I did attend several interesting sessions that provided good information.  Some of these included

Five Ways to Prove Who Your Ancestor Was by Thomas Jones

U.S. Passenger Arrival Records, 1820-1957 by John Philip Colletta

Polish Court Record and Census Records by Stephen Danko

Polish Archives: Behind the Scenes by Ceil Wendt Jensen

German Ahnentafeln by the Thousands by John Humphrey

3 – In my high school, there was a corny proverb painted on the wall of the main hallway: “There are no strangers here, only friends that haven’t met.”  This was true of the conference!  Through blogging, emails, and Facebook, the geneabloggers had already formed a little family and it was great to finally meet and socialize with bloggers like Sheri, Steve, Denise, Lisa, Kathryn, and Matthew (and Randy, who I had already met last year).  I also met Dear Myrt (Pat), the Chart Chick (Janet), the Genealogy Geek (Elizabeth), Michelle, my Internet Genealogy editor Ed Zapletal, and Family Tree Magazine’s Diane Haddad and Allison Stacy.  Besides fun conversation and socializing at dinner (and a showing of Who Do You Think You Are?), the mutual assistance was phenomenal.  Everyone wanted to hear about each other’s research.  I can’t tell you how lucky I was to research Polish records with Steve Danko and Matthew Bielawa nearby!

So in my week off from work, I did not do any sight-seeing around Salt Lake City.  We did not have great weather (unless you happen to enjoy extreme wind, rain, and snow flurries).  I did nothing that my non-genealogy friends would find the slightest bit fun (other than discover some nice pubs).  But, all in all, it was a wonderful genealogy vacation!

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