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Archive for December, 2011

2011: A Look Back

In the nearly four years I’ve been blogging, I have written a retrospective on New Year’s Eve looking back at my personal year. What fun stuff did I do? What genealogical finds did I discover? What worked? What didn’t? I may be the only one that reads this particular post every year, but it has become a rather meaningful tradition in my life. Last year, I called 2010 a “year of transition”…I guess I have arrived at wherever I was going, because I end 2011 a lot happier, healthier, and content.

Genealogically speaking, I’ve connected with so many cousins over the last few years that I didn’t think there were any left to find.  But there were!  This year I made several new connections. On my mother’s maternal side, I was “found” by my second cousin Tricia and her mother Mary Jane. On my mother’s paternal side, I had fun talking to my first cousin twice removed – yes, my grandfather’s cousin! Although my grandfather would be 100 next year (if he hadn’t died at age 60), his cousin Ed is a robust 83 and even uses Facebook!  His granddaughter, my third cousin Catie, scanned some photos for me that I had never seen before including my grandfather’s brothers and my grandparents. Finally, I connected with a cousin on my father’s paternal side. While I know tons of cousins from his maternal side, I didn’t think I could find any from the Pointkouski side. Fortunately, my dad’s first cousin, Marilyn, found me!

While I didn’t write as many posts about my genealogy research as I would have liked, I did make quite a few discoveries. I found my Piątkowski 2nd great-grandparents’ marriage record from 1863 online and now I’m in hot pursuit of their birth records. Through my newly found cousin Marilyn, I discovered the married name of my grandfather’s missing sister! More to come on her soon…  I also found an obituary that filled in missing information on a branch of the family and discovered a reference to my 4th great-grandfather in a German newspaper from 1813!

One of my big projects this year was launching another blog! The Catholic Gene was born from the many friendships I had formed with other genealogists.  Though many of us had different ethnic backgrounds, we all shared the same Catholic faith.  I thought a blog would be a great way to collaborate and write about how our faith has intertwined with our family histories. Ten authors, four months, and sixty posts later, I’m proud of the result and I hope next year is even better.

Some of The Pointer Sisters at Jamboree!

I had fun at two genealogy conferences this year.  The first, the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree, was tons of fun.  It was great to hang out with many of my online friends – and we didn’t miss an opportunity for fun, that’s for sure. I think the hotel staff is still talking about the piñata incident…  In October, I met more friends and attended the conference for the Polish Genealogical Society of Connecticut and the Northeast in which I gave a presentation for the very first time. My second speaking opportunity came just two weeks later at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Speaking about genealogy was something I wanted to try for a while, and both presentations went well.

The highlight of my year was my trip to California with Lisa Alzo. In addition to going to Hollywood (okay, just to Burbank, but we did drive to Hollywood thanks to Denise Levenick) for Jamboree, we spent time in the San Francisco area with Kathryn Doyle and Steve Danko. Despite a chilly Golden Gate Bridge, a freezing Stinson Beach, and a rainy Napa Valley, we had the BEST TIME EVER! All that laughter was good medicine!

In some ways, my theme for the year was improvement. For example, my cooking improved considerably and I’ve added chili, roasted cauliflower, and pork chops to my repertoire. In the world of home improvement, I started off the year with a mostly new kitchen – including a much needed heated floor – and ended the year with a completely renovated bathroom – including a much needed expansion.  Work improved – I’m in the same job as last year with the same tasks and same people, but I enjoyed it more.  Some relationships improved, too, as I learned about forgiveness, trust, and having fun.

I spent time enjoying my parents’ company, and I also enjoyed watching my niece Natalie dance and my niece Ava read to me.  Nephew Nick likes to sing out loud, and nephew Luke gives the best hugs I’ve ever received.  2011 was the year of an earthquake and a hurricane two weeks apart, neither of which “did” anything but stir up the local news media.  The Philadelphia Phillies stirred up the entire city…only to fall short in the end.  Get ‘em next year, guys, I’ll be watching!

I kept myself entertained this year by catching up on older television shows: Mad Men, The Tudors, Big Bang Theory, and Castle. Train provided the soundtrack to my California trip with Save Me, San Francisco and Kelly Clarkson’s Stronger matched my mood.  The world lost a great singer I had always hoped to see live, Cesaria Evora.  I read a ton of books, but once again I failed to keep track of what I read.  I do remember Anne Fortier’s Juliet, Karen Harper’s Mistress Shakespeare, and Kate Morton’s The Distant Hours. Donald Miller reminded me to live a good story in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

All in all, 2011 had its moments once I stopped to think about it. What does 2012 hold in store for me? I’m not sure, but I am certain about one thing – I’m back to enjoying the ride.  Here’s wishing all of my family, friends, and readers much happiness in the new year!

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Last December I made 11 genealogy goals to accomplish in 2011.  How did I do?

  1. Attend the 2011 Southern California Genealogy JamboreeDONE – I had a blast attending the lectures and hanging out with friends.
  2. Obtain a public speaking “gig” on a genealogical topicDONE – Done times two.  Both talks were in October.  The first, Finding Your Eastern European Ancestors in Russian Consular Records, was presented at the fall conference of the Polish Genealogical Society of Connecticut and the Northeast.  The second, Blogging Your Genealogy, was presented at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. I enjoyed giving both presentations very much.
  3. FIND the Polish birth record of Elizabeth Miller Pater (Elżbieta Müller)FAIL – Still no luck in tracking down her birth record although I did research where some of the Czech communities were in Poland.
  4. Put my 2-year-old research plan into action to find the death dates of my 2nd great-grandparents in Bavaria – FAIL – It’s nice to have a plan, but it’s better to put it in action. I just never got around to it.
  5. Post more frequently here (my goal from the blog’s beginning was always 3/week or 12/month) – FAIL – I’ll finish the year with 40 posts here plus 8 at The Catholic Gene, the new collaborative blog I started this year.  But that’s far less than last year’s total of 71, which I thought was low. I did start off well in January, though!
  6. View the box of photos that my one cousin has in his possession (or get a restraining order put in against me while trying…LOL) – HALF DONE – The “box” may or may not be a box. But by year’s end the cousin did send me two photos to scan and allowed me to keep one, so that’s a plus!
  7. Get back to writing for some genealogy magazines, even if it’s only a few articles – HALF DONE – I had two articles published this year.
  8. Either get back to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City or at least rent a few films from my local one – FAIL – I visited my local FHC, but when a trip to SLC popped up on my radar I decided to wait since it’s actually more cost effective to view the films on site!
  9. Find the marriage record for Stanisław Piątkowski & Apolonia KonopkaDONE – This was accomplished early in the year, and was much easier than I had anticipated! Read all about it in Finding Polish Records Online.
  10. Get organized by starting my database over from scratch to include all source information – FAIL – I thought about it, does that count?
  11. Re-visit Poland and explore some of my ancestral towns – FAIL – The possible trip was postponed, but may happen in 2012.  Stay tuned!

While 11 goals may have been too many to accomplish, my overachieving, overly optimistic self will now present my list of 12 goals for 2012!  This time I tried to make them more attainable.

  1. Find the birth record for my great-great-grandfather, Stanisław Piątkowski, in what is now Mogilev, Belarus.
  2. Find the marriage record for the parents of my great-grandmother, Rozalia Kizoweter/Kiziewieter.
  3. Find all my relatives in the 1940 Census which will finally be released on April 2, 2012!
  4. Track down a half-cousin, the grandson of my great-grandfather’s half brother Julius Goetz.
  5. See Pennsylvania death records go online for the first time! When Pennsylvania Vital Records Bill SB-361 (Act 110 of 2011) becomes law on February 13th, 2012, death certificates over 50 years old and birth certificates over 105 years old will be “open” records.  Hopefully it won’t take long for one of the online sites to provide them.
  6. Convert the place names in my database to accurate names. Rather than tackle the goal of re-doing my entire database like I said last year, I hope to at least ensure that all of the place names reflect the accurate boundaries of the time of the person’s life event. As many of my ancestors are Polish and the boundaries changed frequently, this is bigger than it sounds.
  7. Attend the United Polish Genealogical Societies conference in Salt Lake City in April despite the fact that no agenda has been announced yet.
  8. Visit the Family History Library while I’m in Salt Lake City and continue filling in the details on my Polish and Bavarian families.
  9. Write three posts I’ve been meaning to write for a while. So I can prove I did it last year, I will list the topics: Józef Pater, an update on the missing sister, and Grace Goetz.
  10. Connect with the “other” Bergmeister cousins that may not be aware of our side of the family. These cousins are the descendants of my great-grandfather’s brother, Ignaz.
  11. Once again, put my now-3-year-old research plan into action to find the death dates of my 2nd great-grandparents in Bavaria.
  12. And finally, once again….FIND the Polish birth record of Elizabeth Miller Pater (Elżbieta Müller). I know where she came from, I just can’t seem to find the record.  Yet.  This will be my year!

Following the lead of my friends Denise (The Family Curator) and Amy (The We Tree Genealogy Blog), I’ve asked a genealogy buddy to help me meet three specific goals in the areas of Organization, Research, and Writing.  For Organization, I choose Goal #6 above.  For Research, many of the above 12 deal with researching, but I choose Goals #1 and 2 for the buddy project.  And for Writing, I choose Goal #9.  My Genealogy Buddy that will kick my butt encourage me to accomplish these tasks?  None other than the organizing, researching, writing wizard herself, Lisa Alzo, The Accidental Genealogist.  If Lisa can’t whip me into shape, no one can!

Best of luck on meeting all of your genealogical goals in 2012!

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The theme for the 113th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy is: A Charles Dickens Christmas. In the spirit of Dickens, I was visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future…

Christmas, 1971

Here’s a photo of my big brother and me on Christmas Day in 1971.  I have a unique ability to talk people into doing crazy things for the sake of photography, so in the spirit of brotherly love (just like our hometown, Philadelphia), we re-created the scene forty years later.

Christmas, 2011

The audience for the recreation shot included our parents, my brother’s wife (the photographer), and his three youngest children…who could not stop laughing.

Christmas Future

For the image of Christmas Future, we first considered using my niece and one of the nephews.  However, the one time I would not want all three kids in a picture is the one time they’d protest about not being in it, so we avoided any sibling rivalry on Christmas Day.  We thought about using our parents, which is likely what we will look like in another 30 years. But, given the fact that my brother and I are a bit younger and had difficulty not only recreating the pose, but also getting up off the floor, we decided against it or we’d still be trying to help them stand up.  I try not to envision the future too often since it rarely turns out as I plan, but I hope that in another forty years I’ll still be celebrating Christmas with my brother and his family – and some grandnieces and grandnephews and other loved ones!

[Written for the 113th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: A Charles Dickens Christmas]

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Happy Advent! My niece waiting for her first Christmas, 2005

Meanwhile, back at the laptop…

November was a rather quiet month here at WPiP – I can’t believe I only posted once! But I wasn’t as lazy at it first appears – I managed to write four articles for The Catholic Gene instead.  During November, I posted the following:

09 Nov – The Mother of All Churches was more of a “filler” post and a photographic tribute to the Churches mother church.

11 Nov – Serving Those Who Serve: Military Chaplains is one of my favorite articles so far.

13 Nov – The Immigrant Saint: St. Frances Cabrini is an expansion of a post I first wrote here about America’s first naturalized citizen saint.

27 Nov – Changing the Way We Pray is a personal reflection about the introduction of the “new” translation to the Catholic Mass.

Donna’s Picks

I’ve been tardy in my “Donna’s Picks” occasional feature of noteworthy articles, so here are a few recent goodies:

Beware of family traditions when it comes to genealogical research! Michael John Neill dispels the myth of “what’s supposed to be” and several other beliefs and assumptions that may be stalling our research in Is Your Brick Wall in Your Head? [Nov 28 by Michael John Neill on RootDig.com - reprint from 2004's Ancestry Daily News]

I really enjoyed Death Certificates: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly in which Valerie discusses the value – and dangers – of one of the common genealogical resources, death records.  She says, “Just like any other record, you need to obtain it, evaluate it, and decide how trustworthy the information is.”  Great minds think alike – I used the same title in reference to the SSDI back in September, 2009 – only in that case the SSDI actually just got way uglier. [Nov 21 by Valerie on Begin with 'Craft']

I value creativity, so it was interesting to learn about the 7 Deadly Sinds of Creativity.  Bless me, Father, for I have sinned… [Nov 28 by Marc on Marc and Angel Hack Life]

Then again, creativity doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t act on your ideas.  Get inspired and learn how to use your super power with Creativity Alone is Not Enough! [Nov 30 by Sharon Hurley Hall at Get Paid to Write Online]

Finally, Amy Coffin proposes The Hypothetical Ancestor Trade-off in which we trade our research- challenged ancestors in the hopes that some other researcher will have more luck than we have.  I love this idea, Amy, and I’ll trade you your great-great-grandmother Mollie for my great-grandmother Elizabeth! [Nov 30 by Amy on We Tree]

What’s Past at What’s Past is Prologue ~ What You May Have Missed

One Year Ago:

  • Ho! Ho! Horror! – Was your annual photo with Santa ever quite like these?

Two Years Ago:

Three Years Ago:

What’s Prologue at What’s Past is Prologue ~ Coming Up

I’ve had some ideas in the works for months but I never seem to “get around” to writing the posts, so I’m not going to jinx those ideas by mentioning them again (some for the third or fourth time!). But I do plan on writing about how my new favorite television mystery-writer/crimefighter can help us with our genealogical research. I’ll also look back on how I fared with my 11 research goals for 2011 and come up with some new ones as well as my annual year-end reflection.

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