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This post was originally published on December 21, 2008, but I wanted to repeat it for new visitors who missed it last year. Uh-oh…we never did research the Big Guy’s ancestry – I hope we all still make the “nice” list this year!  Merry Christmas to all!

‘Twas just days before Christmas and all through the ‘net
Bloggers were quiet, even the Graveyard Rabbit.
Some were snowed in, all covered in ice
With some frightful weather that’s really not nice.

Others were busy with presents and wrap,
While some settled in for a long winter’s nap.
But then Genea-Santa made it home from the mall
And with urgency put out a very frantic call.

“Oh genea-bloggers, can you help me so?
Someone has asked for their ancestors to know.
I’m used to toys, books, and games on the list,
My elves tried Ancestry.com and can’t get the gist.”

“Can you please help?” good Santa did ask,
“So I can complete this impossible task?”
Before Old St. Nick barely finished his post
The bloggers started to answer, from coast to coast.

First Sheri, then Jasia, and Terry from Monroe County,
Then Randy, then Lisa, and Thomas upped the bounty.
Many sources did footnoteMaven then cite,
while Donna and Becky joined in the plight.

Steve and Miriam and DearMyrtle too
Used Census and newspapers to find every last clue.
The charts were all filled and ready for Santa’s sack,
Combined we had traced twelve generations back!

Santa was impressed, the pedigree had nary a hole
“Can you help me find my folks from the North Pole?”
We said we’d try, maybe next year.
Our promise left him jolly and full of good cheer.

So he subscribed to our blogs, to join in our fun
And said he’d return when his hard work was done
Santa signed off, having found what he sought
“Merry Christmas to all, may your searching not be for naught!”

-with many apologies to and great appreciation of Mr. Clement Clarke Moore…(and apologies to the many genea-bloggers I left out for space and rhyming constraints!)

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As a Polish-American interested in genealogy, I quickly learned that pronunciation is the key to everything.   How can you properly research a family if you can’t say the language correctly? I realized that there are American English pronunciations of Polish surnames and place names, and then there is the real way it is pronounced in Polish.

Over the years I’ve learned a few things about the Polish language with its “different” letters and consonant combinations, and I can usually figure out how a word is pronounced.  But sometimes…I get stumped.  Just the other day I learned that my great-grandmother was born in a town near Warsaw called Przybyszew.  Przybyszew?  Where do I begin?  I’d like to buy a vowel, Pat!

Fortunately, I discovered an awesome website thanks to Zenon Znamirowski from PolishOrigins.com that allows you to hear Polish words pronounced by Polish speakers!  So, how do you say Przybyszew?  Click on this link to hear it!

The site, Expressivo, is a text to speech program.  To test it out, you can enter up to 200 characters of text here and listen to the results read by several voices: Eric (male US-English), Jennifer (female US-English), Carmen (female Romanian), Jacek (male Polish), or Ewa (female Polish).  To hear Polish names or place names, I highly recommend using the two Polish voices to hear a true Polish pronunciation.

Here are several of my ancestors’ names and the towns they lived in – click the link to hear it in Polish:

Many Americans may have seen these town names in Poland and thought they knew how to pronounce them.  Try it, then click on the link and see if you were correct – you might be surprised!

Łódź Gdańsk Kraków Wrocław Częstochowa Poznań

You can tell that I had a lot of fun “playing” with this site, but other than it being cool to hear your ancestor’s name and hometown properly pronounced, why is it important?  Because knowing the correct pronunciation in an immigrant’s native language can often help you find your ancestor in records that are not spelled correctly, but are written as English-speakers heard the foreign tongue pronounced.  Obviously, this does not only apply to the Polish language, but any language other than American English.

[Submitted for the Carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy: Tips, Tricks, and Websites]

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This week’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun (SNGF) by Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings asks

1) Pick one of your four great-grandparents – if possible, the one with the most descendants.

2) Create a descendants list for those great-grandparents either by hand or in your software program.

3) Tell us how many descendants, living or dead, are in each generation from those great-grandparents.

4) How many are still living? Of those, how many have you met and exchanged family information with? Are there any that you should make contact with ASAP? Please don’t use last names of living people for this – respect their privacy.

I seem to always use my Bergmeister Family as an example for SNGF, but that is the family in which I have not only had success in tracing ancestors backward, but also success in tracing cousins forward.  So for my example of my family’s increase, I will use my great-grandparents Joseph Bergmeister (1873-1927) and Marie Echerer Bergmeister (1875-1919).  Their descendants are:

  • 5 Children (all deceased) – I only remember meeting 2.
  • 14 Grandchildren (8 living / 6 deceased)  – I only met 3 of the living and 1 deceased.
  • 30 Great-grandchildren (28 living / 2 deceased) – I met 7 and “e-met” 6 more.
  • 48 Second great-grandchildren (all living, not counting some adopted and step-children) – I’ve met 9.
  • At least 2 Third great-grandchildren so far…

    As best I can determine, Joseph and Marie Bergmeister have 99 descendants so far – not bad for a couple that didn’t live long enough to see their youngest child reach adulthood.  Marie was just shy of 44 years old when she died.  Joseph died at age 54, but he was able to see his first 3 grandchildren before he died.

    Research on this branch has been satisfying because of all the second cousins I have come to know, mostly via email.  At least one descendant of each of the four other Bergmeister children are in contact with me, and we are beginning to discuss the possibility of a family reunion!  Stay tuned here for more details.  I still have work to do in getting to know some more of my cousins, but this is by far the branch of the family that is the most interested in our history.

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    UPDATE: More info has been found…see my October 25th post, A Sweeter “Sweet Sixteen”

    Whether we know their names or not, we all have sixteen great-great grandparents.  Randy Seaver’s latest edition of Saturday Night Genealogical Fun has challenged us to list them all with their birth and death dates and locations, as well as figure out our nationality percentages as a result.  While I did some rough math last night and commented back to Randy on Facebook, I decided to put this into a blog post today.  For one, it readily shows something I already knew – while certain “branches” on my family tree are quite full and sprout quite high – back ten generations from me at its highest point – the sad fact is that part of my family tree remains a bare twig.  As a genealogist, I hate that!  As you will see below, it’s the far left part of my tree – my patrilineal line.  Some might even argue that’s the most important, at least for the Y-DNA line of my brother and his sons.  Another fun part of this exercise was to see all of the surnames I have uncovered so far.  Here are my sixteen great-great grandparents:

    1. Unknown PIONTKOWSKI, father of Jan Bołesław Piontkowski.  Birth and death unknown, presumably from Warsaw, Poland where Jan was born. Nationality: Polish

    2. Unknown wife of #1, mother of Jan Bołesław Piontkowski.  Birth and death unknown, presumably from Warsaw, Poland where Jan was born. Nationality: Polish

    3. Leopold KIESWETTER, father of Róza Kieswetter.  Birth and death unknown.  Presumed nationality: Polish

    4. Unknown wife of #3, mother of Róza Kieswetter.  Birth and death unknown.  Presumed nationality: Polish

    5. Josef BERGMEISTER, father of Josef Bergmeister.  Born 09 February 1843 in Puch, Bavaria, son of Jakob Bergmeister and Anna Maria Daniel.  Died before 1884, unknown place.  Nationality: German (Bavarian)

    6. Ursula DALLMEIER, mother of Josef Bergmeister.  Born 17 March 1847 in Aichach, Bavaria, daughter of Joseph Dallmeier and Ursula Eulinger.   Died between 1897 and 1919, presumably in Regensburg, Bavaria, Germany. Nationality: German (Bavarian)

    7. Karl ECHERER, father of Maria Echerer.  Born 31 May 1846 in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria, son of Ignaz Echerer and Magdalena Nigg.  Died after 1882 in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria. Nationality: German (Bavarian)

    8. Margarethe FISCHER, mother of Maria Echerer.  Born 21 January 1845 in Langenbruck, Bavaria, daughter of Franz Xaver Fischer and Barbara Gürtner.  Died 04 October 1895 in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria, Germany. Nationality: German (Bavarian)

    9. Jozef PATER, father of Ludwig Pater.  Born on 21 September 1864 in Ruda Guzowska, Poland, son of Jan Pater and Teofilia Zakrzewska.  Died on 11 August 1945 in Philadelphia, PA, USA.  Nationality: Polish

    10. Antonina Rozalia PLUTA, mother of Ludwig Pater. Born on 21 June 1863 in Mszczonów, Poland, daughter of Ludwik Pluta and Franciszka Anna Wojciechowska.  Died on 12 December 1938 in Philadelphia, PA, USA. Nationality: Polish

    11. Jan MÜLLER, father of Elżbieta Müller.  Birth and death unknown.  Presumed nationality: Bohemian

    12. Elizabeth SMETANA, mother of Elżbieta Müller.  Birth and death unknown.  Presumed nationality: Bohemian

    13. Wawrzyniec ZAWODNY, father of Jozef Zawodny.  Born around 1853 in unknown location to Szymon Zawodny and Katarzyna Ratajewska.  Died 13 December 1917 in Dobrosołowo, Poland.  Nationality: Polish

    14. Katarzyna MARIANSKA, mother of Jozef Zawodny.  Born around 1853, presumably in Komorowo, Poland, to Stanisław Marianski and Marianna Radomska.  Died 29 July 1923 in Dobrosołowo, Poland.  Nationality: Polish

    15. Wincenty SLESINSKI, father of Wacława Slesinska.  Born around 1851, presumably in Wilczyn, Poland, to Jozef Slesinski and Elżbieta Michalowska.  Died 01 January 1919 in Dobrosołowo, Poland.  Nationality: Polish

    16. Stanisława DROGOWSKA, mother of Wacława Slesinski.  Born around 1860, presumably in Wilczyn, Poland, to Jan Drogowski and Konstancja Kubicka.  Died 30 December 1918 in Dobrosołowo, Poland.  Nationality: Polish

    Of 16 great-great grandparents, 13 can be named.  As for the facts, I have definite birth and death dates for only 3, definite birth and unknown death dates for 3, unknown birth and definite death dates for 4, and all dates unknown for 6.  Do you know what that means?  It means I have a lot of genealogical research to do!  In the early days of my research, I got so excited at the ability to go back and back and back on certain lines that I forgot about following up the more “recent” folks with all of the necessary and pertinent data.

    Nationality-wise, this makes me:

    • 62.5% Polish – 10 great-greats (6 definite, 4 assumed to be Polish)
    • 25% German – 4 great-greats
    • 12.5% Bohemian – 2 great-greats that are presumed Bohemian based on info I have so far

    I have identified strongly with my Bavarian roots, yet it only comprises 25% of my genes.  Perhaps that identification comes from the fact that this side was so much easier to search so far!

    Some random facts about my sweet sixteen –

    • #9 and 10 are my only 2nd great grandparents to immigrate to the United States, making my paternal grandfather the only grandparent to know his own grandparents.
    • #15 and 16 died two days apart from each other
    • I have photographs of none of my sixteen 2nd great grandparents and I have photographs of only six of their children, my great-grandparents.
    • My maternal grandmother’s grandparents all died between 1917 and 1923, long after their children came to the U.S.  They lived close to the border of German-occupied Poland and Russian-occupied Poland, but I do not yet know if their deaths were related to World War I.  My grandmother never met her grandparents, but had they also immigrated she would have known them since she was born in 1907.

    Thanks for more genealogical fun, Randy!  It is embarrassing that my tree is a bit barren in spots, but I’m glad I can name as many and I can.  Many people today can not name their 8 great-grandparents…yet they don’t seem bothered by it at all.  Ask a genealogist to name their 16 great-greats, and now you’ve got some angry folks who realize they have to work harder!

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    Sometimes we need a little humor in our blogging – especially after reading the latest edition of the COG and learning that all of us were this close to having our ancestry wiped out before we could even be born.  I haven’t written a strictly humorous post in a while with the exception of my monthly guest appearances at Shades of the Departed.  But it’s easy to find humor in the sheer act of blogging.  We’ve seen a number of talented genea-bloggers take a break from their genealogical articles to write about the hysterical nature of those words we have to use for comment verification on each other’s blogs.  But today I’d like to share one thing about this blog that has made me laugh recently, and it involves my “statistics”.

    I’ve used Google Analytics on other blogs, and I love the features that allow you to find out everything about your visitors.  I mean everything – where they are from, how long they visited, what they looked at, and if they washed their hands before they left.  Well, maybe not that last one, but I bet those folks at Google are working on it.  I was disappointed that I can’t use Analytics on What’s Past is Prologue – you see, I’m too cheap to host the blog myself, so I’m using the free version.  And with the free version, Google Analytics is verboten.  But WordPress does give us economical folks a version of it.  Sort of.  It would be like calling a gumdrop a version of an ice cream sundae.  They are both desserts of sorts, but, ah, different!

    One thing my cheapy free version of statistics gives me is the “search terms” that visitors are searching for when they unexpectedly land here.  I’ve gotten many laughs in recent months over these terms, and I’ve also scratched my head in bewilderment.  Wait, someone is searching for that? And the search engine points them to my blog?  I’m not sure if I should be offended or grateful for the free traffic.  “Hey, I can’t help you with that, but if you want to stay a while maybe I can interest you in something else…”  Here are some of the best of the strange, odd, and downright scary search terms that have directed folks to What’s Past is Prologue – with my comments, of course.   Note: These terms are all actual search terms as reported to me by WordPress! Let’s call it the 1st Edition of the Carnival of Strange Search Terms!

    GENEALOGY RELATED…SORT OF

    first communion photography tempest – The first 3 words I can understand – after all, I’ve shown many photos here including my father’s first communion.  And we all know what play the title of this blog comes from.  What I can’t fathom is what it means when you combine the terms together.  That must have been quite the stormy event!

    what is an aunt – Seriously?  My 4-year-old niece already understands why I am called “Aunt Donna” and the lady across the street is not.

    can’t find my marriage licenese – Note: It’s probably not here either.

    piontkowski murder mystery – You’ve got my attention!  Just when I thought my great-grandfather was mysterious enough, now I have to wonder if there’s a murder mystery to solve, too.

    rust genealogy – Father: Iron, Mother: Oxygen, Baby Rust born under the sign of Aquarius.

    THE BARD

    William Shakespeare’s marriage photos – I had no idea photography went back that far!

    shakespear prologue car – Apparently automobiles are older than I thought as well.

    squinny shakespeare – I have no idea what it means, but I’d love the answer to this one myself.

    WEDDINGS

    carnival themed wedding – Really?  Someone would actually do that?

    wedding prosthesis – I don’t think I want to know.  Should this be in the “Kinky” category below?

    stories of fraud marriage(2008-2009) – I sense a story here, and some slight hostility in the searcher.

    INSULTS

    plain girl pictures – Hey!  I think I’m insulted.

    ugliest ballet tutu – I know what page this would have brought them to, but I want to know why you’re searching for it!

    ugly women facesHEY! They must be mistaken, for this search term surely wouldn’t lead to the page with my photo on it!

    impossible to pronounce polish name – Really, “Pointkouski” isn’t THAT hard.

    EXISTENTIAL QUESTIONS

    what do houses of nj look like – Ours look like houses that the rest of the country lives in.  Really.

    what’s in my soul – If you found the answer here, please let me know so I can market it.

    why can’t humans live past 200 years old – We can live to 200?

    what.section.of.phila.do.irish.live – we.let.them.live.anywhere.they.want.

    what to do after a blizzard hits – Shovel.

    six months two weeks one day and an hour – Equals the amount of time it would take me to figure out how this would lead here.

    JUST PLAIN ODD

    show me beautifull teady beer photos – How about if I show you a dictionary instead?

    list of monks at west thornton in1880 – And this led you here because…?

    hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy tattoos – Don’t panic, but the answer’s not here.

    2009 meteor showers camping ground phila – You’ve obviously never been to Philadelphia if you believe you can see meteor showers here.  There’s so much light pollution, I don’t need any outside lights over here on the other side of the river – I can see just fine from the humid glow across the way.

    KINKY

    kitten and cockatiel co-habiting – LOL – That should be a sitcom.

    three flexible sisters from the 1920s – I can’t even imagine what the searcher was looking for.  Well, I can imagine, but why would I want to?

    2 ugly transvestites – That would be my description of my dad and his comedic buddy, but, excuse me, you’re not only looking for transvestites, but ugly ones?

    naked paternal grandmother – Eeeeewwww!  Specifically wrong on so many levels.

    schoolboys at crossdressing – I’ll second that eeeewwww and raise you a pedophile alert.

    Bavarian naked women – The searcher was sorely disappointed in whatever page they were led to!

    So there you have it!  The next edition of this search term carnival will include more bizarre, freakish, and unusual ways that bring me more traffic!  If you’re a geneablogger, do you encounter these strange and unusual researchers?  Tell me about your best search terms!  Until next time, I remain the Queen of Ugly Teady Beer Shakespearean Transvestite Marriage Photos.

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    My Favorite Finds

    I just spent more time than I want to admit working on Bill West’s Genea-bloggers’ Just Make Up Some Lyrics Challenge!  I’m used to making up lyrics to songs on the radio – yes, people think I’m strange.  So I was lucky that Bill had such an excellent idea.  I’m still strange, but now I have company!  Oddly enough, I had seen the original post of the challenge as well as some of the great contributions so far.  I even commented on footnoteMaven’s post today that I had better post mine before someone “steals” my song.  Imagine my surprise when I saw Bill’s response to his own challenge.  It was posted almost two weeks ago, but I somehow missed it.  Ooops!  It seems as though Bill is singing MY song!  But our surnames are different, and so are our rhymes, so I am going to post my lyrics anyway.  Great minds think alike, so I’m sure Bill won’t mind (I could use a flutaphone accompaniment though).  I knew I should have chosen “Disturbia” or “Superfreak” or something more original…oh well, there is still time to submit another song to the challenge!

    My Favorite Finds (to the tune of “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music)

    Finding Pfaffenhofen, as Echerer’s birth place,
    Lots of Bergmeister’s to meet and embrace,
    The census online; genea-blogs of all kinds,
    These are a few of my favorite finds!

    Piontkowski grandfather, changing his name,
    Finding his arrival was just like a game,
    Finally found it, nearly losing my mind.
    One more example of a wonderful find!

    Zawodny’s in records, but Miller’s a mystery,
    Pater’s from Poland, all part of my history,
    Slesinski photos showing family tree binds,
    These are a few of my family tree finds!

    I can’t find them!
    What’s the spelling?
    Handwriting’s really bad!
    I simply remember my favorite finds,
    And then I don’t feel so mad.

    [Submitted for the first-ever Just Make Up the Lyrics Challenge: Family Names – see the rules here.]

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    I rarely have time to even read Randy’s Saturday Night Fun Challenges on a Saturday night, much less respond to them.  But tonight, I do have some time, and this one is not so challenging for me to answer!  If Randy had chosen any other line, it would have been harder.

    The challenge is this:  Provide a list of your paternal grandmother’s patrilineal line. Answer these questions:
    * What was your father’s mother’s maiden name?
    * What was your father’s mother’s father’s name?
    * What is your father’s mother’s father’s patrilineal line? That is, his father’s father’s father’s … back to the most distant male ancestor in that line?
    * Can you identify male sibling(s) of your father’s mother, and any living male descendants from those male sibling(s)? If so, you have a candidate to do a Y-DNA test on that patrilineal line. If not, you may have to find male siblings, and their descendants, of the next generation back, or even further.

    Here are my responses:

    My father’s mother was Margaret Bergmeister (1913-1998), born in Philadelphia, PA.

    • My father’s mother’s father’s name was Joseph Bergmeister (1873-1927), born in Vohburg a.d. Donau, Bavaria, Germany.
    • His father was also named Joseph Bergmeister (1843-unknown before 1885), born in Puch, Bavaria, Germany.
    • His father was Jakob Bergmeister (1805-1870), born in Puch, Bavaria, Germany.
    • His father was Joseph Bergmeister (1763-1840), born in Puch, Bavaria, Germany.
    • His father was Johann Paul Bergmeister (1721-1784), born in Puch, Bavaria, Germany.
    • His father was Martin Bergmeister (ca 1689-1752), born in Puch, Bavaria, Germany.
    • His father was likely Jakob Bergmeister / Permeister but this info is still being researched.

    My grandmother Margaret Bergmeister had three brothers -

    • Joseph Bergmeister (1902-1986), who had three sons: Joseph, Robert, and Carl.  There are three males descended from Joseph and Robert, and Carl had no children.
    • Max Bergmeister (1905-?) had no sons.
    • Julius Bergmeister(1907-?) had no sons.

    Even if I did not have three male second cousins with the Bergmeister surname (two of whom I have been in touch with so far) and therefore candidates for the Y-DNA of my grandmother’s patrilineal line, I am also in touch with fourth and fifth male cousins with the common ancestors of Jakob (b.1805) or Joseph (b.1763) shown above.  I haven’t looked into any kind of DNA testing, especially for this line, because there are plenty of Bergmeister men – both in the genealogical records and in my email in-box!  Thanks, Grandmom, for having an easy patrilineal line to research!  Click on the Bergmeister Family tab above for more info on this line.

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    Photo by Leo Reynolds on Flickr

    Photo by Leo Reynolds on Flickr

    But what’s the question?  Fans of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will know that it’s the meaning of life, the universe and everything.  But on Sunday, March 8th, 42 happens to be the next mile-marker on my own personal odometer.  (Coincidentally, I just found out that March 8th was also the date that Hitchhiker’s radio broadcast premiere 31 years ago – oh, the cosmic implications!)

    I plan on taking a birthday break from blogging by spending the weekend gazing at palm trees, so I came up with a different and unusual way for my friends to wish me a “Happy Birthday” greeting.  After all, my friends are different and unusual.  Since you all also have a wonderful sense of humor, I do hope you’ll join in by posting a comment about THE BEST TIME WE NEVER HAD.  That’s right – your best fictional memory of our fun.  For those of you that think I’ve lost my mind along with my youth, let me explain…

    I’m borrowing this idea from another blog I read called Darwin Catholic.  For the last few years, she has celebrated her birthday by asking for “completely made up and fictional” memories.  And the results are pretty funny.  Since my friends’ humor IQs tip the scales, I thought this would be a unique challenge.  (I’m counting on Thomas, Joe S., Killa, Jasia, MO, and various members of the Bucs clan at a minimum!)  Come on, give the old gal a laugh while I’m sipping pina coladas on the beach!

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    Ancestors on Facebook?

    Janet Hovorka, the Chart Chick, had a link to her sister’s blog.  Her sister talks about how great it is to use Facebook to meet up with old friends and plan a family reunion.  Then she asks an intriguing question:

    …wouldn’t a genealogical version of facebook, devoid of time and space, be intriguing? Locate family members, link generations, pictures, tidbits, get to know your long losts…. I’d love to “friend” my 3rd great-grandmother Magdalena Straubhaar Schwendiman and have a bit of wall-to-wall with her. And I’m sure I’d love the status reports from my great-grandfather Joseph Hatton Carpenter. He had some jolly songs and anecdotes and was somewhat of an English character. Hmmmmm…

    You had to do it…here I am off from work on a snow day and feeling in a creative mood.  Well, let me think…what would it be like to have my ancestors on Facebook?  See my take on what it would be like if my ancestors were on Facebook (click on the image to see a larger view):

    Maybe we don't really need more family in our life - LOL!

    Maybe we don't really need more family in our life - LOL!

    I can see it now…what groups would my grandparents join?  Would my grandmother “friend” her sisters that did not get along?  Would the feuding brothers be friends?  Further back, would the German-speaking ancestors befriend the Polish-speaking ones because they share common descendants?  Who would be addicted to bumper stickers, flair, and games?  What would my great-grandparents be “fans” of?

    The “what-if” possibilities are endless – and humorous! If we could communicate with our deceased ancestors, we’d not only have more Friends, but more people commenting on our status, photos, and friends. Hmm, maybe we all already have enough advice in our lives!

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    I had been avoiding the “99 Things” meme that’s been all the rage for about a week on other genealogy blogs, mostly because I didn’t think that anyone particularly cared about what things I’ve done or have not done.  But, three things made me change my mind: 1) Other posts I had planned to write are not written yet, 2) “everyone else is doing it”, and 3) Becky and Thomas upped the ante and made it more interesting to genealogists.

    First, the original list.  I’ve seen it on so many blogs that I can’t give credit to whomever was the first, because I have no idea who started it now!  Here’s my take:

    Things you’ve already done: bold face type
    Things you’d like to do: italicize
    Things you haven’t done and don’t care to: plain type

    1. Started your own blog.
    2. Slept under the stars.
    3. Played in a band. (Sort of…)
    4. Visited Hawaii. (Twice!)
    5. Watched a meteor shower.
    6. Given more than you can afford to charity.
    7. Been to Disneyland/world. (Both)
    8. Climbed a mountain. (A small one, but still…)
    9. Held a praying mantis.
    10. Sang a solo. (Unless singing in the shower counts…)
    11. Bungee jumped.
    12. Visited Paris.
    13. Watched a lightning storm at sea. (I wasn’t at sea while watching it, but on a restaurant on the Boardwalk in Wildwood, NJ.  But the storm itself was at sea.)
    14. Taught yourself an art from scratch.
    15. Adopted a child.
    16. Had food poisoning. (Ties in with #7 – got it at Disneyland)
    17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty.
    18. Grown your own vegetables.
    19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France.
    20. Slept on an overnight train.  (I’ve slept on plenty during the day though! Does an overnight ferry count?)
    21. Had a pillow fight.
    22. Hitch hiked.
    23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill. (Ferris Bueller fans, unite!)
    24. Built a snow fort. (Back when snow was fun.)
    25. Held a lamb.
    26. Gone skinny dipping.
    27. Run a marathon.
    28. Ridden a gondola in Venice.  (How about “Watched other people ride in gondolas in Venice”?
    29. Seen a total eclipse.
    30. Watched a sunrise or sunset.
    31. Hit a home run.
    32. Been on a cruise. (Assuming a 3-day Maine windjammer cruise counts.)
    33. Seen Niagara Falls in person.
    34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors. (Germany, and two of the several places in Poland)
    35. Seen an Amish community. (I’ve seen plenty of Amish, since their community is only about two hours away, but not the community itself.)
    36. Taught yourself a new language.
    37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied.
    38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person.
    39. Gone rock climbing.
    40. Seen Michelangelo’s David in person.
    41. Sung Karaoke.
    42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt.
    43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant.
    44. Visited Africa.
    45. Walked on a beach by moonlight.
    46. Been transported in an ambulance.
    47. Had your portrait painted.
    48. Gone deep sea fishing.
    49. Seen the Sistine chapel in person.
    50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. (Well, to the second level – the top was CLOSED when I was there.)
    51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling.
    52. Kissed in the rain.
    53. Played in the mud.
    54. Gone to a drive-in theater.
    55. Been in a movie.
    56. Visited the Great Wall of China.
    57. Started a business.
    58. Taken a martial arts class
    59. Visited Russia.
    60. Served at a soup kitchen.
    61. Sold Girl Scout cookies.
    62. Gone whale watching.
    63. Gotten flowers for no reason.
    64. Donated blood.
    65. Gone sky diving.
    66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp.
    67. Bounced a check.
    68. Flown in a helicopter.
    69. Saved a favorite childhood toy.
    70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial.
    71. Eaten Caviar.
    72. Pieced a quilt.
    73. Stood in Times Square.
    74. Toured the Everglades.
    75. Been fired from a job.
    76. Seen the Changing of the Guard in London.
    77. Broken a bone.
    78. Been on a speeding motorcycle.
    79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person.
    80. Published a book.
    81. Visited the Vatican. (Four times.)
    82. Bought a brand new car.
    83. Walked in Jerusalem.
    84. Had your picture in the newspaper.
    85. Read the entire Bible.
    86. Visited the White House.
    87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating.
    88. Had chickenpox.
    89. Saved someone’s life.
    90. Sat on a jury.
    91. Met someone famous.
    92. Joined a book club.
    93. Lost a loved one.
    94. Had a baby.
    95. Seen the Alamo in person.
    96. Swum in the Great Salt Lake.
    97. Been involved in a law suit.
    98. Owned a cell phone.
    99. Been stung by a bee.

    That was the original list of experiences.  Then, Becky Wiseman wrote her post, The 99 Things Meme, with a twist at the end.  Bouncing off of a question posted by the MoSGA Messenger, she added thirty genealogical things and asked if we could come up with 99.  As I worked on this post to add my own 30 to the list, Thomas MacEntee came up with a bunch more.  Since my list was ready to post, I’ve added Thomas’ suggestions starting with #61.

    1. Belong to a genealogical society.
    2. Researched records onsite at a court house.
    3. Transcribed records.
    4. Uploaded tombstone pictures to Find-A-Grave.
    5. Documented ancestors for four generations (self, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents)
    6. Joined Facebook.
    7. Cleaned up a run-down cemetery.
    8. Joined the Genea-Bloggers Group.
    9. Attended a genealogy conference.
    10. Lectured at a genealogy conference.
    11. Spoke on a genealogy topic at a local genealogy society.
    12. Been the editor of a genealogy society newsletter.
    13. Contributed to a genealogy society publication.
    14. Served on the board or as an officer of a genealogy society.
    15. Got lost on the way to a cemetery.
    16. Talked to dead ancestors.
    17. Researched outside the state in which I live.
    18. Knocked on the door of an ancestral home and visited with the current occupants.
    19. Cold called a distant relative.
    20. Posted messages on a surname message board.
    21. Uploaded a gedcom file to the internet.
    22. Googled my name.
    23. Performed a random act of genealogical kindness.
    24. Researched a non-related family, just for the fun of it.
    25. Have been paid to do genealogical research.
    26. Earn a living (majority of income) from genealogical research.
    27. Wrote a letter (or email) to a previously unknown relative.
    28. Contributed to one of the genealogy carnivals.
    29. Responded to messages on a message board.
    30. Was injured while on a genealogy excursion.
    31. Know a cousin of the 4th degree or higher.
    32. Disproved a family myth through research.
    33. Got a family member to let you copy photos.
    34. Used a digital camera to “copy” photos or records.
    35. Translated a record from a foreign language.
    36. Found an immigrant ancestor’s passenger arrival record.
    37. Looked at census records on microfilm, not on the computer.
    38. Used microfiche.
    39. Visited the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.
    40. Visited more than one LDS Family History Center.
    41. Visited a church or place of worship of one of your ancestors.
    42. Taught a class in genealogy.
    43. Traced ancestors back to the 18th Century.
    44. Traced ancestors back to the 17th Century.
    45. Traced ancestors back to the 16th Century.
    46. Can name all of your great-great-grandparents.
    47. Found an ancestor’s Social Security applciation.
    48. Know how to determine a soundex code without the help of a computer.
    49. Used Steve Morse’s One-Step searches.
    50. Own a copy of Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills.
    51. Helped someone find an ancestor using records you had never used for your own research.
    52. Visited the main National Archives building in Washington, DC.
    53. Visited the Library of Congress.
    54. Have an ancestor who came over on the Mayflower.
    55. Have an ancestor who fought in the Civil War.
    56. Taken a photograph of an ancestor’s tombstone.
    57. Became a member of the Association of Graveyard Rabbits.
    58. Can read a church record in Latin.
    59. Have an ancestor who changed their name.
    60. Joined a Rootsweb mailing list.
    61. Participated in a genealogy meme
    62. Created family history gift items (calendars, cookbooks, etc.)
    63. Performed a lookup
    64. Took a genealogy seminar cruise
    65. Convinced a relative must have arrived here from outer space
    66. Found a disturbing family secret
    67. Told others about that disturbing family secret
    68. Combined genealogy with crafts (family picture quilt, scrapbooking)
    69. Think genealogy is a passion not a hobby
    70. Assisted finding next of kin for a deceased person (Unclaimed Persons)
    71. Taught someone else how to find their roots
    72. Lost valuable genealogy data due to a computer crash or hard drive failure
    73. Been overwhelmed by available genealogy technology

    Can we reach 99 by day’s end?

    Update at 6:15 PM – I think we’ve reached 99 -  visit Becky’s original post for the updated list!

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    ‘Twas just days before Christmas and all through the ‘net
    Bloggers were quiet, even the Graveyard Rabbit.
    Some were snowed in, all covered in ice
    With some frightful weather that’s really not nice.

    Others were busy with presents and wrap,
    While some settled in for a long winter’s nap.
    But then Genea-Santa made it home from the mall
    And with urgency put out a very frantic call.

    “Oh genea-bloggers, can you help me so?
    Someone has asked for their ancestors to know.
    I’m used to toys, books, and games on the list,
    My elves tried Ancestry.com and can’t get the gist.”

    “Can you please help?” good Santa did ask,
    “So I can complete this impossible task?”
    Before Old St. Nick barely finished his post
    The bloggers started to answer, from coast to coast.

    First Sheri, then Jasia, and Terry from Monroe County,
    Then Randy, then Lisa, and Thomas upped the bounty.
    Many sources did footnoteMaven then cite,
    while Donna and Becky joined in the plight.

    Steve and Miriam and DearMyrtle too
    Used Census and newspapers to find every last clue.
    The charts were all filled and ready for Santa’s sack,
    Combined we had traced twelve generations back!

    Santa was impressed, the pedigree had nary a hole
    “Can you help me find my folks from the North Pole?”
    We said we’d try, maybe next year.
    Our promise left him jolly and full of good cheer.

    So he subscribed to our blogs, to join in our fun
    And said he’d return when his hard work was done
    Santa signed off, having found what he sought
    “Merry Christmas to all, may your searching not be for naught!”

    -with many apologies to and great appreciation of Mr. Clement Clarke Moore…(and apologies to the many genea-bloggers I left out for space and rhyming constraints!)

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    *that you probably don’t need to know…

    It’s meme time again, and this one’s an all about me meme.  I’ve been tagged by Thomas once again!  The Rules:

    1. Each player starts with eight random fact/habits about themselves.

    2. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.

    3. A the end of your blog post, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their name.

    4. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged and to read your blog.

    Here are 8 things you probably have no reason to know about me, but I hope you’re amused, fascinated, and/or generally not horrified by the “real” me:

    • 1. I hate tomatoes. I love pizza, and I eat tomato sauce on pasta.  Just no tomatoes, please.  Don’t even get me started on the horrors of ketchup.
    • 2. I once spent a lovely afternoon riding around with the German Army (Bundeswehr) on a tank, somewhere in the middle of a German wilderness that I did not know existed.  I have photos to prove it!
    • 3. My most unusual destination for a work/business trip has been the DMZ in Korea.
    • 4. I once had tea with Betsy Blair in her home (surely you remember the movie Marty).  The moment was captured on my camera, and the photographer was Stephen Frears.  He knows how to direct films really well, but he was mystified by how to operate my camera.
    • 5. I hate loud noise.
    • 6. Like Jasia, I’ve taken tap lessons.
    • 7. I absolutely adore palm trees.
    • 8. I successfully completed the United States Marine Corps obstacle course in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.  But I didn’t quite complete it the way the recruits are required to do.  It wasn’t done in the allotted time, and I had the help of others literally pushing and pulling me through it.  But, we did it, and it was truly a team effort.  And I couldn’t lift my arms for a week.

    As for tagging…when we do this as a “tag four” game, it’s nearly impossible to find four bloggers that haven’t already been tagged.  I officially give up with finding eight un-tagged individuals.  If you haven’t played yet, please do!

    While I’m playing tag, I’ll double-post and answer Randy’s game from Saturday night.  The rules:
    * Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
    * Turn to page 56.
    * Find the fifth sentence.
    * Post that sentence along with these instructions in a note to your blog (or a comment to this blog).

    My answer:

    And yet some diligent little cell of the brain, resolutely doing guard duty while the others were resting, must have been listening.

    Source: Finney, Jack.  “The Woodrow Wilson Dime.” 3 by Finney. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987. 56.

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    Tagged By Thomas

    Today I was tagged by Thomas of Destination: Austin Family to reveal five things about me in various categories.  While this doesn’t have much to do with genealogy, sometimes blogging is about getting to know one another.  Besides, how can I say “no” to Thomas?  Here you go…

    **10 years ago I:
    1. was buying ecclesiastical supplies for military chaplains
    2. lived with my parents
    3. had a cat named Stanley
    4. traveled to Bavaria for the first time
    5. was dating a guy who lived two states and four hours away

    ** 5 things on today’s “to-do” list:
    1. go for a walk (done)
    2. buy a car (almost done – I pick it up tomorrow)
    3. finish some blog posts (not done due to time spent buying car)
    4. call a guy about new windows (still not done)
    5. watch the Philadelphia Phillies win the National League Championship Series! (game starts in a half hour!)

    **5 places I have lived:
    1. Philadelphia, PA
    2. a small town in New Jersey
    3. Rome, Italy
    4. Honolulu, Hawaii
    5. U.S. Virgin Islands
    Okay, so the last three aren’t the truth, but it is nice to see it in print and dream a little.  I’ve only lived in two houses in my life.  I lived in the same house in Philadelphia for 35 years, now I live in another.  I travel a lot, but home doesn’t move much.

    **5 jobs I have had:
    1. acquisition executive for the DoD
    2. writer
    3. clerk at a supermarket with duties ranging from the video rental counter to stocking shelves in the “non-foods” department
    4. wedding videographer
    5. “rectory girl” (what we called ourselves when we worked at our church’s rectory answering the phone and door as well as serving dinner to the priests)

    As a “twist” on this meme, since I can’t do anything by following the rules, I’ve added a  category and I encourage my “tagged” friends to add on their own variations as well…

    **5 places I’ve been that I want to return to:
    1. Rome, Italy
    2. Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Germany
    3. Poland
    4. Paris, France
    5. Island Beach State Park, NJ

    Here are five genea-bloggers that I pass this meme to:
    1. Lisa at 100 Years in America
    2. Steve at Steve’s Genealogy Blog
    3. Terry at Hill Country of Monroe County
    4. Craig at GeneaBlogie
    5. Becky at Kinexxions

    Feel free to leave your own answers in the comments!

    Edit 10 minutes later: Ooops, it appears that I was also tagged by Jasia at Creative Gene – I just hadn’t read her post yet!  She also tagged Lisa and Steve…you can’t get to these things fast enough.  If you’re reading, consider yourself tagged!

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    Poster designed by footnoteMaven!

    Poster designed by footnoteMaven!

    October is Polish-American Heritage Month!  In honor of this national celebration, What’s Past is Prologue is hosting the Polish History and Culture Challenge.  If you have Polish ancestry, it’s a great time to learn more about those ancestors and their lives.  But, even if you do not have any Polish blood, I invite you to take the opportunity to learn more about the country, its long history, and its people.

    What’s involved with the “challenge”?  Simply do one, some, or all of the following “tasks” – or similar ones of your own invention.  Then, write about it on your blog.  Email me the link and I’ll post a round-up at the end of the month to see how much we all learned.  The best part is that you don’t have to have Polish ancestry to participate!  Become an honorary Pole by joining in on the fun!

    Here are some ideas on how to celebrate Polish-American Heritage Month and participate in the challenge:

    Genealogy

    • Find a Polish ancestor’s hometown
    • Decipher a Polish record
    • Write about one of your ancestor’s hometowns
    • Write a biography of one of your Polish ancestors
    • Develop a research plan for a hard-to-find ancestor
    • Join a Polish genealogical society
    • Contribute to a Polish genealogical record indexing project

    History

    • Read a book about Poland or its history and tell us about it
    • Research an event in Polish history
    • Write about a Polish historical figure
    • Write about a famous Pole in the arts or sciences
    • Learn about Poland’s history through maps or photographs

    Culture

    • Experiment with Polish food – make a recipe or try a restaurant
    • Read a novel by a Polish author or one set in Poland
    • Write about a famous Pole that you admire
    • Watch a Polish film
    • Learn how to Polka
    • Learn about some Polish customs or folklore

    The possibilities are endless, but hopefully at least one of these ideas will be interesting to you.  I hope you will join me in celebrating Polish-American Heritage Month.  If you would like to participate in the challenge, email me with the title, subject, and URL of your post at djpoint at gmail dot com.  You can either send me emails as you post, or one at the end of the month if you post on multiple subjects!  All of the posts will be published in a round-up during the first week of November. Dziękuję!

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    The COG Herald, September 30, 2008, buried somewhere on a ripped and damaged page

    SOURCE: COG Herald, September 30, 2008, buried on a ripped page in the back of the newspaper...

    This week’s 57th Carnival of Genealogy proves to be an interesting one.  That is, if you actually have any ancestors that made the news!  The “Call for Submissions” says: Newspapers can be a wonderful source of family history information. I can find nary an obit much less a fascinating news story.  Not yet, anyway…I’m still looking.  The above is my suspicion, but since that’s a bit outrageous I may have to go with my first theory…someone was in the Witness Protection Program at some point.  But, you know what they say, “If you can’t join ‘em, at least make yourself laugh.”  Well, somebody said it – I read it in the news!

    Special thanks to The Newspaper Clipping Generator.

    [Submitted for the 57th Carnival of Genealogy: I read it in the news!]

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    The illustrious footnoteMaven has presented a distraction-challenge!  As you can tell by my recent lack of posts, I need no help whatsoever in getting distracted, especially if the distraction involves books.  This challenge was to write your life story from the spines of the books in your collection.  For many this would be hard, but I own a lot of books!  What was hard was choosing which titles to use.  Although this is only semi-related to genealogy (it is my autobiography, so to speak), I have little else prepared to post today and therefore offer my distraction, er, make that my life story in books…

    My Past

    My Past

    My Present

    My Present

    My Future

    My Future

    Here’s a counter-challenge…are you able to present a photo of your life story by using the titles of music CDs or albums in your collection?

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    The prompt for the 5th Edition of the Smile for the Camera Carnival is Crowning Glory: Show us those wonderful photographs of hairdos and maybe even a few don’ts. Don’t limit yourself to just hair fashion through the ages, got a great photograph of a hat, helmet, bonnet, or some other interesting headgear?

    Well, it just so happens that the Pointkouski children seem to have a “thing” for funky headcoverings and/or hairdos.  Let me show you what I mean…

    I would like to think that perhaps they take after their Aunt Donna:

    But it’s more likely that they take after their Daddy:

    Then again, the reality is that we all take after Pop-Pop:

    Apparently humor is genetic!

    [This post submitted for the 5th Edition of Smile for the Camera!]

    Mosaics were made using Big Huge Labs Mosaic Maker.

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    And the Winner Is…

    Today is the end of the Genea-Blogger Group Games!  The five competition categories involved citing sources, backing up data, organizing research, writing, and reaching out to help other genealogists.  I only had time to post one update during the games, but here is my final medal tally:

    1. Go Back and Cite Your Sources!

    I first didn’t plan on competing in this category, but then I compiled 50+ sources just to write the biographical sketch of my great-grandfather, Joseph Zawodny.  However, as the deadline to write the post got closer (and as I suffered for two weeks with a pulled muscle), I never did get all of the citations in the proper format.  Oh well, you can’t win them all.  It was a good exercise in tracking down the source information, and I will continue to try to do this.  Status: no medal

    2. Back Up Your Data!

    I completed “Task C” by backing up all of my data and photographs to an external hard drive.  This is highly recommended to provide you with a back-up, and it’s very easy to do.  Status: Gold medal

    3. Organize Your Research!

    I organized multiple piles of documents into two large boxes, filed by family name.  I also scanned 300+ photos to help a friend organize her own family history project.  Status: Silver medal, unless “scan 20 documents” can be multiplied out for my 300, then I won a Platinum several times over.  Of course, if the fact that they are not my family photos matters, then I only won a Bronze.

    4. Write, Write, Write!

    I did well in this category.  I participated in the Smile for the Camera Carnival with my favorite photograph, the Carnival of Genealogy with “Don’t Be a What?”, and the “Soundtrack of My Salad Days” meme with my musical genealogy.  I also technically prepared several posts in draft form; I usually try to do that.  I wrote a biographical sketch of an ancestor.  One task is tricky – sign up to host a future carnival.  During the GB Games, I hosted the Carnival of Genealogy for the first time.  But, technically speaking, I volunteered for it back in June.  So, I’m not sure if this counts or not.  The easiest task I planned to do – “write a summary of what your blog is about” – I did not.  I am coming up on my 100th post, and I planned on writing a similar post at that time, which will also coincide nicely with Terry Thornton’s challenge.  I’ll take a medal hit to do it “my way”.  Status: Diamond medal (or Gold if my COG hosting doesn’t qualify)

    5. Reach Out & Perform Genealogical Acts of Kindness!

    I commented on a new blog, Granite in My Blood, and joined a few blog networks on Facebook.  Unfortunately, I never got around to participate in an indexing project due to time constraints.  I already belong to two genealogical societies, and I couldn’t find another one to join.  My random act of kindness was the aforementioned scanning project, which now continues as I take those photos and make a music video for her parents’ wedding anniversary.  Alas, this does not count either!  Status: Silver medal

    Thanks to the GB Games’ organizing committee: Kathryn Doyle of the California Genealogical Society and Library, Thomas MacEntee of Destination Austin Family and Miriam Midkiff of AnceStories. Thanks also to footnoteMaven for creating the cool logo!  It was a great exercise to get us into the practice of doing things that we should be doing on a regular basis…the games were only a warm-up because I know we’ll all continue with these activities!

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    Thanks, Tim, for reminding me what a freak of nature unique individual I am. You see, I’m probably one of the few people in the modern world that can’t name ten formative albums from my teen years.

    After trying to participate in this meme, I finally have to admit what others have been telling me for years…I was a strange kid.  I have eclectic musical tastes today, and it started as early as I can remember.  If you would have asked 8-year-old Donna what songs rocked her boat, she would have probably answered: Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock”, Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood”, Bill Haley and the Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock”, Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer”, and the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night”.  There’s really nothing wrong with the list, per se, unless you know that I was 8 years old in 1974 – other than Elton’s 1972 song, the rest are a bit before my time.  And even Crocodile Rock isn’t “current” for the 70s, but instead is a nostalgic look back to the good old days of rock ‘n roll.  I wasn’t alive for those “good old days”, but the music attracted me from an early age.

    Of course, my list of favorites would have had Shaun Cassidy at the top, and may have even included the Bay City Rollers.  But in terms of long-term influence on my psyche, those wouldn’t make my list today.  I remember listening to 45s all the time (note: if you’re reading my blog and you don’t know what a 45 is, go ask your mother.  If she doesn’t know, are you sure you’re old enough to be reading my blog?).  The songs weren’t very good, and they aren’t any I’d listen to today except for a laugh.  Prominent in my memory: Paper Lace’s “The Night Chicago Died” and Bo Donaldson’s “Billy, Don’t Be a Hero”.  The one 45 I remember buying that you’d not only hear on the radio today but also not mind hearing is The Four Seasons’ “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)”.  But only two albums resonate from those early days: the Beatles’ Hard Day’s Night and Paul McCartney and Wings’ Band on the Run.  I still listen to both today and enjoy them!

    As a teenager, my musical tastes got even stranger, at least by popular standards.  Most high schoolers in the early 1980s were listening to Madonna; my friends and I were listening to songs about The Madonna.  We liked what would be called “religious” music.  Some I won’t admit to enjoying, but some of the albums I still love and will gladly tell all.  One is the original 1970 U.S. recording of Jesus Christ Superstar. Some folks won’t consider this as religious music, and I don’t either, but it’s not the “Superfreak” that my classmates were listening to.  Another is John Michael Talbot’s The Lord’s Supper.  Talbot also recorded The Painter with his brother Terry, and that was played over and over as well.  I listened to the radio more during my teen years than I listened to albums…and again my musical tastes showed a fascination for a time in which I did not live.  I was hooked on the “oldies” of the 50s and 60s, especially Motown.  I was not alone in this endeavor…my friend Kathy and I knew the words to the Temptations and Sam Cooke way more than Duran Duran.

    In my 20s, I discovered the popular music that was being played during the 70s when I was a kid, and I enjoyed Bill Joel and James Taylor, as well as something that actually both current and “hip” – U2′s The Joshua Tree.  In my 30s, the Gin Blossoms’ Congratulations, I’m Sorry was played – on cd, not vinyl – over and over and over  again.  At 35, I widened my musical tastes when I met Italian pop star Eros Ramazzotti for the first time via Stilelibero, which was then two years old.  Now my music collection  isn’t complete without a little Eros.

    I feel like I’m admitting to a heinous crime when I say that I thought Madonna’s music was crap back when she was a superstar (except for “Crazy for You” which brings me back to 1985 in seconds), I didn’t listen to Bon Jovi until just a couple of years ago, and I hate metal. Yes, I have eclectic tastes.  My iPod has Benny Goodman, Celine Dion, Hawaiian singer Keali’i Reichel, Semisonic, Sister Hazel, and Linkin Park.  I never got into “convention” and if everyone was doing it, I probably wouldn’t be interested in doing it until several years later. So, just as my ancestry is a mix, so are the albums that “formed” me.  And I can guarantee that no one else will share my list!

    Note: What’s Past is Prologue will return to its normally scheduled genealogical articles tomorrow!

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    I was about seven years old when I first realized that not all families speak the same language.  I was on the back of a bicycle driven by a girl who lived up the street.  The “driver” would stand up to pedal while the “rider” sat on the seat and held on to the driver’s waist.  As we drove down the street, I started laughing.  “What’s so funny?” she asked.

    “Your dupa is right in my face!”

    “My what?” she asked, looking over her shoulder.

    “You know,” I said, pointing to her butt, “Your dupa!”

    We came to a stop.  She turned around, looking bewildered.  “You mean my heiney?”

    Now it was my turn to be perplexed.  “What’s a heiney?”

    Truly a lesson for the ages – language, which either brings cultures together or separates them, learned by two children as they argued over the “correct” word for their buttocks.

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    Dupa and many of the other “odd” words I heard growing up came from my grandmother, who lived with us.  Although she was a first generation American who was born in Philadelphia, she learned Polish as a child from her immigrant parents.  Her husband, also U.S.-born to Polish parents, did the same, and they used Polish to communicate in front of their own children when they didn’t want them to understand what they were saying.

    This explains why several Polish words crept from my grandmother’s vocabulary to ours, such as dupa.  The Polish-English dictionary defines it as:  dupa ["doo-pa"], ass (vulg.).  Because it’s a vulgar term, its true meaning leans more towards a derogatory term about how someone behaves rather than a person’s rear anatomy.  But my brother and I used it as kids for the latter term, and fortunately we did not live in a neighborhood with others who spoke Polish!

    We adopted some other normal Polish words like zupa ["zoo-pa"], the Polish word for soup, and shmata [shmah-tah], which is a Yiddish word for rag that my grandmother used to refer to a “housedress”.  We also frequently used the Polish word dudek ["doo-dek"], which means fool or dummy. We pronounced it as “duh-dek” instead of the correct pronunciation.

    Another word in use by my grandmother was plut. I can’t find this in the Polish dictionary, but it likely comes from the word plutokracja, meaning plutocracy or of the wealthy.  As “plut” was applied to someone with no sense of humor or someone who looked down on others, usually in reference to the expression on their faces, it seems that this might be where she coined the term.

    My grandmother also had a cascade of nicknames.  My mom was always “Chick” and my aunt was “Jub” or “Jubie”.  My brother didn’t have a moniker, but sometimes she called me “Dora”.  Now my mother is the only one still living from her immediate family, and there’s no one left to call her Chick (and she is glad about that!).  Of course, it should be taken into context…my grandmother had a nickname, too, given by my grandfather.  She was called “Killer” – and she loved it!

    From my father’s side of the family, his Bavarian aunt told the story that her mother used to call the father “Zeff”, a nickname for his proper name, Joseph.  My aunt, who is eight years younger than my father, called him “Brub”, which was as close as she could get to “Brother” at a young age.  Even today, my 3-year-old niece calls her same-age cousin “Bibbias”. Even though she can properly say “Olivia” now, she still insists on calling “Bibs” by her nickname.

    Our family language and propensity towards nicknames expanded considerably when I was 14 years old.  I became friends with Louie; he became my adopted brother and one of the family.  Consequently, the word “dudek” took on a new life.  I can’t remember if he was familiar with the term or not – he also had Polish grandparents.  But, if he hadn’t heard it before, he certainly adopted it.  In addition to that term, there was one other that my grandmother used, origin unknown: gazeutch.  It’s hard to explain, but you’ll understand with examples.  It’s a very flexible word and can be an adverb, as in “Don’t get all gazeutch about it” or as a noun with “You’re acting gazeutch.”

    For four years – and even continuing today, everyone was a dudek and we were usually gazeutched as a result.

    We also called our then-favorite poison, Mt. Dew, swill.  Louie had a habit of re-naming most of the adults in our lives with nicknames; he was the king of names.  The adults who frequented our church were Bluegown, Dead Dog, Hubachi, the Russian Empress, Mad Dog (no relation to Dead Dog), and Abendego. Even our much beloved pastor was “the Wiz”, and I think he’d have probably laughed in secret had he known then.  Lou’s father was known throughout the neighborhood as “C.L.” – short for “Communist Leader”.  My father became “What the hell” since it was usually the first three words he uttered upon seeing us.  “What the hell is this mess?”  “What the hell is all the noise down there?”  You get the idea.

    So, when someone is being a dudek and has you all gazeutch, don’t act like a plut – just share some swill and just remember that he’s probably just a dupa because he doesn’t speak your family’s language.

    [Written for the 54th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: The Family Language]

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