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Daj mi buzi - give me a kiss!

Everyone can have fun celebrating Polish-American Heritage Month, as we proved yesterday. But if you have Polish ancestry, there are also some fun genealogical things you can do.  Today I present:

Top Ten Genealogical Ways to Celebrate Polish-American Heritage Month

1. Listen to Polish pronunciation of names and places with Expressivo.  I wrote about it here but the company has since changed the site so the links don’t play the recordings.  However, it will take you to the new site, Ivona text to speech.  You can still enter some words or phrases and choose the Polish voices to “speak” to you.

2. Learn to decipher a Polish record.  These translation aids can help.

3. Learn all about Polish genealogical research.  Start with Poland Gen Web or Polish Roots or Polish Origins.  Or, read a book such as Going Home:  A Guide to Polish-American Family History by Jonathan D. Shea or Sto Lat: A Modern Guide to Polish Genealogy by Ceil Wendt Jensen.

4. Explore the Polish records on Family Search. They don’t have much yet, but the good news is that there are some!

5. Explore Geneteka’s records.  I wrote a primer here.

6. Virtually visit some of Poland’s Archives.  Stanczyk presents a list here.

7. Join a Polish genealogical society.  Perhaps PGSA or PGSCTNE?  There are many!

8. Browse the Poland-related mailing lists at Rootsweb. Here’s a list of all, just look around for Polish-related lists.

9. See if there’s a website for your ancestor’s hometown.  Try a Google search, or else try the town name in between “www” and “pl”.

10. Create a surname map for one of your Polish surnames. It’s both fun and educational!

So there you have it.  How are you celebrating Polish-American Heritage Month?

 

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Kiss me....I'm approximately 31.25% Polish!

Did you know that October is Polish-American Heritage Month?  Although the month is nearly half over, there is still plenty of time to celebrate.  This weekend I’ll be speaking at conference by the Polish Genealogical Society of Connecticut and the Northeast (PGSCTNE). I’m sure we’ll have a lot of fun discussing Polish genealogy.  But if you’re not Polish, don’t feel left out – there are a lot of ways to celebrate Polish-American Heritage Month even if you are not lucky enough to be Polish-American!  And so I present…

The Top Ten Ways to Celebrate Polish-American Heritage Month – If You’re Polish or Not!

1. Read Polish literature.  Henryk Sienkiewicz won the Nobel Prize in 1905 for his achievements as an epic writer – try With Fire and Sword, the first of an epic trilogy.  Or read literature about Poland, such as the historical novel by American James C. Martin, Push Not the River.

2. See a Polish movie. Try Three Colours (Polish: Trzy kolory), the collective title of the trilogy directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski.

3. Eat Polish food (and drink). Who wouldn’t want some pierogi? Or kruschiki?  Just be careful of too much vodka when learning these recipes.

4. Learn to Polka. It’s a lot of fun – and great exercise, too!

5. Visit Poland virtually on tv or the internet.  PBS travel hosts Rick Steves and Burt Wolf have both visited Polish cities.  Or try some YouTube videos such as this one.

6. Learn about Poland’s history. Poland has a long, rich history.

7. Celebrate your name day. Birthdays are overrated, but name days are fun!

8. Wish someone “sto lat” on their birthday.  Or sing it to them instead!

9. Read a biography of a famous Pole.  Try Witness to Hope if you’re a fan of Pope John Paul II or The Peasant Prince about Tadeusz Kościuszko and his role in the American Revolution.

10. Learn more about Polish customs.  From art to clothing to holiday traditions, Poland has a custom for everything.

Tomorrow I will continue this post with the Top Ten Genealogical Ways to Celebrate Polish-American Heritage Month.  Some of the things might interest non-Poles, but you’ll get more out of it if you’re actually Polish.  And if you’re not, you’ll want to be.  Really…

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I missed Randy Seaver’s SNGF (Saturday Night Genealogical Fun) this weekend, but it’s been so long since I’ve posted here I decided to turn his SNGF challenge to List Your Matrilineal Line into “Matrilineal Monday”. 

Randy asked us to:

1) List your matrilineal line – your mother, her mother, etc. back to the first identifiable mother. Note: this line is how your mitochondrial DNA was passed to you!

2) Tell us if you have had your mitochondrial DNA tested, and if so, which Haplogroup you are in.

3) Does this list spur you to find distant cousins that might share one of your matrilineal lines?

My Matrilineal Line

1) Me

2) Mom

3) Mae (Marianna) Zawodna (02 Aug 1907, Philadelphia, PA – 30 Apr 1986, Philadelphia, PA) married Henry M. Pater

4) Waclawa Slesinska (14 Aug 1885, Dobrosołowo, Poland –  20 May 1956, Philadelphia, PA) married Jozef Zawodny

5) Stanislawa Drogowska (04 Jun 1860, Wilczyn, Poland – 30 Dec 1918, Dobrosołowo, Poland) married Wincenty Ślesiński 

6) Konstancja Kubińska (c.1818, Luszczewo, Poland – 17 Dec 1896, Wilczyn, Poland) married Jan Drogowski

7) Apolonia Lewandowska (c.1796 – c. 1838) married Jozef Kubiński

My Father’s Matrilineal Line

1) Dad

2) Margaret H. Bergmeister (11 Apr 1913, Philadelphia, PA – 14 Jan 1998, Philadelphia, PA) married James Pointkouski

3) Maria Echerer (27 Feb 1875, Pfaffenhofen a.d. Ilm, Bavaria, Germany – 05 Feb 1919, Philadelphia, PA) married Josef Bergmeister

4) Margarethe Fischer (21 Jan 1845, Langenbruck, Bavaria – 04 Oct 1895, Pfaffenhofen a.d. Ilm, Bavaria) married Karl Echerer

5) Barbara Gürtner (14 Dec 1814, Dörfl, Bavaria – unknown) married Franz X. Fischer

6) Maria Catharine Schwarzmaier (25 May 1785, Waal, Bavaria – c. 1851) married Franz X. Gürtner

7) Barbara unknown married Jacob Schwarzmaier

More Mommas

My maternal grandfather’s side (Henry Pater 1912-1975) represents the shortest branch of my family tree.  I can name his mother, Elżbieta Müller (Elizabeth Miller), but since I have not yet found evidence of her birth I can only provide the possible name of her mother based on secondary evidence: Alzbeta Smetanna (Elżbieta in Polish, Elizabeth in English).

My paternal grandfather’s (James Pointkouski 1910-1980) matrilineal line is equally short.  I can name his mother: Rozalia Kieswetter (08 Aug 1866, Mała Wies, Przybyszew, Poland – 10 Feb 1937, Philadelphia, PA) married Jan Piątkowski.  Rozalia’s mother was Marianna Ostał (unknown, Poland – died after 1900 in Warsaw, Poland) married Jan Kiziewieter .  For now, that’s the farthest I’ve gotten on these lines.

The person on my tree whose matrilineal line goes back the farthest is my 2nd great-grandfather, Karl Echerer (31 May 1846, Pfaffenhofen a.d. Ilm, Bavaria – died after 1882, Pfaffenhofen a.d. Ilm, Bavaria).  He is my paternal grandmother’s mother’s father.  I can trace his matrilineal line back six generations in Bavaria to the 1600’s.

I have not had any DNA testing done, mtDNA or otherwise, so I have no idea what Haplogroup I’m in – nor, for that matter, what it would tell me.  I will have to investigate further unless someone wants to provide some insight in the comments.

Does this list spur me to find distant cousins that might share one of my matrilineal lines?   Actually, it spurs me to get back to my research – especially on my two grandfather’s maternal lines which are much shorter branches on the family tree than my own maternal line! But that poses an interesting question – are there actually any distant cousins that share these lines?  I don’t think so.  My Pointkouski grandfather’s sister did not have any children, to the best of my knowledge.  I know his mother had at least one brother, but his descendants would not share the matrilineal line and I have not yet discovered a sister.   My Pater grandfather had only brothers, so their descendants do not have the same matrilineal line.  But did my great-grandmother Müller/Miller have any sisters?  I wish I knew!  It is time for more research!

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A New Blog is Born!

I’m happy to announce the birth (and baptism) of a new blog.  You may have read on some other genealogy blogs that this was my idea.  Well, I humbly admit that it started out with me, but like any good idea I needed to share it with others to make it a great idea.  And my fellow genealogy bloggers are always happy to share their thoughts and, in this case, their talents.  The Catholic Gene is a new blog that will focus on all aspects of the Catholic faith and genealogy.  What makes it so exciting is that it will truly be a group effort!  Besides myself, our authors include Jasia, Stephen DankoSheri FenleyLisa (Smallest Leaf)Lisa A. AlzoDenise LevenickCraig Manson, and Cecile Marie Agata Wendt Jensen (aka Ceil Jensen). We’ve also managed to recruit the footnoteMaven who isn’t even Catholic.  I feel honored that my friends have agreed to take on this project, and I know that the combined talents will make this a very exciting venture!  If you don’t know all of the august members of this group, please visit our Authors page for a humorous look at both our Catholic and genealogical experience.

So whether you are Catholic, or your ancestors were, or you are just curious as to what we’ll come up with that combines religion and genealogy – join us, we’d love to have you stop by (and you don’t even have to genuflect when you arrive).  To quote from our About Us page, “Whether it’s details about ecclesiastical archives, profiles of religious, our ancestors’ churches, vintage photographs, personal reflections, or lives of the saints in genealogical records, The Catholic Gene will offer something for everyone interested in researching their Catholic family or learning more about all things related to the Church.”  Tomorrow we will be hosting the 109th Carnival of Genealogy that will feature stories from bloggers of all faiths about where their ancestors worshipped – you won’t want to miss that!

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Presenting the 3rd annual Festival of Strange Search Terms that have brought visitors to this blog.  In the spirit of August 2009’s What Are They Looking For? and December 2010’s What Are They Looking For? Redux, it was time to once again review those bizarre phrases that people enter into search engines.  Well, the phrases alone may be bizarre, but what’s more bizarre is that they wind up here as a result.  This is a mere sampling, but here are some of the best of the strange, odd, and unusual search terms that have brought visitors here in 2011 – with my comments, of course! Note: these are actual search terms used!

Genealogy Related…Sort Of

i forgot my name – I’m not sure I can help you with that.

can i have my great great grandmothers gene – If she is really your great-great grandmother, then you should have a couple of her genes.

gradma [sic] roulette – I’m not sure if this is about Grandma playing roulette, or…?

joey tempest is he married?  have a child? – Is this an ex? Is this a jealous ex? And does Google really answer questions like these?

how do i title a photo with my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in it – My Family

what is polish name for fred – Fred.  No, really!

 Vague Searches

where was my family from? – Perhaps you should see Steve Morse’s Finding Your Great-Grandfather in One Step

italian girl that immigrated teenager – I’d suggest a slightly more specific search parameter.

how to find family who lived a hundred years ago – Are you hoping to find the actual family now or just evidence of their existence back then?

Make Me LOL

family tree of first miller immigrant to new york – If only it were that easy!

how to bring old family pictures back to life – This reminds me of a bad ‘70s horror movie where the pictures come to life.

why cake misspelling so common – I have no idea, but now I want to know why…

baptist ladies “from left” – “All the Baptist ladies, all the Baptist ladies…”  What about those from the right?

sons that can not separate from mothers – Run.  Trust me on this one.

Really?

map of were [sic] most of germans live in GermanyWirklich?

adults in an unusual facial expression in an unusual situation – I don’t even want to know.

dumb mistakes – I try to only publicize my dumb genealogical mistakes here, so you won’t find all of my dumb mistakes.

christmas 1966 or 1967 or 1968 or 1969 or 1970 or 1971 “family photos” – or something…

winter blizzard humor – There is nothing funny about winter blizzards!!!!

The Bard

shakespeares certificate of marriage – There is actually a mystery surrounding Shakespeare and a crossed-out entry in the parish book days before his recorded marriage.  But, you’ll have to find that out elsewhere…

shakespeare translation for “hey, what’s up?” – “How now?”  He used it a lot.

goethe what is past is prologue – Shakespeare said it first!

past is prologue tattoo – Cool!

Call Me

götz ursula regensburg – Please come back! She’s my great-great grandmother and I really need to know more about her!

So there you have it!  The next edition of the What’s Past is Prologue search term carnival will include more bizarre, freakish, and unusual ways that bring me more traffic.  Until next time, I remain the Queen of Forgotten Unusual Facial Expressions and Dumb Mistake Cake Spelling Roulette.  [Note: My past crown titles include Queen and Super-Finder of Renegade Name-Labeled Regal Dog Portraits and Queen of Ugly Teady Beer Shakespearean Transvestite Marriage Photos. I bet you’re jealous now.]  

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“Donna’s Picks” is my occasional feature to highlight other blogs, posts, or articles that may be of interest to my fellow genealogists. Sit back and enjoy the following links:

Maybe He’ll Want to be a Geneablogger… Anyone who has ever purchased a travel guidebook is surely familiar with the name Arthur Frommer.  This past week, Arthur joined his daughter Pauline on a very personal journey to visit Łomża, Poland – the town of his mother’s family. Read about their experience at I Have Just Wound-Up a Four-Day Visit to Europe for the Purpose of Fulfilling a Lifetime-Long Obligation. [July 14 on Arthur Frommer Online]

Take Your Friends With You if You Move…Google+ seems to be all the rage this week among genealogy bloggers (I don’t get the point yet).  Learn how to Migrate Your Facebook Friends to Google+ With The Facebook Friend Exporter Extension [Chrome]. [July 14 on MakeUseOf]

On My Photography To-Do List…On Shades of the Departed, footnoteMaven provided a link to a fantastic photo site called DearPhotograph.com. As fM says, it’s worth a visit! [July 7 on Shades of the Departed]

Proving or Disproving Family Stories…Who among us does not have a family story that’s dismissed as true due to lack of evidence? Read Leah’s Were They Related? for an interesting case study about a story that may – or may not – prove to be true.  She has a ton of great tips applicable to us all – starting with using maps in our research! [July 14 on Leah's Family Tree]

Sort-of “Related” to Genealogy…While this isn’t exactly the point of researching our families, some of us might be surprised to find that our relatives left unclaimed property behind (I was when I found a great-grandparent’s insurance policy that was unclaimed).  Read A Primer on Finding Unclaimed Property to see if yours did. [July 7 on Get Rich Slowly]

Happy ancestor hunting!  Stop back next time for more of Donna’s Picks!

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Back on August 9, 2009, Randy Seaver presented another Saturday Night Genealogical Fun (SNGF) challenge for readers to document their sixteen great-great-grandparents.  I responded to the call with Sweet Sixteen: My Great-Great Grandparents.  But, my tree was a little bare in some spots.  I did not know at least 4 names and was “iffy” on two more.  In fact, I only had documented birth and death dates for 3 of the 16.

A few months later, I was able to update my list with A Sweeter “Sweet Sixteen” – I had documented proof of 4 of the missing names.  Then, last year I attended the NGS conference in Salt Lake City and found a lot of additional information that was previously missing with many marriage and birth records.

Today, Randy posed a very similar SNGF challenge.  I decided to take a look at my list to see what I had learned in the two years since my original post. While I still have a lot of research to do, I was able to add 4 of the “unknown” birth details into the “documented” category (which means I know the names of 8 more great-great-greats!). A bigger challenge was correcting the place names. Rather than simply put the name of the town and the current country, I attempted to figure out the town, county or equivalent, state or equivalent, and country name at the time of the event.  For my Polish ancestors, whose borders changed more frequently than I can keep track of, Steve Danko’s post on Describing Place Names in Poland was invaluable.  I hope I got them right!

Here is my revised/updated Sweet Sixteen:

Note: [d] = documented , [p]=presumed based on other documents

16. Stanisław Piątkowski

  • b. 1842, Mogilev, Mogilev Gubernia, Russian Empire [p]
  • m. Apolonia Konopka on 10 May 1863, Holy Cross Parish church in Warsaw, Warsaw Obwód, Mazowsze Voivodeship, Congress Kingdom of Poland [d]
  • d. unknown [presumed Warsaw before 1900]
  • Son of Ludwik Piątkowski and Benigna Kosecka

17. Apolonia Konopka

  • b. 1842, Konopki, Augustów Gubernia, Poland [p]
  • d. unknown [presumed Warsaw before 1900]
  • Daughter of Stanisław Konopka and Rozalia Karwowska

18. Jan Kiziewieter

  • b. 1831, unknown [Poland]
  • m. Marianna Ostał before 1866 [p]
  • d. unknown [between 1876-1900, presumed near Warsaw]
  • Parents’ names unknown

19. Marianna Ostał

  • b. 1833, unknown [Poland]
  • d. unknown [after 1900, presumed Warsaw]
  • Parents’ names unknown

20. Josef Bergmeister

  • b. 09 Feb 1843, Puch, Pörnbach, Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Oberbayern, Bayern [d]
  • m. Ursula Dallmeier on 11 Apr 1871 in Pfaffenhofen a.d. Ilm, Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Oberbayern, Bayern, Germany [d]
  • d. unknown [presumed Regensburg or München before 1885]
  • Son of Jakob Bergmeister and Anna Maria Daniel

21. Ursula Dallmeier

  • b. 17 Mar 1847, Aichach, Aichach-Friedberg, Schwaben, Bayern [d]
  • d. unknown [presumed Regensberg between 1897 – 1919]
  • m2. Herman Götz by 1885 [p]
  • Daughter of Josef Dallmeier and Ursula Eulinger

22. Karl Echerer

  • b. 31 May 1846, Pfaffenhofen a.d. Ilm, Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Oberbayern, Bayern [d]
  • m. Margarethe Fischer 18 May 1874, Pfaffenhofen a.d. Ilm, Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Oberbayern, Bayern, Germany [d]
  • d. unknown [presumed after 1882, Pfaffenhofen a.d. Ilm]
  • Son of Ignaz Echerer and Magdalena Nigg

23. Margarethe Fischer

  • b. 21 Jan 1845, Langenbruck, Reichertshofen, Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Oberbayern, Bayern [d]
  • d. 04 Oct 1895, Pfaffenhofen a.d. Ilm, Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Oberbayern, Bayern, Germany [d]
  • Daughter of Franz Xaver Fischer and Barbara Gürtner

24. Józef Pater

  • b. 21 Sep 1864, Ruda Guzowska, Błoński Powiat, Warsaw Gubernia, Kingdom of Poland [d]
  • m. Antoninan Rozalia Pluta on 25 Aug 1885 in Mszczonów, Błoński Powiat, Warsaw Gubernia, Vistula Land, Russian Empire [d]
  • d. 11 Aug 1945, Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA [d]
  • Son of Jan Pater and Teofilia Zakrzewska

25. Antonina Rozalia Pluta

  • b. 11 Jun 1863, Mszczonów, Błoński Powiat, Warsaw Gubernia, Kingdom of Poland [d]
  • d. 12 Dec 1938, Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA [d]
  • Daughter of Ludwik Pluta and Franciszka Wojciechowska

26. Jan Müller

  • b. unknown [presumed Bohemia]
  • m. Elżbieta Smetana by 1881 in unknown place
  • d. unknown [presumed Żyrardów, Poland after 1909]
  • Parents’ names unknown

27. Elizabeth Smetanna

  • b. unknown [presumed Bohemia]
  • d. unknown [presumed Żyrardów, Poland]
  • Parents’ names unknown

28. Wawrzyniec Zawodny

  • b. 11 July 1850, Wilczyn, Słupecki Powiat, Kalisz Gubernia, Kingdom of Poland [d]
  • m. Katarzyna Mariańska on 10 May 1875 in Dobrosołowo, Słupecki Powiat, Kalisz Gubernia, Vistula Land, Russian Empire [d]
  • d. 13 Dec 1917, Dobrosołowo, Słupecki Powiat, Kalisz Gubernia, Regency Kingdom of Poland [d]
  • Son of Szymon Zawodny and Katarzyna Ratajewska

29. Katarzyna Mariańska

  • b. 19 Oct 1852, Komorowo, Słupecki Powiat, Kalisz Gubernia, Kingdom of Poland [d]
  • d. 29 Jul 1923, Dobrosołowo, Słupecki Powiat, Kalisz Gubernia, Republic of Poland [d]
  • Daughter of Stanisław Mariański and Michalina Radomska

30. Wincenty Ślesiński

  • b. 11 Jul 1850, Wilczyn, Słupecki Powiat, Kalisz Gubernia, Kingdom of Poland [d]
  • m. Stanisława Drogowska 03 Sep 1879 in Wilczyn, Słupecki Powiat, Kalisz Gubernia, Vistula Land, Russian Empire [d]
  • d. 01 Jan 1919, Dobrosołowo, Słupecki Powiat, Kalisz Gubernia, Republic of Poland [d]
  • Son of Jozef Ślesiński and Elżbieta Michalowska

31. Stanisława Drogowska

  • b. 04 Jun 1860, Wilczyn, Słupecki Powiat, Kalisz Gubernia, Kingdom of Poland [d]
  • d. 30 Dec 1918, Dobrosołowo, Słupecki Powiat, Kalisz Gubernia, Republic of Poland [d]
  • Daughter of Jan Drogowski and Konstancja Kubica

My ancestry remains the same as calculated two years ago: 62.5% Polish (the guy born in what is now Belarus is ethnically Polish), 25% German (technically Bavarian since Germany did not exist as a unified state until 1871), and 12.5% presumed Czech (Bohemian).  Thanks, Randy, now those blanks are really bothering me!

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After hearing all of my genealogy friends talk excitedly about Jamboree for the last three years, I finally had a chance to attend the big event. Jamboree 2011, also known as the Southern California Genealogy Society’s Genealogy Jamboree, has been going strong for 42 years. The conference draws not only attendees from all over California, but others like me who traveled a long way just for the opportunity to hear some great speakers and meet some great genealogy friends. I’m glad I went – not only did I have a great time, but I learned a lot! Here are the top ten things I learned at Jamboree 2011:

1. From Warren Bittner, I learned that I’m not the only one who has to go back and research some more after I thought I found the “right” answer. In a great lecture on “Elusive Immigrants”, Warren provided great examples on how to perform exhaustive – or exhausting - research.  With great humor, he reminded us that that’s why we call it “REsearch” and he gave me some new ideas for old research problems.

2. From Lisa Louise Cooke, I learned that I need to update my version of Google Earth.  In her session on “Google Earth for Genealogy”, Lisa showed how this awesome tool can be used to aid your family research and learn more about your family’s neighborhoods.

3. I was very happy to finally attend a lecture by one of genealogy’s true “rock stars” – Stephen Morse – who has the unique ability to explain complicated ideas so that everyone can understand them.  But I was shocked to learn how many other attendees in the audience had never heard of Mr. Morse’s One-Step Webpages! Seriously? Experienced genealogists need to shout Steve’s name from our rooftops (or blogs) to make sure everyone getting started in genealogy knows his name.  I feel a blog post coming on…  The One-Step site started out as a tool to help find immigrants, but it does so much more now that every genealogist can find at least one of Steve’s tools useful.

4. The Photo Detective herself, Maureen Taylor, expertly explained “Advanced Photo Detecting – Cracking the Cold Case”.  She makes me want to dig out all of my photographs and hunt for clues.  If you ever have the opportunity to hear Maureen speak – go!  You won’t be disappointed.

5. I attended several other interesting lectures, but many of the most useful things I learned came from sidebar conversations with my fellow genealogy bloggers that took place in between lectures at either “Bloggers’ Island”, the hotel lobby, or literally beside the bar.  From these knowledgeable friends I learned several new things about new computer technology, writing, self-publishing, and researching Polish records.

6. I learned that peer pressure is alive and well as the Pointer Sisters (also known as Tonia Kendrick, Caroline Pointer, and footnoteMaven) convinced me to join the Twitter revolution. You, too, can follow my inane and/or insane comments @donnapoint if you dare.

7. I learned that pinatas don’t come pre-stuffed, and that you can’t fill them with nearly as much candy as you think you can.

8. I learned that genealogists are resourceful and well prepared.  From whom else could you get a pinata-whacker, some string, a corkscrew, and a spare pair of pajamas at a moment’s notice?

9. I learned that occasionally you know as much as the lecturer and you realize that you could have given a talk on the same topic equally well. I don’t mean this to sound snobbish; rather, sometimes you know more than you think you do.  Rather than be disappointed that I didn’t learn anything new in those lectures, I was happy to realize all my years of research has taught me something that even I can share.

10. Finally, I learned that genealogists make the best friends! I was so happy to spend some time with friends I met before, friends that I’d known online for a while but never met in person, and new friends I met for the first time.  As I said after my first genealogy conference last year, there are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t met.  I won’t list all of the bloggers here as the list is lengthy, but I do want to offer some special shout-outs.  First, to my traveling companion, Lisa Alzo, thanks for putting up with me, laughing with me, and sharing your wisdom with me.  To Steve Danko and Kathryn Doyle, for the hospitality, being great tour guides, and making our trip to San Francisco so special. To Denise Levenick, for being our chauffeur, Hollywood tour guide, and provider of donuts, wine, and other goodies as needed.

Some of my non-genealogy friends and family members wonder what “new” things I could learn since I’ve been researching my family for so many years. But I came home with so many ideas…ideas for new blog posts (which this blog has lacked for months!), articles for magazines, lectures to present at other conferences, new avenues to pursue to climb over my research “walls”, and even an idea for a new business.  I have so many new ideas that I’ve had a headache for days, so for now it’s time for a nap.  But let it be a lesson learned (call it #11) – if your brain becomes bored and you lack new and/or creative ideas, go hang out with friends at a Jamboree!

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To misquote Mark Twain, the rumors of my blog’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. After receiving thousands hundreds of inquiries (okay, there have only been two), I thought I should explain my AWOL status.  And I’d like to thank my one blogging friend and one German cousin for checking on my health!  I wish I had a more creative or interesting answer to the question of where I’ve been. I’m not sailing the world on my yacht, touring with the band, on my honeymoon, writing my book, deployed, or in the witness protection program. The reality is that I’ve temporarily kinda sorta lost interest in writing about my family history, and if it’s not interesting to me then I really can’t make it worthwhile for anyone else. In the past few months I discovered that if I’m not researching and blogging about it, I have more time do clean my house, go out with friends, read, and re-discover the guitar. But fear not, faithful friends, my interest in genealogy and blogging is starting to have a pulse. And after I attend a big genealogy conference this month I may actually be fired up again!

So, to my loyal readers Denise and Armin as well as anyone else who cares: I’ll be back. Sometime soon, or maybe next month. I have some stories ready to be written about some violent weather in my ancestors’ hometown, a fugitive immigrant, the “missing sister” puzzle, and a story that I’ve been trying to find the words to tell for over a year about a relative who can best be described as a true hero. Stay tuned…and thanks for hanging around.

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The WDYTYA Drinking Game

Genealogists really love Friday nights since the return of NBC’s Who Do You Think You Are (WDYTYA) . Well, knowing our crowd, we loved Friday nights even before the show’s return, but this makes the start of the weekend even more fun.  We like to watch it, we like to criticize it, we like to blog about it, we like to tweet about it, we like to discuss it.  Face it – WE LIKE IT! To add to the fun, I offer the WDYTYA Drinking Game.  Unlike most stunts, you actually are encouraged to try this at home rather than while you’re out!  The rules are simple – just before showtime grab a glass, can, or bottle of your favorite beverage.  If one of the following events happens during the show, take a swig of your favorite swill:

* The celebrity finds new information and remarks, “Well, I guess I have to go to <insert town, state, or country> now!” – one drink

* The celebrity goes back several generations in two minutes or less – one drink for each generation

* There is a plug for Ancestry in the show – one drink if Ancestry is accessed by a researcher, and two drinks if by the celebrity

* The celebrity finds a photograph of their ancestor in a library or archive – one drink, two if it’s a tintype

* During the commercial break, there’s a commercial for Ancestry – one drink, and get up to refill during the other commercials

* White gloves are used to handle a document – one drink

* White gloves are NOT used to handle a document – two drinks, three if you tweet The Photo Detective or footnoteMaven to complain about it

* The celebrity says, “Wow!” after a find – one drink (Caution notice: after seeing the coming attractions for the Rosie O’Donnell episode, make sure your DVR is set if your beverage of choice is alcoholic, because you might be passed out before the show is over.)

* The celebrity compares the ancestor’s life story to their own – one drink

* A genea-colleague tweets, “Hey, I’m related to <celebrity’s ancestor> too!” during the show – one drink, two drinks if you are related too, three if you call in to Geneabloggers Radio to talk about it

* While watching,  you think “I could have found that!” – one drink, two drinks if you can formulate a proper source citation for it while drinking

* The celebrity takes notes – one drink, two drinks if they use a computer.

* A genea-colleague tweets, “Hey, my ancestors are from <celebrity’s ancestor’s location> too!” during the show – one drink, two drinks if yours are from there too

* You know the librarian, archivist, or genealogist who is helping the celebrity on the show – one drink

* You are the librarian, archivist, or genealogist who is helping the celebrity on the show – buy a few cases of beverages and host a party for the rest of us

Enjoy the show tonight, and remember – do try this at home!  Add your own suggestions in the comments…

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As an author of one or two blogs and a reader of, well, a whole lot of blogs, I started to think about readability. Things like font and background colors have an obvious affect on how easy – or hard – it is to visually read a blog. But there are other less obvious choices that we make as bloggers that may not come to mind.  Here are my thoughts on five ways to make our blogs more “reader friendly” – what are yours?

Make Your Blog Mobile Ready

With the proliferation of internet-capable mobile devices, a lot of blog reading is done on a rather small screen instead of a large computer monitor.  Therefore, help your readers out by making your site mobile ready!  What is the difference, you ask?  If your blog isn’t mobile ready, it appears on a mobile device the same as it does on a computer, which means it is either “squished” or you can only see a limited portion of text without scrolling horizontally.  Without the mobile ready setting, this blog is difficult to read on a mobile device:

When your blog is mobile ready, it will appear on a mobile device in a format that is easier to read:

How do you make a blog mobile ready?  WordPress bloggers can go to their Dashboard, Appearance, Extras.  Check the box next to “Display a mobile theme when this blog is viewed with a mobile browser”.  Click on “Update Extras” and you’re ready for the small screen.  Users of the Blogger platform must log on to draft.blogger.com instead of the usual Dashboard in order to see this setting.  Then under Settings, go to Email & Mobile and select “Yes, On mobile devices, show the mobile version of my template.”  Click on “Save Settings” and your blog is ready.  No matter which blog program you use, choosing the mobile ready option does not change the way your template looks on a “regular” computer.

Tell Them Who You Are

Sometimes I’ll find a new blog and want to send the author an email, but I can’t find any contact information! Whether you use your own name or a pseudonym, you’ll have more authority if you let your readers know something about you.  Most bloggers recommend using an “About Me” page to provide your readers with some background information or credentials.  For genealogy blogs, an “About Me” page can be useful to also provide information about your surnames and/or locations of research!  Most importantly, have an email address so that readers who are shy about commenting publicly have a way to get in touch.

Make it Easy to Comment

If you have a blog, you love to get comments, right?  Comments let bloggers know that someone is actually reading what they write!  Unfortunately, many everyday readers are not active participants or commenters because commenting can sometimes require too many steps.  To a computer-savvy blogger, using “Open ID” is no big deal.  Neither is word verification (although personally I find it rather annoying).  But to an ordinary reader, these steps make can make commenting not worth the trouble.  If you use word verification, review comments before they appear on the page, or don’t allow anonymous comments because you’re afraid of spam cluttering up your posts, consider using a spam catcher plug-in instead.  It solves the spam problem but let’s readers comment more easily. Recently there was a huge comment discussion after a great post by Amy Coffin at We Tree Genealogy called Genealogy Blogs: A Comment on Comments (psst – be sure to read the comments!)  Also see Amy’s follow-up post Genealogy Blogs Part 2: Readers Weigh in With Comments (this overlaps with my “Tell Them Who You Are” note above as well).

Give Feedback

Now that you’ve made it easier for readers to comment on your posts, don’t forget to respond!  It isn’t necessary to respond to each and every comment left on your blog, but responding does let readers know that you care about their feedback.  It is especially essential to comment back if a reader asks a question.  Taking the time to comment back to your readers allows your blog to become an open discussion forum – your readers will appreciate your feedback as much as you appreciate theirs.

Offer a Full Feed RSS

This can be a point of contention in the blogging world, but I think that providing a full RSS feed to your blog is more useful to readers.  The cons: 1) readers won’t actually visit your site, and 2) splogging or scraper sites will steal your content.  Let’s discuss the visitor issue first… Every blogger want readers to visit their site and see the hard work you put into your design or fancy widgets or other blog “bling”.  I love my site’s design and the header I designed, and I want others to see it.  But, the reality is – there isn’t always time to visit every blog, every day. Blog readers allow us to read a multitude of blogs without having to visit every one. Also, if you are reading blogs on a mobile device, it may be slightly more difficult to switch back and forth between a blog reader and a web browser.  My favorite reason for using full feeds is because my employer used to block all Blogger and WordPress sites, but Google Reader was allowed.  Every day at lunch I could get caught up on my blog reading, but I could only visit the actual sites if I bookmarked them for later. Reading blogs this way doesn’t mean that I don’t ever visit actual blogs – I do!  When a post captures my attention, I usually want to visit the site to comment.

As for the sites that turn Really Simple Syndication into Really Simple Stealing, they are out there and always will be.  There are a few things you can do to make it harder for these unscrupulous sites to steal your content, including adding a copyright notice at the bottom of every post and using Google Alerts to “find” your content online.  The genealogy community has been successful in going after splogging sites in the past.  But, if content theft is really a source of contention for you, then stick with partial RSS feeds – just realize you might lose a few readers along the way.   If you want to learn more about dealing with content theft, see Thomas MacEntee’s Resources on Blog Content and Copyright Theft and Lorelle VanFossen’s The Growing Trends in Content Theft: Image Theft, Feed Scraping, and Website Hijacking.

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The Date I Was Born

This week’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun (SNGF) at Randy Seaver’s Genea-Musings is all about the Date You Were Born.  Suddenly I was on a trip down memory lane…not to the day of my birth, but to my freshman year of college when I had to write about the day of my birth.  What did I find out?  Read all about it below – but first I will answer Randy’s specific challenge.  He asks:

1) What day of the week were you born? Tell us how you found out.

I was born on a Wednesday.  I found this out when my parents told me!

2) What has happened in recorded history on your birth date (day and month)? Tell us how you found out, and list five events.

I was born on the 67th day of 1967 (that’s March 8).  On that day in history, there are a lot of events listed in Wikipedia.  None of them, however, are earth-shattering historical events that are talked about centuries later. It appears that my birth might be the most exciting thing that ever happened that day (ahem). Here are five of the more interesting other events that have occurred on March 8th:

  • 1775 – Thomas Paine’s “African Slavery in America,” the first article in the American colonies calling for the emancipation of slaves and the abolition of slavery, is published.
  • 1817 – The New York Stock Exchange is founded.
  • 1917 – International Women’s Day protests in St. Petersburg contributed to the February Revolution and ultimately led to the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, ending the Romanov dynasty in Russia.
  • 1979 – Philips demonstrates the Compact Disc publicly for the first time.
  • 1983 – President Ronald Reagan calls the Soviet Union an “evil empire”.

3)  What famous people have been born on your birth date?  Tell us how you found out, and list five of them.

Using the same page in Wikipedia, I discovered these five others with my birthday:

  • 1495 – John of God, Portuguese-born friar and saint (d. 1550)
  • 1841 – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (d. 1935)
  • 1922 – Cyd Charisse, American actress and dancer (d. 2008)
  • 1959 – Aidan Quinn, American actor
  • 1945 – Micky Dolenz, American musician (The Monkees)

If we could get all of the musicians born on 3/8 together, we’d have an interesting group with members from The Monkees, The Eagles, Three Dog Night, Iron Maiden, and Keane.  One can only imagine what that would sound like…

As I said in the beginning, I wrote an essay about the date of my birth for an English composition class in my freshman year of college.  I found it in my files after seeing Randy’s challenge.  The date I submitted it was January 22, 1986 – almost exactly 25 years ago.  I was 19 years old and still had a lot to learn about writing, life, and myself.  But my teacher, Mrs. Bonnie Balcer, loved the essay and many others that I wrote.  She praised  my writing and encouraged me so much that I credit her for my decision to abandon the ill-conceived idea that I wanted to be a teacher, and instead I majored in English.  Twenty-five years later, I still have a lot to learn about writing, life, and myself.  But I’d like to thank Mrs. Balcer, wherever she is, for pointing me in the write direction.  (In looking for this essay, I also found one from my first semester of graduate school four years later. I wrote about my recent exploits in genealogical research. The title of that paper? What’s Past is Prologue.  Yes, I will have to reprint that essay here as well…)  This would have been a lot easier to reproduce here if it weren’t for the fact that back then I wrote on a typewriter

This is the Day the Lord Has Made…Me

Wednesday, March 8, 1967 was an ordinary day in the lives of many people.  No major headlines graced the front page of the New York Times, no scientific breakthroughs were made, and no events of great historical importance took place.  Despite the mundaneness of the day, it was one of great significance to my family and me; it was the day of my birth.  However, the world only celebrates one’s birthday if he is very famous, so the world continued its life as I began mine, neither of us concerned with the other.  Looking back on that day, there were many interesting occurrences besides my birth.

The pages of the New York Times were filled with news about Vietnam.  The North Vietmanese attacked an American zone for the second time in a week.  Senator Robert F. Kennedy suggested that, in order to see if North Vietnam was sincere about wanting to negotiate, the United States should end bomb raids.

In the United States, Washington, D.C. seemed far removed from the Vietnam crisis.  The big problem there was a dispute over where to house diplomats in the city. Those uninterested in that quarrel may have fancied the rumor that Press Secretary Henry Cabot Lodge might resign. People all over the U.S. may have been happy to see that Jimmy Hoffa was finally put into prison after ten years of escaping the sentence.

Besides all of these headlines, Roman Catholics of the world were told by the Vatican that only sacred music was permitted for use in Church.  Because I grew up alien to the pre-Vatican II days, it was interesting to see the Church still receiving the impact of Vatican II at the time of my birth.

Two stories particularly resembled issues of today. One concerned abortion, an issue on which people take sides today. But in 1967 there was no question – abortion was illegal unless the mother’s life was endangered. The New York State legislature rejected a bill that would make the law more lenient. Because of the 15 to 3 vote, the state was criticized as trying to “abort abortion”.

The second familiar issue was nuclear disarmament. The U.S. and Russia proposed a treaty to ban the spread of nuclear weapons, but India felt it discriminated against non-nuclear countries. India also wanted joint action against the proposal. In a modern world that is still trying to achieve disarmament, it is evident that the treaty never came to life.

Another fascinating section of the paper was the entertainment section. Because faithful viewers protested the cancellation of Gunsmoke, it was returned to the air. The TV listings for the prime time hours of the major networks resembled the daytime schedules of independent stations today. Popular shows were Lost in Space, Batman, Green Acres, Gomer Pyle, Perry Mason, and The Beverly Hillbillies.  Today’s hit, The Cosby Show, was far from Bill Cosby’s mind as he enjoyed fame with I Spy. One facet of 1967 television was exactly the same as today – the soap operas. Some were General Hospital, Days of Our Lives, and Guiding Light, all of which can be seen today.

Coke is another part of our culture that is still around today, and it was in the headlines in 1967 as in recent months. There wasn’t any talk of “New Coke,” “Old Coke,” or “Coke Classic” though. The news concerned the price, which was scheduled to go up from 10 cents to 15 cents a bottle. If Coke’s price doesn’t best reflect the economy, the price of gold does – a mere $35 an ounce.

As anyone can see, the world of 1967 is both different and similar to the world of 1986. Many changes have occurred in the past 19 years, although not all of the changes were good. The world still has little concern for me, as on that cold day in March, and at times I have little concern for it. We’ve both grown a lot, but I can’t say if we’ve both “grown up.” I’m glad I did.

#

Why, oh why didn’t someone give that newborn baby her weight in gold?

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Who’s Number 100,000?

Photo by Ricardo Villela on Flickr (click image to view on Flickr).

Sometime in the next 18 hours or so, someone will visit here and my site meter (on the right) will read “100,000″! That’s a lot of visitors, and I’d like to say thank you to everyone who has stopped by to read, comment, or just have a look around.  I’ve enjoyed the pleasure of your company.  If you are the 100,000th visitor, please leave a comment!

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Ancestral Roulette

I’m late to the party – the Saturday Night Genealogical Fun (SNGF) party brought to us each week by Randy Seaver.  This week, Randy challenged us with Ancestral Name List Roulette:

1) How old is one of your grandfathers now, or how old would he be if he had lived? Divide this number by 4 and round the number off to a whole number. This is your “roulette number.”

2) Use your pedigree charts or your family tree genealogy software program to find the person with that number in your ancestral name list (some people call it an “ahnentafel”). Who is that person?

3) Tell us three facts about that person in your ancestral name list with the “roulette number.”

My Grandpop, James Pointkouski, was born on July 6, 1910 and would be 100 right now if he were alive. Therefore, my “roulette number” is 25.  My ahnentafel #25 is my mother’s father’s father’s mother: my great-great grandmother Antonina Rozalia Pluta Pater (born 11 June 1863, Mszczonów, Poland; died 12 December 1938, Philadelphia, PA, USA).

This was a fortunate roll of the roulette wheel since I actually know a few things about her!  My 3 facts about Antonina:

  • Antonina was my only 2nd great-grandmother to immigrate to the U.S., which meant my grandfather, Henry Pater, was my only grandparent that knew his grandmother (he was 26 when she died).
  • Antonina was also the only mother-in-law to any of my “greats” that lived in the same country as the couple. Rumor has it that she did not get along with her daughter-in-law Elizabeth Miller Pater (my great-grandmother).
  • Antonina died two weeks before my mother’s 3rd birthday.  One of my mother’s earliest memories is attending her great-grandmother’s wake. Her father made her kiss Antonina “good-bye”, which probably explains why my mother isn’t very fond of wakes or funerals to this day.

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Yesterday I mentioned my “easy” online find of a 19th century Polish marriage record via a site called Geneteka.  In this post, I’ll provide more information on the site, what’s available, and how to navigate.  But first, a word on various Polish sites that offer genealogical records or indexes.

It’s becoming more and more common to find genealogical records online in the United States thanks to both “free” sites, such as FamilySearch, and paid subscription sites like Ancestry and Footnote. Although FamilySearch and Ancestry both have some international records, not many are from Poland – which is where most of my ancestors are from.  But, there are Polish records available online – the only problem is knowing where to look.  There are several web sites and genealogical societies in Poland that are in the process of indexing millions of vital records, but most of the sites are in Polish (a notable exception to the language issue is the Poznan Project, which is in English).  There doesn’t seem to be one central online repository for these records, so finding them required some sleuthing and a heavy use of online translators to understand the Polish instructions.

Your first stop to check on availability of Polish records or indexes online should be the Indeks Indesków, which means the Index of Indexes.  It is in Polish, but it’s not too hard to figure out.  The site lists updated indexes in chronological order starting with the most recent.  But to see the entire list of what is available for each province, simply click on the name of the province (woj.) at the top of the page.  The column on the far left shows the Parafia/USC or the name of the town parish/civil registration office.  Next, the list will show what years are available online for chrzty/urodziny (christenings/births), małżeństwa (marriages), and zgony (deaths).  The final column, strona www, provides the link to the site or sites that have these indexes or records.  There are a dozen different sites!

Many of my Polish ancestors come from the mazowieckie provice and I was fortunate to discover that several of my main towns (Żyrardów, Mszczonów, and Warszawa) all have either indexes or the actual records available via Geneteka.

A full and very detailed explanation of the Geneteka site has already been written by Al of Al’s Polish-American Genealogy Research in June, 2009.  Please read his series of posts starting with Indexing Project – Geneteka Part One.  When you’re finished reading Al’s posts, come back here and I’ll explain my search.

Using this Geneteka search page, I entered my surname Piątkowski without the diacritical (entered as Piatkowski) in the box that says Nazwisko and clicked on the Wyszukaj button.

Search results for "Piatkowski"

Next, I chose to view the 93 marriage records listed under Warszawa to see the following results:

Search results for "Piatkowski" in marriage records for Warszawa

Scrolling down to find “Stanisław”, I see the names of my great-great-grandparents:

Piatkowski-Konopka search result

The first column is merely the number of the record within the total number of records found.  Next is the year the marriage took place, followed by the number of the record in the actual record book.  Next is the name of the groom, then the bride, and the church name.  The icon that looks like the letter “i” is included with some lines.  If you hold your mouse over the “i” you will see additional information (have an online translation tool handy).  The “A” icon will tell you who indexed the record.  Finally, the most important part of the line is the icon that reads “SKAN” at the end of the line.  This is not available for all of the indexed records, but if it is shown you are in luck – click it and you will see a scanned copy of the image.  (Note: some of the scanned images are located on the Geneteka site and others link to Polish Archives – my sample for this post links to one of the Archives so if you click on “skan” for another image it may look different than the images that follow.) First you will see the record group that the image is in, such as the following:

This page opens up after clicking on "skan" next to the Piatkowski-Konopka information.

I knew from the indexed information that I needed record number 194, so I clicked on the first image on this page.  It opens up a larger view of the records, and you can clearly read the number.  Then I used the navigation buttons on the side to find #194.

Navigate through the records until you find the correct number (located in upper left of each record).

Once you find the correct image,  you can save it to your computer.  It’s FREE!  Then all you need is either your trusty copy of In Their Words: A Genealogist’s Translation Guide to Polish, German, Latin and Russian Documents.  Volume I:  Polish by Jonathan D. Shea and William F. Hoffman or your favorite Polish translator to help you uncover the details found in your record!

What if you find a name, but there is no “skan” at the end of the line?  That means they have not (yet?) scanned the record.  However, you now have both the year and the akt (act) number, which means you can contact the archives in that region to get a copy.  There will be a fee to obtain it, but it will be less than if you required them to research the name in the indexes themselves to find the correct year and act number.

This isn’t a full explanation of the Geneteka site – I am still figuring it all out myself.  Al already gave a very good primer on how to use the site, and I highly recommend his series that I linked to above.  My main goal in writing this post was to let others who are researching Polish ancestry know that the records are out there (to borrow a phrase from the television show X-Files).  Unfortunately, the records are being indexed by over a dozen different groups, and there is no one central site for this information.  Check the Index of Indexes to see if your ancestors’ parishes have been indexed yet.  If they haven’t – keep checking the site!  It is updated frequently.  All of the indexing sites appear to be quite active.  This marriage record only appeared in the last month.  If anyone else has good luck in finding a record on one of the many Polish sites, I’d love to hear more so leave a comment.

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Happy New Year! “Donna’s Picks” is my occasional feature to highlight other blogs, posts, or articles that may be of interest to my fellow genealogists.   Sit back and enjoy the following links:

Calling All Young Genealogists – If you are a genealogist and a student between the ages of 18-25, considering applying for a grant to attend the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree in June.  The grant is in honor of The Family Curator’s mother, Suzanne Freeman, and you can read all about it in Young Genealogists Invited to Apply for Grant to Attend 2011 SCGS Jamboree [January 5].  What a wonderful idea in memory of a wonderful woman!

De-Cluttering for Genealogists – A common theme this week among my genea-friends seems to be working on new year’s goals that involve getting organized.  There’s no better way to tackle your unorganized pile of genea-clutter than taking it one step at a time starting with DearMYRTLE’s 2011 January Organization Checklist [posted January 1].  I swore I was going to follow Myrt’s checklists faithfully two years ago when they were first published, but I never got around to it.  This year!  Now the monthly checklists are updated and full of very helpful suggestions and solutions.

Uncover the Story – Now that your desk is clear, read Leslie Albrecht Huber’s Uncovering the Stories of Immigrant Ancestors [January 3] based on her recent magazine article.  She offers tips on how to turn the dry genealogical “facts” into an interesting story.

No Response? – If you’ve written a query to a church and didn’t get a response, read the Ancestral Archaeologist’s reasons why you didn’t in Why the Dog Ate My Church Records Request [Jaunary 5].

Keeping Up with the Joneses? – Read Elyse’s 3 Tips for Researching Common Surnames [January 5] on Else’s Genealogy Blog.  And if you don’t have Smith and Jones in your family tree, I know this would work on Kowalski in Poland or Schmidt in Germany!

And Now for Something Completely Different – If you want your blog and your writing to stand out from the crowd, why not Be the Chicken Nugget in a Bag of Vegetables? [January 5 on Shari Lopatin: Rogue Writer]

Finally! A Tombstone Tuesday I Can Relate To (since my family has few tombstones).  Susan Peterson takes a light-hearted look at the death of our beloved gadgets in Tombstone Tuesday – Sending My Stuff to the Technology Graveyard [January 4] on Long Lost Relatives.

Happy ancestor hunting!  Stop back next time for more of Donna’s Picks!

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Three Years of Blogging


Photo by Leo Reynolds on Flickr

What’s Past is Prologue is three years old tomorrow!  It’s hard to believe that so much time has gone by.  Most (honest) bloggers, no matter the subject of their blog, will tell you that they had no idea what they were doing when they started.  After three whole years I can unequivocally say that I still have no idea what I’m doing.  But it’s been a fun ride!

My blog’s odometer will flip past the 100,000 milestone this month, and I am humbled and grateful that so many folks stop by just to read what I have to say.  [Hmm, who will be my 100,000th visitor? If it's you, email me!] Last year wasn’t an easy one when it came to blogging, and it shows in the frequency – or lack thereof – and the quality of my posts.  Despite the fact that I posted only half as much as my first year of blogging in 2008, I had almost double the number of visitors.  Many thanks to Genea-musings and Creative Gene as the top two sites who sent many visitors to here by linking to my stories!  Thanks also to all of my fans who voted to make my blog one of Family Tree Magazine’s Top 40 Genealogy Blogs of 2010 (and who nominated me for 2011)!

Some of my most popular posts from 2008 and 2009 continued to rack up the visits with Philadelphia Marriage Indexes Online (June, 2008) pulling in over 6,700 visitors in 2010 and I Remember Betsy (March, 2009) with over 4,900.   Looking at only the posts I wrote last year, the most popular has been Climbing Up Gene Kelly’s Family Tree (September) with nearly 400 hits.  Rounding out 2010’s greatest hits (in terms of visitors) were parts 1-4 of my 5-part series on Bavarian Military Rosters (January), my surname series on FISCHER (January), The Boy Next Door (April), How I Spent My Genealogy Vacation (May), Lessons Learned from WDYTYA (March), and The Address Book (March).

The posts with the most visitors don’t always equate to the author’s favorites, but this year there is some overlap.  I avoided the end-of-year “Best of” lists on all the genealogy blogs knowing my blogiversary was coming up, so here are my 10 favorite posts of 2010:

A Killer Chair – borrowing Greta’s Memory Monday idea, I wrote about seven different memories throughout the year.  While they technically had nothing to do with genealogy, they were among my favorite posts to write.  This August memory is a favorite just for the laugh it gave me to remember that event.

It All Started at a Dance – March’s submission for the 92nd Carnival of Genealogy was about my parents, how they met, and how dancing remained a part of their lives for a while.  I was honored when it was selected as the Featured Article for the COG!

Genealogical Smackdown: Colonials vs. Immigrants – My October post on which researchers have it harder is a favorite because I attempted writing it for months before finally finishing it.  It didn’t offer any groundbreaking conclusions, but it was something I wanted to publically ponder for a while, and I was pleased to finally pose the question to other genealogists to fight (nicely) amongst themselves.  The answer is still pending (unless you belong entirely to one camp or the other, then the answer is quite clear!).

If Genealogists Ruled the Television Networks – In February, I wondered what television would be like if genealogists were in charge – see the comments for more great ideas!

The Walk Home – This was my first “Memory Monday” post.  Again, not much to do with genealogical research, but a nice walk down memory lane.  I wish I knew what my ancestors’ walks home were like.

The Bavarian Military Rosters – Rounding out my ten favorites is my 5-part series on using the Bavarian Military Rosters on Ancestry.com.  Part 1, Cousins, Countries and War, shows my inspriration for using these records – a possible cousin to my great-grandfather of the same name.  Part 2, The Bavarian Military Rosters, explained what they are and how to read one.  In Part 3, Josef Bergmeister’s WWI Military Record, I finally learn about the life and death of the mysterious stranger.  Part 4, The Great War and the Homefront, provides details on the battle as well as what my great-grandfather faced in the U.S.  In Part 5, The Bergmeister Family Tree, I listed all of the known male lines from 1650 to WWI to show how the U.S. immigrants and German WWI soldiers were related.

This year I hope to post more frequently and write about more research, tips, memories, and humorous musings.  Thanks for coming along with me for the ride – let’s get this show on the road!

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The following article first appeared on January 9, 2010 for my The Humor of It…Through a Different Lens column for Shades of the Departed magazine.  footnoteMaven has graciously allowed me to reprint my Humor of It articles here on What’s Past is Prologue.While these were my “top ten photo resolutions for 2010″, they can apply to 2011, too.  Besides, who keeps the resolutions they make? We can merely recycle them from year to year!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Beginning a new year is a time for reflection when most people think back on the previous year and try to challenge themselves to improve various faults and foibles.  Of course, before beginning a new year we have to end the previous one, and that’s usually a time for partying.  Therefore, most of our resolutions to change ourselves may have been half-heartedly assembled in the throes of a party-induced hangover, which is why these great ideas tend to fizzle out quicker than a cheap sparkler.  So take your time before making resolutions – think about it!  To help you out, I’ve decided to come up with my top 10 resolutions specifically for Shades of the Departed readers, so they are all related to photographs.  But they are also written by me, the resident humor columnist, so…let’s just say you might want to think about these as well before making any final resolutions!

10 – If you are photographing a group of children, add a “silly face” photo in the session.  It will keep them interested, less cranky, and may even make them smile for more photos.  Plus, they’ll be laughing at the silly photo for years to come.  That is, until they reach the age when they begin dating and you share it with their prospective paramour…then it’s not so funny.

 

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-USZ262-128224

 

9 – Don’t wait – get all of those damaged photos restored.  I recently had a professional restore an old photograph of my mother as a child with her older sister and parents.  My mother commented, “I haven’t seen the photo look like this for sixty years!”

8 – Pay attention to the background in your photos – or even the foreground – so your shot doesn’t have any distractions from the main subject.

7 – Remember to “strike a pose” for a memorable shot!

 

 

6 – Be creative and have fun with your photography!  Consider creating optical illusions with some forced perspective shots to liven up your vacation album.

5 – Remember that pets are people, too.  They really don’t enjoy dressing up in costumes any more than people do – except they are less vocal about it.  Come to think of it – your babies are people, too.  They will show their displeasure by their expressions, but remember that they will get vocal about it once they’re old enough to talk!

4 – When it takes forty or fifty tries to get the kids to a) sit still, b) look at the camera, c) smile, and d) do a, b, and c all at the same time, it is okay to delete some of those motion-blurred, crying, and cranky shots.  Save a few though – they could prove useful to embarrass those children fifteen years later. (Also see #10)

3 – Since you are always the one taking photos, make sure you get some of yourself.  Only ask someone else to take it – unless you have very long arms or a timer on your camera, most self-portraits are not very flattering.

 

Image designed by footnoteMaven

 

2 – Keep shoes in shoeboxes, not your photographs.  Get them out of the boxes – and off of your hard drives – and into frames or albums to display around your home or office.  Don’t be too busy taking photos to remember the joy in looking at them and remembering the fun.

And the number one photo resolution is –

The Cross Counter, which is useful for mugging your relatives. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress LC-USZ62-105001

1 – Forget mug shots – mug your relatives for copies of family photos!  Are you, like me, tired of waiting for family members to dig out those precious photographs you’ve heard so much about but have never seen?  It’s time to take matters into your own hands.  I resolve to sit on doorsteps until they find the photos and reveal them to me.  I have a feeling some of my cousins may be entering the Relative Protection Program, a distant cousin of the Witness Protection Program, that seeks to protect the innocent from a hungry photograph-hound like myself.  But hey, I’m a genealogist, so I ought to be able to track them down!

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All photographs from the collection of the author except as noted.

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The following article first appeared on December 8, 2009 for my The Humor of It…Through a Different Lens column for Shades of the Departed magazine.   footnoteMaven has graciously allowed me to reprint my Humor of It articles here on What’s Past is Prologue. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Ah, Christmas…it’s the most wonderful time of the year!  Or is it?  For some children, it’s the time of year to be scared to death.  First, there’s the whole threat of “being good” or else!  The mere thought of not getting any presents is certainly scary, but there is something about Christmas that isn’t all happy and jolly.  In fact, it instills more fear in young children than a Halloween haunted house – it’s Santa’s Little Workshop of Horrors and the annual photo with Santa!

Santa has a reputation of being a happy and fun kind of guy.  After all, he brings you toys for no apparent reason.  That’s a guy any child would love, right?  Then why is that big fat guy with a bushy beard so absolutely terrifying for so many children?  It’s the terror that makes the annual “photo with Santa” such a delight for adults.  Parents, determined to get that holiday photo no matter what, gratefully accept the photo even if the child has an expression of fear and terror and tears flowing like a river.  Years later these photos are funny, but one can only imagine that it wasn’t that funny at the time for all involved – the scared child, the parent who has to calm them, and poor Santa who has to withstand the screams.  I hope the malls provide ear protection with the red suit.

Here’s an exasperated Santa from 1977 who is wondering if it’s time to go home yet (or if the eggnog is nearby):

Aw, what are you crying for Sis? At least you aren't dressed the same as us! (Photo courtesy of Alleah Bucs Pointkouski)

Fast forward to 2006…the formerly terrified child is now a mom, so it’s time to take her daughter to visit Santa.  Did she not remember her own terror?  You know what they say, “Like mother, like daughter!” 

Aaaaaaahhhhh!!!!! (Photo courtesy of Alleah Bucs Pointkouski)

But, by now Grandmom knew the tricks to a happy photo – candy canes for all!  Or maybe it was Santa himself who learned this trick over the years – if the kids have something to put in their mouth like a pacifier, they aren’t nearly as loud. 

Sissy, if your hand gets near my candy cane, I'll scream bloody murder in your ear again! (Photo courtesy of Alleah Bucs Pointkouski)

By the time we reach adulthood, we really seem to forget how to think like a child.  This may be why the child’s fear of Santa comes as such a surprise to the parents.  If you’re a parent who will be taking a little one for the annual Santa photo, let me remind you of a few things.  First, no matter how happy or friendly Santa actually looks with that whole jolly persona and twinkle in his eye, there is something menacing about him.  Think about it…he sees you when you’re sleeping?  He knows when you’re awake?  That’s a bit stalkerish, don’t you think?   For years we tell our children not to talk to strangers, but there’s this apparently omnipotent dude that you see once a year and have to be nice and smile for the camera.  Mark my words – children pick up on this incongruity! 

No, Mommy, not without a candy cane! (Photo courtesy of Alleah Bucs Pointkouski)

It must be quite a challenge to be a photographer for Santa.  Even if you manage to get a nice, happy expression on the faces of the children, there’s always the distinct possibility that Santa himself may screw up your holiday photo.   After all, which is the worse or the two?  Being the frightened child who has to sit on Santa’s lap, or being Santa?  Santa, who, hour after hour and day after day, has lines and lines of children who want to see you.  Well, most of them want to see you…but then there are the few, the screaming, the scared.  It must be far worse to be Santa with a headache from all the high decibel screams than it is to be the crying child.  The children get over it with age and perhaps some therapy, but Santa has to put up with hundreds of screaming children every December.

Even if Santa doesn’t get a screamer, there’s the endless litany of “gimme” requests that’s enough to drive a teetotaller to the bottle of Jamison’s.  Every household seems to have at least one photo of Santa who looks as though he’s had a few.  But, who can blame him after all? 

Oh, crud, did this kid just pee on me? (Photo courtesy of Sheri Fenley)

Yo, Bro, let's get out of here - Mom dressed us alike again and Santa smells like booze! (Photo courtesy of Alleah Bucs Pointkouski)

What’s the secret to a good photo with Santa?  Maybe if Santa were closer in age and size, he wouldn’t be scary at all but cute and cuddly!

Mommy, I want to keep this Santa! (Photo courtesy of Alleah Bucs Pointkouski)

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For More Fun:

If you want to see more photos of children who are scared of Santa, visit the Chicago Tribune “Scared of Santa” photo gallery.

Also, there is a collection of photos in a book called Scared of Santa: Scenes of Terror in Toyland by Denise Joyce and Nancy Watkins. (Harper Paperbacks, 2008)

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This post was originally published on December 21, 2008, and it was repeated again on the same date in 2009.  I wanted to repeat it yet again for new visitors who missed it previously.  You’ll notice that I left in the reference to Terry Thornton of Hill Country of Monroe County…a click on the link will take you to Terry’s obituary at his blog.  Terry left this earth on August 9th this year, but I really couldn’t bring myself to change this parody from how I originally wrote it (and I still have the feed to his dormant blog in my blog reader).  In 2008, Terry commented on this post with his signature line: “What FUN!” 

Santa is definitely going to put us all on the naughty list if we don’t get around to researching his family tree soon!  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 genealogy bloggers I left out for space and rhyming constraints!)

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