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The Von Trapp Family as portrayed in the 1965 film, "The Sound of Music"

Does your family history suffer from The Sound of Music effect?  What’s that, you ask? Well, it is not when your family has a penchant for suddenly breaking into song about their favorite things or when saying good-night is an elaborate Broadway production. The term came to me after I recently watched Sound of Music both on stage and on film and I became interested in the real Von Trapp family.

The enormously popular musical film The Sound of Music premiered in 1965 and was based on the the 1959 musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein. The story, if you’ve lived in a cocoon for years and never heard it, is about a novice nun-turned nanny for a widower’s seven children who falls in love with the dad, marries him, brings the joy of music into their lives, teaches the children to sing beautifully, and escapes the evil Nazis in a late-night chase over the Alps. But the best part of the story? It’s based on a true story!

Ay, there’s the rub, as Hamlet would say. “Based on a true story” and “true story” are not the same thing.

As it turns out, both the Broadway and the movie version of the family’s story are somewhat more dramatic than the German movie and memoir of the family’s lives. Being more dramatic obviously makes the story infinitely more interesting. Escaping the Nazis by traveling on foot over the Alps to Switzerland? Wow! Except, in reality, the very real Von Trapp family “escaped” Austria a full two years before the Anschluss (and seven years after the couple got married). And they left by train. In broad daylight. To go to Italy, where they were citizens based on Georg von Trapp’s birplace. No Nazis were in pursuit.

To disappoint The Sound of Music fans even further, I should point out that the children’s names were all changed and Georg was neither as wealthy nor as strict as the movie portrayed.

Hence, what I have christened as The Sound of Music effect…when the true story is, well, just a story.  But when the story “based on a true story” is A STORY!

Sometimes we have The Sound of Music effect in our own family stories. While the majority of our family histories were not livened up for the sake of dramatic license on the silver screen, they may have been spruced up…for the sake of the story.

Face it, what’s the more exciting story?

Choice A: Grandpop couldn’t afford a ticket/was on the run from the authorities so he stowed away on the ship.  OR

Choice B: Grandpop bought a ticket, boarded the steamship, and spent two weeks with hundreds of other immigrants in steerage.

Yup, Choice A wins every time.

Many other family history myths may be the result of The Sound of Music effect. Was your ancestor descended from a Cherokee princess? Was the family’s name changed at Ellis Island? Are you related to someone really famous in history? These are all great stories.  But are they true, or merely based on a true story? These stories may be true – but only solid genealogical research will answer the question. Chances are there is a kernel of truth in the exciting story – but just a kernel. The true stories are often…well, ordinary, everyday, and somewhat boring. But not to a genealogist or a family historian! Being chased by the Nazis is certainly a dramatic story, but the ordinary tale can be just as much fun.

Does your family history suffer from The Sound of Music effect?

Happy New Year! Did you resolve to clean out your clutter?

Donna’s Picks

“Donna’s Picks” was once my occasional weekly feature of noteworthy articles – now it feels more comfortable to roundup my “picks” once a month.  Here are January’s goodies including a couple of genealogy blogs that are new finds!

I recently discovered a relatively new blog, Alabama Genealogy and Ramblings by Randall Dickerson (1-19-2012: Note – Randall changed his blog name! It’s now Alabama Free-Ranging Organic Genealogy at the same address). Ordinarily I wouldn’t have even looked at a blog with that title because I have no Southern roots whatsoever. But I’m sure glad I stopped by, for not only does Randall have great posts, but he has one of the funniest and most entertaining About Me pages I’ve ever read!  (Yes, Randall, I had to look up “Vexillology”.) Check out The “Do List”; My New Year’s Resolution Concepts in which he proposes concepts that will allow all of us to be more productive. One of his good posts from December is Trying to like Ancestry.Com – Disaster in Grafting My Family Tree in which he shares his frustration over what happens when you splice another’s tree into your own.

Dawn Westfall has been blogging since September at Wisteria where she writes about her maternal Dutch roots and paternal Southern roots. I naturally gravitate towards humorous posts, and I got a chuckle out of Famous Relatives. Well, that’s one way to finally get kids interested in genealogy. There are at least three other genealogy bloggers that share my interest in science fiction and will find her famous relative as cool as I did!

In what happens to be yet another humorous post, Jenny Lanctot in Are My Roots Showing? (which is a fabulous blog title!) gets an unexpected chuckle from a Family Search indexer in Wisdom Wednesday – Search Terms and Spelling. With my surname, I’ve had my share of misspellings so it made me chuckle, too.

Just to prove I also enjoy serious posts, I was fascinated by More Than Meets the Eye – Tuesday’s Tip in Heritage Zen by Cynthia Shenette. I have always loved looking at what else is in the photo besides the “main” subject. Cynthia presents to great photographs with tons of details in the background.  But – for the record – Cynthia writes some wickedly humorous posts – see the evidence with her last COG entry, What the Dickens 2, Or More Tales from Hell’s Kitchen – Advent Calendar, Grab Bag.  I’m still laughing!

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

One Year Ago:

ShtetlSeeker: It’s Not Just for Shtetls Anymore – one of the best town databases you may not know about

Two Years Ago:

Cousins, Countries, and War – the start of my 5-part series on the Bavarian Military Rosters available on Ancestry.com

Three Years Ago:

Fun with Maps in Philadelphia – a look at some nifty mapping tools to see what my hometown looked like back when my great-grandparents came to town

Four Years Ago:

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? – In my very first COG entry ever, I imagine inviting four very different ancestors to dinner to solve a few mysteries.

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

A post coming soon will ask you if your family history is like a famous musical from the 1960s…and if your family history has something in common with that story, well…let’s just say it’s not a compliment and you have your research cut out for you. I also hope to resurrect the “Memory Monday” personal reflection posts this year – starting in January!  If you also read my collaborative blog, The Catholic Gene, join us the week of 29 January as we remember/celebrate Catholic Schools Week.

Thanks for reading, following, and subscribing!

Ryan, Beckett, and Castle in front of the murder board (Seamus Dever, Stana Katic, and Nathan Fillion in Castle's Season 3 episode "Close Encounters of the Murderous Kind"). Accessed via Castle-Fans.Org on January 9, 2012.

A few months ago I watched all the past episodes of the television crime drama Castle (ABC, Monday nights at 10:00 PM Eastern). I’ve always had a thing for romantic comedy shows about crime-solving duos. Castle didn’t disappoint and it’s now one of my favorite shows. It has good plots, interesting and well developed characters, subtle humor, and a hint of romance. While I enjoy the show more for the character relationships, I have to admit the characters’ crime-solving skills are impressive. I had a sudden realization of why that might appeal to me…those skills would work equally well in genealogy! After all, we may not be solving crimes, but we genealogists are solving mysteries all the time!  So I offer my favorite detectives as our new research role models…

On Castle, the NYPD homicide unit, led by Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic), sets up a “murder board” for each new case.  They take a white board and start with a photo of the victim and some pertinent facts. Next they add information on potential suspects, witnesses, and a timeline of events leading up to the murder.  The character of Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) is a best-selling mystery author who “assists” the detectives on their cases.  Castle usually adds the “outside the box” thinking on how all of the pieces of the mystery fit together with how he, as a writer, would have written the story.

The “murder board” concept is perfect for solving genealogical mysteries. In fact, I realized I’ve had a murder board for years without calling it that.  The victim is the research problem – in my case, the birthplace of my great-grandmother Elizabeth (Elżbieta) Miller Pater. The suspects are the potential places based on clues I’ve found in my research of documents such as passenger list records and other documents that contain information about an immigrant’s birthplace.

On the show Castle, sometimes the detectives really think a particular suspect is the killer – the suspect was in the right place at the right time, had means and motive to commit the crime, and all of the facts seems to support the person as the one who did it.  But sometimes there’s a problem…the suspect “alibis out”.  That’s the term the show uses when a suspect has an alibi that checks out upon further review, so he or she could not have committed the crime because there is some evidence that places the person in another place at the same time.  In genealogical research, we often think we have the right answer based on sources that seem to indicate it’s correct.  But then the answer alibis out.  All records – including some in my great-grandmother’s handwriting – point to the town of Żyrardów as her birthplace.  But Żyrardów  is the wrong suspect – the town alibis out!  When the records were checked, the record for her birth was not found.

What’s next? In solving the murder mystery on Castle, the team turns to other sources such as witnesses or financial records that might lead to more clues or more suspects.  Sometimes they take a closer look at the timeline to see if they missed something in their initial research.  All of these actions have a lot to teach genealogists looking to solve their mysteries when the Number One Suspect alibis out.  In short, look for more clues!  Are there any witnesses?  Maybe older family members recall information that was passed down about the mystery.  Who else was connected to the mystery/victim?  Turn to records for siblings, collateral relatives, or even neighbors of the person you are trying to find. When did things happen? Sometimes just creating a timeline for an individual can help cross some suspected places, times, or events off of the list of suspects.

No matter what avenue your research takes, using the murder board concept can be very helpful – write it all down and plot it all out.  Even the negative searches – the suspects with alibis – need to be listed so you remember what resources you’ve already checked. Often in the show, the characters literally stare at the board trying to see if they missed something that will lead to a new search for a new suspect – or a new search for a former suspect who’s alibi was questionable or unproven. Often Castle will find a new direction based on his unique writer’s view of the “story”. Likewise, it benefits genealogists to re-view information, and to re-search, in order to find that missing piece to the puzzle.  It also helps to get help from someone like Castle – someone not so closely related to the case who might have a different view of those same facts.

I don’t have an actual physical board of information for the case of my great-grandmother’s birthplace, but after watching a few seasons of Castle I’m beginning to think it might be a good idea to throw all the pertinent facts up on the wall, or at least down on paper. This will enable me to review the facts and review the suspects and perhaps finally solve this mystery.  Where is Mr. Castle when I need him? I could use his help!

~ ~ ~

While we’re at it, let’s use a murder board to solve the mystery of how the actor who plays Castle, Nathan Fillion, who has French-Canadian and Irish ancestry, can look like the long-lost twin of genealogist Matthew Bielawa, who has Ukrainian and Galician Polish ancestry.  Hmm, have we ever seen Nathan and Matthew in the same room together?  I think a DNA test is in order…

Welcome to the very first “Surname Saturday” of 2012.  Somehow I managed to go through all of 2011 without a single surname post! But I have many more family names to get to, so I am hoping to post a different Surname Saturday at least once a month.  Let’s see what happens this year…

Surname - ZAKRZEWSKI

Meaning/Origin – The name ZAKRZEWSKI is derived from the Polish town names of Zakrzew or Zakrzewo or from the Polish word krzew meaning “shrub”.  (Source: Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings, Second Edition by William F. Hoffman)

Country of Origin – The surname ZAKRZEWSKI is Polish.  According to the World Names Profiler, Poland has the highest frequency per million residents with this name at  374.78 per million.  Germany is second with  a distant 13.8 per million.  The United States comes in next at 9.19.

Spelling Variations - Other names derived from the same root include ZAKRZEWICKI and ZAKRZEWICZ. (Source: Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings, Second Edition by William F. Hoffman) The feminine version of the surname is ZAKRZEWSKA.

Surname Map – The following map illustrates the frequency of the ZAKRZEWSKI surname in Poland. The name is far more popular than many of my other Polish surnames with over 13,000 individuals listed with the surname. As you can see by all the colors on the map, people with this surname live just about everywhere in Poland in most of the counties and cities.

Distribution of the ZAKRZEWSKI surname in Poland.

SOURCE: Mojkrewni.pl “Mapa nazwisk” database, http://www.moikrewni.pl/mapa/kompletny/zakrzewski.html, accessed January 6, 2012.

Famous Individuals with the Surname – Given the popularity of the name as shown on the map, it’s no surprise that a fair amount of famous Poles have the surname. From politicians to athletes, there’s a whole list on Wikipedia.  I wonder if any are my cousins?  The most famous Pole with this surname is Ignacy Wyssogota Zakrzewski (1745-1802), who was a nobleman during the final years of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and was involved with the creation of the Constitution.  Look at his photo on Wikipedia – doesn’t this guy look like a twin of George Washington? Although the name does have noble roots, my family were farmers so it is likely they adopted the surname by choice instead of birth.

My Family – My Zakrzewski family comes from the vicinity of the town of Żyrardów in the Masovian Voivodeship (województwo mazowieckie). My earliest known ancestor is Karol Zakrzewski who was born around 1800 (based on his daughter’s birth record) and died before 1859 (based on his daughter’s marriage record). Karol married Rozalia Kowalewska. Their daughter Teofilia is my third great-grandmother. Teofila Zakrzewska was born on 27 Dec 1840 in Maryampol, Masovian Gubernia, Kingdom of Poland.  On 10 October 1859 in Wiskitki Teofilia married Jan Pater (born c.1833, Kamienskie – died 04 September 1908 in Żyrardów, Błoński Powiat, Warsaw Gubernia, Vistula Land, Russian Empire.  I have ten children documented for Jan and Teofilia born between 1860 and 1884.  Teofilia Zakrzewska Pater died on 16 November 1907 in Żyrardów.  At the time her her death, her son Józef Pater had already been in America for two years.  Her teenaged grandson Ludwik (my great-grandfather), had left to join his parents just three months prior to her death.  She had many other grandchildren still living in Żyrardów at the time of her death and the death of her husband almost one year later.

My Research Challenges - I recently found the death records for Teofilia Zakrzewska Pater from 1907 on the Geneteka site, and I had her birth and marriage from previous research on microfilm.  The key is to find the marriage of her parents, Karol and Rozalia ZAKRZEWSKI from 1840 or earlier.

Surname Message Boards – Ancestry has a Zakrzewski message board.  There are some Zakrzewski graves listed at Find A Grave here.

Links to all posts about my Zakrzewski family can be found here.

This post is #11 of an ongoing series about surnames.  To see all posts in the series, click here.

Tomorrow will mark the 4th blogiversary of What’s Past is Prologue.  I don’t know what surprises me more – that I’ve been blogging for four years or that I still have some ideas left!

I didn’t post as often as I would have liked to this past year, but I still managed to garner 39,000 visitors! I’m very grateful to everyone that stopped by to read, look around, comment, and/or write to me with kind words.

Some of my top posts this year in terms of visits were ones written a while ago. This past year I had 9,700 hits on Philadelphia Marriage Records Online (June, 2008), 1,500 on Bavarian Main Street (June, 2009), and almost 1,400 on Fotomat…What’s That? (November, 2010). Some posts written this year that had the highest number of hits were Finding Polish Records Online from January with 1,060 hits and The WDYTYA Drinking Game from February with almost 800 and also was the most commented post with 30 comments. I have to say, that post was the most fun I had (on this blog) all year!

Besides the drinking game post, my favorites from the last year were:

Research Resources:

My Family Research:

Personal Reflection:

Once again, thanks to all of my faithful readers and friends.  When I started this endeavor, I had no idea where it would lead. But so far, I’ve really enjoyed the ride. I’ve made some great friends, learned how to write better, organized my research, and found many cousins.  As my one of my favorite actors once sung, “Who could ask for anything more?”

2011: A Look Back

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

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

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

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

Some of The Pointer Sisters at Jamboree!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas, 1971

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

Christmas, 2011

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

Christmas Future

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

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

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

Meanwhile, back at the laptop…

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

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

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

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

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

Donna’s Picks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Year Ago:

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

Two Years Ago:

Three Years Ago:

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

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

Thanks for reading, following, and subscribing!

In the spirit of gratitude as we celebrate Thanksgiving, I’ve found Even More Things I’m thankful for on my genealogical quest:

1. Portable Scanners – My portable scanner of choice is the Flip-Pal, and I’m thankful there are devices such as these that make it easy to copy photographs and documents.  Now if I could only get one of my second cousins to let me see that box of photographs with my Flip-Pal in hand…

2. Passenger Lists – After all these years of researching, I still consider passenger arrival records to be one of the most amazing resources we have when it comes to researching immigrant ancestors.  They have it all:

drama – What happened to the passenger whose name is crossed out?

comedy – Some of the spelling errors are quite humorous!

suspense – Oh, no, they’re being held for special inquiry!

mystery – Did the guy writing this speak English? Because it looks like Greek to me.

adventure – The simple facts recorded so long ago help us envision the lives of our ancestors; they were more than just dates and names but people who dared to make a life-changing journey.

3. Geneteka – I honestly never thought I’d be able to access any foreign records online – for free!  This year I discovered Geneteka, one of several Polish sites that have birth, marriage, and death records online.  Earlier this year I found the marriage record of my great-great grandparents that took place in 1863 in the city of Warsaw. What used to take months of letter writing and payments was accomplished in minutes for free.

4. Napoleon – Why is a dictator listed among the genealogical things I’m thankful for?  Well, I may not be a fan of Napoleon’s tactics or his politics – or how they affected my ancestors’ countries – but when it comes to genealogical records in many countries, genealogists have to thank Napoleon.  He instituted what came to be called the Napoleonic Code that required vital records to be kept.  Specifically, the records were in the country’s local language in a paragraph format.  The details these paragraphs provide are amazing and offer so much more than some names and dates entered in a registry.

5. Google – Google is still the go-to search engine when it comes to basic searching for information on people, places, or things.  But Google is so much more than “just” a search engine because of all their other products.  I use Gmail to communicate with cousins (and everyone else!), Reader to read all the genealogy blogs, Documents to collaborate with other researchers, Earth and Maps to see where my ancestors lived, and Books to find obscure records.  With the exception of Blogger (I’m a WordPress fan, obviously), I’m hooked on Google’s tools.

6. SS-5 Forms (While They Lasted) – One of the best genealogical resources I’ve used has been my ancestors’ applications for Social Security, otherwise known as the SS-5 Form.  Sadly, the SSA no longer wants to provide full access to the form unless the person was born over 100 years ago.  Before this recent restriction, what an amazing treasure this form has been – how many other documents give you something in the person’s own hand that lists their parents’ names – and possibly the town of birth?

 7. Autographs – I love finding genealogical records that contain the signatures of my ancestors – their autographs! What is more personal than writing your own name? Seeing theirs gives me a very small personal sense of who they were.  I have my grandparents’ and almost all of my great-grandparents’ signatures from items such as marriage records, social security applications, and naturalization papers.  For most of my “older” records, most of my ancestors were recorded as illiterate and unable to sign for themselves, but I was pleased to find that my great-great grandfather Stanisław Piątkowski signed his own name to his marriage record in 1863 and his children’s birth records.

8. Meeting cousins through this blog – I’ve gotten to meet, both virtually and in person, several cousins.  Amazingly, I’ve found cousins from each of my grandparents’ lines. In some cases, I found them; in others, they found me all because I blogged about our common ancestor.  Now we’re email pals and Facebook friends and I’m so happy to know them all.  Not all of my cousins are on Facebook, but among my FB friends I have 1 first cousin, 6 second cousins, 2 third cousins, 3 fourth cousins, 2 of my parents’ first cousins, 3 of my parents’ second cousins, my grandfather’s first cousin, and 3 spouses of my cousins!

9. Photos from Cousins – As I said above, I’ve come in contact with many cousins since I’ve started this blog.  I’ve tried to get photographs from every one of them.  One or two have actually sent me some! One, the 82-year-old first cousin of my maternal grandfather, sent me some never-before-seen photos of my grandparents (on the left – thanks, Ed!) and my grandfather’s brothers.

10. Catholic Family History – I’m very thankful for the faith that has been passed down through my family because it has enriched my life.  This year I am also very thankful that I found several other genealogy bloggers that share my Roman Catholic faith, and together we began a new blog devoted to celebrating our Catholic family history – The Catholic Gene.

~ Happy Thanksgiving! ~

My past Thanksgiving lists (shown in brief, click on the link to read the entire post):

Things I’m Thankful for on My Genealogical Quest – 11/23/2008

  1. The Library
  2. National Archives and Records Administration
  3. The LDS
  4. Catholic Priests
  5. Rootsweb mailing lists
  6. Steve Morse
  7. Helpful strangers
  8. The genea-blogging community
  9. My ancestors
  10.  My nieces and nephews

Ten More Things I’m Thankful for on my Genealogical Quest – 11/24/2010

  1. Ancestry.com
  2. Digital cameras
  3. Genealogical Societies
  4. Genealogy Conferences
  5. Genealogy Blogs
  6. The COG
  7. Genea-friends who help me research
  8. Genea-friends
  9. The Immigrants Came Here
  10. My parents

Sometimes my genealogical research takes an organized and methodical approach akin to the scientific method – or at least obsessive compulsive disorder.  And then other times my research resembles the dog in the animated movie Up who gets distracted every time a squirrel runs past him.  While the former research approach may be more useful when it comes to documenting sources or following the genealogical proof standard, the latter can be much more serendipitous and fun.  You never really know what you’ll find when you don’t start off searching for anything in particular or you go down roads you didn’t intend to follow!

Such was the case one day in my web surfing when I took my own advice (see #9 of my Top Ten More Ways to Celebrate Pol-Am Heritage Month) and searched for a town website.  My maternal grandmother’s mother’s side (surnames Ślesiński, Drogowski, Michałowski, Kubicki) comes from the town of Wilczyn in Poland (powiat Koniń, Wielkopolskie).  The town’s borders have shifted as Poland’s have.  According to the site:

During the pre-Partition period Wilczyn belonged to Trzemeszno county (small town about 30 km from Wilczyn), and to Powidz county (small town near Strzelno) during the Napoleon Campaign 1793 – 1812. From 1812 to 1815 it belonged to Pyzdry county and after the Vienna Treaty got included in Konin county. From 1867 to 1934 Wilczyn belonged to Slupca county and from 1934 again to Konin, where it lies to present day.

The town’s website, http://www.gminawilczyn.pl, has some English translations but is mostly in Polish.  Some words are easy to translate, such as historia, and using an online translator can usually give you the essential meaning of the text.  I clicked on the link for dokumenty and wondered what sorts of documents were on the site.  Clicking on the first document, I found a birth certificate:

SOURCE: http://www.gminawilczyn.pl/ under "Dokumenty"

I know enough genealogical Polish to read the record for the birth of Józefa Drogowska, born 23 November 1865 to Jan Drogowski and Konstancja Kubicka. Wait a minute! Those names sound familiar…the parents are my 3rd great-grandparents! Józefa is the sister of my 2nd great-grandmother, Stanisława Drogowska (born 04 Jun 1860 in Wilczyn – died 30 Dec 1918 in Dobrosołowo).  There are only four documents on the site, and this is one.  There is no explanation as to why this particular document is shown on the site.  It is also shown with the images under Wirtualne muzeum or virtual museum.  I would love to know why it is posted on the site and if a descendent of Józefa was responsible for posting it. Now I have real research to do!

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?

 

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…

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!

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!

Two views of St. John the Baptist Church in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm - from 1875 on the left and 1998 on the right.

My family’s history in the town of Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Oberbayern, Bavaria, Germany, goes back several hundred years.  While that’s a long way back with regard to genealogical research, the town itself is much older than my family’s history recorded in its church registers.  Pfaffenhofen was officially recorded as a town in 1438, but earlier chronicles mention the town as far back as 1140.  The town’s population expanded significantly over the years, but it also decreased due to events such as plagues and wars.  If I could go back in time to visit the town, at least one thing would look the same – the town’s Roman Catholic parish church, St. John the Baptist (Stadtpfarrkirche St. Johannes Baptist), has always resided at one end of the town square.

St. John the Baptist Church was originally built in a Romanesque style, but the church – and much of the town – was destroyed in a fire in 1388.  In 1393, the church was rebuilt in a Gothic style.  In 1670-72, the interior of the church was renovated into the Baroque style we see today throughout most of Bavaria.  The steeple was struck by lightning in 1768 and rebuilt the same year.

I’ve documented my Pfaffenhofen ancestors back to the 1670s due to the church records of St. John the Baptist.  The Echerer (Eggerer), Höck, Nigg, and Paur families worshiped at this church for generations.  My great-grandparents, Joseph Bergmeister and Maria Echerer, were married here in 1897 and baptized their first child, Maria Bergmeister, there in 1898.  One hundred years later, I became the first descendent to re-visit the church.

Interior of St. John the Baptist church, Altar

The interior of St. John the Baptist is very ornate with many paintings and statues, which is typical of the Baroque style and also typical of Bavarian Catholic churches.  Some might call Baroque churches ostentatious, but the style is meant to be dramatic in order to have an emotional effect.  What was emotional for me, however, was knowing that my ancestors worshiped in that very place so many years ago.

Since my Pfaffenhofen ancestors were craftsmen – primarily shoemakers, masons, and carpenters – I liked seeing evidence of the trade guild’s in the church’s interior. Each guild had some church obligations as a part of the guild’s rules. Once a year each guild celebrated their own special Mass, with special times for each guild. For example, the brewers’ Mass was celebrated on Monday after New Year’s while the tailors’ was on the Monday after Easter week.  Because of the guilds close association with the church, when the church was remodeled in 1671, the artist Johann Bellandt of Wessobrunn carved a number of statues of the apostles in honor of the guilds: Mathew for the butchers, Phillip for the bakers, John for the brewers, Bartholomew for the leather artisans, Jacob for the weavers, and Simon for the tailors.  I did not seem to find an apostle representing my ancestors’ trades though!

[Written for the 109th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: Places of Worship]

Genealogists are eagerly awaiting the release of the 1940 U.S. Federal Census in April 2012 so we can track down the information on all of our relatives. While Ancestry will have the images available for free, they will probably not be indexed for some time. For me, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing…my family’s track record for being recorded and indexed correctly is 5 out of 19 attempts from 1900 through 1930. Of the 14 entries that have incorrect spellings, 8 could be found via Soundex. That left 6 families that had to be found using other search methods. These 19 only include the surnames of my four grandparents – if I added in siblings of great-grandparents and grandparents with different surnames, the error count would be even higher. Here’s a look at how my family’s names fared in census indexing so far:

The Bergmeister Family

I have a lot of entries for the Bergmeister’s. First, he’s my only great-grandparent to be enumerated on the 1900 Census having just arrived to the U.S. in time. While neither he nor his wife are still alive for the 1930 Census, their two adult sons and one daughter have their own households by then. Also, my great-grandfather had a brother who is enumerated in 1910, and his widow takes over as head of the household for 1920 and 1930. Of the nine households total, only 3 were correct: Joseph Bergmeister in 1900 and 1910, and his son Joseph Bergmeister in 1930. Fortunately, no matter how creatively the name was spelled, it managed to show up in the Soundex most of the time.

Year Person Spelling Soundex
1910 Ignatz Berzminster N
1920 Joseph Burgmaster Y
1920 Theresa Birgmister Y
1930 Theresa Burgmeister Y
1930 Max Bergmuset Y
1930 Marie Bergmeistor Y

The Pater Family

I’m always amazed that a name like “Pater” could be misspelled so often. I mean, Pointkouski I can see, but Pater? There are only four instances of my Pater family in the census: Joseph Pater in 1910, 1920, and 1930 and his son Louis with his own household in 1930. At least they got it right half of the time!

Year Spelling Soundex
1910 Potter Y
1930 Rater N

The Zawodny Family

My great-grandfather Joseph Zawodny is in the 1910, 1920, and 1930 Census as well. However, you’ll only find him using a Soundex search in 1930 due to the rather creative spellings of his name.

Year Spelling Soundex
1910 Savonia N
1920 Cawodny N
1930 Zavodny Y

The Piontkowski Family

The Piontkowski’s were also in the U.S. for the 1910 through 1930 Census. I can’t tell you how long it took me to find them in 1910 – you’ll see why by the spelling shown below.

Year Spelling Soundex
1910 Kilkuskie N
1920 Pontdowke N
1930 Peontkowski Y

By 1940, only 3 of my great-grandparents are deceased. Both sets of grandparents are married, and it will be my parents’ first appearance on a federal census record! And many of the siblings of my grandparents and their cousins will have households of their own. No index? No problem! I’m already gathering the information that will help me find them in the 1940 Census: addresses! By using sources such as social security applications, draft registration cards, death certificates, city directories, and the 1930 address I should be able to get a fairly accurate idea of the various residences in 1940. I also intend to use Steve Morse’s site to determine the enumeration district (ED) where I need to begin my search. See his page on finding the ED based on 1930 addresses, or take the quiz! I can’t wait to see how all of my family names are misspelled in 1940!

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.]  

Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.  ~ Voltaire

Growing up, I ate dinner with my entire family – mom and dad, my brother, and my maternal grandmother (Nan) – seated around the same table eating a home-cooked meal.  I didn’t realize there was any other definition of “dinner”. I went to a friend’s house once and learned that there was such a thing as canned ravioli.  Fascinated at first, I was quickly repulsed after a taste. It sure wasn’t what Mom or Nan made.

As much as food made with love played a role in my life, the comfort of a family dinner came more from the family than the dinner entrée itself.  All the food was great (well, except for liver…I don’t wish to discuss it to this day, nor smell it). Specific memories are few, perhaps because all of the food was great and we tend to remember extraordinary events more than the ordinary.  And even though she never seemed to measure anything, use a recipe, or do the same thing twice, certain foods I’d call Mom’s specialties because they were always so good.  The legendary chicken soup, for example.  She made it just like Nan – and I am still not successful in trying to duplicate it. Mom’s roast chicken, stuffing, and mashed potatoes were the best.  From my younger years, I also remember that Nan’s homemade noodles for the chicken soup and her “dumplings” were extraordinary.  If the cooking gene is passed on through mitochondrial DNA, I may have a fighting chance of becoming a good cook one day.

Thanksgiving at the Pointkouski’s in 1994 with some of Mom’s standard best cooking. L-R: Mom, Lou, Dad, Lou’s mom Marge, Mr. & Mrs. S.

I never knew I had it so good – Mom made some of the best food I ever ate. I’d usually watch her cook and occasionally attempt to figure out how something was being made, but there was one thing that always got in the way of writing down a recipe – Mom never did the same thing twice.  If I’d ask how much of an ingredient just went into the pot, she’d look at me as if I had asked a question in a foreign language.  She didn’t follow recipes – she just cooked. “You’ll understand one day when you have to cook,” she explained.

But there is another category of Mom’s cooking that is even more memorable than the everyday favorites she made – her one-hit wonders.  While not using recipes is great for creativity, it sometimes makes it difficult to repeat a good thing exactly the same way.  She might make the dish again, but sometimes it didn’t taste quite as good as the first time.  Three one-hit wonders stand out in my memory as those special creations whose exact recipes were never to be duplicated again.

First, the cream puff.  It was December, 1985, and I had just finished exams for my very first semester of college. It was a Tuesday evening, and I was looking forward to watching Moonlighting when Mom decided to make some pastries.  As a treat, for no apparent “reason”, Mom made cream puffs.  The pastries were light and fluffy; the cream was oh-so-creamy and rich.  Simply put, the joy I felt about successfully ending my first college semester, a fun episode of my favorite show, and the expectation of a Christmas holiday was delectably combined into a food – this cream puff.  I don’t remember why Mom made them, but I certainly remember how good they tasted.

Mom’s next one-hit wonder was rather different from a pastry.  I have no specific memory of when or why, but I was in my 20s or early 30s when she decided to make her own eggrolls.  Lots of vegetables and chicken or shrimp were chopped, rolled, and fried.  The “recipe” was simple – but no matter how many times we made them after this first time, they never seemed to taste the same and were merely good instead of achieving the greatness of that first batch of eggrolls.

Finally, my Mom usually made me a cake for my birthday.  My cake of choice is always chocolate with vanilla frosting.  The frosting was always confectioner’s sugar with butter and maybe some cream cheese.  Sometimes she used a boxed cake mix, but one year she made the cake from scratch and used cocoa powder I had brought home from London and gave her as a gift.  The result was the ultimate re-gifting – while all of her cakes were good, this cake was The Best Birthday Cake Ever.  I think my parents and I almost ate the whole cake in one sitting.  Again, we don’t really know why it tasted the way it did – far be it from Mom to pay attention to ingredients she was throwing in the bowl.  But I can still remember feeling a childlike delight at the result.

Eventually I moved out and learned that in order to eat, I’d have to cook.  And as it turned out, Mom was right – you don’t need recipes once you know your way around a kitchen.  I should have known – are mothers ever really wrong?  In the years since, I’ve managed to make a few meals that have become my own personal standards and I’ve had a few one-hit wonders of my own.  My cooking may not always be as good as Mom’s, but I won’t stop trying!  Fortunately I can still call her for advice when I’m in the middle of destroying making something for dinner.  It’s like having my own personal “lifeline” with Julia Child on the line – “So, how do you know when the fill-in-the-blank is done again?”  Her answer?  It’s always right.

Written for the 108th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: Food!

“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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