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Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an “easy” button for genealogy?  Can’t find a record? Just press the “easy” button!  Well, occasionally even genealogists get lucky and find something easily.  Since so many record are available online, a lot of research can be as easy as clicking a button.  But when your ancestors lived in a state as vital-record-strict as Pennsylvania, or from parts of Poland and Germany that don’t seem to work with the big online record sites, “easy” isn’t common.

For my new year genealogy resolutions, I made a wish list list of 11 goals for 2011.  A few were research-specific, including number 9 – “Find the marriage record for Stanisław Piątkowski & Apolonia Konopka.”  I didn’t necessarily put it on the list because I thought it would be easy; it was just one of those records I needed to find in order to continue researching each of those ancestral lines.  I didn’t expect to achieve that goal eight days into the new year.  And it was easy!

I found the couple’s marriage record online.  Now, in today’s genealogical world, that doesn’t sound unusual.  It is quite common to find records online.  But a marriage record from Warsaw, Poland?  From 1863?  On a free online site that isn’t called FamilySearch and isn’t affiliated with Ancestry?  To borrow a phrase from Randy Seaver, I was genea-smacked.  If only the rest of my genealogical research could be this easy.  The source of my great-great-grandparents’ marriage record is called Geneteka.  If you want to learn more about what it is, what records are available, and how to use it, stay tuned for my next post.  If only research was always this easy…

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!


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!

Beginner researchers often post on mailing lists or genealogy forums, “Does anyone know where town xyz is?”  The typical answer from those “in the know” is a question:  Have you tried ShtetlSeeker?

ShtetlSeeker is an online database developed by JewishGen.  Researchers with no Jewish ancestry may not have heard of it, but if you haven’t you’re missing out on one of the best geographic resources on the internet.  Despite its name, it’s not just for Jewish communities (shtetl is a Yiddish word meaning “town”).  It is a database containing information on all towns in 45 different countries of Central & Eastern Europe, Northern Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia.  If your ancestors were Jewish, there is a separate search form that only looks at the towns with Jewish populations.

What’s so great about this particular database?  There are so many great features that it makes ShtetlSeeker far superior to any other online database or any paper map (and I am very fond of paper maps).  Here are some of the things that I especially like:

He said Woodge not Łódź

The database uses the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex for a “sounds like” search.  The Daitch-Mokotoff soundex is more useful for Slavic or Yiddish pronunciations than the “regular” American soundex, which is especially useful if you have Eastern European ancestry.  Let’s say you asked Grandpa where he was born, and he tells you “Mishzinof” in Poland.  Chances are you didn’t ask him to spell it, and there is no town with that name – at least not spelled the way you heard it.  If you enter MISHZINOF into the search form for a “sounds like” search, you will get 18 possible matches based on the similarity in pronunciation between the search term and the correct language’s spelling.  While you do not need to enter a search term with any special characters, the result will provide you with the correct accented letters in the native language.

Widen the search area

If your ancestors were like mine, they may have said they were from the “big city” nearby (Munich) when they were really from a smaller town that no one ever heard of (Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm).  I am currently researching an ancestor who listed a somewhat large town, Żyrardów, as her birthplace.  A search of the records didn’t find her family, so now I am looking at the towns closest to Żyrardów.  I could open up a map to do this.  Or, I can use ShtetlSeeker to find towns in a ten mile radius with the click of a button.

The beginning of a list of 190 places within ten miles of Zyrardow, Poland.

And then it was called…

Names change, especially town names in central and eastern Europe.  One feature of the database is that you not only see what the town may have been called at a particular time in recent history, but what it was called in other languages.  For example, you can quickly learn that Gdańsk, Poland, was once Danzig, Germany.  Or that my own Polish ancestors’ town, Żyrardów, was called Ruda Guzowska before 1833.  Or that Pécs, Hungary could also be known as Pečuh [Croatian], Pečuj [Serbian], Peçuy [Turkish], Fünfkirchen [German], Pětikostelí [Czech], Päťkostolie [Slovak], Pięciokościoły [Polish], Cinquechiese [Italian], Quinque Ecclesiae [Latin], or Cinq-Églises [French].

Places don't move, but country's boundaries do!

Multiple Towns

Above I indicated that one of my Pfaffenhofen ancestors said they were from Munich.  When I initially found the town name, written as “Pfaffenhoven” in a baptismal record, I discovered there were several towns in Germany with that name.  But, he said he was from Munich, so which of the many towns with that name are close to Munich?  With ShtetlSeeker, you can see a town’s distance from another town as a reference point.

Eeenie, meenie, minie, mo, which Ostroleka did they come fro'?

If you are Jewish, it’s even better!

I recently researched a friend’s grandfather, who listed his birthplace on a draft registration card as “Chernovitz, Austria”.  As there is no town with that specific name, I tried the ShtetlSeeker to perform a “sounds like” search.  The search result was a list of dozens of possibilities located in Poland, Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and other countries.  Then it dawned on me…my friend and his ancestors are Jewish!  After I limited the search to only towns with Jewish communities in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, the result was reduced to one:  Chernivtsi, Ukraine.  The findings show that pre-WWI the town was known as Czernowitz and was part of the Austrian Empire, so it is likely the correct birthplace for his grandfather.  There are also links to other databases on the JewishGen site related to the town.

Some of the additional town resources for Jewish communities.

Other Cool Tools

There are a few other cool things about the database, such as:

  • Links to actual maps – see the town and its region on multiple online map sites
  • Latitude and Longitude data for the town
  • 3 types of searches – Jewish Communities, places by name (all localities in Central and Eastern Europe), and location (localities within a certain distance of a given latitude / longitude coordinates).

If you have never used ShtetlSeeker, try it!  You may just find where you are searching for…

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!

#

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

2010: A Look Back

For the past few years I’ve enjoyed taking time on December 31st to reflect on the previous year.   I look forward to the new year and always make big plans on what I hope to do, or learn, or accomplish.  But I always feel that before I can move on, I want to take one more look at the preceding twelve months and remember what I did, learned, and accomplished.  2010 was definitely a year of transition for me.  I am not yet entirely certain what it is that I am transitioning towards, but I know that it looks different from what I thought I knew.  I can also see how far I’ve come and how much I’ve changed within.

In my world of genealogy, it was a year of highs and lows much like my personal life.  The genealogy highlight of the year was attending the NGS conference in Salt Lake City –  spending hours researching in the library and meeting all of my blogging friends was wonderful!  Later in the year, I visited Ellis Island for the very first time with genealogist friends and we had a great weekend in New York City.  In my research, I found some success on my Piątkowski line by finding my great-grandfather’s birth record in Warsaw.  Polish birth records from the early 1800s helped me fill in the names of eight 4th greats and four 5th greats.

In February, What’s Past is Prologue was named as one of Family Tree Magazine’s Top 40 genealogy blogs, and later in the year it was nominated for 2011.  But, this blog became one of my “lows” because I just didn’t write often enough.  Sometimes it was a result of being busy with fun things in my personal life, but other times it was because I was at a “low” and just didn’t care enough about genealogy or anything else to put any words on paper.

In my family, my mother had a milestone birthday as she turned 75.  Earlier in the year we had an enjoyable lunch with two of our Zawodny cousins.  My nieces and nephews continued to grow (literally, as the oldest is now quite taller than me) and they brightened my days every day I spent some time with them.  My friendships changed this year when some of my closer friends were kept distant for various reasons and some of my newer friends got closer.  Through Facebook, I found an old friend – and didn’t realize how much I missed him until we were back talking and laughing like the old days.

My travels were limited this year, and it was my first year without a trip to Europe in quite a while.  Other than Salt Lake City and New York, I had a few work trips to unexotic and unsunny locations – but one included a first-time visit with Jasia that was so much fun!  Every year I promise myself that I’ll get to the beach more than once.  And I can’t believe this is the third year in a row where I admit I had only ONE beach day.  At least if I could only have one day there, this one was very memorable!

I kept myself entertained throughout the year with the usual assortment of fun dinners with friends as well as movies, books, and music.  Early in the year a new friend helped remind me of how much I enjoy movies as he introduced me to several I had missed over the years.  I’m a big reader, but this year I really seemed to read a lot – so much that I wish I had kept a list of all the books.  In fact, if I had spent all my reading time writing a book myself, it would have been finished in no time!  Sheri Fenley got me started on the Outlander novels by Diana Gabaldon –the first was written twenty years ago, and now there are 7 rather lengthy novels.  I blew through all seven quickly this summer – about 7,000 pages!  Other favorite discoveries were thriller authors Gayle Lynds and Christopher Reich, and Sarah Dunant’s Sacred Hearts.  I tried to set the tone for my year in January by reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project and James Martin’s The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything.  Both will be re-read soon so their messages can sink in a little better!

The soundtrack for the first half of my year was Dan Wilson’s Free Life.  Although it wasn’t realeased this year, his haunting melodies and lyrics soothed my spirit considerably.  Two albums that were released this year that got me moving and singing were Hanson’s Shout it Out and the Indigo Girls’ newest live album, Staring Down the Brilliant Dream.  Through a unique series of happy accidents, I attended an Indigo Girls concert in October, and it was the best concert I have ever attended.  Most of their songs have brilliant lyrics that are more poetic that anything I studied in my English literature classes.  I eagerly awaited new releases from two of my favorite groups, the Gin Blossoms and Sister Hazel.  Surprisingly, both albums disappointed me.  In a completely different end of the musical spectrum, I saw John Michael Talbot perform for the first time in about twenty years with my brother – listening to JMT and spending time with my brother both brought back some memories of the old days!

My “year of transition” brought me many new things.  I started the year ending a long-term relationship.  I took a chance and started a new one, which didn’t last, but despite the ending I wouldn’t change a thing.  At least I took a chance, I had fun while it lasted, and he introduced me to quite a few things that are now a part of my life even though he is not.  I’m ending the year enjoying satellite tv, Boddington’s and Palm beers, a mold-free basement, a heated kitchen for the first time in eight years, and my acne resurgence is under control.  Sometimes things don’t turn out the way you plan, but (to quote a Semisonic album), I’m feeling strangely fine.

Some people devise a “word” to guide them through the next year, almost as a mantra.  I’m too long-winded for one word, so I thought of a few phrases to remember next year to help me be the person I want to be.  Yesterday I wrote about my genealogical goals; I have an even longer list of personal goals that I’d like to accomplish – which, if I’m having enough fun, may actually prevent me from getting to any genealogy goals.  My vision for 2011:

reach out – create – don’t wait – breathe – don’t give up

Bring it on!

Counting down from ten it’s time
To make your annual prayer
Secret Santa in the sky
When will I get my share

Then you tell yourself
What you want to hear
Cause you have to believe
This will be my year

~ This Will Be My Year, Semisonic

 

It’s that time of year again! The 101st edition of the Carnival of Genealogy asks us to make our genealogy research and writing plans for 2011.  But before I can look ahead, it’s time to take a peek in the rear-view mirror for a moment because one year ago today in the 87th COG I listed my genea-resolutions for this year.  How did I do?  Well, I said I would:

  • Go to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City – DONE! I attended the National Genealogical Society Family History Conference in April, 2010.  While I was there, I was able to complete a lot of research in the library and I had a great time meeting my genealogy and blogging friends.
  • Go back one more generation – FAILED, but not for a lack of trying.  My main goal was to find the birth record of my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Miller Pater.  I tried, and my hired researcher tried, but it hasn’t been accomplished – yet.  I chose two other lines to “go back” on but didn’t quite get to those either.  It’s too bad I didn’t name my Zawodny and Ślesiński lines last year, because I did go back one more on each.
  • Keep writing – FAILED MISERABLY with too few posts here and almost no magazine articles (only one published this year, and one that’s been “on hold” by the magazine for about eight months).
  • Find photographs – FAILED.  I can’t believe I can meet so many second cousins virtually and in  person and not see a single photograph of any of my grandparents or great-grandparents.  Maybe next year…

That was then, this is now.  The best thing about celebrating the New Year is starting over, and you need a plan to get started.  I tried listing just a few things last year and didn’t quite accomplish them.  But I’m pretty optimistic this week after a not-so-great-year, and I’m ready for new challenges.  So why not come up with eleven goals for 2011? (Note To Self when I read this next year: don’t wait until the last minute to write your “goals for next year” post, and do it before drinking some wine.)

Here is what I hope to accomplish with my genealogy in 2011 (in no particular order of importance):

  1. Attend the 2011 Southern California Genealogy Jamboree.
  2. Obtain a public speaking “gig” on a genealogical topic.
  3. FIND the Polish birth record of Elizabeth Miller Pater (Elżbieta Müller).
  4. Put my 2-year-old research plan into action to find the death dates of my 2nd great-grandparents in Bavaria.
  5. Post more frequently here (my goal from the blog’s beginning was always 3/week or 12/month).
  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).
  7. Get back to writing for some genealogy magazines, even if it’s only a few articles.
  8. Either get back to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City or at least rent a few films from my local one.
  9. Find the marriage record for Stanisław Piątkowski & Apolonia Konopka.
  10. Get organized by starting my database over from scratch to include all source information.
  11. Re-visit Poland and explore some of my ancestral towns.

Perhaps my list is too much wishful thinking and not enough realism, but one can’t achieve anything without a plan in place.  Can I do it?  Only time will tell…tune in next year and find out!

[Submitted for the 101st Carnival of Genealogy: My Genealogy Research/Writing Plan for 2011]

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)

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!)

“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:

Creativity and Genealogy – Daniel Hubbard of Personal Past Meditations muses on The Creative Act.  Is genealogy just facts and figures, or can it be a creative pursuit?  Read Daniel’s answer, especially the penultimate paragraph which beautifully explains how genealogy can be a creative act.

On the other hand… – Steve Danko of Steve’s Genealogy Blog explains Applying the Scientific Method to Genealogical Research (Part 1).   While the story of your family’s history is definitely enhnaced with creative acts, actually finding the history is next to impossible without applying a little bit of scientific thought.  Looking to develop some research plans next year?  Don’t even try it without using Steve’s methods found in his 5-part series.

One of my favorite records – Learn what you can find by investigating draft registration cards at pursuits of a desperate genie.  Genie talks about all the cool things you can find out about your ancestors in these records, which are why they are one of my favorites, too.

My Christmas Gift to Me – I just got a new Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner and I can’t wait to try it out. What convinced me to buy it was Janine Smith’s review at Tip Squirrel.  Read her Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner Review and I bet you ask Santa for one, too!

And now for something completely differentLearn how to Turn Your Digital Photos Into Incredible Paintings With Psykopaint at MakeUseOf.com.  The free online program allows you to transform your photos into paintings.  What a great way to get creative with your genealogy!

In case you missed it, Jasia posted the Call for Submissions for the 101st Carnival of Genealogy at Creative Gene.  And don’t forget to vote for Family Tree Magazine’s Best Genealogy Blogs for 2011 – last call is midnight on Monday!

Once again, Family Tree Magazine has announced the nominees for the “40 Best Genealogy Blogs” for 2011.  And once again, I’m honored to be in the running – thanks for anyone who nominated What’s Past is Prologue.  There are many great genealogy blogs on the list!  The voting polls close at midnight on December 20th, so head on over to the voting page where you can choose 5 nominees in the following categories: Everything, Cemeteries, Technology, Heritage Groups, Research Advice/How-to, Local/Regional Research, New Blogs, and My Family History.  Results will be announced in the magazine’s July 2011 issue.

Psst…What’s Past is Prologue is in the “My Family History” category!  If you’re a fan, please cast a vote!

Are you ready for some Christmas carols?  Today it’s time for the esteemed tradition of Christmas blog caroling!  This great tradition was begun by footnoteMaven and continues this year as genealogy bloggers everywhere “sing” their favorite carols.  And the very best part is – you don’t have to hear us sing (trust me, if you’ve never heard  me sing, it really is a good thing). 

My carol for this year is a classic: O Come All Ye Faithful

Oh come all ye faithful,joyful and triumphant,
Oh come ye, oh come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold him, born the king of angels,
  Oh come let us adore him, oh come let us adore him
  Oh come let us adore him, Christ the lord.

Sing, choirs of angels, sing with exultations,
Sing all ye citizens of heav’n above.
Glory to God, in the highest
  Oh come let us adore him, oh come let us adore him
  Oh come let us adore him, Christ the lord.

Yea, Lord we greet thee, born this happy morning,
Jesus, to thee be glory giv’n
Word of the father, now In flesh appearing
  Oh come let us adore him, oh come let us adore him
  Oh come let us adore him, Christ the lord.

My favorite part is when the song is sung in Latin:  Adeste fideles, laete triumphantes, Venite, venite in Bethlehem. Natum videte, Regem anglelorum.  Venite adoremus, venite adoremus,  venite adoremus, Dominum.

 

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Blog-Caroling of Years Past:

”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:

Making the Past Alive in the Present – Via a travel blog I read called Vagabondish, I found a post called Reviving the Ghosts of Amsterdam.  It points to twelve photographs at My Modern Met also called Ghosts of Amsterdam.  All I can say is “Wow!”  Anyone who loves old photos – and what genealogist doesn’t? – will be blown away.  The Met article includes a brief interview with the photographer, Jo Hedwig Teeuwisse.  Of course, we have a similar talent in our midst – Jasia at Creative Gene did the same thing last year with Melancholy Too and it was equally brilliant.  This is definitely on my “to do” list for next year.

Myth-Buster Extraordinaire - Leslie Albrecht Huber at The Journey Takers Blog busts the “name change” myth in Your Family’s Name Was Not Changed at Ellis Island.  I laughed out loud when she calls it the #2 myth next to the “I’m-descended-from-royalty/Indian-princess/Charlemagne/noble-who-fell-in-love-with-a-peasant-girl-and-stowed-away-on-a-ship-to-America-in-order-to-escape-thePrussian-military myth.”

Jesus’ Matrilineal Ancestry? - Scholars and medieval legends think that Mary’s grandmother was Ismeria, a descendant of King David.  Read more at Jesus’ Great-Grandmother Identified.

Those Dreaded Christmas Letters! - Penny Dreadful stops by The Family Curator and gives us an idea of what if would have been like If Our Ancestors Wrote Christmas Letters: Dreadful Greetings

The Most Important Day I Never Lived – Craig at Geneablogie gives us another gem with The Most Important Day of My Life: December 7, 1941.  No, Craig isn’t quite that old, but he recognizes the importance of that historical day on his own life.

It’s time for a much needed humor break, so welcome to the 2nd annual Festival of Strange Search Terms.  In August, 2009, I unleashed a flurry of amazingly bizarre yet true search terms that people used to “find” this blog in What are They Looking For? I have not been faithful at keeping track of the daily search terms and saving the “good” ones to make fun of publicize here – the free WordPress statistics thingy doesn’t archive every term and only counts the most recent unless you have many searches for the same terms.  Candidates for those multiple searches are not the, ahem, Exciting Topics but the “normal” searches like “Gene Kelly” (over 2,500 in the past year), Philadelphia marriage records (over 1,200), “meaning of What’s Past is Prologue” (300, usually around exam time), and the name of my childhood friend who I’ve only mentioned in two photo captions (34).  But I really should check every day because I’m guaranteed a chuckle a few times a week at the very least.  Once again, I’m amazed that people enter these phrases into the search engine of their choice.  And I’m amazed that they somehow wind up here using those phrases.  May I now present you with the best of the strange, odd, and downright scary search terms that have brought many visitors here in 2010 (note: these are actual search terms used):

GENEALOGY RELATED…SORT OF

can’t find marriage - Yeah, me neither.  Do you really have to rub it in?

renegade records philadelphia – Well, I’m certainly intrigued.  I’d love to learn more about these records myself…I’m sure I have a few renegades in my family!

someone came on a boat to united states – Here’s a hint…you might want to be a teensy bit more specific if you’re seaching for your ancestor.  I’ve heard there were actually lots of people that came on a boat to the United States.

only had six great great grandparents – Hmm.  I’m pretty sure you had sixteen unless there was quite a bit of either incest or first-cousin marriages.

VAGUE SEARCHES

german man – I really hope this wasn’t a beginner genealogist’s first attempt at a query!

my ancestors that are from the past – As opposed to your ancestors that are from the future?

unusual situation – I’ve mentioned a few in this blog, but you are looking for one because…?

what + (past)? – Haven’t + (clue)!

MAKE ME LOL

super-finder of passenger arrival record – Yes, that’s me!  How may I help you?

name labeling for babies – Labeling?!

family portrait dog 60′s – Many genealogists search for portraits of their ancestors.  Or their dogs.

regal family photo shoot – Oh, they must have been looking for the final photo on this post.

patron saint of parking - Thanks to Dr. Danko’s comment, I’ll get this one a lot from now on.

facebook from the past - I’m fairly certain my grandparents didn’t have Facebook back in the 1930s.

REALLY?

recruitment posters american revolution – Did they have them?  Wasn’t secrecy best when it comes to seditious rebellion?

shakespeare baptism act church – I can only wonder if the searcher wants to know about Shakespeare’s own baptism or one he wrote about.  Either/or, I’m relatively sure I didn’t write about it!

take me back to december 31, 1957 – Wait, let me gas up the Delorean!

what is “*” – Maybe this one belongs under “Make Me LOL”

may i ask what this is in regards to? - Funny, I have the same question!

CALL ME

the family of walburga schober – No, seriously, email me.  She’s my 4th great-grandmother!

So there you have it!  The next edition of this search term carnival will include more bizarre, freakish, and unusual ways that bring me more traffic!  If you’re a genealogy blogger, do you encounter these strange and unusual researchers?  Tell me about your best search terms!  Until next time, I remain the Queen and Super-Finder of Renegade Name-Labeled Regal Dog Portraits.  Hmm, let them find that the next time they search for an “unusual situation”!

“Donna’s Picks” is my occasional feature to highlight other blogs, posts, or articles that may be of interest to my fellow genealogists.   I haven’t posted many picks this year, but several articles caught my eye this week.  Because some were in non-genealogy blogs, I wanted to pass them along.  Sit back and enjoy the following links:

Christopher Columbus’ Genealogy (psst…don’t tell the Italians!)Witaj w rodzinie to Christopher Columbus! (That’s Polish for “Welcome to the family.”) Researchers seem to think that the sometimes-Italian, sometimes-Portuguese explorer is descended from the Polish King Władysław III!  There are dozens of news stories about the find, which they hope to prove with DNA testing.  Read “Christopher Columbus was the son of a Polish king, historian says” from Medieval News on 11/29 and Christopher Columbus discovers…He Is POLISH from Stanczyk – Internet Muse today.

Haunting Images - I found some beautiful black and white photographs of tombstones at The Bow Tie Man (aka Daily Parallax) on 11/30 and 12/1.  See them at Magnificent Markers and More Magnificent Markers. He needs to become a Graveyard Rabbit photographer!

Creative Family History – Denise Barrett Olson offers genealogists a great example of a creative way to present your family’s history.  See Cecil B. DeMille is Calling, published at Moultrie Creek on 12/1.  Get in touch with your inner filmmaker and you’ll have a great Christmas present to give your family!

How to Make Your Friends Jealous - All of us have been admiring Becky Wiseman’s travels for over a year now, and marveling at her beautiful photography.  But Becky really made me (and Apple) jealous this week with Ahhh…. with apologies to Apple… published at kinexxions on 11/30. I’ll think of you, Becky, and hope you’re having a great time as I crank up the heat in my house!

The Jesse Tree in an Illuminated Manuscript

‘Tis the Season…to celebrate Jesus’ Family Tree - Advent is here, and one of the ways to celebrate the season is with a Jesse Tree.  Jesse was the father of King David, and Jesus’ ancestor.  Read more about this tradition in Who is Jesse and Why Should We Care About His Tree? published on 11/28 at Spiritual Woman.  A great explanation on the history and ornaments can be found here at Catholic Culture.  What’s interesting is that images in art of the Jesse Tree look like a reverse version of a genealogical tree in that Jesse is at the “bottom” of the tree, not at the top.  This is depicted due to the prophecy in Isaiah 11:1 in which “a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.”

Enjoy the week, and don’t forget to stay tuned at Creative Gene for the 100th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy that will appear this week!

The following article first appeared on July 25, 2009 for my The Humor of It…Through a Different Lens column for Shades of the Departed.   footnoteMaven has graciously allowed me to reprint my Humor of It articles here on What’s Past is Prologue.  I’m currently on hiatus writing this column for Shades, but I encourage you to visit the latest edition of the digital magazine (The Mourning Issue) for some excellent writing and photography!

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Other than hearing the songs I listened to in high school on the “oldies” station, the one thing that truly makes me feel old is not being understood by children. It happened one day while out on a drive with my nieces. We passed a tiny shack on the side of the road that sold water ice, and they found it hysterical because it was so small.

“It looks like a Fotomat!” I exclaimed.

No recognition appeared on their faces. “A what?” asked the 13-year-old.

“You know, the little Fotomat huts…” But then I realized – no, she doesn’t know. By the time she was born, Fotomats were already a thing of the past – as extinct in the photographic world as daguerreotypes and box cameras. It was time for a history lesson.

“The Fotomat was a little shack, usually in a parking lot of a shopping center, and you would drive up to the window and drop off your film to get developed.” I explained this with the sincerity of a lesson on Ancient Rome or the Civil War.

Kodak Fotomat – 1960s courtesy of Roadside Pictures http://www.flickr.com/photos/roadsidepictures/59812776/

“Film? Like a movie?” she asked. “What do you mean by ‘get developed’?”

This was going to be harder than I thought. “Ah, it was in your camera – like a memory card. Getting prints made was called getting it developed.”

Suddenly I was nostalgic for that little blue building with the yellow roof that sat in the middle of the parking lot of the supermarket. What I remember most about the Fotomat experience is the one thing lacking in today’s digital world – the anticipation. One of the best things about digital cameras for me is the ability to instantly see your shot on an LCD screen. Instant gratification! As great as this is, and as useful in photography, sometimes the things worth waiting for were better. Well, maybe not better – but different. And there’s something to be said for that anticipation!

I began taking photographs with my own camera at the age of 11, and since you couldn’t see them as you took them (unless you had a Polaroid, of course), it was always interesting to see how your photos “turned out”. Or in some cases, what was on that roll of film. In your family, did you ever find a roll of film in a drawer that appeared to be used, but no one ever knew what it was from? Well, all you had to do was drive up to the window at the Fotomat, drop it off, and wait a day. You’d get to see your pictures when you picked them up!

I was fascinated by these little huts. Did they actually develop the film in there? How? If you worked there, what did you do when there were no cars in line? And how do you fit a bathroom in there?

The first Fotomat drive-thru kiosk opened in the late 1960s in Point Loma, California. By 1980, there were 4,000 sites throughout the country. Customers could receive their prints in one day, but when the first film developers began to offer prints in one hour, Fotomat was doomed. It’s ironic, because today I would have assumed that the thing that killed it – 1-hour developing – would have made it viable. After all, in the 21st century people like to spend more time in their car than at home. They can buy and eat breakfast, visit the bank, pick up prescriptions, get lunch, buy some groceries, get the car washed, drop off their dry cleaning, and pick up dinner without ever leaving the car. So why wouldn’t Fotomats work today? Drop off your memory card and pick up your prints in an hour! I think it would work, but the shacks were too small – especially for film developing, which was a more complex process than printing digital photos today.

By the mid-1980’s, the familiar huts were gone. The one I used to use was torn down long ago, but in some cases the huts were recycled into other uses from selling snow cones to cigarettes. The most creative re-use I’ve found so far is as a chapel! Imagine that – a prayer shack!

Copyright 2008 Michael Poulin http://www.dyingindowney.com

After we stopped at the former Fotomat for water ice, my nieces learned all about what photography was like when I was growing up. I was proud at having done my duty passing down my memories of bygone things. The 13-year-old was going to tell her friends about the weird customs of their parents. “Okay,” she said, hoping I’d stop talking about the past. “I get it!”

The 4-year-old suddenly joined in the conversation. Nodding her head, she looked at me and asked matter-of-factly, “But why didn’t you just print the pictures at home?”

That would be a lesson for another day – let’s go take some photos instead!

Surname - HÖCK

Meaning/Origin – According to the Dictionary of German Names, Second Edition by Hans Bahlow, the name HÖCK be dervived from either dwelling near a hedge (hecke) or from street trader or huckster (höcke).

Countries of Origin – The surname HÖCK is German.

Spelling Variations – The surname has many variations in the records even within my own family, including HOECK, HÖCKH, HECKH or HECK, and HICKH.

Surname Maps – The following maps illustrate the frequency of the HÖCK surname in Germany and Austria.  First, in Germany the surname had 914 entries in 183 different counties with approximately 2,432 people with this name.

Distribution of the surname HÖCK in Germany.

SOURCE: Geogen Surname Mapping database, accessed November 27, 2010.

In Austria, the surname had 314 entries in 40 different counties with approximately 832 people with this name.

Distribution of the surname HÖCK in Austria.

SOURCE: Geogen Surname Mapping database, accessed November 27, 2010.

Famous Individuals with the Surname – Stefan Höck was a German biathlete who won a silver medal in the 1988 Olympics.

My Family – My HÖCK family comes from Bavaria, and it is the surname of my 4th great-grandmother, Maria Theresia Höck Nigg.  Although Maria was born in Bavaria, her father came from Tirol (Tyrol, Austria).

My line of descent is as follows: Simon HECKH > Johann Baptiste Höck (b. unknown in Hopfau, Tirol, m. Gertraudt PAUR on 18 Feb 1765 in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria, d. unknown in Pfaffenhofen a.d. Ilm) > Maria Theresia Höck (b. 27 Apr 1769 in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria,  m. Karl Nigg on 10 May 1794 in Pfaffenhofen, d. after 1814 in Pfaffenhofen).

I have not yet researched all of the other children of Johann and Gertraudt Höck, but I did find births for Maria Catharina born in 1766, Johann Michael born in 1767, and Maria Magdalena born in 1770.

Johann Baptiste Höck was a zimmerman or carpenter.  Pfaffenhofen’s häuserchronik indicates that he was in town by 1765 for his marriage to Gertraudt Paur.  In this book, his surname is listed as Hickh (Höckh) and it says he is from the town of Hoepfau in Tirol.  His actual marriage record spells his name as Heckh, and says his father, Simon Heckh, is from the town of “Schofau” from Tirol.  The handwriting is difficult to decipher.  By 1773, Johann Höck is listed in the häuserchronik as the stadtzimmermeister, or the town’s master carpenter.  Research on Johann, his family, and his origins is ongoing.

My Research Challenges – While there does not seem to be a town called Hoepfau in the Tyrollean region of Austria, there is a Hopfau in Steiermark.  There is also a Hopferau in the Schwaben area of Bavaria in Germany, which is far enough south to have been within the boundaries of Tirol, Austria back at the time my Johann Höck would have been born and moved to Pfaffenhofen.  I can not find any town that appears similar to the “Schofau” on the handwritten marriage record.  At any rate, more research is needed to uncover these “Austrian” roots!

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

This post is #10 of an ongoing series about surnames. To see all posts in the series, click here.

Surname - HÖCK

Meaning/Origin – According to the Dictionary of German Names, Second Edition by Hans Bahlow, the name HÖCK be dervived from either dwelling near a hedge (hecke) or from street trader or huckster (höcke).

Countries of Origin – The surname HÖCK is German.

Spelling Variations – The surname has many variations in the records even within my own family, including HOECK, HÖCKH, HECKH or HECK, and HICKH.

Surname Maps – The following maps illustrate the frequency of the HÖCK surname in Germany and Austria.  First, in Germany the surname had 914 entries in 183 different counties with approximately 2,432 people with this name.

Distribution of the surname HÖCK in Germany.

SOURCE: Geogen Surname Mapping database, http://christoph.stoepel.net/geogen/en/Default.aspx, accessed November 27, 2010.

In Austria, the surname had 314 entries in 40 different counties with approximately 832 people with this name.

Distribution of the surname HÖCK in Austria.

SOURCE: Geogen Surname Mapping database, http://christoph.stoepel.net/geogen/en/Default.aspx, accessed November 27, 2010.

Famous Individuals with the Surname – Stefan Höck was a German biathlete who won a silver medal in the 1988 Olympics.

My Family – My HÖCK family comes from Bavaria, and it is the surname of my 4th great-grandmother, Maria Theresia Höck Nigg.  Although Maria was born in Bavaria, her father came from Tirol (Tyrol, Austria).

My line of descent is as follows: Simon HECKH > Johann Baptiste Höck (b. unknown in Hopfau, Tirol, m. Gertraudt PAUR on 18 Feb 1765 in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria, d. unknown in Pfaffenhofen a.d. Ilm) > Maria Theresia Höck (b. 27 Apr 1769 in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria,  m. Karl Nigg on 10 May 1794 in Pfaffenhofen, d. after 1814 in Pfaffenhofen).

I have not yet researched all of the other children of Johann and Gertraudt Höck, but I did find births for Maria Catharina born in 1766, Johann Michael born in 1767, and Maria Magdalena born in 1770.

Johann Baptiste Höck was a zimmerman or carpenter.  Pfaffenhofen’s häuserchronik indicates that he was in town by 1765 for his marriage to Gertraudt Paur.  In this book, his surname is listed as Hickh (Höckh) and it says he is from the town of Hoepfau in Tirol.  His actual marriage record spells his name as Heckh, and says his father, Simon Heckh, is from the town of “Schofau” from Tirol.  The handwriting is difficult to decipher.  By 1773, Johann Höck is listed in the häuserchronik as the stadtzimmermeister, or the town’s master carpenter.  Research on Johann, his family, and his origins is ongoing.

My Research Challenges – While there does not seem to be a town called Hoepfau in the Tyrollean region of Austria, there is a Hopfau in Steiermark.  There is also a Hopferau in the Schwaben area of Bavaria in Germany, which is far enough south to have been within the boundaries of Tirol, Austria back at the time my Johann Höck would have been born and moved to Pfaffenhofen.  I can not find any town that appears similar to the “Schofau” on the handwritten marriage record.  At any rate, more research is needed to uncover these “Austrian” roots!

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

Surname – HÖCK

Meaning/Origin – According to the Dictionary of German Names, Second Edition by Hans Bahlow, the name HÖCK be dervived from either dwelling near a hedge (hecke) or from street trader or huckster (höcke).

Countries of Origin – The surname HÖCK is German.

Spelling Variations – The surname has many variations in the records even within my own family, including HOECK, HÖCKH, HECKH or HECK, and HICKH.

Surname Maps – The following maps illustrate the frequency of the HÖCK surname in Germany and Austria.  First, in Germany the surname had 914 entries in 183 different counties with approximately 2,432 people with this name.

Distribution of the surname HÖCK in Germany.

SOURCE: Geogen Surname Mapping database, http://christoph.stoepel.net/geogen/en/Default.aspx, accessed November 27, 2010.

In Austria, the surname had 314 entries in 40 different counties with approximately 832 people with this name.

Distribution of the surname HÖCK in Austria.

SOURCE: Geogen Surname Mapping database, http://christoph.stoepel.net/geogen/en/Default.aspx, accessed November 27, 2010.

Famous Individuals with the Surname – Stefan Höck was a German biathlete who won a silver medal in the 1988 Olympics.

My Family – My HÖCK family comes from Bavaria, and it is the surname of my 4th great-grandmother, Maria Theresia Höck Nigg.  Although Maria was born in Bavaria, her father came from Tirol (Tyrol, Austria).

My line of descent is as follows: Simon HECKH > Johann Baptiste Höck (b. unknown in Hopfau, Tirol, m. Gertraudt PAUR on 18 Feb 1765 in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria, d. unknown in Pfaffenhofen a.d. Ilm) > Maria Theresia Höck (b. 27 Apr 1769 in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria,  m. Karl Nigg on 10 May 1794 in Pfaffenhofen, d. after 1814 in Pfaffenhofen).

I have not yet researched all of the other children of Johann and Gertraudt Höck, but I did find births for Maria Catharina born in 1766, Johann Michael born in 1767, and Maria Magdalena born in 1770.

Johann Baptiste Höck was a zimmerman or carpenter.  Pfaffenhofen’s häuserchronik indicates that he was in town by 1765 for his marriage to Gertraudt Paur.  In this book, his surname is listed as Hickh (Höckh) and it says he is from the town of Hoepfau in Tirol.  His actual marriage record spells his name as Heckh, and says his father, Simon Heckh, is from the town of “Schofau” from Tirol.  The handwriting is difficult to decipher.  By 1773, Johann Höck is listed in the häuserchronik as the stadtzimmermeister, or the town’s master carpenter.  Research on Johann, his family, and his origins is ongoing.

My Research Challenges – While there does not seem to be a town called Hoepfau in the Tyrollean region of Austria, there is a Hopfau in Steiermark.  There is also a Hopferau in the Schwaben area of Bavaria in Germany, which is far enough south to have been within the boundaries of Tirol, Austria back at the time my Johann Höck would have been born and moved to Pfaffenhofen.  I can not find any town that appears similar to the “Schofau” on the handwritten marriage record.  At any rate, more research is needed to uncover these “Austrian” roots!

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

This post is #10 of an ongoing series about surnames. To see all posts in the series, click here.

This post is #10 of an ongoing series about surnames. To see all posts in the series, click here.

Poster courtesy of footnoteMaven.com

Come one, come all, to family reunion event of the year!  It’s the 100th edition of the Carnival of GenealogyCarnival? No, not the kind of carnival with rides and cotton candy!  In the blogging world, a carnival is an event that offers bloggers the opportunity to write a post centered around a different topic.  The Carnival of Genealogy (COG), created by Jasia of Creative Gene, is celebrating its 100th edition…a noteworthy event in the blogging world!  For this special edition, the topic is “There’s One in Every Family” – what that one is depends on your own interpretation and imagination!

Jasia has Polish ancestry like me, and in Poland there is a special saying used on birthdays and other occasions, “Sto Lat!”  Literally, it means “one hundred years”, and it a wish for many more birthdays to celebrate.  So I’m sure Jasia won’t mind if I refer to this COG as the Sto Lat Edition – join me in wishing her a joyous Sto Lat by submitting your post.  The COG has been a wonderful mainstay of the genealogy blogging community – may there be many more editions that enable us to share our family histories with each other.

Jasia’s dream for the 100th COG is to have a family reunion of sorts with contributions from past contributors as well as new bloggers.  Can we help her reach her goal of 100 submissions?  There are already about 40, so we have quite a few more to go to reach the goal by the deadline of December 1st.  I think we can do it!  Show your spirit, and join in the fun.  Whether you’ve submitted before or not doesn’t matter – you’re part of our family anyway.  Please help Jasia get 100 submissions…I’d hate to have to write another dozen submissions just from me, or strongarm some of my fellow genea-brothers and genea-sisters into submitting more than one, but that’s what I’ll do if I have to!  For more information, see Jasia’s Important COG Reminder and submit your blog article to the 100th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy using the carnival submission form. I’ll see you at the reunion!

Two years ago (nearing the end of my very first year of blogging), I wrote “Things I’m Thankful For on My Genealogical Quest”.  Nothing has changed since then – I am still very thankful for each of those things that have been helpful to me as I research my family’s history!  You can read the specifics about what they are and why I’m thankful at the original post.  I’m still very thankful for those things for all the same reasons.  But, there is even more to be thankful of!  In the spirit of gratitude as we celebrate Thanksgiving, and in keeping with the genealogy theme of this blog, I’ve found Ten More Things I’m Thankful For on My Genealogical Quest:

1.   Ancestry.com – Genealogical records are now available on many different online sites, but the biggest of these – at the moment, anyway – is Ancestry.  I found many of my original discoveries at NARA, but thanks to digitization efforts and Ancestry’s interface, I can find them again and so many new discoveries easily and quickly.  The subscription costs more than I’d like to spend, but so far it’s been worth it to have easy access to so many records (and I could access the free version at the library if I wanted).

2.   Digital cameras – what does this have to do with genealogy, you ask?  Today’s digital cameras can do so many things.  Not only can I use it to photograph the family houses, cemeteries, towns, and workplaces – as well as all the new cousins I’ve met – but I can use the macro feature to photograph documents, microfilmed images, and even other photographs.  Don’t leave home without it!

3.    Genealogical Societies – Genealogical societies are one of the best sources for locality-specific or ethnicity-specific information.  I found a lot of unique record sources through the Polish Genealogical Society of America’s databases, resources, and publications.

4.    Genealogy Conferences – I attended my first one this year, and what fun it was!  Not only is a conference a great opportunity to increase your knowledge about a myriad of research-related topics, but it’s also a chance to make new friends that love genealogy as much as you do!

5.    Genealogy Blogs – While I included “the geneablogging community” in my last list, this time I mean the blogs themselves versus the bloggers.  I’ve learned so much from genealogy blogs!  Blogs are a wonderful and free resource for learning about research methods, records, online tools, and more.  Even a “personal” family history story can benefit you if you recognize a technique someone else used in their research that you hadn’t thought about.

6.    The COG – The COG, otherwise known as the Carnival of Genealogy, is the biweekly/monthly opportunity for genealogy bloggers to write posts on the same theme.  Everyone writing on the same topic?  What sounds like a recipe for boredom becomes a delicacy of creativity!  Especially in the hands of the COG-chef herself, Jasia, who organizes the entries and somehow keeps coming up with interesting topics after all these years.  I started blogging after reading other bloggers’ COG entries, and many of my fellow bloggers have said exactly the same thing.   I am thankful to participate in it, and I’m thankful to read all of the other entries.  And I can’t wait for the special 100th edition in December!

7.   Genea-friends who help me research – They shall remain nameless because they’d be embarrassed otherwise (you know who you are), but there are at least a half dozen genealogy bloggers that have helped me with research.  These tasks have included such things as traveling to a distant library to find some obscure book, looking up a record on microfilm, copying pages out of reference books, looking up an online record that I don’t have access to, and providing me with free translations of foreign-language records.  Do they do these things because they love research so much?  Well, that might be part of it – but they do it because they are my friends.  Some I have met in person, and some I am still waiting to meet.  But I love them all – not just because they do such nice things for me, but because they are simply wonderful people.  I am so grateful to have great friends!

8.   Genea-friends – The research they do belongs in a special category, but so does the friendship.  I met several friends this year that were previously just email addresses, Facebook friends, and bloggers.  Now they are dinner and travel companions and the nicest bunch of people I ever met.  And the funniest!  Here’s to more good times! [Photo above is from an actual genea-friend dinner this year.]

9.   The Immigrants Came Here – While I included this as a part of thanking my ancestors in the last list, I have to reiterate how grateful I am that eight individuals made the life-changing decision to leave their homelands forever and travel to the United States. Because of them, I am an American.  And for that, I am very thankful.  I am very proud of my ethnic heritage and I love learning about the countries from which they came.  But I love my country, and I am thankful for all of the blessings and freedoms that I have because of where my family moved.

10.   My parents – I’m very thankful for my parents and for the fact that they are still here to continue to tell me the stories about their parents and grandparents.  I’m taking notes so that their grandchildren will know those stories, too.  I love you, Mom & Dad – thanks for all you’ve given me!

~ Happy Thanksgiving! ~

There’s one in every family…the one who vanished.  Or at least seems to have vanished.  That mysterious figure that family members whisper about.  That person known in name only with no photographs as a remembrance.  That relative about whom know one really knows what happened.

My grandfather’s sister, the aunt my father never met, ran away and disappeared.  At least that’s how the story goes.  I was successful in documenting the beginning of her life, but then she disappears from public records without a trace.  She is the family legend – the one who disappeared.

Janina Piątkowska was born on December 29, 1905 in Warsaw, Poland to Jan Piątkowski and Rozalia nee Kizoweter.  The family lived in the Wola section of the city, and she was baptized at St. Stanisława Church.  Janina had an older brother, Józef, who was born two years earlier.

Just a few months after Janina was born, her father left for the United States.  He settled in Philadelphia, PA and found work in the same occupation he had in Poland – leatherworking.  He also began using his Americanized name, John Piontkowski.  It would be over six months before the rest of the family could join him in America.  In late October, 1906, Rozalia boarded the SS Armenia in Hamburg, Germany with 3-year-old Józef and almost 1-year-old Janina.  They arrived at Ellis Island on November 10, 1906.

By 1910, the Piontkowski family was living on Huntingdon Street in Philadelphia (listed as the Kilkuskie family in the census).  On July 6, 1910, my grandfather James was born.  He would later be called the “surprise” baby; mother Rose was 44 and father John was 39.

In 1920, the family lived on Waterloo Street in Philadelphia.  John worked in a leather factory, 18-year-old Joseph worked in a file factory, and teenager “Jennie” worked as a cigarette-maker in a cigarette factory.  Nine-year-old James attended school, and mother Rose did not work outside of the home.  Later that year, John formally declared his intent to become a U.S. citizen.

In 1922, John filed his petition for naturalization, and all three children – Joseph, Jennie, and James – were still listed as living with him.  His naturalization was finalized on May 11, 1923.

In the 1930 census, the family lives in yet another Philadelphia residence – this one on N. Front Street. Joseph is now married, and his wife Catherine and their 2-year-old daughter Josephine are living with John and Rose.  Twenty-year-old James is living with them, but his sister Jennie is no longer with them.  Where did she go?

The story of “Jennie” – also called by her birth name “Janina” and “Jean” or “Jeannie” – was passed on from my grandfather to his children.  I have no other documented facts about her beyond the 1922 petition of her father, just the story as told by her younger brother.  He said that she was working as a waitress and met a “rich” doctor.  They fell in love, he offered to “take her away” from the drudgery of the family’s working-class life, and they “ran off” to Florida.  End of story.

My grandfather never heard from his sister again.  I searched the Philadelphia marriage indexes for a marriage record, but did not find one.  This isn’t necessarily unusual – although my grandparents and one set of great-grandparents all lived in Philadelphia at the time of their marriage, they actually got married in three different towns outside of the city’s limits.  But without knowing Jennie’s married name, I haven’t been able to find out any more information about her.  The only certainty is that she did either run away or move away and never had contact with her family again.  Did she know that her mother died in 1937?  Or that her father tragically took his own life in 1942?  Her older brother Joseph, who used the surname Perk, died in 1953, leaving young children from two different marriages.

At the age of 43, my grandfather had lost all of his immediate family members – except possibly for his big sister.  He even named his daughter Jean in honor of his sister, but neither Jean nor his son James would ever meet their mysterious aunt.

If Jennie really did fall in love and run away to get married, it may be most romantic story in my family’s history – even more so if she married a wealthy doctor who could give her luxuries she never knew in childhood.  Did she live happily ever after?  Or did she encounter tragedy?  I certainly hope that her life was long and happy.  Did she have children?  If she did, did she tell them her birth name and where she grew up?  Unfortunately, there are some questions that are not easily answered when researching family history, especially when it’s a family mystery.

There’s one unsolved mystery in every family, and mine is my grandaunt Jennie.  I know a little about the beginning of her life; I hope to one day learn the truth about the rest of it.  Whether it’s a romantic dream or a tragic tale, you probably have one, too – there’s one in every family!

Photo courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales.  No, this isn’t Jennie, but I thought it best represented her story!

[Submitted for the 100th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy - There's One in Every Family!]

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