Wordless Wednesday Photo

While Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France is most known for its graves of the rich and famous, the graves of the beloved unknown by far outnumber the famous dozens.  While there last September, I spotted this heartfelt monument:

Gareau Tombstone

Pierre Gareau died 30 August 1815, age 49, leaving a widow and six children.  This truly represents the grief his widow must have felt.

This post has some photos of the more famous folks buried there while this page has a bit on the history of the cemetery.


A Bavarian Hometown

MapMy Bavarian great-grandparents’ hometown was Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, just north of Munich. Only my great-grandmother, Maria Echerer Bergmeister, was born in the town and her family had lived there for centuries. My great-grandfather, Joseph Bergmeister, was born nearby and went there to work for his uncle. Pfaffenhofen was the site of the couple’s wedding in 1897 and the birth of their first child a year later, a daughter. He left home in 1900 to immigrate to America, and mother and daughter joined him there in 1902. Did they ever miss their hometown? What was Pfaffenhofen like?

Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm is located in the Hallertau region of Bavaria, which is the largest hop producing area in the world. The region is in Oberbayern, or Upper Bavaria, and it has a long history. The area was likely first settled by monks from the Benedictine monastery in Ilmmünster in the 8th Century. Their estate was called Pfaffenhöfe or Priests’ station and was located north of the current town. Four centuries later, Duke Ludwig I, called Ludwig the Kelheimer, founded the market town of Pfaffenhofen where the Ilm and Gerolsbach rivers meet. The town was mentioned by name as early as 1140, and by 1197 it was called a “market town”. By 1318, Pfaffenhofen was referred to as a fortified settlement.

Pfaffenhofen ad Ilm Coat of ArmsFrom 1387-1389, the Städtekrieg, a war between Swabian towns and Bavarian dukes, was fought throughout Southern Germany. Pfaffenhofen became one of the war’s victims when it was nearly completely destroyed by fire in 1388. When the town was reconstructed, it was surrounded by a circular wall with four gates and 17 towers. The Pfänderturm is one of the original 17 towers and the only one still standing today. By 1438, Pfaffenhofen officially received recognition as a “town”.

Engraving of Pfaffenhofen, 1687

[This is an engraving of Pfaffenhofen by Anton W. Ertl in 1687. The town’s wall, two of the gates, and many of the towers are clearly visible.]

Another war left a significant mark on the town. In 1632, soldiers fighting in the Thirty Years’ War were billeted to houses in town. One of the soldiers had the plague and the disease quickly spread. Of the 1,800 inhabitants, only 700 survived the outbreak. It would take Pfaffenhofen another 200 years to reach the same population.

Population growth was never a problem after that time. The town continued to attract residents. While the population was about 4,000 at the beginning of the 20th Century, it is now closer to 23,000.

The town square, or hauptplatz, has existed on roughly the same site since the town was founded centuries ago. The square has many unique and beautiful buildings. Standing majestically at one end of the square is the town’s church, St. Johannes Baptist. The church was built in 1393 in the Gothic style to replace the Romanesque style church destroyed by the 1388 fire. After The Thirty Years’ War, the interior was renovated in the Baroque style. The steeple, about 253 feet high, was first built in 1531. Destroyed by a lightening strike in June, 1768, it was immediately rebuilt. Most important for descendents of Pfaffenhofen’s Catholic residents is the existence of parish baptismal, marriage, and death records dating back to 1597.

Hauptplatz, St. John's

[Two views of St. John’s Church in the Hauptplatz. The left photo is from 1875, the right from 1998.]

Pfaffenhofen’s maypole is in front of the church in the square. Erecting a white and blue painted maypole became a tradition in Bavaria in the 16th Century. In the 18th century, symbols and shields of different worker’s guilds were added to the pole, and this is how Pfaffenhofen’s maypole is decorated today.

Interior of St. John\'s church, Altar

You will also see evidence of the former worker’s guilds inside the parish church. Each guild had some church obligations as a part of the guild’s rules. Once a year each guilds 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 apostle statues honoring 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.

Because I do not read German very well, information about famous residents of Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm is difficult to find. Two individuals seem to have made a difference in the town and are worth a mention here. When I first visited Pfaffenhofen, I was surprised to see a street named after Joseph Bergmeister. They named a street after my great-grandfather? No, but they named a street after someone with the same name – his first cousin. Cousin Joseph was born on 11 August 1874, a year and a half after my great-grandfather. Unlike his older cousin, Joseph never left Pfaffenhofen. He became instrumental in introducing electricity to the town in the early 1900s. In recognition for his work, he received a medal from the town in 1934 and an honorary doctorate from the Technical College of Aachen. He died on 31 October 1950. I’m not sure when a street was named in his honor, but you can drive down Dr-Bergmeister-Strasse today! (The first name Joseph is still valued in the Bergmeister family today – you will find Joseph Bergmeisters on both sides of the ocean who are related, whether they know it or not, as 3rd and 4th cousins. In my own family there are five generations of Joseph Bergmeister’s so far.)

Another more famous Joseph from Pfaffenhofen is the poet Joseph Maria Lutz (1893-1972). He was born in Pfaffenhofen, gained recognition as a poet, and today there is a museum in his honor in town. He is also known for adding a verse to the Bavarian anthem in 1946. As there is no longer a king of Bavaria, Lutz wrote a new verse to replace the stanza about the king.

One of Joseph Maria Lutz’s poems is entitled “Hometown.” Written in 1965, the poem shares his feelings about Pfaffenhofen. The following translation was provided by Mr. Robert Wilkinson:


The houses line themselves cuddle cozily after a fashion,

Intermittently broad and proud, intermittently narrow and aged,

The church spire points to heaven on high,

And the people are loudly singing to the chiming tower bells.

And country lanes stream in from adjacent forest and field

To become streets of prominence in both name and importance,

And in Time’s own passage finally come to stillness.

The bemused places of childhood are rekindled yet again with laughter,

And even the old fountains cascade in a trance of stillness,

as the swirling eddies made rush, silently

like life’s Insignificant Other, just as only Love can know.

And somehow even the Wind takes on a life,

Blowing in gust after gust, through the years,

And through the days, back to childhood’s Home,

As in fairy tale nights and imagined lands.

From the squares and tedious narrow alleys echo the familiar sounds,

the rolling wagon wheels, the clip-clop of stout mares,

the staccato of the blacksmith’s hammer,

or as in years of yore, the rolling barrels and the rooster’s crow.

And all that appears Close once again, is yet so Far,

And Life itself avoiding yet the grave;

strives for heavy-hearted Contentment much like a halting

song of Greeting or Return.

You, my little Town,

even if I have forgotten much,

I behold you precious still,

I, forever at Home in you.

I had the opportunity to visit my ancestors’ hometown in 1998 and 2006. I’m sure my great-grandparents would be amazed at some of the changes that have taken place. But, in many ways, they would find a lot of things the same. The apartment they lived in before coming to the US is still there, and it probably looks much the same. They might be surprised by all of the cars though!

Last Tower Standing

[This is the last tower still standing. The “Pfänderturm” or debt-tower, was built between 1388 to 1438.]

Sources for this article:

Related Posts:

[This post was written for the 47th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: A Place Called Home.]

Żyrardów: Birth of a Modern Town

Zyrardow on the mapMy immigrant ancestors came from many different places. Some came from large capital cities that had very old beginnings and long histories (Warsaw, Poland). Other hometowns were not as large as a city, but they were large market towns born in the 1300’s that continue to have vibrant communities today (Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Germany and Mszczonów, Poland). Some of my ancestors came from much smaller places, centuries-old farmlands that evolved from feudal lands to modern villages (Puch, Germany and Komorowo, Poland). But of all the hometowns of my ancestors, the one that first captured my heart isn’t very old at all. In fact, compared to the ancient histories of these other places, it is modern in comparison. Although it lacks a history as long as other European towns, it makes up for it with the interesting way in which it was born. The town is Żyrardów, Poland.

The biography of Żyrardów begins in France. In 1810, the French government had a competition for inventors to create a mechanical linen spinning mill. The prize to the successful inventor was 1 million francs. One enterprising engineer, Philippe de Girard (1775-1845) from Lourmarin, succeeded. But with the fall of Napoleon, France could not pay the prize. Girard’s luck went from bad to worse as he endured debt, business failures, and bankruptcy. But his luck turned in 1825, when the government of the Kingdom of Poland invited him to help create a textile industry in Poland based on his invention.

Zyrardow coat of armsGirard originally opened a factory in Marymont, 2 miles outside of Warsaw, in 1831. For unknown reasons, Girard moved the operation two years later to a small farming village and forested area called Ruda Guzowska, approximately 27 miles WSW of Warsaw. This factory was very successful. More and more workers came to the area, and the settlement grew larger. In Girard’s honor, Ruda Guzowska was renamed Żyrardów. In the Polish language, the letter “ż” is pronounced similarly to the letter “g” in the French language: Żyrardów means “of Girard”. Girard was not able to see the success of his namesake town, however; he died in 1845, a year after returning to France to open more linen factories.

Arial View

Żyrardów continued to thrive in Girard’s absence. The factory was taken over by a pair of German industrialists, and by 1880 they employed 5,600 workers. The town literally grew around the factory building, and today it is one of the best preserved towns to see 19th Century architecture. It resembles a university town, with nearly every building – from the factory, to the apartment-style homes, to the churches and hospital – made from the same red brick. The area grew from a small farming village to an industrial settlement of approximately 175 acres. By 1880 the factory had 16,000 spindles with over 1,650 mechanical looms, and the value of their annual production (in 1880) was 2.2 million Silver Rubles. The former forest and farmland became responsible for the majority of linen production for the Russian Empire by the end of the 19th Century.

Workers in ZyrardowOne unique aspect of the town is that it was multi-cultural. The majority of workers were Poles, but there were also a large number of ethnic Germans working there as well. The factory itself had German managers, and there were also a number of Czechs, Scots, and Irish. The town itself had both a Roman Catholic church and an Evangelical Lutheran church, and there was a thriving Jewish community as well. The Słownik Geograficzny entry from 1895 indicates that the town had 7,126 registered inhabitants by 1880, including 5,134 Catholics, 1,541 Protestants, 244 Jews, and 207 belonging to other denominations.

The town was not without discord, however. Rather than ethnic disputes, there were employment disagreements. The government did not allow unions, but the workers were concerned about working conditions and low wages. There were many strikes at the factory throughout its history, beginning with the first in 1883.

Naturalization for Louis Pater

My Pater family immigrated from this town from 1905-1909; it was the place they called home. They were all weavers, which means they all worked in the factory. I don’t know why they left, but maybe they thought they could earn better wages in the United States. All of them became weavers in Philadelphia’s textile industry. My great-grandfather, Louis (Ludwik) Pater and his father, my 2nd great-grandfather Józef Pater, were born in Żyrardów (Louis in 1893, and Józef in 1864). Józef’s father, Jan, was born in Ruda Guzowska around 1834. Jan’s father Hilary pre-dates Żyrardów’s history and was born in a small village nearby.

RC Church, WiskitkiI had the opportunity to visit Żyrardów in 2001. It was a sudden visit with not enough advance planning, but I was grateful to see the town. My Pater ancestors were baptized and married in the nearby village of Wiskitki, and I was thrilled when my guide was able to sweet-talk the young priest into opening the church for me. My family probably attended this church because the main Catholic church in Żyrardów was not built until 1903. Wiskitki is a settlement that dates from 1221, with the first mention of “town” status in 1349. Over the centuries, the town declined and became smaller. After World War II, Wiskitki and Żyrardów were combined as one district, but in 1975 Wiskitki once again received rights as an independent town.

My Miller / Müller family also immigrated from Żyrardów; however, I have not yet found a birth certificate as proof that anyone was actually born in the town. My research indicates that the Miller family may be among the ethnic Germans from Bohemia that emigrated to the area to work in the textile industry. My great-grandmother’s brother, Emil, immigrated to the United States. In 1910, he and his family returned to Żyrardów – perhaps because of the death of his father. When the first World War broke out, the family could not return. Emil died in Żyrardów. His wife and American-born son later returned to the US, but his Polish-born daughter and American-born daughter remained.

Besides my ancestors, Żyrardów was the birthplace of some more famous citizens, including the Polish writer Paweł Hulka-Laskowski (1881-1946) and former Prime Minister Leszek Miller (b. 1946).

Sources for this article:

[This post was written for the 47th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: A Place Called Home.]

Bring Your Inner Child to Work

What Do You Want to Be?

Gunslinger Drew, 1961“What do you want to be when you grow up?” How many times did you hear that question as a child? It’s a universal conversation starter between adults and children. Why do we “grown-ups” ask it? Maybe we miss that sense of possibility. We grow up, get older, find jobs, pay bills, but along the way we sometimes forget that childlike sense of wonder and the irrepressible hope. I can be whatever I want to be! I can do anything! It doesn’t matter if we want to be a fairy princess or a space cowboy – kids believe that anything can happen. With a little encouragement from parents, that sense of hopefulness can breed confidence.

It Runs in the Family

Many of our ancestors likely didn’t have much of a choice of what they wanted to be when they grew up. My families tended to pass on occupations like an inheritance, at least in the “old country” before immigrating to the U.S. The Echerer family had seven generations of shoemakers in Bavaria. The mason’s sons were masons or carpenters, a related trade. Similarly, the miller’s sons were millers, flour merchants, or bakers. Farmers begat farmers. The Pater family were all weavers because that was the main factory in the town. Once those families came to the U.S., either times or circumstances changed the occupations, and sons no longer automatically did what their fathers did.

I Wanted to Be What?

What we do as adults to make a living and what we wanted to be as children are different things. I found a hint of my old dreams on the back of a copybook, circa 1977. I was ten years old, and after my name I added several descriptive “titles”. My list described who I wanted to be: Cryptanalysist [sic], Photographer, Stamp Collector, Pro Skateboarder, Softball Player, etc, Tape Recording Expert, Detective, Guitar Player, and Many More Things. So how did my dreams fare?

  • I get to be a detective and a cryptanalyst with every genealogical record I find and decipher! I didn’t have genealogy in mind at the time (although I became interested around that time with the television mini-series Roots), but it certain fulfills each of those “likes”. With genealogy, I get to follow clues and solve mysteries, and decipher different “codes” in the form of foreign languages and bad handwriting.
  • While I am not a professional photographer, I still have a big interest in photography. I take pride in my compositions, especially my travel shots, and I blush at the compliments.
  • Stamp Collector? I moved on to collecting ancestors! But I still have my old stamp collection, and I’ve collected other sorts of things along the way…movie memorabilia, shot glasses, books. I think my interest in stamps was a combined interest in history, geography/travel, and “Is this worth any money?”
  • I did not realize I ever had an athletic interest in anything. I did enjoy the skateboard, back in the days before helmets, knee pads, and board big enough to put both feet on. As for softball, my desire far exceeded my talent, but at least I had a dream!
  • My wish to be a tape recording expert changed with the technology, which explains why I’m now so interested in video, audio, computers, and any way to combine all three. I don’t get enough time to dabble in it, but I’ve had more fun making videos than few other things I’ve created.
  • I can still play the guitar, sort of. Years ago I even played in public as part of a group that fortunately had other more talented players to drown me out.

Take Your Child to Work

Tomorrow is “Take Your Children to Work Day” in the United States. My niece can’t accompany me this year, but we had a great time together a few years ago. The most amazing thing out of that day was that we adult workers most likely did not inspire her one bit to join our workforce…but she (and the other children) inspired us to see what we do with a child’s eyes. “Wow, that’s so cool!” It is? Face it, something as simple as a copy machine is exciting when you think about it. It’s all a matter of perspective, like the child who shared a flight with me who exclaimed excitedly, “Look, they have little tables you can pull down!” Hey, the kid’s right – that is cool, but we’re used to it and it’s become mundane to us boring, old adults.

If you’re taking your child, niece or nephew, grandchild, or someone else’s child to your workplace tomorrow, here is what you can give them: the freedom to dream big. Let them think they can be whatever they want to be – why spoil a dream when reality comes soon enough? Confident and hopeful children become confident and hopeful adults!

What the children you take to work can give you and your co-workers: the ability to see your job through a child’s eyes of wonder. And if your job still doesn’t inspire you after a different look, then maybe it’s time to consider other possibilities for your work. Dream big!

What do you want to be when you grow up?

The Carnival has Come to Town

My readers probably know this by now, but just in case… The 46th Carnival of Genealogy has been posted! This edition focuses on Family Traits, and the submissions cover a wide variety of traits – physical or personality, good or bad. Stop by for some great reading. I wasn’t sure how to make the subject interesting to others, but I tried by best. Read my own submission – “All in the Family” – here.

The next Carnival of Genealogy topic is A Place Called Home. For me, that is quite serendipitous – I’ve been working on a post that fits this very theme. Thanks, Jasia! She explains the topic as follows:

It’s time for a geography lesson. Pick out a city/town/village where one of your ancestors once lived and tell us all about it. When was it founded? What is it known for? Has is prospered or declined over the years? Have you ever visited it or lived there? To a certain extent, we are all influenced by the environment we live in. How was your ancestor influenced by the area where they lived? Take us on a trip to the place your ancestor called home.

The deadline for submissions is May 1, 2008. Submit your blog article to the next edition of the Carnival of Genealogy using the carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Is that a poem in your pocket?

Tomorrow is “Poem in Your Pocket Day” and Lisa has challenged bloggers to post their favorite poems. Here we go again…you know how hard it is for me to choose a favorite. I thought about using a Polish poet in honor of my Polish ancestors. One great Polish poet is the Nobel-prize winning Czesław Miłosz who wrote some beautiful and moving poetry. Another is Karol Wojtyła, otherwise known to the world as Pope John Paul II. He wrote poetry from an early age, and it is deeply inspiring and soul-filled. His 1939 poem, “Over This, Your White Grave”, is a haunting glimpse of his love for his deceased mother. To honor my Bavarian ancestors, I could have chosen a poet from the very same town of Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Joseph Maria Lutz, who even wrote a poem about his “hometown”. My own hometown of Philadelphia has had many notable poets that at least stayed a while to write some poetry, including Edgar Allan Poe and Walt Whitman. But, the challenge of “Poem in Your Pocket Day” is to choose your all-time favorite poem. To quote the site noted above: “The idea is simple: select a poem you love during National Poetry Month then carry it with you to share with co-workers, family, and friends on April 17.” And that, without a doubt, is Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 30”. No need to carry it; it’s the only poem I know by heart. Let me share it with you:

Sonnet 30 by William Shakespeare

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought

I summon up remembrance of things past,

I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,

And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste.

Then can I drown an eye unused to flow,

For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,

And weep afresh love’s long since cancelled woe,

And moan th’ expense of many a vanished sight.

Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,

And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er

The sad account of fore-bemoanèd moan,

Which I new pay as if not paid before.

But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,

All losses are restored, and sorrows end.

National Library Week: A Tribute

This week is National Library Week, and librarian-blogger Lori Thornton of Smoky Mountain Family Historian has challenged bloggers to write a tribute this week.  But I can’t decide among my favorites – libraries were always important to me because I love books.  Here are some of my “favorite” libraries, whether legendary, fictional, or very real:

The Library I Wish We Could All See

If there is one library whose mere name fires up one’s imagination, it is The Library of Alexandria, also known as The Great Library.  Founded around 300 BC, supposedly by Demetrius, a student of Aristotle, the library aimed to hold copies of all of the manuscripts in the known world.  It may have come close to that goal since it is reported to have had nearly 750,000 scrolls in its collection.  Their acquisition methods were suspect, but successful.  The great mystery surrounding the Library is that scholars are not sure how or when it was destroyed.  It was most likely a series of fires and plunderings over the years,  including rampages by the likes of Julius Caesar and invading Muslim armies.  Its legacy was not its lost collection, but the very idea of a house of knowledge where anyone can come to learn new things.

The Library with a Collection That Made Me Giddy

I’ve been to many libraries, but the one that was the coolest is the British Library in London.  It wasn’t so much their vast collection, but the works they have on display in their museum.  There I was able to stand in front of many marvelous works including illuminated manuscripts, a Gutenberg Bible, a First Folio, and – my personal favorite – Leonardo da Vinci’s workbook.  Simply amazing!  Visitors to their website can turn some of these famous pages online.

The “First” Libary

Did you know that Benjamin Franklin started the first library in the United States?  Well, he may have, but it depends on who you talk to.  Since I’m from Philadelphia, we say that our own Ben Franklin (after moving here from Boston) began the first public lending library in 1731.  Called The Library Company of Philadelphia, members paid money to belong with the rationale that combined and shared resources could produce a far greater collection than any one man of moderate means.  In a time when few people could afford their own collection of books, Franklin and company came up with a brilliant idea.  Franklin’s library is still in existence today as a research library, and his idea inspired free public libraries all over.

My First Library

When I was a child, my local branch of the system of Philadelphia Free Libraries was hardly older than me.  It was built in 1969 in the up-and-coming Northeast section of the city.  I probably found it a few years later when I began to read at age 5.  This particular branch was small, but it was close to my house.  I haven’t researched this, but it may well be one of the only public buildings in the US that is named after a Roman Catholic saint.  Shortly after opening, the library was named the Katherine Drexel Branch in honor of the famous local heiress (1858-1955).  I mean really local – our neighborhood is ground that once belonged to the Drexel family.   Katherine gave up her life of comfort to found a religious order of sisters that cared primarily for African Americans and Native Americans in the poorest parts of the US.  Mother Katherine was canonized a saint in 2000.  I think she’d be as proud about having a public library named after her as she would be about any other buildings!

The Library That Helped Me Graduate

The Free Library of Philadelphia, to which my first library belonged, is “headquartered” in downtown Philadelphia at 19th and Vine Streets.  Throughout high school and college, if you really needed to do some serious research for term papers, this was the place to go! Outside of Washington, DC, you don’t usually see buildings built quite like this one.  Shouldn’t all libraries be this huge and imposing?  This particular site of the library was built in 1926, but the Free Library of Philadelphia was officially established at other quarters in 1891.

Free Library of Philadelphia

My Favorite Fictional Library

Who wouldn’t want to visit the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, an old library of precious but forgotten titles.  Only a select few know about this library and can read these “lost” books.  If you love books, you’ll want to read The Shadow of the Wind, a 2001 novel by Spanish author Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

The One, The Only…The Genealogical Library

There may be many genealogical libraries, but The One that has an impact on every genealogist is the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.  I’ve never been there in person, but without their holdings and the ability to borrow the films at local family history centers, my genealogical research would have never taken off.  Thank you!

If you like books, chances are you’ve been to a few libraries in your lifetime as well.  Which libraries are your favorites?  Be sure to go hug a librarian this week for National Library Week!

All in the Family

“You look just like your mother.” I heard this frequently growing up, and it wasn’t too hard to believe given that we both wore glasses and had similar hair color. And we’re both attractive (hey, I didn’t inherit modesty…) But then someone else would comment, “Oh, you look so much like your father.” Hmm… which is it? Because last I looked, Mom and Dad don’t look anything alike!

I’ve become fascinated with family resemblances, especially since my brother started having children of his own. While I’m extremely flattered by all of my co-workers who insist my eldest niece looks just like me, I’m starting to see her mother’s face every time I look at her. My younger niece also looks like her mother, except she has beautiful blue eyes (as opposed to her mother’s beautiful hazel-green eyes). The only person with blue eyes on either side of the family is my father, and we’re all amazed that the recessive gene finally broke through. My little nephew, however, is a clone of my brother, who in turn looked like our father – except my nephew also got his Pop-Pop’s blue eyes over his father’s brown ones.

As children grow up, and even as we age as adults, our looks change, so it is possible that one day we look more like one parent and the next day the other. But some traits are constant. My brown eyes? They’re from Mom, courtesy of the Zawodny brown trumping the Pater gray, but the shape comes from the Pater’s. My curly hair? Thanks, Dad, courtesy of the Bergmeister’s. I won’t assign any blame for the nearsightedness or other health issues. But what about those other traits – the non-physical elements that make us who we are? Is it possible to draw a personality family tree?

My parents each had many talents that I inherited, and many I did not. I owe my sense of humor to my father – to this day I can’t mention him to a school friend without the person commenting, “Your dad is so funny!” Well, I’m not quite that hysterical, but my odd, dry sense of humor – and the desire to make others laugh – definitely comes from Dad (but my laugh itself comes from my maternal grandmother’s one big, loud HA!). Mom has some wonderful talents including cooking, sewing, and dancing. Sadly, I inherited none of them! But, I did inherit her creativity. I apply it in different ways than she did, but it’s all Mom. And even though I am still learning to cook and not nearly as wonderful as she is or my grandmother was, at least I have their fine taste for good, home-cooked meals made with love. I may not be able to dance like either of my parents, but I sure do love movie musicals thanks to them!

When my eldest niece was about 3 years old, her grandfather – not my father, but her other grandfather, who had known me since I was a child – declared that she gave him “the Donna look”. It’s hard to describe, but it’s a slightly-condescending-what-are-you-kidding-me? look. Ten years later, she’s still giving The Look, and every time she tries it on me, I burst out laughing. I invented that look, so it doesn’t have its desired effect. Or did I invent it? It isn’t too difficult to imagine my grandmother getting punished for using “the look”! Maybe that is where I first learned it! Let’s just say that stubbornness runs in the family.

My youngest niece is now almost 3 years old, and she has a rather devious look that I also recognize quite well. Something interesting and creative will always be happening wherever she goes… Isn’t that the same smirk I see in the photo of my great-great-aunt? I can just imagine her beating up on her younger brother, my great-grandfather, the way little Ava pounces on hers. If deviousness is a trait, we have it and wear it proudly.

Many other interests and personality traits of mine lead me to believe I was adopted… I was recently pleasantly surprised to learn that my maternal grandfather was a voracious reader – so am I! But did he like Shakespeare or science fiction? I sure hope so, because no one else in the family does. Am I the only traveler? Well, maybe I inherited that gene from my immigrant ancestors, for wasn’t their immigration really an extreme form of travel? It’s ironic I now visit their homelands for pleasure. But there is one interest or trait that I definitely did not inherit…my love for genealogy. You see, no one else in the family is interested in that!

[Photo Collage of Pointkouski Babies from Donna’s personal collection. Top row – Natalie in 1995, Donna in 1967, and Ava in 2006. Also known as two sisters with their aunt in the middle. Bottom row – James in 1935, Nicholas James in 2007, and James Drew in 1959. Also known as Nicky in between his grandfather and father. The boys actually look much more alike than these photos show, but I’m pressed for time to meet the carnival deadline. Trust me – no DNA test needed to prove the physical traits in these three handsome men!]

[This post was written for the 46th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: Family Traits!]

Donna’s Picks: Week of April 6, 2008

Here are some posts that I really enjoyed this week from blogs about genealogy, writing, and blogging.  Pay a visit to the site if the topic sounds interesting to you, too!

  • Daily Writing Tips advises writers about “Five Words You Can Cut.” Perhaps it’s just that my writing is really quite as bad as that?  (All five words are in my previous sentence.)  It’s a good reminder for writers and bloggers everywhere as it’s so easy to fall into the trap of adding useless words. [4/8/08]
  • Copyblogger proclaims “6 Ways that Bloggers are Like Rappers.” Now, I’m not really into rap, but I had to laugh out loud at the similarities.  Many genea-bloggers are prolific (or at least aspire to be), make guest appearances, are branded by nifty names, call their own shots, and free-style.  But my favorite of the six ways is: gang affiliation.  In the world of genealogy we call it “family”, but we’re otherwise known as a gang.  Fortunately, our happy gang doesn’t have any turf wars!  Check out the post and see if you agree. [4/9/08]
  • Family Matters talks about how “Profiling” can actually help your cousins find you online.  Can fellow researchers find you through your online profiles?  [4/10/08]

Thanks to Terry and footnoteMaven for the link love this week on my “Hats Off” post.  Don’t forget the big deadline this week…no, not TAX DAY, the due date for the next Carnival of Genealogy!  See that and all of the other due dates on the cool genea-blogger calendar put together by Thomas at Destination: Austin Family.  Check back next week for more of Donna’s picks!

Hats Off

I decided to throw my hat in the ring with a semi-wordless Wednesday post…  While this doesn’t quite qualify for the Ministry of Silly Hats, it’s yet another example of changing fashion trends over the years.  It is also a nice contrast to my previous post that also had a wedding photo taken approximately thirty years after this one.

Wedding fashion, circa 1926

This is a photo of my grandmother, Mae Pater (nee Marianna Zawodna), around age 18.  She is serving as “Maid of Honor” for her sister, Jane Zawodna, for her marriage to Sigmund Galecki in Philadelphia in 1926.

For more hat photos from other bloggers, see the roundup by footnoteMaven.  Thanks to Laura at The Virtual Dime Museum for some hat inspiration!  Check out this page for the Fashion History of The Wearing of Hats.

Donna’s Picks, Week of March 30, 2008

Well, it’s been a slow blogging week for me and I’m afraid that April will be a bit “light” on interesting and informative posts here at What’s Past is Prologue.  I’ve been sick with two different illnesses, I have two writing deadlines hanging over my head, and I’m due to leave for a genealogy conference in Salt Lake City in little more than a week – and I have no idea what I’m going to research since I haven’t had time to get organized!  Oh, and I have a full-time job, too.  I have to say, when it comes to blogging it’s really hard to keep up with the Joneses, or at least the Seaver’s and the Thornton’s!  But, I’ll at least try to post a few of my favorites from this past week.

Because of my illness, I didn’t do my customary post to hail the arrival of the latest Carnival of Genealogy!  So, if you haven’t seen it already, be sure to visit Jasia at Creative Gene for the 45th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: Cars as stars! There were many submissions this time, so get ready, start your engines, and have a fun time reading all of the posts. The next COG topic is:

What traits run in your family? Which of them did you inherit? Do you have your mother’s blue eyes? Your grandfather’s stubbornness? Your aunt’s skill with knitting needles? Is there a talent for music in your family? Or do you come from a long line of teachers? Have you ever looked at an old photo and recognized your nose on another family member’s face?

The deadline is April 15th.  Submit your blog article to the next edition of the Carnival of Genealogy using the carnival submission form.  Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Here are some of Donna’s Picks for the week:

  • Craig at GeneaBlogie gave a nice Latin Primer at Catholic Genealogy: Latin Lesson.  I’ve seen many of these terms in records I have researched, but I have to admit that nigrini coloris was a first for me.  I suppose there were no Africans (not to mention African-Americans) in the area of Germany where my Latin church records were.  Thanks for the lesson, Craig. [3/30/08]

Check back next week for more of Donna’s Picks!