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Archive for July, 2009

No matter where your ancestors were from, chances are that they endured tumultuous events such as famines, epidemics, and wars.  In researching my Bavarian ancestors, I’ve tried to immerse myself in the history of their towns and villages to try to understand the customs, beliefs, and society in which they lived.  If you dig deep enough, you’ll uncover many interesting events that took place during the lives of your ancestors. There aren’t any records that allow me to fully understand how these events impacted my ancestors in particular, but learning about these historical events helps to imagine what their lives were like.

Maria Theresa in 1759 (SOURCE: Wikipedia public domain image)

Maria Theresa in 1759 (SOURCE: Wikipedia public domain image)

The town of Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm has a long history dating back to the 12th century.  Like most areas of Europe, Pfaffenhofen has witnessed many disasters over the years.   In the middle of the 18th Century, a war raged throughout Europe called the War of Austrian Succession.  Although it is largely forgotten in history books, it could almost be called the first world war since it involved almost all of the powers of Europe. While war is often considered to be a man’s game, this one all started because of a woman – Maria Theresa of Austria.  Her father, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, died without a male heir.  Charles hoped to enable Maria Theresa to take his place by persuading the various German states to agree to her succession in 1713 with the Pragmatic Sanction.

After the death of Charles in 1740, King Frederick II of Prussia protested her reign by invading  Silesia.  Thus began a long war that was a competition among various courts for a male heir with the genealogical claim to the throne to take precedence over Maria Theresa’s rule.  Frederick joined forces with France, Spain, Bavaria, and Saxony, while Austria garnered support from several other European forces.

The Bavarian army fought with French forces in both Silesia and Bohemia over the next few years.  This war had several campaigns fought in several countries.  Throughout, both Austria and Prussia gained allies and lost allies with some countries even switching sides.  But the war continued, and the succession issue remained unresolved although several claimed the throne.

By 1742, the war came much closer to home for my ancestors living in Pfaffenhofen.  By this time, the Bavarian army was still aligned with the French, and Austria had turned to Hungary for support.  The capital of Bavaria, Munich – only 33 miles south of Pfaffenhofen – fell to the Austro-Hungarian army on February 13, 1742.  Four days later, Pfaffenhofen and all of the surrounding towns located in the area between the Inn and Lech rivers were under Austrian control.

An Austrian Pandur

An Austrian Pandur

Some of the Austro-Hungarian forces were Croat mercenary soldiers called the Pandurs.  Pandur forces swept through the Bavarian countryside.  The Pandurs’ tactics would be known as guerrilla warfare today.  They were also known for their lack of discipline in which plunder was more important than their military orders.  Histories of Pfaffenhofen do not record all of the details of this invasion, but one notes the “wild hordes of terror” as the Pandurs occupied the area and resorted to robbery, murder, and fire.

All throughout this war, the simple townsfolk of Pfaffenhofen and the local farmers were expected to pay increased taxes to support the armies.  If anyone refused to pay, they were arrested.

By the end of 1742, the forces shifted and Pfaffenhofen was no longer occupied by enemy forces.  The following year, Bavaria was again invaded in May and occupied through October.  But the year of the war that is most remembered in Pfaffenhofen is 1745.  By April 12, 1745, the two armies again amassed just outside of the city.

The Franco-Bavarian army was led by General François de Ségur with about 7,000 forces.  However, Ségur was unaware that his Bavarian and Hessian reinforcements under General Törring had retreated several miles away, and he was caught off guard when the Austro-Hungarian forces arrived.  The Austro-Hungarian army was led by General Karl Josef Batthyány and consisted of 10,000 Austrian and Hungarian forces.  Batthyány  was aware of Ségur’s isolation, and attacked Pfaffenhofen on the morning of April 15, 1745.

Like most medieval cities, Pfaffenhofen was a walled town with four gates to get in or out of town.  The Austrian army, consisting of infantry, cavalry, and artillery units, broke through the town wall and fighting ensued on the streets of the town with the Croat Pandurs engaging in house-to-house combat.  The French army defending the townspeople took on heavy casualties, and 300 French soldiers were captured by the enemy.

Outnumbered, Ségur was forced to withdrawn or else his army would have been completed encircled.   Some of Ségur’s Palatinate forces panicked, and in their retreat the fierce Pandurs and Hussar cavalry attacked the retreating troops.  The French forces hastily retreated with their heavy equipment getting stuck in the muddy fields outside of Pfaffenhofen; when the horses were cut free, they fled as well.  Ségur’s retreating army was literally chased by the Batthyány’s forces until that evening when the Austrians gave up pursuit.

Red line shows Austrian forces; Blue shows Franco-Bavarian forces

Red line shows Austrian forces; Blue shows Franco-Bavarian forces

Austria, with about 800 casualties, was the clear “winner” of the battle, while the Franco-Bavarian forces lost 2,400.  As a result of the defeat, Bavaria’s leader Maximilian III Joseph gave up the war that his father had begun.  He made peace with Maria Theresa through the Treaty of Füssen on April 22, 1745.  Oh, and Törring, the guy who left Ségur outnumbered?  He was fired.  The peace treaty took Bavaria officially out of the War of Austrian Succession, leaving Austria with only three other fronts to fight in Silesia, Italy, and the Netherlands.  In the end, after years of bloodshed, Maria Theresa’s claim to the throne did prevail when her husband, Francis Stephen of Lorraine, became Emperor on September 13, 1745.

The battle definitely had an impact on the townspeople of Pfaffenhofen.  One can only assume that they were all inside the walls of the town when the attack occurred.  The only place of refuge nearby would have been the monastery at Scheyern, where it was reported that the monks only escaped the looting of the Pandurs because a wounded Austrian officer being tended by the monks would not allow it.  Two brave priests left the walls of the monastery to administer last rites to soldiers dying in the fields.

Most of the accounts of the battle were in German, and I relied on poor translations from online translators.  I was able to get the general idea that the invading Army left the town a mess.  Some of the town’s court records seem to indicate that residents petitioned the town for assistance after their homes were looted and severely damaged.  One resident, Georg Gerhauser, reported that he, his wife, and their eight children could not even attend church services on Good Friday because they lacked the appropriate clothing after Austrian soldiers looted their home.  Food was also scarce in the days following the battle.

This battle must have been quite terrifying to the farmers and merchants of the area.  The battle took place on the day of the calendar that happened to be Holy Thursday in the Roman Catholic Church calendar that year.  This is the feast prior to the day Christ died when Catholics remember His Last Supper and the gift of the Eucharist.  As a special feast, this likely would have been a religious holiday in the town in which everyone would have attended Mass – but I doubt their plans went as scheduled that fateful day.

At this time I have several ancestors living in Pfaffenhofen.  Bernhard Eggerer, my 5th great-grandfather, was born in 1721 and would have been about to turn 24 at the time of the battle.  Did he fight in the army?  Did he defend his town as a simple shoemaker?  I don’t know, but he did survive this event.  He would marry 17 years later and have 8 children before dying in 1778 at the age of 57.

Other ancestors residing in Pfaffenhofen in 1745 include Matthias Kaillinger, a glassmaker, Michael Paur, a carpenter, and possibly Phillip Nigg, a mason.  I have not found Philip’s birth record yet, but he marries in town eight years after the battle.  One thing is certain – after all of the street fighting and looting, the skills of all three gentlemen would have been put to good use after the battle ended!  I also had my Bergmeister ancestor, Johann Paul Bergmeister, living in the nearby town of Puch and running the grain mill.  With all of the havoc in the fields, one can only wonder the impact on the family’s business as a result.

In reviewing my ancestral records, I do not appear to have any deaths on that day, so my families were safe after the fighting ended.  Now that I have learned about this event, I want to review the death records to see if any soldier or civilian deaths are recorded in the church books. It is apparent in these few accounts I uncovered that although the battle itself was relatively short in duration, the town took a long time to recover from it.

[Written for the 77th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: Disasters Our Ancestors Lived Through]

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At the entrance to Greenmount Cemetery in Philadelphia

At the entrance to Greenmount Cemetery in Philadelphia

Earlier this month I visited Greenmount Cemetery in Philadelphia.  I was hoping to find a tombstone for a couple that is connected, though likely not related, to my family – Carl and Sophia Mach.  I have been researching this couple for an upcoming post, so I thought a visit to their grave would be appropriate to “end” the story, so to speak.  While there, I wanted to re-visit the grave shared by my great-grandfather, Louis Pater, and his father, Joseph Pater, even though their grave is not marked with a stone.

Greenmount Cemetery is located at 4301 N. Front Street in Philadelphia (phone 215-329-4747).  I hoped to find out more about the history of the cemetery, but so far I have not been able to discover much information.  I was surprised by the sheer size of the cemetery – approximately 75 acres.  There are thousands of graves, and it is still being used today as a “active” burial ground.

The cemetery was opened around 1875.  Much like the neighborhood it resides in, the ethnicity of the cemetery “residents” has changed over the years.  Some of the oldest graves from the early 1900′s have German names as well as Irish and Polish.  The newer graves have many other nationalities including those with ancestry from various Asian and Latin American countries.

I was pleasantly surprised that the office was not only open and staffed, but eager to assist me.  A gentleman looked up my family names in a card catalog and checked to see if there were others with the surname besides those I mentioned.  This was fortunate, because I had forgotten that in addition to my great and 2nd great-grandfather, my great-grandmother was also buried here with her son.  If the staff member had not asked me if she was a relative, I would have missed the opportunity to visit her grave, which held an even bigger surprise – a tombstone!  This was surprising for two reasons – first, not many of my relatives have tombstones, which is why I don’t show any photographs of them on this site.  But I was more surprised because I thought I remembered visiting this cemetery before in the early 1990s, shortly after beginning my genealogical research.  And if I am correct in that memory, I distinctly remember that there was no tombstone – which means I either just thought I visited this particular cemetery or I somehow didn’t find the right grave when I did!

One of the few tombstones in my family: my great-grandmother, Elizabeth PATER, and her son Louis

One of the few tombstones in my family: my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Miller Pater, and her son Louis

Another reason that the card information was helpful is that, in the case of Mr. and Mrs. Mach, their grave contained two other individuals that did not have tombstones.  I was able to surmise the relationship of these individuals to the Mach’s because of my earlier research.

Besides looking up the family information, I was provided with detailed maps of the sections that held the requested graves and directions on how to find the sites.  Not all cemetery offices are this friendly to researchers, so this was a delight – especially since I was short on time for the visit.  The cemetery is so large that graves would be next to impossible to find without a map.

Although there is little historical information about this cemetery on the internet (or an official site for the cemetery itself), some of the internment records are available on microfilm from both the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and Family Search.  The FHC film rolls are:

  • Cemetery records, A-G 1880-1929 -  FHL US/CAN Film [ 503333 ]
  • Cemetery records, G-K 1880-1929 -  FHL US/CAN Film [ 503334 ]
  • Cemetery records, L-M 1880-1929 -  FHL US/CAN Film [ 503335 ]
  • Cemetery records, M-W 1880-1929 -  FHL US/CAN Film [ 503336 ]
  • Cemetery records, W-Z 1880-1929 -  FHL US/CAN Film [ 503337 ]
  • Cemetery records, A-K 1930-1966 -  FHL US/CAN Film [ 503338 ]
  • Cemetery records, K-Z 1930-1966 -  FHL US/CAN Film [ 503339 ]

The cemetery is also listed on Find a Grave with more photos and information about some graves of famous professional baseball players who are buried there.

Greenmount Cemetery is so large, you forget you are in the middle of a busy section of Philadelphia.

Greenmount Cemetery is so large, you forget you are in the middle of a busy section of Philadelphia.

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Drew Jul 1960It’s that time again…time for my monthly Weekend with Shades column at Shades of the Departed, The Humor of It.  This month’s topic – the Fotomat!  If you don’t know what a Fotomat is, well, that means you’re younger than I am.  Take a peek at how I try to describe it to my nieces in Fotomat – What’s That?

That guy in the photo is certainly old enough to remember the Fotomats – that’s my big brother in 1960 and the father of my nieces who don’t quite know what to make of the whole concept.  [In retrospect, I should have used this photo for my Weekend with Shades debut, Off With Their Heads!]

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It’s safe to say that most of my readers are genealogists.  I came upon a question today that may be of great interest to genealogists – what would you do if you couldn’t do genealogy?  I don’t mean you can’t find someone or have a “brick wall” that is hindering your research. I mean what if you had all of the desire, curiosity, and sheer determination that we genealogists have to dig up our roots, but you could not research your family history because you didn’t know who your parents were?  And the government won’t show you your own birth certificate?

I learned today that this is the fate of most adoptees in the United States.  Birth records in 44 states are completely closed to adoptees, so they are unable to learn the bare facts about their family history.  Privacy laws have been on the books for a few generations that deny access to adult adoptees to protect the privacy of the parents who chose to give their child up for adoption.  In theory, it’s understandable.  But in reality, is it practical?  Advocates of open access insist the issue is unrelated to the decision to find or know their birth parents, but is more about a right that nearly all of us have to simply have a copy of the birth record that all other Americans are allowed to have.  Those for open access argue that the family history, regardless of the reasons for the adoption, is important for health or genealogical reasons.  Opponents insist that the parents have the right to remain unknown.

I think adoption is a wonderful thing and a selfless act on the part of both parties – the birth mother/parents as well as the adoptive parent/s.  But does giving up a child to another out of love allow someone to remain anonymous?  Does knowing your parents’ names guarantee a relationship with them?

It’s a tough issue, and I’m no expert since I am not adopted nor have I given up a child for adoption.  But, as a genealogist, I honestly can’t imagine not knowing my ancestry.  I know many people who have no interest in their genealogy whatsoever.  But, what if you are like me and you do have that interest – yet you can’t even get a copy of your own birth certificate to surmise what nationality your ancestors were?

I learned about this issue because advocates of adoptee rights protested yesterday here at the Philadelphia Convention Center during the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Read more about their cause here. I wish them luck.  I don’t know what I’d do if I enjoyed genealogical research as much as I do but could not research my own genealogy.  What would you do?

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Everyone remembers their first time with a certain fondness, even if later times surpass the first experience in any way.  I am referring, of course, to vacations.  Do you remember your first time?

My family could not afford to take vacations.  I remember a trip or two to the Jersey shore, and one trip to the Pocono Mountains.  As a teenager, I had some weekend trips to a mountain home that belonged to our parish priest.  But that was the extent of vacations during my youth.  Unfortunately, I never had the quintessential family vacation experience.  Despite this deprivation, or maybe because of it, I somehow developed the wanderlust.  My first real vacation experience did not involve my family, but a newly-formed family of friends. It was July, 1985; I was eighteen years old.  Our destination?  Rome, Italy.

Too many years have passed to remember all of the details about how it came to be, or why Rome was our destination of choice.  My partner-in-crime throughout high school was my friend Lou, who was like a brother to me.  He had plans to enter the seminary after high school, and he talked about one day visiting Rome.  I’m sure his enthusiasm rubbed off on me, but I must have also had an interest in Italy of my own since I chose Italian for my language requirement in junior and senior year.

The idea must have begun between Lou and me, but I took the lead to make it happen.  My history teacher was Mrs. Campbell, a fun-loving, wise-cracking lady who loved to travel and loved to teach her students about those places and their history.  Towards the end of junior year, I remember asking her, “So, Mrs. C., how about taking a bunch of us to Rome after we graduate next year?” She looked at me for a few seconds, then smiled a sly grin and said “Why not?” If it wasn’t for her, our trip would not have happened!

Our entire group in St. Peter's Square - July 9, 1985 - Rome, Italy

Our entire group in St. Peter's Square - July 9, 1985 - Rome, Italy

Our merry band of travelers began to form.  The group consisted of eight teens and four adults.  First, I asked two girlfriends from school, Sandy and Mary Frances.  Lou asked one of his classmates, Dennis, who I also knew from grade school.  Mrs. Campbell obviously asked her husband.  Also included were their daughter, Mimi, who was two years younger than the rest of us, and their niece, Alexis, who was the youngest of the group at 13.  Mimi asked her friend Lisa, whose mother Liz also came along.  Finally, Lou and I asked an adult that we knew from our church, Tom, who readily jumped at the chance to visit Rome (apparently because Lou mentioned something about a private audience with Pope John Paul II…fifteen years later the now-Father Lou gave me that opportunity, but unfortunately Tom wasn’t on our second trip!).

And so it happened that my very first plane ride was transatlantic.  We had turbulence nearly the entire time.  Since I had never flown before, I thought it was all quite normal – similar to riding a bus on a bumpy road.  We were all giddy with excitement – especially those of us sans-parents because of the feeling of adventure and freedom.  We didn’t necessarily know what to do with that freedom, but the mere thought of having it seemed monumental at the time.

“Can’t you try it for just one night?” ~ Marinella

If events were only judged by their beginnings, our trip was doomed from the second we arrived.  Whatever could go wrong, did.  Our group booked the trip through a company that specialized in student tours, and they joined us with two other similarly sized groups – one from Connecticut, and one from New Jersey not too far away from our home in Philadelphia.  When the large group arrived at the hotel, I guess you could say they weren’t quite ready for us.  Our first few hours were spent waiting in the hot Roman July sun outside of the hotel’s lobby.  Eventually we were assigned rooms, but the rooms were inoperable and in some cases still under construction!  We spent hours waiting for the adults to sort out all of the issues.

“We pulled up to this dilapidated graffiti-covered dive called the Hotel G—–.  We all just looked at each other and laughed.” ~ Donna’s trip journal

It was advantageous that Mr. & Mrs. Campbell were our leaders – a building inspector for the city of Philadelphia and a high school history teacher were used to dealing with surly, uncooperative people on a daily basis, and their experience helped us resolve many of the problems. But that first day, after a very long journey and no sleep on the plane, it did not feel like we were in Rome at all.  In fact, we were quite miserable.  This is what we looked forward to for so long?

“So far, Rome is truly dismal.” ~ Mimi’s trip journal

The next day, our group began the official tour.  Our first stop was the Colosseum .  You can read about how big the Colosseum is, and you can see photographs or videos.  But until you are standing next to it (or driving by it), it is difficult to comprehend its sheer size.  When I saw it for the first time, it hit me – we really were in Rome!

Lou, Mimi, Donna, and Lisa inside the Colosseum

Lou, Mimi, Donna, and Lisa inside the Colosseum

We spent nine days at a rapid touring pace including one day in Florence.  The highlights were many: St. Peter’s basilica, the Wednesday audience with a young Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s square, the Sistine Chapel, Piazza Navona, St. John Lateran, the catacombs, the Duomo in Florence.  The Eternal City embraced my soul – and it has not let go since.  I fell in love with Rome, with Italy, with travel.  Not to mention Italian food, the hotness of Italian men, the buzzing passionate pace, and a nice little thing called asti spumante.

“By Tuesday, Lexi’s Marinella impersonation was perfect, and she had become our mascot.  By Thursday, she had thrown away her shell, probably somewhere near the ‘Wedding Cake’” ~ Mimi

In addition to the wonderful and historic sights, we had a beautiful sense of camaraderie.  Mostly, we laughed.  I think I laughed more in nine days than I have laughed in the last nine months.  Most of the laughter involved the problems and issues we encountered, whether it was our incompetent “guide”, Marinella, who seemed to know less about her city’s history than we did and only took us to guides or restaurants in which she’d get a commission, or the strange bellhop at the hotel, nicknamed Quasimodo, whose job seemed to involve silently lurking in the hallway and leaving large bundles of laundry on the stairs.  Whenever Marinella led the bus tour, we were sure to drive past the Victor Emmanuel monument, also known as the “Wedding Cake”, at least six times…regardless of what direction we were supposed to be traveling.

“Let me get this straight – she’s Italian and doesn’t know the Pope has a Wednesday audience in St. Peter’s Square with thousands of people?” ~ Lou

Because we were so young and the trip was so monumental, it became larger than life in our memories.  We reminisced afterward – and still do as if the trip only happened last year. Remember the time Louie was late for the bus?  Remember when Tom serenaded the old Italian lady?  Remember how happy we were to survive that taxi ride?  Remember when Marinella asked Mrs. C. if the Pope could change the audience so we could go to Florence on Wednesday?  Remember the songs we made up?

“Hey, they’re talking Italian on my Walkman!” ~ Dennis

Ever since, this 1985 trip became not just my first vacation, but the vacation to end all vacations.  I’d have fun on other trips to other places, but the memories of this one held a prominent place in my mind.  Did it take on this significance because it was my first real vacation?  Or was it the location that made it so special?  Perhaps it was the group of people I traveled with?  Or merely the fact that I was eighteen and it showed me a whole world existed outside of my tiny life?

In front of Bernini's Foutain of the Four Rivers, Piazza Navona: Dennis, Sandy, Donna, Lexi, Lisa, Mimi, Mary Fran, and Lou

In front of Bernini's Foutain of the Four Rivers, Piazza Navona: Dennis, Sandy, Donna, Lexi, Lisa, Mimi, Mary Fran, and Lou

Despite the wanderlust it awakened in me, I didn’t take another real vacation again for seven years, and I didn’t go to Europe again for thirteen years.  Not for a lack of desire, but either a lack of means or traveling companions.  But since that second trip to Europe, travel is a regular, recurring, and essential part of my life.  I’ve been fortunate to have visited many of the world’s cities: London, Munich, Prague, Warsaw, Paris, Brussels, Seoul. I’ve enjoyed them all, but my favorite city always shall be my first true love, Rome.  I’ve been back to Rome three times in the last nine years – sometimes I visit sights I have not seen, and other times I return to my favorite places.  Every trip to Rome has been special and memorable for different reasons.  But the most memorable trip of all was the very first.

We left Rome and headed back home on July 14, 1985.  We were exhausted but refreshed, complaining yet laughing, sad to leave but happy we went.  We left Rome twenty four years ago today, but the experience of that trip has never left me.

[Written for the 76th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: How I Spent My Summer Vacation]

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While researching the 1910 Census on Ancestry.com, I came across an unusual error.  Since others may find similar issues with their research, I thought I’d share my way to “get around” the error.  My search was for some families in Philadelphia, PA with the surnames Miller and Mach.  When I click on the census image for the correct individual, they are nowhere to be found on the page itself.  That is when I noticed the Enumeration District numbers.  At the top of the page, it says “You are here” with the location of the record.  In this case, the end reads “Philadelphia > Philadelphia Ward 19 > District 328.”  However, the image located on that page shows an ED of 294.  By clicking on the hyperlink for Ward 19 in the “you are here” address, you can see the list of all EDs in the ward, or ED 291 through 332.  Guessing that perhaps the sequencing of the images got messed up, I went to District 294 instead.  Sure enough, what is supposed to be ED 294 is ED 328 instead.  I also found some of ED 328 in 295.  I alerted Ancestry about the problem months ago, but it still is not fixed.

Moral of the story for users of Ancestry.com:  For Philadelphia researchers – take note if you have relatives living in Ward 19 in 1910!  For all researchers -  if the ED on the image does not match the ED on the index, try the batch of images from the incorrect ED.  If you are lucky they will be from the ED you are looking for!  I would be curious to know if anyone else has encountered this indexing problem where the index itself is correct, but the images are loaded incorrectly.

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This and That

I’ve title this post “This and That” because it isn’t strictly a “Donna’s Picks” that highlights various other posts, but more of a little of “go see this” and my “comments on that”. Technically this should have been my second “Friday Five” post, in which I highlight five short things that aren’t extensive enough for a post of their own, but I am running a bit behind this week.

Rest in peace? First, many genea-bloggers have commented on a serious issue in Alabama first highlighted by Deep Fried Kudzu this past Friday.  In Oxford, Alabama, developers are well on their way to destroying a 1,500 year old Native American mound to make way for a new Sam’s Club (like we all need another).  We don’t know if this mound was a burial site or used for some other purposes, but the fact is that it is historical.  I found it odd that even if they find remains buried there, it may not be enough to stop its destruction! Equally disturbing was news from Chicago of individuals uprooting graves to re-sell them!  Aside from being completely disrespectful, I find practices like this to be immoral.  To me, we all have a moral obligation to respect the dignity of human life in all forms – including the final resting places of those that have gone before us on earth.  Besides, even if you lack respect for the dead, haven’t these people seen the Poltergeist films?  Scared my silly as a teenager and affirmed the value of respecting the dead!  What can we do?  Get the word out about the building project in Alabama, and work hard to protect our local cemeteries.

Then and Now! For a while I’ve been thinking about shooting some “now” photos of either places in old photographs or of people in the same poses and places.  I was planning on a photographic “then and now” series, but The Genealogue highlighted a site this week that did this to perfection in film!  Visit Elliott’s home movie reconstructions to see his handywork.  I especially love his “Dad Reconstruction” and “Mom Reconstruction” in which he filmed his parents doing things they did in the original home movies.  Brilliant!

Irène Némirovsky – If you don’t know who this woman is, I encourage you to check out this piece on the “Woman of Letters” Exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City.  I first learned of Irene’s story through the publication of Suite Française.  If she could write such a beautiful work in such circumstances, then I can only imagine the great works that were lost as a result of her death in a Nazi concentration camp.  The survival of the manuscript itself is a fascinating story as well.  The exhibit runs through 30 August, so if you are in New York City this summer be sure to take a look.  The museum set up this site about Irene, her life and death, and her amazing works.

Genealogy Wise – I followed the crowd and joined GenealogyWise, the new “social network” for genealogists.  My profile is here.  While I like the concept, I still don’t quite see the point. While there are many more groups to join than on Facebook, it appears that most users are not starting new discussions in these groups, but leaving comments that amount to vague information about their surnames.  Don’t we already have a multitude of surname boards that serve the same purpose?  I’ll give it time – the site has not even officially debuted yet!  But, take note of one thing I have discovered so far.  On Facebook, I entered all of my surnames within my profile, so if you search for one of those names you’ll get me as well as people with that surname.  On GenealogyWise, a basic search for a name only gives you users that bear that name – to search all of the surnames that people entered in their profile, you have to do an “Advanced Search”.

Laugh of the Week – when I sent a cousin some research on her branch of the family, her response was, “So, are you finished your genealogy now?”  [insert long pause for raucous laughter from all of my fellow genealogists]

Stay Tuned – Coming Soon at What’s Past is Prologue – Some things I am working on include an entry for the 76th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy on summer vacation memories and another postcard for the 3rd Festival of Postcards on signs.  My vacation story is a doozy, and I am still debating which of two postcards to illustrate signs – the more personal story, or a photo of a much bigger sign?  Also, for the last few months I have been working on a post about my Miller ancestors and relatives.  Every time I am about to post the series, I seem to find more information.  Not that it’s a bad thing, but it keeps delaying it.  I am actually quite tired of the Miller family by this point, so I hope to post “The Millers’ Tale” in the next two weeks!  Thanks for reading…

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Smile-Work-LGThe word prompt for the 15th edition of the Smile for the Camera carnival is “they WORKED hard for the family.” I rarely post “repeats” here at What’s Past is Prologue.  However, I have to make an exception this time because I have only one photo that is perfect for this carnival, and it is one I have already posted. Other than a photograph at my father at a desk (he was an accountant), this is the only photograph I own of an ancestor at work.  Since it’s such a great photo, I have to show it again:

Grandpop and Truck, 1937

July 18, 1937 - James Pointkouski delivering dairy products to the Silver Lake Inn.

This is my grandfather, James Pointkouski, hard at work as a truck driver/delivery man for Aristocrat Dairy in Philadelphia. For more about his occupation and the truck itself, see the original post from March, 2008, entitled “Got Milk?”

According to his children, Grandpop was a really smart guy who excelled in school.  His dream was to be a draftsman.  That occupation would have required some specialized training and education, but there was not enough money to realize that dream.  Jimmy was the youngest of three children, and his parents were rather old at the time of his birth – his father was 41 years old and his mother was nearly 44!  In 1910, it was very unusual to have a child at those “advanced” ages.  By the time Jimmy was ready to go to high school, his parents needed him to get a job to help the family.  Although both of his parents were deceased by the time my grandfather was 32 years old, it was too late for him to embark on a major career change – especially since he had a family of his own to care for by then.  So it was that Jimmy became a truck driver.  It may not have been his career of choice, but he grew to enjoy it and he took great pride in what he did.

I have another reason for showing off my grandfather’s photo today – today, July 6th, was his birthday!  If he were still alive, he’d be 99 years old.  Unfortunately, he died in February, 1980 at the age of 69.  Happy Birthday, Grandpop, and thanks for working hard for the family!

[Written for the 15th Edition of the Smile for the Camera Carnival: They worked hard for the family!]

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Friday Five

Posts have been irregular of late, so welcome to my “Friday Five” – five short thoughts, tips, links, or comments that either aren’t lengthy enough to form a whole post or they actually have nothing to do with genealogy!

1 – The case of John Barnes and Stephen Damman

I was surprised that this piece of news wasn’t picked up by more genea-blogs.  John Barnes is convinced that he is not really a member of his family.  After too many unanswered questions about his birth, he began to research missing children.  After learning of the case of Stephen Damman,  a toddler kidnapped outside of a New York bakery in 1955, he wondered if he was the missing boy.  Remarkably, the adult Barnes resembled the photo of the toddler – most notably his eyes and a similar facial scar.  Damman’s sister, who was a baby at the time of the kidnapping, met with Barnes and noted a resemblance to her father.  A “do it yourself” DNA test indicated the possibility that they were related.  The FBI got involved to perform a more detailed DNA test to determine if Barnes was indeed the boy who had been missing for over 50 years.  Sadly, at least for Barnes and the Damman family, the DNA test showed that he is not.  Barnes’ own father is still alive and incredulous that his son thinks he was either adopted, switched at birth, or kidnapped.   What struck me about this story is the fact that at one time or another, most of us have wondered if we’re related to our own parents and siblings.  “Surely I was adopted!  I am nothing like him/her/them!”  But just about all of us that were not adopted have to admit that, whether because of shared physical traits or personality traits, we are our parents’ child.  How sad it must be for Mr. Barnes to feel so disconnected from the family he grew up with that he believes he does not really share their blood.  Perhaps he does not – I have not read any mention of a DNA test to prove his relation to his own father.  But it is also sad for the elderly Mr. Damman, who had a glimmer of hope after years of missing his son, and also for his daughter who hoped to to know her brother.  She and Barnes both said they felt a “connection”, which made the finding even sadder.  This was an interesting genealogical mystery involving DNA testing, but it did not have the happy ending that everyone wanted.

2 – The Empire that was Russia

On Facebook, Thomas MacEntee posted a link to the amazing photographs of Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii, the photographer to the czar in 1905.  He developed (no pun intended) a way to take color photographs using three colored filters.  When the images are combined, it results in a color photograph.  I knew our ancestors didn’t live in a black and white world like most photographs show us, but seeing these vibrant photographs of old scenes is amazing.  See the photos at the Library of Congress Exhibit.  Although I cherish even the few black and white photos I have of my ancestors, wouldn’t it be amazing to see them in color?

3 – Wireless Printers and Scanners

I’m shopping for a wireless printer-scanner.  Does anyone have any recommendations?

4 – Local Historians

My local historical society found my local history article from the COG in May, so this week I’ll attend a meeting and likely join their group.

5 – Laugh of the Week

Footnote.com or footnoteMaven.com?  LOL  That really cracked me up!  I must confess that I visit Maven’s site far more than the records site!

That’s all, folks.  Have a happy 4th of July and enjoy the 3-day weekend if you are lucky enough to have one!

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