Weekend with Shades: A Developing Genealogist

Are these my grandparents or someone else's who showed up in my packet of photos?  (They're mine, and is perhaps the only photo of one of my grandparents with SHADES!)

Are these my grandparents or someone else's who showed up in my packet of photos? (They're mine, and is perhaps the only photo of one of my grandparents with SHADES!)

It’s time for my monthly Weekend with Shades column at Shades of the Departed, The Humor of It.  This month read all about a developing genealogist…me!  I didn’t realize it back then, but working behind a photo developing counter in college taught me skills that later became useful as a genealogist. It wasn’t funny at the time, but hopefully it is now!  Do you remember when you used film in your camera and it had to be developed into prints?  Did you ever pick up your photos and they were not your photos?  Hey, don’t blame me, I just worked there.  Read all about it at A Developing Genealogist.


The Case of the Missing Grandmother

This week Randy’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun asked us to do a scavenger hunt to find a family member in the census.  All of my great-grandparents were immigrants, and I’ve found them on the census records long ago to initially start my research (so many years ago that, at the time, the last available census was the 1910).  All eight were here for the 1910 and thereafter, and only one, Joseph Bergmeister, was in the US in time for the 1900 Census. Many of their census records were extremely hard to find because the surnames were misspelled or mis-indexed.  But I eventually managed to find them as well as their siblings.  Five of my great-grandparents had siblings immigrate as well – I’ve found all 15 siblings so far!  But there is one strange census-related mystery that continues to bother me…my grandmother is simply not there!

Margaret Bergmeister was born in 1913, so she would be seven years old in 1920 and living with her three older brothers, older sister, and her widowed father – the mother died in 1919.  Although the family name is misspelled as “Burgmaster”, the family is relatively easy to find since both names are in the same soundex code.  The entire family is living at 1016 Orkney Street in Philadelphia – minus Margaret.1

There is no way to know for sure why she is missing, but my theory is that she was visiting her aunt and uncle on the day of the enumeration.  Max and Hilarie Thumann are living at 6078 Kingsessing Street in Philadelphia (indexed on Ancestry as Mat and Halmie)2.  With them are Hilarie’s half-brother Julius Goetz and his wife Anna.  But no Margaret!

It is possible that Margaret was visiting her aunts and uncles on the day of the enumeration and her father did not tell the enumerator about her because she was literally not home on 07 January 1920.  On 08 January, another enumerator arrived at the Thumann’s door, but it is possible they did not mention Margaret because she did not live there.  Other possibilities such as adoption are out of the question since Margaret’s birth was verified – not to mention the fact that she looks just like her brothers and sister!

I figured Margaret would be much easier to find in 1930 as a 17-year-old.  Wrong again.  By 1930 her father is now also deceased.  Margaret’s oldest brother, also named Joseph, is 27 years old and married with a son and daughter of his own.  They are living at 311 Wildey Street in Philadelphia3 (and on this census page, the enumerator thoughtfully printed each surname in very neat block letters).  Living with Joseph are his two single brothers, aged 22 and 21.

It was assumed that Margaret, still a minor, was living with her oldest sister, Marie.  Marie was living in the rear apartment at 1302 Germantown Avenue4.  She was unmarried with two young daughters, aged 9 and 5.  But no sister Margaret to be found.

Was Margaret with her aunt in 1930?  The Thumann’s, now 72 and 60 years old, were living at the same house5.  Although they have a boarder living with them, their niece is not there. Nor is she listed with her Uncle Julius Goetz, who was living on 1112 Sauger Street.

So where was my 17-year-old grandmother?  It wasn’t imperative to find her in the census – I know her birth date and her parents’ names.  But, where is she?  It’s still a mystery!   For all the genealogical help the census has given me, the simple question of where my grandmother was at ages 7 and 17 is still a mystery!

Source Citations:

1Source Citation: Year: 1920;Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 16, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll  T625_1618; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 346; Image: 511.

2Source Citation: Year: 1920;Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 40, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll  T625_1641; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 1495; Image: 917.

3Source Citation: Year: 1930; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll  2099; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 543; Image: 619.0.

4Source Citation: Year: 1930; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll  2099; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 552; Image: 911.0.

5Source Citation: Year: 1930; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll  2130; Page: 13A; Enumeration District: 223; Image: 111.0.

6Source Citation: Year: 1930; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll  2106; Page: 25B; Enumeration District: 874; Image: 753.0.

Even an Ocean Can’t Separate a Son’s Love for Mom

The theme for this month’s Festival of Postcards is Water.  Here’s a fine example of a watery scene from a 1950s French postcard (click on the image for a close-up view, then hit the “back” button to return here):

A postcard showing a map of the French Riviera and the Mediterranean

A postcard showing a map of the French Riviera and the Mediterranean

Water PC 2

The text reads:  “Dear Mother, I could not get a birthday card for you.  I hope this will due.  Happy Birthday.  Jimmy” The postcard was mailed on 07 April 1958 from Nice, France with a lovely 20 franc stamp depicting the shrine at Lourdes.  The text on the card reads (in French): A bird’s eye view from Cannes to Italy.  The card shows a lovely view of the Côte d’Azur.

Jimmy is my father, who was serving in the Navy on a Mediterranean cruise aboard the USS Cadmus (AR-14) during the spring of 1958.  His mother’s birthday was 11 April – I wonder if she got it in time?  It was her 45th birthday – since I am nearing that age it seems too young to have a married son!  I also couldn’t help but wonder if he also remembered to send my mother some wishes via postcard as well.  The date he mailed my grandmother her birthday greeting was the date of my parents’ second wedding anniversary!

[Submitted for the 4th Festival of Postcards: Water]


Blazing Diapers

We were either too poor to take a pony ride or there were no ponies in the city, because there are no “pony pictures” in my family.  But who needs a pony?  Even living in a big city like Philadelphia, we still had some tough cowboys to defend us!  Here’s my favorite photo of my brother:

Gunslinger Drew, 1961

Drew in 1961 - If he could talk, I'm sure he'd quote John Wayne: "Out here a man settles his own problems."

With a gun in one hand, and a bottle in the other, he’s off to save the world.  Or at least prevent his pacifier from being stolen.

[Submitted for the 78th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: Pony Pictures]

Filling in the Blanks: Start with a Research Plan

Before you can fill-in-the-blanks with names or dates, you need a solid Research Plan

F9A4CCF4861611DEACF8A4FA0D8B3722For our weekly Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, Randy Seaver challenged everyone to list their sixteen great-great grandparents, along with their pertinent birth and death dates and locations, in Saturday Night Genealogy Fun – Your 16 Great-Great-Grands.  Many geneabloggers responded to the challenge.  Midge Frazel further encouraged participation by gently nudging us on in This is a test of your local broadcast system.  Even though a lot of folks took up the challenge, many discovered that they DO NOT know all sixteen of their sweet sixteen – myself included.  My issue has been more of focus – I went for the easiest path upwards where the records were readily available, somewhat easy to read, and the great-grandparents’ names were clear that led me to those records.  Others have said that their blanks are caused by naming issues, and some have simply said they don’t know what to do to fill in those blanks.  Because of that, this particular edition of Randy’s SNGF was more than just a chance at bragging rights around the genealogists’ round table – it’s a serious opportunity for folks to lay out their research problems and get advice and input from hundreds of other geneabloggers!

No one ever said genealogy was easy – if someone told you that, they lied.  It’s hard work.  It’s hard detective work.  Like most hard problems, the solution can only be found by taking one step at a time.  Back in January, Miriam wrote Who Are Our Brickwall Ancestors, and Why Aren’t We Blogging About Them Regularly? In this post, she challenged us to write more about our brickwall ancestors in hopes of getting help from others – sometimes all it takes is a fresh look to gain a new perspective.  Miriam even proposed a suggested format, and many bloggers have followed her advice with great posts.  Some have blogged about their brickwalls, and later blogged about breaking them down!  I prefer to call my blanks roadblocks, but no matter what you name it, it is still an opportunity for research!

My only research plan in response to Miriam’s challenge was Research Plan: Finding Death Dates for Joseph Bergmeister and Ursula Goetz.  Joseph Bergmeister and Ursula Dallmeier Bergmeister Goetz happen to be two of my sixteen great-great-grands, and while I know their names, birth dates, locations, and parents’ names, I never completed my research by finding their death dates.  By developing the research plan, I have a clear idea of both the known facts and the clues to help me solve the  unknown details.  Although I have not had time yet to follow through with the plan, it is ready and waiting for me when I have more time.

But at least I had their names!  Now that some of us have cringed at the “blanks” in our “sweet sixteens”, it’s time to come up with research plans to resolve any blank spots.  Like I said in my post Sweet Sixteen: My Great-Great Grandparents, my tree is currently lopsided.  Some branches reach high into the air and are filled with green sprouts, while other are these little twig stubs lost in the foliage.

The first branch I need to concentrate on is my patrilineal line: the PIONTKOWSKI branch.  I have several clues on where to go next.  In fact, I could learn the names of three of my missing sixteen by obtaining the marriage record of my great-grandparents, Jan Piontkowski and Rose Kieswetter.  Soon I will come up with a research plan and present it here as a “continuation” of Randy’s challenge, and then I will try to develop research plans for the remaining “missing” information.  Even if I can’t get to the actual research right away, I will have “directions” on how to get me around this particular roadblock when I have the opportunity.  It’s time to stop ignoring those barren branches while climbing higher on the healthy ones!  Are you ready to try to fill in those blanks?

A Different Kind of Bling

BlingEach month footnoteMaven hosts a wonderful carnival of old photos called Smile for the Camera.  Despite the fact that I do not own a plethora of ancestor photos, I have participated every month except for one topic that completely stumped me.  And it looked like I was about to be stumped again this month when I saw the topic for the 16th edition: Bling, Ancestor Bling!  Maven wrote:

I am always drawn to the beautiful jewelry worn by our ancestors in old photographs. The locket that was your Great Grandmother’s treasure, the pocket watch proudly displayed by a male ancestor, the beautiful crosses of old, and the children with their tiny bracelets. While not many of our ancestors were wealthy enough to own multiple pieces of jewelry, there was the one good piece that held sentimental value. Some of us have been fortunate enough to inherit those treasures. Show us a photograph of your ancestor wearing their “Bling,” or photographs of the pieces you have inherited.

I have shown some photos of my great-aunt showing off some bling, but I wanted to use a new photo, never before seen in public.  There’s just one problem with that…my ancestors really weren’t “bling” kind of people.  Or, they were too poor to own any bling!  My mother and I were never really interested in jewelry, and she did not inherit any from her own mother or grandmothers.  So, this carnival will highlight many serious photographs with other’s ancestors displaying wonderful old-fashioned sparkling jewelry.  And then there’s me…  May I present a different kind of bling –

Now that's some serious bling!

Now that's some serious bling!

Ten carnivals ago I showed a photo of my father and his friend, Frank, all dressed up as ballerinas and explained that they participated in parents’ shows at my brother’s high school when I was a child.  This photo shows, from left to right, my mother and father and their friends Lil and Frank.  They are in costume for two numbers in the Archbishop Ryan High School (for Boys) Mothers Association show, Happy Holidays, which took place on November 19-20, 1976.  The show followed the calendar year with skits and dances revolving around the various holidays.

The ladies are dressed for the show’s opening chorus line number to the tune of Happy Holidays and Winter Wonderland.  The fur hats and matching muff look chic extraordinaire and fooled all but the ladies who made them – and myself, who helped.  The hats were made of the bottom of plastic milk cartons covered with cotton!  But doesn’t it look great?  Speaking of great, look how wonderful my Mom looks in her miniskirt – she is 40 years old in this picture!

Displaying far more bling than the ladies are the guys – er, well, the one guy and the guy-playing-the-lady.  They were the hit of the “February” sequence as they transformed into Elton John and Kiki Dee.  The pair lip-synced and danced to Don’t Go Breaking My Heart for Valentine’s Day.  My Dad, as Sir Elton, the king of bling, sports huge heart glasses, some neck-bling, and lots of sequins.  Not to be outdone, Frank gets in touch with his inner comedienne as Kiki – check out those heart earings and the feather boa!  What isn’t revealed in this photo is his plunging neckline and the dress slit “up to here”!  Even in comedy routines, the very masculine Frank always managed to look classier dressed as a woman than some of the women did!

[Written for the 16th edition of Smile for the Camera: Bling, Ancestor Bling!]

Sweet Sixteen: My Great-Great Grandparents

UPDATE: More info has been found…see my October 25th post, A Sweeter “Sweet Sixteen”

Whether we know their names or not, we all have sixteen great-great grandparents.  Randy Seaver’s latest edition of Saturday Night Genealogical Fun has challenged us to list them all with their birth and death dates and locations, as well as figure out our nationality percentages as a result.  While I did some rough math last night and commented back to Randy on Facebook, I decided to put this into a blog post today.  For one, it readily shows something I already knew – while certain “branches” on my family tree are quite full and sprout quite high – back ten generations from me at its highest point – the sad fact is that part of my family tree remains a bare twig.  As a genealogist, I hate that!  As you will see below, it’s the far left part of my tree – my patrilineal line.  Some might even argue that’s the most important, at least for the Y-DNA line of my brother and his sons.  Another fun part of this exercise was to see all of the surnames I have uncovered so far.  Here are my sixteen great-great grandparents:

1. Unknown PIONTKOWSKI, father of Jan Bołesław Piontkowski.  Birth and death unknown, presumably from Warsaw, Poland where Jan was born. Nationality: Polish

2. Unknown wife of #1, mother of Jan Bołesław Piontkowski.  Birth and death unknown, presumably from Warsaw, Poland where Jan was born. Nationality: Polish

3. Leopold KIESWETTER, father of Róza Kieswetter.  Birth and death unknown.  Presumed nationality: Polish

4. Unknown wife of #3, mother of Róza Kieswetter.  Birth and death unknown.  Presumed nationality: Polish

5. Josef BERGMEISTER, father of Josef Bergmeister.  Born 09 February 1843 in Puch, Bavaria, son of Jakob Bergmeister and Anna Maria Daniel.  Died before 1884, unknown place.  Nationality: German (Bavarian)

6. Ursula DALLMEIER, mother of Josef Bergmeister.  Born 17 March 1847 in Aichach, Bavaria, daughter of Joseph Dallmeier and Ursula Eulinger.   Died between 1897 and 1919, presumably in Regensburg, Bavaria, Germany. Nationality: German (Bavarian)

7. Karl ECHERER, father of Maria Echerer.  Born 31 May 1846 in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria, son of Ignaz Echerer and Magdalena Nigg.  Died after 1882 in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria. Nationality: German (Bavarian)

8. Margarethe FISCHER, mother of Maria Echerer.  Born 21 January 1845 in Langenbruck, Bavaria, daughter of Franz Xaver Fischer and Barbara Gürtner.  Died 04 October 1895 in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria, Germany. Nationality: German (Bavarian)

9. Jozef PATER, father of Ludwig Pater.  Born on 21 September 1864 in Ruda Guzowska, Poland, son of Jan Pater and Teofilia Zakrzewska.  Died on 11 August 1945 in Philadelphia, PA, USA.  Nationality: Polish

10. Antonina Rozalia PLUTA, mother of Ludwig Pater. Born on 21 June 1863 in Mszczonów, Poland, daughter of Ludwik Pluta and Franciszka Anna Wojciechowska.  Died on 12 December 1938 in Philadelphia, PA, USA. Nationality: Polish

11. Jan MÜLLER, father of Elżbieta Müller.  Birth and death unknown.  Presumed nationality: Bohemian

12. Elizabeth SMETANA, mother of Elżbieta Müller.  Birth and death unknown.  Presumed nationality: Bohemian

13. Wawrzyniec ZAWODNY, father of Jozef Zawodny.  Born around 1853 in unknown location to Szymon Zawodny and Katarzyna Ratajewska.  Died 13 December 1917 in Dobrosołowo, Poland.  Nationality: Polish

14. Katarzyna MARIANSKA, mother of Jozef Zawodny.  Born around 1853, presumably in Komorowo, Poland, to Stanisław Marianski and Marianna Radomska.  Died 29 July 1923 in Dobrosołowo, Poland.  Nationality: Polish

15. Wincenty SLESINSKI, father of Wacława Slesinska.  Born around 1851, presumably in Wilczyn, Poland, to Jozef Slesinski and Elżbieta Michalowska.  Died 01 January 1919 in Dobrosołowo, Poland.  Nationality: Polish

16. Stanisława DROGOWSKA, mother of Wacława Slesinski.  Born around 1860, presumably in Wilczyn, Poland, to Jan Drogowski and Konstancja Kubicka.  Died 30 December 1918 in Dobrosołowo, Poland.  Nationality: Polish

Of 16 great-great grandparents, 13 can be named.  As for the facts, I have definite birth and death dates for only 3, definite birth and unknown death dates for 3, unknown birth and definite death dates for 4, and all dates unknown for 6.  Do you know what that means?  It means I have a lot of genealogical research to do!  In the early days of my research, I got so excited at the ability to go back and back and back on certain lines that I forgot about following up the more “recent” folks with all of the necessary and pertinent data.

Nationality-wise, this makes me:

  • 62.5% Polish – 10 great-greats (6 definite, 4 assumed to be Polish)
  • 25% German – 4 great-greats
  • 12.5% Bohemian – 2 great-greats that are presumed Bohemian based on info I have so far

I have identified strongly with my Bavarian roots, yet it only comprises 25% of my genes.  Perhaps that identification comes from the fact that this side was so much easier to search so far!

Some random facts about my sweet sixteen –

  • #9 and 10 are my only 2nd great grandparents to immigrate to the United States, making my paternal grandfather the only grandparent to know his own grandparents.
  • #15 and 16 died two days apart from each other
  • I have photographs of none of my sixteen 2nd great grandparents and I have photographs of only six of their children, my great-grandparents.
  • My maternal grandmother’s grandparents all died between 1917 and 1923, long after their children came to the U.S.  They lived close to the border of German-occupied Poland and Russian-occupied Poland, but I do not yet know if their deaths were related to World War I.  My grandmother never met her grandparents, but had they also immigrated she would have known them since she was born in 1907.

Thanks for more genealogical fun, Randy!  It is embarrassing that my tree is a bit barren in spots, but I’m glad I can name as many and I can.  Many people today can not name their 8 great-grandparents…yet they don’t seem bothered by it at all.  Ask a genealogist to name their 16 great-greats, and now you’ve got some angry folks who realize they have to work harder!

Research Roadblock: Names

Do all genealogists encounter roadblocks like this?

Do all genealogists encounter roadblocks like this?

The topic for the 22nd edition of the Carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy is roadblocks and breakthroughs.  I like the using the term “roadblock” for those genealogy research problems rather than the term “brickwall” because a roadblock seems more like an obstacle I can “get around” or overcome.  We can always detour our way around a roadblock; knocking down a brickwall is possible, but it requires some heavy duty equipment.  I’m an optimistic genealogist, because I believe you never really encounter a brickwall unless all possible records for an individual or a locality do not exist.  Roadblocks, however, crop up all the time – even on what seems like the simplest genealogical task.  Just like a real roadblock you might encounter while driving, you usually don’t expect it and may not know the way around it.

The most common roadblock in my research has been related to NAMES.  That is, you know what name you are looking for, but you can’t seem to FIND it in an index.  Causes for these name roadblocks include foreign spelling, foreign accents, bad handwriting, nicknames, and name changes.  Many of my ancestors’ Polish and German names have caused delays in my research, but you can often detour around the roadblock if only you know the way.  In this post, I’ll offer a few tips that may help you with name roadblocks.  Although my own ancestry is Central and Eastern European, the tips to breaking through this particular roadblock are useful no matter where your family’s history began.

1. Use alternate searches – if possible, search for the first name and other identifiers rather than the surname.  If you can’t find a family on a census record, find the possible address using other sources and then search for the address instead of the name.  I was able to find my Zawodny family this way when the census had them listed as Cawodny.

2. Get creative – if the first letter of the last name is incorrectly indexed – whether through bad handwriting or bad indexing, try variations.  Try writing out the name in the style of handwriting used at the time the record was compiled.  Would a handwritten “P” resemble an “F”?

3.  Watch out for nicknames – don’t overlook your ancestor because they are using a nickname, their middle name, or the “foreign” first name from their home country.  Ludwig, Louis, Lewis, or Lou could all be the correct first name for an individual.  Some researchers get stumped looking for Uncle Bill or Aunt Stella only to discover that they could have found the record looking for Bołesław or Stanisława.

4. Learn all about the surnames from your immigrant’s home country.  In Poland, surnames can have masculine or feminine endings – so Piontkowski’s wife or daughter is Piontkowska and Zawodny’s wife or daugher is Zawodna.  These practices were still used in the US in the early 20th Century.  Russian and some other Slavic languages use similar feminine forms.  In German, feminine forms are uncommon today, but in older records you may see the suffixes –in, -yn, -s, -z, or –en added to the male surname for feminine forms of the name.

5. Try phoenetic sound of name for alternate spelling that Soundex might not pick up.  Sometimes we forget that our immigrant ancestors had accents.  Since the information in some records came from your ancestors speaking directly to someone collecting the information, it is important to remember their native language and its pronunciations.  In many cases, the use of Soundex in indexing will cover up for many of these phoenetic mistakes – but not all.  Take time to learn the nuances of your family’s native languages.  A simple example of a mis-spelled name on a census record that was likely caused by the immigrant’s accent is my great-grandfather’s Polish surname, Pater.  It is a relatively simple name as far as Polish names go!  Rather than the English pronunciation of the name, PAY-ter, the Polish pronunciation is PAH-ter, much like the Latin word.  On the 1910 census, the family is listed as “Potter” – a reasonable assumption based on how it is pronounced.  Fortunately, Soundex will catch this error.  But what happens when the pronunciation is very different?

Many foreign languages have letters that the English alphabet does not, and each of these letters has a unique pronunciation.  Unless you know how to “say” the name in the foreign language, you may hit a roadblock.  Some examples include:

Polish ą – pronounced “ahn” but it is often transcribed as a simple “a” in English.  So the Polish surname Piątkowski may be indexed as Piatkowski.  But, if you heard the name pronounced, the English transcription should be Piontkowski.  If searching for “Piontkowski” using the Soundex code, an entry under “Piatkowski” would not show up.

Polish Ł or ł – pronounced with an English “w” sound, this Polish letter confuses non-Poles.  It may be transcribed as a simple English “L”, or the lowercase version may become a “t” since that is what it looks like.   Or the record-writer has heard the name pronouced and makes it a “W” so that the surname Łaski is indexed as it sounds to the American ear – Waski.

German ü – Americans don’t know what to make of German umlauts.  Sometimes the umlaut is simply ignored, so the surname Müller is spelled Muller.  Other times it is listed as Mueller, since the “ü” has a “ue” sound.  But just as often I have found it as Miller, as if the ü is two letter “i” – and since English doesn’t have words like Miiller, it becomes Miller.

I could continue with examples of the different letters found in foreign languages from the French ç to the Hungarian Á to the Croatian Ð.  Aside from the unique letters, researching foreign names has to take the language into consideration – a “ch” combination in one language may sound like an “English” “ch” or a “k” instead.  In German, the sound of an initial consonant “B” often sounds like a “P”.  The point is to be aware of the way the immigrant’s original language sounded, because it may account for some of the incorrect spellings you will encounter.

I can’t emphasis enough the importance of learning about the language from which the name is derived.  It may give you enough knowledge to break through that roadblock!

Recommended reading:

Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings, Second Edition by William F. Hoffman (Polish Genealogical Society of America, Chicago, IL, 1997).

First Names of the Polish Commonwealth: Origins and Meanings by William F. Hoffman and George W. Helon (Polish Genealogical Society of America, Chicago, IL, 1998).

Dictionary of German Names by Hans Bahlow (Max Kade Institute, 2002).

[Written for the 22nd Carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy: Roadblocks and Breakthroughs]

What Are They Looking For?

Sometimes we need a little humor in our blogging – especially after reading the latest edition of the COG and learning that all of us were this close to having our ancestry wiped out before we could even be born.  I haven’t written a strictly humorous post in a while with the exception of my monthly guest appearances at Shades of the Departed.  But it’s easy to find humor in the sheer act of blogging.  We’ve seen a number of talented genea-bloggers take a break from their genealogical articles to write about the hysterical nature of those words we have to use for comment verification on each other’s blogs.  But today I’d like to share one thing about this blog that has made me laugh recently, and it involves my “statistics”.

I’ve used Google Analytics on other blogs, and I love the features that allow you to find out everything about your visitors.  I mean everything – where they are from, how long they visited, what they looked at, and if they washed their hands before they left.  Well, maybe not that last one, but I bet those folks at Google are working on it.  I was disappointed that I can’t use Analytics on What’s Past is Prologue – you see, I’m too cheap to host the blog myself, so I’m using the free version.  And with the free version, Google Analytics is verboten.  But WordPress does give us economical folks a version of it.  Sort of.  It would be like calling a gumdrop a version of an ice cream sundae.  They are both desserts of sorts, but, ah, different!

One thing my cheapy free version of statistics gives me is the “search terms” that visitors are searching for when they unexpectedly land here.  I’ve gotten many laughs in recent months over these terms, and I’ve also scratched my head in bewilderment.  Wait, someone is searching for that? And the search engine points them to my blog?  I’m not sure if I should be offended or grateful for the free traffic.  “Hey, I can’t help you with that, but if you want to stay a while maybe I can interest you in something else…”  Here are some of the best of the strange, odd, and downright scary search terms that have directed folks to What’s Past is Prologue – with my comments, of course.   Note: These terms are all actual search terms as reported to me by WordPress! Let’s call it the 1st Edition of the Carnival of Strange Search Terms!


first communion photography tempest – The first 3 words I can understand – after all, I’ve shown many photos here including my father’s first communion.  And we all know what play the title of this blog comes from.  What I can’t fathom is what it means when you combine the terms together.  That must have been quite the stormy event!

what is an aunt – Seriously?  My 4-year-old niece already understands why I am called “Aunt Donna” and the lady across the street is not.

can’t find my marriage licenese – Note: It’s probably not here either.

piontkowski murder mystery – You’ve got my attention!  Just when I thought my great-grandfather was mysterious enough, now I have to wonder if there’s a murder mystery to solve, too.

rust genealogy – Father: Iron, Mother: Oxygen, Baby Rust born under the sign of Aquarius.


William Shakespeare’s marriage photos – I had no idea photography went back that far!

shakespear prologue car – Apparently automobiles are older than I thought as well.

squinny shakespeare – I have no idea what it means, but I’d love the answer to this one myself.


carnival themed wedding – Really?  Someone would actually do that?

wedding prosthesis – I don’t think I want to know.  Should this be in the “Kinky” category below?

stories of fraud marriage(2008-2009) – I sense a story here, and some slight hostility in the searcher.


plain girl pictures – Hey!  I think I’m insulted.

ugliest ballet tutu – I know what page this would have brought them to, but I want to know why you’re searching for it!

ugly women facesHEY! They must be mistaken, for this search term surely wouldn’t lead to the page with my photo on it!

impossible to pronounce polish name – Really, “Pointkouski” isn’t THAT hard.


what do houses of nj look like – Ours look like houses that the rest of the country lives in.  Really.

what’s in my soul – If you found the answer here, please let me know so I can market it.

why can’t humans live past 200 years old – We can live to 200?

what.section.of.phila.do.irish.live – we.let.them.live.anywhere.they.want.

what to do after a blizzard hits – Shovel.

six months two weeks one day and an hour – Equals the amount of time it would take me to figure out how this would lead here.


show me beautifull teady beer photos – How about if I show you a dictionary instead?

list of monks at west thornton in1880 – And this led you here because…?

hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy tattoos – Don’t panic, but the answer’s not here.

2009 meteor showers camping ground phila – You’ve obviously never been to Philadelphia if you believe you can see meteor showers here.  There’s so much light pollution, I don’t need any outside lights over here on the other side of the river – I can see just fine from the humid glow across the way.


kitten and cockatiel co-habiting – LOL – That should be a sitcom.

three flexible sisters from the 1920s – I can’t even imagine what the searcher was looking for.  Well, I can imagine, but why would I want to?

2 ugly transvestites – That would be my description of my dad and his comedic buddy, but, excuse me, you’re not only looking for transvestites, but ugly ones?

naked paternal grandmother – Eeeeewwww!  Specifically wrong on so many levels.

schoolboys at crossdressing – I’ll second that eeeewwww and raise you a pedophile alert.

Bavarian naked women – The searcher was sorely disappointed in whatever page they were led to!

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 geneablogger, do you encounter these strange and unusual researchers?  Tell me about your best search terms!  Until next time, I remain the Queen of Ugly Teady Beer Shakespearean Transvestite Marriage Photos.