I Haven’t Felt Creative Lately, But…

A few months ago, I somehow managed to go away on a 3-week vacation but wrote and scheduled at least ten blog posts to hit while I was out of the country.  But for the last two weeks I’ve been sidetracked by normal everyday life and just gave up on blogging.

Well, these things happen.  When they do, it’s really hard to pick up that pen/keyboard again and get back to it.  It helps that while I was gone, my readers still read my older posts.  And not one, but THREE FOUR different bloggers have awarded me the “Kreativ Blogger” award.  I try my best to be creative, but I’m not sure I can live up to the kreativ moniker!  Here’s the obligatory 7 random facts about me, which I’ve tried to relate to genealogy and blogging…

1. I’ve met only one geneablogger in person so far.  I’m convinced he moonlights as Santa Claus.  Take note: Santa and Randy have never been seen together.  Coicindence?  I think not…

2. My hero is Chris Dunham.

3. I know footnoteMaven‘s real name.  Don’t try to get it out of me…she knows where I live, AND she knows how to handle various weapons.

4. I really want to be the separated-at-birth triplet sister of Steve and Jasia.

5. Every time I see my nieces and nephews, I try to give them new nicknames.  This week we’re reindeer – Dancer, Vixen, Dasher and Cupid join Aunt Donner.

6. My 20-year genealogical mission: to explore strange old ancestors, to seek out new facts and photos, to boldly split infinitives and go where no geneablogger has gone before!

7. All I really want to do is direct.

So there you have it – more things about me you really have no need to know.  I would love to pass this on to seven other bloggers as required, but I’m late to the party and most of the usual suspects have already
received the very same award.  Do read those who have nominated me though:

  • Mother Superior Sheri Fenley, the Educated Genealogist herself, on 11/17.  I don’t like to cook either, but if you come clean my toilets for me I’ll cook you dinner.  Just don’t vacuum, please!
  • Katie from You Are Where You Came From (a very Past Prologue-like idea!) on 11/19.   Anyone who is a sucker for a good pun is a friend of mine!
  • Tonia from Tonia’s Roots on 11/25.  Not only is Tonia from one of my favorite states, but she has some really interesting family history facts!
  • UPDATE: Cheri from Those Old Memories on 11/30 right after I wrote this post!  I wish the days were longer, too, Cheri, and I would have caught your post before I posted this.

Thanks, ladies!  I appreciate the “love” and I hope it motivates me to get back to my regularly scheduled blogging!


Surname Saturday: PLUTA

Surname – PLUTA

Meaning/Origin – The name PLUTA (hear it pronounced in Polish) is derived from the Polish word pluć, meaning “to spit”.  Pluta means “spitter” or bad weather!  (Source: Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings, Second Edition by William F. Hoffman)

Countries of Origin – The surname PLUTA is Polish. According to the World Names Profiler, Poland has the highest frequency per million residents with this name at 385 per million. Germany is next at almost 15 per million, with Canada at 8 and the United States at 6.75.

Spelling Variations – PLUTA is the most common variation of the name, but other names derived from the same root include PLUCIK, PLUCIŃSKI, PLUTECKI, PLUTOWSKI, AND PLUWAK.  (Source: Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings, Second Edition by William F. Hoffman)

Surname Maps – The following map illustrates the frequency of the PLUTA surname in Poland.  There are about 15,258 people with the surname PLUTA spread out over 320 different counties and cities.  The greatest concentration are in the city of Warsaw (Warszawa) with over 400 residents.

Pluta Poland Map

Distribution of the PLUTA surname in Poland.

SOURCE: Mojkrewni.pl “Mapa nazwisk” database, http://www.moikrewni.pl/mapa/kompletny/pluta.html, accessed November 14, 2009.

Famous Individuals with the Surname – Wilhelm Pluta (1910-1986) was a bishop in Poland who is now a candidate for sainthood in the Catholic church.

My Family – This is the surname of my great-great-grandmother.  My Pluta family comes from the town of Mszczonów, Poland. My earliest ancestor so far with this name is Ludwik Pluta, born around 1790-1800 and deceased by his son’s marriage in 1842.  He married Helena Redłowska.  My line of descent is as follows: Ignacy (b. 1821) > Ludwik (b. 26 Aug 1843 – d. by 1885) > daughter Antonina Rozalia (b. 11 Jun 1863, Mszczonów – d. 12 Dec 1938, Philadelphia, PA, USA).  Antonina had at least one brother to carry on the family name, Jan Pluta.  He was living in Żyrardów at the time of his mother’s immigration to the US in 1909.

Antonina Pluta married Józef Pater in August 1885.  They immigrated to the U.S. with their seven children from 1905-1907.  More information is found on the Pater Family Page.

My Research Challenges -I need to continue my research.  On a trip to Poland, the priest at the church in Mszczonów was unable to find the baptismal record of Ignacy in 1821, which is the presumed year based on his marriage record from 1842.  The Family History Library has microfilmed church records for this town from 1808 to 1877, so I need to take a closer look myself.  The records are not early enough to find Ignacy’s father’s (Ludwik) birth, but I may be able to find the marriage record for Ludwik and Helena Pluta.

Surname Message Boards – Ancestry has a Pluta message board here.

Links to other posts about my Pluta family can be found here.

This post is #4 of an ongoing series about surnames.  To see all posts in the series, click here.

Why I Love the COG

I love COGMy blogging adventure called What’s Past is Prologue began on January 6, 2008.  But I had been reading genealogy blogs for several months prior to beginning my own.  The one aspect of genealogy blogs that I really enjoyed reading the most was the Carnival of Genealogy.  Twice a month bloggers would take on the challenge of writing around a theme – and it always amazed me that each article was somehow different and new despite the common topic.  And I simply adored the way the COG hostess with the mostess, Jasia, pulled it all together in a charming and fun way.  This is so much fun, I have to try this…thus my blog was born.  After all, one needed to have a blog to participate in the COG!

My very first COG was #40: Living Relative Connections.  My submission, Finding Cousins in Bavaria, was only the 5th post on my blog.  I was hooked.  Since then, I have participated in 32 different editions of the COG with a total of 33 posts (one post was submitted for two different COG topics, and for two COGs I submitted two posts).  In the last two years, I have only missed submitting posts for twelve editions of the COG, and four of those editions were in the last two months due to vacation or work priorities.  I even had the extreme pleasure of serving as COG hostess on two different occasions: #54 – The Family Language and #71 – Local History.

Since I’ve admitted starting my blog partially to participate in the COG and I’ve mentioned how often I’ve played along, it’s apparent that the Carnival of Genealogy is meaningful to me, my writing, and my genealogy.  But why?  For me, blogging has been more about writing than about research, and the COG continually offers me a new way to be creative with my genealogical writing.  It’s always suspenseful to be surprised by the next topic – and then I hurriedly wonder what I could write about.

In my own 33 COG posts, I’ve learned a lot about myself and my writing.  The COG has also helped my genealogical research with topics like the two “Tribute to Women” COGs  – #44 and #68.  For the first, I wrote a biography of a great-aunt that I did not know much about in Hilaire Bergmeister: A Tribute to An Aunt.  For the latter, I wrote a tribute to an aunt near and dear to my heart in Memories of Aunt Joan.  One submission taught me how to craft a story out of bare facts, while the other taught me how to craft a portrait out of heartfelt memories.

The COG gave me the opportunity to take raw genealogical facts – bland ones like ages and occupations – and try to create an interesting post.  Or, I reflected on topics I never would have thought to write about like politics or language.  Or  I got to show off some family photos that I loved only to find out that others thought they were pretty cool too.

But my absolute favorite COG topics are the ones that made me remember.  I never intended to write memoir style posts about myself on the blog – it was supposed to be about genealogy!  But what is more genealogical than your own memories?  Some COG topics in particular challenged me to do this, and they are my favorites:

  • My Big, Old, Fast Favorite Car – the title says it all – about The Torino, “a legend, a chrome-bumpered baby-blue 4-wheeled Millennium Falcon — in other words, not too pretty on the outside, but oh could that baby move!”
  • Cats Ruled This Family – about our three cats who “lived with us the longest and felt more like ‘family’ – becoming personalities as real as the fickle old uncle who feigns dislike of everyone, the ‘few watts short’ cousin always needing help, or the grandfather with the gruff exterior but the heart of gold.”
  • The Innocents Abroad – about my vacation as a teenager to Rome, “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. “

But the COG is so much more than just me and my writing.  By reading everyone else’s submissions, I’ve learned new research tips and new ways of writing or “presenting” information.  But even more than that – I’ve laughed, cried, and smiled at some of the best “amateur” writing I’ve ever read.  And friends, writers love to read good writing…it is how we grow and learn.

The COG is not merely a writing prompt, but a “carnival” where we all gather together to share our stories.  It is in this virtual “sharing” that I have learned the most about writing and reflecting on family history.  These posts from fellow genea-bloggers touched me so much that I did not even have to look through past COGs to find them – they were already ingrained in my memory.  “DO THIS” they say. “WRITE LIKE THIS” and you, too, may touch a stranger’s heart.  Let me share with you some of those special posts by others that impacted me in different ways.

I laughed.

“Yeah, it’s a Mustang. Or… maybe it’s a Maverick. Something like that.” ~ Jasia

I love humorous writing.  I try, and sometimes I succeed, but to me there is nothing greater than writing something that makes another person laugh out loud.  In COG #45, Jasia of Creative Gene wrote “It was an Ugly Car!” and made me laugh out loud!  Her story of her ugly car was told in such a way that it was simple and perfect – a short tale with language that Twain would have chuckled at.  It is not easy to tell a story that packs a laugh, and Jasia did it well.

I cried.

“Sometimes in family history there are so many questions left unanswered that ancestors take with them to the afterlife. Why? Because there was no one there to challenge them, to question them.” ~ Thomas

It was only the second COG I ever participated in, #41.  This was a creative topic – if you could have dinner with four ancestors, who would they be and why?  I had fun with this one and tried to be humorous.  But the post that impacted me the most was by Thomas MacEntee of Destination: Austin Family.  Thomas wrote “A Dinner of Remembrance”.  I read it one morning in work, and I cried at my desk.  First I was struck by his sheer creativity in the way he presented the story of his dinner with his ancestors.  But the emotional impact came from his one dinner guest who is still alive, but not…his mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s.  I am very fortunate because I do not have personal knowledge of this disease.  I could read about it in news reports, but I felt like I could understand its impact by reading about Thomas’ imaginary dinner.  I have struggled writing about some topics that are buried deep within my heart.  With this tale, Thomas showed me that you can unbury your emotions and write about them beautifully.

I waited…in suspense.

“My Mother could take no more. All she wanted was to know if she still had a home.” ~ fM

I have been repeatedly touched, amazed, and awed by the writing of footnoteMaven at both footnoteMaven and Shades of the Departed.  So, it is difficult to choose just one post of hers that stands out.  I decided on a relatively recent one of Maven’s that she submitted for #77 called “Auntie Em! Auntie Em!” for the sheer suspense of her story of living through a tornado.  I was blown away – no pun intended.

I smiled.

“Did you sign this yourself?” Mrs. Katzman asked, sternly. “Yes,” I lied. ~ Steve

They say it’s the simple things in life that make us happy, yet those simple things can be so hard to write about.  Steve Danko of Steve’s Genealogy Blog made it look so easy in his COG #44 submission, “Mrs. Katzman, Children’s Librarian”.  I challenge you to read this and not feel as if you’re standing next to the 6-year-old boy determined to get his first library card.  Simple, charming – wonderful!  How many Mrs. Katzmans have we all known?  But have we written about them?  Why not?

There are many other talented writers besides these four friends who submit to the COG and continually inspire me!  If you don’t read every submission, it’s time to start because you’ll never know when one will stand out from the rest and truly touch you.  If you don’t submit to the COG, now’s the time to try!  It is a wonderfully challenging way to get creative with your family history.  Don’t be shy – we want to hear your story.

[Written for the 84th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: What the COG means to me!]

Say It in Polish

As a Polish-American interested in genealogy, I quickly learned that pronunciation is the key to everything.   How can you properly research a family if you can’t say the language correctly? I realized that there are American English pronunciations of Polish surnames and place names, and then there is the real way it is pronounced in Polish.

Over the years I’ve learned a few things about the Polish language with its “different” letters and consonant combinations, and I can usually figure out how a word is pronounced.  But sometimes…I get stumped.  Just the other day I learned that my great-grandmother was born in a town near Warsaw called Przybyszew.  Przybyszew?  Where do I begin?  I’d like to buy a vowel, Pat!

Fortunately, I discovered an awesome website thanks to Zenon Znamirowski from PolishOrigins.com that allows you to hear Polish words pronounced by Polish speakers!  So, how do you say Przybyszew?  Click on this link to hear it!

The site, Expressivo, is a text to speech program.  To test it out, you can enter up to 200 characters of text here and listen to the results read by several voices: Eric (male US-English), Jennifer (female US-English), Carmen (female Romanian), Jacek (male Polish), or Ewa (female Polish).  To hear Polish names or place names, I highly recommend using the two Polish voices to hear a true Polish pronunciation.

Here are several of my ancestors’ names and the towns they lived in – click the link to hear it in Polish:

Many Americans may have seen these town names in Poland and thought they knew how to pronounce them.  Try it, then click on the link and see if you were correct – you might be surprised!

Łódź Gdańsk Kraków Wrocław Częstochowa Poznań

You can tell that I had a lot of fun “playing” with this site, but other than it being cool to hear your ancestor’s name and hometown properly pronounced, why is it important?  Because knowing the correct pronunciation in an immigrant’s native language can often help you find your ancestor in records that are not spelled correctly, but are written as English-speakers heard the foreign tongue pronounced.  Obviously, this does not only apply to the Polish language, but any language other than American English.

[Submitted for the Carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy: Tips, Tricks, and Websites]

World War I Veterans

Here are two photographs of World War I veterans.  Both gentlemen married my great-grandmother’s sisters (surname: Slesinski).  The photos contained no identifying information; however, I have identified these men based on labeled photographs taken around 1930 which were featured in a previous post, The Slesinski Sisters: Part 3 – Research Confirmed.

Adolph Majewski

Adolph Majewski

John Smilovicz

John Smilovicz

I thank them for their service to this country, as well as all veterans and military members currently serving in harm’s way.  Thank you!

Join the Navy, See the World

The word prompt for the 18th edition of the Smile for the Camera carnival is Travel: show us your family and how they traveled.  Well, that’s a hard one…other than my immigrant ancestors arriving in the U.S. by ship, I don’t know of any other travelers in the family – and I certainly don’t have any photos of them.  I seem to be the first bitten by the travel bug.  Until I remembered that my father did travel – courtesy of the United States Navy!  Here is a photo of him (on the right) and his buddy on their ship, the USS Cadmus.


Aboard the USS Cadmus, circa 1956-58

The expression the Navy used for recruiting for many years was “Join the Navy and See the World” – in my father’s case, this was true.  He was only in the Navy for two years, but he managed to travel quite a bit.  The USS Cadmus, AR-14, was a repair ship.  She made her first transatlantic crossing in 1957 to Scotland, France, and Spain.  The following year the ship had exercises in the Mediterranean.  My father has very fond memories of his time in the Navy, and he still remembers those ports of call.  It would be the only time my father ever traveled outside of the United States.  Here is a photo of the USS Cadmus:


USS Cadmus, AR-14

[Written for the 18th Edition of Smile for the Camera Carnival: Travel]

Related Post: Even and Ocean Can’t Separate a Son’s Love for Mom

It’s a Blog, It’s a Magazine, It’s…Brilliant!

Shades of the Departed - The Magazine

Shades of the Departed - The Magazine Debuts

w Shades

Stuffed in a photo booth with our shades on, 1986.

Once a month I invite you to read my Weekend with Shades column, The Humor of It, over at one of my favorite blogs, Shades of the Departed.  Well, this month is special because the lovely and talented footnoteMaven has done what few in the blogosphere do…she has created something new, creative, and different.  Rather than publish the columns every weekend on the blog, she has taken a month’s worth of great articles and created an online magazine!  Please visit Shades of the Departed – The Magazine for the link and viewing instructions.  It is original, creative, and simply stunning to view.  Yes, I am one of her columnists, but that is not why I am praising it – I feel lucky to be among the writers she features on her blog, and I hope what I give her is “good enough” for such a brilliant idea!

So, be warned, this new magazine is so brilliant, you might just have to put some shades on!  And if you’re interested, my article about The Photo Booth begins on page 54!