2009: A Look Back

Dear 2009,

Well, it’s that time again…time to say good-bye.  Last year, I said good-bye to your cousin 2008 and called you a “new friend” that was knocking on my door.  You did knock me around a bit, so I’m not sure if “friend” was the right word for you!  You went by so quickly that my memories are blurry, and it’s hard to remember even the good gifts you gave me.  But I will try, for I am grateful that I got to spend the year with you.  After we reminisce a while, don’t let the door hit you in the behind!  It’s time I “unfriend” you, my friend, and make room for my new buddy, 2010.  I’m sure you will understand.  Let’s toast to all the good times we had together before you leave!


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Is it just me, or does everyone have a hard time remembering events of the previous year?  Each December 31st, I seem to have a hole in my memory, particularly when it comes to the months of January and February of that year.  I must hibernate during those months and later try to forget the bitter cold days without sunshine.  Once again I shall attempt to relive the year – thankful for the good stuff, hopeful that the not-so-good stuff was meant to be for a reason, and joyful that I get the opportunity to begin another year.

In the world of genealogy, my one significant find was the marriage record of my great-grandparents, Jan Piątkowski and Rozalia Kizoweter.  As a result of this find, I learned the names of four more of my great-greats!  Two other genealogical finds occurred this year that I have not yet written about – stay tuned in 2010 for stories about my cousin who died in the concentration camp at Auschwitz and my cousins who died fighting in the so-called “Great War”.

Speaking of cousins, as a result of this blog I “met” several new cousins this year!  These cousins are on both sides of the family – Frank and Carl (dad’s mother’s line), Joe and Marlene (mom’s mother’s lines), and Vickie and Jackie (mom’s father’s line).  A few of my cousins are now my Facebook friends, and at least one might actually have photos of my great-grandmother!

In March, the world and I said good-bye to actress Betsy Blair – although I did not see her often, I have missed her greatly since her passing.  The absolute best “personal” genealogical news was the birth of my second nephew, Luke, in April.  He has given me much joy in the last eight months!  His older sisters and brother gave Aunt Donna much joy as well.  Natalie grew into a beautiful young woman – and grew taller than her aunt (how did that happen?).  Ava’s stories make me laugh more than any comedian’s, and Nick’s smile still melts my heart.  Luke is already showing them who’s boss even though he’s the “baby”.

In March, two of my German Bergmeister cousins visited me in Philadelphia for a fun dinner.  I finally met one of my second cousins for dinner in her hometown, and since then she has become my new big sister.  As the year closed out, I became an honorary aunt when my best friends welcomed the birth of a daughter – I will take my auntie responsibility as seriously as I do for my other nieces and nephews.

I was fortunate enough to travel a bit this year for both work and pleasure.  Some of my best memories of 2009 happened while traveling, including a birthday beach day in Luquillo, Puerto Rico; visiting old and new friends in San Diego; and traipsing through the Languedoc-Roussillon region in France.  Unfortunately, I repeated a 2008 mistake and only saw the local beach once this past summer…and once again I resolve that it will not happen again!

I enjoyed many good times with family and friends this past year.  Some big family events included my niece’s confirmation and 8th grade graduation, and baby Luke’s baptism.  One of my best friends was installed as the pastor of a parish, and another priest friend was named Monsignor.  My brother turned 50 while our father hit 75!  I tried to savor every dinner with friends.  Thanks to Facebook, I re-connected with old friends and classmates.  A bunch of us who went to grade school together had an enjoyable mini-reunion in October, and I made some “new” friendships from those “old” names from my past.

It didn’t seem possible, but the Phillies made it to the World Series for the second year in a row!  Even though the outcome was different than last year, the ride was fun – watching those games are high on my list of favorite memories from this past year.

Two of my personal dreams died this year.  I’m still mourning their loss, but I am slowly learning that it is possible that new dreams may take their place in my heart.

I tried to stay entertained this year, though as usual I was far from being “current” with my choices for reading, music or movies. Favorite reads this year: 1599 – A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare by James Shapiro, The Doomsday Key by James Rollins, and the Brethren trilogy by Robyn Young.  Among dozens of other books, I re-read an old favorite: Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton.  Favorite albums this year: Release by Sister Hazel, Cradlesong by Rob Thomas, Ali E Radici by Eros Ramazzotti.  Some old favorites got increasing airplay on my personal playlists by the end of the year: Feeling Strangely Fine by Semisonic and Congratulations, I’m Sorry by Gin Blossoms.  I was fortunate to see Reilly & Maloney in concert – their music has resonated with me for over 20 years now, and they still sound great!  I can only remember seeing one movie in the theater this year – fortunately it was Star Trek, which was awesome.

After years of reading about Montségur, I visited in September and climbed to the top.  While catching my breath, drinking some wine, and enjoying the view, a man hiked by and commented in accented-English, “You really know how to live!”  I accepted his kind remark as a compliment, and I hope I learn how to live even better next year.  One of my personal goals for this past year was to make every day count.  Many days I forgot to do that, but I am slowly learning to sit back and enjoy the ride.


Here We Go Again: Genea-Resolutions

Poster designed by footnoteMaven.com

The 87th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy asks us to reveal our “New Year’s Resolutions” – specifically our “genea-resolutions”, or how we plan to approach our family history in 2010!  As with any New Year resolution, it’s best to first ask myself how I did with last year’s resolutions.  In the 63rd COG last December, I listed four goals.  If I had to grade myself on how well I accomplished them, I must say that I failed miserably in most cases.  For 2009 I wanted to:

  • Go back one more generation on each of my great-grandparents’ lines – this was accomplished for my Piontkowski great-grandparents when I received a copy of their marriage record and learned their parents’ names.  But I was not able to do much research on any other lines.
  • Get back to the library – I did visit the Family History Library once, just to see if my old “indefinite” film was still there.  I’ve decided that to do this right, I have to go to Salt Lake City – using my local FHC will take too much time and money.  In addition, they have hours that don’t suit my schedule, it is always noisy there, and they have only one microfilm copier machine that is always in use by someone else.
  • In a combination of the above two goals, I wanted to find some missing details on my Bavarian ancestry.  Although I developed a research plan earlier this year, I never acted on it.  Yet.
  • Keep writing – Despite some “good” articles that appeared here, this was another failure.  I only wrote one magazine article all year, and someone else published my book idea in May.  Unfortunately, I also did not do a very good job with posting frequently with only 91 posts published this year (before this one) versus 146 in 2008.  December was a particularly bad month for posting.  On the plus side, I did begin a humor column for Shades of the Departed, which became a cool online magazine in November and December!

How do I approach my family history in 2010?  Especially given the fact that so many of 2009’s resolutions were not fulfilled?  Well, the New Year can be a time for new beginnings in your life and it’s no different with researching family history.  Even if I failed to accomplish everything we hoped to do this year, the only way to move forward is to dust myself off, re-evaluate those goals, and try again.  On that optimistic note, here are my genea-resolutions for 2010:

  • Go to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City – hopefully for the National Genealogical Society Family History Conference in April, 2010.  This will give me access to the films I need for further research and the opportunity to meet many of my genea-blogger friends!
  • Go back one more generation – instead of thinking of each of my eight great-grandparents’ lines like I did a year ago, this year I will limit this resolution somewhat with the following sub-goals:  1) I want to find the birth record of my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Miller Pater, to confirm the names of her parents; 2) continue back one generation on the Piontkowski and Kizoweter lines; and 3) fill in some missing details on my Bavarian ancestors.
  • Keep writing – this one stays the same as last year’s goal: keep posting here a few times each week and get back to writing articles for the genealogy magazines.
  • Find photographs – this is more of a wish than a resolution, but at least four cousins have hinted at family photographs.  I resolve to once again try to obtain copies of these mysterious photos.

Here’s wishing you all the best in your genealogical endeavors in 2010!

[Written for the 87th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: New Year’s Resolutions]

‘Twas Just Days Before Christmas (Repeat)

This post was originally published on December 21, 2008, but I wanted to repeat it for new visitors who missed it last year. Uh-oh…we never did research the Big Guy’s ancestry – I hope we all still make the “nice” list this year!  Merry Christmas to all!

‘Twas just days before Christmas and all through the ‘net
Bloggers were quiet, even the Graveyard Rabbit.
Some were snowed in, all covered in ice
With some frightful weather that’s really not nice.

Others were busy with presents and wrap,
While some settled in for a long winter’s nap.
But then Genea-Santa made it home from the mall
And with urgency put out a very frantic call.

“Oh genea-bloggers, can you help me so?
Someone has asked for their ancestors to know.
I’m used to toys, books, and games on the list,
My elves tried Ancestry.com and can’t get the gist.”

“Can you please help?” good Santa did ask,
“So I can complete this impossible task?”
Before Old St. Nick barely finished his post
The bloggers started to answer, from coast to coast.

First Sheri, then Jasia, and Terry from Monroe County,
Then Randy, then Lisa, and Thomas upped the bounty.
Many sources did footnoteMaven then cite,
while Donna and Becky joined in the plight.

Steve and Miriam and DearMyrtle too
Used Census and newspapers to find every last clue.
The charts were all filled and ready for Santa’s sack,
Combined we had traced twelve generations back!

Santa was impressed, the pedigree had nary a hole
“Can you help me find my folks from the North Pole?”
We said we’d try, maybe next year.
Our promise left him jolly and full of good cheer.

So he subscribed to our blogs, to join in our fun
And said he’d return when his hard work was done
Santa signed off, having found what he sought
“Merry Christmas to all, may your searching not be for naught!”

-with many apologies to and great appreciation of Mr. Clement Clarke Moore…(and apologies to the many genea-bloggers I left out for space and rhyming constraints!)

A Blog-Caroling We Will Go

Today it’s time for the esteemed (if not old) tradition of Christmas blog caroling!  This great tradition was begun by footnoteMaven and continues this year as geneabloggers everywhere “sing” their favorite carols.  First up – in the non-religious category – one of my favorite Christmas songs when I was growing up: We Need a Little Christmas!  I think I liked it because it is perky enough to get you in the mood for the holidays and uncommon enough so that you didn’t hear it every time you turned on the radio.  May I present We Need a Little Christmas (ahem) ~

Haul out the holly ~ Put up the tree before my spirit falls again

Fill up the stocking ~ I may be rushing things, but deck the halls again now.

For we need a little Christmas, Right this very minute

Candles in the window, Carols at the spinet

Yes, we need a little Christmas, Right this very minute

It hasn’t snowed a single flurry ~ But Santa, dear, we’re in a hurry!

So climb down the chimney ~ Turn on the brightest string of light I’ve ever seen

Slice up the fruitcake ~ It’s time we hung some tinsel on that evergreen bough.

For I’ve grown a little leaner, Grown a little colder

Grown a little sadder, Grown a little older

And I need a little angel, Sitting on my shoulder

Need a little Christmas now!

For we need a little music, Need a little laughter

Need a little singing, Ringing through the rafter

And we need a little snappy “Happy ever after”

Need a little Christmas now!

For religious songs, it’s hard to top my absolute favorite – last year’s Blog Caroling Choice, O Holy Night.  If I had to choose another carol, I would pick another song that you don’t hear as often as some others: Mary’s Boy Child

Long time ago in Bethlehem,
So the Holy Bible say,
Mary’s boy child, Jesus Christ,
Was born on Christmas day.

Hark, now hear the angels sing,
A new king born today,
And man will live forever more,
Because of Christmas Day.

While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
Them see a bright new shining star,
Them hear a choir sing,
The music seemed to come from afar.

`Now Joseph and his wife Mary,
Come to Bethlehem that night,
Them find no place to born her child,
Not a single room was in sight.

Hark, now hear the angels sing,
A new king born today,
And man will live forever more,
Because of Christmas Day.

By and by they find a little nook
In a stable all forlorn,
And in a manger cold and dark,
Mary’s little boy was born.

Hark, now hear the angels sing,
A new king born today,
And man will live forever more,
Because of Christmas Day.

Trumpets sound and angels sing,
Listen to what they say,
That man will live forever more,
Because of Christmas Day.