Civilian Conservation Corps: A Genealogical Resource – Part 1

The CCC, or the Civilian Conservation Corps, is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. In 1933 during the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt found a unique way to combat the country’s unemployment crisis. The Civilian Conservation Corps was created on March 21, 1933 and today is one of the best known results of Roosevelt’s “New Deal”. Even if young people today have never heard of the Corps, it is likely that they have benefited from the Corps’ work, for it was active in every state and left a valuable “footprint” behind.

CCC members were recruited through local welfare boards. To join, a young man had to be between the ages of 18-25 and be unemployed or have an unemployed father. War veterans of any age could also join. The men committed to a six-month enrollment that could be extended for up to two years. CCC workers were housed and fed on-site at campsites, and they earned about $30 per month – with the requirement that $25 be sent home to their family. The camps were run by the Army, but it was a civilian organization.

Besides benefiting young unemployed men and their families, the CCC had a great impact on the country that is still felt today. They built roads, planted trees, strung telephone lines, and improved state and national parks by building campsites and trails. By 1935, over a half million men were members of the Corps. The CCC was disbanded in 1942, mostly because of America’s entry in the war and the ongoing draft.

Did your ancestor serve in the CCC?

If your grandfather or other relative served in the CCC, you may be able to find his enlistment papers. The records are held by the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, MO. These records are not available online. For more information on writing to NARA, please see the CCC Alumni site guidelines or the James F. Justin CCC Museum guidelines.

Some information sites indicate that you will need to have your ancestor’s company number and year served in order to obtain the records. However, the name and state may be enough to locate the record. You will also need to know the person’s birth date and proof of death. Available records include the person’s enlistment form, record of physical examination, and discharge information. From these, there is enough information to determine where the person worked, and there are many sites available in each state about the CCC from which you can determine what the person may have actually worked on during their service. Who knows…the trees your grandfather once planted are likely still providing shade in the nearby state park today!

I remember learning about the CCC in history class, and even then I thought it was a great idea. With the current economy, unemployment, and “green” movement, I think the CCC should be re-instated as a means to give young disadvantaged men meaningful work. When I learned about the CCC, I didn’t have any personal connection to the organization…or did I? Stayed tuned for “Part 2: My Grandfather Served in the CCC…Sort Of” for a description of my grandfather’s rather brief experience with the CCC and what I discovered in his records.

For more information:

Where in the World…

…have I been?  I’m back to the U.S. in time for the celebration of Independence Day!  I enjoyed a very relaxing vacation – no work, no genealogy, no writing, no blogging, no computers, no worries.

First stop: Venice.  Despite multiple trips to Italy, one of my favorite places in the world, I had never been there.  It was the most unique of any Italian city I have been to — and, with no cars or Vespas, the most quiet!  After a few rainy days and one sunny day there, a journey by train and ferry brought us to Croatia, another first-time destination.  We spent over a week there visiting several cities, towns, and islands.  Most of the time we were along the coast, but we went “inland” to go to Plitvice Lakes. There is much to see in Croatia!  We were in Dubrovnik as Croatia played Turkey in the semi-finals for the Euro Cup 2008 – I haven’t seen a town go that crazy since one of Philadelphia’s sports teams won a championship!  Unfortunately, Croatia lost in “penalty time” but it was fun to see the nationwide pride at their accomplishment.

If you’ve never been to either destination, I recommend both countries.  I hope you enjoy some of my photos.  Now it’s time to get some laundry done, remember where I left off with my genealogy, and celebrate the 4th of July with friends!

Venice

Venice

Dining with a view...

Dining with a view...

Gondolas on the canal

Gondolas on the canal

Dubrovnik rooftops with Lokrum island in the background

Dubrovnik rooftops with Lokrum island in the background

The walls of Dubrovnik

The walls of Dubrovnik

Lopud island

Lopud island

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Big Waterfall at Plitvice Lakes National Park

One of the Plitvice Lakes

One of the Plitvice Lakes

A sandy beach at Nin

A sandy beach at Nin

Rovinj

Rovinj

Sunset at Rovinj

Sunset at Rovinj

All photos © Donna J. Pointkouski, June 2008.  Reproduction or re-use is forbidden without written consent of the author.  Photos were taken with either a Casio Exilim EX-Z750 or a Nikon D40.

Stay Tuned…We’ll Be Back

Dear Visitors, Regular Readers, and Subscribers: I will be away from internet access for a longer-than-usual period of time, so you will not see any new posts for a little while. I had hoped to post a lot more in May since I knew June would be slow, but too many more important things got in the way. Things like the arrival of spring weather – this year it lasted a whole two weeks, a new Philadelphia record! [For the record, it’s back today after several “dead-of-summer” sweltering, humid days.] Second, I was busy preparing for my getaway, and it’s hard to write about genealogy when you are not doing any research.

What’s planned for What’s Past is Prologue after this short break? Stay tuned for…

  • Photos from my trip. Although they won’t be genealogy-related, I am visiting two of the most photogenic places on earth and I hope to share some great shots with you.
  • Interviews with some well-known authors or researchers in the wonderful world of genealogy.
  • Details about my first visit back to the local FHC in years – I plan to focus on some new leads as well as go back to some familiar records again for more.
  • To borrow a line from The X-Files…the truth photos is are out there! Photos of my ancestors, that is. I plan a no-holds-barred search for existing photos of my great-grandparents by contacting many second cousins that don’t even know they’re my second cousins yet.
  • A closer look at The Black Death as it hit my ancestors’ hometown in 1632.
  • More Carnival of Genealogy reflections…including my first stint as host!
  • More on Polish names! By far, my most popular (as in most viewed) post has been one of my first posts – Polish Names and Feast Days with 735 views.  This topic is obviously of interest to many, so I will try to cover it in more detail.

So long, and see you soon!

Cats Ruled This Family

“All of the animals except for man know that the principle business of life is to enjoy it.” ~Samuel Butler

“Thousands of years ago, cats were worshipped as gods. Cats have never forgotten this.” ~Anonymous

Donna and LouCI love animals – sometimes even more than people! Pets have the ability to become part of the family as if they were not only human, but actually related to us.

As a child, I always wanted a dog. But my family opted for a more low-maintenance pet that didn’t require daily walks, and this is how we became “cat people”. When I was six years old, we got our first cat – a black and white kitten I named Lucy. Shortly thereafter, following a proper anatomical exam, the kitty was re-christened Lou C.

Lou C was a good cat; not a friendly one, but kind. Looking back on his life now, I realize that the poor thing had a six-year-old (me) who always wanted to pick him up, carry him around, or dress him up, and a teenager (my brother) whose friends probably tormented him when my mother and I weren’t looking. No wonder he always wore a look of resignation like a wise old man who just wanted to be left alone!

LouC and kitten Tigger

When Lou C was about 3 or 4, we brought home an orange tiger-striped kitten I named Tigger. I honestly don’t remember how or why we got a second pet, but poor Tigger was like that oddball relative that you take care of with some embarrassment because you’re afraid that others might realize he’s related to you. I think Tigger was “mentally challenged” and/or brain-damaged, perhaps from running full-speed straight into our glass patio door as a kitten. He looked a little stunned afterwards, and he was a little “slow” forevermore. One oddity about Tigger…as any cat-owner knows, cats are meticulously clean. Except for Tigger, the dirtiest (or perhaps just the laziest) cat I ever met.

TiggerI can only imagine what Lou C, a cat whose cleanliness rivaled Felix Unger of The Odd Couple fame, thought of this young, dumb, sloppy addition to the family. They co-habited mostly peacefully. But they really were close to the Odd Couple characters with Tigger’s sloppiness and Lou C’s fastidiousness. Lou C even had high class tastes; he loved shrimp, but turned his nose up at good old cat food.

Lou CLou C was a cat true to all of the cat-stereotypes – he merely tolerated our presence in his home. All of us, that is, except for the one person in the house who disliked him immensely – my grandmother. Or at least she claimed to loathe him – I could never really tell. But I have a vivid memory that sums up her relationship with Lou C. After my grandmother lost her leg around the age of 72, she learned to walk with a prosthesis and a cane. As she would make her way down the stairway to the living room, Lou C would magically appear from his eternal hiding place, start to purr (!), and wrap himself around her legs – both real and prosthetic – meowing his undying love. At the same time, she would be cursing in Polish and trying to push him down the steps with her cane. If only we had video cameras back then, the pair would be a YouTube legend today.

When Lou C was about 10 he became ill, and one day while I was at high school both cats “went away”. It was hard for my parents, but harder on me. We didn’t speak for a while.

About six years later, perhaps still feeling the guilt trip I laid on her, my mother and I adopted another kitten from a vet’s office where my friend worked. Abandoned, flea-ridden, with ears too big for his body, he looked a little pathetic. Because of the ears, I wanted to call him Yoda, but my mother named him Stanley.

Young Stanley

Stanley grew out of his big ears and became a lovable cat. The only person to whom he showed any overt affection was my (our) mother. He’d sit in her lap in the mornings – something no Pointkouski cat ever willingly did before. Stan had a few memorable quirks… First, if my mother went out for an extended number of hours, he’d basically have a fit. He’d race at lightening speed up and down the three floors of our home over and over until he was panting and exhausted. Upon her return, he’d do the same, and then she’d be ignored for hours so she got the “message” that he was displeased.

Next, if anyone visited our house who was either allergic to cats, afraid of cats, or disliked cats, he’d become their new best friend. He’d jump on their laps (he never did this on any other occasion to anyone) or plant himself right by their side. If you were a cat-lover, you were ignored. I wonder how he knew.

Mature StanleyAn interesting feat is that Stanley would play fetch like a dog. Not with a stick, but with a small piece of bakery-tissue paper tied up into a ball-like shape. This was a “mousie”, and if he was in the mood he’d retrieve it when I threw it and bring it back to me for more.

I’ve been told that EVERY DAY, fifteen minutes before I was due to return home from work or grad school, Stanley would sit in the window, look down the street, and wait. As my car turned the corner on to the street, he’d return, satisfied, to his sleeping spot and ignore me after I walked in the front door. But he would occasionally show how much he cared by sharing part of the sofa with me while I watched tv.

Unfortunately, Stanley also developed an illness when he was 10. His death was hard on all of us; it still brings tears to my eyes nine years later.

Pets are, despite their quirks, part of the family. We had a few others over the years, like P.D. the rabbit and Georgia the cockatiel (in between cats). But the 3 cats 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. These “personalities” living with us may not be human, but they are family. Hopefully my ancestors had furry or feathery family members, too – they certainly add to the family dynamic!

[This post was written for the Golden Jubilee Edition – the 50th! – Carnival of Genealogy: Family Pets. I’d like to thank Jasia for these creative topics. They may not have much to do with the how-to’s of genealogy, but writing about my cats or my cars is something I never would have done otherwise…but SHOULD have done because it brought me great joy.]


Philadelphia Marriage Indexes Online

FamilySearchLabs has made Philadelphia Marriage Indexes available for 1885-1951.  This is great news for those of us searching our roots in Philadelphia!  It should be noted that these are the indexes only, not the actual marriage licenses.  Also, you are not yet able to search the records with the name search since they have not completed the indexing, but you can browse the collection.

The collection is divided into several groupings:

  • 1885-1916
  • 1917-1938
  • 1939-1942
  • 1943-1946
  • 1947-1951

If you are researching the years 1885-1938, you’re in luck – the record groupings that span those years are alphabetical (and typed, so they are easy to read).  Simply to to the first letter of the surname you want to search and click on the number of images available and the records will appear on screen.  Then, jump forward in the alphabet until you find the name you are looking for.

What information will you see?  Simply the last name and first name of either the bride or groom, the last name of the spouse in parentheses, the year, and the license number.  You can then cross-reference the spouse’s name to get a first name for that person.  While this may not seem like a lot of information, it did help me track down some maiden names and the year of marriage for quite a few couples.  Of course, you can find out much more information by getting a copy of the actual marriage license, and now that you have the names, year, and license number it should not be too difficult.  See the Philadelphia Marriage License Bureau for more information.  For older marriages (pre-1915), you can obtain copies at the Philadelphia City Archives where the records are available on microfilm.  Some of the older records are available at LDS Family History Centers as well.

For the indexes from 1939-1951, the records are not strictly alphabetical, and they are printed instead of typed (printed very neatly, I might add).  They are grouped by year, then by the first letter of the last name, then by the first letter of the first name.  So, you’ll find all of the Pinto’s, Pater’s, Parker’s, Petruzzelli’s, and Portnoy’s jumbled together, but if you know the person’s first name, you can jump right to the section for that letter (so all of the Joseph’s, John’s, and Jacob’s with a last name beginning with “P” are together).  Because of this, the indexes for these years will take more time to look through.  But, the fact that they go all the way up to 1951 means that I should be able to find the marriage records for many cousins to help fill in some bare branches on the tree.

My only “pet peeve” is that I can not seem to access one record group.  For the years 1917-1938, the surnames beginning with X-Y-Z simply will not come up.  I can’t access the records for Zawodny!  I’ve sent a message via the “Feedback” form, so I’m sure the smart folks at Family Search Labs will fix the link soon. Update: As of 25 July 2008, this problem has been fixed on the site and the X-Y-Z records can now be accessed!

One word of caution: if you can’t find a couple listed in the index, try elsewhere.  All four of my grandparents were born and raised in Philadelphia, yet both couples got married – and therefore got their marriage licenses – in Media, PA (the county seat for Delaware County).  My only great-grandparents to be married in the U.S. chose Camden, NJ – despite the fact they both lived in Philadelphia.  Also, one of the most popular “marriage destinations” back then was Elkton, MD – apparently the legal age for marriage was younger here, so you didn’t need your parents’ permission as you would in PA!

You never know who you might find in these records – and you may not even realize it’s someone famous!  I already have this particular marriage record, but I looked the groom up in the index anyway.  It’s also a good example of what the 1939-1951 indexes look like:

Future Famous Couple

Future Famous Couple

Did you know that actor Gene Kelly was married in Philadelphia?  He and Betsy Blair (that’s her “stage name”) chose a spot “in the middle” for her New Jersey family and his Pittsburgh family.  They were literally on their way to Hollywood where Gene would begin his career (bonus points if any readers know which film was his first…without snooping on the net).  At least I finally found a way to combine my two GENE hobbies!

Related articles: When You Can’t Find Grampa’s Marriage Record (alternate locations) and More on Philadelphia Marriage Records (pre-1885 records)

Belles & Beaus: Galecki Wedding, 1926

The second edition of the Smile for the Camera carnival focuses on Belles & Beaus: Choose a photograph of an ancestor, relative, yourself, or an orphan photograph that shows a memorable wedding, courting/dating, or a photograph depicting young/old love.

I’ve shown a few photos of belles and beaus here, including my parents’ wedding photo and a “mystery” photo that may or may not show my great-grandfather as the Best Man at his cousin’s wedding in Germany. But I’ve selected this special photo to best represent the topic:

A Philadelphia Marriage, 1926

This photo depicts the wedding of Jane Zawodna and Sigmund Galecki in 1926 (make that 1925 thanks to the new Philadelphia Marriage License records that are now online). The wedding ceremony was likely at St. Adalbert’s Church in Philadelphia, and the photographer was probably in the Port Richmond neighborhood where they (and the church) resided. The “Maid of Honor” is my grandmother, Mae (or Marianna) Zawodna, Jane’s sister (if you recognize her, another photo of her from the same event was featured here). I do not know the identity of the “Best Man”, but I hope to learn more later this summer as I attempt to contact my cousins, the descendants of Jane and Sigmund (called “Ziggy”).

I Smile for the Camera

[This post was written for the 2nd edition of Smile for the Camera, a Carnival of Images.]

Connecting Through Literature

One of the best ways to connect with others is to have something in common, and frequently it’s a common “favorite” like a book or a movie. It’s fun to talk about a favorite thing with someone who is equally enthusiastic!

A few weeks ago I visited my 12-year-old niece. She’s never too revealing about anything that happens in school – the conversation usually begins with “What are you learning about this week?” with the answer of “Oh, nothing…” But occasionally she’ll talk, as was the case on this visit. As I read over her shoulder, I asked about the story she was writing. It was a school project related to a book they were reading as a class. She handed it to me – “It’s about this millionaire who dies, and one of the people in his will will inherit everything…but he was murdered and it’s a mystery to find out who did it.” Uh, how did he know who killed him when he wrote his will? “I don’t know! We’re not finished the book yet!”

I was happy that she was happy reading. She’s a fantastic student at the top of her class, but she’s not as enthusiastic about reading as I was at that age. Fortunately, she has way more friends and more physical hobbies like dance and soccer. But something was nagging me about this book…it sounded familiar. Nah, it can’t be…

As a kid, I used to buy books stacks at a time when we could afford it. Of those hundreds, I eventually saved ones that I really liked and gave away the others. By adulthood, I had about 14 of my old books – not counting a shelf full of Robert Heinlein novels that straddle the “young adult” and “adult” fiction categories. I looked at my bookshelf, and found what sounded a lot like my niece’s book. After a quick call to confirm the title, it was the same book!

The Westing GameThe Westing Game by Ellen Raskin won the Newberry Medal in 1979, and I probably read it shortly thereafter — the same age my niece is now. As I paged through it, I couldn’t remember anything about it at all, but the fact that I still had it meant that I must have really liked it. The book isn’t just a mystery, but a “puzzle mystery” where the reader tries to solve it by finding various clues scattered throughout the novel. Consider it my early prep work for my future as a genealogist!

Finding that minor connection with my niece was nice, and it led me to wonder – how many of our present likes (or dislikes) are similar to those of our ancestors? My niece is now reading what is called a “modern classic” on the cover of the latest printing, which puts it into the realm of the old days when her old aunt was a kid. As a former English major, I have read and loved many classics that go back a lot further than 1979! My ancestors didn’t leave any records or diaries of the books they enjoyed, but maybe, just maybe, I re-discovered one of their favorites many years later.

Will your descendants know what your favorites were as a child or an adult? I didn’t even remember my own old favorite until I was reminded by a 12-year-old!

Down the Shore and At the Beach

Whether your family went “down the shore” or to the beach, thirty-two genea-bloggers had great stories to tell and fantastic swimsuit photos to share in the latest edition of the Carnival of Genealogy.  Join in the fun at the 49th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy, posted at Creative Gene.  I had to include the wonderful COG poster created by footnoteMaven!

Be sure to read the Call for Submissions for the 50th COG: Family Pets.  Details can be found in the COG post.  The next deadline is June 15.

Genealogy Illustrated: Swimsuit Edition

After months of being cold in Philadelphia, I relish the mere thought of summer. I’ve always loved the beach. I don’t remember many trips there as a child, but there were a few. Fortunately the beach is an easy drive away — in Philly-speak, it’s called “goin’ down the shore”. As a teenager, that meant trips to Wildwood, which recently gained bragging rights as “New Jersey’s Best Beach”. Then I discovered palm trees, which sadly are not native to New Jersey and don’t like our winter climate well enough to grow here. I fell in love with some marvelous beaches with palm trees as I had opportunities to travel, including Bellows Air Force Station in Hawaii and Luquillo, Puerto Rico. I can’t wait to see some Croatian Beaches this summer, and my new favorite closer to home is Island Beach State Park. I wonder if my love of beaches is genetic? I’m not brave enough to post my own bathing suit photos for all to see, but here are a few family photos to show that I may have inherited the beach lover’s gene!

Grandmom 1936

This bathing beauty is my grandmother, Margaret Bergmeister Pointkouski. It was taken in 1936. Although my grandparents enjoyed visits to Wildwood, NJ, in their later years, this was likely taken in either Atlantic City or Cape May (where her brother had a house).

Grandpop 1936

Here is the companion shot of her husband, James Pointkouski. The photo is in need of some repair to remove some purple markings, but check out this fashion statement! One-piece bathing suits for men? [Well, technically men do wear one piece bathing suits, but I meant similar to a woman’s one-piece that includes a top and bottom covering!] Who knew? And aren’t we all glad this is one fashion that hasn’t come back again?

Dad

This little cutie is their son, my father. It was taken in 1937 when he was about three years old. Based on the Boardwalk in the background, this was taken in Atlantic City (pre-casinos!). Nice shades, Dad!

Pointkouski Family

Finally, here’s the whole family seated under the Boardwalk in Atlantic City in 1937. I see by now Grandpop has given up the “onesie” bathing suit, but it looks like my dad has one on…maybe that’s why he’s crying.

Okay, I’m ready – I can hear the seagulls calling me! Let’s load up that car with beach blankets and cold drinks, and call in sick to work…it’s time to head down the shore!

[This post was written for the 49th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: Swimsuit Edition.]

Big City Ancestors: Weighing the Evidence

Your ancestors were from the Big City! Or were they? I recommend using caution when it comes to researching “big city” ancestors… That’s not because it’s harder to find ancestors in big cities – in fact, sometimes it’s much easier than finding them in small towns. But researchers should use caution because sometimes the information your ancestor gave on “official” records may not be entirely accurate after all.

Well, almost from there…

Years ago my brother joined the Marines and went to boot camp. Most young adults away from home for the first time feel a combination of joy and excitement mixed with a fair amount of homesickness, and strong young men joining the Marines are no exception. To combat the homesickness, many would try to seek out others “like” them; that is, people from their hometown. On day, my brother heard, “Hey, Ski, there’s a guy in Company C from Philly, too!” When he got a free moment, he sought the guy out – “Hey, I’m from Philly – what neighborhood are you from?” The guy sheepishly replied, “Uh, I’m actually from Reading.” Reading is a town in Pennsylvania about 50 miles outside of Philadelphia. My brother must have looked confused, because the young man added some clarification, “Nobody outside of the Delaware Valley ever heard of Reading, but if I say Philly they know where I’m from!”

My brother’s tale this serves as a modern example of something our ancestors occasionally did – not quite tell the truth about their birthplace. If you’re not careful, such “white lies” can lead you down the wrong road of research.

Close enough

WarsawMy great-grandfather, Louis Pater, duly noted his birthplace as “Warsaw” on his draft registration for World War I and also World War II. Genealogists looking for the magic answer might immediately act on that vital piece of information. But careful genealogists know that it’s better to verify that fact and weigh it against all possible record sources before zoning in on the one town. You see, Louis was a lot like the young Marine from Reading – not many Americans ever heard of Żyrardów, but nearly everyone has heard of that other town nearby…Warsaw.

Weighing the evidence

Would other record sources for Louis, his siblings, and his parents match up to Louis’ draft cards? Yes and no. Some records also listed Warsaw, including his mother’s and sisters’ passenger arrival records. Other records, like his marriage and death certificates, only listed “Poland” or “Russia” as the birthplace. But the majority of other sources did list Żyrardów – most notably his passenger arrival record and naturalization papers. In fact, for immigrants, the information on the naturalizations usually holds more weight than most other documents (except, of course, for an official birth or baptismal record).

My German great-grandfather similarly named Munich, or München, as his place of origin on his passenger arrival record, as did his wife. Most of his other records, such as the draft registration or death record, listed “Germany”. When I did finally find a town name, there were at least a dozen towns with the same name to choose from. But, only one was near Munich, and that proved to be the correct one. Why did he list Munich on his passenger list? Either because he actually was living in the city prior to his departure, or because it was the closest big city to his small hometown and therefore easier to identify to a stranger. Sometimes, that big city they name may be pointing you in the right direction for further research.

Bottom Line

Does that mean you shouldn’t trust the word of ancestors from big cities? Of course not. But it does mean you have to be more careful. No matter if your ancestors emigrated from Europe or moved around a lot in the US, it definitely pays to collect all possible evidence before making a decision. And sometimes, what you read is true – one of my great-grandfathers really is from Warsaw!

Filling in the Gaps

Today I decided to try my luck with FamilySearch Labs latest offering, Philadelphia City Death Certificates 1803-1915.  There isn’t much available online for Philadelphia, especially post-1900 when my families were living here, so I was pleased I’d at least have a few years worth of records to search.  I entered in the usual surnames, and I quickly found death certificates for siblings of both of my grandmothers.

In the Bergmeister family, there were five children.  The first four were all born within 2-4 years of each other, but the gap between my grandmother, Margaret, and her next oldest brother, Julius, was 6 years.  I found death records for two children born in between Julius in 1907 and Margaret in 1913.  The first was a boy, Charles, who lived for 15 hours on 17 July 1909 and was listed as a premature birth.  A sister, Laura, was also born premature on 05 November 1911 and died the same day.

The Zawodny family had six children, and again there is about 2 years between each child until a 5 year gap between my grandmother’s siblings Kazimierz (known as Charley) in 1911 and Zofia (known as Dorothy) in 1916.  My grandmother used to say that she had two brothers who died as infants, and I confirmed that with the records.  Bolesław was born on 04 August 1912 and died six months later on 08 March 1913.  The cause of death is listed as acute gastroenteritis, although my grandmother seemed to remember her father slipping on an icy sidewalk while holding the baby, who then fell and died later of a head injury.  Another son,  Władysław, was born on 18 January 1914.  He died just over a year later on 27 March 1915. This time the cause of death coincided with my grandmother’s memory.  He developed infections in his mouth caused by his teeth not developing and growing properly.  My grandmother called the boys William and Walter, which roughly correspond to common English names used for those Polish names.

I’ve looked at many records in my genealogical research, and I’ve seen numerous deaths of babies in those records, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries.  But these four records were different, and I was saddened to view them.  These children’s deaths were closer to me because they would have been my grandmothers’ siblings, my parents’ aunt and uncles.  How difficult it must have been for my great-grandparents to suffer these losses.  In both cases, the children died one after the other.  Also in both cases, each family then had one more child, a girl in both cases. The next generations would occasionally have miscarriages, stillborns, and infant deaths, so living in “modern” times is no guarantee of a healthy baby.  But I’m glad I found these records so their very short lives are not forgotten.

FamilySearch Labs appears to be a wonderful site.  It is easy to use, and the records were mostly transcribed correctly (my one great-grandmother’s maiden name was incorrect both times).  Another benefit is that it is FREE for all to use.  For folks that can’t afford Ancestry, this is a good alternative for a small group of records.  My only complaint is that there aren’t enough records available yet!  If enough genealogists volunteer to transcribe records, this could truly be the future of online genealogy.  I’m very excited to see that another project in the works is Philadelphia Marriage Records from 1916-1951 – I’m sure this will help me fill in even more gaps on my tree.  If you’ve tried this site and had success filling in your family’s gaps, be sure to leave a comment.

A Mother’s Love

Mother Love

In celebration of Mother’s Day, here is a pictorial view of my maternal ancestry.

My Great-Grandmother and Grandmother

Waclawa Zawodny and Daughters

This is my great-grandmother Wacława (known as Laura) Zawodny and three of her four daughters. From left to right, Zofia (known as Dorothy, born 1916), their mother Wacława (born 1885), my grandmother Marianna (known as Mae, born 1907), and either Helen (born 1905) or Janina (known as Jen, born 1904). Approximate date of photo: 1924-1927.

My Grandmother and Mother

Mae and Anita

This is my grandmother Mae and my mother, Anita. Date of photo: July 4, 1937. My grandmother is one month away from 30 and my mother is 18 months old.

My Mother and Me

Mommy and Me

This is my mother and me at Christmas, 1968. My mom is 33 years old and I am almost 22 months old.

I Smile for the Camera

[This post was written for the 1st Smile for the Camera: A Carnival of Images.]

Religion and Genealogy

Today Craig at Geneablogie posted about a new the crisis with Catholics, Mormons at Odds Over Genealogical Records?  In his post, Craig mentions the news report about Catholic dioceses forbidding LDS access to church records for fear of the Mormon practice often referred to as baptizing the dead.  Craig notes that several of us genea-bloggers are Catholic, so I’d like to offer my thoughts as well.

I saw the story on some Catholic blogs I read before it made it to the genealogy blogs, and I struggled with how to address it here.  Frankly, I’m surprised it took so long for this to happen – I was surprised that records were made available at all after I learned that the Mormons use them for their faith, so to speak, in addition to their genealogy.  Other faith groups have often complained about the “re-baptism” of deceased ancestors into the Mormon faith, most especially Jews, who were greatly (and rightly) offended by this practice. 

As a genealogist, I am saddened to think that one day records may not be available – for without them, I would know very little about my ancestors.  That is to say, without the Mormons taking those records, microfilming them, and making them available for me to look at. 

As a Catholic, I can sort of understand why the Church, or why other faith groups, find offense in the Mormon tenent that they can baptize any deceased person into their faith.  When I first heard of this, I was somewhat taken aback.  What?  They can make my great-grandfather Mormon?  He’d “roll over” as the expression goes.  I think my great-grandmother was Protestant, but I haven’t prayed to “make” her accept my faith today!  It was her life to live, and I respect her choices and her life.

I say I “sort of” understand because I find it more humorous than offensive.  To me, my faith is very important.  I love being Catholic, and I love the Church.  Because I have accepted this particular faith as “my” faith, I obviously think it’s better – at least for me – than other faiths.  If you can’t believe in your particular faith all the way, what’s the point of believing it?  As such, it doesn’t matter to me if some other faith decides to make me one of their own long after I’m gone.  Why?  Because my faith is chosen by me and nothing will change that unless it’s my decision.  If any Jew, Muslim, Mormon, or Protestant wants to pray for me or if they want to pray to convert me, okay!  I doubt I’ll be leaving my faith any time soon, but I’ll accept your prayers on my behalf.  I respect other religions, but they can’t change me or my faith whethere through prayer, re-baptism, or any other practice.  

As Kimberly Powell points out, the Mormom re-baptism isn’t “valid” in the sense of the Catholic faith – so denying them access to the records to prevent this is only hurting those of us who use them to enrich our understanding of our family history.  Can’t we all just get along and respect that we all believe different things?  I think the Mormons need to separate their religion from their genealogical efforts…for them, the two may be intertwined, but for others it is confusing.  As Craig said, we all need each other.  And we’re likely all related, too. 

On a completely unrelated note, this is my first-ever post written remotely on a laptop.  And I like it!  I think I have to get one of these…

Service in the Bavarian Army

Joseph Bergmeister

This military man in this photograph is my great-grandfather, Joseph Bergmeister (1873-1927). It is the only known photo of him, but we knew little about the uniform he wore or his military service, only that he was from Bavaria. Fortunately, I worked with someone who knew everything about the German military. Just from the photograph he was able to determine exactly which uniform it was, and I was later able to confirm his guess after more research.

What you can not tell from the photo is that the uniform is light blue in color! It is from the Bavarian Leib Regiment, or the Königlich Bayerisches Infanterie Leib Regiment. This roughly translates to the Royal Bavarian Infantry Life Guard Regiment. The regiment began in 1814 to protect the royal family, and it was headquartered in Munich at the royal palace.

According to my co-worker, “Such troops would have been elitist by definition, and patriotic to the core. Entrance requirements and training would have more rigorous than for normal line regiments. Peacetime service would have also been markedly different from the line troops. The Leib unit would have been called upon to serve every public protocol attended by the sovereign, much like a Presidential Honor Guard today. Everything would have been ‘spit and polish’ with a high degree of military etiquette.”

I am not sure how my great-grandfather came to be in such a unit, but I know he served for only two years: 1893-95 when he was 20-22 years old. Other than this photo, a wonderful large composite photo of his entire company, and his regimental beer stein, he left no other remnants of his service. What exactly did he do? Where did he serve? Did he like it? I’m sure he’d be proud to know that he had many grandchildren and great-grandchildren who served in all four branches of the U.S. military, including an Army Brigadier General and a Marine security guard.

If he did serve at the royal palace in Munich, he may have witnessed some interesting events. I found this article in the New York Times archive, dated November 16, 1893:

Royal Wedding

Was my great-grandfather was there? I don’t know, but I don’t think that the older sister got to marry her true love either…it looks like she married Count Otto von Seefried about two weeks later. I doubt he was a lieutenant in the Bavarian Army!

Wordless Wednesday Photo

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

Gareau Tombstone

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

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

A Bavarian Hometown

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

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

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

Engraving of Pfaffenhofen, 1687

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

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

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

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

Hauptplatz, St. John's

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

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

Interior of St. John\'s church, Altar

You will also see evidence of the former worker’s guilds inside the parish church. Each guild had some church obligations as a part of the guild’s rules. Once a year each guilds celebrated their own special Mass, with special times for each guild. For example, the brewers’ Mass was celebrated on Monday after New Year’s while the tailors’ was on the Monday after Easter week.

Because of the guilds close association with the church, when the church was remodeled in 1671, the artist Johann Bellandt of Wessobrunn carved a number of apostle statues honoring the guilds: Mathew for the butchers, Phillip for the bakers, John for the brewers, Bartholomew for the leather artisans, Jacob for the weavers, and Simon for the tailors.

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

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

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

Hometown

The houses line themselves cuddle cozily after a fashion,

Intermittently broad and proud, intermittently narrow and aged,

The church spire points to heaven on high,

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

And country lanes stream in from adjacent forest and field

To become streets of prominence in both name and importance,

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

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

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

as the swirling eddies made rush, silently

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

And somehow even the Wind takes on a life,

Blowing in gust after gust, through the years,

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

As in fairy tale nights and imagined lands.

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

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

the staccato of the blacksmith’s hammer,

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

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

And Life itself avoiding yet the grave;

strives for heavy-hearted Contentment much like a halting

song of Greeting or Return.

You, my little Town,

even if I have forgotten much,

I behold you precious still,

I, forever at Home in you.

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

Last Tower Standing

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

Sources for this article:

Related Posts:

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

Żyrardów: Birth of a Modern Town

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

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

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

Arial View

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

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

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

Naturalization for Louis Pater

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

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

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

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

Sources for this article:

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

Bring Your Inner Child to Work

What Do You Want to Be?

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

It Runs in the Family

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

I Wanted to Be What?

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

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

Take Your Child to Work

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

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

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

What do you want to be when you grow up?

The Carnival has Come to Town

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

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

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

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

Is that a poem in your pocket?

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

Sonnet 30 by William Shakespeare

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought

I summon up remembrance of things past,

I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,

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

Then can I drown an eye unused to flow,

For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,

And weep afresh love’s long since cancelled woe,

And moan th’ expense of many a vanished sight.

Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,

And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er

The sad account of fore-bemoanèd moan,

Which I new pay as if not paid before.

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

All losses are restored, and sorrows end.