Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Plan for Writing a Family History

The time has come to begin the process of writing my family history. The Polish government archives' online project hasn't gotten but a few of my family's vital records posted online (which is what I've been waiting on) but I'm feeling the urge to move forward with my writing anyway. I can always hold up after the first drafts are written (before editing) and wait for more records to come online at that point. No reason to keep procrastinating before even starting, eh?

To begin a project of this size I need a plan and here's what I've come up with.

I'm thinking I'll devote 2 afternoons a week, for six months (Aug.1, 2016 - Jan. 31, 2017) to organizing my my genealogy information for one of my family lines (which line is yet to be determined) and getting familiar with Scrivener software. Then, for the month of February 2017, I'll join the Family History Writing Challenge and see if I can't get the first draft of one family line written in 28 days. I participated in NaNoWriMo a couple times several years ago and really enjoyed the camaraderie and motivating tips I received. I'm hoping the Family History Writing Challenge will do the same for me.

If this plan works, I could have the first draft of the history of one line of my family written early next year. Yeah! I don't know if this is a good plan, a realistic plan, or even a lousy plan, but it's a plan. And that's what I'm starting with.

My big decision at this point is which of my 4 grandparents' lines to write about first. I can make a case for any of the 4 but no case is stronger than any other. Should I tackle the family line I have the most info on first and get that out of the way? Or perhaps I should write about the family line I have the least info on because it would be the easiest to do and good practice for the other lines... Maybe I should write the histories in the order I researched/discovered the family lines. Or maybe I should just go with my gut. Checking gut... Nope. That won't work. My gut has absolutely nothing to say on the matter. ;-)

What do you think? Have you written your family histories? How did you decide which line to write about first? Are you glad you did it that way? What advice do you have for me?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Software Complicating My Life!

The last couple of weeks didn't go exactly as I'd planned. I did get to my local FHC to look at films. I didn't find what I was looking for but at least I know that the films I'd previously put on indefinite status are still there. :-) And I got to spend some time with my best genealogy pal in the process. Bonus! :-)

I didn't get to my scanning. I didn't get any more Słownik Geograficzny entries translated. However, I did continue my correspondence with one of my "cousins". Unfortunately, we aren't cousins by blood but I'm more convinced than ever that we are connected by marriages. Let's put it this way, I can attach her name to my family tree but Legacy says we aren't related. Anyway, we've been sharing information, stories and documents. Thus far, she's shared more with me than I with her but I'm hoping that will reverse soon. It's been fun!

I've been using Legacy Family Tree software as my primary database for some time now (10+ years). A while back, when they released their mobile apps, I purchased Roots Magic.  I really only used it to give myself access to my genealogy on my iPad and cell phone. Meanwhile, I've been waiting patiently for Legacy to create and share their own mobile apps. But I'm guessing at this point that's not going to happen. I've been considering switching over to Roots Magic as my primary database since they seem to be moving forward in a direction I can appreciate and find beneficial. Then the "working relationship" with happened and that made me reconsider again. My concern was about Roots Magic's mobile apps. Would they continue to support them and improve them now that their software will sync with trees? It could be a cost savings move to discontinue their apps and instead offer mobile access via trees. Perish the thought! I expressed my concern in the Roots Magic forum and was reassured that the mobile apps are here to stay. Yay! :-) I was so pleased to hear that that I'm planning to purchase the newest version of Roots Magic just to support the company.

And just as I'd gotten that bit of genealogy-related software decision making dealt with, Google dropped a bomb on my world. They've chosen to discontinue improving and supporting Picasa. They haven't added any new features in quite a while now and you know how that goes... if you're not moving forward you're falling behind. And Google isn't one to fall behind on something they value. So in a way, I guess I suspected something like this would happen. I can't begin to put into words how bummed I am about this. Those who know me know that photography is an essential part of my being. And Picasa has been my go-to software for tagging and organizing my photos and scans for years and years and years. I'm must admit, I'm secretly hoping that Google will sell off Picasa to another company the way did with Family Tree Maker. I know it's not likely to happen but I'm not ready to give up hope! (I'm still hurting from Google's decision to discontinue Reader a while back and I still haven't found a replacement feed reader I like!)

I spent much of the past weekend looking for a tagging and organizing software product. The Adobe products (Lightroom and Photoshop Element's Organizer) have to be eliminated from consideration because their tags are proprietary. They can only be seen within Adobe products. Unfortunately, the same is true for the Corel software products. :-((((( I downloaded and tried out a few others but each was either too complex or too simplistic. Yah, I know. Just call me Goldilocks. ;-) As this new week begins, I still haven't found a good substitute software. I'm open to suggestions/recommendations if you have any!

Well, so one thing led to another. In the course of my tagging software quest I came to the realization that I wouldn't have to be so dependent on tags if my digital file system was better organized. This isn't really a revelation to me. I've known it for some time. Like most people starting out, I had no idea my genealogy research would result in my needing multiple hard drives to store all the documents, scans, email, and photos I've accumulated. I've been telling myself for years that I need to organize all that "stuff" better but what fun is that when I can be moving my research forward, lol! And honestly, backups have become a nightmare with some stuff on this external hard drive and some stuff on that one. I really, really need to organize and consolidate. I just don't want to be bothered with it. :-P

I know that having all my digital genealogy files organized will help me gather the info I need to write my family histories. And I'm determined to move forward with that writing project later this year. So I'm going to bite the bullet and focus on organizing all my digital genealogy "stuff" now. I don't have a specific goal for this next week other than to get started with the organizing, keep looking for a photo/document tagging product, and get over to the Detroit Public Library to do some research this weekend.

Till next week!

Monday, February 01, 2016

Another Week

Last week was a good week. It was a productive week too. I completed the Słownik entries for my Mizera family villages. :-) I feel like I did some of these translations years ago but who knows where they are now, or what format they may have been saved in. I searched my hard drive before I started on these translations last month but I could only make guesses as to what I might have called the folder(s) I stored the previous translations in. And my guesses were not fruitful. So the attempted translations will continue, but not this week.

I also spent about an hour every day checking out my ancestral villages in Poland via Google Street View. It is so fun to drive the country roads through Poland and pass through the villages that have only been dots on maps and descriptive entries in a language I don't speak before this. As I "drove" the streets I noticed that most of the images were taken in 2012 and 2013. I'm happy with that. I don't care that they aren't more current. What is a bummer though is that several of my ancestor's villages were not "filmed" by Google. It happens that they were the smallest of villages not particularly near a bigger town and not on a major road. The folks at Google probably didn't feel the need to drive all those extra miles for villages too small to have a stop light or even a stop sign. I can't help but hope they will film them the next time they send their cars out to film the roads, villages, town, and cities of Poland. Please Google! Please!

Of course as I was "driving", I couldn't help but wonder which parcels of property were owned/farmed by my ancestors. I'm certain the current house numbers don't correspond with the house numbers shown on the vital records of my relatives from 100-200 years ago. That got me thinking about how I could get that information. I got a tip from one of my best genealogy pals about online options for historical plat maps. I checked out the sites but no luck for any of my ancestor's villages. So then I thought about consulting a library local to the villages I wanted information on. I got on the internet and did some searching and found a library that looked promising. I sent off an email with fingers crossed and hoped that they could tell me where I could find historical plat maps for the area. It's been 7 days and no response. I also did a Google search for what I wanted with no expectation of actually finding anything. But much to my surprise I hit the jackpot! Sort of. I found a printed book of plat maps for the tiny villages I was interested in for the time period I cared about via World Cat. But, (you just new there had to be a "but" didn't you?) only 5 listed copies in the world, 2 in Poland, 2 in Germany, and one at Stanford University in California. I decided to try to request an inter-library loan through my local library. I filled out the request and got an email back the following day saying they couldn't find a copy available for loan. So I'm guessing that copy in the Stanford library was "reference" material. :-(  I have no plans to visit California anytime soon, and I can't really ask a genealogy volunteer to photograph an entire 258 page book for me, so I guess I'm out of luck.

On a better note, I heard from two "cousins" previously unknown to me in the last couple of weeks. They both contacted me regarding information they found on this blog. One of the many benefits of blogging! :-) One I have determined to be a 3rd cousin of mine via my paternal grandfather's line, and the other I would be related to by marriage via my paternal grandmother's line if we can in fact establish a connection. We're working on that. And that's a fun thing! I haven't had many (any) opportunities to collaborate with other genealogists on my family lines. :-)

So that's where I'm at as this first week of February begins. My plan for this week is to visit my local Family History Center to view whatever films might be available to aid my research for my Mizera, Lasky, and Lipa lines.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Lost in Translation

Another week and more translations done. :-)

I finished up the translations of my Lisowski family and have started on my Mizera family. I identified 8 villages/towns to translate the Słownik entries for and attempted 3 of the smaller ones.

The Lisowski village entries were from the Russian partition and if I thought those were a challenge (they were!) they were nothing compared to the Mizera village entries from the Austrian partition. I've not been able to make a complete translation of any of the Mizera villages so far. There are many, many terms that aren't listed on any of the keys/guides I'm using and Google Translate can't deal with them either. Sometimes I can make a guess by the context and content of other words but too often I'm just coming up blank. :-(  I'm going to continue to do what I can but I may have to consider asking someone who knows the language to help me out. They're not much good to me if I can only translate every other word, lol!

I made an interesting discovery in the few Mizera village translations I worked on. These villages are each between 1-2 miles apart. The other villages in the area seem to be similar distances apart. That's much closer proximity than I thought. What does that mean in terms of my research? I probably should be looking at villages further out for the individual records I'm missing, because "further out" still isn't all that far away.

I did a quick "drive-by" of some of the villages using Google Street View. What a thrill that was! I love technology. Now if I could just figure out how the old house numbers relate to the current street addresses I could visit some of the old family farms. How cool would that be???!!!

I intend to check out the films available at my local Family History Center to see if there are any on indefinite loan that might include those "further out" villages. I've checked online but no luck there. I think once I finish the Mizera village translations I may take a break and move on to another tedious but necessary project... scanning.

My goal for the next week is to attempt to complete translating the Mizera village entries.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Translating, Research, and Webinar

Sometimes you just have to throw the plans out the window and punt. That's what I had to do this past week. I'd scheduled myself a good amount of time for genealogy, time I'd planned to use translating 5 Słownik Geograficzny entries for my Lisowski family villages. But, I was feeling under the weather most of the week and wasn't able to put in as much time as I would have liked. I did manage to get 3 of the 5 translations done, including one large one, so all was not lost. I'm content with that.

I was also able to put in about an hour of time at a local library using their Ancestry access to do some research on my mother's best girlfriend's family (Wojciechowski/Lezczynski). Her family doesn't connect to my family in any way I'm aware of but I'm curious about her Polish roots just the same.

And I attended (online) Lisa Alzo's webinar, Clutter Buster Bootcamp, yesterday. Like a lot of folks, I have lots of un-filed, un-organized, un-inventoried genealogy "stuff" that needs to be dealt with. Some of it is digital on hard drives, some of it is paper and heirlooms. It's a lot of stuff and I've been procrastinating about getting started with it because of the enormity of the project. Thanks to the webinar I was reminded about the benefits of breaking big projects down into smaller "mini" and even "micro" projects. Maybe with a little planning I can make some real progress this year. I was hoping to hear about some new software or app that would help me with any aspects of the project but I didn't hear about anything I wasn't already aware of. Oh well. It was still a worthwhile presentation. 

My goal this week is to finish the last 2 SG entries, one of which is very large, multiple pages. We'll see how far I get with that. The challenge is that the SG uses lots of abbreviations that Google Translate won't translate, and because I don't speak/read Polish I don't know what words they are abbreviations for. There are multiple guides on the net that you can use to translate the most commonly used abbreviations. That's not what trips me up. It's the uncommon abbreviations that stump me. Onward!

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Genealogy and Hobbies

Hello, and welcome to 2016!

I'm dusting off this blog and sitting back down at the keyboard. I haven't written much in a long time so I know I'm rusty. I expect my writing will reflect that. My apologies. I'm not setting any grandiose goals for myself, like blogging daily, but I will try to write periodically if for no other reason but to record where I'm at with my genealogy/family history research and where I'm going with it.

I'd like to be doing more genealogy research but I've exhausted my resources for now. So for the time being I'll be working on family history research. I've started translating Słownik Geograficzny (SG) entries for the villages of my ancestors and their parishes. I'm planning to explore the churches they worshiped in too (online of course).

This past week I put in 15-20 hours on finding and translating SG entries for one family line (Lisowski). I translated 10 entries, most of them only 3-5 line entries, and I have 5 more to work on. Of the 5 remaining, 2 are very lengthy entries... multiple pages in length. For those I will probably translate only select paragraphs. My goal for next week is to finish translating the entries for the Lisowski line.

On another note, other hobbies...

Two years ago I dabbled in learning watercolor painting. Last year I took up oil painting. This year I'm learning to paint with acrylics. And, as always, I continue to work at my photography. I like having several hobbies and I love learning new things. There are only so many hours in the day though so I've had to give up other interests, reading (books and most of the blogs I used to follow) and writing (my blogs). I wish I could keep up with all of my hobbies and interests at the same time. Maybe I should take up juggling. ;-)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Gettin' My Feet Wet

It's been a long time since I've posted anything here. It will be interesting to see if I get any comments... will my blog still appear in anyone's feed reader??? LOL!

Every year or so I subscribe to for a month to see what's new and hopefully add some info to my family tree. There's usually not much new and not much to add, so this time around I decided to use that month of Ancestry access to help out a friend by researching her family history. I knew this would be challenging for me because this friend has no Polish ancestors and that's all I have experience in researching. But what the heck, it was time to jump back into my genealogy research and this seemed like a good way to get my feet wet.

I started with my friend's father's line which is French Canadian. The family records from the Essex County, Ontario area were pretty easy to find and it was fun to be on the hunt and entering data in a database again. Before too long, the family records went back to Quebec. Now that was a bit more challenging for me. My French language skills are more than rusty, they're very limited. I had French language classes in grades 4-7 and not since then. But with the help of good ole Google Translate, I made pretty good progress and was able to take a couple of her family lines back to the late 1600s in the Quebec area.

When I'd taken that French Canadian research as far as I could (basically, what I could find online at and I moved on to my friend's mother's line which is English. I've dabbled in researching English records before but it has been a looong while. Ancestry has a few more collections than the last time I was looking for records so that's nice. I had great fun going through the records and discovering the charming street and neighborhood names... like Cold Bath Lane. Wouldn't it be fun to give your address on Cold Bath Lane? Cute!

I was just finishing up with the research of my friend's English lines, and coming to the end of my one-month Ancestry subscription, when Ancestry released the new batch of Michigan Marriage Records 1867-1952. Woo hoo! A serious new collection for me to examine for my own family lines! My one-month subscription to Ancestry just became a two-month subscription.

I'm feeling good about the research I did for my friend. If she wants to take things further she can start reading about Canadian history and pick up some Charles Dickens' novels to learn more about those periods of her ancestors' lives. I know there are probably more (and maybe better) sources for online research for Canadian and English records than just Ancestry and FamilySearch. If you know of some, please leave a comment and I will pass the info along to my friend. Now that I've gotten her started, perhaps she'll want to take the research further.

I was working on that English research at the same time I started binge-watching the "Mr. Selfridge" television series. Now I'm hooked on that series! Love it! Can't wait for Season 3 to begin next month!

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Happy New Year



Anybody out there?

Boy, I sure am rusty at this blogging stuff. It's been a while. Quite a while.

I find myself staring at a blank page and wondering where to start. I have no idea. I didn't sit down with an outline of what to write. I just wanted to write something to break the ice, so to speak. It's a new year and I guess it's time for me to get back into blogging. In order to do that, I have to have something to write about. That means I'll have to get back to doing some genealogy and family history research. I haven't done anything along those lines in over a year.

A couple of months ago a dear friend sent me an email informing me that records from the ancestral village of one of my family lines are now online. I was delighted to learn that. I went to check them out and realized it was all foreign to me. Of course it would be because the records are written in Russian (Cyrillic) and I don't read Russian. But that aside, I realized that I've been away from everything genealogy-related for long enough that I can't just jump in and pick up where I left off. I'm going to have to learn the ropes again and that will take some time. The blogging will have to come along somewhere down the line after I get comfortable with what I'm genea-doing. ;-)

Anyway, if there is anyone still following this blog, Happy 2014! May your year be filled with genealogy successes!

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Polish Vital Records Online, Coming Soon!

Well here's an update to my previous post that I wasn't expecting to be posting this soon. Check it out. Good news indeed!

From the National Digital Archives of Poland website:

In the first half of 2013, we plan to publish more than 2.3 million scans in two rounds - in March and June. The attached list  archives, which are derived from the digitized resource materials, together with the number and name of the team. Due to the still ongoing cleanup of the whole immense material, we can not at this stage provide specific signatures. We reserve the right to minor adjustments of these statements. Any changes will be announced on our website.

(translation provided by Google Translate)

Unfortunately for me, none of my ancestral parishes are on this list. However, I am very excited to see that the process of digitizing the vital records of Poland is well underway and the first batch of records should be viewable online in just a few weeks! Yay!

**Hat tip to my friend Valerie who shared this info on her FB page this morning!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Polish Vital Records and My Family History

A couple weeks ago I read the following excerpt in the PGSA Notebook (Newsletter from the Polish Genealogical Society of America, January 2013).

RI-Poland and Polish State Archives Plan New Agreement
Jewish Records Indexing - Poland (JRI-P) and the Polish State Archives (PSA) plan to sign an agreement that will define future cooperation between the two groups. It includes:
  • Access to data that will allow JRI-P to index all vital records that are more than  100-years old which have been transferred to PSA branches in the last six years
  • During the next four to five years, PSA will digitize all vital records (Jewish and non-Jewish) and make them available on the PSA National Digital Archives (NDA) or Regional Archives website.  There will be no charge for directly accessing the records.
  • As these records are added to the PSA site, JRI-P will be provided with the information necessary to enable it to link its search results to digital images of Jewish records.  JRI-P currently has 4.5 million records indexed.  This will be done by volunteers or paid professionals.  Currently the one town that is complete is Gora Kalwaria.
  • JRI-Poland will re-launch its Order Processing System that operated from 2003 to 2006, which simplified the process of getting copies of records from PSA.  During that period, JRI-P had a shopping cart system where clicking on a button next to one of their index entries would create an order to the PSA to provide a copy of the record.  This system will phase out as digitized records become available online but the total project will take a good number of years.
The indexing/linking of the records is a massive project that will include towns in Poland and the former Galician towns that were part of Poland between the wars.  Donations are being accepted at  Click on "support/donations" toward the top of the page.
From Nu?What's New? - Vol. 13, No. 52 - December 30, 2012

Upon reading this I said to myself, "Self, this is the best news we've heard in a long time!" I was particularly excited about the second bullet point... During the next four to five years, PSA will digitize all vital records (Jewish and non-Jewish) and make them available on the PSA National Digital Archives (NDA) or Regional Archives website. The will be no charge for directly accessing the records.

My heart rate accelerated a bit on learning about this project and I had to remind myself not to get too excited about it yet. After all, this is an agreement yet to be signed by the parties involved. But still, it holds such promise!

I've tried to be patient in waiting for to get the vital records for my ancestral villages in Poland uploaded. I've checked their list of indexing projects from time to time in hopes of helping out the cause. But is trying to get records uploaded for, well, a gazillion villages in hundreds of countries. It will be a while before they get around to mine. Some baptismal indexes for two of my ancestral villages are available but I have no idea when the actual images for those indexes will be made available online. If they ever are. There are no marriage or death records available online for those two ancestral villages. And it's anyone's guess when the images for my other ancestral villages will be made available. Patience, I tell myself. Patience.

Now it appears there may be another source option for online Polish vital records in the future. That's a really nice thought!

I've been toying around with the idea of writing a family history for a least one branch of my family this year. I'm basically done with my research (have been for a while) except for a few names here and there that I need to search for in neighboring villages. I wonder if I should just put a hold on that idea for another 4-5 years and see what becomes available online. Or am I just procrastinating? Perhaps the thing to do is write a history now and add an addendum when I'm able to fill in the few missing names and dates. Decision, decisions. I'm glad I have found as many of my ancestors as I have but at the same time I miss the days of research, discovery, and happy dancing.

Can I possibly think of enough things to say about my family history research to keep this blog going for another 4-5 years? Doubtful. Hmmm.

[[ Update: The agreement I referenced above was officially signed on February 15, 2013. ]]