Tuesday, October 25, 2016

11 Year Blogoversary and DNA Results

Today is the anniversary date for Creative Gene. It's been 11 years since I first began blogging. The last few years have had very few posts, but in spite of how it may have appeared to my readers, it was always alive in my heart.

I have done a bit of reflecting lately on my years of blogging. The inspiration for that came from my friend Barbara Poole's blog, Life From The Roots. My experience has been similar to hers in some ways but very different in others. For instance, she started out blogging only about genealogy and more recently added other topics... and lots of her wonderful photography! I would say things went just the opposite for me.

I started Creative Gene as a blog for all of my creative pursuits, especially creative writing, but then I had to eliminate everything but genealogy to be taken seriously on the topic. Heck, in the early days I couldn't get listed on Cyndi's List because my blog apparently seemed more "personal" than "genealogy". And so I created separate blogs for my photography and digital scrapbooking and even started a blog for one line of my family intending to create additional ones for other lines (thankfully, that never happened).

In the early days, I was still trying to figure things out. When I started writing blog posts on genealogy there weren't many role models for me to follow. I was only able to find a handful of others writing blog posts about genealogy back then and they didn't seem to be experts on the subject either. ;-) So I found myself in uncharted waters and had to figure things out as I went along.

I made my share of "mistakes", like including too many other topics in a "genealogy blog". It wasn't important to me to be known as a "genealogy blog" except that search engine listings were hard to come by back then. The more you used a particular word in blog posts the higher your ranking on Google was for that topic. (Their algorithms were more primitive back then. ;-) And being a web site designer, that was very important to me.

In later years, the multiple blogs I'd created and the need to post to them with some frequency to maintain a search engine ranking, became impossible to continue. Just not enough hours in a day.

But Creative Gene lived on while the others faded away. Of course, Creative Gene was helped along by the Carnival of Genealogy. Oh what a brilliant idea I had with that! I found so many like-minded (genealogy-minded) souls, who later became friends, with that writing project. Those were the good old days.

Today is a different day and time. I'm a different person. I continue to develop myself and my hobbies beyond genealogy, though I'll always feel a passion for it. I'm happy to currently be focused on organizing and writing about my family history instead of focusing on researching my genealogy and blogging about it. But on this, the 11th anniversary of Creative Gene, I'm still here keeping it alive and well.

Thanks to all who've followed me along the way. You've made it fun! And a special thank you to all the blogging friends I've made along the way. You've enriched my life in so many ways. I value your friendship.


And to end this post I'm going to shift gears in a different direction. I got my autosomal DNA test results the other day, and my brother's too. No big surprises but definitely one little one.

My ethnic makeup:
European: 96% (90% Eastern European (Poland); 6% Western and Central European (Germany/France/Switzerland)
Central/South Asian: 4% (This is "the little surprise" because the map shows this to be roughly in the area of Afghanistan... didn't see that one coming ;-)

My brother's ethnic makeup:
European: 100% (95% Eastern European (Poland); 5% Southern European (Southern Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece)

I've been on vacation for the past couple of weeks so I haven't put any time into my plan for organizing and writing my family history. Hopefully, I'll accomplish more in the next month.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Progress is Slow

Good news! I did find those Slownik Geograficzny entries I was looking for! Yeah!

I've also been able to find some family information on a website I visited. By Googling "Wojnicz", one town my Mizera family is from, I found a link to Nekropole.info. I'd heard of the site before but hadn't made the effort to check it out. It turns out that it has the burials listed for the Wojnicz Municipal Cemetery. I was able to find the death date for one of my grandmother's brother's. Yeah! And I may have found the death year for her other brother too but I need to have that confirmed by another source to be sure. No luck finding the death date for grandma's sister yet. And it looks like if her parents were buried there, they aren't anymore.

More good news. I received some information from the Wojnicz parish priest via the genealogist I'd contacted in Poland. I was sent copies of the birth/baptism register entries for one of my grandmother's brothers and her sister. I already had these images from LDS films, BUT, these same entries from the priest had notations of their marriages including the names of their spouses. Yeah! Sort of. Because they aren't marriage records, they don't have all the regular details you would expect to find on a marriage record from the 1920s and 1930s... like the names of the parents of the bride and groom, their ages, addresses, witnesses, etc. So I have some information but not enough info for me to be able to trace the spouse's ancestral lines. :-( Oh well, I am still hopeful that the genealogist I hired will be able to find the actual marriage records for me. Until then, I'm grateful for the progress made. :-)

And one stellar bit of good luck to add! In going through my brother's old slides (taken during the years he was in Vietnam), we came across a family photo taken when he was home on leave. It's a picture of my whole family, both of my parents, my two brothers, and me. What's the big deal, you wonder? It's the only one I've ever seen of all of us in the same room at the same time. I know. Sad, right? Well, mom was almost exclusively the picture-taker and she didn't have a camera with a timer. So she was never in the family pictures, not that there were all that many pictures taken of family events. I screamed and jumped for joy when I saw the slide photo. I didn't think to take a picture of the projected image at the time but my brother was kind enough to do the slide show again and that time I had my camera with me. It will take a LOT of work in Photoshop to make a decent photo from that projected imaged but it's all I have to work with and I'm so very happy to have it. One day my brother may get around to having his slides scanned but that's not in his plans in the near future.

And the last good bit of info I acquired this past month was my Aunt Helen's marriage record from a trial subscription to FindMyPast.com. My mom told me that her sister eloped to Ohio when she got married (1940) but until now I wasn't able to find a record of her marriage. I have it now! Yeah!

The bad news is, this is about all I can say about my genealogy endeavors for the past month. I wasn't able to put in time getting more comfortable with Scrivener. I fear that I will have forgotten what I learned by the time I get it fired up again. And I haven't made any progress in searching my hard drives.

I got sidetracked with Bullet Journaling (BuJo) and that took up the time I might have spent in Scrivener. Let me say a few words about BuJo. I'm excited about the idea of it but the real world practice of it has left me a bit underwhelmed. I created a personal BuJo, tracking my meals, sleep, steps, mood, general health and including task lists and a calendar for future endeavors. It all looks good on paper but I find myself repeatedly recording the same things over and over again (I already track much of this digitally in phone apps). To me, redundancy means wasted time. If I eliminate the stuff I'm already tracking digitally all I'm left with is a standard journal of daily thoughts and activities. Not that that's a bad thing, but I don't find it necessary. And my days are full enough of necessities (my To-Do List) that I already struggle to find time for my painting, photography, and genealogy. Much as I'd like to add daily journaling, it just isn't in the cards right now. I may try to keep it going through October (in a modified version) because I have some exciting personal stuff coming up then but I'm thinking after that I'll let it go in favor of a genealogy BuJo to help me stay on top of my genealogy-oriented organization/research/family-history-writing prep.

I will be spending much of October doing non-genealogy related things so I've not made up specific goals for the month. I'll just have to fit time in here and there as I can. But, I did send in my DNA test kit, and gave my brother his test kit. So I may see some kind of results from those in October. Hope so!

Till next time!

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Plan's Beginnings

It's been roughly a month since my last blog post. I thought I'd update the status of my family history writing project over the last 30 days.

  1. With loads of help from my genealogy friends on Facebook, I made the decision to write about my Mizera family line first. That was a big hurdle/decision and one I'm feeling good to have made. 
  2. I've made a sincere effort to learn my way around Scrivener. I started with the "Quick Start" video tutorials first and once I felt comfortable with those basics I made my way through the rest of the video tutorials. I have not "memorized" everything about the program but have familiarized myself with much of it. I think that is satisfactory for now. 
  3. I started assembling some online information about my grandmother's ancestral village in Scrivener. I'm still a little unsure about how to use (where to put) info that I'm collecting. But, I'm moving ahead and will adjust the way I'm doing things as necessary. 
  4. I met with a friend who gave me the name of a researcher who lives in the area of my Mizera ancestral village (Wojnicz). I contacted that individual by email and he indicated that he would need to write a letter to the local parish to obtain the records I was interested in. We are waiting to hear back from that parish to see if they will allow him access to their records. The records I'm hoping to get are: the marriage records for 3 of my grandmother's siblings, their death records as well, and the birth records of any/all of their children. 
  5. I was able to structure my genealogy time one week out of the last four. It was a bit more difficult than I thought it would be to plan the time and stick to the plan. 
My goals for the next month are:
  1. Continue to collect information about Wojnicz and assemble it in Scrivener. I'll need to practice importing digital photos, text, and web pages. 
  2. Start combing through my hard drives for the vital records and digital photos of my Mizera family. Finding them will be a chore since I haven't consolidated my data files over the years... some are here, some are there, etc. 
  3. Start looking for printed photos, handwritten letters, and email regarding my Mizera family. I know that stuff is around here somewhere...
  4. Continue to familiarize myself with Scrivener. Watching a few more videos wouldn't hurt.
  5. Hopefully move forward with getting those vital records from the parish in Wojnicz. 
  6. Structure my time and make genealogy a priority.
And now I'm off to find those Slownik Geograficzny entries I translated a while back... where the heck did I put those anyway??? Wish me luck!

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 Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com trees? It could be a cost savings move to discontinue their apps and instead offer mobile access via Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org) 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!