Saturday, May 27, 2017

Owning a Piece of Someone’s Life

I plagiarized borrowed this title from a post on Olive TreeGenealogy by Lorine McGinnis Schulze because her post describes my feelings as well. Owning objects that were a part of a person’s life does seem to me like owning a piece of that life.  I have very few such objects – all extremely precious to me.

I have my Dad’s rosary.  My parents were devout Catholics who prayed the rosary daily.  It’s not just something that belonged to him; it is something that was important to him that he used every day.

A small diamond that my Dad gave to my Mom represents their love and devotion to one another. It is more precious to me than its monetary value.

I have my Aunt Martha’s First Communion prayer book - in Polish. It was not merely a token of that occasion, but something she used often enough that the spine is repaired with adhesive tape. She was a delightful woman full of spunk and spirit.

There are a few more items in my treasure chest - all equally cherished.

Photographs are great, but I love having something tangible to reinforce the memories and reality of their lives


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Taking a short break from the Sip family

 It’s time to step back from this family for a couple of days to let my thoughts and ideas organize themselves in the background.  I’ve collected data and made spreadsheets that so far result in building a number of family “shrubs” that may or may not get grafted to my family tree.

Data is incomplete. The same first names are used repeatedly, as was common in the 18th and 19th centuries. Example: two male births on the same day given the same name and registered at the same office. At this point, I’m not certain whether their fathers were brothers or cousins.  There are a few obvious transcription errors, and probably some subtle ones I haven’t found yet.  Spreadsheets evolved as my ideas evolved and I’m beginning to confuse myself. I know. I should have taken the time up front to make a plan. But I didn’t do that.

These various Sip families all lived in the same region. I believe that they are all connected but the problem is in finding the connecting thread.

For the next few days, I’ll be getting back to DNA.  I haven’t been on GedMatch or FTDNA for quite a while. There are new things to learn and, I hope, new matches for follow up.

With any luck, I’ll be able to get back to the Sip shrubs refreshed and with new ideas.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Missing Pieces

Searching for missing pieces of information is the definition of a family history project. I’m looking at another family jigsaw puzzle with many missing pieces.

In the past few months, via DNA matches, I’ve learned of two distant cousins in my Schipp line and I’m now down that particular “rabbit hole”.  The video project is on the back burner for now.

Both of these new cousins are descended from great aunts on my mother’s side – my great grandfather, Michael Schipp (Sip) is our MRCA (most recent common ancestor).  Even though I’d said that I’d put it aside for a while, I’m back looking for Sip families in Poland

Using BaSIA, I’ve found a treasure trove of Catholic church sacramental records at the State Archive inPoznan. Now the job is to get them matched up as best I can.  MS Excel is a great tool for this.  I’m building this spreadsheet

Once I get the information entered I’ll be able to sort it every which way to try to extract facts, matching parents with children and grandchildren, seeing local migration patterns, and more, I hope.  There are several families clustered with an area of about 3 square miles, but it seems that a few of them moved from one place to another.

The challenge here is reading the records. BaSIA gives most of the vital facts, but there should be more information in the record itself. Unlike later church records which were written in Latin, these older records are written in Polish.

I’ll be busy for a while.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Sip to Schipp: Evolution of a Surname

In June, 2015 I published apost with a theory about how my great grandfather, Michael Sip became Michael Schipp. Quoted from that post:

How did Sip become Schipp?  Here’s my theory.

In the 19th century, the Province of Poznan was in the Prussian partition of Poland. There was a concerted effort to erase Polish culture and impose German language and culture. Civil authority was German and all civil records were in German. Schools taught only the German language and classes were in German.

In Polish the name Sip would be pronounced: ship or szip. 

My current thinking is that the German civil authorities wrote the name as it was pronounced.  The family were farmers in the boondocks of a relatively small city. I have no idea whether they were at all literate at the time.  Did they not understand that the spelling had changed?  Did they simply submit to the authorities rather than make a fuss?  I’ll never know.”

I have finally found evidence in civil records in the State Archive in Poznan. Until recently I’d been focused on church records because, in Poland and then in Prussian Poland, there were no civil records before 1874.

Here is the birth record of Michael’s son Theodor from 1882.  The yellow highlight shows the father as Michael Sip.  The note on the left highlighted in blue says: # Instead of "Sip" it has to read "Schip" in the sixth and tenth line.
The registrar

Michael’s son Ludwig was born two years later in 1884.  His birth record shows the surname as Szyp. Theodor’s and Ludwig’s births were registered at the same registry office.

(Note to my cousins:  This is the first and only record I’ve found for Ludwig.  He did not come to the US with his mother and siblings. As of this writing, I have not found a death record for him, but still, my current thinking is that he died as a child.)

In between the two births above, in 1883, Michael’s half-sister, Magdalena, was born to his father and stepmother. Please note that this record shows Sip as the surname.

Other records for this family as late as 1886 show the name as Sip.

My only reasonable conclusion is that the spelling was dependent on the person who happened to be working in the registry office that day.

Unless someone has a better solution for this name quandary, I’m putting this question to rest for now.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Projectus Interruptus

My project for a video of my Ganas family history in Poland didn’t get off the ground because I realized that I needed more information. I ordered a couple of FHL (Famiy History Library)  microfilms and put it on hold. Now that I have as much information as I can reasonably get for now, it’s a matter of getting materials organized and creating the video.

But wait…

A message arrived from one of my DNA matches on 23andme. Turns out that she’s a 2nd cousin 1x removed on my Schipp line!  YAY!!  My attention immediately shifted to that line.  Dug out copies of records that haven’t yet been scanned and verified that they’re all duly recorded in my family tree.
But wait…

There are a couple of things that don’t match up. So back to online records on FamilySearch, Ancestry, and the Polish site BaSIA.  My great grandparents, Michael and Elizabeth Schipp had children that don’t appear on immigration passenger lists, but for whom I find no death record. Then there’s the daughter who is on a passenger list with her mother but for whom I find no birth record.  A new mystery to be solved. A new BSO (Bright Shiny Object) to chase.

But wait….

I’m convincing myself to let this mystery rest for a while and get back to the video mentioned above.  BaSIA is a volunteer project indexing vital records in Poland.  I have no idea what percentage of records have yet to be indexed.  The volunteers may simply not have gotten to these “missing” records yet.


I will get back to this mystery.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Microfilm Monday

In my 10 March, 2017 post I described finding a connection in my Ganas line to a family that settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It gets even better.  Further research on BaSIA led me to records of other Ganas individuals in the same line – descended from my 3X great grandfather, Johann Ganas.  Looking at records on and showed me additional US immigrants in Buffalo, New York, and Detroit, Michigan.

BaSIA gave me links to digitized records at the State Archive in Poznan, Poland where I was able to determine where some of Johann’s children were married; and where some of  his grandchildren were born and married.  But state archives began in 1874, and very few Catholic church records are online.  So, that sent me back to FamilySearch to look for microfilms from the specific towns for years before 1874.

The films are finally here!  I’m anxious to see what new information I can dig up.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Z is for Zeitgeist - 2017 A to Z Challenge


Just because I like the word.  

It is  time to start planning my list for the 2018 A to Z Challenge.

I  now return you to your regularly scheduled program.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Thursday, April 27, 2017

X is for X Marks the Spot - 2017 A to Z Challenge

Same title as last year’s X post, but I want to point out that there are new enhancements to Google Earth.

Here’s James Tanner’s recentpost about it.

And here’s a link to my Xpost from last year.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

W is for Why - 2017 A to Z Challenge


Why?  That is the most difficult question that arises in researching family history. With some exceptions, we can usually answer the other four Ws: Who, What, When and Where.  Finding those still leaves with a big empty space in the Why column.

“Why?” is the most interesting part of the search.

Why did they migrate?
Why did they settle where they did?
Why would a young man in the south enlist in the Union Army?
Why did a parent abandon family?
Why didn’t they finish school?
Why did they die so young, or so suddenly?

Why? Why, Why?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

V is for Verify - 2017 A to Z Challenge

It is so exciting to find a family member in a database!  Perhaps you find a gem in someone else’s online family tree, or an ancestor’s name pops up on a passenger list, or birth or death record.  WOW!

However tempting it may be to take what you find at face value, it is important to verify all information. Check everything you can check.




Do your best to make sure that you’re not following a false positive.

Disclaimer:  I copied this from last year's A to Z Challenge. It is always pertinent.

U is for Underwater - 2017 A to Z Challenge

Underwater is not where we are supposed to be most of the time. I suspect that most of us know the feeling of drowning in obligations or details or fears or ……

Being overwhelmed is really what I mean but I needed a “U” word for today’s A to Z post. What happens to me when I’m overwhelmed is that my brain seems to shut down – or maybe it’s the opposite, my mind just spins out of control.

Going back to the underwater metaphor, what’s to do to get back to the surface without getting the bends?

Step away for a bit.
Breathe. Read a book, Take a walk. Go out to lunch. Watch a video.  Play an engaging game. Anything that has nothing to do with whatever is nagging at you.

Pick one thing to tackle.
Preferably one of your easier issues.  Focus on that one thing. Put everything else on a temporary back burner. This concentrated focus helps get things back on track.

This usually works for me, but I often need to remind myself.  You’re correct if you’re guessing that I’m a bit overwhelmed at the moment.  Think I’ll go read a book.

Monday, April 24, 2017

T is for Time Machine - 2017 A to Z Challenge

Time Machine – a family historian’s fantasy.  We read history, old newspapers, and we pore over
maps. All these give us hints about our ancestors’ lives. We know what kinds of clothes they wore, what their options were for transportation, and for home furnishings. We can read about the important issues of the day.  But we can’t know how they coped on a day to day basis.

What were their personalities? How did they entertain themselves? What were the family dynamics?  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to observe their day-to-day lives! 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

S is for Substitute - 2017 A to Z Challenge

My most recent blog posts have been substitutes for “real” posts. The A to Z Challenge has been an opportunity to post to my blog at a time when I really have nothing much to say.

I’ve been in waiting mode – waiting for FHL films to arrive so that I can continue my current project.  I’m not good at waiting.  Most people would use this time to work on getting things organized – and that was my intent. 

But instead, I focused on coming up with a post for each letter.  Some of these substitutes have been better than others, but they keep me occupied while I am waiting.

Still waiting.

Friday, April 21, 2017

R is for Religious Records - 2017 A to Z Challenge

For certain periods, religious records are almost all we have to trace our ancestry.

In the US, some states did not begin keeping vital records until the early 20th century. Counties or municipalities may have kept vital records before that, but there was no consistency.  There were census records after 1790.  There were tax rolls, court records, land and deed records but they did not necessarily yield the information we search for.

The situation was similar in many European countries. Where my ancestors resided in Prussian Poland, civil records of births, marriages, and deaths began only in 1874. 

But houses of worship often kept very complete records.  There were membership rolls and tithing records.  And there were (and still are) sacramental records that include specific details.  Marriage records, for example, may include not only the names of the bride’s and groom’s parents, but the town in which they lived.  They are a wonderful resource.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Q is for Questions - A to Z Challenge

Questions are both the bane and the joy of genealogy research.

Pursuing a question and finally finding an answer is a joyful experience. New information about our family is precious and wonderful. But…. For every answer, we also find more questions.  They never stop!  Few answers are definitive. And even those that seem definitive will generally lead to more questions. 

Truth is, it’s the questions that fuel our family history ventures and keep us going. Bring on the questions!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

P is for Poland - A to Z Challenge

Poland is my ancestral homeland.  All 4 of my grandparents were born there.

I’ve read multiple histories, historical novels, and studied maps and historical atlases to try to get a comprehensive sense of my ancestors’ lives.  All of this has given me an intense pride in my heritage.

Not that my ancestors were at all instrumental in shaping that history.  They were peasants – the people most affected by oppressive rules.  They survived.

Poland and her people have persisted in their steadfast faith in their nation and their destiny.

Wikipedia has a good overview of Poland and her history.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

O is for Organized - A to Z Challenge

I am not.  Organized. 

Actually, I am multi-organized.  I have manila folders from the early days when I had Broderbund’s Family Tree Maker on my computer and everything else on paper.  I have notebooks where I recorded my findings (more or less) – in notes so cryptic that I can barely decipher them.

As technology improved I came up with methods to preserve records.  I have several methods devised at different times but hardly ever retrofitted older methods to the new ones.

I have folders, binders, CDs, flash drives, hard drives…. 

Problem is, synchronizing all this comes under the heading of one of my earlier posts: Grunt Work.

I need a file clerk!

Monday, April 17, 2017

N is for Newspapers - 2017 A to Z Challenge

Old newspapers give us a glimpse into the everyday lives of our ancestors.  Not to mention that it’s a lot of fun to browse through them.

In years past, newspapers printed the same kinds of news that we find in today’s papers. The volume of information was, as today, dependent on the location and size of the paper’s circulation base.  They covered local, national and international politics, business, events, and sports. There were legal notices and accounts of court proceedings.

Social events were described in flowery language.

There were commercial ads and classified ads.

There were human interest articles and stories.

What were the local issues of the day?  What was happening that affected your ancestors?  Were streets being paved?  Street car tracks being laid? Land being annexed to the city?  What kinds of entertainment were available?

History books tell of significant events, but newspapers tell us about everyday life.

Here are some online sources for historic newspapers

This is a collaboration between the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for  the Humanities. – Subscription

Genealogy Bank - Subscription

Saturday, April 15, 2017

M is for Microfilm - A to Z Challenge

My genealogy adventure would never have gotten off the ground without microfilm – first through the National Archives, and then through the LDS Family History Library.

Microfilm and its cousin, microfiche, have been used since the late 19th century as a method of preserving documents.  John Benjamin Dancer was one of the first to produce microphotographs in 1839 [1]    By the 1920’s microphotography was coming into wider commercial use to preserve books, documents, cancelled checks, etc.

For decades, microfilm has been a primary document preservation method for libraries and institutions, archives and commercial businesses around the world.  The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) microfilm collections include census records, immigration and naturalization records, military records among many others.  This NARA link takes you to more information about their film collections.

 Its use in genealogical document preservation began in 1938 when the Genealogical Society of Utah, which now does business as FamilySearchInternational the official organization for the genealogy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (LDS) began its microfilm project.[2]   Church members have traveled the world filming civil records as well as religious record books from churches and synagogues.  These films are available to view through any LDS Family History Center.

Reading films was once a tedious process.  The readers were huge devices. Once the film was loaded, it required hand cranking to go through the film frame by frame. Before the age of computers and printers, information had to be transcribed by hand.  Later, there were readers that would send the desired image to a printer.


Today some of us are lucky enough to have access to electronic readers controlled by computers. No more hand cranking.  I can use these at the Indian River County main library here in Vero Beach, Florida.  I simply plug a flash drive into the computer and this reader scans the image to the drive for me.  It's great!

Using microfilm, I’ve found birth, marriage and death records from churches in Poland.  I’ve found family in census records at NARA before the advent of online databases.  I’ve found obituaries in old newspapers. 

Microfilm may not be one of the seven wonders of the world, but it is definitely a wonder in my world.

[3] By User:Grillo - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

[4] ScanPro

Friday, April 14, 2017

L is for Law - 2017 A to Z Challenge

One of the challenges to understanding the documents left by our ancestors is understanding the law at that particular time and place.

I was privileged to hear Judy G Russell The Legal Genealogist, speak at an all-day seminar in February of this year. To most of us, law seems like a pretty dry and dull subject but Judy makes it lively as she reminds us how pertinent and valuable it is to our genealogy.

In some places and times, women were not permitted to inherit land.

In some places and times, a widow’s children were given to her husband’s family to raise. 

Why wasn’t the eldest son mentioned in the will?  Perhaps the law of primogeniture guaranteed the he automatically inherited the land; and the will merely distributed other property. Don’t assume that he was dead.

Why wasn’t the wife mentioned in the will?  If the law of dower was in place, it may mean only that he intended to leave her only what the law of dower allowed.  Again, don’t assume that she was deceased or divorced.

Did you know?  I certainly didn’t.  Here are a few resources:

FamilyTreeWebinars – Ms. Russell has done several of these

And check state archives for information on statutes and legislation.

Sometimes we don’t know what it is that we don’t know.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

K is for Kismet - 2017 A to Z Challenge

Kismet: Destiny, Fate  

This is a recurring theme for me with my Family History projects. As I look back at my families over the past 200+ years. I often wonder what if things had been different at any given place and time.

Early on in my research, I was in touch with a man in Germany who has my same last name: Dachtera. He, too was doing research.  We exchanged emails and he sent photos of his mother, and of his father in his WW II German army uniform.  I sent photos to him including one of my father in his US WW II army uniform.  That got me thinking.

With so many immigrants in the US what were the odds on the front lines in WW II that cousins were unknowingly shooting at one another??  Could have happened in Russia, Germany and Italy. That’s the basis of at least a few novels.

History can get the mind spinning with “what if’?”   That’s what makes us keep on reading Harry Turtledove and other alternate history authors.

As curious as I am, it is probably best not to know “what if?”.  I’ll stick with my kismet.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

J is for Just - 2017 A to Z Challenge

J is for Just. As in I just  cannot think of anything to write for the letter J.

So even though this post is empty of content, I keep my alphabet string going - sort of.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

I is for Ignatz Ganas - 2017 A to Z Challenge

Ignatz Ganas is my maternal Grandfather.  Family lore from my mother makes me especially curious about him.

Here’s what I know for certain:
·         Vitals
o   Born:              29 June, 1870  Chorzalki, Poland
o   Immigration:  17 August,.1893 Baltimore, Maryland, USA
o   Married:          18 October, 1898  St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
o   Died:               12 January, 1940 St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
·         His mother’s family owned an inn (tavern)
·         His father died in 1873
·         His mother remarried in 1876

Based on my mother’s stories, his youth was different from my other ancestors.

At some point he was sent to live in Berlin with his mother’s twin brother who was a tailor.
Was he sent to be an apprentice to his uncle?  Seems a reasonable guess because he did learn tailoring and taught it to my mother.
What was the age at which boys became apprenticed? Perhaps I can learn this and make a guess at his age.

When he was 16 years old he left Germany to avoid conscription into the army.
This makes sense because his father, Joseph, was in the military when he died. I’ve not yet been able to find any military records.  An 1873 church record shows Joseph as a “deceased soldier”

If he left Germany at 16 and came to the US at 23, where was he and what did he do for those years?
My mother said that he spoke 6 languages so he probably spent time in several European countries?  Which ones?

How did he manage?
Did he make use of his tailoring skills?
Was he an itinerant laborer? 

My imagination comes up with all kinds to possibilities, some grand, some very ordinary.

Come visit me in my dreams, Grandpa, and tell me all about it.

Monday, April 10, 2017

H is for Heirloom - A to Z Challenge

Joseph & Magdalena Dachtera

My heirlooms are very precious.  But they have no monetary value.

Things that were very ordinary to our ancestors’ lives take on an exceptional charisma as they age and our ancestors’ lives become more distant in time.

I cherish a piece of inexpensive costume jewelry, an apron, a prayer book, a rosary, and, some photographs. 

They are priceless.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

G is for Grunt Work - A To Z Challenge

Grunt work is the stuff that needs doing but isn’t fun or interesting to do.  It’s what I’m doing now; and for me it takes much more discipline than I usually have.  I’m more a big picture person than a detail person. I’ll take care of the details, but first…..

I have a couple of genealogy projects on hold waiting for FHL films to arrive. This is the perfect time to fill in the holes in my citations.  And, boy, do I have holes!

Yes, I know that I should include citations immediately when I add new information. I do that when I have just a few new data points. Good. But when I’ve come across a lot of new information, I’m just anxious to get it all in and see how the pieces fit in with the old information. Hence: procrastination.

If you were to look up the definition of “Pay me now, or pay me later” you’d find my picture.

Friday, April 7, 2017

F is for Facts - A to Z Challenge

We all know what a fact is:  Something than can be proven to be true.


In recent months, the phrase “alternative fact” has come into common usage having been coined by someone in Washington, DC.  That is nothing new to genealogists and family historians.

We deal with alternative facts on a regular basis.  How many ways can that surname be spelled or misspelled?  Are Sally and Sarah the same person? Is that person a biological parent or a step parent?  An official document states a birth year as 1885; but then another document, also “official”, pins the birth year as 1887. Just how many nicknames are there for Margaret?

Genealogy software and online genealogy sites have us record facts for each individual in our family trees.  I wish there was a better word. Sometimes a fact is just the best information we have at the time.  Unless we have absolute proof, there’s always the chance that our “fact” will be contradicted or disproved.

As frustrating as that can be, it is also what keeps us digging through old records and keeps us on our toes.

And that’s a fact.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

E is for Emigration A to Z Challenge

All four of my grandparents emigrated from Poland in the 1880’s.

How does a family decide to leave their homeland? Extended family has probably lived in the same area for generations. Parents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts are close enough to visit easily. Their support system is well established and reliable.

Why abandon this seemingly comfortable way of life to endure the indignities of weeks at sea in steerage, and the unknowns of a new home in a strange land?

The answer seems simple in some cases such as the Irish potato famine. It was a matter of survival.

Why did my Polish ancestors come to the US?  It’s not surprising that the answer has to do with politics and power. Heads of government who sought to expand their realms and control the populace.

In the 19th century, my families were in Prussian Poland where the government was imposing strict Germanification on its provinces that were once Poland.  The Polish language was forbidden.  All civic offices and school classes were conducted in the German language.  It was forbidden to teach the Polish language even as a foreign language. German emigres to former Polish lands were given priority for jobs and land purchases. Poles were relegated to second-class citizens.

Although Poland did not exist on a map in the 19th century, Poles still considered themselves to be Polish and chafed under Prussian rule.

I would love to know the family conversations that led to the decision to emigrate.  It must have been difficult.

I am grateful that they made those decisions.  I was born in 1942 in the USA. I cannot imagine being born in 1942 in Poland. 

A  most heartfelt thank you to my great grandparents who took the risk to come to a new country.  Words cannot express my gratitude.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

D is for Dachtera - A to Z Challenge

D is for Dachtera, my maiden name.  Alternate spelling: B-R-I-C-K--W-A-L-L.

That’s an exaggeration. It’s probably more like a wooden blockade– a tall, thick wooden blockade.

Using BaSIA, I am able to see where that surname is concentrated in Poland.  Years ago I spent untold hours scouring FHL films looking for records of my great grandfather, Joseph Dachtera in Parkowo and Oborniki just northeast of Poznan.  I created a detailed spreadsheet listing almost 150 individuals with that surname and worked hard at trying to isolate my great grandfather with no success.  I gave up in frustration and went on to other research.

But that was more than 10 years ago when I was just beginning my genealogy journey. I’ve learned a lot since then about research techniques and 19th century Polish surname conventions, or lack of conventions. 

Great Grandpa Joseph Dachtera is my next project.  Armed with better knowledge and capabilities, maybe I’ll find an open gate in that blockade.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

C is for Collateral – 2017 A to Z Challenge

Until recently, my research on collateral lines has been limited to those living in the US – my great aunts and uncles   The discovery of distant Polish relatives in the US got me busy looking at collateral lines from a 3rd great grandfather born in Poland in 1779.

I should have done this a long time ago!  On the other hand, the information I found may not have been easily available a long time ago.

Using information from The Poznan Project and BaSIA I was able to locate and download records from The State Archive in Poznan. Adding this data to my tree on brought up a forest of shaky leaf hints.

My 3rd great grandfather, Johann Ganas, lived in the small village of Czerlejno which was the estate of a Polish nobleman. Johann’s sons had to look elsewhere for work but they stayed within a 10-mile radius of their birthplace. In the next generation, some families moved farther away but still within 20 miles of Czerlejno.

The Ancestry hints showed me that 3 Ganas families came to the US between 1887 and 1891. Two of them settled in Buffalo, NY; and one in Milwaukee, WI. My grandfather, Ignatz Ganas arrived in 1893 as a single man and settled in St. Paul, MN.  Maximillian Ganas, a Roman Catholic priest, arrived in Detroit, MI in 1911.

WOW!!  What fun!  I have more Polish cousins in the US than I’d ever imagined.  With ongoing research, I hope to be able to find living distant cousins.

Monday, April 3, 2017

B is for Bronie – 2017 A to Z Challenge

Aunt Bro was my mother’s 2nd oldest sister. Her mother called her Bronie.  Before I started doing genealogy, everything I ever saw about her said her name was Bernice.  Bernice = Bro?  Didn’t make sense to me.

It finally made sense when I was able to review the sacramental records at St. Adalberts church in St. Paul, Minnesota.  My mother’s parents gave their children Polish baptismal names.  They used American names thereafter but grandma always referred to Bronislawa as Bronie and she was Bro to everyone else.

One mystery remains:  why was Bro’s husband, Daniel Muccio, referred to as Uncle Jim?  I’m sure I’ll never know.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

A is for Ancestors

Starting the A to Z Challenge with an easy one.

Some genealogists are little more than name collectors.  To some, what matters most is how many names are on their family tree.  But each of those names represents a person, a real human being who lived and worked, loved, laughed, cried, and felt all of the same emotions that we feel.

Let’s try to understand our ancestors. That gets more difficult as we go back in time, but if we learn about the times in which they lived, we can begin to understand the legacy they left to their immediate descendants, and to us living in the here and now.

2017 A to Z Writing Challenge

The idea is to write a post every day in April except Sundays, with the subject matter following the alphabet.  I did it last year; lets see if I can do it again. "A" will be a separate post.

A to Z

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Name Game

I spent today (virtually) at the State Archive in Poznan with the Ganas family. My brain got tied up in knots for a while.

In an effort to honor their elders, 18th and 19th centuries families often present us with a puzzle of some magnitude.  Too may Johanns born too close together can be very frustrating.

Be kind to your descendants who may be interested in family history.

If your name is John, and you have an uncle, a grandfather, and cousins named John, think about breaking the chain. There are many honorable names:
Hezekiah, Ezekiel. Mergetroyd, Englebert. 

On behalf of your future family historians, I thank you.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Thank You, Volunteers!

Thousands of volunteers all around the world make Genealogical research so much easier than it once was.  They give their time to indexing and transcribing projects that allow the rest of us to locate and see records with just a few mouse clicks.

Hooray for volunteers!!!!!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Dead Ones Are Easy

 It takes much more effort to find living cousins.

Now that I’ve established a connection with the Ganas family in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I’ve begun trying to learn about them in hopes of finding living distant cousins.

I wish I’d had this information 30 or 40 years ago when I lived within easy driving distance from Milwaukee. These are relatives on my maternal side but I don’t think that my mother was aware of them.  It is a pretty distant relationship.

The low-hanging fruit is the first phase., FamilySearch, and  Find A Grave yield a pretty good picture of the family in the late 19th and early 20th century.  There are death records, some marriage records and some birth records. These are readily verifiable sources.

The next phase requires more effort. There are a few gems to be found on a few public trees on Ancestry.  There are images of newspaper obituaries that provide starting points for more research.  I’m grateful to the others who have put these clues out there for me to find.

Friday, March 10, 2017

I Will Graft this Shrub to My Tree!

In my previous post I wondered whether the Ganas family that settled in Milwaukee is related to my Ganas ancestors.  I described using BaSIA to get to archives in Poland.

The question was whether the Mathias Ganas in my tree is the same person as the Matthias Ganas in another tree on I now believe that they are the same person: my 3rd Great Uncle.

My 3rd Great Grandfather, Johann Ganas lived in the village of Czerlejno, Poland which was a small village that supported a Noble’s large estate and farm. Adalbert, Johann’s oldest child was my 2nd Great Grandfather.  He had a brother, Mathias.  I have the sacramental records for the baptisms of Adalbert and his siblings.  Mathias was born on 18 February 1820, and baptized on 20 February 1820

Other records from The Poznan Project show Mathias married twice in the town of Swarzedz. Swarzedz is a larger city (current population about 30,000) just about 6 miles from Czerlejno. In fact, all of Johann’s sons left Czerlejno for larger towns.

Pinpointing year of birth is a common problem in old records. Mathias’ first marriage record indicates his birth in 1824; his second marriage record indicated 1822. And my baptism record says 1820. Four years is a reasonably long span. There could have been two boys baptized as Mathias Ganas in that length of time.

BaSIA showed that there was a record of Mathias’ death in 1883 in the archives in Poznan.  I was able to download that record which showed his age as 64 which will put his birth in 1919.

The clincher was that this record showed that he was born in the tiny village of Czerlejno!  BINGO!

I am not a genealogy purist so I won’t be writing to Poland for certified copies of these documents. I accept them as correct until/unless I find contradicting evidence. I’m just happy to find more of my extended family.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Connecting a Shrub to my Tree?

I’m deep down a rabbit hole these days because gave me hints about one of my lines from another public tree. Can I connect the Ganas family in Milwaukee to my Ganas family in St. Paul??

There are tantalizing similarities.  My 3rd Great Uncle, Mathias Ganas was born in 1821.  I found his baptismal record on a FHL  ( film.  I have not yet uncovered a marriage record for him.

But the other tree in question has a Matthias Ganas born in 1824 – maybe.  It’s a “maybe” because when I go to The Poznan Project searching for his marriages it shows that he was married twice.  His first marriage in 1852 gives his age as 28 which puts his birth year at 1824.  His second marriage (as a widower) in 1868 shows is age as 46, giving a birth year of 1822.  Are either of them correct?  I’ve ordered the appropriate FHL film so maybe I’ll find more information. If I find his birth record on this film, I’ll know that he’s not MY Mathias.

In the meantime, I’ve returned to the search for Ganas records in Poland.  The BaSIA database is another resource created by volunteers transcribing archived records. This database continues to grow as more records are being transcribed. Entering a surname results in a map showing where, in Poland, there are records for that name that have been transcribed.

To the right of the map are the names of the locations with a graphic that roughly indicates the number of records. Clicking on the location results in a list of the records there. 

At the right of each record citation is a link to the archive that hold the records including information to find that record if it has been filmed and digitized. In the case of the Poznan archives, the record images may be downloaded.     

So I’m busy filling up a new flash drive.   Even if I cannot connect the Milwaukee shrub to my tree, I’m learning more about this part of my family.