Friday, February 24, 2012

One Thing Leads to Another

I’m taking a short hiatus from doing specific family research.  So what I’m doing is just poking around.  Spent a little time on to look at some of their newer stuff and then I went back to to sort through the hints they’ve found for my trees.

Turns out some ancient distant cousins immigrated from Bohemia. Some of them appear on other researchers’ trees and show their home towns in the “old country”.  That’s exciting because I know nothing about where my kids’ paternal ancestors came from in Bohemia.

And who knows much about Bohemia at all? Not me. Other than Prague, I have no concept of cities and towns there.  In the late 19th century it was a part of the Austrian Empire and is now part of the Czech Republic.  Borders in that part of Europe changed frequently.  It would be interesting to see maps showing the borders before and after every war or treaty or conquest.

The result of trying to find the towns mentioned for my cousins was that I found a couple of 19th century maps online and saved them to my disc. Not sure how much detail I’ll be able to see.  I’d like to order hard copies, but that’s not practical while we’re on the boat.

Then I went back to and searched for immigration records for “Filek”.  The passenger lists compiled for U.S. arrivals don’t show a person’s last place of residence except for country.  So I concentrated on the German passenger lists that are available for ships leaving Hamburg. (Didn’t have to pay extra for that.) They’ll usually show the city and province.  I didn’t find any of my Fileks so I didn’t strike gold, but I did some real places where Filek families lived. 

They came from Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and Romania.  At least that’s where the towns are now.  A couple of the Polish towns are far enough south that they may have been part of Bohemia at one time.  Maybe they all were.

Another thing I know little or nothing about is how much families moved around in the 19th century in Eastern Europe.  The industrial revolution was in progress.  Did they go where the jobs were?  What was the Austrian Empire like then?

There’s lots of research to do.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Making Sense of the Census – sifting through misunderstanding, misinterpretation and errors

Census data is probably the single richest source of family information in the U.S.. Beginning in 1790, the United States began compiling a census every ten years.  This information is held confidential for 72 years following each census; and then it is made public.  The LDS (Latter Day Saints) library has microfilms of every page of every census except for 1890.  A fire destroyed most of the original 1890 census documents.  These records have been indexed; and digital images made available online at Also, the complete information can be found at the LDS Family Search website.

Additionally, a number of states conducted their own census every ten years in the years ending with the number 5 until the 20th century.  Many of these are also available online.

Finding accurate information seems like a simple task (it mostly is) until you take into account the human factor. 

  • Some people avoided the census takers.
  • Names may have been misspelled when the person answering the questions had a thick foreign accent or the census taker didn’t take the time to verify spelling.
  • Nicknames were sometimes used instead of proper names.
  • Immigrants may have changed the spelling of their last name, or even have changed it entirely.
  • Sloppy or hurried handwriting produced interpretation errors by those who compiled the index.
It is important to keep and open mind when searching records that were originally hand written.

Ignatz Ganas, Ignatius Gawnos, Nicholas Ganas, and Nick Ganas are all the same person.  According to different census years, he was born in Poland, Prussia, Germany or German Poland.

Patrick C Perry, PC Perry and Clube Perry are also the same person. It took me a long time to find Clube.  His full name was Patrick Clabron Perry and he was sometimes called “Clabe”.  My guess is that the census taker wrote Clabe but didn’t close the lower case a, so the indexer thought it was Clube.

Go to the LDS website at and enter the name of a member of your family who was living in 1930.  When you get the results page, that person’s name will be a link to the information contained in the record that was found.  All for FREE.  In fact, even though I was not alive in 1930, I’m in their datablase because the state of Minnesota has made many of its birth records index available covering the years 1935 – 2002. has all of the information plus the diitized images of the census record microfilms, but you need to purchase a subscription in order to be able to see them. 

There’s often value in having the census page images available.  You’ll see the immediate neighbors.  Looking at the pages before and after the one with your relative may help find other members of the family if they lived in the same neighborhood.

As I write this, the most current census available is 1930.

But on April 12, 2012, the 1940 census becomes public.  Hooray!

If you’re lucky enough to live near a branch of the National Archives, you have free access to all this census data plus a lot more. And you can make copies of the images.  Every branch has volunteers who can help you find what you’re looking for. 

If there’s a Mormon church near you, there’s probably also a Family Search Center.  They’ll have some microfilms on site but for a fee you can order a copy of virtually any film in their library for viewing at their facility.

If you’ve ever thought about starting a family tree project, go ahead and give it a try.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Who am I looking for?

Who am I looking for?

Too numerous to mention.  Not exactly -  but starting with grandparents and great grandparents, their offspring marry and produce more and on and on until the number of surnames gets very large.  Here I’ll mention just the families I started with.  I rotate my research. Sometimes I simply saturate on one family after a period of research.  Sometimes I hit a place where I seem to be getting nowhere.  Then it’s time to look at another family line for a while.

My family:

My kids’ paternal ancestors (ex-husband’s family)

I’ve kept those two in the same tree which now has 1,532 individuals.

Neal’s family (my husband)
This tree now has 2,857 individuals.

Why settle in St. Paul?

Why settle in St. Paul?  There were plenty of thriving cities on the East Coast where my ancestors entered the U.S.; and they traveled through several sizeable towns on their way to Minnesota.  A huge number of Poles headed for Chicago and settled there. (At one time Chicago’s Polish population was greater than that of Warsaw, Poland)  And it gets awfully cold up there in the Twin Cities.

In fact, my great grandfather, Joseph Dachtera, took his family first to Pennsylvania where they stayed only a couple of years. I’m guessing that he worked in the coal mines there before heading to St. Paul.

The Minnesota winters wouldn’t have been an issue for my ancestors.  They came from the province of Poznan (Posen in those Prussian days) which sits at about 52 degrees North latitude.  While the Baltic Sea has some moderating influence on the climate, Polish winters can be brutal. 

To put that into North American terms, Poznan, at 52 degrees is just about the same latitude as Calgary, Alberta which is at 51 degrees.  St, Paul and Minneapolis are farther south at about 44 degrees.

Here’s the arithmetic.  One degree of latitude is 60 nautical miles which equals about 69 land miles. So, basically they ended up in a place 550 miles south of their homelands. 
In the 1880’s the Twin Cities were booming. When my ancestors were arriving, the Twin Cities were in the period known as their Golden Age (1880 - 1895). In 1880 Minnesota's population had swelled to 780,773. Minneapolis population was 46,887; and St. Paul's 41,473. Together the cities had been nurtured by the river; together they had been strengthened by the railroad network. In 1880 they were poised on the edge of a remarkable era that would carry them into the ranks of major American cities. Industry and commerce flourished during the 1880's. City improvements included cedar-block and asphalt paving on some streets, improved sanitation and hospital facilities as well as hundreds of acres of parkland. Private power companies began to generate electricity, lighting many streets and providing industry with a new source of power.
By 1893, however, the U.S. was in a severe economic depression that hastened the end of the golden age and slowed the cities' growth. The population boom was over. It was in this economic climate that the first American-born of my family greeted the world.

Thursday, February 16, 2012



That’s the sound of me hitting a brick wall.  My research on Neal’s grandfather, Patrick Perry can’t seem to get beyond my educated guess about his family. There’s lots of missing information.

Neal’s Mom didn’t know much about her Dad’s family.  She knew that his father died and his mother remarried to a man whose last name was Lee and that there was a step-brother from that second marriage – she thought his name was Alex.  She knew that Patrick had a brother, James D. Perry.

Census records gave me clues to Patrick’s birth date and what state he was born in.  But Patrick was born in 1871 so he doesn’t show up on the 1870 census.

Eventually I found a Patrick C Perry of the right age in the 1880 census living with an aunt and uncle named Scarbrogh in Tennessee.  In that same census I found a James D Perry living with another Scarbrough family in Tennessee.

I sent messages to other researchers looking at the Scarbrough line asking if they knew of any connection.  No response.  It was disappointing after I thought I’d found a connection.  I was still on my own looking for clues.

At last I found a William Perry married to Susannah Scarbrough.  Pieces seemed to be falling into place.  The feeling is probably similar to what the early miners felt when they found a vein of ore.

Other family trees on show Zachinen Lee as the second husband of Susannah Scarbrough; and there seems to be a son, Alex, resulting from that union.  Clues!

But there’s no truly definitive evidence yet for Patrick C Perry’s parentage.  I’ve been trying to trace his father, William Perry.  There were 5 men by that name born within a few years in Tennessee.  Perry is a very common name in Tennessee and Kentucky.   And other family trees have conflicting information.


But I’ll keep on looking.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Came over on the Mayflower

Recently I learned that Neal has an ancestor who was a passenger on the Mayflower.

Neal’s 8th great grandfather, John Howland was born in 1592 in Essex County England and came over on the Mayflower.  He died in 1673 in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

John Howland’s daughter, Desire Howland, married Captain John Gorham. Generations later came Nannie Louise Gorham, Neal's maternal grandmother.

There’s an incredible amount of research that’s been done on the Pilgrims and other early settlers so I'm looking forward to learning more about these folks.

Intellectual property or public information?

The premier commercial genealogy site on the internet is  They have massive collections of information and new data is being added every day. More and more public records are becoming available online. makes it easy to share information among members who are researching the same family lines.  That last point is a problem for some traditional genealogists.

Before the internet, genealogists and family historians had to struggle for every crumb of information.  At the same time, they were a community that shared information on a quid pro quo basis.  More than that, many would gladly do local research for someone who couldn’t travel to their location.  Those who could afford it, traveled to their ancestors’ home towns to hunt for precious documents recording births, marriages, deaths, etc.  Many still do make a pilgrimage to Salt Lake City to visit the LDS Family History Library. (I wish I could spend a month there.)

Then a couple of things happened.  The TV series Roots started a boom in genealogy.  The availability of information on the internet grew exponentially.
Now there are thousands of us amateur family historians scouring the net for family data.

The traditional genealogists posted their family trees on but never expected that the newbie historians would not share their sense of propriety regarding data. In their naiveté they designated their online trees as “public”.  How distressed they are that the newer generations of researchers takes that “public” designation literally.  Now they’re upset.

Other researchers assume that any public family tree is available so that the information can be shared at will.  People who’ve spent years accumulating hard won information now find that anyone researching the same family can and will take advantage of the fact that it is now public data.  They may have researched their families, but they didn’t do due diligence on the ramifications of posting on the internet.

I empathize with the traditionalists.  I’m sad that they did not understand the consequence of their decision to make their work public information.  But we all live and learn.  It’s a new age and the rules have changed.

Who am I and why am I here?

I grew up 400 miles from my parents’ large families.  We’d visit every summer when I was small, so I heard the names and a few of the family stories, but I never had a chance to truly get to know my cousins and their parents.  And by the time I was 12 the trips “back home” had stopped except for funerals.

All four of my grandparents immigrated from Poland in the early to mid 1880s.  They met and married in the US.  That’s why I’m here.  And I’m happy to be here.  I’m so grateful that I wasn’t born in war ravaged Poland during World War II.

Where and how did my great-grandparents live in Poland?  What did they do there?  Who where their ancestors?  What conditions caused them to leave their homeland?  Why did they choose to settle in St. Paul, Minnesota?

I do think I know part of why they left their native land.  Although they all considered themselves to be Poles, Poland did not exist at that time.  Poland had been partitioned for the third time.  They were living in Prussia when they left home.  The US was the promised land.  But even so, millions of Poles chose to stay in Prussia.  How I wish I could understand the circumstances that caused these four families to pack up and head across the Atlantic.

Michael and Elizabeth Schipp brought my maternal grandmother, Stella (Stanislawa) Schipp

Ignatz Ganas came to join his mother and step-father, Marianna and Edward Kowalski

Stanley (Stanislaus) Dachtera was 5 years old when his parents Joseph and Maglalena Dachtera landed in the US.

Tekla Reczynska arrived with her mother Lucia Matykiewicz,

Who I am is the result of all of those genes and the ones that came before them.  Who were they? 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Welcome to my genealogy projects

This blog will include results, observations, and opinions about my genealogy projects.  I’m researching my family, my ex-husband’s family (for my kids) and my husband’s family.  Each one has its own set of challenges.

In the early 1960’s my cousin Bobbie and I decided to do a family tree.  It never really got off the ground because our aunts were terrified of the skeletons that would come out of the closet.

Jump ahead 30 years and my younger step-son had begun researching his family.  He got me interested in genealogy again and when he joined the Navy, I continued where he’d left off.  By this time, the internet had been established and was a good research tool.  Genealogy software made it easy to assemble information in a coherent and clear way.  I was hooked.

Best of all, I was living in Boulder, Colorado which gave me easy access to the Denver branch of the National Archives.  I could get to census records, immigration records and ship’s passenger lists.  Although sometimes it was difficult to know exactly what to look for.  I also discovered the wonders of the LDS Family History Centers.  The Mormons have spent years and countless hours microfilming church and government public records from around the world.  All of these are available for viewing at their Family History Centers.  

More and more information is coming available on the net.  Sifting through the sometimes conflicting data is sometimes frustrating but when a gem of information pops up, it is definitely worth the effort. It’s not often easy, but it is addictive.