Saturday, November 28, 2015

Distracted by a New Toy

Last July, +Dick Eastman wrote in a post about a Kickstarter project he was backing.  I looked into it and decided to become a backer of Remix Mini by Jide Technology.  

Remix Mini.   Yes, it is truly this small.

The Remix Mini was promoted as the first Android based PC.  At that point the only thing I knew about Android was that it is the primary operating system for most smartphones and tablets.

Although we're both techies, my husband and I are waaaaaay behind the curve when it comes to handheld devices.  We use our phones only as phones. I get and respond to an occasional text - less than once a month - from one my kids or my brother. As for tablets, the iPad is not in our budget; nor has been any other tablet that has a screen that we feel is big enough.

Finally, now, prices of 10 inch tablets are coming down to our level. So the question becomes which OS to choose.  We've both been Microsoft users since way before Windows and still are. (We managed to avoid Vista and Windows 8.)  Should we stay in the Windows family with a tablet, or should we look at Android devices?  The Remix Mini looked like a good opportunity to get to know Android, and to consider what our next PCs might be when ours finally bite the dust.

My Minis arrived this past week (I got two of them) and I've been exploring Android. So far, I'm very favorably impressed.  Remember that I'm looking at this device as a possible full PC replacement, not as a small mobile device.

My verdict, thus far, is that it could work - mostly.  The lack of a hard disk is negated with the use of flash drives and mini SanDisk memory cards, a local network drive, and cloud storage. I suppose the lack of a CD/DVD device could be taken care of with an external device. Of course there is still the issue of major software applications like Photoshop, and most genealogy software.  But Android's design for small devices means that it simply is not as robust as operating systems designed for large systems.  Android is easy to navigate and very intuitive.  I am still in the early stages of exploration and learning so I'll reserve judgement on the OS for now.

I am writing this post using Google Docs on my Mini.  I'll get back to genealogy before too long.

#Android #Remix Mini PC #Dick Eastman

Monday, November 23, 2015

Ancestral Towns on Wikipedia

Did you know that there are Wikipedia sites in many languages?

Did you know that many small towns all over the world have a web site?

In the US, when we type just (or .org) you get a page that looks like this.

 Clicking on one of the language options will take you to that native language site. You will see a page with a header that looks like this French version. They all have a similar format. If your browser, Chrome, for example, has a translate function you can see the page in English. Or use Google Translate

Note that you can go directly to a foreign language site by using the country code  as in

I’m using the French example here because the language is easier than the Polish villages that I am researching.

The box at the upper right is always the search button. Enter the name of the town here to search for it.  If wikipedia has an entry for it, you will get a page with general information, in the native language, about the town including  history, location, major characteristics, etc. On the right side of the page you will see a vertical panel like this one for Lyon, France shown here in sections.

If the city/town itself has a web site, there will be a link to it at the bottom of the panel. Here is the top of the home page for Lyon, France.

NOTE that at the top right, just above the banner, are two tiny flags: one French and one British. If you click on the British flag it will bring up a Lyon page in English.

But also NOTE that the English version is aimed at foreigners.  I have found this to be true also for the places I research in Poland.  The information is useful but it is general.

The native language version usually gives a much more complete picture of the town and its surrounding area because the focus is primarily for the locals and other speakers of the language.  It gives a sense of the essence of the place, it’s people, culture, events, etc..  

You can use Google Translate to learn about your ancestral village

Even if your ancestral village is relatively small, you may find it on Wikipedia.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Hooray for Google Translate!

It isn’t perfect, but Google Translate is helping me understand my Polish heritage.

My genealogy focus in on heritage rather than merely on lineage. I want to know how and where my ancestors lived.  Google Earth has let me see the locations of my ancestral villages and Street View has let me drive through them as they are today.  That’s the easy part,

The hard part is getting an understanding of these villages as they were in the 19th century. I’m doing this by reading gazetteers from that time. There are two of them.  This post looks at entries for Grabow nad Prosna, the village of my Schipp ancestors in Poland.

Meyers Gazetteer of the German Empire (commonly called Meyers Orts) includes Prussian Poland where my ancestors lived.  See below for links to online access. It is in two volumes. The fifth edition was published in 1915. The descriptions of small towns and villages are generally brief, but include population broken down by religion, businesses, and facilities such as mail, railroad and telegraph. Here’s the entry for Grabow nad Prosna.  It is a three-pronged challenge

You can see that it is printed in old German Script. Deciphering the script is the first challenge.  Once the script is decoded, the second challenge is the abbreviations.  Fortunately there is an abbreviation table online. See link below. The third challenge is the actual translation. I do not speak German. With the combination of a good German/English dictionary and Google Translate, I get some understanding of this town.

Among other things Meyers Orts tells me that there was a dairy, a sawmill, and a railroad station that served both passenger and freight customers and had a telegraph. There was one Protestant church and 2 Catholic churches.

Słownik Geograficzny Kólestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich
 (Geographical Dictionary) is a gazetteer of Poland “and other Slavic countries” published in 15 volumes.  It is available online as are guides to its use. See links below.  Despite the complexity of the Polish language, this is easier because it is printed in a normal font – I can recognize the alphabet. But this one also has the challenges of abbreviations and a language I don’t speak.  The edition I find online was published beginning in 1880 – it took a few years to complete all 15 volumes.

The advantage of this gazetteer is that there is more information in each entry.

This is just a very small portion of the entry in Slownik Geograficzny for Grabow nad Prosna.

It describes the city of Grabow on the Prosna river as being in a lush fertile valley. It says that the residents were engaged in agriculture, cattle breeding, and smuggling in spite of vigilant border guards.

The smuggling part sparks my imagination. Were my ancestors law abiding farmers or did they make a little extra income on the side???

Grabow had a doctor and a pharmacy. It had once had iron smelters and a Franciscan monastery.

The entry for Grabow nad Prosna is quite extensive and includes some significant points of history going back to the year 1264.


There are some words that I’ve not been able to translate either using a Polish/English or Google Translate.  That’s OK because I’m not looking for a verbatim translation, I just want to get a sense of what the village was like in that time.

Google Translate is more than adequate and is so very much easier than looking up every word in a dictionary.  Hooray for Google Translate.

If you know of other sites for gazetteers that may be relevant, please leave a comment with a link.


Meyers Orts
Family Search
            Note: this version is searchable.
The Hathi Trust

Slownik Geograficzny
Polish Roots – this is the easiest site for those of us who don’t speak Polish. There is a link to an excellent guide to using this resource. The “How to Use” document on this site gives detailed instructions for using the dictionary.  The first link to an online version takes you to the University of Warsaw site which is in Polish. If you use the Chrome browser it will give you the option to translate. There is a list of abbreviations beginning on page 13 of Volume 1.  This list is crucial for reading the entries.
WARNING: The pages of the dictionary are in Java Script which is not supported by Chrome. I had to revert to Internet Explorer to see the pages.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Finding Ancestors’ Records in Poland

The key to finding records anywhere is knowing where to look. That can become especially tricky looking in a foreign country where you don’t know the language All of my grandparents were born in Poland.

My mother knew that her father came from the village of Iwno. It didn’t take long for me to home in on Iwno, get LDS microfilms, and find his birth record.

Mom also knew that her mother was born in Grabow.  When I began this project in 1999 there were not as many resources available online.  The best resource for finding a village in Eastern Europe was a site called Shteltseeker – now called TownFinder on JewishGenWeb. I entered the name Grabow and specified that it was in Poland. The search results came back with 12 villages named Grabow – scattered all over the country.  It was sort of like knowing that your relatives came from a town named Springfield somewhere in the United States. I got a road atlas of Poland to help locate all of these Grabows.

I started ordering LDS films from various Grabows but got very frustrated and switched my focus to other searches.

Then, just a few years ago I learned of a Polish site called The Poznan Project. Volunteers have been, and still are, transcribing all 19th century marriages in Poznan region  (then called Posen by the Prussians). It has a powerful search engine.  I found my great grandparents’ marriage in 1872 in the town of Grabow nad Prosna which translates to Grabow on the Prosna river.

Grabow nad Prosna

LDS film 1189069 showed my Grandmother’s baptism. Except for deciphering ancient handwriting, these Catholic Church records are pretty easy because they’re written in Latin

This Baptism register shows that Stanislawa Sip was born on October 25,1874 to Michael Sip and Elizabeth Jasczynska (they listed the mother’s maiden name) in Pustkowie Grabow, one of the 16 villages that comprise the town of Grabow nad Prosna. The place of birth is important because a church may have served several different villages in the area. The record also shows her father’s occupation and the names of her Godparents. This was very exciting.

But wait! There’s more!

Prussia began keeping civil records in 1874. I got much more information by reading the civil record of her birth.

Not so easy. The forms are printed in German Script and filled out by hand in German. Thank goodness for Google Translate!

For both the bride and groom the information includes.
  • Village of birth
  • Date of birth
  • Current residence
  • Parents’ names
  • Residence village of Parents
  • Names of witnesses

Just as in our modern times, a wedding generally took place in the bride’s church. These civil records give much better information on where both parties were born.

Using The Poznan Project and other Polish genealogy sites has made my searches much more productive.  Not that I’ve found everyone – there are still plenty of Polish puzzles to solve.

What adds some meat to the bare bones data is that, using Google Earth, I’ve been able to see where my ancestors came from. The villages look much different, of course, but it still gives the perspective of the land. Was it forest or farmland? Hilly, mountainous, or flat?  My experience shows that if there’s a numbered road through the town (Hwy 449 for example) Google Street View has probably traveled it. It has been so much fun to drive through my ancestral villages.

Google Earth view of Grabow nad Prosna

AND!!!   Many towns even have their own websites that include the town’s history.  

Hooray for the internet!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Double Remembrance Day

11 November, 2015 would be my Dad’s 101st birthday. Happy birthday up there in heaven, Daddy.

He is one of the veterans we all remember on this day. I cannot imagine where we would be today without the sacrifices made my so many men and women over the years.

My Dad and two of my uncles served in WW II. One of my uncles was captured by German troops.

Dad and Mom

Anti-aircraft drill

A couple of my cousins were career Marines.

My husband served on board an aircraft carrier. One of his sons spent 20 years in the submarine service.

And of course many friends and acquaintances have served at one time or another.

Thank you to all who served and who are now serving. We owe you so much.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

My Computer History (scores at least a 9 on the boring scale)

Randy Seaver’s November 7, 2015 Saturday Night Genealogy Fun Genea-Musings post asked readers to tell their computer history. Here’s a synopsis of mine.

I beat you by a couple of years, Randy.

In 1962 I was hired as a computer operator in the biostatistics department of a pharmaceutical company. The computer was a Bendix G-15 about the size of one of today’s Sub Zero refrigerators. Main I/O (Input/Output) was via 5-channel paper tape. There was, of course a console with keyboard; and we also had 2 magnetic tape drives and a CalComp plotter.

The structure above the computer is an exhaust hood to dissipate the heat from the vacuum tubes. No transistors.

My boss, David Calhoun, a biometrician, was the closest thing to a genius I’ve ever met. When I was taking math courses at night at Northwestern University, he was able to elaborate on the concepts – relating them to work going on the labs – in terms I understood.  He was able to speak at my level making me feel that I was listening at his level.  If he couldn’t remember a formula, he derived it. Amazing.

I learned to program in ALGOL and then in machine language on this computer. Then I moved to FORTRAN and Assembly Language on a SDS (Scientific Data Systems) 940 that we connected to remotely using a 110 baud modem on a Model 35 Teletype machine.  I learned about database design and experimental design.

My last job as a Scientific Applications Programmer was as a contractor at Ford Motor Company’s CAD/CAM department in Dearborn, Michigan.  After that I moved into technical sales support and software training.  I also got to work in “distance learning” in its early stages.

My first personal computer was a Tandy (Radio Shack) Model 16 acquired in 1982. It had two 8-inch floppy drives. By that time I’d advanced to a 300 baud modem. High speed!! I discovered Bulletin Boards big time.  One day I got a call from the telephone company. They thought they might have a problem because in one month my phone bill jumped from whatever the basic charge was at the time to just over $300.00.  The woman just laughed when I told her about my bulletin board roaming.  I was much more discriminating after that.   I did some programming projects in BASIC.

By 1984 my husband and I had an IBM PC clone. We used WordPerfect and Lotus 123. Does anyone remember daisy-wheel printers? Talk about LOUD. We soon discovered that we really needed two computers because we had differing ideas on disk file organization. And each of us knew that our approach was the best one. Result: his and hers computers.

In the late ‘90’s I had a digital photo restoration business called Photo Rebuilders.  The web site can still be found on the wayback machine, I think.

Genealogy became a major interest for me in 1999 and has consumed most of my computer time since then except for an 8 year hiatus.

We switched to laptops in 2004 when we moved aboard our sailboat to go cruising. My main usage then was weather, weather and more weather, email, photo storage and tweaking, and researching routes and destinations. We moved back to land in 2012 and I got back to genealogy.

Now, I spend most of my day at my computer. Genealogy, Google+, blogs, Facebook, news, crossword puzzles, and games. I especially like hidden object games.

My name is Mary; and I’m a computer-holic/genea-holic.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


Second cousin twice removed found via 23andMe DNA testing.  Our MRCA (Most Recent Common Ancestor) is my great grandfather, Michael Schipp.

I’ve been too involved in other things to pay much attention lately to the DNA sites where I’ve added my genome.  This discovery will get me looking at them again.


My FamilyTree DNA kit #: B47527

My GEDMatach kit #: M609369

And, of course, 23amd Me

Are we related???