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