Who are Your Ancestors?

After all your work finding genealogy documents, what are you doing to save them? Will your family keep them or throw them out when you are no longer here? Most family members do not understand our charts and family trees, but they love the stories. Find the stories in your documents. Dig out the details. What was the address of the house – find a picture to see how large it was. Where did they work? Who were their neighbors? Where did they shop? Find photos of the neighborhood.

How are you saving the stories? You can publish a newsletter and send out regular issues to all your family members. You can create a blog or do videos. I publish family history books with narratives that tell a story and include many pictures from the family albums, copies of all of my documents, and some family trees.

Who will do it if not you? Save the stories for your grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Let them know their ancestors.

Haller’s Army during WW I

 

Here is a must-see video for all of you who had relatives serving in Haller’s Army during WW I. The video tells the story of one man’s search for information about his great-grandfather’s service. He found many pictures and films showing many details beyond what you have read in the past. It covers the formation, training, and post-war service in Poland. The video may not be about your ancestor, but it will give you fantastic insight into what they experienced.

Watch the video

Your DNA Test Results: Fact or Fiction

DNA test kits seem to be a popular gift idea. The testing companies have filled our TV screens with ads promising to unlock the locations of our ancestral homes and magically fill out our family tree. Can submitting a DNA sample fulfill these promises?

DNA testing is a powerful tool in genealogical research, but it is one of many tools that help us fill in the blanks of our family history. However, we also have to be careful as to when you take a DNA test. Submitting a sample as your first step in your family history research will usually produce confusing results. Basic document research should be the starting point in doing family history research.

Also, have a specific goal in taking the test. Are you genuinely interested in researching your family history, or do you just want to know your ethnicity? In both cases, please delay submitting your DNA sample until you know more about the origins of your family. Your DNA test results will not magically show you the answers and will probably be confusing unless you have done other research.

One reason many people seem to be taking the test is to reveal their ethnicity. Am I Polish or German or Russian? I see many matches in my DNA results with no attached trees and this makes me believe the test taker only wants to see their ethnicity and not do the family history research. However, their ethnicity results will probably be too general to answer people’s questions. In fact, this is one of the many complaints I hear from people when talking about their results.

DNA testing for genealogy is a relatively new science. Determining your ethnicity is based on the use of algorithms (complicated formulas) and comparing your DNA to base populations. Each testing company has a set of algorithms and base populations that are different. So, each company may give you a different set of ethnic percentages. Also, the base populations extend across broad geographical boundaries, that have seen vast back and forth migrations of the different groups of ethnic people. So, it is difficult to differentiate the DNA of many ethnic groups from their neighbors. Intermarriage has mixed their DNA over the centuries. For example, the DNA of Germans is similar to the DNA of the French. Also, most people living along the Mediterranean Sea coast have similar DNA. Likewise, the Poles have mixed their DNA with their German, Russian, Austrian, and Scandinavian neighbors for many centuries. Remember, the use of DNA is a developing science, and the accuracy of the results will improve in the future. Can you wait?

If you just want to submit your sample to see the origins of your ancestors, this may not be the time to take the test for you. If you want to start researching your family history, your DNA test results may give you clues on where to look. However, I would recommend waiting until you have found some of the basic documents such as census records or birth, marriage, and death records, and completed three to four generations of your family tree.

Doing basic genealogical research will give your family history a better foundation, and your DNA results may not be as confusing.

If you do not want to do the research and your children gave you a test kit, submit your sample. However, be patient when looking at your test results. Do not be frustrated with your ethnicity percentages. You may have to wait a few years before it makes sense. Doing basic genealogical research (such as census records, naturalization papers, passenger lists, and a basic family tree) will always help you understand the results faster.

If you do not want to immerse yourself in the details of doing research, make it a project with your children if they gave you the kit. Make them do the research, and you fill in the stories you remember. That strategy could be a fun family project and a great way to pass along your memories to your children and grandchildren.

Christmas Suggestions for Your Czech Friends and Relatives

Suggestions for Christmas

 

 

Here two fantastic websites for Polish related Christmas gifts and decorations:

Polish Art Center – https://www.polartcenter.com/

Polish American Journal (see Books and Gifts Tab) http://www.polamjournal.com/

 

Stay Safe During the Holidays

This year with the threat of Covid-19 looming around us, our holiday celebrations may seem even more critical to our lives as we pray to return to normal activities. Will the magical feeling we get from celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas with our family make this return to normalcy possible? Or will family gatherings bring unwanted results? We need to have a balance between celebrating with our families and practicing safe contact. How can we do this and still stay safe?

Decorating the house inside and out can quickly and safely get the family into the Holiday Spirit. The decorations can give our family the warm, welcoming feeling of Christmas as soon as they drive up to our home. However, inside the house, the risk of transmitting Covid-19 increases, and we should take steps to minimize this risk.

Here are my common-sense suggestions:

  1. Do not travel to attend the family party. Everyone needs to stay close to home – different states and different counties follow different rules and cause confusion.
  2. Schedule your family gathering at a large enough house to maximize social distancing in the sitting areas. Do not congregate in the kitchen.
  3. Add tables to increase elbow room at the tables when eating
  4. Deliver food, beverages, and presents a few days before the gathering to allow time to wipe down packages and containers. Avoid last-minute shopping.
  5. Prepare food only at the location of the party.
  6. Minimize who handles food, dishes, and utensils
  7. Minimize who handles Christmas presents
  8. Before the party, ask family members if they have Covid-19 symptoms, and those who have symptoms should stay home
  9. Have masks available for all family members to wear if they need to
  10. Ask family members who have attended holiday parties at work or with friends at bars or restaurants to wear masks or stay home
  11. Have hand sanitizer dispensers available at multiple places at the party and encourage their use
  12. Inform family members about these practices in writing before the party

These may seem like extreme measures, but they will minimize the risk of transmission of the virus at your party. I feel they are needed because I would be devastated if a family member became infected with the virus at my family celebration.

Even with the above practices, you can still enjoy the festivities. Focus on enjoying traditional Holiday meals with all your favorite. What will you serve? Bring out the family photo albums and scrapbooks. Try to create an atmosphere that encourages everyone to remember family stories. If there are small children, read Christmas stories to them. Sing a few Christmas carols to bring the group together. Take pictures and write down the family stories.

Best wishes, and I hope you follow many of my suggestions. Have fun but stay safe.

Why is the Immigration Story Important?

Our immigrant ancestors are:

  • The foundation of our roots in the United States.
  • Do not underestimate their sacrifices and contributions.
  • Consider their role in the factories and farms of the U.S.
  • Their work and lives were building blocks in the growth of their new country.

 Each immigrant has a unique immigration story. Record the narrative passed down by our parents and grandparents. Then dig out the details from all resources and match the historical reasons to the family oral history. Unlock more stories by looking at the documents, photos, family stories, and social history. Find out how do they relate. Do the work, add to your Family Histories, and honor your ancestors.

Examples in Finding Family Stories

Most of my family history writing starts in an encyclopedic format, such as: “My grandfather Stefan Zuchowski was born on December 26, 1893, to Leopold Zuchowski and Anna Dmochowski in Dmochy Kudly, Poland.”

 However, I try to use everything I find to add details to the story. Here is a more interesting version: “My grandfather’s, Steve Zuchowski, birth was in a small cottage in the farming village of Dmochy Kudly, Poland, on December 26, 1893. The next day, his parents Leopold Zuchowski and Anna Dmochowska, carried him five miles down the dirt road to be baptized at Peter and Paul the Apostles Catholic Church in Czyzew. Steve’s parents were descendants of minor Polish nobles who had owned large estates.”

Where did I get the details I added to my grandfather’s narrative?

  • Birthplace, location of the church, birth, and baptismal dates were from Steve’s baptismal record
  • Being descendants from nobility was from notations in the baptismal and marriage records of his parents.
  • The size of the cottage and condition of the roads came from vintage pictures of the village.

Another example is the information in my grandfather’s 1940 U.S. Census Record, which included family information, personal data, addresses of homes, and work facts. I added about 3-4 stories to his narrative.

The Census listed:

  • Family members – wife and two children
  • Age and Country of Birth – 44 yrs and Poland
  • Education – No schooling (How did this affect his work?)
  • Home address – 1418 W Mulberry Bloomington, Illinois (try to find a picture)
  • Where he lived in 1935 – same address (try to find a picture if different from 1940)
  • Rent or Own home – He was the owner (How important is this to the story of his life?)
  • Occupation – Boilermaker helper (Describe this type of work and how hard was the work? Show pictures if possible)
  • Where he worked Railroad shops (History of the Railroad shops in Bloomington)
  • Hours worked the previous week – 40 (Why is this important in 1940?)
  • Number of weeks worked the prior year – 52
  • Prior year earnings – $1200

From his census information, I included the following stories in my grandfather’s narrative:

  1. I asked the reader to consider how successful Steve was, despite his lack of education. The story centered around his consistent employment, earnings, homeownership, and purchase of a luxury car in 1939.
  2. I included pictures of his homes along with descriptions of his neighbors (ethnicity and occupations).
  3. I gave a brief history of the coal mining and railroad companies with detailed descriptions of his specific job. I did this to show why he came to Bloomington, Illinois, to find work and how his education and ethnicity limited his occupation.

I added the stories using the census information and expanded the narratives with facts from other research documents and accounts.

Remember, our collections of family stories, photos, and documents are incomplete unless someone writes an explanation of how they are related. The narrative creates our unique family history and is essential for our children and grandchildren’s future enjoyment. If you feel you do not have the skills to do this, who in your family can? If you like to do the research, is there someone that can work with you to write it? Also, my encyclopedic format is a simple and easy method to start writing your family history.

Our immigrant ancestors will not appear in history books but do not underestimate their sacrifices and help building America. Honor them by saving their memories.

Remember, Genealogy Begins at Home!

You may have a treasure trove of family history hidden in desk drawers, file cabinets, and shoe boxes. Look for old papers, letters, and old photos your parents saved when they cleaned out the homes of your grandparents. This step is especially important if your parents or grandparents were immigrants.

Also, determine who was the caregiver when your immigrant ancestors died and pray that they saved the old paper in the shoeboxes. Once you find the caregiver or their descendants, contact them immediately to see what they kept. The caretakers may have sorted through the shoeboxes and saved the treasures you need. If you find documents with other relatives, ask for copies, and offer to share the results of your research.

If you are lucky, you will find their baptismal certificate, exit visas, and photos of your ancestors who stayed in Poland. These documents will contain more valuable information on your family history than any gold watches or jewels inherited.

Write down brief notes of the oral family stories and visit the cemeteries where your ancestors are buried to record the grave marker inscriptions and take pictures. At family gatherings, ask your siblings and other relatives to add what they remember about where your ancestors left.

Another critical step is to ask your siblings and cousins for their personal memories of their time with your grandparents. Carefully write their memories down and add their words to your family history. These are personal words that will be treasured by future generations.

Legacy Family Tree Webinars

Great News! Legacy Family Tree Webinars us celebrating their 10th Anniversary and are unlocking for free viewing of their top Webinar from each of the past ten years.

https://familytreewebinars.com/top10