Sunday, May 18, 2014

You Are Where You Came From: Submit your Stories!

You Are Where You Came From: Submit your Stories!

I knew the names of family from Philadelphia that came to my 1953 wedding. Dad said they were cousins. At the time how they were cousins was not great interest. Today all are gone, I am the oldest on both sides of my family and NOW I cared about how they were cousins.  I found the right family... but still no clue.  All birith info of the children game mother with first and married name until just a few weeks ago. Thought I had them all but checked last sibling and.... low and behold.... it included the mother's maiden name.  Low and behold!! She was my grandmother's sister. My grandmother never learned to speak English and my dad and his sisters never talked about any aunts. It was amazing to find the link and sad never to have know about a whole family we never knew.


Friday, April 25, 2014

Now It's Time ---- On to Krakow

We left Warsaw afater breakfast on our way to Krakow. It was an interesting to see how highways can be handled differently in different countrys. Here in Illinois as you drive along there are exit turn offs for major intersections. It was odd to see stop lights and stop signs for the same kinds of intersections. We saw mostly countryside as we drove along; no large towns visible along the highway. Because the rules say drivers must have breaks along the way that last at least 20-30 minutes we did stop once before our lunch stop. It was a rather unusual stop, I would think, in the Polish countryside but it did provide a smile.

Now who would have expected a windmill at this point in our drive! I thought we had taken a wrong turn while I napped and ended up in the Netherlands. No, all was well and we were still in Poland! On we went after this 'pit stop', had lunch and in the early afternoon we arrived at an important, and difficult, stop on our trip. We arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau, sometimes referred to as Auschwitz1- and Auschwitz2. Auschwitz is the German word for Oswiecim, the Polish town where it is located.  

We entered the camp through through the sign, now famous world wide, that says ARBEIT MACH FREI, work makes free. We entered behind a group of young Israelis. I later learned that most young Israelis make this trip before entering their service years. 

 We had an excellent guide and learned much about the horrors that happened at that place.  Auschwitz had been a Polish police training site and that was why so many of the original building were brick and well built. Newer buildings were wood and unheated. Four to six people slept on each of the slabs and

sanitary conditions were very poor. Our guide said that the sanitary conditions were so poor that the guards did not want to enter the buildings, which were separate from the bunk areas, so that provided the only space where prisoners could freely communicate with each other. Birkenau was built a short way from Auschwitz, taking over another small town. This camp became much larger and had not only gas chambers but crematoriums as well. Needless to say this visit left us all with strong emotional feelings and for some memories of their own families and the Holocaust.  There is much more about this and other camps where the Nazis tortured and killed many Jews, Romas, citizens from many nations who did not share their views. One of those sites is Auschwitz Concentration and Extermination Camp if you would want more information. 

It was a thoughtful and tired group that climbed in the bus ready for our ride to Krakow. We were looking forward to seeing the old city and visiting a different kind of museum, a salt mine that is also an art museum -- of sorts.  Part II of Krakow comes next.

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Genealogy Interlude On My Way to Krakow

I LOVE technology. I guess anyone that has been reading along with me knows that!! My newest genealogy experience was to go to a #GenChat. If you are a Twitter user you will recognize the hashtag that is needed for Twitter Communication. To simplify, let me just say that if you click on the #GenChat link above, it will not be long before you will be chatting away with folks with a common interest.  You probably have already noticed the badge of the left that gives a shout-out to the chat.

Jen Baldwin, our virtual (and real) leader, does a great job of keeping it all moving along. She not only sets up the topics so they are known ahead of time but also plans questions to keep the topic going so we all learn something new from each other.  Although I am a fairly new at genealogy and very new at genchatting it is clear that many of the participants are old hands in finding the history of their families. Also for a newbie it is wonderful to see the camaraderie that exists in this online environment.  The topic for the last chat was the NARA (National Archives and Records Administration) which according to Google explores our national history through documents, photos, and records. Even if you are not into genealogy it is an amazing site to explore. There are regional offices and amazing resources for teachers.  But I digress... not unusual for me, is it?  Back to the GenChat.

The chats last an hour, and the time flies by very quickly. At the close of the hour we are given our 'assignment' (no grading, no collecting, just suggestions) based on the topic of the night. At the NARA chat the assignment was "CHALLENGE: Identify one record set that might help you at NARA, learn how to access it and write it up."

As one who had never used the NARA sites it was an interesting experience. First I looked up local office, learned their hours and read about available resources. I was really happy to see they invited email requests for information. My local office is about an hour away from where I live. I have collected quite a few cards showing the record number and date of naturalization for some family members.  Here are the steps:
1.Call and ask how to go about the process.
2. Prepared my email with list of names ( birth date, date of naturalization, the number) and my home address.
3. Press Send and wait.

But you don't wait very long.  Very shortly an email came back explaining that these records were available through the county office and the number to call. Surprise! The office is in the Daley Center located in downtown Chicago. When I called the gentleman in charge could not have been more helpful. Bring a phone with a camera, he said, as no cameras are allowed. We will bring you the document books and you take photos of the pages. If I wanted them printed out they would be more than $20.00 apiece. So this next Monday AM I am off with my smart phone  to collect the naturalization papers.

I haven't gotten down to the NARA office yet but I certainly am looking forward to making the trip.

It is an amazing time in which we live, isn't it? How lucky some of us are. No matter our age or where we are, there is always something new to learn and the Internet to take us on our journey.

I haven't forgotten about the trip from Warsaw to Krakow. See you soon.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Genealogy work is slowly moving forward.... But Now Some Time to Remember My Fall Trip to Eastern Europe

I DID IT!  I am almost finished with Step 1 of the organization process. I cleaned up all the digital files except for one. I can find (most) things now. I still have one big messy folder to go.  It is called, at this point, ZZ-Not direct family documents. The ZZ was to put the file at the bottom of list to be tackled later... and it will be. It does NOT mean that I will be snoring while I work!  Before I finish that up that I plan to attack the collection of paper documents. I will be back with more on this topic when that task is completed.

But on to memories of my trip to Eastern Europe this past October. It was a land trip offered by Odysseys Unlimited. I had traveled with them before and knew that they limited their trips to 24 guests, a perfect size. I traveled with my good friend, Jackie, and it was our fifth trip together so I knew all would be well.  It was a wonderful trip and included most of the places I wanted to visit. If I had it to do over, I might investigate similar trips planned through Jewish organizations and compare the places visited. But then I might have missed some of the other things I was fortunate to see and do. As my grandmother might have said, "We should all have such problems."   I do want to share some of the highlights in this and in more pages to come.

A map of the places that we visited during the 16 day tour called Discovering Eastern Europe

Our first stop was Warsaw. We were able to visit all of the things we had hoped to see and other new places as well. Upon arriving at the hotel, we decided to was walk out and get Polish money. The first thing that my eyes landed on was HUGH ad for Hyundai  on the side of an apartment building and that  really made me laugh; to have my first view while walking in Warsaw was to see an ad for the car I drive. The next thing I discovered was how wonderful Polish food was. Our guide and chef at the hotel informed us that the amazing, wonderful mushrooms that we devoured were grown in Poland and only in Poland. They look like the white Walt Disney mushrooms are were delicious and we tried to have them at any and every meal when we could.  One could be charged for extra weight on the plane after eating in Poland and throughout Eastern Europe.

Touring Warsaw gave us a view of the past and what has been done to bring the city back to what it had been before the war and reminding us of the cost of the war.



This statue sits in beautiful Lazienke Park. It was erected shortly after WW1 and was the first monument destroyed by the occupying Germans in 1940. Because the original mold was saved it was able to be replaced after the was. Throughout our tour of Warsaw we saw many memorials that were reminders of that time.

My focus was on history of WWII in Warsaw and there was much to be seen.  Within the city are building and monument the act as way to remember the horror of those days for many and the actions of  many partisans working to fight back against the attackers.

This memorial is located on Krasinskich Square. It was designed to honor and remember the heroes of the Warsaw Uprising in 1944.  More of the Warsaw monuments can be seen here.

Other memorials have been erected in Warsaw to recognize the thousands of Jews that were sent to extermination camps during the war. On the one remaining segment of Ghetto Wall that remains is a map delineating the great size of the area enclosed by the Wall itself. What remains today is segment about 14 feet wide (left picture).  In future entries we will also visit the wall fragments in Krakow and in Budapest. The center picture is a building located on Prozna Street. The large

 photographs are of people who were sent to the camps and never came back. The last picture is of the Umschlagplatz Memorial, one of the most tragic places in Warsaw. This is the location of a side-track with a platform where many of the 300,000 Jews from Warsaw and it surroundings were transported from Warsaw. Most left between July and September, 1942 on their way to the gas chambers at Treblinka.

Today Warsaw remembers and also moves forward. I wanted to come home and paint all our building to look as beautiful as those on some of the areas of Warsaw as well as other areas we visited in Eastern Europe. No matter what the weather you have to smile as the colors and decorations on many buildings as you walk the streets.

 Next time we will leave Warsaw and follow the road to Krakow (Cracow), sometimes called the Prague of Poland.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

So What did I Learn From the IAJGS2013 Confernce?

The conference goers among you probably realize that much of the learning and personal impact of a great conference occurs after you get home. For sure that is what happened for me after IAJGS2013.  I learned I need to reorganize or get organized.... I guess a bit of each of those. At home I have a notebook of plastic covered sheets of documents I have found along the way, a collection of photographs, one of which is an unfinished story for another story for another day. I also have a notebook of written, not well organized, notebook of notes about various findings about four different families. Then we start with the digital records. They are a greater disaster than the paper files. With much embarrassment I think the only way you will understand the problem is to show you the mess of files and folder that need to be dealt with before moving forward.

Just imagine all that is in the other folders. At first I made myself a promise. No more searching until all of the digital folders were organized. It took three days and I knew that was a mistake.  But I did realize that the issue is not just these files but the bigger picture of where I would build this new digital collection.

Interestingly enough it took until January 25, 2014 till I found out I was looking at the whole project through the wrong lens. At the meeting of the GenealogySIG of NWOU (a mac users group in Chicago area) the big AHAA! arrived. I had presented my problem of how to organize; how I had tried PIXA but it accepted only image and pdf files. I wanted to try Evernote as I have heard much about it. But one member of the group after hearing my tale put his finger on the main problem. I was approaching this process as though I were building a tree, instead of an organization of data. He made me realize that a file for each person had to have all of that person's information. For example, if there are three persons traveling on the same passport, a copy of that passport had to in each person's folder.

So now my real work begins. Evernote and I are going to become the best of friends. It is my hope and dream that most of this will be organized by IAJGS2014. Do you think I will make it? I hope so. I welcome comments of my choice of organizational tool and suggestions for any you think might be better for the job. Just remember I am on a MAC. ;-)