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. ;-)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

An Amazing Conference Experience - IAJGS, Boston, 2013

Yes, yes. I know it is January of 2014 but it has been a hectic 2013 so a little backtracking was needed. As far as conferences go I have truly experienced my share of them. I loved being a part of the technology in education world, being involved with classroom teachers, technology coordinators, college professors who were opening the window on technology use in the world of education at universities around the country and the world. I attended them all as a learner and many of them as a presenter.  Retirement finally brought me into a new kind of convention, one like no other I had ever attended.

Somehow along the Post Retirement Road I became a Genealogy Buff, big time. The Genealogy research process begins fairly slowly and then, suddenly, you become hooked, big time. It is always interesting. The web has become an amazing resource for searching for hidden information that is just waiting for you. My family members  came to this country from Romania in the early 1900s and the late 1890s.  Somewhere in my searches I was introduced to the JewishGen Website. It included an added attraction as a beginning researcher. Not only were there lots of amazing resources but the offered online courses, including one for a beginner.  For two years running I also read about the 2011 (Philadelphia) and the 2012 (Paris) IAJGS conferences. They sounded amazing but I knew I needed more time to be ready for that big conference jump. 2013 became the year for me! And what an unbelievable first time experience it turned out for me. Yes, it has many similarities to the professional conferences and meetings I had attended but it also had many wonderful and unique qualities. It was a larger group than I had expected and it included folks from almost every state as well many that had come from other countries.

The first unique component was the name tag. No, in this case a name tag is not just a name tag. It is a way to find new relatives or new resources through folks researching the same countries or towns. The way this accomplished is through the largest name tag I had ever seen! I did have to smile at first as I noticed how everyone seemed to be peering at each chest that passed them. But although I was not as lucky there were people finding matches as they walked around through the week. Each fully registered participant received a conference bag, a flash drive with all presenter handouts, a Daily Planner, and The Family Finder. The planner, of course, included the schedule of all meetings for the week but also the Film Festival Schedule for the week.  Each day there were films that would be of interest to this particular audience. I had seen several prior to the conference and was so glad that others would be having a chance to see them as well.

Clearly you don't meet everyone so the Family Finder was a really special resource. It listed the surname, town and country and the name of the researcher for every surname that was being researched by those attending the conference. If you saw a name of interest to you it was easy to contact the researcher because the book also included name, address, phone and email of each conference attendee.
But there was even more that took advantage of today's technology. A conference app that was created by an outside company whose name I could not find in the app. It was planner/calendar/note taker app. When the schedule was displayed the user could tap and get more info and then select the session. Returning to the calendar the user found the session had been sent to the calendar. Tapping on the session title in the calendar moved you to a Notes page for the session.... not the presenter's notes but a space for you to take your session notes. Ease of use was determined by the tool you were using. It could be downloaded and used on a laptop, a tablet or a smart phone. When the conference ended there was a key that said "Email all notes."  Doesn't that sound wonderful?

This year the conference is being held in Salt Lake City and I am hoping that they will be using this tool again. Yep, I  will there with bells on. And, yes, I am excited about going to explore the amazing Family Search Center.  Well, enough for now. I will be back to tell more about the sessions which really provided not only new ideas that made me think about the direction of my research. You can expect more genealogy in coming posts.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Book One For The Postal Reading Challenge 2013

It is September 20th as I write this. Oh, yes, the summer has flown by and I have just finished the first book for the Challenge. And, oh yes, I haven't written about the fantastic genealogy conference I attended during the first week of August. Where is the world does time go? Please if anyone out there knows the answer email me right away.

Dying To Meet You (43 Old Cemetery Road: Book One)  was the first book completed. And I loved it. Perhaps my years as a children's librarian is the reason it was such fun to read. The book is only 147 pages long but there are many smiles along the way. The illustrations alone make it worth taking the time to give it a chance. Each page is 'written' by a different character and the voice and text make sure you know exactly what is happening and who is speaking.


January 1, 2014

What a disaster? Where did the year go since September 20th, 2013?  I was reminded by an email from Melanie Kindrachuk the both both 2013 and the 2013 Challenge have ended.  The good new is that the 2014 Challenge is beginning. You and find all of the information about the new 2014 Challenge online.

Clearly I need to be making some very serious blogging changes for 2014.

1. Finish the 2013 challenge!! and send the links (including this one) to Melanie.
2. Get a new posting up each week. Hope you all will remind me when I slip. I think I 
will write about the great experiences I had in 2013... and some not so great.
3. Find time to get into the genealogy that I really love and tell you more about that area.
4. I need to find an app that will tell me when I have spent enough time for the week on my
    very addictive Pinterest site. If you haven't tried it, do take a peak. I would call it a
    very graphic form of Social Media on any subject you can think might interest you. 

If you are curious take a peak at  my Pinterest page  and see if any my boards 
are of interest to you.

In the meantime I wish all of you a very Happy, Healthy New Year. I look forward to our
spending more time together in 2014.