So far as I know, my sister and I form a rather distinct, maybe even a unique, ethnic group. Yep, we are Prussian-Quebecois. We like to think of ourselves a being fairly unique and special. After all our parents said we were special, and they wouldn’t lie. Would they?
The really sad thing is it looks like our ethnic group is about to die out. Today, we are both approaching 60 and in our youth we demonstrated immensely poor ethnic planning skills when it came to choosing our spouses. Neither of us remained within our ethnic group! My sister chose an Irish-German guy; and I chose a German-Swedish-Norwegian girl. Sacré bleu!
Now, not even our own children fit into our ethnic group. What can you do? And now! It looks like all the things we value most about our ethnicity are soon to disappear… but, never mind.
Odd thought stream, I know.
Yet as I encounter more and more folks doing genealogy work, I also seem to encounter many who are ‘worried’ or ‘concerned’ about proving their ‘ethnicity’. Do we even have a good, solid, mutually agreed upon definition of what an ethnicity is? Or, is ethnicity simply a convenient way for us to self-identify and affiliate based upon a personal, familial, or desired preference?
As a genealogist, I think about such things. I know- I know; I probably ought to think about something else…
The use of Dit names in French Canada (Bas Canada) is both very common and confusing. Currently, I am working with another Deyo cousin to attempt to unravel yet another Deyo mystery. This part of my family line is now being reworked for the fourth time! I think I might be getting good at it. Briefly here’s the mystery…
It appears, now, that I might be descended from a woman we believe was named Honoree Beaulac. Her family name (surname) has the following common dit names (there may be others as well):
As you might well imagine, this combination of names gives us a little bit to search and rummage around in. More importantly if you are researching family members in Bas Canada, you too will certainly encounter this form of adventure. Enjoy the mystery and challenge!
Here is a list of some sites providing explanations of “Dit” names:
If you are performing research in Quebec, the Rituel du Diocèse de Québec may prove useful in providing clues regarding the name or names of your ancestors. To quote the PRDH:
Among Catholics, choice of first name wasn’t left to chance or parents’ imagination. On the contrary, the church liked to control the attribution of first names to ensure that on the day they were baptised, children received the name of a saint who would guide them throughout their life. In the Rituel du Diocèse de Québec, which laid out the rules to follow for writing baptismal, marriage, and burial certificates in Quebec, Monsignor de Saint-Vallier stipulated, “The Church forbids Priests from allowing profane or ridiculous names to be given to the child, such as Apollon, Diane, etc. But it commands that the child be given the name of a male or female Saint, depending on its sex, so that it can imitate the virtues and feel the effects of God’s protection.”
If, like me, you seek relatives who fought on the German side of a war, you might have experienced difficulty in finding information about these forebears.
One of the most useful online services I have encountered in this area is the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge (link below). It is through the wonderful efforts of the Kriegsgräberfürsorge that I have been able to find information about two of my great-uncles, who lost their lives in WW1:
The Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e. V. is a humanitarian organization which is charged by the Federal Republic of taking care of registering the German war dead abroad and to ensuring that it is updated and monitored. The German Public Alliance advises relatives of war grave care, supervises public and private sites, supports international cooperation and assists within the sector of war grave care and fostering the engagement of young people in the last resting-place of the war-dead. [...]
Acting within the scope of bilateral agreements, the Volksbund started their work within Europe and Northern Africa, being responsible for 824 war gravesites in 45 countries with about 2.4 million war dead soldiers. More than 9,000 volunteers and 582 salaried employees fulfil the various activities of the organisation today.
After the political revolution within Eastern Europe the countries of the former Eastern Bloc were included in the work of the Volksbund. Approximately three million German soldier’s had lost their lives in the eastern countries in World War II. i.e. more then twice as many as the rest of the war gravesites in the West which brought the Volksbund immense challenges not least that more than 100,000 graves were difficult to find, had been destroyed, had been overbuilt or had been plundered. Regardless the Volksbund took care, repaired and constructed more than 300 cemeteries of World War II and the 190 grounds out of World War I in Eastern, Central and South Europe. There are 54 central cumulative cemeteries. Approximately 673,000 war dead have been reinterred.
Hopefully this organization will be helpful to you in your search(es).
For me the group was huge; okay, not really huge but larger than any I have ever the pleasure of speaking to before. The folks were congenial, enthusiastic and engaged. Their facilities (a spacious and well equipped meeting room in the Castle Rock Library) were wonderful. And their singing (yes they sang happy birthday to a member whose big day it was) was, well, a bit off key- probably because I helped.
Anyway if you live in the Castle Rock Colorado area and are interested in joining a highly active and well organized genealogy group, I recommend giving these friendly folks a look-see. You may visit them online here: Castle Rock Genealogical Society.
Shameless Plug: If you are interested in having me present this topic to your group… or if you’d like me to speak on another genealogical topic you might have seen written about on ManyRoads, please visit this page and contact me. Please note, we can do any presentation remotely with web supported technologies.
Last evening, my wife and I watched a documentary on Poland, it covered the Gdansk (Danzig)- Szczecin (Stettin) area in particular. Baltic Coasts – Hidden Treasures: Explore the coastline from Vistula Lagoon via Gdansk Bay to the sandy beaches and steep cliffs of Pomerania and West-Pomerania.
The reason for this post involves what I learned from one of the featured individuals, a talented young Photographer; his name- Michal Szlaga. Looking at his name never made me think of German descent or Germanic heritage but then the announcer pronounced his name and it was Michael Schlaeger / Schläger (exactly).
You can imagine my surprise. I certainly would never have pronounced his name Michal Szlaga as Michael Schlaeger. (btw. please enjoy his site.) But there it was, a Germanic sounding name in Polish spelling.
If you are researching the Baltic region, as I do, this little example provides a useful object lesson in spelling and heritage/ research. Be cautious that you are not fooled by spelling.. sound counts, too. If you do not know the pronunciation of particular languages you can and will be fooled.
German Genealogy is not much different from any other genealogy. You really need to have a plan as you begin your research, especially if you are unfamiliar with the region/ area or time period. Never assume that one locale looks like or offers information or data in the same as another. Each area, region or time frame offers its own unique idiosyncrasies, its own information. German research is really no different in this regard from other places; it is not the US or Canada and the available data is different from that commonly available in North America. Having said all that, this posting is more of a concrete example on how to approach Genealogy research; what works for me, may or may not work for you.
Let me begin by saying that most of my genealogy researches have taken place in the areas of Germany listed below; also, it is important to note that my research is almost exclusively in the timeframe of 1600-1945. Most frequently my family and client information are sourced from the provinces of:
I have provided links to each of the areas I research, as an example; it is important for everyone, me included, to know ‘a little’ about the area and times in which a target population lived. I have provided links to Wikipedia because Wikipedia is easily accessed, reasonably accurate, and readily available. However, do not assume that the histories in Wikipedia are consistent with others you may find or need to find. As a matter of fact, if you can read German, look up a single region (above) in the English version of Wikipedia and then in the German version of Wikipedia; often you will discover significant differences in facts and emphasis. More importantly, once you have researched something in Wikipedia, look up the same time or place in a text book (I have numerous historical texts located on ManyRoads, for you to view.). Again, you will notice variations in the accounts of ‘the same history’.
It is worth noting that historical variations are exacerbated by crucial factors such as the loss of a war. In other words, knowing the American or British account of a battle or war is not the same as knowing a German account. If you are attempting to understand what may have happened to a relative who was’ on the other side’ of an event; you need to understand ‘their’ perspective, not just the one you may have been taught in school.
So what does all of this mean?
Well as you begin your search, learn a bit about the times (from the perspective of those who lived there). A balanced view of what was going on, or survived that time, will provide you with good clues on where to search and what you might expect to find. Do not assume that a single account or family story will provide you with an adequate understanding of who your relatives were and what ’caused’ them to act the way they did (ie. emigrate to the US, join the SS, or help Jews escape).
Remember popular history is always written by the victors; Germans rarely found themselves in that role… in the last century. As a result the history you ‘know’ may not explain the choices your German relatives made or even the options they had. You simply need to dig a little deeper.
So where are the best places to find German Genealogy data?
I hear this question, or something similar, often. Perhaps it is because I am an American that I notice, but it seems most Americans I hear from expect to find German Genealogical record keeping and data ought to mirror that in the US. Unfortunately, they do not. A number of historical factors impact the quality and type of genealogical records to be found in Germany today.
What follows are a few points regarding German history that merit understanding:
A number of fairly destructive wars ran over German lands. These wars not only destroyed people and buildings, but also innumerable records. The big ones were WW1 and WW2 (they made all the newspapers…).
About 30% of German historical lands were ethnically cleansed by the allies following the second World War (some 100,000 square miles of land including West Prussia, East Prussia, Silesia, Suedetenland, Pommerania, etc.). This forceable removal (up rooting) of some 14+/- million people, scattered families (and their histories) to the four corners of the world; additionally some 3+/- million died in the removal. Many who were left had no possessions or historical documentation, of any type. You may read more on this topic here.
Before 1871, Germany did not exist as a single political entity. As a result, pre-1871 records vary greatly in terms of type, style and quality. Each government did ‘their own’ thing.
German governments have historically not maintained the same type of separation between Church and State as was originally promised in the US constitution and their records reflect this different relationship.
So where does one look?
In my experience, the single greatest well of information are German Church records. Nearly all births, deaths, marriages, were recorded by German Churches. All you need to know is the village, town or area, and religion of your family member and you can begin a search. The two primary state supported faiths in Germany were Lutheran (Evangelisch) and Roman Catholic (Katholisch). Here are a couple additional tips on this subject. In small communities Menonnites and Jews were often listed in Lutheran Churches, less often in Catholic. In communities where these smaller faith communities had their own institutions, those should be searched. Most German Church records are available from the LDS Church (You can look them up here.). If the Church you are seeking did not receive a ‘Volltreffer’ (direct hit) from the allies before its records were pulled, the LDS Family History Archives likely have a copy (Note: not all LDS data is available in Germany).
Few civil records exist from the German Eastern provinces, although Poland is making those that remain in their jurisdiction available through dlibra as well as other sources (see links here). I sure hope your Polish is better than mine!
And lastly, if you are very lucky, there are some limited Census records for select regions.
As I get the inclination, I’ll post other thoughts on this subject. In the meantime, feel free to send me any questions you might have and I’ll include them in a future post on this subject.
For those unfamiliar with, or simply wishing to learn more about, conducting German/ Prussian genealogical research this is my second posting in a series on the topic of German-Prussian Genealogy Pointers.
One of the greatest difficulties people have with researching Germanic family members involves name spellings. This is especially true for those English speakers. Over the centuries, Germans who emigrated into English speaking lands have either tried to spell their names in ways that would be pronounced correctly or had assistance with their name spellings upon arrival or ‘later’ in Census takings. This ‘help’ has lead to numerous challenges in finding the right folks in the old homeland (Heimatland).
Here are a couple of rules of thumb I use when attempting to find ancestors in the old country:
ie- ei: Do you remember the old rule, when two vowels go walking the first one does the talking? If you do remember the rule, be aware that when dealing with German names the reverse is true (assuming you are using American vowel sounds). Imagine if you will your name was Stein… in the states that often is pronounced as Steen so you change the spelling and presto your relatives are now just a bit harder to find.
sh – sch: Or suppose a valued surname was once Schlatter, in the US the name is frequently spelled as either Shlatter or Shlater. Notice, these are all a bit different!
V – F: Another interesting one I have stumbed across is the German surname Vogel, when pronounced using US sounds it is often spelled as Fogel. This places your searches in a whole new location within the alphabet.
W – V: W in German sounds very much like an American ‘v’ and the V sounds like an American F. Just blend this option in with the one immediately above and imagine the permutations you can begin to develop.
ss- sz- ß or plain s: All these sounds in US English pronounce about the same, but not quite so in German. However, your emigrant/ immigrant relatives could easily have changed their names to use ss, s, sz in the English speaking world while the real family name could have been spelled with ss, sz, or ß in the alte Heimat (old home).
AE – Ä – E: In German, Ä and AE offer the same sound which sounds roughly like an American ‘eh’. Depending upon your original surname this can lead to interesting permutations of family names.
If you couple all the above options, with the fact that many immigrants were less than perfect in their spelling and literacy skills, you can begin to find great variations in name spellings within the US and across the pond.
For more on this subject, you might wish to read the following:
Recently, I have received numerous queries on how to get started or better conduct German genealogy research. Rather than simply email folks one at a time, I thought a post on the subject might be useful.
By way of background, I ought to state that almost everyone I hear from tells me that they are:
German (of German descent)
the neither read nor speak German (or just very little)
few are aware of much German history
fewer are aware of their family’s cultural background in Germany
Having provided the little list above likely provides clues as to items researchers need to pay attention to:
If you do not speak the language and decide to use translators, like Google Translate, beware that machine translation can be extremely inaccurate. One small example, Google translate almost always translates Reich to rich rather than to empire. When looking at a record this DOES make a difference.
Learn your history. Germany was not unified until 1871. Before 1871 there were numerous Duchies, Kingdoms, etc. Each region has its own history, governments, records, customs, etc.
Additionally some 30-40% of German lands were cleansed of almost all indigenous German populations after WW2; these lands do not fall under German control today and record searching can be quite interesting.
If your family lives in a non-German speaking country today, your family name may not be spelled in a Germanic fashion. Try to determine more traditional and true spellings for the names you seek. A good example of this is evidenced by a German-Jewish descended friend of mine, today his family surname is Rock; in the old country, it used to be Stein.
Before WW2, Germans used Gothic print and script. Most Americans find German Gothic script to be difficult. The LDS Church provides cheat sheets for these.(You will find a few helpful links listed under Language Tools on our Links page).
As I get the inclination, I’ll post other thoughts on this subject. In the meantime, feel free to send me any questions you might have and I’ll include them in a future post on this subject.
Backups, file duplication, redundancy, security are essential dimensions of performing quality genealogy work; well honestly they are required for any type of computing. Having said that, most people don’t bother with any of this unless, and until, they have a catastrophe, and even then only for a short while after an accident.
To my mind these functions need to be easy, seamless and nearly automagic once they are established. All this is to say, data synchronization and backup must require very little, if any, extra effort or thought. Extra effort or thought are almost always extra… and extra things tend to get forgotten.
Like many of you over the past few months, I have read and ‘participated’ in numerous discussions regarding “what happens to my data when I’m gone“. Truth be told, it is worth even more to have a plan to make certain you can use your data while you’re here. And then, you can make certain it is available for others when you are gone. If your data does not survive you working on it, it hardly matters what is left when you’re gone.
So let me provide a bit of food for thought on the topic. To begin, I will briefly describe my simple working computer environment:
in my home office, I have a slow and unreliable Qwest “high-speed” network, which really means we have a poorly performing DSL network; the only reason we keep this network is because no one else will bring us a network of any type (sad but true)
my primary PC is an Asus K52F running 10.4 LTS Ubuntu Linux (yep, a geek)
my travel buddy is a netbook PC- an eeePC 1000HE running 10.10 Ubuntu Linux
I also have a nifty iPad to augment my image as super geek and cool old genealogy guy…
Given I have multiple PCs and I’m lazy, my objective is to keep the Netbook and K52F fully synchronized so that the same data is available on whichever PC (Asus) I pickup. My super cool iPad is slightly different in that it is set to access pre-selected information/data for reading and display purposes (this information, too, needs to be both current and synchronized with my other machines). In addition to gaining information access, I want to be certain that my PCs are continually backed up and that all data is available for easy recovery, at any time. Lastly, I want my data to be 100% secure, redundant, and stored non-locally, call me paranoid.
What all of this means is that:
I need to store my data on a Cloud server which offers a zero-knowledge account; in my case, all my files are directly encrypted on my source PC and my password never leaves my PCs. Sooo, I have to be certain NOT to loose either my username or password (they are my responsibility, not the responsibility of some service provider). My service provider can access neither my files nor my passwords.
all of my data is encrypted using AES, RSA and SHA for security purposes- the same algorithms used for government security
the Cloud server needs to have its files stored redundantly and in different locations, in my case this includes storage in Switzerland, Germany and France (I live in Colorado)
Wuala, the provider I am currently using, does all these things. Plus, it offers its services on Windows, Mac, and Linux. Their tools can also be operated directly from any PC using a browser, without one of my PCs ever being involved. Finally, this system integrates on each of my PCs as a network drive, so I am able to open and edit my files in the application of my choice (there are one or two other providers of roughly similar services, including SpiderOak).
As a genealogist, this system also allows me to send links to files and folders to anyone. Recipients can click directly on a provided link and access designated files in their browsers. This feature will allow me to provide better information access to my clients, a service which I am about to begin providing.
So what does this really do for me? Here’s a small list of what I see as benefits:
my stuff is backed up- I am pretty certain (99.999% certain, I will always be able to get at a copy of my information)
each of my PCs have access to current data (anything I view is current and accurate)
my data is less prone to local disaster, because it is spread across the planet
once setup, all of this takes place with very little intervention on my part (remember I am lazy)
And perhaps most importantly, I can give my designee access to everything I own. My information is safe for use bothwhile I am here and when I am gone. By either handing a designee my PC or by setting them up to share all or parts of my data files, images, videos, a full, or partial, suite of my materials can be securely transfered to my successors, users, and/or clients.
Lately, I have gotten a lot of questions about the little computers I carry around to help with my genealogy tasks. Questions like:
What do you think of the iPad?
Do you like your Netbook?
In general, people want to know how I like the devices and whether they should consider buying one or more for themselves. This post is an attempt to respond to those questions.
Let me begin by saying I have been working with computers since 1974. Yep, I am an old guy, old PC habits, old PC biases. I have them all. But in fairness, you need to be aware of this as I am certain my background colors my opinions.
Let me start this out by saying I am writing this post on my regular PC; I am not using either of the little guys. To my mind this speaks to the biggest problems with these little devices- data entry. Both machines offer facilities to perform data entry but one is much more severely constrained than the other.
The iPad’s on screen keyboard is nothing short of horrible, to be honest it is my greatest disappointment with the iPad itself. iPads offer an peculiar two stage alphabetic/ numeric keyboard which is missing any directional positioning keys (arrows). It is, for me, an incredibly uncomfortable and difficult typing experience. Not being a perfect typist to begin with, the iPad brings my error rates to new heights. And as for speed, it takes me at least three times longer to enter text on the iPad than it does on the Netbook (which is slower than my regular laptop). Oh how I long for the days of Palm/ Handspring Graffiti. In fairness, it’s not as if the netbook is without it’s faults here, too. Tiny keys, too big fingers make for difficult and slow typing; but, functional it is.
Compatibilty with other PC applications:
Here I have to say the Netbook is again the winner. The iPad has a large application base but they are different from those available on PC platforms, be they Windows, Mac or Linux (like I use). All this is to say, your favorite genealogy programs will not run on an iPad but they will (with just a little planning) run very nicely on a Netbook.
Screen image quality:
WOW! what else can I say about the iPad screen. My Netbook is okay, but not WOW!
iPads are an advertisers’ dream. Adverts are simply everywhere. To eliminate them requires that a user “Jailbreak” the iPad in order to get access to ‘apps’ that block adware. Netbooks, like regular PCs, are perfectly capable of blocking ads; all you need are the correct browser(s) and correct browser plugin(s). This function may not seem that important on a 17″ monitor but it is hugely significant when you have only ~60% of the screen real estate – as is offered on these little guys.
USB, webcam, SD card availability:
Netbooks offer these on even the cheapest models. Not so the iPad.
OS (Operating System) interoperability:
One of the most frustrating aspects of the iPad, for me, is the fact that the iPad does not recognize, interface well with, or support Linux. It requires a Windows or Mac to initially boot and from that point to backup. It assumes all systems functions will be managed through an iTunes (Apple) proprietary interface. The Libertarian in me does not like that at all. Netbooks do not have that same proprietary bend.
Modification or removal of included applications:
All PC vendors seem to want to pollute their devices with preferred apps. Netbooks and iPads are no exception. However although it is time consuming to clean up a Netbook of undesirable applications, it can be done. But the iPad, nope. You get to keep the silly map, video, photo, iPod apps whether you want them or not. So I have moved mine onto an unused subordinate-screen.
Window to window (screen to screen) navigation:
Because of the tiny screen sizes, navigation is not easy on either machine. But it is easier on the Netbook because of a users ability to use short-cut keys and traditional navigation to move from A to B. However, the iPad touch screen navigation is much more Fun & Cool. iPad navigation is also built around some very nice eye candy, like turning pages. Truly cool and not bad, just different. I am certain that the iPad screen navigation is the wave of the future. The zoom and movement functions are intuitive and fun to learn, but learn them you must because the iPad smart phone navigation screens will surely take over. They are simply to good not to.
Size & weight:
Both devices are in the same weight and size class. Screens are about 10 inches, and the weight is in the 2-3 (US) pound range- about 1 kg.
The iPad is the clear winner here! An iPad costs, on average, twice what a Netbook does. Hmmm, maybe that’s not being a winner? Well, Apple thinks it is.
Coolness & fun factor:
Although the Netbook does have a certain Lilliputian coolness to it, it is nothing like the coolness the iPad has. People really seem to like the iPad form factor and ‘finger’/ touch screen navigation. As always, Apple has a real design winner in the iPad space. The Netbooks really simply look like laptops that were washed in too hot water and were left for an extra cycle or two in the dryer.
The bottom line:
The bottom line, is I will gladly keep them both. I like them both, a lot. But if I am forced to carry only one device with me to do my research, I choose the Netbook. But I have my weights out and am building my strength because I don’t want to leave my iPad behind.
As many of you are aware, I have been trying to decipher a Russian document that Soviets created as justification for sending my grandmother into a Gulag following WW2. To help me with my sleuthing, I have found and used the following tools:
What I did to help me in my search was to carefully look at the Cyrillic script and attempt to define each letter using the script as presented on the site at item 1 above. Once I found (or thought I found) the script letters, I entered them in using the Russian On-line Keyboard (using item 2 above). With the typed words in hand, I Googled and yanexed (Russian search engine) seeking hits on my words. In my case, they did not find anything useful.
SO next, I used the Automatic Cyrllic converter (item 3 above). Entering phonetic variations on my grandmother’s hometown (Zeyervorderkampen) in the converter, I discovered that the Cyrillic script/ typing looked an awful lot like Zeyervorderkampen. Originally it had been translated as Zecher Werder- Kosipel, but I could not find anything that matched that name or anything close to it.
Being a big proponent of following the obvious, I now assume that my Oma’s bill of indictment does not place her in a location other than Zeyervorderkampen prior to her 2 plus year incarceration in the Chelyabinskaya Gulag.
Also today, I received the following note from my friend Martin:
Mark, hier kommt nun mein Versuch zur Klärung Deiner Frage:
1. In der russischen Anklageschrift wird als Geburtsort Pietzkendorf , Rayon (Kreis) Groß Werder genannt. In dem Schreiben vom DRK München vom 15.1.2010 heißt der Geburtsort Zeyer(s)vorderkampen. Pietzkendorf liegt etwas westlich von Tiegenhof, das andere Dorf Zeyersvorderskampen liegt östlich, im Nogatdelta, aber beides im Kreis Großes Werder. Woher die widersprüchlichen Angaben kommen, ist mir nicht klar.
2. in dem gleichen russischen Papier, nur eine Zeile tiefer, wird der Wohnort bezeichnet mit “Zecher-Ferder- Kaxxxx.
Ich lese das als Zeyervorderkampen. Das Y im Zeyer… hat der Mann wohl als X gelesen, das ist das cha im russischen Alphabet, also Zecher…
Ferder könnte man wohl mit Vorder.. übersetzen (wie gehört, gesprochen), und das dritte Wort beginnt zumindest mit Ka.., die weiteren Buchstaben kann nicht mal meine Irina entziffern. Dafür habe ich meinen Freund, russischer Übersetzer, morgen hier, und dann hoffe ich, dass wir das endgültig klären.
Grüße über den Teich – Martin
I may not be right, but I feel confident that I am closer to the truth today than I was two days ago when I started.
Unlike facebook, LinkedIn has been moving in positive and useful directions. To be honest, I have had enough success with LinkedIn that I have begun to expand my efforts on that social networking platform.
By way of a quick overview, to-date I have attempted the following activities with good success on LinkedIn. I have:
added LinkedIn friends and now have more than 500. As I have increased my associates so has the ManyRoads traffic increased.
created a Genealogy Group (Genealogy Guild) which now has more than 100 participants. There is limited activity in the group and some amount of traffic from the group to ManyRoads has yielded additional, albeit limited, information, opportunities, and discourse.
linked my tweets to LinkedIn and this Twitter interface seems to have generated a small but steady flow of additional readers and traffic to ManyRoads.
made my credentials and CV available. They appear to be accessed on a regular (daily) basis, presumably this provides an additional degree of professional visibility. Although, I would note this type of inference is extremely difficult or prove- one way or the other.
most recently, added my company information on LinkedIn, using the Company- beta function. I have great hopes for this newer service. It is worth noting that there seem to be those typical beta software problems plaguing the company edit and modification functions.
Assessing my experiences to date on LinkedIn, I would characterize them as being mostly positive and trending in even more positive directions. In the interest of balance and fairness though, I would have to say that this path has not been fast nor necessarily obvious.
Probably one of the biggest social networking disappointments for me, thus far, has been facebook. I have tried three differing facebook approaches/ venues, none seems to have worked very effectively.
Firstly, I tried the plain vanilla regular facebook friending protocol. Basically by that I mean, I joined facebook, made lots of friends and almost none of them visit my genealogy site (or other sites for that matter). I had hoped that family and friends would been interested enough to follow along and communicate or use ManyRoads, but I have been largely disappointed. My single notable success has been finding and re-meeting a long lost cousin. She ultimately had a neighbor friend of hers translate my German Oma’s (grandmother’s) Soviet post-WW2 bills of indictment and incarceration in a Stalinist Gulag. Truly that was a significant accomplishment, but given I have been ‘active’ on facebook for more than two years, this experience has been largely disappointing.
The next major foray, I had into the facebook world, involved the creation of a ManyRoads facebook group. Aside from one member, one time, I believe I have been the entire compliment of writing and discussion. In the main, the experience feels a lot like being in an empty auditorium shouting to myself. The group looks nice but yields nothing. So goes my second sad facebook effort.
Lastly, I have tried syndicating, publicizing ManyRoads via Networked Blogs on facebook. Aide from using an unacceptable amount of website CPU cycles, that turned out to be a complete nothing. Setting things up took a fair bit of work and produced so little I was unable to measure its “minusculeness”. At one point, I even tweeted begging for any of my Twitter followers to ‘like’ my blog. I received one whole response. Granted this site is of limited interest and excitement but… there we have yet another facebook disappointment.
I guess I would conclude this brief discourse by summarizing my facebook experiences as having been a lot of effort producing very little in the way of tangible, traceable results. If facebook were to disappear today, I doubt either my genealogy efforts or the ManyRoads’ site traffic would suffer very much; they certainly don’t seem to have benefited excepting in the one instance.
I certainly hope you have had much better success.
Surprisingly, Twitter has become an essential communication vehicle for me. And, no one is more surprised than I am. I never thought that I would become a Twitter user, much less become one of those people who rely on Twitter.
Initially,I thought that Twitter was both frivolous and oriented towards the younger folks. I guess that probably says something more about me becoming stodgy and old then it says anything useful about Twitter; but nonetheless one fine day, I gave it a whirl. The rest is history. Now, I use Twitter everyday I use the computer, which is to say almost everyday.
With Twitter’s 140 measly ‘allowable’ characters, I am able to announce what I am doing and discovering to the world, or at least to that little part of the world interested in #genealogy, #ahnenforschung, #history etc. And amazingly enough, you the ManyRoads reader who also uses Twitter comes by for a look-see. People I never knew, or knew might be interested in mywork, stop by, share information or simply become stealth readers; by the way, that is approximately 99.98% of you (Yes, I am one of those guys who tracks statistics…).
Additionally, Twitter has provided me with avenues for sharing what I find, or more precisely what other ‘Twitterers’ find, as you can see on our News! page. I am able to filter the news streams, build lists of people (other Twitterers) with whom I share common interests (see My ManyRoads List). I use (meaning read) their/your feeds then either for myself alone or for further sharing and aggregation.
I am able find new information from people and places around the globe covering topics such as:
In Twitter speak, words prefaced with # are called hash-tags (hastags). Truly they are nothing more than keywords, if you will, for sorting through the piles of streaming Tweets/ information, in order to see those topics in which I, and you if you use them, are interested. I personally find the above hash-tags to be very good for finding meaningful genealogy information and articles. Additionally, I am able to use those very same hash-tags for generating information feeds to various software systems like paper.li and Gwibber, the social feed reader I use.
As you well know, both genealogy and genealogical research are reliant on finding hidden, not easy to locate, information. A communication tool like Twitter has become, in this arena, a real asset in finding information… previouly hidden and obscure, to me. It is also a useful communication vehicle which facilitates meeting, talking, and connecting with like minded individuals- those people searching for information similar to that which I seek.
Social networking (media) ought to be a useful adjunct to genealogy research. Or more complexly stated, genealogy and genealogists should benefit greatly through improved interpersonal, Internet communications technology (better known as social networking). Of late, I have been trying to employ a number of web oriented ‘social’ technologies in an effort to up ManyRoads site readership and traffic.
It probably bears stating, the reason I (and most genealogy bloggers) seek higher traffic is because I both appreciate and need the contact/ interaction in my genealogy searches/ efforts. By that I mean, you (our reader) have knowledge and information that might help me in my search(es), just as I have information that might help you in yours. Yes in addition to my personal efforts I, also, do genealogy work for fee; but as anyone who has been on ManyRoads very often knows, I provide a lot of information, images and documents for free and without strings. And, much of that information has been sourced through your good communications to me.
To place the success of my efforts, thus far, in a tangible context, I would share the following. Out of the 160,000 +/- page reads, 65,000 visitors we have had during the past year I have made contact with approximately:
10 new “to me” cousins
a few new clients
10 GB of new information (all stored here on ManyRoads for everyones’ use)
numerous valuable and detailed assists in the editing my genealogy work
dozens of photos of family members that I did not know existed
numerous unbelievable and useful links to previously lost aspects of my family’s past
Well you get the idea. It takes a lot of traffic to keep and create a good information flow; and, such is the context within which the communication technologies I am about to discuss operate. Each medium attempts, in one way or another, to reach out into areas and places in the hope/ desire of triggering mutual information sharing and communication. The most significant aspect of this ‘reaching out’ is that it is almost blind. It’s a bit like putting your arm under a rug and reaching, rummaging, searching for a lost pebble. You do not know the shape, the location, texture, or size of the pebble, nor can you see it. You simply know it might be there and you want to find it. So, you reach.
In subsequent articles (posts) I will discuss my efforts with the following social technologies:
By the way, I doubt there will be single, dedicated posts for each item on the above list.
If there are technologies you want to hear about, but they are not on my little list, please let me know. I may have tried them and would be happy to share what I have learned; if not, perhaps I should try them and then share what I learn. More to come…
Of late, I have received numerous queries and comments from our readership regarding my position on and interest in the ethnic expulsions of German peoples from Eastern Europe after World War 2. I think this is a fair question that merits response.
I guess I would begin my response by stating that expulsions and holocausts (genocides) did not start nor end with the Germans of 1930-1940s Europe.
From a historical context some of the earliest genocides were (according to Wikipedia):
the destruction of Melos by Athens during the Peloponnesian War (fifth century BCE)
the genocides of Amalekites and Midianites (described in the old Testament).
the Yu Ding (禹鼎) records that Liwang of Zhou (d. 828 BC) ordered his army not to leave old and young of a rebel country alive.
the destruction of Carthage at the end of the Third Punic War (149–146 BC) “The First Genocide”.
Expulsions and ‘holocausts’ continue today and have been conducted with vigor for millennia.
In World War 2 alone there were at least four major ‘genocides/holocausts’ conducted against non-combatant civilian populations of:
Jews (up to 6 million),
Chinese (up to 16 million)
Germans (up to 3 million)
Polish (up to 2.5 million)
Other less easily classified WW2 ‘genocides/ mass murders/ displacements’ were conducted against the Soviet controlled peoples (Russians, Latvians, ethnic Germans, etc.), American Japanese, Indians, Indochinese, Indonesians, European gypsies, and homosexuals. Since World War 2, there have been numerous additional ‘holocausts’, including those against Cambodians, Bosnians, Rwandans, Sudanese…
The extreme sadness is that each event is inexcusable and more sadly, few are even remembered or acknowledged. Historically, governments and peoples continually attempt to rationalize and justify their genocidal crimes in the context of some prior crime, either real or imagined, that was perpetrated upon ‘them’ previously by the ‘other’. The cycle simply never ends. There is no first crime, there is no last retaliation. It is simply a vicious hate based spiral/ cycle. In human terms, the cycle is nearly infinite in duration and scope. As someone once said: “An Eye For An Eye Makes The Whole World Blind”.
So why do I bother to tell and document the Vertreibung story? I tell the story of the German Expulsions because my family was very fortunate to have survived the pogroms, murders, concentration camps, loss of property, etc. and because the Vertreibung bears telling. The Vertreibung was the largest ethic cleansing in history, involving the displacement of as many as 14 million people; the crimes against humanity in this event are immense and almost always ignored- especially by those most closely involved in their sanction and conduct. People need to be informed. The acts should be remembered in the hope that they will not be repeated. Most importantly, governmental or social ‘retribution’ meted out during the Vertreibung needs to be unconditionally viewed as inexcusable, unacceptable by anyone, anywhere. Crimes, genocides, expulsions such as these are unpardonable, even when they are conducted against a people who had the great misfortune of being associated with a hated and abjectly defeated government.
Our family, your family, every family has been wronged at one time or another. We have all, almost certainly, been associated with losing wars, being on the wrong side of an issue, and being expelled from homes and lands we thought were ours. Our families have been wrongly incarcerated and punished by people who believed they were superior to us. We have been punished for our language, our color, our intellect, our beliefs and more. No family is immune.
Fortunately each of us has a choice. We can choose to perpetuate, hide, ignore or excuse these events; or we can attempt to stop their continuance and recognize them for what they are: crimes against humanity.
I choose to tell the tale, and I refuse to continue the cycle. The Vertreibung, like many other expulsion/ genocides, needs to be viewed in the light of day. We need to examine it, evaluate it, and our reactions to it. We need to move forward by forgiving ourselves and others. In forgiving others, we free ourselves. In asking for forgiveness, we earn the right to be forgiven.
So, during this annual season of remembrance, love, peace, and forgiveness, I extend my fervent wish for broader understanding, acceptance, and tolerance. I hope you will join me in working for a world where we all can see and appreciate our shared humanity. A world where reconciliation is possible and we can forgive one another for our collective transgressions, while still valuing the sacrifices each of our families have made.
Genealogical research is an uncovering of truths as they apply to your life, others’ lives, the past and the future. There never truly is a single answer to what happened, how it came to be, and what was best or worst. The options and answers are often many, complex and perhaps even indeterminate. Inter-dependencies, inter-relationships abound. However, applying the rule of six can be a useful tool in helping you attain insights into the past you might otherwise miss.
What follows is a brief description of the Rule of Six by Paula Underwood Spencer:
One of the attitudes taught in my [Oneida] tradition is the Rule of Six. The Rule of Six says that for each apparent phenomenon, devise at least six plausible explanations, every one of which can indeed explain the phenomenon. There are probably sixty, but if you devise six, this will sensitize you to how many there may yet be and prevent you from locking in on the first thing that sounds right as The Truth.
But your task isn’t over yet. Because you can’t just float on a multiple option basis. Now your task is to apply your life experience, which is unique to yourself, and use it as a base to evaluate each of those options. Now you assign a probability factor. That probability factor can never be 100% . . . and absolutely never zero.
You keep a floating attitude toward life, but you constantly know where you are in that context. [...]
If you are courageous and flexible enough to follow Paula’s advice, you will learn more than you can ever imagine about your past, your family, and perhaps even a little bit about how things became as they are…
Sharing is a particularly wonderful aspect of human existence.
If you have found ManyRoads to be helpful in the conduct of your research during the past months, we ask that you briefly reflect on the wonder of your family, community and life. Please also take a moment to remember those less fortunate than yourself. In remembrance of those you love, we ask that you provide a small donation to those in need during this upcoming holiday season. We have placed a link in our side menu toOxfam’s Unwrapped program to facilitate access to what we believe is a very good charity (see the Oxfam Cow on the right and view the video below to learn more…). But by all means, feel free to choose another charity, if you prefer.
We would greatly appreciate a small note, email or comment letting us know of your intentions and actions. By working together and sharing our resources, we not only help each other but, we also contribute to the creation of a more peaceful and joyous existence for everyone.
“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”
Who says genealogy is not full of surprises? Well, not me!
Over the past few months I have had the wonderful good fortune of coming into to contact with two magnificent people (families). One of them grew up near the village(?) where my grandmother (Frieda Senger) was born and raised- Pietzkendorf. The other has been a family friend for more than 250 years and now lives in Dakar, Senegal.
I am truly amazed that this website and my genealogical efforts have introduced me to both Rainer and Hans; or more precisely, these efforts have made it possible for us to find each other. All three of us and our families truly have traveled ManyRoads, gone different directions and yet we have very much in common- a love for place, a sense of community, and a willingness to continue to help each other unravel the threads of time in our collective efforts to find out more about who and what we are.
It is truly a wonder!
A friend from the area of Pietzkendorf, which exists no more.
A friend living in Africa whose family and mine are linked together for more than 250 years in the area of Zeyer.
It amazes me… Vielen dank Rainer und Hans fuer die Bilder, Buecher, hilfe, geduld, und freundschaft.
11 months to the day from when we began ‘full-scale’ usage of WordPress on ManyRoads, we were graced by our 50,000 visitor. 13 November 2010 is truly a landmark day for ManyRoads.
Unfortunately, we do not know the name of our 50,000 visitor; however, we do know that they have visited us some 81 times before. We also know that their Internet Service Provider is located in Redwood, California.
During the past 11 months, we hope you have found our information helpful and even a bit fun. It has been a learning experience for us; one we plan to continue working on down the road. We extend our sincere thanks to each of you who have spent time with us ManyRoads. We hope to see you in the future, again!
On planes I often spend time reading ebooks. Generally they are of the less current, more esoteric variety.
Recently I read Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse; the story describes the spiritual journey of a boy from the Indian subcontinent during the time of the Buddha. As I read the tale, I noticed I was not only reading about the journey of Siddhartha but also a story that related to my genealogy efforts.
What follows are quotes from Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha relating to what I have seen and learned while searching for my family…
I’m telling you what I’ve found. Knowledge can be conveyed, but not wisdom. It can be found, it can be lived, it is possible to be carried by it, miracles can be performed with it, but it cannot be expressed in words and taught.
Oh yes, he too is called upon, he too is of the eternal life. But do we, you and me, know what he is called upon to do, what path to take, what actions to perform, what pain to endure? Not a small one, his pain will be; after all, his heart is proud and hard, people like this have to suffer a lot, err a lot, do much injustice, burden themselves with much sin.
Let the things be illusions or not, after all I would then also be an illusion, and thus they are always like me. This is what makes them so dear and worthy of veneration for me: they are like me. Therefore, I can love them.
To thoroughly understand the world, to explain it, to despise it, may be the thing great thinkers do. But I’m only interested in being able to love the world, not to despise it, not to hate it and me, to be able to look upon it and me and all beings with love and admiration and great respect.
He no longer saw the face of his friend Siddhartha, instead he saw other faces, many, a long sequence, a flowing river of faces, of hundreds, of thousands, which all came and disappeared, and yet all seemed to be there simultaneously, which all constantly changed and renewed themselves, and which were still all Siddhartha.
Should genealogy rely on GPS data? When I recently heard the query, it gave me pause especially since people seemed pretty agitated over the point. I have to admit, it does seem that the value of GPS data is a point worth pondering, at least for a little while.
It is probably worth noting that commercial GPS is really only about 10 years old and is primarily a US national system for establishing global location. To quote the ever popular Wikipedia:
GPS is owned and operated by the U.S. Government as a national resource.
Also, there are at least two competing and one non-competing GPS system online or soon to be online:
competing systems will be from the Chinese (Compass) and Europe Galileo (Europe);
the non-competing system is a Russian military system.
As competing & complimentary global positioning systems reconcile and move towards international standards and as new systems evolve, there are likely to be changes in nomenclature and other characteristics. At least that is how everything else seems to work in the technology realm.
Let me conclude with a random thought in this space. If we are looking for an old grave… how does GPS deal with continental drift? Since GPS finds/ identifies a location on the planet presumably this means that in 500 years different things will occupy the old location…. in other words, grampa is on the move ;^) Seriously though at the rate of 1.5 -10 cm movement per year, this could create a grave situation in just a few years (sorry I could not avoid the pun).
To me, the biggest benefit of the current US GPS is that it makes Google Earth and the like usable in genealogy software packages. But to my mind, maps continue to be a more stable and reliable long-term form of locational documentation for genealogical purposes.
Phase one of the ManyRoads transfer to Hostgator.com is now complete. At least, it looks good from my end.
We have moved a lot of files (about 60,000 of the little and huge buggers); not much of this transition has been easy. My daughter and son-in-law have proven immensely helpful in the transition; and my wife has been extremely patient with me throughout the 40+ hour transfer and rebuild process.
By way of a synopsis, here’s what we have accomplished:
All ManyRoads files and software have been moved from Hostpapa to Hostgator.com. If you notice any problems, please let me know via the contact page.
We have optimize the performance of ManyRoads by tweaking the way Apache (our server software) handles requests. We now compress our site content before sending it to your browser. This should lower your bandwidth usage and speed the loading of larger images and files.
We have installed and are using CloudFlare which is a system that acts as a proxy between ManyRoads visitors and our server. By acting as a proxy, CloudFlare caches static content thus lowering the number of requests to our servers.
We have cleaned and optimized the ManyRoads MySQL database; it was quite bloated.
The next phase of our transition will involve yet another move. We plan to move our static content files (libraries,maps, etc.) on to a secondary server in order to better distribute our computing load and also provide redundancy.
Hopefully the worst of our moving is now over. Please let us know how things are working. We especially appreciate your contact should you discover something that slipped through the cracks. Something most likely has….
What is a traditional genealogical source? To me that seemed to be a good question. So naturally, I Googled the term ‘Traditional genealogical source’ to see what I would find.
The first item I came up with was the topic of a January/February 2003 issue of Ancestry Magazine by Mark Howells:
Tombstone inscriptions have been a source of genealogical information for centuries.
I could see tombstone inscriptions as being considered normal and traditional. Although with the way my brain works, I could also see that tombstones might rapidly be coming passe. As the article itself describes, today’s headstones are nothing like those of yesteryear.
Strangely, to me anyway, the next item I uncovered in Google was the ever popular “Ancestral Tablet”. Now I have a done a bunch of genealogical investigation and yet somehow I had never stumbled upon one of these. According to the article I uncovered:
These tablets were traditionally kept on household altars and in clan temples.
As we say in French “Quelle surprise!” Household altars? Clan temples? Neither household altars nor clan temples were familiar or traditional to me given my forebears and my background. Because of my surprise, I examined the page more closely only to discover the document’s title: Ethnic genealogy: a research guide By Jessie Carney Smith.
Then it occurred to me that traditional was not traditional unless and until you understood and were familiar with the cultural context within which you were conducting your genealogical research. This ‘truism’ applied equally to both examples I found through the courtesy of Google. Although the first finding seemed natural and traditional to me; the second, well, was out of my ‘traditional’ frame of reference. But it certainly was not out of the frame of reference for folks with a traditional Chinese background and familiarity with traditional Chinese cultural norms.
So what is the take away from all of this rambling?
In a global sense, there are very few things that are truly traditional.
Each traditional source is traditional within a particular context: cultural, historical, regional, religious, etc.
You really need to understand where you are seeking and what you might find ‘traditionally’. Just as happened to me, your normal cultural and personal filters could blind you to artifacts that ‘traditionally’ exist for those you seek.
I will explore other traditional sources in subsequent articles. Just in case…
Which Operating system is best? Mac, Linux, Windows?
Well aside from the inaccuracy of the phraseology in the above query, this is a question I often see discussed, debated, and fought with religious fervor. Truth of the matter is quite simple. Use the operating system you like best- for me that means Ubuntu Linux. For you, well, you get to to pick.
However, when making the choice of one operating system over another, people seem to believe they are forced to leave everything about their previous (or simply another) operating system behind. In the genealogy space that often means, a move to Mac or Linx from Windows confounds people as to how to get a good Windows genealogy program functioning on their new found PC home. When these moves occur I hear questions like:
What is the best genealogy software for Mac? I really liked RootsMagic but it doesn’t run on my Mac.
Well the answer is really direct, and only requires a modicum of adventurousness. The simple answer is to set up and run a Virtual Machine on your new PC. Sounds complicated, I know; but, it really is not. In the virtual machine space you have numerous options however, I will focus on my favorite- VirtualBox. To quote their website:
VirtualBox is a powerful x86 and AMD64/Intel64 virtualization product for enterprise as well as home use. Not only is VirtualBox an extremely feature rich, high performance product for enterprise customers, it is also the only professional solution that is freely available as Open Source Software under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL). See “About VirtualBox” for an introduction.
Presently, VirtualBox runs on Windows, Linux, Macintosh and OpenSolaris hosts and supports a large number of guest operating systems including but not limited to Windows (NT 4.0, 2000, XP, Server 2003, Vista, Windows 7), DOS/Windows 3.x, Linux (2.4 and 2.6), Solaris and OpenSolaris, and OpenBSD.
What all this means, is you can install a package like VirtualBox on your PC and then install any number of other Operating Systems there as well. The Guest operating systems operate in windows within your main PC environment. There is no need to reboot as you move between environments once ‘all are operational. And for those who do not want to leave an old favorite software application behind, you don’t have to because it will run in the appropriate Virtual machine and it will run in its native mode. Voila! Problem solved.
It is worth sharing an additional data point. In my experience, the pool of essential non-native operating system applications you will need seems to diminish over time. As you adjust to your new environs, you inevitably find new improved ways of doing things. Soon enough your Virtual machine needs shrink to the barest of essentials.
Sometimes we all need help. Everyone falls into that boat at one time or another. As the old Barbara Streisand song says:
“People who need people are the luckiest people in the world…”
(I hope I have that quoted correctly.)
Over the past few months, numerous folks have requested and provided help here on ManyRoads. In order to be responsive, I have organized and published ways in which I am able to help; and sadly, I have also had to state ways in which I am unable to accommodate or have had to limit requested assistance.
Here are some of the approaches and offers I have officially made. Most of these ‘standard’ approaches have grown out of informal arrangements I have been fortunate to establish with generous people discovered through the ManyRoads site and my related genealogical endeavors.
Pay It Forward – for some reason this most obvious of arrangements has taken me the longest to articulate.
Limited free consulting – similar to the Quid pro quo, but limited in time and established without any requirement for formally arranged reciprocation.
Informal – this arrangement does not really fit into any definable category but rather is something that evolves through longer term interpersonal communications. I have numerous relationships that fit into this category; and, they are simply friendships. Some are with new found relatives, some with new found friends. To me, these are extremely joyful arrangements.
So why the discourse, then? Well, I think it is essential that people who meet others doing genealogy on the web via social media, etc. recognize and acknowledge that all involved parties are people with needs, constraints and limitations. Each party whether engaging through a formal or informal arrangement has the duty to express their wishes, aspirations and ‘needs’. Sometimes these associations and relationships work out and become long term; sometimes not. No matter the result, I think there are some ‘common’ courtesies (?) worthy of mention:
Prompt acknowledgement of any communication. Let the other person know what you are thinking. Talk personally, privately and promptly.
Publicly or privately recognize any effort taken in your behalf. A simple thank, you will often suffice.
Be aware no matter how small the effort, it is being made on your behalf. The effort is a gift and deserves to be appropriately acknowledged.
Technology can and should be an crucial adjunct to your genealogical efforts. As a matter of fact, I contend that no effort is complete, nor can your genealogy efforts be fully effective, without effective technological support. The support can be as simple as using a word processor or as complex as writing large databases to manage and maintain your data, documents and images.
As I am sure you are aware, today’s technology options are both extensive and cost effective. They can even be free. As a web developer and genealogist, I, personally, rely almost exclusively on OpenSource technologies. To give you a rough example of my software costs, I will enumerate my most significant and vital adjunctive technologies:
WordPress (the Blog/ Content Management System I use)- Free
OpenOffice (the PC Office Suite I use for most document creation)- Free
GRAMPS (the Family Tree software I use to manage genealogies and export to my website)- Free
The GIMP (the image, photo editing software I employ)- Free
Geany (the tool I use to write code for my websites)- Free
php, html, java (the languages used most frequently in my websites)- Free
The list could go on; but you can see from the above list, the costs need not be high. Even the ‘expensive, proprietary tools’ (note my bias!) most people purchase are very cost effective.
Having said this, what do these tools and technologies really do for me and my genealogy efforts? Quite simply, they allow me to perform tasks such as:
clean up documents
enhance and/or repair photos
write family histories
maintain family trees
But most importantly, they allow me to share my work with both known and unknown family members, complete strangers, and those interested in researching the same areas I do. They make it possible for each of us to create an information explosion out of the tid-bits of information we each hold or have individually, and thereby these technologies enhance our understanding of our families and of our past.
ManyRoads is pleased to announce that we have been published on Geneabloggers.
It is our hope to have generalized thoughts & opinions available for publication on that great site on a monthly basis (or thereabouts!). Like most things, our publication schedule will ‘most likely’ be semi-irregular. Kind of like me, semi-irregular.
We encourage you to visit the Geneabloggers site, if you have not done so already. It is interesting, informative and they have some good writers, I hear.
Most often those looking for their relatives follow the tried and true paths of searching the Internet as well as searching the ‘traditional’ genealogy venues such as town halls, LDS Family History Centers, etc. Many people even go so far as to restrict their searches to the Internet only, typically relying on the ever popular:
Truth be known, these are all very good and useful search locales. However, there are at least two items worth noting:
one, not everything ‘you need’ can be found on these venues and
two, not everything labeled as genealogical represents the totality of genealogical information available.
You do yourself and your family a disservice if you restrict or limit your searches to the traditional and/or Internet sources.
You really need to look outside the box. There are few reasons why this is helpful and reasonable. Firstly, all genealogy and family history occurs with the context of time and place; and secondly, most genealogy sites do little to help you develop a comprehensive understanding of either historical context or external events. Having said that, there is a lot of information available ‘out there’ that is freely provided to those who will simply bend over and pick it up.
So, where is the outside of the box? Where do I recommend you look? Well here’s a brief set of pointers to other information and enlightenment:
Stores. I recommend you visit businesses and people specializing in old things. Better yet visit those that/who specialize in old things like those your ancestors may have used, owned, or even enjoyed. Why? Well, every one of them may help you understand life as it was lived by those who preceded you.
Book places. Read books! Yes, I know history was boring in school. But perhaps if you read about the wars, politics, migrations, etc. that your ‘folks’ lived through, you might understand them and their choices a bit better.
Museums. Go look at old things and images of old places. Every look might help you understand a little more about where you came from, what was going on, how people lived.
Simply stated look around. Information and ideas are everywhere. Besides you might just discover that this expanded searching adds pleasure, adventure, and ‘stuff’ to your life as well.
I debated whether or not this was the correct title for my posting but settled on it anyway!
I really do not have a long list of items to present here, but rather a very small listing with only two, wonderful, non-genealogy genealogy places; they are:
Yesterday, my wife, mother-in-law and I went to a flea market. It was a very hot day and we had no idea what we might find.
As is typical of flea markets, there was everything from bread to vegetables to “old things”. Given my genealogy interests you can imagine that my focus was on old things- more precisely old German things. Only infrequently do I discover items of interest. This visit was different from the norm. What I stumbled upon was a basket full of Wanderstocks (hiking sticks/ canes). All had medals on them but one was special, to me. It was from pre-1933 Germany and had 48 medal badges afixed to it- auf Deutsch: es war ein alter Wanderstock mit Eisenkuppe und 48 Plaketten. Not only did the stick have 48 medal badges but two of them were indicators of the original owner’s political sentiments -which although they are not mine, they do provide an interesting historical context for the time.
Badge number two reads: Landhaus Adolf Hitler Obersalzburg
The other 46 badges were obtained by the original owner from hikes across Bavaria (Zugspitze, Muenchen, Linderhof etc.) , the Erzgebirge, not to mention Venice, the Dolomites, etc.
Quite a find for a flea market in Littleton, Colorado.
Antique markets offer similar items, old photos, memorabilia, etc. The only problem with each is that they often tend not to have belonged to your family, but they certainly can help you flesh out history, illustrate peoples’ thinking during certain crucial time periods, all the while providing great entertainment.
Date calculations are quite useful and necessary in doing genealogy work.
If you are like me, I constantly need to count backwards and forward from one event to another: death to birth, birth to marriage, etc. I find this type of calculation is more necessary when there is a paucity of information and documentation available for a single person.
The changes are a-coming! Some of the changes to the site are fairly significant others tiny. However, although I have tested them all, I would greatly appreciate hearing from our readers if they are either helpful or problematic. Please use our contact page or the comments on this page to let me know what you think.
Summary of the modifications
ManyRoads Category, Monthly Archive, and Search pages have all been reformatted to be more compact; they also all now have the same layout.
Our front page (Landing page) has been modified to include a list of the 5 most recent posts.
A Broken Link checker has been implemented to validate, edit and ultimately cleanup our links and redirect situation. We have over 1150 unique URLs in 1420 links. We seem to be maintaining zero (0) redirects now.
We eliminated a few ‘extra’ plugins by consolidating functions into a more robust few; I’ll post a listing of our current plugin use later.
Hopefully you will notice that the site now responds a bit better and is easier to use. As always your input and insights are welcomed.
Learning about your past, the past, any past requires an open mind and open eyes. An attention to detail, circumstances, and motivation are crucial. Preconceived notions, biases and wishes need to be set aside so that a clear and open mind is available to absorb the scenery. As an Frank Zappa once said:
A mind is like a parachute- it works best, when open.
Over the past few months, I have come into contact with a fair amount of web traffic, email and other-wise, where it seems, to me anyway, that many people are operating with a “closed parachute”. It seems to me that many conversants seem to be operating from a bias of pre-conceived notions. I hear from others that I can be counted among this group, as well.
Even so, I have to say that all of us need to be more aware of the possibility that history may not be quite as simple as our preferred belief systems would have it be. Or as Steven Hawking said:
The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.
Or stated ‘slightly’ differently by Reverend Denny Brake:
Some minds are like concrete: thoroughly mixed up and permanently set.
I have noticed innumerable attempts by ‘folks’ to rewrite the past either by misinterpretation of historical context or because of discomfort with the facts. Many attempt to justify unconscionable historical actions as being an outgrowth or reaction to previous historical mistakes. Still others believe that if they speak loud, hard and passionately enough the past will somehow be changed.
Historical errors, mistakes, atrocities were all built by fallible humans; no different from the fallible people of today. The fears and concerns of the past mirror those of today. Blind, insensitive anger, negativity, and misguided passions have always led to negative behaviors with even more negative consequences.
We can not change the past. It is unalterable. We can, however, make a choice to understand past within its own context and situation(s). We can even choose to learn from what we observe; and further, we can choose to repeat the past or not. What we ought not do is think that we are somehow better than those who preceded us. Rather, we are the same as they. We will make mistakes; make unwise choices and either accidentally or by design hurt those around us. But under no circumstance, will we alter or fix the past.
As I have mentioned before, it never ceases to surprise me how much Winnie the Pooh knows about life, genealogy included.
I searched and found the following quotes and they just seemed to be very insightful. I hope you find them so as well.
“Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming down-stairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it.”
– Winnie the Pooh
“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best — ” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.
– Winnie the Pooh, The House at Pooh Corner
“I don’t see much sense in that,” said Rabbit. “No,” said Pooh humbly, “there isn’t. But there was going to be when I began it. It’s just that something happened to it along the way.”
Grab the data while you can. I guess that is what every online genealogist needs to have as their motto these days.
Today I uploaded a very useful (helpful) WordPress plugin called:
Broken Link Checker- It checks your blog for broken links and missing images and notifies you on the dashboard if any are found.
Well much to my dismay and surprise when I installed and ran the plugin, it found nearly 175 out of 1055 links ManyRoads to be broken or redirected. That seemed like a lot to me. I had been running several ‘free’ services to check my site for broken links and every week; they were reporting ‘happily’ that everything was ‘just fine’- zero broken links. Obviously, these checkers were not doing their job very well!
In addition to noticing that a site as large as ManyRoads needs good automation, I think I can safely conclude you ought never to trust that another website will either stay online or keep reference information, which you need, intact. I even discovered lost links to lengthy articles from Wikipedia. They were simply removed!
My recommendation for self-protection is that when you find something useful and relevant do the following:
take a copy (keep it offline)
ask permission to publish (Keep it offline if you must); do not violate copyright laws!
check your sources periodically to see if they are still alive
if not… well then I really do not know what to advise. On ManyRoads I am simply stating that the material is no longer available where I found it, placing a date on the text and removing the link (Since WordPress keeps backups of my Pages/Posts hopefully I can find an old link if I need it.)
clean up your dead links; you need to do that in order to keep your search engine optimization in good health.
For those wishing to learn ‘more’ on how to conduct Genealogical research, acquaint themselves with the basics, or just see ‘how things are done’; there are numerous sources of on-line training. Hopefully you will find these 50 plus Free courses to be of value as you develop your skills, knowledge, and genealogical information.
The Family History Library Catalog Overview
Learn more about the catalog and how to access materials. Search the catalog of materials (including microfilm, microfiche, and publications) found at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. Many items can be loaned to local Family History Centers around the world.
RootsWeb’s Guide to Tracing Family Trees
This free course, written and compiled by Julia M. Case, Myra Vanderpool Gormley, and Rhonda McClure, is a series of 24 wonderful lessons.
The goal of the Registered Genealogist Certification Class is to take a person from the beginning through the end of researching a specific problem for at least four generations, documenting it as they go, investigating a full realm of available resources (both on-line and off-line) and preparing that pedigree in report format as if they were presenting it to a client who has commissioned them to do research. At the conclusion of this 12 month course, the student will submit that report to the instructor as part of their ‘testing’ procedure for review, as well as take a test of at least 200 questions in their own area of expertise which must be passed by 85% in order to qualify for certification.
Brigham Young University
BYU offers numerous free online courses. Please note I have abbreviated the BYU list of Free Offerings.
“Basic Genealogy” is designed to help people get started in tracing their family tree. The course answers the question “how do I start?” and provides information family historians will need in order to interpret various records they will come across during their research. Full definitions of terms are provided as well as links to valuable research sources both on and off the internet.
JewishGen Learning Center
JewishGen is delighted to offer online interactive courses in Jewish genealogy, to help you organize your information and begin to trace your ancestral roots. Most courses will be eight sessions and in addition to the “lecture”, will contain optional reading material and helpful links to JewishGen’s resources, as well as other genealogical websites.
Researching Your Family Tree
Have you ever wondered about your great-grandparents?
Or have you wanted to work on your family history, but you had no idea how to get started? If you answered yes to these questions, this FREE interactive tutorial is for you.
Find your friends. If you run a family history/ genealogy website, building associations and affiliations can be a useful and valuable adjunct to your genealogical efforts.
Some of the most interesting and potentially useful affiliations (links) are with are sites and organizations belonging to other family members or family associations. These family members/ associations need not be particularly close, from a genealogical relationship perspective, but rather simply represent individuals or groups searching for, or providing, information on branches, limbs of your family tree. It is additionally helpful if their family name obviously links or relates to those most frequently mentioned on your site. Obvious name linkages make it easier for casual readers and researchers alike to see the importance and enthusiasm for information involving your family, perhaps enticing a more reluctant reader into active participation.
Not only can related sites possible additional readership for, and comments on, your site, but more importantly, they provide you with the potential of finding good and useful sources of genealogical information. Presumably, the readers of closely affiliated and obviously related sites are also interested in assisting in your research success and may, also, be willing to provide you with analysis and reviews on your own research efforts. (N.B. I have found this form of review invaluable in scrubbing errors and addressing omissions in my research.)
In the case of ManyRoads, we have recently come across several such sites. These include:
It surprises me how much Winnie the Pooh knows about genealogy.
I came across the following quotes and they just seemed to be very insightful. I hope you find them so as well.
Before beginning a Hunt, it is wise to ask someone what you are looking for before you begin looking for it.
Winnie the Pooh
Pooh’s Little Instruction Book
It’s always useful to know where a friend-and-relation is, whether you want him or whether you don’t.
Winnie the Pooh
Rabbit, Pooh’s Little Instruction Book
A little Consideration, a little Thought for Others, makes all the difference.
Winnie the Pooh
Eeyore, Winnie the Pooh
Some people care too much, I think it’s called love.
Winnie the Pooh
Winnie the Pooh
Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?
Winnie the Pooh
Winnie the Pooh
Always watch where you are going. Otherwise, you may step on a piece of the Forest that was left out by mistake.
Winnie the Pooh
Pooh’s Little Instruction Book
They’re funny things, Accidents. You never have them till you’re having them.
Winnie the Pooh
Eeyore, The House at Pooh Corner
When looking at your two paws, as soon as you have decided which of them is the right one, then you can be sure the other one is the left.
Winnie the Pooh
Pooh’s Little Instruction Book
When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.
Winnie the Pooh
The House at Pooh Corner
You can’t stay in your corner of the forest, waiting for others to come to you; you have to go to them sometimes.
Winnie the Pooh
Piglet, Pooh’s Little Instruction Book
Ah, the advantages of hindsight. Looking back in time and regretting the decisions that were made, the options that were chosen, and the events that occurred is very easy trap to fall in. Fruitless, but easy. In fact, spending a lot of time trying to rewrite the past, excuse events or bemoaning their occurrence is, from a family history and genealogical perspective, often counter-productive. The past is gone and not likely to be wished away. The past impacts our current actions, options and choices. If past actions are not well understood they risk being repeated, and often are.
Rather, it is my opinion that the following is much more productive:
Attempt to understand the details of events (what really happened?). This often means listening to or reading about events from perspectives that may run counter to your own view of them or perspective.
Place events in an appropriate time and context. Recognize that any one event is rarely disconnected from a regional, cultural, or historical context.
Events occur as a reaction to related events that preceded them. Learn about them. Event B is generally a reaction to event A; understand why B would have happened?
People almost always act in what is termed ‘enlightened self-interest’. Try to understand why things occurred and made sense to most of those involved. This is not to say that they need make sense to you; in fact, they do not always make sense.
Try to remove yourself emotionally from events of the past. The lower your emotional involvement, the more likely you are to get a clear picture of an event. This is not to say that you need to be an abstracted automaton but rather you need to establish observational objectivity.
If you are able to achieve some number of the above objectives, you will find that events which once seemed crazy or incomprehensible possibly look more rational or are, at least, more explainable. This is not say that you will approve of the choices or events that occurred but rather you might begin to understand the whys and wherefores of them. Most importantly, you may begin to understand what ‘really happened’ to your family.
Unfortunately when people are expelled from areas, civility is not always, or perhaps even generally, the rule. Such was the case in Poland. The Polish Communist government was eager to lay claim to its newly obtained German lands and expel all Germans not simply from the lands but also from memory and history.
Over time however even this changes, as is noted in my earlier posting about the Zeyer Cemetery. However as the following story from Fred Rump relates, it was not always that way.
“I actually found some cemeteries hidden in a forest and all overgrown out in the rural parts of East Prussia and there are some WW1 German memorial and military cemeteries because these boys died fighting the Russians who were invading Poland. Some of the old maps show where the cemeteries used to be and one needs to look for them. A suspicious sign would always be a forested section in the middle of fields and farms. The area was simply left to nature after the graves had been dug up. In the cities everything was plowed over or built upon. Today there might be a memorial stone there as civility has returned to life.
But whatever remained of what used to be a village cemetery is today treacherous walking because it was full of holes overgrown with weeds as most graves had been dug up to look for rings, gold teeth or whatever people used to put in the graves with their loved ones.
[For example] In Steinort, at the estate of (Count) Heinrich Graf von Lehndorff-Steinort which had been in his family for 600 years, we found such a cemetery at the end of a huge line of trees which we followed through the woods. These trees used to be an allee of oaks leading to the family crypt and chapel as well as the cemetery of Steinort. Now they were simply part of a new forest. A few iron ornaments which were anchored too well could be found among the holes the locals dug to uncover the graves. The crypt had been stripped, the chapel lay in ruins. Later we asked one of the workers who know lived at the estate (the main house had been purchased by a Swiss investor) if he knew anything about what happened to the place.
We got quite a story. Apparently when this man was a boy he and his friends used the coffins from the crypt as boats on the lake of the estate. He further went on to tell us how it used to be. How under Gomulka the standing order was to destroy anything German that was still left standing. He recalls one drunken night when they moved all the old books out of the library and had a great big bonfire in the yard. 600 years of family history was thus burned to a crisp.”
But things appear to be changing. As Poland enters the European Union and moves passed its Communist past, acknowledgements are beginning to occur. Archives are being developed and published, memorials appear, and perhaps a brighter more civil future awaits.
It seems many people believe that genealogy, or family history, is some sort of competition or contest. Their ancestors were better, were more important, traveled further, worked harder, suffered more, were more regal…
Genealogy and family history is conceptually straightforward, it simply involves accurately identifying our ancestors, family and history. Every family has had its successes, failures, highlights, lowlights. People have lived for long times or short times, in good places and bad. They have been ruled by good people and evil. There has been war and peace. Children have been healthy and sick. Such is the nature of life.
As genealogists, we seek simply to understand their stories, their journey, their lives. By understanding them, we understand ourselves. Their travails are ours.
No, it is not a contest. It is a journey. We are their children; they are our forebears. We are their hopes; they are our history, we are their love.
All of us have DNA. Even if we do not know the names of our ancestors, we have DNA.
Our family has decided to gather and analyze its DNA materials (matrilineal and patrilineal lines) and see what these DNA lines have to say. We have elected to do this through the genographic project, a partnership between the University of Arizona Research Labs Family Tree DNA association, National Geographic Society and IBM rather than to switch to the program offered by Ancestry.com. Our reasoning is fairly simple; my father-in-law’s DNA is with NatGeo. Also, the Genographic program is older and more established; and, this seems like the lowest risk approach.
Family Tree DNA is the world leader in Genetic Genealogy. Since its inception in April of 2000, we have been constantly developing the science that enables genealogists around the world to advance their family’s research. Family Tree DNA works in association with a scientific advisory board and the University of Arizona Research Labs. The Arizona Research labs are led by Dr. Michael Hammer, one of the world’s leading authorities in the field of Genetics.[...]
Family Tree DNA provides the tests for this partnership between the National Geographic Society, IBM and the Waitt Family Foundation.
With a simple and painless cheek swab you can sample your own DNA and submit it to the lab. We run ONE test per participation kit. We will test either your mitochondrial DNA, which is passed down each generation from mother to child and reveals your direct maternal ancestry; or your Y chromosome (males only), which is passed down from father to son and reveals your direct paternal ancestry. You choose which test you would like administered.
What to Expect
Your results will reveal your deep ancestry along a single line of direct descent (paternal or maternal) and show the migration paths they followed thousands of years ago. Your results will also place you on a particular branch of the human family tree. Some anthropological stories are more detailed than others, depending upon the lineage you belong to. For example, if you are of African descent, your results will show the initial movements of your ancestors on the African continent, but will not reflect most of the migrations that have occurred within the past 10,000 years. Your individual results may confirm your expectations of what you believe your deep ancestry to be, or you may be surprised to learn a new story about your genetic background.
You will not receive a percentage breakdown of your genetic background by ethnicity, race, or geographic origin. Nor will you receive confirmation of an association with a particular tribe or ethnic group.
Furthermore, this is not a genealogy study. You will not learn about your great-grandparents or other recent relatives, and your DNA trail will not necessarily lead to your present-day location. Rather, your results will reveal the anthropological story of your direct maternal or paternal ancestors—where they lived and how they migrated around the world many thousands of years ago.
Do you use Zotero in doing your genealogy research work?
This is a question I have toyed around with for quite a while now. I don’t have a good answer for myself although the toolset seems well suited to gathering web-based information, collating, and processing it. It is also tightly coupled with the browser I use most frequently, Firefox. Still I have been unable to find and good roadmap on how to make this toolset work to my advantage. I am constantly in search of tools that link tightly with websites (i.e., Ancestry.com, etc.), online documents, image libraries, etc. Zotero claims to do all that and more. Sounds good to me, especially since it should also gather and log attribution, footnote, and bibliography data as well.
Rather than providing an answer to this query, I am in search of leads and comments. Does anyone out there have experience(s) they are willing to share? Any links on how-to use Zotero in the genealogy & family history realm?
Any pointers are most welcomed. Please use our contact page or comments below to share your insights.