Sunday, October 11, 2015

Free Genealogy Seminar Saturday, October 17, 2015

The California State Genealogical Alliance and the Genealogical Society of Santa Cruz County are presenting a free genealogy seminar this Saturday, October 17, 2015.  This is a great opportunity to attend three interesting talks at no cost, hang out with other genealogists, and learn more about the Alliance.

The presentations and speakers will be:

• "Finding Wives' and Daughters' Names", by Cath Trindle

• "Mapping Our Ancestors:  They Went Where?  Why?", by Mary Anne Vincent

• "Read All about It!:  Using Online Newspapers for Genealogical Research", by yours truly

There will be a CSGA board meeting after the third presentation.  The presentations and the board meeting are free and open to the public.

The event will run from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  It will take place at:
Santa Cruz Main Library
upstairs meeting room
224 Church Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

For more information, download the flyer or visit the GSSCC Web site.  I hope to see you there!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Ancestors Who Migrated a Long Way

This challenge makes me think of a song:  "I'm a travelin' man, I've made a lot of stops all over the world . . . ."

This week for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun Randy Seaver asked about our most well traveled ancestors:

1) Many of our ancestors migrated to a distant place.  Which one of your ancestors migrated the furthest?  Or the furthest in North America?  It could be in one big move, or in several smaller moves over their lifetime.  How far did they travel?  Do you know the route they took?

2)  Tell us in your own blog post, in a comment to this blog post, or in a Facebook or Google+ post.

My immigrant ancestors came from either western Europe (including the British Isles) or eastern Europe, so whichever ancestor traveled the furthest had to be one from eastern Europe.  After looking at distances for Krustpils, Latvia; Porazava, Belarus; Kamyanyets Litovsk, Belarus; and Chisinau, Moldova from Ellis Island, the winner is Kamyanets Podilskyy, Ukraine.  (I used Google to determine all my distances.)

I know my great-great-grandfather Avigdor Gorodetsky (later Victor Gordon) was in Kamenets Podolsky.  I have a photograph of him taken there.

From Kamenets Podolsky, Avigdor moved his family to Kishinev, Russia (now Chisinau, Moldova), a distance of 224 miles.

From Kishinev, he traveled to to Rotterdam, The Netherlands, to take a ship to the Goldene Medina, the United States, 1,374 miles.

The ship's journey from Rotterdam to Ellis Island was 3,637 miles.

After arriving at Ellis Island, Victor lived in Brooklyn, a mere 12 miles further, until his death.

Adding all of that up brings a total of 5,247 miles that my great-great-grandfather traveled from the first place I know he was to where he died.

My great-grandfather Joyne Gorodetsky (Joe Gordon) followed the same path to the United States, including departing Europe from Rotterdam, so his total was also 5,247 miles.

There is a possibility that Avigdor began his life in Orinin, Russia (now Orynyn, Ukraine).  Every Kishinev record I have found that mentions him indicates he was "from" Orinin.  That means his family was registered there officially, but not necessarily that he actually lived there.  If he did, I can add 10 more miles to his travels, the distance between Orinin and Kamenets Podolsky.

A very well traveled person in my database is my cousin's mother.  Just the basic information I know is that she was born in Fremantle, Western Australia; immigrated to the U.S. at some point and married in Reno, Nevada; moved to Key West, Florida, where she had two children; came back west to San Jose, California, where she had another child; and died in Redding, California.  That comes to 15,230 miles, almost three times as far as my great-grandfather traveled.

I worked out my rough mileage also.  I was born in Los Angeles, California, and moved with my family to Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.  When we returned to the U.S. we went to Niceville, Florida.  I moved back to Los Angeles to go to college and then moved to Oakland, where I now live.  The total for that is 20,434 miles but covers only the places I've lived, not my other travels.

My mother beat me by a few thousand.  She was born in Brooklyn, New York; moved to Miami, Florida; married and crossed the country to Los Angeles; moved to Australia and then to Niceville; and then moved to San Antonio, Texas and back to Florida.  That leaves out a few minor regional moves and still comes to 23,484 miles.  Her nickname of "the wandering Jew" was well earned.

I think my father is the champ, however.  He was born in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.  I know I've forgotten a few moves to New York and back to Jersey, but at some point the family moved to Mount Holly, New Jersey.  From there my father and his mother moved to Sanford, Florida (where he graduated high school) and then on to Miami.  Following that came the cross-country trek to Los Angeles, moving to Australia, and returning to the U.S.  From Florida he and his third wife moved to Ohio (Cleveland, I think), then San Antonio, and then back to the Niceville area.  I'm missing several regional moves, and his total is still 25,161.

I feel tired just adding it all up.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your Best Genealogy Day Ever

For this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, Randy Seaver asked people to write about their best genealogy day ever:

1) What was you very "Best Genealogy Day Ever?"  It might be the day you solved a thorny research problem, or spent the day at a repository and came away with more records than you could imagine, or the day you met a cousin or visited an ancestral home.

2)  Tell us in your own blog post, in a comment to this blog post, or in a Facebook or Google+ post.  Be sure to drop a comment to this post if you write your own blog post and link to it.

I agree with Randy, it's hard to pick only one day, especially since I've been researching for 40 years.  What was probably the very best day combined talking to a relative for the first time with solving a difficult research problem.  I learned that my great-great-grandmother's name was not Moore, as I had been led to believe when I started researching my family history, and that led to a lot more information.  But I actually wrote about that last year!

Rather than write about the same story, I thought about what might be my second-best genealogy day ever.  There were still a lot of contenders, but I decided on when I was contacted by a cousin I had never heard of, which led to meeting a whole new branch of my family.

My mother's family is Jewish, and to help try to make contact with possible cousins, I have posted all of the surnames in my family on in the Family Finder database.  Every now and then I get a nibble, but rarely anything significant.

Then one day I received a message from a woman who thought she might be related to me on my Meckler line, because both of our families came from Kamenets Litovsk, Russia (now Kamyenyets, Belarus).  We went back and forth a few times with "Do you recognize this name?" before we discovered that we both had the same woman with an extremely unusual married name, then living in Israel, in our trees.  We figured the odds were in our favor at that point and that we had to be cousins.  And then she invited me to her 50th wedding anniversary in Winnipeg!

So off I went to Winnipeg that summer, and I think I met about a hundred cousins.  One of the cousins, who was actually born in Kamenets Litovsk, sat down with me and we figured out the most likely place where the connection between our two branches comes in the family tree.  I was particularly impressed when she was able to go back and forth between the Hebrew, Yiddish, and English sections of the yizkor book for Kamenets Litovsk and read all the information about family members that was there.

After I updated all of my information in Family Tree Maker, I shared the new version of the family tree with many of the cousins I had met.  I'm still in touch with most of them even now, eight years later.

Something that made this discovery very special is that the province Kamenets Litovsk was in, Grodno, has very few archival records remaining for the Jewish community (the Nazis were particularly thorough in that area in destroying historical records), so I had never expected to be able to find relatives on that side of my family.  To not only meet family members, but also to learn about earlier generations of my family, was a wonderful gift.  And all of it started with that first message.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Free e-Book about Black Patriots and Loyalists

The University of Chicago Press allows free download of one e-book each month.  October's book is Black Patriots and Loyalists: Fighting for Emancipation in the War for Independence, the story of slaves who fought with the rebellion and expected freedom, and those who fought with the British for freedom as a promised reward.

The download is available in several formats.  I don't think it's required to sign up on the UC Press e-mail list to download the book.  I've been on the e-mail list for quite a while and just don't remember.  Even if it is, it'll be worthwhile to get the book, and then you can unsubscribe.

Monday, September 28, 2015

What's that you say, Lassie? Someone needs help?

Avro Lancaster bomber
I only recently read about this search, so it's very short notice.  Every living veteran who served in the UK Bomber Command during World War II is being sought for the unveiling of a new memorial, the International Bomber Command Centre, on October 2.  Anyone knowing of any Bomber Command veteran should register the name by e-mailing or writing to The IBCC, 13 Cherry Holt Road, Bourne, Lincolnshire, PE10 9LA.  More information is available in a BBC article.

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The Minnesota Military Museum has a "Veterans Registry" on its new Web site and is requesting assistance to gather stories from veterans.  The registry is a statewide database with information about the military service of Minnesota veterans.  A qualified veteran is anyone who once served or is currently serving in the U.S. military and was either born in or lived in Minnesota.  The plan is to have the most comprehensive online database of Minnesota veterans available to the public.

Anyone can submit a Minnesota veteran's story and pictures of veterans ranging from the Civil War to today.  The service is free of charge and is part of the museum's mission.  If you are interested in learning more or making a submission, visit the museum's site and click on "Veterans."

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The Jewish Community of Nuremberg is in possession of the so-called Sturmer or Streicher Library, a collection of approximately 10,000 books taken by the Nazis from Jews, Catholics, Freemasons, and others.  The books primarily appear to have been taken from Nuremberg, Franconia; Strasbourg, Alsace-Lorraine; and Vienna, Austria.  The Jewish Community is asking for assistance in finding the former owners or their descendants so that the books may be returned.

More background on the collection, a list of known owners, and photos of identifying information from the books is available on GenTeam.  Contact Leibl Rosenberg, representative of the city of Nuremberg, with questions and research results.

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A new cemetery project is looking for help from genealogists everywhere.  Ryan Vinson’s "Here Lies" encourages users to visit cemeteries and catalog grave sites via an app using GPS data.  Someone using the app uploads a photo of one or more tombs or gravestones, then adds the name and date of birth, and possibly comments.  The digital recording of that burial location will remain forever, even if the markings on the stone fade or are damaged, or the stone itself no longer exists.

Vinson is particularly interested in information from small family graveyards and similar cemeteries that often become neglected and forgotten, and where lack of regular care can lead to deterioration that makes gravestones impossible to identify.  At present only a small number of gravestones is on the app, but with the help of volunteers, it could grow to be a useful database.

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The Fittonia
The town of Grimsby, England lost about 375 fishing trawlers during World War I to mines and U-boats.  Most were destroyed while fishing, while some were requisitioned by the British government to assist with the war effort and were lost as far away as Iceland, Canada, and South Africa.  Twenty-five of the boats have already been researched, and funding has been obtained to research thirty more.  There is now an outreach effort to volunteers worldwide to help map the other lost fishing boats.

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England's Tate Museum is asking for help in identifying buildings and landscapes in nearly 1,000 photographs of the English countryside taken by artist John Piper from the 1930's to the 1980's.  The museum is also looking for contributions of current shots of the almost 6,000 locations that Piper photographed.  If you think you might be able to identify some of the unknown locations in the photographs, visit the Tate's page about the Piper collection.

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Two researchers from the Santa Clara County (California) Historical and Genealogical Society are working on a national project called Faces Never Forgotten, an effort to collect photographs of every Vietnam War casualty for placement in a museum near the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.  They are working on service members from Santa Clara County.  They have found many photographs in obituaries in local newspapers, but for those casualties whose obituaries lacked photographs, they have been searching in high school yearbooks.  In pursuit of the final missing photos, they are now searching for copies of the following yearbooks:
Andrew Hill: 1967, 1968Mountain View: 1960 through 1969
Buchser: 1966, 1969Overfelt: 1966, 1967
Campbell: 1966, 1967, 1968Pioneer: 1968
Cupertino: 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969  Ravenswood: 1962
Del Mar: 1964, 1965Samuel Ayer: 1966, 1967
Fremont: 1968San Jose: 1966, 1967, 1968
James Lick: 1966Santa Clara: 1952
Leigh: 1965, 1966, 1967Saratoga: 1965
Lynbrook: 1966, 1967 1968Washington (Union City): 1965
Mount Pleasant: 1966Westmont: 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968

If you have one of the yearbooks being sought, please e-mail and put “High School Yearbooks” in the subject line.  The researchers will get back to you and let you know what to do next.

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This might not be considered genealogy-related by some, but I tend to think of archives such as this as wonderful places to look for information about people.  The San Francisco Opera Archive is looking for volunteer assistance with organizing materials related to the history of the San Francisco Opera.  A minimum time commitment of three hours per week is required.  PC skills, including Word, Excel, and Outlook proficiency, are important.  Knowledge of opera is helpful but not required.  If you are interested, contact

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: How Many Surnames in Your Family Tree Database?

I always find it interesting when Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun has me analyzing the information I have in my family tree database.  It's never the kind of thing I think about doing otherwise.  This week's challenge:

1) Go into your Genealogy Management Program (GMP; either software on your computer or an online family tree) and figure out how to count how many surnames you have in your family tree database.

2)  Tell us which GMP you're using and how you did this task.

3)  Tell us how many surnames are in your database and, if possible, which surname has the most entries.  If this excites you, tell us which surnames are in the top 5!  Or 10!!  Or 20!!!

4)  Write about it in your own blog post, in a comment to this blog post, in a status or comment on Facebook, or in Google Plus Stream post.

Well, I've never heard the term "genealogy management program" before (I just call them "family tree programs"), but I went for it.

I use Family Tree Maker on a PC.  I went to the Tools menu, then Family File Statistics, then Total Number of Different Surnames.

I have 1,952 different surnames in my database.  Randy's program gives a lot more information than mine, and apparently more easily, but I went through my indexed list of names and counted occurrences for surnames.  My top ten are:

1.  Gantt/Gaunt/Gauntt, 845 people
2.  Sellers/Söller, 604 people
3.  Allen, 135 people
4.  Mack/Mock, 132 people
5.  Fuller, 102 people
6.  Crawford, 66 people
7.  Dunstan, 64 people
8.  Eckman, 61 people
9.  Wickham, 52 people
10.  Smith, 50 people

I found it amusing that Smith, one of the most common names in the English-speaking world (maybe the most common?), barely made it into my top ten.  It's even more amusing because they aren't in my direct family.  They're part of my aunt's family, but I have her family in the same database as my own.  Three of the other names in the top ten are also not my family:  Fuller is the same aunt's family, Crawford is her sister's second husband's family, and Wickham is my half-sister's mother's family.  (Yes, I really am researching all those collateral relatives' lines.)  At least the top four are mine!

I have several individuals in my database with "Unknown" surnames, but I did not include that number in my count.  "Unknown" is not the surname for any of those people.  I also didn't do a screen capture of how FTM showed the output; it just wasn't that exciting.

Friday, September 25, 2015

We're Havin' a Party!

Okay, it's a small party, but I'm celebrating!  Happy anniversary to me!  This month is the tenth anniversary of when I started my company and began doing genealogy research for others.  I'm so glad I did it, and I love what I'm doing.  It's the most interesting work I've ever done, because no two families are exactly the same.  I learn something new from each client's research.

I was very lucky when I started.  I got a client from the very first ad I placed, and he kept me busy for five years, working on tracing each of his lines back as far as possible.  I learned how to read Hungarian records for his research.  I went back a few hundred years on some family lines.  I found several cousins for him to talk to.  And of course I still wasn't finished when his health had to become a higher priority than family history.

Five years ago I took the leap to making this my full-time job.  It was scary, but it was thrilling to confirm that I can support myself with the work I love.  I'm looking forward to the next ten years!