Monday, December 24, 2007

Slovak Christmas Eve

While growing up, I looked forward to Christmas Eve even more so than Christmas Day. Sure, on Christmas, Santa arrived with all the gifts, but it was the day before Christmas that was filled with family celebration, ritual and tradition. For Slovaks, Christmas Eve, known as "Štedrý Vecer" (shtedree vecher), is traditionally is the biggest annual event in the home, where the entire family gathers for the traditional Slovak meal called the Vilija/Vilia (vee-lee-yah). The term comes from the Latin "vigilia" or "night watch." The name implies the joyful anticipation in waiting for the arrival of the Christ child.

My Slovak grandma (Baba) worked tirelessly to carry out the traditions of her heritage. In the Slovak culture, food is richly entwined with tradition and religious teachings, especially for Christmas, when special dishes are prepared and rituals observed.

Our family would gather each year on Christmas Eve at my Grandma Figlar's house to celebrate the Vilia Supper. It was a meatless meal (to honor the Christian practice of fasting). During this supper, we ate foods like mushroom soup, oplatky (Christmas wafers) with honey, bobalky, perfectly baked little balls of dough browned in butter and mixed with sauerkraut, and pirohi, ravioli-like pillows of dough filled with cabbage, cottage cheese, potato, or prunes. All of these recipes are included in my book, Baba’s Kitchen: Slovak & Rusyn Family Recipes and Traditions (Gateway Press, $11.95).

Carrying on the tradition, today I celebrated the Vilia. I used a few modern shortcuts--ordering the pirohi online from Polish Pierogie, and using frozen white bread dough to make bobalky instead of my grandmother's recipe. But did make homemade mushroom soup. So, I still managed to have most of the traditional foods, which I shared with my husband (who is Irish and not Slovak but enjoys the foods anyway). I hope that my grandmother and mother are not too disappointed that I did not make everything from scratch, but my over-committed schedule just did not leave me any time to cook this year.

Time and distance, and the passing of loved ones have prevented the large family gatherings of we used to have, but nothing will replace the special memories of those Christmas Eves at Grandma's house, and in later years, my own home, with my mother at the helm.

This is my last posting for 2007. I plan to take a break from blogging to enjoy some time off. My best to everyone for a healthy and happy New Year. See you in 2008!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Take a Break from Holiday Stress

This has nothing to do with genealogy, but if you find yourself stressed out by gift wrapping, Christmas dinner preparations, family visits, parties, or other holiday preparations, try having a bit of fun with this entertaining site from OfficeMax that lets you upload your face onto a dancing elf. You can upload as many as four faces, record a message, and even send elves to your family and friends! But, hurry. You only have until January 2, 2008.

I tried this with a photo of mine, and even plugged in a few other faces of relatives just for fun. It's one of those sites that is good to try when you start taking yourself too seriously and just need a laugh. Click here to link to the site to start your own "Elfamorphosis." Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Vesele Vianocé!

I received this beautiful Christmas postcard with the Slovak Christmas Greeting - "Veselé Vianoce!"

So, I pass on the spirit of this greeting to everyone. Wishing you a healthy and happy holiday and all the best for the New Year!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Connecting with Your Audience

When you're a writer, you learn to accept the good with the bad in terms of folks who evaluate your work. You develop a tough skin from rejection slips, negative reviews and/or criticism, heckling at book signings, etc. But every once in awhile you hear from someone who has read your book or article and in some way it has inspired them. This happened to me recently with my book Three Slovak Women (Gateway Press). TSW was my first published book and will always hold a special place in my heart since it is a very personal tribute to my grandmother and mother. When I wrote TSW (I initially wrote it for my M.F.A. thesis, and then self-published it), I thought that I would print a few hundred copies and it would be received by just a very small audience.The book was first published in 2001 and now I am proud to say it is in its ninth printing (I've lost count as to the total of number of sales to date). The book has been used as required reading in several courses on Slovak culture and immigration history at several universities in the Pittsburgh area, and I've sold copies to folks around the world, and I am always pleased when a reader writes to tell me how much the book has inspired an interest in his/her own Slovak heritage.

The e-mail I received the other day from an individual who recently read the book is one that I am happy to share (I am not including the person's name in order to protect identity but this person has given me permission to use the comments).

"Dear Lisa,

I have hope. And that hope of finding out who I really am by discovering who my ancestors really were took root in just the first few pages of your book: Three Slovak Women.

I started reading it yesterday afternoon. A few pages into it, and the tears came. I can feel so much of what you wrote. I have a few pages left to read, but I wanted to write and thank you. It's a connection for me in just knowing that your family "back then" and "back there" apparently lived in a village probably less than 50 miles away from my own.

I have learned some things, but when I would ask my grandparents, they would say little, just that they were from "the old country," or "Czechoslovakia", and now, they are all gone. My dad included. My interest in genealogy didn't blossom until the last few years and the difficulty in researching half a world away leaves me with a sense of sadness that just won't go away. I feel like an orphan. In a real sense, I am. I know some names, I know some locations, I have immigration information and pictures of the ships that brought my grandparents here, and naturalization papers, and their pictures, and their hugs and yet, I wonder so much more. Who were they and what was it like for them.

I know my grandparents names, I have their death certificates bearing my great-grandparents names, and from my dad's obituary I suddenly learned that he had had two sisters in the old country who died somehow, somewhere, sometime maybe even after Grandma came to America. No one ever mentioned them. My only sister never knew of them either.

Grandma came here eight years after my grandpa, I'm told so she could look after his father who was ill. She brought with her a little boy, my uncle who was killed in WWII, two years before I was born. And when my dad died in 1989, there was no one left to answer so many questions I still have in my heart.

I hope to find some of the answers so that my own children and grandchildren will not look at abrupt dead ends on our family tree only a couple generations back and wonder as I do, who are we. I want those people who were before us to matter. Now, I will keep looking, thanks to your sharing.

I didn't intend for this note to be so long, but I truly want to thank you for giving me hope."


As a writer and genealogist, I was glad to learn how my book served to awaken a new awareness and desire in this reader to persist in exploring family history, and that through my words I have given them "hope."

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Good News

I was glad to receive this notification.


For Immediate Release

19 December 2007


FamilySearch and The Generations Network Agreement Give Patrons Access to More than 24,000 Databases and Titles

SALT LAKE CITY—FamilySearch and The Generations Network, Inc., parent company of, today announced an agreement that provides free access of to patrons of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and the 13 largest regional family history centers effective today.

With this new agreement full access will be provided to more than 24,000 databases and titles and 5 billion names in family history records. In addition to the Family History Library, the following 13 regional family history centers have been licensed to receive access to

  • Mesa, Arizona
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Oakland, California
  • Orange, California
  • Sacramento, California
  • San Diego, California
  • Idaho Falls, Idaho
  • Pocatello, Idaho
  • Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Logan, Utah
  • Ogden, Utah
  • St. George, Utah
  • Hyde Park, London, England

“We’re excited for our patrons to receive online access to an expanded collection of family history records on,” said Don Anderson, director of FamilySearch Support. “’s indexes and digital images of census, immigration, vital, military and other records, combined with the excellent resources of FamilySearch, will increase the likelihood of success for patrons researching their family history.” The Generations Network and FamilySearch hope to expand access to other family history centers in the future.

FamilySearch patrons at the designated facilities will have access to’s completely indexed U.S. Federal Census Collection, 1790-1930, and more than 100 million names in passenger lists from 1820-1960, among other U.S. and international record collections. Throughout the past year, has added indexes to Scotland censuses from 1841-1901, created the largest online collection of military and African American records, and reached more than 4 million user-submitted family trees.

Free access is also available at Brigham Young University Provo, Idaho, and Hawaii campuses, and LDS Business College patrons through a separate agreement with The Generations Network.

“FamilySearch’s Family History Library in Salt Lake City is one of the most important physical centers for family history research in the world, and we are happy that patrons to the Library and these major regional centers will have access to,” said Tim Sullivan, President and CEO of The Generations Network, Inc., parent company of “We’ve enjoyed a ten-year working relationship with FamilySearch, and we look forward to continued collaboration on a number of family history projects.”

About (visit

With 24,000 searchable databases and titles and more than 2.5 million active users, is the No. 1 online source for family history information. Since its launch in 1997, has been the premier resource for family history, simplifying genealogical research for millions of people by providing them with many easy-to-use tools and resources to build their own unique family trees. The site is home to the only complete online U.S. Federal Census collection, 1790-1930, as well as the world’s largest online collection of U.S. ship passenger list records featuring more than 100 million names, 1820-1960. is part of The Generations Network, Inc., a leading network of family-focused interactive properties, including,, and Family Tree Maker. In total, The Generations Network properties receive 8.7 million unique visitors worldwide and more than 416 million page views a month (© comScore Media Metrix, October 2007).

About FamilySearch
FamilySearch is a nonprofit organization that maintains the world's largest repository of genealogical resources. Patrons may access resources online at or through the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, and over 4,500 family history centers in 70 countries. FamilySearch is a trademark of Intellectual Reserve, Inc. and is registered in the United States of America and other countries.

Media Contacts

Paul Nauta

FamilySearch Manager of Public Affairs


Mike Ward

Public Relations Director


Paul Nauta
Manager of Public Affairs
Family & Church History Department
FamilySearch (TM)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My Heritage Research Upgrade

I received this notice from the folks at MyHeritage Research. I can't wait to try out the upgrade to see what's new. I first wrote about MyHeritage in the article: "Find the Celebrity in Your Ancestor" for Internet Genealogy Magazine, January 2006.

"MyHeritage Research, the genealogy search engine on, has been significantly upgraded this week. This genealogy tool specializes in finding ancestors and advancing your family research. There is nothing else quite like it on the Internet. It is free and you're invited to use it on this link:

MyHeritage Research now searches across more than 10 billion records to provide you the most extensive genealogy searches available anywhere on the Internet, and it's free. This week we've released version 2.0, adding hundreds of new genealogy databases to its coverage. So even if you've tried it in the past, you're encouraged to use our new version, as you're likely to find more results.

To use MyHeritage Research, click
In the search form, enter the last name you are researching, or a combination of a first name and last name.
MyHeritage Research will then search for it in 1,400 genealogy databases and Websites on the Internet that cannot be searched by regular search engines like Google. Searches can look for an exact spelling, or multiple spelling variations (we call this Megadex). Because of the sheer extent of this search engine, some searches may take several minutes to complete. This search engine is particularly useful if you are researching a rare last name, or an uncommon combination of a first name and last name.

We also have good news for anyone interested in Jewish Genealogy. Thanks to our new collaboration with JewishGen, the top Website for Jewish genealogy, we've been able to add a JewishGen All-in-one search to MyHeritage Research. So searches on MyHeritage Research will now include almost all JewishGen databases, a feature not available anywhere else on the Web.

If you would like to share success stories, or send requests for covering additional sites in MyHeritage Research, or have bugs to report, please use our support forum available here:
We appreciate all feedback.

What's next? Here at MyHeritage, we're constantly working hard to bring you new tools for advancing your genealogy hobby. We've recently developed a breakthrough - Smart Matching technology which connects family trees submitted by our users. Stay tuned for exciting information about this very soon."

Friday, December 14, 2007

Slovak Christmas Eve Recipes

If you're Slovak (or Rusyn) and plan on celebrating the Vilia/Vilija/Vileja supper for Christmas Eve this year and want to make some authentic foods, check out my book, Baba's Kitchen: Slovak & Rusyn Family Recipes and Traditions (Gateway Press) now in its fifth printing!

You can order copies through my Web site. Priority mail shipping is available in order to receive your copy before Christmas! This book makes a nice gift too! And copies are selling fast so order now while they're still in stock!

Get a sample recipe for one of the Christmas Eve dishes at the book's Web site: Baba's Kitchen Online!

"Vesele Vianoce!"

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Looking for a Last Minute Gift?

If you are undecided about what to give your favorite genealogist for the holidays, or if you've been asked to provide your own "wish list" to family and friends, why not consider a class from GenClass?

Each class is only $29.95 for eight lessons and class chats with genealogical experts from around the world. In addition to its usual list of popular classes, a number of great new classes will be added in 2008.

Click here for more details.

Happy Genea-olidays!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Away from Blogging

I haven't posted any items for some time. I spent five days in Pittsburgh for book signings and other professional obligations. Then, had to catch up with work, my writing and begin holiday preparations and gift shopping.

I admit that I haven't had much time for keeping up with the latest genealogy news. To be honest, most of my time recently has been spent working on several different writing projects. I hope to blog when I can in the coming weeks before the holidays.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Pittsburgh Book Signings

I hope to meet some of you at two upcoming book signings in Pittsburgh, PA - November 28th at Bradley's Books in Macy's Department Store, 6:00 p.m.; Heinz History Center Book Fair on Saturday, December 1st from 11-2.

Speaking of Pittsburgh, I am watching the Steelers play Miami right now as I type thisl GO STEELERS!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Giving Thanks

While it is so easy to complain about all that is wrong in the world or hassles in our individual lives--for example, high gas prices, traffic, lines at the airport or the shopping mall (especially as "Black Friday" approaches), work, etc., Thanksgiving provides a chance to reflect and show gratitude for the good things.

This year, I am grateful for:

1. Good health

2. My husband

3. My aunts, uncles and cousins and great friends

4. The love I received from two wonderful parents whom I miss very much. Wish they could be here so we could still share Thanksgiving.

5. The chance to do what I love: Writing and teaching others how to research their genealogy through classes and presentations.

and many other blessings great and small!

What are you grateful for?

I will be taking a few days off from blogging to rest and enjoy the holiday.

Have a safe, healthy and happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Thanksgiving Favorite

I thought I would share a favorite Thanksgiving recipe that has been a tradition in my family for more years than I can remember. This recipe (and many) others can be found in my book, Baba's Kitchen: Slovak & Rusyn Family Recipes and Traditions (Gateway Press).

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

My family’s favorite Thanksgiving dessert.


Use basic pie crust recipe, or store-bought already prepared pie crust, or graham cracker crust.

Basic Pie Crust

For one-crust pie.

1 c. flour
pinch of salt
¾ c. or more of Crisco shortening (butter flavor Crisco is best)
8 to 10 tbsp. ice water

Blend with pastry blender until crumbly. Then add about 8 to 10 tablespoons of ice water, and mix with a fork to form a ball and roll.

If baking, place in 450 °F oven and bake 10-12 minutes or unitl golden brown.
For a two-crust pie, make two recipes.


¾ c. brown sugar
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. ginger
3 slightly beaten egg yolks
¾ c. milk
1-¼ c. canned or mashed cooked pumpkin
3 egg whites
⅓ c. granulated sugar

In saucepan, combine brown sugar, gelatin, salt, and spices. Combine egg yolks and milk; stir into brown sugar mixture. Cook and stir until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat; stir in pumpkin. Chill mixture until it mounds slightly when spooned. (Don't let the mixture get too stiff). Beat egg whites until soft peaks form; gradually add sugar and beat to stiff peaks. Fold pumpkin mixture into egg whites. Turn into a baked pie crust and chill firm. Garnish with whipped cream.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Heinz History Book Fair

If you live in or near Pittsburgh, here's a great opportunity to do some holiday shopping.

The Senator John Heinz History Center is hosting a Holiday Book Fair on Saturday, Dec. 1st from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Whether you're a history buff or just love Western Pennsylvania, the History Center's annual Holiday Book Fair offers great opportunities for shopping and mingling with local authors. Free with History Center admission.

I will be there to sign copies of my books, including my latest, Sports Memories of Western Pennsylvania (Arcadia Publishing). My co-author, Alby Oxenreiter, will also be there.

Hope to see you on December 1st in Pittsburgh!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

New Book: Homestead and the Steel Valley

Here's a greatnew book:
Homestead and the Steel Valley (Arcadia Publishing).

Here's a summary of the book:

Homestead and the Steel Valley (Images of America: Pennsylvania); $19.99
by Daniel J. Burns, for the Carnegie Library of Homestead

Book Description
Western Pennsylvania is dotted with what are known locally as mill towns, but few of these communities epitomize this definition more than the municipalities of Homestead, West Homestead, and Munhall. Commonly referred to as the Steel Valley, these towns were home to some of the greatest steel-producing operations in the world. As the Mon Valley’s steel production answered the nation’s call during two world wars, so did the workers who unloaded countless barges of coal and fed the mills’ great furnaces that produced the material needed for weapons, armament, and tanks. Workers emigrated from every country in Europe to make their mark in America. Many of these people spoke little or no English and endured long hours of labor in often hazardous conditions. Their families brought with them the traditions of their varied European cultures, filling their communities with ethnic diversity. Through 200 photographs, Homestead and the Steel Valley conveys the proud heritage of three communities and their role in the nation’s history.

About the Author
Daniel J. Burns is the president of the Mifflin Township Historical Society, a police officer, and a freelance writer. The author of many historical and law enforcement articles, Burns has also authored Duquesne, Bedford and Its Neighbors, and Pittsburgh’s Rivers.

This is an excellent book--anyone who has roots in Western Pennsylvania will enjoy taking this trip down memory lane. Each caption is its own little historical vignette--telling the stories of the people, places and events key to the development of Homestead, West Homestead, and Munhall.

Bravo, Dan!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

New Web Site: Carpatho-Russians (Carpatho-Rusyns) of Transcarpathia

If you have Carpatho-Russian (Carpatho-Rusyn) roots, you may want to check out a new website on the Carpatho-Russian (Carpatho-Rusyns) of Eastern Europe: <>.

This site was created in tribute to American immigrant Aleksander Simkovich. Check it out for some unique information and photos on the people of the Carpathian Mountains.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Inside Scoop on Genealogy

If you haven't checked it out already, I highly recommend taking a look at Family Tree Magazine's "Genealogy Insider" Blog by Diane Haddad. You can check postings by date or scroll to any number of categories to read about the subjects you're most interested in.

You can subscribe via RSS feed (by providing your e-mail address) so you don't miss any postings!

Love this Blog! It's informative, well-written and entertaining!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Congratulations Binghamton!

Binghamton, New York is the winner of the 2008 Capital of the Pierogy Pocket title sponsored by Mrs. T's Pierogies.

Since my hometown of Pittsburgh was not on the list of finalists, I cast my vote for Binghamton, so I am glad to hear they won!

Click here to read more about the contest and to see images of Binghamton’s pierogy pride.


Monday, November 05, 2007

Another Great Slovak Festival

Thanks to everyone who attended my talk on "Slovak Pittsburgh", stopped by to chat with me at the Pitt Slovak Festival on November 4th. It was great to see many old friends again and meet some new ones! If you purchased one of my six books, I hope you will enjoy it! A special thanks to Chris Metil and Prof. Martin Votruba for organizing another great Slovak Festival. It is one of the events I truly enjoy and I look forward to seeing everyone again next year!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Last Chance to Register for November Classes

There's still time to sign up for a great class with GenClass. November classes begin Thursday, November 1st.

Click here to see a list of classes for November. Only $29.95 for 4 weeks of instruction (8 lessons and class chats with the instructors).

Learn some new techniques or brush up on your research skills!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

University of Pittsburgh to Sponsor 17th Annual Slovak Heritage Festival November 4

PITTSBURGH- The 17th annual Slovak Heritage Festival—featuring Slovak song and dance, educational lectures and displays, ethnic foods, and vendors selling Slovak merchandise—will be held from 1 to 5 pm Sunday, November 4, in the University of Pittsburgh Cathedral of Learning, 4200 Fifth Ave., Oakland. This year's free event will include artists and speakers performing in the Cathedral of Learning's Commons Room, including Josef Ivaska and the Singing Revilak Family from the Slovak Republic, as well as the Pittsburgh Slovakians and the Pittsburgh Area Slovaks, representing the Western Pennsylvanian Slovak community, and Ben Sorensen from North Carolina.

This year, speakers will present several lectures: "Slovak Pittsburgh" (This is my talk); "Learning Slovak on Your Own: Textbooks, Dictionaries and Strategies," "The Foreigner's Guide to Living in Slovakia," "Slovak Folk Tales and Slovak Storytelling," "Slovenska'cesta-Slovak Journey," and "Music in Slovakia: The Carpatho-Rusyns."

Sorensen, an American musician who studied the fujura under the guidance of Dusan Holik (who has performed at previous Pitt events), will be singing a selection of songs during the festivities. A member of the Spolok Fujarasov (Fujarist's Guild), Sorensen is also a member of the Folk Group Vagonar, which has recorded a new album that will be released later this year.The Singing Revil'ak Family's repertoire includes Slovak and Carpatho-Rusyn folk art songs and international favorites, featured in its 20-year performance history on European, Canadian, and US stages. The family—the parents, two daughters, and a son—grew up singing in Bardejov, Slovakia, and has received many national awards.Ivaska, known in Slovakia as the "Man of a Thousand Songs," is making his third concert tour of the United States. During the Communist era, officials forced Ivaska out of the country, banning his music. Currently residing in Austria, he performs operetta, rock, pop, jazz, and folk music internationally and sings tenor with the Metropolitan Operetta Theater in Slovakia.

Pitt's Slovak Studies Program and the Pitt Students' Slovak Club are cosponsors of the event. For more information, call 412-624-5906 or e-mail <>.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

StoryCorps Book: Pre-order Your Copy Today!

I just pre-ordered my copy of Listening Is an Act of Love, the first-ever StoryCorps book, which will be available November 8!

I can't wait to read it!

Here is the announcement from StoryCorps:


StoryCorps founder Dave Isay has selected some of the most remarkable stories from the already vast collection and arranges them thematically into a moving portrait of American life. Just in time for the holiday season, our new book and accompanying CD, will be available in bookstores and at Starbucks nationwide.

By using to pre-order your book, StoryCorps will receive a portion of the sales.

Help us make it a success. Here are some things you and your friends can do to help support StoryCorps’ mission to honor and celebrate one another’s lives through listening.

- Attend a book reading
If you live near one of the cities on our book tour (see below), please join us.

- Choose us for your book club
We guarantee many hours of thought- provoking discussion.

- Spread the word
Pass along this email to family and friends and encourage them to join the StoryCorps family.

- Watch Dave on The Colbert Report
Wednesday, November 7 at 11:30 PM EST on Comedy Central

- Preorder a copy
100% of the royalties from book sales will go towards our mission as an independent non-profit organization.

- Record your story
Visit for StoryBooth locations and to make a reservation.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Vying for Pierogy Pride

If you love pierogies (pirohi/pirhohy), you might want to cast your vote for the Capital of the Piergoy Pocket of America. Mrs T's Pierogy's is sponsoring the contest. You will have to hurry though - the deadline is 11:59 p.m tonight - Tuesday. October 23rd!

Just go to and click on "Meet the Cities & Vote Now." The finalists are:

Binghamton, NY
Buffalo, NY
Clifton, NJ
Lancaster, NY
Whiting, IN

Since my hometown of Pittsburgh is not included in the list, I will have to cast my vote for another city!

Of course, I am a bit biased though because to me nobody makes pirohi like my Slovak Baba did!

The winner will be announced next month, and the city or organization will will be awarded $10,000 for a community endeavor of their choice.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Anniversary Remembrance

Today would have been my parents' 60th wedding anniversary. Ten years ago, I threw them a surprise party for their 50th with family members and close friends in attendance. Here's a photo from that party.

Unfortunately, they are not here to celebrate their 60th, but I know they are together in eternity and I am thinking of them today with much love.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Announcement: 2008 FEEFHS Conference in Pittsburgh

Plans are underway for the 2008 Federation of East European Family History Societies international conference which will be held August 1-3 at the Pittsburgh Airport Marriott Hotel. The jam-packed weekend will feature lectures on Friday and Saturday by leading experts in the areas of Central and Eastern European research, DNA testing, online databases, and more! The plenary session on Friday August 1st will be delivered by Stephen P. Morse, creator of the One-Step Search tools. The Saturday evening banquet will feature a talk by Pittsburgh native, Joseph Bielecki, on the creation of the world-famous nationality rooms located in the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh. An optional ethnic neigborhood tour - the Rivers of Steel "Babushkas and Hard Hats" tour will take place on Sunday, August 3rd.

The program is still being finalized, but an official announcement and registration form can be found on the FEEFHS web site:

I will be posting more updates on this conference so watch this space! If you have Central or Eastern European roots, you do not want to miss this excellent learning experience and networking opportunity! Be sure to reserve your spot early!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Reminder: CGSI Conference in Madison

Just a reminder of the upcoming 11th Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International Conference in Madison, WI October 18-20, 2007. I am looking forward to this conference and hope to see some of you there!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Oh, That Lemon Pie!

I don't watch a lot of television, but one show I do enjoy is ABC's "Desperate Housewives." During this past Sunday's episode, two characters, Bree and Katherine, were squaring off in a contest on who could bake the best lemon pie in a battle to be the number one homemaker.

The fight over the "lemon pie" reminded me of my maternal grandmother and how much I enjoyed her homemade lemon pie.

Lemon Pie is one of the recipes I included in my book, Baba's Kitchen: Slovak & Rusyn Family Recipes and Traditions. So, in the spirit of the "Housewives" episode, here is the recipe from the book.

Basic Pie Crust

For one-crust pie.

1 c. flour
pinch of salt
¾ c. or more of Crisco shortening (butter flavor Crisco is best)
8 to 10 tbsp. ice water

Blend with pastry blender until crumbly. Then add about 8 to 10 tablespoons of ice water, and mix with a fork to form a ball and roll.

If baking, place in 450 °F oven and bake 10-12 minutes or unitl golden brown.
For a two-crust pie, make two recipes.

Grandma’s Lemon Pie

One of my favorite desserts from Grandma Figlar’s kitchen!


Use basic pie crust recipe, or store-bought already prepared pie crust.


1-½ c. water 3 egg yolks (slightly beaten)
1 c. sugar 1 tbsp. butter
½ c. water 1 lemon (use juice and grated rind)
7 tbsp. cornstarch
(dissolved in a bit of water)

In pot, bring to boil over direct heat, 1 c. of sugar in 1-½ c. water. Make a thin paste from the cornstarch and ½ c. water. Add cornstarch paste and cook until mixture begins to thicken. Then transfer to a double boiler and continue cooking 15 min. until thick and smooth. Add the slightly beaten egg yolks and butter. Cook one minute longer. Blend in lemon juice and grated rind of uncooked lemon. Cool and pour into pie crust. Top with meringue. Bake in slow oven at 325 °F for 15 minutes or until delicately brown.

Light meringue:
3 egg whites (beaten)
9 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Beat egg whites until stiff and add sugar gradually. Then add 1 teaspoon vanilla and beat until peaks form.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

More Digital Family History Show and Tell

From time to time I've posted a few family treasures I've discovered and asked others to share items for a type of digital show and tell.

Here's another - a Slovak prayer book that belonged to my grandmother, Elizabeth Fenscak Alzo, and some prayers she copied down on paper in her own handwriting. I don't remember my grandma because she died when I was only 2-years-old. So having something of her's that is so personal truly is a treasure.

I wish I could say that I can read the prayers in this book, but I unfortunately, I never learned enought Slovak to read it. I can make out a few words here and there, but that's it.

If anyone has another item they want to post on their own Blog, we can start the chain again.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Genealogy Mention in Prime Time

I just happened to catch last night's episode of ER and there was an actual mention of genealogy. The doctors were talking about how Frank, the character who mans the main desk was on his computer and how he "got into genealogy" and then throughout the program was telling some of the docs about those folks they supposedly descended from (most of the time incorrectly). Sure, it probably wasn't the best picture of what genealogy really is, but nevertheless, at least it was mentioned!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Whither the Writer

I was doing some cleaning out of old files and I found the following newspaper clipping in a box with some of my graduate school materials.

Anyone who writes professionally, or has a desire to pen the next great novel, can certainly appreciate the observations in this piece which I believe was printed sometime in the 1990s.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

World Vital Records, Inc. Launches Federal U.S. Census From 1790-1930
Allcensus partners with World Vital Records, Inc.

The following is an announcement from World Vital Records regarding its partnership with Allcensus. Sounds like more great news for family history sleuths.

Provo, UT, October 1, 2007 ---Allcensus has partnered with World Vital Records, Inc. to bring the Federal U.S. Census from 1790-1930 online at
"We, at Allcensus, are excited about this opportunity to assist a broader audience in tracing their family history. Our high quality census pages and correction of errors in pagination will make it easier for researchers to find the data they need in a very convenient and easy to use fashion,” said Jon McInnis, President,

The Federal Census online at contains more than 800,000 browseable images and 32 million names from select counties in every state, except Alaska. The Federal Census contains unique and pertinent information. “The thing that I love about census data is that it helps connect the dots between many diverse genealogy data bases. The various census data sets, while not perfect, are the closest to consistent data collecting at any point in history,” said David Lifferth, President, World Vital Records, Inc. “With each successive census, more data elements are known and tracked. In most of the census you can get family group sheet info that is not documented anywhere else except for the family bible.”World Vital Records, Inc. is building the index to the images, with the exception to the 1790 index, which is already complete. The Federal Census database will be free to access at for 10 days after its initial launch.

“We are delighted to add such a large collection of census images from select counties across the United States to These records from Allcensus provide a good cross section of nearly 150 years of vital data,” said Yvette Arts, Director, Content Acquisition, World Vital Records, Inc.

The first Federal U.S. Census was taken in 1790. A census has been taken every ten years since that time. The Federal Census at includes information such as names of family members, state or county of birth, birth places of the parents, marital status, occupation, year of immigration, etc.

“Census records really are the backbone to genealogical research in the United States. We use them to find families, establish relationships, establish occupations, and determine military service. The clues we gather from census records help us find the family in other records. Basically, census records create the family history,” Natalie Cottrill, President and CEO, “I start with census research, and supplement the family history in what I find in census records with other records I am searching.”

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


An interesting educational opportunity awaits all with an interest in Czech and Slovak Genealogy. The Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International, of St. Paul, Minnesota, has selected the Doubletree Guest Suites Seattle Airport Southcenter, 16500 Southcenter Pkwy, as site of their 2008 Genealogical and Cultural Symposium. The dates are Friday April 11 and Saturday April 12, 2008. Registration for the event is open to the public. Friday's events include a deluxe motor coach tour of the Seattle area, including ethnic stops at the Little Prague European Bakery and Kusak's Cut Glass Works. Other stops include the Pike's Market Pier area and the Museum of History and Industry.

On Friday evening a dinner at the Doubletree will be highlighted by local and nationally known genealogist and author, Cyndi Howells, of Cyndi's List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet. Her talk is entitled, "The Internet Made Me an Expert on Everything". Saturday's program at the Doubletree offers 10 presentations over 5 one-hour time slots given by expert speakers in the fields of genealogy, history, language and folk art. Professor James Felak, from the University of Washington will speak on Slovak history and the relations between Czechs and Slovaks during the 20th century. Shon Edwards, East European Specialist for the Genealogical Society of Utah will speak on Beginning Genealogy Research and progress of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the Czech Republic Vital Record Digitization Project, as well as an update on microfilms of Slovak vital records. Leo Baca of Dallas, Texas, a well-known Czech genealogist will speak about Czech Immigration Passenger Arrivals and Genetics in Genealogy. Other speakers include Chuck Kusak on the History of the Kusak Cut Glass Works, founded in Seattle by his immigrant Moravian grandfather Anton Kusak, Daniela Sipkova Mahoney of Portland, on Czech and Slovak Easter Traditions, and Jaroslava Soldanova from the University of Washington's Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures on the Czech language.

The Symposium will be capped off late Saturday afternoon and evening with a tour to Tillicum Village on Blake Island State Park for their famous Indian salmon bake, native dance performance, and folk art demonstrations. For additional information on the 2008 Genealogy Symposium contact Paul Makousky or visit

The CGSI is a non-profit educational corporation which collects and disseminates genealogical, historical and related information about persons with ancestry from the Czech and Slovak lands. They provide a 40-48 page quarterly called Nase rodina (Our family), hold quarterly membership meetings and hold a National Conference at least every other year. The society will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2008.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Finally...History of Slovaks in America Book Available!

Good news for those of Slovak heritage who have been waiting for years for their copy of History of Slovaks in America. I can't wait for my copy to arrive!

There were various delays in the publication of the translation, but it is
now available from the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International ($49.50) post paid. For more information, go to

This 411 page hardbound book was originally published in the Slovak language in two volumes in 1942. Most of the original photos from the book have been reproduced in this English edition, along with rare additional photos of the author and the 1935-36 Matica Slovenska delegation, which he accompanied to America to conduct research for this book. In History of Slovaks in America, writer and historian Konstantin Culen (1904-1964) paints a vivid portrait of early Slovak life in the U.S. He records in detail the experiences of Slovak-Americans, their struggles and triumphs, their strengths and failings, their passions and prejudices, and their fight to achieve unity and justice for the Slovak nation, both in America and in their oppressed homeland.

Through his rich and extensive use of early newspaper accounts, letters, eyewitness narratives and other original source materials, Culen enables us to hear the "voice" of the Slovak immigrant generation. The result is an absorbing and often dramatic chronicle of the Slovak-American experience. Appearing for the first time in English translation, this book provides an indispensable resource for understanding the foundations of Slovak life in America.

All surnames and place names in the book are fully-indexed, as an aid to genealogical research.

"Konstantin Culen was the first Slovak writer to undertake systematic research in the history of the American Slovaks, and the first to write a part of that history. He prepared many rich chapters on the history of parishes, movements, organizations, societies. . . . Culen was the first to bring about a rapprochement between Slovak America and the land of its origins. And had he accomplished nothing more as a writer and newspaperman, this accomplishment alone would rate him with the best - to be remembered as one of the foremost Slovak intellectuals of our century." - Jednota

Saturday, September 29, 2007

October Events

If you live in the North Hills area of Pittsburgh, PA or near Madison, WI, I will be in your area giving some lectures in October.

On October 16 I will speak to the North Hills Genealogists on "“DEMYSTIFYING EASTERN EUROPEAN RESEARCH” at the Northland Public Library - 7 p.m.

October 18-19, I will be giving two workshops, "Beginning Genealogy" and "Slovak Genealogy" at the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International conference at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, WI.

I am looking forward to these events and I hope to be able to meet some of you!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Last Lecture

This evening I just happened to turn on the CBS Evening News and caught the "Assignment America" segment. It featured the story of Carnegie Mellon University Computer Science Professor, Randy Pausch, 46, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just over a year ago. The segment features him giving his "Last Lecture." As he explained, "There’s been a tradition for years and years around college campuses of the last lecture." "If you had one last lecture to give before you died, what would you tell your students?"

This is one of those stories that gives one pause for reflection and serves to offer perspective for those days when things don't go a certain way or life hands over the seemingly overwhelming disappointments.

Click here to go to the CBS News web site to read the story and watch a video of the lecture.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Back to the Nonfiction Narrative

It's been about 10 years since I've worked on a book-length manuscript. Now, those of you who've seen my web site or have heard one of my presentations may ask, "How can this be - you've published six books?" True. But only one of these books is what I consider a work of Narrative Nonfiction and that is Three Slovak Women.

The other books I've written were a departure from this genre. Baba's Kitchen is a collection of recipes, Finding Your Slovak Ancestors is a how-to genealogy book, and my three books for Arcadia Publishing, Pittsburgh's Immigrants, Slovak Pittsburgh, and Sports Memories of Western Pennsylvania, are mainly photographic histories with captions and brief introductions.

One of my current projects is a book--nonfiction. I am working with a co-author and we are trying to get this book finished one page at a time. It is both rewarding and frustrating to do this kind of writing again. The subject is a very complex and intriguing true story, and without giving the plot away, I'll just say it has a lot of potential. Going back to my "writing roots" has been a bit intimidating. I find myself struggling to insert the best details, write believable dialogue, and include all of the relevant pieces of information in order to generate suspense and keep the narrative moving along. I also have to motivate myself to write. I have been setting small writing goals to start with - for example, writing at least one page a day - until I find my momentum. So far, it has been working.

So now, if you'll excuse me I need to get back to the book.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Shift in Focus

I've decided to shift the focus of this blog a bit with less postings about genealogy and more about writing. To be honest, writing seems to be taking up more of my time these days. Sure, I still love to search for my ancestors and keep up with the latest happenings in the genealogical world, but with more and more writing assignments (happily) coming my way, I find myself thinking more about writing than genealogy these days.

From time to time I will blog about new findings in my own research, and breaking news or special announcements related to family history. But, since there are so many excellent blogs and bloggers out there who give daily updates about new databases or services, conferences and the like I often feel I am just repeating what has already been shared.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the writing process - why I do it, the struggle to get the words on the paper, finding the time and discipline to write, fighting writer's block, dealing with rejection and critics, and much more. So these are some of the topics I will be exploring.

I welcome comments from any fellow writers out there!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

October GenClass Newsletter

Welcome back to the GenClass newsletter! This month's spotlight is
on using the AncestorsonBoard feature of

If this is your first time reading this newsletter, welcome!

Our monthly newsletter includes a featured article by an expert GenClass instructor, a tip of the month, and a list of upcoming courses.

October is Family History Month. To celebrate, why not take one of the great classes being offered at GenClass during October. There’s no better time to start discovering your roots!

Tip of the Month:

Set the stage for Family History Month by listening to inspiring tunes such as Neil Diamond’s “America” or “Lady Liberty” by Orleans. Steve Lanza’s Ancestral Songs album is another good choice. For more great tips on Family History Month activities, see “365 Ways to Discover Your Family History” by Lisa Alzo in the February 2006 issue of Family Tree Magazine. See

by Pat Ryan, MCCSG

My father and grandmother left Scotland for Canada in April 1904 to rejoin grandfather who had come over earlier. So when announced the release of their Ancestorsonboard offering I decided to see if I could find them. Ancestorsonboard lists passengers leaving the UK between 1890 and 1960. It is an ambitious task, and the web site says that records will be completed in the coming months. To date, the database has records from 1890 to 1929. It is not just British who are included in the database. Many east Europeans traveled through England to reach major shipping ports, such as Liverpool, so this may be a valuable source for those researchers too. Having already located my family on Canada’s ships passenger lists, I felt this should be an easy task. Of course … it wasn’t!

My grandmother’s name was Margaret or Maggie Gilmour, born 1875, and her travelling companion was my Dad, William Muir Gilmour. It is helpful to know years of birth, which I did. Armed with everything I already had, why couldn’t I find them in the Ancestorsonboard database?

As with all databases, there are ‘little’ things we must learn.

The first thing I learned was that there are payment options available – pay per view from 5p; subscriptions offering unlimited access; vouchers to buy and redeem on census records, BMDs and more; and periodic special offers. If we choose the pay-per-view we can purchase a transcript – for 5 units (5p) – which tells little more than the free search. Buying the associated image costs thirty units. Fair enough. Just be sure to read through the payment options BEFORE buying – this is good advice for other websites as well.

Once you have chosen a transcription, or an image, and paid your money … you can download it to your hard drive (an excellent idea), and you can print your copy (also an excellent idea). HINT: be sure to cite your source AND ensure that you can open the saved document from your hard drive!

The Ancestorsonboard site will automatically save the document to my hard drive as a DjVu format – which happens to be one my computer [and possibly yours] cannot open. Here’s how to solve the dilemma. On your viewed image, right click your mouse, choose File, then choose “Export to File” which will now save the image as a BMP (bitmap). Most computers can open bitmaps, and you can now manipulate the image to your satisfaction. This hint may work for other websites too.

I did eventually locate my father and grandmother in this database indexed as Mrs. J. Gilmour and my father as William Mair Gilmour. Once you purchase either a transcript or an image, you can look at it as many times as you wish … providing this is all done without leaving the web site. When you sign in next time, you will need to re-purchase, so save it the first time round.

Click here for a listing of upcoming classes on GenClass for October and November.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Back from the Road

My schedule has been pretty crazy the past week or so. I had three talks and a book signing in three different cities.

I want to thank the National League of American Pen Women - Williamsville, NY chapter for having me as the guest speaker at their monthly luncheon last Saturday. I spoke about "Three Slovak Women" my favorite topic! Thanks also to the Polish Heritage Club of Syracuse, NY and the South Fayette Historical Society for inviting me to speak to their groups as well about "Sharing Your Heritage" and "Our Immigrant Ancestors" respectively.

Finally, a thank you to the Mifflin Township Historical Society and the Waterfront Barnes & Noble for hosting the book signing for Sports Memories of Western Pennsylvania and to my co-author, Alby Oxenreiter for his great presentation.

Here are some pics from the event.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Remembering Mom

I pause to remember my mother today--the anniversary of her passing away. It's been many years, but seems like yesterday and I still miss her physical presence in my life every day.

I wonder what she would say about my successes as a writer, lecturer and instructor? In particular, she'd be thrilled to read my six books and numerous magazine articles. Mom was always my biggest cheerleader as well as my confidante and best friend. I know she would also be very proud that my book, Three Slovak Women is now going into its seventh printing and still selling very well.

Here's one of my favorite photographs of my mother as a young woman.

So, eternal rest mom...Love you always!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

World Vital Records and RootsMagic

A new offer from World Vital Records is in place until September 17th. First, if you enroll with World Vital Records you'll get 2 years for the price of one ($49.95). Plus for a limited time get the top rated genealogy software RootsMagic for FREE (a $30 value). With your purchase of this special bundled product you will receive a Registration Key that will enable you to download and install the full version of RootsMagic 3.

Sounds like a good deal to me!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Announcement: BBC Launches "Who Do You Think You Are?" Magazine

Here's an announcement I've seen on a few other genealogy blogs. I know I am a bit behind with my report (I've been busy writing: articles, lessons, and book chapters), but, nevertheless, I was very interested to learn about this forthcoming publication.


BBC launches 'Who Do You Think You Are' magazine
Tuesday, September 4 2007, 11:01 BST
By Joanne Oatts, Media Correspondent

"The BBC is to launch a Who Do You Think You Are? magazine off the back of the successful genealogy series of the same name.The show, which returns for its fourth series on BBC One on Thursday, has already been the subject of a live exhibition at London's Olympia in May this year. Previous guests on the TV show, including Colin Jackson, Ian Hislop and David Baddiel, attended the event and talked their experiences.The new 100-page full-colour magazine will be produced by BBC Magazines Bristol and launches on September 25 for a cost of £4.25. Each issue will include a DVD or CD with clips of the BBC show and archive material. A website to support the magazine goes live later this week. Genealogy website - which also sponsored the live show - will reportedly act as the data provider for the BBC website.

Production company Wall to Wall, which produces the series, has also announced a second live show for May 2008. "


Saturday, September 01, 2007

11th Bi-annual CGSI Conference

The 11th Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International bi-annual Genealogical/Cultural Conference will be held from October 18-20, 2007 at the Alliant Energy Center Exibition Hall in Madison, Wisconsin. Included as part of the conference will be Workshops, Tours, Networking, Products, and Entertainment.

I will be giving two workshops at this conference: "Beginning Genealogy" and "Slovak Genealogy".

Further details and registration forms can be found on the CGSI web site.

I hope to meet many of you there!

Thursday, August 30, 2007


Below is the September issue of the GenClass Newsletter
Long Time, No See? by Linda Rakita

Tip of the Month: City Directories.

Upcoming classes in September and October

Welcome back to the GenClass newsletter! T

his month's spotlight ison finding lost family and friends. If this is your first time reading this newsletter, welcome! Our monthly newsletter includes a featured articleby an expert GenClass instructor, a tip of the month,and a list of upcoming courses. If you haven't checked out the great GenClass offerings,why not do it now?

Long Time, No See?
by Linda Rakita

Have you ever wondered what happened to your best friend fromgrade school? Did a favorite uncle vanish years ago? Do you longto reminisce with a military buddy? How about reconnect with along lost love? Would you like to voice your appreciation to afavorite teacher whose whereabouts are now unknown? Recall youthful memories with your first roommate? Or are you an adoptee, adoptive parent or birth parent longing to learn the secrets hidden behind that closed door? We all have at least a few people from our past who havemade a lasting impression upon our hearts. Dear family and friends with whom we yearn to reconnect. But how do we find them? Where do we look? What tools do we need? Who will help melearn how to search? And oh gosh! What in the world do wesay to them when we do make contact! The answers to these and other questions are close at hand. offers online investigative courses that walk you through each step of your unique journey and intopost-reunion. In eight easy to understand lessons accessible from the privacy of your home, learn the tricks of thetrade and the systems and secrets of an investigative search specialist. Eight chats provide the forum for any questions and concerns that arise. Many who yearn for reunion spend thousands of dollars to hire an investigator for one specific search.

Offered through at a fraction of that cost, you can learn to become your own investigator, equipped with the knowledge and tools to conduct as manysearches as you wish. Once you learn the ins and outs of searching,the sky is the limit!

Before you know it, friends and family will be asking youto look for special people from their pasts. Your little brother wants to findhis junior high school wrestling coach. Your widowed mother is curious about her first love. Your spouse wants to see what can be foundon the contractor hired to repave the driveway. And your best friend hasbeen begging you to find his zany Uncle Murray...

What about you? If you have someone who lives lovingly in your memory(and honestly, who doesn't?), come join our class for the trip of a lifetime! Our next Adoption Investigative Course and Lost Friends andFamily Investigative Courses begin September 3, 2007.

Why not enroll today and learn how to turn that question markinto an exclamation point!
Tip of the Month:City Directories
Are you looking for someone in your generation or a previousgeneration who has moved and for whom you can find noforwarding address? Try city directories and look at the neighbors to contact. Some may still be there and may bein touch with their old friends! See


SEPTEMBER 2007: Classes start Monday, September 3, 2007

* Adoption Investigative Class: Detailed search advice and assistance for successfully locating andreuniting adoptees and birth families.

* Canadian Research - Part1: This course does more than get you started. It takes you deepinto some of the country's best records - many on the Internet.

* Family Tree Maker 16 - Advanced: Advanced features, like books, trees, reports and web sites.

* Lost Friends and Family Investigative Class: Detailed search advice and assistance on the methods to use forsuccessfully tracing "lost" relatives and friends.

* Native American Genealogy:Learn how to start your research for your Native American Ancestors.

* Salt Lake City - Part 1: Access the largest genealogical library in the world. Perform searches, knowledgeably; and understand what you've found.

* Write Your Family History Step-by-Step: How to write your own family history, - a detailed, step-by-step guide.

OCTOBER 2007: Classes start October 4, 2007

* Adoption Investigative Class: Detailed search advice and assistance for successfullylocating and reuniting adoptees and birth families.

* Canadian Research - Part2: This course picks up where Part 1 ended. Here you will learn toknowledgeably use even more detailed records,many of which are on-line.

* Jump Start Your Genealogy! Just where do you start if you are interestedin your family tree? - detailed instructions.

* Lost Friends and Family Investigative Class: Detailed search advice and assistance on the methods to usefor successfully tracing "lost" relatives and friends.

* Salt Lake City - World's largest Genealogical Library- Part 2: Continuing on from Part 1, this course takes you into the sections that most people never use - and what a mistake that is!

* Scottish Genealogy: Learn about civil registration, censuses, church records, handwriting,Soundex systems, reference books, an introduction to Internet research. Learn more at for a class at
That's all for now, until next month!
-- LISA ALZO, Newsletter Editor

[ GenClass Information ]
The GenClass Newsletter is brought to you by GenClass, Online Genealogy Classes To unsubscribe, or for any other question or suggestion, contact Micha Reisel, GenClass Administrator at

Tuesday, August 28, 2007 Partners With World Vital Records, Inc. To Increase Access To A Half-Billion Records

If, like me, you frequently use historical newspapers for your genealogical research, then you should be as pleased as I was by the following announcement from World Vital Records. I can't wait to search these newly added records.

Provo, UT, August 27, 2007 ---, the largest newspaper database available online, has partnered with World Vital Records Inc.’s Web sites ( and in a unique way to provide increased access to a half billion records from newspapers ranging from 1759-1923.
"Historical newspapers contain valuable information about our ancestors, which may not have been preserved in any other form. By making these records easily accessible, we hope they can become a part of someone's family history," said Jeff Kiley, General Manager,

The uniqueness of this partnership stems from the way in which World Vital Records, Inc. will extract vital record information from the newspapers and place it on its site.
“We wanted to have vital record information from early American newspapers. has allowed us to extract this information from their newspapers that cover the first 160-years of their collection,” said Yvette Arts, Director, Content Acquisition, World Vital Records, Inc.

With this partnership, will provide several million pages of vital record data (approximately a half-billion online records), which will be available for subscribers at

“In my mind, this collection of newspapers is as valuable as the censuses because it contains similar information, with the occasional benefit of additional family data. I’m really excited about this partnership and for the increased access it will allow our viewers to experience,” said David Lifferth, President, World Vital Records, Inc.

Once the material from has been launched, the data will be available for free at for a ten-day period. The first release of the data will include 40 million records. Subsequent releases will follow totaling more than a half-billion records. Some links to the data will also be available at (World Vital Records Inc.’s new genealogy social network).

“Reading these newspapers from the 18th and 19th centuries are the closest we can get to actually experiencing that time period ourselves. Whether a newspaper helps to uncover a birth record or simply someone's life profession, it can provide valuable facts that help solve those unanswered questions,” said Leslie Fredericks-Leamon, Web Marketing Strategist,

Monday, August 27, 2007

Back to Blogging

I've been away from this blog for a few days. Things have been just a little bit hectic with various project deadlines. I spent two days in Cleveland last week doing research for two new book projects for Arcadia Publishing. I can't reveal the details, but I have a great co-author and am excited about these two books which don't have a targeted release date yet. Our deadline is March 2008 so I will post updates once available.

While I was in Cleveland I also attended a surprise 75th birthday party for my Uncle Mike--it was a great party and I enjoyed catching up with family, and the guest of honor was truly surprised!

Now, back to the grindstone. I hope to be able to post items on a more regular basis.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

September Book Signing

Alby Oxenreiter and I will be signing copies of our new book, Sports Memories of Western Pennsylvania, on Wednesday, September 19, 2007 at the Waterfront Barnes & Noble, Homestead, PA at 7:00 p.m. We would love to meet you so if you live in the Pittsburgh area stop by!

I'll also be lecturing on "Immigrant Cluster Communities in Southwestern, Pennsylvania" the day after, Thursday, September 20th, to the Historical Society of South Fayette in Morgan, PA at 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

New York Times Business Article on Latest Genealogy Tools

A friend of mine sent me a link to this article on the NY Times Business page (posted August 18, 2007) which talks about some of the popular genealogy tools creating "a need to know." Among those mentioned: DNA testing,, FamilySearch, social networking site and others.

Click here to read the article.

Friday, August 17, 2007

FGS Updates

If, like me, you were unable to make it to the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference in Ft. Wayne, IN this week, you can keep up with all the big announcements and happenings through various blogs: GenealogyBlog (ncludes some pictures); Dick Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter; and general details available at the FGS Web site. There are probably others, but these are the ones I have been reading.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Positive Review

As an author you always hope that your final product has lived up to your expectations. When I first proposed the idea of my newest book, Sports Memories of Western Pennsylvania to Arcadia Publishing, I had a very specific vision. I did not want the book to be "just another book to sing the praises of the successful professional sports teams from Pittsburgh." I was inspired to write this book for local hometown athletes like my father, who played sports not because of the money, but because they loved the game. I wanted to write a book that focused on the historical and local athletes but still noted the championships which earned Pittsburgh the bragging rights as the "City of Champions."

So, I was pleased to read the first review of the book in the McKeesport Daily News. The reviewer wrote: "Finally, an entirely different sports book has been released. Sports Memories of Western Pennsylvania showcases pictures from Pittsburgh's sporting past, but does so in a nostalgic fashion that many older readers will appreciate..." "The rare photos featuring local teams are what make this book a keeper."

Click here to read the full review. This is more than I could have hoped for and made all of the effort and hard work both Alby Oxenreiter and I put into this project more than worth it.

Monday, August 13, 2007

New Book Released

I am very pleased to announce today the release of my newest book, Sports Memories of Western Pennsylvania (Arcadia Publishing).

My co-author for this book is Pittsburgh sportscaster, Alby Oxenreiter. This book has been 1-1/2 years in the making and a true labor of love. I dedicated this book to the memory of my father, John Alzo, who was a standout on the Duquesne High School Basketball team in 1942-43 and locally famous semi-professional basketball player in Pittsburgh in the 1940s and 1950s.

It was an honor to work with Alby Oxenreiter on this book. We will be appearing together at our first book signing at the Waterfront Barnes & Noble, Homestead, PA on Wednesday, September 19th at 7:00 p.m. for the Mifflin Township Historical Society's "What's Your History Night." If you live in or around Pittsburgh, we hope you'll be able to join us for our discussion and signing that evening.

The publication of this book is bittersweet--finally a book my father would want to read and unfortunately he is not here to do so. But, I hope that he is looking down and smiling!

This one's for you, Dad!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Reunions Magazine Podcasts

I've been a fan of Reunions Magazine for years, both as a subscriber, and as a frequent contributor of articles about my own family's reunion and tips for organizing events. I was delighted to find out that they now have downloadable podcasts featuring editor, Edith Wagner, available from their web site. Each episode discusses a specific aspect of reunions/reunion planning.

I love podcasts because I can listen to them on my computer or take them with me on my MP3 player when I take my daily walk or when I am on the road. Click here to access the podcast page and follow the instructions on how to download and listen.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Starbucks Will Sell StoryCorps' Oral History Collection

I came across this article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. I am a big fan of oral history (I embarked on this back in 1990 by taping interviews with my family members--this was before it became a popular component of family history research) and think it is great to have StoryCorps' collection available to consumers.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Associated Press

SEATTLE -- A year after adding books to its growing entertainment lineup, Starbucks Corp. said yesterday it will soon begin selling its third pick, a collection of 50 stories in an oral history project compiled on book and CD...

To read the rest of the article, click here.