Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Pittsburgh Document Finds Its Way Home

For Czechs and Slovaks, the Pittsburgh Agreement means as much as the U.S. Declaration of Independence. The one-page document cleared the way for the formation of their own democratic country. And now, that document is headed back to where it was signed--Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The Slovak League of America plans to donate its original copy to the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center in September.

Read about the plans for the return of the Pittsburgh Agreement in this article in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Last Chance!

There's still one day left to sign up for a great genealogy class for March with! Classes starting March 1st include:

Adoptive Investigative
Eastern European Intermediate Research (Part II)
Family Tree Maker 16 - Advanced
Jewish Genealogy Researching on the Internet (Part II)
Lost Friends & Family Investigative
Native American Genealogy
Salt Lake City - the Largest Genealogical Research Library in the World (Part I)

Each class costs just $29.95 for 4 weeks of 8 lessons and class chats, online interaction with the instructor.

Click here to sign up now! Don't let this opportunity for learning pass you by!

Monday, February 26, 2007

"You Can't Always Get What You Want..." And Sometimes that's a Good Thing

As Mick Jagger sings in the classic Rolling Stones song, "You Can't Always Get What You Want." Sometimes that can be a good thing.

I was happy to see Jennifer Hudson win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress last night. It's not that I would say I am a fan, although I do appreciate her talent, and I did not even see "Dreamgirls." What struck me about her win is the sweet irony. At the start of her speech, she said, "Look what God can do."

For those of you who may have been living on a deserted island during the past year, Hudson was the contestant voted off before she deserved to be during the third season of "American Idol" and was told something along the lines of "I believe you are out of your league," among other comments during her run on the show. Then, she went out to beat some 700 or so others to land the part in "Dreamgirls." Her Cinderella story is something that I am drawn to.

I think it is a good lesson for how you can't always get what you want, but that sometimes what you wanted in the first place may not ultimately be the best thing for you. She lost AI, but won an Academy Award!

Being a writer you get used to rejection. And many times you do not get what you want, and at the time you may wonder, "why am I not good enough?" Or why did someone else get published and I didn't? It is all a part of the process. There have been many times when I have had article ideas rejected, and even been told "We decided we're changing our format for our publication," or "I'm sorry to tell you that I won't be able to use any more of your articles. We are having cutbacks and maybe down the line I will be able to get more money to pay authors..." There have also been times when I really wanted to be awarded a project or assignment or win an award and then was very disappointed when it didn't happen. But then somehow, down the line something better always seems to come along and makes me realize that it wasn't meant to be and probably a good thing it did not happen because then I would have missed out on a more appropriate opportunity!

Sometimes it can be a good thing to not receive the thing you think you want the most.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

"Find the Celebrity in You"

In anticipation of the 79th Annual Academy Awards taking place this evening, why not try a little exercise to see which celebrity you most resemble? Go to Myheritage and try their demo that has reportedly "taken the internet by storm." Simply upload a photograph of yourself (or, if you prefer, one of your ancestors) and wait for the face recognition technology to work its magic and display photographs for your purported celebrity matches. NOTE: close-up photos highlighting your face work best.

I tried it and my results included Nicole Kidman, Cybill Shepherd, and Sigourney Weaver (well, a girl can certainly dream...)

Check out my article, "Find the Celebrity in Your Ancestors," in the December 2006/January 2007 issue of Internet Genealogy Magazine. Click here to download a copy of the article from my Web site. In the article you will see an example: a photograph of my father and his celebrity matches.

"And the Oscar goes to..."

Enjoy the show!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

First Annual PanSlavic Conference

Here's a flyer and press release announcing a seminar I will be participating in with my fellow research colleagues, Jonathan Shea and Matthew Bielawa.

For Immediate Release

Got Slavic Roots? Learn How Find Them at Local Seminar

Bridgeport, CT—The first annual “Pan Slavic Genealogy Seminar” will take place on Saturday, April 14, 2007 from 1-5 p.m. at Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

If your family’s roots lie in Eastern Europe and you’ve been curious about how to reconstruct your family’s history, then come spend an afternoon learning about strategies and methods for finding your elusive Eastern European ancestors from three nationally recognized experts in the field!

The three, Jonathan D. Shea, of New Britain CT, a professor of foreign languages at Housatonic, Lisa Alzo, a writer, instructor, and lecturer from Ithaca NY, and Matthew Bielawa of Stratford CT, associate registrar at Central Connecticut State University have all lectured on the Eastern European family history research nationwide at conferences and seminars.

Shea will address research in Poland and Belarus while Alzo will concentrate on aspects of research related to families of Slovak and Carpatho Russian (Rusyn) origin. Bielawa will explore sources in Ukraine and the former Austro Hungarian Empire.

“Anyone who has attempted to trace their ancestors back to Eastern Europe understands the special challenges and frustrations associated with this seemingly daunting task,” says Alzo. “Border changes, language differences, political considerations, exotic-sounding surnames, misconceptions and myths about how, what, and where to search often complicate the research process and discourage even the most dedicated and savvy genealogist.”

However this shouldn’t deter the potential roots searcher. All three of the presenters have traced their families back to the 1700s and so can anyone if given the proper guidance and training

Shea stated: “The Bridgeport area and the Valley were points of settlement for many immigrants from Eastern Europe at the turn of the century and Bridgeport in fact had one of the largest concentrations of Slovaks and Rusyns in the region, in addition to sizeable Polish and Ukrainian communities. Many descendants of the early immigrants still reside in area communities so we’re counting on a big turnout.”

Bielawa adds “ Most presentations of this type concentrate on one ethnic or religious group. This is the first time we have incorporated the various religions and ethnicities into one cohesive whole. Many of the research strategies have a degree of similarity regardless of whether your ancestors were Belarussian Jews, Polish Roman Catholics or Slovak Lutherans. There are some differences in record sources but there are many more similarities than one would imagine”

The seminar will serve to clear up some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding research in Eastern Europe. A preliminary session will be devoted to learning about the family and its place of origin in Europe utilizing records generated in the US such as local church and vital records, census records, ship passenger lists from Ellis Island and other ports and citizenship records. Also featured will be internet sources that researchers can use on line without even leaving their home. The complex border changes and historical geography will be addressed by the speakers in their presentations, as well as archival sources in all the nations under study. Samples of the wide variety of records that Shea and Bielawa have collected while doing on-site research in European archives will be presented and analyzed. Maps and other reference sources will be made available at the presentation for participants to utilize.

The presentations will begin at 1:00 pm on Saturday April 14 Housatonic Community College, 900 Lafayette Boulevard in Bridgeport. Free parking in the college’s garage and light refreshments will be available to all. Directions to HCC can be found at or . If you are interested in attending, please send an e mail to or call 203-332-5279. Admission is free and all are welcome.

Friday, February 23, 2007

April Events

It's hard to believe that the month of February is nearing its close. I find myself with a severe case of cabin fever, so it was great to review some upcoming events on my spring calendar.

If you are in any of these cities, I would enjoy meeting you at one of the following events:

14 April, 2007 Slavic Genealogy Conference, Bridgeport, CT (details TBA)

21 April 2007 Community Library of Allegheny Valley , Tarentum, PA.
Talk will be at 11 a.m. at the Harrison Twp. Branch in Natrona Heights. Topic: "Slovak Pittsburgh"

28 April 2007 Greater Omaha Genealogical Society, Omaha, NE - all day workshop - 4 talks: Making Census of your Family History The Evidence! Following Online Clues to Solve your Family History Mysteries Silent Voices: Telling the Stories of your Female Immigrant Ancestors Demystifying Eastern European Research

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness

Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness was established in 1999 as a global volunteer organization. Before the Internet, it was necessary to travel great distances or use snail mail to obtain documentation for our family history research, especially if we live in areas other than the places where our ancestors lived. But with the Web, searching for information has become a bit easier. However, contrary to popular misconceptions, not all information can be found online. Researchers still need to occasionally cross the barriers of time and distance with more traditional research practices. And sometimes all of us can use a little help and kindness when it comes to our genealogy. With volunteers in every U.S. state and many international locations, RAOGK volunteers have helped thousands of researchers through tasks such as locating courthouse records to taking pictures of tombstones. The volunteers never ask to be reimbursed for their time, only their expenses. And, a "Thank You." If you use RAGOK's services, pay it forward and help someone else in return!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

In the News...

I came across two different stories this week on that have a peripheral connection to genealogy. One is about a postcard sent during WW1 that finally arrived 92 years later! As genealogists we would say definitely "better late than never."

Here's the link:

Postcard finally arrives — 92 years late

The second is about a couple who petitioned to have their wedding in a cemetery. The article does not indicate that the two are genealogists -- but this is a very "genealogist" thing to do, isn't it? However, it was a hearse that brought the couple together. Read about it here:

With this ring, I thee wed in a graveyard
Hearse-driving Missouri couple plans cemetery wedding

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Favorite Family Recipe

Today is Shrove (Fat) Tuesday - the day before Lent. In my family, we always ate pancakes on this day. Sometimes my mother would make traditional pancakes, but often we would have palacinky (a Slovak version of a crepe). I made these today for dinner. Here's the recipe. Enjoy!


Dessert pancakes that my family often ate as a meal. My grandmother used to make them for me for lunch – they were and remain one of my favorites!

1 c. flour
1-½ c. milk
2 eggs
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. oil
⅛ tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients beat until smooth.

Heat a small amount of Crisco in a skillet (an omelet pan works nicely). Pour a small amount of batter into skillet and spread around in the skillet (like making a crepe). Cook until brown, then flip over and brown other side. Turn onto a plate. Repeat until all batter is used.

Fill with cottage cheese and jelly (any flavor)*. Roll. Then drizzle some melted browned butter on top.

*You can use a variety of fillings for these “pancakes,” and even top with sour cream instead of melted butter.
here's Still Time...

There's still time to hone your genealogical research skills by signing up for one or more classes offered by GenClass! Registration is now open for March and April for the following courses:

MARCH 2007
Classes start Thursday March 1, 2007

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

Eastern European Genealogy Research: Part 2 (Intermediate):
This class will continue on from the basic Eastern European research class, focusing on how to expand your research beyond your own family into a more community-oriented protocol.

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

Jewish Genealogy - Researching on the Internet (Part 2):
A step-by-step overview of what you need to know to track your family.

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

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

Salt Lake City: the Largest Genealogical Library in the World!-Part 1:
Using the Internet, access the largest genealogical library in the world - without ever leaving your home! Perform searches, knowledgeably; and understand what you've found.

APRIL 2007
Classes start Tuesday April 3, 2007

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

Basic English Research:
Learn how to start researching your English ancestors - historical background, geography, finding the "bones" of your family.

Canadian Research - Part 1 - Intro to the Great White North!:
This course does more than get you started. It takes you deep into some of the country's best records - many on the Internet.

Genealogical Research in the Great Lakes States:
This course will focus on generalized and locality specific resources of six area states –Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Jump Start your Genealogy!:
Just where do you start if you are interested in your family tree? - detailed instructions.

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

Salt Lake City: World's Largest Genealogical Library! - Part 2:
This course takes you into the sections that most people never use - and what a mistake that is! Learn to find and use all the good 'stuff' you've been missing.

Scottish Genealogy - A Comprehensive Introduction:
This extensive class will provide a detailed description of what you need to know to track your Scottish ancestry.

Each course is only $29.95 - for a 4-week course with eight lessons and class chats/interaction with the instructor. Come learn from some of the top genealogists in the field! Click here to register!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

"Trading Places"

NBC Nightly News has been running a series called "Trading Places: Caring for Your Parents," that I have been following with great interest. Having been through this experience (I spent 14 years as caregiver for my parents both of whom are now deceased). It is a series that I think everyone should see. The series features some of the anchors and correspondents sharing their family stories. For example, Ann Curry also shared her story of caring for her father, and on the "Daily Nightly" readers can add their stories and comments. I submitted a post here about my own experiences (posts require approval before they show up on the site--I hope mine will make it).

You might ask what this has to do with genealogy? I would argue that it is a very important part. Our parents and families shape who we are. And to know ourselves we definitely must know our past--the good and the bad.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Baby Boomer Memories

If you are a part of the "Baby Boomer" generation (typically defined as those born between 1946 and the start of the Vietnam War or about 1963) then you may want to take a look at "I Remember JFK: A Baby Boomer's Pleasant Reminiscing Spot". Despite the title, the site is NOT about JFK's death. Instead, according to Ron Enderland, the site's creator: "it is intended to be a pleasant diversion for those who grew up in the 60's and the 70's." If you are old enough to have a coherent memory of that fateful day in November 1963, then you may enjoy some of the other interesting memories posted on the site including, the British Invasion, "Leave it to Beaver," and Woodstock, among many others.

Readers can add their own comments on postings, as well as sharing their own memories.

If you are too young to be a "boomer" - the site is still worth a read, especially if you are interested in social history--an important aspect when we are researching family history.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Makes it All Worthwhile

"Lisa, you have given life to a whole period of time and a whole generation of immigrants...thank you!.."

The above quote was part of an e-mail message I received today regarding my two Arcadia books, Slovak Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh's Immigrants. The message was from a woman (I will only use her initials--"M.B.") who purchased both books (her family is featured in a couple of photographs I included in Slovak Pittsburgh) and she just wanted me to know how much she enjoyed and appreciated these two collections of historic photographs.

Messages like these help to give me a boost on those days when I don't feel particularly inspired as a writer, and validate that I am on the right track when I focus my writing on telling the life stories of immigrants and the communities in which they lived.

This message could not have come at a better time as I enter the final stages of finishing my forthcoming Arcadia book, Sports Memories of Western Pennsylvania. Thank you to "M.B." for the encouraging words!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Good Day for Doing Genealogy

Well, winter finally really arrived in Central New York yesterday--with a vengeance! We got 16.8 inches of snow where I live and most everything was shut down. My employer closed at 12:30, giving me an afternoon of some precious "free" time. I decided to catch up on some family history research and thought I would explore some fairly new online databases.

Here are three that I spent some time with:

1. Footnote - where you can access millions of original documents—most never seen on the web before. Some content is free and some you need to pay to view ($9.99 monthly; $99.99 yearly). I spent time combing through the Naturalization Petitions of the U.S. District Court, 1820-1930, and Circuit Court, 1820-1911, for the Western District of Pennsylvania. I think this site holds a lot of promise. You can read more reviews about Footnote by clicking the following links:

National Archives and Footnote Launch Project to Digitize Historic Documents Online for Historians, Genealogists and Many Others
Taking Note of Footnote

2. World Vital Records - this new subscription site (memberships as low as $29.95 6 months; $49.95 per year) is building its content regularly. Yesterday I looked at their new International Pages - The following country specific search engines are phase one of WVR's international community. These custom search engines use the power of google to search the top genealogy and family history websites for each country. Additional features being planned using experts in genealogy, family history, and specialists in historical documents for every country in the world. These international sections will also include podcasts, blogs, discussion boards and user-generated content. Of course, I couldn't resist looking at Slovakia. I found some interesting links for cemeteries and vital records that I want to explore.

3. Hamburg Passenger Lists 1850-1934 on - These records used to be on LinktoYourRoots or available on microfilm. Of course you need a subscription to Ancestry, or access through a library with a subscription, but I think it is a good addition to their extensive collection. Many of my ancestors emigrated through Hamburg during the years available so I will be spending a great deal of time exploring this database!

Now, all I need is a few more "snow days" and maybe I can make some more progress finding those elusive ancestors!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Romantic Side of Family History

Today is Valentine's Day. I must admit, I have never been a fan of this so-called "holiday." I've always viewed it as so "exclusive" even when I had a "valentine" who sent me flowers, bought me candy and jewelry and cards. Even now, being happily married, I find the holiday a bit superficial--I believe we should be kind, affectionate and giving to those we love every day.

Although I don't particularly like the commercial side of things, I do enjoy hearing "how we met" stories from couples, and find those I discover in my own family's history particularly interesting.

I met my husband 16 years ago - we worked together. He wouldn't want me to say much more than this so I won't. However, I always liked the story of how my own parents met.

They were the same age and in the same class in high school but did not date. It wasn't until my father returned home from the Navy in 1946 following World War II that he and my mother became a couple. My mother's family moved into the house next door to my father's family and my mother became friends with my father's sister, Betty. Betty was married to John Berta, and had a two-year-old son, John Jr. (Jackie), but still lived with her parents in the house on Hill Street. My father often went along when Betty took her son to the park or zoo and introduced my father and mother. My parents dated for a little over a year and then married in 1947. They were married for 52 years. This Valentine's Day I honor them.

Do you have a favorite "how we met" story? Whether it is your own, or one about a family member or favorite ancestor, today is a good day to remember it, write it down and share it!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Another Hidden Genealogical Gem

This is another post in my series on "Hidden Genealogical Gems." The other day I was going through my paternal grandmother's prayer book.

It is written in Slovak, which is interesting in itself. However, it was more what she had inside the book that was of value. I found several slips of paper containing prayers that my grandmother had copied down in her own handwriting. In amongst some funeral cards for family and friends, there were also some photographs - one of my father as a very young boy, and other of him when he entered the Navy during WW2 (AGE 18), and a picture of my mother when she was about 19 or 20.

I am very honored to have my grandmother's prayer book. I don't remember my paternal grandmother. I have photographs of the two of us together, but I did not know her. She died when I was just two years old.

Monday, February 12, 2007 Login Not Working

Unfortunately, the login for the "free pass" to supposedly set to be good until Tuesday, 2/13 is not working. When you try to log in you get the message "Inactive Account."

Hopefully, the issue will be resolved and we will all get another chance to try out this site for free at another time.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Try For Free Until February 13th

If you haven't tried yet, here's your chance! This relatively new site has some great resources you shouldn't miss! The folks at GenealogyBank are offering "open login" good until Tuesday, 02/13/07. Here is the announcement from Tom Kemp, Director.

From Thomas Jay Kemp, director
Subject: Free log in to good til Tues 2/13/07

This free access promotion was announced Friday at the St
George, Utah Genealogy Jamboree.

Click on login
Password: GenBank4U

For those who are not familiar with the resources,
there are several usage and case study downloads from our January
telconference series at

GenealogyBank has a ton of resources:
-- More than 1,300 newspapers 1690 to 1977 ... digital copies of every
issue, all 50 states,
-- Obits 1977-present ... more than 23 milllion obits
-- Books - 1801-1900 ... search these digital books
-- American State Papers (earliest government reports) & the Serial Set
(1789-1980) packed with pension requests; personal bills; military lists;
casualty lists etc.

Search it all for free until Tuesday the 13th.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Register Now for the 2007 FEEFHS Conference/Workshop

If you have Eastern European roots and want to spend several days learning from some of the leading experts in the field, why not sign up for the Federation of Eastern European Family History Societies International Conference/Workshop to be held July 12-14, 2007 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Sessions covering Austro-Hungarian, Carpatho-Rusyn, Czech, German, German-Russian, Jewish, Polish, Romanian, Slovak, Ukrainian research, as well as one-on-one consultations and research in the Family History Library will be featured in this unique learning experience.

Registration information and program details can be found on the FEEFHS Web site.

Friday, February 09, 2007

March Classes on

Hi again... I am back to blogging after a bit of a break. I spent several days doing some intense research for two book projects. It was a busy time and I just felt a bit burned out afterwards so decided not to blog for a few days.

For my first post, I want to let you know about some great upcoming classes scheduled on for March. Each class costs just $29.95 for four weeks (eight lessons and class chats). Why not sign up for one today and discover for yourself one of the best kept secrets in the genealogical world?

MARCH 2007
Classes start Thursday March 1, 2007
Adoption Investigative Class:Detailed search advice and assistance for successfully locating andreuniting adoptees and birth families.
Eastern European Genealogy Research: Part 2 (Intermediate):This class will continue on from the basic Eastern European research class, focusing on how to expand your research beyond your own family into a more community-oriented protocol.
Family Tree Maker 16 - Advanced: Advanced features, like books, trees, reports and web sites.
Jewish Genealogy - Researching on the Internet (Part 2): A step-by-step overview of what you need to know to track your family.
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: the Largest Genealogical Library in the World!-Part 1:Using the Internet, access the largest genealogical library in the world - without ever leaving your home! Perform searches, knowledgeably; and understand what you've found.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

A Break from Blogging

Yes, I know I've not posted anything for a few days. I have spent the time doing some heavy-duty research for the two books I am working on as mentioned in previous posts. Just as with genealogy, research for a book is very time-consuming so I haven't had much time for anything else. I hope to be back to the blog on Tuesday.

Happy Super Bowl Sunday!