Saturday, March 31, 2007

Family Roots Radio: Worth the Listen

I am really enjoying Family Roots Radio, an Internet radio show devoted to genealogy and family history. The show is hosted by well-known genealogical author, speaker and researcher, Kory L. Meyerink, and features a number of informative "how-to" elements and great guests. Both Dick Eastman (Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter) and Leiland Meitzler, Editor of Everton's Genealogical Helper have been on the show.

If you are into genealogy, have a listen. This show is a great addition to some of the other family history podcasts out there.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Reminder: Panslavic Genelaogy Seminar

If you've got Slavic roots and live near Bridgeport, CT, don't forget about the free PanSlavic Genealogy seminar that will take place on Saturday, April 14, 2007 from 1-5 p.m. at Housatonic Community College, Bridgeport. Speakers will be Jonathan Shea, Matthew Bielawa, and yours truly. The event is free and all are welcome.

Click here for more information.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Great Lakes, Great Scott, and Other Great Classes!

Don't miss out seven great classes being offered in April on GenClass!

There's English Research, Scottish Research, Research in the Great Lakes States, Jumpstart Your Genealogy, Salt Lake City Research Part 2, Adoptive Investigative, and Lost Friends and Family Investigative Classes - and each is just $29.95.

Click here to sign up - there's still time as classes begin April 3rd!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Blogging on Hold

If you don't see any posts on this blog for the next few days, it is because I will be working feverishly to meet a submission deadline for my forthcoming book, Sports Memories of Western Pennsylvania.

There's still many loose ends to finish before the due date next week, so I will be buried in research material and photographs until then.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Spring into Genealogy

Spring has finally arrived! The days are getting longer with more light and hopefully for us in the Northeast, the snow will soon disappear.

Now is the perfect time to shake off those winter doldrums and get back into action with your genealogy. Here are five things you can do to revitalize your family history research.

1. Clean your house. Bring those boxes of old photographs out of your attic and basement into the daylight. Scour closests and drawers for "hidden genealogical gems," such as old letters, postcards, diaries, bridal and baby books, funeral registries, memorial cards, medals, and other memorabilia. Store them in the right environment where you can easily find them again and don't forget to label everything!

2. Break your cabin fever. If you live in an area prone to inclement weather, you've probably been stuck in your house all winter long and chained to your computer for research. Not that perusing the latest online genealogical databases or search engines is a bad thing, but now it's time to get out there and network! Go to a genealogical conference (like the Pan-Slavic Seminar I will be participating in as a speaker on April 14th in Bridgeport, CT), or your local group's meetings. Call up a relative and plan a visit. Make a point of going to the cemetery to look for your ancestors' headstones.

3. Organize! Get those family history files and binders in shape. Purge duplicates and file those lose documents. Scan photographs and documents and safely store your originals. Enter key data into your genealogical software program.

4. Plan a research trip. Look for bargain airfares and try to visit your ancestral town or village. Or, take a roadtrip to where you grew up or where your ancestors lived. Make sure you use the Web to identify key places you want to visit before you hit the road. Note cemeteries, courthouses, special walking tours; use Google Earth or other maps to locate the neigborhoods, streets, and addresses where your ancestors lived.

5. Brush up on your skills through any number of learning opportunities. There are many conferences planned for the spring and summer. You can also sign up for online genealogy classes which you can do at your own pace, such as those available at GenClass (sign up now for new classes in April and May!).

Happy Spring! Happy Hunting!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

In Celebration of Women's History Month: Honoring my Mother and Grandmother

For Women's History month, I would like to give mention to my mother and grandmother--two amazingly strong and loving women who helped to make me who I am today. I celebrate their determination and strength.

My mother (left) and grandma (right) in a photo from my high school graduation

My grandmother, Verona Straka Figlar (left) and her niece Mary Straka c. 1922

To celebrate these two wonderful women, I wrote an article a few years ago based on a presentation I made at the 2003 CZECHOSLOVAK SOCIETY OF ARTS AND SCIENCES conference:

"Silent Voices: Idenfiying the Historical Significance of Slovak Immigrant Women"

which appears in: Selected Papers from the 2003 SVU North American Conference, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 26-28 June 2003.

Monday, March 19, 2007

April Events

I will be speaking at the following events in April. Hope to meet you at one of them!

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

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Solving a Family Photo Mystery

In my post from a couple of days ago about my meeting with a newly found cousin, I noted that during this reunion we shared information about some identical photographs we had in our respective family albums. One was this photograph below.

This photograph was found by one of my cousins in a box in her basement--no labels or other identification. By process of elimination, I assumed the photo was either of my Fenscak or Alzo ancestors. But, until last weekend, I really could not be sure.
My cousin, Mary, told me that this photograph is of my great-grandparents, John Alzo and Barbara Meriorska taken with their family in Kucsin, Slovakia.: My grandfather's sister (Anna) and her husband and their children, and my grandfather's youngest brother, Andrej. I can see some similar facial features in my great-grandfather, as my grandfather, and father. It is amazing to have a picture of my great-grandparents - to see the faces behind the names in all of those records I have researched for several years.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Celebrate St. Patrick's Day with World Vital Records

I don't have Irish roots, but if I did I would take advantage of searching some free Irish databases being offered through World Vital Records. This week World Vital Records is celebrating St. Patrick's Day with several new Irish databases from the National Archives Records Administration (NARA). The following Irish databases from NARA, will be available FREE to access until March 25th.

Passengers Who Arrived at the Port of New York During the Irish Famine, created, 1977 - 1989, documenting the period 1/12/1846 - 12/31/1851

List of Ships that Arrived at the Port of New York During the Irish Famine, 1/12/1846 - 12/31/1851

WVR is a new subscription-based site. Click here to find out more about special sign-up offers.

If you've got some elusive Irish ancestors in your family tree, give these databases a try--perhaps you'll experience some "luck" and find them!

Friday, March 16, 2007

How to Trace Your Family's Heritage

Genealogy is featured on MSN today. Check out John Rosenthal's article:

"Routes to Your Routes"

He writes about how traveling to discover your family’s heritage can be a life-changing experience. The article provides a brief overview about how to plan to visit your ancestral village, with recommendations for on how to book trips various parts of the world. Unfortunately (for me) there's no recommendation for Slovakia or Eastern Europe where my ancestors hailed from. But the article is worth a look anyway.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Finding Family

One of the best parts about doing genealogy is connecting with cousins and family you never knew you had!

Last weekend I had the pleasure of meeting a newly found Alzo cousin. Her name is Mary and she will turn 90 this April!

Mary's son made the initial contact back in December (see my previous post, "When the Hunter Becomes the Hunted"), after obtaining a copy of my book Three Slovak Women, and Mary recognized many of the names and places mentioned in it.

Mary's mother, (also, Mary) was my grandpap Alzo's sister. The elder Mary was married to a man in Slovakia and had Mary before her husband died of the Spanish Influenza. In 1920, Mary and her daughter came to America - my grandpap Alzo paid their way. Mary used to stay with my grandma and grandpap while her mother worked and Mary's mother then met and married a widower with three children, and they eventually had three children of their own.

During our visit, she relayed stories to me from when she was growing up and we amazingly had some of the same photographs in our respective albums. Mine were not labeled and Mary graciously filled in the blanks!

Genealogists often talk about serendipity and I believe I just experienced. Just when I thought I hit the ultimate roadblock with finding out more information about my Alzo ancestors (see my article "What Do I Care About Those People...They're Dead") a real connection appeared!

For anyone out there thinking that they've done all they can to break down that brick wall or that they've learned all they can about their family, I can attest that there are still a few surprises out there if you are open to the possibilities. You may not see them coming or they may turn up when you least expect it. I have been a genealogist for over 16 years and I truly know that with genealogy you're never done! There's always someone new to meet or a lost piece of information to uncover!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

More Women's History Month

Here's another article I wrote awhile back for Family Chronicle that fits the "finding female ancestors" theme for Women's History Month. 20th c. Desperate Housewives describes the process of sorting out your ancestor's dirty laundry through researching and writing about the lives of women.

Monday, March 12, 2007

March is Women's History Month

March is Women's History Month and a good time to really dive into researching the female ancestors in your family tree.

Often women can be a bit more difficult to research than men--for a number of reasons. In my article, "Silent Voices" published in Family Chronicle Magazine October 2004, I provide some suggestions and tips on how to successfully research female ancestors.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Act Now for April Classes

There are some great classes scheduled for April at

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.

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.

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 class is only $29.95 - you get eight great lessons to read at your own pace, plus a chance to communicate with and learn from some of the top genealogists in the field via class chats and bulletin boards!

Go to GenClass and sign up today to reserve your spot!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

"March Madness"

If you're a fan of college basketball, then you've no doubt heard of "March Madness" - the colloquial term for the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship tournament, also known as the "Big Dance." The tournament takes place over three weeks at different sites across the U.S. leading to the national semi-finals or "final four." It consists of both dynasty teams and underdogs and has created a lot of friendly wagering on who will win in the form of "office pools."

What do sports have to do with genealogy? In my article, Learning More About Your Athletic Ancestors, Ancestry Magazine March/April 2005, I write about how to research the athletes in your family tree (and even offer research tips if your ancestors weren't on the team).

Use some of the tips in this article and stir up a little of your own "March Madness" this month.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Event Announcement

I will be giving a talk on my book, Slovak Pittsburgh, on Saturday, April 21, 2007 at 11:00 a.m at the Community Library of Allegheny Valley, (Harrison Branch) Natrona Hts., PA. Here's some details:

Meet the Author: Lisa A. Alzo

Contact: Local History Department 724/ 226-0770

Please join Lisa A. Alzo, author of Three Slovak Women and Pittsburgh's Immigrants, and find out about her latest book, Slovak Pittsburgh. Ms. Alzo will also share how you can tell your own ancestors' stories. Copies of all three books will be available for purchase.

Location: Harrison
Back to the Blog

My crunch time has passed, well at least for another week or so, so I am back to the blog. I've been working non-stop on my forthcoming book (with my co-author, Alby Oxenreiter) for Arcadia Publishing: Sports Memories of Western Pennsylvania. I don't have a publication date yet, but it should be sometime in the early summer.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Dashing to Meet Deadlines

I will be taking a break from blogging for a couple of days due to some very pressing deadlines for a couple of upcoming writing projects.

It just goes with the job...

Saturday, March 03, 2007

TV Pilots: So Easy, a Caveman Can Get One...

Okay, this has absolutely nothing to do with genealogy, but I was intrigued to find out that the "cavemen" from the popular Geico commercials may get their own television show.

ABC has announced it has ordered a pilot for a comedy, tentatively titled "Cavemen," that features the characters used in a series of ads by the insurance company. In the ads, cavemen appear insulted by a Geico pitchman's claim that the company's Web site is so easy to use that "even a caveman can do it."

You can read more about it here.

Some may think the ads silly, but I actually think they are quite clever and will be curious to see if the pilot is picked up. Now, if only one of them would appear on "Dancing with the Stars" that would be something to watch! :-)

Sometimes, I just feel my brain is on overload with all of my projects and things that have to get done, and little distractions like this help me remember not to take myself or my work (either my real job or my genealogical research, or writing) too seriously...

Friday, March 02, 2007

Help the Godfrey Memorial Library Celebrate its 60th Anniversary

The Godfrey Memorial Library will be celebrating its 60th anniversary this May. To help commemorate the event, the library is asking patrons to send in their stories of how the Godfrey Library (resources, staff, and volunteers) has helped them in their genealogical research. Stories and photos can be e-mailed to: (put Happy Anniversary in the subject line).

The library is also putting a call out for donations of items that would make great additions to their library collection such as old high school or college yearbooks. They also have a bible project underway. If you have an old family bible that contains a section for recording birth, death and marriage information, consider making a copy of it for the GML. The information will be made available to search online. PDFs or copies are acceptable--use the e-mail address above with the subject line Bible project.

Anyone can purchase a membership to The Godfrey Memorial Library for only $35 per year, which gives you access to their online databases, and other benefits.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Staying the Course

I am closing in on a book project deadline. I've got about a month to finish my forthcoming sixth book, Sports Memories of Western Pennsylvania (Arcadia Publishing). I am just about to turn over a draft to my co-author, who will write the introduction and add his expertise to the photo captions.

In case you are wondering, writing a book is hard work. It sounds glamorous but there are moments during the writing process when you think you are never going to finish. For this particular book there is also a great deal of "busy" work. The book tells about western PA sports history through nearly 200 photographs. In addition to the research, I have to organize the photos into chapters, scan the photos, obtain permission to reprint some of the images, make sure they meet certain publication specifications, research and write the captions and introductory text to each chapter.

I am very close to completing this project and just need to stay the course. I look forward to seeing our finished product which will hopefully be out by the summer. This book is special to me-it is one I know my father would have enjoyed reading, and I am dedicating it to him.