Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Summer School: July Classes at GenClass

If you're looking to brush up on your research skills or learn something new this summer, consider signing up for one of the great classes being offered at GenClass in July.

Adoptive Investigative Class
Lost Friends & Family Investigative Class
Native American Genealogy
Organizing Your Family History
Scottish Genealogy: A Comprehensive Introduction

The July classes begin July 3rd and each class is $29.95 (4 weeks of instruction with 8 lessons and class chats with the instructor).

Click here to register.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Summer Cleaning

I've spent the past two days cleaning. Due to a busy schedule I missed "spring cleaning," so I decided to catch up. I am always amazed at how much "stuff" you can accumulate. I mostly tossed out old or broken items, and clothes that I haven't worn in more than five years. My biggest problem is lack of storage space. Our place does not have a basement and you really can't store any items in the loft space that run the risk of being damaged by temperature changes or insects. So, it is always a challenge to find designated places for things. Not to mention that besides our own stuff, my husband and I each brought into our home numerous boxes of items cleared out from our respective parents' houses once they passed away. And being a genealogist and writer with tons of files and research material doesn't help.

Whenever I go through this cathartic exercise of cleaning away the dirt and grime and organizing all of the clutter, I can't help but think of my ancestors and how they basically left home with the clothes on their backs and one sack or trunk, traveled across the ocean and settled in unfamiliar places. They didn't have much in the way of possessions, but they had the "stuff" that really counts: courage, determination, faith, strength. I always say that I don't believe I could have lived during my ancestors' time because I like all of the conveniences I enjoy in our 21st century world, but I think there is a lot to be send for simplifying--cutting down on the material things and building up the inner qualities.

By cleaning my living space and putting things in more orderly fashion, I feel renewed, better organized, and ready to tackle my research and writing projects. Yes, cleaning is good for one's physical living space, but perhaps even better for one's soul.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Summer Networking Opportunities

If you're looking to take a break this summer, why not consider attending one of the numerous genealogy conferences taking place in various locations in the U.S. and Canada? Here are just a few upcoming events. Conferences are great places to learn about the latest developments in the field of genealogy, plus serve as great opportunities to network with other researchers and maybe even connect with a cousin you didn't know before! Here are just a few upcoming conferences:

June 15-17, 2007 ROOTS 2007 - An International Conference on Family History ResearchThe Quebec Family History Society is celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the QFHS. This will be the largest English-language genealogical conference ever held in Quebec. There will be numerous well-known speakers discussing all aspects of family history research, computer demonstrations and a book fair. All lectures and events are in English. The conference is located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

July 12-14, 2007 Federation of Eastern European Family History Societies (FEEFHS) International Conference/Workshop More details about the program, speakers, registration, etc. can be found at:

July 15-20, 2007 27th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy Hosted by the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (, this year’s premiere Jewish genealogy event includes such highlights as networking with international researchers and experts, a film festival, breakfasts with experts, computer training workshops, special photographic exhibits, resource room, special interest groups, extensive resources of the Family History Library, vendor room, tours and more.

August 15-18, 2007 The Federation of Genealogical Societies and Allen County Public Library FGS/ACPL Conference Meeting at the Crossroads of Americato be held at the Grand Wayne Center - Fort Wayne, Indiana

Friday, June 22, 2007

Contest Announcement from $30,000 Cash Prize and Free Features for Genealogical Societies

In case you haven't heard the announcement from Mattatuck Consulting regarding a contest site - GenealogyPays - aimed at genealogists and offering cash prices to both individuals and to societies, I thought I would give it a mention here. It is very different and certainly intriguing. I first read about it on Dick Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter.

Dick gives a great overview so I won't repeat all the details. Click here to link to the announcement on EOGN.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Summer Sleuthing

Happy first day of summer! If you're looking for some genealogy research tasks that will get you away from your computer or the microfilm reader, here's six ways to enjoy some summer fun and work on your family history too!

1. Enjoy family time. Summer is the time for vacations and family reunions! Use these opportunities to connect with family members. Bring along old photographs to get everyone talking. And, don't forget your voice recorder or camcorder to capture stories and recollections. If you're really organized you can bring along your ancestral (pedigree) charts to display.

2. Cemetery Diving. If your summer vacation or family reunion happens to bring you back to the place where your ancestors lived and may be buried, schedule some time to walk through the cemetery. Record names from tombstones and take photographs. If you can plan your visit when the office is open or you can talk with the caretaker even better.

3. Take a Walking Tour. Many towns and cities have neighborhood walking tours. This is a great way to learn about the history of a place and get some exercise. Check with the local historical society or search the Web by town name and the term "walking tour" or "neighborhood tour."

4. Take your favorite historical novel or a new genealogy how-to book with you to the park or beach and catch up on your reading!

5. Do a random act of genealogical kindness. Volunteer at your local genealogical or historical society's summer meetings or events. Take photographs of gravestones and post them to the USGenWeb site. Add your name to the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness volunteer list.

6. If you just can't break away from your computer, buy or rent a notebook/laptop and find an outdoor spot with wireless internet access, grab a cool beverage and visit some online genealogical web sites you haven't searched in awhile. Make sure you have a secure connection before you search subscription sites where you type in your username and password. If you don't, stick to free sites such as Cyndi's List, RootsWeb, or Linkpendium.

I will blog some more "Summer Sleuthing" tips at another time.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Revisiting Research

It is commonly assumed that most genealogists are packrats. I admit that I am guilty. I tend to hold onto anything that I think is even remotely related to my family history. Needless to say, I have accumulated quite an amount of paper and other "stuff" over the years. Since I am also a writer, I also have files of information for research related to articles and book projects. Some may say, "throw out what is not absolutely needed," "purge those files," etc. Granted, I know I can be a bit more selective in what I keep and definitely better organized. However, today I concluded that I am glad I tend to lean on the side of caution before I shred or toss items.

I first started conducting research for my book Three Slovak Women some 16 years ago. I have many file boxes with various documents that I saved even after the book was published. Thank goodness I did.

I am currently working on another book project that requires me to consult some of the same sources and materials I previously used (for TSW). There is a substantial amount of information that I am able to use and if I had to go back and look up the information again it would probably take me several years. Instead, I have what I need to hand and now I can concentrate on my writing instead of looking for the information.

So, whether you are a genealogist or a writer you never know when you might use information you previously gathered, filed away and most likely have forgotten.

Yes, being a "packrat" does have its benefits.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Seeking Recipes

Would you like to see your favorite family recipe included in the next edition of Baba’s Kitchen?

I am currently gathering recipes for a follow-up to the popular, Baba's Kitchen: Slovak & Rusyn Family Recipes and Traditions.

Submissions for More From Baba’s Kitchen: A Taste of America and Eastern Europe, are now being accepted. Use the quick and easy submission form located on the Baba’s Kitchen Web site: Click here to access this form.

Instructions for submission:

Recipes must be either for a favorite American dish or Eastern European specialty and must include complete measurements and detailed instructions; accompanying photographs will also be accepted (but may not be used). Recipes must not violate any U.S. or foreign copyright guidelines. Recipes will be tested prior to publication.

Submission of a recipe does NOT guarantee it will be included in the book. If your recipe is chosen you will be contacted with further details.

NOTE: The publisher is unable to pay for recipes used, but you will get full credit for your submission.

Thank you for your help!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Scare Up Some Fun This Summer

If you're looking for something different to do this summer and find yourself near Bedford, Pennsylvania on the weekend, consider taking the Bedford Ghost Tour.

Tours are starting this month - two tours every Saturday, 7:00 & 9:00 P.M.

Click here for more information!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Tribute to Dad

I couldn't let Father's Day pass without posting a tribute to my Dad. I miss him very much. And it's the little things I miss the most. Like making him his bowl of oatmeal for breakfast on the weekends, or the way he would say "Hey, Lis, did you put the game on?" whenever he wanted to watch a football or basketball game. I miss his big, bright beautiful smile, and the way he would show how he cared for others not by the words he said but by his actions. He was the kind of man who would give you his last dollar if you needed it, the man who would go over to his sister's house every morning to make sure she ate breakfast during the time she was bedridden after having both of her legs amputated as a result of uncontrolled diabetes, the "Mr. Fix It" of the neighborhood, doing carpentry work and repairs for anyone who asked.

Recently, while looking through some family memorabilia, I came across a Father's Day present I made for my dad in 1972. It's a paper heart booklet. On the front cover is a paper cutout of my hand and in the center is my school picture from the third grade.

The inside pages contained some special verses in honor of Father's day which I neatly printed.

"I give my heart to love you Daddy dear.

I give my hand to work for you each year.

I give you myself, my prayers to bring you cheer
On Father’s Day this year."

On the back cover I wrote,

"Love, Pumpkin, June 18, 1972 (Pumpkin was my dad's nickname for me).

I was very fortunate to have my dad with me during the last years of his life. I have no regrets. I told him I loved him and he did the same. Still, I wish I could have one more Father's Day to tell him again how much I appreciate all he did for me and how blessed I was to have him as my Dad.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Singing Dad's Praises

In celebration of Father's Day tomorrow I decided to make a list of songs written for or about fathers.

Dance with My Father – Luther Vandross
Leader of the Band – Dan Fogelberg
Cat's in the Cradle – Cat Stevens
Father and Son - Cat Stevens
Father and Daughter - Paul Simon
Song For Dad - Keith Urban
My Father's Eyes - Eric ClaptonFather to Son - Phil Collins
The Living Years – Mike & the Mechanics
Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own - U2

These are just a few. There are of course many more. You can go to your favorite online music provider (iTunes, for example) and search on "Father", "Dad", "Father's Day".

Happy listening! Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Celebrate Father's Day with Clips from Storycorps

With Father's Day coming up this Sunday, June 17th, Storycorps is encouraging visitors to its site to listen to and share some of the most extraordinary stories about dads. Click here to listen to some clips from their site. One of them is actually a recording that was done in Pittsburgh (my hometown).

This is the second Father's Day since my father passed away and I sure wish he were here so I could give him a hug and let him know what a wonderful father he was and how much I love him. I take comfort in the fact that I have some recorded interviews from years back that capture his voice and personality. I will be listening to some snippets from these interviews on Sunday as I honor my father's memory.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Father's Day Special at GenealogyBank

One of my favorite online subscription sites, GenealogyBank, is running a special offer just in time for Father's Day. Typically, $19.95 per month, the Special Father's Day Offer is: Save over 60% per month with a 1-Year Membership for a one-time payment of $89.95. You can even lock in 2 years for maximum savings with one payment of $179.90. For these great prices, you can search content from over 1,300 historical newspapers, plus historical documents and books, America's obituaries (over 24.3 million obituaries from 1977-present), and the only version of the Social Security Death Index to be updated weekly.

But don't wait too long. The offer expires 6/30/2007. Click here for more information.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

One Month to the FEEFHS 2007 Workshop

There's less than a month until the 2007 Federation of Eastern European Family History Societies Workshop in Salt Lake City. If you've got Eastern European roots here's your chance to learn from some of the experts in the field plus get "hands-on" time at the Family History Library where the workshop will be held. To register for the event, click here.

I will be a speaker at this workshop. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

"Reverse Ellis Island?"

I came across an interesting article "PASSPORT PROBLEMS TRAP CITIZENS IN U.S" on MSNBC today on the recent U.S. passport frenzy. The situation of the thousands of folks being trapped stateside has caused one critic to dub it "Reverse Ellis Island." Click here for a link to the article.

I found this interesting, and I am glad I have my passport!

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Well-Rounded Genealogist

I often write about how "No Genealogist is an Island." I was reminded of this fact again this weekend. I was invited to present a paper on a panel at the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences (SVU) at Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA. The panel brings together artists, scientists, scholars, and writers of Czech and Slovak background for two days of lectures and discussion.

While researching our roots it is so easy to get caught up in searching online databases, reading microfilm or perusing old documents for names, dates and places. Yes, this is the backbone of genealogy, but it isn't the only aspect. It is so easy to overlook the cultural influences of our ethnic backgrounds. We focus on the who, what and where, but may have a tendency to skip the "why?"

My talk was on "Czech and Slovak Chain Migration in the United States and its Importance in Family History Research." Many of the other presentations had more of an academic focus. I was quite impressed by the scope of knowledge of the many speakers and I learned a great deal about the historical background of Austria-Hungary where my Slovak ancestors lived, about the languages, and about the relationship between the Czechs and Slovaks. It has given me yet another new perspective to consider as I continue to discover my family history. It was a nice change of pace from other conferences I have attended, and for me just as essential as those meetings which focus solely on how to do genealogical research. I think it is important to remember that as researchers we are part of a much bigger puzzle than just the section that represents our own individual family trees.

Thank you to those who organized the 2007 SVU Conference. It was an honor to be included in the company of such distinguished scholars. The 2008 World Congress of SVU is slated for September 2008 in Ruzomberok, Slovakia (details forthcoming) and I hope to be able to attend!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

A Real Purpose

Every now and then I receive a true validation that my writing strikes a chord with readers--and it is a great feeling. Today was one of those days.

I received a telephone call from a woman who bought my book Slovak Pittsburgh (Arcadia Publishing). She said that her aunt was in one of the photographs and wanted to know how to get a copy of the image. The image was of a Slovak wedding party but the names of the people were unknown. It turns out that it was a photograph my cousin gave to me but not labeled or identified in any way. When I called this woman, she told me her aunt was the bride in the photograph and she told me the groom's name and the names of a few others in the wedding party. When I heard the groom's surname I realized that it was a name in one of my family lines (my paternal grandmother's side).

I am happy that I can provide this woman with a copy of the photograph so she can share it with her family. I am also glad that I included this image in my book. This is one of the most rewarding aspects of writing these books on historical images for Arcadia--it gets old photographs otherwise tucked away in a box or drawer into a format that can be seen and discovered by folks who may be connected to the people shown in the images.

I am pleasantly surprised by this particular book's popularity. It is a real testament to the Slovak community in Pittsburgh and the continued interest in learning about and preserving the Slovak heritage. Thank you to everyone who has bought this book.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Got Southwestern PA Roots?

If you're family settled in Southwestern Pennsylvania and you need help busting through some brick walls in your research, consider hiring the great sleuths at Pittsburgh Roots to help!

Their services cover the counties of Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland. They will look up obituaries and death notices, marriage records, wills, land ownership and deed documentation, conduct cemetery research and provide photographic documentation--at competitive and affordable rates.

For more information, click here.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

News from the Ukraine: Mass Holocaust Grave Unearthed

I read this interesting item on MSN today which holds great importance for both the genealogist and the social historian.

"KIEV, Ukraine - A mass grave holding the remains of thousands of Jews killed by the Nazis has been found in southern Ukraine near the site of what was once a concentration camp, a Jewish community representative said Tuesday..."

Click here to read the rest of article.

Monday, June 04, 2007

To Give, or Not to Give: What Would You Do?

While speaking at the Ontario Genealogical Society's Seminar 2007 this weekend in Ottawa (which by the way was a great conference - kudos to the organizers!), I met a gentleman at one of the lunches and we were talking about the Internet and genealogy. In particular, we discussed the ability to find cousins and have them find you online. This gentleman told me a story about someone who contacted him asking him for information about a family line and how he sent some information from his descendancy chart - not everything, but what he felt was fair to share. The person published the information without so much as an acknowledgment to him and after that the correspondence ceased except for a few basic e-mails.

I have been thinking about this issue for some time. Why do we do genealogy? Shouldn't we be willing to share our research with others? But how much do we share with someone who just contacts us out of the blue? Is it fair that you spend years doing the work only to just give information away to someone who may not want to do any further work themselves or reciprocate?

I think this is an interesting question and I am not sure there is a right or wrong answer but that it truly is a personal decision. There needs to be a balance about being cautious with whom we share information and how much we do share. And we have to consider that situations such as the one I mentioned do happen. I tend to think "half full" - that the positive outcomes of connecting with newly found cousins and sharing information outweigh the negative.

I would like to hear what other genealogists think about this issue. So if you're reading this post and have thoughts about this topic or a story to share, I welcome your take on it.