Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Eleven for '11

As the New Year approaches, I've composed a list of 11 genealogy/writing goals I have for 2011.

1. Follow up on researching my Alzo ancestors using information I obtained from my trip to Slovakia this summer.

2. Publish revised editions (and electronic versions) of my books, Three Slovak Women and Baba's Kitchen.

3. Try to find out more about my grandmother's brother who stayed in Slovakia.

4. Publish a new book.

5. Explore genealogy in Second Life.

6. Book additional speaking engagements--including some remote/virtual lectures.

7. Blog more frequently and try to use Twitter more for genealogical purposes.

8. Continue to expand my freelance writing career.

9. Write for at least 15 minutes per day (about ancestors or topics not associated with assignments or deadline projects).

10. Finish organizing my father's scrapbook of his basketball days.

11. Purge, purge, purge the clutter! Organize all the other!


I'm happy to report that I accomplished all of the goals on my "Ten in 10" list, except one. Due to extenuating circumstances I was not able to publish a new book. So, I carried that goal over to 2011.

To my fellow Geneabloggers: What are your goals for the New Year? I wish you a happy, healthy, and productive 2011!



Copyright 2010, Lisa A. Alzo

All Rights Reserved






Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Top 10 in '10

Another year is drawing to a close. It's the time for reflection and resolutions. Last year I listed my Top Ten Genealogical Moments for 2009. So, it's time to do it again.

Lisa's Top Ten Genealogical Moments for 2010

10. Participation as a speaker at the Family History Expos in Mesa, AZ, Loveland, CO, Kansas City, MO, Salt Lake City (Sandy), UT, Pleasanton, CA, and Atlanta, GA. I also spoke at a number of other venues including Ottawa, Canada, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, PA, and various places in New York.

9. Visiting with many of my fellow Geneabloggers--some I've known for awhile and others I met for the first time.

8. A weekend in New York City with fellow genealogists/friends highlighted by a visit to Ellis Island, dinner in Little Italy, and also at a Polish restaurant in Brooklyn.

7. Having my articles published in Ancestry Magazine, Discovering Family History Magazine, Family Tree Magazine, Family Chronicle Magazine, Internet Genealogy Magazine, and The Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly.


5. A chance to visit with friends and colleagues during the National Genealogical Society conference in Salt Lake City, UT.

4. Learning that my great-grandfather Ján Alzo was a "bird of passage" and locating two records showing his passage to the United States during the 1890s.

3. My trip to Slovakia! It took me 15 years to get there and it was so worth the wait! I had the opportunity to visit three out of four of my ancestral villages (see my posts: Sojourn in Slovakia).

2. Bringing Grandma back home by posing for a picture in front of the sign for Milpos, Slovakia--my grandmother's birthplace holding a copy of my book Three Slovak Women.

And, my number one genealogical moment of 2010 (drumroll...)


1. Meeting my Alzo cousins in Kucín--especially my cousin Renata, her husband, Robert, and her parents. A moment I will never forget! (See: Sojourn in Slovakia).



Copyright 2010, Lisa A. Alzo

All Rights Reserved








Saturday, December 25, 2010

Veselé Vianoce! Merry Christmas!


Every year I receive a beautiful Slovak Christmas Greeting card from one of my colleagues.

This is the 2010 greeting.

Veselé Vianoce a šťastný nový rok!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!




Copyright 2010, Lisa A. Alzo

All Rights Reserved


Friday, December 24, 2010

Advent Calendar 2010: Christmas Eve

December 24 – Christmas Eve

How did you, your family or your ancestors spend Christmas Eve?


[Note: This post originally ran during the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories in December 2009]


For Slovaks, Christmas Eve is more solemn than Christmas Day. It is a time for praising God and for being together with family. Here is a blog post from in which I describe how my family celebrated Christmas. Things have changed over the years since my grandparents and parents passed away, but I try to honor the Slovak traditions in my own home to the best of my ability.


Click here to read my blog post from 2007 in which I describe the Christmas Eve traditions in my family.


Enjoy! Vesele Vianocé! (Merry Christmas!)







Copyright 2010, Lisa A. Alzo

All Rights Reserved

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Advent Calendar 2010: December 23 – Christmas Sweetheart Memories

December 23 – Christmas Sweetheart Memories

Do you have a special memory of a first Christmas present from a sweetheart? How did you spend your first Christmas together? Any Christmas engagements or weddings among your ancestors?


[Note: This post originally ran during the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories in December 2009]


I honestly can't remember my first Christmas present from a sweetheart. I cherish all of the presents my husband has given me over the years--jewelry, perfume, candies, favorite CDs and DVDs and other thoughtful gifts. We have an agreement not to buy each other expensive items. Usually we get one "nice" item that is for the both of us each Christmas, and then we just exchange small gifts on Christmas Day. Just being together is the best gift of all.



Copyright 2010, Lisa A. Alzo

All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Advent Calendar 2010: December 22 – Christmas and Deceased Relatives

December 22 – Christmas and Deceased Relatives

Did your family visit the cemetery at Christmas? How did your family honor deceased family members at Christmas?



[Note: This post originally ran during the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories in December 2009]


Yes, we would visit the cemetery on Christmas Day. We had to go to two different cemeteries because my mother's parents were buried in a different cemetery than my father's parents. We would always put a wreath on the grave of a deceased ancestor. Also, we would contribute for flowers to be put on the altar at church in memory of deceased loved ones.





Copyright 2010, Lisa A. Alzo

All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Advent Calendar 2010: December 21 – Christmas Music

December 21 – Christmas Music
What songs did your family listen to during Christmas? Did you ever go caroling? Did you have a favorite song?


[Note: This post originally ran during the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories in December 2009]

My family listened to all of the traditional Christmas carols--religious and secular, as well as Slovak versions of Christmas hymns. I used to go caroling as part of school activities. I can't carry a tune to save my life so I am not a big caroler, but I love to listen to Christmas music.

My favorite song is "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing."


Click here to read the rest of the original post from December 2009.

Copyright 2010, Lisa A. Alzo

All Rights Reserved

Monday, December 20, 2010

Advent Calendar 2010: December 20 – Religious Services

Religious Services
Did your family attend religious services during the Christmas season? What were the customs and traditions involved?

[Note: This post originally ran during the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories in December 2009]

Going to church was always a part of our Christmas celebration. Our church, Holy Trinity Roman Catholic church, was branded the "Slovak parish" because it was established by Slovak immigrants, and usually had a pastor who was of Slovak heritage. My paternal grandfather was very active in the church.

When I was very young we would attend the early mass (4 p.m.). Occasionally, we would go to mass on Christmas Day, but most of the time we went to midnight mass. The church was always beautifully decorated with poinsettias and candles and the manger. I always enjoyed the carols and at our church the choir also sang several Christmas carols in Slovak, which was a very special tribute to the Slovak heritage.

I still prefer to attend midnight mass--although it is no longer held at midnight--usually 10 p.m. at most of the churches in our area. I still enjoy listening to carols but I really do miss the Slovak ones as in my home parish. Fortunately, I inherited an album (yes a 33 1/3 RPM for those of you old enough to remember) from my mother that has both English and Slovak versions of Christmas hymns. It was recorded at another Slovak parish in Pittsburgh. I play it every Christmas Eve. I also have converted it to digital format so I can listen to it on CD or my computer/iPod.

Copyright 2010, Lisa A. Alzo

All Rights Reserved

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Advent Calendar 2010: December 19 – Christmas Shopping

December 19 – Christmas Shopping
How did your family handle Christmas Shopping? Did anyone finish early or did anyone start on Christmas Eve?


[Note: This post originally ran during the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories in December 2009]


My mother was the Christmas shopper. I remember that she would start early and go on all day shopping adventures with her sister (my aunt) Helen. When I became an adult I would occasionally join them. We'd shop for hours, have a nice lunch--good times.


I must admit that since my mother passed away many years ago, the joy of going Christmas shopping for me is gone too. I don't like large crowds or rude and pushy people. So, if I have to go to a "brick and mortar" store to do any holiday shopping, I always start early. This year I did 95% of my shopping online, which was so nice. A few clicks of the mouse and I was done!


Copyright 2010, Lisa A. Alzo

All Rights Reserved

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Advent Calendar 2010: December 18 – Christmas Stockings


December 18 – Christmas Stockings
Did you have one? Where did you hang it? What did you get in it? Do you have any Christmas stockings used by your ancestors?


[Note: This post originally ran during the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories in December 2009]


I have always had a Christmas stocking. I've had two special stockings since I was a young girl that my next door neighbor crocheted for me.



We did not have a fireplace in my childhood home so I hung my stocking on the banister in the living room. Santa would leave special little gifts--a pair of socks or mittens, an ornament for the tree (usually a koala bear ornament), a yo-yo or some other fun little game, candy, and always a few dollars.


I have a fireplace in my current home and those stockings are hanging above it right now!


And I sure hope Santa intends to fill them this year! :-)



Copyright 2010, Lisa A. Alzo

All Rights Reserved

Friday, December 17, 2010

Advent Calendar 2010: December 17 – Grab Bag

Grab Bag

Author’s choice. Please post from a topic that helps you remember Christmases past!


[Note: This post originally ran during the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories in December 2009]


One of my favorite Christmas memories is putting out cookies and milk for Santa Claus. My mother would help me. We didn't have a chimney so I put the cookies and milk on a small table by our tree. But, I didn't stop there. I asked my mom "What about the reindeer?" So every year we would fill a bucket of water and leave a few carrots out for Santa's reindeer (I didn't know if reindeer even ate carrots--still don't!), but it seemed like the appropriate snack. And when I woke up on Christmas morning and saw Santa ate the cookies and drank the milk I left for him, I'd rush to the front porch window and look out to see if the carrots and water were also gone.


They always were!


I guess I was thinking creatively even as as a child!


Copyright 2010, Lisa A. Alzo

All Rights Reserved

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Advent Calendar 2010: December 16 – Christmas at School

Christmas at School

What did you or your ancestors do to celebrate Christmas at school? Were you ever in a Christmas Pageant?


[Note: This post originally ran during the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories in December 2009]


Having attended Catholic school, we always had a Christmas pageant. One of them I particularly remember was during the third grade. I played an angel. My Aunt Helen made my costume for me. I had the big gold wings, long white robe and halo.


I don't have any musical or acting talent so these pageants were never really my thing. But we all thought it was great to miss a Math or Science class now and then to practice for the pageant.


Copyright 2010, Lisa A. Alzo

All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Advent Calendar 2010: December 15 – The Holiday Happenings!

The Holiday Happenings

Often times December to mid-January birthdays and anniversaries get over shadowed by the Christmas/Hanukkah/New Year holidays. So we're going to shine a spotlight on those family members and ancestors this time around. Select one or more December to mid-January birthdays and/or anniversaries on your family tree. Write a short tribute to or memory of those birthday guys and gals and write a toast to the anniversary couples.


[Note: This post originally ran during the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories in December 2009]


There are a number of birthday/anniversary events in my family in December and January. It's difficult to pick just one person or couple to feature. So, I will just say Happy Birthday and Happy Anniversary to all!



Copyright 2010, Lisa A. Alzo

All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Advent Calendar 2010: December 14 – Fruitcake - Friend or Foe?

Fruitcake – Friend or Foe?

Did you like fruitcake? Did your family receive fruitcakes? Have you ever re-gifted fruitcake? Have you ever devised creative uses for fruitcake?

(Note: you can also post about a "fruitcake ancestor" and use it for Madness Monday!)


[Note: This post originally ran during the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories in December 2009]



I don't remember fruit cake being a big food item or gift in our family. My father liked to eat fruit cake, but I have never been that crazy about it myself. Yes, I re-gifted a fruitcake: to my father.


Fruitcake ancestors? That's another story. Let's not go there.


Copyright 2010, Lisa A. Alzo

All Rights Reserved

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Accidental Genealogist Nominated for 2011 Family Tree Top 40 Contest

I'm honored that this blog has been nominated as a finalist for the 2011 Family Tree Magazine 40 Contest in the "My Family History" category. I appreciate being included among so many other excellent nominees--including many that are my personal favorites.


You can help choose the 40 best Blogs. Here are the guidelines:

“Help Choose the Family Tree 40! In the July 2011 issue of Family Tree Magazine, we’ll name the 40 Best Genealogy Blogs, or Family Tree 40. It’s time to vote on the blogs nominated by the genealogy community.

The nominees are divided into eight categories. In each category, please choose five blogs. For category descriptions and Family Tree 40 qualifications, please go
here.

Voting is open until 11:59 p.m. Monday, Dec. 20. You may vote multiple times.”

Good luck to all the nominees!

Copyright 2010, Lisa A. Alzo

All Rights Reserved

Advent Calendar 2010: December 13 – Holiday Travel

Holiday Travel
Did you or your ancestors travel anywhere for Christmas? How did you travel and who traveled with you? Do you remember any special trips?


[Note: This post originally ran during the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories in December 2009]


Until I was in college I never had to travel at Christmas because most of my family lived close by. We spent most holidays at my grandparents' house and they lived just a few blocks away. After college, I lived in New Jersey for a year and a half and missed two Christmases at home, but one of those years my parents came to visit me. Then for the next four years I lived back at home while going to graduate school so did not have to travel to see my family. In 1995, I moved to New York but went back to Pittsburgh nearly every year to spend Christmas with my parents and extended family. Now that my parents have passed away I am content to spend Christmas at home with my husband. Sure, I miss the old times--lots of great memories--but I prefer not to have to travel at the holidays so it's nice to just relax and enjoy the time off.


Copyright 2010, Lisa A. Alzo

All Rights Reserved

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Advent Calendar 2010: December 12 – Charitable/Volunteer Work

Charitable/Volunteer Work

Did your family ever volunteer with a charity such as a soup kitchen, homeless or battered women’s shelter during the holidays? Or perhaps were your ancestors involved with church groups that assisted others during the holiday?


[Note: Portions of this post appeared in a post that originally ran during the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories in December 2009]


We did not specifically do any charity work during the holidays. My mother would give a donation every year to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and the Salvation Army. They would take up a collection at school for food items. When I was in college our sorority would do various service projects in the local community before the holiday break. I've also made donations to various toy and food drives in the community where I now live.


Copyright 2010, Lisa A. Alzo

All Rights Reserved

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Advent Calendar 2010: December 11 – Other Traditions

Other Traditions

Did your family or friends also celebrate other traditions during the holidays such as Hanukkah or Kwanzaa? Did your immigrant ancestors have holiday traditions from their native country which they retained or perhaps abandoned?


[Note: Portions of this post appeared in a post that originally ran during the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories in December 2009]


Except for the "American" traditions of Santa Claus, baking cookies, giving gifts, etc., my family did not celebrate any others. My ancestry is Slovak and Christmas is a very holy time for the Slovak people. I will defer my post on the Slovak Christmas traditions until December 24th.


Copyright 2010, Lisa A. Alzo

All Rights Reserved

Friday, December 10, 2010

Advent Calendar 2010: December 10 – Christmas Gifts

Christmas Gifts

What were your favorite gifts, both to receive and to give? Are there specific gift-giving traditions among your family or ancestors?


[Note: Portions of this post appeared in a post that originally ran during the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories in December 2009]


I pretty much liked all the gifts I received at Christmas. "Santa" was always very generous to me. Some of my favorite gifts from childhood included anything "Barbie"; my Easy-Bake Oven and Washer, dolls, and board games and an actual Santa doll (I still have him!)


When I became a young adult the gifts changed of course. I would always receive a koala bear ornament and a "daughter" ornament, a new pair of pajamas or nightgown, and then whatever was on my "list" that year.


My favorite gifts to give were "Mom and Dad" ornaments for my parents each year. I bought my mother a stereo one year so she could play her old 33 rpm albums. My father was not one to get excited over gifts--and always said wrapping paper and greeting cards were "a waste of money." He did not like to shop for gifts. He preferred to just give my mother the money to buy what she wanted or give me money so I could buy what I wanted. My parents and I had our own tradition where we would open one gift after we returned home from midnight mass and then open the rest in the morning.


For the extended family, we usually held a Christmas grab bag at our family parties (for those age 16 an older) because there were too many of us and you just could not afford to buy a gift for everyone.


Copyright 2010, Lisa A. Alzo

All Rights Reserved

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Advent Calendar 2010: December 9 – Grab Bag

Grab Bag: The Sadder Side of Christmas

Author’s choice. Please post from a topic that helps you remember Christmases past!


[Note: Portions of this post appeared in a post that originally ran during the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories in December 2009]

Unfortunately, not all of my memories of the Christmas season are happy ones or the kind you see advertised on television specials and commercials. Over the years, my family has experienced some sad and tragic moments that inevitably give me pause for reflection amidst the celebration.


My maternal grandmother passed away four days after Christmas in 1984. She was in the hospital during Christmas, which was very sad for all of us because she was the glue in our family--her love and generosity were immeasurable and she passed on the Slovak traditions we all still cherish so much. Although she was very ill, we all believe she held on until after Christmas because she wanted us all to be together and enjoy the day. Christmases were never the same after she passed away.


Then, my father's sister, my Auntie Sr. Camilla, passed away in December 1986 and my father and aunt had to fly to Texas to attend her funeral. She was a Roman Catholic nun and died in the Mother House at Victoria. It was too expensive for all of us to go. Another sad Christmas.


In 1990, my cousin's husband died on Christmas Day. He was in a car accident a couple of weeks before Christmas. This was a very difficult time for the family.


Finally, in 1992, my father suffered a stroke on Christmas Day. He was very lucky because he survived and save for minor coordination issues and loss of his peripheral vision on one side, made a full recovery. I will never forget how empty I felt, and how my mother and I took turns comforting one another in the emergency room that Christmas Day. I always think about Dad on Christmas, and, this year will be the fourth one without him. Hard to believe.

So, it's difficult to be 100% joyful at Christmas, and experiencing the losses somehow keeps me tempered when it comes to the whole celebration aspect, but it also makes me appreciate my family so much more and truly remember what the season is really supposed to be about and not focus too much on the gifts, the parties, the trees, etc.


Copyright 2010, Lisa A. Alzo

All Rights Reserved



Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Advent Calendar 2010: December 8 – Christmas Cookies

Christmas Cookies

Did your family or ancestors make Christmas Cookies? How did you help? Did you have a favorite cookie?

I wasn't going to bake cookies this year, but the sentimental side of me could not resist! I made the Christmas cut-outs as noted below but also made an old favorite Hershey "Kiss Cookies" and two new cookies, "Candy Cane Blossoms" (found on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette online edition food section) and Lemon Ricotta cookies (found on Delish.com)



[This following post is excerpted from a previous blog post from December 2006]

One of my favorite traditions is baking Christmas cut-out cookies, using a recipe that my dad's sister Betty (Auntie B as I called her) used and passed down to us. Ever since I was a young girl I have looked forward to this tradition every year. I have many fond memories of baking these cookies, especially with my "Auntie" - my father's other sister (Sr. Camilla) when she came home to Pittsburgh from Texas during the holidays. Here are a few photos of one of our baking sessions during Christmas 1972. I still have the same cookie cutter too! Great memories!

I included this recipe in the GeneaBloggers Holiday Cookbook 2009, and it is also available in my book, Baba's Kitchen: Slovak & Rusyn Family Recipes & Traditions. You can also link to it at my December 20, 2006 post.


Copyright 2010, Lisa A. Alzo

All Rights Reserved