Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fearless Females: March 31: Mini-Profile

March 31 — Pick one female ancestor and write a mini-profile (500 words or less).

[Note: This post originally ran during the Fearless Females series in March 2010]

I decided to write a profile for my grandmother's sister, Anna Fencsak Bavolar.

Anna Fencsak Bavolar was born on May 15, 1893 to Ilona and Mihaly Fencsak in Freeland, PA. She arrived in America in 1911, and was matched for marriage to George Bavolar by her sister, Mary Ceyba. Not long after the birth of her first daughter, Mary, Anna returned to Slovakia to care for her mother, who was ill and now re-married to Mihaly Zelenak. During that time Anna experienced conflict with her step-father who was a possessive person and did not want Anna there looking after her mother. Ilona died in 1917, but World War I delayed Anna’s return home until 1920. Anna and her husband eventually had four more children. Anna’s son George was killed trying to jump on a moving truck.

Anna died in 1959 from “myocardial infarction,” and “congestive heart failure.”

Copyright, 2011, Lisa A. Alzo

All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fearless Females: March 30: Words of Wisdom

March 30 — Did you receive any advice or words of wisdom from your mother or another female ancestor?

[Note: This post originally ran during the Fearless Females series in March 2010]

My mother taught me to believe in myself and that just because someone else had more money, more advantages, or more opportunities that I shouldn't feel they were better than me, or that this made me less of a person. She also taught me not to give up just because something seemed difficult or impossible to accomplish. Mom was a very smart woman and while at the time I couldn't understand the lessons or principles she was trying to teach, I can truly appreciate them now.

Copyright, 2011, Lisa A. Alzo

All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Close Out Women's History Month: Watch Tracing Female Ancestors Webinar FREE until March 31

There are a few more days to watch my "Silent Voices: Tips and Tricks for Tracing Female Ancestors" for free. The video will be available through March 31st. Click here to get to the link to watch it (Note: You will need to be on a PC with the latest version of Windows Media Player--plugins may be required).

Close out Women's History month by learning some tips and tricks for tracking down those elusive females in your family tree!

Copyright, Lisa A. Alzo
All rights reserved

Fearless Females: March 29: Honoring a Female Ancestor w/ a Page or Trading Card

March 29 — Create a free Footnote Page or a Genealogy Trading Card at Big Huge Labs for a female ancestor. Some of you may have created your own card back in September 2009 following Sheri Fenley’s post over at The Educated Genealogist. This time, the card is for your ancestor.

[Note: This post originally ran during the Fearless Females series in March 2010]

I chose to create a free Footnote Page for Elizabeth Alzo (my grandmother). I used data from the Footnote database to help build the page - there are links to the 1930 census entry for her and to her naturalization petitions. I also added an image of her obituary, and plan to add some stories, and more information down the line.

Copyright, 2011, Lisa A. Alzo

All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 28, 2011

Fearless Females: March 28: Best Friend

March 28 — Do you remember your mother’s best friend? Your grandmother’s? How and where did they meet? How long were they friends? What activities did they share?

[Note: This post originally ran during the Fearless Females series in March 2010]

My mother's best friend growing up was Dolores. I don't want to infringe on her privacy so I won't post her last name or a photograph or any more details. But I know that my mother was very close with her. While Dolores moved to another state, the two still kept in touch over the years with letters and Christmas cards. Many years ago, when I threw a surprise party for my parents 50th wedding anniversary, I invited Dolores and she came! My mother was so surprised--the two hugged and cried and spent the weekend sharing memories. I know it meant so much to my mom to have her best friend there. It was one of those extra special moments in time that you will always remember.

I'm not sure about my grandmothers. They were close to many of their neighbors and women they knew from church.

Copyright, 2011, Lisa A. Alzo

All Rights Reserved

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Fearless Females: March 27: Immigration Story

March 27 — Do you know the immigration story of one or more female ancestors? Do you have any passenger lists, passports, or other documentation? Interesting family stories?

[Note: This post originally ran during the Fearless Females series in March 2010]

The immigration story of my grandmother Verona was what prompted me to begin my genealogical research. She was the last of her siblings to immigrate to America, arriving at age 22 with her niece Mary, who was 16.

She was detained for several days at Ellis Island for medical reasons. I wrote about her experience in my March 19th "Fearless Females" post , "Have you discovered a surprising fact about one of your female ancestors? " and posted an image of the ship's manifest that documented she was detained.

Copyright, 2011, Lisa A. Alzo

All Rights Reserved

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Fearless Females: March 26: Education

March 26 — What education did your mother receive? Your grandmothers? Great-grandmothers? Note any advanced degrees or special achievements.

[Note: Portions of this post originally ran during the Fearless Females series in March 2010]]

My mother graduated from high school but did not go to college (her parents could not afford it). Mom was very smart and good at math. But she went to work after high school and after she married my father worked part time. I think she sometimes regretted not being able to go to college, and she worked very hard to make sure I was able to, and was so proud that I went to graduate school to earn my M.F.A. degree.

My grandmothers each had what was likely the equivalent of an 8th grade education, but by no means were they unintelligent women. They were at a disadvantage being immigrants and, but somehow they managed their households, raised their children, were able to hold down jobs speaking very little English.

Copyright, 2011, Lisa A. Alzo
All Rights Reserved

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fearless Females: March 25: Women and Children

March 25 — Tell how a female ancestor interacted with her children. Was she loving or supportive? A disciplinarian? A bit of both?

My mother was was loving and supportive, but also taught me to have respect for others, especially my elders. My mother was strict but I always knew she loved me and had my best interests at heart. Now that I am adult I can really appreciate my mother's style of parenting. I also thank her for always believing in me and supporting my goals. She was my role model, especially with the way she cared for her own parents. I followed in her footsteps, caring for her and my father during their respective illnesses. My mother taught by example.

Copyright, 2011, Lisa A. Alzo
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Save 20% on my Family Tree University Course Starting March 28th

A new session of my Family Tree University course, Discovering Your Czech and Slovak Roots begins March 28th. Sign up now, using coupon code FTU0311 and save 20%. Also, as a bonus, anyone who registers for this class gets a free download of Family Tree Magazine's "Organization Made Easy" webinar. Click here to register.

Fearless Females: March 24: Shared Traits

March 24 — Do you share any physical resemblance or personality trait with one of your female ancestors? Who? What is it?

I inherited fine hair and fine eyebrows from my paternal grandmother--this trait appears to run on her side of the family. Personality: I tend to take after my mother. She was a generous lady who always tried to see the good in others even if they were not always good to her. I also have inherited her "worry" gene.

Copyright, 2011, Lisa A. Alzo

All right reserved

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fearless Females: March 23: Create a Timeline

March 23 — Create a timeline for a female ancestor using your favorite software program or an online timeline generator such as OurTimelines or TimeToast.

This timeline is for my grandmother, Elizabeth.

Copyright 2011, Lisa A. Alzo
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fearless Females: March 22: This is "Her" Life

March 22 — If a famous director wanted to make a movie about one of your female ancestors who would it be? What actress would you cast in the role and why?

[Note: This post originally ran during the Fearless Females series in March 2010]

I could only hope for a chance to bring the life stories of my grandmother and mother (from my book, Three Slovak Women ) to the big (or even small) screen.

I never really thought about who would play my grandmother in the movie version, but I have thought many times that I would like to see my mother portrayed by Catherine Zeta Jones .

Copyright, 2011, LIsa A. Alzo
All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 21, 2011

Fearless Females: March 21: Tender Moments

March 21 — Describe a tender moment one of your female ancestors shared with you or another family member.

[Note: Portions of this post originally ran during the Fearless Females series in March 2010]

When I think of tender I think of my Grandma Verona. While Grandma shared kisses and hugs with us, she didn’t overdo it on the affection. But, she had this quiet way of letting you know how much she loved you. Things like letting me have the last slice of lemon pie, baking me my own small paska bread for my Easter basket, or slipping a few dollar bills into my pocket when my mom wasn’t watching when she knew there was a toy or treat I wanted. Whenever we would all gather at her house on Friday evenings, or on holidays, sometimes she would sit quietly in her chair and just watch all of us. We were a large, noisy bunch, but she was always delighted to have her children and grandchildren around. When you walked in that door you just knew you were welcome and that Grandma was truly happy to see you.

My grandmother has been gone for nearly 27 years and I still miss her very much.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Fearless Females: March 19: Elusive or Brickwall Ancestor

March 20 — Is there a female ancestor who is your brick wall? Why? List possible sources for finding more information.

While, I wouldn't call her a brickwall, the female ancestor I'm currently trying to learn more about is my great-grandmother Borbala Manovsky Alzo. I posted a bit about her on the first day of the Fearless Female prompts (Favorite Ancestor).

I have a photograph of her (see March 1 post), learned about her from family in Slovakia, and have the record of her marriage to my great-grandfather. Most of my research will be with records in Slovakia - Greek Catholic Church records and other official documents. I hope to first obtain her death certificate, then go back to find any other available records.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Just a Note: Lovely Blog Awards

I have been nominated by several readers for the "Lovely Blog Award" I just wanted to say how much I appreciate the nominations and am glad you enjoy reading this blog. At the moment, I am a bit swamped with many pending deadlines, so am unable to fully participate, or nominate other blogs for the award.


Fearless Females: March 19: Surprising Fact

March 19 — Have you discovered a surprising fact about one of your female ancestors? What was it and how did you learn it? How did you feel when you found out?

[Note: Portions of this post originally ran during the Fearless Females series in March 2010]

One of the more interesting facts I uncovered was my grandmother's hospital stay upon arrival at Ellis Island in August 1922. I first learned about this from the story my mother told me over 20 years ago,when I first began researching my family's history--that my grandmother was suspected to have tuberculosis (she did not--she suffered from asthma most of her life). I then saw a notation "hospital discharged" on the passenger list. Then, I found her listed on a "Record of Detained Aliens."

Of course it's a relief to know that my grandmother was eventually released. I can't imagine how she handled that situation, or how she did not catch TB from being in the hospital ward!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Fearless Females: March 18: Shining Star

March 18 — Shining star: Did you have a female ancestor who had a special talent? Artist, singer, actress, athlete, seamstress, or other? Describe.

Anna Alzo (right) with her cousin Mary, baking cookies for a family wedding.

I always said that my mother should have opened her own bakery. She was a great cook, but she had a real talent for making cakes, cookies, and other desserts. Her specialty: Lady Locks--dainty puffed pastry with creme filling. She made them for every wedding, baptism, graduation, and other special event in our family and they would disappear from the cookie table in a flash! Making these cookies requires patience and precision and I remember watching my mother labor for hours--working to get the dough just right before wrapping it around the special pins, and then after they came out of the oven would carefully fill each one using a pastry bag, and then delicately coat them with powdered sugar from her "magical" powdered sugar can. They weren't just cookies--they were works of art!

Copyright, 2011, Lisa A. Alzo
All rights reserved

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fearless Females: March 17: Social Butterfly?

March 17 — Social Butterfly? What social organizations or groups did your mother or grandmother belong to? Sewing circle, church group, fraternal benefit society or lodge? Describe her role in the group.

[Note: This post originally ran during the Fearless Females series in March 2010]

My mother and grandmothers socialized mostly with their neighbors or friends they knew from church. My mother belonged to the Ladies Penna. Slovak Catholic Union and the Roman Catholic Parochial Beneficial Society of Rosary of the Blessed Virgin.

When our immigrant ancestors arrived in the New World, they often settled in enclaves within cities and towns and tended to cluster in specific regions in the United States. It was common for immigrants, particularly those who did not speak English, to travel together and put down roots among relatives, friends, or neighbors from their native land. These so-called “cluster communities” offered a place where the immigrants could transplant and preserve their culture, lifestyle and traditions as best they could in their new surroundings. Seeking to keep their culture as it existed in the homeland, immigrant groups frequently founded their own churches, schools, boarding houses, and other institutions, as well as forming their own academic, athletic, or charitable groups, and fraternal, occupational, and social organizations. Many also established their own ethnic presses that published newspapers and histories to highlight specific communities.

In the late 1800s, fraternal organizations became very popular. Employed largely in difficult and often dangerous industrial occupations, immigrants sought financial protection for themselves and their families. As a result, they established their own fraternal/benevolent organizations to provide mutual insurance and to foster camaraderie and social interaction, and some even as a way to keep ties to traditions or ways of the old country.

Today, we have the Internet. For my parents and grandparents, these fraternal benefit societies and lodges provided the “social networking” opportunities.

Copyright, 2011, Lisa A. Alzo

All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Fearless Females: March 16: Let's Do Lunch!

March 16 — If you could have lunch (or another meal) with any female family member (living or dead) or any famous female who would it be and why? Where would you go? What would you eat?

[This post originally ran during Fearless Females 2010]

I would like to spend the day with my mother Anna, my grandmothers, Elizabeth and Verona, and my great-grandmothers--Ilona, Borbala (Barbara), Maria, and Anna—all together in one place. I imagine we are in Slovakia – in one of my ancestral homes. Of course we would have Slovak food! I picture us sharing a traditional Easter meal: paska, hrutka/syrek (Easter cheese), hrin (beets & horseradish), klobassy, ham, hard-boiled egg--each food symbolic. I would understand and speak the Slovak language so I could listen to their stories and their wisdom and help them prepare all the delicious foods. My family dream team!
Recipes and information on Slovak Easter traditions are included in my book, Baba’s Kitchen: Slovak & Rusyn Family Recipes and Traditions.

Copyright, 2011, Lisa A. Alzo
All rights reserved.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Fearless Females: March 15: Six-Word Tribute

March 15 — Write a six-word memoir tribute to one of your female ancestors.

[Note: This post originally ran during the Fearless Females series in March 2010]

This exercise is based on the book, Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure. My entries below were first published on my Blog in 2008.

Anna Figlar Alzo (my mother): Generous heart. Wonderful cook. Dearly missed.

Verona Straka Figlar (maternal grandmother): Family devotion. Inner strength. My inspiration.

Elizabeth Fenscak Alzo (paternal grandmother): Fine hair. Tough as nails. Enigma.

Copyright, 2011, Lisa A. Alzo
All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 14, 2011

Fearless Females: March 14: In the News

March 14 — Newsmakers? Did you have a female ancestor who made the news? Why? Was she famous or notorious? Did she appear in the social column?

My aunt Sr. Camilla Alzo wrote this letter to the local newspaper in Duquesne, Pennsylvania, dated 20 January 1955. A fellow genealogist who is indexing newspaper items for the historical society in my hometown came across this clipping and sent it to me. She took such care in writing a simple letter of thanks.

I've always thought that perhaps my aunt was an indirect influence on my decision to become a writer.

Copyright, 2011, Lisa A. Alzo
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Fearless Females: March 13: Moment of Strength

March 13 - Moment of Strength: Share a story where a female ancestor showed courage or strength in a difficult situation.

For this post, I am remembering my mother, Anna, and the grace and dignity she showed during the final years of her life. In 1997, my mother had triple bypass heart surgery, and simultaneously was diagnosed with renal failure, resulting in her having to endure a three-year regimen of kidney dialysis. During this time I served as her primary caregiver and watched her suffer through all of the side effects associated with the procedure. She showed tremendous courage and strength through it all. My mother passed away in 2000, but she fought until the very end.

The above photo of my mother was taken on the deck in my backyard not long before she passed away. She loved to sit on the deck and feel the warm sunshine and listen to the birds (especially the cardinals--her favorite bird). There is not a day that goes by when I don't think of my mother.

Copyright, 2011, Lisa A. Alzo
All Rights Reserved

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Fearless Females: March 12: Working Girl

March 12 — Working girl: Did your mother or grandmother work outside the home? What did she do? Describe her occupation.

[Note: This post originally ran during the Fearless Females series in March 2010]

My mother worked part-time as a receptionist in an optometrist's office. She likely did not have to because my father had a steady job as a carpenter on the railroad and did other carpentry jobs on the side, but my mother worked to save money to help pay for my high school and college education. I am so grateful.

Both of my grandmothers also worked outside the home--my paternal grandmother at Kennywood Amusement Park and my maternal grandmother worked cleaning houses for families in the Squirrel Hill area of Pittsburgh and for a school superintendent. I'm not ashamed to say that they worked hard and how I admire them for handling their jobs and raising their children. Neither had an easy life, but they didn't complain. They taught by example, and I'm pleased to honor them, and my mother, with this Blog post.

Copyright, 2011, Lisa A. Alzo

All rights reserved

Friday, March 11, 2011

Fearless Females: March 11: Tragic or Unexpected Deaths

March 11 — Did you have any female ancestors who died young or from tragic or unexpected circumstances? Describe and how did this affect the family.

[Note: This post originally ran during the Fearless Females series in March 2010]

My grand (great) Aunt Mary Fencsak Ceyba died in June of 1929 from tuberculosis. She was 38 years old and left behind five children John, Anna, George, Margaret and Helen. Right after her death her husband remarried a widowed neighbor woman who had five children of her own. Mary's son, George, told me that life after his mother's death was difficult.

I wrote about Mary in a case study for the January 2008 issue of Internet Genealogy.

Copyright, 2011, Lisa A. Alzo

All Rights Reserved