Sunday, November 29, 2015

Finding Ancestors in FindMyPast - Save 75% Off World Subscription - Offer Expires 30 November 2015

Hurry! Save 75% off  World Subscription for FindMyPast 

While shoppers were out embracing Black Friday madness, I was at home enjoying my coffee and logging some serious genealogy research time thanks to FindMyPast.

No big deal, right? Well, this wasn't just any genealogy research day for me, it was a chance to take advantage of my FindMyPast account to explore many of their great collections and make some unexpected discoveries. I never would have expected to find my Slovak ancestors in a database that I mostly associate with records from England, Ireland, etc. To my surprise and delight I located some records for ancestors from my paternal grandmother's side of the family in two databases. 

The first was the Passenger Lists Leaving UK 1890-1960.This database shows has names of people who left Ireland and Great Britain between 1890 and 1960 and offers details such as where they were going and where they were coming from, where they called home as well as their age, occupation and whether they were married or single.

(I found Mike Finchack and his wife sailing to the United States on the City of Chester in 1891. From other research I learned he was a "bird of passage"--someone who came to the U.S. to work and earn money so that he could eventually return home with a goal of using the money to buy land).

I also went back to the British Newspapers database to review a coroner's inquest notice in the May 10, 1884 - Liverpool Mercury newspaper - Liverpool, Merseyside, England I had found some time ago. The brief article summarized the tragic death of an infant Michal Fenchak who died after accidentally falling in a pan of hot water.

I just love finding more pieces for my family history puzzles, don't you?

Lesson learned here; You never know which databases your ancestors will show up in. If you haven't explored FindMyPast, now is the perfect time to do so. This weekend the World Subscription is only $49.87 for 1 year when you use promo code THNKSGNG15 or THANKSNOV15.  (This offer is for subscribers from US only). Once you following the link to the site, click the "Subscribe" button and then select the World 12 month membership and enter either of the codes above is the discount code box to the right and click apply), then follow the instructions to finish the sign up process).

But, hurry, the offer ends on 30 November 2015

[Disclosure: I am a FindMyPast Affiliate. What does this mean? If you click on the link and purchase a subscription I will receive a small commission for each subscription purchased.]

©2015, copyright Lisa A. Alzo. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Ten Things I Miss About Dad: Remembering John Alzo 1925-2005

Ten years ago today I said my final goodbye to my father, John Alzo. I still remember holding his hand as he took his last breath in the room at the Hospice, and even after all this time, the tears are streaming down my face as I write this post. How can it possibly be 10 years?  

One of my favorite photos of my father, John Alzo, taken in the 1940s

But Dad would not want me to be sad. I can hear him now, "Don't cry, Pumpkin." (He used to call me this when I was a little girl).  Instead, I will think about all of the good memories of my father and share the ten things I miss most about him.

1. His smile. My father always had a smile on his face. He was just a naturally happy person. His smile was big and beautiful. It makes me happy whenever I look at photos of Dad smiling such as the photo above which is one of my favorites.

2. Generosity. My father was generous with his time, his talents, and his money. It may sound cliche, but truly he was the type of person who would literally give you the shirt off his back and never expect a thing in return.  He was a caring husband, father, brother, friend, and neighbor. One of my cousins once told me "If everyone had someone like your dad in their lives the world would truly be a better place."

3. Seeing him sitting in his recliner. Dad loved his recliner. He would read the paper or watch sports on TV in his recliner. Without fail he would also spend many hours sleeping in that chair.  I still look over at the chair he used in my home and imagine him sitting there with the afghan covering his legs, eating peppermint patties.

4. Those eyes. Beautiful and blue. In them you saw a humble and caring soul.

5. Laughter. Dad loved to laugh and joke around, especially with his long-time friends, Whitey and Andy.  Dad even managed to joke and laugh nearly up until the minute he lost consciousness right before he died.  

6. His favorite sayings. There were so many. Some I can share here, others I won't.  One that always made me laugh was "He couldn't buy a crippled crab a crutch," an old saying meaning you couldn't afford to buy something). I honestly still don't really get that one, but dad liked to say it. I will also never forget him saying "Time to go to the "emergency list"(meaning a grilled cheese sandwich). He would say this during lunch or dinner when he stayed at an assisted living place for awhile after a long illness and didn't like any choices on the menu.

7. A calming presence. My mother was a firestorm and Dad was the calm. (I wish I could be more like Dad, but I take after my mother--it is down to those Rusyn genes I'm sure).  Dad could handle any situation with quiet, strong resolve, even when life threw some pretty big obstacles at him like a stroke and Cancer. I could count on my one hand the number of times I saw my father truly get angry with anyone. It was not in his nature. And he forgave...a lot.

8. His hats. My dad loved hats. Mostly baseball style caps to keep his head covered and protected at work since he had a crewcut. Dad had a large collection of caps--football and baseball teams, and assorted other novelty-type hats.  He also had some popular fashion styled hats in the 40s and 50s (like in the picture below).

John Alzo, c. 1943
9. Love of sports. Dad was a basketball star in high school and then went on to play for many intramural and semi-professional teams in Western Pennsylvania--he played the game until he was in his early 50s. I am sure if he would have had a chance to play in big professional leagues he would have given anything to do so. His motto: "Shoot Your Best Shot,"--on the court and in life.  Dad also liked to watch football (the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pitt). Dad took me to some great high school all-star high school basketball games when I was a teenager. Basketball was his life for a very long time.

10. His ability to fix things. Dad was a carpenter by trade and he could build beautiful things out of wood (decks, cabinets, you name it), repair roofs, and fix things. He had such skill and patience and took great pride in each nail he hammered. And, he could spot shoddy work in an instant. His work was appreciated by family, friends, and his community.  Oh how I wish Dad were here to work on things around my house. More than the carpentry, Dad could fix things figuratively too.  He wasn't the overly affectionate type, but whenever I needed comforting after a disappointment or heartbreak, Dad was there. He would just envelope me in his big strong arms and tell me it was all going to be okay. And, he was always right.

If I had just one more day with my Dad I would tell him all of this and more. He was truly one of a kind. 

©2015, copyright Lisa A. Alzo. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Don't Miss It! Black Friday Flash Sale at Hack Genealogy – 50% Off Digital Downloads

Here's your chance to save 50% off of digital downloads of Hack Genealogy Boot Camp sessions - such as Evernote, Self-Publishing, Scrivener, and more!  

Here is the information provided by Hack Genealogy.

Don’t miss this once a year opportunity! Get your Genealogy Boot Camp digital downloads* for 50% off starting Thursday, November 26th at 9:00 pm CST through 11:59 pm CST on Monday, November 30th.
Use promo code BLACKFRIDAY when you purchase any of the following Boot Camp digital downloads:
  • Blogger Boot Camp
  • Evernote Boot Camp
  • Self-Publishing Boot Camp
  • Genealogy Writing Boot Camp
  • Get Your Genealogy Groove Back Boot Camp
  • Newspaper Research Strategies Boot Camp
  • Research Right: Tracking and Evaluating Your Genealogy Research Boot Camp
  • Scrivener Mini-Boot Camp: Getting Started with Scrivener
This sale applies to both the Personal and Commercial (genealogy society) download versions!
Visit the Hack Genealogy Store at for more information – and don’t forget to use code BLACKFRIDAY at checkout!
*Sale does not apply to the Affiliate Marketing Boot Camp digital download.
BootCamp Information ©2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.
Blog Post ©2015, copyright Lisa A. Alzo. All rights reserved.

One Final Chance to Win a Great Prize: Family History NaNoWriMo Contest – 26-29 November 2015

For the final week of NaNoWriMo 2015, here is one more chance to win a great prize thanks to GeneaBloggers and F+W Media.

Here is the contest announcement:


A NaNoWriMo Contest at GeneaBloggers!

During National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), GeneaBloggers and The Accidental Genealogist and Family Tree University want genealogists and family historians to consider writing their own life stories. Have you struggled to write your family’s memoir? There’s help on the way . . .
Take a look at the Writing Your Family Memoir independent study course from Family Tree University, created by Sunny McClellan Morton.
Writing Your Family Memoir: Create a Captivating Record of Your Family’s Story: The story of your own or your family’s history is likely to be the most personal, emotionally satisfying and overwhelming writing project you’ll ever undertake. You’ve collected oral histories, personal memories, journal entries, photographs, letters and countless other documents. Now find out how to weave them together into a compelling story. In this course, you’ll work with a published writer to craft an outline for your book and start putting your family’s legacy down on paper.
Better yet, why not enter the Family History NaNoWriMo Contest this week and you could win a FREE download of Writing Your Family Memoir independent study course from Family Tree University valued at $99.99. We’ll select one (1) lucky winner!
You could win if you enter by 11:50 pm CST on Sunday 29 November 2015. Click here!
[To find out the name of the lucky winner from Week 2, click here].

Contest information ©2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.
Blog Post ©2015, copyright Lisa A. Alzo, All Rights reserved.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Three Things I Learned from the Affiliate Marketing Boot Camp - Here's Your Chance to Learn Too!

Did you miss the Hack Genealogy Affiliate Marketing Boot Camp on 21 November 2015? I had the privilege of being the moderator for two information-packed sessions  The Basics of Affiliate Marketing and Creative Affiliate Marketing Campaigns and Methods presented by my friend and colleague, Thomas MacEntee.  

We had a full house and there were so many excellent questions by the attendees. Thomas broke down this often difficult-to-grasp concept into an easy-to-follow format, defined the confusing terminology, and provided comprehensive syllabus materials for both sessions. You can now get all of this information in the Affiliate Marketing Boot Camp – To Go! package for a special price of $26.95. Click here to purchase now.

I personally took three full pages of notes during the sessions.  Here are my top three takeaways:

1. There is no "easy" button. There is a bit of a learning curve before you can be successful at this stuff. Different platforms, different accounts, different terms of service, etc. Thomas provided a thorough overview, and even though I have already dipped my toes in the pool, I now I need to do some homework myself to see how I can effectively work affiliate marketing into my business plan.

2. Plan. Plan. Plan. It is not too early to start planning out my campaigns for 2016. Thomas offered some fabulous suggestions and resources and I can't wait to try them. While everyone else is shopping on Black Friday, I will be home planning my 2016 affiliate marketing strategy!

3. I CAN DO THIS!  Yes there is a learning curve, and I know I have to prepare the groundwork for my success. But..I know I can do this thanks to all of the great tips I learned in this boot camp. 

Below is the official announcement on how you can purchase the "to go" version of Affiliate Marketing Boot Camp.


If you were unable to attend the Affiliate Marketing Boot Camp this past Saturday,  you’re in luck! We’ve packaged the entire event – webinar videos, handouts and freebies – into one product!

We had a enthusiastic crowd with Thomas MacEntee presenting The Basics of Affiliate Marketing and Creative Affiliate Marketing Campaigns and Methods.
Have you ever wanted to earn extra money to support your “genealogy habit” or any other hobby? Maybe you want to supplement your income in order to further your education or upgrade computer equipment? Perhaps you even want to set up a part-time or full-time online business in the genealogy field or some other field? Affiliate marketing may be the perfect resource for your goals.
You’ll have unlimited access to these materials, with no time limit, and learn how to use earn money online using affiliate marketing! Price: $26.95!
Don't delay.  If you want to add affiliate marketing to your income stream in the New Year, now is the time to get started!
[Affiliate Marketing information and images courtesy of Thomas MacEntee, used with permission].
©2015, copyright Lisa A. Alzo. All rights reserved.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Staying the Course: Finishing Week 3 of NaNoWriMo

Well, Week 3 of NaNoWriMo 2015 has concluded and I am still "in it to win it." I am writing something every day.I  am pushing through to beat the excuses of not having time and trying to focus on my project, despite many other writing deadlines. 

Image Credit: Pixabay
Okay, let's get the accountability stuff out of the way. Here are my stats for Week 3:

  • Total Words Written 21,867 
  • Words Remaining 28,133
  • Current Day 22 
  • Days Remaining 9
  • At This Rate You Will Finish On December 21, 2015
  • Words Per Day To Finish On Time 3,126

This is a tall order to finish before 30 November 2015.  But, not impossible. I am planning for some writing sprints this week.  We shall see.

Now, more importantly, here are a few things I have learned about "writer self" in Week 3.

  • I need to schedule my writing sessions for this project because there are too many other priorities (in other words paid writing work) pulling for my "rear in chair" time.
  • I am an early morning creative writer.
  • I need external deadlines (I tend to let my self-imposed deadlines pass).
  • I don't really believe in "Writer's Block" (more about this at another time).
  • I really do like my writing project. Every time I go back and review my research I am amazed at the complexity of the story.
  • I enjoy the process of storyboarding and I could not get through NaNoWriMo without Scrivener for Mac and Windows (It was so worth buying both versions).

Week 4 is underway. Will I win?  Stay tuned...

If you are still in it too...I'd love to hear how you are doing.

©2015, copyright Lisa A. Alzo. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Family History NaNoWriMo Contest at GeneaBloggers – 19-22 November 2015

Announcing the Week 3 Family History NaNoWriMo Contest at GeneaBloggers

Memoir writing is a topic I have covered in articles, blog posts, presentations, and courses. Most recently I wrote an article, "Telling Your Own Story: Crafting a Memoir in Six Steps," for the Summer 2015 issue of Crossroads--the official quarterly publication of the Utah Genealogical Association (you will need to be a member to access the issue to read the article).  I also wrote a post for the Legacy Family Tree Blog in 2014 on "Five Fabulous Digital Tools to Power Your Life Story."

If you have been thinking about writing a memoir, you will want to enter this week's Family History NaNoWriMo Contest at GeneaBloggers.

Again I am happy to be teaming up with my colleague, Thomas MacEntee at GeneaBloggers, and F+W Media for another Family History NaNoWriMo Contest. Below is the announcement for the Week 3 contest - for another great book--The Truth of Memoir.

A NaNoWriMo Contest at GeneaBloggers!

During National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), GeneaBloggers and The Accidental Genealogist want genealogists and family historians to consider writing their own life stories. What will you leave behind for your descendants to understand you and how you lived? And how do you write about others in your life as part of your own memoir?

Subtitled “How to Write about Yourself and Others with Honesty, Emotion, and Integrity”, The Truth of Memoir by Kerry Cohen covers the topic of how to write about others in a memoir. “. . . Cohen’s personal experiences make her highly qualified to write on this topic, as she is the author of the bestselling memoir Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity.
Memoir is unique in its power to injure others and most memoirists have had to struggle with the repercussions of writing about people in their lives, often in unflattering ways. How were they able to triumph over fear? The Truth of Memoir contains insight, advice and recounts from thirty memoirists on the topic of writing about others, from family members and friends to ex-lovers and children. This book will give writers the courage to tackle these topics without doubt or fear.”
Better yet, why not enter the Family History NaNoWriMo Contest this week and you could win a FREE copy of The Truth of Memoir, valued at $17.99. We’ll select one (1) lucky winner!
You could win if you enter by 11:50 pm CST on Sunday 22 November 2015. Click here to enter!
Contest information ©2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.
[To find out the name of the lucky winner from Week 2, click here].
Blog post ©2015, copyright Lisa A. Alzo. All rights reserved.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Half Way There: Continuing the Climb in Week 2 of NaNoWriMo

Well, it is now Sunday 15 November and two weeks since I started my NaNoWriMo journey. There’s good news and bad news. 

Image Credit: Pixabay
Whenever I am asked which I want to hear first I always choose bad news first so that the good news is what I hear last. 

The bad news for my personal NaNoWriMo tally is that I have written a total of 16,061 words thus far.  I am averaging 1,070 words per day, which is 600 under what I should be writing to reach the 50,000 words goal.  At this rate I won’t finish until 17 December 2015. If that were to happen it certainly would not be the end of the world, but I would much rather make the 30 November deadline.  To finish on time I need to bump up my word count to 2,122 words per day. The good news, however, is that I am STILL HERE. Still trying.  And I have written 16,000 words!  This is more than I have done on this project in the past six months.

So, still striving and aiming to write even more words in Week 3. I won’t lie and say it is going to be easy, or that I have some magic momentum consuming me. What I do have is a desire to do the best I can.  

As part of the NaNoWriMo experience you get “Pep Talks” in messages from other writers on the site. For the halfway point, one of the pep talks had the following quote: 

"Here’s what I want you to know: The kindest thing you can do for yourself right now is to let go of this fear. Don’t worry about writing something bad. Just write."
— Stephanie Perkins.

So, for me, it will be one foot in front of the other (or one keystroke at a time) to continue the climb. I am not worried about writing something bad. I just plan to keep writing. 

For me, it isn't the destination, but the journey that counts.

©2015, copyright Lisa A. Alzo. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Family History NaNoWriMo Contest at GeneaBloggers – 12-15 November 2015

Announcing the Week 2 Family History NaNoWriMo Contest at GeneaBloggers.

Again I am happy to be teaming up with my colleague, Thomas MacEntee at GeneaBloggers, and F+W Media for another Family History NaNoWriMo Contest. Below is the announcement for the Week 2 contest - for another great book!


A NaNoWriMo Contest at GeneaBloggers!

During National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), GeneaBloggers and The Accidental Genealogist are helping to get genealogists and family historians to write their own life stories.

Get started with a copy of Writing Life Stories by Bill Roorbach, with Kristen Keckler, PhD, available at the Writer’s Digest Store. “This 10th anniversary edition of the popular classic offers friendly instruction and stimulating exercises with updated information on current memoir writing trends, ethics, Internet research, and marketing ideas. Learn techniques for recalling memories, access emotions, shape scenes from experience, develop characters, and more. This is your time to turn untold life stories into personal essays or even a published book.”
Better yet, why not enter the Family History NaNoWriMo Contest this week and you could win a FREE copy of Writing Life Stories, valued at $16.99. We’ll select one (1) lucky winner!
You could win if you enter by 11:50 pm CST on Sunday 15 November 2015. Click here to enter!
Contest information ©2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.
[To find out the name of the lucky winner from Week 1, click here].
Blog post ©2015, copyright Lisa A. Alzo. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

"I Was on a Floating Bomb." - Uncovering Stories and Mementos from Dad's World War II Service

"I was on a 'floating bomb'.” This is how my father described the ship on which he served during World War II. "Our ship hauled fuel for the fighter planes."

John Alzo (at right) on his ship during World War II service

During November we observe Veterans Day in the United States to honor armed service veterans.  For genealogists, researching military records can often turn up valuable clues not found in other documents.

In 2006, while preparing to sell my parents’ house after they had passed away, I found a small brown, unmarked notebook in one of my father’s closets. Out of curiosity I flipped through it, and to my surprise, discovered it was a diary of sorts—notes that my father kept during his service in the United States Navy during World War II. It really wasn’t a diary of personal revelations, but rather a log of the events from the time he entered the service (he was drafted two months after his high school graduation in 1943) until his final notation on August 14, 1945.

John Alzo, 1943

While my dad was not all that interested in genealogy, and knew very little about his ancestors, he was always willing to talk about his time serving in World War II.  He said when he was drafted he actually got to choose which branch of service, so he chose the Navy. Why? He said it was "so he wouldn’t have to sleep in a foxhole.” 

My father was not much of a writer, so it was a pleasant surprise indeed to find this little gem. 

A couple of interesting entries included:

“Entered the service on 16th of August 1943. Boot training at Great Lakes”

“Boarded U.S.S. Tablerock on 15th of December”

“Dec. 25th – First Christmas away from home.”
“December 27 picked up invasion barges in Wilmington, CA.”

“Dec. 28 – Left Wilmington for Pearl Harbor at 5:00 p.m.”

“Dec. 29 – 1st verge of seasickness.

“June 11 – Arrived in Panama 10:00 p.m. Eleven hrs. to get thru locks.”

“June 12 – Met Whitey Petrisko” (his best friend from home who was in the Army).

And another very interesting entry in 1945:
“Ships position at time of surrender: August 14, 1945. Time 12:31 10º N by 164º W.”

While my father’s notes are a pretty cut and dry account of his military service, at least I have some written testimony of his experiences as part of “The Greatest Generation” and a piece of my father that I can always keep with me now that he is gone—something to give me greater insight into his life as a young man.

In addition to this journal/diary, I have a photo album with many snapshots of my father during his time in the U.S. Navy, as well as an address book listing the names of some of his fellow servicemen, my father’s induction notice, dog tags, and discharge papers.  These items have provided great details for telling the story of my father’s life.

If you are not able to find any documents or photographs related to your ancestor’s military service in home and family sources, there are plenty government resources you can consult, including:

  • Compiled service records
  • Pension Applications and Pension Payment Records: 
  • Headstones and Grave markers
  • Draft registration cards
  • Bounty land warrant application files
  • Oral histories 
  • Newspaper articles
  • Town/local histories

Where to Find Military Records

In addition to home and family sources, you can locate military records for your ancestors using both free and pay-for-access sites and databases.  Subscription sites, and Fold3 have a number of indexes and records online. The U.S. National Archives RecordsAdministration (NARA) holds Federal military service records in two repositories: National Archives Building in Washington, DC (Revolutionary War – 1912) and the National Military Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri (WWI – present).   Some additional records may be found at NARA regional archives reading rooms.  While a majority of NARA’s holdings are not online—there are two online collections you may find useful: The Archival Research Catalog (ARC) and Access to Archival Databases (AAD) System.  Other state and local libraries or repositories should also be checked.  For oral histories, check out the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress.  In addition, check FamilySearch for digitized collections (e.g. United States, World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918; US. World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942; Index to Naturalizations of World War I Soldiers, 1918; and United States, Applications for Headstones for Military Veterans, 1925-1941), and others you can explore from home (check also by state for special or unique collections).  Of course, there are also records still only available via FHL microfilm you can rent for a fee through your local FamilySearch Center.  Also, consult Joe Beine’s free site: Genealogy Research Guides - Military Records.

Since my father served in World War II, I am especially interested in resources for that time period and I find The World War II Research and Writing Center created by my friend and colleague, Jennifer Holik especially helpful. Jennifer is a World War II speaker, researcher, and author, and she recently finished a speaking tour in Europe. Be sure to check out her World War II Toolbox and her books, Stories from the World War II Battlefield: Reconstructing Army, Air Corps, and National Guard Service Records (Volume 1)Stories from the World War II Battlefield: Navigating Service Records for the Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Merchant Marines (Volume 2), and Stories from the Battlefield: A Quick Guide to Researching World War II Records.

I’m grateful to my father and all veterans for their brave and dedicated service to our country.  Veterans Day is a great time to discover the heroes in your family tree, but thankfully, you don’t have to limit your research to the month of November—use the above resources to research military service records all year long!

[The above is a revised version of my blog post, "Finding Genealogical Clues in Military Mementoswritten for the Legacy Family Tree Blog,  05 November 2013].

©2015, copyright Lisa A. Alzo. All rights reserved.