The Great Eight!

I came across a blog post today, “The Theory of Eight Surnames,” in which the writer shared some advice he received while overseas. They told him everyone should be able to recite what I’m referring to as “the great eight” or the eight surnames of your great-grandparents. For me, I have two sets since I was adopted so I would need to shoot for 16 to remember. If you add in my husband’s line, I’m up to 24. Instead of taking up the challenge and trying to list them, I thought it would be interesting to see it more visually…

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Meet Dennis Wolf – #whyivax

Meet Dennis Wolf, my mom’s only maternal cousin, who was born on July 9, 1945. My mother was 13 at the time of his birth so definitely old enough to understand just how much this new baby boy meant to everyone, especially his parents. The story of his birth and the happiness it brought to everyone was constantly talked about in our family. Dennis was the only child of Aunt Frances, my grandmother’s sister, and her second husband, Henry “Bear” Wolf. Frances had lost her first husband when he passed away only a few years after their marriage – they…

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Paternal Update on My Birthline

Earlier this year I was finally able to reconcile my genealogy research with my DNA. The key outcome of this effort was the realization that my birth father was not actually the person my research had led me to. Because this experience is a good example of the importance of DNA in researching family history, I blogged about the experience and related work that led me to my actual birth father over on another site I set up: Finding Father – Circumstantial vs DNA Evidence. So based on this new knowledge, I have updated my list of surnames shown on my…

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Finding Father – Circumstantial vs DNA Evidence

As an adoptee, there have been times when my passion for genealogy and family history have been frustrating. Yes, I have wonderful families on my adopted side and on my husband’s side to research, but there was always this whole section of my tree just sitting blank. Finally in about 1995 I received a clue about my birth family when Catholic Social Service told me my birth mother had passed away. While horrible news, it ended up being the only reason I was able to eventually discover my birth mom’s name and family and make contact with them nine years…

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Visiting with Isaac Wilson – The Norris Dam Relocation Surveys

The other day I stumbled upon an amazing find on Ancestry.com – the Tennessee Valley, Family Removal and Population Readjustment Case Files, 1934-1953. For years I’ve accessed the cemetery relocation records, but never realized the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) also documented relocations of living families. I imagine being forced to move from the only home these people ever knew was probably traumatic. However, through these records, those who went through it left a fortunate glimpse into their lives for their descendants. Here’s a story I was able to compile about Isaac Wilson  just using the information he provided for this…

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A Dangerous Time to be Alive

In the study of family history, one aspect of life I have become aware of in the mid-1800s to mid-1900s is the frequency of accidental death and the transparent reporting of the details. For example, I found an article in the Chicago Tribune from July 28, 1903, noting the following accidental deaths in Chicago since January of that year: 623 people died in fires 350 people died from explosions 492 people died in mine accidents 340 people died in cyclones and storms 77 people died from lightning 78 people died by live electric wires 1,066 people drowned Viewing these deaths in the context of…

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Mapping the Ancestral Home

It all started with a simple question: When did Anton Washkowiak die? I looked in all the obvious places: the social security death index, the church death records, the church cemetery index. Nothing. Sure he was born in 1863, but I still didn’t think it would be that hard to find out when he died. I had figured out the dates of death for the rest of his family who made the journey to the U.S. including his mother and  five of his siblings (his father and three other siblings had passed away in Poland). Why could I not find the date for Anton?…

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The Ancestral Landscape

In trying to better understand the life of my ancestors, I usually study maps from different time periods of the area in which they lived. Knowing how the landscape changed over time can offer clues to choices the family made such as relocating or marrying someone from another village. I also like to have this background information in case I ever visit the area because what I would see today might not have been what was there during my ancestor’s lifetime. For example, this was what I discovered when I recently found myself browsing the Military Survey maps linked from the…

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Organizing Genealogy Books

    Since the first week of Thomas MacEntee’s Genealogy Do-Over covers organization, I decided to start by organizing all my genealogy books. As I collected them throughout the house and placed them in one bookcase, I decided it was probably also a good idea to create an inventory of them. That way, I would always know which books I have already purchased. To make the process go a little faster, I used the Dragon Dictation app on my iPhone and just read the title to the phone. Then after the app translated the title, I copied and pasted the…

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Finding Your Ancestors in the Cemetery

To the average person cemeteries can represent a place to completely avoid, revere, find solace or perhaps a little of all that depending on the mood. But to a genealogist, a cemetery represents a place where significant family information can be discovered. For me, even before becoming a genealogist, graveyards were most definitely a place strongly associated with family. Possibly because my mom took my brother and I to cemeteries so much as children to visit relatives who had passed away. Later as a young woman, I gained an additional insight into graveyards after working with a land surveyor laying…

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