Wednesday, December 31, 2014

As 2014 closes and 2015 Opens Genealogy reflection

Usually as each year goes by, things are pretty stable when it comes to my family. Usually I have a number of members who are fighting, other that are getting along, and some are just completely ignored. This is within a normal year.

2014 was so very different.

Refinding Family
I found a whole group of cousins and other relatives on two different continents I didn't know anything about. Stunned as one of the bigger group lived only minutes away from where I did most of my growing up before I moved to Australia in 1997. This stunned me as I thought my mother's brothers were both gone forever when I was young. Only to find, one had died, but the other was very much alive and living not far from where I used to live.

Even after getting used to this idea for months, I'm still appalled I didn't know him or any of his children growing up. How could anyone blank out a whole sibling for some reason?  I know siblings fight and don't get along - I've had 2 sisters have haven't gotten along in over 30 years - but we still acknowledge the one sister even though she's a pain in the butt. Further, I do know if she ever needed anything, we would all be there no matter how mad we are at her, but to just blank someone out completely? Wow. I couldn't ever think how or why this would be done.
Sounds like a great thing - National Red Cross Societies in Europe are publishing 180 photos of people looking for their missing relatives in the hope of reconnecting families.

Thankfully, I have now connected with my maternal paternal (my mother's father's side) cousins and am getting to know them even if its slowly. Hopefully one day we will be at the point where we can meet when we go over to visit face to face.

I have also, connected with the maternal maternal (my mother's mother's side) cousin as well and again am getting to know her slowly too. This area is a bit more complicated as she speaks Polish and I only speak English. I can see me trying to learn Polish somehow which would make better communication for us.

For those new cousins I have found, I am very grateful that we've had the chance to meet and I can't wait to know you even better over the next amount of years. 

Information Waterfall
I have started to learn more about my ancestors (as you can tell by the above reconnections) as the information is now starting to come online and is very helpful. In fact, what was once a drop of water here and there is now a full blast waterfall. This is one reason why I haven't posted here for some time. I'm trying to capture as much information as I can.
I can imagine I would have looked like this earlier this year

Not this is bad at all. In fact, the slow drop of water was one reason why I shook my head and put away my researching for years. Sometimes its better to admit the time isn't right and set it aside to restart later. My later came this year after I finished one of my certifications and I found myself looking up some information and actually finding some good information.

In fact, I've tried to step back from this for the past few weeks now because it was starting to consume my life. Have I stopped completely? Nope, I'm just getting my paperwork in as much order as I can, so when I start to go forward again, I'll have direction.

Education for all
In the last bit of the year, I was asked to write up a short course for doing genealogy. Wow. There's so much information that you have to know and know how to do.  Then how do I explain it to everyone? That's another hurdle in itself. I sat down and thought of things from scratch and outlined things quite a bit and came up with an 8 week course, and then a 5 week course.

Then I delivered the 5 week course. People liked it, but I know it can be done better. The question is what do I leave out and what do I leave in? I do have to cover the parts beginners do by mistake only because they don't know any better. Thing about it what's the sense in doing family history if the people you are teaching are going to be making those same mistakes that annoy those of us who have been doing this for years? Better to nip them at the start rather than try to get them to stop later on.

Where can I see 2015 heading?
2015 is going to be another busy one for me.

Direct Family
Gauquie's & Rampaye's
There's the family I'm determined to find out how the Gauquie's and the Rampaye's are connected. I mean really determined. My game plan is this:
Fan tree

1. In the last few weeks, I've taken to start going through each of these names and writing down the relatives information on FamilySearch. I will keep on this until I've exhausted this research tool.

2. There are a few other sites I've found these families in, and I will add these to the information in step 1.

3. I will then try and connect all the names as much as I can. This is all called the fan method I learned the other day.

4. If all else fails, I will contact others directly asking them about people. I've already posted on a forum about my ancestors and so far I haven't had any responses back and its been about 2 weeks.

Wojtkowski's & ƚlepowron's
This is a bit more difficult than the one above. This is because they are in Poland (along with all the different languages) but also because the communities are small and I think whatever relatives where there have either been murdered by the Russians or have moved to other sections of Europe.

Because of this, I've asked my father to do a genealogy DNA kit. He has agreed and as I am writing this it is on its way to him in the USA. I will then be able to see what DNA is his and what DNA is my mother's. I'm hoping to have some hits with his DNA - if people will email me back that is.

This is one of the maternal maternal (my mother's grandmother) families I found this year. One of them is my great cousin in Poland I mentioned above. However, there are other relatives in the US we both want to reconnect with. Hopefully, this year I can find out more about them and contact them. It would be great to get to know more about them too.
The Jagodzinski brick wall which will take bricks out of eventually - just give me some time

Jagodzinski's - Brick wall
This is another family with is out there some place. I know there are others due to some slight research I have done. I have called in my maternal grandfather's alien paperwork and found out some interesting information. However, this is still one of my main brick walls that are out there. I keep telling him I will find his family - somehow.

I have been asked to do a few smaller classes on searching family history websites. It should be interesting to see what I come up with there. Further, there is talk of a group meeting in a community space to talk family history.
The community space in Knox City, Victoria Australia in 2014.

Then there is the longer class information I will have to go back and tweak to get it to flow better.

I will have to look to see if I can find anywhere that teaches Polish. Last time I did this a few years ago, there was no one that currently did this.

Giving back
In 2014, I learned how to do what we call indexing. Not only did it help others in finding information, but it also taught me what information could be found in some of the documents. For anyone reading this, please give it a shot and give back. Its free through FamilySearch and one batch takes less than an hour to do. I would recommend it to anyone.

I will need to get back into do this as life has taken over some aspects of things and indexing was one such thing.

Family Growth
As much as I love reconnecting and growing my family through research, we have also been trying to grow our tiny family at least one more tiny person - a baby. This past year we've done 3 rounds of IVF and with still no positive outcome.
After a transfer in 2014

In 2015, we are looking at doing at least one more round. I think the specialist is throwing everything she has at it this time. Hopefully, round number 5 will be for us.

As I close this post, please keep in mind, those relatives around you won't be there forever - cherish them no matter how angry and upset you get at them. One day, they will no longer be around for you to feel that way about. Besides you can never have too much family. Think of those people out there that have no family whatsoever - you don't want to become one of them due to things you have said and did.

All the best & stay safe in 2015!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Found - family not known

Have you ever felt like you were on a roller coaster and hanging on for dear life? Well that was me this past week. Why?
Turning back the pages to 6 weeks earlier...

Turn the pages back to 6 weeks earlier...
I've been trying to find anything out about my mother's side of the family. I've always felt like she almost crawled out from under a rock because she never would talk much about her family (as you could probably tell from my entries in A Book of Me Written By You). I knew my middle name came from her mother, she said not anything flattering about my grandfather, and I knew my grandmother was in a mental hospital. Oh and her grandfather's first wife, Annie, was loved by all. That's the extent of the information she let go.

Now, that I'm looking up my family history, every now and then I start to searching for her family names again - Jagodzinski, Ostryzycki, Gauquie and Larson - and start to find people with the names in common. I start to read up on the pages I find and can guess at where they are placed. Then I start to get some obituaries, which always has a ton of information. One of these was for my great aunt
From my Great Aunt Helen's Funeral page
Helen and I learned she had just died within a few days. Always so close to finding those ancestors but never quite make it. Anyhow, I leave a message stating how sorry we were about the loss because for me it was - it was another close link to finding out more about my grandfather and those in his family.

Time marches on...Present time
Recently I've been contacted by someone with one of the above mentioned surnames, but what kind of reception would they have of me and of the family? Very lightly, I reply back to the person and find they wanted to know where we were and they knew someone was in one of the towns I grew up but didn't know who.

I feel like all of my Christmas' have come at once - 2 1/2 months early! Now I get to know more about my grandfather's side of the family and now know more about my mother's family. It proves that sometimes it pays to look for others in your family. At the present time we are taking baby steps to get to know each other.

However, I do want to make it known, that this could have gone the other direction. Many times people feel everyone wants something from you and you either get the welcome back to the family or you get the what do you want and why did you contact us again for. Truthfully, I was expecting the latter response due to how my mother would say things when she gave me the bits of information I had about her family. Thankfully, its not always the case and now I have another whole side of the family I get to acknowledge and talk to.

Further finds
I have also been able to locate my great grandparents' graves. They are on find a gave and boy the picture put on one of the headstones looks like my grandmother and her sister, Aunt Honey.

My 2x great grandmother who came from Poland to the US
Getting back to the roller coaster feeling, is because its great to find out tiny bits of information here and there - like flying around the track- but at the bottom of  turns and such I'm always asking myself why? Why doesn't my mother want me to talk to them? Meet them? Have a relationship with them? Why?  This I still cannot figure out. Then I the ride climbs up and I find out more information and it starts again...

Yes, its taken me about 10 years to find this information, but its so rewarding when you have finds like I've had in the last few weeks.
The answer to this is my whole family - old and new.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

DNA or Not to DNA - that's the complicated question!

Within the last 12 months, my husband and I have gotten into the DNA testing. Why DNA? Well, my reasoning was to see how much it would pick up and in what areas of the world. Also, if I could find any cousins - still alive (I was thinking Poland here) - this would maybe help to do it.

My Origins Map in FamilyTree DNA from my kit F342056
My husband's reasoning was a bit more purposeful - he wanted to see if he could find out what faction of the Fitzgerald's in Ireland he was.

Before we got too far ahead, the question was - which DNA company do we go to? Ancestry? 23andMe? Family Tree DNA? Is there any others better? Which ones should we stay away from? I put it in the too hard basket and moved on. The husband did not. Away he went researching his little heart out and then he had a person who thought they were related ask him if he would do one as her father was adopted and she wanted to compare her families DNA with his. He agreed and she sent him one - from Family Tree DNA.

He did get into some conversations with others who were using this technology and found it really useful. One of which was Dr Maurice Gleeson MB who has actually sat down and looked at these DNA companies.

Taken from Dr Gleeson's lecture in Aug 2014
As you can see, depending on what type of result you want and who you want to find, is which test you should use. Below is the whole talk of Dr. Gleeson.

We have gone and done the Family Tree DNA. The reasoning behind this was because we want to know closer as well as far away cousins to connect to. This way we can use as much paperwork as we can, as well as DNA, to link up with other family.

Other tools:
Be aware once you do the DNA test, send it in and get the results back (mine took about 3-4 months), then you can look at matches. However, if you want to find cousins that cover just who took the DNA test at the same place you did, you just use the company's software.

However, if you want to try and connect with other cousins from other companies, you will have to use another type of tool to do this. One the husband's been using a bit is GedMatch. This allows you to put your kit number (you get this once your DNA test is done) in and then it will match with others who have uploaded their kits.
A snip of my Gedmatch matches.

Its not the easiest tool to use, but at least there is one out there to be used. It can also test certain links between multiple people (triangulate) as well.

Different Types of Tests

Some of the TV shows like Finding Your Roots and Who Do You Think You Are? have used the DNA or at least talked about the DNA side of things.

Remember females care 2 X's of DNA and males care 1 X and 1 Y. This is why there are different
DNA tests for each sex.

They've said terms like:

Haplogroup - from wikipedia - a group of similar haplotypes that share a common ancestor having the same single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) mutation in all haplotypes. Because a haplogroup consists of similar haplotypes, it is possible to predict a haplogroup from haplotypes.

Autosomal - from wikipedia - a chromosome that is not an allosome (i.e., not a sex chromosome). It can take the X and then use an X or Y from either person and so on. It could for instance do mother-grandmother-grandfather or something along those lines.

X-DNA - this is using only the X's in your DNA which is half of them typically. This is use to disprove DNA and it can reach back many, MANY generations. Think of Daughter-Mom-Mom-Mom (and on and on).

cM or centimorgan - from wikipedia - The number of base-pairs to which it corresponds varies widely across the genome (different regions of a chromosome have different propensities towards crossover).

Confused yet? I know my head's spinning by me just going over the terms. Like I stated at the top, we've used it for about a year now and I'm confused, but my husband is determined and each night I have at least 2 hours worth of talk (usually its replays of the past nights of talk) about DNA information and people.  

 As I said in the title of this post - It's a complicated question! It depends on what you want to do the test for? To prove something? Disprove? See if others are out there? All of these are valid. If you want to do the test just to do it? Well, I wouldn't do it then if I were you. We've had experiences as we've tried to reach out and contact some of these people only for the email addresses not be valid, or them not contacting us back, or them getting very annoyed and finally them telling us to never contact them again when we only asked if they knew a certain ancestor or how far they could go back. All innocent questions, but they took it as we wanted all their information. Wrong...we wanted to talk about the information to see if we had a common link.

On a side note, since joining the DNA testing, I have had an experience where someone in the kit has died. Talk about awkward and upsetting as it would have been great to see how we were connected but I just found him about 9 months too late.  

Friday, October 3, 2014

Telling Your Story & Sharing Your Family Tree - New Online Resources

I belong to many different email and Facebook groups in relation to genealogy and because of this I'm always looking up and playing with different ways to tell stories as I know them through facts. Although sometimes they start off as family stories and I try and see what I can find in relation to those stories. Then I tell the story as far as I know it to date.

Anyhow, as I go through these groups, there are different links for online resources and I try them out and see how it goes. There are ranges of these online resources - some things need to get a bit further ahead and other things are just not good at all or crap. Many times, I do keep the link and go back after a bit and retrial them out to see if they've gotten better or worse, because if a resource is just starting to get used, sometimes it just needs a chance to grow rather than just classifying it as crap and moving on - like fine wine.

Anyhow, some new online resources I've been looking at are:
  • Ancestry Cloud - is still in beta format, but I was allowed in to trial it. I think the promise is there but I'm hoping once it gets some growth in it, it will be great. However, at the moment, its still a wait, see and play type of area. I wouldn't put any real information into it as yet, but lets hope it grows to be great. 
    Taken from Ancestry Cloud's website (link above)
  • Who Do You Think You Are story. This online resource came from a reader of my IT blog. Its takes its ideas from the hit TV show "Who Do You Think You Are?". You put your family tree information in - basic stuff like name, a picture, year of birth and place. I played for a tiny bit and was able to put the following family members information in: Mine, my parents, my grandparents. Then I could play and share it. It also gave me options for putting in more people and other timeline events like death and other events. I thought it was set up really well. The pictures I had to play a bit in order to make sure the face fit into the area, but the face recognition if you had more than one person in the pictures was great. What was a bit of a shock was when I played it, the program actually put some history facts in without me doing anything. I wasn't expecting that at all. I would actually have people use this to share information with others. 
Taken from Who Do You Think You Are Story website (link above)
  • HistoryPin - This is where people place pictures of places (or it can be people) and then  you can search on a place on the map and see if anyone has pictures for the year you want. However, I think its still growing and there are some pictures but at the places I checked (Poland, Germany, Hudson Valley in NY) and there aren't a lot for those areas. I think/hope this needs to grow. 
Taken from historypin's website (link above)
There are some pretty good online things you can now do if you want to tell a story with your genealogy, so go ahead and try some of these new websites. You never know you might find an easier way to share with others. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Finding "new" family members

Asking the relatives
Recently, I found a whole section of my mother's family - the Jagodzinski or Jagodrinski side - that I never knew anything about which is really sad. I always knew my mother grew up and came from Pennsylvania but never knew anything else as my mother won't talk about her family history at all. Then about 2 months ago, I got curious about that side of the family and I went looking.

On the information trail
I found my mother on census', so I knew where her mother was born - Pennsylvania (below).
Taken from 1940 NYS census - Source Citation: Year: 1940; Census Place: Highland Falls, Orange, New York; Roll: T627_2708; Page: 18A; Enumeration District: 36-28.
 Then there was the family story that I was told growing up. The story went like this:

"My mother [my grandmother Janet] was born near Warsaw in Poland. She got married to a potato farmer and they had a son. Then they lost the crops, then she lost her husband and then infant son, through disease. She was about to be thrown off of their land, and she didn't know what to do. Then the Quakers traveled by and she ended up traveling to the US with them. Then she found someone else and had a family with them which is where we came from."

This was one of the few times my mother would talk about her family history and it was repeated to me more than once in my growing up years. Imagine my surprise when I found my mother, her parents, and brother on a census and it said my grandmother was born in Pennsylvania in 1911! I accepted it and asked my mother about it and then I was told that she would no longer talk about her family or their history - case closed.

Taken from
The year before my grandmother was born, the population was 7,665,111 in the entire state based upon what has been resourced in Wikipedia. Polish persons here are among the top ancestry groups.

Of course, I let it alone for awhile but then I got curious - why had I never known them? I did know she talked about her Aunt Honey and was quite fond of her. However, I do know OF Aunt Honey (the other side of the family called her Aunt Fifi) and have a very brief fuzzy memory of her. The questions remained - why and are there more relatives out there? So I went looking....

Researching the missing family
Aunt Honey picture I found when I went looking Credit: Jversweyveld
In 2013, I found another long distance relative who knew of my grandmother and my great aunt. My great aunt was her aunt, so we had a connection. However, after talking to each other, she didn't know much more than what I knew, but said she would contact her cousin for me. She did backup what I
thought and had heard from people. It was a start! I now knew my great aunt's name was actually Genevieve and I was starting to find out information.

I did find out a bit about them out of Pennsylvania, which was interesting - all in Newburgh, New York. I thought the only one around the area was just my family and that was wrong I was finding out. I did come across an obituary of my great grandmother Beatrice. This shed some light and more names and locations - and some of the locations were in the area I was looking for - Pennsylvania! Off I went searching again...
Part of my great grandmother's Obituary Credit: Times Herald Record Newspaper 1964

Limited Success
Since then, I found a whole side of the family I never knew about.  I asked my oldest sister about what she knew about relatives and Pennsylvania and she didn't know ANYTHING.I have found a bit about the family living, and that have died, there and know where to start looking. However, I have tried to reach out to them and my maternal grandfather's side of the family, without success at this point. Have I reached the end? Of course not. I will let them and others know I am here and am willing to talk and catch up with them if they want - all they have to do is ask.

I do know I will not get some or all my questions answered as all of my grandmother and grandfather's generation has no passed away, which is sad, as I would have liked to meet them and got to know them. However, the next generation IS there and I'm hoping they are willing to contact me and get to know this part of the family.

Lessons Learned
Don't hold back on what you know or getting to know others. Everyone is different and has their own journey to fulfill in their own way. We have all had struggles, losses and wins they are just different and classified differently as we are all different and our ways of looking and dealing with things are different as well. We need to be treated with respect, but at the same time, reserved but willing to meet others and talk about what you have in common like ancestors. You never know - you might actually end up with more family or at least a friend then when you started. 

Many times we just have to sit down and ask the questions that we have, but are held back because we think they won't be answered. However, I have this question for you to think about - how will you know if that question will be answered unless you ask it? Asking questions does not hurt as the person has a choice to answer it or not answer it. The part that hurts is when the person asking the question, won't take the answer that is given as valid even if it is no. My mother won't answer questions and that's upsetting but fine. It would be more distressing for my mother if I kept asking the questions. I can obtain the information from different ways, so that's what I will do. It will just take me longer.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

How did you get started doing Genealogy?

It was about 2 weeks before my wedding in 1997 and the next day I was to get on an airplane for the next 30+ hours to fly to Australia to move there and to get married - all in one month. My mother turns to me and hands me a silver pair of US Air Force wings and tells me these are mine, but to cherish them forever. I look at them and at her and ask her who are they from and all she would say was "They were the last thing my cousin Jimmy gave me before he died." and then turns away and doesn't speak to me again about it.

1943 James J Sherman wings
Among everything else going on, it didn't hit me completely until right before the wedding day when one of the people in the wedding party asked me about the old "Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue". I told her the something new was the dress (as is tradition), something borrowed was a necklace a girlfriend from Canada let me borrow, something blue was within my bouquet and the something old was the World War 2 Air Force wings from my mother's cousin Jimmy. Everyone loved the thought of all the trinkets and the wedding happened. However, afterwards, the questions in my mind started - why were they the last thing given? Who was Jimmy? What happened to him?

Anyhow, it was a few years before life settled down and we moved into our house. Then I started asking questions and doing searches throughout the internet. I knew my husband's aunt had done some genealogy work and ask her about how I go about it, and she said she'd check in with some of her contacts to help.

Within a few months, I found out who Jimmy was - Staff Sergeant James J Sherman from the 745th Bomber Squadron 456th Bomber in the Air Force. He died in World War 2 when his plane went down on a training mission.

Upon finding out this information, I emailed the US Air Force library in Florida and upon the correspondence found letters, some pictures and other items which were his mother's things that were found at a book shop in NY. However, they would not allow them to either be copied for forwarded to me as they wanted them kept. I was told I was able to go to Florida and view them with prior warning. To date, we have not been able to visit.

The wings Jimmy or James received before heading into World War 2 and he gave them to my mother, so she could keep them for him. Only he never returned as he was listed as Missing in Action for years. It was only in 2009, I was able to show her what happened to him via reports (above) from a few others that were still alive then. 

I was proud to find he served his country the best he could. I did ask and get an answer from my mother about why he signed up for duty. She said he wanted his mother to feel safe at home and to do that he had to serve his country. In the end he did serve his country - with his life. He now has a tablet in Florence, Italy with his name on it as his body was never recovered in the ocean. I plan on visiting here and putting a wreath on his tablet in honor of the whole family.
The US cemetery in Florence, Italy where Jimmy's tablet is

After finding out this information, it made me start asking other questions about other relatives and want to find out answers. The researching but has definately hit and its not slowing down. In fact, if anything its growing with my husband starting to research his families genealogy background and now he's even deeper than me.

This year, 2014, we decided to take DNA tests through myFTDNA to see if we could get any information on other relatives. It has helped my husband, in narrowing the factions of which Fitzgerald clan he comes from, but its all theory at the moment. I have the DNA on my to do list to figure it out - if I can.

Saturday, August 2, 2014


I started this blog to share the information on my ancestors. This has been done by interviewing family members and researching their lives.The motto I have followed during my time doing genealogy research is:

When we are born, we start off with a blank book. However, we fill these pages are unique to each and everyone one of us – even if you are of a multiple birth. Each day is pages, and each birthday a chapter and it doesn’t end – because future generations keep your story going.
Each of us are influenced by family values we are taught growing up. However, by the time we reach young adulthood, we think we know it all and start to live our lives that way. What we find out over our years is that we don't know it all but we are influenced by  the family values, lessons we've learned and our experiences with other relationships. How we decide to act and live our lives make our lives our own. This is why in the motto I say "even if you are of multiple birth" because we all have different relationships in our lives and just because you started life with another doesn't mean both life stories will be the same because each life will have different influencing factors within it.

I have been lucky enough to become our family genealogist or family historian. In doing this, I take the view of each of us start off with that blank book and have decided to embark of different voyages throughout their lives and I get to tell and hear stories from each person in the family about these people.

I hope you stay or check back with me during my researching to find out what other interesting finds I make about these unique people I call my ancestors.