Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Tracking family using paper and DNA

Over the last 16 years, I've been trying to track down my paternal Polish heritage and ancestry. When I first started to work on genealogy, this was one reason why I started to do genealogy - to find out where my grandmother, who was basically the only grandparent I really knew, had grown up.

From talking to her when I was in my childhood and into my early teens, I knew it was not a good area where she grew up. However, she did talk about playing in the rivers with her cousins and
1980s my grandmother and I in Newburgh, NY USA
always having cousins around her. I did ask once what rivers were they grandma and she told me, but the only one that stuck was the Bug River in Poland as, at the time, I thought it was a very funny name for a river. Anyhow, these memories helped me pinpoint down the area she grew up in.

However, back 16 years ago, there wasn't too much documentation on the web and I didn't have the resources to go tracking down the information. However, over the years, I didn't give up. If anything, I became more determined. Then when I lost my job nearly 3 years ago, I decided to crack open the information and really get into researching all my family.

Maternal Side Search
At first I had hits on my maternal side and started to find out information and go back and back. I found out an uncle I was told that had died had not and cousins, I didn't know about, were there. In fact, talking to some cousins they told me some of that part of the family had been looking for US! I found extended family in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Alabama and even Poland! Yes, I tracked my mother's side back to Poland and found a cousin there as well!

My DNA make up from Family Tree DNA
However, the downside was I my paternal side was still a huge mystery. In 2013, my husband, who is researching HIS genealogy (yes I'm guilty - I got him hooked!), was asked to do a DNA test because one of the probably cousins needed a link as they hadn't found paperwork and they only had a story to go on. He agreed and our world and knowledge of DNA started. After he took his test, and found the person WAS a cousin - a very distant but still a cousin.  (On a side note - they did find paperwork with both sides of the relatives listed which agreed with the DNA test).

DNA: Why did I do it & what to do with it?
Then we sat there and looked at each other and were thinking the same thing - I should take one, so off we sent for a DNA test for me in 2014. I took it, and got the results. I looked at them and thought they were interesting but what now? To me it looked like list of people with a range of cousins based upon the test. Then I realized to learn about the Polish in my DNA wasn't going to be that easy because I am Polish on BOTH sides.

Anyhow, as I asked questions, my husband, who's obsessed (or so it seems) with DNA results, started going on about blocks of DNA and matches. These I could pretty much understand - if your DNA is the grey part and the greys and other colors match then you are related somehow even if it is 1,000's of years. Then he started to go on about this and that and the eyes started to glass over and roll and his voice started to sound like the teacher in Peanuts (imagine wawa wawawa wa wawa over and over again). I realized this was going to require me to do some real research to understand anything more than colors match equal cousins somehow. I put it away in my to be done pile.

Dad to the Rescue with DNA
My father's DNA make up from Family Tree DNA
Anyhow, getting back to my paternal side, after I was seeing a bit of reasoning with what was going on and no documentation was coming forward either, I decided to bite the bullet and ask my father, who I was interviewing via the phone (when we'd call each other I'd ask questions - interesting concept with me in Australia and my father in New York and we'd be talking about ancestors), if he'd take a test. I told him I just wasn't having any luck whatsoever in anything I was trying, so would he. I would pay for it completely, it wasn't painful (just scratching each cheek with a think that looked like a toothbrush) and send it to me. The only thing was it would have his name on it. He agreed and off it went to him in January 2015.

My grandmother's obituary from Times Herald Record in 1988
Over the last 9 months, I've been keeping an eye on the results of both mine and my father's DNA and looking for hints via paper records. I called in microfilm from FamilySearch, which I had never done before, and went on the search of the building and area of the Mormons near me and spent the day there reviewing the microfilms I ordered in. Finally! Paperwork, other than my grandmother's obituary, which said who her mother was - Mary Slepovronskia (spelled wrong!) and who her father was - Adam Wojtkowski. I found my grandmother's marriage certificates. Yes, certificates - 2 of them. One was in the official offices and one was in a Roman Catholic Church in New York City.

Did DNA but Don't give up on paperwork!
2015 Letter enclosed with naturalization documents
Then I came back and I was starting to work on my maternal grandfather - another Polish ancestor - and ran head first into the US Federal Government files. I figured I'd wiggle my way through it as this one was a complete ghost. The first time was the number I found in the one file and it came back sorry we don't have that person by that number and they recommended me doing what's called an Index Search. After I did an index search and then asked for his Alien File or A File to be sent to me it did give up some information, but not much.

I then figured if I could do it for him, maybe there was something there on my grandmother. I knew she was a minor when she came over but why not give it a shot and filled out all the information on her. Back around 2012, I did come across her and my great grandmother's ship manifest so I had the names they used when they arrived in the US, so I put all the information I had down for her and sent it away in 2014. Let's just say when you deal with the US or state governments, the requests take awhile - think of how long a baby takes - 9 months if not longer - and you'll get a result. What appeared was shocking - My grandmother a lot of information including her parents were both naturalized as well! Upon seeing this, within an hour I put in for both my great grandparents naturalization files to be pulled.

Taken from Google Early in October 2015. Shows areas around Nur, Poland.

Upon getting that information in mid 2015, I now knew my grandmother and great grandfather were both born in Wojtkowice Dady Poland (which was both Russian and German at times). My great grandmother was born in Malkinia Poland (which was both Russian and German at times) and both locations were within 50 miles of each other! I also found my great grandparents were married in 1906 in Nur Poland which was 1/2 way between the two towns.

Using DNA to find cousins
Taking this information, I went into my father's DNA profile and started to look at the people that were pretty close 2-4th cousins. One of them had a Polish email address! Bingo! I emailed this person in August 2015. We have been talking via email about our connection and agree we are related but by which ancestor? He recently found my great grandparent's wedding certificate, which was written in Russian, and sent it to me from the archives. This took me back another generation on BOTH sides of my father's ancestry. 

DNA cousin against my father's DNA in FTDNA
My DNA cousin told me his mother was born and grew up in one of the towns north of Nur Poland which was probably the connection as it seems, by the wedding certificate/document, my ancestors married all up and down in the small villages along one main road in this area of Poland.

We're still looking to track more information down, but usually cracking the area your ancestor comes from - in ANY country (I've done this in Belgium/France and now twice in Poland) - is the hardest step. You get that area down and it seems the information comes to you in tidal waves.

My great grandparents' 1906 Russia Poland wedding document
I don't make promises lightly. I've only made 4 major promises in my life - and one of them was to my father to find out where his mother came from and to track down our cousins there. Until we link up- fully - with paperwork we're very close to finding a cousin. I did tell my father about the wedding document but are still looking for without a doubt paperwork linking us to DNA cousin Lukasz, but I think we are are only a few steps away as paperwork for this area was kept well apparently. 

Happy dance from
Helpful Hints on DNA
I do have a 2 things to say to wrap this post up. First, try and get your paperwork to match DNA. Remember DNA doesn't change but paperwork could so keep looking. Second, if you do decide to do DNA, please make sure people can contact you AND fill out the ancestor information as much as you can because this is how people know where you are looking. Adopted and looking? Why not put this in here too. Keep on looking but make sure you help yourself by filling out information fully and correctly and ask questions! Questions are helpful to learn anything.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Anniversary of 9/11

Today's post is about memories of those who are innocents that have passed and those who stand up for others to protect them in civil duties.

On 9/11 I was in my home in bed asleep. I had been working many hours and would go to bed early to rise early to be at work. My husband, who had decided to stay up a bit later, decided finally to go to bed. In fact, this was one of the years we were actually going to be at normal times for many people - by 11pm usually we were in bed or getting ready for bed. On this night, we decided to go to bed early - me by 10:30pm and my husband at about 10:45pm. Later we would find out he had just turned off the light in our bedroom as one of the planes hit the Trade Towers.
Taken from

Anyhow, at about 1:30am, our telephone line rings and as everyone knows, a phone call at that point of the hour - unless it was someone in my family that gets confused with the time zones AND had figured out how to get my phone number - its bad news. On that morning, a friend of ours who knew I grew up in New York, called me because she had fallen asleep with the TV on and woke up to turn it off and found out about the attacks in New York. She called me right away almost hysterical. I couldn't understand what she was saying but I had to try and calm her down. Then she just told me to turn on the TV and hung up the phone.

We got up and went into the living room and turned on the TV and did what most people did that day - sat there stunned. I'm not a morning person and it wasn't exactly hitting home what was happening. When it did, we sat there asking what everyone else was asking - why?

My Relatives
Then it occurred to me I had a nephew who worked down there and we had first responders in the family. I ran for my computer as I knew the telephone lines would be a mess and if anyone could get anything out to me it would be that way. I turned on my emails and had a FLOOD of emails about
One of my niece's husbands
what was going on. I learned most of my immediate family were fine but what about the others? My cousin? I then sent out an email asking about them...only to find that no one knew.

It took a few hours, and as my manager wasn't going to be in that day, I was it for the IT side of things, so I had to go in. I grabbed a few books I bought for our upcoming trip to NYC in about 6 weeks because I knew people were going to have questions. Once I got on the train going into the city, I was calling people asking about my sister, my nieces' husbands, and my cousin.

By the time I was almost at work, I found all were fine except my cousin. That wouldn't occur for a few more hours before I found that he had left the job at the World Trade Center - I believe it was building 5 - about a month before.

Waiting time
One of my other niece's husbands who was in the fire department
The big question was there - would they get sent down to help with the clean up or set up to help the people who were harmed? No one knew and they were all on standby in case they were to get sent down. I know my one sister, who is a nurse by trade, was on call. I asked her not to go down -
something I don't do because I know its her job to help injured people. My big fear? That whatever was in those buildings would harm her and take her away from her young son, Eric. She didn't believe me and told me she would think about it but I knew she wouldn't - if asked she would be right down there.

She knew people who were in the rubble. She knew the priest who was the first person killed. She knew one of the men who were carrying the priest as he was her friend's husband.

Traveling to NYC
As I said above, we had plans to go to NYC within weeks of 9/11. We had planned to walk around NYC and act like the tourists we are - something I don't really like doing as I feel like a jerk in my own state doing that. This was the one time I had agreed as I hadn't been down there but a few times myself. I bought books, wanted to see the balloons for the Macy's Parade, and go to a few museums. My husband, who was the bigger tourist because of not being in NYC before, had the longer list of things to see. One of them was the World Trade Center. I figured we could plan it just right to go in the morning and have a breakfast or brunch up there. I then bought the tickets and had them sent to my mother's house. They arrived a few weeks before 9/11.
Our tribute of 9/11 including the 2 World Trade Tickets we bought before the event happened

We did end up going to NYC, but I wasn't looking forward to it because of what had happened. Everyone was scared and tender about it. And not only those in the US either. At the time of the attacks I was working with a Muslim at work, and we were working on a programming problem for one of the computer systems. Then 9/11 happened. He was sooo uncomfortable the days after the event, I had to stop him and had decided to talk to him about it. I asked him what the problem was. He was scared about how I and others would treat him. I told him I know him and I would treat him like I always have. I couldn't say what others would do though. I asked him if, since he had been there that day, I had treated him any differently than any other day and he replied no, I treated him like any other day. I told him if anyone could be upset with him it would be me, but how could I be upset with someone I know didn't have anything to do with it? Unfortunately, he decided after that to be reassigned and I never saw him after that day. Now that's really sad that someone, who had nothing to do with the events actually ended up changing the way they worked or lived because of other idiots.

Anyhow, we did go to NYC, did the tourist thing, and took the pictures. However, once you got down past a certain level, all you could smell was - death. At first I didn't know what it was and as we got closer to what was the World Trade Towers, I figured out what it was. After all they were still burning at that point. Walking around the area was really sad. After awhile I was glad we had other tours booked and planned so we could leave that area.

First Responders
As I mentioned, I knew we had first responders in the family. My sister was a trained nurse and worked on an ambulance where she lived as a volunteer. My nieces both married men who volunteered or worked with the fire department near where they lived. Would they get sent down - who knew. Thankfully, none of them did. I know they all wanted to go down because they wanted to help as everyone did. However, for the family's sakes, I'm glad they didn't because of what was in those buildings.

Toxic debris
 I knew, deep down, there were things in those buildings who were going to make people sick. The pit of my stomach kept telling me there was something very toxic happening and people were going to be very sick. I had visions of the people from the Atomic Bombs in my mind.

The sad part is now we know we were right - it wasn't the Atomic Bomb toxic, but it was much worse because you couldn't see it or tell if it was going to affect you or not.

Genealogy and First Responders

As I'm slowly finding my family, I found there were many other first responders I never knew about. My cousin on my paternal side - actually he's my 1st cousin 1 time removed - Stanley Wojtkowski or
Stanley "Stash" Wojtkowski picture from
Slash. I've only just found him through records. He was a New Jersey State Trooper and I found he
had died in 2012 - 3 years before I could meet him. I can only wonder if he had done anything to do with the World Trade Centers and was is now known as 9/11.

Then on my maternal side, we have first responders too - in Pennsylvania. Again, I never knew anything about these men until just recently. The first one I found - my first cousin twice removed married someone, Sam Woncheck, who was a cop in one of the smaller towns. I had found my first cousin and her husband through many newspaper clippings and left it alone. Then a few months ago, I received an email from someone in the family and I am now corresponding with his son. Both of these men were cops and the son or my second cousin one time removed, was actually the Chief of Police in the same small town as his father. In fact, by the newspaper clipping from Charleroi Mail, it states Steve Ostrzycki and Sam Woncheck were there when a friend of the family died suddenly. What it doesn't say is Sam Woncheck's son was there as well.
1960 Caption about my relatives being on hand when a fellow Fire fighter dies. 

Where would we be without First Responders?
Have you ever stopped to think where we would all be without the first responders? Most people need to stop and think about these people at least once a year - 9/11 could be the best time - and be thankful to them as they do it for the love of the job and not for the money. Just take a few minutes to stop and think about all the times you've heard about them on the news or about an accident because like it or not first responders were there and they were the first ones on the scene to help, console, or even hold people in death. They were there for them all.

I'm lucky enough to not only have military men in the family but also first responders. In fact, I had a sister who became an EMT for a short time and I've been the first aider and safety person at work a number of times. It must be those genes where if we have something in the family, its sure to show even if you don't realize it until after the fact.

Taken from

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Putting History together with family stories - Paternal grandmother and great grandparent's memories

Lately, I haven't been around as much. Besides, trying to find employment, I've been researching and trying to make sense of some stories which were told to family. Sometimes its from the person who immigrated to the new country and sometimes its a memory of what was said or told to them by people who immigrated. It doesn't really matter who told the story, as long as these stories were and are not forgotten.

By talking to the older generation still with us, we can find out things their parents and grandparents told them. It could be a memory, a grunt with a few words... anything. Each of these memories - no matter how short they are all add up to things that mattered enough in their lives for them to remember them.

In fact, I have a few stories which I'll share about my paternal grandmother's side of the family. I knew my grandmother growing up and she's the only grandmother I do remember other than the few visits with my maternal grandmother.

1979 My paternal grandmother and myself in Newburgh, NY
Some of the stories are:

Story: Grandma kept saying "There are German soldiers on every block, so be quiet and watch out." - Her granddaughter, Theresa, shortly before Genowfa passed away.

Fact: She grew up in Poland, which was occupied by both German and Polish soldiers. When Ober Ost was created in 1914, (my grandmother would have been 4 years old at this stage) it controlled everything with an iron fist. You could not move without a solider asking you want you were doing and why. In fact, this meant you could not visit friends or
even family without a good reason. This was the reason why my grandmother talked about German soldiers on very block - to make sure you weren't leaving the district. It must have been very difficult for them as they lived near the edge of the lands that made up the Ober Ost.

The lived approximately 75 miles or 105 km away from Brest Litovsk (in the red on the lower left side).

Story: I know when I was growing up she used to say when she was my age they always had Germans, Bolshevist's, KGB agents around.

New-York tribune. (New York [N.Y.]), 19 Sept. 1914 Part of letter to editor
Fact: This is due to the ongoing in fighting between the Germans and Russians. Prior to 1914, the land my grandmother lived on was claimed as Russian - as it had been for over 100 years (since the 3rd and last partition). Then from about 1914 until about 1917 it was German territory, and then it went back to Russian only for the land to be set back to an independent Poland in 1919 but it wasn't until 1920 it was formally acknowledged. 

Story: My grandfather (my grandmother's father) used to sit there and curse the Bolsheviks and Russians.

Fact: This is due to the armies coming through the towns and being terrorized by them. Many people had been killed or disappeared just because they were thought to have said something against the Russian or Bolsheviks. They would tell the press and governments they were doing doing something good, only for the opposite to be true and the only ones to know it would be the people who lived there.

And the stories go on and on. Do you have stories like these for your family? I would recommend to either write them down or record them on either video or voice recorder. This is so you can have the story and use history to actually put fact with the stories you are told.

The Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 7 October 1918 

What if they are not true?
Many times people might actually either mistake what's been said or have lied all together. Why? Well it could be they only wanted "good" things to be told, they embellished them so their life would seem exciting, or third, and not a good one, would be to try and throw you off of where they grew up for some reason unknown to you.

In my experiences, I've had all of these either done to me or known of people who have had them done to them. In some cases, we just don't know and either the person is gone or is not willing to talk about why they did something. You can either keep it inside of you and let it simmer away which does nothing but anger and upset you or you can let it go and try and understand why they've done it and let it go. Most of us do the first and after awhile, hopefully, we can do the latter.

Is it easy to do? Of course not! However, I know I have bigger and better things to do with my emotions and energy than on something that's happened and I cannot change.

That being said, even the untrue or tainted stories ARE still apart of your history. You have to embrace it, note it, and then let everyone know that it is not true and your reasons for discounting it. You never know, something might have happened and its not until years later when information is released or found, it might just turn out to be correct after all.

Sept 2007 at Movie World in Queensland Australia
Genealogy is a roller coaster - just hang on and enjoy the ride! 

Goodbye Balmville Tree

The saying "whatever is old is new again"? Well sometimes this is not the case. In fact, sometimes when you cannot make it "new" then people just say get rid of it and get rid of it. Unfortunately, society has gotten more and more like this and it is very sad. People don't stop and take a breath and look around enough. Eventually, if something is not done, we will be without more and more iconic things until they are all gone.

A case in point, is the Balmville Tree located in Balmville, New York. This is near where I grew up and even I, who was not a nut for anything military or historic, knew it was there. Did I love it or like it? Of course not...but I knew it was there regardless. Why wouldn't it be - it was there for over 300 years!

Picture taken in 2015 and is on the Balmville Tree Wikipedia page
The Balmville Tree was a eastern cottonwood tree and was New York State's smallest state's forest.once they took ownership of the land in about 2000. It is even listed on the National Register of Historic Places. However, since 2000, the tree kept having structural problems and the state kept trying to revive the tree. However, this past week, it became a danger to the community and has been cut down to just a stump.

The tree, is estimated, to have been around from 1699 until this past week when New York cut it to its stump - 2015.

If only we could talk to the tree and find out what its seen and been through in those times. It would truly be something to sit back and marvel at. From the hanging's back before and when George Washington rode through, to industrialization and now to the technology era.
A plaque about the tree - taken from

Many of the residents came to either get parts of the tree to turn it into something - a cup or mug - or cuttings to see if they can get cut offs to take, so the tree will never be forgotten. I do wish the state would have went and put a cut off in its position, so the tree could live on. As far as I'm aware, this was not the case, which is sad.

Remember, not everything you can get back or replace. It looks like now all we have is our memories of the tree and for us to pass along stories of the tree and what took place there.
Our picture we took in June 2000
Below are the pictures of the plaques that are or were around the tree which tell you about its history.

 Bye Balmville Tree - You will be remembered in our memories.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

What sort of genealogist am I?

I saw an article in GeniAus a little awhile ago, and she asked herself what sort of genealogist is she. I thought it was a very interesting main question with sub questions just as interesting.

This is a question of internal examination of myself and covers: Researcher, Author, Educator, Curator, Archivist, Librarian, Analyst, Marketer, and Retailer.

 Researcher: The most traditional of genealogy careers. Defined as a researcher is someone who conducts research, i.e., an organized and systematic investigation into something.

Does this fit me?
It does. I research history of places, events which happened and many of the other information that might help to find out and understand my ancestors. Further, some of the online groups, friends, and relatives have all been helped by my knowledge in various areas when discussion has happened.

Author: Someone who writes about various aspects of genealogy and family history, from magazine articles to books. Defined as a writer of a book, article, or document.

Does this fit me?
It does. I write articles for blogs, but this one is on family. Further, I have 2 Facebook groups which discuss ancestors which I write tiny snippets for. Finally, I’m in the process of writing up my grandmother’s story to hand out one day.

Educator: With almost any industry or field, people who are new will want to learn how to perform certain tasks. Defined as a person who provides instruction or education; a teacher.

Does this fit me?
It does. Not only do I inform relatives about things happened within timeframes and such, but I also have taught classes and lectured on genealogy for the community.

Curator: Last year I spoke of the power of the “curator” and the concept of a curator seems to have gained traction. Defined as a keeper or custodian of a museum or other collection.

Does this fit me?
Not really. I am a collector of information on my ancestors, but I would not term this as a true collection.

Archivist: Many repositories have staff with a genealogy background who work to preserve artifacts, documents and the like so that researchers can better understand them and have access to them. Defined as a person who maintains and is in charge of archives.

Does this fit me?
It does. I have photos, documents, interviews and other information I maintain and add to. I also give people permissions to view them.

Librarian: There are quite a few genealogists with their library science degrees and backgrounds who work for genealogical libraries as well as other types of libraries. Defined as a person in charge of or assisting in a library.

Does this fit me?
It does and doesn’t. When I was growing up, I used to volunteer at Libraries to work, assist and help with various jobs. However, since then, I only visit every now and then as a customer and not as a worker. Overall, I wouldn’t classify me as a Librarian.

Analyst:  Defined as a person who analyzes or who is skilled in analysis or a person who studies or analyzes something.
Does this fit me?
It does. Sometimes by looking at and determining pictures, facts based upon paperwork, researching events, diseases and various other subject matter you can give an overall picture of what history was like by putting socioeconomic and society backgrounds to my ancestors, which puts “some life into them” and it makes them feel like a real person.

Marketer: Another growth area in the genealogy industry especially when it comes to social media. Defined as a person whose duties include the identification of the goods and services desired by a set of consumers.

Does this fit me?
This doesn’t fit me. Why? I can’t sell anything to save a life. I know where people can go to get information and can provide them with it, but don’t promote it to any level. I’m more than willing to help people find information rather than promote anything. In fact, when I was in high school I had to sell cookies at lunchtime to get money to go away to a conference. I really struggled to sell anything because I can’t sell things very well. I did get to go to the conference, but that was with help of many of my friends.

Retailer: Just look at any genealogy conference or expo and you’ll see booksellers, craftspeople selling their handmade goods related to family history, and more. Defined as a term describing businesses that sell goods directly to individuals.

Does this fit me?
It does not fit me. Why? See marketer comment which applies here. Again, happy to help and point people in the direction of paperwork, but sell something? Nope, they will probably run the other way if nothing else.

These question make me as  - What type of genealogist are you?

Friday, July 3, 2015

In Deep with the Book of Me - Dream Trip

This seems like an interesting topic for those those of us who do Genealogy -

This prompt was inspired by a blog post written in September 2014 by Jennifer Shoer who blogs at The Scrappy Genealogist. I wasn't the only one inspired because +Tessa Keough & the team at the Legacy Virtual Users Group Community at Google + hosted a hangout in October 2014 and you can see that recording here.

Topic: You are going to plan your dream trip. Where do you want to go and why?
Genealogical connections, revisit because of happy memories, or perhaps you just feel a connection to somewhere else? What do you want to do when you get there?

The trip can be as long or as short as you would like it to be. Forget about the constraints that you might feel and be aware of. This is an opportunity to dream and perhaps sow the seed for a future adventure.

My Genealogy Dream Trip

What's funny is my husband and I have been talking about going back to the land of our ancestors. We've been talking about it for probably a good 3 or 4 years now, because we're starting to find information on exactly where our ancestors were.

My starting point would be to go back to the United States. However, it would be to parts I've never really spent time in.

New Jersey
This would be my starting point. If my father wanted to come along, I would be more than willing for him to accompany me. We would start at the old addresses I had of my paternal side:
  • 1920 address: 49 7th Avenue, Hudson, New Jersey(great grandfather)
  • Sept 1920 address: 25 Silver Street, Bayonne (great grandparents and grandmother)
  • 1930 address: 103 11th Street, West Linden (great grandfather)
  • 1937-1942  address: 108 W 15th Street, West Linden  (great grandfather & business)
  • 1943 address: 200 Jefferson Ave, Linden, (grandparents)
  • 1943 address: 1814 Clinton Street, Linden (great grandfather)
  • March 1943 address:  1907 S Wood Ave, Linden (Distant cousin of grandmother)
  • March 1943 address: 1907 S Wood Ave, Linden (Cousin Czeslaw of Great grandfather)
  • March 1943 address: 666 Broadway Bayonne (Cousin Vincent of Great grandfather)
  • October 1920 address: MJ Donohoe School (known now as #4 school), Linden, NJ
  • November 1922 address: #2 school, Linden, NJ (grandmother)
  • 1939 address: 816 Henry Street, East Linden  (grandmother)
  • Bayway Cemetary, North Linden, NJ (Great grandparents)

New York
  • 1934 address: 433 East 72 St, NYC (grandfather)
  • 1934 address: 399 East 78th St, NYC (grandmother)
  • 1934 address: St Monica's Church, 405 East, 79th St, Manhattan (grandparents married)
  • I would also have my father take me to the places he remembers. He has mentioned in the past the old store my great grandfather had and its still a store today in New Jersey. 
  • He mentioned a German bar my grandfather often visited as well in Linden.
  • I would also visit the New Jersey Archives to see if they had any local information on my great grandparent's business as it was very well thought of. I would look up my great grandfather's obituary as well. Lastly, in the late 1930's my grandmother was involved in a very bad car and train accident and my grandmother almost died. 
  • Lastly, I would have my nieces, with their children, meet me in New York City to go to the Statue of Liberty. I would then tell them all the story of my grandmother and getting to New York.  I would follow this by them meeting my father as they didn't know him growing up. 

The next stop on my dream trip would be to Pennsylvania. My oldest sister, Theresa, has already said she wants to come along with us on this one. This visit would be for my maternal grandmother's side - the Ostrzyci and Jagodzinski side.

Pennsylvania (Ostrzyci's)
  • 1910 address: 7 Stewards Row West Carson Street, Allegheny, PA - (Felix Brother of Bernice)
  • St Adelberts Cemetery, Allegheny, PA (Felix buried)
  • 1915-1976 address: 1202 (Lower) Crest Avenue, Charleroi (2x great grandparents lived most of their lives and died, Kurpieski's lived (Laura sister of Bernice, Josephine sister of Bernice)
  • Calvary Cemetery, Charleroi  (where my 2x grandparents and other cousins/aunts/uncles are buried, Kurpieski's)
  • Charleroi Cemetery - Vicki/Valeria Woncheck (Grand Niece of Bernice, Frank, Stanley Jr Brothers of Bernice)
  • Christ Lutheran Church of Charleroi (Dorthoy Ostrzycki Johnson - Bernice's niece)
  • St Mary's Anglican Church, Charleroi (Vicki/Valeria attended)
  • 819 Gallowfield Ave, Charleroi (Vicki Carl J Spallino Funeral Home)
  • Charleroi-Moessen Hospital (Where Bernice's brother in law died)
  • Polish Ladies Auxiliary of Chareroi - Laura Kurpieski a member
  • 1918 address: 205 Fever East Pittsburgh (Adam Ostrzycki)
  • 1933 address: 369 Hayes Ave, Washington, PA (Adam)
  • 1930 address: 939 McKean Ave, Washington, PA (Steve)
  • 1940 address: 1223 Crest Ave, Charleroi (Steve)
  • 1970 address:  Calvary Bible Church of North Charleroi & choir (Steve - left for Tennessee-ministry-then Alabama)
  • 1976: St. Cyril and Methodius Catholic Church, Charleroi (Josephine)
  • Prior to 1962 Address: 16 Perry Lane, Pittsburgh, PA (Josephine Bernice's sister)
  • Need to look up Corning Glass Works in Charleroi (2x great grandfather)

  • Saint Catherine's Cemetery, Leechburgh, PA (Alfred - great uncle)
  • St. Martha's Roman Catholic Church, Leechburgh (Alfred's daughter married)
  • 1962 Address: Rd 1, Vandergrift (Alfred's address)
  • Leechburgh High School (Alfred's children attended)
  • 1917 address: Cemetary ?, Leechburgh (great grandfather)
  • West Leechburgh Steel Co, West Leechburgh, PA (great grandfather)
  • Visit to Leechburgh (Bridget/Bernice lived)
  • Visit to Pittsburgh - Stella (sisters to Bernice)
  • St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Oakmont, PA (Valma  Dunn - Bernice's sister)
  • Vandergrift, PA - (Apolonius aka Juggs - Mom's cousin lived/died here)
  • Thomas M. Smith Funeral Home and Crematory, 930 Center Ave, Pittsburgh (Mom's great aunt had Valma Dunn had her arrangements done)
  • 1948-1983 Wean United (Janet's brother Jug or Appolonius worked)
  • 1943 Leechburgh High school (Janet's brother Jug or Appolonius graduated)
  • St Gertrude Roman Catholic Church in Vandergrift (Janet's brother Jug or Appolonius chruch)
  • Vandergrift VFW (Janet's brother Jug or Appolonius member)
  • Armstrong Conty Sports Hall of Fame (Janet's brother Jug or Appolonius plaque)
  • St. Gertrude Cemetery Vandergrift (Janet's brother Jug or Appolonius buried)
  • Need to visit the Charleroi, Vandergrift, Leechburgh, Pittsburgh genealogy/history area for references Charleroi needs to be searched for Laura in Charleroi Mail newspaper for local politics.

I will also want to check cemeteries near Newburgh, NY for my great grandmother Bernice, great Aunt Geneieve, maternal grandfather and great aunt Florance, and St Mary Church and Cemetery in Salisbury Mills, NY.

I would also meet up or  have a huge picnic to meet any of my cousins in one of the nearby parks in Orange County, NY. as I haven't met many.

St. Paul Minnesota


I would then take my time and go through the places listed in my great grandparents and grandparent's documents I found. These are below.

My paternal side comes from these areas of Poland:

My maternal side comes from these areas of Poland:

 My paternal side comes from these areas of Germany:

 My maternal side comes from these areas of Denmark:

My maternal side comes from these areas of Belgium:

My Husband's dream trip would be to Ireland (whole thing), Germany, and places along France/Belgium border for his genealogy.

I think I need to win the lottery. *grin*

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Finding New Relatives

It might seem like I've completely stopped with my family history, but its far from the truth. I've had to lessen my searching because I'm currently looking for employment, but I haven't stopped.

Information Searching Overload
This is what I'm experiencing. I have so many different places to search for different ancestors, I'm suffering from overload. I have new areas I can search for my great grandmother's relatives and history near Denmark. I have a Facebook Group for my great grandfather's relatives in and around Belgium, which I keep finding new cousins and we're trying to link up our connections. Then there's the Polish relatives on both sides I'm still trying to put it all together. Finally, there is the DNA side of everything as well. Like I said, I'm on information and searching overload.
Taken from

Share the Information
I'm a big believer in sharing of information. This is why I've started up this blog, a Facebook Group and writing my grandmother's story up. I decided to start with her, because its the ancestor I have the most complete information about on. I thought it would be one of the easier ancestors to write about but was I wrong. I have had to research areas I would not have thought about otherwise. Then try and put all the information - including historical facts - together where it will make sense. Not an easy task I'm finding out.

A picture from the facebook group
The Facebook Group was a great idea as I was trying to share the same information with about 10 people. Now we've almost double that size, but the information that has been shared was much easier for everyone to look at, read and find.

Searching - where to start? 
I do, from time to time, give talks on genealogy for the community. I always tell them the first step is to write things down that they know of or heard and give estimated dates unless the real dates are known.

Next, I have them do a search in a search engine or Google the name of the person...and you'll never know what you'll find.

My Experiences with Searching using Ancestor's Names
I had my doubts about opening up a search engine and doing a simple search on an ancestor's name. When I did it, boy did I hit gold! I found many newspaper articles. Next up was I found the genealogy site called Geneanet for parts of Europe my ancestors came from. You can sign up for free and do simple searches and post in groups asking for help. I did this, and within about 4 weeks I found my great grandfather's line in Belgium. Within 2 months of signing up, I found a cousin in France. Since then, I have found a second cousin with more family in Belgium. Then when a cousin from my Facebook Group asked for a bit of help, I went looking for more of my great grandfather's line and found at least 2 more cousins that link up to my family history research. However, none of them at the moment link up to my cousin's family from Facebook but where her grandfather came from is the same area my many great grandfather's had came from, so we know we're related we just have to find the missing link.

I'm now also trying to use this same website to go back on my Polish and German sides of the family as well.

So never give up and give things you doubt a try. You never know what you're going to find out there!

Father's Day 2015

Father's Day

My experiences with Father's Day have been very little. This is because when I was very little, my parents divorced and then the custody battle began. Eventually, custody was settled and I was to see my father every Sunday.

Over the years, things happened with the Sunday visits. After awhile, I felt like I was a piece of rope getting pulled from one parent to another, but I did want to see my father so I endured it. However, one Christmas, we went over to see my father for a visit, and it started to snow pretty badly, so we had to leave. He wanted us to wait but even I, who was only about 12 years old, knew the roads were getting bad so we left. My brother and sister in law were in the car with us as we only took 1 car for safety. Anyhow, along the way we got in a small accident but it was still an accident. A big village snow plow backed up and right into us. No one was hurt, but we could have been. After that, I had a good think and I couldn't do it any longer - not with people getting hurt now, so I wanted to stop visiting my father on Sundays. I couldn't do anything with my friends or join any clubs because they always did things all weekend or on Sundays. Add that to feeling like a piece of property instead of a cared for little girl and I knew it was time. I told my mother my decision figuring that we would all sit down and talk about it. However, that was not what happened - I had to come out and tell everyone and all anyone could hear me say was I didn't want to come over any longer and not the reasons around it.

After that, I rarely heard or saw my father. The times I went out of my way to go see him, I felt like he didn't want me there or I was a piece of property to show off and then forget about. If he did talk to me it was about his time in the service or Elvis. Eventually I couldn't handle it any longer and got mad at him and stopped trying. I figured if he couldn't take the time or the energy to see me then why should I to him?

Anyhow, about 10 years ago now, I made a promise to try with him again to someone that matter to us both. My father since then has been trying. We talk on the phone and when we travel to the US, we go to see him. In fact, a couple of years ago, we made sure we went over on Father's Day to see him. It was the first time that I can ever think of that we celebrated Father's Day together.
My father and I on Father's Day in June 2011

Genealogy and Today
I do realize my father won't be around forever. That's a fact that one day we all will be gone. However, with my genealogy research, I'm finding there have been cycles that have been followed in each side of my family's history. One of these cycles are to have family and just not contact them at all. In fact, on each side of the family, father's have never been a huge thing with either of my parents.

Break Cycles or to Create New Ones?
I've never met either of my grandfather's. Apparently my parents agreed none of their children would have anything to do with their father's. I get the feeling something happened to them growing up and they wanted to stop the cycle. Instead, they started a new cycle - just ignoring your family that does not contact you and make no effort to contact them.

In fact, that cycle is going strong today. How? Well, you see my eldest sister and her children don't contact each other because the other doesn't reach out to them or one seems like they are always reaching out to the other. I know my second oldest sister doesn't have any contact, that I know of, with her sons either. The middle child, another sister, has one child and I think they don't have regular contact either. I know she rarely has been contacting the rest of her siblings. My brother has regular contact with his son and most of his siblings and the same goes to me. As you can see, the cycle is alive and well for most of the children of them.

Break that cycle!
Especially now with my research into family history, I want to try and break these damned cycles. I try and encourage others to break the cycles and to keep in contact with others. Its not easy - nothing worth having is ever easy, but I think in the long run it will be worth it.

Yes, I could stay mad at my father. However, I made a choice to make a promise and I never break my promises. The fact is my father will not be around forever. He's in his 80's and sometimes you have to try and let go in order to move forward. Yes, there are still unanswered questions and issues, but you work on them a little at a time, and that's the key - You still have that time. The clock hasn't run out yet. So get out there and talk things over and move forward while you still can because once that person passes away, their stories and reasoning's are gone with them. You need to ask yourself - can you live with how you've left things if they were to pass away tomorrow?

If not, then you have some work to do before that clock runs out.

Taken from