Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Centenary celebrations of WW1 in 2015 - What about Leper/Ypres?

To me, World War 1, was in 1914. However, Australia is celebrating the centenary in 2015 with the most known about part being the Gallipoli landing in Turkish Thrace, which was just a disaster for the Australians. 

Taken from australia.tourismster.com
Each year on April 25th, we go into Melbourne city to the Shrine of Remembrance. I remember the first few years we did this I didn't really understand as I was new to the whole thing. Then I became educated about it and about how everything happened. Then I would sit and think about what my mother's cousin, Jimmy, went through when he died in World War 2. 

Then in 2014, I started to learn more about my family through researching my family history. I found we just didn't have a few people - it was starting to become quite a list between current people that were serving, people who had retired, and then back to those who had fought for their countries independence and not survived. It had humbled me. 
My 2x great grandfather's National Military certificate which says he was the 8th person "drafted"

Then this year, I found my 2x great grandfather was actually drafted into the Belgium army. It was the first time it had actually been used (since it came into law in 1830) and this was back in 1865! Then I got to thinking...in World War 1 (1914-1918) what did my great grandfather's cousins, who were still in Belgium, and their families actually go through during that war? 

I then put on my detectives hat and went searching....
Taken from the website imgbuddy.com

The part of Belgium I'm talking about is in the region of Flanders. This area is actually quite known, especially in Australia, due to the poem of In Flanders Fields which has been brought up many times since I've been here. However, I didn't realize that the Flanders they were talking about is actually my ancestor's homeland. 
From kstevensblog.wordpress.com
Where my ancestor's came from was around the Leper (Ypres) area. I was shocked. I then asked myself those who stayed behind, what did they go through during World War 1? 

Apparently right where my ancestors came from was the Western Front and there were MANY battles over and over again in this area with artillery and infantry advances. I had heard of the Battle of Verdun from hubby's family history and Battle of the Somme from my father in-law talking about him wanting to go and see that area and not realizing that's where my family actually came from as far back as the early 1700's. 

The Front Line (red dashed line) stabilized east of Ypres, forming a salient in the Allied Armies' Front Line at the end of the 1st Battle of Ypres by 22nd November 1914 taken from website http://www.greatwar.co.uk/ypres-salient/index.htm
Again I ask myself - what did the people who lived there - like my ancestors cousins - go through during this time? 

Well first the Flanders area was taken over by the British Army which made it the home base for them. However, a small area around Ypres remained under Belgian control.
Wikipedia says:
Many civilians fled the war zones to safer parts of Belgium. Many refugees from all over the country went to the Netherlands (which was neutral) and about 300,000 to France. Over 200,000 went to Britain, where they resettled in London and found war jobs. The British and French governments set up the War Refugees Committee (WRC) and the Secours National, to provide relief and support; there were an additional 1,500 local WRC committees in Britain. The high visibility of the refugees underscored the role of Belgium in the minds of the French and British. [6][7] In the spring of 1915, German authorities started construction on the Wire of Death, a lethal electric fence along the Belgian-Dutch border which would claim the lives of between 2,000 to 3,000 Belgian refugees trying to escape the occupied country.[8]
Ypres Ruins; Ypres 1915 take from www.toerisme-ieper.be
How would that have been? Conflict arriving on your doorstep and you have to take your family and just run where ever you could flee. There was no place to escape as you can see by the picture above. Wikipedia goes on to say
There was a firm belief that the Belgians had unleashed illegal saboteurs and that civilians had tortured and maltreated German soldiers. The response was a series of multiple large-scale attacks on civilians and the destruction of historic buildings and cultural centers. The German army executed between 5,500 and 6,500[11] French and Belgian civilians between August and November 1914, usually in near-random large-scale shootings of civilians ordered by junior German officers. Individuals suspected of partisan activities were summarily shot. Historians researching German Army records have discovered 101 "major" incidents—where ten or more civilians were killed—with a total of 4,421 executed. Historians have also discovered 383 "minor" incidents that led to the deaths of another 1,100 Belgians.
This reminds me of the Polish people and how they had to keep fleeing in order not to be persecuted except instead of the Russians, it was by the Germans. Further, the Flanders region was the first region to actually have the poison gas used. I cannot imagine people dying because of a gas they didn't expect was used. That would have been horrible.

Gas Attack During the Second Battle of Ypres take from www.huffingtonpost.com
Now I know about what my family and cousins would have went through, I now have something else to think about this Anzac day when people talk about The Great War and when someone reads out "In Flanders Fields" because it was just something that happened to people - it happened to my family.

Now when plan to visit the battlefields, we'll actually be in the area of my ancestors.

In Flanders Fields (1921) title design.png from commons.wikimedia.org

There are many different websites out there for this area...
Belgium in World War 1
Western Front Association
Flanders Fields 

This Anzac day or when you think about World War 1, think about those families who lived and died on the land before the fighting broke out. Remember they were once someone's ancestors too. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Happy National Puppy Day!

National Puppy Day is held on March 23 to celebrate how much joy puppies, and pets, bring into our lives. Think about your life - can you remember pets growing up? Do you have pets now? Think about the time they brought joy and felt you need to be hugged and cuddled after a really bad day. This day, which started in 2006, is to celebrate those creatures big and small who have been there for us.

Now think about your family's history - do you remember having pets growing up? Can you remember they way you felt around them?

I know throughout my life, I've had a wide range of animals growing up - many cats that have "shown up" at the door, puppies that were given to us, and later us going to buy them from either people selling them or from the RSPCA and rescued the pets. When I think back, they are some smiles and laughter of joy, or a sad smile in remembrance of them. Take the time out today to think about those pets who meant so much to you then and now.

Here's some of the pets I had growing up....
About 1977 Me with some Boxer Pups

1970s My husband's cat trying to catch the water dripping

January 1980 Midgie 

Jan 1982 Brute
1997 Kane - my brother in law's dog when I moved to Australia
1991 June Alfy on his back in our Maybrook Apartment

2003 - This is JR and Jackie play fighting outside.

2004 - Buddy and Jackie on Buddy's first day at home.

2012 Buddy all ready for Christmas
There are many other pictures and videos we have, but either they are not with me at the moment or they've been lost. 

As you can see, each pet has a different personality just like humans. Do you know what pets your ancestor's had? You might want to make note of stories and pictures. For instance, we had a grandmother, I think, that kept a chicken in the kitchen sink in the 1950's. From what I've found, this is or was common in Poland.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Take a journey with your ancestors...

I have to say, in the years that I have been doing my family's genealogy, I never know where I am going to go on a given day if something arises when I am doing research. In fact, I've told both people I have spoken one on one with and groups, that when you do genealogy you just hang on for the ride. The research will take you were you are meant to go.

The FindMyPast Free Weekend

For instance, this past weekend FindMyPast had a free weekend from Friday night until Monday night in Australia.

On Friday night/Saturday morning, I was in the US finding out about Gauquie's there. I went to states like New York and California.

On Saturday I went in search of people/places in Newburgh, New York and Germany. Sunday was a big day - I went in search of the Ostrzycki's. This was in New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Washington DC and some other places. It seems once the original ancestors that came over from Poland, once they were gone people started to move out into the rest of the US. I learned about some who were hurt by accidents, illnesses and some who had died. Some that looked up to others and some who moved to help family out. In fact this was so big it took over most of my Sunday as well.
Lon Ostrzycki (@PastorLonO) on Twitter
"...He was my hero and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. ...He was not going to be counted out in the game of life and has exhibited the same persistent qualities I watched him display on the football field in his fight to walk again" - Lon Ostrzycki about his brother Wayne in September 21 1985 Monessen Valley Independent story, page 5.
Monday came and I started to do country searches to see what was happening in some of the countries. I went to Koblenz/Cobelenz Germany, Belgium, French Flanders, and France. I was looking for information on what was happening within the countries at the time to see what influences happened to my ancestors. However, most of the newspapers were either very blurred or very tiny and after a few hours I had a headache and couldn't do it any longer. If I found something I could easily read, I did, but most of it was in tiny typing which was crazy. Even my husband who said he wasn't having a hard time tried to see what he could do and ran into the same thing as myself.

What can you find out from old newspapers?

However, I did get to know my family a bit more. I know what church had the service for my great great grandmother and have tracked down where she is buried. It sounds like it was the family place
1931 Aug 24 Charleroi Mail Valerie's obit
to be buried because of some of the death certificates I have. Like I said above, I know about illnesses, accidents and birthday parties. Associations family members were in and how involved in the community they were.

I found with one of my grandparent's businesses, someone was robbed and assaulted just after they bought the business and it was right next door! From the way it was written, I think my grandmother already had an impact because instead of starting anything in the business, they went outside. I smiled at that one!
1946 Jan 17 Middletown Times Herald

Then I learned that another family member sold up his livestock because of an illness. I know he must have won that time against the illness because he lives near the Great Lakes and is a farmer. He has a daughter that is going to be or is a vet as she was on the Dean's List a few years ago. I know another Grand Uncle lost his barn in a fire and said he would have to either sell his livestock or rebuild the barn but he couldn't do both. Tough times all around, but there were good times too. We had a Valedictorian and Student Presidents in the family too.

That's why when you do family history, think of yourself in a canoe going down a river - sometimes its a wild ride like with rapids and other times it flat and you are just floating along. Either way, you can learn alot about your ancestors - you just have to keep your eyes open.
Picture taken from https://knoji.com/images/user/spring(1).jpg

I'm floating - how & where can I keep my eyes open? 

We all hit brick walls. What you need to do is look at different ways of obtaining the information. Some ways are:
  • Look up the surnames. 
  • Look up towns and places your ancestors lived. 
  • Look up clubs, associations, and churches they were involved with. 
  • Look up places and the above mentioned things on Facebook and join the pages.
  • If you live close enough, visit them in person. 
  • Visit historical societies and attend genealogical talks. 
  • Have you done a timeline for each your ancestors? 
  • Have you put history or events in them? 

These may all give you what your ancestor was going through. This is what we call putting flesh on the ancestor. Its almost like you are stepping back into time and looking at what they were experiencing.

Remember, not everything is online - I would say there's at least 60-50% of information that is still not online, so you have to go places or ask others to go there for you.