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Archive for January, 2015 » Finding my grandmothers

Archive for January, 2015

Found – Another Third Cousin

Posted January 21, 2015 By dailiness

And this ‘new’ 3rd cousin has 5 siblings and mentioned 1 cousin of hers. They have descendants too. And a cousin in SoCal is excited too! More family now 🙂

I’m not clear on many aspects of these ‘lost’ relatives. I have them listed on two family trees written by different people in 1955. But at this point I don’t understand the rather complete disconnect of us knowing about the other. I suspect that people just got busy living their lives. My father died when I was in my 20’s, and I moved away from home to establish my own life. I did not realize at that age how important family connections are.

I do know that while I grew up in the Chicago area we often had people over for dinner or parties. I called them all aunt or uncle or some other term of kinship. As I grew older and long forgot the exact relationship, I thought of these people as friends or even business partners of my parents, and really did not realize that most of them were indeed relatives.

What did I hear after contacting one of the descendants of a ‘lost’ great uncle? AWESOME!!!!!

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MyHeritage.com – WoW!

Posted January 19, 2015 By dailiness


I’ve used a trial version of the online MyHeritage site before.  Actually several times. Sometimes software changes for the better  and sometimes the worse. Well, today’s test of MyHeritage is a winner. I uploaded a GEDCOM file of 470+ people in my family tree. And then I waited. Waited for the automatic matching processing to occur. WOW! It’s giving me matches using a two column view. On the left I can see a record as I or the client software I used entered it. And on the right column it has perhaps just a text entry. But it also is showing me photos, mini views of records such as census or marriage. And it’s showing me photos or other image files such as an actual marriage record or other original source. These matched records include newspaper articles.

I also note that the record matches show me ‘famous’ people in my tree first. If MyHeritage does some prudent matching, it would know that ALL of the well known people currently in my family tree are only relations by marriage. (And I’ve never even met any of them)…on second thought, I see that the record matches are presorted by the number of matches per individual record. Thus someone who is considered to be famous quite likely has more record matches than other people.

A possible enhancement to this type of record matching could be to let the site owner exclude certain people from matches. Or to have the exclusion time out and need to be renewed at some point. I would definitely do this with several famous people in my tree. I put them in the tree because they are ancestors or blood relatives of cousins of mine. And these cousins don’t have the time to put together their own tree, it’s also kindda fun to see these people in my tree. But once I have the records far enough back for certain people, at the moment anyway, I’m not interested in seeing other matches for these famous people. Oh well…

I can sort record matches by collection or person. And it gives me the option to select the confidence of the match as well as the type of item such as what it calls structured (census, etc), or text (newspaper, yearbooks, etc.) And I am learning some things about the people in my tree just from the snippet of text included in these matches.

In one case I knew about a specific individual in my tree, a relation by marriage. But I had no idea that he had any specific accomplishments until I noticed that there are a lot of matches on his records. When I finally looked up a few I took note of him as a person of interest, and not just another person in my tree.

Wow. Now I can’t get to the actual files that are linked unless I subscribe to MyHeritage. And it’s worth doing so 🙂

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Emma Lazarus and the Statue of Liberty

Posted January 16, 2015 By dailiness

emmalazarus150A descendent of Jewish immigrants, Emma Lazarus was a poet. In 1883 she wrote her poem, The New Colossus to support a monetary appeal to build a pedestal for the statue, Liberty Enlightening the World. France sent the statue, but the U.S. had to build the pedestal. Now known as the Statue of Liberty, Emma’s words are engraved at the base of the statue, and on the psyche of America.



Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.


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Where in the World is Your Ancestor From?

Posted January 11, 2015 By dailiness

mitau name changesIt seems a simple question to ask where an ancestor’s birthplace was. But to trace ancestral records from many countries of origin could require some political boundary investigations. Adding to that, language or pronunciation changes occurred along with varying political boundaries. This gives us a multi-threaded map to unravel.

Case in point. I have relatives where it is stated on birth records that they were born in the German named Jakobstadt (Yacobstadt) which is currently known in Latvian as JÄ“kabpils. JÄ“kabpils is part of the duchy of Courland (Kurland in German and Kurlandia in Russian). I needed to understand these place name changes to evaluate ancestral records for matches with specific individuals. When the birth cities reports varied, I was confused until I learned of the many town name changes over time. I’ve also noted on US census documents a foreign born relative’s birthplace listed as New York! Ok, I can record that as an anecdote of cultural interest but not take it seriously enough to alter my own records for their birth.

Given that some country names we know today did not exist when my ancestors were born also adds to the confusion. Were my ancestors born in Poland? Well, maybe 🙂 It depends on who had territorial control over the land when my ancestor was born. Read more about the Poland-Germany border changes. And these changes help me to understand my mother’s sometimes hesitant answers when I asked her about her own father’s birthplace.

The most useful lookup I have seen for current or previous town names I am most likely to run across is the JewishGen Gazetteer. This database contains over one million town names in 54 countries. I grabbed a screen capture for the image included in this post. The town of Mitau is listed on several of my relatives birth certificates. And the town is currently known as Jelgava. The GeoNames database covers all countries and contains over eight million place names. You can do a place name lookup, and see a geographical satellite image of the region. Another tool I like to use is the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names. This resource has been developed for art libraries to be used in descriptions for information about art, architecture or material culture. It shows you the preferred place name in use today and a simple hierarchical display of place in relation to region and country.


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What’s in a Name?

Posted January 7, 2015 By dailiness

I began my interest in genealogy many years ago but only in ernest started being serious about it a few months ago. I had photographs, documents and records of some relatives and I had questions, so many questions. I think I am emerging from the beginner stage of this type of research. I may still make beginner mistakes, but as an experienced librarian, I hit the ground running, so to speak.

One of the first things I discovered and am still learning about is how so many name variations come to be. My surname for example, Perbohner, has also been spelled with no letter ‘h’. The spelling with an ‘h’ is the German spelling, and without is Russian as there is no letter ‘h’ in the Russian alphabet I am told. So that’s what I knew, two ways to spell it.

What I actually found so far with spelling variations includes Terbohner, Parboner, Proboner, Porboner, etc. Maybe one half of all of my ancestors with my surname have at least one record with a spelling alteration from transcription or pronunciation recording errors. And then I learned through a document a relative wrote around 50 years ago that two brothers, Jacob and William, changed their surnames before they came to the US. They originally used the surname Bernhardt and soon after dropped the letter ‘t’. And their parents sometimes used the name Bernhardt. And other males adopted the name as their first name, with or without the letter ‘t’.

I wondered how they chose one particular name over another? Why would they do that, what did it mean? From what I understand today is that Jews did not adopt permanent family names until the 18th and 19th centuries when the adoption of permanent surnames in the German States was compulsory. An encyclopedia from 1906 explains part of the situation this way, “In Germany the tendency to adopt Christian names was perhaps most marked, such names as Bernhard,…” This story I am learning is not only of my family, but of history as well. And it’s being revealed to me piece by piece.

I’ll likely post again about this name issue. It’s a BIG one.

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