Monday, January 8, 2018

52 Ancestors - #2 - Favorite Photo

My first thought was, "This will be easy! There are so many pictures I can choose from."
  • The 1930s picture depicting 4 generations of my father's family.
  • The 1960s Christmas photograph of me and my sibs in which one sister is ironing and my brother is picking his nose.
  • The 1970s photo of me and my sibs in our kitchen - a rare shot of all 8 of us!
  • One of the last photographs of my mom - wearing a huge smile as she sits in the car after a visit to our favorite seafood restaurant.
I turned on my computer to get started on this post. And there it was. The picture I have used for my lock screen since 2012. My eldest daughter on her wedding day. You may think I love this picture because it captures a special day in our family. That is, of course, true. But it's more than that. It's probably the reason I have yet to swap out the lock screen photo for one more current.

In her open palm, my daughter Caitlin is holding a small silver box. It likely belonged my great-grandmother, Sophie Weiss Spiegel. I did some research on little silver boxes and found this may be a "vinaigrette", possibly from the late 1800s. Vinaigrettes are small boxes used by women during the Victorian Era as a more practical method to carry perfume while traveling. A small sponge inside the box would be soaked in the scent. But that's not why I love this photo.

I found two of these boxes in my mother's effects after her passing. Sadly, Mom died just a few months before Caitlin's wedding. On the day we choose her wedding dress, actually. I could think of no more fitting way to have my mother "attend" the wedding than to place a few of her ashes in the little silver box. Caitlin carried her grandmother with her the entire day. (Our youngest daughter did the same a few years later on her wedding day with the second box.) But that's not why I love this photo.

Caitlin is my first-born child. She lives almost 2000 miles away. I miss spending time with her. When things are good, I wish I could be with her to celebrate. When things are tough, I worry. I'm her mom. How can I make things better when I'm so far away? Then I see this picture.

I look at the delicate flowers. The wedding ring symbolizing a new beginning. The silver box connecting one generation to those gone by. She is, and always will be, connected to me, to those who came before us and to those coming after. I look at Caitlin's hand grasping her bridal bouquet. Her hand looks strong. And I realize - she is strong. I don't need to worry about every little thing. Miles don't erase our connection. She is always with me. That's why I love this picture.

Photo credit: the fabulous Nathan W. Armes of Armes Photography

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

52 Weeks of Genealogy for 2018

As I type this, I am enjoying 80 degree weather in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico. Scott and I have been here almost a week, having come down to spend some post-Christmas time with our daughter, Caitlin, her two boys, her husband and his family. Tuesday, it’s back to Connecticut where the temperature has been hovering between 5 and 10 degrees.

It’s been a great, relaxing, and fairly technology-free week. I must admit to having a small degree of  genealogy withdrawal. I haven’t done any writing since leaving CT on Tuesday. Grammarly, my online grammar checker, even scolded me - sending me an email that I haven’t made any writing progress this past week - geez!

So, I guess it’s back to business as usual.  This year, I plan to attempt another go at the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks writing challenge, sponsored by Amy Johnson Crow. This first week, the topic is “Start.”

I actually do have a new venture that I am starting. Thanks to the encouragement of my friend Cheryl, I will be teaching four genealogy classes for our local Adult Education Enrichment program. I have no idea if I will have any students, but I think it’s time to dip my toe into the world of semi- professional genealogy. Following in the footsteps of Thomas MacEntee (of Abundant Genealogy) and many others too numerous to name, I do believe it is important to share what we have learned. Hopefully, there will be a few people who will find value in what I present.

2018 looks to be a productive year for me genealologically speaking. In addition to teaching the Enrichment classes, I am attending Rootstech for the first time ever. As it is possibly the biggest genealogy conference in the world, I am quite sure it will be amazing! I won a pass to the conference courtesy of Devon Noel Lee (of Family History Fanatics) so I invited Cheryl to join me.

Cheryl has been instrumental in assisting me with a project that “should” be completed in 2018. After more than 2 years of research, I have finished the draft of “Opulent in Aliases  - Who was Catherine C. Fitzallen?” (working title) Researching and writing about the life of my husband’s great-grandmother has been an eye-opening experience. Not exactly a typical woman of the late 1890s, Catherine was divorced from her husband in 1889 and went on to spend the next 10 years running con games, breaking into homes, and, occasionally, spending a bit of time in local jail cells. Cheryl is convinced the story has all the makings of a Netflix movie, but I’ll settle for sharing the story in book form!

In July, Scott and I will be joining my sister and her SO on a river cruise. We added three days at the end to explore Vienna, Austria, the birthplace of our mom. We plan to visit sites important to our family’s history. That should prove to be a fabulous heritage trip.

Looks like I’m off to a good “Start” in 2018! See you next week,

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

I'm Going to RootsTech 2018!!!

I entered a contest to win a 4-day pass to RootsTech 2018 on the Family History Fanatics website. I learned about the site when I took a webinar on Power Scrapbooking with Devon Noel Lee a few weeks back. If you have any interest at all in digital scrapbooking, I encourage you to check out the Power Scrapbooking Boot Camp digital download. Anyway, I entered. I crossed my fingers and....

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Sharing My Master Toolbox

I did it!! I made a commitment to post every day for Family History Month and actually achieved it! As my final post this month, I want to share my Master Toolbox with you. Click on the link to open and view.

Several years ago I participated in Thomas MacEntee's Genealogy Do-Over. One of the tasks was to create a "Master Toolbox" of sites that I use frequently. Yes, I could add those sites as bookmarks. Yes, I could organize the bookmarks by category. But, I never do.

Here's a small screenshot:

Truthfully, I haven't added to this list in a while. I probably should review it for sites that have closed and/or changed their links as well. The spreadsheet that resides on my personal computer also contains the username/password combos, which is pretty helpful. The other nice thing is I can share this list with others.

I enjoyed this past month and hope you did too. Pretty certain I won't continue posting every day but I will try to post at least once a month. Now - back to my writing projects!! See you soon!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Genealogy for Kids

I was planning to report on the DNA Webinar I watched today, but the organizer postponed it until November 5. Click on the link if you're interested in registering.

Instead, I will share some points I learned from one of the webinars I viewed during today's My Heritage One-Day Genealogy Seminar. Actually, it was the perfect thing to do on this nasty, rainy day. I watched several of the presentations, but the one that resonated most with me was given by Jessica Taylor. Here is a summary of the points she made in "How to  Pass Your Ancestors' Legacy to Your Grandchildren."

For a good article on sharing genealogy with kids, see “The Stories that Bind Us.” The New York Times.

Ideas for sharing with the very young

  • Have conversations - simply chat with the younger children about what your ancestors did or tell family stories. Relate daily tasks to what life was like "in the old days." An example was simply sharing with kids that we used to have wires attached to our phones.
  • Create a simple storybook - Jessica provided a really sweet example of a storybook she created. She stapled a few sheets of blank paper together to form a booklet and wrote one simple sentence about the "featured" ancestor at the bottom of each page. The child then illustrated each page by drawing a corresponding picture. 
  • Talk about foods and meals - a great way to instill memories of family traditions and the ethnic foods of ancestors.

Ideas for sharing with older kids

  • Conversation - see above - conversations with older kids can be in more detail of course. Teenagers, in particular, may connect with stories of obstacles overcome. Resilience (a trait sadly lacking in today's teens, IMHO) is demonstrated as the cyclical nature of families is discussed. VERY simplified example: "We were poor. Then Dad got a great job. We bought a new house. Then Mom got really sick. Mom got better. Dad lost his job. But we made it through...."
  • Books - self-published books about ancestors
  • Watch shows - Shows such as "Who Do You Think You Are?" and "Finding Your Roots" are great to watch. There is a new web series, "Finding Your Roots: The Seedlings" which is geared to young people. 

Jessica stressed the importance of recording your own story (actually, she kind of begged.)  We often don't think about our stories, but we will become ancestors to our descendants. If we don't memorialize our own stories, we create the same scenario we face today as genealogists desperately trying to recreate the life stories of those we've lost.

All the seminar sessions were recorded and should be available to view by Tuesday on LegacyFamilyTree Webinars. Here are the topics:

  • Google for Genealogy: Search Tricks to Tease Out Information
  • How to Pass Your Ancestors’ Legacy to Your Grandchildren
  • Introduction to the Use of Autosomal DNA Testing
  • Advanced Autosomal DNA Techniques Used in Genetic Genealogy
  • Filling in the In-Between of the Jewish BMD
  • Jewish Family Research Challenges
  • Discover Your Family History with MyHeritage’s Unique Technologies

Sunday, October 29, 2017

So I'm NOT Irish - A Follow-up

As a follow-up to yesterday's post, I'm sharing the results of my DNA test.

I tested with FamilyTreeDNA way back in 2014. At that point, I was 100% Jewish. Their algorithms have become more refined since then, so now I'm only 98%!! 

Notice the big blue bubble over Europe? I used a red arrow to point it out in case it's not clear that ALL my DNA originates from that area of the world.

Just to be completely sure you understand that I am NOT IRISH, I placed the "NO" symbol over what, sadly, is the country I no longer can claim as part of my heritage. (Yes - I know the shape is over the entire UK as well. It's funnier when the symbol is so huge!)

Guess there will be no more jokes about me being a leprechaun. Yes, I may have blue eyes, freckles, and fair skin. And, yes, I'm only 4' 9" tall. But - NOT IRISH!!! Wonder what sort of tiny creatures they had back in olden Europe. 

So - a negative result regarding what I thought was my heritage. However, the test results may help me break through a long-standing brick wall. I uncovered a clue to the origin of my 5th Great-Grandfather, Moshe Jacob Samuel on the Synagogue Scribes website, which may mean he came from a place called. Aachen. Aachen is a town in Germany. It seems likely that he may have traveled from Germany (by 1795 when his son Lazarus was born) to settle in England. At least it's a crack in the wall I can now explore.

Here's the other problem:

I have 13,145 potential matches. Yeah - not dealing with that. Too overwhelming. I know the system works though because my sister Jeanne tested with FTDNA as well. But, other than her, I really can't figure out the best way to determine which matches I should follow-up. It's been explained to me many, many times. I'm the same with cell phone plans and health insurance policies -  just can't get my head around it. 

I'll be taking viewing a webinar on how to use the GedMatch website later today. I'll let you know if I'm any closer to understanding!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Family History and Me - My Family "Bramblebush"

As Family History Month winds down (Yay! I'm 28 for 28 posts!!) I decided to share why I started doing genealogy.

My family is a little bit complicated. My father divorced my mother when I was 7 and remarried three times. I have three full-sisters from his first marriage, a half-sister from his second marriage, and a step-brother and three adopted siblings from his third. He married wife number four late in life, so no children there. My mother remarried a man who had three children and then, together, they created my half-brother. So, essentially, I have 12 people whom I consider my siblings.

Add to that, my marriage to a man whose father married twice, creating a blended family of seven children and you can understand why I use the term “bramble bush” when describing my family instead of “family tree.”

Another characteristic of my family is that we are “semi-hoarders.” My mom always referred to herself as a “museum curator” to explain why she kept all of our various mementos. In her “collection” were family photographs, papers, and objects belonging to her parents, aunt, and uncle and both sets of grandparents. Everything was stored (and I use the term loosely) in cardboard boxes in her attic. I found these objects really interesting and wanted to learn more about the people who had owned them.

In July of 2007, my father held a family reunion in honor of his 75th birthday. I suspected he had a hidden agenda behind his wanting to get the family together. As it turned out, two months after the reunion, we received news that Dad was suffering from pancreatic cancer.  Years ago, Dad told me about “Barney the Red” an Irish guy in our family. I always had a love for anything Irish. St. Patrick’s Day was my favorite holiday. I have fair skin and freckles. We named our children Caitlin and Meghan. Now that Dad was getting ill, I thought it best to find out more about his side of the family.
I began searching the websites and found Samuel family going back to 1824 in England. No Irish. The only “Barney” I found was my father’s grandfather, Barnett. He was born in Jamaica, New York in 1882 to John Samuel who had emigrated from Stepney, England in 1857. Not Irish.

In the summer of 2008, I traveled to Toronto to visit my father who, by then, was in hospice. I shared with him the results of my research. He was quite pleased with the work I had accomplished. I asked him about “Barney the Red” and his supposed Irish ancestry. His response? “Oh. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe we’re Scottish.”

Ten years later I still have not proven my Irish ancestry. However, I have been able to trace back two more generations of the Samuel family to Moshe Jacob Samuel, the father of Lazarus Samuel (b. 1795 England) and grandfather of John.

Genealogy is the perfect hobby for me. It’s a great match for my personality. I don’t like to go outside. I love possessing little bits of curious information. I get totally invested in finding the solution to a specific problem. I love to write. But most of all, I love that I am making use of my mother’s “museum” and sharing the history of our family.