Follow my grandfather's experience through Europe in World War II.

Where in the World Am I?

geoguessrI ran across a website the other day called GeoGuessr that is basically a game that drops you somewhere randomly in the world using Google Street View. You then have to try to guess where you are by only using the street view controls and clues in the world. It’s a lot harder than you think.

I think this is a neat site not only for the fun factor, but as a genealogist I find it neat to see parts of the world. I actually was able to use some previous knowledge of the areas my ancestors lived to give me a better idea where I was.

By default, the game uses the map of the whole world (but they have other, more-specific maps available like the US.) This one is pretty challenging as you may end up in a remote part of Russia or one of the many Spanish-speaking countries. In those cases, it’s usually just a random guessing game. Though, if you get lucky, sometimes you can make a very close guess. On my second game, one of my guesses was only 1500 yards from the correct spot. This place was in the US, so I was able to find a highway sign. Then, in the same game, I guessed Brazil when it was actually in Spain, so just like 4700 miles off.

Outside of the game part, it is a good way to put your investigating skills to the test. What things can you find to help you pinpoint the spot? Don’t cheat and use Google to find it. I’ve used things like road signs, signs on buildings, which way the traffic is driving, license plates, and even a website URL printed on the side of a truck.

Give it a try and let me know how you did.

Milwaukee Death Index: Updates

tzpMy Milwaukee Death Index site is still proceeding nicely. Many more entries have been added, we now have over 1300 entries and all of 1884 and 1885 have been completed. The site itself has also been getting some updates. To make it more helpful when selecting a year to filter by, the site now shows how many entries that year has next to its selection. A lot of other work has been done under the hood to try to make the site cleaner and quicker.

Also, big thanks to Lisa Louise Cooke over at the Genealogy Gems for putting up a blog post talking about the index. I’ve been a longtime listener to her podcast and I know how she likes to help the genealogy community get their info out. Hopefully the site will help other people find some useful information.

Milwaukee Deaths Database Updates

I continue to add data to my Milwaukee Deaths Database, though I have also spent some time adding a few helpful features. I don’t want it to just be a list of deaths, though that is helpful in itself, I also want people to be able to use that information. Personally, I find the entries much more compelling when they’re tied to a real person, not just an entry.

Now, within the details of a death entry, you can search for the individual in a few burial index sites. Currently, this includes the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Catholic Cemeteries burial index, Find-A-Grave, and BillionGraves. The search, while helpful, is not perfect. I can only search using the information included in the entry. Sometimes this does not work if they spelled the name differently in one of the places, though you can always tweak the search variables once you’re at the indexing site. If I happened to find a matching entry from one of those sites, that entry is now linked directly from the entry. The entry will be flagged with the little headstone icon you’re used to seeing on Find-A-Grave.

I’m hoping to add a few more features that I think would be helpful down the road. Features like the ability for any users to submit corrections or links to burial entries from the sites listed above, more indexing sites, and better ways to search and filter the data. I plan to add a “changelog” page on the site to let people know which features/bugs were added/fixed.

A Different Time

There are a few things I learned while looking for deaths in hundreds of old newspapers from the late 1800s, besides that it’s very hard to just scan the page for information. A lot of these things I was already well aware of, but it’s still good to know when going into it.

One, these papers are just chock full of information. The Milwaukee Journal papers from the mid-1880s are only 4 pages long, but they have so much information. Once you find sections like “Wisconsin News” and “Jottings About Town” where they have dozens of small bits of information in a list, you see all kinds of neat things.

Two, they knew all kinds of information about the least important people. Unlike today where most of the information in the paper is from big stories, in these you can find stories about a toddler that broke her arm or where your neighbors were visiting this week.

Three, they didn’t sugarcoat anything. I’ve read through enough articles about men being pulled through machinery or crushed by trains to last me a lifetime. One article noted (not quoting, but going off of memory here) that “he was pulled into the machine, his limbs torn off and his body ripped in half.”

18840425-insaneMan-PortWashington

Four, a lot of people were labeled as insane or committed suicide. It was a different time back then. A lot of stories talk about how someone just instantly went insane and was committed to the asylum, or how someone committed suicide by drowning themselves in a fit of insanity. I have a feeling the percentage of suicides today may not be that much less, but they reported on them more back then (see #2.)

Five, you will probably find something about someone related to your family if they lived in the area. Again, going off of #1 and #2, there are so many tidbits of info, the odds are pretty good. I have not yet come to the years when my family lived in Milwaukee, but I’m definitely going to look closer once we get to 1891-92.

I hope the little bit of transcribing helps someone out there. It’s fun for me to look at the history of Milwaukee through the eyes of the papers and its citizens. If you haven’t visited the Milwaukee Deaths database, we’re up over 920 entries now.

Milwaukee Deaths Database Live

Mary Goralska

My Milwaukee Deaths database is now live (and alive, so to speak.) You can read the details in my last post or on the database site itself. I’m still currently adding new entries when I get time, so it will keep growing. Currently, it has about 900 entries from all of 1884, early 1885, and […]

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Milwaukee Deaths Database

19190504-MJ-dealWithDevil

Over the years, I’ve spend a lot of time looking for deaths in the archive of The Milwaukee Journal on Google News. The problem is that these entries are usually too small (or too bad of quality) that they don’t get picked up by the character-recognition software when Google put them online. This means you can’t […]

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The Boy With No Hands

Anton Kopfhammer

This all started when, on a whim, I decided to see what happened in Milwaukee 100 years ago. I went to the Google News Archive site for The Milwaukee Journal and brought up the paper from March 19, 1915 (I know, I was one day off.) I read a few front-page stories and then ran […]

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Another Tested Cousin

Click for full size

It was exiting to see another cousin listed on my 23andMe DNA Relatives list yesterday. While going through my matches, I noticed a familiar name, my paternal grandmother’s cousin (so, my first cousin, once removed.) I now have 4 confirmed cousin matches on that list (excluding my father.) Also, earlier this week I confirmed the […]

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