Month: January 2009


Here is a neat idea. Someone had found an old diary from a family member that was written as a small sentence a day. It turned out to be perfect for a twitter account. It’s a very cool idea where old meets new.

Late last year, my family found a line-a-day diary maintained by my great-aunt from 1937 to 1941. She was in her early teens, living on a small farm in rural Illinois with her two brothers, one of which was my grandfather.

It’s a fascinating account of life in a bygone era, a time when my family’s only connections to the world were schoolhouse chatter and a neighbor’s radio.

Check it out the full introduction or go ahead a follow the twitter feed.

So, here are some strange cemeteries. I ran across a link to this post titled Paved Paradie: Cemeteries in Parking Lots via BoingBoing.net.

Once sacred ground, it’s now a conspicuous patch of grass in a sea of asphalt, a quirky spectacle to the shoppers forced to drive around it on their way to Radio Shack.

The handful of graves had become an absurd sight gag that punctuated the often indiscriminate momentum of American progress. And it got me thinking: were there others like it? Surely this wasn’t the only time the deceased had stubbornly spoiled the aesthetics of a well-drafted parking lot. I mean, the good spots had already started going to the handicapped; it was only a matter of time before the dead horned in on the action, too.

And you know what? I was right. In fact, I found even more than I expected …

It’s a neat visual tour of some very unlucky cemeteries now located right in the middle of urban America. Sometimes you do wonder what happens to this small, family resting places. Here is your answer.

Weee!

This Carnival of Genealogy has to do with “The Happy Dance. The Joy of Genealogy. Almost everyone has experienced it. Tell us about the first time, or the last time, or the best time. What event, what document, what special find has caused you to stand up and cheer, to go crazy with joy? If you haven’t ever done the Happy Dance, tell us what you think it would take for you to do so.”

Let’s see. I had a few and, if my thought process works, you probably get more of them as you first start your genealogy research. But, they get much more exciting as your research goes on. I have only been researching for slightly under ten years now (so I’m a bit young in the process) but I’ve had a few of these pop up.

  • Funny thing, the most recent one happened just this weekend. I posted about it. To summarize, I pinpointed the exact division and battalion my great-grandfather was with in World War I. Previously, no one could find any information on his military record because they burned in a fire in 1973.
  • A few years ago when I found an alternate spelling to my great-grandmother’s maiden name. I also posted a bit about this at the time. I had always been stuck on her last name of “Van Price.” Turns out the last name can also be spelled “Van Parijs” in back in their native country of the Netherlands. This find opened me up to tons of new family members and vital records for the area.
  • I had a bit of neat find a few weeks ago (I know, two in one month. How do I handle it?) This one was more of a cool find. It also deals with my wife’s family line and not mine. It also relies on a bit of research to cement the sources and connections, but neat nonetheless. I connected her maternal line back to the Royal Family in England, which also connects to thousands of other famous individuals.

I know I’ve had more joyous moments and I hope I will have many more. This is one of the things that keeps me plugging away at some of these not-so-exciting documents day after day. All it takes is that one little piece of information to blow open a cavern of new information to dig through. And, boy, is that good feeling.

I thought I’d do my first post on my favorite cemetery, Forest Home Cemetery in Milwaukee. Just the sheer size and history behind this cemetery makes it a great place. It’s an unusual peaceful place within the Milwaukee city limits and is full of Milwaukee history. The photo at the top of the site is also from Forest Home.

Soon after the city was founded in 1846, civic leaders began searching for a place where area residents could count on eternal peace. They found 72 gently rolling and forested acres that, although “far” from town, were accessible by the new Janesville Plank Road. The land was acquired, and the cemetery was named Forest Home.

In 1850, the first burial took place. A few years later, as more cherished memories were entrusted to this special place, the road that led from the growing city was renamed Forest Home Avenue.

Forest Home is the final resting place of many of Milwaukee and Wisconsin’s most famous individuals. Ranging from Fred Usinger (Milwaukee’s Sausage King) to Increase Allen Lapham (Father of the Weather Bureau.) Forest Home even has a building called “The Halls of History” which they say “serves not only as a temperature-controlled indoor mausoleum, but also as a community-education center where people of all ages can learn, and honor, the history of Milwaukee.

Their website even has a page that allows you to run a self-guided historical tour, including maps and information. I plan to hopefully take the tour this coming spring or summer. Here are some photos I took there a few years ago.

Zalewski Family Stone
Frank & Anna Zalewski with son Frank, Holy Cross Cemetery, Milwaukee, WI

This week’s (and my first) Tombstone Tuesday is the one that helped me start my genealogy research. The first Zalewskis that came to America, Frank & Anna (Lindner) Zalewski. Their son Frank is also buried here with them. The headstone is located in Holy Cross Cemetery & Mausoleum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There are some other family members nearby including the Trokas and more of Frank & Anna’s children.

View the headstone at Find-a-Grave.

Also, in related news, I’ve started a new blog dealing with cemeteries in southeastern Wisconsin, named Graveyard Rabbit of Southeastern Wisconsin. It’s brand new, but I hope it will help many people in the future.

Welcome to the new Graveyard Rabbit site for Southeastern Wisconsin. I’ve been browsing the Graveyard Rabbit sites for a bit now and I’ve found them interesting. I used to have a website up for information on the cemeteries in this area that I set up manually many years ago. After moving hosts and moving on in life, the site never got set back up. It was mainly due to the fact that everything was done by hand; thumbnails, photo galleries, transcriptions, everything. It just seemed like a lot of work.

But, now, with the advent of all of these great programs like WordPress, Gallery, and others, it makes it much easier to do. So, when I saw these Graveyard Rabbit sites, I thought I’d dust off the old stuff and help some people out again.

I picked Southeastern Wisconsin since it covers a lot of ground. I live north of Milwaukee, so I travel around this area a lot. My genealogy research also takes me around this area to cemeteries, so that makes it a lot easier. Currently, there isn’t a lot I can do for new information since we have something like 5-12 inches of snow on top of everything, but once it thaws (and we dry out) I will hopefully get some new information.

Pardon the site right now while I get it all set up and cleaned, but I hope you bookmark it and come back again.

Update: Thanks to Julie from GenBlog, I have now applied for a membership. I also set up my website for this. It’s located here. Enjoy.

I’ve run across some of the Graveyard Rabbits websites and I think it’s a neat idea. I had a similar-type site a few years ago for cemeteries in the area. I posted pics, info and transcriptions of local cemeteries for people. Since I’ve moved hosts a few times, I haven’t had time to get the site back up. This was also back before all of these neat web programs like WordPress and Gallery, so it was all done by hand.

Well, I would really like to start a Southeastern Wisconsin Graveyard Rabbit site, but it seems I need to be invited by a current member (wink wink.) So, if any current member out there thinks I’m good enough to keep up with being a Graveyard Rabbit, I’d be delighted. I really enjoy sharing information and tips on keeping these great research tools around for generations. Plus, I’m not too shabby at these blog things.

After getting more interested in the military history of my family tree due to the talks and searches I did on Saturday, I decided to try some other options. I usually don’t do a lot of searching on Google for family members, since I usually get a lot more misses than hits. I tried to narrow it down by using quotes and full names, locations, etc. Somehow, I had ended up on Google Books. I kept wanting to search their collection of books, so I decided to try now.

I had no luck finding anything on my grandparents in World War II. I then searched for my great-grandfather, Joseph ZALEWSKI, who was in World War I.  Unfortunately, his military records were destroyed in a fire in 1973 at the National Personnel Records Center – St Louis, Missouri, so it’s all been info based on word-of-mouth. But, lo and behold, what is this?

The first book I found was “Soldiers of the Great War.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t find his name in this book, but a lot of the text was very small. The second book was much more important, anyway. The second book was “The Official History of the Eighty-Sixth Division” published in 1921. On page 110, it listed a Joseph F Zalewski that lived at 900 Fratney St, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. That was my great-grandfather’s exact address in that time period. Success!

Now we know exactly what division and battalion he was in when he shipped off to Europe. He was part of the 86th Divison, Company B, 331st Machine Gun Battalion. I scanned through most of the book trying to find any other important information. It did mention that when they were shipped off to France in August 1918 that they never saw combat before being shipped back in November, due to the Armistice. Stories say that Joseph saw combat and was involved in some “major battles.” My guess is that when they “skeletonized” the 86th Division before shipping them back that Joseph was sent to another division. I still need to find this information, but at least I have much more to work with.

Text not available

The Official History of the Eighty-Sixth Division
By John G. Little, United States Army 86th Division, States Publications Society

As luck would have it, I found a copy of this book on eBay by someone who was selling some of his grandfather’s military books. I was able to download a copy of the book in PDF form from Google Books, but having a hard-copy would be very cool.

So, again, repeating what I said in my last post about newspapers, never underestimate some of these lesser-known places for family information. They can be invaluable.

20090125

After going out to dinner for our birthday (my wife & I) with my parents last night, we got to talking a bit about genealogy and some stories about my grandparents. It was mentioned that my maternal grandfather was in World War II. I was never sure on this subject since I’ve heard nothing about. I’m told that he doesn’t talk about it for reasons unknown to my parents. He’s never even mentioned it to my mother. I completely respect his decision. Who knows what he may have experienced in Europe in the 1940s.

I’m aware of all of the documents available for World War II either at Ancestry or Footnote, so I thought I’d look around. I have yet to find any mention of my grandfather in any documentation available. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I saw it mentioned that some documents have yet to be released due to privacy. My mom and dad mentioned that they think he was a Sergeant since my grandmother sometimes calls him “Sarge.” Does anyone know of any other places to check?

My search for that information turned into finding a nice collection of newspaper articles on my maternal family line. I happened to find my grandfather in an article from the Sheboygan Press in 1941 mentioning that he came in 3rd place in some sort of kite contest. I also found their wedding announcement, a mention of a speeding ticket he got in 1968 and a bunch of other neat articles. I also found some other obituaries and wedding announcements. Don’t underestimate the information in some of these old newspapers. Ancestry has a lot of newspapers on file that are mostly searchable. Footnote doesn’t have a lot yet, but knowing them they’ll be getting a lot more and I like their system a bit better.

Here are some examples of what I found:

Just find a local paper on one of these sites, if there is one available, and just browse around by searching for last names. You’ll find some cool stuff.

My Tree

You’ve been doing all of this work on your family tree in your software of choice like Rootsmagic or Family Tree Maker. You’re in contact with some people via the Internet about different people and generations in your tree. You find it annoying that you need to type the information into emails and message posts all the time. Plus, when you update the info, the posting is still old. What do you do?

Setting up your family tree onto your own hosted website isn’t very difficult today. There are tons of hosts out there now that are extremely cheap compared to few years ago. For example, my host, Dreamhost, gives you more space and bandwidth than you’d ever need for like $9.95 a month (depending on how much you pay at a time.)

There are a few options out there to host your own family tree website. I’m currently using The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding for my family tree hosting. I had used a free, open-source program before, but it had some issues with my current host so I looked for something else. TNGGS has worked wonderfully for me and it’s very powerful and customizable.

Most Linux-based hosts have all of the items you need to run TNGGS. MySQL and PHP are almost standards in web hosting. A Windows-based host may have these capabilities, also, but your mileage may vary.

The only caveat to using TNGGS is that it’s not free, but I wouldn’t hold that against it. The developer, Darrin Lythgoe, has put a lot of work into it and has answered any questions that I’ve sent to him. I’ve also received free updates since I purchased my original copy.

There are other options such as Ancestry’s online tree and dynastree.com, etc but you don’t have a ton of control over these. The pro for them is that you can search and connect to other people’s trees, which I do also. For example, at Ancestry I wanted to update my online tree with some new information I had. Unfortunately, if I would do this than I would lose all of the items (census, records, etc) I have connected to my family tree.

Now when you need to put some information into an email or a message posting, you can just paste in a URL. The person on the other end can just visit your online tree and see the latest info. Or, if you enable the option, they can log in to your site and add their own info or edits.

Feel free to email me about my experience with TNGGS or stop over at the official site and take a look. I definitely recommend it. I can also help you set it up or answer any questions about hosting, etc. I have a bit of experience.

*This is just a personal opinion. TNGGS has in no way, shape, or form paid for my review.