Year: 2012


The Zalewski Project is officially under way. During the last week, I started collecting data. I plan on collecting data from families with the ZALEWSKI surname, or something very similar. I decided against ZALESKI or variations during this first collection since that multiplies the amount of data by a lot. If it’s pronounced like ZALEWSKI, than I probably added it this time. During this collection, I’ve grabbed names like ZELEWSKI, ZALUSKY, and even some like ZIELEWSKI. I also plan on adding SALEWSKI and variations since I’ve seen my ancestors name spelled that way in church records, but I’m going to start small first instead of trying to do too much at once.

I used Ancestry.com’s search to go through the census records. I didn’t find any ZALEWSKI families of note in the 1860 US Census or earlier and only one family in the 1870 US Census. I collected a few families from the 1880 US Census and a whole bunch from the 1900 US Census. I can only imagine it will grow with every new census.

After collecting and sorting the 1900 US Census data, it seems there are three big locations for ZALEWSKI families in 1900. They are, in order: Chicago, Milwaukee, and then Detroit with a few other areas thrown in. They don’t surprise me as those three cities are known for their large Polish populations.

I put the 1900 US Census data online, though only in a quick and dirty HTML table. The next step is to get this info into a database so you can sort and export and view the data in other cool ways. Next on my list, the 1910 US Census. I imagine this one will be much larger. Those ZALEWSKI’s seemed to like to have big families.

In 27 days, on April 2nd, the sixteenth census of the United States, the 1940 US Census, will be released to the public. Due to privacy laws, the census reports are released to the public 72 years after they’ve been taken. The last one, the 1930 US Census, was released back in 2002. 1940 is not that long ago in terms of generations. Do you know anyone who is in it?

Unlike previous census years, images of the the 1940 US Census will be made available as free digital images on Day 1. While this is awesome, only the images are being released. The job of indexing these census records so they can be easily searched relies on us. Wonder how you can help or have more questions about the census? Visit the 1940 US Census Community Project website.

I’m not expecting to find any amazing, new information in this census since all 4 of my grandparents were in the 1930 Census. Though, there will be a few things that may be interesting. It’s the first census after my great-great grandmother passed away in 1939. There is also supposed to be some new questions for random individuals that may give us more info than normal. Hopefully, I have a few family members that answered those.

I recently ran across a website for a specific surname that’s goal was to collect all of the information it could and provide it in one easy location. The Rainwater Collection of Genealogy Resources purpose is “to assist serious genealogical researchers in their research by providing an archive of well-documented, accurate and uninterpreted data related to the Rainwater family in America.

This was similar to something I’ve always wanted to do for the ZALEWSKI surname, so recently I purchased the domain for thezalewskiproject.com. Currently, it just redirects here. My plan is to do something similar, collect data and records related to ZALEWSKI families and individuals and present them in an easy-to-use fashion. I like the Rainwater site and I think it’s organized very well. Though, I want to do it my own way. I want to allow you to view data in different ways, to sort data, etc. Collecting, displaying, and analyzing data really interests me, as I mentioned in my post about why genealogy interests me.

One challenge is that, surprisingly, Zalewski is more popular than Rainwater, though not in the US, but worldwide. The Rainwater site specializes in US info only, though I think I will also add data from outside of the US, specifically Poland. In Poland, Zalewski is very popular which could make for a lot of data.

I’m not sure when I will get the site up and running. I need to find time and I also need to spend time researching how best to collect and display this data so researchers can use it however they want. So, keep an eye out.

Go into your brain and pick out a surname that would be awesome to try to research. Something that would return 8 million results every time you searched for it. If you guessed the surname LAST, you win.

Searching for anything on that surname was never fun. I would get every version of “last name” or other common phrases. In order to try to help myself get my information organized on my furthest LAST ancestor, Johann LAST, I decided to set up an Everything I Know site for him. Just like the other sites I set up, when I start going over all of the information I have, sometimes I find new avenues of research. I started with the first record I have of Johann and his family, the passenger arrival manifest from when they arrived in New York in 1857.

I looked it over to see if I missed any important info. I didn’t see anything new. Then, I just checked which port they left from in Europe and I noticed it was Hamburg, Germany. I remembered that Ancestry had the passenger emigration lists from Hamburg on their site. I think I browsed through them before, but didn’t find anything. I looked closer this time using their Hamburg Passenger Index database and found their entry. It was under “J W G Last” just like their arrival record. It’s basically the same info, except one very useful piece of info, his place of origin. The record says what looks like “Nagard” so after some searching and tweaking, it is probably talking about “Naugard” which today is called Nowogard in northwestern Poland. This is exactly where I tracked Doeringshagen, the listed birthplace of Johann’s son Charles, to be located today. That’s good news.

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 You wish I would just make a post with everything I know in it, but that’s not really the case here. This is related to listing everything I know about a specific subject, though.

The last week or so I spent some time overhauling my Everything I Know collection of genealogy sites. A basic overview of the sites is that they are set up for a specific individual in my tree. They have two main purposes. One, they put all of the information I have about one person (birth, location, census, jobs, etc) all in one place. Two, while I work on them, they sometimes stir more avenues of research, or in some cases, they allow me to see info I missed previously.

The original idea for a site like this was created by Elliott Malkin, who started the Everything I Know About Hyman Victor website for his great-grandfather. I emailed him asking about his WordPress template and he was nice enough to let me use it.

I used it for a few years, but recently got the itch to make it more “my own” (while allowing me to easily update it and add more people.) I also changed the theme to more match this main blog site. Some of the few things I did were putting the info, images, and even a map into their own tabs to more easily browse each part. The site is completely built using WordPress and some of its more advanced features, so it’s very simple for me to add and edit the posts.

I plan on making some more tweaks that will allow me to get even more information into each of the items and some more usability fixes, since it’s not perfect. Feel free to take a look and explore. It should work fine in any modern browser, but it works best in Chrome or Firefox.

While doing genealogy research, I end up going to Wikipedia a lot to do many things from finding locations of cities in Europe to finding which county a city is in. It takes a few steps to browse to Wikipedia, then to the English version, and then try to find my entry.

Google Chrome  and Mozilla Firefox have a nice feature that allows you to add custom search engines to your browser that can be tied to a short-hand keyword. For example, in both my versions of Firefox and Chrome, I just need to type “w Poland” in my address bar and I will be taken to the “Poland” page on Wikipedia.

Here is how you set that up in both browsers:

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Me, preparing for future genealogy research.

I have sometimes thought about this question. Why does genealogy interest me so much? I was never really much into history classes. I usually did enough in them just to get by, even in college when I was already doing some genealogy research. I remember being bored out of my skull in my US History class and also my Western Civilization class. Now, I absorb as many history TV shows and documentaries that I can. The key for me seems to somehow tie the history to my family tree. I guess it makes the history seem more relatable.  Though, I have always had a small interest in “local” history, which is similar to history related to my family tree. Local history has to do with my local area, be it my hometown or even my house.

The other reason I think I enjoy genealogy so much is I get to problem solve and work with data. I’ve noticed over the last few years at my job that I’m a pretty good problem solver. I am able to think outside the box and rule out different possibilities until I come to pretty safe conclusion. With data, I’ve always been a data junkie. You can show me a collection of data on almost any mundane thing and I’ll be excited to graph that data and look at it in different ways. I seem to have a knack for noticing patterns and other small fluctuations in streams of data which allows me to pick out certain things. I’m pretty sure I get that ability from my dad. You could rarely get anything past him as he would notice even small changes in how things were on a normal day.

For example, there was this program I ran across many years ago called Moodstats. It doesn’t look to be active anymore since the main site isn’t working. It was primarily for tracking you mood using a number from 1 to 10. You do this everyday and then after awhile you could use that data to see how your mood changed. The cool thing was, you could also make your own tracking options like Creativity, Stress, and even Hours of Sleep. I was even excited to play around with that data. Sometimes I love opening up some old document or census data and just browsing through it and seeing all of the patterns. These patterns can sometimes tell a lot, like how groups of families spread out or how people immigrated together, etc.

The final reason is probably on everyone’s list. I love breaking down the mystery of myself, so to speak. Every piece of data I uncover and ancestor I discover creates a new picture of me or my wife and daughter. This life-long project will never end, but it never gets boring because every new item I find directly relates to me.

Why do you think genealogy interests you so much? If you do a post, link it in the comments and I’ll create a new post in the near future with a list of everyone’s entries.