20 years ago. April 18th, 1999. That dates holds a few key moments in my life and in my genealogy research. My paternal grandfather, Richard Zalewski, passed away on that day. He was the first grandparent I had lost, so it was a life milestone. Also, I always use that day as the day I started my voyage into genealogy. I’ve told that story before.
Last year I made the realization that it was the same amount of time from when I was born to the day he died and that same day until last year, 19 years. I had known my grandfather as much as I was without him. So, now the realization is that this year the balance is tipping in the latter direction.
I was just reading up on this week’s WikiTree member of the week. Sometimes I learn new things or find new people to talk to about certain locations or subjects. In the post, she mentions using a site called ofb.genealogy.net. I thought I’d check it out since it is supposed to be good for German ancestry, which I have a lot.
From there, I found their GEDBAS site, which is like a database of family trees submitted by people. I searched most of my German surnames until I tried my LAST family and saw an entry for my 3rd-great-grandfather, Johann LAST.
His entry didn’t have any more information than I had since it looked to be pulled from the parish registers of Batzwitz/Barkow where I originally found his baptismal record from 1825. The record showed that he was born illegitimate and only listed his mother, Dorothea Sophia LAST.
What caught my eye on this record is that it listed a father for him, a man named Johann Friedrich Gottlieb SCHMITT. Interesting.
One of the most solid, longest standing brick walls in my personal genealogy research has come down this week. This wall has stood since I started researching my family in 1999, though I didn’t heavily pursue it until a bit later. I now have the names of my paternal 3rd-great-grandparents on my Zalewski line. Meet Michael & Anna (Muschowska) Zalewski.
The path to breaking down this wall started as a lot of them do, just doing random searching and browsing. I occasionally visit most of the sites on my “Genealogy Community” link list on the sidebar. I almost always visit Al’s site at Al’s Polish-American Genealogy. I know Al personally since we used to attend a local Polish research group for a few years. Al works very deep in Polish records and blogs in detail about what he found and how he found it. He had a post recently talking about the records he has on a specific individual and in it he mentioned a few sites he used. One of these sites was one he called the Genealogy in Archives website. I googled it and visited the only Polish one I saw.
NOTE: This post was originally from 2011. I have since updated it as of April 2017. Some of the previous ones are now no longer streaming, but I did find some decent replacements.
I’ve been a customer of Netflix for many years now. Back when I first signed up, it was only DVDs by mail. Now you get instantly streaming shows and movies into your living room through a PC or an Xbox or a smartphone and it’s glorious.
I’ve run across a bunch of different history and genealogy related instant streaming options and I thought I’d share them with you. Though, these are not all specifically genealogy-related, some may be about the areas your ancestors once lived. Also, these videos are obviously more related to my ancestry than just general ancestry. If you have a Netflix account, these links should link you right to the video info page. If you don’t have a Netflix account, I will try to find another informational page for you to view. There are a lot more if you also count DVD versions, though you’ll need to wait for those. Instant ones you can watch right now.
With the death of my maternal grandfather this week, I hit one of those sad life milestones. I now have no more living grandparents, and it’s an odd feeling. I was fortunate to have all four of my grandparents throughout most of my life. I got to spend time with all of them. My children also got to meet most of their great-grandparents on my side, which can be a rare thing.
I lost my first grandparent in April 1999 at 19 with the death of my paternal grandfather. That death did actually have a lot to do with my journey into genealogy. After that there was a long gap until August 2011 when I was 31 when my paternal grandmother passed away. This year has been particularly rough, especially for my mom, who lost her mom in February 2015 and now her father in November 2015. I am in awe of her perseverance and strength these last 12 months.
I’m not entirely sure why I waited so long to start up a Facebook group for the “Zalewski” surname. I’ve long been a member of other genealogy-related groups like one for the Corrigan surname, and a few for locations where my families resided, but I never made one myself. So, on a whim earlier this week, I created the “Zalewski Family” Facebook group and invited all of the distant Zalewski cousins I knew about that were on Facebook.
Early on, I just posted some generic “Welcome” posts, a bit of info about my Y-DNA, and links to some Zalewski-related stuff I did on my lines. I asked the other members to send over the information that they had on their own Zalewski lines so we could put all of that information in one place and maybe find connections, or map it.
I am slowly entering the realm of using video for genealogy. I literally just started my genealogy YouTube channel yesterday. I have two videos up there now, but they are just an old home movie and a slideshow I made awhile back.
The old home movie is a collection of clips from the 1940s of my Corrigan family. It’s probably not super exciting to non-family members, but it is a neat look into that time period in video format. Though, there is no audio except for some music. I did try to do some stabilization to the original video as it gets hard to watch sometimes. Those 1940s video cameras didn’t really have stabilization technology.
The slideshow video is the same one I have posted of this site before that I made for my grandmother’s funeral in 2011. Though, since some of the music I used is copyright, it had some issues on YouTube. I had to remove the flagged songs from that version, so it just wasn’t the same. I have since re-uploaded the video with some royalty-free music. You can still view the un-edited original here on this site using my local video player.
My long-term plan is to do some more videos about my family, how-tos, etc. I have some ideas, but I need to figure out the logistics of getting them done, especially with two small children at home and not a very good recording setup. I get inspiration from channels like Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems channel.
I do feel that YouTube and video are going to be the next leap in terms of genealogy. There is a lot that can be done with video that is tough to do with text or pictures only. Wish me luck.
Today marks 15 years since my paternal grandfather, Richard Zalewski, passed away. His death was the first major death in my immediate family, so I remember taking it pretty hard even though he had been sick for awhile.
I actually remember, pretty well, the last time I saw him and talked to him. My girlfriend, at the time, and I were going to Milwaukee for some reason and we stopped by to see how he was doing. Even though the pancreatic cancer was taking its toll on him, he was cheerful and in good spirits, like I usually remembered him (unless we were misbehaving, naturally.) I’m glad that I still have that vivid memory of him 15 years later.
Achievement unlocked! With a small collection of photos that my mom gave me to look through and scan from her side of the family, I now have photos of every one of my ancestors five generations back to my great-great grandparents. That’s pretty impressive, at least I think so, compared to my wife’s tree where she has very sporadic photos beyond her grandparents.
Over the last few months I’ve put together a lot more information about what my grandfather did in World War II. As previous posts mention, he never really talked about the war, not even to my mom. Though, he has kept a lot of items from the war and I guess he was starting to put together a map before he started to have health issues. Sadly, my grandfather passed away on November 1, 2015. I did not get any more time to talk to him about his time in the war, but I’ll never stop researching his service to my country.
Outside of that, I’ve put together a rough history based on letters, notes, photos, and maps that he kept along with some tricky Google searches and Wikipedia. I am posting this for both posterity and to maybe get some searches coming this way to open up more history from other researchers.
This will be an ongoing post as I find and update the information, but I want to get it posted. There is an updates section at the end of the post where I will note what I updated or edited.
I have also recently put this information into a Google Map since they have released the custom map engine for their new map system.
FamilySearch has a boatload of church records scanned and available online for Germany, Prussia, and Pomerania from 1544-1945, though I would estimate that most of them are in the middle of that range. Currently they’re not available for searching, but I did see them in the indexing software, so maybe they will be available for that soon. That means you must look through them by hand, like the good ol’ days.
It seems that a lot of families from this area of Wisconsin immigrated from that area, which is now mostly in Poland, so I’m in luck. I used this collection to find a few records so far. I found my 3rd-great-grandparent’s marriage record and my 3rd-great-grandfather’s baptism record (I’m pretty sure.) Keep in mind that the towns and parishes are not named the same as they were in the 1800s, so you can’t just go to Google Maps. Don’t worry, I’ve done some of the hard work for you and will show you how to find the records you need. Though, this won’t do all of the browsing record by record and trying to determine what someone wrote in German on old, ripped paper from 1840 for you, but maybe for a few bucks I can do that for you, too.
The key in all of this is an amazing site called Kartenmeister. They describe themselves:
Welcome to the most comprehensive database of its kind in the world. It contains 93537 locations with over 38.691 name changes once, and 5,500 twice and more. Included in this database are the following provinces: Eastprussia, including Memel, Westprussia, Brandenburg, Posen, Pomerania, and Silesia. It currently list most towns or points, points being: Mills, some bridges, battlefields, named trees, cenotaphs etc.