CategoriesFunPhotography

Colorized Photos

Getting some of my old black and white family photos colorized is always something I wanted to do. There are some amazing artists out there would can do an amazing job.

I ran across a video on YouTube today that showed some people colorized versions of the photos they had and some of their reactions are wonderful. Like someone said in the video, black and white videos just seem “very old” and sort of disconnected to you, but adding color to them does something to you psychologically where is almost feels more real and recent.

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CategoriesFamily TreeFun

Birth Location Pedigree

This little pedigree looks like it has been sweeping Facebook recently, so I thought I’d put one together on my family. I first saw it on my feed from Miriam at AnceStories.

Click for larger
Click for larger

If it’s hard for you to view that whole image, you can also view it via Google Sheets here.

It was neat to see all of the birth locations of my ancestors back to my 3rd great-grandparents all in once place. Only 2 “Unknown” entries, which is pretty good (on my surname line, of all places.) I also always assumed my maternal line has been in Wisconsin the longest since they arrived in the early 1850s. It actually looks like one of my paternal ancestors, Pauline (THOMPSON) Firmenich was born in Wisconsin in 1849, only one year after it became an official state.

Back to my great-grandparents, all of my ancestors were born in Wisconsin, with the exception of my grandfather. He was born in Chicago when my great-grandparents lived there for a few years in the 1920s. My earliest US ancestor is my 3rd great-grandfather, William CORRIGAN, who was born somewhere in the US in 1823. It is assumed probably New York, but we’re not sure. They stopped in that area before continuing on to Canada.

CategoriesFamily TreeFun

I am a Cousin!

AJ Jacobs made some headlines inside and outside of the genealogy community back in 2014-15 by setting out to have a Global Family Reunion. His mission is to connect everyone in the world to each other in one human family tree. He wrote a bit about it in a NY Times article.

On WikiTree, you can see how you connect to AJ (and many others) using their site since they built it to be one large tree. I recently finally connected my tree to his and no surprise that it was via my French-Canadian line. Once I connected my CLOUTIER ancestors to their father, my connection was complete. Now, this is not a direct “cousin” as we genealogists know it, but just a “degree of relationship” connection. It’s more like six-degrees of Kevin Bacon (whom you can also see if you connect to, I do, too.)

I am 29 degrees from AJ Jacobs, so “I am a cousin!” and I am unfortunately more than six-degrees from Kevin Bacon (27). If you want to know how you connect to them, or even me, start filling in your WikiTree lines. The site is very easy to use.

CategoriesFun

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.

CategoriesFamily TreeFun

Visualizing the Tree

Now that FamilySearch Family Tree is live and they also allow other programs to access that data on your behalf, we’re able to do cool things with it. RootsMagic allows you to connect members of your local family tree database to FamilySearch Family Tree where you can copy data and sources back and forth.

But, there are also other cool things that some websites are doing with your data. Puzzilla.org is one of those sites. They allow you to view a descendant or ancestor tree visually using the data on FamilySearch. Here is my ancestor tree out to 14-generations.

Brian Zalewski Ancestor Tree
Click for larger

I am the small blue, circled square at the bottom. As you can tell, my maternal side is much more filled out inside of FamilySearch. I have cleaned up back about 4-5 generations, but beyond that, it’s all based on what other people have added. Remember, this is just what info FamilySearch has in their Family Tree. For example, the little orange squares mean that the individual died before the age of 16, which seems odd to have for ancestors that had children.

The cool feature that I love to use with this site is choosing a distant ancestor and viewing their descendant tree. It allows you to see distant cousins you never knew you had. Plus, it looks really neat when you do it for a “super” ancestor like Zacharie Cloutier who “had 10,850 French-Canadian descendants, the most of any Quebec colonist” and is my 11th-great-grandfather. Here is his descendant view only down 4 generations.

Zacharie Cloutier Descendant Tree
Click for larger

How cool looking is that? If you look hard enough, you can see the yellow lines that lead to my family lines. Again, lots and lots of “died before 16” marks, which may be due to bad/wrong data inside the Family Tree. This is also a good way to see bad/wrong data and go in and fix it.

I love being able to use data for non-standard purposes like this and I hope a lot of other creative people plug into the FamilySearch API and make more of these.

CategoriesFunHistoryNon-Genealogy

Creating History

Besides genealogy, one of my other enjoyments is video games. For people who don’t really dabble much in video games, which is probably a lot of the genealogy community based on demographics, they probably think it’s just a wastes my time and rots my brain. While, in some cases, it probably does, in other cases it makes me learn about the history of the world by letting me get involved in that history.

Two games from Paradox Interactive have sucked up almost all of my free gaming time (which, with 2 kids, is not a lot.) They are Crusader Kings II and Europa Universalis IV and are described as “grand strategy” games.

Crusader Kings II
Crusader Kings II

The first, Crusader Kings II, which my brain is stuck to at the moment, is described: “[explore] one of the defining periods in world history in an experience crafted by the masters of Grand Strategy. Medieval Europe is brought to life in this epic title rife with rich strategic and tactical depth.“ You can choose any one of hundreds of noblemen anywhere from 867 to about 1453. Start with a king and rule your minions, or start with a count and work your way up to emperor, if that’s your thing. There is really no goal to the game, it’s basically a sandbox. Each time your character dies, you begin to play as their heir. Do what you want, the only important thing is to continue your dynasty by having heirs because once you run out of bloodline heirs, your game is over (or it hits 1453.)

Europa Universalis IV is similar to CKII as it’s a grand strategy game, but instead of controlling people, in EUIV, you control a country.

The empire building game Europa Universalis IV gives you control of a nation to guide through the years in order to create a dominant global empire. Rule your nation through the centuries, with unparalleled freedom, depth and historical accuracy. True exploration, trade, warfare and diplomacy will be brought to life in this epic title rife with rich strategic and tactical depth.

Though, in EUIV you can literally pick any country in the world from 11 November 1444 A.D. (the day after the crushing defeat of the Poles and Hungarians by the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Varna, and the death of King W?adys?aw III of Poland), and ending 1 January 1821 A.D. I put less time into this one so far, but it has been out for less time. It’s a different style that CKII. You deal more in colonization or trade or warfare and expanding your country around the world. In CKII, you deal more with people and expanding your kingdom through marriage, intrigue, and clever relationships while at the same time watching your back. It’s like a world-wide soap opera.

Though, these games have a pretty steep learning curve, but once you get into them they are tons of fun. Once you hit the play button, you are creating an alternate history for the world. For example, here is one of my first play-throughs of Crusader Kings II that I talked about on our entertainment/gaming site.

I started as King Boles?aw II of Poland and it went pretty smooth during his reign. He lived to be pretty old, even by today’s standards, dying at 82. That’s when everything fell apart. My new heir was the King’s first born son, Franciszek, though he did not inherit everything because the succession laws in Poland were “Gavelkind.”¯ That law gives the first heir the major titles and then equally spreads the rest to the other heirs (male in this case.) So, Franciszek’s half-brother, Josef, decided to declare war on me for his claim to the Kingdom of Poland. He won, due to having many allies.

It didn’t last long as his brother, Roman, went to war with him for the kingdom also, imprisoning him in the process and taking over. More people started wars. In the end, or as it stands in my game right now, Roman is dead, Josef is a Polish Duke, their sister Elisabeth is now Queen of Poland, and I’m down to being a Count with one county, but still alive and scheming including secretly murdering two other Counts. Though Franciszek is no longer my character, his son the heir is now my character. Sadly, one of his main traits is “imbecile”¯ so he’s a really bad ruler. He has no bloodline heir since he’s only 15, so my goal is to get him a son before he dies or gets assassinated.

And that was back when I wasn’t very good at it. You learn as you play and from your mistakes. I learn a lot of tips from “Let’s Play” YouTube videos. Every time you play, it is completely different. My most recent play through with Poland, King Boles?aw died in his 30s with only a single daughter, but she reigned for a long time as Queen Helena the Ironside. After that, it sort of fell apart after the Holy Roman Empire went to war with me for his vassal, the Kingdom of Bohemia and I had to surrender most of Poland to Bohemia. Currently, I am ruling as the King of Denmark, which somehow came to my dynasty through clever marriages and deaths.

Not only is it enjoyable, but I’ve learned a lot more about the history of the world during these times. You can play from 867 with Crusader Kings II and when it ends in 1453, you can convert your game over to Europa Universalis IV and then play until 1821. That’s almost 1000 years. What kind of world will it be then? I bet your family history would be very different.

CategoriesFamily TreeFunZalewski

The 5th Middle

Middle ChildI didn’t actively think about this. It just popped into my head one day and after I looked into it I was pleasantly surprised.

If my wife and I have one more child, making our newest son, Xander, the middle child. He will then be (at least) the 5th generation of the male middle child going back to his great-great-grandfather.

I have only traced my ZALEWSKI line back to Frank Zalewski, but I only know of one of his siblings and nothing about the rest of his family. It is completely possible that he is also a middle child, but I don’t know, yet.

Frank’s son Joseph was the 5th child out of nine, born in 1893, making him the middle child. Frank’s 3rd child, Elsa, died within a year, so Joseph didn’t really grow up a true middle child.

Joseph and his wife Emily technically had four children, though one died stillborn, making three living children. Joseph’s son Richard was then the middle child, born in 1921.

My father, Richard’s son, was born a middle child between his brother and sister.

I was born a middle child surrounded by two brothers.

There are always neat things hiding in your family tree if you look for it.

CategoriesFunNon-Genealogy

Pact With the Devil

Reading through historical newspapers looking for stories relating to your ancestors is interesting not only on a historical level, sometimes it’s just plain fun. For example, while browsing through papers from 1919 looking for any mention of my great-grandfather’s return from the war, I ran across this gem in The Milwaukee Journal from May 5th, 1919.

Deal with Devil

Transcription:

Lives Century After Pact With Devil

St. Paul — St. Paul’s modern Faust is dead.

Edwin E. Fisher, 104, who gained notoriety four years ago by declaring he made a pact with the devil when a child that he should live a hundred years by consigning himself to hades after death, will be buried Sunday afternoon. April 11, 1915, he prepared for the end, scheduled at midnight. He continued at his cabinet maker trade for two years, and retired because of ill health.

CategoriesFunPersonalTechnology

The Tech-Savvy Genealogist

Geniaus created The Tech-Savvy Genealogist Meme, I borrowed it from Genea-Musings. This one is more up my alley since I’ve been involved in technology since I was a little boy.

The list should be annotated in the following manner:
Things you have already done or found: bold face type
Things you would like to do or find: italicize (color optional)
Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type

Feel free to add extra comments in brackets after each item

Which of these apply to you?

  1. Own an Android or Windows tablet or an iPad [not a tablet, but both an Android phone and an iPhone]
  2. Use a tablet or iPad for genealogy related purposes
  3. Use a Kindle, Nook, or other e-reader for genealogy related purposes [Have a Kindle, but have only read fiction on it so far]
  4. Have used Skype or Google Video Chat to for genealogy purposes
  5. Have used a camera to capture images in a library/archives/ancestor’s home
  6. Use a genealogy software program on your computer to manage your family tree [RootsMagic, mainly]
  7. Use multiple genealogy software programs because they each have different functionalities.
  8. Have a Twitter account [@brianjz]
  9. Tweet daily
  10. Have a genealogy blog. [How’d you guess?]
    Read the rest.  Continue reading
CategoriesFunPersonal

99+ Genealogy Things

I’m going to copy Destination: Austin Family and update my 99 (really 104) Genealogy Things list. I last posted the list in January 2009.

The list below is annotated in the following manner:

  • Things you have already done or found: bold face type
  • Things you would like to do or find: italicize (color optional)
  • Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type
  1. Belong to a genealogical society.
  2. Researched records onsite at a court house.
  3. Transcribed records.
  4. Uploaded tombstone pictures to Find-A-Grave.
  5. Documented ancestors for four generations (self, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents).
  6. Joined Facebook.
  7. Helped to clean up a run-down cemetery.
  8. Joined the Genea-Bloggers Group on Facebook.
  9. Attended a genealogy conference.
  10. Lectured at a genealogy conference.
  11. Spoke on a genealogy topic at a local genealogy society.
  12. Been the editor of a genealogy society newsletter.
  13. Contributed to a genealogy society publication.
  14. Served on the board or as an officer of a genealogy society.
  15. Got lost on the way to a cemetery.
  16. Talked to dead ancestors.
  17. Researched outside the state in which I live.
  18. Knocked on the door of an ancestral home and visited with the current occupants.
  19. Cold called a distant relative.
    Continue reading
CategoriesFunReview

Your Generations Project

I had some time at lunch today, so I headed over to the BYUtv site to watch an episode of “The Generations Project.” For people unfamiliar with it, think of it as a “Who Do You Think You Are?” for regular people. The episode I watched was titled, “Do Your Own Generations Project.” I assume most of your are already interested in genealogy, but I think this would be a good video to show to someone who might think genealogy is boring or it’s just all names and dates. It may even spark someone to visit their family history and, in turn, spark someone else. Who knows?

I can’t embed the video here, so go watch it at the BYUtv website. It’s a great episode regardless of your views on genealogy. Don’t forget to check out all of the other episodes.