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.

CategoriesBig NewsSite

Seven Years

TypewriterAccording to my list of posts, seven years ago today is the day I started blogging on this site. Some would call it my “blogiversary.” My first post wasn’t very exciting as it looks to just be a copy of a story about Irish genealogy. Though, I quickly found my way and started to write better, more interesting posts. It’s also neat as my birthday is on the 18th.

My site dashboard says I have 432 posts as of today (including this one) and it’s been 2557 days since my first post. Doing some quick math that would make it a post every 6 days or so. That’s not really a bad average taking into consideration some of the longer breaks I took.

It’s been seven years since the first post on this site, but I know for a fact that I blogged more about genealogy before this specific site came about. I was blogging in general back in about 2000-2001, back when Blogger was still owned by Pyra Labs, its creator.

I hope to go seven more years. I’ve done a lot in those seven years. Made lots of new connections, broke down a few brick walls, and found a nice community. Here’s to the future!

Here are some of the more interesting posts I’ve done in that time:

You can always find some of the best posts by visiting my “Featured Posts” section.

Photo: gecko4wd@flickr


The Zalewski Project

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 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.


Where Am I?

You’re at the right place, don’t worry. I decided to put together a new template since I felt I didn’t have a lot of customization options on the last one without tearing it apart. I built this one from the ground up, so while it may not be full of zazz, it allows me complete freedom (as far as WordPress will let me go.) I originally built the theme for my wife’s website, Tales From the Nursery, so I had just gone through the process. I may or may not have stolen a lot of ideas and code from that template, but don’t tell anyone.

I find it sort of fitting (though not planned) that I’m releasing this new theme on the 12th anniversary of the passing of my grandfather, Richard Zalewski. His death was sort of indirectly the catalyst of my genealogy adventure. Plus, I’m finally starting to crack open the mystery of the Zalewski ancestry, which has been causing me trouble for all 12 of those years.

You will notice the photo at the top-right. I felt it was a neat place to show off photos of our ancestors and links to more information. Also, at the top of the main page, you’ll see the “Featured Posts” box. This will allow me to feature certain posts for a longer period of time, especially if I’m proud of them. I was also able to more prominently display links to my other genealogy sites under the photo. Those were getting lost in the old theme. I am not completely done with the theme. I need to do some more work on the sidebar, but it works right now. I just want to jazz it up a bit.

As always, please don’t mind the dust or broken things, I’m finishing everything up. If you do find something that’s broken, please leave me a comment or use my Contact Form. When doing so, please also mention your Operating System (Windows 7, Ubuntu 10.10, etc.) and your browser (Internet Explorer 7, Safari, etc.) That will help me troubleshoot. I have tested as much as I can at the moment, but the site should work very well in any modern browser, the most popular being Internet Explorer 8+, Firefox 3 and 4, Chrome,  and Safari. It probably looks horrible in Internet Explorer 6 (and maybe 7), but it should and you should really not use that anymore. Microsoft even says so themselves. Plus, if you’re using IE 6 or 7, you will get a nice message at the top of the site telling you to update it.

Thanks for stopping by.

CategoriesBig NewsSite

Everything I Know (Again)

Since I had so much fun setting up my single ancestor site, Everything I Know About Frank Zalewski, I thought I would set up another one for another individual in my tree. Once again, it’s an individual from my paternal line, my 3rd-great-grandfather Mathias Balthazar Firmenich.

I already had a lot of information on Mathias, which is one reason I decided on him. There is always missing information, which is one reason that these projects are helpful. It requires me to comb through all of the information I have and put it in order. I usually end up finding some detail that I had missed earlier. The sites also get to put the visitor into the life of someone who lived in the past and to see what they went through.

Mathias’ life was pretty full. From immigrating to America at a young age to traveling hundreds of miles to a new home to dealing with the loss of children during a disease outbreak, he had been through a lot.

Take a journey and learn more about Mathias on my new site, Everything I Know About Mathias Firmenich.

CategoriesEnglishFamily TreeSite

Family Tree Update

I thought I’d do a general post about recent updates to family tree research and the site itself.

I just updated the Family Tree section of the website to the latest release of The Next Generation of Genealogy Site Building (TNG) to version 8.0. I have yet to see all of the new features and changes, but if previous versions are any indication, it should be pretty nice. So far, there is now a Calendar on the Dates & Anniversaries area, a nice photo viewer and slideshow (example), and many other “under-the-hood” tweaks. I also changed the background image/color of the family tree site to be a bit lighter. I noticed, even for my young 30-year-old eyes, that some of the smaller text was hard to read. It seems better. As always, please let me know if anything is hard to read or broken on the site. More than likely I just didn’t notice it yet.

On the family tree research front, I’m still going back through every census record for our families and inserting much more detailed source information, including house and family numbers and exact pages, etc. My previous sourcing wasn’t too good and I had accidentally deleted a lot of the details when I merged sources in my software. Anyway, it’s good to go back through. I’ve noticed some small details that I missed.

I haven’t broken down any major brick walls on my family recently, but I have added more people to my wife’s family tree. They are temporarily inserted as I find more credible sources. For example, some info was only found in’s family trees area and I don’t exactly trust it due to many problems/wrong info in the past. But, it’s good to at least get the data in there so I can research it more in-depth. Again, her family history is much more “exciting” than mine. I say that with much humor, because all family breakthroughs are exciting. Her’s just has a lot more history with it, especially early American history. This latest line ties back into the ROGERS family of Connecticut, which seems to be pretty well-researched and rumored to be both possibly connected to the Mayflower and John the Martyr, but more research is obviously pending on those. We’ll just add that to the list with her connection to English royalty. *sarcastic eye roll* All kidding aside, doing Colonial American research is fun for me since my family is basically all European straight from Wisconsin (and some Canadian.)

I plan on doing an export and updating the info on the online family tree soon.


Oooh, Shiny..

UPDATE 5/24/12: This specific widget is no longer being used on my new template, though I am working on something similar.

I had some crazy idea earlier this week on something I wanted to develop for the site. I thought, what if people were able to hover over links that I have to my family tree section and get some basic information on that person without ever having to leave the post? Well, it went from idea to (almost) finished product in about 3 days. I know it’s not a perfect implementation and I plan on tweaking it to make it work better and more efficient.

So, now if you hover over a name on my posts that link to a person’s information page, like for example, Richard ZALEWSKI, it will show you basic information about my grandfather in a tooltip. If you want the full details, you can still click on the link and go to the family tree page. This only works on individuals right now and not family group sheets, but I don’t link to them that often.

I’ve tested the implementation in most of the major browsers including Internet Explorer 8, Mozilla Firefox 3.6, and Google Chrome 5. I’m pretty sure it works in just about everything as long as you have Javascript enabled, according to the tooltip code I used.

Let me know how you like it and if it’s too annoying or clunky. Constructive criticism is good so I can fix issues with it. So, you’re my beta testers! Enjoy.

For the technical mumbo-jumbo for all you geeks or if anyone is interested, keep reading.

CategoriesFamily TreeSite

Family Tree Overhaul


I recently re-installed the Family Tree area of my website. You won’t really notice anything different, but I had to do some back-end stuff. It’s been awhile since I had originally installed the site, so it became pretty confusing. A clean install is much nicer.

But, along with this new install, I also uploaded a ton of photos, documents, and headstone pictures that I had been wanting to take care of. It’s not everything that I have, but there is a lot more than there was before. Plus, everything is linked to the people in the photos! I’m working on getting some of the “Places” set correctly so that you can see interactive maps of all of these places. It’s a very powerful system that I never fully used before.

Note that some of the info may be wrong, sometimes my tree export picks a non-primary date from the list (like a date that was different from most records, but I entered it as alternate data.) Also, some special characters in certain locations and names may show up as a “?” or another weird character. I’ve worked out most of those, but there may be a few rogue ones. I have only exported my direct ancestors (and their children) and the same for my wife, Darcy. I used to export everything in my tree, but then I got a lot of weird emails asking me for info about some 18th cousin that I only had a name entered for. I plan on exporting some other non-direct individuals that I deem interesting, but I have not yet gone through that process.

Thanks to everyone who helped me build this. Take a look.

Photo courtesy of Bart van Damme on flickr

CategoriesFamily TreeFeaturedSiteZalewski

Everything I Know About Frank Zalewski

I have a new site to show all of you. But, first, how it all came to be.

While I was searching for more information on a passenger ship from one of my ancestors a few months back, I ran across a site called “Everything I Know About Hyman Victor.” The site is basically one man’s story about his great-grandfather. It shows off all of the vital records, memories, and information about Mr. Victor.

I was very impressed by both the idea and the layout of the website. Since I noticed the site was built using WordPress, just like this site, I emailed the owner of the website and asked him about how he put it together. He was a very nice guy and said that he would send me some of the files I would need. Recently, I received these files and started putting together a site for my great-great-grandfather, Frank Zalewski.

I wanted to do this for a few reasons. First, I wanted to create a nice site dedicated to Frank and his life. Secondly, going back over a lot of this information may bring me new discoveries. Sadly, I didn’t find anything new, but now all my information is better organized.

I can’t take too much credit for the site, since most of the work was done by Elliot Malkin at Everything I Know About Hyman Victor. Thank you Elliot for the help. Though, I did tweak a few things for my own use.

Without further delay, I bring you Everything I Know About Frank Zalewski.


A New Coat of Paint

I had some inspiration yesterday on a new look for my family site. Previously, the family site design just copied this blog design (with some tweaks) to make it easier. I had an idea to show off some of the great photos I have in my collection to visitors of the site. Last night and today I put it all together and it is live now.

The main photo at the top puts the spotlight on a few pictures. Currently, there are only 3 photos rotating through that area. I will add more as I find good photos to use. The photo also includes a line of information about the photo and usually a link to get more info on the individual or family.

Then I broke the main areas of the site into three categories: People, Memories, and Explore. “People” points you to the areas that deal more with the people, such as the “Surnames” area. “Memories” points you to areas like “Photos” and “Headstones.” “Explore” takes you to areas like “Places” and “Notes” so you can just browse around.

The inside pages don’t look as nice. I need to sit down and try to figure out what exactly to do. They take most of the design, but it doesn’t work as well by itself. Plus, a lot of the areas I’d like to tweak are hard to access due to the family tree web software I use. Don’t get me wrong, he developed it very nice. It’s very easy to customize, but some small areas are hard to pinpoint.

I also tried to keep it visible to people with monitor resolutions at 1024×768 and above (the common standard) but it may go a bit over at 1024 exactly. It won’t cut off any content, but it may have a horizontal scroll bar. Anyone above 1024×768 will see it fine.

Take a look at the main page and let me know how you like it. If something looks strange, let me know.

I developed it using no HTML tables, which people should try to do. Using no tables can sometimes cause issues in older browsers. I tested it in 3 of the most recent browsers: Mozilla Firefox 3.5, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer 8. I’m pretty sure it breaks horribly in Internet Explorer 6, but I really don’t care. I know for a fact a lot of the images will look bad in IE6 since I’m using transparent PNG files, which IE6 doesn’t support, but they look wonderful in everything else. IE6 is extremely old and out-dated (2001!) and I don’t plan on spending hours trying to fix it’s problems. People using IE6 should get an alert message asking them to update their browser. I’m not sure on IE7, but I hope it works overall. I didn’t do anything drastic in the design. IE7 is pretty good, overall.

It makes me feel good. One of the few times I had inspiration and finished (most of) it that quickly.


Kreativ with a “K”

Seems I’ve been tagged with the KreativBlogger award by Julie at GenBlog. Thank you very much.


I guess I’m supposed to tag 5 others according to the rules. I’m hoping I can find 5 bloggers that can be tagged. I usually get caught at the end of these, which I’m used to since it comes with having a “Z” surname.


  1. Copy the award to your site.
  2. Link to the person from whom you received the award.
  3. Nominate 5 other bloggers.
  4. Link to those sites on your blog.
  5. Leave a message on the blogs you nominate.

And the award goes to…