I 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.
If you’re a visitor to social networks of any kind, you’ve probably already heard about Google+ (or Google Plus.) Though, maybe as I have noticed, you seem to hear mostly negative things about it, usually on Facebook. I’ve read posts about how it’s a wasteland or “none of my friends are on it.” I’d like to say now that at least one of those is completely false. Your friends probably aren’t on it.
The problem there is that people are comparing it to Twitter and Facebook when it’s like comparing apples to kiwis . To paraphrase something I read, Facebook is for your existing friends (close friends, grandma, etc), Twitter is for sharing information on current events, and Google+ is for your passions. That’s the key.
I, like almost everyone else, signed into Google+ when it first appeared and found it boring and quiet. I admit that this was before they added a lot of the features that make it what it is today. It’s actually pretty true that not many of my friends are on it, but the ones that are on it aren’t the reason I enjoy it. I find it much more useful for interacting with like-minded people. I’ve collaborated and chatted more about my passions on Google+ in the last few months than on Facebook and Twitter combined over their lifetimes.
So far, the key for me has been the Google+ communities. Browse around and find one that interests you. I’ve joined unrelated communities from Genetic Genealogy to Doctor Who to jQuery to SimCity. I even set up a community myself for the purpose of Milwaukee, Wisconsin Genealogy (self promo!) and it’s already creating some good discussion and contacts.
So, my point is, don’t believe random Facebook commentors (trust them as much as YouTube commentors) and look around Google+ for your passions and start interacting. You’ll be surprised.
I made some great discoveries this weekend and late last night. I’m going to try to spell it all out here, so excuse me if I ramble a bit. While the information I found paints a better picture of the family of my ancestor, it also throws a wrench into the whole thing, but when doesn’t genealogy do that?
Let’s start from the beginning, though instead of writing it all out again, I will point you to an older post and one recent post. Though, you should just be able to skim over the newer one. Long story short, this has to do with the GWIAZDOWSKI – GORALSKI – ZALEWSKI connection I have been researching recently.
After finding the passenger list and 1910-1920 Census records for the GWIAZDOWSKI – GORALSKI families, this is how it was all laid out in my head (Thanks to Google Draw for this easy to make figure):
That makes sense to me. Either August or Anna is Frank’s uncle or aunt, respectively. I can deal with that. It helps me a little bit.
Fast forward to last night. I “run across” the website for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Catholic Cemeteries. I use quotes there because I’ve been to this site before, it’s been there for years. I just never knew they had such a wonderful genealogy/burial record search. Not only does it have up-to-date burial records for eight prominent cemeteries in Milwaukee, it includes death date, burial date, last know address, marital status at death, and burial location. That’s not even the best part. It also includes a link to “Search for nearby graves or crypts.” With this feature, I can see which graves are nearby to this one. I was able to make (pretty confident) connections between people. More than likely people were buried near family.
So, with this I not only found the death date of Jacob ZALEWSKI (on the figure above) that I’ve been trying to find, but I also found the burial information on a Mrs. Mary GORALSKA (as it’s listed on the site.) She is buried near her husband Joseph and Mr. and Mrs. August GWIAZDOWSKI. On a related note (har har), also buried in the same location is a Jacob George ZALEWSKI (the above Jacob’s son) and his wife Alice. Now that doesn’t prove that Jacob is related to them (which also includes Frank, his brother) but it gives hope.
Now, this information is very helpful on it’s own, but when I use it along with the century of archives of The Milwaukee Journal, it gets even more powerful. Unfortunately, before about 1930 or so, they didn’t list much in the death notices. I found both August and Anna GWIAZDOWSKI, listed in the paper, but it’s just their name, address, death date, and cemetery. What I did find was Mary’s obituary from April 2, 1940.
You see it, don’t you? “…also survived by 1 brother, Frank Zalewski…” I was elated at this point. I thought to myself, “I found Frank’s parents!” Then, I started doing the math.. How can Mary be Frank’s brother if there is no way, under normal circumstances, that she would ever have the last name of ZALEWSKI? She was a GORALSKI when she was married and according to the other documents, her parent’s last name was GWIAZDOWSKI. How does that work? Then I thought, maybe it’s not my Frank Zalewski, but another Frank. So, Mary would be my Frank’s cousin. That makes sense logically and follows the info in the passenger list, but again doesn’t solve the name issue. Here, again I visualized it, which helped a bit.
So, after all of that running through my head I decided the only outcome that made sense is that Mary is my Frank’s cousin (the brother is another Frank), which is safe with the “nephew” info from the passenger list. The only way I was able to solve the surname issue was assuming that Anna is Mary’s real mother and August is her step-dad. Maybe Anna’s first husband (Mary’s father) passed away and she re-married before travelling to the US. Now, this is only true if all of the information is correct, which is another possibility.
I’m still no further in my research, though I now have things I can do. Unfortunately, it seems Joseph & Mary had no children, so I probably need to order Mary’s death certificate from the Wisconsin Vital Records office to find her maiden name. Hopefully, she also lists her parent’s names on it. I should maybe even order Jacob’s or Anna’s. I’ll have $20 riding on that hope.
Did that all make sense? Can you follow it and come up with another conclusion?
After running out of gas on trying to find more online records about my great-great-grandfather, Frank Zalewski, and his brother, Jacob, I decided to work the other way. I’ve read about people making awesome discoveries by connecting with distant cousins and finding out that they have some amazing record or photo that breaks down a wall. That sounded like something good to shoot for.
I was going to try to work my way down their trees, from Frank & Anna and then Jacob & Pauline’s families, and see what I could find using tools from early 20th century newspapers all the way to Facebook. With a few tools at my disposal, I was actually able to get much more information than I thought I would in only a few days.