Tag: History


Crusader Kings II

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 Władysław 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 Bolesław 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 Bolesław 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.

I recently finished reading the wonderful book by Megan Smolenyak called Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing. I read another book she wrote a few years back, when DNA testing was still pretty new, called Trace Your Roots With DNA which was also very interesting.

In the book, Megan goes over cases she has worked on throughout her life that involve genealogy or searching for people that need finding. From tracing Obama’s roots to Ireland to finding the next of kin of “unclaimed person” to finding the real Annie Moore, she covers a lot of interesting paths. You definitely don’t need to be a genealogist, or even do any family research for that matter, to enjoy this book. Her writing style makes it easy to follow along and  learn about the detective work that went into everything she does.

I found the chapter named “A House Divided, A Bible Shared” that talked about a family bible that started with a soldier in the Confederate Army and ended up with a Union Soldier from Wisconsin. While the chapter itself was interesting, I perked up when I read the Union soldier was from Company K, Wisconsin 18th Infantry. My 3rd-great-grandfather, Johann LAST, was in Company K, though he was with the 50th Infantry. It seems the 18th Infantry went down to Louisiana and the 50th (from what I can tell) traveled up to the Dakota Territory. Who knows, maybe they crossed paths?

I also enjoyed the chapter, “King of America,” where Megan worked to figure out who would be the King of America today if George Washington would’ve been King instead of President. There is much more to learn about the monarchy than I had originally thought. She explains the differences very well and it’s an interesting read. Obviously, if Washington had been King, the descendants would’ve chosen their spouses differently, etc, but it’s a cool theoretical project to take on.

I recommend this book to anyone, especially genealogists, but any person interested in history or detective work would definitely enjoy it. I read the Kindle version, but the physical version is also available on Amazon.

This is a video from San Francisco supposedly taken only a few days before the 1906 earthquake and fire. It has been seen before, as it noted in the post over at BoingBoing, where I saw it, though this version is of much better quality. Also, the original video can be downloaded in high-quality since it’s in the public domain. If you want that, you can go on over to archive.org and get it.

I think it’s amazing to see how life was back in 1906. Note the almost-chaotic driving, the people hitching rides on seemingly random vehicles, the mix of horses, people, and cars. (Sorry, it’s a bit cut off, but you can see most of it.)

There is also an updated version from 2005 up on YouTube where the videographer takes the same trip. Or, even better, there is one with side-by-side comparison.

Courtesy of britmum@Flickr
Courtesy of britmum@Flickr

I tried, but I couldn’t come up with a joke for that. “Polish Flats” are common here in the Milwaukee area. I’ve recently been exploring the area where my great-great-grandfather, Frank Zalewski, and his family resided when they immigrated to Milwaukee in 1891. Frank and his family’s first house was located at 902 Pulaski Street in Milwaukee. They are noted to live there until about 1898 when they moved to 900 Fratney Street.

According to researchers at UWM in Milwaukee, “A ‘Polish flat’ is an American workers’ cottage that has been raised to create a new basement floor, thus becoming a modest two-story flat.” [More information here.] The Pulaski street area is full of these types of houses. They even built them two or three-deep at certain points, so it makes finding the right house a mess. You can see on this Google Maps link just how crowded they built these houses.

I assume the house on Pulaski street is still standing. Unfortunately, the city of Milwaukee underwent a massive address overhaul in 1931 and most of the addresses in that area have changed. There is no common mathematical equation used to figure out the new address, since they based it on measurements. I did find a guide on how to find the general range of the new address, which should be in the 1800 range now.The 1930 census still lists the old addresses, so that doesn’t help.

From the 1900-1930 census, the family of Jacob Zalewski lived at 902 Pulaski. This is the man I assume is some relation to Frank, possibly a brother, since they both lived there for years. Jacob passed away sometime between 1913 and 1920 according to census records. His wife Pauline was living there in the 1930 census with her children. The earliest city directory available at Ancestry after 1930 is the 1937 directory. I checked under Zalewski and it lists Pauline as passing away on December 30, 1936 and lists no address. There are three listings for Zalewskis on Pulaski street: Jacob G, Leo, and Joseph. These are three names of Jacob and Pauline’s sons, though they are also popular Polish names. They all live from 1758 to 1762 Pulaski Street. If I had to take an educated guess, this is probably where Frank Zalewski lived when he came to Milwaukee. Here is a view of it at Google Street View (you’ll need to find the house pushed way back, Google doesn’t automatically point at it.) I also happened to find another photo of it while searching for Pulaski Street information.

I drove through the area at my lunchtime on Monday since it’s only a few miles from where I work. It’s very hard to get around if you don’t know the area due to a lot of one-way streets. Now that I have a better idea, I may make another trip for some photos.

Photo:

Today is a historic day in America. It makes me feel good to see how far we’ve come as a country. Hopefully, I’ll be able to remember this day and tell my kids and grandkids about it. That made me look into my family tree to see what my family may have been doing during important presidential milestones.

1789 – I don’t think I had any family in America in 1789 when George Washington became the first President of the United States. Most of my ancestors came to America much later in it’s history.

1861 – A lot of my family was already in America by the time Abraham Lincoln took office in 1861. A few of my ancestors even fought for the Union in the Civil War. They were probably also very shocked when Lincoln was assassinated in 1865.

1933 – Franklin D. Roosevelt becomes the 32nd President. FDR has been consistently ranked as one of the greatest U.S. presidents in historical rankings, alongside Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.All of my grandparents were alive (though probably young) at this time, but may have remembered FDR since he was in office for 12 years.

1963 – My dad always tells me that he remembers where he was when JFK was assassinated. I imagine it may have been the same way for my ancestors during Lincoln’s assassination. Back then, the news would’ve come a bit slower, maybe even a few days later.

So, good luck to our 44th President, Barack Obama and here’s to many more historic Presidential moments.