December 18, 2014

Merry Cemetery Displays ‘Dirty Little Secrets’ of the Dead

The "Merry Cemetery" Sapanta, Romania. Image credit: "Merry Cemetery - Sapanta - Romania 01”, by Adam Jones (Adam63). Wikimedia Commons image at- http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Merry_Cemetery_-_Sapanta_-_Romania_01.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Merry_Cemetery_-_Sapanta_-_Romania_01.jpg.

The “Merry Cemetery” Sapanta, Romania. Image credit: “Merry Cemetery – Sapanta – Romania 01”, by Adam Jones (Adam63). Wikimedia Commons image.

A gravestone creator in a small town in Romania took his mission seriously to memorialize the dead. But he did in, er, “living color,” so to speak. With plenty of colorful images and even dirty little secrets and gossip carved onto tombstones of the local residents at the “Merry Cemetery.”

As reported in the New York Daily News,  the woodcarver responsible for over 1000 gravestones in the “Merry Cemetery” would wander through town, taking notes on people’s quirks and secrets. Some flaws–drinking and carousing among them–are memorialized colorfully on their tombstones. On other stones, you’ll find his sad laments for the untimely passing of a child or the death of an adult by  a sad accident.

“There’s no point in hiding secrets in this small town in Maramures, so people’s lives are captured honestly in their epitaphs,” reports the article.

The woodcarver was Stan Ion Patras, who lived from 1908-1977. Conscious of the legacy he was leaving–and perhaps anxious to tell his own story rather than have someone else do it–Patras carved his own tombstone before he passed away. He trained his replacement, who continues to add to the brightly colored crosses.

Here’s another detail I thought was neat: Patras’ folk art was highly symbolic. According to a New York Times article on the cemetery, “The portrait of the deceased is central, surrounded by geometric designs in symbolic colors: yellow for fertility, red for passion, green for life, black for untimely death. The color scheme is keyed to the subject’s life — if, for example, the deceased had many children, yellow carries the design. Some crosses are crowned with white doves representing the soul; a black bird implies a tragic or suspicious end. The background is always blue, the color of hope and freedom.”

What’s the most fascinating cemetery you’ve ever visited? What’s the most memorable epitaph you’ve ever found? Share it on our Genealogy Gems Facebook page!

Bookmark and Share

Evernote for Family History: Organizing and Tagging Your Data

Evernote for GenealogyRecently Richard wrote in with great questions on using Evernote for family history. “Thank you for ‘reinvigorating’ my interest in my family history,” he says. “I watched [your Legacy Family Tree webinar] on Evernote twice and I am now a Premium user thanks to the video. I’m following many of your suggestions, but have a few questions.”

Here’s our Q & A on using Evernote for family history:

Q: “Creating a set of useful tags assumes that in the future you will want to extract data based upon those tags. Since in many cases you don’t have the data yet, and can’t know what you want to retrieve (kind of a “Back to the Future” scenario), do you have any suggestions on specific tags?  Here are a couple I’m thinking of using and I’d appreciate your opinion:  Census year — Birth year – Death year – Civil Records – Church Records.”

Evernote for Genealogy Quick Reference GuideA: Yes, I provide a list on my Evernote for Genealogists quick reference guide that follows along the lines you are already going (focusing on record types). I recommend keeping tag names simple so there is less clutter in the left hand column of Evernote. i.e. Birth, Census, Death, Immigration, etc.  I also tend to have location tags such as states and/or counties in anticipation of opportunities to do research in those areas. If I’m going to make a trip to Randolph County, it would be convenient to access all related notes regardless of family or time frame with one click of a tag.

Originally I created notebooks for each major surname in my tree, but I recommend tags now. I reserve notebooks for high level topics and projects—particularly projects I anticipate wanting to work with others on. It’s very convenient to simply share a notebook. There are five Evernote videos that are part of Premium membership that go in to all the details. You’ll find the list here.

Q: “Do you tag individual surnames in your notes?  What about generations, i.e., Grandparents — Great-Grandparents — Great-Great-Grandparents, etc.”

A: I have laid out my organizational strategy in the Genealogy Gems Premium Membership videos “Hard Drive Organization” and have since elaborated on how I apply that method to Evernote in several Premium podcast episodes.

Q: “I noted in your video you do not clip most of your family photos. Do you clip full census sheets?

A: Yes. Anything to do with my research!

Q: I use Family Tree Maker, and subscribe to Ancestry.com. Once you have compiled all these notes, what and how do you include them into your tree?”

A: I cover this in Premium episode 96.

Genealogy Gems Premium Membership and PodcastAs you can see, though I cover a lot of Evernote questions on my free Genealogy Gems website, a lot of his more detailed questions are addressed in members-only Premium content. Learn more about Genealogy Gems Premium membership here: all the great online videos and Premium podcast episodes you’ll be able to access for a full YEAR for less than the price of attending a single day at a genealogy conference!

Bookmark and Share

What are the Politics of Your Family Tree?

stick_figure_ballot_box_400_wht_9471Here’s a fun online tool that points toward the political leanings of current U.S. residents with your surnames: What’s in a Name?

For example, when I enter my maternal grandfather’s surname, Felix, I find that this surname overwhelming votes Democrat (77%). My father’s surname, McClellan, is evenly split. There’s a cool (but slightly confusing) map that breaks down results by state. Of course I looked at the state breakdowns where my family lives now and in their ancestral home states!

Do  political leanings really run in a family? Here’s an interesting article about familial voting patterns (again for the U.S.). Based on your surname results and what you know about your family, would this be a FUN family history conversation to introduce at your next family reunion would it open a can of worms?

Just remember, this isn’t a historical picture of your surname but predicted figures for the next big election. Not everyone with your surname is a relative, and that you likely have lot of relatives from that same surname line who wouldn’t be included because their surnames have changed. There’s also no explanation on this page of where they get their raw numbers or how they calculate their answers. You’d want to check the supporting organizations for party or other bias. So this is JUST for fun! But think about it–what resources would you use to research the politics of your family tree? Obituaries? Newspapers? Interviews with older relatives? Even naming patterns? My husband’s grandfather is named Franklin Delano–I wonder who his parents voted for….

 

 

Bookmark and Share

WWI-Era Orphaned Heirloom Looking for Its Family

looking_though_binoculars_pc_400_wht_2823

A U.K. news site recently reported a story about an orphaned heirloom World War I medal that is trying to get back home–with help from a retired postal worker.

Terry Lane is a member of a group that searches people’s properties for old artifacts (they get permission!). He discovered the medal in a trash bin in the woods. He cleaned it up enough to tell that it’s a WWI British silver medal with an inscription: “PTE A J Stedman ASC” and a notation that meant he was a supply specialist for Kitchener’s New Army.

Lane contacted an expert researcher who has worked on Who Do You Think You Are? for help. They have determined that the man was likely an Albert J Stedman, who lived in that locale. Lane hopes to track down a descendant to whom he can return the medal.

Do you have any stories of orphaned heirlooms, lost or found? Let us know!

If you like this post….

  • Check out this post with advice on how to track down a family to return something.
  • Interested in genealogy volunteerism? Click here to read a post on what has replaced that classic do-gooder organization, Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness.
Bookmark and Share

The Google Search Operator That Got Away

One of my favorite Google Search Operators is the Tilde (`) which is Google lingo means Synonym. In the past you could add~genealogy to your searches and Google would look for ‘genealogy’, ‘family history’, ‘ancestry’ etc. Unfortunately, it is no more.

Google Search Operator Tilde synonym

Google explained the decision to do away with synonym search this way: “Why? Because too few people were using it to make it worth the time, money, and energy to maintain…Maintaining ALL of the synonyms takes real time and costs us real money. Supporting this operator also increases the complexity of the code base.”

So now, more than ever, it’s important to choose your keywords wisely and think like the person who may be posting information you are looking for. You may think train history, but experts on the subject may be using railroad or locomotive as they write on their website. The good news is you can include all the options in your search query.

Recommended Viewing:
Genealogy Gems Premium Video: Ultimate Google Search Strategies

Recommended Reading:
Things may change online, 
but Genealogy Gems will never change: 
We’re here to help!
logo with text
Bookmark and Share

Historical Norwegian Maps Online: Great Genealogy Resource!

norway_flag_perspective_anim_500_wht_3647Recently we heard from Gordon in Billings, Montana, U.S.A, who passed on news about historical Norwegian maps online now at their National Map Works. He says:

“I have been enjoying your podcasts for a couple of years now, so I though I would pass on a piece of information that some of your listeners might want to hear about.

I don’t know how many of them do research in Norway like I do but I suspect that most of the ones that do, do not make a habit of reading the Norwegian newspapers. Since my wife was born in Norway, we do read her hometown paper on a regular basis. Just yesterday, that paper, Bergens Tidende, had an article reporting that the “Statens Kartverk” (the National Map Works) has recently digitized and posted on-line 8000 historical maps of Norway. (Click here for the article.)

Unfortunately, the website for the maps has not put a link in their English section yet, but there isn’t much to read beyond place names on the maps anyway. You can view the maps here.

Just choose a county, click the green button, and see a wonderful collection of maps for anyone with ancestors from Norway.”

Thanks for the tip, Gordon! I’ll add this tip of my own: Open the website in Chrome and Chrome will automatically offer to translate the website. Simply click the Translate button, like you’ll see below:

norwegian maps

Bookmark and Share

Family History Episode 43: The Julian Calendar and Genealogy

Family History Genealogy Made Easy PodcastFamily History: Genealogy Made Easy

with Lisa Louise Cooke

Republished 2014

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 43: The Julian Calendar and Genealogy “Double-Dating”

If you’re not familiar with how the calendar has changed through history, you might be recording incorrect dates in your family tree!  In this episode, Margery Bell, Assistant Director of the Regional Family History Center in Oakland, California helps us understand the “double-dating” we see in old documents and translate those dates from the Julian calendar to today’s Gregorian system.

The Julian Calendar

In 1582, the Roman Catholic Pope Gregory learned that gradually the vernal equinox wasn’t coming on the “right day.” At the time, the first day of the new year was March 25. This explains why the name of September (“sept”=seven) translates as “the seventh month: and October (“oct”=eight) as the eighth month, etc.

So in 1582, the calendar changed in the four countries under papal authority: Spain, Portugal, Italy and the Polish-Lithuanian state. Gradually over time, everyone else adapted to what became called the “Gregorian calendar,” and is what we use now. But you might be surprised how long the Julian calendar was still used in some places: Greece held out until 1923.

Great Britain changed over to the Gregorian calendar is 1752—and so did its colonies. But here in the North American colonies we were affected by the change long before because we had people here from so many nations in which either calendar might be used.

The solution in U.S. colonial record-keeping was “double-dating.” Maybe you’ve seen a date that reads “3 February 1685/6.” That means it was 1685 by the old Julian calendar and 1686 according to the Gregorian calendar. You’ll see this double-dating used between January 1 -March 25, when the time frame overlapped. You might also see a single date with the abbreviation “o.s.” or “n.s” for “old style” or “new style,” or you might see those words written out. If it’s written in the new calendar style, of course, you don’t have to translate the date.

Why does it matter to a genealogist which style is used? If you don’t translate the date correctly, you’ll get confused about timing. The change from one calendar to the next involved dropping several days from the calendar in 1752, then renumbering the months. March was the first month of 1725, for example, and January 1725 actually came after it—that was the eleventh month! It will look like people have their will probated before they died, or they had a baby before they got married.

Top tips from Margery Bell:

  • If you don’t see double-dating in a colonial document before 1752, assume you’re on the old calendar. See a sample at George Washington family bible with birthdate. (Listen to the podcast to see how his birthday as celebrated today was translated out of that calendar.)
  • Some vital or church records may be written as “the second day of the third month.” If they were following the old calendar, we will “translate” that date incorrectly if we don’t know better. Go back and double-check the sources for your older dates. That includes making sure that any dates you copied from an index (if you couldn’t get to the original record) were indexed accurately.
  • FamilySearch has a lot of data from the IGI, the International Genealogy Index. These older records include a LOT of Julian calendar items but the IGI doesn’t indicate whether that’s true. If you see two different marriage records for the same couple married on two separate dates, translate them and see if one is perhaps the adjusted date and the other didn’t get “translated.”

Genealogy Gems Mailbox

Mailbox question from Beginning GenealogistDon in Oklahoma writes in to ask about how to record the last names of women, and how those names affect Ancestry’s Family Trees to seek out corresponding genealogical records.

Women should be entered in family trees with their maiden names. Then they are linked to men they marry in family trees, and that’s how you can determine their married surname. I double-checked with the Ancestry Insider blogger about Ancestry searches. He says that Ancestry “shaky leaf” hints search on both a woman’s maiden name and all her husband’s surnames. Thanks for that extra tip, Ancestry Insider!

 

Bookmark and Share

MyCanvas Finds a New Home: Alexander’s

Alexander’s, the long time MyCanvas printer will be receiving ownership. Ancestry exec Eric Shoup issued this statement today explaining the transition.

“This past June, we announced that we were retiring the MyCanvas website and service in September 2014.

We’ve heard from many people who love MyCanvas and hate the idea of it going away. Well, we have some good news for you: It’s not going away after all. We listened and decided not to retire MyCanvas, but instead transfer the website to Alexander’s.

Founded 35 years ago, Alexander’s is a Utah-based printing production company that has been the long-term printer of MyCanvas products including its genealogy books, calendars, and other printed products. This makes the transition of MyCanvas to Alexander’s a natural fit.

It’s our hope that this agreement will not change the experience for MyCanvas customers. In fact, Alexander’s plans to make some exciting improvements we think you’ll love. Additionally, MyCanvas will continue to be available from the Ancestry.com website as we believe in the importance of sharing family history discoveries and see MyCanvas as a way to deliver this ability to our customers.

The transition of MyCanvas will take about six months. But in the meantime, all MyCanvas projects will remain accessible on Ancestry.com until it moves over to Alexander’s next year. We will continue to communicate details as the transition moves forward.

We want to thank our loyal MyCanvas customers for all the projects you have built and printed with us over the years. We’re excited about this new owner of MyCanvas—and we think you will be too.”

Alexanders According to Alexander’s website “more than 60 team members work full-time from Alexander’s 45,000 square-foot corporate headquarters in Lindon, Utah.”

Genealogy Gems listeners have already started expressing their relief at the Genealogy Gems Facebook page. Katharine says: “Maybe all the comments helped! I’m relieved.”

Bookmark and Share

Kelsey Grammer on #WDYTYA & Previous Episodes Return

Kelsey Grammer on WDYTYA courtesy TLC

 

It’s another exciting week of family history TV on TLC! Here’s the latest and a video sneak peek:

“TLC’s two time Emmy-nominated series continues, and this week actor Kelsey Grammer explores his family history tomorrow night, August 20 at 9/8c.

Watch the sneak peek video:

In his episode, Kelsey Grammer takes a trip into the past to explore his beloved grandmother’s family. He uncovers the story of a woman haunted by demons, and finds a connection to family who risked everything in one of the greatest migrations in American history.”

Kelsey Grammer with Archivist Layne Sawyer (Courtesy TLC)

Kelsey Grammer with Archivist Layne Sawyer (Courtesy TLC)

 

 

More WDYTYA Good News:

TLC has acquired episodes from previous seasons of the Who Do You Think You Are?  Tomorrow night two earlier episodes will make their debut on the cable channel. Enjoy encores of Reba McEntire’s episode at 8/9c, and Vanessa Williams’ episode at 10/9c. Back when the episode originally aired Vanessa Williams made an appearance on Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode 63 which members can listen to as part of the Premium podcast archive which features over 100 exclusive episodes.

Next week Minnie Driver’s episode will air as the season finale on August 27. Next week’s encore episodes will include Tim McGraw and Rita Wilson.

Bookmark and Share

Family History Episode 41: How to Start a Genealogy Blog, Part 4: Get Inspired!

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy PodcastFamily History: Genealogy Made Easy
with Lisa Louise Cooke
Republished August 13, 2014

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 41: How to Start a Genealogy Blog, Part 4: Get Inspired!

This week I’m working on a brand new and exciting project that I will tell you more about at the end of the show.  But because I’ve got my head down this week and I’m working diligently to meet my deadlines, I’m going to take a little bit of a different approach to this episode.

We’ve been talking quite a bit about family history blogging in the last few episodes, and I have a few goodies for you this week that should help you make significant progress in creating your own blog if that’s something you’d like to do, and some goodies from other genealogy bloggers that will inspire and entertain you.

Blog post: Finding Charlie Stone, by Lee Drew

I really enjoy reading genealogy blogs that share insight into how the bloggers research has enriched their lives and I particularly enjoy reading the family stories they uncover along their journey.

In Episode 69 of the Genealogy Gems Podcast I featured a blogger reading one of their favorite blog posts (and my favorite for that matter) for the first time on the show.  Lee Drew read his post My Mother Was A Quilter – the charming story of his early years growing up in a family of quilting women, and how his life hasn’t changed that much because he is surrounded by them today with his own wife, daughters and daughter-in-laws.

So sit back and enjoy another blog post called Finding Charlie Stone, by Lee Drew, who blogs at FamHist 2  and Lineage Keeper.

Did you start your blog?

I have another talented genealogy blogger for you in this episode, but before we hear from her, I want to say that I hope you took a few minutes to follow the steps outlined in Episode 40 of this podcast and got your own blog started. Remember, you don’t have to make it public – so you can dabble all you want and only share if and when you’re ready.

To help you along I have produced two videos for you that walk you through those same steps, but in the videos I show you live on the computer screen how it’s done.  So head to my Genealogy Gems TV Channel at YouTube to watch How to Blog Your Family History, Part 1 & How to Blog Your Family History, Part 2. Rest assured, there are more videos to come because we have only scratched the surface in creating your blog and actually blogging.

Blog Post: How Blogging Has Benefited My Research by Amy Coffin

Here’s a goodie from Amy Coffin who has a masters in Library science and is an avid genealogist who specializes in the use of Web 2.0 technologies to maximize research results. Her experience in the library world has led to a firm belief in the benefits of social networking and blogging to enhance the genealogy experience. Through her web site, www.AmyCoffin.com, Amy offers ideas on how others can maintain blogs and open up their own family history to whole new levels. When she’s not helping clients with their research, Amy shares her own personal genealogy adventures at her We Tree blog. In this blog post, Amy shares a story about how blogging has benefited her research.

My Next Big Project: Family Tree University

We will be finishing up our family history blogging lesson next week with adding a few more gadgets and details, doing a bit of pre-planning for our blog posts, publishing our first article, and then talking about how your readers will subscribe to your blog.

But as promised at the beginning of this episode I’m excited to tell you about a new project that I’m involved with that I think you will really love.

The folks at Family Tree Magazine are putting together a really exciting and innovative online educational website, Family Tree University. They’ve asked me to develop some of the first of many online classes they’ll be offering.

Right now I’m putting the finishing touches on my class called Google for Genealogy. We’ve talked about various Google tools on both my podcasts and in this class we’re going to wade all the way and go in depth!

Bookmark and Share