Record a Life Story: Free StoryCorps App

StoryCorps boothRecently a friend sent me a link to a TED talk by StoryCorps founder Dave Isay. As a radio broadcast journalist, Dave has spent his life capturing other people’s stories. The profound impact this had on him led him to found StoryCorps, which collects and archives interviews with everyday people.

“Every life matters equally and infinitely,” Dave learned, something we discover as family historians, too. He talks about how inviting someone to talk about his or her life “may just turn out to be one of the most important moments in that person’s life, and in yours.” This is something I try to explain to people about family history interviews: asking respectful questions and listening just as respectfully is a gift we can give our relatives when we interview them.

StoryCorps started with a little recording booth in Grand Central Terminal, one of the busiest places in the world to hold these intimate conversations. Two people share a conversation, one interviewing and the other being interviewed, and a facilitator helps them record the conversation and leave with a copy of it. Another copy goes to the Library of Congress.

In our own ways, we do this when we record loved ones’ life stories. We honor their feelings, experiences and opinions by asking about them and preserving them. Sometimes we share personal moments of understanding, forgiveness or revelation. In my experience, it’s similar to what unfolds in the StoryCorps booths: “Amazing conversations happen.”

In Dave’s TED talk, he shares snippets of some of those amazing conversations, like A 12-year old boy with Asperger’s syndrome interviewing his mother, and a husband sharing his love for his wife: “Being married is like having a color television set. You never want to go back to black and white.”

Storycorp appStoryCorps now has an app that helps people capture conversations like these. A digital facilitator walks you through the interview process, the app records the conversation, and then you can save and share the resulting audio file. Why not record an interview in honor of Mother’s Day or Father’s Day this spring with the StoryCorp app? Or have a meaningful conversation with an aunt or uncle, sibling, cousin or your child or grandchild.

Genealogy Gems Premium Membership and PodcastGenealogy Gems Premium members can learn more about preserving the stories of your own life in the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 116, in which I interview Laura Hedgecock, author of Memories of Me.

Organize Digital Family Photos: Free Podcast Interview with Denise Levenick

organize digital family photosI love Denise Levenick’s “getting started” strategies for digital photo organization in the free May 2015 Family Tree Magazine podcast. I have thousands of digital photos on my computer–and that’s just from the past few years!

Denise Levenick is the author of The Family Curator blog and the book How to Archive Family Photos: A Step-by-Step Guide to Organize and Share Your Photos Digitally. Her approach is so practical and forgiving: start where you are. Start small. Take your time. Do a few at a time. Use a consistent and simple file naming and digital file organizing scheme!

Also in this podcast, Editor Diane Haddad chimes into the conversation with 25 keepsake family photo projects. Then host Lisa Louise Cooke wraps up the photo theme with her favorite strategies for navigating the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog.

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy PodcastAre you ready for some serious hard drive organization? We can help with that! In our free 2-part series, “Organize Your Genealogy Files,” Lisa shares the system she developed about a decade ago to keep her computer hard drive organized. Her system has withstood the test of time: she’s added thousands more files to her genealogy folders as well as folders that organize “the rest of her life.” Click here to go to these episodes of the Family History Made Easy Podcast, episodes 32-33. Genealogy Gems Premium members can also watch the 2-part Premium video series, “Hard Drive Organization.” You’ll learn similar principles but you can watch Lisa do all that digital organizing right on her computer screen!

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

Free WWI App from the National Archives

The National Archives is marking the World War I Centennial with a new app, as well as programs and exhibits. Here’s the scoop from their press release:

WWI Free App National ArchivesThe United States declared war on April 6, 1917

Washington, DC – The National Archives marks today’s World War I Centennial with a new mobile app, special programs, featured document displays, traveling exhibits, and a special new webpage highlighting all related resources on National Archives News.

Remembering WWI App

Remembering wwi appToday, the National Archives launches the Remembering WWI interactive app, now available free of charge through iTunes (iPad only) and Google Play. The app commemorates the 100-year anniversary, in April 2017, of the U.S. entry into World War I.

The app provides an unprecedented collection of WWI content digitized and preserved as part of the larger Wartime Films Project – much of it never-before-seen by the public – including photos and film shot by the U.S. Signal Corps from 1914 –1920.

National Archives’ partners for the design and testing of the app included: Historypin, Library of Congress, Smithsonian’s Museum of American History, WWI Centennial Commission, WWI Museum, and, American Association of State and Local History.  This project is made possible in part by an anonymous donor and the National Archives Foundation.

Saving World War I and II Media through Digitization and Crowdsourcing

Thanks to a generous donation from an anonymous donor, the National Archives embarked on a three-year project to digitize and create public engagement with World War I and II motion pictures and photographs. The project’s original goal was to digitize 70 films and 75,000 photos, and foster engagement on the new digital platform, but by the end of the project, the National Archives had digitized 164 films (337 reels) for more than 65 hours’ worth of content, in addition to more than 100,000 photographs. This is the first time that many of these photos and films will be viewed by the public. All scans are available through the National Archives Catalog or on our YouTube page.

Special WWI-related Exhibits

Featured Document Display: Making the World Safe for Democracy: U.S. Enters WWI
East Rotunda Gallery, National Archives Museum, through May 3, 2017

To commemorate this centennial, the National Archives presents a special display of the Joint Resolution declaring war against the Imperial German Government, April 6, 1917. President Woodrow Wilson signed this declaration of war on April 6, 1917, ending America’s neutral stance on the World War conflict and formally declaring war against Germany. The National Archives Museum’s “Featured Document” exhibit is made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation through the generous support of Ford Motor Company Fund.

Traveling Exhibit:  Over Here: Americans at Home in World War I

Over Here: Americans at Home in World War I draws on the unparalleled holdings of the National Archives to capture the patriotic fervor of draft registration, the emotional good-byes of men leaving for training camps, the “hoopla” of Liberty Loan drives, the craze for volunteerism, and the violence of vigilantism.  The exhibit is divided into three themes: Mobilizing the Nation, Stirring Patriotic Passions, and Policing Enemies at Home.  Over Here is organized by the National Archives, and traveled by the National Archives Traveling Exhibits Service (NATES).

Traveling Exhibit:  Over There:  Americans Abroad in World War I

After the United States entered World War I, 1917, millions of American men joined or were drafted into the armed services. Some 2 million served in Europe with the American Expeditionary Forces. Over There: Americans Abroad in World War I showcases World War I overseas military photography from the immense photographic holdings of the National Archives. The exhibition includes photographs from the fronts, behind the lines, and the consequences of the war and how it was remembered.  Over There is organized by the National Archives, and traveled by the National Archives Traveling Exhibits Service (NATES).

World War I Social Media Day Events in DC, nationwide, and online!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Join the National Archives to participate in World War I Social Media Day, hosted by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Museums, archives, and other educational institutions around the world will share a day of social media activity focused on #WorldWar1 history.

Facebook:  World War I in Photos: A Peek inside the Special Media Research Room
10:30 a.m.—Military historian and archivist Mitchell Yockelson showcases his favorite photographs from the war and answers your questions.  National Archives on Facebook

Facebook Live with the National Archives at NYC: Online resources for WWI Military Records
2 p.m.—Tune in to Facebook Live for a recap of our Finding Family Genealogy Series, which will be discussing online resources for veterans and military records related to World War I.
National Archives at New York City on Facebook

Twitter:  ​Q&A: U.S. Presidents who served during World War I
11 a.m.—Join archivists from the Presidential Libraries to learn how Presidents Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower served during the war.
Presidential Libraries: @OurPresidents, @HooverPresLib, @FDRLibrary, @TrumanLibrary, @IkeLibrary

World War I poster free WWI app National ArchivesDigital Catalog: Tagging mission: World War I posters
All day—Become a citizen archivist and join us to help “tag” World War I posters. By adding keywords of details and features found on the poster in our catalog, you can help make them more accessible to researchers, students, and the public. Educators and classroom teachers, this is a great way to get students involved in doing American history! New to tagging? Get started!

Transcription mission: Fire and Orientation notes by Harry S. Truman
All day—Calling all military history buffs! Help us to transcribe Harry S. Truman’s handwritten notes that he took during his training to learn to fire the French 75 millimeter guns that his artillery unit used while in France. Learn about the future President’s experience during the war. Get started!

World War One Programs

Panel discussion: 100 Years: World War I and The Weight of Sacrifice
Thursday, April 13, at 7 p.m., William G. McGowan Theater, National Archives Museum

Author lecture and book signing:  The Hello Girls: America’s First Women Soldiers
Tuesday, April 25, at noon, William G. McGowan Theater, National Archives Museum

Lecture: African American Soldiers in the Great War Through Photographs
Thursday, May 4, at 2 p.m., William G. McGowan Theater, National Archives Museum

The National Archives Museum is located on the National Mall on Constitution Ave. at 9th Street, NW. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily, except Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Related Online Resources at the National Archives

Launching the Beta Program for our Remembering WWI App – post by Archivist David S. Ferriero

U.S. Entry into the War to End All Wars – Pieces of History blog

Joint Resolution of April 6, 1917, Declaring a State of War

World War I Articles in Prologue Magazine

Get Started with the WWI App – National Archives History Hub Post and FAQs

Polish Genealogy: 4 Steps to Find Your Family History

Researching your Polish genealogy may seem a little intimidating at the start. Read these get-started tips from a Polish genealogy veteran at Legacy Tree Genealogists. Then you’ll know how to dive right into your Polish family history–and where to turn if you need a little help.

Polish genealogy

Thanks to Legacy Tree Genealogists for supplying this guest blog post. Legacy Tree employs researchers with a wide range of expertise. They asked their Polish expert, Julie, to share tips for finding Polish ancestors, based on her decades of experience.

If you’re an American researching your Polish ancestors, you aren’t alone. Polish Americans make up the largest Slavic ethnic group in the United States, second largest Central and Eastern European group, and the eighth largest immigrant group overall. So how do you begin tracing your roots in Poland?

Get Started: 4 Polish Genealogy Tips


1. Get to know the basics of Polish history.

Probably every Polish-American family has heard mention of the “border changes” that were supposedly the reason why Grandpa’s papers say he was from Austria, although everyone knew he was Polish. What many people don’t realize is that Poland did not exist as an independent nation from 1795 until 1918. Historically, Polish lands were partitioned among the Russian, Prussian, and Austrian Empires, and ethnic Poles were citizens of one of those three nations. This is why you might see your Polish ancestors stating Russian birth on the 1910 U.S. census, but Polish birth on the 1920 U.S. census, after Poland was reestablished as an independent nation.

By Rzeczpospolita_Rozbiory_3.png: Halibuttderivative work: Sneecs (talk) – Rzeczpospolita_Rozbiory_3.png, CC BY-SA 3.0, click to view on Wikipedia.

2. Determine your Polish ancestor’s religion.

Buffalo, New York. Children of the Polish community leaving church with baskets of food on the day before Easter. Library of Congress photo; digital image via Wikipedia. Click to view.

Although we in the U.S. are accustomed to the separation of church and state, this was not the case in many places. In Poland, it was common for priests, ministers, or rabbis to act as civil registrars, blending ecclesiastical and government authority as they recorded births, marriages, and burials. Although this was the protocol in all three partitions for the majority of the 19th century, the exact span of dates in which this was true vary based on the partition in which your ancestors lived, and greatly affects where you should be searching for the records you need. In “Russian Poland,” for example, civil record keeping began in 1808 with Roman Catholic priests acting as civil registrars for people of all faiths (not just Catholics). Beginning in 1826, each faith was allowed to keep its own civil records using a paragraph-style format that remained relatively stable through the 1930s. Civil registration that was independent of any religious organization did not begin until 1945.

The fact that civil copies of church records were made increases the likelihood that records survived for your ancestor’s town. There’s a persistent myth that “all the records were destroyed in the wars,” but that’s simply not true in most instances. Existing records for some locations date back to the 1600s, but in other places surviving records are sparser.

3. Use U.S. records to determine your ancestor’s precise place of origin.

Grandma may have said that her father came from Warsaw, but most of our ancestors came from small villages, not large cities. It’s more likely that her father was using Warsaw as a point of geographic reference to give people a rough idea of where he lived, since others are unlikely to recognize the name of a small village. This means that you most likely won’t find his birth record by looking for it in Warsaw, but it also leaves you in the dark about where to look instead.

What kinds of records are most likely to indicate a precise place of birth? Passenger manifests and petitions for naturalization (if dated after 1906) are great sources for this information. If your Polish ancestors were Catholic, church records from the parish they attended in the U.S. are much more likely to contain specific place of birth than their civil equivalents. These include marriage records for immigrants who married in the U.S., baptismal records for U.S.-born children of immigrants, and church death/burial records.

Click here for an article about a woman who found her Polish Catholic grandparents’ church marriage record–and with it their overseas birth place–at St. Stanislaus parish in Buffalo, NY. You’ll also learn tips for finding Catholic church records in the U.S.

If your ancestors were Jewish, check cemetery records for mention of any landsmannschaft to which they might have belonged. Landsmannschaften were fraternal aid societies organized by immigrants from the same town in Europe, and they frequently purchased large burial plots for their members.

4. Use a gazetteer to determine the parish or registry office that served your ancestor’s village.

Depending on which partition your ancestors came from, some good gazetteers include:

  • The Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich, or Geographical Dictionary of the Kingdom of Poland and Other Slavic Countries, published between 1880 and 1902 in 15 volumes. The SGKP is written in Polish.
  • The Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego, which includes all of Russian Poland (officially known as the “Królestwo Polskie” or Kingdom of Poland) published in 1877. The SKP is mostly written in Polish with some text in Russian.
  • Kartenmeister, an easy-to-use online gazetteer for “German Poland” that covers East Prussia, West Prussia, Brandenburg, Posen, Pomerania, and Silesia. Kartenmeister can be searched using either the German or the Polish name for a town.
  • The Galician Town Locator, offered by Gesher Galicia, is another easy-to-use resource that covers the historic Galicia region, which was a part of the Austrian Empire that is now split between Poland and Ukraine.
  • The JewishGen Gazetteer is a phonetic gazetteer to assist in identifying the correct location in cases where your ancestor’s place of origin is misspelled on U.S. records. It covers areas throughout Central and Eastern Europe.

Once you have correctly identified both your ancestor’s place of birth and the location of his place of worship or civil records office, you’re ready to make the jump back to records in Poland.

Get Expert Help with Your Polish Genealogy Questions

We at Legacy Tree Genealogists would be honored to assist you with any step along the way in your journey to discover your ancestral origins, including onsite research if needed. Our experts have the linguistic and research skills to efficiently find your family. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Exclusive offer for Genealogy Gems readers: Save $100 on a 20-hour research project using code GG100, valid through October 31st, 2017.

 

Pin It on Pinterest

MENU