Thursday, December 19, 2013

See you in January 2014!!

I am officially going to take a blogging hiatus until January 1st. My whole immediate family is coming here for Christmas and there is a lot left to do to prepare.

Right now I need to focus on my living family more than my dead family.

But don't worry, I have a goal to blog every day in 2014!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How should I respond when I find out someone's ancestors were on Schindler's list?

I had an interesting genealogy experience yesterday. I did some transcription work for a Jewish man whose recent ancestors were on Schindler's List. I've been thinking about this question ever since - what is the correct response to learning this?

Obviously, you can't say, "That's awesome." It isn't. The fact that Oskar Schindler saved ~1,200 Jewish people from terror and death in concentration camps during the Holocaust is still very messed up. This should not have happened, period. Someone involved in a terrible famous historical event that should not have happened is not awesome.

You can't say, "That's terrible!" It also isn't. His ancestors were rescued. They did not perish. So, it is good they were "Schindlerjuden."

I didn't want to say nothing, because that also does not seem like the correct response. This horrible thing happened, and saying nothing might be interpreted as ignoring it. We should not ignore the Holocaust. We should learn everything we can about it, and do everything we can to ensure it never happens again, to any people.

I finally settled on, "I can't imagine what it would have been like to live through some of the things your family has gone through." Others in his family lived in the town of Oswiecim - in German, Auschwitz. I'm still not entirely sure if that really was the correct response.

I have been to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Israel. It was an experience will never forget. I have no known Jewish ancestors whatsoever, but that didn't matter. It was still extremely horrific. You don't need the human context to find a way to connect to the Holocaust; the magnitude of the evil is just mind blowing.

My first experience of learning anything about the Holocaust was to read, "The Devil's Arithmetic" by Jane Yolen. I remember that my mom would not allow me to read this book in 3rd grade. She said I had to wait until I was in 5th or possibly 6th grade. I read it, and found it horrific. I then read Anne Frank's diary, "Number the Stars" by Lois Lowry, and several other books that I don't remember right now. Then, by 7th grade, we starting seeing some of the terrifying clips of bulldozers shoveling Jewish corpses into huge piles. I remember having to leave the room, it was so horrific to me. Just now, when I typed the Polish word for Auschwitz, I did a search on google maps. Seeing the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial's aerial view is chilling. Really scary.

The most recent book I read about the Holocaust was about a year ago. It was the diary of Rutka Laskier, the "Polish Anne Frank." The diary was hidden for over 60 years, only uncovered a few years ago, in 2007.

Anyway, I would really love to hear what others think about this. What do you think is the correct response to learning that someone had an ancestor on Schindler's list? Or is there one? I realize that all people are different; some people might choose not to talk about it. I think we should. But, I also want to be respectful of people who feel otherwise.

Hmm. I just don't know.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Surname Saturday: "Kreczmarska"

This post is about the surname "Kreczmarska", otherwise known as Krečmar.

My fourth great grandmother was Anna "Kreczmarska".

This is the spelling variation that was in the records my dad gave to me when I first started doing genealogy. This spelling is probably based off information found in the book, "A History of the Sumbera, Mozisek, and Kruppa families, Volume II." This book was written by Carolyn Heinsohn, who is a director of the Fayette County Chapter of the Czech Heritage Society of Texas. She and her family have done a lot to help out the TCHCC.

Czech Parish Records were not very accessible at the time that this book was written. With so many records digitized and made available online, I was able to find some new information about our family and trace this family back a generation further than I had thought.

But I don't want to blog about it because I want to use it as part of my BCG application! 

Krečmarsky, Kreczmarksky, Kreczmarksa - none of these spelling variants were found on the kdejsme site. So, I tried Krečmar.

Compare this to where Anna Kreczmarska was born, in Nová Bělá, right outside of Ostrava.

Either my line of Krečmar***s ended, migrated, or I'm getting the spelling wrong. I think it is most likely that that particular paternal line ended, but hmm.

I have spent the last two hours trying to relocate the Nová Bělá census records. They used to be online on the City Archive's website, but it is all being transferred over to a new site called More on that later. But I wish I could find the censuses again. Does anybody else know how to find them?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Surname Saturday: Folta

As part of geneablogger's Surname Saturday prompt, I have decided to start a series in which I post a little bit about each of my Czech ancestral surnames.

I decided to start with my 4th great grandmother, Kathařina Folta.

Folta is a fairly common surname in the Czech Republic today, as you can tell from the Czech surname density map at The most dense population of Folta's is found in okres (district) Valašské Meziříčí. This town is currently located in the kraj (region) Zlín. 

Kathařina Folta's birth record shows that she was born in #2 Zabřeh (nad Odrou - the village that is very close to Vítkovice) on 12 Nov 1822 to Valentin Folta, bauer [farmer], and Maryanna daughter of Wenzeslaus Novak, bauer v. hier  = farmer from here. Thank you Carl Linert!

Here is a zoomed version:

Here is how I am related to the Folta family:

Katherine Elizabeth Vasicek
Mark Edward Vasicek
Victor Frederick Vasicek
Elizabeth Agnes Michna
Anna Sumbera
Agnes Hruby
Katařina Folta

Are you a Folta? Are you Czech? Where are you or your Czech ancestors from?

Thursday, December 5, 2013


Today I made a ton of bread and kolaches. Technically these are klobasnik, but in Texas Czech culture, they are called kolaches. Aka pig in there blanket.

I used whole wheat flour. It is definitely not as silky delicious as a traditional kolache dough, but healthier and still very, very tasty. The sausage was from my neighbor's parents' farm. They have a meat locker business. It was quite delicious.

I like to bake a lot on one day. I can't stand planning it on a rigid, bi-weekly or monthly basis. I just bake when I feel like it.

Female inweibin, or hauslerin - the hired hands on a farm, were required to bake every two weeks. Something I think about now every time baking day comes around is what if they never felt like baking? It was still part of their job. I'm so lucky, with my flexible schedule and broad range of potential ways to spend my time or divert my attention.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Why You Should Index!

I'm going to step on my soapbox and give a plug for Familysearch Indexing.

If you have a computer and can read, you can index.

Indexing is the process of typing the information from records into a massive database so they become searchable. Every record you index is important. It can be the key for somebody else finding their ancestor.

Software developers are working to create OCR technology to automatically transcribe handwritten text, but the problem is more complex than you might think. They are making some great advances, but so far the human brain is still superior at indexing.

Thanks to indexing, the Litoměřice parish records from 1552-1905 are 78.57% complete!

There are great new changes coming to Familysearch Indexing in 2014, including the ability to select specific localities to index. This means that someday, when the Moravia-Silesia parish registers are being indexed, I imagine I will be able to select for places like Trojanovice and Frenštát, and index the names of my ancestors. This is totally to everybody's advantage because I am already highly familiar with the spelling patterns!

I know a lot of people that feel "genealogy guilt." They think that in order to make any kind of difference, they have to be certified professionals who can devote all their time and effort to the research. They have "expertitis", that stupid attitude of, "Well, if I can't be an expert, I shouldn't even try." Uh...I am not running a marathon any time soon, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't try to exercise every day! I'm not the world's greatest cook, but my family sure appreciates my efforts!

Sometimes, though, it really is hard to just jump in to a genealogy problem and feel like you are making any headway at all. Case in point: my husband's family. All of his ancestors joined the LDS church in the 1800's. This means there are many descendants who are working on researching the same lines. Hey, when you have polygamists on nearly every branch of your family, and the doctrine of redeeming the dead, what else would you expect? The "brick walls" have been around for a reason - they are very solidly made of brick. Others have tried to solve the research problems and failed.

They aren't impossible to solve. But, they do require a lot of thoughtful analysis and record gathering. This takes time, which is something my husband lacks. So, for him in his position in life right now being a young father who works full time, indexing is the perfect way for him to be involved in family history work.

I also know people who say, "Meh, genealogy is not for me." I know that my overabundance of enthusiasm on this subject is not always contagious to others; sometimes it can be off-putting. The truth is, everybody benefits from indexing, irrespective of faith, age, and enthusiasm level. Indexing just a little bit helps you gain some perspective on your own life. You learn more about the historical context of your world. You leave your own egotistical thoughts of self and start wondering about others - what was their world like? What on earth does that cause of death mean? Holy moly she died when she was 8 months pregnant! That is so tragic! You start to think about you own ancestors. You start to gain a feeling of connection to your own past.

Indexing is the best Christmas gift you can give to your deceased loved ones. Stop feeling genealogy guilt. Indexing is easy and fun, and everybody can and should participate.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Church Record Sunday: Johann Mladinka

Here's a registry entry from yesterday's post from the parish register in Trojanovice where so many died from Typhus. 

Here's a transcription:

[died:] 18 January 1848
[buried:] 20 January 1848
[some type of clergy?:] Franz Kaschek, ročz [?] 
[another type of clergy?:] Valentine Ziczek Řapellau [?]
[deceased:] Johann Mladinka, tischler [carpenter] Pasekar [farmer on cleared land] in Trojanovitz
Catholic, Male
[Age:] 50
[cause of death:] Typhus [probably actually typhoid fever]

Why were there two different types of clergy listed? What were their actual titles? Was one of them the parish priest who officiated at this man's last rites, and the other the one who officiated at the burial? Why would there be two separate people? 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful Thursday: 2013 List

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in America!

Here is a list of some of the genealogy-related things I'm especially thankful for this year.
  • OCR technology that allows me to search newspapers instantly
  • BYU's online German script tutorial that has helped me remember that German script does have patterns that are generally predictable
  • Online forums that allow me to connect with people
  • Relatives who are willing and able to take DNA tests
  • The technology that allows those DNA tests to help us trace those elusive branches of my family tree
  • Microfilm
  • NGSQ magazine
  • The Genealogical Proof Standard
  • Digitization projects
  • Familysearch Family Tree
  • Allen Peterson, CG - thank you for encouraging me!
And most of all, my Czech ancestors. Thank you for your resilience, your fidelity, your love of music, and your love of God and family. These traits are part of my heritage, my family history, and my own personal story. 

Here's to another year of technological advances, temple work, and transcriptions of parish records!

What are you thankful for?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Johanna Vasicek Naiser

Photo from Elaine Naiser Hicks

Back row, standing from left to right:  Richard J.(a great uncle), Johann Naiser (my great-grandfather), Edward (my grandfather) and John, J. a great uncle
Front row, seated from left to right:   Elizabeth Naiser Vacek (born in Texas) and Johanna Vasicek Naiser.
Probably taken about 1890 or so in Texas.  Elizabeth was born in 1885 in Texas; the three sons were born in Moravia.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Czech Out Your Ancestors Facebook Page goes live

Thanks to the urging of a friend and fellow genealogist Rebecca Christensen over at Kansas Ancestors, I finally drummed up enough motivation to finish a facebook page for my business. Woohoo!

Here is the link:

I think it will mainly be a place for me to share blog updates, interesting status updates about my research, and other such things. Anyway, something to czech out!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Two Options: Find them, or have them find you

Whether your goal is to connect with living descendants of a common ancestor, or simply to continue to trace your heritage back further generations in time, you have two basic options. Find the people yourself, or have the people (or their relatives) find you.

The first option, finding the people yourself, is the most traditional. You search for records. You hire somebody who is on the ground in your locality of interest to get the records you need. You look at the records, transcribe them, translate them, compare them with other records, correlate the information found within. You cite with diligence every record you find so that others (including your future self!) can retrace your research. You write what you have discovered - you compile the information into an understandable format. These principles are the basics of the Genealogical Proof Standard.

The second option, having others find you, has only been available recently with advances in both internet and DNA sequencing technologies. The basic idea is you first find some information about your ancestor. Then, you publish it where others will find it, which is probably online. If you really want to facilitate speedy connections, you will join some sort of cloud-based family tree program. 

For example, Familysearch Family Tree is basically a cloud-based family tree of the whole world. I have met dozens and dozens of people who are researching the same people. We are able to combine forces and research more efficiently and effectively. 

Sometimes the person who you find has access to records that would otherwise have been extremely difficult for you to get. Sometimes they already have the information you needed. Often times, you both can share information. You both profit from collaborating. Accuracy of conclusions improves.

This kind of collaboration gives you a better sense of how connected we are in the human family. It is crazy to think that somebody thousands and thousands of miles away from me, who speaks mainly Czech, is from the same family; We have the same great great great great great grandparents. I love this feeling of connectedness. It is one of the reasons why genealogy is so addicting! Solving the puzzle and making connections, especially to living people, is extremely satisfying. It helps affirm something about my own identity.  

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Zinger by Orson Hyde

This is not related to Czech genealogy in any way whatsoever, but it's interesting! 

I am doing some interesting research on my Mormon ancestors who lived in Iowa. One of them operated the south of the Platte river ferry route for at least 6 months in approximately 1849-1850. I have been looking for clues about him in the local newspaper for Kanesville (later renamed to Council Bluffs), the "Frontier Guardian and Iowa Statesman." At the time, Orson Hyde was the editor. This was 1849-1851ish.

I found that most of the newspaper was written for a Mormon audience. There were many letters from church leaders like Brigham Young, as well as missionary letters from those abroad in places like England. It was really interesting to read. 

The ads were hilarious. Of course mid-19th century drug ads are also sort of cringe-worthy. They cause me to wonder about the lunacy of our doctors the people of the future will think when they see drug ads in our writings.

Most of the ads, though, were for emigrants. Wagon wheels! Teamsters! Oxen! We have supplies! We will outfit you for your journey west! The Gold Rush isn't over yet, you can still profit from it! Go west! Go west! Go west!

The funniest thing I found was definitely this short letter to the editor, and Orson Hyde's snappy comeback. Orson Hyde was certainly a character, that is for sure. 

Here's a transcription:
If Mr. Thomas C. Sharp is so bad a man as you rep-
resent him to be in your last Guardian, why do you
not cast the devil out of him and make him a good
man, as your creed invests you with miraculous
power to do it?
ANSWER - It would be a great pity to exercise
such power upon Mr. Sharp as to cast the Devil out
of him; for there would be nothing left but his
shirt and nose."

This definitely made me laugh out loud.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Why I like Czech research

Genealogical research is really fun. It's the closest I will probably ever get to time travel.

It's interesting, because I always hated my history classes in High School and college. But, as it turns out, I actually really love history as it pertains to individual people. Local history is fascinating. Studying the lives and events of my ancestors is addicting. I really, really enjoy it.

I have ancestors from all of the British Isles and Ireland, many places in Scandinavia, and, of course, the Czech lands. I can't prove it (yet), but my 6th great grandmother was supposedly, "a full-blooded Indian Squaw." My husband thinks this is awesome, because he can now say (completely politically incorrect, I know!), "Squaw! Makem sandwhich!" [He. He. Weak laughter.]

Almost all of my husband's ancestors are from the British Isles and Ireland, except for one lone line from Bavaria.

Some of my British Isles and Irish ancestors immigrated to the American continent early. I have ancestors in Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, Massachusetts. My husband had ancestors in Northfield, MA during the French and Indian war. We can jump to a different line and research the Civil War, the Illinois frontier, or farm life in upstate New York just across from the Canada border. Between the two of us, we also have just about any section of Mormon history imaginable including almost all of the fringe break-off sects. This spans the continent, from Western Massachusetts, to upstate New York, to Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Utah, Idaho, California, etc. So much history! It's fantastic!

And yet, the ancestors that I really enjoy researching the most are the Czechs. Why? The four main reasons that come to mind are:

  • Cluster migration patterns - Many Czechs immigrated together, and lived together in the same geographic area for generations. For example: I am the fifth generation Czech in my family, and I was born in Texas. Many of my other ancestors have less predictable migratory patterns which can complicate research. 
  • Czech Catholic records - Czech parish records are excellent. They include many indentifiers, including house numbers and occupations, which allow you to distinguish your ancestor from others in the village with the same name. They have a low rate of error. They are thorough. They are available online. I really can't sing enough accolades of praise lauding the Czech records. Even if your ancestors wasn't Catholic, many, many records exist online, and many more are on their way.
  • Rates of legitimacy - This is a huge deal. My Catholic ancestors typically married around the age of 20, had families of 8-12 children, and sometimes remarried after the death of a spouse. On my non-Czech grandma's side, most of the grandparents had illegitimate children, married and divorced (sometimes several times), and had more children in between. There were also many marriages after the death of a spouse. This, coupled with a much more mobile migration pattern, leads to difficult research. I have not found a case of illegitimate birth in ANY of my Czech lines so far. When illegitimate births do happen, if the couple married, the father's name could be penned in later. Or, perhaps a margin note will lead to a clue. 
  • Frontier for research - I love that so many of these records have been held in reserve for decades because it means I am literally the first to discover many connections in my own family. It's exciting and fun. I enjoy collaboration with others working on the same tree; I don't much enjoy squabbles over incorrect information. This almost never happens in my Czech research, because it's so new!
What is your favorite place in your family history for time travel? Where and when do you like researching, and why?

Patrick McQueen Research

I haven't posted for a little while. It is not for a lack of genealogy related pursuits; just a lack of Czech related genealogy pursuits!

For the past two months I have been working as hard as I can to solve the mystery of my husband's 5th great grandfather's village of origin in Ireland. Patrick McQueen. He immigrated during an early wave of Irish immigration ~1829 to Glengarry, Ontario, Canada. Then, ~1839 he immigrated one mile over the border, to a little hamlet called Westville in Franklin County, New York. 

After seeking out all the records I could find online (there were a lot! Franklin County probate records are online at I started contacting others. I got in contact with a descendant from a different branch of the McQueen tree, and she sent me a large box full of deeds, wills, mortgages, maps, and a handwritten genealogy on an old piece of paper written by an unknown author. These records were fantastic. 

I also spent a lot of time reading newspapers at the Northern New York Newspapers website. I was able to find many fascinating stories about the McQueen family, and the families into which the children married. It was fun, because I found obituaries for nearly every person of interest.

Every person, that is, besides Patrick McQueen. 

I decided to call Danny's Grandpa McQueen, and see if there was anything that he knew that I was missing. He put me in contact with his cousin's daughter, who has been researching the McQueen family for 20 years. She plans on using this research to apply to become a board certified genealogist! That is wonderful!

She found a record with a village of origin, but unfortunately it could be one of a dozen places in Ireland. We don't even know if it's a parish, town land, or other jurisdiction.

We decided to get Grandpa McQueen to take a yDNA test. This is for his direct paternal line, after all. Perhaps it will finally solve the mystery as to the McQueen village of origin in Ireland.

One sad(ish) thing about this is that I will probably put my McQueen research on hold for a while. I can't really collaborate with this distant cousin, because she wants to use the research for her BCG portfolio. You can't get help on this document. I'm happy that I found her; I can help her by giving her some of these documents that I have. And now I don't have to duplicate years and years of research! I will push "pause" on this research problem for a while. It will take time to get the DNA results in. It will take more time to get a BCG portfolio prepared and sent in.

In the mean time, I will have more time for Czech research!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

How do you distinguish genealogy from family history?

I wanted to share what I wrote in answer to this question. It was part of an assignment for the ProGen study group I'm in. We are studying Tom Jone's new textbook Mastering Genealogical Proof.  

I think that it's good to emphasize Family History. Everybody can participate, and their participation is helpful both to current and future generations of Family Historians. If you are LDS, doing Family History is particularly relevant to past generations because it allows you to do temple work for the dead.

One of the goals of the study group is to bring an ancestor's brick wall and try to break through it together. I chose to research my husband's 5th great grandfather, Patrick McQueen. Like many Czech ancestors, he seemed to appear out of nowhere; a village of origin problem. Patrick arrived in Glengarry, Canada sometime in the late 1820's, after which he moved to Westville, Franklin, New York. He and his wife Ann Moran had 12 kids. His son William McQueen moved west and became the Sheriff of Salt Lake City. This was during the period of Mormon polygamy. My understanding is that William was specifically elected because he was Catholic (not Mormon), and that this somehow had to do with polygamy and anti-polygamy goings-on. Anyway, we are looking for his father's village of origin in Ireland. I refer to this in my answer. Just wanted to clarify in case there was confusion.

Back to the question. "How do you distinguish genealogy from family history?" 

To me, very roughly speaking, math/science : humanities as genealogy : family history. Math/science is results-oriented. Humanities are process-oriented.

My husband is a bioinformatics scientist. He likes systematic logic. He uses Bayesian statistics on a daily basis to test and prove theories. Brevity and simplicity matter. And if your argument makes sense, he will agree with you (handy!). 

As a French Teaching major, I was in the school of Humanities. In my French classes, as in most world language classes, we spent a lot of time practicing communicating. We talked a lot about ourselves and conversed with others in the class. We studied the tools (grammar, vocab) and put them into action by applying them in a self-relating context. Self-expression and communication are more important than brevity, or even consistency in content (what you say, not how you say it - the language rules matter). In my pedagogy classes, we also spent a lot of time reading and discussing methodology and theory, and then practicing the act of teaching (in class, in groups, practicums, and student teaching). 

Genealogy is the study of family relationships. It is a rigorous field that relates to hundreds of other disciplines. It demands thorough data gathering, strict source citation, logical analysis of the data, resolution of conflicts, and a written documentation of the results so that others can understand what you have done. The goal of genealogy is to prove relationships. It is a results-oriented field.

Family History is the study of family relationships in a context. It is also a rigorous field, but instead of being results-oriented, it is process-oriented. One goal of Family History may be to gain a relationship with a loved one who has died. In my opinion, the best way to reach this process-oriented goal would be to follow the same GPS model that is (or should be!) the standard in the field of Genealogy: thorough data gathering, strict source citation, logical analysis, conflict resolution, and written documentation. The end goal, however, is not the proof argument. It is the intangible kinship you gain with the person you researched.

Family History can be less intimidating than genealogy because you can start with yourself. You don't have to be an expert in anything except you. Because your goal is different, you can start small. I think every Genealogist probably starts as a Family Historian. To be an excellent Genealogist, you need a solid grounding in genealogy theory, for example: applying the GPS, learning the history of the place in which you are researching, paleography, etc. 

Ultimately, Family Historians experience firsthand the flaws in approaching the past without the GPS. They will want to learn more genealogy theory, perhaps become certified by some accrediting body, participate in conferences and local organizations, join some forums and/or progen study groups ;) etc.      
You can do Genealogy without doing Family History. When I do work for a client, I am doing Genealogy. My goal is to answer the client's question; it is results-oriented. 

You can do Family History without doing Genealogy. When I assemble a scrapbook (okay I never do this - but some of you might!) of photos of my kids, or read my ancestor's diary, I am doing Family History. My goal is to leave documentation of my family's life, or to gain a closeness to my family by reading their's; it is process-oriented. 

You can do both Genealogy and Family History at the same time. When I work to break through my brick wall, my goals are both to prove Patrick McQueen's Irish origin, and to gain an understanding, appreciation, and love for him. They are both goal and process-oriented.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Czech out this house!

This is a picture of me with my daughter (then 2) and my son (then 1) at the Hluchanek House located in the Czech Village at the Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center in La Grange, Texas. My husband took the picture and was holding our other son (then 0 years old).

I really feel a special kinship with my deceased Czech ancestors, having had three children both spaced 14 months apart in age. So many of my ancestors had similar birth spacing. I wonder how they did it, because it's really, really, really difficult sometimes for me, and I have a world of modern conveniences that were unimaginable back then.

They had at least two distinct advantages over us, though. First, the expectation of children to engage in physical labor from a very young age, and second, easy access to grandparents (and other family). My kids "help" clean up their toys and spend a lot of time at the zoo/park/friend's house etc. With our recent move, we are the closest we have ever been to grandparents, and they are still an 11 hour car ride away! My Czech ancestors were not mobile in at all the same way as we are today. They lived and died in the same tiny village, near the majority of their kin. My favorite thing about when we lived in Utah was our proximity to so much family, but even then my parents were across the country in Massachusetts!

Anyway, if you can, you should visit the TCHCC. It's an incredible center with loads of genealogical resources in a surprisingly large library. The people are very friendly. And as far as a venue for events, it's got it all, including an enormous chandelier in the dining area.

The real gem, for my family at least, was the Czech village. We visited this place several times with extremely young children, and it was educational, fun, and helped me understand Texas Czech heritage on a different level. It will make your family history come alive to you, because you will be able to imagine on a physical level what their lives were like. How every day was filled with hard physical labor on the farm, how their homes may have been organized, how their family worked together to accomplish their goals.

On a sort of related note, we closed on our new home in Ankeny, Iowa yesterday.

I love Texas, and I also love Iowa. The people here are friendly, and the commute is much better for our family. There is also a large population of Czechs in the Midwest! Of course, the Chicago area, but also Nebraska and...Iowa! I am thrilled to be settling in, and able to focus more on my genealogy goals and client research.

Please contact me if you need some help with your research!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Long lost gold: "Centennial History of St. John the Baptist Parish, Ammansville, Texas 1890-1990"

I was recently hired to work on redesigning and enhancing Arabic 041 (the first year High School Arabic class) for BYU's Independent Study. It has been a really fun project, and between that and our upcoming move to Iowa in two weeks, I have had very little time to work on family history.

Because I don't work on Sundays, I was able to put aside (reluctantly, because it's such a fun challenge!) my new Arabic project, and find a little time for some research.

A few years ago, I was hired to provide some of my personal photos of my adventures in the Middle East to be included in BYU's online Arabic 101 course. It was a win-win situation, because it was super flexible hours, right before my wedding (so cash was a great thing to have!), and this was an inexpensive way for them to supplement their course. I was not able to work on it for very long, though.

With this new project, I realized that I might have some materials hidden somewhere in the labyrinth of file trees (Kate's Windows Backup, Kate's Linux Backup, a million folders with some name like "photos" or "pictures" etc.) on one of the three hard drives we've got here. I started to dig, and found some photos I had previously thought lost, that will be excellent for this Arabic project. I definitely made a link to them on my desktop.

All of this to say that I also dug up some photos I took of a rare and out of print book called "Centennial History of St. John the Baptist Parish, Ammansville, Texas 1890-1990." The inside of the front cover has the Family History Library stamp on it. I must have taken these photos in 2007 or 2008.

This book has some information in the front that I didn't photograph, but what I did photograph is really a treasure. It's basically a mug book of people in this tiny Texas parish.

The thing about the St. John the Baptist Parish in Fayette County, Texas is that all of the Czechs are so interconnected. They were a highly insular community with an extremely low rate of migration outside the county - and when they did migrate, it was usually to a neighboring Texas county like Lavaca, Wharton, Colorado, or Brazoria. The further down in generations that you go, the farther away the migration patterns became. It's interesting to note the number of descendants of original Texas Czech immigrants still reside in Texas. I'm proof of this non-migrating culture; I am a fifth generation Texas Czech, born in Lubbock. My sons will be able to say that they are sixth generation Czechs, born in Katy. Interesting.

Anyway, the neat thing about this "Centennial" book is that it has so many photos and biographies. I did some research today on my Fišer-Šumbera lines. I was able to learn about how to research using the State District Archives of Zámrsk (here's a really good step by step guide) to take this line back. I found a family tree on for this family, but of course it had no sources. Since the sources are readily available (well, after a 500+ mb download that took ~2 hours, but hey), I want to go to them first.

I was also able to discover some information about one of this family's sons. I discovered his second wife, and was able to prove her identity using five pieces of indirect information. I'm interested in describing this process more, but I suddenly realized, "hey! Maybe I can use this for my BCG application!" Meaning, I'm too lazy to look up the exact rules regarding whether or not you can use a previously published case study in your BCG application portfolio, so I'm just going to assume I should not post about it.

I made a list of some of the different kinds of records Tom Jones describes in Mastering Genealogical Proof that I will need to assemble in order to achieve my reasonably exhaustive search. The only one that isn't available online are deeds and naturalization documents. My husband pointed out that it might be a good excuse to get out of the house, a road trip to the Fayette County Clerk's office, while we're putting our house on the market. Because that's really the problem - if we're in the house, all my cleaning is literally pointless because there's a 20 foot cloud of entropic mess that perpetually follows my 3, 2, and 1 year old during all of their waking hours. The clerk's office is no fun with toddlers, but it might just be worth it to exchange one kind of headache for another.

I never used to appreciate peace and quiet before. You can tell that I'm writing this blog post in the quiet of the evening hours. I'm sure I'll miss it when they've grown, but for now, it's really nice to have a few minutes to breathe, reflect, and post some of my genealogy adventures, even if they're scanter than they used to be.

It's really sad because I've packed my genealogy library. I found myself saying, "Hey! I could look that up in ____ book!", turning around to my empty bookshelf, and slumping in my chair, the realization that it's going to be a while before things get back to normal again. As in, back to a normal research space. Blah. Well, it gives me some deep appreciation for the quality of my library, that I actually do use it as a resource.

At least I photographed some of it, and found it. This "Centennial" book is a great resource. I would love to do a look up for you, if you need one.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Czech Land Record Transcription Process

I want to publicly pat myself on the back for correctly transcribing and translating page one (of two) of a 1799 Czech land record written in German current script, in Czech. This record is like a cross between a deed and a will; it has lots of information about the land, and who was going to "own" it next, including names of family members, family relationships, occupations, and debts and credits. 

These land records are really hard. 

Here is a break down of my transcription and translation process: 
Divide the text into manageable chunks. In my case, this meant 13 paragraphs, some which were not at natural breaks.

Then I do a quick first transcription. It's very quick, very rough, looking for patterns and obvious words.

Then I print the document out and trace it. For this one, it was super slanty, so I purposefully distorted the image to make the letters less slanted. I mark up this physical copy, circling similar words).

Then, I go back and do a first "real" transcription, sans dictionary.

Then I do a second transcription, with my 1890 Czech English dictionary, google translate, and my brain. I type it next to the first transcription. By now, the words are starting to make sense in a context. I bold the words I'm still unsure of. There should not be more than one or two per paragraph.

That's where I am with page one.

Next, I think I will try to write a comprehend-able translation, guessing from the context the meaning of the unknown words. Probably some will become known at that point, by simply walking away for a while, seeing other words in the document, and  referring back to the unaltered image.

I feel confident I can do this well this way, but I'm looking for other ideas for the actual process of deciphering difficult to read texts. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Find-a-Grave and giving back

Hey! So, a lot to write about. Today I went to the 3S Genealogy Symposium hosted by the Friench Simpson Memorial Library in Hallettsville, TX.

There were some excellent speakers, and I learned a lot. Enough for several blog posts.

During the break, I went to the Hallettsville City Cemetery. I have some collateral lines who ended up in the area, and was interested in checking it out. While there, the thought crossed my mind, "Hey! I wonder if Find-a-Grave could use some photos from this cemetery?"

On my android phone, I searched for "Halletsville City Cemetery" on Find-a-Grave's website. I saw on the right hand side of the page that there were some 30-some odd "photo requests." I scanned the requests, paying special attention to the Czech names, which for some reason stick in my head a lot easier than Anglo or German names. Weird.

I spent the next 40 minutes searching the cemetery for those names. I also took photos of interesting graves.

My phone is set up to automatically upload my photos to google plus, on a private setting. Basically, it's a way for me to save my photos without doing any work whatsoever.

At home, I got on my computer, and found the Hallettsville City Cemetery. The first thing I realized was that I would need a username and password to be able to upload photos.

I quickly signed up for that  Receiving the email from them took literally about 1 second. I confirmed my email address, and was able to log in, find the Hallettsville City Cemetery again, and then on the right side look at those photo requests.

The way the site is set up makes adding photos to a "memorial page" super easy. I was able to fulfill two of the photo requests, and uploaded about 10 other photos, 4 or so of which had not yet been entered into the cemetery's database. I was quickly able to add a new memorial page for these people, using the data directly from their headstone. It was interesting that it was mainly Czech families who had not been added to the database - surnames like Drost, Kallus and Pustejovsky.

I felt really happy about doing this because I use this website all the time, and now I have given back to some poor researcher without the capability of traveling to the grave site to actually "see" their ancestor's grave. It was especially fun to fulfill the photo requests for names that I know are being researched.

I would challenge anybody who has a bit of free time to check out Find-a-Grave for the cemeteries local to you. Some have been completely photographed, others partially, and some not at all. Uploading photos and adding memorial pages to the site was fun, easy, and rewarding.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Discrepancy between standards for temple submission and the GPS

I am working on submitting my ancestors' names to the temple, where temple ordinances will be done in proxy for them. Here is a link that explains more about temple ordinance work.

The purpose of this blog post is to point out an interesting discrepancy that I see between the bare minimum requirements to submit a name to the temple, and the Genealogical Proof Standard, or GPS.

In full disclosure, I am not an employee of I don't really know the program's bare minimum requirements. A brief perusal of the internet leads me to believe that these requirements have changed as new.familysearch and family tree have evolved. Researching what they used to be is not interesting to me.

So, speaking purely from my own experience, in the latest iteration of the LDS church's temple name submission program (Family Tree), it seems the minimum requirements to submit a name to the temple are that you have the name, the gender, a date (even just a broad "before [year]"!), and a place (even something as unspecific as "Texas", or as shady as, "[Texas]" meaning, I think they were born in Texas but I really don't know).

That's it.

What's even more crazy is that you don't even have to cite your information. In the past, public source citations weren't even possible. Happily, now they are, but they aren't a requirement.

I'm totally not dissing the program. I really, really love familysearch. I love family tree. I understand why it is this way, and I'm totally okay with it. I'm not sure that citing one's sources should be a requirement. For me, personally, oh my gosh of course it is are you crazy I would never submit my ancestor's names without citing the sources!!!!

[deep breaths]

I just find it fascinating that if I were to submit such unsubstantiated information to my BCG application, or a client, it would be unacceptable, yet it is somehow acceptable for our ancestors' temple work?


I don't know Ms. Eileen O'Duill, but I really appreciated her opinion on the "Why Certify" section of the BCG website. Basically, her point is that her ancestors deserved the best research she could give them. I feel similarly.

Though, on the other hand, I am happy that I don't have to create a kinship determination project for every family whose names I want to submit to the temple. And my minimum standard for temple work doesn't technically meet the GPS, I think.

Last month I completed a massive client report, which I had been planning on using for my BCG portfolio. I was advised against this by several people. They hadn't read the report or anything - aka they didn't think it was horrible based on it specifically, but just knowing that it was my first time doing it, they cautioned that it would be much better for me, and my chances of becoming a CG, to write several reports and pick from the best one. One reason I arrived at the decision not to use this report is because it relied almost exclusively on one type of record, Czech Parish records.

Now, these records are highly reliable. They are awesome, and I could spend a whole other blog post writing the specifics of their awesomeness. But the GPS requires a "reasonably exhaustive search." This means:

  • Assumes examination of a wide range of high quality sources
  • Minimizes the probability that undiscovered evidence will overturn a too-hasty conclusion

One type of source isn't going to cut it for proving to the BCG judges that I know and follow the GPS.

But it is far beyond the bare minimum for temple name submission.

Honestly, because of the nature of these specific records and the lack of availability of records (both physical and financial accessibility), working with clients, I DO mainly rely on these parish records. I don't use one sole record by itself, but many (even hundreds!) to figure out the web of relationships, places, and people. Baptisms, marriages, deaths, burials, witnesses - lots and lots of information in these records.

But parish records are still only one type of record. It's kind of a conundrum to me, and I find myself wishing that I understood it better. I'm excited to read Tom Jones' book, "Mastering Genealogical Proof." Maybe that will help me understand the GPS better.

When I started submitting my ancestors' names the to the temple, with Temple Ready, there was no way to cite a source in that program. Instead, I cited it in my PAF file. My father drilled into my mind that you must always, always cite your sources. I only did this a few times before new.familysearch went live in 2008. When I started using new.familysearch, I cited every piece of information that I found for every ancestor. Even when I linked my husband's living parents to me, I found out their information and cited it as my own personal memory.

I continue this same practice today. I can usually find birth, death, and marriage (if they lived long enough) records for all of my Czech ancestors in the parish records. When I don't find a death before they turned 8, and I know (from the other births and deaths in the family) they were still living in the same residence, I use that as negative evidence. This person did not die before the age of 8 so we can do all the temple work for him, not just the sealing to parents.

To me, this level of research is my own personal minimum. I'm not going to submit a person for proxy work if I only have one census with a vague reference to being born in "Austria." Or, before double checking the deaths to make sure that they didn't die young. I just really, really don't want to waste peoples' time! If I'm going to go to all the trouble to go to the temple (here in Houston, it's about an hour away) and do proxy work, by golly, those people had better be real, and it better not be duplicate work! I read of a person who had his temple work done by proxy 8,000 times. What!!! Noooooooo!

But it is so weird to me that the research I have done for these people, with solidly cited sources, doesn't meet the GPS.

I'm also not dissing the GPS. I think it's fantastic. I am so glad that somebody way smarter than me came up with standards for genealogical proof. It's truly, truly wonderful, and I don't have any suggestions to make it better, yet.

Basically, my point is: isn't it so weird that there is a discrepancy between what I need to submit my ancestors' names to the temple, and the GPS?

My goal for 2013 has been to submit 1,000 names of my ancestors to the temple. I'm on track to completing that goal, which is great. This non-BCG portfolio related research will help me know which branches of my family would be best (aka easiest) for compiling a solid, GPS-sound, BCG-worthy kinship determination project, as well as the other sections of the portfolio.

I really hope I can decide where to research soon. It's already been two months and the only parts of my BCG portfolio that I have partially completed are the BCG-supplied document and the applicant supplied document. And I haven't done the research plan (the important part), just the transcription and citation.

Okay kids need lunch.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The purpose of this blog

I am a fifth generation Texas Czech. I am passionate about history and research. I love deciphering old documents, and analyzing the information they contain to form an understanding of the past. I am particularly interested in Czech records and research. My enthusiasm and energy for genealogy is driven in part by the need to do something that is not directly related to the physical labor of caring for my preschool aged children and all that entails. My personal dream is that I can monetize my passion by helping connect others to their past. 

My first step towards creating a profitable genealogy business is to become a Certified Genealogist by the Board for Certification of Genealogists. These first posts will be focused a lot on the certification process itself, which involves doing some really in-depth research. I am "on the clock" officially as of March 2013.

This blog is a place to showcase my research talents, questions, strategies, interests, case studies, etc. A blank slate for me to advertise my business, help educate other Czech researches, organize my thoughts, and practice writing in a public way.

My goal is to post frequently. Here is the current plan:

3 weekly posts (minimum)
1. Czech Research Strategies
2. Update on my BCG application process
3. Proof Argument (if not for my family, I will first obtain permission from the client)

We'll see how this goes. Before three small kids, I was a pretty adept personal blogger, with followers who I didn't know personally. Now I find that keeping up with my personal blog just feels like I am selling my life. My life isn't all roses and pinterest-perfect shabby chic, more like, "Crap, I have drain flies. How do I get rid of these?" and, "Well, that was the fifth exploding poopy diaper of the day." Spending some time "aspiring" to be that picture perfect mommy blogger in my absolutely not picture perfect environment, I found I dislike it. I don't want to sell my self; less than that, I don't want to sell a fake self. Plus, I found that unless my posts were [extremely offensive to people I love] rants, blogging became way too much of an investment of my [super uber duper limited] time, effort, and thought to continue on a long term basis.

I'm MORE THAN okay with selling my genealogy services, though. In fact, that is my end goal. That is why I think this blogging experience will be different than my personal travel/home/life blogging. I'm also quite good at "ranting" about Czech research, and it's much less offensive. These rants may actually prove helpful to other researchers! As for the time, effort, and thought that will go into this project, I feel I desperately need it (well, or, something!) to maintain a personal level of sanity in this difficult phase of my life. What phase isn't difficult, I really don't know. Probably the post-mortem phase. Maybe we should ask our ancestors.

Anyway, thanks for coming by. I hope this blog will be useful to you!