Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Restoring Faces in Your Photos Using GFPGAN- Machine Learning for Genealogy

Original Photo 
Restored Photo

As some of you know already, I am an IT major at Marymount University. Recently I have developed a persistent interest in machine learning and artificial intelligence, so you can imagine my excitement when I discovered a tool that incorporates these exciting and constantly developing fields with my other interest- genealogy.

The tool is called GFPGAN and its stated purpose is as a Practical Algorithm for Real-world Face Restoration.

Now before I begin nerding out on all the cool features and advanced ways you can use this tool, I want to drop a couple links that will make using the tool infinitely easier for those of you who -well- just want to use it. These online demos will let you try out the tools without going through a bunch of complicated steps.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Videos Honoring Timothy Wesselowski: His Life and Funeral Service

The Videos

Documentary on My Grandpa's Life

My Grandpa's Funeral Service

My Grandfather's Death

On the 2nd of January, 2021 my Grandpa Tim Wesselowski passed away at the age of 80 years old. He had contracted COVID-19 in the month before and died as a result of the accompanying pneumonia. Unlike many who met the same fate in the last year, he did not die alone. My Uncle Nathan was by his side and my Mom was on speaker phone. My Uncle had spent the prior day with him doing one of his favorite things: watching football with family.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Letters to Home: Forrest Van Wert's Writings to His Wife and Kids

The Collection

Among the many artifacts of interest I received from my great-uncle Everette Van Wert (and subsequently scanned) were the letters and postcards I have included in this post. Each one is a letter from Forrest Everette Van Wert (my 2nd great grandfather) to his wife Carrie Blanche Smith (my 2nd great grandmother). Forrest was a risk taker. While this may have contributed to his success in business it also contributed to his early death aged 38 on the 21st of October, 1918- the result of his car rolling down an embankment. It is rather incredible that he survived as long as he did- he was a man who had brushed paths with death numerous times before. He had previously survived his car getting hit by a train and before that survived an accidental shooting. One of the postcards in my collection also suggests he may have narrowly escaped death by carbon monoxide poisoning after parking his car in a shed for the night. Given Forrest's propensity for beating the odds it seems fitting that after over 100 years his writings home have survived for me to scan and preserve.

In my preservation of these letters I attempted to provide faithful transcriptions. In old letters it isn't uncommon for the 'voice' of the writer to leak through the text in the form of grammatical and spelling decisions. A lot can be derived from how an ancestor writes; I particularly enjoy spelling errors that reflect the person's accent or manner of speaking. I have attempted to keep as many of these misspellings and grammatical deviations in my transcriptions as possible. It is entirely possible however, even likely, that I have made mistakes in some of my transcriptions. If you see one, I invite you to notify me in the comments below and I will correct the error.

Undated Postcard

Postcard with elaborate heart design that says Affections Offering
Postcard Front

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Celebrating Good Health: My Recent Diagnosis and Life Changing Surgery

 It is with great happiness that I announce my health has improved considerably since my last post. This is the result of finally receiving an accurate diagnosis, surgery, and treatment for my ailments.

I was diagnosed with Joint Hypermobility Syndrome (JHS), a genetic condition whose name encapsulates the large group of as of yet undiscovered connective tissue disorders that fall outside of the Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS) definitions.

Connective tissue disorders cause problems in collagen, which is present in most of (if not all) the organs in the human body. This, as you can imagine, causes a fairly wide array of problems.

For me this disorder manifests itself as a tall, narrow stature, long fingers that effortlessly twist themselves into unnaturally acrobatic positions, a shoulder that partially slips out from it's socket at inconvenient times, dysfunction of my autonomic nervous system, and velvety-soft abnormally-stretchy skin. The most disabling and dangerous of it's effects on me, however, were those associated with the increased laxity of the ligaments holding my spine together.

The structural integrity of most people's spines will never be compromised unless they are in a traumatic car accident or similar event. In those cases whiplash stretches the ligaments in the spine past what is natural and as a result the spine becomes dangerously loose. For myself, however, no precipitating event was necessary for my spine to start falling apart. Without my knowledge, my imperfect genes had inserted a glitch into the fabric of my body that made my eventual disability a foregone conclusion.

I'll spare my readers most of the details of my diagnosis process and instead provide a brief summary. I started seriously looking for answers at the age of 18 after I had just started college. The long process included the consultation of tens of doctors who practiced within the obscurity of hard-to-pronounce disciplines.

As my disease progressed there were glimmers of false hope in the form of incidental findings, like the discovery that I was in the early stages of venous thoracic outlet syndrome. There were also crushing blows delivered through the accusations of my supposed untruthfulness and exaggeration of my illness. I was even at one point diagnosed with a psychiatric condition known as conversion disorder.

Many of you who have combed through the troves of genealogical information available in ancestral medical records may recognize this disorder by another name. Many of our female predecessors were diagnosed with this same condition which before 1980 was called "hysteria". Given that the disorder's name was derived from the Greek root word "hystera", meaning uterus, it shouldn't come as a surprise that even in the modern age the disorder is diagnosed at a rate 2-5x higher in women than it is in men. It also shouldn't come as a surprise that it is often used as a way to dismiss mysterious neurological disorders in women.

Of course the accusation that I was suffering from conversion disorder was without merit. In reality it was found that rotation of my spine caused a visible, abnormal, horizontal deviation of my facet joints from one another. Basically my spine was partially dislocating every time I turned my head.

3d ct scan showing atlantoaxial instability
3d CT Scan showing my unstable spine

My Grandpa Tim Wesselowski Died From COVID-19

 I am sorry to announce the death of my legendary Grandpa Tim. I am preparing a video presentation that I will post in the future to fully immortalize who my grandpa really was. Below is his obituary my family wrote for him. Please keep your loved ones safe and wear masks during these unprecedented times.

Tim Wesselowski holding a football posing in football uniform
Tim Wesselowski

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Opening Up About My Health

Hello Everyone,
This post will be different from all the other posts on my blog in that it is not about Genealogy so much as it is about me.

You may notice that as time has gone on the frequency of my posts has decreased and several series posts never got follow ups. The reason is that for the past 2 years or so I have become increasingly disabled with a mystery ailment. The condition I find myself in is very complex, but to sum it up when my head is turned laterally I experience varying degrees of syncope (also known as passing out). It can be as minor as losing vision in one of my eyes for 20 seconds or as severe as a syncope-induced seizure.

Over these past two years I have experienced 3 concussions, gotten a minor nose fracture (which healed on it's own), crushed a number of cardboard boxes, broken a ceramic part of a shower, dented my rooms drywall, and more. As you can imagine this is not particularly pleasant for me. I have had to quit college and my job until everything is figured out. My cognitive functioning is not great as a side effect of the neurological effects constant lapses in consciousness have.

It looks like the end of my nightmare is finally drawing near. We discovered that I have mild to moderate bilateral venous thoracic outlet syndrome, a rare condition with my subtype being extremely rare. Unfortunately because of this crazy Covid-19 epidemic I won't begin treatment (which would include either physical therapy, surgery, or both) until at least May. vTOS doesn't explain all my symptoms, so I may need to continue searching for answers later.

This has been an update on my life, and I look forward to continuing my blog after it is all solved. Until then posts will probably be infrequent. Once this is all over I will definitely make a celebratory post letting you all know how I turned out.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Schmidt, Burnes, Dwyer Family Photo Trove

A couple years ago I opened an old, moldy box in my Grandpa Schmidt's basement and found hundreds of old unidentified photos. I have finally uploaded all of these to a single post for other family members to look through. As I do more research I will undoubtedly make better estimations of dates and locations as well as identify more people within the photos. As I do I will update this page with my findings. If you recognize someone in any of the photos after the "Photos of Immediate Family" section, I would greatly appreciate it if you could let me know.

All information on photo studios originally from http://www.mnhs.org. Specifically, I combined information from the photographer and studio directories. On some I also referred to newspapers during the time period to ensure they were actually operational. These directories are not 100% accurate in the years work, but should serve as a solid guideline.