Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Opening a 1949 Remembrance Book pt. 1

About the Book

When rifling through my grandpa Schmidt's box of family heirlooms and photographs, I had the good fortune of coming upon a book. Inscribed on the cover were the words "remembrance book", and inside I found a trove of loose letters of condolences, telegrams, and funeral documents. Contained within the pages I was also pleased to find a wealth of genealogical information concerning John Bernard Dwyer, my third great uncle. Seeing as John died in 1949, it is reasonable to assume that nearly everything contained within the book is from around the 1940s - 50s. The contents of the book, both in the loose and bound portions, primarily concern the portions of my family bearing the last names "Burnes" and "Dwyer". The Burnes and Dwyer families were of Irish descent and resided primarily in Minnesota.

Loose Papers

As mentioned previously, the book has bound pages stocked with information as well as miscellaneous loose documents concerning members of the family beyond John Bernard Dwyer. This post will detail the contents of the latter, while a future post will show the contents of the former.

Photo of John Bernard Dwyer

John Bernard Dwyer
A remembrance book would not be complete without a photograph of the deceased you wish to remember. The above is a photograph of John Bernard Dwyer.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

I'm Officially 18 Years Old

Today's post will be a little different from most of my other ones. It is scheduled to post as exactly 7:50 pm EST on March 17th of 2018, my 18th birthday (and, of course, St. Patricks Day). So I thought I'd share a bit about what other familial events occurred on this day, certain aspects of myself which I have found other ancestors share, as well as a bit about these past 18 years.

On This Day In Family History

My birthday is by no means the only one in my family to occur on this March 17th. Here are some of the known births, marriages, etc. which also occurred on St. Patricks Day. 
  1. March 17th, 1854, My 3rd great grandpa Henry Patrick Dwyer is born in Illinois, USA
  2. March 17th, 1857, My 3rd great grandpa William Franklin Byers is born in Illinois, USA
  3. March 17th, 1861, The husband of my 2nd great-grandaunt, Joseph M. Belina is born in Dlouhá Trebová, Lanškroun, Bohemia, Czechoslovakia
  4. March 17th, 1872, My 2nd great-granduncle Gustaf Albert Teodor Gustafson is born in Adelöv, Jönköping, Sweden
  5. March 17th, 1893, The wife of my 2nd great-granduncle Wilma A. Laughrey is born in Mitchell, Kansas, USA
  6. March 17th, 1901, My 2nd great-granduncle William Benson Van Wert is born in Beach Lake, Wayne, Pennsylvania,USA
  7. March 17th, 1917, My 2nd great-grandaunt, Effie Eleanor Ekeberg marries Gustav Reginald Freedlund in the Swedish Evangelical Church of Aurora, Illinois, USA
  8. March 17th, 2000, My twin sister, Nicole Caroline Schmidt, and I, Renée Joanne Schmidt, were born. 

The Family's Twins

Monday, March 12, 2018

No, the Fact the Younger Generations Aren't Learning Cursive Doesn't Mean the End of Genealogy

Facebook is one of the most valuable resources any genealogist can have in their arsenal. So, naturally, I am a part of many genealogy-related groups on facebook. Normally they are very helpful, giving new insights into how a person should approach research as well as perspectives on the genealogy world as a whole. However, on occasion, these groups will have posts addressing the rest of the members as a whole to share their opinions on the topic of "the younger generations".

As a note, this post is not meant to demonize anybody or to rant without offering any solutions. Rather I'd like to open up discussion about how best to approach concerns as well as give suggestions on how to include the "younger generations" in such discussions. It is also not meant to take a swing at "how can we get kids into genealogy" queries because those are not only important but also include the kids and young adults in the discussion, instead of alienating them by saying some aspect of how they grew up is a problem. Who knows, maybe we can even come to view each other as more than just pre-internet and post-internet and recognize each other for the superb genealogists we all are. First, though I'd like to address some gripes.


Cursive Handwriting

This is probably one of the ones that I see the most. Yes, it's true. They don't teach cursive in USA schools anymore. Before anyone dies from the horror of such a proposition, let me provide my perspective.

I actually was taught cursive in school, I had about a year of cursive instruction in 2nd grade, but I'm going to let you in on a little secret: I haven't written in cursive since that year. Despite this, I actually have no problems reading cursive documents. Well, I take that back. When I first started doing genealogy I had some difficulty with the old scripts. Luckily, there is a special skill that all humans have; the ability to learn. Since I already spoke English, the transition came pretty fast. And, contrary to popular belief, it's not difficult to read cursive even if you haven't had instruction. Most of the letters are exactly the same, just with connections drawn between.
Some letters written in Kurrentschrift (source)

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

A Comparison of FTDNA and MyHeritage Results Between Grandchild and Grandparents

The real value of DNA testing lies in the matches. DNA has done so many spectacular things for me, from solving a case of false parentage to revealing new photos of my relatives. However, one can not deny the novelty that comes with the ethnicity results.

It's important to remember that ethnicity results are not everything, and definitely not 100% accurate. They are usually fairly accurate on the continental level, but it's hard to distinguish Swedish from English, for instance. However, I thought it might be interesting to compare the ethnicity percentages yielded by different companies. I have tested myself, all four of my grandparents, and some great uncles and aunts. This post will compare not only ethnicity but also match counts.

My FTDNA Results

Main Ethnicities

My FTDNA Main Ethnicity Results

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Part 1:The Complete Guide to Deciphering Kurrentschrift (For Non-German Speakers)

Oftentimes the most difficult task for anyone researching their German ancestors is navigating Kurrentschrift.

Kurrentschrift is an old German script which fell out of use after 1941. Although the script is quite beautiful, it can be very difficult to read when first starting out (and for some time after as well). This is the first post in a series which will (hopefully) teach you everything you need to know to start deciphering these texts. It's important to note that these will only give you a jump start. You will be able to (hopefully) read most of your records after working through the steps I outline, however it will take a lot of time at first to read each one. Speed comes with a combination of time and recognition, both of which mean you have to practice. Keep at it though, with each record you transcribe your time spent will decrease exponentially. Personally, transcribing records written in Kurrentschrift (as long as the handwriting isn't smudged or cramped) now takes only a few more minutes than transcribing English records.

Now with that in mind, let's get started!

Using Schrift Generator

Hopefully, the future sections of this series will help you to read your documents in Kurrentschrift relatively well without the use of technology. However, no one can deny the value of having a bit of help here and there. That's where the Schrift Generator comes in handy. The Schrift Generator  allows you to type out anything you want and display how it would look when written in a variety of Fraktur, Sütterlin, and Kurrent fonts. 

The User Interface

The page is in German, but it's relatively easy to use. If you scroll down, you should see an entry field that looks something like this:
The text entry field in Schrift Generator
This is where you type the words you wish to display in German Script.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Dissection of an Early German/Pomeranian Birth Record

German birth records and the information they contain vary from location to location. For the longest time, it was incredibly difficult for me to extract information from my German family's records since I don't speak German. However, in my research, I have noticed some common patterns and formats that most records seem to follow, which has drastically changed my experience. Please note that this will display documents nearly exclusively from Pomerania, Germany. However, most of the information should remain relevant to records from other areas. The main document I will be using (at first) is the birth record of my 5th great uncle, Carl Friedrich Warner, shown below.
The Birth Record of Carl Friedrich Warner in Pomerania (entry number 2)

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Visualizing Shared Events in Your Tree

When I conduct collateral research, I like to add neighbors, friends, and possible relatives directly to my family file, linking them together using shared events. This increases the chance that I will accidentally happen across a family member, while also giving me an idea of their stance within the community. I decided to figure out how to display shared events in a way that I could see all the connections I'd established for a person with a single click. I found a completely free solution and will explain in the rest of this post what that solution was. These network graphs were the result of my efforts.
Network graph of all the people in my file based on their shared events

Filtered view within the network graph of just one person in my file and their connections