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Friday, December 2, 2011

Thinking outside of the box phonetically

With a little help, I've knocked down a brick wall.  Another co-worker of mine asked if I could research her family.  Her maternal great-grandparents came from Germany and settled in Nova Scotia.  Their lives and in particular her great grandfather's is shrouded in mystery, one being the circumstances under which he came to Canada.  I started the research about 8 months ago and it was a bit of a struggle to find any details about him through ancestry.  He told the family that he came to Canada around 1899, went out west and then signed up and served in the Boer War.  When he came back to Canada after the war, he said he was given the land in which he settled in Nova Scotia.  I've yet to find any record of him serving and a few months after I started, my co-worker was able to get some of his land records which show he got the land well after the war, in 1914.   His marriage record from 1903 stated his ethnicity to be German and his father's name was ├četh.  With some creative digging and manual searches I was able to find him in the 1911 census where it was stated his ethnicity was Austrian.  I was able to build the family tree for her very nicely from Canadian records but it was information her family already knew.    They really want to know about his life in Germany/Austria and what might have brought him to Canada.  I had come across a boarder crossing record for Johann in 1914 when he crossed through Maine on his way to Maryland.  He stated his next of kin to be his brother Joseph in Vienna, Austria - strange that it was not his wife in Nova Scotia but I won't complain since now I had the names of both his dad and brother.   I revisited the record a couple of weeks later and discovered that there was a second page.  This page contained the country and town of his birth.  The handwriting was really difficult to read but it looked like Masterlinek, Austria.  I spent quite awhile trying to find anything close to the name of this town but no luck. 

Fast forward 8 months.  I am currently one of the admins of the Canadian research genealogy group on facebook - as well as the polish group  If you haven't checked these groups out or the family search wiki lately, check them out.  Everyone is very helpful and passionate about genealogy and sharing what they know.  I've started to add content to the Halton County wiki page:
I'm going to plug these initiatives in another post to give them the attention they deserve.

  Anyways, I decided to like the German/Prussia facebook group, provided the image of the town as written in the boarder crossing record and hoped for help.  Karl-Michael Sala, a professional German genealogist and admin of the German/Prussia page, did some searches and could not find a match for this town or village either.
   I sat down two nights ago and it occurred to me that perhaps Johann had provided the name of his birth place but not the spelling and/or the guard wrote what he heard phonetically (maybe without bothering to ask).  There is a pretty good database on the JewishGen website which will do special soundex searches for towns/villages and cities in Eastern European countries called ShtetlSeeker.  When I first found the name of the town I tried to use the engine to lookup the town without success.  I decided to revisit it.  I came up with nothing, no matter what spelling I tried.  So in desperation I decided to try a long shot.  About the only letters I was certain of in the name of the town was the Ma, the lin and the k at the end.  I decided to try  a soundex search of "lin"  and I got thousands of hits.  I found the ones in Austria and tried to imagine what town would sound like Masterlinek.  I found one that I thought might be close but probably not- Matzling. 
  I posted a followup message to the facebook group, letting them know what I tried and what I came up with which I did not think was a match.
  Well woo hooo, Karl-Michael told me it was the closest match I would get. Phonetically, Matzling sounds like  Maeteslinck and so the brick wall has come tumbling down. 

The next step is to try to determine which church/parish  in Matzling Johann and his family would have belonged to so I can start searching microfilms (and get a crash course in German).  It pays to think phonetically and to ask for some help when researching information for a country and in a language you are not familiar with!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Long nights researching Long Island and a vindication

One of my co-workers gave me a challenge.  Prove that his family descended from Italian royalty.  He didn't give me alot to go on:
-his grandparents names
-that they were Italian Americans who lived in Corona, New York

  I started my search on ancestry and was able to find his paternal grandparents and one great uncle quickly in the 1930 US census. 

  We had some more conversations and I started to get a bigger picture of the family.  His paternal grandmother's line was rumored to have descended from Italian royalty illegitimately and as a result of the illegitimate birth, they (not sure who "they" is) left Italy and came to Canada.

What really sparked my interest was his paternal grandfather though.  Family stories said my co-worker's great grandmother abandoned her husband and three children in New York and ran off with another man taking her two youngest children (A girl and a boy with her).    Being a mom myself I was really surprised to hear it.  I am sure it was not altogether uncommon but it just didn't sound right.  So I decided to big deeper. 

I did some searches in ancestry and found three of the brothers in a place called Nazareth Trade School in Oyster Bay New York.  My co-worker confirmed that his grandfather was indeed in an orphanage after his mother had abandoned the family.   Armed with the names of three of the children, I got a match on an ancestry tree for the boys which included the names of their parents (Pasquale and Isabella).  My co-worker didn't know the name of his great grandparents and the tree entries do not cite any sources and are limited only to the basics, some names and bmd dates which I already knew. I tried to contact the owner to no avail. 

Going under the assumption that Pasquale and Isabella were in fact his great grandparents I started searching like crazy for either one of them in the 1910 and 1930 census records with no luck. 

I switched to researching the Corona area to try to narrow down what church they would have attended and discovered St Leo, an Italian American church built in Corona in 1903:

I contacted the archivist and provided what I knew about the family.  I asked if she could provide any information such as a marriage record for Pasquale and Isabella or baptismal information for any of the children.  I've followed up a couple of times but have not heard back.

At the same time I started to research the Nazareth Trade schools.  It turns out that the school was built in 1906 and run by the Dominican sisters.

I also found a  very nice video about the trade school:

Through my research I determined it was meant to be a place where orphaned children or children with only one living parent  could be sent to live and be educated in a trade.

Additionally there was a special 1925 census done in NY and some kind soul transcribed the trade school:
I looked for the boys but it seems they had already left the school by then.
I contacted the Dominican Sisters and left a message in the hopes that they might have some information.  I didn't hear back so called again and this time I was able to speak to the archivist.  She explained that she couldn't make out all the details in my message like a return phone number and the last name of the boys so she couldn't find anything nor get back to me.    I provided the details again and she let me know she would give it a shot.

I didn't stay idle in the meantime.  I had decided that I was determined to find the family in the 1911 census even if it meant going manually through the sheets line by line, which in the end is what I had to do.  I tried to narrow my search down by enumeration district first which was no small task. 

I brought Corona up in google maps and made note of the main street names. Next I used a nice little online tool to get the EDs:  Then the line by line search of Queens began.  I came up empty handed. 

I expanded my area of research the next night and bingo they turned up, not in Queens but in Brooklyn.  Their last name was pretty difficult to decipher which accounted for not being able to find them in indexes of the census.  The nice thing about this census is they wrote the streets name of the people vertically along the left side of the page.   I went back to google maps, located their street and the closest RC church: The Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary which, as I expected was an Italian catholic church at the time. 

 Riding the wave of euphoria I called the church the next day to see if I could get a marriage record for Pasquale and Isabella as well as a death record for Pasquale who I was starting to suspect had died and was the real reason the boys were sent away.  Well what can I say, when a wave goes up, it must come down.  I must have caught the secretary on a bad day, she explained that inquiries could not be made over the phone and I would need to come into the church by appointment. When I explained that I lived in Canada she let me know that looking up the old records was a considerable amount of work and she would do it for $100/hr only if I knew the exact dates of the event!

With a little luck the big kahuna of a wave came along.  The archivist for Nazareth Trade School contacted me.  She let me know that the boys were admitted to the school on Dec 20th 1913.  Their father Pasquale had died and their mother Isabella (woo hoo I got her maiden name) was sick and unable to care for them.  Relatives had tried to care for Isabella and her 6 children but they weren't able to care for all of them.  It was sad to read that they were admitted 5 days before Christmas but I really hope that the experience resulted in a better childhood than they would have gotten otherwise.  I did get the news I was hoping for: On February 16, 1922, the boys were discharged to Isabella and her second husband who were living in Corona.  The eldest boy would have been 18 at the time and too old to continue at the school.   
  Now that I had Isabella's new last name I went back to the 1920 census to search for her and found her quickly.  She married another man name Pasquale (Pat) who was a widower with 9 children!  Her daughter and youngest son from her first marriage were living with them.  There is a gap in the years the children of the house were born between 1914 and 1917 so I have a suspicion that the three children born between 1917 and 1921 were a result of Isabella's new marriage and the sheer number of people living under the same roof can partially explain why she was not able to collect her boys sooner from the Nazareth school. 

Nov 25, 2013 update - My co-worker received an email from his aunt about Isabella.  Apparently after her first husband Pasquale died, she was approached by her second husband (another Pasquale) who promised to bring her boys to live with them if she married him.  She did but it turns out that he never intended to bring her boys out of the Nazareth Trade School, he only married her so he had someone to look after his 9 children........

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Transcribing Zabrnie

Still working on the church records for the Tarnow area.  I've decided to transcribe all of the records and put them into my own database which I'll eventually put up on a website.  I've discovered pretty quickly that alot of people in these small villages are related to pretty much everyone else and if not they were godparents to the children, my family included.  I've managed to uncovered some details about six of my 5x gr grandparents, only 32 more to go if my math's correct.  That takes me back to approx the mid 1700s and as luck would have it, there are records for the area available at the LDS going back to the mid 1600s!  These ones are in german so it'll be my next language to brush up on..... 

While doing this work I've started to unravel a mystery surrounding the ancestors of my co-worker who came originally from Italy and settled in NY in the late 1800s.  I'll have some really interesting blogs to post on this in the near future....

Friday, June 24, 2011

Church Records for Suchy Grunt - lesson in latin

Momentum has been picking up for research on my side of the tree.  My paternal grandfather was born in Suchy Grunt and I checked out the LDS microfilm catalog website and sure enough they had a microfilm of the Roman Catholic parish records for Suchy Grunt.  It was a little intimidating because the records were entered in Latin but I bit the bullet and ordered the film online here.  It took a few weeks but it finally arrived last week at my LDS center.  I headed over there this week and what an experience.  The microfilm actually contains records for Zabrnie, Dabrowica  and Suchy Grunt.  I found an entry for someone in Zabrnie who *may* be a relative at the bottom of the first page (I haven't been able to trace back to 1790 yet which is when the death entry was made).  In the first 11 pages, I found 17 more.  My maiden name is a fairly uncommon polish surname so I am really hoping I can find a connection.

Anyways,  I tried to do some latin prep work before I went and found a few latin resources on the web and printed the pages out beforehand:
Latin Genealogical Word List (familysearch wiki)
Deciphering Records in Latin (
Latin Keywords list (familysearch wiki)

I went to the center on Tuesday night fully expecting to have a bit of a challenge and while it was, it really could have been worse.  The microfilm reader is one of the old manual ones with the film loader above and the light shining down on the smooth surface of a carroll.  No printer attached and I left my camera in the hallway of my house so I transcribed my findings.  The guides I printed beforehand were helpful but there were some column headers which stumped me (Nrus Domus & Dies Vitae). I was pretty sure that Dies Vitae was age but I couldn't figure out some really odd entries for age like "hebd 20" (which I now know is short for hebdomadum - 20 weeks old)

Last night I decided to do more research to prepare myself for the return trip today.  The handwriting was a bit hard to read at times and particularly harder when I don't know the language and am not a good guesser....  Luckily I hit a windfall of information at, a genealogy website for Halychyna/Eastern Galicia.  This site is a must for people researching Polish and Ukranian Ancestors.  This website contains extremely descriptive details on how to read Baptismal/birth, marriage and death records for the parish records complete with sample images of the records and full explanations of the latin column headers as well as sample entries and common latin terms used in each column. 

Death Records: (part 1) and (part 2)
Marriage Records:
Birth/Baptismal Records: (part1) and (part 2)

There is also an excellent writeup about the value in the column "numerus domus" (in my case "nrus domus") which does mean house number and how it may be possible to find information about the house tied to this number in the cadasters

Other websites for Polish/Ukranian research of interest:
TUGG (This site is pretty useful too, I plan on becoming a member)
Eastern European Genealogical Society (I just recently became a member)

Using these docs were a huge help deciphering what I was seeing and made transcribing I hope more accurate.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Finally a find on my side

I've finally found something on one of my relatives.  In the 1911 census, my great grandfather was living in Dauphin Manitoba with one of his brothers and they both worked on building the railway and their birth country was Austria.  His immigration year is listed as 1906 while his brother's is 1910.  Searching ancestry had not turned up anything.  I recently got a subscription to findmypast and decided to give it a try.  I couldn't find much entering his last name and enabling variants but once I used a wildcard in the lastname I found him.  He arrived in Canada in 1902 on the SS Corinthian.  Using this information I went did a search of the database of passengers list (1865-1922) for the Corinitian on the Library and Archives Canada website and after searching a few pages there he was.  His occupation was listed as a furrier and his destination Toronto...  I then started a search for his brother.  While I didn't find him on findmypast may have found him on Ancestry, arriving in New York in 1907.  If this is really his brother, the passenger list records his birthplace as Bohorodczany,Austria and his mother's name as Maria...  If this is the correct person, he was eventually married to a woman named Julia, served in WWI and lived in Douglas Wis when he was attested as well as later in the 20s and 30s (census records)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Trying to find my Eastern Europe Connections

I've finally started the slow process of organizing all my papers.  I was looking through the stuff I've acquired for my side of the family and decided to take another crack at finding my Manitoba relatives originally from Ukraine. 

I didn't have alot of success in the census records. 
There are a few problems I'm encountering:
-I tried to transcribe the 1911 Winnipeg census when I was volunteering for Automated Genealogy but I found most of the records very difficult to read and there was alot of phonetic spelling going on.
-My great grandparent's last name was Krywyj but seems it sounded like Krovetz so at some point in history it becane Krovetz, sometimes Krowetz.  I'm not getting any hits on any of these spellings or other ones I can think of in 1911 or 1916 (automated genealogy or ancestry).
-My great Aunt told me that they lived on McGregor street when  she and my grandmother were born so I used the street listing site on Manitoba Historical Society to look up all of the census sheets in 1911 for families living on McGregor
-I know my grandmother was born in 1913 in Winnipeg but in the 50s she tried to do a vital stats search of her birth registration and it was not found.  I do have a copy of her baptismal record which was created in 58 but my mom thinks it is not accurate and the church actually used the details about a sister when they created it.  I tried to search for the names of the godparents in the census and could not get any hits on them either!

Next steps:

-My grandmother was apparently baptized @ St Volodymyr and Olga Cathedral in Winnipeg, Ineed to contact the Archepathy and see if I can get access to some of their records.
-Discover the church in Toronto where my BaBa and grandpa were married so I can see how she wrote her maiden name and confirm the names of her parents.   My great aunt married in the same church so will look her up as well.   I have conflicting reports about my great grandmother's name.
- I ran into a nice website regarding researching Ukranians in the Toronto area  (TUGG).  Which gave the interesting recommendation of obtaining copies of the 1940 Naturalization Registration File. 

I did a google search and came across a helpful site: which lists out all of the questions asked to males and females on the registration card as well a pics of sample cards.
and I checked out the StatsCan website and was happy to read "This information was originally obtained under the authority of The National Resources Mobilization Act and the War Measures Act. Custody of the records was subsequently given to Statistics Canada, then known as the Dominion Bureau of Statistics.

As a result, the National Registration File of 1940 is not subject to the confidentiality provisions of the Statistics Act but is instead covered by the Privacy Act. According to this Act, when a person has been dead for more than 20 years, the information is no longer considered to be personal and can be disclosed."  It's a bit pricey $47.25 but I think might be well worth the cost to push my research along a little farther

Sunday, January 23, 2011

My Methodology assignment on hypothesis studies

I'm back to completing my certification again and working on my third methodology course. In this assignment we were asked to chronical a hypothesis we tried to prove/disprove and this was my submission.  It's a bit long winded but captures the 2 year experience in my proving my hypothesis was correct.....

Oral history of my husbands great great aunt Irene was that she died at a young age (before 20) in Grey County Ontario  where her father had purchased a farm.  My father in law who moved to Grey Co not far from his grandfather's farm tried to determine where she was buried.  His research did not turn up anything and he assumed she was buried on the farm.  He knew she was not buried with her parents who were buried much later in Toronto.  I knew she was born in 1898 in York Co and a few years ago I went to the Archives and searched through the death registration index looking up all the records that could be a possible match from 1899- 1920 but could not find anything.

My hypothesis was that she died later and in the Toronto area.

I discovered at the time and found the family in the 1901 census in York Co.  From this I was able to determine that her first name was stated as Esther.  Since none of my husband's family could tell me exactly when the family moved to Grey Co and I did not have an ancestry account I relied on automated genealogy to research the 1911 census.  Most of Grey County had been transcribed but I could not find them.  York Co still had alot of areas that had not been transcribed.  I started to manually read every sheet for York but then figured I should transcribe them at the same time so I spent months helping to transcribe York County in the census.  Eventually almost all of the census was transcribed (not entirely by me of course) but I still couldn't find them.  I reached out to the automated genealogy community and finally someone was able to find them in York.  Their family name (and all of the first names) had be enormously misspelled by the enumerator....   I now knew that the family was in York in 1911 and Esther was still alive. Based on this I knew the family moved to Grey sometime after 1911 but had returned to York where 3 of their sons were attested for WWII.  In the midst of my transcribing of the census (which I really enjoyed)I was able to get a copy of Esther's birth registration and confirmed that she was Esther Irene.   I was also able to find the birth registration of many of her siblings and of 2 brothers who died as infants and were buried in York County.   I went back to death registrations and finally succeeded.  She died of TB in 1928... in Toronto. Her parents's address was listed as the same address in Toronto where they lived right up to their deaths.  I was hoping the registration would list the cemetery but it didn't so I still couldn't be sure she was actually buried in Toronto.

Next, I found her parents marriage registration which listed St John's Norway in Toronto as the church they were married in.  It is beside an extremely large cemetery.  Her parents house in 1911 was across from this church and up the road from the cemetery.  By this time, I had amassed quite a collection of death registrations for the family and contacted the cemetery for some lookups then went for an all day visit.  The records are still on index cards and the cemetery has 80k+ people interred there but I was able to get photocopies of everything (a very nice genealogical windfall).  They were able to provide me burial details about 15 relative but not Esther.  A year later and armed with more ancestors who I suspected were buried there I gave it another shot and they found her.  She is buried in the same cemetery as her two infant brothers, her grandparents, aunts and uncles, sister in laws, nieces and nephews all who sadly are all in unmarked graves.