21 June 2011

Tombstone Tuesday: Porcelain Photo

I have read about porcelain photographs of the deceased being added to their headstones, but never imagined any of my ancestors would have had the money to do so. On my recent research trip, I accidentally found the headstone of my great-grandmother's brother, who died in World War I. It was between his father's headstone and the headstone the woman I hypothesize to be his mother.

Two things stood out to me immediately. First, his name is listed as Antoni, rather than Andrew, as I found in the census and an index for his military record. Not unusual, as his other family members' headstones are written entirely in Polish as well.

Second was a photograph of him in his military uniform. I was ecstatic! I have precious few photographs of this part of my family and I would have never expected to find one of this young man, who died at age eighteen. I have since ordered his National Guard records from the Maryland Archives.

You never know what genealogical finds await you...even ones you did not know you were looking for.

16 June 2011

Thankful Thursday: Baltimore, Maryland

Last weekend, I visited the Baltimore County Genealogical Society library during my research trip. The last time I was there was about a year ago and I used a book of transcriptions from St. Stanislaus Cemetery in Baltimore. This time, one of the volunteers handed me a new book of transcriptions from St. Stanislaus, 1892-1910, which is a compilation of the earliest records from the cemetery and enabled me to find two names I was researching that were not in the book I used originally. This new book was published by Historyk Press, which is a great resource for research books on Baltimore's Polish community.

In an earlier post, I wrote about looking for my great, great-grandmother. Before I left for my trip, I ordered a death certificate for a woman I thought might be her. I found this same woman's name in the transcription book with a notation that she died in childbirth. It also listed her husband's and children's names, which matched my family.

With this information, I headed out to the cemetery. When I located my great, great-grandfather's headstone, to the left was one of his sons, and one more to the left was the woman I have hypothesized to be my great, great-grandmother. I took several photographs and left with the satisfaction of making significant progress in my search.

Following are links to the resources I used this past weekend for researching my Polish ancestors in Baltimore:
Baltimore County Genealogical Society
Historyk Press

13 June 2011

Motivation Monday: Research Trip

For months I had been planning a research trip to the Baltimore County Genealogical Society library. I had four hours on Saturday morning to cover my list of four things, and my husband in tow as my research assistant. The first item on my list was easy - a copy of the title page from a book I missed last year when I was at the library. One down, three to go.

I came up empty handed for everything else. However, my husband did find tombstone transcriptions for a few individuals with the same surname as some of my ancestors buried in the same cemetery. Not knowing who these new individuals were, I decided we should head out to the cemetery as long as we were in the area.

On the way, it started pouring, but I wasn't going to walk away from the weekend without any success. We were in luck, though, as the rain broke when we pulled into the cemetery. We knew my ancestors were in one of two sections and picked the one we wanted to start with. A few rows in, I spotted the surname we were searching for. I was so excited, I forgot about my previous disappointment. There, I saw the two names I knew, along with two others next to them with the same surname that I did not recognize. I snapped lots of pictures and reveled in one success and was excited to get back to the hotel room to research my new finds.

The clues I received in the cemetery, along with the book my husband copied proved to be my brick wall busters! As a result of what I thought was a disappointing trip, I have more to share than I can possibly fit in one post...and I found it all before I even went home. Over the next few posts, I am going to share my amazing finds, a few resources, and even a very helpful piece of technology, all of which I hope will give you the motivation to keep charging at your brick walls because you never know when they will start to crumble.

07 June 2011

Tuesday's Tip: Not My Ancestor

In a previous post, I shared my experience with one of the first things a fledgling genealogist should do - interview family. Through interviewing family, I learned the names of my great-great grandparents and was told stories about them, including the fact that my great-great grandmother only spoke Polish and her grandchildren only spoke English.

I quickly located my great-grandmother living with her parents in the 1920 Federal Census, just as I was told. Next, I was able to find the family together in the 1910 Federal Census. Nothing unusual so far...until I look past the names. The 1910 Federal Census asks a few questions not included in 1920: Number of Years of Present Marriage and, for women, Mother of How Many Children--Number Born and Number Now Living. What I saw looked something like this:

My great-great grandfather, as shown on the top line, is noted as "M2" for marital status (married more than once) and his wife as "M1" (married once). Interesting. The next thing I see is that the couple have reportedly been married for four years. She has two children and none are living. The problem? My great-grandmother is listed on this record as living in their household and is thirteen years old. If this record is accurate, who is her mother?

My great-grandmother's death certificate, from 1942, does not have her mother's name, only "Unknown."  This supports the hypothesis that my great-great grandfather's wife is not my great-great grandmother, as she supposedly did not pass until the 1950s. It appears I have more research to do to get to the bottom of this mystery.

My tip to you, therefore, is not only to verify everything you learn in an interview with documentation, but also to take advantage of special questions asked throughout the various censuses. Go back and look beyond the names and ages...there are more clues on these records than you may realize. In my case, the census raised more questions that it answered, which is the blessing and curse of genealogy...there is always more to research.