Category: family

Who Are You Related To?

As I mentioned on Facebook, I was down in Worcester, MA yesterday to hear President M. Russell Ballard and Elder D. Todd Christofferson (two current member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) speak in the DCU Center. There were about 12,000 other people there. Tomas and DC got to sit on the fourth row, and Denisa and I were much farther back with MC. It was a great meeting. Elder Christofferson spoke of the need to involve God in our lives through daily prayer. I especially liked his observation that the things which seem of little consequence and things that are most important in our lives often end up being the same things. (After all, the way I see it, breathing is a fairly trivial thing we all do day in and day out. We take it for granted and don’t give it much attention, but when we’re suddenly unable to breathe, we realize quickly just how important it is to us . . . )

President Ballard talked about recognizing the hand of the Lord in your life. Acknowledging those times when He has helped you or guided you in miraculous ways. He told the story of John Howland, a passenger on the Mayflower. He was swept out to sea in the middle of the voyage, but he was able to grab onto a rope that was trailing in the water behind the ship and was hauled back on board. His survival has turned out to be key to much of American history, since he’s a direct ancestor of people including FDR, George Bush, Emerson, Longfellow, Joseph Smith, and 2 million others. It would be easy to dismiss Howland’s rescue as good luck. You can also view it as the hand of providence intervening in his life. How you choose to see it certainly depends on your personal views and outlook, but that’s probably a post for a different time.

President Ballard encouraged members of the audience to pray for the country and its leaders, a sentiment I can certainly get behind. (Indeed, I already wrote an entire blog post about it.) But it occurred to me in the meeting, what happens when people are all praying for the country, but hoping for different outcomes? When faithful Democrats and Republicans all think God wants two entirely different directions for the nation to go? For that, I believe it comes down to us bringing our own wills more in line with God’s. In an ideal world, as we all pray for the same thing (a bright future for the nation, the world, and all its inhabitants), hopefully we will begin to come together more and more, until our wills overlap in multiple places, and we begin to find ways to bring about the things we are all praying for. (If we choose instead to pray for detailed specifics, like “that Trump will leave office” or “that the Democrats will stop being idiots”, I don’t think the odds are high that such overlaps will ever occur. But then again, such prayers presuppose that we understand the will of God better than our neighbors. For prayer to really be effective, I’ve found humility is often a key ingredient. There’s little humility in partisan prayers. Again, probably a topic for a different blog post.)

As I was talking with Tomas after the meeting, we kept coming back to the story of John Howland. I told Tomas I knew we had ancestors on the Mayflower, but I couldn’t right then remember who. We decided it would be a good experience to discover more about our ancestors and look for stories like Howland’s: stories where we might think about where the hand of God interceded in their lives to make it possible for us to be here today.

Thankfully, we live in 2019, and there’s technology developed to help us out in these situations. (Assuming your family history is fairly robust, which mine is, to say the least, thanks to many generations of faithful genealogy-obsessed Latter-day Saint ancestors.)

If you go to relativefinder.org and log in with your familysearch.org account, it will look up your lineage and compare it to many different people’s, from presidents to movie stars to athletes to you name it. It’s through this tool that I now know Neil Armstrong is my 13th cousin once removed. Mark Twain is my 5th cousin 6 times removed. (I knew there was a reason I was so interested in studying Huck Finn for my thesis . . . ) Ben Franklin is my 2nd cousin 10 times removed. Muhammad Ali is my 14th cousin 1 time removed.

Too distant? William Bradford of the Mayflower is my 11th great grandfather. (And 8 other Mayflower passengers are my many great grandparents.) Of course, family history is only as reliable as the data you put into it. According to this tool, Henry VIII is my 14th great grandfather, but when I took the time to trace back exactly how that conclusion was come to, the results were sketchy to say the least. It also claims Grand Sachem Wyandanch, alliance-chief of the Montaukett Indians, is my 13th great grandfather. It would be awesome if it were true, but once again, the actual documentation is tenuous to say the least.

But that William Bradford connection is accurate. I traced his posterity down to Leonard Hill, a resident of Peterborough, New Hampshire (about 50 miles away from Worcester, where I went to the meeting yesterday). He and his wife Sally Forbush met early Latter-day Saint missionaries and joined the church in 1843. They were ostracized from their families and headed west. They both ended up dying on the eventual trek to Utah after the Saints were forced out of Illinois.

In any case, I’m out of time for today. It was a thought-provoking meeting, and maybe some of these tools would be interesting to you, as well. Not sure how much family history you have to have done to get results, but I will say that actually doing the research is fairly addictive once you start. (Or is that just for librarians?)

Who Ordered the Bomb Cyclone?

Today was supposed to be just a normal Thursday. A bit rainy, sure, but nothing noteworthy about that. At least, that’s all I was really aware of going into the morning. Unbeknownst to me, heavy winds in the night knocked down a bunch of trees in the area, killing power for a whole ton of neighborhoods. Our power flickered a little, but nothing went out.

At 7am, right when I was getting ready to go to work, we got message that there was a two hour delay for MC. That complicated matters, because Denisa would be teaching class right when MC was supposed to be getting on the bus. So we arranged it that she would drive MC to me, and I would walk her over to school during a break.

Fine.

Then I got a text from Tomas at the high school saying that the power had been out there since he’d arrived, and it was looking like he was going to be released. The school district finally decided to cancel school completely for the elementary school students . . . just when Denisa was already bring MC to me on campus. By the time she got here, we knew Tomas could go home early, since nothing was happening at the high school. I got the girls from Denisa, then drove them right back home, by way of the high school to get Tomas.

Meanwhile, DC’s been having some tooth pain, and we had to schedule a visit to the dentist for her. That’s supposed to happen at 2. Except now the school restored power at the high school, which meant Tomas has cross country practice after all. So the new plan is for me to drive back home, get all the kids, take Tomas to practice and DC and MC to the dentist, and then hopefully get through all of that in one piece.

I know to a casual observer this probably isn’t that hectic of a day, but speaking as someone caught in the middle of it, it’s been a whirlwind. Because of course this all happens in the middle of an otherwise busy day at the library for me. I’ve had four meetings and a sea of emails coming my way.

Definitely something to be said for those couples who have one of them just stay at home to cover the duties there . . .

How’s everyone else’s morning been so far?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Introducing the Classics to Your Kids: Rocky

Back when we went to Philadelphia, I took my kids to the Museum of Art steps. (Not the museum, mind you. Just the steps.) As anyone who’s anyone can tell you, that’s where Rocky runs up during his training montage. There’s even a statue of Rocky at the bottom of the steps, where you can stand in a fairly persistent, long line to take your picture in the Rocky pose.

“Who was Rocky again?” Denisa asked me back then. I explained he was a boxer. Sylvester Stallone.

“You mean he wasn’t even a real person? Why are we waiting in line to take this picture again?”

Denisa is nothing if not a good sport. (Though she declined to be in the picture, choosing to take it, instead.) However, I realized then and there that I had not fulfilled my role of husband and father, as someone from the Greater Philadelphia Area, of introducing my family to the Rocky franchise.

To overcome this shame, I gathered them all together the other night, and we watched Rocky I. It had been a long time since I’d seen it, but I’m pleased to say it’s stood up nicely, though I will admit it’s definitely slow in parts. However, the family all enjoyed it for the most part, though they declined my offer to start Rocky II as soon as Rocky I was finished . . .

They were also intrigued by the constant use of the word “yo,” and they wondered why I don’t use it all the time when I speak. For the record, I do use “yo,” but for some reason I use it to mean “yes,” which confuses people sometime. I have no idea why “yo” means “yes” for me, but it does. I tried to see if that’s a Philly thing, but I didn’t find anything about it online. (I also have been known to slip and say “youse” from time to time, but that’s getting increasingly rare.)

In the end, I think it was a success. I’m just ashamed it took so long for me to get around to it. They were surprised by the ending, but even Denisa enjoyed the film, so we’ll call that a success. Who knows–next time we’re in Philly, she might even get in the picture . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Keep on Trekkin’

Tomas is heading off on Trek this morning. If you’re a Latter-day Saint, chances are you know exactly what that entails. Well, maybe not *exactly*, but generally. I’ve never been on trek, so this is the first real experience someone in my direct family has had with it.

For those of you not in the know, Trek is a sort of modern day reenactment of the experience Mormon pioneers had in the 1800s as they went across the country with handcarts on their journey west. The first reenactment dates back to 1966, where Latter-day Saints from Arizona decided to travel out where the original pioneers journeyed, recreating the experience as closely as they could. This was followed by more efforts in the 70s, mainly with college-aged students. Journeys would go for almost 100 miles through the wilderness. (More information about the evolution of Trek can be found in this great op-ed.)

All of these people participating in trek reenactments made its spread almost inevitable. (If there’s one thing Latter-day Saints can be relied on, it’s to take a good idea and run with it farther than it was ever intended, sometimes to less-than-optimal results.) In 1997, with the 150th anniversary of the original trek, more and more youth groups followed suit, and today there’s an entire online guide for how to run a successful trek activity.

Originally, these treks were designed to be as historically accurate (and grueling) as possible. Youth were sometimes encouraged to fast during some of the experience, the thought being that having a difficult temporal experience might help them have an even stronger spiritual experience. That’s been back away from (perhaps due to instances where individuals have actually died on Trek), so Tomas is heading out in pioneer-era clothes, but he’s also stocked with regular hiking shoes, normal camping gear, and a good supply of Swedish Fish. I don’t believe they’re hiking more than 8 miles any one day, though that will be with a handcart in tow. (Participants are grouped into “families” of around 10 people each, and each family has its own handcart.)

I’m not entirely sure what I feel about trek. On the one hand, my ancestors were part of those original pioneers, and I really like the thought of doing something that shows us firsthand what they went through. I like historical reenactments, and the thought of doing one of those early treks in the 60s and 70s seems like it would be appealing. (I especially like the California Young Women’s group that did it, where they spent the year getting ready for it and really dove all in.) On the other hand, I feel like it’s gotten streamlined to the point where perhaps it’s no longer quite as impactful as it could be. There’s a fair bit of pressure to go on Trek, with youth strongly encouraged to participate. That makes me skittish. Ideally people go because they want to go, not because they’re expected to. (I did ask Tomas if this was something he wanted to do a few months ago, and he seemed game. I’m not sure how excited he was to go this morning when he left at 7am, however . . .)

In the end, I think it’s still a good idea, as long as it’s done well. My hope is he connects some with his history (even though he’ll be trekking through Northern Maine, a far cry from the plains of the midwest followed by the Rocky Mountains). Denisa and I were asked at the last minute if we could participate, but I already had three days of work meetings scheduled that I couldn’t get out of. I think I’d like to go at some point, just so I can see what it’s like firsthand.

Have you or your children done trek? What was your/their experience like? Tomas will be back Friday. It’ll be interesting to hear what he has to say . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Advanced Family History

Yes, two family history-related posts in about one week. Sue me. I’m on a bit of a family history kick right now. My goal? Find all of Denisa’s ancestors back six generations. Right now I’m four names short of having it complete to five generations, and 33 short of the sixth generation, but when I started this latest round I was 12 names short of five generations, and 45 short of six generations. I’m definitely making progress. (And back when I first started, there were gaping holes even in the third generation.

It’s been tricky work, as I mentioned in my post from last week, but I thought it might be interesting to show the sort of research I’m doing to get to the bottom of some of these names. A case study, if you will. Ready?

So my latest foray into the record books was focused on Maria Ferencova, Denisa’s great grandmother. I knew from family records that she was born in Košicka Nová Ves, a small town outside of Košice in Eastern Slovakia. Her parents names were Ondrej Ferenz and Anna (no last name). I had a birthday in 1896, and no death date. Familysearch.org has almost all the Slovak church genealogies digitized, but they usually start around the end of the 1700 and end around the end of the 1800s, depending on the town. Sometimes there are records for births, marriages, and deaths. Sometimes they’re incomplete. (I’m still not sure if that’s because they haven’t been scanned yet, or they just don’t exist.)

Bad news: for Košicka Nová Ves, the birth records end in 1895, so Maria’s record isn’t there to see. Worse yet, Familysearch had no listings for any marriage or death records for the town, so for over two years, I thought it was a done deal. I’d hit a brick wall.

Except then I thought there might be other records somewhere else online, so I started doing some digging these last few weeks. And after a fair bit of research, I discovered Familysearch has a different interface to search its records. I had been going through a location-based guide listed in each hyperlinked record, but they have an actual catalog you can search as well. (That’s great news for a trained librarian.) Going into the catalog, I found marriage and death records for Košicka Nová Ves. The marriage records ended in 1895, but that was okay, since odds were if Maria was born in 1896, her parents must have married in 1895 at the earliest.

Bad news: the records were in Hungarian. Worse news: they were in an almost impossible to read (for me) cursive variant. All I knew is that it was likely Maria’s parents had married in Košicka Nová Ves. I had no idea how old they were when they married. Was Maria their first child, or their last child, or somewhere in between? Had they married young? I didn’t even know if they’d stayed their whole lives in that town (though it was likely, from experience with the rest of her family histories). When you can’t read the writing that well, that can be very discouraging. It’s searching for a needle in a haystack when you’re only sort of sure there might be a needle there to begin with.

I went back to around 1850 with no luck. Pages and pages of scouring, and it had all come up empty, though I was still not sure I’d been reading the language right. After looking at all those pages, though, I’d gotten better at reading the cursive, so I decided to start from the beginning again. This time through, I found it.

Clear as mud, right?

You’re just going to have to trust me when I tell you that says Andras Ferencz married Anna _________ on November 25th 1895. He was 25 years old. She was 21. His father was also named Andreas Ferencz, and his mom was Ersebet ________. Anna’s dad was named Andras, and her mom was named Anna. Last names were too hard for me to decipher from this. Ferencz was a unique name for the town, so I was very confident this was the right record.

Armed with that information, I went looking for birth records. I found nothing in Košicka Nová Ves for Andras in the five years before and after he should have been born, but for Anna _________, I found a much easier to read entry.

Down that path, I ended up discovering her mom was listed as Anna Nagy in some records and Anna Lengyen in others. Same address. Same husband. Same first name. Only one marriage record for Andras Lihvar (also written Lichvar) and Anna Lengyen, however.

So that took care of half of Maria’s parents, but her father was still an unknown. While Ferenc was a unique name to Košicka Nová Ves, it’s a fairly common name in Slovakia. Doing a search for the name brought back too many records. Was there any more information I could get from the marriage record? What was that word next to their name?

I looked at other records to try and get a better feel for what was written there. It’s the town where they’re from. For Anna, it’s Kassaújfalu, which I only figured out after looking up the Wikipedia entry for Košicka Nová Ves and finding out it had a different name Hungarian. Knowing those words are Hungarian town names, what could the other be?

Googling got me nowhere. I was almost sure it was “Rozgany,” but nothing showed up. (It doesn’t help that town names can be conjugated in Hungarian, so the exact spelling was up in the air.) So I went to Google Maps and looked around Košicka Nová Ves to see what it might be.

Up there in the right corner, you’ve got Rozhanovce. Wikipedia let me know it’s Hungarian form: Rozgony. Success!

Using my previously acquired skills, I searched the Familysearch records for Rozhanovce and discovered they were listed under Byster. I went into them and searched, confident I’d find the Andras’s birth record at last. Except I came up empty. Nothing there, which made no sense at all.

I did some more digging. Byster seemed too far away from Rozhanovce to make sense, and it turned out those records were Protestant, where the marriage record had been Roman Catholic. There was nothing else in the catalog for Rozhanovce, so I went back to the hyperlink method I’d started with, going to the Slovakia records as a whole, selecting Roman Catholic, and then looking at the place names around Košice and comparing them to towns around Rozhanovce. Košické Olšany is just to the south. What about that?

There he is! Born on Groundhog Day in 1870. Let the celebrations commence.

Anyway. Maybe that’s way too much information about family history searching for what you signed up for, but I find the whole process invigorating and exciting. Each step is like that, where you’re searching for something that might or might not be there. There are disappointments, false leads, and frustrating developments, but when you actually use the clues and find what you’re looking for, it’s quite the thrill.

I have no idea how to do it in English record books, but if you need work done in Slovakia, I’m your huckleberry at this point.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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