Category: family

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.

To DNA or Not to DNA?

I’ve gotten more and more into family history over the past several years. Not my own, typically. Most of that has already been done by my extended family on all sides. (Latter-day Saints are pretty gung-ho about family history, and I come from “pioneer stock” on both my mom and dad’s sides. Finding actual new ancestors on those lines is like playing a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos.)

No, I’m much more interested in Denisa’s side of the family. She’s a convert, and so it’s all fresh snow as far as they eye can see. (Or to extend the metaphor from earlier, I’m the only hippo in a sea full of marbles.)

Of course, it’s not all smooth sailing. The Slovak and Czech church record books have mostly been digitized, but they’re spread all over creation, and they’re written in Latin, German, Slovak, Czech, and Hungarian. Often they’ll switch languages in the middle of a page, even. And each language handles names differently. So what’s Georg in one is Gjgj in another. Last names are even more complicated. But that’s part of why I like it so much. It’s a real challenge, and a lot of fun to do research in,

But I digress.

I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a DNA test done, and I wondered if any of you people out there have done it (or consciously *not* done it). Up to now, I’ve held off out of caution. Once your DNA is sent off to a company, what sort of control do you have over what’s done with it? Can it be sent to law enforcement? Can they sell it to other companies? What do those other companies do with it? I know the laws aren’t exactly iron clad in this area right now, so part of me wonders if I shouldn’t wait until that uncertainty is smoothed out.

But on the other hand, a big part of me then wonders why in the world I should care about all that. If someone wanted access to my DNA, it wouldn’t be hard to get. All they’re taking is some spit. I’ve got plenty of that, and it’s not like I guard it like Fort Knox. If a shady government organization wanted to get their paws on some Bryce spit, I’m fairly confident they could do it without even needing to resort to any Mission Impossible-style antics.

And yet then there’s the question of whether I’m liable for what I discover. If I find out I’m susceptible to a certain type of disease, would my insurance company potentially deny coverage to me if it turns out I could have done something to be better prepared to handle that disease? I have no idea.

All that uncertainty brings me back to the central question of why I’d want a DNA test done in the first place. Is it basically just a “I wonder” itch I want scratched? What would I actually do with it once I had the results?

That’s where all of you people come in. Anyone want to volunteer their experience with DNA testing if they’ve done it? Were you happy with the process, or do you regret it? I’d like some feedback from people I actually know, instead of the faceless internet horde.

Please share!

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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.

A Day Trip to Boston

We moved out to Maine almost twelve years ago. In that amount of time, I’ve been to Boston for a couple of conferences, and Denisa has been to the Latter-day Saint temple a few times, but we’ve never gone to downtown Boston with the kids at all. In our defense, we had young children for most of that time, and we were just reluctant to go into a large city with all the trappings you need when you’ve got a baby or toddler in tow. (Though on the flip side, we’ve been to London, Dublin, Vienna, Budapest, Salzburg, Munich, Krakow, Prague, Dresden, Leipzig, and Paris all with the kids in tow, and all before we ever made it to Boston . . .)

We finally decided the time had come to change that.

So last Friday we headed down to the city. We stayed outside of downtown for this first trip, mainly because we were heading to the temple on Saturday morning, so we wanted a spot that was near there. (We’ve typically been Marriott brand people, but one of the perks of the American Express Aspire Card that I now have is that it comes with automatic Hilton Diamond status, their highest status. So this time we stayed at the Embassy Suites in Waltham. It was one of the cheaper options, but we still left very impressed. The breakfast was great. They had free snacks in the evening. The pool was much nicer than you get at a Fairfield. The internet was more of a pain to use, but other than that, thumbs up from us.)

Friday night Denisa took the kids swimming, and then we went out to dinner at Tuscan Kitchen with some friends. It was pricey. but we all enjoyed it. Great food. Saturday morning, we had breakfast and then headed to the temple, leaving the kids to watch movies and play games in the car while we were inside, with Tomas in charge. (That all went well, though when we got out, we discovered they had drained the car battery. Kids today are like electric vampires.)

We then headed into the city. I had zero desire to park in Boston, so we drove to Alewife Station (just five minutes or so from the temple) and parked there. ($3 on the weekend, though when you drive into the parking garage, you begin to wonder if you didn’t take a serious wrong turn at some point.) You can buy a Charlie Card there (one per family), and use it to take the T down to Park Street. ($2.25/person, and kids 11 and under are free.) Having done it now, it was super easy, very cheap, and I’d totally do it again.

In the city, we walked around, just getting a feel for the layout so we know what we want to do when we come back. We checked out the outside of some of the sights, went to eat at Quincy Market (Indian food. Yum.), and then went on a bakery expedition. We tried Mike’s Pastry, but the line looked ridiculously long, so we went a block or so further to Bova’s Bakery, which also had outstanding reviews. We proceeded to spend $50 on baked goods, because that’s how we roll. (You can count cannoli as dinner, right?). It was all delicious. I’ve had cannoli from Mike’s Pastry before. Didn’t particularly care for them, honestly. These were much better. I’m not sure if that’s because they were fresher, or I was more hungry, or they were just superior. Either which way, I would skip the lines again the next time I go.)

We took the T back to our car and headed home. (Thankfully it started right away. There was some debate about if we’d let the battery recharge enough. We had.)

Overall, it was a great expedition. We had a fun time, and we definitely plan on going back. Probably in much less than 12 years. 🙂

What are your favorite things to do in Boston, and where do you like to eat? I’m always up for a recommendation.

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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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