Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Fact or Fiction? That's the dilemma that seems to hinder this kind of research. I was able to find a record of ML's grandparents in the 1910 Census, along with her father and some uncles. I hadn't found it right away as it was indexed incorrectly, but very happy to have it now! The problem I'm facing now is that her grandparents list that they've been married for 23 years. This 23 is present on both the line for Simon, and for Elizabeth. The problem is their sons are listed as 29, 25, 22 and 20. I also know there are some daughters older than that too. So, is it an error in the transcription? Was the information just flat out wrong? Or is it possible some of these children were from a first-wife and Elizabeth is actually the second? Dun-dun-duuuun! Have you run into similar situations? What did you do to prove it one way or another?

Another interesting bit from the census is that Elizabeth mentions she has 8 living kids. I've found 7 so far, so I'm hoping I can confidently track down number 8.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Poll: How do you share?

I've been pondering this problem for a bit and I'm not sure how to fix it, so I wanted to post a question to you. What's the best way of regularly sharing my findings with the residents? I've been spending a lot of time in Photoshop cropping and manipulating the records to get the important information on one page of paper and then printing the result. Unfortunately, this is a rather time-consuming process, but I don't know how else to do it: Printing the documents in their raw format will be illegible. (Think of printing a census record on a single page). I've thought about the idea of displaying results on a tablet that we could then zoom in and out with, but I can't really leave that with the residents either. It's nice that I can leave behind a paper copy they can review while I'm gone, but I'm just wondering if anyone out there has an idea for a better way to do this. What are your thoughts?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Financial Friday: Donations

I debated whether I should include a button for donations, but in the end gave in as I could see this becoming an expensive service to produce. I feel like I should provide an explanation of where those donations will go.

Right now, I've personally paid for a 6-month membership to Ancestry which will end in September 2013. I only subscribe off-and-on (sometimes not for an entire year at a time). Primarily, donations would help with membership fees to this site, the bread and butter for my research. For just access to US records, this is $155 for an annual membership, or $23 per month.

In the rare event that there happens to be donated money beyond this, I have a few ideas for how those funds could be used:

*) Subscribing to a newspaper archive service would be a plus. Some newspapers are available on Ancestry, but there is next to nothing in the Cleveland area. This would cost roughly $20 per month or $70 per year.

*) Upgrading the Ancestry account to include international records. I don't really see enough value in this yet, but after working with more residents, I may have enough of a research backlog to begin looking in international records. Right now, the need is simply not there.

*) There are some other ideas like obtaining vital records, creating keepsakes once most of the research is complete, etc. I list these last as these are things I feel the nursing home may be willing to pay for.

I've decided that the Donate button is way too prominent though, and I've figured out how to move it to a separate page in Blogger, so I will work on doing that soon too. Donations aren't really the goal here.

I did want to send a shout-out to Laura for being the first one to donate, followed by my parents. As you can see from my shopping list, it's much appreciated! Thank you!

Just a reminder that Silver Branches is not an official charitable organization, (that is, donations here are not tax-deductible because I have not filed for a 501(c3) ) but I assure you that the funds will go to advancing this project and providing meaningful information to the nursing home residents.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Second Visit with ML

Yesterday evening I had the opportunity to stop by and visit with ML again. She's doing well - and quite the popular lady! As I arrived, someone else was finishing up a visit with her, and while I was there her son also came by for a visit. It was neat seeing him too - the only record I have of him is on the 1940 Census when he was just a baby.

She was interested to find out there were many more relatives than she ever realized. She had previously looked in phone books to find other Poniatowski's, but because the females changed their names after getting married, she didn't know anything about them. It sounds like there are quite a number of new relatives to research! She is getting excited to meet her relatives and asked me to get their phone number for her. It will be a lot of fun when I can bring everyone together!

I remember last week after I met with her thinking "I don't know how much more I'll be able to find." Boy was I wrong! A genealogist's job is never done.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Launch Day Thanks

I more or less officially launched my blog late last night and have been enjoying the "likes" and comments rolling in on Facebook.  It's all been very positive and it reinforces my idea to contiune this project!  I hope I can create enough interesting content to keep you coming back.  Let me know what topics you'd like to see me share!

Post-War Polish Letter

I thought readers may be interested in reading the actual letter sent from Poland to the U.S.  It really captures the emotions of this time:

Borowiczki, Poland
February 18, 1920

My dear children:-
     Your letter I have received.  I am well and wish you the same.  You are inquiring how we are getting along.  You know that your Father died and I am all alone in this town with Bienkowskis.  My dear children, I am begging you not to let me stay along with other people, but come to me as soon as you can.
     Of course you know that our home has been destroyed and has to be remodelled and other things taken care of and you can pay for this after selling some of your other property, and go back to America, taking me with you.
     Concerning the money that you have sent to Warsaw, I was told at the Bank that you are the only one to whom they will give same.  I am informing that a lot of changes happened in our town.  A number of people have died.  The whole family of our friends Chenkis have died.  Your uncle has been taken prisoner by Russians during the war and we have not heard from him.  I cannot write any more, but will wait until you arrive to me.

The application also mentions...

In the last letter which he received from the Department some thing was said of sickness and disease spreading in Poland, he states that, said is not the case in the part of Poland where he intends to visit, but he must go, and he is taking this risk on his own shoulders.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Check Ahead!

While doing more research for ML, I found another wealth of information that the other members of her family hadn't found yet: the FULL passport application of an uncle. Sure, they had the first page, but they were missing 4 additional pages of information! How could this be?

Ancestry only indexes the first page of a passport application. This means to find the other pages, you have to use the "next page" buttons within the document viewer. This gave some incredible details including a photograph of the family.

One of the most interesting bits of information attached to the application was a translated letter from Poland describing the situation after World War I. Homes destroyed, family missing, a relative captured by Russians, etc. All this provides a backdrop to why this relative needed to go back to Poland, sell his things, and bring his mother-in-law back to America.

So, when viewing records, don't forget to check the next page! You never know what else might be attached to that first page.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Multiple Sources

I feel like sometimes I put too much stock in Ancestry.com. They might be the most comprehensive source, but that shouldn't be the only source one uses. I often times will check with findagrave.com, however I was still looking for more. On a whim, I decided to do some additional searching on familysearch.org, thinking it would be identical to my search results on Ancestry.com. I couldn't have been more wrong!

Through this search, I was able to find ML's grandfather's death certificate, already indexed and searchable. This gave me the names of her great-grand parents! What a find! In addition, through searching here, I have been able to find an unknown aunt. Females are harder to track down due to the last name changing when they get married, however another indexed death certificate proves that she was also related.

The information about the aunt was actually missing from the reports given to me by ML's distant cousin, so it also goes to prove one more thing: Just because someone else has researched a family member, it doesn't mean there's nothing more to find!

Friday, April 19, 2013


I decided I wanted to start my own blog (all of these posts are sort of post-dated to fill in my prior thoughts) and as part of that I wanted a nice project name. I settled on "Silver Branches" to capture both the intended audience, and the service I'm providing. I think that will do just fine going forward. Sometime I'll need to work on the styling for my page, but I'm really bad at that kind of stuff. At work we've been discussing CSS pages a little, so I have a few ideas to try.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Polish Names

ML's relative has been contacting me quite a bit and has provided a number of useful reports & photographs. Possibly the most useful tip she shared with me has to do with Polish names. In Poland, some male nouns end in -ski, while the similar female nouns end in -ska. So a female with a dad's last name of Kaminski may change her last name to Kaminska. Keep this in mind when searching, as you'll likely want to search for both endings!

Also, keep in mind that up until 1918, Poland as we know it didn't really exist as a separate state, so ancestors may have reported that they were born in Russia, not Poland.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

First Visit with ML

Excited and nervous, I decided it was time I make a trip to the nursing home and share what information I had so far. I wasn't sure what to expect as I walked down the corridors to ML, as she was finishing up her dinner, but those fears quickly dissolved as I sat down with her and two other residents. Although she was in a wheelchair, she was sharp and as our conversation went on, she was doing a good job remembering useful details. It was somewhat difficult to hear some of the more painful memories from her childhood (father was an alcoholic, uncle turned to alcohol after breaking his leg, etc.). I'm hoping I can find some more uplifiting stories to share with her. I was able to find names of her grandparents, which she hadn't ever known before, or at least not her mom's side, so that was a plus. I left her with the information I had, and she seemed eager to dig through her photos and see what information she had to share with me the next time I visit. Overall, definitely a positive experience and I'm glad that I can work with her first - she's very easy to talk to!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Relatively Close Relatives

While researching for ML, I had come across an image on Ancestry.com that was uploaded by another member & marked as "private". I was interested, because it appeared to be a picture of her father's gravestone. I contacted the member to see if they would be willing to share that with me. As it turns out, I have actually found a not-too-distant cousin of ML! Basically the person I contacted is her cousin's granddaughter. She and her dad (which would be "first cousin 3 times removed and first cousin 2 times removed) live about an hour away and would actually like to come and visit her in the nursing home! They have been in touch with a cousin that is still living in Poland [where ML's ancestors emigrated from] that is also helping with the research. I'm sure they're going to be able to provide a lot more information than I can get too, so I'll have to arrange for that visit sometime too.

I can't believe all this happened in just a few short days. Kind of validates my idea for this project, I think.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Playing Detective

Initially, I was only given a name, which I'll abbreviate ML. With only her first name and married last name, could I possibly find anything? I thought I'd give it a shot before I met with her. I did some preliminary research and because her name was so unique, I was quickly able to find the records I was looking for: 1920, 1930 & 1940 Census images, marriage records, even her father's World War I draft card. I had found the first bits of information, and I was excited to hear what she would think about them...

Friday, April 12, 2013

Finding the Right Fit

I wasn't really sure where to go first... I hadn't ever been to a nursing home in our area, so I decided to just look and find one that was closest to our home. I contacted the nursing home with my idea and waited. A day or two went by and I hadn't heard anything. I wondered if my idea wasn't quite up to snuff. Impatient, I looked for the next closest nursing home and contacted them as well. This time, the response was immediate & overwhelmingly positive. We setup some time to talk things over in person, and before I knew it, she had someone lined up that would love to meet with me and learn more about her ancestors. It seemed I had found the right place to start!