Monday, January 27, 2014

Finding Frederick Schmidt - Part II

As noted in my post - ,  My dear Great-Aunt, Martha FOX nee SCHMIDT (1924-2008) (named after her grandmother, Martha SCHMIDT nee TOLLNER from Lehe, Bremerhaven, Bremen, Germany) passed in 2008.  She was the 'family historian' and was apparently in touch with many 'cousins' I hadn't heard of.  On a visit to my Aunt Terry's, I was perusing her address book when I notice a name for [Pat H].  I recalled from my Aunt Terry's stories that [Pat H] was the daughter of my great-grandfather's brother. (Albert Herman SCHMIDT was my great-grandfather, August Frederick SCHMIDT was my great-great-uncle). 

I've never talked to Pat, and wasn't even sure if she was the right person.  I decided to reach out with a "out of the blue" letter to her.  In the letter I talked about who I was, my family history project, and what I knew about her history.

A week after sending the letter, I received a call from Pat.  I had the right person.  Game on.  I've had a great phone call with her so far, and am plannning on sending her a questionaire via snailmail.  Given she's 74, she even has email, which is often a bit of a problem for rapid communications with those in their 70s.

To date I've sent out two "blind letters" to folks.  One to a Stephen L in Seattle, and one to Pat.  I'm 50% on responses, which is good in baseball I guess.

TECHNIQUE - MINE any old address books you find.  If you have an address don't be afraid to try sending a letter to it.  It might be the person you are looking for.  If they don't write back you've put 0.49 cents into some nice postal workers retirement fund.  If you receive a response, you may find a goldmine of information you might not know exists.  

Has anyone else had a great success with blind letters? Pop a response in here if you like.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Mother, mother, wherefore art thou from

[2014/0216 - Just found out Zvingis may also be spelled Zvingys]

Howdy, or as they say in Lithuanian, "labas"...

Mom is still living, so she'll be C. Laukaitis from now.  She's as much 100% Lithuanian heritage as you can get.  Which means since the borders of Lithuania have shifted so much, and the messes Lithuanians have been through, I wouldn't be surprised to see Polish, Russian or Latvian pop into my heritage tree.

Culturally I was blessed.  I used to visit my grandparents in New York during the holidays and the summer.  I thought black bread, kielbasa, borscht, eels, herring, heavy beers and other Baltic goodies were normal.  As I grew up in rural Georgia, I eventually noticed my friends didn't eat those kinds of things. Hmmm.  Culinary diversity through heritage at a young age!

My autosomal DNA definitely comes through with alot of Lithuanian.  Nothing I've been able to match up yet.  Another story there.

My mother's mother's names are below.  The names can vary, as I've found out.  That will be a topic for another blog post, probably one on each name and its derivatives.  Remember, I'm doing this blog partly in hope of SEO-ifying my family tree so researchers out there looking could find the data.

Edward Anthony LAUKAITIS b 1915 Brooklyn d 1991
---+ Antanas Vincent LAUKAITIS b 1887 - birth listed as Saltineinze, Sieshltnai Kaimo, Uzno Russia, Uzno Lithuania - cant quite figure it out
---+---+ Alexander LAUKAITIS b ??? Lithuania
---+---+ Justine KESSLUTIA b ??? Lithuania
---+ Cecilia VARANUSKAS b 1886 Suwalkus Russia, Suvalki Lithuania
---+---+ Motiejus VARENAUSKAS ??? Lithuania
---+---+ Martha YESMIUTE ??? Lithuania
Bertha Bronislava Martha ZVINGIS b 1918 Brooklyn d 2002
---+ Juozapas Antanas ZVINGIS b 1883 Tirksliai Mazekiai Lithuania d 1934 Laizauva, Mazeikiai, Lithuania
---+---+ Juozapas ZVINGIS SR ??? Lithuania
---+---+ Anna MILESKAITE ??? Lithuania
---+ Marta BALVOCIUS B 1893 Vieksniai, Mazeikiai, Lithuania d 1942 NYC ( remarried a KAZLAUSKAS )
---+---+ unknown BALVOCIUS
---+---+ Anna PETRAUSKAS - ??? Vieksniai Mazekiai Lithuania

The Lithuanian side is tough.  Records are online, but, surprise, they're a combination of pre-1900 handwritten Russian Cryllic, Polish, Latin, and Lithuanian.  Oh dear lordy.  I may have to spend some money to get it unwired. "Aciu" for reading.  

As usual, "got hints"?  Contact me...

Anna Petrauaskas and Pranas (Frank) Balvocius in Vieksnia Lithuania 1925

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Going For My Y37

Today I'm mailing in my FamilyTreeDNA Y-37 DNA kit.  I'm not a DNA expert (or even novice DNA expert) so this should be a learning experience.

The Y-DNA 37 test works for direct male to male lineage for the past 8 generations.  Y37 will also get me my Haplogroup, a way of helping to pinpoint exactly where you are descended from in key areas of the world.  As populations moved, genetic tags change via 'drift' or mutations in genetics ( the real definition can be found here - ).  Various tags are associated with various points of origin.  See the Healy project at for an example.

Goodies from the Y37 kit are below.  Basically I'm supposed to wait one hour after drinking or eating and swab each cheek for sixty seconds.  Then you put the swab into a tube and break off the stick, leaving the swag in the tube.  Then you just send the tube.  In a few weeks you've got your DNA results.  Hopefully you will glean awesome insight via this test.

Items included ( see photo below )
01 - Tubes you put the completed swags into
02 - Swag kits that you rub inside your cheeks
03 - Permission slip for testing with opt in for ancestral origins
04 - Addressed envelope, no postage included so you gotta hit the Post Office
05 - Baggie to put the tubes into before you mail them.  Has your name and kit number on it
06 - Instruction sheet

Simple and painless.  If only my doctors bloodwork were this easy!

I'll post back when my results come in.  In the meantime we can talk about the Autosomal DNA tests and what I've tried.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Finding Frederick Schmidt - Part 1

My great-grandfather Albert Herman SCHMIDT apparently had a ton of brothers and sisters.

I asked my dad about them and each time I would get a varrying set of names.  A few names were fairly consistent.  One of them was Fredrick.  And so the hunt is on for Fredrick SCHMIDT. He was probably born in Lehe, Bremerhaven, Bremen, Germany in the 1875-1890.  His parents were Albert Fredrick SCHMIDT and Martha TOELLNER/TOLLNER/TURNER  And that's about all I know.  

My dad has a sister [t] who is still alive.  I asked [t] about Frederick.  She's smart as a whip, and keeps family things retained very well.  So the basic story was Fredrick had a daughter Patricia, who married someone with the lastname [h].  Ok, noted away.

On for special research technique called "plunder the address book".  My wonderful Great-Aunt Martha Fox need Schmidt passed a few years back.  I stopped by my Aunt [t]s house to have lunch with her, and while there got a peek at my great-Aunts record book.  Amazingly enough I found an entry for Patricia [h] (along with many other goodies).  And she's in Florida.   Oh my.

So today I sent off a blind email introducing myself and asking if she could contact me or I couuld contact her.  I'm fairly sure its the right lady.  Hopefully she's still alive and wants to help.

I'll keep you posted on my adventure in Address Book Mining and UnSolicited Letters.  Hopefully we have a happy ending with more stories to tell.

Next steps for Fredrick.  Continue to find just some base records for him.  Death?  Arrival?  Marriage?   Tough one here.  Anyone got any other ideas?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Fathers of My Father

My dad is still living, so we won't list him here.  Suffice it to say J. Healy.  He's been a great help with some aspects.  He doesn't remember a ton.  So we sit, and once I get a vodka or two in him (bad joe), out comes a story here or there.  So here's what I think are the names in my father's tree.

- Joseph Anthony HEALY( b Bronx 1916, d Bethpage, NY 2002 )
---- Denis HEALY ( b Kilgarvan, Kerry, Ireland 1884, d Bronx, NY 1952 )
---- Nellie Agnes CASEY ( b NY or Ireland 1886, d Bethpage, NY 1973 )
-------- Michael CASEY ( b abt 1860 Ireland, d before 1910 NYC )
---------------- ? Denis CASEY Ireland
-------- Ellen O'DONOHUE ( b 1863 Kerry Ireland, d after 1940 )
---------------- John O'DONOGHOE - assumedly Kerry Ireland
---------------- Mary O'ODONOGHOE - assumedly Kerry Ireland
- Mary SCHMIDT ( b Ohio 1924, d NY 2002 )
---- Albert Herman SCHMIDT  ( b Brooklyn 1894, d Bronx 1954 )
-------- Albert Frederick SCHMIDT ( ?? Lehe, Bremerhaven, Bremen, Germany - dates unknown )
-------- Martha TOLLNER / TURNER ( ?? ?? Lehe, Bremerhaven, Bremen, Germany - dates unknown  )
---- Theresa Mary J DELANY ( b 1898 Dublin Ireland, d 1978 Bethpage NY )
-------- Andrew DELANY ( b 1864 ?Dublin Ireland, d 1904 Dublin Ireland )
-------- Katherine (Kate) Bryan / O'Brien ( b 1878 Ireland, d 1948 Brooklyn NY )
---------------- Michael O'BRIEN ( Ireland )
---------------- Ellen KELLY / KIELY ( Ireland )

---- Denis HEALY ( b Kilgarvan, Kerry, Ireland 1884, d Bronx, NY 1952 )
-------- Daniel "DanDan" HEALY ( b 1848 Kilgarvan Kerry Ireland, d 1935 )
---------------- Timothy "Tadghna Rae" HEALY ( b 1815 Kilgarvan kerry Ireland d Cork Ireland )
---------------- Julia DOYLE ( b 1818 Kilgarvan Kerry Ireland )
-------------------------------- Thomas DOYLE
-------------------------------- Honora COOPER SULLIVAN
-------- Mary McCann SULLIVAN ( b 1872 Kilgarvan Kerry Irealnd, d ??? )
---------------- Daniel SULLIVAN ( b 1824 Kenmare Kerry Ireland d ??? )
-------------------------------- Murtagh SULLIVAN
-------------------------------- Mary MOORE
---------------- Mary SULLIVAN ( b 1825 Kenmare Kerry Ireland d ??? )
-------------------------------- Daniel SULLIVAN

Looks like I'm heading to County Kerry on my next trip to Ireland.  Maybe some of ya'll are looking for some of these names?  If so reach out...  From the Irish/German side how about a pint of Guiness with some saurbraten to satisfy my german side.  Next up my mother's tree.  Pure Lithuanian!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Welcome, and why....

This is the traditional "why create a family history blog"?  Which also leads into the question my relatives ask me when they see me spending weekends poring over countless vague records online.  Or sending 20 euros for some record in Ireland.  Or reaching out to a third cousin that I've never met in my 48 years in life.

I'm not a professional genealogist.  I am pretty good with "pitbulling" things and finding answers though.  I've been digging in for about two years now.  Its cost money, and time, but I've got a good tree going.

Why blog?  My first and shameless hope is to open up my family history so someone else searching may find the records and contact me. I personally have made contact with at least two distant cousins via just 'binging' out with the names and places.  It worked for me, it should work for them.

Second why blog.  I see alot of people grinding through records without applying technology correctly.  I'm a Windows guy, and there are an absolute ton of tools you can use to showcase your family history appropriately.  I'll post some videos of searches and tools that have worked for me.  Maybe they'll work for you.

Third why blog.  Which falls in with "why do family history at all".  My last grandmother died about five years ago.  "Shit, I just lost all those stories", I thought to myself when they passed.  Their histories, their grandparents histories, all gone.  I don't want my kids to do the same when they are 50 and I die.  I actually expect
to be gone well before they are 50!   So I've resolved to push out my family history in this blog as well as a ebook.  I'm also researching my wife's family history for the same reason.

Fourth - brick walls.  I'm going to post my brick walls online.  Maybe someone will be able to help me with them if they read the article.

Fifth - overcome fear of scary things - Requesting docs from Ireland.  Challenging the social security group for un-redacted forms.  Sending $300 to Lithuania.  Writing letters to people you've never met but found in an address book in hopes they are related.  Scaring away a long lost relative by asking too many questions (I've done it twice now).  Oh boy.  Maybe my stories will help you get over your fear.

I'll try and keep the posts short and brief. Happy hunting...