Our First "Ancestor Field Trip" & Buried Treasure  

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This last Sunday was an absolutely gorgeous day here in sunny Atlanta. We had to get out and do something so I came up with the brilliant idea of finding Cynthia's ancestors' homes in the city of Atlanta. I had found some of the addresses in the US Census images on Ancestry and remembered that most of them were easy to find. So with a 1/4 tank of gas we set off on our first genealogy road trip.

What struck us as very interesting is that these folks had moved from outside the city closer in over the years and eventually from the west side to the east of the city. Here's a map of our route that shows that west-to-east path:

I have a lot more investigating to do, as you will see, but here is the preliminary trip report:

A) 6 Edwin Place, Cook's District, Fulton County, Georgia. 1910 home of Emily Greenawalt, widow of Alexander McD. Wiley, parents of James Tecumseh Wiley Sr., husband of Pattie Stone Tuggle. Pattie, or as I found out this weekend was lovingly called 'Mama Pat', was my wife's great-grandmother. I need to do some digging to find out exactly what Cook's District was, but it was in Fulton County and is now part of the city of Atlanta. This house was on a beautiful wooded looped street that had a park inside the loop. Here's the picture:

B) 44 Neal Street, Cook's District, Fulton County, Georgia. 1900 home of Milton B. Tuggle, Anna Frances Dean and their daughter, Pattie Stone Tuggle ('Mama Pat'). Looking back on my notes, I have no idea how I came to the conclusion that this was the correct address. I have added this to my to do list. We couldn't find the actual house because the street numbers had changed. They are all triple digits now and that part of the city is not one where I wanted to get out and investigate. Does anyone know where I should look for house number changes? My guess would be somewhere in Fulton County. Right before we got there, we found an open gas station, but our luck ran out and the car in front of us was the last one to fill up.

C) 256 E. Fair Street, Atlanta, Georgia. 1920 home of William T. Brannon and Selena Bishop, parents of my wife's elusive grandfather, Lawrence Jefferson Brannon. This one was another no go. Fair Street is a fairly short street sliced in half by rail tracks with no crossing. The lower side had been torn down and some sort of warehouse has been built in it's place. That half of the street doesn't exist any more. The good news was that we found another open gas station and filled up!

D) 1186 Stewart Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia. 1930 home of Selena Bishop and her son Lawrence Brannon. Both Google Maps and my GPS found this address even though the street is now called Metropolitan Parkway. I was telling this story to a father of one of my daughter's friends and he said they changed the name to try to revive that part of town. The house was boarded up and up for auction after being foreclosed. As we drove off my wife saw a sign that read: "Pittsburgh Community est. 1883 - "A Weed & Seed Community". I need to check that out as well. Here's the picture:

E) 17 E. Ashland Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia. 1920 home of James T. Wiley, Pattie Stone Tuggle and their daughter Emily Anne Wiley (my wife's grandmother). Once again, we couldn't find the actual house because the numbers have been changed. It's a tiny street in the Inman Park / Little Five Points area. Pattie's parents, Milton and Anna lived in the house in 1910 and after Milton passed away in early 1910, Anna ran a boarding house at this location. By 1920 their daughter Pattie is living there with her family.

F) 215 Winter Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia. 1930 home of James and Pattie. This house was in the family for several decades and was owned at a value of $6000 with a mortgage in 1930. I have found correspondence in the late 1950's for the same address. The house is on a beautiful and quiet side street in Decatur and both Cynthia and her older brother Frank remember it from their childhood. Here's the photo:

At the end of this trip down history lane we decided to go pay a visit to Cynthia's brother, Frank, and his family. We haven't seen them in a long time and wanted to see the renovations they have been doing to their house. We asked Kiki whether she wanted to go to Fernbank Museum or go visit her cousins and the decision was quickly made. And this is where the buried treasure part comes into play.

Frank had a box loaded with pictures, letters, love letters, memory books, and even old audio records (electronic transcriptions) that Emily Anne recorded especially for her husband who was a career military officer and stationed all over the world.

This is not a shoebox. This is a BIG moving box and it will take me a lot of time to go through it, scan, catalog and store everything. I will have a few posts detailing what I find, but for now I will leave you with a beautiful colored photo of Emily Anne and her second husband, Wallace H. Brannon. This was originally a black & white photo and on the back it lists all the colors that were used to paint it:

E. Hazel
H. Brown
Sweater Yellow
Dickie White

E. Blue
H. Brown
Bars Silver
Pre-Pearl Harbor
Leave last one uncolored

It also has the numbers 5-14 and 156787 on the back in pencil.

The photo is in a cardboard case and the only details is a small stamp at the bottom that reads: Dunbar, Charlotte, N.C.

I just ordered "Preserving Your Family Photographs: How to Organize, Present, and Restore Your Precious Family Images" and "Uncovering Your Ancestry through Family Photograph" both by Maureen A. Taylor. Maybe I can start using the correct terminology and figure out a little more about these amazing photos.

Well, that's it folks. Our first ever "Ancestor Field Trip" was a huge success and we look forward to many others. If you have any comments or ideas about how I should proceed with some of this new information, please let me know.

Straight No Chaser  

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The power of the Internets is astounding! One of my buds was part of an a cappella group in college and for their ten year reunion they posted a couple of videos on YouTube. 8 million views later they got a call from Atlantic records and are now releasing their first album at the end of October:

Spread the word! These guys are awesome! Buy their album! Buy it as presents for all the people you don't know what to get! Buy it as stocking stuffers! BUY IT!!!

And check out their official website here: www.sncmusic.com

You can even pre-order it right now. Do it! Now!

MyHeritage or Geni?  

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This is not a family history post. Just a little bit of techno-genea-babble.

So the news is out today that MyHeritage has bought Kindo and wants to become the "FaceBook of Families". So here's my short take on all this.

When I started my family tree, I found a free online application through a link at the Diaspora Museum. It was very basic, but it was enough for me to start from scratch. Then, a short while later, I ran into MyHeritage. I liked it because it had Hebrew support (at the time I thought it would help me translate Hebrew and Yiddish names to English, which it can't, so that feature was useless on my non-Hebrew computer), it looked like it had a lot of bells and whistles (I was a real newbie, so I had no idea what to even look for at that point), it had a consolidated research section and it was free. After I downloaded the free application and started playing with it I found out that it had a few limitations, with the biggest one being no ability to merge GEDCOM files.

I also found their cool website tree feature, their automated matching tool and Megadex search. But this is where things started to go downhill. I wanted to wipe out my tree and start fresh because I had so much new information to add. Since I couldn't merge files I started using RootsMagic. My thought was to create a consolidated GEDCOM and then upload it to MyHeritage. But then I found out that the free web tree can only have 1000 people in it. And I couldn't delete my original tree! I tried contacting support several times, but nobody ever got back to me. So I just stopped using the site altogether.

And then I found Geni and loaded my entire GEDCOM into it (with over 9000 people at this point). And I invited everyone to participate. And they did. So at this point, switching back to MyHeritage is just plain not going to happen. I also found a bunch of relatives on Geni and we were able to easily merge our trees.

I looked at the MyHeritage site again today after a long break and found a "delete tree" button that actually worked. I also saw that their fancy photo matching feature is only available to Gold and Platinum accounts, so I guess I won't be using that any time soon. What I did instead is create a new tree that has about 900+ people in it and is based on descendants of 6 generations of my daughter's ancestors. This will allow me to do some free matching as well as do some research on the MyHeritage site. When I'm done with these 900 I will delete the tree and load additional people to research and try to match.

I understand that MyHeritage has to have a business model and I wonder how many of their 25 million members are actually active or have a tree that is larger than 1000 people (most trees I see have only three people in them, I'm not even kidding). If the revenue from larger sites is not substantial and there are other free tools out there like Geni, I suggest MyHeritage find other business models instead of their current one. Buying other companies and spending money on R&D without a revenue stream is a great way to go broke.

I will still use MyHeritage and I am sad to not be able to support and Israeli start-up, but there are better free tools out there. For now.

UPDATE: I just thought of a couple of other things. First, I mentioned how bad the support sucked at MyHeritage when I was trying to delete my tree. On the opposite side of the spectrum I have to commend Geni support for being quick to respond. They didn't solve the problem, but at least they got back to me. Which brings me to two interesting problems I found and one suggestion:

1) If you try to send too many messages, they will not get delivered. Instead they will get stuck in some mysterious queue and not get unstuck until someone from support does it manually. This happened when I ran a search for some surnames and tried to contact multiple people. And it happened more than once. At least support fixed it right away. They also told me to send less messages or send them slower. Hmmm.... Interesting answer.
2) Merging trees is not as easy as you might think. If someone has a tree already and you send them an invite to join your tree the trees will merge. Then you can go about sorting out the discrepancies and deciding what information stays. But what happens if you want to merge things by yourself? Let's say you just added a huge GEDCOM to your tree, how does that work? Well, you need to create a second account, give it some other e-mail that is not in use at Geni, load your GEDCOM and invite yourself to merge. Kind of roundabout, but it works. I tried it.
3) If they could add a chat function between online users, that would be awesome.

Crowning Glory  

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One of my favorite Genea-Blogs is Shades of the Departed. The level of detail that fM and the guests put into analyzing a photograph is jaw dropping. I wanted to participate in the latest Smile for the Camera - Crowing Glory carnival, but I was away on a family vacation and having a fantastic time that I just never made it. It's kind of hard to put together a post after chasing three year-olds on the beach all day long.

But I do have two amazing photos that I would have loved to share in the carnival. One is a picture of Edith May Conley (Rightmire), b. 1858 in West Virgina. Edith is my wife's 2nd great grandmother. I recently got a batch of photos from Uncle Glenn and this was one of them:

I have absolutely no idea how to analyze the photo, but what I can tell you is that it is made out of some 2 layered cardboard and was taken in West Virginia around the year 1900. How do I know this? Well it says so on the back. Some one wrote all that in pencil including who Edith is and who her daughter and granddaughter are.

Now that is a seriously stunning piece of headgear, don't you think? I especially like the black veil with the white pearls on it. Very nice. When I eventually learn to analyze photos I will have to redo this one. But until then, anyone out there want to take a crack at it?

And oh, famous relative alert: Edith was the first cousin of William Gustavus Conley, who was the 18th Governor of West Virginia.

On to the next crown. This is one of my favorite pictures ever taken. It's Moshe Zinberg, my great grandfather. This is actually a photo I took of my sister's roots project, so the quality is horrible. But I will get the original soon and all will be corrected. Check out the baby sheep:

This picture was taken in Russia when the Zinberg family fled their home during WW2. The family had gone through a lot of ups and downs before the war. In 1933 Moshe sold everything the family owned in order to arrange for documentation and safe passage to Israel. But it turned out he was conned and lost everything. He had to start his whole life over and rebuild from nothing. When the war started the family fled to middle Asia and ended up in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. That's where my grandparents met.

And that's a story for another time.

Second Cousins  

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I've mentioned in the past that I have been in touch with several of my mother's second cousins and that we are trying to piece together our family tree to solidify all the connections. Well last night a big piece of the puzzle fell into place.

My mother's second cousin, Michel, who lives in Paris, updated our Geni.com family tree and with those updates I was able to connect an entire group of people that up until a few weeks ago I only heard about maybe once or twice in the past. Turns out that my great grandmother, Bella Kreplak was part of a very big family. I didn't even know the names of most of her brothers and sisters, only their descendants and usually two generations away. I definitely didn't know the names of her parents, Avram Kreplak and Dobe Jablonka.

Bella was one of eight children in a family that lived in Kosow Lacki, Poland. The children in the family were (in no particular order, because I have yet to verify all the birth dates): Bella, Moshe, Yossel, Rivka, Chaya, Esther, Meir and Noeh. Some of you reading this are scratching your heads and thinking to yourselves, what kinds of names are these? Well they are Jewish names used in Poland about 100 years ago. And because everyone had several names and nicknames, putting it all together is sometimes very frustrating. Here's an example.

I usually rely heavily on the GNDBs page on JewishGen. You plug in the name and the country and try to find a translation. But it's not always so easy. Let's take Yossel, Bella's brother. If you plug in Poland and Yossel, it doesn't find anyone. But I know that Yossel, is a nickname for Yossi or Yossef or actually Joseph. So instead, I looked for Yosiel and got this:

Legal/Hebrew: Yoseyf Manso Gender: M Legal Origin: Genesis 30:24
Yiddish: Yosef / Yoysef / Yoyzep / Yozep / Yusef / Yehosef / / Manso
Yiddish Nickname: Josiela / Osip / Yesl / Yos / Yose / Yosefke / Yosefl / Yosek / Yosh / Yoshe / Yoshk / Yoshke / YOSIEL / Yosk / Yoske / Yoskhen / Yoskhin / Yosl / Yoslin / Yospe / Yosye / Yoyze / Yoyzfe / Yoyzl / Yozep / Yozl / Yozlin / Yozpe / Yusl / Yuzek
Local Secular: Jesef / Jojzyp / Josef / Josif / Josyf / Yosif?
Local Secular Nickname: Ios / Iosko / Iospa / Jojze / Jojzel / Jos / Josek / Josel / Josk / Joska / Jospa / Joszk / Joz / Jozek
European Secular: Iosef / Iosek / Iosif / Iozef / Iozek / Josef / Jozef / Josek / Jusef / Yosef / Yossef? / Yousif? / Yozef
European Secular Nickname: Iosel / Iozel / Joscha? / Josiel / Josjek / Joss / Yosek / Yosel?
US Name: Jack / Josef / Joseph

See what I mean? How many ways can you spell this name? And who knew that Joseph translates to Jack? And if you change the output to Argentina you get Jose. And these aren't even the tough ones. Bella's mother was Dobe Jablonka. Dobe to me sounds like Doba, which sounds like a female bear in Hebrew. So here is what I found in the GNDBs:

Legal/Hebrew: Dobra / Dobrush / Dobrushka / Doba / Tova Gender: F Legal Origin: Hebrew calque <>

How do you get to Dorothy from Dobe?

Anyway, back to the second cousins. I am not done yet. There is an entire branch of Kreplak's in Argentina that I want to link up. I think Michel knows the connection to them. He's visited them a couple of times and has a lot of information. It's tricky again, because all their names have taken on a South American flavor. There are Carlos and Julio and Federico in that branch. But at least it seems that the ancestors are still known by their original Yiddish names of Enoch and Pinjes. Enoch is Hanoch and Pinjes is also Pinkus and I already found a few of those in the JRI Poland database on JewishGen.

When I started to compile and rebuild this family tree I had no idea I would run into so many living relatives. This is truly an amazing experience.

So here's a great big warm welcome to all my new relatives, my second and third cousins I never even knew I had.

Dombek's & Kreplak's  

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It's been a while since my last post, but boy have I been busy. I have been diving into some Polish geography and finding a lot of links to long lost relatives. I have found a lot of these people on Geni.com and it is proving to be a truly valuable resource.

As I have written here before about my grandfather's Dombek family, there are few leads to follow. But then I started to investigate his mother's side of the tree. Bella (Beile) Kreplak was born about 1884 in Poland (according to a page of testimony, she was born in Warsaw). So far I have not found any Kreplak's in Warsaw. So I started looking in other places. I found Bejla Kreplak, born in 1885 in the Kosow Lacki PSA BMD 1863-1904 in the Siedlce Gubernia / Warszawa Province database on JewishGen. You'll see why this is interesting in just a bit.

From speaking with my mother and grandmother, but also from personal acquaintance, I know we have Kreplak relatives in Paris. They are the children and grandchildren of Herschel Kreplak who is (supposed to be) my grandfather's first cousin. I need to verify who his parents were to confirm this, but I would say this is pretty certain. There is also another family in Paris that are descendants of a female Kreplak and they were also considered first cousins. Then there is a Ritz family in Israel.

Today I found out that Chaya Rydz (nee Kreplak) was the mother of Yehuda Rydz of Herzelia, Israel, and perished in Ciechanowiec, Bialystok, Poland, along with Yehuda's wife, Faiga Rydz (nee Plisky). All this is based on the Ciechanowiec Yizkor Book. You can read a chapter written by Yehuda here. So I have some research to do there, but I am pretty certain I can link them all back to the same family as well. I think Yehuda Rydz is the Idel Ritz in my tree?

There are two other Kreplak trees I am working on. They all lead back to families in Kosow Lacki, Poland. I found records of Kreplak families there and I need to see if I can find them at an LDS center and actually see who the parents were. I think I'm on the right track.

And then there are a few Dombek families that track back to Ostrow Mazowiecka.

One of the interesting things I found out is that all these villages are within a 20 mile radius. Check out this map:

By the way, I created this map by looking up the town Sterdyn on this site: http://mapy.eholiday.pl/. I guess you can also go through Google maps but this site actually does have a type-ahead feature that helps you if you have no idea how to spell in Polish, which I don't. Then I used a FireFox plug-in called FireShot that let's you grab either your current browser view or the entire page and add highlights and comments. There's a free version and it is extremely useful.

Last tech-tip for today. If you wind up in a foreign language site, like the one above, right click somewhere on the page and select the bottom option "Page Info". Then choose the "Translate to English" option at the bottom. It runs the entire page through Google Translate and does a pretty good job. This only works in FireFox (because you really should not use Internet Explorer), but doesn't work on Google's new Chrome browser. I'm certain it will be added very soon.