Onward To Our Past http://onwardtoourpast.com Genealogy Tips, Help, and Fun with a focus on family and history Tue, 21 Oct 2014 10:20:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 Free Genealogy Resources For You On the Website of Onward To Our Past®http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/free-genealogy-resources-for-you-on-the-website-of-onward-to-our-past.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/free-genealogy-resources-for-you-on-the-website-of-onward-to-our-past.html#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 10:20:42 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3614

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Free Genealogy Resources For You On the Website of Onward To Our Past®

The office of Onward To Our Past Genealogy Service, LLC

Scott hard at work solving genealogy problems at Onward To Our Past.

Several people have recently asked me what all the genealogy resources are available on our website, Onward To Our Past®. We decided it was a probably a good time to review the menu of what we have here for all you lovers of genealogy and family history.

Most Importantly Every One of the Over Four Hundred Resources on Our Site Are FREE!

Free jpeg

When we first began the Onward To Our Past® website we made the decision that all of the resources we offered there would be free of charge. So you can sit back, relax, and know you will neither be required to pay for any of our online resources nor have to pay to subscribe to see them. We do strongly suggest that you sign up on the site so you can receive first notice for all of the updates, new articles, and materials we post on the site.

Now let’s take a look at what we offer on our site:

Three Major Genealogy Knowledge Hubs: Bohemia (Czech) Genealogy, Cornwall (U.K.) Genealogy, and Italian Genealogy.

These three free Knowledge Hubs are great starting places for anyone beginning their genealogical and family history journey who have ancestors from Bohemia, Cornwall, and/or Italy. You find these Knowledge Hubs on the banner across the top of our home page. Click and you will discover history and genealogy background, links, hints, experts, and examples of how to be successful in your genealogical pursuits in these three areas of the world.

Eight Additional Categories of Genealogy Help Listed as Free Resources

Again, on the banner at the top of our home page you will find a tab titled “Free Resources»”. Hover over this tab and a dropdown menu will appear offering eight additional categories of more free genealogical support. They are as follows:

Chotek Article Translation: This tab brings you to the only English translation of the 1895 article titled “History of the First Bohemians in Cleveland, Ohio”. This article, found in the Czech-American journal Ameriká Národni Kalendář was written in Czech by newspaperman and author Hugo Chotek.

Chotek Book Translation: This tab opens thirteen separate posts that provides the only English translation of the 192 page book, again authored by Czech-American Hugo Chotek, written for the 1895 Czech Ethnographic Exhibition that was held in Prague, Bohemia. This book gives an excellent overview of the beginnings of the City of Cleveland, the early Bohemian immigrant community there as well as a detailed look at the life, organizations, and accomplishments of those immigrants. It holds the surnames of more than 2,500 early Bohemian immigrants for us genealogists.

eBook: The Genealogy & History of the Original Bohemians (Czechs) in Cleveland, Ohio, USA: This tab holds a multi-chapter eBook on our work to discover and document the very first Bohemian settlers to Cleveland, Ohio. Currently there are six chapters completed and more are in the process of being researched and written. These in-depth stories focus on each of the very first Bohemians who came to settle in Cleveland, Ohio, starting in the late 1840s. It provides a mixture of history and genealogy, often tracing these families to present day descendants.

Czech, Please! Finding the First Bohemian/Czech Immigrants Across America: A new crowdsourcing effort to identify, document, and preserve who the earliest Bohemian immigrants were to cities, towns, villages, and rural areas across the United States – beginning with Augustine Herman.

Genealogy Hints and Tips: This section has over a dozen of our favorite hints and tips for genealogy and family history. Our focus is always on hints and tips that are easy, inexpensive, and simple.

Recipes: This section features some articles on foods from various cultures as well as family favorite recipes for everyone to try.

Šnajdr Article Translation: Opening this tab will bring you to another of our unique resources. It is the only English translation of the 1878 article written by Václav Šnajdr, noted Czech-American newspaperman. It is titled “Cleveland and its Bohemians”. It is a good solid view of the early days of Bohemian immigrants and their lives. Originally written in Czech, Onward To Our Past® translated this article to English and has made it available here.

Harding Bohemian Genealogy Treasure Chest: This tab offers several articles, translations and stories from a wonderful ‘treasure chest’ of newspaper clippings, photographs, stories, and much more from a concerned family member who wanted these materials preserved for the future.

Meet Your Host and Contact: Naturally, we also have tabs, again on the top banner of our homepage, offering a review of who I am as the owner of Onward To Our Past® and our website. There is also a tab for you to use for a quick and easy contact form.

We hope you will come to visit all of the pages of the website of Onward To Our Past®. We look forward to hearing your reactions, questions, and suggestions!

Thank you!

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Bohemian (Czech) Genealogy: The Perun National Association Statistical Analysis (Mini-Census) of the Bohemian Community of Cleveland, Ohio in 1869http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/bohemian-czech-genealogy-the-perun-national-association-statistical-analysis-mini-census-of-the-bohemian-community-of-cleveland-ohio-in-1869.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/bohemian-czech-genealogy-the-perun-national-association-statistical-analysis-mini-census-of-the-bohemian-community-of-cleveland-ohio-in-1869.html#comments Sat, 18 Oct 2014 12:01:27 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3604

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Bohemian (Czech) Genealogy: The Perun National Association Statistical Analysis (Mini-Census) of the Bohemian Community of Cleveland, Ohio in 1869

Did you know that in early 1869 a private statistical analysis, or as I see it a ‘mini-census’, of the Bohemian community of Cleveland, Ohio was undertaken? No? Until recently neither did I.

From the records I have so far discovered relating to the Bohemians of early Cleveland this is the first such statistical analysis, or mini-census, that I have been able to locate. It offers a wonderful look at the Bohemian immigrant community at that time as well as holding some extraordinary information on these early settlers from Bohemia!

What Was Perun National Association?

This first known census of Bohemians in Cleveland was commissioned at the behest of the Perun National Association (Národní Spolek Perun) and was conducted ‘for a small fee’ by Karl F. Erhard.

The Perun National Association (Perun) has an interesting history all its own as well, though much of it currently remains still hidden by time (something we at Onward To Our Past® are trying to remedy). It was founded in Cleveland on February 25, 1866 as unit of the Slovanska Lipa Association. However Perun became independent of Slovanska Lipa on July 21, 1867. This schism was most likely due to a difference of opinion regarding religion according to the Ph.D. dissertation written by Dr. David Zdenek Chroust titled “Bohemian Voice: Contention, Brotherhood and Journalism Among Czech People in America, 1860-1910” (May 2009, Texas A&M University). Certainly this friction is not all that surprising when you consider the fact that Slovanska Lipa was an organization welcoming to both Freethinking and Catholic Bohemians. On the other hand, the membership of Perun was comprised of some of the most ardent Bohemian nationalists and Freethinkers and open only to like thinking Bohemians. These Freethinkers decided upon the Perun name as a ‘poke in the eye’ to some of their fellow Bohemians who might be equally ardent supporters of the Roman Catholic Church.

Who is Perun?

You see, Perun is a major deity of the most ancient Slavic people. The history of Perun goes back thousands of years and he is the highest god in the Slavic pantheon. Perun was the son of the god Svarog and goddess Lada and his birth was announced with a mighty earthquake. Both powerful and temperamental, Perun is the god of lighting and thunder, described as a strong man with a copper beard and armed with the ‘Axe of Perun’. It is said many shrines to Perun still exist across the Czech Republic in the hills, mountaintops, and ancient oak groves as his likeness was often carved in oak. He is also associated with the day of Thursday as well as the metal tin.

Perun in oak.

Perun in oak.

Back to National Association of Perun.

As I said, the choice of the god, Perun, as the namesake for the National Association of Perun was not made simply by chance and this ‘poke’ certainly worked well when it came to a several local Catholic leaders, but particularly a parish priest in Cleveland by the name of Father Řepiš. Václav Šnajdr, Martin Krejčí, Eduard Vopalecký, Vaaclav Rychlík, F. B. Zdrůbek, and other Freethinkers formed a school under the auspices of Perun that, among other subjects taught children the Czech language as well as English to adults in the evenings. It was Father Řepiš who, in 1870, very publicly demanded that the City Council of Cleveland hold public hearings, revoke the charter of Perun, and deny the request for building a school. If you read the newspapers of the day, you can tell that the issue got ugly and heated very, very fast. In the end, Father Řepiš failed in this attempts, offered a lukewarm apology to Perun members as well as to the Freethinking Bohemian community in general. Perun continued to operate with the City’s approval.

Perun built a sizable hall in Cleveland located at 118 Croton Street. If you look at an old map, you can identify this location as opposite Arch Street. At the time of its construction in 1869 it was the largest Bohemian hall in Cleveland and was home to meetings of many of the local Bohemian organizations as well as community gatherings, gymnastic events, and artistic performances. Perun became known for its school, establishing the first Sokol Club in Cleveland in 1871, the Thalie drama group, and the Zvonař choir. It was reported by Václav Šnajdr that Perun hosted a most lavish event to honor Jan Hus in 1869 and an equally impressive event to mark the passing of František Palacký in 1876, which was attended by every Bohemian group in Cleveland.

However, it was not to be a long lasting existence for the Hall nor for Perun as an organization. Sometime before 1874 ‘Perun National Association’ changed their name to ‘Perun Bohemian School and Literary Society’ and then in 1874 to ‘Society Perun’ as they wanted to become a mutual benefit society. The leadership of Perun also made the decision that each member should buy a share of stock at $100, in spite of the economic difficulties being experienced as a result of the Crash of 1873. This decision led to serious dissention among the membership and led to many disassociating from Perun. While the paperwork had been filed with the Secretary of State for Ohio, there was evidently some snafu with that paperwork. In that timeframe, the City of Cleveland sold land to Perun. The case gets complicated as Cleveland sued Perun, others sued Cleveland, Perun got sued, and more. Let me just abbreviate it to say it took many years, but in 1895 the case found its way to being argued before the bar of the Supreme Court of the State of Ohio. The lower court decision was reversed and Perun prevailed in this case, which to this day is a consistently cited precedent-setting legal decision. At the time of this writing we are awaiting word back from the historian of the Supreme Court of Ohio as to what, if any, of the case files remain in their holdings, so there may well be more to come on Perun.

In 1886, part way through the years and years of legal wrangling, Perun gave its property back to the City of Cleveland. The city converted Perun Hall into Station 18 of the Cleveland Fire Department and then once they built a new facility for Station 18, old Perun Hall became a storage facility for the CFD. On a side note, according to historian, Paul Nelson, of the Western Reserve Fire Museum of Cleveland, Station 18 was placed in service on May 10, 1892 and closed on March 16, 1899. Old Station 18 (Perun Hall) housed a steam engine, a hose wagon, and the buggy for the Second Battalion Chief. Times were a bit different then as it also was home to six horses in the house!

Old Perun Hall as Station 18 of the Cleveland Fire Department. Courtesy of Western Reserve Fire Museum of Cleveland.

Old Perun Hall as Station 18 of the Cleveland Fire Department. Courtesy of Western Reserve Fire Museum of Cleveland.

Hugo Chotek had this to say about the ultimate demise of Perun:

“The fall of Perun turned out to be a real setback indeed, because it hindered the flourishing of cultural life for several years, wearing down the hearts of most freethinking Bohemians as their hope waned in matters concerning progress and free thought.”

Who Was Karl F. Erhard?

Now that we know who the patron of the 1869 Census was we can ask our next question. Who exactly was Karl F. Erhard, the good fellow who undertook the mission of Perun’s Bohemian mini-census?

According to the 1900 U. S. Census, Karl was a fellow Bohemian, born about 1844. He reportedly immigrated to Cleveland circa 1866 and once here married Anna Benes, also a Bohemian, on September 13, 1869 by a Justice of the Peace. He lived on Alanson Street with his wife and family of five children; Vlasta A. (Mrs. Edward David), Claude C., Lada J., Sylvia M., and Milada E., all of whom lived into adulthood. His parents, Benedikt and Josefa, also emigrated from Bohemia with him to Cleveland. While the 1900 Census return lists Karl’s occupation as the owner of a coal mine, in earlier Cleveland City Directories of the day, he is listed as a bookkeeper, so he must have known his way around numbers fairly well.

In his obituary, published on October 13, 1905, in the Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio) it was reported that Karl also was a brewer with the Schmidt & Hoffman brewery, later established a brewery of his own in Massillon, Ohio, before returning to Cleveland to get into the coal mining business. In his book Brewing Beer In The Buckeye State Volume I: A History of the Brewing Industry in Eastern Ohio from 1808 to 2004, author Dr. Robert A. Musson explains the brewery referred to was the Massillon Brewing Company, which Erhard co-owned with fellow Bohemian Robert Schimke. This brewery was actually located in what is now known as Crystal Springs, Ohio, but I understand that all traces of this once thriving brewery are long gone.

In our preliminary genealogy work on the Erhard family we have been unable to locate any living descendants – yet!

Thankfully the Legacy and Benefits of Perun Have Proven Long Lasting!

While National Association Perun may not have had a long existence, its legacy continues and offers us two benefits to the very day, some 130+ years later.

Perun left society a precedent-setting legal case and for us genealogists a phenomenal early census of the Cleveland Bohemian community!

When Karl Erhard compiled his analysis of the Bohemian community newspaperman and author Hugo Chotek stated in his book in 1895 “A brief overview of his survey follows:” This statement is enough to keep all of us here at Onward To Our Past® working to find the files of the entire work of Karl!

In the meantime, here is what Chotek reported for us:

On January 23, 1869 Cleveland had 696 Czech families, comprised of 3,252 members of which 1,749 were male and 1,503 were female. Of those males who were employed here are their professions:

366 manual labor
112 learning the farm trade
76 bricklayers
72 carpenters
56 tailors
44 shoemakers
39 coopers
25 locksmiths and machine operators
24 farmers
22 innkeepers
18 blacksmiths
15 retailers
13 musicians
11 metal workers
12 butchers
9 saddlers
9 upholsters, carpenters and weavers
8 stonemasons
7 cartwrights
6 furriers
6 tinsmiths
5 bakers
5 tanners
5 dyers
4 cutlers
2 builders
2 librarians
1 pressman
1 watchmaker
1 health supervisor
1 city policeman
1 brewer

90 males were unemployed, and

50 females worked on farms.

There were 35 widows and 33 widowers.

Erhard reported the following immigration numbers for Bohemian families:

1850 –3
1852 – 16
1853 – 31
1854 – 25
1855 – 13
1857 – 7
1858 – 7
1860 – 15
1862 – 3
1863 – 31
1864 – 74
1865 – 93
1866 – 129
1867 – 91
1868 – 97

Interestingly he also reported a category of ‘youngsters who came without parents’ as follows:

1862 – 8
1864 – 9
1865 – 13
1866 – 43
1867 – 38
1868 – 42

Perhaps most interesting is his report on where these Bohemian immigrants came from:

Prague and Beroun – 224
Pisek – 194
Tabor – 137
Jicin – 7
Boleslav – 5
Cheb – 2
Moravia – 8

Also reported was a category defined as ‘community activities’:

The Lípa Slavic Association was founded in 1862.
The Svatojánský Union was founded a year later.
The Slavic Credit Union, the first such union for Czech immigrants to America, was established on September 14, 1865.
The Perun National Association was founded by the Slovak Lípy National Association on March 1866, became a separate entity on July 21, 1867.
The Zvonař Choir was formed on July 1, 1867.
The Lumír Choir was formed in the same year.
Due to an outbreak of illness, the Czech Support Guild was incorporated on Jan. 28, 1868.
The Association of Czech Immigrants was formed in the same year.
The Saint Anna Fellowship was formed in 1868.
The Mravenec Czech Laborer Guild was incorporated on January 4, 1869.
This makes up a total of 11 Czech associations in the city of Cleveland.
Publications with their number of subscribers are as follows: Slavie with 80, Pokrok with 75, and the National News with 58 (set up by Slovanska Lípy).
The Perun National Association subscribed to Pokrok and the following publications from Bohemia: Thalie, Světzor, The Humor Papers and The Amateur Theater.
How many of the farming publications are being subscribed to is, unfortunately, unknown.


This snapshot of Bohemian Cleveland in 1869 is priceless! Such information as ‘youngsters who came without parents’ and where the Cleveland Bohemians came from is amazing and can be quite useful for genealogists.

Onward To Our Past® is continuing to find more information on Perun and their mini-census. We hope one day to perhaps find Karl Erhard’s work!

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Czech (Bohemian) Genealogy and History Primer: Slavic Village, Cleveland, Ohio Part Ihttp://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/czech-genealogy/czech-bohemian-genealogy-and-history-primer-slavic-village-cleveland-ohio-part-i.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/czech-genealogy/czech-bohemian-genealogy-and-history-primer-slavic-village-cleveland-ohio-part-i.html#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 10:26:05 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3593

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Czech (Bohemian) Genealogy and History Primer: Slavic Village, Cleveland, Ohio Part I

As a lover of genealogy and family history I admit to two things that tend to stick in my craw. One of these is ancestors who, for one reason or another, make the decision to change their surname, often without notice, legal paperwork, etc. Genealogy is a challenge as it is, but when you encounter surname changes it can add a new layer of difficulty. For instance I have one ancestor whose surname was Bohutinsky, but which was changed by some to Bohntinsky, others to Botin, and others to Bugg. The second is when some marketing mavens make the decision to ignore history and change the names of places, again often seemingly on the fly, without explanation, and with no reason beyond ‘marketing’. Studying and researching the history of the homes of our ancestors is tough enough without someone renaming a place willy-nilly.

Location of 'Slavic Village'.

Location of ‘Slavic Village’.

So it is with ‘Slavic Village’ in Cleveland, Ohio. Were your ancestors alive today and you asked them if they lived in ‘Slavic Village’ to a person they would say ‘Where? Slavic Village? Nope, never heard of it.”

In The Beginning…The Erie Nation…Then There Was Newburgh.

In the beginning there were the Native Americans. Across Ohio you can still find the Burial Mounds from the pre-Columbian natives in Ohio. By the time Europeans began to invade Ohio the area that was to be Cleveland was inhabited by the Erie Tribe. In Dr. Francis Dvornik’s book Czech Contributions To The Growth of The United States (Chicago, IL 1961) it is reported the very first Czech settlers could see numerous Indian teepees in Newburgh from the backyard of Leopold Levy’s home in Cleveland where they were first living.

Long before the ‘mad men’ of advertising got ahold of the catchy name of ‘Slavic Village’, its modern life began as part of the then-thriving, youthful, and soon to be industrial center, by the name of Newburgh Township, located roughly six miles southeast of Cleveland. Newburgh Township was organized in 1814 as one of the very earliest non-indigenous settlements in all of Cuyahoga County. Author William R. Coates wrote in his 1924 book, A History of Cuyahoga County and the City of Cleveland, this area was actually named “Old Newburgh” in the very beginning and was an area bounded by Cleveland and East Cleveland to the north; Independence to the south; Warrensville to the east; and by the Cuyahoga River and Brooklyn to the west. Old Newburgh was the site of the first grist mill in the Western Reserve. In 1799 on the banks of Mill Creek two fellows, William Wheeler and Major Wyatt, built that first mill. Due to the historic importance of this mill for years some of its first millstones could be found on display around Cleveland. One located in Public Square and a second on old Broadway. While we today may not think much about the importance of a simple gristmill, it was of supreme importance to the pioneer settlers of those early times even if only ten families and a few single men lived in Old Newburgh when the gristmill was completed. Noble Bates, the first miller of the gristmill, later added a saw mill and a carding machine on the same stream.

Who the very first Newburgh settlers were and even where the Newburgh name came from have been lost in time. We don’t know if there was a Mr. Newburgh or perhaps if the name refers to a ‘new’ burgh (spelled as in Pittsburgh). We do know among the earlier Newburgh pioneers, in addition to Wheeler and Wyatt of the gristmill, were the families of Philip Brower, David Brower, Darius Warner, and James Walker along with single men Nehemiah Marks, Wilson Bennett, Richard Treat, Joseph Breck (namesake of Brecksville), Abram Garfield (father of President Garfield), and a mystery man known only as ‘Mr. Clark’. Newburgh held fertile soil, which was much better than the low, swamplands of Cleveland. Once cleared this land provided excellent pastures for livestock and dairy cattle plus superb acreage for farms and gardens.

Newburgh, long affiliated with the people and economic engine of the city of Cleveland, was the first area to be annexed to the city of Cleveland. Upon an overwhelming vote in favor of annexation by the Freeholders of Newburgh, the township joined Cleveland and was that city’s original Eighteenth Ward. It is good to note however that it continued to be referred to as Newburgh for several generations thereafter. On a personal note, my grandfather and grandmother’s first home in Cleveland, which they lived in from 1918 to 1923, was still referred to as ‘in Newburgh’ by them!

The 18th Ward also carried the nickname ‘The Iron Ward’ for all the industry there, especially the steel industry. In 1906 both the Township of South Newburgh (in 1919 becoming Garfield Heights) and the Village of Newburgh Heights would be formed out of pieces of Old Newburgh while the remaining Old Newburgh lands were all annexed to Cleveland or various other surrounding communities.

Those original settlers of Newburgh were almost to a person New Englanders, but change was on the horizon. If you look at the 1850 U.S. Census for the area, the majority of adult males in Newburgh are listed as farmers or farm laborers. By the 1860 U.S. Census more and more adult males employment is given as working in the rolling mills, a chair factory, and a couple of soap factories. By the early 1880s almost all of the farmland had been subdivided into residential lots for modest working-class homes.

As the economic base of the 18th Ward changed so did the population. It grew and as it grew it attracted far more than just New Englanders and their families. These new arrivals, many of whom were immigrants from England, Ireland, Wales, and Manxmen, were followed by immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe. These immigrants joined rather than displaced those early families of ‘Newburgh’.

Coming up in Part II of Czech (Bohemian) Genealogy and History Primer: Slavic Village, Cleveland, Ohio

Happily Part of the City of Cleveland – The 18th “Iron” Ward

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Free Thought and its Impact on Bohemian History and Your Czech Genealogyhttp://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/czech-genealogy/free-thought-and-its-impact-on-bohemian-history-and-your-czech-genealogy.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/czech-genealogy/free-thought-and-its-impact-on-bohemian-history-and-your-czech-genealogy.html#comments Fri, 10 Oct 2014 08:14:05 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3589

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Free Thought and its Impact on Bohemian History and Your Czech Genealogy

As a genealogical historian, I am continually aware of the impact that our ancestors’ religion can have when I am working on family history. This is perhaps at it most important when I am at work on my maternal ancestry, which has centuries of deep Bohemian roots.

The wide-ranging impacts of religion in Bohemia and the continuation of those beliefs by many of the Bohemian immigrants once they arrived in the United States are remarkable and noteworthy. This is true not only as it pertains to the history of the Bohemian lands and her people, but also of Bohemian immigrants in the United States. I can also personally attest that they continued and even impacted my early years.

As I am sure you know, few individuals had a deeper, long lasting impact on the people of Bohemia as did Jan Hus (c. 1369 – July 6, 1415). Born in Husinec, Southern Bohemia, Hus went on to live his early life as a well-educated priest and even served as Rector of the University of Prague. However, Hus was strongly influenced by the writings of John Wycliffe and spent the much of his time as a priest condemning the moral failings of the clergy, bishops, and papacy, especially concerning indulgences. Hus engendered a very significant following across Bohemia who went by the name of Hussites.

As you can imagine, this did not sit well with the powerful Roman Catholic Church and it wasn’t long and in 1409 Hus was excommunicated and in 1415 was burned at the stake for being a heretic. The response of the Bohemian people to the murder of Hus was for them to move even farther away from the Catholic Church. So began a series of three, count them three, crusades by the Catholic Church with the purpose, as stated in a Papal Bull issued by then Pope Martin V that all supporters of Hus be slaughtered in what became more commonly known as The Hussite Wars (1420-1434). All three of these crusades failed and once a peace was negotiated, Czech Protestant King Jiří z Poděbrad, known as the “Hussite King” was elected and was a much beloved and peace-loving king.

But the travails of the Bohemian people were far from over as far as the Roman Catholic Church was concerned. The worst, as you read about in the last issue of Czech Slavnosti was The Thirty Years War. Following the Battle of White Mountain (bitva na Bílé hoře) in 1620 the Holy Roman Empire (the Roman Catholic Church and the Habsburgs) and for the following 150 years all religions except Catholic were banned in Bohemia as was the Czech language in an effort by the Church to exterminate the Bohemian nationality. This period of history is known in Czech history as doba temna, the ‘Dark Age’. Luckily this Dark Age was followed by a nationalist revival moment, which became intertwined with a very strong and enduring backlash against the attempted Bohemian genocide by the Church and it manifested itself in the Freethought, or Freethinking movement.

During the course of my research I have come to believe the best explanation of Freethought and its impact on Bohemian immigrants, their families, and communities is found in the article written by Dr. Karel D. Bicha, titled “Settling Accounts With an Old Adversary: The Decatholicization of Czech Immigrants in America”. Published in the journal Histoire Sociale – Social History (Vol. 8, 1971). It can be challenging to find a copy, but it is worth the search. Dr. Bicha is an excellent researcher, incredibly knowledgeable regarding Bohemian/Czech immigration history, and writes in an engaging style. For a more detailed explanation of Freethought I recommend American Freeethought, 1860-1914, Sidney Warren, PhD, New York, Columbia Press, 1943.

So, what does all this history mean for your work on your Bohemian genealogy work? In short, a lot!

Freethinkers established their own fraternal organizations, Sokols, educational structures, nonreligious Sunday schools, and a myriad of other social organizations. These organizations can each offer their own unique set of resources for the family historian and generalist, which can often be wonderfully rich in detail.

Freethinkers also tended to not marry in churches. In my family this was true as generations of my Bohemian ancestors were married by Justices of the Peace. No parish/church records for these folks. No family Bibles, etc. But on the other hand, I have found a wealth of information that was kept by the Freethought organizations to where they were avid members.

Freethinkers constituted a majority of Bohemian immigrants to Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota, Ohio, as well as many large cities such Chicago, Cleveland, New York, and Omaha.

The genealogy dark-side of Freethought is that, at least in my family, it caused some serious and generation-lasting schisms in the family. This can also be seen in certain author’s writings, such as Jan Habenicht’s History of Czechs in America where his anti-Freethought perspective colors his otherwise good book.

Forewarned is forearmed.

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The Thirty Years’ War and why it Matters to Our Bohemian/Czech Genealogyhttp://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/czech-genealogy/the-thirty-years-war-and-why-it-matters-to-our-bohemianczech-genealogy-2.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/czech-genealogy/the-thirty-years-war-and-why-it-matters-to-our-bohemianczech-genealogy-2.html#comments Tue, 07 Oct 2014 10:03:28 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3571

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The Thirty Years’ War and why it Matters to Our Bohemian/Czech Genealogy

To most folks, a war that started 396 years ago would be something relegated to their ‘useless facts I had to learn in some high school history class, but quickly forgot’ file. However to those of us who live, breathe, and love our Bohemian/Czech heritage and genealogy it is of tremendous importance. It is also something we need to keep in mind and, if you are like I was, enjoy learning even more about.

As a genealogical historian, I always focus on combining the effects of history with the study of ones’ genealogy. This intertwining is especially important when you are working on your Bohemian/Czech genealogy since Bohemia, now Czech Republic, has such a rich, but often unappreciated history.

While all I ever really learned in school about the Thirty Years’ War were the dates that I had to memorize (1618-1648), the history and stories behind this incredibly devastating war are fascinating. I don’t have space here to do the war’s history real justice, so I will simply say that the war began, as do far too many of our wars, with religion as its base as a war between the forces of Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. The War at one time or another included almost every major power in Europe and more often than not Bohemia found itself at the center of the fighting.

In the 14th and 15th centuries, Bohemia had been an enlightened nation, which was centuries before the Age of Enlightenment. Plus the Bohemian people enjoyed a great many freedoms of education and religion not enjoyed elsewhere and thanks to its agricultural riches it was also the breadbasket of Europe. The Thirty Years’ War changed all that. The devastation throughout Bohemia, due in large part to the policy of bellum se ipsum alet, which translated from the Latin, is “the war will feed itself”. This means those fighting the wars were left to plunder the lands, destroy the people, and take whatever riches they could find for themselves. This led to incredible destruction all across Bohemia and, by some accounts, more than 8 million people perished.

A key battle for the Bohemian nation was early on in the Thirty Years’ War. This was the Bitva na Bílé hoře (Battle of White Mountain) and took place on November 8, 1620. (You can find a good, concise description of The Battle of White Mountain at http://www.radio.cz/en/section/czechs/the-battle-of-white-mountain.) On June 21, 1621, not long after the defeat of the Bohemian forces at White Mountain, twenty-seven Bohemian noblemen were brought to Prague’s Old Town Square and brutally executed. Should you visit Prague today you can see 27 white brick crosses in the ground that serve as a memorial to each of the 27 in the Square. At roughly the same time, a significant exodus of thousands of Bohemians began. This time also heralded the beginnings of an actual genocide against the Bohemian people as the Hapsburgs began the re-Catholicization of Bohemia. As Eleanor Ledbetter wrote in her 1919 pamphlet:

“But even then the struggle against Teutonic domination was an intense one, and by the end of the Thirty Years’ War, culture had succumbed to force, and the Bohemian people were crushed under the heel of the Hapsburg dynasty. The national leaders were all either executed or exiled, their rich and abundant literature was utterly destroyed, and the remnant of the people who were left for long years had not force enough to offer effective resistance to encroachment and suppression.”

So why is the Thirty Years’ War important to our genealogy efforts? First, the devastation of the War raged all across Bohemia. The resultant diaspora of multitudes within the educated and trained classes of Bohemians accompanied by the focused destruction by Hapsburgs of the culture, history, and people of Bohemia presents huge structural losses and changes within Bohemia. Towns were destroyed, forced conscription was commonplace, and there was wanton destruction of most anything of value, which included the holdings of every Bohemian who was not Roman Catholic.

There is a well written book, by Professor Will S. Monroe, Bohemia and the Čechs The history, people, institutions, and the geography of the kingdom, together with accounts of Moravia and Silesia that I have found very interesting and helpful. Published in 1910, this book, unfortunately, is all too often reviewed and/or listed as a ‘travel book’ when it is far from that. For example Thomas Čapek and Anna Vostrovský Čapek in their 1918 book Bohemian (Čech) Bibliography A finding list of writings in English relating to Bohemia and the Čechs had this to say: “It is profusely illustrated and contains an informative review of the literature, art, politics and the economic and social conditions of the people. Monroe knows his Bohemia from close personal association and not from books alone, and his Bohemia and the Čechs has achieved wider popularity than any of the accounts preceding it.”

In his book, when discussing issues surrounding the Thirty Years’ War, Monroe makes many observations, but the following was especially defining to me:

“He (Ferdinand II) had extirpated Protestantism in Styria and he soon made it clear that he proposed to do likewise in Bohemia. “His Jesuit advisors” notes Count Lützow, “openly declared that the present moment was a ‘golden opportunity for extirpating heretics.’” Pescheck states that Ferdinand had asserted, “Rather would he take a staff in the hand, gather his family around him and beg his bread from door to door, than tolerate a heretic in his dominions.” And he kept his vow. Not a vestige of Protestant religion was left in Bohemia at the close of a brief reign of eighteen years, although Protestants has constituted more than nine-tenths of the population when he became king of Bohemia in 1619.”

When you realize the extent and depth of all the destruction of the Thirty Years’ War, it is no surprise that it weighs heavily on our present day abilities to trace our deepest Bohemian roots. So when you get to this period in your family history and genealogy be prepared for some challenges!

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Genealogy: By Blood, By Law, By Family Tree — What fuels your passion for genealogy?http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/genealogy-by-blood-by-law-by-family-tree-what-fuels-your-passion-for-genealogy.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/genealogy-by-blood-by-law-by-family-tree-what-fuels-your-passion-for-genealogy.html#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 10:33:25 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3565

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Genealogy: By Blood, By Law, By Family Tree


What fuels your passion for genealogy?

What fuels your passion for genealogy?

Everyone has their own reasons for working on their genealogy and family history. Some are driven by their religious beliefs although I am not one of those folks. Some are driven by a desire to ‘prove’ they belong to some Society or Legacy group. Again, let me say that I am not one of these, although I will happily admit I truly enjoyed when I researched and completed the Czechoslovak Genealogy Society International’s Pioneer Family Certificate process for my Knechtl and Vicha great grandparents. Other folks are on a mission to find a missing link or person in their family trees and although I do have my share of brick walls around some folks who disappear at certain times this isn’t my motivation either. Some people seem to take to genealogy in a strange effort to run up huge numbers on Ancestry.com or Findagrave.com, but once again (thankfully) you won’t find me in that group either.

So why do I love genealogy? Why do I so enjoy delving into old newspapers, history books, dusty cartons, trays and trays of 35mm slides, archives, and photo albums? Pure and simple my motivation is family. Family by blood, family by law, and most certainly family by family tree.

When I began our family history no one in our families had undertaken any type of genealogy. Everything was new and the ‘territory’ was uncharted. We knew next to nothing about the Bohemian branch of our family and we knew precious little about our Cornish branch.

It didn’t take me long while looking at one of our, albeit rudimentary, early family trees to realize that there was far more to our genealogy and family than simply my bloodline. The graphic was clear to me even as a still wet behind the ears novice. While my in-laws might not be ‘blood’ to me they are ‘blood’ to my children and would be ‘blood’ to any descendants they may have.

So it was that I quickly came to thrive on the fact that our family and our genealogy is more than ‘by blood’ and more than ‘by law’. It is, most of all, family ‘by family tree’!

As a result of this inclusive view of family, truly wonderful things have been happening in the years since I began way back when my very first family tree contained all of 9 names.

As a matter of fact I was telling someone just a couple days ago that it was these ‘wonderful things’ that drew me to genealogy and they responded with ‘Wonderful like what?’ Good question I thought – so here are a couple of my answers, in no particular order:

I understand who I am far better now than before I knew where and from whom I came from.

Our family history is now far more secure than it ever was before. We have saved it and continue to improve our understanding of it almost on a daily basis!

We know more about the people, culture, history, and times of our ancestors than any of us ever knew before.

Our shared knowledge of our family history has reached out to many members of our family young and old as well as those who live near or far. One of my all-time favorite comments from a newly connected cousin about our genealogy was this: ‘Wow, I always thought I was from a very small family, but now I know I am a part of something big and truly wonderful!’

When I first moved our family tree online we had only four members on our site and all four of those were due to my guilt-tripping my wife, children, and mother to join me there. We now have 222 family members registered on our site and they access our family history no matter whether they live in the States, the United Kingdom, Italy, Czech Republic, Australia, New Zealand, France, and several points in-between.

I have seen the excitement on the faces, heard the thrill in the voices, and experienced the intense emotions meeting cousins worldwide as new discoveries are shared, new photographs shown, new stories added, and deep friendships established.


So tell me with your comments, what is it that fuels your passion for genealogy and family history? I’d really love to know!

Enjoy your genealogy!

Enjoy your genealogy!

Onward To Our Past!

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Genealogy and History: The Panic of 1873http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/genealogy-and-history-the-panic-of-1873.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/genealogy-and-history-the-panic-of-1873.html#comments Tue, 23 Sep 2014 10:32:35 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3559

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Genealogy and History: The Panic of 1873

Understanding history is a very important aspect of being effective in our genealogy and family history work. While the usual birth, marriage, death, etc. data and facts are important, understanding the historic occurrences and their impacts on your ancestors is crucial to having the best of luck in finding the facts we need and interpreting the data we uncover.

As everyone knows we are living through the continuing impacts of The Great Recession. Similarly, but to a harsher degree, our parents and grandparents lived through, and learned from, The Great Depression. So it was that our ancestors before them lived through The Panic of 1873 and the resulting economic depression that lasted for years after in America (1873-1879 according to the National Bureau of Economic Research) and for decades throughout areas of Europe.

Panic button

While many reference works state the cause of The Panic of 1873 as the collapse of the banking empire of Jay Cooke this is a very United States centered view of the world economy. The Panic of 1873 neither began with Jay Cooke nor did it begin in America. The bankruptcy of Jay Cooke’s banking empire, which got its kick start when Cooke acted as the chief financier of the Union army during the Civil War since he held a monopoly on selling US government bonds, is indeed seen as the American trigger of the Panic. However, many economists point to The Panic of 1873 actually having its origins in financial failures in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the simultaneous bursting of real estate bubbles in many Central European capital cities, U.S. monetary policy changes instituted by President Grant, and a combination of overcapacity and a loss of faith in the U. S. railroad industry in general as well as specifically due to rampant graft and corruption as evidenced by the Crédit Mobilier scandal.

Dr. David Blanke, Professor of History at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, points out that while The Panic of 1873 is little studied, it was the first depression brought on by ‘industrial capitalism’ as opposed to the prior downturns caused by ‘mercantile capitalism’, meaning that in The Panic of 1873 money, not labor and/or goods were the critical factor in this collapse. So what were the effects of this Panic in America? First, nine out of ten U.S. railroad companies failed, average wages fell by nearly 25%, thousands of American firms defaulted on over a billion dollars in debt, and the nation reeled under double-digit unemployment for over a decade. Dr. Blanke goes on to say “numbers fail to convey the depth of the economy distress” and that every region of the country was effected.

Dr. Scott Nelson, Professor of History at the College of William and Mary, believes that The Panic of 1873 actually was far more similar to ‘our’ recession than was the Great Depression of 1929. As a matter of fact, in one of his interviews, Dr. Nelson says “In fact, the current economic woes look a lot like what my 96-year-old grandmother still calls ‘the real Great Depression’”. Dr. Nelson further says:

“As the panic deepened, ordinary Americans suffered terribly. A cigar maker named Samuel Gompers who was young in 1873 later recalled that with the panic, ‘economic organization crumbled with some primeval upheaval.” Between 1873 and 1877, as many smaller factories and workshops shuttered their doors, tens of thousands of workers – many former Civil War soldiers – became transients. The terms ‘tramp’ and ‘bum’ both indirect references to former soldiers, became commonplace American terms. Relief rolls exploded in major cities, with 25-percent unemployment (100,000 workers) in New York City alone… Some of the most violent strikes in American history followed the panic…”


“In Central and Eastern Europe, times were even harder.”

The earliest failures in Europe occurred in 1872 in the breadbasket of Russia, in that area that is now Ukraine and Moldova. The arrival of cheap, American grown wheat, coupled with inexpensive kerosene and manufactured foods, began the collapse of the economy of Russia.

In May and then again in November, 1873 there were significant financial upheavals and panics, especially in Vienna and Berlin. Interestingly the Krach, or Crash in Vienna took place on May 9, 1873, the same day of the birth in Kladno, Bohemia of Anton Cermak, destined to become Mayor of Chicago, Illinios.

The Panic of 1873 came as a surprise to the business community and was preceded by the initial failures of the New York Warehouse and Security Company and the banking house of Kenyon, Cox, and Company. However these earliest failures were to firms not nearly as well-known as Jay Cooke & Co.

In the United States alone, almost immediately after Jay Cooke & Co. declared insolvency and defaulted on their obligations in late 1873, 89 of the country’s 364 railroads declared bankruptcy, over 18,000 businesses failed in two years, and by 1876, unemployment had risen to 14 percent and by 1878 it was over 18% nationwide. According to Dr. Drew E. VandeCreek, of the Lincoln Center, in his post at Illinois During the Gilded Age unemployment in the city of Chicago was a staggering 33%, “Many farmers had borrowed money to expand their operations during the Civil War’s boom times.”, and “Now many of these recently arrived, single male immigrants walked the streets as tramps.”

At the time of the Panic of 1873, Ulysses S. Grant was in his second term as President and was unable to solve the crisis. Historian Allan Nevins says of Grant “Various administrations have closed in gloom and weakness…but no other has closed in such paralysis and discredit as (in all domestic fields) did Grant’s.” Likewise the Presidents who followed Grant (Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland, etc.) were unable to solve the lasting impacts of the depression as well.

In his 1998 book, Titan. The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., author Ron Chernow writes nominal wages in the United States declined by a devastating 25% during the 1870s and declined by as much as 50% in some places, such as Pennsylvania.

Author Philip Mark Katz, in his book Appomattox to Montmartre: Americans and the Paris Commune notes that by 1874 New York State was experiencing 25% unemployment and nationwide more than 1,000,000 became unemployed.

In 1885 farmers in Kansas burned their own corn for fuel since it was cheaper than wood or coal. The Panic of 1873 also spelled the end of Reconstruction in the South.

Coming next …


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Genealogy Legends, Lore, and Lies in Our Family Historieshttp://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/genealogy-legends-lore-and-lies-in-our-family-histories.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/genealogy-legends-lore-and-lies-in-our-family-histories.html#comments Mon, 08 Sep 2014 10:36:24 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3552

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Focusing on Those Legends, Lore, and Lies in Genealogy and Our Family Histories

As lovers of genealogy and family history from time to time we all encounter and contend with the legends, stories, and lore passed down and around in our families. Some of these stories swirl and churn in our memories for decades. Some we have heard since our youth. Others are newer stories that often begin with the delightful words “Did I ever tell you…?”

Norman Rockwell illustrating the power of 'a story'!

Norman Rockwell illustrating the power of ‘a story’!

I’d like to begin by saying that the vast majority of these stories come to us as oral history. Some of these stories come to us directly from the person who experienced them, but as we delve farther back in time and farther afield in our family trees we begin to get these stories second or third-hand. Some are from longer ago than that and have become more the stuff of legend and lore than an actual retelling of an actual event.

Telephone or Chinese Whispers is a great game!

Telephone or Chinese Whispers is a great game!

As youngsters many of us participated in the party game of ‘Telephone’. It’s the game where everyone sits in a circle with one person beginning the game by whispering a sentence into the ear of the person next to them. Each person in turn repeating the sentence with the end of the game being when the original ‘story teller’ repeats what is finally said to them. Rarely, if ever, is the end product accurate and at times it is hilariously different. All in the space of just a couple of minutes and all with the same people in the same room ready to listen as closely as they can.

In the January 8, 2009 edition of Scientific American magazine there is an article titled “Why Science Tells Us Not to Rely on Eyewitness Accounts”. This article contains some fascinating statistics on the unreliability of eyewitness accounts in courts of law, but at the same time how often they are believed. One such statistic comes from the Innocence Project. They report that since the 1990s and the introduction of DNA testing that an astounding 73% of the 239 convictions overturned due to DNA evidence were based on eyewitness testimony and not just of one eyewitness, but two or more!

I was introduced to this type of mistaken first-person accounting within my own family. The first time I recall was when I was 9 years old. My parents decided that the five of us (my folks, my two sisters, and I) would take a family vacation to Europe. While we were there my mother asked us why we thought we were there. Even though my sisters and I had all been a party to the same discussions regarding our trip we each had a very different idea of why it was we were ‘really’ in Europe. I might add that none of the three answers we gave were anywhere close to the truth.

Much later in life I was in a family counseling session as part of my father’s battle with alcoholism. The counselor asked my sisters and me a question and to relate our view of an event in our family’s life. It revolved around an event we were all present for at the same time, the same place, and with the same people. When we were done relating what happened at that event, I remember thinking to myself ‘What’s up with this? Were we all someplace different?’ The observations of each of us was so vastly different that I was quite taken aback. When I returned home I couldn’t shake this memory from my mind so I did a bit of research and found that many scientific studies on memories and false memories.

I say all of this not to disparage family stories and lore, but to simply caution each of us who love our genealogy and family history to treat these stories with a good dose of healthy skepticism. We can use them as leads, suggestions, ideas, and options to follow in our research, but they should not be used as the full basis for our ancestry work.

Recently I was researching and writing an article on America’s favorite uncle, ‘Uncle Sam’. Now here is a fellow that everyone knows, knows what he looks like, who he is, etc. One of the national symbols of America with his own ‘Uncle Sam Day’ (Sept 13th). But I discovered one thing as I researched good old Uncle Sam…we don’t know!

My Uncle Ed Evenden as Uncle Sam

My Uncle Ed Evenden as Uncle Sam

He seems to have come into being around the time of the War of 1812. At first he appeared with a beaver hat, boots, clean-shaven, and not at all the whiskered, star-spangled top hat wearing, finger pointing fellow we all recognize today. Plus it seems to depend on where you live as to who you think the ‘real’ Uncle Sam was. There are competing stories that he was from Connecticut, Texas, Indiana, Delaware, Massachusetts, and New York. You might think that the issue was actually resolved when the United States Congress established September 13th as Uncle Sam Day, but in reality it seems that the people of Troy, New York and the New York Congressional delegation simply out maneuvered the folks from Indiana, Connecticut, Texas, and elsewhere and the rest of Congress simply followed along.

Even the truth of where ‘Uncle Sam’ called ‘home’ is quite foggy. Some insist it was Samuel Wilson of Troy, New York, but there were two Samuel Wilsons in Troy at the time. Additionally some say it was actually Native Americans out West who coined the term from Government Issue rucksacks. Others say it relates back to the insignia on the caps of a group seen in a parade. So it seems that no one truly knows the origins of Uncle Sam even though Congress and often the newspapers of the day reported it as though someone actually did.

Please don’t get me wrong. Stories have an important and rightful place in our genealogy and family history work. As I said earlier many of the first-person stories are accurate and incredibly meaningful. Others, passed down from generations earlier may not be quite so accurate. I well recall my grandfather’s stories about his youth in Cornwall changing just over his lifetime and then there was the fact that he simply never, ever admitted that he had a brother. It is important to remember that for many families there were certain topics that were taboo and never discussed. They might be an illegitimate child, a divorce, a ‘black sheep’ relative, etc.

Many others while sketchy, may provide us with extremely valuable leads to discover, document, and record the lives of our ancestors. One example of this that comes to my mind is about my maternal great-grandfather, Joseph K. Vicha. He disappears from all the records in 1909. Luckily my mother greatly enjoyed sharing all she knew about her mysterious grandfather. The stories had many parts. One part was that he was very influential in the early Bohemian community of Cleveland, Ohio, which we discovered was true. Another part of the story was that he moved to Chicago, a claim we have been unable to verify to this point. Another portion of a story from Mom was that when she asked her uncle if he ever wanted to look for his father, the uncle responded ‘why would I? I might find him and discover that he owes people money.’ I had always thought this was merely a cute, but unimportant response until a recent discovery. In an old copy of the Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH) from October 19, 1901 was a column of court cases. One of these cases reads “76192 – D. H. Tolman vs. J. K. Vicha. Appeal.” I hardly paid it any mind, but decided to research the D. H. Tolman and found that he was one of the worst loan sharks in America and ended up serving penitentiary time for usury. Now I am waiting for the court files from the Cuyahoga County Archives to learn more, but perhaps my great uncle knew more that he was actually saying in his response to my mother all those years ago.

We all pride ourselves on genealogy being based on as many facts, figures, and data as we can discover. So be sure to use your family stories as guideposts in your genealogy, but remember even the best of them are just that…stories. So my advice is to always go deep in your research to prove or disprove them – and always write them down!

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Genealogy and Family: Taking a bit of a different tack for awhile at Onward To Our Pasthttp://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/genealogy-and-family-taking-a-bit-of-a-different-tack-for-awhile-at-onward-to-our-past.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/genealogy-and-family-taking-a-bit-of-a-different-tack-for-awhile-at-onward-to-our-past.html#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 10:37:32 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3544

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Genealogy is all about family.

One of our typical pasty parties!

One of our typical pasty parties!

After all, genealogy IS family.

Family history and ancestry ... four generations of the strong women in my wife's family!

Family history and ancestry … four generations of the strong women in my wife’s family!

As followers of my genealogy website here I wanted to tell you about a bit of a change in direction with our genealogy postings here at Onward To Our Past and why this is.

Some of you may know that my better half has been in a fight against brain cancer for some years now. She has fought, and continues to fight, it every day. Day in and day out. Recently however we got the news that the tumor has gone into a very aggressive mode and is now Stage IV. We have made the decision for in-home hospice care and I continue to be her primary caregiver.

Naturally this is a time for soul searching, reflection, prayer, and meditation.

I will certainly be continuing to post genealogy-related information, but I hope you won’t mind, and will find enjoyable, the fact that many of them will be a bit more introspective and family oriented. Genealogy has always centered on family, but now it takes on a deeper meaning within our household and extended family.

So for awhile at least my posts will be a bit more personal, reflective, and delving into the meaning and importance of family history, genealogy, and our ancestry.

My best half and her posse!

My best half and her posse!

I owe these stories to my better half and Editor-in-Chief. I hope you enjoy joining us!

Onward To Our Past,

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Using Genealogy To Bring Families Closer Together – The Best Benefit of Our Family History Work!http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/using-genealogy-to-bring-families-closer-together-the-best-benefit-of-our-family-history-work.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/using-genealogy-to-bring-families-closer-together-the-best-benefit-of-our-family-history-work.html#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 10:34:41 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3539

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Using Genealogy To Bring Families Closer Together – The Best Benefit of Our Family History Work!

Whenever I am working on our family genealogy I am reminded of that old advertisement from the M&M Mars Company. Promoting their two hit candy bars, Mounds and Almond Joy, in the same ad it simply stated:

“Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don’t.”

Almond joy and mounds

As all of us who have researched our genealogy and ancestry know we tend to come across the ‘nuts’ and those who happen to be a bit less nuts in our family histories. It is the stories, customs, foods, and times of our ancestors that really make our genealogy work come alive. I know it certainly does for me. I love our family – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

No one in our family had undertaken any genealogy or family history work on our family prior to my efforts. As far as I could find the most anyone had done was the customary classroom project, perhaps about 6th grade, of putting together a rudimentary family tree that went “all the way back” to our grandparents . This made my efforts all the more enjoyable for me as I delved into new and unexplored territories for our family tree whose roots run extraordinarily deep in Cornwall, Bohemia (Czech Republic), and Italy. Each discovery was new and exciting to me. So exciting that I quickly realized two things.

First I realized that what I was discovering was far too exciting and interesting to simply keep to myself, so I began to share my findings with any relevant family members of that branch.

Second I quickly realized I needed to be able to create, preserve, build our family tree, and share all our discoveries electronically. I wanted to be able to quickly and easily share all this with every member of our geographically dispersed family.

I accomplished all of the electronic needs I had identified for our genealogy and family tree by using the Family Tree Builder Software and its accompanying website created and operated by MyHertitage.com. This package fit our needs perfectly for several reasons:

• It gives us worldwide access by all our family members no matter where they are.
• We can add the usual data to the family tree, but also photos and freehand notes to each and every profile on our tree.
• MyHeritage.com provides us with unparalleled security, which was a top priority when I queried our family members about having an online family tree.
• With just two clicks, anyone can send an email to all of our family members on the site.

With our electronics taken care of, all that remained was for the communication method to be chosen. In our family we produce a weekly “Your Family Update”. This email sent via our website gives any news and information on our family history and family each week.

Initially when I began these Updates I will admit many family members were looking at me as if I was one of the ‘nuts’ in the family, but guess what has happened?

These Updates have not only become something everyone looks forward to receiving now, but they have brought our family much closer together than we ever were before.

It wasn’t long before the communications began to really take off as a two-way path. As often as I was sending out new information family members were sending in new information, questions, comments, additions, stories, photos, and corrections.

I also augment these regular communications during any family special events/gatherings and holidays. For example, I incorporated a ½ day family history tour and event during my mother’s recent 90th birthday celebration. Additionally, during every holiday gathering I create and then we all play some fun game that features family memories, history, stories, etc. Not only does everyone enjoy playing the games, but I get some very valuable insights and information to add to our family tree!

Memory Game

Then the real magic unveiled itself. Slowly at first, then gathering steam over time the communications across many of the branches of our family began to expand and improve. More emails, more telephone calls, texting, connections via social networks, and best of all, visits! Family members began to go out of their way to reconnect in person with cousins, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews. Although in many cases decades had intervened, the newly reestablished family connection via our genealogy had reopened those old doors and reignited the desire to reconnect.

It has been a wonderful experience to see our genealogy go from being seen, in its beginnings, as just a bunch of fairly dry facts, figures, and data to blossoming into a living, growing movement within our family. It has been a blessing beyond my wildest dreams. I hope yours is too!

Enjoy going Onward To Our Past®

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