Onward To Our Past http://onwardtoourpast.com Genealogy Tips, Help, and Fun with a focus on family and history Wed, 26 Nov 2014 11:01:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 Genealogy and Giving Thanks: Who’s at Your Table?http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/genealogy-and-giving-thanks-whos-at-your-table.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/genealogy-and-giving-thanks-whos-at-your-table.html#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 11:01:00 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3667

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Genealogy and Giving Thanks: Who’s at Your Table?

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday and, if you have been following here, you know it is my favorite. To me it is one of the last non-commercial holidays and needless to say you will not find anyone from our family out at the stores on Thanksgiving Day. Rather we will be celebrating being thankful for all we have.

Yes, I really DO get into Thanksgiving!  This fellow is 10' tall!

Yes, I really DO get into Thanksgiving! This fellow is 10′ tall!

For those of us who enjoy and thrive on our genealogy it is an even more special holiday because it is hard to be thankful and not think of those who came before us to help us get where we are today.

When we gather around our table it will be wonderful to see the faces of friends and family! Even if you are eating solo, as a genealogist we will see a lot of other faces as well.

I will see my mother who taught me family gatherings take time, money, and effort, but if YOU don’t do it chances are it may not happen, so JUST DO IT! (She was Nike well before Nike).

I see my grandmothers, especially as our table will hold two holiday dishes made direct from their recipes: pickled cucumbers and sweet potatoes.

I see my wife’s Italian grandmother who when asked by her son to finally have turkey for Thanksgiving rather than pasta did just that by cutting up the turkey to put in the pasta sauce!

I will see a multitude of the faces of ancestors worldwide who, in the case of my wife’s and my family, gave up their homelands to come to America to begin a new life. The struggles they undertook are part and parcel to make it possible for us to be at our table enjoying the life we have today.

I will also see faces of family who are scattered across the globe, many of whom have only recently joined our fold through the ‘magic’ of our genealogy research.

I will see the faces of friends – old and new. Some will grace our table and some will be enjoying their Thanksgivings elsewhere in their homes, in the homes of their families, or perhaps with other friends. But no matter as their spirit and the lessons, blessings, and treasures they have imparted to me through their friendships over the years will be evident and in place.

Before we feast we will have our formal graces. One for each of the religions present at our table and many silent ones as well as we all have our special intentions for thanks.

Then at some point, while not wanting to bore the family to tears, I will step aside to some quiet place and raise my glass in a very special toast. It will be to all those who have helped me along my path be they family, friends, ancestors, etc. It will come from a place in my heart that is deeply thankful for all I have and all I received from them.

Our Thanksgiving motto at our home!

Our Thanksgiving motto at our home!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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A Genealogy Ode to Thanksgivinghttp://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/a-genealogy-ode-to-thanksgiving.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/a-genealogy-ode-to-thanksgiving.html#comments Sun, 23 Nov 2014 11:00:47 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3664

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A Genealogy Ode to Thanksgiving

A sample of a typical Thanksgiving gathering at our home!

A sample of a typical Thanksgiving gathering at our home!

I will be the first to admit I am no poet. My wife and children will all attest to this fact as well. The best I usually can do is a hinkie-pinkie and some of those are tortured for sure!

However, be this as it may, my love of Thanksgiving leads me to the following. I hope you enjoy it!

A Genealogy Ode to Thanksgiving

What am I thankful for this Thanksgiving?

I am thankful for the fact that my family tree is full of imperfections.

What you say? Imperfections in your family tree?

Oh yes, indeed! Not in the data mind you, but in the wonderful people who make it up.

We need to be thankful and bear in mind none of us are perfect.

Each and every uniqueness, blemish, flaw, difference, idiosyncrasy make our richness

Makes me thankful for the people all and each that they were.

Blessed they tried.

Amazed and thankful they risked.

Awed how some followed their hearts.

Some followed their heads.

Dreams were followed – some came true, some were dashed, but all had dreams nonetheless.

Triumphs and tragedies

Each tried, to their best I always imagine.

The rainbow flourishes throughout our tree with pride and sparkle.

Home villages, cemeteries, gravestones, those without one or all.

Maiden names hidden in the mists of time.

Birth records for ‘son’ or ‘daughter’ and nothing more.

Sons, Fathers, Grandfathers, Great-Grandfathers, Uncles, and Nephews all sporting the same given name.

Daughters, Aunts, Nieces given nicknames bearing no relation to their birth name.

Those who changed their surnames often on the fly.

Census enumerators who when in doubt scribbled.

Laughs, frustrations, brick walls, and (the occasional) breakthrough.

If they were all just like me…how boring genealogy would be!

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Genealogy Games for Thanksgiving: Simple, fun for all ages, and family tree valuable!http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/genealogy-games-for-thanksgiving-simple-fun-for-all-ages-and-family-tree-valuable.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/genealogy-games-for-thanksgiving-simple-fun-for-all-ages-and-family-tree-valuable.html#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 10:46:42 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3658

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Genealogy Games for Thanksgiving: Simple, fun for all ages, and family tree valuable!

After my most recent post on genealogy and Thanksgiving a couple of people asked me to explain how I incorporate genealogy into our Thanksgiving. So here we go.

Everyone in our family understands that I live by the adage, which I have taped up on our kitchen cabinet, “I used to have a life then I discovered genealogy.” When you combine my love of genealogy with my love of Thanksgiving it is a dream come true for me. As a result, my family allows me a certain amount of leeway to squeeze in a bit of genealogy and family history whenever we gather. This is especially true at Thanksgiving. Now that I think about it, this leeway could most likely be due to the fact I roast the turkeys for us all 

My Thanksgiving genealogy/family history game is focused on being something simple, able to be participated in by guests of all ages, and does not take too much time. Here is how we do it.

In advance of the holiday I prepare a single sheet of paper for our game. The first year I did this I kept it very simple and it was only one question. After seeing what a hit the game was, I expanded it to three questions, but never over one page. I keep the questions simple and light. You can see in the image below my first year’s form.

This was our first Thanksgiving genealogy game form.  Simple for sure!

This was our first Thanksgiving genealogy game form. Simple for sure!

I print out a copy of the blank form for each guest. I put these, with a box of pens on the table that holds our hors d’oeuvres. I announce that each person is to fill out the form, put there initials in the corner, fold their finished form, and not share their responses with anyone. I also explain that these forms need to be turned in to me prior to filling their dinner plate! Needless to say I get 100% participation!

The sign says it all...

The sign says it all…

I hold the collected forms until we are ready to move from the meal to our desserts. This gives us a chance to ‘digest’ a bit and prepare for the onslaught of pies and other goodies!

I then begin reading the responses one by one. As I finish each page I ask everyone to chime in with who they think the author was of that particular form. This can result in even more memories being shared, more stories, and some friendly interchanges between family members too.

Here is our game form from Thanksgivukkah.

Here is our game form from Thanksgivukkah.

When I am finished we all move on to the desserts.

I keep all the forms. My intention was always to take these responses and add them to each family member’s profile on our electronic family tree we maintain at MyHeritage.com, but what happened right from the get go surprised even me. Almost as soon as I had finished reading the last answers someone piped up and asked if I would type them all up and share them with everyone. As you can guess, I was thrilled to do it. After all it is our stories that cement in our memories, nourish our family trees, and draw in even the most skeptical!

It is now standard operating procedure for our family to expect a game about family history and genealogy each holiday and to have the responses shared (via my favorite, Dropbox).

I’d share this year’s game, but I know family read my blog so I have to keep it secret for now!

I hope you’ll pick a game and weave your passion for genealogy and family history into it as our family has. It really is a highlight of our holidays now!

Onward To Our Past®

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Family Genealogy — finding the inventor of the Transistor Radio Dr. Cledo Brunettihttp://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/family-genealogy-finding-the-inventor-of-the-transistor-radio-dr-cledo-brunetti.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/family-genealogy-finding-the-inventor-of-the-transistor-radio-dr-cledo-brunetti.html#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 22:37:24 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3651

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Dick Tracy, President Harry S. Truman, and Cledo Brunetti

The Brunetti Family.

The Brunetti Family.

Somehow, although I’ve never been able to quite figure out exactly how, I got incredibly lucky in my life when I married into a 100% Italian family. Not only did I get blessed with a wonderful wife, but I was accepted into a family, and a community, that enriched my life deeper than I ever dreamt possible. My wife is from the Mesabi Iron Range city of Hibbing, Minnesota and this is where I was to receive my ‘lessons’ in being Italian. Her grandparents, God rest their souls, came from Vinchiaturo (D’Aquila and Venditti) and Costacciaro (Casagrande and Brunetti). The Italian-American community in this region of Northern Minnesota was, and still is, tight knit, proud, and wonderful. As a Bohemian kid from Cleveland, Ohio, my lessons in being Italian were many, but I had loving and patient teachers. It wasn’t long before I learned that if there were ravioli and a roast of beef on the dinner table, the roast was the ‘side dish’; that while I grew up knowing the meaning of ‘family’, I was to learn a far deeper understanding of its importance in our lives; and, perhaps most important of all, that I had wasted all too large a portion of my life not knowing the nirvana that is a plate of gnocchi! (A love I might add that led me one night, with my family in tow, to scope out eight restaurants in Little Italy, New York City for a plate of gnocchi in each, but that is a story for perhaps another time).

By trade I am a genealogical historian and it was not long before I was spending my time researching my Italian ancestors and their homes. One morning over coffee my wife began telling me about her great-uncle Cledo. Her stories whet my appetite, but as a genealogist, I was a bit skeptical of some of the stories. After all, I told myself; family history can easily turn into mythology over time. So I began to research Dr. Cledo Brunetti, who was the eldest brother of her Nonna, Helen Brunetti Casagrande. I was not at all prepared for what I was about to find out about this little known, but incredibly accomplished, Italian-American.

Uncle Cledo from Life Magazine.

Uncle Cledo from Life Magazine.

My research into Uncle Cledo raised a larger question in my mind. Why does it seem that he and so many other accomplished and impressive Italian-Americans are not better recognized? This has now become a quest for me; to learn about more about hidden gems within the Italian-American community. But first let’s get back to Uncle Cledo.

As with all my research, after I had established the fundamentals through birth, marriage, census, and death records, I started to dig deeper in order to see what I could learn about the life of Uncle Cledo. I wasn’t disappointed. Not in the least.

For starters, I discovered that Uncle Cledo was the first individual to ever receive the degree of Doctorate in Electronic Engineering from the University of Minnesota, taught as a Professor at Minnesota, Lehigh, Stanford, and George Washington University. I next discovered, that yes indeed Uncle Cledo did, in fact, invent the real-life Dick Tracy two-way wrist radio Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), 27 January, 1948, page 2. Not only did he invent it, but he was one of the three men to personally deliver one of the first sets to President Harry Truman in the White House Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 24 December, 1947, page 1.

As I was reading about the Dick Tracy invention, a phrase I was reading caught my eye. It was the two words ‘printed circuit’. Yes, Uncle Cledo was also instrumental in the creation of the very earliest printed circuits, something that we now take for granted in almost every single electronic item we encounter in our daily lives.

Then while I was reading about his successful efforts to place an entire radio station in a lipstick tube Seattle Daily Times (Seattle, Washington), 16 February, 1947, page 11 I noticed that he was working for the United States’ National Bureau of Standards at that time. The historian in me perked up since I knew this branch of the government was heavily involved in some of America’s serious R&D before and during World War II.

While working at the Bureau of National Standards, Uncle Cledo organized and led the departments of Ordnance, Production Engineering, and Engineering Electronics. While there he was an instrumental member of the team that developed a thing call the radio proximity fuse, which was used successfully for the first time with what author Salvatore John LaGumina in his book “The Humble and the Heroic: Wartime Italian Americans” ‘with devastating effect’ against the Germans during their December 1944 Ardennes offensive, interestingly a battle that my own father fought in. The successful invention of this proximity fuse has been referred to as ‘the No. 2 secret weapon of World War II’ and was also instrumental in the United States’ development of the atomic bomb

One of Cledo's books

One of Cledo’s books

Chosen and honored as the Outstanding Young Engineer in all of the United States in 1947, you might think that Uncle Cledo’s focus could stray from his family, but it never did. My sister-in-law recalls how he would send his nieces and nephews coded letters as brain-teasers, which they would then have to decode so they could read them. My wife recalls receiving autographed copies of his 1970 book “Your Future in a Changing World”, which I am enjoying reading now, as well as late night private trips to an observatory in order to instill in the younger generation his love of science. She also has vivid memories of visiting with Uncle Cledo when he was taking significant time off in order to return home to Minnesota when his beloved father, Nazzareno Brunetti, was failing and again when his little brother, Arnold, had taken ill.

My final discovery should fill every Italian and Italian-American with pride. I was thunderstruck while learning that the worldwide Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) gives an annual international award “for outstanding contributions to nanotechnology and miniaturization in the electronic arts” and this prestigious award is named ‘The Cledo Brunetti Award’. Perhaps we should all start calling Dr. Cledo Brunetti ‘The Father of Nanotechnology’!

The first transistor radio!

The first transistor radio!

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Genealogy and Thanksgiving: A truly wonderful combinationhttp://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/genealogy-and-thanksgiving-a-truly-wonderful-combination.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/genealogy-and-thanksgiving-a-truly-wonderful-combination.html#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 11:12:29 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3648

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Genealogy and Thanksgiving: A truly wonderful combination

One week to Thanksgiving and I am stoked since it is my very favorite holiday of them all!

What better holiday is there for us genealogy loving folks than Thanksgiving?

A sample of a typical Thanksgiving gathering at our home!

A sample of a typical Thanksgiving gathering at our home!

As far as I am concerned it is ensconced at the very top of the list of holidays. Tradition-filled times of family, friends, and feasting. You just can’t beat it! I say with even if there are far too many greedy corporations trying to force Thanksgiving from our calendars and turn this wonderful day into just another day of Christmas commercial shopping gluttony.

As lovers of genealogy and family history there is much we can bring to the Thanksgiving table (besides a pumpkin pie) and that we can take away (in addition to some leftovers if we are lucky).

The first, and to me, most important thing genealogy fans can bring to the Thanksgiving gathering is the openness and acceptance we naturally bring to our genealogy work. We can work to insure that our holiday, while often focused on longtime family traditions is open to new ideas, new family members, and any differing lifestyles and/or beliefs that may come along with them.

Religion can be a touchy subject, we genealogists must be inclusive and accepting. In our home we always have a Christian and a Jewish blessing said at our tables by family members since we have members of both faiths and especially since we will be without Thanksgivukkah this year. As genealogists, we need to be especially sure that everyone feels comfortable and welcome at our tables whether it is at the ‘adult tables’ or the ‘kids tables’. Which reminds me…what a HUGE event it was when one of us got to graduate up to the adult tables!

Traditions are a huge and highly significant part of Thanksgiving. From the menu and recipes to perhaps football or as in our family a walk between dinner and desserts. Again, however, it is important that we do not become too hidebound in our view of these traditions and not allow any new aspects to enter this holiday. In our family we hold several recipes as sacrosanct, but we also welcome a new dish or two each year to try out and see if they ‘work’. We also have added a family game (focused on family memories, history, and genealogy) and while I admit the first year it was met with a large dose of skepticism, now some years later it is expected, enjoyed, and a ‘must’ part of our holiday.

Yes, we will be grilling three turkeys!

Yes, we will be grilling three turkeys!

Technology while not usually associated with Thanksgiving is now a crucial part of our holiday as well. We ride the edge between those who seek to ban technology from the day and those who might overdo. First, we post the access code to our wireless network so anyone can login who joins us. Then we have a ‘feeding station’ for electronics made up of a surge strip loaded with charging cords for as many types of plugs as possible. We assign one iPad to be Skype and/or FaceTime Central and welcome its use. We encourage cameras of every type and relish in the hope that there will be hundreds of photos snapped and videos captured for our memory books and family trees.

is perfect for Thanksgiving and there may be nothing better for our genealogy and family history. Stories, stories, stories! We love them, we cherish them, and we need to hear and preserve every single one of them! No better time than when we are all around the table, in the kitchen, etc. I roam every corner of our home all day eavesdropping for those stories and I keep a pen and several good, old-fashioned 3”x5” cards in my shirt pocket so I can jot them down and note who said them if I want more depth later on.

Enjoy! Nothing comes close to Thanksgiving with its lack of commercialism, main thrust of being thankful, and its inclusion of friends, family, food, and favorite festivities.

I am SO ready to get to cooking!

I am SO ready to get to cooking!

This year, for the first time since 1977 all of my wife’s first cousins will be together and it will be taking place in our home so it is going to be a great holiday in many ways, even if we only will have 18 at our tables this year.

So if you will excuse me now…I have some cleaning and decorating to do!

Onward To Our Past®

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Slavic Genealogy: Anti-Slavic Perceptions — Not only in Americahttp://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/slavic-genealogy-anti-slavic-perceptions-not-only-in-america.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/slavic-genealogy-anti-slavic-perceptions-not-only-in-america.html#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 11:10:28 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3642

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Slavic Genealogy: Anti-Slavic Perceptions — Not only in America

When I think back to my early science classes and if I recall correctly it was Socrates who made the observation and uttered the now ubiquitous statement “nature abhors a vacuum”. It seems in all areas of life this is true and so it was with the Slavs.



In his 1919 book Who Are the Slavs? Dr. Paul Radosavljevich illustrates this point very well for us. Dr. Radosavljevich notes in his Introduction that in the literature of the day there was very little written about the Slavs. Unfortunately only one group of writers seemed to actively work to fill this void.. So as with any vacuum something rushed in to fill it.

Unfortunately what filled the vacuum was not positive, but largely negative and were active in their condemnation of the Slavs. It should be noted that Dr. Radosavljevich’s book was published in 1919 during World War I so anti-German sentiment was running high, however he makes some excellent observations that go beyond simply being anti-German.

Dr. Radosavljevich points out that since Charlemagne (742-814) anti-Slav sentiment had run high among the Germans and they were the primary ones who wrote about the Slavs. One German scholar, Theodor Mommsen, said “Czech skulls do not understand reason, but hey understand blows. It is a matter of fighting for life and death.” Prince Von Bülow (1849-1929), who happened to be the Chancellor of the German Empire from 1900 to 1909, called the Poles “an inferior people to be trodden under foot.” Others referred to Slavs as ‘born slaves’. A German Congress made a resolution to wipe out the Czech people from the face of the globe.

Radosavljevich also says:

“The German scholars made it their business to lay stress on the ‘Slav barbarism’ wherever possible, to obscure the bright and glorious pages in Slav history, to emphasize everything that can be taken as proof of savagery and arrested development. Unfortunately, no one has written at such length about the Slav question, or attached so much importance to it, as the German scholars, with the result that other European nations have derived their view form them – so much so that one might almost say that German opinion on the Slavs has become the opinion of Europe.”

So the vacuum was being filled with anti-Slav sentiment and this apparent animosity was being applied to Slavs no matter if they were Russian, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Czech, Serb, etc. So the fact that Russia covers roughly 1/7th of the earth’s landmass and ranges from the Baltic to the Pacific, with the eastern portions lying in Asia and the western portions covering half of all Europe these Slavs are all the same across their lands – and be the same as Slavs in other nation states? It would do us good to remember as Rudyard Kipling said “East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.”

And there was not always a positive view of the Slavs here in the United States.

Negativity, stereotyping, prejudices, and more were being heaped on the Slavs as a people and nowhere was this more evident than in the undertakings of the Joint Commission on Immigration in the U.S. where years of hears would result in the passage of highly regressive laws barring many Slavs (and others) from immigrating to the United States.

While prejudices were apparent for all minorities and immigrant groups (other than WASPs perhaps) there was little to fight them with the Slavs. As Dr. Karel Bicha points out in his article “Hunkies: Stereotyping the Slavic Immigrants, 1890-1920” (Journal of American Ethnic History, Vol. 2, No. 1 (Fall, 1982) pp. 16-38)

“But Slavic materials were poorly represented in the European literary corpus, and few non-Slavs acquired the competence to read them. The Slavic world was a submerged and silent world. Its occupants, as an American critic phrased it, ‘far from the vertical beams of civilization’.

We were curious to learn who the ‘American critic’ was Dr. Bicha quoted. A quick phone call and Dr. Bicha was more than happy to help. He told us it was none other than Professor Edward A. Ross, at that time teaching at Stanford University, and that we might find it ‘interesting’ to look into Professor Ross and his background. We followed Dr. Bicha’s suggestion and found one of the most vehemently anti-immigrant American writers of the time. So vehement and harsh was Dr. Ross’s views that he became the basis for one of the most famous academic freedom cases in the count.

Professor Edward A. Ross

Professor Edward A. Ross

The phrase quoted by Dr. Bicha was penned by Professor Ross in his book The Old World in the New: The Significance of Past and Present Immigration to the American People (New York: The Century Company, 1914). It also turns out that Dr. Ross had quite a bit more to say about the Slavs than this! The full sentence is as follows:

“In the dim east of Europe, far from the vertical beams of civilization, lies the melancholy Slavic world, with its 150,000,000 of human beings multiplying twice as fast and dying twice as fast as the peoples of the West.” (Chapter VI, ‘The Slavs’, page 120)

Dr. Ross continues in this chapter to define the Slavs as people with a temper ‘soft and yielding’, with ‘less of the fighting, retaliating instinct than the Britons and the Norsemen’, ‘depraved and perverse’, ‘the bulk of the Slavs remain on a much lower plane of culture’, and he peppers his chapter with words such as ‘ignorance’, ‘illiteracy’, ‘superstition’, ‘priestcraft’, ‘subservience’, ‘the great Slavic invasion’, and inflammatory statements such as the following:

“…while in Texas Bohemian cotton-growers are so numerous that in some localities even the negroes (sic) speak Bohemian!”

“Among the South Slavs “every married man strikes his wife black and blue at least once a month, or spreads a box on the ear over her whole face…”

“…a big parish school, using only Polish and teaching chiefly the catechism, a high illiteracy and a dense ignorance among lads born on American soil, crimes of violence rather than crimes of cunning, horror of water applied inside or outside, aversion to fresh air, barefoot women at work in the fields, with wretched housekeeping as the natural result, saloons patronized by both sexes…”


“…the women usually lose their attractiveness early, and therewith their power to exercise a refining influence upon their men-folk.” (Editor’s note: My Bohemian grandmother would have had quite a bit to say on this to Professor Ross!)

Dr. Ross didn’t let it go there either. His chapter on the Slavs contains such headings as “Excessive Alcoholism Among the Slavs”, “Slavic Brutality and Reckless Fecundity”, in which he complains mightily about the childbearing of the Poles and ‘…the Slovak women bear a child a year – always either bearing or nursing’, “Slow Assimilation”, which begins with “Eastern Europe is full of half-drowned nationalities…”, and finishes with “The Alarming Prospect of Slavic Immigration”.

Not to leave anything to the imagination regarding his position, Dr. Ross adds “So the tide from Slavland may well and the superfecund Slavs may push to the wall the Anglo-Americans, the Irish-Americans, the Welsh-Americans, the German-Americans, and the rest…”

If all this were not enough, the Professor includes this in his final chapter:

“To the practiced eye, the physiognomy of certain groups unmistakably proclaims inferiority of type.”

“It is reasonable to expect an early falling off in the frequency of good looks in the American people. It is unthinkable that so many persons with crooked faces, coarse mouths, bad noses, heavy jaws, and low foreheads can mingle their heredity with ours without making personal beauty yet more rare among us than it actually is.”

Not surprisingly, at least to me, Professor Ross’s anti-immigrant screeds are couched in terms of his love of America. America…’love it or leave it’ or better yet, don’t come in at all.

But still thankfully our ancestors, determined to find a better future, did come!

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Genealogy We All Need A Little Help From Our Friendshttp://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/genealogy-we-all-need-a-little-help-from-our-friends.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/genealogy-we-all-need-a-little-help-from-our-friends.html#comments Fri, 14 Nov 2014 10:52:15 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3635

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We need your help! Yes we really do!

One of the best aspects of genealogy is the friends you make. Some are made in dusty archives, some via letter, some email, some in online chat rooms.

Today we here at Onward To Our Past are looking to you, our online friends, for your help and input.

The New Year is not that far away and we are contemplating a new logo for our various platforms, but electronic and paper.

Currently the image below is what we are using as our logo. We use it on our website, our Facebook page, our Twitter feed, and our YouTube channel. (CLICK on the image to see it full size)

Our current logo/banner.

Our current logo/banner.

As we consider our needs we want to have one logo in a ‘banner’ format and one in a smaller, ‘snapshot’ form.

So here are our options at this point: (CLICK on the image to see it full size)

Our new logo options/ideas.

Our new logo options/ideas.

These have crudely been marked ‘A’ to ‘H’ and we’d really appreciate your input on what you think of them.

Most importantly, which is your favorite?

Do you like our current banner better than the new proposals or do you like one of the new banners better?

What snapshot style do you like best?

What other ideas might you have? Suggestions as to size, font, etc. We are all ears!

So let us know with a comment here please! Your input will be invaluable to us as we make our decision.

Again, we would be very happy if you would take a moment and give us your thoughts in a comment here. We know you are busy, but your input will REALLY help us! After all, what are friends for? :-)


Onward To Our Past

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Slavic genealogy: Welcome (?) to Americahttp://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/slavic-genealogy-welcome-to-america.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/slavic-genealogy-welcome-to-america.html#comments Thu, 13 Nov 2014 11:18:33 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3629

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Slavic genealogy: Welcome (?) to America

Our Slavs

Our Slavs

Slavic immigration to the United States did not all occur at the same time nor at a uniform pace. Given the expanse of nationalities making up the Slavic peoples this is not at all surprising.

While Lady Liberty with her torch on high, the ‘Golden Gate’ of Ellis Island, and the piers of Castle Garden, Galveston, Baltimore, New Orleans, etc. accepted them, not all of these immigrants were met with open arms once they moved past these entry points into the interior of their new home country.

While this animosity was not unique to the Slav immigrants, it was often times very pronounced and open. This was not only true in the streets, avenues, and alleys of cities and towns, but even in the halls of Washington, D.C. For nearly a decade in the very early 1900s the United States Joint Commission on Immigration (the Dillingham Commission) studied immigrants and immigration.

Senator William Paul Dillingham

Senator William Paul Dillingham

A news story in the National Labor Tribune (Pittsburgh, PA) on March 4, 1909 was headlined “Report of the Joint Commission on Immigration of Very Great Interest – The Law Shown to Gbe Weak in Spots, Leaving Many Loopholes Open for Undesirable Immigrants.” This articles notes the Commission employed 198 people and had in the first two years along spent in excess of $344,000. This article is peppered with words such as ‘criminals’, ‘contagious diseases’, ‘dangerous types’, expressed concern over ‘the presence large numbers of Japanese, Chinese, and Hindus’, and more. Another article on the subject was headlined “Many Undesirables Get In. Women Brought Into U.S. Under Conditions Which Amount to Slavery”. This article also includes the statement “…notwithstanding the fact that the present law proposes to provide for the exclusion of every undesirable immigrant thousands of undeniably undesirable persons are admitted each year.” The table was clearly being set for what would be coming in the eventual 41-volume report of the Commission.

The outcome of the Commission would be a group of anti-immigration laws that would effectively bar immigrants from southern and eastern Europe as well as Asia. The ‘welcome mat’ for some was certainly being withdrawn.

Washington wasn’t the only place anti-immigrant fever was evident. In his 1895 article titled “History of the First Czechs in Cleveland, Ohio”, published originally in Czech in Ameriká Národni Kalendář, (Volume XVIII) Hugo Chotek recounts this story from some of the very first female Bohemian immigrants to the City:

“When those first sixteen families arrived to Cleveland, they received a cold, even cruel welcome from the local Americans. When the Bohemian women went to town as per their custom, barefoot and with shawls wrapped around their heads, bystanders would ridicule and holler at them, even going so far as to throw stones at them. The locals saw them as nothing more than gypsies, and they were neither valued nor wanted. No American would allow them to enter their homes and all 16 of them were forced to live in the courtyard and shed of Mr. Levý (who himself could only afford a small house) for many weeks.”

In 1919, Dr. Raul Rankov Radosavljevich (1879-1958), Professor at New York University work a two-volume work Who Are The Slavs? A Contribution To Race Psychology. It is interesting to me to note he dedicated this work “To the democratic spirit of the Slav. The faithful ally to: Untied States – the land of the free; Republican France; England – the mother of parliaments; Italy – the gifted mother of civilization.”

Dr. Paul Rankov Radosavljevich

Dr. Paul Rankov Radosavljevich

In Dr. Radosavljevich’s Preface to Volume I he says:

“That the Slavs are poorly understood in America even in 1918 is shown, for instance, by the fact that in the May number of Bohemian Revue (Chicago), there is a just complaint at the action of the College of the City of New York ‘in ordering the removal of the banners of the universities of Berlin, Heidelberg, Prague, and Cracow from the rafters of the great hall of the college.’ Such a regrettable occurrence is due only to gross ignorance: ‘to couple Berlin and Prague, Heidelberg and Cracow as four of a kind.’ If college people are not abe to discriminate what is Slavic and what is German what can be expected from the rest who read the writings of such intellectual centers. We ought to understand the Slavic peoples not only because there are about eight millions of Slavs in America but because of justice to the Slavic tribes who are sacrificing almost everything in defending democracy and humanity from the modern Huns.”

Editor’s Aside: If you are interested in Slavic history I recommend reading these two volumes. Dr. Radosavljevich touches on a wonderfully wide range of Slavic topics.

Decades later, Andrew Greeley put it succinctly in a newspaper article published in 1975 where he stated this about the Commission’s evident study: “most of it phony”. Greeley continued saying this phony study led to “the most unjust laws the United States has known in this century”. These resulting highly restrictive immigration laws focused on baring what the Commission deemed ‘inferior’ people from southern and eastern Europe and as Greeley again said “or, to not put too fine an edge on things, Italians and Slavs.”

So our ancestors had a combination of ‘local’ prejudices to deal with as well as prejudices being trumpeted across America through the media, academia, and more.

No wonder it is so rare to hear anyone trumpet “I am a Slav” when they discuss their genealogy, ancestry, and family history.

Next up…not only in America!

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Czech Genealogy: A Brief Primer for Better Understanding Your Slavic Rootshttp://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/czech-genealogy/czech-genealogy-a-brief-primer-for-better-understanding-your-slavic-roots.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/genealogy_blog/czech-genealogy/czech-genealogy-a-brief-primer-for-better-understanding-your-slavic-roots.html#comments Mon, 10 Nov 2014 11:20:49 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3625

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Czech Genealogy: A Brief Primer for Better Understanding Your Slavic Roots

“My ancestors are Slavs.” While this is not a description you hear very often, if you have Bohemian (Czech) roots you might want to get to know and understand the history of Slavs a bit better.

Slav Union

Long before Czech Republic, the brief 27,094 days of Czechoslovakia, and the decades of Austro-Hungarian attempted genocide against the Bohemians, these people were, and still are, Slavs. So who are, and were, the Slavs?

While we genealogists like our history defined by solid, relatively unbending lines of country borders, villages, etc. historically Slavs have a more fluid identity. Slavs, as a group, are identified by language rather than simply national borders, but our understanding of them remains crucial to our genealogy work.

The dictionary definition, according to Merriam-Webster, for Slavic languages is as follows: “A branch of the Indo-European language family containing Belarusian, Bulgarian, Czech, Polish, Serbian and Croatian, Slovene, Russian, and Ukrainian.” All of these languages descended from their immediate parent language, which is termed ‘Proto-Slavic’. The first known Slavic words have been found in Greek writings from the Byzantine Empire.

In case you think following this mixture of nationalities could make for daunting research, how about this? According to Valentin V. Sedov, in his 1994 book Slavyane v drevnosti (Moscow), to understand the roots of the Slavic people you need to research a combination of “linguistics, etymology, onomastics, ethnology, archaeology, anthropology, history, and folkloristics.”

Perhaps you might believe the Slavs are “Johnny-Come-Latelies” to history, noted Lithuanian-American archeologist Marija Gimbutas (1821-1994), former Professor Emeritus of Archeology at UCLA, mentions in her research a probable Slav homeland is Anatolia, beginning about 8,000 BC. Now THIS is old and should make us incredibly proud of being Slav descendants today for sure.

One of the earliest written references to the Slavs were conducted by the 1st Century Roman historian Pliny the Elder, a contemporary of Emperor Nero (23-79 AD). Pliny, in his work Natural History described the early Slavs, their home along the Vistula River, and their participation in the economy through the valuable Mediterranean amber trade.

According to Dr. Mitja Gustin, of the Koper Scientific Research Center there have been archeological discoveries of uniquely Slavic pottery cooking vessels definitively linked to the Slavs dating between 580 and 620 AD. This would correspond to the historic event of the Slavs invading and fighting against the Roman Empire.

Between the 5th and 7th centuries, following the fall of the Roman Empire, the Slavs greatly expanded their territory and moved in three directions; northward, southward, and westward.

Today scholars divide the Slavic languages (and people) into three main branches, based on geography and their languages. They are East Slavic (Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian); West Slavic (Czech, Slovak, Upper and Lower Sorbian, Polish, Pomeranian/Kashubian, Silesian, and the extinct Polabian); and South Slavic (Slovene, Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian, Montenegrin, Bulgarian, Macedonian, and the literary language of Old Church Slavonic).

With such deep roots, why do we ignore identifying as Slavs?

Quite a history isn’t it? So with this incredibly deep taproot why do you so rarely hear folks with Slavic heritage trumpeting ‘I am a Slav’?

Could it be that the word ‘slob’ came from Slav? No, slob comes from the Irish.

Perhaps it might be that ‘sloven’ comes from Slav? Whoops, nope again! Sloven comes from Dutch.

I have my own theory, which I readily admit needs much more study. I believe it goes all the way back to the early days of the Slavs when they were ‘found’ by Christian peoples and their forced conversion began, the preponderance of Freethinkers among some of the Slav immigrants, and of course, the often hateful, but unfound, prejudices against anyone who is ‘not like me’. But as I said, this is only my personal theory.

The United States Joint Immigration Commission (often referred to as the Dillingham Commission, inasmuch as its Chair was Senator William P. Dillingham R-NH) spent the years between 1907 and 1911 studying immigration and immigrant groups in the United States. In their work, they reported 14 Slavic groups in America: Bohemians/Moravians, Bulgarians, Serbians, Montenegrins, Dalmatians, Bosnians, Herzegovinians, Croatians, Slovenes, Poles, Russians, Ruthenians (Ukrainians), and Slovaks. When this Commission finished its work in 1911, it issued a 41-volume report (that is not a typo, 41 volumes!), concluded that immigrants from southern and eastern Europe posed a significant threat to American society and culture. This report would be used as the rationale for the sweeping immigration restrictions in the 1920s against southern and eastern Europeans as well as Asian.

For a much more learned view, it is worthwhile to read (or reread) an article written by one of my favorite academics who spent a good portion of his teaching career as a Professor of History at Marquette University, Dr. Karel Denis Bicha. The article is titled “Hunkies: Stereotyping Slavic Immigrants in America 1850-1920” (Journal of American Ethnic History, Vol. 2, No. 1 (Fall, 1982), pp. 16-38.

One of the many valuable points Dr. Bicha makes in this work is the following:

“Secondly, ethnic stereotypes serve as indices of deviation. They convey to the concerned members of the host society, however inaccurately, a sense of how far the stereotyped group diverges from the value system and expected pattern of behavior of the host society.”

He then continues to explain:

“The image of the Slavic immigrant which emerged in the generation after 1890 was that of ‘hunky.’ Like the terms ‘wop’ and ‘kike,’ the epithet ‘hunky’ had entirely derogatory implications. It probably originated in the 1880s in the Pennsylvania anthracite region as a generic expression depicting all unskilled laborers of eastern European origins. Since slang terms do not often derive from discernible root words, it is difficult to subject them to linguistic analysis. ‘Hunky is no exception. It was probably a shortened form of the epithet ‘bohunk,’ which, in turn, was probably a conflated corruption of ‘Bohemian’ and ‘Hungarian’…”

Dr. Bicha also explains that Slavs, while linguistically related were remarkably diverse and historically the Slavs of Europe lived under circumstances that more often than not precluded any sense of commonality.

Coming up …. More on our Slavic roots right here at Onward To Our Past®

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In Genealogy Things Are Not Always the Way They Seem: Hints and Tipshttp://onwardtoourpast.com/hints-and-tips/in-genealogy-things-are-not-always-the-way-they-seem-hints-and-tips.html http://onwardtoourpast.com/hints-and-tips/in-genealogy-things-are-not-always-the-way-they-seem-hints-and-tips.html#comments Sat, 01 Nov 2014 10:12:53 +0000 http://onwardtoourpast.com/?p=3619

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In Genealogy Things Are Not Always the Way They Seem: Hints and Tips

magic hat jpeg

One of the aspects of genealogy I enjoy most is the thrill of the hunt! Reading, researching, and scouring each piece of material for the tiniest of clues to head us in the right direction to new discoveries about our ancestors.

However, there is a caveat about this I would like to sound, especially for those of you who are new to genealogy and working on your family history. It is this: Use those clues, follow those leads, but be careful not to assume too much nor read too much into them, but rather keep an open mind that all things in genealogy just might not be as they seem!

Let me give you two real world examples.

Recently I was contacted by my Dutch colleague, Peter Knegtle, regarding a branch of our mutual Knechtl family. While I was working on this specific family member (Edward Knechtel), I came across a marriage document. The groom was proper, but the bride, while having the proper given name and proper given name for her father and the proper given and surname for her mother, listed her maiden name as Sullivan, with no prior marriage for the bride, while our initial research has shown her maiden name to be Laskowski.

While I was surprised by this discovery I also thought to myself “Oh my! I’m going to be looking for a family with its head being an Irishman by the name of John Sullivan.” I will admit to you I also shuddered a bit since my forte is not in the arena of Irish genealogy by any means, but I was all set to dive in to this mystery.

I began to search for additional records for Frances Sullivan and her parents, John and Elizabeth. Nothing that came close to matching any of this family.

I decided to play to my strength and wait a bit on getting my Irish up and I decided to continue to research the bride a bit more with the Laskowski surname. Sure enough I found something.

In 1925 there was a marriage of Frances Laskoski (not Laskowski) with the same parents of John and Elizabeth. Plus while our Knecthl marriage record had listed Elizabeth’s maiden name as Vasalosfky, this earlier marriage listed it as a similar Weseloski. The major difference? The groom was not Sullivan, but Sulmonian.

1925 Frances Laskoski marriage one

We are continuing to shore up our records and findings, but it seems there is a very high likelihood we have the right person and her path here. It will be a bit of an additional challenge since the marriage was performed by a Justice of the Peace rather than having a church wedding, so there will be no church records available.

My second example pertains to my mother’s great-grandfather, William Evenden (1795-1881).

It was during some of my earliest work on this branch of our family when a cousin nicely offered to provide me with a copy of the birth record of his nearest brother. The certificate was crisp and clear (a delight) and I could easily read the father as William Evenden and the mother as Elizabeth Evenden formerly Brown. I thought I was all set with this nice gift especially since my grandmother had told me my great-great-grandparents’ names were William and Elizabeth.

A bit later on I got to thinking that it would be ‘nice’ for me to have a copy of the actual birth certificate for him, so I ordered one up from the Government Records Office in the UK.

I looked at it the day it arrived and was pleased to see the same birthdate I had, same given names, same father, then BAM! The mother was Elizabeth alright, but it said the following:

Elizabeth Evenden, late Allen formerly Body

I remember thinking ‘Say, what?’

Same given name, but a completely different woman!

It took me many months of research before I finally discovered the record for this marriage as it took place in a parish a good distance away, but there it was, the marriage of Elizabeth Allen (widow) and William Evenden (widower).

I continue to look for the death record for Willam’s first wife, but am certainly pleased that I took the extra steps to find out things were not what they seemed at first.

So as you begin or continue to work on your family history, but sure to go that extra few steps to insure that things are actually what they seem to be at first.

Onward To Our Past®

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