Posted by Jennifer Holik on December 21, 2016 in Guest Bloggers, Holidays

We have reached the final month of 2016. Most people are looking forward to the holidays and looking back at what they accomplished this year. We count our blessings and begin creating goals for the new year. For some, the goal of breaking down a brick wall or adding more people to their family tree is on the list. Perhaps there are unanswered family questions to be answered. Whatever the goals, we know with genealogical and military research, we are never finished.

Have you considered looking at your genealogy or military research from a different perspective than just adding people or facts to your family tree? Have you been writing the stories of your ancestors or military family members? If not, why not make a resolution for 2017 to begin writing. Need some help?

As you look back over this year, or your entire research lifetime, ask yourself several questions.

  1. How has researching your family history or military family member’s history changed how you research?
  2. How has it changed your life?
  3. Who did you meet along the research trail? New family members? People who became good friends?
  4. Were unanswered questions finally answered? Was there any healing or peace in the family with that?
  5. Did you discover any family secrets?
  6. Were any family secrets explained?
  7. What lessons did you learn this year, or over the course of a research project?
  8. Did your research take you on any adventures around the world?

As you explore these questions, and add your own, it may change your research perspective and open new avenues. You may also discover similarities between you and your ancestors that you didn’t realize existed.

Looking back over the last four and a half years of research on my military family members, I see a lot of changes in my work, research, and life. I am spiritual and believe in serendipity. Many people say genealogical serendipity is when your ancestor “shows up” or “provides you with a document” or other miraculous event that helps you uncover more of your family’s history or break down a brick wall. This has happened to me not only by my own ancestors showing up but also soldiers I’ve researched. All have guided me along my journey.

What have I discovered? Exploring the life of my paternal grandparents, Grandma Libbie and Grandpa Joe Holik, I learned a lot about Joe’s World War II Naval experience. I connected with the fact my grandma was in many ways a single mom when he went off to serve and again after he came home, due to medical reasons. I’ve felt her around often as I’ve researched and written as I navigate life as a single mom. While we are two generations apart, there are many similarities in our experiences.

My cousin James Privoznik was Killed In Action during the Battle of the Bulge on 11 January 1945. The Battle of the Bulge began on 16 December 1944. This month marks the 71st anniversary. When I began researching James’ story, he stayed with me for more than four years. Documents and books showed up when I needed them. People who could help me learn more about his service magically appeared. I met people in Europe who helped expand my military knowledge.

Then, when I finally visited Europe for the first time in April 2015, I met several of them in person. I also ended up, not purposely, retracing James’ steps through Europe to the point where he was killed. I had planned to walk where he was killed, having met friends of the 90th Division in Luxembourg, and fly his burial flag at Luxembourg cemetery, where he sleeps. I never expected to retrace the 90th Division’s journey on that trip.

The first trip led to several others over the last two years to a total of five. Those trips led to meeting some incredible people on both sides of the pond who are passionate about World War II research and preserving the stories of our soldiers. It also led to me meeting my fiancé, which has completely changed my life because he is Dutch and lives in the Netherlands.

Whether you believe in serendipity or not, the questions posed at the beginning of this article are important. The things we do, whether raising a family, working our job, or researching our genealogy, has an impact on our lives. As this year draws to a close, shouldn’t we count our blessings and look at what our genealogical research has brought to our lives? And of course, make plans to take our family history even farther in 2017!

Jennifer Holik

Jennifer Holik is an international WWII researcher, speaker, and author of the only authoritative books on the market, “Stories from the World War II Battlefield,” which teach individuals how to research WWII service across any branch. She can be found at her website The World War II Research and Writing Center or on Facebook.

40 Comments

  1. Sherry

    I found out just before my mother died that my dad wasn’t really my dad. I thought that doing a DNA test might turn up some relatives on my fathers side but the closest DNA match is 3-4 cousin and some 4+ shared matches. I was wondering if Ancestry has any way to filter the DNA results to find the Common shared Great Great Great grandparents. It seems hard to figure out without a name to start with as my Bio dad is not on my birth certificate. Seems like a shot in the dark but I thought I would ask.

  2. Irene Deshaies

    Was wondering how I could reach to all member in matched dna. Have a brother fighting cancer and needs a bone merrow transplant. Drs at Mary Hitchcock Hospital in Lebanon NH have been searching the National Bone Merrow Registry but have not found anyone as of yet, but are dedicated to continue researching .
    Looking for a match and willing to donate.

  3. Sue Etherington

    With the DNA matches it doesn’t help that only the next page can be accessed by one click so it takes ages to get to the 100+ pages of matches that I have. What is needed is for the page numbers to appear in blocks of ten so that ten clicks would get me to page 100. I’m sure most people don’t look at their distant matches for this reason.

  4. Carol Kuse

    Just found out a distant cousin died on the carrier, Bunker Hill, 11 May 1945 during a Kamikaze attack in the battle of Okinawa.

  5. Ed Yeutson

    My Grandfathers side on my dads side has always been a brick wall and it was before computers were around visited a lot of cousins and county seats that helped me a lot along the way. but it hasn’t been till the last year that I feel more comfortable. I was 90% sure I was wright but their was that little bit of dought that keeped me looking. we did DNA Kit on my dad, myself, my sister and 2 3rd cousins I knew we were relate with out a dought, we came up with with 2 DNA matches that had a DNA & a paper trail not as much as I would like to have seen. had talked to some at Ancestry DNA at a conference. she said, beings the 1 3rd cousin that was 91% Scandinavian matched with the 2 different distant cousins and back 5 generations to prove my research with myself, my father, sister and 1 of 3rd cousins is a good possibility your research is correct, and thousand or so of trees that DNA match but no paper trail. I can see that it’s not going to be a easy task. I have been scanning photos and documents for 6 years and 11 other projects to go that I want to get done. the 40 years I have done family history I have had a very strong drive for it. and some of the things I know in my head from memory from years ago when the older folks were still alive, I may be the last one in the family that knows people in photos by sight and storys that were told years ago. that’s why it is so important that we all document it before old age, Dementia and all timers stills it away and its lost for ever.

  6. Kamini Verma

    All of the content very bad effected and poor if it’s not written by heart. But we don’t forget mind is very intelligent in this kinds of task. So I mean is if you doing work on some honest and emotional content than please write it from heart. More suggestion available here… http://www.astrologypandit.com

  7. Jane Killeen

    What a wonderful journey you’ve been on, Jennifer! I’ve also had that feeling that some of my ancestors have helped to guide my research ~ not as often as I always would like though! 🙂

  8. Patricia umelo

    I’m looking for my slave ancestors in African American and I want to know what part of Africa originated in or rather from period over 111 million Africans were brought here from West Africa and I’m surprised I can’t get any information on ancestry.com about my relatives originating from there. Also I know that my grandfather was a full blood white for the Indian.

  9. Patricia umelo

    My grandfather on my dad’s side was a full-blood black foot Indian. So I know I originate from slaves and Native American Indians. I look like an Indian and I even have a roll number.

  10. Cindy Thomson

    I have to share this wonderful story. The Lord works in such great ways. I had a bad night last night 12/24/16 missing my mom who passed away two years ago on 12/28. I did a lot of praying. Now for his great way he works… I have been searching for my cousin who was given up for adoption 69 years ago. I sent out more letters to places that he may have lived and today I picked up the phone to hear a WONDERFUL man’s voice at the other end of the phone “Hi is this Cindy? Yes. This is your cousin David! Merry Christmas” He told me that he had gotten our letter! He has had a wonderful life and would love to meet our family. I took his phone number and called my cousin his 1/2 sister to see if she was home so that she could call him as she lives in another state. Now for the kicker, my husband and I did newborn (pre-adoptive) foster care for the same agency from which David was matched with his parents 69 years ago. How wonderful is our Lord today! Pictures are being exchanged, I am sure more phone calls and hopefully a meeting soon. Merry Christmas. Oh, I should add that it was a search angel on this site that found out his name for us!

  11. Kimberly Guillen

    I had done this testing to find out of I’m half Native American because my dad was 3/4 Indian. I’m 70% Great Britain. I have the Kingsbury family tree and some years are missing. Would love to get all branches documented because we are a major part of American History and Royal Ancestors. I’m trying to connect the dots now. Thanks.

  12. Bobby Jones

    None of the people on my search turned out to be family..I need to check some dates and locations to make sure im accurate in my search info

  13. Colleen Walker

    I started our military information about two years ago and realized I didn’t know exactly WHAT they did in the service of the USA. I have 5 brothers and started making phone calls and interviewing them. Three were in the Navy, I found out what ships they were on. One was a Battle Ship, another was on an Air Craft Carrier, and the third was a Mine Sweeper. The forth brother was in the Army in Korea and the was Combat Engineer and the fifth was in the Air Force worked on the Flight Line. That was just the beginning…. When I finished with my brothers I started going back and was very impressed with the Patriots in our family. The younger generations suddenly took an interest.
    So please take into consideration the people who have been members for 10 or 20 years and continue giving more than a “1 time rate” AARP for seniors. We need to grow our trees with the growing Ancestry program information, that had also grown over the years. As a retired senior on a fixed income I find it more and more difficult to pay full price. Please, I am not asking for anything free and I find your 6 month price package reasonable but could you give us faithful members the same price for the year. Your company has the records/dates of longtime returning members, just offer us a better rate.
    Thank you,
    Colleen

  14. Debbie

    What if you don’t have any information. @ have no 1 alive that would have the information you would need? How could you get started with nothing 2 start with?

  15. Julie Beck

    Strange quirk of fate that I am even doing genealogy research. I am married in my late 50’s an only child with no “issue” of my own that they say in the genealogy world. I was raised by a couple who left the rural south in the 1960’s to carve out their lives in what we now know as “Silicone Valley” in Santa Clara, California. Knew very little about my American/Southern heritage (generations of southern family members have never left Georgia and all have roots in the cotton mills and share cropping. Never thought of my DNA and my ethnic history.
    For the last six months I have been researching my families ancestors on Ancestry. Did my Ancestry DNA test and it came back 94% English (who knew). Apparently, my southern agricultural roots lead back to immigrants from England….who in turn apparently lead back to the nobles of England. Apparently, my humble southern ancestors are related to the Kings of England and most of Europe…I am currently, back into the 1200’s and no sign of my research stopping.
    I have a lot of family now, don’t feel so rootless. I come from the Kings and Queens of Europe….WOW!!!!

  16. Brenda

    I had always been told by my mother that her grandmother was native American. I decided this year to DNA test just out of curiosity. The results showed that I had no Native American DNA. I was surprised. I then started searching my family roots and traced my mother’s family back to Scotland and Ireland. Very surprising.

  17. Richard Mott

    Just in case there are some of you who haven’t looked over any census records lately, I was really pleased with, what is to me, the new record viewing format. Having the column names always visible across the top and the peoples names at the left side when not visible has been enormously helpful in speeding up my searches. Congrats to whoever came up with that idea.

  18. Nancy

    I did the DNA test with the pre-conceived idea that I was 100% (or close to it) German. When the test came back it said I was 57% British Isles and I was upset as I was sure it was wrong and I got someone else’s results. I decided to work on a tree with the free trial and found in only 4 days that going back just 2 generations the German virtually disappears and is replaced with Scottish and British ancestors. My biggest surprise was that my 20th great grandfather was Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland…not bad for a little “German” girl!

  19. Rian Klenke

    Unfortunately this is a negative comment your compant are bunch of rip-off artists I’ve been telling all my friends never use your company cuz Ancestry cheated me out of the cost of my Bogus DNA results

  20. Susan Hawkes

    Husband’s closest DNA match – 3rd cousin – on AncestryDNA responded! THe cousin – match is in Australia, but originally from Cork Ireland. 4th cousin on Ancestry.com, also related to same line also in contact. DNA confirmation of the maternal paper trail we have found for my husband, who was adopted from Ireland at the age of 3 years. This has been a 20 year search for family and Heritage. Common ancestors are husband’s great great grandparents. Beautiful family photos and stories being shared! So grateful and delighted!!

    Thank you Ancestry.com !

  21. Austin Gray

    It seems there are many people who discover their ethnic background is predominantly “Europe West” and they translate that to “Germany”. Wouldn’t that region cover France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, northern Italy, etc.?
    Also, how far back in time do these estimates go since a high percentage of one’s ethnic background in Great Britain would include Scandanavian roots also (invasions by Nordic peoples/ Vikings)?
    Finally, if anyone has their family tree on Geni.com as well as Ancestry, you’ll see just how many people can claim Robert the Bruce as an ancestor. My tree “explodes” (Geni’s so-called “magic”) to reveal not only Robert the Bruce but many more well known historical figures although there is absolutely no traditional source documents that meet any genealogical standard proving such. But it is fun to imagine!

  22. Martha Trevino Herrera

    Yup found out I own a federal trust thanks to Mom and dad such a wicked corrupt us government trying to steal what’s mi I want my billions

  23. Martha

    I have been a member of Ancestry for years. I took a break as my husband had cancer and died. Now that I am back, I cannot figure out how to add information or pictures. I cannot find any joy in this new program.

  24. Paul M Phillips

    2016. The year I met my birth father and my half-sister, after a long and arduous search using Ancestry. The story is almost surreal. Tracing your family backward through time, using DNA, is a task, but worth it. Turns out I know more family history than my birth father or his daughter than they do, and now I can share it with them.

  25. Clarence L. Jones

    Hi Jennifer, Was reading your post, and when I got to the part where you mentioned your cousin James Privoznik being KIA during the Battle of the Bulge on 11 January 1945 a kind chill went through me. Talk about serendipity, my oldest brother Bill was KIA there on 13 January 1945. I was nine years old at the time. My oldest sister gave me his Purple Heart and Silver Star to keep. I haven’t been to successful in the past gathering more military information about his service, or my brother Bob, or my father’s service during WWI, because of the records were destroyed by the fire you mentioned. I’m going to try again using your suggestions. Oh! And I pressed a key by mistake on my iPad and wound up here reading your post.

  26. Amy

    It is a wonderful feeling watching how this special family has clung together and supported one another’s efforts to piece together valuable family history. I have been overwhelmed with intense emotions as members have shared personal accounts on a face to face basis. My heart is thankful for the great effort in working through the hard times. Much love to all of those who took the time to make this a cohesive family legacy.

  27. Brenda M.

    Thanks for the inspiration for me to blog, Jennifer. I started researching my family history on Ancestry.com a few years ago. I was blessed to meet a couple of cousins. One had written a book which I purchased. It was an interesting ‘read’ – about our great-great-grandfather’s arrival from Virginia to New Orleans on a ship in the mid-1840s. He was 19 years old.
    I encouraged my brother to do the DNA test. He and our new male cousins share dominant regional ethnicity which comes from Nigeria.
    Yes, I’ve had ‘serendipity’ events, also. It has enriched my research tremendously, and, who knows – a short story may be in the works one day.

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