Photo Corner

Laura Aszmann Krech, born 28 Dec 1892 in MinnesotaContributed by Bernice Salo
This is a picture of Laura Aszmann Krech. She was born 28 Dec 1892 in Minnesota. She was my father’s first cousin and married my father’s second cousin when she was nineteen. I think it is such a sweet picture. Looks like she is about sixteen here.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Joseph and Rosa (Haider) Freisinger, around 1893Contributed by Shelley Freisinger
These are my husband’s great-grandparents, Joseph and Rosa (Haider) Freisinger. The picture was taken around 1893. Joseph emigrated from Germany, and Rosa from Bohemia, and they both settled in Iowa, around Marion. He was a pharmacist by trade.

Ancestry Improves “Hints” in Member Trees

hint engine.bmpOne of the most popular features of Ancestry Member Trees is the “Hint Engine.” This is the tool that searches Ancestry databases for records that may pertain to the individuals in your tree and displays the hits when you click on the leaf next to each person’s name.  Since August it has helped people find and attach over seven million records (including 354,735 just last week).

What’s changed in the hint engine is the ability to find even more records that match, and (perhaps even better) to filter out the ones that don’t match—in fact the ability to filter out non-matching hints has been improved by 400%.

So, if you haven’t been to visit your family tree lately, give it another look. If you haven’t uploaded your GEDCOM, this is a good time to do it.  Send Ancestry what you have and let the hint engine have a crack at some of those hard to find ancestors!

Honoring Our Ancestors: Finding Oprah’s Roots on January 24th

Oprahs Book.bmpby Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak

If you haven’t already heard, you’re going to want to check out your PBS station tonight, January 24th, for Oprah’s Roots (check your local channel here for details).  I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing the special yet, but I just received and gulped down the companion book, Finding Oprah’s Roots: Finding Your Own, by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and can only hope that another Oprah-inspired campaign is about to begin–this time for genealogy.

Familiar Territory
If you’ve been digging into your past for even ten minutes, Finding Oprah’s Roots will feel familiar.  What a pleasure to read a book that includes census records as illustrations and quotes the likes of Tony Burroughs, Elizabeth Shown Mills and Johni Cerny!  Imagine my delight when I found the 1870 and 1880 census records for Constantine Winfrey, one of Oprah’s great-great-grandfathers, shown side by side to point out how to you could use the documents to determine that he had learned to read during that decade! This isn’t genealogy-lite.

Uncovering Oprah’s roots also revealed a bit of a family theme–in this case, on stressing the importance of education. I think that will resonate with many.  How many of us during the course of our research have discovered family traits that manage to emerge in various ways in virtually every generation?  As I often say, our roots claim us in ways we don’t even know. Continue reading

Tagged Follow-Up: Randy’s Scorecard

I’ve been wandering around reading all the genealogy columnists who have been playing the “Five Things About Me” game of tag, and ran across Randy Seaver’s Genea-Musings blog, where he has links to all of the participants in our little game. It’s been fun reading about fellow bloggers and their lives outside this wonderful field! I hope everyone is printing out a copy of their five things to include in their family history for future family historians!

Ancestry Appoints Megan Smolenyak as Chief Family Historian

Megan Smolenyak.JPGI am thrilled to see this press release from Ancestry this morning! Congratulations Megan and welcome to the team! 



PROVO, UTAH – January 23, 2007 –, the world’s largest online family history resource, today announced the appointment of Megan Smolenyak as Chief Family Historian.

Ms. Smolenyak, an award-winning professional and author/co-author of four books, has an impressive background in the family history industry with several decades of experience. Ms. Smolenyak most recently rewrote history by uncovering the true story of Annie Moore, the first immigrant to come through Ellis Island.

 “We couldn’t be more pleased to expand our relationship with Megan and have her join our stellar research team led by noted Loretto Dennis Szucs (Lou),” said Tim Sullivan, CEO of The Generations Network, parent company of “With Lou and Megan together, we are proud to have two of the most well-recognized authorities on board. Lou and Megan both bring unique talents to the table and the combination of their efforts creates an unrivaled team. Megan has an unmatched mix of knowledge in both traditional and DNA family history research. Coupled with her ability to effectively communicate and evangelize the category, she has a natural talent for genuinely inspiring and motivating people when she talks about family history.” Continue reading

Things You’ll Wish You Didn’t Know about Me

DSC04315.JPGThis morning Megan Smolenyak tagged me for a game that’s been circulating with online genealogy bloggers and I thought it would be fun to share some things about me that don’t typically come up in my columns (or at least that haven’t yet!).

1) I love football, and this week, I am really loving it since my beloved Bears are going to the Superbowl! Go Bears!! (I actually cried when they won yesterday.)

2) The pets in my house outnumber the humans. I am a softy when it comes to animals. Tasha is our golden retriever that we got shortly after my daughter was born. In 2000, a couple cats adopted us by camping in our backyard until we finally took them to the vet, got them cleaned up and brought them in. My husband named one Creed and the other one Pearl Jam (and now you know his taste in music). Creed won us over when he jumped up from our grill outside to the the window in our kitchen where he clung to the screen like Spiderman, meowing piteously for us to please let him in. Continue reading

Weekly Planner: Assemble Ancestral Addresses

Noting your ancestors’ locations chronologically can lead you to other records created in a particular time and place. Spreadsheets and word processors can help you create timelines with dates, addresses, and sources. Use these tools to note record gaps and ancestral migrations. Compare these chronologies with those of related families. By looking at where and when your ancestors lived at a particular time, and investigating circumstances in an area around the time of moves, you can gain a deeper understanding into what was happening in their lives and add depth to your family history.

Click here for a printer friendly version of this article.

“What’s in an Address?” by Juliana Smith

Last week, I took off Friday to work with the PTA at my daughter’s school. Once a month we hold a popcorn sale and it’s typically an all-day event. As I worked with one of the volunteers that I’ve just recently gotten to know, we made small talk. The conversation turned to how we ended up in this area of northwest Indiana and I mentioned that I had spent a number of years living in Chicago. Turns out she grew up in Chicago too.

This wasn’t particularly surprising since we’re relatively close to that large city, but when we began talking about neighborhoods, what we learned had us staring at each other in disbelief. Turns out the two-flat I lived in when I first got married was her childhood home! Considering the fact that in 1990 there were 1.5 million parcels of real estate in Cook County, what are the odds that years later two people who lived in the same parcel at different times would be fellow PTA board members working together at our children’s school in a different state? I’m still getting goosebumps!

It’s interesting how all of our lives intertwine in strange and wonderful ways. I reflected back on the time we spent in that house, the neighbors, and the life changing events that took place there. We rented the bottom floor of that house when we got married, and my daughter was born during the years we lived there. I started a garden in the yard (and quickly learned that while morning glories are beautiful, they can quickly overtake a nearby vegetable garden). We survived the heat wave that came over the summer of 1995 with a kiddy pool in the back yard, and I remember sitting out back talking with the neighbors upstairs, in the coach house in back, and next door. Although we only spent three years in that house, that period reflected an important time in my life. Continue reading

“Using Coroner’s Records,” by Mary Penner

Remember those famous lines by poet Dylan Thomas? “Do not go gentle into that good night/Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Addressing the poem’s lines to his dying father, Thomas urges him to challenge death, to fight to the end, and to not go quietly or gently.

Some of our ancestors did just that. Their earthly ends came with a flourish, although it may have been a tragic flourish. Farm accidents, gunshot wounds, stabbings, drownings, even lightning strikes–some of our ancestors met death in a stunning, anything but gentle, manner.

If your ancestor had an untimely end, check for details in the local coroner’s records. Dating back some 900 years, the coroner’s system traces its beginnings to medieval England. Death was serious business in merry old England. Strict and complex rules governed death, its circumstances, and the handling of corpses. The coroner imposed hefty fines on community residents who side-stepped the rules regarding dead persons. Continue reading