You know me as an artist. You've seen my subjects and my techniques. Between managing my artist blog, working in my home art studio, editing a website (actually two because I admin for a local non-profit's webpages), painting almost daily, producing a line of greeting cards, and marketing, I admit my plate is full. However, now and again, I shift gears and tackle the ubiquitous task of researching the family roots.
I have done this throughout the years. My family traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah, on vacation, and a block of time was scheduled to stop at the famous Family History Library.
This was in the early 1990s, and this was still the best way to get information.
I recall the 3 hours that I sat at a microfiche reader, scrolling through a rather large screen on a massive machine until my eyes glazed over. Yet, I did find smidgens of info on my grandparents' arrivals in the United States.
Years later, here we are. The 2022 research is from my living room with a click of a name; add any other information I might have, and BOOM! up comes something or nothing...and you start again. It's a far cry from taking hand notes. My primary websites are Ancestry.com and familysearch.com. Both offer wonderful search features, certainly more pleasant to use than the tedious methods of the past. I favor Ancestry.com because my subscription gives me many options to dig deeper to find those "roots."
How can I tie my art to my foray into Genealogy? It begins with memorabilia and photographs. Among my mother's items is a passport issued by the War Department, Washington D. C. This is Stella. We called her "Babka" (grandmother).
Grandma was a "Gold Star Mother." She lost a son in WW1, and in 1933, she and a group of other Gold Star mothers were able to travel by ship to the areas in France to visit the gravesites of their lost ones. Julius Wozenski (my mother's stepbrother) lies in Oise Aisne American Military Cemetery in northern France.
The Pilgrimage was the last of the Gold Star groups to visit the hallowed ground upon which their loved ones were buried. Records show that 81,155 members of the American Expeditionary Forces gave their lives during World War I.
Another relative noted that Julius Wozenski also has a memorial in my hometown of Westfield, Massachusetts. On my next trip back, I will visit the site and pay my homage to his memory.
In amazingly good shape are pressed flowers, more than likely taken from the site, lovingly kept in the booklet, and more than likely laminated at a later date.
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My grandmother emigrated to the U.S. in 1913 at the age of 22 with two stepchildren in tow, and then married and added two more children: my mother, Helen on the left (age 3), and her brother, my "uncle Steve." on the right (age 2)
My grandmother's home smelled like laundry because she bleached, washed, and steam-ironed local businessmen's shirts.
She also knew a few words in English, but my mother would mostly have to translate most conversations about her grandkids into her native Polish.
You have met my maternal grandmother, Stella Wozenski, who later married a Gutowski. My paternal grandmother was Wolozemski, who married a Chrzanowski (my maiden name). You get the picture. My AncestorDNA is 69% Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland & Lithuania, 37% Baltics, and 4% Germanic Europe.
I married a Mason. My husband's family tree is so much easier. His mother's line is Pugh, and a total volume of genealogical publications makes things easier.
We have a charcoal drawing of my husband's maternal grandfather, Charles Newton Pugh (1862 - 1936). Does one wonder what prompted this formal portrait? I don't have a date, but it's in relatively good shape, and the mat is almost pristine behind the glass.
The picture above was taken on the family farm in West Virginia. Russell (far left) was 16 years older than Martha, my husband's mother. Families were bigger and brought up to be hardworking, proper, and resilient.
It's amazing how much I feel connected to my ancestors, or even my husband's ancestors, because of the resemblance or stories passed on to others. Ancestry now has "hints" when their database finds something that will give you a possible match.
These are cleverly in the shape of a leaf. (family trees, get it?)
The hints allow you to click each one and compare existing information or verify those you have input and check the veracity.
Genealogy is time-consuming, and I can't do it for any length without taking a break. There is a lot of checking and re-checking. Have I found the right "Jonathan Martin" Mason?
It is fun but takes patience and perseverance. I love to feel a connection with my ancestors. The Mormons trace their family trees to relatives who can be baptized by proxy in the temple.
It does give me great pleasure to learn a new fact about my mom, grandmother, or great-uncle that I didn't know. Technology has very much improved the process of finding information. Ancestry.com is amazing. Links to the census years, newspapers, high school yearbooks, marriage and death certificates, Social Security, and City Directories are common. The microfiche of years ago is a click to a hint from other users or searches you haven't considered.
Ancestry.com is the world's largest online family history resource, with more than 2.7 million paying subscribers. Ancestry users have created over 47 million family trees containing approximately 5 billion profiles. Clicking links in this post may generate an affiliate commission at no extra cost.