Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Coming out of a slump

I’d finished a project on which I’d worked intensely for some time, and then fell into a mental abyss.  It’s as though my battery had died and needed a recharge - a mental time out in the dog days of summer. So I puttered around for a while, reorganized some files, got a few things organized into binders and played some computer games. At times like this it feels that my brain is filled with fog.

I made a stab at getting going on my next story – about crossing the Atlantic as a steerage passenger in the 1880s; but it got to a certain point and then stalled.

Thank goodness, the time out did manage to get me recharged.  The fog has dissipated and I’m back.

I’m working on a report to send to my cousins. The steerage story will actually happen. And I’m going to revisit some LDS microfilms to make sure I’ve not missed anything on them.  Monthly Indian River Genealogy Society meetings resume this month.

Back into the fray.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Goodbye for now,


  • There are better sources for researching my Polish ancestors.
  • I strongly dislike the new user interface for family trees.
  • If I am not going to use it to maintain my trees, I cannot justify the cost
  • If I am not a current subscriber, I cannot view sources that I had previously attached to my tree.

The new version leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Why must I lose access to existing source documents?  Money grubbing.  Turns me off.

I will keep updating my trees on Family Tree Maker and sync them with Ancestry as cousin bait.  My main online trees will be on and my main local trees will be on Legacy.

Fortunately, my library has a world wide subscription that I can use when Ancestry seems the best place to search’ but as long as I am concentrating on Poland, those times will be rare.

When I shift my focus back to my husbands’ early American ancestors, I’ll probably go back to subscribing for one month at a time for research.  Too bad.  I really liked Ancestry before they “improved” it.

(Note to grammarians: Yes the apostrophe goes after the s because I am researching both my current husband’s family and my ex-husband’s family)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Spiraling Down the Double Helix

I feel like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole.  I’m trying to get a handle on using DNA to find more cousins.

First  hurdle is understanding the terminology.  What defines a segment? What’s a Centimorgan; and why are all Centimorgans not the same “length”? SNPs? Phasing?

The good news is that every testing company has basic information about DNA and its use in Genealogy.  They’re very helpful. The user forums on these sites can be even more helpful.

And there are other great online resources for learning

Angie Bush administers a Google+ community called DNA Genetic Genealogiy Interest Community.  In August, 2015 she’ll resume doing videos and Google+ Hangouts.

23andme tested my DNA a couple of years ago when they still delivered health information gleaned from their testing. At that time, it was the health info that prompted me to test.

What’s both interesting and frustrating is that the three testing companies all use different algorithms to analyze the raw data, find matches in their database, and also show you the probable ethnic origins in your DNA. (According to 23andme, I’m 3% Neanderthal.)  You may find that a person who is high on the list of matches on one site doesn’t show up as a match on another site even though their DNA raw data is on both.

Then there’s GEDmatch which allows you to upload raw data from any of the three testing companies. You can also upload a gedcom file that will be associated with your data. also permits you to upload your raw data from Ancestry and 23and me.

I’m on a steep learning curve trying to reconcile the analyses from three sites.

My head is spinning! I still have more questions than answers.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Quick Update to "Let's Talk About It"

Maybe it is Nature, after all.  Interesting article about genetic links to depression

I sure hope this is the start of a better understanding of this problem.

Monday, July 13, 2015


This is like work!!

I’m beginning to plan my next StoryPress story and also preparing a presentation for the Polish Interest Group of Indian River Genealogical Society (IRGS); and I’m awaiting the arrival of microfilms from LDS.

I committed to do a presentation on ordering and using LDS microfilms. There are quite a few people in the Polish group, but it seems that not many make use of the films from their ancestral Polish villages.  Some are comfortable viewing films from US sources but are put off by the language issues of international sources.  There are plenty of online language aids for genealogical research. My goal is to ease their anxieties and help them take advantage of these resources.  I am still in the process of finding the right balance – enough information to make them comfortable with the process; but not overwhelming the ones who are more timid.

I won’t be doing this presentation until October, but I started now to give me plenty of time to tweak it.  I work best by working intensely to get a good start then letting it sit for a while and then go back to it later with fresh eyes.

The next StoryPress project will take a look at what my ancestors faced on their voyages across the Atlantic.  From what I’ve read so far, it is difficult for us today to understand the conditions our ancestors faced traveling in steerage in the 1800’s. StoryPress is a very visual medium so I’ll have to find images to suit the story. So far I’ve been researching, and building a mind map.  Love mind maps.

And I’ve finally ordered microfilms of civil records in Poland.  There won’t be very many because Prussian Poland did not keep civil records until 1874.  Still, I’m hoping to find corroboration of some of the church records I’ve found. 

Fortunately my only deadline is a few months away and I can work at my own pace.  I love being retired.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Another Story Published

My new favorite medium for publishing family history stories is  It is incredibly easy to use. It’s still work to develop the story and find the right images, but it is an order of magnitude easier than doing the same thing for a Youtube video.

The biggest problem is my narration – voice, enunciation, and delivery.  I haven’t won a lottery yet, so I can’t afford to hire a professional reader. And I cannot seem to produce a narration that is more than just adequate. It eventually gets to the point where it’s either publish or go on redoing and revising forever. So it is done – for now.

This story is about my great grandparents Michael and Elizabeth Schipp in Prussian Poland.   You can find it here.  If you watch it, I’ll appreciate your comments and suggestions for improvement

On to the next project

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Let’s Talk About It

 Does clinical depression have a genetic cause? There’s no answer yet, but geneticists are studying it. My personal experience makes me think that it does. No one expects to find a specific gene related to depression; but there may be some combinations of genetic traits that makes a person predisposed to this problem.

The general reluctance to talk about any kind of mental disorder has kept it out of more than one family tree and published family history.  In my family, I think I can trace it back 3 generations.

I was diagnosed in the mid 1970s. My internist referred me to a wonderful psychiatrist who did a battery of tests. The terminology was different in those days and the diagnosis for me was “manic depressive depressive” meaning that my highs were not very high but my lows were very low. Medication helped and the Doctor taught me to cope with the up and down swings.  I will always be on medication.

My mother suffered with depression but she would not seek treatment.  Without going into details, I’ll just say that there were some difficult times when she was at her lowest. And her up times were not really “up”.

Nature or nurture?  Is my depression inherited or is it the result of living with my mother?

When I began genealogy research, I discovered that one of my mother’s maternal great uncles was committed to an insane asylum in 1895. I know only what I’ve read in his probate record, but he apparently knew he was not well. Years later his son was declared incompetent.

Is genetics at play here?

I suspect that my mother was not the only one of her generation to cope with depression nor am I the only one in my generation.  Too bad that I’m the only one willing to be open about it. I think we could learn from one another.