Saturday, July 20, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Ellen's Questions, Part 4

Tonight for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun we're wrapping up the last of the 20 questions we started three weeks ago (although I'm very surprised Randy Seaver did not pick the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing as his theme this week).

Here is your assignment, if you choose to play along (cue the Mission: Impossible! music, please!):

(1) Ellen Thompson-Jennings posted 20 questions on her Hound on the Hunt blog three weeks ago — see 
Even More Questions about Your Ancestors and Maybe a Few about You (posted 27 June). 

(2) We will do these five at a time, with
Questions 16 to 20 tonight (we did
questions 1 through 5 three weeks ago, 6 through 10 two weeks ago, and 11 through 15 last week).

(3) Tell us about it in your own blog post, in a comment on this post, or in a Facebook post.


Okey-dokey, here are my responses.

16.  If you’re into DNA, which would you say you work on more?  Genealogy or DNA?  Or about the same?

Definitely more on genealogy.  Most of the time DNA isn't sufficient to give you a complete answer, so if you don't work on the genealogy, you won't know how all those cousins are connected to you.  And you have to do regular genealogy for all the people who haven't done DNA testing!

17.  Do you think that your genealogy is ever really done?

Oh, heavens, no, not for me.  How could it be done?  You would have to do such exhaustive research on even one line to be able to say authoritatively that there really were no other records available anywhere that could help you learn more information about that family.  And I'm nowhere close to that on any of my lines.  But if someone began genealogy research to answer a specific question and nothing else, then that person could be done when the question was answered.

18.  Did you ever search an ancestor’s name on the Internet and you were surprised at what you found?

I search for ancestor names a lot to see what pops up.  I have found lots of things, but I'm not sure I was surprised.  After all, that's what I was trying to do, right?  But I can't recall any great revelations that blew me away.  On the other hand, I have been surprised to see what's online about myself when I search for my name.

19.   Do you ever feel like your ancestors are nudging you in the right direction in your research?

The only time I've ever had that feeling was when my father, my stepmother, and I went to the cemetery to look for my great-grandmother's grave.  It was a small cemetery, and the three of us spread out in different directions:  I went straight to the back, my father went to the right, and my stepmother went to the left.  Just as I arrived near the back fence, my father called out that we should probably be looking for a flat stone, because my grandfather, who had taken care of his mother's burial, was well known for being cheap and probably would not have paid for a standing stone.  Right after he said that, I looked down, and I was standing right by her stone — which was flat, just as my father had predicted.  I realize that isn't quite "research", but that's the best I have.

20.  If you could give one piece of advice to someone new to genealogy, what would you tell them?

You mean besides, "Prepare to lose all your spare time to this hobby"?  I think it would be to talk to the oldest members of the family as soon as possible and ask as many questions as you can think of; write down everything from your interviews.  Once those family members have died, their memories are gone.  And my second piece of advice is to get as many photographs identified as possible while older family members are alive, because they have the best chance of recognizing who is in those photos.

50 Years Ago: The Apollo Moon Landing

Buzz Aldrin walks near the lunar module (NASA file photo)

All week long there have been stories in the news about the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon landing.  Well known genealogy blogger Judy Russell went into great detail about her memories of the day.  One of the recurring themes during the week has been, "Everyone remembers exactly where they were when it happened."

Except, apparently, me.

Well, I kind of remember.

What I remember is my mother gathering the three of us children together and having us sit in front of the television set, telling us, "This is important.  This is history.  You need to watch this."

But I don't remember anything else.  Not Armstrong's famous words (with or without the "a").  Not film of him or Aldrin walking on the Mooon's surface.  Not the U.S. flag on the Moom.  Not the shot of the Earth from the Moon.

ZIp.  Zilch.  Zero.  The big bagel.

All I remember is my mother telling me it was important.

You'd think that at 7 years old I would have committed more to memory.  I even remember some things that happened when I was much younger, about 2 1/2 years old.

But nope, not the Moon landing.  In one eye and out the other.

I guess that means that to me my mother was more important than the Moon landing.

Well, maybe that isn't so bad after all.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Ellen's Questions, Part 3

In this week's challenge for Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, we continue to follow up on a previous one.

Here is your assignment, if you choose to play along (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music, please!):

(1) Ellen Thompson-Jennings posted 20 questions on her Hound on the Hunt blog two weeks ago — see 
Even More Questions about Your Ancestors and Maybe a Few about You (posted 27 June). 

(2) We will do these five at a time, with
Questions 11 to 15 tonight (we did 1 through 5 two weeks ago and questions 6 through 10 last week).


(3) Tell us about it in your own blog post, in a comment on this post, or in a Facebook post.


Okay, these are my answers.

11.  If money weren’t an issue, where would you go to do genealogy research?

All over the world!  I would go to Ukrainian archives and hire interpreters to find information about my Gorodetsky and Schneiderman (and maybe Kagan) family lines.  I would try doing research in Moldova with more interpreters, looking for my Gorodetskys.  I would visit the Latvian archives with yet more interpreters, desperately trying to find even one measly document about my Brainins and Jaffes.  I would go to archives in Belarus (yes, more interpreters) to see if any of the record sets listed on the Routes to Roots site include any of my Mekler, Nowicki, Yelsky, or related relatives.  If I found addresses in any of those records, I would look to see if those buildings had survived.  In Belarus I would also search for records and information about the families of my many Mekler cousins with whom I am now in contact.

It would be ineresting to go back to Cuba, now that I have a little more information about my Cuban cousins, to try researching in person, instead of having to rely on e-mail communications with my researcher there.  At least I can read Spanish fluently and understand spoken Spanish fairly well.

And that's just my mother's side of the family!

For my father's side, I'd like to go to Manchester, England (where my brother has been able to go, once) and research the Dunstans and Winns (and I wouldn't need an interpreter there).  If I could trace the Dunstans back to Cornwall, that would be my next stop.  I should also go to New Jersey to do archives research on all of his other lines, because they were all in New Jersey for such a long time.

And after all that I would probably take a break to determine my next destination.

12.  Do you ever feel as though you’re the only person researching your family?

At this point, yes.  A cousin in Ottawa, Canada was doing research for a while, even going to the point of creating a legal-sized two-page questionnaire that she sent around to all the relatives there (I am very fortunate that she made photocopies of all of the pages for me).  I don't think she is pursuing that anymore.  Other than the occasional random forays my brother makes online (which almost always produce something substantive and useful), I'm it.

13.  Why do you think you’re interested in your family history and other family members might not be?

I used to actually listen to the stories that my mother and grandmother told about family when I was a little girl.  For whatever reason, my brother and sister were apparently not as interested.  So I was already primed when, at the age of 13, I had a junior high school assignment to trace my family back four generations.  I still have that purple mimeographed piece of paper and the notes I took at the time while interviewing family members.  That assignment is what got me hooked.  I think being open to the stories and then starting so young, when I had so many older relatives who were still alive and could tell me information themselves, was a rare combination.

14.  Do you intend to write about your genealogy/family history findings?

You mean like a book?  Oh, heavens, no!  I hate writing.  But I do manage to post to my blog on a (semi)regular basis and share a lot of the family stories and discoveries that way.  And I have shared family trees with so many cousins I lost count.  If I could find someone who wanted to do the writing after I did all the research, that would work much better for me.  And then I could edit the manuscript, because I love editing.

15.  Did you ever make a genealogy mistake that caused you to have to prune your family tree?

One mistake, and one discovery via DNA.  The mistake was relying on the information in the IGI to identify my great-great-grandmother Lippincott's parents.  I happily researched the parents that were listed and went back quite a ways.  But as more records became readily available and I did more research, I discovered that there were two girls of almost the same age with almost the same name, my great-great-grandmother and another one.  That, of course, meant that I had to fully research both women.  I was finally able to determine through church records that the parents listed in that IGI record were those of the other Lippincott, not mine, even though the marriage date and husband were correct for mine.  Someone accidentally combined info from two records!  So out went the one line of Lippincotts and I began work on the correct one, which I have not been able to document as extensively, but at least I'm pretty sure they're actually mine.  The two lines will probably end up connecting some generations back, but you can't go anywhere in New Jersey without tripping over a Lippincott because they've been there so long, so I'm not worried about that yet.

The other "pruning" came when I demonsrated through DNA testing that my grandfather's father was not the man his mother married.  I actually haven't taken those people out of my family tree, because Elmer Sellers was the only father my grandfather knew, and I put years and years of work into that research.  But I have discontinued further research in that direction and now focus on determining just who my grandfather's biological father was.

Friday, July 12, 2019

It's National Motorcycle Day!

A Honda CB750, but not quite like mine*
And just what is National Motorcycle Day, you may ask?  Apparently it's a blatant marketing push by a Wisconsin-based company that offers motorcycle insurance.  But motorcycles have been an important part of my life, and I felt like posting about them as part of writing my own story, so I searched to find if a national motorcycle day existed, and I found it.  This year it falls on July 12, ergo this post.

I've decided the first bike I'll write about is my Honda CB750K, because it was the most distinctive of the motorcycles I've owned.  Based on my recollections of all of my vehicles and the fact that I now recall that I already had it when I had my knee surgery, I think I bought it about 1985.  I was living in Los Angeles at the time and had been riding a Suzuki GS550 for a while but had decided it wasn't big enough.  I bought it used, as I have done with all of my vehicles.  I don't remember what year it was, but according to the Wikipedia page about the model, the 750K was made from 1969 to 1982, so it could have been anywhere in there, and I don't know the submodel.  I'm inclined to think it was more toward the later end, as it was in reasonably good condition.  Maybe there's a way to research that kind of thing with the California Department of Motor Vehicles?  Hmm, if so I could get copies of all of my vehicle registrations and learn more about them, like their license plates.  I'm pretty sure I had a vanity plate for the Honda, but I don't remember what it was.

My Honda was blue.  It was designed as a touring bike, to be ridden long distance over highways, so it had a large gas tank for a motorcycle, 5 1/2 gallons.  This was probably my favorite feature, because it meant stopping less often to gas up, particularly helpful when I was driving regularly between Los Angeles and Berkeley on I-5.  With the Honda I only had to stop once each way for gas, whereas all my other bikes required two or three gas stops.  Because it was my primary vehicle and I hauled around various things on it, I had saddle bags and a trunk.  I also had a full fairing for highway riding.

Some of the features described on the Wikipedia page I remember:  electric starter, kill switch, dual mirrors, flashing turn signals, and air-cooled engine.  One of the problems I discovered with the air-cooled engine was that if you weren't moving, you weren't getting air to cool the engine, so on really hot days when I was stuck on the freeway it would often stall on me.

Three things I remember about my Honda are not described on the page.  First, it was extraordinarily tall, so tall that I had trouble getting on it for the first few months after my knee surgery, which was in the fall of 1985 if I remember correctly.  I had to very carefully pick up my right leg and gently slide it over the bike, letting my foot just barely tap the ground on the other side before I could tilt the bike to an upright position and rely on my left leg.  I'm lucky that you shift with your left foot, or I probably wouldn't have been able to ride at all until I was fully recovered.  None of the images I can find online of 750K models looks like my bike; all of them look like normal-height street bikes.  Second, it was very heavy and had a very high center of gravity, more than any other motorcycle I've owned, even the 920.

The other "feature" of the bike which is not mentioned is the fact that it was necessary to take the side panels off of both sides to gain access to the battery, which I think of as a serious design flaw.  I remember the problems I had with that after one year at Band Camp (from when I was in the USC Trojan Marching Band, The Greatest Marching Band In The History Of The Universe).  Not only was I out of town for four days (I think?) with band camp in San Diego, but I broke my finger while there (which was an adventure in and of itself that I should write about sometime).  So when we returned to Los Angeles I couldn't ride for a while.  By the time I finally had a chance to check on the bike, which I had left parked on campus near the band office, the battery was dead.  So here I was, my right (dominant) hand in a cast, fumbling with this stupid layout to undo bolts to get the battery out so I could take it home and charge it.  I eventually did manage to do this, but when I brought the battery back, for some reason the charge had not taken, and I had to do it all over again!  The second time the battery did charge, and I was able to start the bike (yay!).  I vaguely recall that I rode the bike home slowly and carefully and had someone else drive my car home.

The center stand on the Honda was extremely difficult to maneuver.  I was never able to get it up by myself.  I never learned if that was normal for the model or if mine was just stiff.  This became a big problem once when I was riding south on the 405 during rush hour and the rear tire blew out.  I was in the fast lane, so I pulled over onto the shoulder and tried to get the bike to stand up on the side stand.  Nope, that didn't work; the bike kept trying to fall over.  This was well before ubiquitous mobile phones, so I didn't see a lot of choice of what to do (although I suspect if I had stayed there, someone would have alerted the police).  I got back on the bike and started it, got up to speed, and moved over two lanes.  I could see the Warner Avenue exit coming up, but I had to move two more lanes to the right to get to it.  Some absolute angel in a station wagon in the third lane saved me.  Somehow that person figured out I really needed to move over and waved me over to the third lane.  Then he (she?) moved to the right lane and covered me for that move.  I was able then to exit the freeway!  The first place I found to try to park the bike was some fast food place.  I still couldn't put the bike on the center stand, however.  I don't remember how at this point, but I was able to call AAA.  At that time AAA had pretty much no assistance for motorcycles except gas and water.  When the dispatcher asked for details about the vehicle, I said it was a Honda CB750K motorcycle with a flat tire.  He told me they couldn't really do anything for the bike because they couldn't repair or replace the tire, and I explained I just needed someone to help me put it on the center stand.  He sounded doubtful but said he would send someone.  The AAA driver who arrived was a big, beefy guy.  I explained the problem.  That center stand was so stiff he couldn't do it by himself, and I had to help him!  But we did manage to put it on the stand.  My landlord very grumpily came to retrieve me from Orange County (I lived just on the edge of East L.A. near the USC campus), and then I called the one local motorcycle towing company to retrieve the bike.

After my knee surgery, I no longer had the leg strength to pick the Honda up when it fell over.  One time this became a problem was when I somehow managed to get the shoelace of my left shoe tangled with the foot peg.  I tried but could not fix it while I was on the bike, so rather than risk some kind of horrible accident because I couldn't control the bike, I pulled up to a median, laid the bike down, and untangled my shoe.  Then I looked around at people and asked if someone could please help me pick it up!  Happily, someone walking by did just that, and I was able to go merrily on my again.

Another time I laid the Honda down was not quite so . . . planned.  I was turning left at an intersection when the engine suddenly cut out.  I was in the middle of the turn and leaning left, and the bike just dropped.  I tried to catch it with my left hand, but because of the weight it slipped off my fingers (and caused a hairline fracture in my pinky).  So there I am, standing in the middle of the intersection, with a downed bike.  I shouted for help!  Someone came and helped me pick the bike up, and I made it out of the intersection safely.

The last time I had to get help picking up the Honda was after I had moved to Berkeley from Los Angeles.  It was the day of the Loma Prieta earthquake, October 17, 1989.  I was in the house when the quake hit.  At the time I was a nanny/cook/housekeeper.  After the shaking stopped, I left to pick up the 2-1/2-year-old daughter of the household, who was in daycare.  When I walked outside, the Honda had fallen over, and onto the wrong side, no less.  Motorcycles are designed to lean to the left on their side stands; it was on its right side.  That makes it even more difficult to pick up.  I didn't want to just leave it there, because gasoline from the tank would have leaked out.  I was fortunate in that someone was walking past the house at that moment, and she helped me get the bike up.

By that point I wasn't actually riding the Honda anymore.  While I was still in Los Angeles, it was stolen from outside the USC Hillel, where I was working as a kosher cook.  This was between the fall of 1988 and the spring of 1989.  I walked out after finishing work one evening and poof!, no motorcycle was there.  Beyond the annoyance factor, this was suspicious because this particular model was not popular and therefore not worth much money.  I reported it but didn't end up waiting for it be found.  I got fidgety without a bike and only lasted about a week before I bought my Virago.  About two months later, the police recovered the Honda on the side of a freeway (I think the 10), where it had been abandoned by a man who was trying to get away from the police.  I was told that the engine was still running when they found it.  It had been in some kind of accident.  I don't remember how I transported the Honda to Berkeley.  I tried to sell it, but no one wanted it.  Not long after the earthquake, I gave it to my landlady's lover just to get rid of it.

And so ends the tale of my Honda CB750K.

*Credit:  yoppy.  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Ellen's Questions, Part 2

For this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun with Randy Seaver, we're picking up right where we left off last week:

Here is your assignment, if you choose to play along (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music, please!):

(1) Ellen Thompson-Jennings posted 20 questions on her blog — see 
Even More Questions about Your Ancestors and Maybe a Few about You (posted 27 June). 

(2) We will do these five at a time, with
Questions 6 to 10 tonight (we did 1 through 5 last week).


(3) Tell us about it in your own blog post, in a comment on this post, or in a Facebook post.


Okay, here are my answers.

6.  How many DNA companies have you tested with or transferred to?  Have you tested at all the five major companies?

I have tested my autosomal DNA with AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA, 23andMe, and Genes for Good.  I have a LivingDNA kit that I have not yet mailed in, and I think I have another test from someone else that I haven't completed yet.  I have transferred my autosomal results to GEDMatch and MyHeritage.  I have also done mtDNA testing with Family Tree DNA.

7.  Do you have an ancestor who had a successful business?  Is it still in business?

The longest-lasting business and the one that was most recently active (that I know of) was my paternal grandfather's stamp, coin, and rubber stamp shop in Niceville, Florida.  It was called Sellers Stamp Shop.  He started it decades ago, and it was there when my family moved to Niceville in 1973.  My first job was working for my grandfather in the shop.  I think it was still operating when Grampa passed away in January 1995.  It is no longer in business, however; the shop died with him.

8.  How long ago was your last “genealogy/DNA happy dance?”

I think my last genealogy happy dance was about two years ago in 2017, when I connected with a second cousin on my paternal grandmother's side who was able to fill in lots of information I didn't have about one of my grandmother's sisters.  I'm still waiting for her to write back to me again, though . . . .

9.  Did you ever discover that a friend was also a distant cousin?

If you count **really** distant, yes.  I have found that a few of my Jewish genealogy friends show up as my cousins on FTDNA, but they're all listed as distant, and because of endogamy the relationship is probably even further back than the listings suggest, so the odds of us actually being able to determine the specific relationship are Slim and None and Slim just left town.  And Tony Burroughs says that if you can't say what the exact relationship is, it just doesn't count.

10.  Do you have a genealogy brick wall?  Do you think you will be able to use DNA to work past it?

I have no genealogy brick walls. :)  That's because I define a brick wall as a question for which I have checked every available resource and still can't find the answer.  There isn't a single one of my research questions for which I have checked every resource, so none of those questions ia a brick wall yet.

As for the second half of this question, for research on my father's side, yes, there's a good possibility that DNA might be helpful in some instances.  On my mother's side, which is Jewish, not likely.