Archive for ‘Books’

May 23, 2018

Transmission Of Acquired Traits — #Books #SubjectsToLet #10Of40

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

Transmission Of Acquired Traits

Road-Side Dog — Transmission Of Acquired Traits

What a heavy meme this week. Its about religion & philosophy and the strange intersection faith had with humanity in the 20th century. The subject of the Subject To Let, is Father Stanisław, a child of what we call in Anerica, the “Greatest Generation” for their struggles against such dire straits. Father Stanisław was a child in raised during the evil police state that flourished post-World-War-2.

How could this Catholic boy, now Catholic priest, reconcile the horrors endured by his parents, and presided over by God? God & his parents had survived the haunting inhumanities of NAZI Germany and now the Communist Totalitarian state afterwards.

How had he acquired & preserved the traits we call faith or ethics or morality? Weren’t those traits lost in the survival by being unable to stop slavery & genocide? Aren’t they gone in the godless communism that has killed even priests & nuns? Is this an evolutionary trait (the unspoken question of the Subject)? Had Father Stanisław acquired this trait … via nature or nurture? How could he live with this stain?

It was only by turning to God’s willingness to sacrifice his son (himself) to the torture & degradation of crucifixion for his church and its sins. Oddly, Father Stanisław endured & persevered this severe philosophical enquiry. But he hated the symbol of the crucifix, an emblem of torture, even as his flock would paradę with them in celebrations or cling to them with their prayers. Such self sacrifice. This jester has no answer or even a reply. All I can do is propagate this meme and hope some good seed is planted somewhere and bears good fruit!

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May 14, 2018

CIRCE — #BookReview #MadelineMiller

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

CIRCE by Madeline Miller

Stanczyk loves the classics! So in January, when I read that local author Madeline Miller (@MillerMadeline) had a new book coming out called, “CIRCE“, I knew I had to read it. But the announcement said it would be published April 10th, 2018??? So I Googled her other works. I saw “Song of Achilles” and I thought, OK I need to read the Iliad before I read the Odyssey, so I’d go book up on her prior book (an NYT Best Seller) and wrote a book review too.

If you read this jester’s book review of “Song of Achilles” then you know I adored the story and the author too. So my expectations were high for “CIRCE” too. I craved more of Ms. Miller’s Greek hero narrative. I had thought Odysseus would be the narrator like Patroclus was in the prior book. I should not have been surprised when Circe was the narrator, but I was.  I thought the prior book had an #LGBT flavor to it and would appeal to that crowd. So then this book would appeal to the #MeToo and Feminists everywhere… I am sure of that. But both books were enjoyed by this jester ( a heterosexual male). Ms. Miller once again shows off her strong narrative style and flair for Greek Myth.

The prior book spanned a couple of decades, but CIRCE spans centuries. Given that vast timespan, we get to enjoy encounters with Daedalus and the Minotaur. Hermes and Athena appear as do quite a few Titans. Jason’s wife Medea shows up too. But in the end we are expecting Odysseus to appear on Circe’s island. We expect her to ensorcel our Greek hero. Oh, Odysseus does show up and regales Circle (and us) with his heroic tales. They become enchanted  lovers. Circe is a strong woman, an herbalist, witch with scant soothsaying skills and being a Titan deity, the endless lifespan to tell these tales to us. Circe evolves from a powerless nymph to a powerful feminist goddess in her enlarged lifespan. I guess you could say this a goddess coming of age novel. Ms. Miller is a master of the narrative style and the book is a compelling tale (s).

The span is so large not only do we get to view Odysseus, we also get to see his return home to Penelope and Telemachus. At this point, the classicist author turns the novel into Homer’s missing sequel (Telegony). You recall, that Odysseus unknowingly  fathers a son, Telegonus by Circe (her choice to let protective spells lapse). So we get a clever tale of Odysseus’s two sons (and wives?) interacting on Circe’s island. That was an unexpected treat. Indeed, before this book review, I did not know that Homer’s sequel was lost and that we find it herein told in the book Circe. I loved this novelty more in my review than I had as an unknowing book reader.

This book if it has a flaw and most would say none, but I think Ms. Miller’s treatment of the hero Odysseus is harsh. This jester was always an Odysseus groupie (but always a died-in-the-wool Theseus fan). So I did not enjoy the feminist revision of Odysseus even by his patron god, Athena! Oh the horror. But even that I am willing to entertain. As this book and this author gets benefit of doubt for the rapt enjoyment bestowed.

Buy the book and read it. Indeed buy them both and read them both. Then email this jester and let him know which book  you prefer.

May 8, 2018

One Life, A Subject To Let — #Milosz #8Of40 #Books

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

One Life - A Subject To Let (Milosz)

Stanczyk has now made it 20% of my way through Miłosz’s Subjects To Let. This is an exercise in discipline and learning to read/write as well as Miłosz; not like Miłosz but as well as. His subjects permeate with mortality and impermanence. So today’s subject appears to dwell in that sweet spot. But appearances can be deceiving. My own żona, who tutors as if she were a rabbi and that tutelage informs my Catholic world view, says that her mother was fond of quoting, “Be careful what you martyr yourself for as you only have One Life”.

As is so often with sages their words are wise on multiple levels. Of course there was the obvious meaning of giving away your life and that such sacrifice should be for what you see as your penultimate value(s). But on another level it means spend your time in life wisely and take care that your expenditures are for worthwhile purposes.

But it is also about mortality and impermanence. I think we can also see that the woman subject receives Miłosz’s scorn because she not only rebuffed the poet/essayist Julius Słowacki ‘s petition for love, she also upbraided this great man. I can imagine that Miłosz identified with Słowacki since they seemed to be cut from the same cloth. The both were poets and essayists. They also continued to write poetry ’til their dying days. So I guess Miłosz sees her karmic retribution is the complete and utter lack of a memory of her (whose name I refuse to type) and her efforts. Read the three pages of the subject, “One Life“.

But let me honor Juliusz Słowacki, by leaving you, good reader, with Słowacki’s prophetic 1848 poem, The Slavic Pope.

Here comes our Slavic Pope to the rescue,

Brother of mankind.

Angel batallions dust off his throne with

Whisks made of roses,

While he pours lotion onto our bosom,

Pontiff   benign.

He will distribute love like a warlord

Passes out arms;

His strength sacramental will gather the cosmos

Into his strong palms.

Then will he send glad tidings to flutter

Like Noah’s dove:

News that the spirit’s here and acknowledged,

Shining   alone.

And we shall see angels part nicely before him

The sky above.

He’ll stand on his throne, illumined, creating

Both world and throne.

His voice will transform the nations to brethren.

Burnt  offerings

Circle the spirits in their march toward

Their final goal.

Strength sacramental of hundreds of nations

Will help our king

See that the spirits’ work overpowers

Death’s mournful toll.

The wounds of the world shall he cleanse, and banish

Rot.   pus and all —

He will redeem the world and bring to it

Both health and love.

He shall sweep clean the insides of churches

And clear the hall,

And then reveal the Lord our Creator

Shining   above.

April 29, 2018

Mrs. Darwin, A Subject To Let — #Milosz #7Of40 #Books

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

Mrs. Darwin
Stanczyk

Mrs. Darwin was of course Charles Darwin’s wife. Judging by the story recounted by Milosz, she was a devout soul. So was Charles Darwin, at least until he came up with his opus on Evolution. Evolution led Mr. Darwin away from his faith. He could not reconcile how God and Evolution could both co-exist.

Let this jester start by stipulating:

Isaac Newton was religious & spent many years in its intellectual pursuit. Albert Einstein famously believed in God. Kurt Gödel proved God exists. Gödel also believed Religions are bad, but religion is not.

Permit Stanczyk to quote Einstein a few times. He was adamant about his religion saying, “I am not an atheist”. In his research & learning, he said, “When the answer is simple, God is speaking”. Lastly, on morality, “A people that were to honor falsehood, defamation, fraud, and murder would be unable, indeed, to subsist for very long”.

If you want to learn science read Einstein. If you want to learn religion read Einstein. If you to read science & religion and to know both, read Einstein.

Now we can forgive Darwin his fall from religion. For he was after Newton, but before Einstein & Gödel. So I believe Darwin was in error (not about evolution which is a fact), but in eschewing religion based upon the discipline/philosophy science or by mistakenly thinking he could only pick one. In this matter we hold Mrs. Darwin in higher esteem.

Let me add one last post script. The “atheist” who is like Dawkins (meme, “Selfish Gene”) but their belief in ethics/morality is embedded in humanism (or secular humanism) is believing in a religion. They are not irreligious, just godless. Therefore, his endeavor as spokesman for humanist funerals merely parallels Newton in later life; if we admit, Christianity = Humanism = religion

(for other religions just substitute your religion for either Christianity or Humanism in the above tautology.)

April 2, 2018

Edge Of The Continent — #Books #SubjectsToLet #4Of40 #Milosz

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

Subjects To LetI think we see again Miłosz, the poet’s, lament. You know the lament, it was in the first article… the temporalness of man’s works. He remarks on the “hands” on the cave walls near Tassajara, on the western edge of the North American continent.

The poet wonders about what others were unremarked, whose works in this area were lost to the stretches of time. There is nothing here at Tassajara, no castles or lost cities or even broken statuary to commemorate the existence of any civilization except for these cave artworks of hands and a much later poem about the hand tracings. Indeed we see again this Nobelist lends his permanence to the chronicles to keep these cave artworks known, even if a future catastrophe erases their temporal existence.

They were here, the cave hand-tracers of Tassajara. Now we need to keep the works of Miłosz alive to keep this cave artwork at the edge of the continent alive.

This jester wonders why no images to go with the words. Tassajara is the briefest mention & continent edge to place in space this proof across timespans. Look to the map of Tassajara’s lost valley.

Perhaps Miłosz left out the images of the hands, lest other seekers find and possibly obliterate this fragile proof of early man. As a genealogist, I know the only hope is to record what still is, on newer and newer technologies in hopes to preserve what rarity lingers with such fragility in the real world. This virtual home upon the Internet hopes to preserve its temporalness and extend its permanence.

You have to wonder if the poet was thinking of entropy.  Entropy — [definition]

2. lack of order or predictability, gradual decline into disorder.

This jester once a TV episode of “After Man” in which they stated that after 400-500 years of the extinction of man, there would be no trace of us. That the geologic and climactic processes of the planet would erase us. Perhaps to never to be known again. Or perhaps an inter-galactic archaeologist might discover our traces beneath the soil and ponder. What will be left of us?

Tassajara map of California

March 26, 2018

River Basins — #Books #SubjectsToLet #3Of40

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

River Basins / National Park/Monument/WaterwayHere is another example of the let from Miłosz and sublet to those after this jester.

Read his words. Why can we not live out Pan Tadeusz, or enjoy our Natural Parks/Monuments without oligarchs enriching themselves and ruining this planet in the exchange.

Why do only rich profit from pipelines across precious waterlands/aquifers , while poor suffer from the oligarch imposed catastrophe and those in the middle pay taxes to enrich/exculpate the oligarch and alleviate the sufferings inflicted upon the poor who live near the oligarch’s projects.

Why shrink National Monuments? Why pollute oceans or aquifers? Why is Flint (MI) poisoned with lead in its waters?

We are all husbands of this planet. Why make it so that many suffer & die? Won’t those amongst the oligarchs also die from the same calamity? Where will the oligarch get water to drink or bathe or to wash/clean? Will they man the waterworks can they repair/maintain these themselves? If so then why not now? Oligarch, Cancel projects that do harm to our only God-given habitat. Are there no good oligarchs to counter the bad ones?

Water is life. And water borne diseases are death. Oligarchs will not be spared. We all depend on each other. United we stand & divided we all … fall down!

Those who ruin what God created will not be saved.

March 12, 2018

Why Do I Let These Subjects ? — #Books #1Of40

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

Road-Side DogMiłosz’s first Subject To Let is: “Why Do I Let My Subjects To Others”. Why does Miłosz Let His Subjects? It’s right there in the first sentence. Because he is old. At the time of  “Road-Side Dog” being published, Miłosz was 86 years old. Yet he continues to write poems until he is 93!

He detests writers who write about themselves …  viva the classicist he intones. By classicist, I assume he means people like who wrote Gilgamesh or the Greek writer Homer or perhaps the divine words of the Bible.

Taken together, these two thoughts, I think he “Lets His Subjects” to be remembered. He seeks the immortality of Homer (we do not know the author(s) of Gilgamesh). But nothing he writes in his Nobel-prize lifetime will sustain his vision. He needs us …  he needs me to do this exercise of 40 Let Subjects; One per week, taking roughly 77% of a year’s span to keep his animus alive and doing something.

I understand Miłosz here (let me not proclaim in totality). I am an inveterate genealogist. My wife calls me, “The Soul Keeper”. I keep the Eliasz-Solomon family alive.  The nodes in our family tree are remembered, each node, each person is not yet dead. There is a quote by David Eagleman:

There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.

Now I merely have to keep my research alive and doing something. Indeed, even my writings must live so Miłosz’s writings will also live and be doing something.

I wanted to dissect another of his thoughts. By mentioning himself (“I’m old”, “His Muse”, “His ignorance”, etc.) in this first subject, he contradicts himself about authors who write about themselves. He, in fact, does so too. Now I am pretty sure Miłosz is not a self-hating author. In fact, all authors do write about themselves. They say, “Write about what you know.” We all know ourselves. Ergo, authors are always present in their stories/essays/blogs … in all their works.

Look at the Bible. It is said to be God’s Word(s). And yes, God is in His Word(s). Miłosz,  I am here! So too, is Miłosz.

#1Of40  “Why Do I Let My Subjects To Others”

February 14, 2018

Song Of Achilles — #Book #Review 📚

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

Madeline Miller — #Achilles

Stanczyk has long been a classicist. Greek classics are an especial treat for me. I loved Greek Mythology as I learned it from my teacher, Claudia Nash. So I read the Iliad and devoured the Odyssey. Those books on my bookshelf impressed my Teréza who was smitten by my erudition.

So when I saw a book entitled CIRCE coming out this April 10th 2018. I knew I had to read it! But lo, she had previously penned Song Of Achilles. So I knew I had to “book up” and read that book before CIRCE came out. After all, the Trojan War before the Odyssey home. After all my dog Princess Java, an AKC pedigreed Lab whose 3rd name is Argus after Odysseus’s dog!

So I read Song of Achilles hoping to get a feel for the author (Madeline Miller / @MillerMadeline) and her writing style. I wanted Circe, but I admit I fell in love with the characters in Song Of Achilles. I was lured in by prose while Patroclus was just a boy. But I knew the author had an epic skill when I read her telling of Patroclus & Achilles meeting Chiron. Those chapters slew me and drew me in like no other author.

It was pure joy to read of Achilles and this telling of the Trojan War. It was easy to read a few chapters at a sitting. Hard to put down.

All along I knew how it was going to end. But that did not detract. I loved Odysseus’s cleverness at finding Achilles (after his god-mother, Thetis, not a god mother, a god for a mother hid her son). I too, like Patroclus and the other Greek kings/princes had a sense of dread whenever she appeared.

Patroclus was an artful narrator that set the tone and drew me in. His narration of Achilles’s rise from teen to hero and coverage of the Trojan War and its major combatants was thrilling. Patroclus was good, I forgot his narrative was Madeline’s narrative; That is the level of immersion she was able to acheive.

Alas I loved the book. I did not want it to end (especially two months before CIRCE arrives). I set it aside as Patroclus & Achilles set aside their child-selves. For 3-4 days I could not bear to pick it up and read. Finally, on Fat Tuesday I devoured the remainder of the book in a final three hour reading spree.

As I was reading I realized the narrator was going to die so my meta-reader-self was wondering who would narrate the ending when the narrator was dead. I will not tell you the spectacular brilliant choice she made for the final narrator of the final chapters. It is worth reading the book 📖 just to savor that transition alone.

So much pathos. So much love & hate and other emotions. Truly she captured the spirit of greek tragedy. Is this mythology or historical fiction? You decide the genre. Madeline you were so great I forgive you the detail of Achilles’s death. I accept your smart choices in retelling the Illiad. Somehow you enlarged the story. In fact it appears to cover at least 15 years of Achilles in a mere 369 pages.

I think Madeline was Odysseus. After all his/her words about the changing feelings mankind will have for the characters will change over the centuries. In truth, my feelings for the main characters swirled like Charybdis’s eddies.

Read this book. I think we are witnessing the development of an unparalleled author / story-teller. Please CIRCE come quickly!

Rage of Achilles

Hector’s death by Achilles

March 26, 2017

Binging on Byatt — #Books

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

Stanczyk  is binge reading Dame A.S. Byatt‘s books. This jester neglected reading Chabon & Byatt for far too long and I am remedying those omissions before the weather gets too nice.

 

By my birthday I will have read a dozen books in 2017.

March 8, 2017

Wordless Wednesday — #Meme 2017 Books Read

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon


Books Stanczyk read in February through 1st week in March 2017 📚

 (although “The Gene” has just been started, definitely not finished)
#Bibliophile

November 6, 2016

NANOWRIMO — Progress Report #NANOWRIMO #Books

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

NANOWRIMO — Writer's GuideStanczyk is a very busy man these days. Work, Drs, getting some services performed and NANOWRIMO.
NANOWRIMO, for those who do not know, is  a national event going on right (or is write) now … this November. In fact every November is NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth (#NANOWRIMO).

This genealogist/blogger/reader has long watched while writer friends of mine toil in November. This year I decided to challenge myself. So I went to NANOWRIMO.org . I downloaded their writer’s advice guide and I am following L.Y. MARLOW’s  chapter (which surprisingly freed me up to do this): “Write A S#!TTY Draft”. Heck, I know I can do that. 

After all I am a blogger. I am also a great reader and overall Sherlockian-like observationist of the human condition. 

Now who else is with me?

Word Count: 2,912

August 9, 2016

Christopher Columbus is Polish … Who Knew? #Book

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

Columbus The Untold StoryStanczyk has written about this controversy three times … 2010, 2011, and 2013. But now we have for the first time Researcher & Author, Manuel Rosa ‘s magnum opus of Columbus (aka Colon) mythology debunked and rewritten as history. 

Prior Blogs (Background):

  1. Christopher Columbus Discovers … He Is POLISH!
  2. Happy Columbus Day – Get Out Your Polish Flags
  3. Cristobal Colon (Discoverer Formerly Known as Columbus) … Polish-Lithuanian & Italian Noble — #Genealogy, #Polish, #Lithuanian

Now the Columbus Book for the 1st time is published in English!
http://www.columbus-book.com/
This jester is going to add this book to his Wish List! 

May 28, 2016

National Book Festival — 24-Sept-2016

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon


Love this annual event. Last year the First Family was there. The Library of Congress blog link:
http://blogs.loc.gov/national-book-festival/2016/05/2016-national-book-festival-poster-takes-viewers-on-journey-to-the-unknown/?loclr=twloc

May 19, 2016

Romanov Russian Royalty … REDUX

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

This jester has a deep appreciation for Dr. Stephen Morse and his many works, especially those related to genealogy. I have used his One Step Web Page for many years. So it was thrill to meet him at various conferences and I was touched at his kind offer to help  moje zona read her grandparent’s tombstone (alas the jester struggles with his Hebrew language skills). I have followed his recent work to make yet a 3rd generation soundex algorithm (for us Slavics).

Originally, we had American Soundex, which you still see on Immigration documents (mine is E420). Then along came the most excellent Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex which was a vast improvement for those whose heritage was Slavic (mine is 084000) and you would see it on Russian Consular records.  Recently Dr Morse has developed the Bieder-Morse Soundex algorithm which further improves name matches (by eliminating false matches). So my family name would have Bieder-Morse soundex tokens of:  elaS elas [exact match tokens only] . I think only the JewishGen website has implemented that matching.

Now Dr Morse has an article(Genetic Genealogy Revisited) in the APG’s professional journal: “Association of Professional Genealogists QUARTERLY”. It was on the use of genetics in genealogy and he used the Romanov Family mystery as a demonstration of using genetics to solve a question. Now I read in the Current issue of the Smithsonian,  the Resurrecting the Czar, article. It too covers the latest background on murder mystery of Czar Nicholas II and his family and attendants. I found that the two aritcles read together give a fascinating account of the story.

Now this jester is not a fan of the Russian Empire (even though my grandparents and their parents were born into Russian-Poland partition).  The Rus betrayal of Poland not even a century after the great  King Jan Sobieski, the Savior of Vienna [indeed all of Europe],  the “Lion of Lechistan” and  their betrayal again in 1939 at the start of World War II sour my feelings for our brother Rus. So while I enjoyed the two articles read back-to-back, I was appalled by a few “royalists” who want to bring back the monarchy to the Russian Federation. One woman artist actually is hoping for a Russian fascist (to clean up the mess??) followed by a transition back to the monarchy. That would be quite a rewind of history huh?

Czech, Lech and Rus – there is a legend of three brothers that settled central and eastern Europe. Czech went on to found the Czechs and Rus went on to found the Russians. Lech and Lechistan became Poland. So we can see again that monarchies and the battles between them are really nothing more than family squabbles done on a grand scale. By the way both articles mention the British monarchy  and their family connection to the Romanovs (via Hapsburgs).  Canute the Great was a Grandson of Mieszko I (first king of Poland) and of course another ancestor of this jester, the twice king Stanislaw Leszczynski, had a daughter marry into the Bourbons. Alas all of Poland’s goodwill and family relationships could not prevent the Deluge and Poland’s slip from History’s main stage. We will have to content ourselves that Rus and their partitions, produced Kosciuszko and Pulaski and they in turn helped to produce America.

Now we come to 2016 …

There is an artist,  Olga Shirnina, who has taken Romanov family photos and colorized them. Please read the article: RBTH (Romanov family photos in color) from “Russia Beyond The Headlines”.
Romanov Links:

Romanov Photos British Archives

Romanov Family Tree

October 29, 2015

Halloween in Philadelphia 🎃

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

 Stanczyk is in a macabre mood … it must be that Halloween Full Moon a couple of days ago or perhaps because  in a couple of more days its Halloween itself.

So this jester was reading about books & libraries to assuage my bibliophage tendencies. In Philadelphia we have a unique collection of books the largest known cache:  anthropodermic bibliopegy
Well now, that suits the mood just fine. If you clicked on the anthropodermic bibliopegy link, then you know this is a story about book binding using human skin. So the largest collection of human skinned books is located in Philadelphia. To be precise it is in: The Historical Medical Library of the College  of Physicians of Philadelphia. 

How Do You Know its really Human Skin?

Forensic scientists have developed a method called, peptide mass fingerprinting (PMF). So you might think these books would be at the Mütter Museum. You’d be part correct, since the Mütter Museum is part of The Historical Medical Library. Got a minute? Watch this You Tube video, (a Mütter Minute on one of the books). If you have a bit more time then read the mental floss article: http://mentalfloss.com/article/51634/bizarre-art-binding-books-human-skin .

So how many creepy books are in this collection? Five books.  (see the image above). Perhaps we should be grateful that the largest collection is only five books. Happy Halloween and do not forget All Saints Day & All Souls Day too (good days to go to cemeteries and visit with your ancestors).

August 20, 2015

Historical Newspapers … #Australia — #Genealogy #Polish #Newspapers

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

Trove

Stanczyk was reminded this week by Flipboard genealogy blogger Kenneth R Marks (Boost Your Genealogy Research With Newspapers) — If you have not discovered this valuable resource then by all means click the link and scan his recent articles in his curated Flipboard magazine.

This week Mr. Marks’ article reminded this jester about TROVE, an Australian Historical Newspaper (and other online documents too) website.  Now I say reminded, because loyal readers may recall my article from April 2013 (From Pacanow Poland to Birchgrove …).

I like what they have done since 2013 and it appears they have been busy at TROVE. So i encourage you to take another look for your Polish ancestor.  TIP (see picture): Use advanced search, look for online resources, search the newspapers for: Naturalization Notice, Poland and check the categories: Advertising, Family Notices to see vital record notices as well as immigration/naturalization notices. This should get your a little over 8,000  articles to search through.

Here are two images of  Polish expats who immigrated to Australia post World War II:

HenryGoldstein_Lodz

EugeniuszBalek

December 10, 2014

James Carroll – “Christ Actually: The Son of God for the Secular Age.” #Book

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

It is the Holiday Season. Hanukah is coming and this year leads right into Christmas Eve. So Stanczyk thinks a blog connected with the religious underpinnings of this time of year is a good idea.

Pocket : Jesus and the Modern Man

Also, from NYT:

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/11/09/opinion/sunday/can-i-stay-with-the-church.html?smid=tw-share&_r=1&referrer=

I found James Carroll speaking on NPR radio. He has the above named book out now and was making the rounds. However, this jester found Mr. Carroll to be a thoroughly knowledgeable Theologian.

Many of the topics that were raised by the NPR host (RadioTimes – Marty Moss-CoaneShow Broadcast – have a listen !!) were so interesting and invited the listener to think more deeply. Some of Mr. Carroll’s answers, made me so want to have a long discussion with him about his book.

I see he was also speaking at our Philadelphia Free Library last night too.

The Book can be found on Amazon. I am adding it to my Wish List.

#Theologian

August 7, 2014

#Book #Review — The Serpent Of Venice by Christopher Moore

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

The Serpent Of Venice  by Christopher Moore —

contact:  Christopher Moore .

The Serpent Of VeniceStanczyk is  a bibliophile, possibly even a bibliophage. Being a jester for three kings gives me an especial fondness for authors/stories that have a jester/fool as one of the characters. So Stanczyk has a special fondness for William Shakespeare. Imagine how this jester was jolted to find a story mashed-up from Shakespeare with a jester … wait-a-minute  … who has a monkey  … named Jeff? Oh rapture, huzzah! How did I miss the fact that Christopher Moore had these characters in a prior novel  … Fool? Note to self go back and buy Fool !

I had only just finished the first chapter when I realized this story was a mash-up.  It appeared to me to be a mash-up of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice (comedy) and Othello (tragedy) and Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado (mystery). I was lured by the clever riff upon the Merchant of Venice title and naïvely assumed this would be a take off of that story. But I got more, much more than even I had bargained for and a monkey named Jeff to boot.

I like to examine a book like some kind of genealogy document. What is its structure? Is there anything unusual or unexpected? How many pages/chapters? So after I read three chapters, I decided to do this kind of examination. I recommend you read the first three chapters too before you do this examination. I saw an afterword. It was by the author and he gives his deconstruction of his novel — most interesting! But it can be a bit of a spoiler. Still I did read the Afterword before I read the last chapter  … I just could not help myself. I already decided to invest myself in the book and was uproariously entertained so far. Having the author give insight, also added to my wanting to complete the book, but I did appreciate some of the inside “skinny” he gives, so I can ensure I get all that Mr. Moore dishes up.

I laughed at his wit. Its right there in the preface (called The Stage and after  the Cast [Dramatis Personae] ). So even before the story begins, the humor has already set in. So I was surprised at his droll wit — not that he had it. Its just that I had Mr. Moore pegged in my mind as a Terry Pratchett. Indeed, I assumed he was some kind of Londoner. So I was surprised when I read his Wikipedia page that he was born in Toledo, Ohio. He writes the dialogue with such obvious British humor and dialect that I had assumed British, not someone born where many of my ancestors had settled, land of the algae bloomed water supply (that has not, so far, caught fire as Lake Erie has been known to do).

The surprise character (at least I think she/it will be a surprise since I was given an inkling in the Afterword which I read beforehand) and its introduction into the storyline called to mind for me, a bit of Beowulf. Especially since this story was already known by me (before the Afterword) to be a mash-up, so perhaps I was now hunting for mash in this uplifting and funny story. So many of the characters are very likeable that I do not know who to cheer for and who to jeer for. What a delightful diversion.

Its a novel in a guise of a play. Hence, the Cast and the Stage. But there is also a Chorus (like some kind of Greek play) and the Chorus is a character too! The book is so clever, this jester decided to Follow @TheAuthorGuy on Twitter.

Stanczyk recommends this book to all who like a good story infused with humor ala Pratchett. Its absurdist proportions appeal to my Slavic soul. The meta joke that an American can write the British dialect with such humor and panache will appeal to Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams fans.  Do not wait for this book to become available as an e-book on your library’s e-book facility, the line is too long. Go directly to your local library (or bookstore) and get the physical copy — much quicker than waiting for the Overdrive download to become available. I guess most people are afraid to enter the physical world and reticent to  leave their Internet bus stop. Excuse me, I will have to go to Marseilles now.


February 27, 2014

Guide (Poradnik) for Using Metryki.GenBaza.PL — #Polish, #Archive, #Guide, #Poradnik

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

Stanczyk wrote about  metryki.genbaza.pl two months back and the fact they were posting online the state archives (civil) and church archives (diocese) and many people have asked me to write a guide (poradnik) on how to use  Metryki.GenBaza.pl  .

In this guide, I will be using a Macbook laptop with the Safari browser, but you should see just about the same thing with your PC or your browser. Obviously, if you are using a mobile device you user experience will be slightly different may not work if your smartphone is too small.

Œ Œ

Step By Step


Step 1

Step One

            Go to the website: Metryki.GenBaza.pl 

You should see the web site with just the GRODZISK archive shown …

01_Metryki.GenBaza_plYou will need to register for a free account in order to see of the available archives on metryki.genbaza.pl . The link to create a free account will take you back to GenPol.pl and you will need to fight your way through their poor user interface. Their interface (web app) did not indicate to me when it had created the account. But if you go back to metryki.genbaza.pl and click on the Login, you should be able to login to genbaza (using your email and your newly created password). If you are on a mobile device or a small/minimal browser window and do not see Login , then you should see a graphic button with three horizontal lines in upper right corner click on this followed by clicking on Login .

Now that you are logged in to genbaza you should see the following archives …

02_Metryki_GenBaza_pl_loggedIn

Small_2
 
Step Two — Select An Archive

            For this guide, we will be working with AD_Kielce and AP_Kielce and the parish named Biechow. From the above screen shot you can see that we will be using the 1st and the 3rd archives. So if you are following along, then click on AD_Kielce (the church archive -or- Archiwum Diocesan).

You should see …

03_Metryki_GenBaza_pl_ADKielce

Notice it gives you the feedback that you are working with the AD Kielce “Album” contents. Think of this as an iPhoto photo album. Down the left side you will see a list of all available parishes that they have scanned images for. This is NOT a complete list of all parishes in the old province (wojewodztwo or Russian Gubernia) of Kielce, but just the ones they have some subset of images from the Kielce church archive.

The blue words, Bebelno, Bejsce, Biechow … etc. are just parishes. You will need to know the parish of your ancestral village to select the appropriate parish, but that is another blog or two. Let me take one step back, I said parishes, but there are also Jewish congregations / records  too in these online images. These parishes are just sub-directories of the AD Kielce Album. If there had been an image file also, it would be listed on the right side under the Album (or sub-directory) as a set of JPG (graphic file) files that viewable in a browser.

Step 3
 
Step Three — Select A Parish (Congregation)

Let’s click on Biechow . You should see …

04_Metryki_GenBaza_pl_Biechow

You will notice that I have scrolled down a bit from the top. At the top it lets you know that you are in the Biechow Album (sub-directory). There are no files here either. But down the left we see more blue text (that are clickable). Ignore the leading number before the underscore. The middle part is a year or a year range.  The last part, when it is present, is a set of letters.

The latest birth I can get from the AD Kielce (church archive) is 1855. [see 22_1835-1855_ur]. So please excuse me while I switch over to  AP_Kielce in order to work with Biechow births (ur) for 1886.

Decoding the ‘Letters’

These letters (or suffixes if you prefer) are fairly standard (with exceptions). If you see a suffix of,  “_ur”,  that is an indication that when you click on that sub-directory you will find online scanned images of Births (urodzony). So these suffixes are Polish abbreviations for Birth (ur), Marriage (sl), Death (zg) or Alegata (al). Each describes the type images you will see. What if there is no suffix? Then you will probably see  all of the event types: Birth, Marriage, Death and possibly Alegata too.

What is an Alegata (al)? These scanned images are requests to the church for a transcription from the church book or to lookup something like a birth or death possibly or most commonly to support a person’s need to re-marry by showing that s/he is widowed. These are transcriptions copied from the actual church register, by the current pastor of a past event (birth/marriage/death). These are usually accompanied by a fee, collected via stamps on the actual page. If these are present with the other event types, then they are at the end of the images.  Alegata are almost as valuable as the actual church entry. But the alegata can substitute when you do not have the actual church register (or image) available to you.

By the way the final set of letters that I want to mention are, “_moj”. If you see “_moj” as a suffix then that directory’s scanned, online images are of Jewish denomination records. The Moj. is an abbreviation for  mojżeszowe (Mosaic denomination as in Moses),

If you are following along, then you will need to click on the following to switch to 1886 Biechow parish in AP Kielce Archive:

At the top click on “Main page” at the top, then click on AP_Kielce (on left the next page), followed by  clicking on Biechow,  and finally clicking on 1886_023. After all of those clicks you should see …

05_Metryki_GenBaza_pl_APBiechow1886

Notice the website gives you a nice trail of breadcrumbs to find your way around all of these directories.  You should see between the top level and the “Album contents”, a line of clickable text:

GenBaza | AP Kielce | Biechow | 1886_023

These are your breadcrumbs that allow you to find your way back. Keep in mind that “Main page” at the top will always bring you back to the original set of Archives to pick from.

 
 Step 4
Step Four — Working With A List of Images

            On the right side you see Album Contents: 1886_023 with a list of scanned images named like :

_k_??????.jpg — where the ?????? are replaced by some consecutive numbers. These files contain one scanned image each. Typically the set of images is a parish register, including the front and back covers, such as they may be. So in practice I seldom look at the first or the last image, because I am too busy to look at book covers.

The images are number consecutively from front cover to last cover with all the pages in between as they are. There are a few possible arrangements of pages. Typically it is Births, then Marriage, then Deaths if the particular register you are looking at has two or more event types. I also see Marriage, then Birth, then Death. Death comes last always. In some parish registers you will also see Alegata and these come after Death if they exist.  Many times Alegata are in their own directory apart from the other vital record events.

Our goal is to avoid having to look at all pages one after another. To do that we must find the indexes that follow each vital record event. For example, after the Births, you usually find a page or two (or more) of an index of all of the births for that year — hopefully in alphabetical order. Sometimes the indexes do not exist. Sometimes the indexes have errors and sometimes a mistake is found and added at the end of the index. Always seek  out the index and look at ALL index pages for your surname(s) to catch these errors.

For this exercise I am going to click on the 27th file, named: _k_088054.jpg . I knew that this file contained the birth index scanned image. It is here that I want to say a few things about working with the scanned images. So clicking on _k_088054.jpg, you should see …

06_Metryki_GenBaza_pl_APBiechow1886IndexUR_27

OK the text is in RUSSIAN/Cyrillic handwriting. Many of you cannot read this image. But some images are in Polish and a few are in Latin. So you can usually find somebody who reads these if you cannot read them yourself. But I do urge you to get the Jonathan Shea/Fred Hoffman book, “In Their Own Words” books and learn to read these church records.

In the upper left you will see two tool pallets. The top tool is for adjusting (from top to bottom):  Contrast, Brightness and Zoom. Mostly, you will not need to adjust Contrast or Brightness, but they are there for those who know how to use them to make the scanned images more readable. I do use the Zoom adjustments all of the time. The zoom tool (the bottom pick with a ‘magnifying glass’), you can zoom in (+) or zoom out (-). Depending on the scale of the image scanned and the health of your eyes, you will need to zoom in (+) 4 – 6 times to get a comfortable level of reading. Your eyes may differ.

As you zoom in, you will notice that a gray box in the preview too pallet  gets smaller.  This gray transparent rectangle is the area of image displayed in the viewer window. You can drag this gray square to quickly navigate the viewer window to area of the page I have focused on. The other method of navigating the image is to click on the image viewer, click-and-hold-and drag the image around. So whether you drag the gray box in the preview or click-drag (common called grab) the view image around make it so you can see the Russian ‘L’ and possibly Russian M on the index screen.

NOTE: You can scroll the viewer left-right and up-down, but I would not do that as you may not realize that you have NOT reached the image’s edge and that you need to click-drag some more to move the image to see the remainder of the image that scrolling cannot show you.

Now you my dear reader of this tutorial must indulge me. I want to call your attention to the 4th ‘L’ name in the image (лещунъска  виктория) — yeah, I know cursive Cyrillic does not look much like block letter Cyrillic characters, especially pre-1918 cursive Russian, which were before Bolshevik language reforms. It says, “Leszczynska Wiktorija” 118 (akt#) / 20 (Kart #). We use the Akt # as the record number in the parish register to find this record. This record is my grandmother!

Click on the 23. Do you see where it says “First photo  << 23  24  25   26  27 …  >> Last photo”? Click on the 23, which will take us 4 images before the image we are on (the gray highlighted 27 in the middle). You should see an image with a 124 in the upper left.  If you drag the image around in the viewer (or I find dragging the gray rectangle box in the preview tool) around the page you will see a total of 6 births on this page, number 124 through 129. The image looks like two pages of a parish register (book). The left page has records (akts) 124, 125, 126 and the right page has records 127, 128, 129.

We are looking for my grandmother who is act# 118. 118 is exactly 6 records before the first birth record shown on this page. Since we six births per page, my grandmother’s birth record should be the 1st record on the previous page. So let’s click on the 22 in the: “First photo  << 19  20  21   22  23 …  >> Last photo” near the top. After clicking on 22, you should see …

07_Metryki_GenBaza_pl_APBiechow1886IndexAkt118

Do you see the Akt #118 at the upper left? We have found our record. These particular birth records list the baby’s name at the top. Do you see: Leszczynska Waleryja ? Wait a minute the index said, Wiktorija??? I said before the indexes contain errors. Waleryja Leszczynska is indeed my grandmother and I knew she was born in Biechow parish in 1886,  but it was not until GenBaza put the AP_Kielce images online that I actually could prove her birth date / place.  You can imagine my joy. Now imagine what your joy will be when you find your grandparents!

Notice there is a button at the top,  “Download photo” (Pobierz zdjęcie). The last thing you need to do is download this keepsake image you found.  On a Mac when you do this the image is downloaded to your “Downloads” folder. It also brings up a Preview of the image when the download completes. Close out of of Preview. In your browser is a new tab, “Untitled” with nothing in the window. Close this tab and you will be back in the image viewer tab.  In Windows you get a new browser window (named Untitled), your downloads  window opens and the images goes into whatever Windows directory you download into (typically called Downloads). Likewise, close the Untitled browser window and return to your previous browser window. One note, on the mac the image download is TIFF by default and in Windows it is JPG. So on the Mac when your Preview comes up … click on File menu, then Export menu item and select either PNG or JPEG to get a file format that you can use on the Internet (like on Ancestry.com) for example. The Internet browsers natively work with: JPG/JPEG, GIF or PNG (or PDF too). Keep your images in one of those formats.

There is one more thing I have yet to emphasize. I was trying to teach you that you can jump around the images by doing simple math. We were on Akt# 124 (of records 124 through 129) of six records per page. If my grandmother’s akt# had been 100 (instead of 118) then I would have had to click 4 pages left of page 23 or page 19 on the line,  “First photo  << 19  20  21   22  23 …  >> Last photo”. This little math tip can save you the time of scrolling page after page. I use this tip to navigate more than 4 pages at a time too, but I will leave that exercise for the reader to figure out.

December 30, 2013

Family Legacy …

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

BooksThe Junior Classics – 1938

As a genealogist, and many of Stanczyk’s readers are genealogists, we are of course leaving a legacy in our research. As a Polish-American, I also leave cultural legacies related to Thanksgiving or 4th of July or Easter or Christmas.

But I wanted share yet another personal legacy that I am sharing. You see those colorful books at the top of the blog? They are a series of ten books by COLLIER — The Junior Classics. It was a series of hardback books filled with stories & poems across a spectrum of genres from 1938!

My parents bought me this set as a child. I was not a good bibliophile as a child and our books became gradually marred. I kept one book (orange) of poems. The picture is of a set I was able to locate via the Internet and purchase to share with the children from  Teréza & my marriage. I wanted to share my love of reading with our children as my mother & father had done for me. So a legacy of reading, learning, and exploring and also a love for bound books … as anachronistic as that may be today or in the future. Thank God that someone else had preserved such a cultural treasure from the past — these books are 75 years old! I hope my and Tereza’s kids can maintain this legacy and the act of reading stories & funny onomapoeiatic poems to their children too.

That is a legacy that connects our generations.

P.S. – kids,  my favorite volumes were #1 & #3 and because of my father and his readings, also #10 .

December 29, 2013

Auld Lang Syne – 2013 — #HappyNewYear, #Poem, #AnnualBlog

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

AllsWell

Stanczyk is republishing his annual blog post:  Auld Lang Syne

Count your blessings my dear readers and take heart in that inventory.

So as we draw to a close this elder year 2013 AD, I take but a moments pause to wish my friends and good readers well and much happiness and wishes for a healthy and prosperous New Year.—

Verily, this jester says, “All Is Well, That Ends Well“. And 2013 has indeed ended well.

Let me endebt myself further and borrow again from the great bard to close out this year. In Shakespeare’s play, “All’s Well That Ends Well”, in the first Act, the first Scene is a quote that suits me well to use though I steal it from a woman’s lips:

That I should love a bright particular star
And think to wed it, she who is so above me:
In her bright radiance and collateral light.

My bright star is my much beloved wife, Teréza !

I love her so and our growing family and our friends too. Those who love her cannot be faulted for she is such a force of a nature and a wonder to behold. And those who fault her, do not know love. Theirs is a terrible loss indeed. Pity those fools for their jealousy and praise this jester for his steadfastness in the face of such folly. Bless my wife for her devotion made stronger and more holy for her mettle that was tempered by the trifles of miscreants.

I would like to thank my readers for another fine year. Reads of the blog are up another 15%;  This month is a record month of reads and that would not be so, without you. You, my good readers, are a part of that inventory of blessings that I have counted. Interact with me on Facebook, Twitter (@Stanczyk_), and/or LinkedIn too.

Those are my closing thoughts for 2013. Better #Genealogy in the coming year to all genealogists!

Happy New Year 2014 !

–Stanczyk

September 24, 2013

The Library of Congress & PA State Library — #Genealogy, #Archives, #Libraries

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

PAStateLib_1PAStateLib_2

The Library of Congress

(LOC) has published a finding resource listing 71 links to the 50 states, online digital collections. That is found here .

The PA State Library — Has a digital collections, very similar to the digital collections found at seekingmichigan.org [Editor: also in LOC list for MI].

From Abe Lincoln, to Ben Franklin, to Coal Mining History, to WWI there are many PA treasures here:

http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/collections/8728/digital_collections_at_the_state_library_of_pennsylvania/524375

I chose to start in their WWI Collection,  which had a few choices to pick from, so I chose the top pick (Mahanoy City):

American Red Cross. Pennsylvania Chapter. Mahanoy City. In Memoriam Of Those Who, Coming from the District within the Limits of the Mahanoy City, Red Cross Chapter, Quakake to Girardville [inclusive] Made the Supreme Sacrifice in the Great War for Democracy, known as “The World War” 1917-1919. Mahanoy City, Pa., [1920]
This is a six page memorial to the fallen veterans who lived in Mahanoy City in the anthracite coal region of northeastern Pennsylvania.

http://accesspadr.org/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/sstlp-wwi&CISOPTR=411&CISOSHOW=405

In truth the PA State Library’s digital collection is large enough that this jester will need to spend some time exploring, but I thought I would share my initial impression.

So LOC, a tip of the jester’s hat  to you for compiling a very useful resource of state libraries who have online digital collections. These are historical in nature, but the obvious application to genealogy make these valuable resources to the genealogical researcher too.

August 28, 2013

Twerk, Selfie, Bitcoin, Others Added To Oxford Dictionary As Silicon Valley, Middle Schoolers Push English Language Forward

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

OEDThe revered OED, that is the Oxford English Dictionary to you neophytes of the English Language, has added:

Twerk, MOOC, Bitcoin, geek chic, selfie, and so much more to the language (see Tech Crunch article: Twerk, Selfie, Bitcoin, Others Added To Oxford Dictionary As Silicon Valley Pushes English Language Forward ).

• See the complete list .

Stanczyk wants to know from the academes out there, do blogs and/or social media extend the English language into other modern languages as well as OED English?

Is the world becoming #MultiLingo ?

Will the growth of these cross-language words ever increase to such a degree that languages begin to converge or what percentage of overlap makes a language distinct (or the same)?

Email me !

March 27, 2013

A Guide for Using Szukajwarchiwach.PL Poradnik — #Polish, #Archive, #Guide, #Poradnik

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

Stanczyk has been writing for a while about Polish National Archives announcing via their National Digital Archive (NAC) that Poland would be putting 2.4 Million digital images of church / synagogue metric images from their regional archives online. So today’s blog post is a guide (poradnik) about how to use szukajwarchiwach.pl to view these images.

It is easiest if you know the regional archive you are interested in, but you do not need to know it really. I will demonstrate with the RZESZOW regional archive. This archive was in Austrian-Poland partition, so its records should be for those locales to Rzeszow. Recall from my post, Polish State Archives – Numbers (13 March 2013) where I listed the archive numbers, that Rzeszow = 59.

Œ Œ

Step By Step


Step_1Step One

            Go to the archive of interest – http://www.szukajwarchiwach.pl/59#tabInformacje

You should see the web site with the information for the Rzeszow regional Archive.

Rzeszow_Step_01_02

Notice the two links: Poprzednie archiwum  and Następne archiwum . With these two links you go through the list of regional archives. The list of archives only includes those archives for which they are presently loading images. If you hover over my two links above you will see ‘Previous Archive’ and ‘Next Archive’.

Step_2

Step Two

            Click on ‘Resource’ [see 2 in red circle] –  which brings you to the list of collections at Rzeszow. http://www.szukajwarchiwach.pl/59#tabZasoby

You should see …

Rzeszow_Step_02

Step_3

Step Three

 Click on Collection Number ‘59/20/0‘ for the civil records from the Roman Catholic parish of Błażowej – http://www.szukajwarchiwach.pl/59/20/0#tabZespol

You should see …

Rzeszow_Step_03

Step_4

Step Four

Click on ‘Units 20/20‘ in red circle – http://www.szukajwarchiwach.pl/59/20/0#tabJednostki

You should see …

Rzeszow_Step_04

Step_5

Step Five

Click on ‘Reference Code 59/20/0/-/1‘ in red circle – http://www.szukajwarchiwach.pl/59/20/0/-/1#tabJednostka

You should see …

Rzeszow_Step_05

Step_6

Step Six

Click on ‘Digital Copies 107‘ to see a table of 107 scanned images – http://www.szukajwarchiwach.pl/59/20/0/-/1#tabSkany

You should now see the scanned images …

Rzeszow_Step_06

There are 107 images [currently] and the data looks like it is in the Latin Box format. Since there is no index, you will have visit each image in turn and look at each row of boxes to see if that birth/baptism is for one of your ancestors.

So that is a visual guide for how you navigate the  szukajwarchiwach.pl website to get to the scanned images. Obviously, you will need to focus on the villages/parishes for your ancestor. That may be another Archive (besides Rzeszow) or if it is in the Rzeszow archive then you need to pay closer attention to the parishes in the Rzeszow collections and finally, you will need to select Birth/Marriage/Death (Urodziny/Małżeństwo/Zgony) for the year of interest to you.

You will still need to be able to deal with Latin or Polish or Russian or German language in the records to understand what you see in the scanned images. You will also need to be able to read the handwriting. But you can do this!

Good Luck!

January 24, 2013

#Book #Review – The Violinist’s Thumb by Sam Kean

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

The Violinist’s Thumb by  Sam Kean –

contact:  samkean.com/contact

KeanCoversStanczyk is a BIG reader, definitely a bibliophile. My background is a computer scientist which means I am both a mathematician and computer specialist, with a school of engineering training. I have had a life-long affinity for science as well as mathematics (of which I view computers as just a branch thereof). However, in the spirit of this era’s memes, specifically, the STEM meme – we separate S.T.E.M. into constituent parts as: Science, Technology (computers no?), Engineering  and Mathematics. I had always thought of STEM as just Science & Mathematics (Ummm S&M ??) with Engineering being the School within which these topics were taught and Engineering being the rigorous discipline that is applied to various fields (Chemical Engineer, Construction Engineer, Electrical Engineer, Computer Engineer, Mechanical Engineer, etc.) and technology just an ubiquitous part. So Stanczyk considers himself a STEM knowledge worker.

Computers (Technology) often borrow concepts from other disciplines. For example, there are a whole set of “genetic” algorithms: cross-over, insertion, deletion, duplication, mutation, etc. Obviously, all branches of mathematics are represented in a wide swath of computer programs. So I have always viewed that a computer scientist would be a better professional by being well read and being able to borrow concepts from other fields to be able to bring to bear the broadest toolset to solve the great variety of challenges that a software developer is often faced with.

So now I come to this blog’s topic for today … a new book I read, The Violinist’s Thumb by  Sam Kean.

As a genealogist, I am fascinated by the thought of using genetics/DNA as another tool – however I do have some reservations (another blog post, another time). So when I saw this Kean book (published July 2012) I was intrigued. Perhaps you already know Sam Kean from his prior book, The Disappearing Spoon.

When I read a book or even before I decide to read a book, I examine a book’s “DNA” (cover, table of contents, author, etc.) to form an opinion of whether I want to invest myself in the effort. A quick scan of the book yields … the book’s organization: Introduction, Chapters (16), Epilogue, Acknowledgement, End Notes, Selected Bibliography, Index, spanning 401 pages including the index. Do not skip past the title page so quickly here. Part of the charm was the page after the title and before the table contents. It prodded my curiosity (see for yourself, I won’t ruin the surprise in this blog post, but I will email the author). Examining these parts, I linked this book in my mind to  Lewis CarrollDouglas Hofstadter and especially Stephen Jay Gould (a favorite science author of mine). So all-in-all, I decided to invest myself.

What is The Violinist’s Thumb About?

It is right there on the first page of the Introduction (which is actually page 3 – where is page 1 and 2 ??). The book is about DNA. Do not let that dissuade you. There is an interesting narrative about science and scientists and the history of DNA thought/understanding and how that understanding  evolved. The book is not bogged down in science jargon and your eyes will not gloss over with a baffling “scientific paper and statistical data” send-up. If you have read Stephen Jay Gould, then that is the tone and style of Sam Kean’s writing and it is comfortable for the non-scientist (like Stanczyk) and engaging with interesting stories and anecdotes while presenting the topic and the teaching/learning is subtle – this is not a text book nor scientific abstract, just an enjoyable read on a science topic that you may have an interest in or a curiosity about.

Criticism

Let me state up front, that my literary criticisms are slight and should not dissuade you from reading this book nor does it invalidate any of the author’s points.

[1]  ‘*’ -> look in Notes & Errata for that chapter;

It would be much better if Kean had numbered each ‘*’ note as  1,2,3 …

[2]  Page 216 referring to chimps & gorillas as “monkeys” instead of apes

[3] Chapter 14 is not about its title at all; No answer, nary any mention of the 3Billion and does not answer the title’s question

[4] 25,947 genes was lowest guess, but the actual number was not given. Was this the actual, exact number of genes?

Chap. 14, page 312.

[5] DNA debases???? I say no. The proper analogy is DNA is a historian/scribe. However, DNA history is not flattering.

[6] It took me really until Chapter 12 to understand the book title (was a reference to Paganini and his thumb)

Things I Learned

  • Radiation can be used to create mutations on demand
  • Lack of Variety in Human Genes (compared to the great apes)
  • 1815 Tambora Eruption caused 1816 year with no summer
  • Toba super-volcano Eruption 70,000 years BCE exacerbated that Ice Age, possibly causing a dire near-extinction event of humans (that did not affect the apes as much because the apes were further inland, away from Toba).
  • Zipf distributions in languages – DNA as a human language or Musical language
  • The greater the language diversity, the greater the DNA diversity. That is language diversity and DNA diversity go hand-in-hand (i.e. 1:1 correspondence). Click languages 100 sounds, English 40+ sounds, Hawaiian  around a dozen
  • mtDNA – mutation rate: once every 3,500 years
  • Mitochondrial Eve lived 170K years ago (see Wells book for a differing estimate)
  • At the DNA level, humans are 99.9 identical. So humans have less variability than the great apes.
  • Contrary to the Book of Mormon’s theological tenets, Native Americans were NOT descended from a Jewish tribe.

Things I Liked

  • Chapter 4 – The Musical Score of DNA  – DNA as a language, music (music as DNA), distribution of amino acids
  • Chapter 4 – Palindromes, in particular,  the palindrome square (from Pompeii)
  • Chapter 14 – The Human Genome Project – Science Race and Craig Venter’s impact
  • Epilogue – Craig Venter mapping his own genome

Things That Made Me Laugh

  • Craig Venter’s surprising chimp DNA (Chapter 14, page 313)
  • Chapter 8, pages 173-174 – The “gay bomb”
  • Lewis Carroll’s Mock Turtle appearance in Chapter 4
  • Bolsheviks & Humanzees (Stalin was a very naughty boy)

Things I Was Horrified By

  • Chapter 3 and  nijyuu hibakusha (Tsutomu Yamaguchi)
  • Chapter 7 and Machiavelli Microbe – Toxo (Toxoplasma gondii)
  • 8% of human genome is not human at all. It is virus DNA !
  • Human DNA suggests widespread cannibalism in all Haplotypes – although maybe that is explained by an early occurence in Africa >100,000 years ago before the diaspora/migration of modern humans [2014: I corrected this when I thought the canabilism referred to  must have happened after Haplotype diversity for this to be STILL true]
  • Chapter 12 and Paganini’s Thumb – ah the raison d’etre

Impressions

I decided to go back and re-read Deep Ancestry by Spencer Wells in parallel with this book. I wanted to consider Haplotypes and the historical migrations as it impacted and documented the human DNA’s evolution. I wish Sam Kean had included something on this – not a criticism, just a wish. I wanted a book about the human genome, its DNA and how it evolved. For me I wanted to form in my mind the DNA that is genealogy related and what that DNA implies. Kean’s book definitely gives the reader a flavor for the Human Genome Project (HGP).

Therefore, I needed to supplement Kean’s book with Deep Ancestry by Spencer Wells to answer my question about the parallel to Mitochondrial Eve (i.e. Y-Chromosome Adam ??). It turns out that Y-Chromosome Adam dates back to 60K years ago. Now I had to explain why Eve’s DNA goes back 40,000-110,000 more years than Adam’s DNA. So I needed the following factoids from Deep Ancestry :

  1. The Human genome contains about 30,000 genes
  2. 2.9-3.0 Billion  base-pairs (nucleotides) make up the human genome
  3. An average gene is 47.5K nucleotides in length (paired up in an helix) giving 95K on average in each gene. [derived by CME-S]
  4. Chromosomes vary in length from about 47M to 247M nucleotides
  5. There are 46 chromosomes. [derived, Ergo each Chromosome has on average nearly 62M nucleotides.]
  6. The Y chromosome (male sex indicator) does not recombine and is passed down intact (identical). [How often does mutation affect Y chromosome?]
  7. mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA, female lineage) has  16,569 nucleotides
  8. mtDNA has 37 genes (<448 nucleotides/gene)
  9. mtDNA is circular, while nuclear DNA (DNA from the cell nucleus) is linear
  10. mtDNA (DNA from the cytoplasm) is purely a copy of maternal mtDNA
  11. In nature only bacterial DNA is circular
  12. Mitochondrial Eve dates back to about 100K years ago
  13. Y-Chromosome Adam dates back to 60K years ago
  14. Modern humans date back to 200K years ago.

Actually I was dissatisfied by the rough figure of 30,000 genes in the human genome. Kean’s book had left me hanging with the winning pool guess of 25,947 genes (the lowest guess). But the actual number was not given.  So I had to go to Wikipedia, and on the Chromosome article I found the breakdown of the genes by chromosome and then I understood. Women have 31,731 genes and men have 30,339 genes (since the Y-chromosome of men is nearly 1400 less genes than a woman’s X-chromosome).

Stanczyk is an avid wrestler of numbers. Even though I am highly numerate, the numbers are at once boggling and also breathtaking to consider. How would I tackle the computer storage requirements of this science and the parallel processing requirements of analyzing the data. How do we go further with this data? How do you manage this data? How do you detect data errors and correct them?

Stanczyk also loved trying to construct a theory on the huge gap in years between Mitochondrial Eve and Y-Chromosome Adam. Modern humans date back to 200K years ago. Both male and female DNA has gone extinct and whole branches of modern humans’ family tree are gone. Modern humans left Africa about 100K years ago. So Y-Chromosome Adam (only 60K years ago) only dates back to the time after the human diaspora/migration began and Haplotype diversity had already begun. Since male DNA does not go back as far as the female DNA it must be something in men’s DNA or men’s nature that causes their more frequent DNA extinction. My theory is that warfare in tandem with consequences from wars (pestilence, violence, disruption of living standards, etc.) and any global natural disasters that preceded the wars or followed the wars to cause a “bottle-necking” of the human population to near extinction levels. Possibly this bottle-necking occurred a number of times over the 200,000 year history of the modern human species (before and after the human diaspora/migration out of Africa. The fact that female DNA goes further back may be explained, if they were taken as slaves/property to the victors of these wars, while the males (including male children) were eliminated thus extinguishing their male DNA Haplotypes. This demonstrates that some human DNA has been lost, since neither male nor female DNA goes back the full 200K years of modern humanity’s arrival. Ergo, some of the original ADAM/EVE DNA is now lost. We have become less diverse. This shows in comparing the diversity of HUMANS to the Great Apes (chimps/gorillas). Apparently, the DNA or behavior of the great apes is less warlike or by their lifestyle was less prone to extinction events in the past. None the less, the loss of diversity does not mean that humans are more likely to become extinct than the great apes. Indeed, our numbers and adaptability to more diverse habitats actually mean that now it is more likely that the great apes will become extinct before humans even though human DNA is less diverse, relatively speaking. The probability of humans out-surviving apes was not always so at various times over the last 200K years and could still change again.

Recommendation.

Read the Kean book. If you only have time for two chapters, then read chapter 4 and chapter 14. If you have a bit more time, also read chapter 7 too. Read the whole book. You do not need to read it sequentially, just jump in where your interest takes you. I did find reading the Introduction and the first two chapters provided me with a good starting point to jump around from. They gave me a sense of what was the author’s narrative that he was developing.

I would also recommend a quick read of  Deep Ancestry by Spencer Wells in parallel with (or before/after) reading The Violinist’s Thumb by Sean Kean.

On a lark, I also read Douglas Hofstadter’s book, Metamagical Themas. Metamagical Themas is a set of material derived from the 2.5 years that Douglas Hofstadter wrote for Scientific American (overlapping with and following after Martin Gardner (whose column Mathematical Games was anagrammed to create Hofstadter’s Metamagical Themas). In the book, Metamagical Themas, is a Chapter 27, written originally in March 1982, asking the question,  is the genetic code arbitrary (entitled, “The Genetic Code: Arbitrary?”). I found this material also extremely helpful in rounding out my knowledge of DNA. So I recommend you read all three sources:

These should whet your appetite for more and instill in you a gnawing sense of more interesting questions that still need answers.  All three sources are readable by the lay-science person or any person with an interest in science or science history.

So where did I, Stanczyk, get left at? I had read these books to learn more about evolution and science vs. religion boundaries. What I was left at is some kind of cross between those topics and a crossover with computational biology and DNA/Human Genome. Four broad topics viewed through my lenses of computers and genealogy. What an interesting Gordian Knot to unravel !

December 30, 2012

Auld Lang Syne – 2012

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

AllsWellSo as we draw to a close this elder year 2012 AD, I take but a moments pause to wish my friends and good readers well and much happiness and wishes for a healthy and prosperous New Year.

Verily, this jester says, “All Is Well, That Ends Well“. And 2012 has indeed ended well.

Let me endebt myself further and borrow again from the great bard to close out this year. In Shakespeare’s play, “All’s Well That Ends Well”, in the first Act, the first Scene is a quote that suits me well to use though I steal it from a woman’s lips:

That I should love a bright particular star
And think to wed it, she who is so above me:
In her bright radiance and collateral light.

My bright star is my much beloved wife, Teréza !

I love her so. Those who love her cannot be faulted for she is such a force of a nature and a wonder to behold. And those who fault her, do not know love. Theirs is a terrible loss indeed. Pity those fools for their jealousy and praise this jester for his steadfastness in the face of such folly. Bless my wife for her devotion made stronger and more holy for her mettle that was tempered by the trifles of miscreants.

That’s my closing thoughts for 2012. Better Genealogy in the coming year to all genealogists!

Happy New Year 2013 !

–Stanczyk

September 10, 2012

A Troika of Dystopia Tales … — #Books, #Literature, #Bibliophile

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

Stanczyk is an unabashed bibliophile. Perhaps I am a bibliophage — bookworm. I certainly devour books — although my wife’s voracious appetite for books puts me to shame. Today’s meme is dystopian thoughts.

A few weeks back (August 15th) I wrote about Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand),  a dystopian sci-fi novel (which I was not enamored of, literately but has clearly has been a sales success). It has a movie coming out soon. I’ll pass on that too.

I am looking forward to Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road“, dystopian travelogue or dystopian Beat Generation screed upon a scroll movie. Despite, its appalling morality tale stories it was an enthralling novel and to think it was written in just three weeks! I bought its 50th anniversary scroll edition in 2007 and read it in almost a single uninterrupted session — somehow I was channeling Jack’s manic writing pace.

What appealed to me about “On The Road“, was its parallel to Hemingway. Here we have some bohemian types dealing with post-World-War-II issues. This was much the same way as Hemingway and his Paris bohêmes dealt with the post-World-War-I issues. So I read it in that context. This movie too will be out this fall — I cannot wait to see it!

But it is 2012 and we now have a new dystopian sci-fi work that needs consideration. This book too, took three weeks to write. But its author despised it, in spite of its success. The work was “A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess. Well it is now the 50th anniversary of that novel’s publishing too. As a young man I was enthralled with the Nadsat (English-Russian) argot spoken by the protagonists again while appalled by the violence. I think Hollywood needs to remake this classic too. Hollywood, knock-knock, pick a director with a Slavic sensibility to capture Euro-Ruso trashy-ness of the mood. I did not care much for Stanley Kubrick’s version.

So this my Monday, Troika of Dystopia re-cast into 2012 … Hmmmm is it a coincidence that this is an election year? This election a bit dystopian too, n’est-ce pas?

Send me some Oomny messel in an email OK?

December 1, 2011

A Little Bit of Blog Bigos … #Genealogy, #History, #Birds, #Books

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

Bigos – A stew, hunter’s stew rich with meats, mushrooms, sauerkraut and dried fruits.

So today my blog bigos is made up of a slew of blurbs …

From  The News.PL, a couple of days ago, they wrote about historians that uncovered a previously unknown memoir by one of the victims of a notorious WW II Nazi operation against Polish intelligentsia (called Sonderaktion Krakau of November 1939).

One of the principals, Zygmunt Starachowicz, kept a memoir of the experience with:

  • Interesting Profiles of the detainees
  • How he was a law graduate signing documents at Jagiellonian University when he was arrested with 182 academics
  • How 20 of the 183 people died in captivity
  • A memoir penned in 1941, that lay in unopened envelope for 70 years

Sadly, Zygmunt died in 1944 after being arrested by the Nazis in July 1944 [probably as a result of his activities as a member of the underground, leading clandestine lectures in law and history, and forging documents for the official “Home Army” (AK)].

read more »

November 25, 2011

Books, eBooks, and More Books – Bibliophiles/Bibliophages Beware !!! #Books

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

Stanczyk is very old … My portrait by Jan Matejko dates back to 1862 alone. So perhaps you can forgive me if I blog about an antiquarian notion today … BOOKS. First off, I hope everyone had a Blessed and Family/Food Filled Thanksgiving Holiday (4th Thursday in November in the USA).

As I was saying I want to write about books today. I provided a handy photo for the reference of my younger readers who may need a refresher on the concept. Before you run off … Here’s my list:

No Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble today, although they are worthy purveyors — nor will I speak of Antiquarian Books, though I reserve that topic for another day.

Google Books (books.google.com/books) – I adore to find public domain books or snippets of books under copyright that I can search and perhaps get at least a snippet view of my search topic. Google now lets you keep the public domain books on their “Cloud” (no space on your hard disk). At present, my Google eBooks include:

Historya Polska w Ameryce by Wacław Kruszka. So you can find resources that are valuable to your genealogical or history research. Although you cannot download them to your iPhone, it is still portable since it is in the “Cloud” (enough with that Internet meme). So as long you can surf the web with your iPhone (or other smartphone) your genealogical resources are portable.
Google Books will also help you locate the book in a local library (or the closest library) or help you locate it via their cadre of booksellers in case you still need that tactile sense of holding a book or where an eBook is not an option.
They also have magazines too! Feel free to browse (get some good Sumatra coffee ready).
 
The Internet Archive (http://www.archive.org/details/texts) is more than just books. It also about the Web, Moving Images, Texts (books), and Audio. All intriguing in their own right. In fact, the Web portion has the infamous Wayback Machine for viewing websites as they used to be. As I read somewhere this month, the average website changes about every 28 days. Obviously, blogs skew that average. So in a sense, the Wayback Machine backs up the Internet or should I say the “Cloud”. Oops, I did promise to stop dropping that meme today. But books are what we are about today. Obviously, they get their books from Libraries and also Project Gutenberg. Also it should be obvious that these are public domain books. They store each book in a variety of formats (HTML, PDF, and various ebook formats). So you can download a book to your laptop and import that into your iBooks App (or whatever smartphone App you use) for true portability. Classics .. check, Genealogy/History .. check, Children’s Books .. double check, and Foreign Language Books too. What eBooks are on your smartphone? Perhaps we should ask that question to the famous (instead of what music is on your iPhone). Don’t be embarrassed .. go to the Internet Archive or the Next Topic (Project Gutenberg).
 
Project Gutenberg – has been around a long time. But it has taken eBook formats, eBook readers and smartphones to bring this valuable resource to major relevance. I daresay that most smartphone Apps that have free books, probably use this website. Project Gutenberg has 36,000 books to download. Skip those Apps, use the free iBooks App that came with your iPhone, Project Gutenberg to locate the books YOU care about, download the eBook format (epub or pdf work), import the book into iTunes, find some book cover art, and synch the whole package to your iPhone/iPad for true portability and reading on the beach or in that research archive or at the museum or that archaeology dig you have been promising yourself.
 
LibraryThing (www.librarything.com) –  You must be a bibliophile or bibliophage or why else are you reading this post. Well here is a website that is a bit different. LibraryThing will allow you to upload your library (200 books for free). Now you are not uploading books, but the data about the books or possibly its cover. You can enter the data or specify the ISBN and allow the website to locate the metadata that describes the book in your collection. If that is all it did, it would be mostly useful to libraries and librarians — which it is useful for and they provide a way to bulk load their entire catalogs. But it is a kind of social-network for bibliophiles or for authors trying to sell books to readers of their genre. I like the Zeitgeist feature for understanding what is out there. I also like to compare my books to others and wonder about what others users whose books overlap with my book collection are like and what that says about me. There are also book groups and local ties to bookstores, libraries, museums and other book events. There are so many ways to use this website collaboratively.  Take a peak.
 
Enjoy the books and the other book readers too!
November 14, 2011

#ThingsIFind Whilst Looking Up Other Things … Polish Libraries in the USA

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

In one of Stanczyk’s continuing memes, Things I Find Whilst Looking Up Other Things, I was combing the Internet and was rifling through Polish Genealogical Societies. I hopped from the PGSA.org to PGSNYS.org (Polish Genealogical Society of New York State), when they mentioned, The Adam Mickiewicz Library and Dramatic Circle. Apparently, they had a Reopening of their Library on September 17, 2011. The library is located at: 612 Fillmore Ave, Buffalo, New York 14212.

That got this jester to thinking, so here is my list of Polish Libraries in the USA:

Does anyone else know of any other Polish libraries that I need to add to this list? If so, please email me.

November 4, 2011

Joseph Conrad = Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

During, October (Polish Heritage Month), when I wrote about Polish literati, I neglected to mention, Joseph Conrad. A huge oversight on my part, that I did not realize until afterwards, when I had read Donna Pointkouski’s comment with a link to her fine article on Polish authors.

I hope you can already guess the reason for my mental blunder, Joseph Conrad, was born Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski. He was born 3-December-1857 in Berdichev (Polish: Berdyczów, in the Russian Gubernia, of Kiev). Donna’s article said his first language was Polish and his second language was French and that Joseph Conrad did not become fluent in English until his 20’s. I have to wonder that perhaps that there must have been some Russian nestled in between Polish and French given his birthplace and early life. At any rate, it is a marvel that he could be so literate in English and that his literary prose so remarkable, considering it was not his native language. Now he has a rather lengthy bibliography and this jester can only claim to have read, Heart of Darkness (1899).

Check out the wikipedia article from the above link. Look at the picture of Conrad. You can see the noble birth writ upon his face and his intellect is there too in his eyes. This man should have been an author – thank goodness he became one.

For Stanczyk, who came across Conrad later in life and having only read Heart of Darkness, I categorized him in with his contemporaries: Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, & Sir Henry Rider Haggard (who? – author of Solomon’s Mines, creator of the “Lost World” literary genre) and their literary inheritors: Edgar Rice Burroughs (not so much Tarzan as his John Carter character) and Robert E. Howard. There may be many others, but these are the ones I have read. I am sure Ernest Hemmingway read Conrad from Hemmingway’s quotes and there are elements in Hemmingway’s works/life that bring to mind Joseph Conrad. So I guess my brain “Anglicized” this brilliant author who wrote such fluid prose in English and imbued it with his Slavic soul.

That is my mea culpa for omitting Joseph Conrad in October and I am sticking with it.

October 19, 2011

#Polish #National #Heritage Month – Continuing … James Michener “Poland”

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

James Michner's Poland 1st EditionWe always salute the famous historical heroic figures like Pulaski or Kosciusko or possibly scientists like Madame Skladowska Curie and Mikolaj Copernicus or maybe a musician like Fryderyk Chopin. But I do not want this month to go by without a listing of the literary talents and the artistic talents.

Polish Literature is richly nuanced and uniquely Slavic. If you have read this blog for a while, you will have seen a mention of Stanislaw Lem or Czeslaw Milosz and a few others. There are so many to choose from: Mikolaj Rej, Jan Kochanowski, Adam Mickiewicz, Juliusz Slowacki, Henryk Sienkiewicz, Stanislaw Wyspianski, Wladyslaw Reymont,  Stanislaw Witkiewicz, Wisława Szymborska or Slawomir Mrozek. For more information, please click on “Polish Literature” or my favorite website for Polish Lit: Staropolska .

Today’s article is on James Michener’s “Poland“. Michener may not be Polish (he never knew who his biological parents were), but he is another of those great local literary talents of my adopted hometown of Philadelphia. This book is a historic novel with some fictional literary devices utilized to stitch together a coherent  narrative around ten historical topics of Poland. These ten episodic chapters can be read straight through or sampled individually.

If you only read one chapter this month,  of this easy reading novel, then read chapter five (on Jan Sobieski and his heroic salvation of Europe at the Battle of Vienna).

They probably sung a hymn / poem from the early 14th century, called Bogurodzica (Mother of God) which is the oldest poem in the Polish Language. You can hear this fascinating hymn here . This poem has no Latin equivalent, so it roots are entirely Slavic.

By the way, you may want to read Czeslaw Milosz’s book, “The History of Polish Literature” for more background on today’s article, including Bogurodzica.

Tomorrow … A Selection of Artists.

— Stanczyk

P. S.

You may want to read Donna Pointkouski’s Top Ten More Ways To Celebrate Polish Heritage Month  for more ideas on this month of ours.

September 21, 2011

Smithsonian Institution Libraries – Books, Images Online

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

Brown Tree Duck

Being a jester brings with it a lot of name calling and chief among them is “bird-brain” — which Stanczyk has taken to heart.

A Number of times, I have written about the Smithsonian Libraries & Museums or the Library of Congress. These treasures of America should be enjoyed  and are provided for the diffusion of information. Every American should make a pilgrimage to Washington D.C. and see the statues and museums — taking care not to wander too close to politicians lest you contract a serious case of lunacy.

I have lived in the Village of Audubon, the hometown of the Franco-American Naturalist, John James Audubon. My connection to my genealogy is a fascinating one. Many of the persons from my grandparent’s ancestral villages have Bird Names! Names like: Czapla, Dudek, Kruk, łuszcz, Orzeł{owski}, Ptak, Siewki(Siwiec), Sroka, Skowronek, Sokol(owski),   Szczygieł,  Wrobel, Zięba, żuraw(ski), (and even Włecial=flew) etc. Now one thing had nothing to do with the other; It was just a weird juxtaposition of my life. To couple these two things with my obsession with ducks and yea verily all manner of water fowl — well you get today’s posting. Maybe birds really are in my DNA (in more ways than one).

Actually, today’s posting came from my iGoogle page (Genealogy & Libraries). I have hooked the Smithsonian Libraries blog into the iGoogle page. Today they blogged about their Gallery of Images. Now I thought this was going to be another mention of their flickr pages. But I was wrong. WARNING: do not go to the Gallery of Images if you suffer from ADD. You can easily become lost in the SIL efforts to bring these images and their information online.

The picture at the top is not from Audubon’s Birds of North America, but it is from “The Birds of North America” by Spencer Fullerton Baird, published in 1860 (Philadelphia).

[click on read more to Polish-English Bord List]                                  

read more »

August 24, 2011

#Polonia – October is Polish History Month – This Year We Celebrate …

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

Stanczyk notes we are six weeks from the start a whole lot of Polish Celebration. First off,  October is Polish History Month in the USA.

Next,  the second Monday in October is the Polish-Portuguese-Italian-American holiday we usually note as COLUMBUS DAY (traditionally October 12th). This year, thanks the Portuguese Historian Manuel Rosa, who has spent 20 years researching Columbus and who determined that Columbus is the son of Wladyslaw III, grandson of Wladyslaw II Jagiełło,  ( see prior article here ), we need to take our Polish Flags out on Columbus Day to the parade and celebrate with the Italian-Americans and reclaim our Polish son (or at least our share). Since Wladyslaw II Jagiełło is the first King of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, perhaps our Lithuanian brothers need to bring their flags too.

Third, the very next day in 2011 (October 12) is Casimir Pulaski Memorial Day. A Heroic Soldier of the American Revolutionary War who died for the founding of America (at the siege of Savannah).

Here is a link to Poland’s History.   Columbus Book by Rosa. Dr Rosa, when is the English Language Edition Coming (Polish Edition)?

Do Not Forget Columbus Day, Polonia  — bring the Polish Flag!

August 14, 2011

#Polish #Genealogy – Haller’s Army (aka Blue Army / Polish Army in France) [part 2]

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

Gentle readers, today’s article is about the many genealogical or personal ties to the history of Haller’s Army. The focus is on what the genealogist may want to pursue to flesh out his/her family tree.

Background

The era was World War I  (1914-1918) and the world was mad with war and carnage and pestilence. There were 16.5 million deaths and 21 million wounded making it the 6th deadliest conflict (or possibly 2nd/3rd worse if you include the Flu Pandemic deaths). [See: this cheery web page on the estimate of Wars, Pandemics, Disasters,  and Genocides that caused the greatest number of deaths.] Out of this madness, was an army of diaspora Poles formed, of which over 25,0001

came from the US via a US sanctioned formation of a foreign force, which had to be constituted in Canada due to USA fears and its isolationist policies that limited President Wilson.

These brave 25,000 men were added to another contingent of 35,000 Polish men formed largely from prisoners of war from the German and Austria-Hungarian armies inside France,  who were now willing to fight against Central Powers as a part of the Allied/Central Powers.  They fought bravely in World War I,  before the USA entered the war and for nearly four more years (1918-1922) after World War I officially ended in the Polish-Bolshevik War (aka Polish-Soviet War).

Poster — from wiki

More Background can be found here (Haller’s Army website) or at the wiki page (Blue Army).

Registration Centers

The recruitment centers were in the Polish Falcons centers. The Polish Falcons were called the Związek Sokołów Polskich w Ameryce (ZSP)  and this is what you will find on Haller’s Army enlistment forms. The Polish Falcons still exist and are headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA. There are reportedly 115 Polish Falcon Nests across 15 states. Each Nest has its own history that it maintains.

PGSA Database

The Polish Genealogical Society of America (PGSA.org) maintains a database of the Haller’s Army registrations that can be searched for your ancestor(s). It is free to search and there is a modest charge to get a copy of the actual documents. The search page is here: (http://www.pgsa.org/haller.php) . These documents are archived by the Polish Museum of America in Chicago. This data is also on LDS Microfilm by region see this page for details .

There are three types of forms. These forms are in Polish. You need not worry about that as the PGSA offers example forms in English (FormA | FormC) in PDF format.  On the forms you find the following info:

  • Form A is an intention to volunteer and contains the name, address, age, and marital status.
  • Form B is a medical examination report for the volunteer.
  • Form C is the final commitment paper. It includes date and place of birth and usually the name and address of a parent or other close relative.  The Form’s family notes include close family in USA and in Poland.

Returning Soldiers

The Allies issued medals to their victorious soldiers so you may have in your family heirlooms one of these. This website has an index of the various medals (with images). Many of the websites whose links are in this article also have pictures of men in uniforms — which included their distinctive hats.

We tend to think the soldiers were all Polish men and that these men were Catholics, but our Polish-Jewish brethren also served in Haller’s Army. This page from Polish Roots is about the Jewish soldiers who served and provides a table of many of the men known to be Jewish.

The ship manifests in Ellis Island record the return Haller’s Army soldiers, who returned en masse. You can see the soldiers who are listed on pages together with a note on the bottom, “Reservists”. That notation should eliminate any confusion with other possible passengers/crew members. The soldiers returning from the European theater are known to have arrived via Ellis Island on the following ships:

  • SS Antigone (from Danzig – April 18, 1920)
  • SS Princess Matoika (from Danzig – May 23, 1920)
  • SS Pocahontas (from Danzig – June 16, 1920)
  • SAT  Mercury (US Army Transport), from Danzig, June 16, 1920 / arrived in New York, June 28 1920
  • SS President Grant (from Danzig) – February 16, 1921
  • SS Latvia  – August 17, 1922

 Links to the Ship Manifests

http://bit.ly/rlVaaQ  SS Princess Matoika from Danzig in 1920 [more dates than shown above] 4253 Returning Troops

http://bit.ly/p3ViM2 SS Pocahontas from Danzig  in 1920 [please note the ship name is P-O-C-A-H-O-N-T-A-S. It was misspelled on the PGSA.org website].   4199 Returning Troops

http://bit.ly/nwYwsx SAT Mercury from Danzig June 1920.  2074 Returning Troops

http://bit.ly/n6YRot SS Antigone from Danzig April 1920. 1628 Returning Troops

http://goo.gl/F48dg5 SS President Grant from Danzig February1921. ~1900 Returning Troops3

http://bit.ly/pGwQa5 SS Latvia from Danzig  August 1922. 1517 Returning Troops

Returning passage – Payment of passage was split between the Polish and United States Governments. [see column 16] on ship manifest. It appears some soldiers returned with wives and children too [so those numbers above are not all soldiers].

One more connection. Similar to  the VFW for US veterans, there is a Polish-American organization in NYC called POLISH ARMY VETERANS ASSOCIATION2

They (PAVA  or SWAP) have genealogical data from their membership forms. According to Dr Valasek, the membership application for the association has the usual, date, place of birth, current address, and occupation; It also had something most descendants of Hallerczycy desperately want to know:  the unit in which the man fought, and his rank upon leaving the army. There is also the identification of which post the soldier joined.  Each post has its own history, as well as photos, banquet books, anniversary booklets, etc. All valuable adjuncts to your research once you identify the correct post, (or, as it’s known in Polish, placówka). There is also a question on the form, Do jakich organizacji należy? , to what organizations does he belong. More avenues for research.

Fallen Soldiers

In any war, there are casualties. Haller’s Army is no different. Stanczyk likes this Polish Genealogical Society (http://genealodzy.pl/name-Straty.phtml) named aptly, The Polish Genealogical Society. They have many databases, but they have search front-ends for two related to Haller’s Army. The one from the link above is for:  List of Casualties of the Polish Army, killed in action or died from wounds from the years 1918-1920.

With this link I was finally able to determine that one of my ancestors who was in America up through the 1910 census, but was missing from the 1920/1930 censuses, whom I had previously thought had returned to Poland — had really died while serving in Haller’s Army. I found his Haller’s Army Forms at PGSA and then from this Polish website I found a scanned image of a Polish book listing his name, date/place of death.

Soldier Benefits

Some soldiers who came to America who served in Haller’s Army, earned benefits from the new Polish nation. I have seen land grants awarded (not to my ancestors). They often had to be contacted through the Polish Consulates in America. This leads to my final recommendation — using Historical Polish Language Newspapers from that era to find out about your soldier. The newspaper may write about the returning units in a story and possibly a picture. I have also seen that the Polish Consulate took out listings in the newspaper and referred to Haller’s Army veterans they were seeking to inform them of their veteran benefits. See my Dziennik Polski (Detroit) page at the top menu-tabs for an example what these Polish Consulate ads might look like.

Let me finish today’s article by mentioning Dr. Paul S. Valasek’s book on the subject matter: Haller’s Polish Army in France http://www.amazon.com/Hallers-Polish-Army-France-Valasek/dp/0977975703 and also another book entitled: Remembrance http://www.hallersarmy.com/store/Remembrance.php. written by Charles Casimer Krawczyk.

Tomorrow … Haller’s Army in My Family Tree

–Stanczyk

Notes:

1=Polish Falcons History page . Paul Valasek says the number is above 24,000. The wikipedia says the number is 23,000.

2=PAVA,   address: 119 East 15th Street,  New York,  NY 10003   –   e-mail:  <info@pava-swap.org>,  telephone:  212-358-0306

3= The addition of the President Grant came about from a Newspaper Article mentioned by Daniel Wolinski. A picture of the article has been appended after these notes.

FortDixNJ_HallersArmy_Returnees_1921

July 25, 2011

Church Metrical Books … Embellishments, Oddities, and Notations #1

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

Welcome to a new Monday and a new meme.

In the year 1647, some 364 years ago in some Polish parish somewhere,  was a priest with some free time at the end of the year  1646 or the beginning of 1647 and of course a good bit of artistic talent.

Stanczyk laughs at the priest’s macabre sense of whimsy. Forgive me that I forgot last year to capture the note of where I found this “artwork”. I am sure it was in a Digital Library or Archive and not from some microfilm I was viewing (see the red border).

Here in the USA, we have had a long tradition of viewing the New Year as a baby and the Old Year as an old man (usually with a long beard). But skeletons, one of which holds the Grim Reapers scythe??? Of course, I approve the use of an hourglass as a metaphor for the passage of time. Such embellishments and details. Perhaps he was reminiscing the old year’s (1646) significant passings :

At any rate, as I was reviewing my collection of digital pics from Church Books, it occurred to me that I have a new repeating meme: Embellishments, Oddities, and Notations found in Church Metrical Books.

I foresee discussing priestly entries (if I can find them,) such a notation about a meteorite that struck in the local parish. I also will include examples of marginalia or possibly end of year notations that a priest makes — one of which affects my family tree.

Meanwhile … it is time for some hot coffee.  Talk to you later (God Willing) …

Stanczyk

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