Archive for ‘Books’

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)

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 . 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!
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:

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: .

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


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:



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:

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.


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 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  .

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.


Step By Step

Step 1

Step One

            Go to the website: 

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 . The link to create a free account will take you back to 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 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 …


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 …


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 …


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 …


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 …


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 …


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 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


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 !


September 24, 2013

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

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon


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 [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:

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.

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 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.


Step By Step

Step_1Step One

            Go to the archive of interest –

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


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 Two

            Click on ‘Resource’ [see 2 in red circle] –  which brings you to the list of collections at Rzeszow.

You should see …



Step Three

 Click on Collection Number ‘59/20/0‘ for the civil records from the Roman Catholic parish of Błażowej –

You should see …



Step Four

Click on ‘Units 20/20‘ in red circle –

You should see …



Step Five

Click on ‘Reference Code 59/20/0/-/1‘ in red circle –

You should see …



Step Six

Click on ‘Digital Copies 107‘ to see a table of 107 scanned images –

You should now see the scanned images …


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 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 –


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.


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


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.


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 !


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