• Photo
  • Sep20

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    When I was eleven,
    eleven days before my father’s birthday,
    as I tiptoed up the creaking stairs at bedtime
    he called me from his bed.

    My boyish perspective of him
    was as a somewhat mysterious being
    who had existed full grown, free range and in power
    forever.
    Mike Tierney, Baseball Uniform
    Although I had seen our family photographs
    I didn’t really link the baby in them
    nor the yard full of dirt and gardens
    and odd bits of wood lying about
    to him.

    From these photographs I did understand
    he was in the Navy during the war
    but didn’t see any of the fighting
    (which I, of course, attributed to an imaginary
    undercover spycraft they needed him for)
    and that he and my mother met at work
    and went to the beach together.
    Dad, Navy
    I also suspected that quite a bit seemed to have happened
    in the several years before I was around
    while my brother and sisters were,
    thanks to the projector and slides
    that smelled of electricity and dust
    he took out at intervals and the mote-filled light
    he pointed at the wood panel walls.

    I can recall his taking me to work in Manhattan
    down through dark and dingy subways and streets,
    printing out pictures of Snoopy for me
    made up of the alphabet in unlikely formations
    by machines of great size and noise
    using paper with alternating bars of white and green.
    Dad & Buddies, Central Park
    And our trip to the Museum of Natural History
    early one Sunday morning, so early the museum was far from open.
    He talked a man cleaning out a side street bar
    into giving us two short bottles of White Rock cola
    which we carried back to the museum steps
    and sat drinking, sweet and warm,
    while he pointed out places in the park he used to play
    and the architecture of buildings that stood coldly around us.

    On this eleventh day before my birthday,
    I can see my father sitting upstate in an Adirondack chair
    a blanket covering his legs and keeping him warm
    in stuffy summer air
    with The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich in his lap.

    I can remember walking from the bedroom steps
    to him after his call
    and his blue, blue eyes looking at mine.

    I can feel his thin arm reaching around my shoulder,
    his kiss on my head,
    his “Goodnight, Johnny”
    and his hug longer than expected.

    I can look back over my shoulder
    his eyes still on mine
    while I climbed the stairs to bed

    just before cancer won the day.

    Tonight,
    On this eleventh day before my birthday,
    the same birthday my father was approaching when I was eleven,
    as I climb the creaking steps
    to my own children’s bedrooms
    I will think of his kiss
    and I will kiss their clear, sweet faces
    as they sleep.


    Upstate, 1974 Upstate, 2012

  • Jul3

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    While resurrecting my family photo scanning project again (now aka PROJECT LAZARUS) I stumbled upon one of my very favorite family photos: my 15 year old grandfather Josef Vanac and his sister Marie all dressed up for a photo in New York city.
    Joseph Vanac and sister Marie, New York, circa 1906I love this photo not only because we have no other photos of my grandfather and great-aunt at this time, but because he is right off the boat from the Czechoslovakia. (Around this time known as Bohemia, Austria Hungary, and/or Galicia depending on the record and they area people came from.)

    Marie had been in New York since she arrived in 1902 at the age of 16. The contact listed on her ship record was a cousin (actually listed as a sister, oddly) who had been here for many years.

    My grandfather came over in 1907 when he was 15 years old, and his ship record has Marie as his contact.

    I’ve included detail of his immigration record below.

    The Vanac family came from a rural farming background in the town of Zamlyni in Czechoslovakia and my grandfather was a stone mason at a monument company in the middle of the cemeteries of Queens for his entire career. I would love to know what my Grandpa was thinking at this point in time.

    In any case, they look terrific, and serious and at the beginning of their adult lives in a new country. And Aunt Marie looks especially beautiful.

    Joseph Vanac ship immigration record, 1907

  • Jun25

    2 Comments

    While going through some of the Czech family records I found on Actapublica.eu today, I headed over to the Google Maps to look up a town name I hadn’t heard of before. I might be late for this party, but I found that they had added street view images for the Czech Republic!

    My grandfather Josef Vanac’s family lived in House #3 in the town of Zámlyní, and my grandmother Marie Simanek’s family lived in House #6 just down the road in the town of Předmíř. So armed with a fistful of family photos I started “walking” through the towns to see if I could find some of the locations.


    View Larger Map

    Even though I know the house number in Zámlyní and found the house easily, it looks like much of the home has been rebuilt. (A cousin told me last year that three was still a Vanac relative there until several years ago.)

    Simanek Family Home Photo, Predmir, Czech RepublicThe group of family photos I think are from Zámlyní just didn’t make an obvious match at first glance, although you can see a similar building style to most structures in the town. I’ll have to take another crack at it that town later.

    But, once I moved over to Předmíř with the photo at right, House #6 jumped right out!

    See the street view below for the location today…

    View Larger Map

    (Note: I tried to set up the current day street view above to the exact angle as the old photo, but you might notice that the view resets to a spot right in front of the house. You can drag the view and move it back to right for a better comparison.)

  • May24

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    A Wordless Thursday post. Wait, Wednesday was supposed to be wordless. Thilent Thursday?

    Anyway, a very nice photo of an unknown woman from our family archive. I suspect she might be a friend of my Gran’s.


    Unknown Woman in Hat & Fur Muffler

  • May4

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    File Naming Convention - Files List

    Click image to see larger version

    Lately I began to wonder if other researchers are as naming-convention-specific as I have become when it comes to saving records. Are they? Are you?

    I do my best to keep a standard convention for the various files types, but usually I try to keep the info within it flowing from the most general to most specific within it.

    For example, this is all one filename for a 1901 Irish Census document:
    File Naming Convention - detail

    The idea is: FileType.Year.Country.County.Town.Subtown.Address.SURNAME Names.NOTES.jpg

    While it looks a bit of overkill, it comes in especially useful with images – I use Google Picasa to work with my image sets locally. I have more than 4,700 images in my document folders alone – and that doesn’t include the few thousand family photos I have scanned so far, nor my newer and natively digital photos.

    In a perfect world, I would have used tags to categorize all of the images so I could search for things that way. But, that didn’t happen back in the early days of my research. However, the good news is that as you search within Picasa, it uses various things to find what you want.

    That includes the file names, folder names in addition to tags. So, my crazy-long file-naming conventions not only make them easier to parse when looking through folders, but help me break them into sets when searching in Picasa. Two birds with one pixel. or something.

    As a bit of trivia, did you know there’s also another neat search feature in Picasa?
    It can search for colors!

    Picasa search - White legsI’m not talking about file or folder names here- I’m talking about color within the image itself. So, type ‘BLUE’ in the Picasa search box and get all of them sky photos. Type ‘GREEN’ and get grass photos.

    Funnily enough, in my photo sets, if you type ‘WHITE’… the first result is a photo of my legs.