Thursday, March 7, 2019

Who am I? DNA and genealogy - Guest Author Edition

Who am I? DNA and Genealogy


By SUE CRITES SZOSTAK Director, Poplar Bluff Municipal Library

As a Christmas gift to one another, Joe and I sent our DNA samples to Ancestry. Why did we? We wanted to know where we fit into the American story. Who were our immigrant ancestors? Where did they come from? Who came to America with our families? Joe is a third generation descendant of Polish immigrants and does not know some of his family who emigrated from Poland in the late 1800s and early 1900s except more immediate family members such as his aunts, uncles and first cousins. He wanted to know more. 

My story is the other end of the spectrum. Family history made up the bedtime stories my grandmothers told me as a child. They told me their families came from England and Germany. I learned of Civil War stories and westward movement to Missouri from Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, Illinois, and Tennessee. Most of this family history has been well documented and shared from generation to generation. While birth and death records are well documented, there has been an oral history, as well. These oral histories have had multiple variations passed down through the family and for the most part, the basic facts hold to be true. 

With Joe, there were no surprises. His ancestors were from Eastern Europe. One of Joe’s aunt’s DNA was 97 percent Polish. Joe shows to be Polish, Western Russian, and Slovak. I am sure that his mother’s ancestry made for the other percentages. I found I was Irish, Scottish and the British Isles with the remainder being Northwestern Europe (Germany, Holland, Scandinavia, etc.). Again, no surprise based upon the family stories. This begins our travel into the world of genealogy. Family history is more than stories. 

The knowledge of your ancestry takes on life and meaning when you understand more about your family. I am asked, “Are you kin to…?” (For those of you who don’t know the good Elizabethan word, kin — it means related.) The answer to that question is not always a definitive yes or no. So… begin the yawns and let me tell you how we are related. Never is the answer simple. Once you get beyond the aunts and uncles and first cousins, you need a diagram to explain the relationship. For example, I have gotten to know a young lady who upon knowing my maiden name asked if I was her relative. After asking her a couple of questions, I could tell her, “Yes.” Yes, we are kin and yes it is complicated. Both of her great-grandparents were first cousins to my father. The great-grandmother was my dad’s first cousin on my dad’s maternal side and the great-grandfather was my dad’s first cousin on his father’s side. I knew both of her great-grandparents from family gatherings during the ’50s through ’70s. I knew her great-great-grandparents as well. It was difficult to explain without a drawing. This brings me to family trees. 

Family lines branch like a tree. The tree looks more like the mighty oak than any other tree. The branches are long and complex with many smaller branches and an intertwining of the branches. How do we sort this out and show the interrelationships? As always, this brings me back to the library. 

Begin with who you know in your family. Fill in your tree’s branches with yourself, siblings, parents, grandparents and as many people as you think you know and as far back as you can go. Ask your parents and grandparents. Now you have names you are ready to visit us at the library. Using your library card or guest pass you can use databases, Ancestry. com (library use only) and Heritage Quest in the library (and at home with your library card number). From the library’s web site, https:// poplarbluff.org/genealogy.html access death records, Department of Vital Statistics, school yearbooks, city directories, etc. Let’s not forget all of the genealogy and local and state history books in the library. In addition, with your free library card, you can borrow many genealogy resources from the State of Missouri and all over the United States. 

Documentation of facts is important. Sometimes names are spelled differently, dates need to be verified and years of residence lead clues to your family heritage. History plays a big part in understanding why your clues may not jive with what you think you know. Why are there different spellings of my family name? Perhaps the census taker was spelling a name phonetically or as people moved from one section of the country to another, the spelling evolved. Why did a family member move from Virginia to Tennessee? Were there economic opportunities that changed due to politics? Did families move to a new beginning or seek to get away from civil strife? A good example of this is the northern migration of southerners in search of jobs. What were the geopolitical conditions? My husband’s family offers an example of this. His grandparents’ marriage certificate states that they were Austrian. They weren’t. We know they were Polish. It happens that the part of Poland where they were born was a part of the Austro Hungarian Empire which existed prior to World War I. Their citizenship is Austrian. If you don’t know, ask your librarian to help you find out what and why. 

Genealogy is a journey. It is a journey to the past and it is a trip to the knowledge of your family. Start your search with yourself, visit your library, and enjoy getting to know your family.

Friday, November 23, 2018

WWI / Armistice Day Centennial Commemoration - Part 4 of 4

The Blue Star Service Banner was designed and patented in 1917 by World War I Army Capt. Robert L. Queisser of the 5th Ohio Infantry. Queisser’s two sons served on the front line. His banner quickly became the unofficial symbol for parents with a child in active military service.


On Sept. 24, 1917, an Ohio congressman read the following into the Congressional Record: “The mayor of Cleveland, the Chamber of Commerce and the governor of Ohio have adopted this service flag. The world should know of those who give so much for liberty. The dearest thing in all the world to a father and mother: their children.” Blue Star Mothers and Gold Star Mothers organizations were established during World War I and remain active today.

During World War II, the Department of War issued specifications on the manufacture of the flag, as well as guidelines indicating when the service flag could be flown and by whom. The Blue Star Service Banner is an 8.5-by-14-inch white field with one or more blue stars sewn onto a red banner. The size varies but should be in proportion to the U.S. flag. Today, families display these banners when they have a loved one serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. The blue star represents one family member serving, and a banner can have up to five stars. If the individual is killed or dies, a smaller golden star is placed over it. Gold stars are placed above the blue stars or to the top right of the flag, in the event a flag represents multiple servicemembers.
Blue Star Service Banners were widely used during both world wars, but were not embraced during the Korean or Vietnam wars with the same enthusiasm. The American Legion rekindled that spirit of pride in our military men and women following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks by providing banners to military families across the nation.




Monday, November 5, 2018

WWI / Armistice Day Centennial Commemoration - Part 3 of 4

For those interested in more information related to the artifacts and memorabilia on display at the library, we have another display just for you!

In the Genealogy section of the library, near the bank of computers, we have curated an insightful display ready to be checked out.  Books and videos covering events from the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and the sinking of the H.M.S. Lusitania to the entrance of America into the war under President Wilson and the eventual surrender of Germany.

Also included in the display are authors that served or in some way participated in the war effort or were otherwise actively writing during the war.

Don't forget to join in the discussion taking place on the centennial of Armistice Day in the library theatre at 2:00 PM, Sunday, November 11, 2018.  Please sign the guestbook as well!

Friday, October 19, 2018

WWI / Armistice Day Centennial Commemoration - Part 2 of 4

We continue to commemorate and honor the memory of those that served our country during the Great War and its ending on Armistice Day, November 11, 1918.

We would like to thank VFW Post #6477 for providing a mannequin dressed in an authentic WWI uniform for our exhibit.  This enhances our display in ways that photographs can't always do justice by showing much more details.

Speaking of photographs, thank you to everyone that furnished us with photos of their loved ones in uniform.  Taking the information provided, we were able to augment the display of these servicemen with additional documentation of their service.  Information we found included draft registration cards, passenger listings as they traveled to and from Europe documenting the ships they sailed on, and in a few instances, we discovered photographs of the actual ships.

Where did we find this treasure trove of information to help tell their stories?  We used ancestry.com and you can too!  Just stop by the library and use your library card (or get a guest pass) for two hours of discovery.  The information you find can be emailed to you so you have access to it at home.

You still have plenty of time to see the various displays around the library as they will be, including the mannequin, available for viewing through November 30th. 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

WWI / Armistice Day Centennial Commemoration - Part 1 of 4

Two months of the commemoration of the Centennial of Armistice Day (now known more commonly as Veteran's Day) have commenced at the library!  The exhibit runs through November 30.

These photos are just a sample of a larger community project to honor those who served in the Great War, as it was known at the time.  Most items in the display cases are on loan from the Poplar Bluff Museum.  "Poppies" scattered among the artifacts and memorabilia were made by children during the crafting portion of Story Time.
Stop in to see these items and other displays located throughout the library.  Don't forget to sign the guestbook and see you soon!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Four new collections from Caruthersville Public Library



Four new collections from Caruthersville Public Library, in partnership with the State Historical  Society of Missouri, is now available, thanks to a recent Digital Imaging Grant. The Caruthersville Democrat/Democrat-Argus, Southeast Scimitar/Pemiscot Press, Hayti Critic and Hayti Pemiscot Argus served as major sources of information and news to the Pemiscot County community. The collections contain newspapers published from 1892 through 1965. (This project was supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act as administered by the Missouri State Library.)

Explore more Missouri history collections at http://www.MissouriDigitalHeritage.com.