The Cost of Ancestry Research Sunday, Sep 15 2013 

I consider myself a family history detective, finding enjoyment and excitement by piecing together the puzzles in my genealogy.  Sometimes it’s highly frustrating hitting a roadblock but most times I’m challenged to keep digging.  Recently, I’ve been thinking a great deal about the cost of ancestry research.

MONEY:  There is absolutely a financial cost associated with genealogy research.  There are plenty of helpful family history sites online that do not charge you to search their collection of records.  One I find extremely beneficial is  The range of records available includes marriage, birth, and census documents.  I have found a great many marriage records that helped connect the branches of my tree, especially when those records include the mother and father’s names.  I found half-siblings of my great-father that I never knew about and was able to verify the connection through other sources, on other ancestry search sites.  The other sites I primarily use in my search charge a fee.  However, the value outweighs the cut to my budget.

TIME:  I spend A LOT of time researching my family tree, more than I anticipated I would when I started.  It’s so easy to sit down at the computer and find one hint that leads you to another and another…before you know it, 3 hours have gone by and you’re so close to putting the piece in place!  As much fulfillment as I get from genealogy research, I  have a twinge of guilt when I think about the other projects I have in the works – my Young Adult fantasy novel, for instance.  Why am I not spending all of my free time to get my book done and published?!  That’s where my focus should be.  Shouldn’t it?  Do I spend a few hours learning about those who lived before me or use that time to write about an entirely fictional character?

SCANDAL:  Am I being selfish by asking the questions that makes family members uneasy to talk about?  What is the point of pushing for questions when the truth may reveal a path that you never intended to walk down?  Scandal, mysteries, long-buried truths – you’re likely to find any of the above if you go back far enough.  The question is…What do you do with the information once you have it?  Do you stuff it down until the subjects of said scandal have passed on?  Do you approach them with the knowledge and gently ask for their recollection of the events?  What is it that you seek to gain from prodding for the ‘truth’?  I haven’t encountered any jaw-dropping secrets so far in my search; that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.  Perhaps, some of what I found out (like remarriages and half-siblings) were considered significant drama and scandal to those who lived it at the time period.

One of my goals with this ancestry journey is to actually take a journey.  To visit the key places in my lineage and write about them.  Document what it means to me to be present in a place that once held meaning to my ancestors.  For a brief time, to stand where they stood.  Of course, in order to take that trip I need both time and money. Who knows what kind of scandal I might find!

Food for Thought…and Comfort Tuesday, Sep 3 2013 

I came to an interesting conclusion this morning, as I sat drinking my tea.  A great many of the fond memories I have from visiting my mother’s side of the family have to do with food.  Here are just some examples:

  • RECIPES:  My mom’s side of the family passed down some amazing recipes, even halupki (stuffed cabbage).  My maternal side of the family has strong German, Slovak and Polish roots, especially evident in the foods they prepared.  For instance, kielbasa with sauerkraut and hand-made pierogies.  Then there’s the desserts – CMP pie with Chocolate, Marshmallow and Peanuts.  Golf Balls were, and still are, a treasured favorite in our household.  Hand mixed and rolled peanut butter with sugar and graham cracker crumbs, coated with chocolate and left to chill.  A…MAZ…ING!!!!
  • THANKS FOR COMING TO VISIT, NOW EAT!:  This tradition is not exclusive to my German, Polish or Hungarian heritage. But, I always associated it with my mother’s side of the family. When we would go to visit one of her many relatives, they’d always have food for us.  “Are you hungry,” Aunt Eleanor would ask.  “Here, have a sandwich.”  Or, “I just made an apple pie; it’ll go to waste if you don’t have some.”  I’ve noticed over the years that my mother learned from her maternal role models.  She’s a wonderful hostess to guests.  “What do you want to drink?  No, I made plenty…please take some left-overs home.  We won’t eat it all.”  Containers filled with my mom’s cooking – the best party favor EVER!!!!
  • HOLIDAYS, A.K.A. FAMILY GATHERINGS:  I distinctly recall a Thanksgiving at my maternal grandmother’s house when I was a child.  Her dining room melted into her living room, but there was always enough space around the table to fit our family.  It was finding enough space for the food, that was the real challenge!  I always looked forward to holidays at MomMom’s house and now I wonder if my niece and nephews feel the same way about my mom.  My mother’s mother passed away when my mother was only 32 years old.  From then on, my mom became the maternal holiday provider for our immediate family.  All these years later, my mother still does holidays full-out.  Hand makes the pierogies for Christmas Eve, cooks the ham for Christmas Day, roasts the turkey with the handmade stuffing during Thanksgiving….and so on.  As much as I enjoy my mother’s cooking, and I certainly do, it always seems to taste better when surrounded by friends and family.

There’s a pattern in my maternal ancestry where family members worked in the same industry, sometimes the same place of employment.  My great-grandfather, Mike Yanick, worked in the furniture store that his brother owned.  Many of my Karchner ancestors were truck drivers, and coal miners before that.  So, it shouldn’t seem so odd to me that two of my sisters chose teaching as their profession, especially since we cheered on our mom when she pursued the same career.  Plus, my youngest sister picked up my mother’s skill in the kitchen.  Her culinary skill marvels me and matches that of my mother.  When they cook together…well, I keep telling them they need to open a restaurant together!  They don’t want me anywhere near the kitchen, I’ll write the marketing copy instead.

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