Friday’s Family History Finds

The best Family History Finds this week:

Family Stories

The Crash of Lt. Dan Wilson’s P-38 Is Part of the History of Schwanberg, Austria on Joy Neal Kidney

Bequeath the Story with the Heirloom! by Marian B. Wood on Climbing My Family Tree

Two Family Heirlooms by Lisa S. Gorrell on My Trails into the Past

Moonshiners in the Tree by Carol on Piedmont Trails

Research Resources

Maps & Mapping Resources for Genealogists and Family Historians by Kelly on Wheaton Wood

Tech News

AI – Introducing My FREE Census Bots by Dana Leeds on Genealogy with Dana Leeds

AI – Fiction by Marcia Crawford Philbrick on Heartland Genealogy

AI for Summarizing and Transcribing Documents by Annette on AK’s Genealogy Research

Ancestry and Enhanced Images by Ken McKinlay on Family Tree Knots

Double Vision: RootsFinder and American AncesTREES by Doris Kenney on A Tree With No Name

Genetic Genealogy

Three Ways to Generate Hypotheses in WATO+ by Jonny Perl on DNA Painter Blog


Researching an Ancestor’s Character by History Explorer on A Genealogist’s Path to History

Seligmann Rothschild’s Sons: The Challenges of Trees Without Sources by Amy Cohen on Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

Negative Evidence by Marcia Crawford Philbrick on Heartland Genealogy

Education Is for Everyone

RootsTech 2024: My Online Class Recommendations by Alice Childs on Genealogy Now

80 Old Time Illnesses and Their Current Names by Kenneth marks on The Ancestor Hunt

4 Ways to Safeguard Your Digital Tree by DiAnn Iamarino Ohama on Fortify Your Family Tree

Research Like a Pro with DNA Airtable Base Update – 2024 by Nicole Dyer on Family Locket

Worth His Weight in . . . Tobacco? by Jacqi Stevens on A Family Tapestry

Four Habits to Make Your Research Easier by Janine Adams on Organize Your Family History

Transcript, Abstract, Extract by Michael John Neill on Genealogy Tip of the Day

Dutch Term – Gedetineerde by Yvette Hoitink on Dutch Genealogy

Keeping Up with the Times


7 Resources to Add Context to Ancestors’ Lives

In the quest to document our ancestors’ lives, researchers sometimes forget that people didn’t just live in the neat little package of vital records – namely birth, marriage and death.

News and public events happenings weren’t instantaneous knowledge as we have today, but our ancestors were definitely affected by social, economic, religious and political occurrences, regardless of the time period in which they lived.

While it’s probably not likely to find a particular ancestor by name in the many resources available, it is more than possible to learn in-depth about the circumstances affecting his/her daily life.

First, here is a quick and easy list of several free online resources:

  1. Wikipedia
  2. FamilySearch Research Wiki
  3. GenWiki
  4. World History Encyclopedia
  7. Infoplease: An Online Encyclopedia

Now, let’s look at a few examples of how these can be used for family history research.

My father’s family settled in Passaic, New Jersey around the turn of the 20th century. As with most Eastern European immigrants, they worked in the textile mills. Conditions were harsh, but they needed the meager pay to live. Then came the Passaic Textile Strike in 1926. What was that and how would it have affected my family members? A quick look at Wikipedia brought up the story.

One branch of my colonial American ancestors were Huguenots. Henry Burt married Eulalia Marche in England and they immigrated to Massachusetts in the 1630s. To learn more about the Huguenots’ origins, who they were and what happened to them, visit the FamilySearch Research Wiki.

GenWiki is a relatively unknown website, but it has some great records. In some ways, it reminds me of USGenWeb. Let’s say I have family members who lived in Buena Vista County, Iowa and one of them was a farmer who served in the Civil War. What kinds of records will help tell his life story? In this case, one image is worth 1000 words:

In this list, I’d be checking out the Civil War records, the Directories, the Maps and the History categories. It turned out that one of the Military Record files was a newspaper clipping about the Civil War veterans’ reunion in 1876!

One more example and I think you’ll have the idea. One of my Scottish ancestors fought in the Battle of Dunbar in Scotland in 1650 against Oliver Cromwell’s forces. The Scots lost, badly, and the results were brutal. This led to the transportation of many Scots to the New World. Because I have two Scottish ancestors who were transported, I’d like to learn more about the Battle of Dunbar. World History Encyclopedia has a concise article about the battle.

The goal of this article is to remind everyone to think outside the typical genealogical box when researching out ancestors. Use resources like the FamilySearch Research Wiki in new ways . Look for the social, political, religious and economic stories to provide the context that changes our ancestors from “hatched, matched and dispatched” into living beings.

Malek Family of Reading, PA, Early 20th Century

Just Half of the Family!
Malek Family, c1926

The Malek family photograph is one that dates quite a bit later than the usual late 1800s gems that I find to send back home to descendants. However, there is a reason for that. a genie buddy found this photograph in a thrift shop right here in Tucson. She knew that I re-homed old photos so sent me an email. I promptly drove to the shop and purchased the picture for all of $6.00. Actually, the price tag indicated that it was the frame that had that value, but, of course, I had no interest in the frame and donated it back to charity.

Inside the picture frame was not only this photo, which appears to be a reprint done in sepia tone on nice heavy paper, probably in the 1980s. I feel somewhat confident in my assessment because I, too, reprinted several family photos using the same process during that decade.

Also in the frame was a second black and white photo of the picture where someone took a picture of the picture in 2007. In addition to the extra copy of the photo, someone had not only included a printout of the family’s 1920 census enumeration, but had also typed an extraction of the family on a 1920 census form!

Tom my amazement, I quickly discovered that Mom and Pop Malek had not the ten children in the picture, but were the parents of SEVENTEEN children, including twins. That was quite a busy household!

Joseph Malek, (17 March 1878, Galicia, Poland-Austria – 11 August 1963) married Mary Swiderski (1886 – 24 October 1967), possibly as his second wife. Joseph arrived in America in 1902 and there is a 1904 marriage certificate filed in Reading for Joseph Malek and Mary Konszniak, dated 30 September 1904. Further, Find A Grave notes that Joseph and Mary Swiderski married in 1907 and Joseph is quite a bit older than her, so a second marriage is definitely possible.

Divorce among Catholics in that time period was more than extremely unusual and I find no further record of Mary Konszniak, so I think it is possible that she died after giving birth to two children – Michael and Julia. In any case, Michael and Julia would only ever have known Mary Swiderski as their mother.

This family, with a couple of exceptions, lived their lives in or near Reading, Berks, Pennsylvania.


  1. Michael Joseph, 26 February 1905-13 September 1982; married Anna Zydorczyk, 1933
  2. Julia M., 22 June 1906-24 March 1981; married Edward J. Preska
  3. Anna Mary, 20 September 1908-18 February 1965; married Anthony S. Michalak
  4. Josephine Victoria, 19 March 1910-13 October 1969; married John W. Jaroszenski
  5. John, 23 October 1911-26 July 1922 (drowned in the Schuylkill River)
  6. Stephen J., 6 July 1913-January 1973; married Cecilia G. Nowoczynski
  7. Tekla, 1915-1916 (buried with her parents)
  8. Mary Ann (Mamie), 11 May 1915-31 January 1977; married Samuel Butto
  9. Joseph John, 20 November 1918-7 September 1995; married Ethel Eberly
  10. Helen Amelia, 20 November 1918-3 November 1996; married Walter Romanski
  11. Thelma (aka Tekla & Tillie), 1 December 1920-9 December 1991; married (1) Oddwin Fritz (2) Ray W. Rothermel
  12. Geneva F., 1922-?; unmarried in 1961
  13. Dorothy Cecilia (aka Diane), 25 July 1923-7 November 1999; married James T. Langston
  14. Chester Anthony, 16 September 1925-28 July 1985; married Mary Ann Chelius
  15. Florence, 8 March 1927-21 August 1998; married James H. Spraut
  16. Son, 12 December 1928
  17. Edward Thomas, 27 May 1932-7 July 2005; married Doris M. (Bowers) Firestone

I believe the 16th child, a son, has probably passed away somewhat recently, although I’ve found no obituary. This child is the one with ties to Tucson and was likely the owner of this photograph.

Because many grandchildren are still living, I won’t share anymore information about this family. However, it appears that eight of the children have no living descendants today.

I did choose one descendant and this photo has gone home to that person.

Genealogy Tips & Family History