14 com

This Week's Mystery Location

The Generations Project is visiting cities and countries all over the world filming episodes for Season 2.
Can you guess where we are filming in this picture?

Whoever can guess closest will win a free DVD of an episode from Season 1

Submit your guess under "comments".
If you are the winner you will be contacted to receive your DVD.

Only guesses submitted on this blog post will qualify.
2 com

My New Favorite Website

By: Bess Hayes

Berlin is probably my favorite city on the whole planet, so I was delighted when research for an upcoming episode of The Generations Project took me (well, digitally) to 19th-century Berlin.

Researching 19th-century Berlin might seem like a difficult task, but thanks to my new favorite website http://www.berlin.ucla.edu/hypermedia/2003.php, it was easy and fun. Simply put, I heart it. A lot.

It was created for a class at UCLA, and luckily the blessed dears have left it up for our perusal and enjoyment. This website combines dozens of maps to create a cartographic history of Berlin, mapping its last 800 years. I love tracing the development of this city on the Spree. And as a cartophile, I love following the stylistic evolution of maps depicting it.

Even if your family history doesn't take you back to Berlin, I hope you enjoy these cartographic snapshots of this beautiful city. Oh, and let us know if you've found any similar exciting websites while doing research.

8 com

This Week's Mystery Location (it's a tricky one)

The Generations Project is visiting cities and countries all over the world filming episodes for Season 2.
Can you guess where we are filming in this picture?

Whoever can guess closest will win a free DVD of an episode from Season 1

Submit your guess under "comments".
If you are the winner you will be contacted to receive your DVD.

Only guesses submitted on this blog post will qualify.

August 20

This picture shows The Generations Project filming at
Restaurant Les Filles du Roy in Montreal, Canada.
Jody, please send your mailing address to
moreinfo@thegenerationsproject.com to receive your free DVD.
1 com

"My car gets 40 rods to the hogshead, and that's just the way I like it!"

By: Rob Burt

Anyone who has seen Grandpa Ed talk about the good ol' days realizes that going into the past is like visiting a foreign country: they both speak totally different languages!

Just as today, language in the past had its own slang, meanings, and expressions that can mean something totally different than what we understand a word to mean today. For example, take the word villain. Today we understand that word to mean an evil individual. However, its original meaning from the middle ages meant a poor individual who worked on a farm.

When reading journals, or doing family history research, it is a good idea to locate a dictionary from the time period in order to understand the language our ancestors were speaking. Another good option is the Oxford English Dictionary, which records how words and their meanings have changed over time.

So don't get in a hurly-burly if you can't understand your ancestors' language. Everything will be roses, just find the nearest period lexicon and peruse away!

Tell us, what are some of the documents you've had to decipher or translate. Have you found any strange words that meant something different than you expected?
0 com

And the winner is...

The correct answer is San Francisco, Ca. (Richmond to be exact). The photo was taken on the SS Red Oak Victory.

Congratulations to Jean-Francois de Buren from California, he was the first one to guess San Francisco. We are also awarding Bryan from Ohio, for his specificity. Both will receive a DVD from Season 1. Be sure to look out for next week's Mystery Location, you'll have another chance to win.

To receive your free DVD please email your address to moreinfo@thegenerationsproject.com

3 com

The (Family) Tree of Knowledge

When I was a few months into my pregnancy and feeling alone, I came across this quote by Harriet Lerner:

“We are never the first in our family to wrestle with a problem, although it may feel that way. . . . Learning how other family members have handled their problems similar to our own down through the generations, is one of the most effective routes to lowering reactivity and heightening self-clarity.”

I thought, “Yeah, right. Who does this happen to? No one else in my family has been abandoned three months into a planned pregnancy.”

I kept reading:

“If we do not know about our own family history, we are more likely to repeat past patterns or mindlessly rebel against them, without much clarity about who we really are, how we are similar to and different from other family members, and how we might best proceed in our own life.” [1]

Since I was already passionate about genealogy and family history (I am president of a personal history company), I decided to test out this idea. I re-examined my family tree to see if I had overlooked any single mothers and to find out what, if anything, I could learn from them.

To my great surprise, there were more than a few, and the details of their stories left me in awe. For the purpose of brevity, I will share only two here:

The first was my great-grandmother, Ellen. She lived for a time in the Mormon Mexican Colonies (which explains my affinity for Mexico). She had four daughters with her husband, but after the fourth was born, he accused Ellen of cheating on him. He said that Violet was not his child. With this announcement, he left her and moved back to the United States.

Things in Mexico at this time (early 1900s) were tense. Pancho Villa, the revolutionary general in Chihuahua, was suspicious of the white Mormon settlers. According to the colony’s history, he threatened to kill the white people if they did not leave. So Ellen and her four daughters, and the rest of their colony, fled Mexico on foot after only a few days’ notice. Ellen returned to her parents' home in Cedar City, Utah, and lived with her family. Sometime later, she was reunited with her childhood sweetheart, married him, and had four sons—one of which is my grandfather.

The next story is from my father’s side. My father was adopted by his stepfather (meaning my grandmother was a single mom for a while, too), and I had been trying to track his biological father’s line for some time. A few years before, I had already discovered the big surprise—I (with naturally blonde hair and freckles) am of slave ancestry (which explains my love for African American heritage). I found Maria Johns, my third-great-grandmother, in an 1860 census that listed her as a single black woman living with her young mulatto daughter in a small town in western Pennsylvania. Maria's occupation was “washer woman,” and she was listed as owning property.

If your hair isn’t already blown back, here are a few more details. Maria was born in Virginia, so she was almost certainly born into slavery. Her child was mulatto, and she was never married, so I can only speculate about what master may have impregnated her and whether she was willing. I can only speculate about how she escaped or earned her freedom. But I do know that 1860 was pre–Emancipation Proclamation, and it was a time when even white women rarely owned property.

What this tells me about Maria Johns is that she was awesome.

I found a few clues and rumors that indicate that Maria was a Quaker, which I believe; Quakers lived in her area of Pennsylvania and were the only group that would be accepting enough to embrace a black woman in their community and let her own property.

After learning these stories about my ancestors, I felt much less alone. I felt connected to and inspired by these powerful women. I looked to what Ellen and Maria (and others I found) did in their times of trial, and I saw that those who turned to their family and their faith were the most successful. I knew I would be wise to do the same.

By meditating on these and other strong women in my life stream, I felt them draw nearer to me. They helped me and lifted me up. When my daughter was born, I felt them all surrounding me—my mother, my grandmother, Ellen, Maria, and many more I didn’t even know, but who knew me and knew my daughter.

This was the first time I had really applied what my ancestors' stories taught me.Since then, during each major struggle in my life, I consult my family history to see what I can learn. The results continue to amaze and humble me.

Felice Austin is (among other things) a freelance writer and president of Memoirs, Ink, a company who shares The Generations Project's ambtion to rediscover, share, and preserve meaningful family legacies.

[1] Harriet Lerner, The Dance of Anger (Harper Paperbacks, 2005), 117–18.

1 com

Be a good tipper

We have a new feature we're adding to our growing blog - the family history tip!

Every time you see this symbol, it means we've found something useful we'd like to share to help those who are new to family history. While in production on The Generations Project, we learn many great new tips from the professional genealogists that we consult with. We also hope you'll contribute your favorite tips and tricks.

The whole mission of our TV series (and this blog) is to bring a fresh perspective to genealogy, and hopefully to be a point of entry for amateurs.

We want to show the world (especially young adults) how cool family history can be.

We want to focus on the stories behind all the online researching, microfiche, and treasure-hunting. We want to emphasize the emotional impact of family history. And we need your help to do that.

So we come to you, wise genealogist friends, to help us get this section started. Be a mentor to a younger researcher. If we post your family history tip, we'll credit you on our blog.

What tips do you have for people who are just becoming interested in family history?

Send your tips to moreinfo@thegenerationsproject.com