Oct 222017
 
10 Tips for Finding Your Ancestor's Town

I admire my ancestors’ sense of adventure and determination to seek out better lives by migrating from Germany to Ukraine/Poland/Hungary to North America. But I curse that same sense of adventure, because whenever they moved, they often left their past lives behind so completely that I can’t figure out where they came from. Since most […Read more]

Aug 092017
 
Fun with the Meyers Gazetteer

As children, we used to share what we did on our summer vacations. As an adult genealogist, I can’t wait to share what I learned on my summer vacation about finding ancestral towns in Germany! The Meyers Gazetteer has gone online (not new news), but at the recent IGGP conference, I learned that it has […Read more]

Oct 242016
 
Adventures of an Election Observer

My reason for being in Ukraine became abundantly clear in a rundown bar on a Sunday morning in Odessa. I was serving as an international observer at Ukraine’s first parliamentary election after the Maidan Revolution had toppled the corrupt, Putin-puppet president eight months earlier. My observation partner, Kevin, and I had started the day early, […Read more]

Sep 152016
 
Welcome Back to Osthofen

From the very first email, I felt my ancestral town of Osthofen reaching out to welcome me. The email was, of course, not from the town itself but from my guide for the day, Ursula Feile from the tourist office. Her cheery note: “We’re so excited you’re visiting the town of your ancestors. We’ll show […Read more]

Jul 302016
 
A Village of Quiet Charm

My 1999 visit to Gräfenhausen (origin of my Billigmeier family) epitomizes what not to do when visiting an ancestral town. I showed up there one afternoon, completely unplanned. I stood on the street, looked around, didn’t talk to anyone (didn’t actually see anyone to talk to), took a photo of a building that looked important, […Read more]

May 012016
 
Neither Rain Nor Sleet Nor Broken Foot

Sometimes it’s the little things in life that are the most dangerous. I survived petting a lion in Zambia and driving through crazed Athens traffic. But I was done in by my hotel door in Bosnia. In my own defense, it was an exceptionally high door threshold that you truly had to step over, sort […Read more]

Feb 172016
 
Pilgrimage to Maidan

“I’m dying.” –Tweet from a 21-year-old volunteer medic, Olesya Zhukovskaya, February 20, 2014. This update was the first thing I saw in my Facebook feed that morning two years ago. I’d woken up determined to cut back on my obsessive reading of news about Ukraine’s Maidan Revolution. Since the day in November 2013 when brutal […Read more]

Feb 092016
 
Osthofen, Germany: My Ancestral Town

The town of Osthofen, Germany, was the home of the Schott family from at least1717 to 1809. It is over 1,200 years old, and was first mentioned in 784 in the Lorscher Codex (a manuscript from the Lorsch Monastery). In 784 it was referred to as Ostova. Later names included Osthoven (1262), Osthouen (1268), Ostown […Read more]

Jan 262016
 
Schotten, Germany: Land of My People

The town of Schotten is said to be the place of origin of both the Schott family and the Schott name sometime between the 11th and 13th centuries. The official history for the town of Schotten, Germany, is that an early document mentions a church “ad scotis” or “of the Scots” that is one of […Read more]

Nov 162015
 
Cooking in the Footsteps of My Ancestors

My mother was always blunt, or “direct” if you want to be polite. I learned to live with comments like, “Well, that hairstyle doesn’t look good on you,” or “You just have no sense of style,” (when I preferred my own tailored look to her more flamboyant, sequin-bedecked clothing suggestions). So it didn’t really surprise […Read more]