Connie Gerwing’s German and Ukranian/Polish Women Homesteaders Research

On her journey towards a history degree, Connie Gerwing became aware of a lobby by British women to change the homestead law. Under the homestead law in Canada, only widows with dependent children could apply. Concerned that “riff raff” such as Eastern Europeans might come in large numbers and populate the prairies, a group of women of British background campaigned to allow British women to homestead even if they were single.  The lobby was not successful, but Connie wondered about the “riff-raff,” those from Eastern European or other European countries.

As she has German and Ukrainian/Polish ancestry, she asked,

“Did widows from these countries file for homesteads? Who were they? What were their commonalities? What were shared problems?”

She searched saskhomesteads.com. First for “Mrs.” This reduced the numbers from 36,000 to 4,500.  Next, she eliminated any women on homesteads originally filed by men. Then she looked for German, Ukrainian, and Polish surnames and checked block settlement maps.  In the end, she identified 222 German and 89 Ukrainian/Polish widows.

2018m03WomenHomesteaders
Connie Gerwing presents research on German and Ukranian/Polish women homesteaders.

To uncover stories, she searched local history books. She also recommended looking at theses. For example, Paul Paproski’s “The German Catholics of St. Peter’s Colony: 1903-1930.” Or “Les Autres Metis: The English Metis of the Prince Albert Settlement 1862-1886” by Paget Code.

Theresia Lutz’s story highlights commonalities. A widow, she was excited about the opportunity of a quarter section, 160 acres, for a $10 registration fee. Her adult children did their best to discourage her, but she packed supplies and hired a railcar for the trip from Nebraska to Saskatchewan.  She, her dependent children, and a son and his family, waited three weeks for the spring runoff to subside to cross the North Saskatchewan River. Like Goldilocks, she did not homestead on the first land she tried but looked for something “just right” before filing a claim.  Like other widows and most other pioneers, homesteading was a cooperative labour of clearing, breaking, seeding, and harvesting.  After 3 years, Theresia “proved up” her homestead.

These widows shared some issues even though they often couldn’t communicate with each other because of language issues. First, they often didn’t speak English and this made it difficult to fill in the paperwork to complete homestead applications. The Ukrainian/Polish women signed with an X which implies that they were illiterate although it may be that they were illiterate in the Roman alphabet but could read and write in their Cyrillic script. The widows tended to be older, often in their 40’s or 50’s with older children who could help out. Most of them chose homesteads near some of their adult children who helped them fulfill the requirements to obtain the homestead. Evidence of children who lived nearby is common.

Connie’s process and strategies paired with persistence are an admirable model for family historians.

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Scanning Film and Slides with Epson Perfection V600 Photo

At the January meeting, a member demonstrated her Epson Perfection V600 Photo using film negatives. The V600 does photos and documents but its magic is it comes with trays for slides and film. She talked about her choices for settings, file naming, and organization.

  • The Epson Perfection V600 comes with film and slide trays.
  • The tray tabs (A, B, C) match spots on the scanner so the tray sits precisely.

  • The document type choices are photo, color positive, color negative (current setting), B&W negative, illustration, magazine, newspaper, and text/line art.
  • As I want to reprint as 4×6 photos, I set the resolution to 600px. If I want an 8×10, I would experiment with a higher resolution.
  • If I’m doing magazine or newspaper, which uses dots, I’d “descreen.”
  • The color restoration is effective for photos that need it.

  • File Save Settings gives you location choice.
  • I’ve chosen the prefix NegYYYY_. The start number accumulates and indicates I’ve done 127 scans for 1985. The next scan will be named Neg1985_128.jpg.

 

  • The software recognizes each photo. Previewing offers:
    • Unchecking any unwanted photos.
    • Negative film is 4.5×6 allowing a 0.5 adjustment.

  • When all files go in a NegYYYY folder.

Genealogical Riches in Provincial Archives

Reference archivist Christine Charmbury gave the Prince Albert Branch of the Saskatchewan Genealogical Society a great start to our year.  She presented “Demystifying Archival Research: Introduction to Archives and the Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan” on September 12, 2017.

Charmbury explained how archives are organized, how to find and access archival records, and how researchers can best prepare to conduct research at the Provincial Archives.  She also detailed the various types of records available in the Permanent Collection, many of which are valuable sources of information for genealogical research.

Archival collections are made up of records of enduring administrative or historical value.  They are unique primary sources.  The text, photos, maps, audio/visual, financial records, newspapers, pamphlets, etc. remain in the archive’s controlled environment.

After an initial registration and reference interview, researchers may then sign in at either the Saskatoon or Regina Archive.  With direction form the archivist, researchers complete retrieval slips to request records, and originals or copies are delivered to the reading room.  Charmbury recommends researchers diligently record the reference codes and file numbers and take notes.  Photocopying and digital scans can be made of records in the collection for a fee, and for in person researchers scanning from microfilm records to a personal USB key is free.  Also, flash free photos are permitted in the reading rooms for no charge.  Their fee schedule is online at http://saskarchives.com/using-archives/fee-schedule.

Researchers benefit from preparing specific research questions.  Return to the archivists as you find and refine your questions or don’t find answers.  Questions can also be answered from a distance by submitting an enquiry through the Provincial Archives website at https://saskarchives.com/emr/website-enquiry-form.

Charmbury also cautions that progress is typically slow because the resources can be “dense,” “elusive,” the Archives have limited hours and resources might have to be brought in from the other office or an off-site location.

Archives are not organized by subjects like libraries.  They are organized by creators and creator organizations.  For example, one of Charmbury’s favourite creator organizations is the Department of Natural Resources.  Both offices of the Provincial Archives will have guides to their collections (also called finding aids) and a master index to all of the guides to help researchers find records.

The Saskatoon Archive has central to northern creators plus early government records.  The Regina Archive has central to southern creators plus recent governments, court records, and more audio/visual.  It is always best to check at which office records are located in advance of your visit.  The hours, location and contact information is available here: http://saskarchives.com/locations.

For genealogists, Charmbury recommends exploring http://saskarchives.com/ first.  Particularly the Family History Research page, in the Using the Archives section. Look for the link below at http://saskarchives.com/using-archives/family-history-research.

PAGene20170912Archive

Descriptions of many of their records can also be searched on the webpage here:  http://sab.minisisinc.com/sabmin/scripts/mwimain.dll/144/DESCRIPTION_COLL?DIRECTSEARCH.

Charmbury expanded on some of the types of resources available:

  • Census records on microfilm shared out by the National Archives (Library and Archives Canada)
  • United and Anglican Church records, other than births, deaths, and marriages.
  • Prince Albert had 14 including a French language newspaper.
  • Personal papers.
  • Government records, mostly provincial but including some municipalities like the city of Prince Albert.
  • Organizations and businesses.  CCF is often researched but please prepared a specific question.
  • Pioneer Questionnaires.  Done in 1955, the questionnaires have different topics and are searchable by name or location on the website here: http://saskarchives.com/using-archives/family-history-research/pioneer-questionnaires.
  • Local history books.
  • One shows the river lots in Prince Albert.
  • Photographs are searchable.

After thanking Charmbury for her first class presentation, there were many excited discussions while members and guests enjoyed coffee and homemade puffed wheat cake.

Letters to Santa

After sharing our traditional Christmas supper, members of the Prince Albert Branch of the Saskatchewan Genealogical society shared their “Letters to Santa.”  The top item was time.  Time to:

  • trace new questions from military medals
  • demolish a brick wall for Irish ancestor who joined the British army at age 21
  • create a multi-generational wall chart
  • genealogy and a kick-in-the-butt.

Time also played big in the next item on our list to Santa, a time machine to talk to ancestors. The final common item was money for DNA kits and online subscriptions.

The laugh of the evening was someone who asked Santa that she not be related to Donald Trump.

One member made time to write this thoughtful and amusing letter to Santa and generously gave permission to share it.

2017asantaletterpagene

Dear Santa;

My Genealogical Society has asked me to write a letter to you, asking for something relevant for you to give me for my Christmas gift this year.  I think that I have been a good person and that I am deserving of a gift from you.  I have been attentive to the needs of my family members and to the needs of other people who have reached out to me, plus, I have made small cash donations to many of the charities that contact me for their various causes. 

After giving it some thought, I am asking for a calendar with 365 free days.  I will use some of those days for my own personal needs and for home and yard maintenance.  I will also use some for special family events.  There are always birthdays to celebrate and there may even be a new baby next year that I will have to knit a new Christmas stocking for.  There are young children in school who invite me to various things that they are involved in, like concerts and end of year celebrations.  Then there are all of the special holidays throughout the year that we usually manage to get the whole family together for.

That should still leave enough free days to spend on my genealogy projects.  I had intended to do a multi generation pedigree wall chart some time ago, but never got beyond my own name.  It would be nice to finish that.  I would also like to do more work on my Legacy Family Tree program.  I succeeded in transferring my family tree to Legacy from Ancestry.com a long time ago, but there is so much more that one can do.  And beyond that, I have for a long time wanted to write some kind of history, focusing on my life from birth, but going beyond that to include as much as I can about the people that I descended from.  I had originally thought that I would have had that done by 2017, in time for Canada’s 150th anniversary.

And one more thought; I would like to record living family in genealogy format.  I have a brother and sister with children and grandchildren.  I would have to consult them directly to get the information and I am hoping that there will be someone among them who will be prepared to take over my records when I pass on.  I might need more than a year to do all of that.  But I would really appreciate it, Santa, if you could put a calendar with 365 free days under my Christmas tree on December 25th.

Sincerely,  Carol

What items would your list to Santa have?  Whether Santa delivers or not, we can all use this wish list to set goals and priorities for genealogical success in 2017.

Genes for Genealogy

Audrey Boyko gave an informative DNA presentation to the Prince Albert Branch of the Saskatchewan Genealogical Society (PASGS) on November 8.  Boyko shared how she is using DNA testing to extend the branches of family trees.

Boyko explained the different types of tests; mitochondrial (mtDNA) for the maternal line, Y-chromosomal (Y-DNA) for the paternal line, X-chromosomal (X-DNA) for inheritance patterns, and autosomal-DNA (atDNA) for both paternal and maternal lines.

“The older the better,” Boyko said.  She encouraged people to reach out to their oldest living relatives asking them to have their DNA tested before it is too late.  Boyko’s mother agreed to do the tests and Boyko used her mother’s results during the presentation.  DNA testing is like keeping a part of your ancestors.

Boyko detailed the cost, the advantages, and disadvantages for different companies.  For example, DNA tests range from $149 to $320.  As well as looking at matches, the results show shared matches.  Boyko warns, “It is so annoying when instead of having a public tree, your match has no tree, the tree is locked, and/or your match is not responding to your email request.  Say yes to linking your DNA to your family tree and please make it public.”

Ancestry and some other companies produce an ethnicity estimate with a map.  This can prove or disprove who you thought you were. A pleasant surprise was when testing two cousins who are extended family and both showed that there is small percentage of Jewish DNA far back in their line, this was totally unknown to their family. The map can give you a visual representation of your different ethnicity percentages in the appropriate country.

Currently Ancestry has the largest DNA database but Boyko found Family Tree worthwhile because it has a different set people.  23andMe offers health results as well as genealogy.  DNA Land is new and while it is not a large database, like Family Tree, it has a different set of people.  Boyko suggested that MyHeritage database might be worthwhile for people with European ancestry.  It is recommended to start with Ancestry; which you can download for free to MyHeritage and soon to Family Tree.

It is wise to keep the DNA raw data file on your computer and this file can be uploaded to GEDmatch which is a free tool for DNA and genealogy research.  GEDmatch gathers DNA from almost all testing companies.

Finally, Boyko said, “Getting test results will not help much without doing research.”  She recommends joining an online DNA group and reading books like The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy and Trace Your Roots with DNA. If you use this press release, please add this as the last sentence in the final paragraph.  “To watch a video of Boyko and her DNA research visit http://tinyurl.com/PAGeneDNA.”

Lost in Translation?

A member who does not read Dutch but has family documents in Dutch gave us a serendipitous opportunity to apply optical character recognition (OCR) discussed in a previous blog plus experiment with a free online translation tool.

Below is an example of a family document. Knowing it is a family document probably means you can figure out some words. Thinking of kindergarten, you might guess “kinderen” is children.

ScanDutchTextPAGene

The OCR text was then taken into Google with the search terms “translator Dutch to English.” Below is a screen grab of the results:

ScanDutchTranslationPAGene

There was a valuable lesson learned because this is a double conversion; image to text characters and then Dutch to English. The translation of another text passage read “She weeps in Vries” and “He weeps in Eutingewelde” which was puzzling. Tracing it back, the OCR had erred in its conversion of “woont” as “weent.” When this error was corrected, the translation read “She lives” and “He lives”.

While far from perfect, it is perfectly free and a great starting point. The OCR digitizes the text which saves typing and while the translator does not always reveal sentences like “The other children were already long out of the house,” it can provide valuable contextual clues. Over time, our member would probably find herself gaining fluency in reading Dutch and recognizing the common errors that occur because it is OCR and then translation.

Do You Have Typed Papers You Want as Text?

Do you have genealogy letters and documents that are typed on paper that you would like to have as digital text for word processing documents, genealogy programs, or other uses?  Optical character recognition, OCR, might save you typing them out.

Let’s start with this example of a response from Veteran Affairs.

OCROriginalScan

The first option, and one I can’t show, is to see if your scanner offers OCR.  As the image below suggests, my scanner references this feature but it is grayed out and not available.

OCRScannerTextConverting

So I took the scanned jpg image and opened it with Adobe Acrobat Pro.

OCRAdobePro

It did an excellent job of converting the picture to text as shown here but Adobe Acrobat Pro is not free.

In reply to your recent inquiry, a review of your late father’s service documents indicates that he was awarded the following service medals:
The British War Medal
The Victory Medal
The Military Medal
Enclosed is a copy of the only Citation Card we have in our possession concerning the award of the Military Medal. Further information could possibly be obtained from the following address:
Ministry of Defence
The Army Medal Office
Government Building
Worcester Road
Droitwich, Worcestershire
England
WR9 SAU
I trust the foregoing satisfies your requirements.

Something that is free is onlineocr.net.  The results are similar with less formatting.

OCROnlineOCR

In reply to your recent inquiry, a review of your late father’s service documents indicates that he was awarded the following service medals:
The British War Medal The Victory Medal The Military Medal
Enclosed is a copy of the only Citation Card we have in our possession concerning the award of the Military Medal. Further information could possibly be obtained from the following address:
Ministry of Defence The Army Medal Office Government Building Worcester Road Droitwich, Worcestershire England WR9 8AU
I trust the foregoing satisfies your requirements.

To summarize, you might save yourself typing out typed letters and documents by using optical character recognition, OCR, to recognize the letter shapes in an image file and converting them to characters.  Your scanner might do it directly, Adobe Acrobat Pro will do it (newer versions might even offer OCR if you try to open an image in Pro), and then there are free online services like onlineocr.net.

Our example was an original with high contrast that scanned well so our OCR results were good.  If your scan is poor, your results may be poor and you may decide that typing is faster after all.