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 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.

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.


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.

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.


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 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”