Monday, April 20, 2015

Interviewing Realatives

Getting people to share their stories isn't always easy. Follow these step-by-step ideas for a successful family history interview!

Interviews are best done in person but can be done on the phone or via Skype.

Here's How:
  1. Schedule a time in advance. This gives everyone a chance to prepare.
  2. Prepare a list of questions beforehand and either share them with your relative, or give them an idea of what you want to cover.
  3. Bring several notepads and pens to the interview. If you plan to make a recording, be sure to have a tape player, microphone, extra tapes and batteries.  Be sure you get permission for any taping you do.

  4. Take good notes and make sure you record your name, the date, the place the interview is being conducted and the interviewee.
  5. Start with a question or topic that you know will elicit a reply, such as a story you have heard her tell in the past.
  6. Ask questions which encourage more than simple 'yes' or 'no' answers. Try to elicit facts, feelings, stories and descriptions.
  7. Show interest. Take an active part in the dialogue without dominating it. Learn to be a creative listener.
  8. Use props whenever possible. Old photographs, favorite old songs and treasured items may bring memories flooding back.
  9. Don't push for answers. Your relative may not wish to speak ill of the dead or may have other reasons for not wanting to share. Move on to something else.
  10. Use your prepared questions as a guideline, but don't be afraid to let your relative go off on a tangent. They may have many things to say that you never thought to ask!
  11. Don't interrupt or attempt to correct your relative; this can end an interview in a hurry!
  12. When you are done, be sure to thank your relative for her time.

  13. Tips:
    1. Put your relative at ease by telling them that they will have a chance to see and approve of anything that you write before you share it with others.
    2. Keep the interview length to no more than 1-2 hours at a stretch. It's tiring for you and for the person being interviewed. This is supposed to be fun!
    3. Consider preparing a transcript or written report as a tangible thank you to your relative for her participation.
Adapted from:

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Mighty Girl

Please Note:  You never know if you have German  or Slavic Heritage, it could contain Eastern Jewish.  The Low German spoken by many of our relatives is very close to Yiddish.  REBENSDORF COUSINS:  One of the women who married one of our REBENSDORF Grandfathers was SOMMER.  SHAVLIK COUSINS:  Alice grew up in Moravia as did Apolina KRSKA mother of Stephen James SHAVLIK

To mark the beginning of Holocaust Remembrance Week, we're sharing the incredible true story of Alice Herz-Sommer, who was the world's oldest known Holocaust survivor and pianist until she passed away in London last year at the age of 110. Her story is told in the recent documentary, "The Lady in Number 6," which won the 2014 Academy Award for Best Short Documentary. As the film's producer, Nicholas Reed, writes: “Kids all over the world grow up on superheroes. What we, their parents, must remind them, is documentaries tell stories about ‘real superheroes.' Superheroes are based on great people, real people, like Alice Herz Sommer.”
Born in Prague in 1903, Herz-Sommer pursued a career as a classical musician until the Nazis prohibited Jews from performing in public. She then remained in Prague caring for her ailing mother, who was arrested and killed at the Treblinka extermination camp in 1942. The following year, Herz-Sommer was sent with her husband and 6-year-old son to the Theresienstadt concentration camp.
Theresienstadt was an unusual camp in that, although tens of thousands of people died there and many more were transported from there to extermination camps, it was also designated by the Nazis as a model camp for propaganda purposes. Many prominent Jewish artists and intellectuals were imprisoned there and permitted to maintain a cultural life. The Nazis would make films about life in the camp and, late in the war, allowed International Red Cross representatives to tour it in an effort to create the false impression that Jews were being treated humanely at their camps.
During her two years at the camp, Herz-Sommer played in more than 100 concerts. As she recounted in an interview, "Whenever I knew that I had a concert, I was happy. Music is magic. We performed in the council hall before an audience of 150 old, hopeless, sick and hungry people. They lived for the music. It was like food to them. If they hadn’t come [to hear us], they would have died long before. As we would have.”
In September 1944, her husband, Leopold, was sent to Auschwitz and later to Dachau where he died of illness. In May 1945, Herz-Sommer and her son were freed when the Soviet army liberated Theresienstadt. She later moved to Israel and worked as a professor of music at the Jerusalem Academy of Music for nearly 40 years until she emigrated to London in 1986 to be near her son.
Through it all, Herz-Sommer was known for her remarkably positive outlook on life. Toward the end of her life, she observed: "I think I am in my last days but it does not really matter because I have had such a beautiful life. And life is beautiful, love is beautiful, nature and music are beautiful. Everything we experience is a gift, a present we should cherish and pass on to those we love."
To learn more about Herz-Sommer's inspiring story, two books for adult readers were recently published about her life: "A Century of Wisdom: Lessons from the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer, the World's Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor"  and "Alice's Piano: The Life of Alice Herz-Sommer".
You can watch an excerpt of the Oscar-winning documentary, "The Lady in Number 6," at  or stream the entire documentary on Vimeo.
There is also a book for ages 9 to 13 about the children of the Terezin-Theresienstadt camp and the art they created there under the direction of Austrian artist Frederika "Friedl" Dicker-Brandeis.
Hana's Suitcase" also tells the story of a young girl who took part in Theresienstadt art programs for ages 9 to 12,

Adapted from post and picture at A MIGHTY GIRL facebook page.  Our publishing this article does not mean we endorse this sight.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Welsh Miner Cakes

Let's celebrate our Welsh Heritage today!  I first tried these marvelous little cakes years ago at the Nebraska State Fair and have wanted to make them ever since.  So, when a friend said she'd come to tea I knew what I wanted to make!  Watch out these little gems are addictive!

I found several sights on the internet that shared the hardships of working in the mines during the 19th century life in the small country of Wales, that is situated on the coastal edge of England, where there are more castles per square mile than any other country in the world.

Mining was the major source of income during much of the history of Wales from 78 AD when the Romans moved in to current times.  Coal has been the major export over time but other metals including lead, tin, copper and even gold has been mined in the small country of Wales. Mine owners were often cruel taskmasters as expressed in the book and subsequent movie, HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY, 20th Century Fox, 1941.  The miners spent many hours in the mines without coming out so their lunches and snacks not only had to be sent down in the mines with them but they had to be kept safe to eat.  Welsh Cakes or Welsh Miner Cakes could be carried down into the mines in the men's pockets and retrieved when nourishment was needed.

Welsh Miner Cakes
This recipe adapted from

... to cook them welsh cakes are also known as bakestones or griddle cakes
Pichture from 
2 cups all-purpose flour (or gluten-free flour and 1 teaspoon Glucomann or Psylum Seed Powder- if you don't have either of these use xanthan gum)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice (I used Pumpkin Pie Spice)
1 stick of butter, melted
1/3 cup whisked eggs and 1 tablespoon milk
1/3 cup currants

  1. Preheat your cast iron skillet or griddle to med-low heat.  Make sure it's throughly heated.  If it is not properly seasoned brush with oil.
  2. Mix all the ingredients.  It should have the consistancy of a cookie dough.  Roll into balls.
  3. Flatten out on a floured surface (use the bottom end of a glass).  Transfer to pan and cook for 3-4 minutes (watch that they don't get to brown).  Flip and cook other side for the same time.  If you temp is not low enough these won't cook in the middle.

Welsh Cookies
This recipe makes a lovely cookie but probably would have never stood up to the miners pockets.

1 1/2 cups flour (substitute GF if needed-add 1/4 teaspoon Glucomman or  ground psylum seed and 1/2 teaspoon xanthan Gum  if using GF Flour)
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup lard (don't substitute)
dash Nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
Milk if needed
1/4 cup currants

  1. Cream Butter, Lard and Sugar until light and fluffy, beat in egg, nutmeg, lemon zest and vanilla until completely combined.
  2. Whisk the flour, salt, soda and baking powder together until well combined.
  3. Add the wet and dry ingredients together and work in the currants.  Dough will be stiff enough to roll into balls but be gentle, don't over work.  If the dough seems to stiff a bit of milk can be added.
  4. Shape the dough into a flattened ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours, up to over night.
  5. Preheat your cast iron skillet on med-low.  If it is properly seasoned won't have to brush with oil.
  6. Roll out on slightly floured surface or between two pieces of wax paper, to about 1/4 inch thick.  Cut with biscuit cutter.
  7. Fry for approximately 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown.
  8. Can be eaten plain as a cookie, served with butter, curd or even fresh diced fruit and whipped cream.

Picture and recipe above were adapted from the following web site:

Don't stop with just munching on these little delights (although I don't know how you can stop).  You can make delish deserts from these little gems like the one below:

Welsh Cake, with cream and berries

Monday, April 13, 2015

Do Over or Beginning Genealogy: Interview Yourself First

You and your spouse could even tape (video or audio) yourselves answering the interview questions. At any rate PLEASE do this interview of yourself. DO IT NOW! Don't wait until you are 'old' (whatever that is) because you can always add to your story, but if you've never told your story and something happens that your story cannot be told, then your story is gone! 

  1. What is your full name? Why did your parents select this name for you? Did you have a nickname?
  2. When and where were you born?
  3. How did your family come to live there?
  4. Were there other family members in the area? Who?
  5. What was the house (apartment, farm, etc.) like? How many rooms? Bathrooms? Did it have electricity? Indoor plumbing? Telephones?
  6. Were there any special items in the house that you remember?
  7. What is your earliest childhood memory?
  8. Describe the personalities of your family members.
  9. What kind of games did you play growing up?
  10. What was your favorite toy and why?
  11. What was your favorite thing to do for fun (movies, beach, etc.)?
  12. Did you have family chores? What were they? Which was your least favorite?
  13. Did you receive an allowance? How much? Did you save your money or spend it?
  14. What was school like for you as a child? What were your best and worst subjects? Where did you attend grade school? High school? College?
  15. What school activities and sports did you participate in?
  16. Do you remember any fads from your youth? Popular hairstyles? Clothes?
  17. Who were your childhood heroes?
  18. What were your favorite songs and music?
  19. Did you have any pets? If so, what kind and what were their names?
  20. What was your religion growing up? What church, if any, did you attend?
  21. Were you ever mentioned in a newspaper?
  22. Who were your friends when you were growing up?
  23. What world events had the most impact on you while you were growing up? Did any of them personally affect your family?
  24. Describe a typical family dinner. Did you all eat together as a family? Who did the cooking? What were your favorite foods?
  25. How were holidays (birthdays, Christmas, etc.) celebrated in your family? Did your family have special traditions?
  26. How is the world today different from what it was like when you were a child?
  27. Who was the oldest relative you remember as a child? What do you remember about them?
  28. What do you know about your family surname?
  29. Is there a naming tradition in your family, such as always giving the firstborn son the name of his paternal grandfather?
  30. What stories have come down to you about your parents? Grandparents? More distant ancestors?
  31. Are there any stories about famous or infamous relatives in your family?
  32. Have any recipes been passed down to you from family members?
  33. Are there any physical characteristics that run in your family?
  34. Are there any special heirlooms, photos, bibles or other memorabilia that have been passed down in your family?
  35. What was the full name of your spouse? Siblings? Parents?
  36. When and how did you meet your spouse? What did you do on dates?
  37. What was it like when you proposed (or were proposed to)? Where and when did it happen? How did you feel?
  38. Where and when did you get married?
  39. What memory stands out the most from your wedding day?
  40. How would you describe your spouse? What do (did) you admire most about them?
  41. What do you believe is the key to a successful marriage?
  42. How did you find out your were going to be a parent for the first time?
  43. Why did you choose your children's names?
  44. What was your proudest moment as a parent?
  45. What did your family enjoy doing together?
  46. What was your profession and how did you choose it?
  47. If you could have had any other profession what would it have been? Why wasn't it your first choice?
  48. Of all the things you learned from your parents, which do you feel was the most valuable?
  49. What accomplishments were you the most proud of?
  50. What is the one thing you most want people to remember about you?


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Famous Bean Soup

GrĂ¼ne Schauble Suppe
Joyce Hofer’s green bean soup recipe is adapted from the Schmeckfest recipe that feeds 1,000 guests and 250 workers on each of the festival’s four nights.
ham bone (optional)
1/2 gallon water
1/2 lb. smoked ham
2 1/2 to 3 cups potatoes
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 or 4 sprigs summer savory
1/2 cup finely diced or ground carrots
2 cans string beans (16 oz. total) or 1 pound fresh
2 tablespoons sour cream
Cook smoked ham bone or smoked ham in water until tender. The last half hour before serving, add potatoes (cut in 1/2-inch cubes), carrots, onions and summer savory, using a tea strainer hung over the edge of the pot. When the vegetables are tender, add beans, including the juice, and sour cream. May substitute 1 pound of fresh-cut green beans and cream or butter for sour cream. Hofer says the soup is best when allowed to simmer at least an hour, but it can be eaten when completely heated.
Editor’s Note: This story is revised from the March/April 2014 issue of South Dakota Magazine. To order a copy or to subscribe, call (800) 456-5117.  GREEN BEAN SOUP is famous among the German's From Russia Immigrants.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Do Over Time! WEEK ONE

It's time to take a serious look at my Genealogy Files, Families and Fix what is broken in each one


This is a HUGE topic in the Genealogical Community.  You may have remnants of these lineages in your family trees, especially if you've copied information from others on websites like  Please take the time to read an article on this subject by clicking the "Fraudulent Lineages" link above.  This is serious.  You don't want to leave this as a legacy for your children's children.  I know I don't.  I'm sure some of my information comes from errors like these and I've made this mistake.


That's why I'm doing a Genealogical Do-Over!  Click the above "Do-Over"  link to find the Facebook Page.  You can also go to:

This week I plan to do the following:

1.  Filed all my loose papers away.  Keep out only the vital statistics records, cemetery records and solid concrete evidence of my ancestors life.  I'll order some vital statistic records that I don't have.

2.  I've obtained a copy of a "Digital Assets Codicil".  This will be attached to the wills that my husband and I are creating.  I asked my two Biological Sons who would like to receive these files and work and my oldest son jumped at the chance.

3.  Creating a list of people I plan to 'Do-Over' the rest of the year, choosing the people on my list for Do-Over for April-June (Harvey, August & August GESCH and Marie, Gottlieb and Gottfried REBENSDORF) and making a list of hard evidence that is needed for each one.  Getting their NOTEBOOKS ready to receive documents. (NOTE: July- the end of the year will be SLOCUM/CUNNINGHAM lines)

4.  Downloaded FAMILY TREE MAKER on my computer.  I'm still deciding whether I want to stay with this and may choose LEGACY instead.

5.  Ordering several books to study for skills needed.

6.  Preparing documents for:  To-Do list, Schedule, Proof Sources List for each ancestor, noting all places I looked even it is did not result in information.  "FREE FORMS"

7.  Prepared my work space by clearing off clutter.

8.  Read the "GOLDEN RULES" of Genealogical Research

9.  Learn Excel QUICK

10.  Learn how to scan photos and documents with my printer and phone and transfer them to my computer.  (technologically challenged here)

This is a site that give you a treasure chest of free forms, and other Genealogy Tools.

Now, once I get this all done I'll be ready for the next step.....................WEEK TWO of THIRTEEN