Back in the days before the internet, genealogists wrote to each other with a SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope) enclosed in hopes of a reply to their questions. The early days of the internet and genealogy found all sorts of lists and groups that specialized in various topics, including names, places, and nationalities- a big research-enhancing improvement. Genealogists freely shared their information and helped each other, even when making a copy meant going to the library to use their rare copy machine and sending a thick package through the mail. (I actually remember hand-writing Pedigree Charts and Family Group Sheets to share when there were no copiers around or my allowance didn’t stretch for expensive copies.) Now we can scan and send from our own home or share electronic copies of whole trees. We can get answers about far-away places or people within seconds, but there are definitely reasons for the old groups and lists to still exist and be used.
A prime example is the photograph I have had for 30+ years (reverse above) and never thought about getting it translated- well, I did think about it but it just seemed impossible- where to start? I didn’t know the language as there were non-English characters, and the area where that family lived had been under Lithuanian, Polish, Russian, and even German control at various times. (See my post That Place Thursday- Witebsk… for more about learning of the place the portrait was taken.) I assumed the writing was basically an advertisement for the photography studio, but was still curious to know what it said. Then I remembered the helpful groups…
There are two big groups of ‘listers’ that I have used often in the past- Rootsweb, now owned by Ancestry.com but promised to always be free, and The USGenWeb Project.
A search of groups still active through Rootsweb was somewhat frustrating- so many have not had many posts in the last five years or so. I was lucky enough to find Poland- Roots at http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/index?list=poland-roots
I joined the list, posted a query, and got fast replies to post my image somewhere on the web- such attachments are not allowed on some groups, plus suggestions on how to determine the language. (See http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/POLAND-ROOTS/2014-01/1389228929)
It was determined by kind listmembers that the language was Russian Cyrillic, and a book to translate it was also suggested. Not being very good with languages other than English, the thought was daunting. And then a wonderful lister posted the following translation (posted here with his permission):
Honored with deep gratitude
for photographic work
by His Imperial Highness the Grand Duke
The Photography Studio
of Hershevich (or Gershevich, as g and h are the same letter in Russian)
Zamkovaja Street in d. Cytrynko (a nieghborhood? the abbreviation d. that might stand for that)
Troitsk. Road in d. Shchekotova (a neighborhood?)
Wow! No earth-shattering revelations that will help my family research, but it is amazing, after all these years, to know what the back of that photo says. And I learned all this in less than 24 hours and from the comfort of my home!
I urge you to give these groups a try- and again, if you have already used them long ago. The group posts can be searched or browsed in their archives, or you may subscribe to the list and get messages individually or as a digest. Many of these groups, such as the PAALLEGH group for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, are very active and undertake large projects such as gleaning death notices out of local papers. Sometimes the email addresses from very old posts are still active, or you can do a search on the person’s name through Google, Facebook, etc., and find someone researching your family lines. sometimes adding a query will get a dormant list up and running again. And if you have any kind of specialized knowledge on a topic, please help share your expertise with others through these lists.
As always, just because it is on the internet doesn’t make it true- I ALWAYS look at this information as secondary or further-down-the-line research, and use it as clues for me to verify. I have found some very good researchers and cousins this way (and sadly, some sketchy ‘facts’), and at times my family tree has had exponential growth because of the sharing with another kind researcher.
As they say, what’s old is new again.
Notes, Sources, and References:
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