Mike Voisin

By way of background, I have over thirty years experience as a software engineer. I enjoy genealogy as a hobby, which I started in earnest in 1994. I've always liked family history. Now whenever I uncover some fascinating fact about an ancestor, I also take time to read about that era in history. Whether it be the Napoleonic Wars, the Erie Canal, Steamships, the Port of Hamburg, or hurricane tracks, there's always something new to learn. By 2000 I published my family tree on the Internet. Unfortunately there were no software tools then that did precisely what I wanted. So I created GED-GEN, a Windows program to automatically generate a genealogy website. It converts a GEDCOM data file to a series of web pages in family group sheet format. Since 2002, people from all over the world have used GED-GEN for their websites. Today I continue to research my family history, with the help of distant cousins. I am also actively creating digital images of my collection of genealogical evidence.

Sep 212011
 
Pohl Homestead

Albert and Mary Pohl Homestead

This is a case of genealogical serendipity.  I set out to determine the precise location of the house where my maternal great-grandparents, Albert and Mary Pohl, lived.  In this picture taken about 1909, the Pohl family posed in front of their house.1

From something unexpected, I uncovered a trail of bread crumbs that led me to their doorstep.

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Footnotes
  1. The original is in the possession of Mike Voisin (mounted on cardboard, 5-15/16 by 6-15/16 inches).
Aug 152011
 

I recently discovered the town in Hungary where my grandmother was probably born prior to the family emigrating to America in 1893.  (See my earlier post, To Grandmother’s House We Go.)  That town was Szabolcs, now known as Mecsekszabolcs.  It is located just northeast of Pécs, Hungary.

Until now I’ve been able to get by researching my ancestors by reading records written in German, French and Latin.  Hungarian records will be something new to me.  First things first.  How do I even pronounce Szabolcs?

I found a great website, Forvo.com. It’s a place you can hear words pronounced in their native language. If a word isn’t there, you can make a request for it. Individuals from all over the world, like yourself, volunteer to pronounce words in their native tongue. I highly recommend it to genealogists.

As for Szabolcs?

Szabolcs

Aug 152011
 
Adelheid (Pohl) Stewart

Adelheid "Ida" (Pohl) Stewart

I recently noticed FamilySearch.org added more Hungarian records.  I quickly found a new lead in the search for the birthplace of my grandmother, Adelheid “Ida” (Pohl) Stewart.  She immigrated to America in 1893 when she was but 2 years old along with her mother and two older siblings.  They departed from Hamburg, Germany, where the ship’s manifest listed them as living in Fünfkirchen, Hungary.

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Jul 092011
 

Those researching their ancestors in Pennsylvania know that county boundaries changed frequently in the years since 1682. To make these boundary changes easier to see, I animated them.

I used portions of the “Genealogical Map of the Counties” available at the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. I simply snipped the individual images in their sequence of state maps that show county boundaries and made a short flash animation.

Unfortunately these maps do not show cities and towns, but if you know the county you are interested in, you can see when it was created and how it changed over the years.

View an animated history of Pennsylvania Counties.

May 082011
 

My mother had many words of wisdom.  When I was in the seventh grade, my religion teacher wrote a comment on my report card.  My mother’s response to her has remained with me all these years and I still think of it occasionally.

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Apr 232011
 

Another of my hobbies is shopping at garage sales and estate sales.  It’s fun to find little gizmos to fix up, clean up, and reuse.  I especially like technology and mechanical items.  Most people have no idea what many of these items are.  That means no one else buys them.  They are also very cheap, on the order of 25 cents for items that can retail for $10 to $50.

Sometimes I come across items of genealogical interest.  I once bought a stack of hard-cover genealogy books for 50 cents each.  Perhaps saddest are the old portraits of unnamed and unknown ancestors that probably graced many a farm house.

Today at an estate sale I noticed a banker’s box on the top shelf marked “Genealogy.”  I thought boy oh boy, what treasures can I save from destruction and loss to hopefully find a better home.  I anxiously brought the box down, set it carefully on another box, and lifted the cover.  Oh no!  Shreds upon shreds of paper, as if the contents had been through a paper shredder.  A family of mice had at one time made their home in this box.

All of it ruined.  Hand-written notes, Xeroxed copies of records and certificates.  Nothing but strips and fragments.  Nothing salvageable.  It was obviously someone’s careful work from the time before computers, when everything was done by hand.

The lesson:  Store your genealogical paperwork in rodent-proof containers.  Avoid attics and garages.

Apr 032011
 
Brickwall

Brick by Brick

This is another post in a series about finding the ancestors of my paternal great-grandfather Joseph Voisin1 (1858-1916). This is a brick wall I haven’t been able to get beyond for several years. Here I chip away a few more bricks from the wall in hopes of discovering a clue.

Perhaps you can help. If you found this post while searching the Internet, chances are there’s something here that piqued your interest. That means you might know something I don’t know. If so, please post a comment. No matter how small, most any information can provide a clue.

In this installment I’ll remove four bricks from the wall.  See also Bricks 1 through 10.

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Footnotes
  1. For source citations and images of the evidence discussed here, please see the Family Group Sheet for Joseph Voisin.
Apr 012011
 
Brickwall

Brick by Brick

I’ve reached an impasse trying to find the ancestors of my paternal great-grandfather Joseph Voisin1 (1858-1916). It’s a brick wall I haven’t been able to get beyond for several years. If I remove one brick from the wall at a time, I may discover a clue.

Perhaps you can help. If you found this post while searching the Internet, chances are there’s something here that piqued your interest.  That means you might know something I don’t know.  If so, please post a comment.  No matter how small, most any information can provide a clue.

In this installment I’ll remove ten bricks from the wall.  See also Bricks 11 through 14.

Continue reading »

Footnotes
  1. For source citations and images of the evidence discussed here, please see the Family Group Sheet for Joseph Voisin.
Mar 032011
 
Albert and Mary Pohl

Albert and Mary Pohl, about 1909

Who would have thought the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) could answer questions about family history?  I used NOAA to help solve a mystery about the immigration of my great-grandparents, Albert G. and Maria “Mary” (Pittner) Pohl.

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Mar 012011
 

Source Templates is a feature that some genealogy software programs now offer. When you create a citation to reference a source in your genealogy research, the source templates tool prompts you for the necessary information.  You simply fill in the blanks, and it constructs the actual source citation.  Citations are then complete, and in standard format.

But should you use Source Templates?  I say No! The reason?  Most if not all genealogy programs have yet to get their source templates feature working properly.  Besides minor problems with formatting and punctuation, the most serious issue is:  You will not be able to use your source citations outside of your genealogy program.

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Feb 262011
 
Joseph Voisin

Joseph Voisin, about 1907

If great-grandfather Joseph Voisin had an iPod, one of those tiny music players, what would he be listening to? His iPod has survived, and on it I found this song:

 

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Feb 262011
 

Part of the fun of genealogy is discovering your ancestors.  And part of that process is uncovering old records like baptism and marriage records.  One record leads to an older record, and so on back in time.  What is the oldest record you have ever discovered related to an ancestor?

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Jan 262011
 

The most important aspect of organizing a collection of digitized photographs and documents is the naming convention used to reference each item.

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Nov 012010
 

It is increasingly easy to obtain digital images of evidence used in genealogical research. More online databases now provide images of actual records. It is also easy to scan photographs and documents, or even record them using a digital camera.

I have already begun the process of digitizing the genealogical evidence I accumulated over the years. In the forthcoming series of blog posts entitled “Digital Evidence,” I will describe the system I use to generate, manage and display my collection.

As always, comments and feedback are welcome, especially if you have a better idea!

Jun 032010
 

While in Florida recently, I was delighted to finally meet Betty-Jane, my third-cousin, once removed. We are both descended from Hubert Yuncker and Barbe Gossé who emigrated from Kirrberg in the Alsace region of France in 1847.

Betty-Jane and Mike

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Jun 032010
 

I was recently contacted by a previously unknown fifth cousin, Andrea, from Bremen, Germany. We share fourth great-grandparents, Peter Joseph Mauren and Anna Maria Minwegen. Her branch of the family remained in Germany while my third great-grandparents emigrated to America in 1840.

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Oct 292009
 

I’ve been researching my genealogy seriously for about ten years now. Earlier this year I applied for a “First Families” certificate during the 150th anniversary celebration of Isabella County, Michigan. This is a certificate presented to descendants of pioneer families who settled in the county prior to 1899. Little did I realize how much effort that application would require.

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Mar 252009
 

At a recent funeral, the pastor read a touching poem. I was so impressed with it that I found the author’s website and learned it was written over ten years ago. It has since gained some popularity and I thought it was appropriate for genealogists, who are so concerned with the birth and death dates of our ancestors.

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Sep 122007
 

Hamburg, Germany was a major port of embarkation for emigrants bound for America during the nineteenth century. Since the Germans are good record keepers, detailed records were undoubtedly kept about these emigrants, our ancestors. My grandmother Ida Pohl was a little girl when she emigrated with her mother and siblings from Hamburg in 1893. As an amateur genealogist, I was frustrated to learn that most of these records were destroyed by British and American bombers during World War II.

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May 262007
 

I researched marriage records from the villages of Baerendorf and Kirrberg in the Alsace region of France, during the period from 1600 through 1800. I found that men usually married women from surrounding villages, and the wedding usually took place in the bride’s hometown. The groom usually moved to the bride’s village and they began their families there.