Take Care With Those Hints!

When I was a newbie genealogist I loved the hints that Ancestry.com provided.  Now all of the online sites offer the same.  I was surprised to recently hear that a colleague of mine still happily accepts every hint that is shown.  Her reasoning was that she could always sort out later if something was amiss.

“Later”  like in never is what I say.  Here’s a perfect example of why you need to be careful of those hints:

The hint above flagged for my uncle, George Joseph Kos who did live in northern Indiana and was born in 1921.  Family stories say that, although his attendance area high school was Lew Wallace in Gary, he somehow un-enrolled himself and re-enrolled in another high school at the urging of a football coach.  Of course, his parents found out about it and my grandmother was livid with all parties – the zoned school who allowed a minor to remove himself, the new school and coach for enrolling  him without permission and my uncle, well, for being my uncle.  So, the hint looks legit. 

My trusting colleague would have clicked “save” while I would have clicked “ignore” if I didn’t have time to check it out.  Ignore is a way to really save the hint to look at later while getting the leaf to disappear.

Now I’m going to analyze if this is a correct document for my uncle so I click “Review” on the hint and this displays:

Wow, that does look legit.  According to the family story, it was Roosevelt High School where he wanted to play football but  he was 15 when that happened.  I could rationalize that he was 15-16 years old during the 1936-1937 yearbook so the age is feasible.  But Roosevelt High School was in Gary, not East Chicago, a nearby town.  Could the towns boundaries have changed?  We see that so often in genealogy.  I’m still wary so I’d click view and this is what is displayed:

So, the Hint was really for a George KOSTIN not George Kos.  This was not my uncle. Then I remember, there were two Roosevelt High Schools.  Duh!

Hints are just that – hints – they are not guaranteed correct information.  Use with caution.

The U.S. – A Nation of Immigrants


Although my family lore claimed I had Native American blood, DNA has proven that the legend was not true. I seldom (well, have never) written about current political issues as that is not the point of my blog. That changes today.

If you reside in the United States, you have an ancestor who once emigrated here. You’re probably also a mutt like me – that great melting pot permitting people to marry due to love and not by ethnicity alone has created a wonderful mix of blended cultures, customs and genetics.

I’m blessed that my family has been here awhile. My most recent immigrants were my maternal grandparents, John and Mary Kos[s] who naturalized in the 1940’s. My grandmother visited the Old Country nearly 50 years after she had emigrated here with her parents and was so thankful they had made the difficult journey in her childhood, she promptly kissed the soil when she arrived back in the states. My grandfather had no desire to return, even for a short visit.

Because of my Great Grandparents dream for a better life, they left behind family, friends and belongings to start over. Learning a new language, back breaking work where ever they could find it and facing discrimination because of their ethnicity, religion and acceptance of diversity, my ancestors looked at the positive this country had to offer and steadfastly remained so that their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren could have a better life.

I understand why people from all over the world still attempt to come here. Think back to your family and I’m sure you’ll agree, your forefather’s efforts were worth it.

Due to the present government stance new arrivals have experienced not just a perilous crossing but a breakdown in family structure. I applaud MyHeritage.com for stepping up to help reunify children with their separated families. To my knowledge, no other company has come forward to assist. MyHeritage is providing up to 5,000 free DNA kits to insure that the correct child is returned to the right family. You can read more about their efforts here. Kudos, MyHeritage.com!

DNA Has Changed My Habits…and not for the good, I’m afraid!


I just came to the realization that DNA has made me a lazy genealogist. Here’s why…

I have made public several trees that are quite large. The reason for their size is because I once did surname studies – I tried to link all of the Leiningers, Harbaughs, Duers, Kos[s]s, Landfairs and Kuhns in the U.S. from an identified gateway ancestor. I want contact from far flung relatives as I don’t know these folks personally and needing closer relatives input, I made the trees public.

Due to the many places I’ve placed the trees online, their size, and my weekly blog posts, I get over 500 comments weekly. Granted, many are spam, but quite a few are serious inquiries.

Before DNA, I would go to the tree mentioned, search for the name provided in the inquiry, review what citations I had and then respond.

Since DNA, I find myself instead responding with my own query – Have you had your DNA analyzed and if so, what provider did you use and what is your profile name?

Last evening, after sending the same question repeatedly, it hit me that this is a seriously lazy response to well meaning folks who’ve taken the time to contact me.

My intentions were never to be rude but I’m afraid that’s how it’s appearing. I’m not sure how I’d feel if I was the recipient and wasn’t into DNA. I queried colleagues in my local genealogical society and they think my response is acceptable but I’m not so sure. What do you think, readers?! Would you be offended if you emailed someone for more information and received a question in response?

Snapping Stones – Tips for Photographing


Each Memorial Day when I was growing up, I’d accompany my family to tend the graves of ancestors I never knew. Small flags stood at attention on the graves of veterans and the scent from flowers filled the air.

My grandmother had a “cemetery box” in the trunk of her car; it contained hand clippers, a trowel, garden gloves, a rag and a paper bag. Grandma would don the gloves and clip any tall grass growing around the stone, putting the clippings in the paper bag. If weeds were sprouting my mom carefully pulled them out or used the trowel to remove before tossing them into the paper bag. Finally, the stone would be wiped down. I don’t remember seeing either spraying the stones with a cleaning product but I had usually lost interest by that time and was wandering around looking at the pictures on nearby markers.

In the older part of the cemetery where my great grandfather lay, many stones contained photos of the deceased. Frozen in time, I was fascinated by the faces staring out at me. Many were in uniform having died during World War I. Others were like my great grandfather who had died in the 1919 flu epidemic. Who knew from which others had succumbed? My imagination would kick in and I’d make up stories about their demise. I was usually in the middle of some epic made up tale when I was called to return. Back into the car we drove to yet another area of the cemetery to pay respects to family friends and former neighbors.

In all those visits it never once occurred to me to take a picture of the stones. Assuming they would always be there, why would a photo be needed? By the time I had entered by teens vandals had toppled many stones in the older part of the cemetery and those that couldn’t be moved were damaged by having the picture obliterated by blows. My great grandfather’s picture was one that was destroyed. We had a copy of the photo but the stone was never repaired.
Thank goodness for Find-A-Grave, Billion Graves and individuals who have posted gravestone photos on other sites. If you’re planning an upcoming cemetery visit, make sure you snap a picture during your visit and upload to preserve the record. Although we don’t think of a tombstone as a record, they are and need to be cited just like paper documents.

Here are a few hints for photographing stones:
It’s okay to tidy up the stone a bit but avoid major scrubbing. I’ve added a spray bottle and bleach tablets to my cemetery kit. Placing one tablet in the bottle and adding water, I can spray the stone to remove algae and dirt quickly. I sometimes need to use a soft bristle brush, too, but be gentle!

vIf someone has placed flowers or other adornments in front of the stone it’s alright to move them for the photo but please carefully replace when you’re done.

For upright standing stones – get down in front and level with the stone. It reduces distortion and if the photo is taken close up, minimizes your shadow.

For flat stones – try to take the picture from directly above making sure you don’t include your feet. If you can’t do that, please crop the photo before uploading.

Back up and take a photo of stones adjacent to the one that is of interest to you. Possible relatives, neighbors or friends may have been buried close by and might be of help when you are researching paper documents when you return home. This method may alert you to a child who died between census years or an uncle who came for a visit and passed away unexpectedly.

Remember, just because it’s engraved in granite doesn’t make it so! Conflicting evidence does occur; an error could have been made just like with paper. If the cemetery office is open, stop in and ask for a copy of the records. To save the staff time I often photograph them in lieu of having a photocopy made. Being thoughtful goes a long way!

Diversity in the Family Tree and Its Importance Today


Last month I took part in an activity at a workshop in New York City on Cultural Competence that’s been haunting me ever since. The presenter, Vivian V. Lee, Ed.D. from Johns Hopkins University provided an adapted handout from M. Loden & J. Rosner’s book, Workforce America (McGraw-Hill, 1991) that opened my eyes to my family’s core values in ways that I had never experienced before.
The worksheet consisted of a Diversity Wheel – a circle within a circle that listed 12 category descriptions of an individual, such as your level of education, geographic location and gender. Participants were asked to identify and record a word that described their personal category descriptions. For myself, it would be master’s degrees, USA, female.

Next, participants were asked to record the complete opposite of their personal description. So mine would be no degrees earned, anywhere but North America, male, etc. A few minutes was provided to reflect on the recorded responses by thinking about:

how would the opposite from yourself identity be perceived and treated by society and by the individual
how different would your present life be compared to that of the opposite individual
how would you adapt in society as the opposite individual
I was shocked to discover that my polar opposite in most categories would be my maternal grandfather, Ivan “John” Kos[s] and great grandfather, Josef Kos[s]. Although they both had the same surname, these men were distant relatives. Josef was my grandmother’s father and John was her husband of an arranged marriage. So, my grandmother’s maiden name was the same as her married name (now that’s convenient!). But back to the exercise…

Both John and Josef emigrated separately from then Austria-Hungary, now Croatia, to the U.S. for reasons that so many emigrants continue to come – economic opportunity, freedom, a new start. Manual laborers with little to no education, limited English and no citizenship rights, these men, along with others like them, were the backbone of the United States’ economy for generations as continue to be so today. I never met Josef who died young; he caught the flu and passed away in 1919. Of John, I never heard one complaint from him about his status in society. Even after residing here for over 60 years, though, he knew he continued to be identified by a slur – I heard a shopkeeper once call him a D.P., aka a displaced person. Although he took a citizenship oath, would never be fully accepted and remained subject to distrust by those who fate allowed to be born here. Although I’ve become the opposite of my grandparents, I know they would have been very proud of my children and my role in society. They would not begrudge that I am not treated as they had been.

I reaped the fruits of Josef and John’s difficult lives. If you take a moment to think about your own roots, you most likely have an immigrant story in your family. It may have been as long ago as 1600 or just in the last decade. Your ancestors may have come of their own volition or not. It matters not when or how they arrived. What matters is that the hardship they endured afforded you comfort and security that was lacking from their point of origin. Perhaps it’s due to my childhood interactions with and knowledge of my grandparents’ life experiences that make me thankful for their risk in immigrating and I will always have a place in my heart for those who are so courageous that they would begin again in a new land.

Watching the Waistline – Diets from My Family’s Past

Just had my annual physical and was happy with the results.  I always brace for the doctor lecture about losing weight.  It didn’t come, though, because it’s hard to tell someone to diet when the lab results are all good. Still, I know it’s not healthy to be carrying around extra weight.

I come from long lines of fat people so I like to believe it’s genetic and not lifestyle.  That’s actually delusional on my part as they all loved food and so do I,  My grandmother’s best gifts were cookbooks of which I inherited many.

With the holidays approaching, hubby and I decided it would be wise to be more selective of our food choices for the next few weeks.  My hydroponic garden is doing awesome with the warm days and cool nights so I have a bountiful supply of organic lettuce, kale, and cabbage.  Only 3 tomatoes so far but it’s early for a Florida harvest.  Same with the peppers, broccoli and cauliflower but that’s ok, too.

With the weather cooling off I decided it would be a good idea to make my grandmother’s stuffed cabbage recipe.  About 15 years ago I took all of the family recipes, retyped them and had three books made – one for each of my kids and one for me.  I also included anecdotes about the recipe, such as the awesome beef stew from the Lutheran Church Woman’s Guild Society’s cookbook that was attributed to my sister-in-law  When I first made it and let her know how good it was she had no idea what I was taking about.  Turns out, my mother-in-law submitted the recipe because she wanted to have her daughter’s name in print.  We chuckle every time someone mentions beef stew.

Since food was always a big deal in our family, I wanted to pass down as many stories as I could and adding them to the cookbook insured they would be remembered.  By creating a cookbook, I also eliminated wear and tear to the originals.

I don’t know why but instead of going to “my cookbook” I pulled out one of my grandmother’s old ones and there was her “Miracle Diet” consisting of apple cider vinegar.  I don’t know where or when she got it so I did a little internet searching and discovered that no one else can figure out that diet’s origin.  I can assure you it didn’t work for her.  This got me thinking of other diets.

I found this on a blog by Peter and Drew Greenlaw from 3 March 2016:

“Dieting goes back at least as far as the 3rd century BC, according to Louise Foxcroft, author of Calories & Corsets:  A History of Dieting Over 2000 Years.  She says that followers of the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates recommended a diet of light and emollient foods, slow running, hard work, wrestling, sea-water enemas, walking about naked and vomiting after lunch.”  I guess this was also the first documented recommendation for purging.

I’m making a great leap here but my maternal line was originally from the Greek island of Kos. Hippocrates’ medical school was located on Kos Island.  I can only imagine my ancestors going to Dr. Hippocrates and being given the fat lecture and his diet.  Clearly, that diet didn’t work either or it would have been passed down.

Happy Hunting!

  

Playing With Names – Wildcard Searching and Other Methods to Discover Your Family

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 13 Dec 2015

Just read a helpful blog about how to use wildcards when researching online.  You can read it here. I have to admit that I’m not very good at using wildcards or identifying the many, varied and unusual ways my ancestors spelled their names.  I think that many of my brick walls could could tumbling down if I took the time to use the wildcard search approach.

Another method I’ve used was just plain dumb luck but it taught me a very simple way that I’ve used since. I once had a dead end on my paternal grandmother’s line.  A distant family member thought my 2nd great grandmother’s name was Maria Dure.  I searched and searched for years and found nada!  It never dawned on me that I had two of the letters reversed in the last name. Duh, DURE should have been DUER.  I would love to take credit for that discovery but alas, wasn’t me who figured this out. I’m not sure how the gentleman found me but I received an email asking me about by DUER connection. I responded I didn’t see any Duer’s in my tree.  The writer than let me know he suspected my Maria Dure was a long lost line he was pursuing.  He knew his missing Maria had married an immigrant named Kuhn and sure enough, once I began looking for Maria under Duer the whole line fell into place!  He was kind enough to send me his years of Duer research and they are just a fun family to learn about.  (Well, probably getting kicked out of England wasn’t exactly fun, nor later being shunned or having to payoff an indenture in the Caribbean but you understand what I mean)

Last technique I’ve used is adding or removing an ending.  My Koss’ are really Kos.  Have found documents with both names so it pays to play with the last name.

Sorry this is so short but I’m recuperating from jet lag! Once my head clears I’m going to take my own advice and play with my Bird or is it Byrd?! or Berd or Burd line.  Happy Hunting!

The Truth About Ellis Island

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 16 Jul 2015.

Like so many immigrant families, I heard the story that our family name was changed at Ellis Island. Our story, however, did not blame the officials.  Supposedly, upon emigrating, my Great Grandfather, Joseph Kos, was told that his last name was awfully short for an American name. No one suggested that a short name was wrong or bad.  It was just a benign comment.  I figure the Ellis Island clerk was probably glad to finally get a short name he could clearly understand to record but it did not sit well with my Great Grandfather.  He wanted to be an American and if the name was too short then he would make it bigger, just like America!  He could do that by simply adding an “s.”  The pronunciation would then change from the long o sound, that rhymed with dose, to the short o sound, that rhymed with Ross. The seed was planted to grow from Kos to Koss.

Last year, a 2nd cousin emailed me to discuss his belief that the Ellis Island story was not correct and that my grandmother, Non, was really the one behind the name change.  His reasoning was that Non’s sister, his mother, Barbara, who was born in the U.S. on the 19 September 1914 has Kos as her name on her birth certificate and the parents’ names are both listed as Kos.  Barbara was born 4 years AFTER our Great Grandfather emigrated so there is no reason why he would have recorded his daughter’s name with the original spelling if he had changed his name upon his arrival in the U.S.  Non assimilated into the American culture the quickest and was the family matriarch so those factors supported my cousin’s reasoning.

Birth Certificate of  Non’s sister, Barbara Kos, born in Chicago.

I looked at the ship manifest for Joseph Kos who arrived in New York City on La Lorraine on 17 Jan 1910:

Ship Manifest from La Lorraine 1

I then looked at the 1910 Census where his name now appears more Americanized as Joseph but his last name remains Kos:On the manifest he is listed as Josip Kos.  An error was made in recording his wife’s name – it was duplicated from the entry above him instead of listing his wife, Anna’s name.

1910 Census for Joseph Kos 2

Joseph was working for the railroad, and at the time of the census, was in Chardon, Ohio. Next I decided to investigate the manifest for Joseph’s wife, daughter and son who did not emigrate until 3 1/2 years after Joseph.  Below is the manifest for Non, listed as Mara, her mother, Jana (Anna), and her brother, Joseph Jr. (Josip), from the President Lincoln that arrived in New York City on the 16 July 1913.  The last name is clearly Kos.

Ship Manifest from the President Lincoln 3

I know that when Non and Gramps were married on the 28 January 1917 in Chicago, Illinois both of their names appeared on the records with the added “s” as “Koss.”  As distant cousins from the old country, both had the last name Kos(s) so Non’s maiden name was the same as her married name.

See the 10th from bottom – John and Mary Koss 4

There are 3 possibilities as to why Kos became Koss between 1914 and 1917:

1) the marriage license was an error, There are 3 possibilities as to why Kos became Koss between 1914 and 1917:

2) my great grandfather or another family member added the “s” after 1914 or

3) maybe the Ellis Island story was told about my Gramps and not my Non’s side.

I checked the ship manifest for Gramps, Ivan “John” Kos who arrived in New York City on the 6 April 1909 with his brother, Janko (Stephen) Kos:

Ship Manifest from La Gascogne 5

The manifest shows Kos.  Next record to check is the 1910 Census.  Gramps is shown as a boarder living in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  His brother, who had left a wife behind in Croatia, had returned to her.  Gramps is still shown as Kos.

1910 Census 6

So the Ellis Island story wasn’t about Gramps, either.  I have no family documentation between my Great Aunt Barbara’s birth in September 1914 and my Grandparents’ wedding in January 1917 so I can’t pinpoint when the last name changed or who changed it.

The family continued to use Koss after the wedding.  My mother and her siblings were born at home so I do not have a birth certificate for them; a delayed certificate was never issued, either.  I do have a Baptism Certificate, however, it was a copy of the lost original made when she was an adult.  Born and baptized in 1918, my mother and her parents’ names are recorded as Koss.

My Mother’s Baptism Certificate – Copy of the Original

The death index for my Great Grandfather in January 1919 has his last name as Koss but since he was dead, he didn’t provide his own name. The informant on the death certificate was Non since she was the eldest of his three children, the most educated, and with a distraught mother, Non would have been the most rational at the time.  Did she use Koss because that was the name she and her husband were using or was it because her father was also using Koss?

Indiana Death Record Index 7

Yet his tombstone in Oak Hill Cemetery in Gary, Indiana is etched as Kos and according to cemetery records, Non and Gramps were the ones who purchased the stone.

See stone on right – 2nd from bottom

Photo by Lori Samuelson December 2001

The inscription is in Croatian so possibly the decision to engrave the original spelling was in keeping with that is how the name was first spelled in his birth language.

In 1920, the family reverts to using the original spelling of Kos:

1920 Census 8

The 1920 census is the last paper record with the original spelling.  I have no idea why they returned to using it in 1920.  Perhaps they never spelled it for the census taker but instead pronounced it in the original way, with a long o sound.  If that was the case, though, I would think the census taker would have spelled it Kose and not Kos.

The record below is a scan of a textbook the family purchased for school use in the 1920’s. It was passed from child to child and they each wrote their own name inside the cover.  All were spelled Koss.

Textbook from 1922

By 1930, the name is Koss:

1930 Census 9

In 1940, the name is Koss but is misspelled as Kolls:

1940 Census 10

You’d think that was the end of the story but the saga continued…Both of my Grandparent’s used Koss when they became naturalized citizens in the 1940’s and that is what was on their Social Security Cards and death certificates.

Note in the textbook above that the top name on the left is George Koss.  When Uncle George served in the Marines during World War II he told his Sargent about the name change at Ellis Island (that we now know didn’t happen).  The Sargent told George that happened in his family, too, but the Sargent had decided it wasn’t right so he went back to using whatever the original family spelling was.  He told George he would have dog tags reissued with the original name if he was interested.  George decided that was the right thing to to do so George Koss became George Kos til his dying day.

WW II Muster Rolls 11

Since George was the only son the original family name was restored and continued down the line.  My Grandparents’ and my Non’s brother are the only ones to use Koss through the rest of their lives. Check out my Grandparents’ gravestone at Oak Hill Cemetery in Gary, Indiana:

Photo by Lori Samuelson December 2001

When my Great Grandmother was to be buried, 3 plots were purchased. Going back to their roots, the original name was engraved.  So much for


1 Year: 1910; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 1400; Line:17; Page Number: 105

2 Year: 1910; Census Place: Chardon, Geauga, Ohio; Roll: T624_1185; Page: 16B; Enumeration District: 0056; FHL microfilm: 1375198

3 Year: 1913; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 2130; Line:24; Page Number: 149

Ancestry.com. Cook County, Illinois Marriage Indexes, 1912-1942 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Private donor.

5 Year: 1909; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 1234; Line:2; Page Number: 178Ancestry.com. Cook County, Illinois Marriage Indexes, 1912-1942 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Private donor.

Year: 1910; Census Place: Pittsburgh Ward 21, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1307; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 0573; FHL microfilm: 1375320

7 Indiana Death Index

8 Year: 1920; Census Place: Gary Ward 5, Lake, Indiana; Roll: T625_446; Page: 24A; Enumeration District:111; Image: 889

Year: 1930; Census Place: Gary, Lake, Indiana; Roll: 600; Page: 4B; Enumeration District: 0058; Image:242.0; FHL microfilm: 2340335

10 Year: 1940; Census Place: Gary, Lake, Indiana; Roll: T627_1121; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 95-83

11 Ancestry.com. U.S. Marine Corps Muster Rolls, 1798-1958 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007.

Verifying Family Legends – Where did we come from?

A FABULOUS FIND of 3 July 2015.

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 2 Jul 2015.

Growing up, I would often ask my grandma to tell me stories about the Old Country.*  Immigrating to the US with her mother and brother a week before her 13th birthday, my Non preferred to tell the tales she had heard from her elders and not those that she recalled herself.  I’ve previously mentioned my own faulty memories so I wondered, as an adult, about the family lore and how much truth was contained in those stories.

When I asked Non where she came from she would always smile and say, “I was born in a little village outside of Zagreb in what was then Austria-Hungary but we came there from other places.”  Non would go on to say that our family moved about long ago from a land far away, an island south, and before that, a land far to the east.  She did not know the name or locations of these places nor the time period that the moves were made.  I would push for more; why did the family move to begin with?    Non said the first move was because of violence.  Due to some long ago forgotten period of unrest the family decided to move west.  They were farmers and they were looking for a safe place to raise their crops.  After traveling for a long time the family settled on an island somewhere but Non did not know where.  Why did they move from the island?  Non claimed that due to overpopulation and soil over use, farming was not as prosperous as it once was so the family moved on, searching for another location.  Ultimately, they settled in the Zagreb area with other families that chose to leave when they did.  The destination was almost heaven to them, clear springs, fertile soil, mountains for protection, and there the family remained for years.

I wanted to determine if the stories were true and if so, where the location of the island and the land to the east was might have been.  Several years ago I took an Ancestry DNA test with the results showing my maternal line belonged to Haplogroup H.  “The Colonists are believed to have arrived in Europe from western Asia about the same time as a culture known as Gravettian. For that reason, it’s probable that the Colonists adopted or even originated the Gravettian technology. “1

So Non was correct, the family had moved from the east.  A second cousin shared his maternal results with me that he had done by National Geographic.  The results confirmed that his mother and my Non, who were sisters, both tested as Haplogroup H and the movement is from east to west.  See his “Eve” line below:

But what about the island story?  National Geographic does mention “Haplogroup H is a great example of the effect that population dynamics such as bottleneck events, founder effects, genetic drift, and rapid population growth, have on the genetic diversity of resulting populations.”2  Although I can’t prove it, there is oddly a Kos Island in the Dodecanese chain of the Aegean Sea that perhaps was why my family became known as Kos’.  Kos as a name (Greek: Κῶς, genitive Κῶ)3  has been first documented in Plato’s Illiad.  In Croatian, it is known as a blackbird or crow and is the 45th most  common name in Croatia today.4  The travel route is in line with migration patterns and strangely, these locations are a “as the crow flies” since Kos Island is located in a straight line with Zagreb.

Moreover, the story of farming is further confirmed as historically, the Kos Island was known for its crops of grapes, almonds, figs, olives, wheat, corn and lettuce.5  My family loved grapes (and vino!) of which I still grow today and they continued to grow in their new home in Croatia.

With the premise that there is a basis in Non’s stories, I began to research migration pattern timelines to try to determine where my ancestors resided in the past.  My Aunt Anne Marie had sent my mom an undated clipping from the Zajednicar, a Croatian-American newspaper published by the Croatian Fraternal Union.  Entitled, The History of Croatia, Lodge 793 member Gordon J. Z. Bobesich wrote that “There is a theory that the name “Hrvati, which is what the Croats call themselves is Persian in origin.” Persia is known as Iran today and does show on the maps above as a possible place of origin.  Since the article was undated and I was unable to locate a citation online I decided to further search for more recent research of a Persian-Croatian connection.

I also decided to check out my maternal grandfather’s origin story.  Also surnamed Kos and a distant cousin of my grandmother, Non said Gramps’ people were of gypsy heritage.  Gramps was dark complected with brown hair and eyes.  Non was fair with blue eyes and lighter brown hair.

john-and-mary-kos
Ivan “John” and Mary Kos Engagement 1916

Gramps’ ancestors, “The Gypsies, or Romanies, are an ethnic group that arrived in Europe around the 14th century. Scholars argue about when and how they left India, but it is generally accepted that they did emigrate from northern India some time between the 6th and 11th centuries, then crossed the Middle East and came into Europe.” 6  

SPOLIER ALERT – I was unprepared for what I discovered.

On Non’s side, I first found the following, “Historical studies indicate that the Croats started migrating from the Iranian homeland to Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia about 3,000 years ago. However, a much larger migration took place about 1,700 years ago. Probably the reason behind this migration was the suppression of the followers of Manichean faith during the Sassanid era.”7  This not only supported the DNA evidence but also that the original reason to leave which was due to conflict.  Now I had a time period of about when the original migration occurred.  I then discovered that since the 4th Century BCE, a “presence of Iranian-speaking Iazyges8 resided along side the Greeks throughout the Aegean region.   This further confirmed the Kos Island connection.

Further research uncovered that although the Persia to the Dodecanese to the mainland of Croatia most likely was my maternal grandmother’s families’ route, others have a different take on who are the present day Slavs.

I learned that there are several theories as to how today’s Slavs originated.  Some believe that the Goths, as noble barbarians, were the original settlers to the region.  Others postulate that 5 brothers and 2 sisters of an upper-caste of the Avar-Bulgarians moved into the area.  The Slavic view believes groups belonging to the Illyrians, an Indo-European people who always resided in the Balkans, moved from southern Poland and northern Ukraine to settle.  At this point my research uncovered extremely racist posts which showed that the area’s tensions have not ceased since the last war.  How very sad, after all these years, that people cannot just get along and accept that we are all human.  Did anyone stop to think that all 4 emigration theories might be correct?  My grandmother’s most likely was the Persian theory and my grandfather’s ancestor’s migration as gypsies is not even considered as a theory, I suppose because after their near extermination during World War II, gypsy lineage is not what many Slavs wish to think about today.

I was so disturbed after reading the many racist posts that demonstrated a Superiority Complex disorder that I had difficulty sleeping.

I strongly believe the roots of racism is the need to feel more superior (upper-caste, noble) and to be first (always resided) which somehow relates to best.  I am deeply disappointed that these needs still exist.  I was sickened by the many posts of Croats, Serbs, Bosnians and Iranians who seem to think that they are genetically superior.  With the recent events in the US and throughout the world, that region is clearly not alone in its racist beliefs.  I simple can’t understand this mindset!

I am proud to be a mutt – yep, I am a mix of so many diverse ethnic groups who found love in someone different from themselves but realized that was what was important – not domination, hatred and narrow mindedness.

We all have prejudices, myself included, but we must work towards understanding and acceptance.

Dionne Warwick sang it best:   What the world needs now is love sweet love, / It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of. / What the world needs now is love sweet love, / No not just for some but for everyone.


1Ancestry.com Maternal Lineage Test Result

2National Geographic and IBM Maternal Lineage Test Results, p. 17.

3Liddell et al.A Greek–English Lexicons.v.

4“Croatian Names.” Croatian Genealogy & Family History. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 June 2015.

5 “Kos Island.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 27 June 2015

 Kenrick, Donald (2007). Historical Dictionary of the Gypsies (Romanies) (2nd ed.). Scarecrow Press. p. xxxvii.

7 “Culture of Iran: Croatians and Cravats Are of Iranian Origin.” Culture of Iran: Croatians and Cravats Are of Iranian Origin. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 June 2015.

8Heršak, Emil; Nikšić, Boris (2007), “Hrvatska etnogeneza: pregled komponentnih etapa i interpretacija (s naglaskom na euroazijske/nomadske sadržaje)” [Croatian Ethnogenesis: A Review of Component Stages and Interpretations (with Emphasis on Eurasian/Nomadic Elements)]Migration and Ethnic Themes (in Croatian) 23 (3)
*Mary Violet Kos Koss, my maternal grandmother, would have been 115 years old on July 18th.  I’ll be spending the next few posts on my Croatian ancestors’ stories trying to confirm their accuracy and to learn more about the events that were remembered.

Familysearch.org Needed Changes

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on

In previous blogs I’ve mentioned my concerns about data loss and record inaccessibility (see Ancestry Site Changes – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly 6 Jun 2015 & Poof Be Gone-How Quickly Records Can Disappear 3 Jun 2015).  A wonderful option to preserve your research would be to include it at Familysearch.org’s Wiki Tree.  Unfortunately the site is not user friendly if you are not an LDS members.  Let me demonstrate-

To access the Wiki, first sign into the site.  If you don’t have a sign-on, you may create one even if you aren’t an LDS member, however, you won’t be able to link between Ancestry.com and Familysearch.org to sink data.

I have an extremely large well sourced tree that I would love to have on the Familysearch site.  I’m going to outline the steps below of what I would have to do to build my husband’s paternal line on the Wiki.  Below, on the right hand side, you can see that there are no parents identified on my Wiki Tree for William Lewis Samuelson.

There may be other Wiki Tree users who do have William’s parents.  To discover if there is, one must click on the +Add Husband (or + Add Wife).  Then, type in what you know.  I typed in Gustaf Theodore Samuelson 29 Apr 1870 Baileytown, Portage, Indiana as the birth info and 9 Oct 1947 San Bernardino, San Bernardino, California as the death info.  After clicking “Add,” 25 parent choices are presented.  You may select 1 provided or by scrolling to the bottom, include a new couple.

In this case, I would “Add Couple” 1 – Gustav and Lulu Mae Cook.  Once added, the Wiki Tree changes to the following:

That wasn’t very time consuming but here’s where my problems begin.  I have 19 facts for Gustav Samuelson on my Ancestry tree:

Familysearch has 4 citations:

Really, Familysearch only has 1 source – the Legacy user that imported the information cited for 4 events but did the user did not include where he/she found the evidence.  Truly, I’m not impressed with Familysearch’s sources for Gustaf.  This is no improvement over the earlier trees that the site displayed.  I equate this practice with only citing an Ancestry Family Tree that was unsourced to begin with. The citation is meaningless.

I could add the sources I found plus the 18 photos and the several additional records that I’ve scanned and uploaded to my Ancestry tree to the Familysearch Wiki but that takes quite a bit of time. I feel like I’m duplicating what I’ve already accomplished by re-entering the citations from Ancestry to Familysearch.  Instead, I would prefer to spend my time further building my tree.

Perhaps, if down Gustaf’s line, Familysearch’s sources improved AND the tree was filled in I would enter my citations for Gustaf but let’s compare Gustaf’s parents in the Wiki to what I have in Ancestry:

Way too much to have to add!  Way too time consuming!

So I thought maybe I would just add 1 photo to Wiki and keep the lines simple by just adding my direct line (no collaterals – no sibs!).  Last evening I added my maternal grandparents, Ivan “John” and Mary Violet Kos Koss.  I compared sources from ancestry to familysearch and added the difference.  Then, I selected ONE photo for my mother, grandmother and grandfather and uploaded to Familysearch.  This is what the photos looked like:

Mary Violet Kos Koss

Dorothy Koss Leininger

ivan-john-koss
Ivan “John” Kos Koss

There’s nothing wrong with these 3 photos and I did agree that the site would first approve them before posting but its been a day and they’re still not displayed.  At this rate, it would take me YEARS before I had my tree on Familysearch and it wouldn’t even be my complete tree.

I understand that the LDS Church has an agreement with Ancestry.com and to quote an old commercial, membership has its privileges, but there needs to be an expedient alternative for genealogists, such as uploading an existing tree to the Familysearch site.

I vocalized this to a church Elder when I visited the Family History Library in March.  He mentioned why uploading a gedcom wouldn’t be conducive and why PAF was discontinued.  I understand the evolution of technology and don’t long for the Windows 3.1 days or dial up internet.

I am also extremely thankful and do appreciate the dedication of thousands of LDS members who have preserved and published records over the years.  To make all that work free to the general public is commendable and more than generous.  The LDS members, however, are not the only compilers of trees.  If non LDS members have a sourced tree I don’t understand why LDS wouldn’t want it.  I strongly believe that it would be in EVERYONE’S best interest if nonmembers could easily synch their records onto the WIKI. I would even pay to do this and I bet other genealogists would, too.