Follow Friday: The Burgenland Bunch

The Burgenland Bunch: an international genealogy story.

My mother-in-law’s family emigrated  to the United States from Austria in the 19th century; that much was certain. But the Germanic village names on a handwritten family fact sheet presented the spelling confusion that occurs when an American-born child or grandchild writes down what they hear.

In this case, it took only little bit of poking around to figure out that “Tahton” was actually the village of Tadten, and “Halbthurn or Holfturn” meant Halbturn. Both of these places are in the region of southeast Austria called the Burgenland, and isn’t my mother-in-law lucky? The Burgenland Bunch has this area covered, and I mean covered.

The Burgenland Bunch is the brainchild of the late Gerry Berghold, who in 1996 started sharing tips by email with fellow Burgenlander researchers he met on AOL. The first official email newsletter came out in January 1997.

From a simple email newsletter the Burgenland Bunch has morphed into an organization whose extensive website includes archival material, surname query lists, maps and research tips. It has worked in an enthusiastic partnership with officials in present-day Burgenland — in fact, Gerry Berghold and several of the Bunch’s staff were recognized by the Austrian government for their efforts in promoting knowledge and appreciation of the Burgenland.

Gerry Berghold grew and tended the Burgenland Bunch for a decade, retiring from the organization only a month before his death in 2008, five years after being diagnosed with cancer. The Burgenland Bunch goes on due to the efforts of 15 volunteers from the United States and Austria. It’s a remarkable example of international genealogy cooperation, born out of an AOL email loop.


Follow Friday: The Old Foodie

You might have noticed that I have a weakness for old recipes — those underestimated windows into the past.

Back when I was a newspaper/foodie sort of person, one of my favorite jobs was reading over the recipe-query column — the more vintage the query, the better. I just loved readers who wanted to know how to make an icebox cake. If it were in my power, I’d have given them a year’s free subscription simply for using the word “icebox.”

The Old Foodie understands this love of vintage recipes, and does a wonderful job of blending fascinating historical material with a sharp eye for cultural context. For instance, The Foodie has most recently written a three-part series on “Emergency Food,” including a great post on suggestions given to British cooks in 1939 for how to stock and stretch their wartime larders.

Also, as a person of Irish descent I have to pay tribute to someone who includes a special section on “Historic Potato Recipes.”

If you have an old family recipe you’re trying to make sense of, or if  you’re just interested in trying to imagine how your great-great-great-grandparents might have shopped for and cooked their food, this site is the perfect read.


Follow Friday: The Brooklyn Information Page

Are you researching ancestors in Brooklyn, NY? You must have visited The Brooklyn Information Page. If not, click on the link right now. I will wait.

And wait. And wait.

Oh, just come back tomorrow, already. This Brooklyn-centric genealogy page is crammed with stuff, and if you’re a first-time visitor, you’ll probably root around in it for hours, just as I did when I first discovered it — gosh, can it be eleven years ago now? Hard to believe.

The Brooklyn Page was created in 1997 by Nancy Lutz, and continues to be a font of information on all things Brooklyn. It is also a gateway to the NYBrooklyn-L email list, which I might as well warn you will flood torrents of information into your email box, but is always interesting as all get-out. I get it in digest form. I have mostly lurked there, and have learned all sorts of things from the unfailingly patient regulars.  There is no such thing as a dumb question there, trust me. To get an idea, you can browse the archives here.

Back to the Brooklyn Page itself: Brooklyn is a pretty complicated topic. To say your ancestors “came from Brooklyn” may be of  limited usefulness, depending upon the time frame. The entity called “Brooklyn” was once a whole bunch of separate settlements, each with its own rich history. (This helps to explain the fierce neighborhood partisanship  that reigns in Brooklyn to this day.) Here you can find information on old Brooklyn town names, farmlands and street names, so important in narrowing the search for an elusive relative. You can also find information on which churches were located where — also very important in a place where Roman Catholics tend to use parish names as geographic signposts.

One of the nicest things on The Brooklyn Page is Paper Trails, where Nancy has established a home for something everyone has sooner or later — a vital record that doesn’t fit anywhere in the lines they’re researching. On Paper Trails, these orphan records are available for browsing, perhaps to be discovered by someone else who can make use of them.

There are also lots and lots of transcriptions: obituaries, police-blotter stories and directory pages, to name just some.

The Brooklyn Page is searchable, which is how I discovered the identity of my great-great-uncle William Haigney’s wife, Sarah, as well as some of Sarah’s large Dowd clan from Brooklyn. It was also the place where I first discovered the maiden name of my great-uncle Joseph’s wife, Catherine Reilly Haigney.

Consider this a very belated valentine to Nancy and all the Brooklyn list regulars, whose insights, humor and wisdom continue to make my day every day.


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