Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What I Learned Wednesday: What’s a Gmina Doing in an Uyezd, and Other Bits

Gminas, uyezds, and gubernias - oh, my!

Translating documents of genealogical significance from Eastern European languages usually means 19th century or early 20th century - always an interesting experience. For fun and to help out, for friends and acquaintances I have translated Russian items before (curiously, the locations were actually in countries no longer under Russian control - Lithuania, Poland, and Belarus), as well as Ukrainian/Rusyn, Slovak, and Hungarian. Last weekend Chris Harvey of Family Pilgrimage had an internal Russian passport for which he needed a translation. The handwritten entries were in a very ornate script, which didn’t present much of a problem for the regular words, but names were another matter. Chris gave me the Polish version of the passport owner's name, but place names were the main challenge and required a bit of research. The gmina (community) was Serock, but the name of the gubernia (governorate, a fairly large administrative unit) was difficult - I finally figured out through the process of elimination that it was Łomża, aka Łomżyńska gubernia, aka Lomzhinskaya guberniya. And in between the two was an uyezd (district); I am used to this term in documents referring to Russia, but not for documents about Poland, although I knew that it would have been in use there, too, during the era of Congress Poland - when this part of Poland belonged to the Russian Empire. The name kept looking like Moskovskiy, though of course that could not be so; after searching a bit I found a page which listed the “districts” in Łomża Gubernia, and there was Maków uyezd. So a gmina could be part of an uyezd which could be part of a gubernia.

Duh Moment from last week:

When you sign up with online photo services, take a serious look around the website to examine the different options for photo presentation. (Confession: No, I did not do this when I signed up for a photo service. Or during the first year. Or during the second or third....).

I had just been looking at our rows of photo albums (which take up one and a half bookcases) and thinking “We can’t go on this way” when I got an e-mail from Snapfish saying that my account was about to expire from lack of use. I hurriedly tried to put together an order to retain the account and became intrigued by the “photo books” option. This is something that I had always ignored before because I didn’t think I had enough time to look into it or that I would be interested in it.

After submitting my order for some plain old vanilla prints, I clicked to see prices and formats for photo books. There were so many different choices - size, color, cover - and I liked that captions were included in the deal. This is exactly the kind of simple, no-frills presentation of my photos I want to do. Perhaps this format, especially the smaller sizes, can really save space compared to traditional photo albums. But what about price? The thing is, preservation-quality albums are not that cheap, so I would not really save a lot of money by opting for albums instead of books. And I already have a preservation-quality storage box that could hold a lot of these books in addition to loose photos.

So I’ll give them a try, and if I like them, along with my new weekend routine of starting research with bookmark organization (Genealogy Toolbox and Diigo), I will be uploading the photos from my computers to Snapfish and then, bit by bit, creating and ordering photo books.

The reorganization process is really changing the way I look at “stuff,” space, and efficient use of time. It has taken a long time, but the light bulb finally went on.

City Directories Are Fabulous

I get Cyndi’s list updates by e-mail and this week one of the links was for various city directories on Foot-, oops, Fold3. There were several years of the Dallas City Directory, and I was able to use it to track the professions and residences of my Lewis ancestors there. I love city directories!


  1. Well, what a gift! What you learn on Wednesday, I get to learn on Thursday -- or Friday, if I am running late. Thanks a heap.

  2. Sometimes I feel like I am reading my own life when I read your posts! Last week I got an email from Shutterfly saying that the bazillion prepaid photo prints I purchased two years ago were about to expire. As I was loading pictures I wanted to print for the bookcase full of photo albums, I started thinking about those photobooks too.

    Actually I have made several photobooks for special occassions and they turn out beautifully but are quite a bit of work (maybe because I am trying to make them extra special for those special occassions). After reading this post, it occurs to me that they might not be that much work if I were creating them from pre-existing photo albums. After all, the photos are already labeled and under my system, I have included 4x6 index cards in some of the picture slots with descriptions or even narratives. So really I would be scanning the photos (which I plan to do anyway - eventually) and then adding information that I've already put together. Hmmm. Food for thought.

    I'll be very interested in hearing where you go with your idea. In the meantime, I'm going to add this project to my ever growing and never shrinking To Do List!

  3. You do make me smile, Greta. If you are upon occasion flummoxed by the documents I shan't feel so inadequate.

    I'm curious about the photo album solution. I've no expiring membership to motivate me, but I would love your feedback if you opt to tackle the albums.

  4. Joan - It was kind of random this (= last) week, but you never know when this stuff will come in handy!

    Michelle - Yeah, I've had that "doppelganger" sense when I have read some of your posts as well - we feel the need to organize our spaces. My plans have been temporarily interrupted by the Big Basement Flood, but when I get a bunch more pictures loaded and work up the nerve to try a photobook, I'll definitely report on the results here.

    Susan - As above to Michelle, I'll be sure to report the results. Genealogical research is always so surprising - there are so many aspects to it, you never know when something surprising or hard to figure out will pop up.

  5. Uh oh - Big Basement Flood - floods are never good. Best of luck getting things pumped, repaired and back to normal.

  6. Greta, thanks again for your help on the Russian internal passport translation. Glad to see you learned a few new things from the experience.