UNC Football ladies clinic


We went to the UNC Football ladies clinic again and Hayley brought her friend Taeylor. Really fun night with lots of interesting speakers, great food and a behind the scenes view of things.

They were happy to see Coach Fedora again …

… but the real highlight was seeing Caleb Pressley**

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**If you don’t know who Caleb is, read this or just watch his hysterical ESPN interview:

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July 4th


We went up to Blacksburg again for the July 4th holiday. Jeff’s grandmother Faye is now living in Blacksburg full-time so it was nice to see her. Hayley took a selfie with Jay and her great-grandmother Faye that still cracks me up. Jeff, Hayley and his folks ran the Shawsville 5k again. They came in 4th in the fastest family category and got their photo in the paper. Hayley and her Grandma Sharen both picked up hardware in their age groups. We also got to see Jeff’s folks new house that is under-construction – it’s going to be really nice.

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Spring Break


What a fun spring break we had. Took some of Hayley’s friends out to Winterpast Farm, went on a crazy dessert binge with Grandma Joanne and Grandpa Gordon then to the beach to the beach with our neighbors!

Girls holding two day old bunnies



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We had a great Easter!

I’ll always make Hayley an Easter basket.

The Hillisons came down for the weekend.

Hello from us…

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Winter photos


Sort of a random catchall – Christmas, Hayley’s braces coming off, New Years Eve and the Winter storm in February.

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Leslie & the Lys, 2014 edition


The first time I ever posted anything about Leslie Hall was almost six years ago when I found her Gem Sweater website and I could not stop laughing. This lady in Iowa had found all these bizarre gem sweaters and taken a photo in each, with the same hair and makeup. The absurdity killed me. When I found she had a band (Leslie & the Lys) and they had a song about her Gem Sweaters, I thought it was even funnier. Hayley and I got the CD and played it all the time in the car.

Six months later, we saw they were on a national tour and as luck would have it, coming to play a show in Chapel Hill. We had a blast, met a bunch of great people, Hayley ended up on stage and even got to meet the band. We were hooked and have been going to their shows ever since – 2009, 2010, 2012 and then this week. It’s hard to explain how great these shows are – it’s part music, humor and performance art. It’s positive, the crowds are always so happy.

Over the years, we’ve gotten to know the band. We always arrive early because I want to get seats off to the side to keep Hayley out of the chaos. We’ve helped with set-up, brought them vegan goodies and had them ship stuff to us to resupply. But this time, we went a step further. Since they had a day off between their DC show and the Chapel Hill one, the band stayed with us for a couple of nights.

I recognize it’s a bit crazy but we’ve kept in touch for years and we knew they’d be great fun to have stay. Life is about experiences after all, right? Hayley was over the moon that they were all here. It was a little mindblowing, they’d given us a lot of laughs and music over the years – and here they were, their crazy van parked in front of our house. After buying more veggies and vegan stuff than I’d ever known existed for our six guests, we settled in for a lot of laughing, chatting, Netflix, making stuff with the sodastream and doing laundry. They really just wanted to relax and recharge. They were incredibly easy, funny and lovely house guests. Plus I love for Hayley to see creative amazing people following their passion.

So Leslie, Mona, Derek, Beth, Adrien and Kristen, you can come back any ole time. Hopefully we’ll see you in a year or so.

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The curious case of Helen Z. (or S.)


I never met my great-grandmother Helen. She died three years before I was born and I’ve never seen a photo of her (2015 update – I have now!). By most accounts, she was a polarizing figure, unhappy in life. My mother remembers her father telling her never to dye her hair red because his mother did and it looked terrible. She remembers him saying he could never have people over because she was unpredictable and hostile. My great-grandfather Fred’s goddaughter confirmed that to me as well, said they only saw Fred at their home, that she hated visitors. They were also deeply disappointed in my grandfather’s desire to leave the priesthood.

All of that has made my mother a bit ambivalent whether I find anything about Helen but not me. Sometimes I think searching for the records can solve some of the mystery, perhaps explain what happened. I don’t know if the records will make anything more clear but I do know there are NO RECORDS of her before birth. Honestly we don’t even know her maiden last name for sure. But there have to be some family in the USA, there have to be some records somewhere of her parents. I hope someone is searching for her some day and stumbles into this.

So let’s talk about what do know – or at least think – we know. All the images are clickable to make bigger.

First name: Helen/Elena/Helena Stella.

Last name: has been listed as Zuravich, Zuravici, Zurawiec (update: daughter’s BC says Zuranei) and even Shore and Shorovich in her obit. (update: AR2 forms say Shorovitz) Technically there is no V in the Polish alphabet so it would originally the Zurawiec spelling. Another spelling I saw on some other non-family ones is Czerwiec. (Perhaps both are right and when they naturalized they changed the last name – my great-granddad for example kept his italian full name Alfredo Falconieri through Ellis Island but when he filed years later to be a US citizen, he changed it by choice to Fred Falconer. We’ve seen it written Faulkner, Falcone).

Birth: from census records, she says 1898. From death stuff, 29 May 1898. (update: AR forms say May 1895) Some stuff says Warsaw, some says Wainwo di Lublin which we think is “Wieniawa Lublin” a town that no longer is a town and has folded back in Lublin. Lublin and Warsaw are not very close. I suspect Lublin is correct.

Parents: From the Diocese of Pittsburgh I was able to find some records that list her parents as Wojciech and Franciszka. Wojciech often became George or Albert in the US and Franciszka would have been Frances or Francesca. There are not records for them, anywhere I can find, outside of those Pitt ones. ZERO. (Update: AR2 form in 1941 says 0 parents were living in the US )

US Arrival: Census data says 1903 but new 1920 census says 1908 now. (update: AR2 forms now say April 1909)

Education: 3rd grade. Ouch.

Religion: My mom remembers my granddad saying Helen was jewish. She’s told me that seriously and once that he said it jokingly. But she did marry a Catholic in the church and raise her kids Catholinc.

Marriage: Marriage to Alfredo Stanislao Falconer, April 29th, 1913 Age: 14, a month before she turned 15. Supposedly at Holy Family Parish Pittsburgh, Allegheny, Pennsylvania, USA. Witnesses were Angelo Rych and Valentine Wisiniski (spelling uncertain). The priest for the marriage and baptism was Fr. A. Smetoz. (Source: Catholic Church records). Boy that seems young. In census stuff she says she is 16 when they get married.

There was a sizable Polish population that ended up in Tyler PA where my Italian great-granddad first went. Supposedly those were the only two ethnic groups there. Did they meet there?

Pittsburgh: They settled in Pittsburgh and owned a nice home there eventually. They rented at 199 Laurel Ave and 1905 Juinata Ave. Then they bought a home. The house was listed in her name on town plot maps I found. 1923 Metropolitan Avenue.

Children’s records:

Death: They must have sold the house after the kids left because they were living in a different location when she passed away in 1967. My granddad went back for the funeral but was told he was only allowed to come in through the backdoor because of the “shame” he brought on the family.

And that’s all I have so far. Someone or somewhere out there has more, I just have to keep digging.


-Filed for search request on an Alien Registration Form at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It’s a two step process, you have to file for the search first and then get results. FOLLOWUP, she does have an AR2 form filed in 1940 but not a A file. So 01/20/14 I filed for a copy of the AR2 file. I also filed for a search on her husband (my great-granddad) eventho I have his naturalization papers.

-In a twitter chat with Ancestry, they suggested Walentovia Wisniewski might be a sibling and to check those records.

01/22/14 Update on Walentovia/Valentine. My contact at the Diocese of Pittsburgh was really helpful but as I expected, we’d need more info for them to do anything. He did suggest we try to get a civil record from Alleghany County. I filed for it but I don’t have a lot of hope because Alleghany never had my great-grandparents marriage docs either. There is a town/area somewhere that does but I just don’t know. You can get a license anywhere in PA for getting married. “If the search is successful, you should receive the records in the mail in approximately ten (10) days.” My contact there also suggested checking census records for Wisniewski, which I did lightly before but will try again

02/07/14 Update on the AR2 Alien Registration forms. Not a ton of info – no photo. But the last name listed is Shorovitz which is super rare. I think that’s a misspelling again – there is no V in Polish anyway. SIGH. The birthdate is three years earlier which would make her closer to 18 at marriage and not 15. 5-4, Brown hair, green eyes. DOB the same but a new arrival date in the US of April 1909 but no ship. She lists NO parents as living in the US. Did they go back to Poland? Did they die? This was 1941 so she was 43ish. Either is possible. (A kind poster in the polishorigins.com forum suggested a third option – that she came alone and they never immigrated at all. Very valid, so there are really three scenarios.

Nothing matching shows up in ancestry.com or anywhere else as Shorovitz or Shorowitz. A few Shorovitch who were in Pittsburgh but they were Serbian or Czech.

I continue to be baffled. Last thing left is her daughter Stella’s birth certificate.

02/11/14 Update on Stella’s birth certificate – it was a vague form with yet another spelling, Zuranei. Back to the drawing board as that was the last document I was waiting on.

03/01/14 Update on property records – I’ve searched the plat maps and can’t find anyone with similar names on any of the streets around them. In fact there is a real lack of ethnic names in general.

Since their home no longer stands, I couldn’t find the records online thru the Dept of Real Estate for the county. It’s now part of a much bigger lot that is industrial warehouses. I contacted a guy there and he helped me figure it out. I found out the owner and he helped me access the file. I sent him the money for the documents but he had to pull them to confirm we were looking at the right lots and this is what he told me, “Helen took title individually from John Klein in 1922. She had to convey it to a third party, then in turn it was conveyed to herself and Fred on October, 1926.”

What the heck?? The home was valued at $5,000 – that’s a lot for a women in 1922 to have. She’d have been mid-20s then and this was a woman that had a 3rd grade education and was a homemaker. I hope the actual documents tell me more but I’m not hopeful. Pre-1920s records for Allegheny County aren’t great either.

03/04/14 Update on gedmatch – I sent my raw DNA files to gedmatch which has some amazing tools and a more international participation than other DNA sites seem to have. It’s free and can be hard to figure out but the effort is worth it. I found some interesting matches to people still in that part of Europe. I’m still working on grasping all the autosomal/X DNA/cMs/etc terminology but there are two promising matches I’m pursuing. One Russian guy has 15 kits there and I matched with a common ancestor between 5 and 7 generations ago on 12 of his 15 kits. Another match says she has ancestors from the Ukraine/Belarus/Poland area and that is just where Lublin was. So crossing my fingers these lead to some more info.

03/06/14 Update on Lublin records – FamilySearch has several Catholic church records from Lublin digitized but nothing showed up when I searched. I went thru to see if I could find anyone with her parents FIRST names as well and even a close last name nothing. A lot of the records included marriage and death records so I could rule a lot of people out. But there were a ton with her folks first names. I guess I was hoping to find siblings to people with her parents’ first names and a similar last one.

I did find out IN Lublin there is a place called “Żurawiniec”, Lublin Voivodeship, Poland. Something to file away.

I tried a bit on Josephine Jaskowiak too there in and US records but nothing definitive. I’ve emailed a guy who has a tree at ancestry but he hasn’t been there in a year.

08/01/14 Update I now have DNA from my mother and her sister (my aunt) on ancestry and gedmatch as well. That’s a generation back on that side and since my father’s is there as well, I can at least eliminate some people based on matching with me and mom or me and dad.

05/01/14 Update I have found my great-grandfather’s cousin in Italy! Giovanni Falconieri is a charming retired Naval officer living on the coast of Tuscany. He actually had old photos and gave me the holy grail of pics – one of Helen and Fred! I see my mother in her face, quite amazing. I’m so grateful to Giovanni!

helen and fred

02/25/16 Update I’ve got some interesting DNA matches with a very pleasant lady on ancestry and she has some polish links. She doesn’t show up as a match to my dad so it has to be my mom’s side (she matches my mom).

10/01/16 Update Filed a request through Social Security Admin for her SSN under FOIA but they responded back that they found no record of a SSN for her.

12/01/16 Update Well a DNA hit on my aunt C’s DNA test came up with a family with some Polish links. I reach out to anyone matches and has some Polish stuff. Well I lucked out and a very nice person responded. It was her husband’s side and they were in fact from the SAME TOWN. They had a Helen in their tree too but didn’t know much else. Years are close, dad’s name is the same too. But the name is not similar… I don’t know but there is something there.

02/10/2017 Update Found a great note about her husband Fred getting arrested for having five gallons of moonshine whisky during prohibition. Also their boarder had gun and brass knuckles – scary to think they had two kids living in the house with people like that. Also found Helen’s estate notice.


Genealogy note


Screenshot at Oct 30 22-32-19

This is one of my favorite genealogy finds. My grandfather’s senior yearbook photo and info.

I really need to be logging my work for more efficient research so I’m going to be posting it all under the Genealogy section on the right side. I’m not going to have it show up on the front page most of the time because there can be a fair amount of it. I’ll post interesting things if I come across them but no one wants to read the logs of microfilm research I do Tuesday mornings.

My tree at ancestry.com

Specific interests right now – Falconieri / Falconer (Italy & Pittsburgh) | Zuraweic (Poland and Pittsburgh | Pugh (Iowa & Ireland) | Donahue & O’Donoghue (Boston & County Clare specifically Doolin)


Charles Calo and Fred Falconieri


Screenshot at Oct 30 22-23-23

I had quite an interesting development! In July I got the names of my grandfather’s godparents, Carl Calo and Josephine Jaskowiak. No luck finding them but I sent out a few feelers. A month later one of them responded and it turned out to be a match! His godfather was not Carl but Charles Calo and he came over to the US from Tuglie around the same time. His daughter turned to be the god-daughter of my great-grandfather as well. Sounds like Fred and Charles had to be very close to be the godfathers to each other’s children.

Luckily, she and her daughter-in-law were willing to chat on the phone and it was amazing!

–Remembers Helen having bright garish dyed red hair, being very harsh and never wanted anyone inside her home. That all matched with everything we knew. She said that when they saw Fred it was normally at their home, not his. Said Helen drank and Fred was pretty unhappy.

–She told me she “had to tell me what a handsome fellow my grandfather was” – I loved that and it too matched up with info his HS yearbook where they talk about how all the girls loved Jimmy. She thought she might have some old photos.

–She remembers him coming home at one point and telling her he wouldn’t see her for awhile. We think that was when he enlisted and quit being a priest. She even remembered his eye injury. She had nice things to say about him and advice he gave her as well.

Screenshot at Oct 30 22-32-19

–She remembered how Fred told her and her parents Jim was dead after his mother died because he didn’t forgive him for leaving the priesthood. I knew that too, it was sad to hear again.

All in all, it was a lovely conversation. I suspect we are related to these people some generations back in Tuglie.

End of October Genealogy


I’ve decided to start posting about my genealogy stuff in the hopes of keep better track of it and that someone else might come along and find it.

–Reviewing Tyler PA 1910 census docs looking for Helen Zurawiec, my great-grandmother.

–Reading this interesting Rutgers oral history transcript from John Pino whose father was born in Tuglie near the time of my great-grandfather and also immigrated around the same time to the same town in PA (Tyler). Pino’s parents left eventually for NJ while my great-granddad left for Pittsburgh.

One of the more interesting notes from that his answer to a question if there any other ethnic groups represented in the Tyler mining community, “I believe the only other ethnic group that I recall them speaking about was Polish people.” We have often wondered how my Italian great-grandfather Alfredo ended up with a 16 year old Polish wife, perhaps they met there. I’ve had problems getting info on them in Pittsburgh and we have NO info on her family – barely a spelling that might be right (Zuraweic, not the Zuravici or Zuravich) and Wainwo Lublin (but I’ve also seen Warsaw). I still think that Wainwo is Wieniawa Lublin. It was folded back into Lublin eventually.

Someone out there has to be related to a Helen (Elena) Stella Zuraweic who arrived in the US as a five year old child in 1903 (census records). I recently found her parents names, Wojciech (changed to George or Albert often in the US) and Franciszka.

–I think I’ve exhausted the Pittsburgh Diocese for their info. They are nice but unlike some other ones, they charge and are very formal about their work.

–My Tuesday mornings still consist of working on Tuglie films. I’m waiting on more films from Nardo but I really need to get organized and go through all of them. It’s not going that well because I don’t read Italian – it’s fine form me to have the basics and forms translated but when I’m dealing with shifting names, etc it’s impossible.

–My friend in Tuglie Silvana has passed on the name and email of a distant relative. I’ve emailed him and can’t wait to hear back.

My tree at ancestry.com

Specific interests right now – Falconieri / Falconer (Italy & Pittsburgh) | Zuraweic (Poland and Pittsburgh | Pugh (Iowa & Ireland) | Donahue & O’Donoghue (Boston & County Clare specifically Doolin)