Spend St. Patrick’s Weekend in Salt Lake City with the Czechs & Slovaks!

This announcement is provided by the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International about their upcoming Salt Lake City Symposium, March 16-17, 2012 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Please direct all questions to CGSI.

Salt Lake City Symposium

March 16-17, 2012

Come and join your Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International (CGSI) friends while we research at the Worlds’ largest genealogical library with access to 2.4 million rolls of microfilmed genealogical records; 727,000 microfiche, 356,000 books, serials and other formats; over 4,500 periodicals and 3,725 electronic resources.

Learn all about using the collection and discover new leads to uncovering your genealogical roadblocks. Get help from experts in Eastern European research.

Become acquainted with CGSI officers, directors and other fellow members at our Social mixer on Thursday evening to set the tone for two days of learning. Whether this is your first visit or your fourteenth, this will be a special event with presentations focused on Czech and Slovak research and archival record acquisition made available within a block of the Family History Library.

Please register early as space is limited to the first 150! See you there.

Visit our website at: www.cgsi.org for further details, lodging and registration form.

~ Paul Makousky, Symposium Chair

Copyright, 2011, Lisa A. Alzo

Disclosure: I currently serve on the Board of Directors for the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International, and have been invited to present three talks at the March symposium for which I will receive travel reimbursement.


“There’s one in every family!”: A Special Place We’ll Always Remember

All of us can recall a special place that brings back certain important or special memories. Whether it’s the house we grew up in, a favorite family vacation spot, the school we attended, or where we met our spouse or partner. For me, the one place I will always remember is my Baba’s Kitchen.

Some of my fondest memories from childhood are the times spent in my Baba’s (Grandma’s) kitchen. I remember spending many Friday evenings in her two-story house on Hill Street in Duquesne, Pennsylvania, surrounded by my aunts, uncles, and cousins. Dressed in her blue and white cotton housedress, quilted slippers, and a white babushka (scarf) around her head, my Slovak “Baba”* stood over her stove for what seemed like hours, preparing chicken soup, mouthwatering golden buns dusted with flour, and lemon pie—all made without reference to a written recipe. Even today, I can recall the delightful aromas of fresh bread baking in the oven, the chicken soup slowly simmering in the large, “bottomless,” white enamel pot on the stove, and browning butter in the old black iron skillet.

Then there were the holidays. In the Slovak culture, food is richly entwined with tradition and religious teachings, especially for Christmas and Easter, when special dishes are prepared and rituals observed. For example, on Christmas Eve, we celebrated with a meatless Vilia Supper (to honor the Christian practice of fasting) and ate foods like: bobalky, perfectly baked little balls of dough browned in butter and mixed with sauerkraut, and pirohi, ravioli-like pillows of dough filled with cabbage, cottage cheese, potato, or prunes.

At Easter, we ate paska, a round bread with a golden crust and yellow center made from eggs, butter, and white raisins (indicative of living bread come down from Heaven) and hrudka, a bland, sweet, custard-like “cheese” made from cooked and separated eggs and milk (as a symbol of moderation).

Whatever the occasion, “Baba’s” kitchen functioned as the center of her home. It was where this soft-spoken Slovak woman spent the majority of her days as wife, mother, and grandmother, preserving the traditions of her homeland. There, in her domain, she also assumed other important roles of comforter, teacher, disciplinarian, financial manager, and instiller of religious teachings, morals and values.

The kitchen also became the place where some of life’s most important lessons were taught and learned. Simple principles of generosity and honesty and, above all, a genuine love for her family that Grandma taught by example. Moreover, for me it was in this kitchen where the genealogical seeds were planted, eventually sparking a quest to discover facts about this amazing woman, along with the desire to preserve our family’s history for future generations.

At this time of the year, as everyone gears up for the holiday season, it’s not unusual to get a bit nostalgic—to reminisce about Christmases past, remember loved ones who are no longer physically present with us, and celebrate those traditions of our ethnic heritage that mean so much to us.

For me, all of the above memories, as well as holiday celebrations will forever be associated with my Baba’s Kitchen.

This post is part of Carnival of Genealogy’s 100th Edition, “There is One in Every Family” hosted by Jasia of Creative Gene. Congratulations to Creative Gene for 100 Editions of Carnival of Genealogy!

*In some regions of Slovakia, the term is used for “grandmother.”
**This post includes excerpts from my essay, “My Baba,” written for the 2004 “Write Your Memoir Contest,” for which I received an “Honorable Mention”

Copyright 2010 Lisa A. Alzo
All Rights Reserved


Carnival of Genealogy: Summer Vacation: Canada 1970?

One of my favorite summer vacation memories is my first trip to Niagara Falls and Toronto, Canada. Although I can’t remember the exact year, I believe it was 1970. We traveled there with my “Auntie”–Sister M. Camilla Alzo who came home to Pittsburgh for a vacation from Victoria, TX where she was a teacher. My father drove us to Canada to visit his cousin, Mike Alzo who lived in Toronto. We stopped at the Falls on the way–here’s a picture of me with my “Auntie.” Who could have known that many, many years later I would return to Niagara Falls to get married!

We visited many places in Canada included a park with beautiful gardens. Here I am with my mom and my favorite childhood toy, my bunny!

Poor Bunny met his demise not long after that–I became ill and unfortunately (an unintentionally) shared the virus with Bunny! Mom tried her best to save him, but putting him in the washer did him in! I cried and cried when we had to “let Bunny go to heaven.”

One of the things I remember about this trip to Canada was watching Canadian television at my cousin’s house and hearing Fred Flintstone talk in French! I asked my mother “Why is Fred talking like that?” because I couldn’t understand him. But when I was a child that show was funny to me no matter the language (actually I still think it’s pretty funny…)

Thanks for this Blog carnival prompt. It was fun reminiscing–I just wish my parents had put dates on the backs of their photographs!