Summary of Our Recent May 10, 2011 Genealogy Program with Dr. Paul Valasek on the Topic of Austro-Hungarian Genealogy Research

Hi Everyone!

Here is a summary of our most recent Genealogy Program at the Schaumburg Township District Library on Tuesday evening, May 10, 2011.  Our guest speaker for the evening was Dr. Paul Valasek, D.D.S.  Paul presented a program titled “Why My Austro-Hungarian Ancestors Were Neither Austrian or Hungarian”.

We had a good turnout for this early Spring program.  We had 54 participants in attendance!

I started the program at 7:30 PM with the introduction of new participants.  We had about 9 new participants who shared with all of us their name, their description of the their newness to genealogy and some of the surnames they were researching.  Each new participant received a Welcome package from me with some good tips on how to move forward on their research journey using a variety of resources both within and outside our library.

Post Card Example Used by Dr. Paul Valasek Containing Many Clues on Austro-Hungarian Connections

I indicated to the group that I would like to forego reviewing some of the handout material so that we could get to our speaker by 7:45 PM rather than 8:00 PM and allow more un-rushed time after the speaker should anyone want to talk to me or the speaker.  Because the material is all available online everyone can take a deeper look at it on their own.  I just briefly reviewed some upcoming program dates and topics for a variety of groups in the area.

 You can easily find all of our monthly library genealogy “Newsletters” in this blog along the right sidebar.  You can also find all of our monthly library genealogy “Handouts” in this blog along the right sidebar.  Take some time to look at the current issues as well as the past ones.  These are PDF files so you can look at them from the within the blog or download them to your own computer.  All are filled with electronic bookmarks, hyperlinks, internet URL links for you to quickly find material and to link to topics of interest on the internet.  That is the beauty of these electronic files!

Please feel free to ask me any questions you may have on the material contained in the Newsletter or the Handout material.

Audience Viewing One of Dr. Paul Valasek's Many Informative Slides on Austro-Hungarian Problem Solving Tips

Dr. Paul Valasek, D.D.S. then started his presentation at around 7:50 PM.

I can tell you this with all candor.  Paul’s PowerPoint presentation was a real dazzler!  I have had many genealogy speakers use PowerPoint.  But so far to date, no one has incorporated such “electronic glitz, glamor and special effects” as did the one we saw from Paul this evening.  It was impressive!  I did hear from a “little birdie” that although Paul presented the material in an incredibly informative manner, the PowerPoint presentation, using all of the special effects, was actually created by Paul’s wife!  Isn’t it wonderful to see what teamwork can do!!

The idea of seeing an entry in some record identifying an ancestor as “Austro-Hungarian” can definitely be misleading.  As Paul’s presentation showed, you cannot assume your ancestor was either Austrian or Hungarian!

The Austro-Hungarian Empire that was founded in 1867 was truly a multi-ethnic, multi-national, multi-racial and multi-religious empire.  So if you are seeing an ancestor identify themselves as simply Austro-Hungarian, do not assume they are one or the other.

Paul’s presentation incorporated many postcards he has obtained that pertain to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Like so much in genealogy, one would ask what is the significance of postcards and how can they help you?

Dr. Paul Valasek Working Through His PowerPoint Presentation

Paul indicated that if you have postcards in your possession from your Austro-Hungarian ancestors that there is plenty of good information on these documents to help you better understand background on your ancestor.

Paul noted that you need to check much of the following that is visible on the postcards other than the words written by your ancestor.  Things to look for are:

  • The stamp on the card
  • The postmark
  • The language
  • Official printings on the card
  • Manufacturer of the card
  • Any military “censorship” review stamping

The stamp itself may have a year on it to help you determine the time period of the card.  The postmark should also provide you with a date and a location.  The language(s) on the card may give you insight into what part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire the person may have been in at the time the postcard was created.  Official languages that may appear on the card may also lead you to the geographic area of the empire.  Much of this entails you doing some basic historical research on the empire to see what countries had what official languages that were acceptable in the area at the time.

Paul also noted in his handout that the evidence of certain lists of races or

Dr. Paul Valasek Answering Questions from Audience After Formal Presentation

peoples that you may encounter on documents may lead you to see that your ancestor may have been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire but neither Austrian or Hungarian.  You often see this categorization on ship’s passenger lists.  Those ethnicities noted indicate that they may have been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Some ethnicities noted are:

  • Bohemian
  • German
  • Magyar
  • Moravian
  • Polish
  • Roumanian
  • Slovak
  • Slovenian
  • Italian (North)
  • Turkish

So if you see a document that indicates an ancestor has been identified as Austro-Hungarian, you may discover that in fact they are either Austrian or Hungarian but they may more likely be an entirely different ethnic group based on the extensive amount of different ethnicities within the empire.

A couple of websites of interest for those wanting to know more about the Austro-Hungarian Empire can be found at:

Dr. Paul Valasek Stayed Late To Help Those in Attendance with Their Questions

Paul presented the  program almost until 9:30 PM, just about the time we needed to end the program.  He stuck around literally until our library closed at 10:00 PM happily answering questions from those in attendance that stayed after the formal presentation.  It was obvious that there was a definite interest from those in attendance to better understand their genealogical connection to the Austro-Hungarian Empire!

Paul is a fabulous speaker.  If you have never heard him before, it is your loss.  Catch one of his presentations if you can.  If this was your first time hearing him, you will now know why I am excited whenever we have Paul back for another program!

We thank Dr. Paul Valasek, D.D.S.  for his presentation.  What a treat!

We look forward to Paul’s return visit to our library again in the future.  I have already been told by him that he is working on some new presentation material.  We can’t wait to see Paul again.

Tony Kierna
Genealogy Coordinator
Schaumburg Township District Library

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