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May I Introduce to You . . . Michelle Murosky

Come meet genealogy blogger Michelle Murosky, author of The Murosky-McDonald Ancestral Lines blog, in this interview by Wendy Mathias at GeneaBloggers.

May I Introduce to You . . . Michelle Murosky

Most bloggers will tell you that it is important to include at least one photo or other image in every post. Adhering to that rule is often one of the most difficult challenges many of us face, but not for Michelle Murosky. She has been blessed with a wealth of old photos passed down through the family over many generations. I am proud to introduce to you Michelle Murosky and The Murosky-McDonald Ancestral Lines where every blog is a visual treat.

Michelle, please tell us a little about yourself.

“I was born and raised in Erie, Pennsylvania. After graduating from The Pennsylvania State University with a degree in Architectural Engineering, I relocated to the Greater Chicago area. My career started in the building design and construction industry. Since then I have transitioned into the energy consulting sector. When I am not working or spending time working on the family tree I enjoy photography with a focus on nature and fine art. My day to day work involves planning for the future. Family history involves spending time in the past while also planning for the future. For me photography is a nice way to pause and be present. My husband and I recently launched a small photography related business called MB Boutiques.”

How did you get interested in doing your family genealogy?

“We lost my paternal grandmother, Mary Eugenia McDonald, when I was in high school.  After her death her siblings said, ‘We should have written all those stories down – Mary Jean knew all the family history.’  For me this was the trigger point. Following my grandmother’s death I spent a lot of time with my grandfather Arthur Murosky. It all started with a notebook and a pen, following Grandpa around asking questions. Sixteen plus years later I am still working at it!”

Has your research focus changed over time?

“Like many researchers, in the early days I was focused on building out the tree and making sense of the relationships. I was very fortunate that I connected with other family historians on my paternal grandmother’s side of the family who kindly shared their work with me. This was the generation that did their research before computers – traveling to locations and transcribing records manually. During my college years I was able to piece together a substantial portion of my paternal grandmother’s family tree and I also made initial progress researching my paternal grandfather’s family tree.

“In 2011 Grandpa turned 92, and I dusted my initial research off and started working on Our Ancestors The Book: Volume I: The Murosky and Bukowski Family History.

My goal was to write a book on my paternal grandfather’s family history and incorporate the photographs of the family. To prepare for writing the book I reviewed and expanded all of my existing research on the Murosky and Bukowski families. Since conducting my initial research there were more databases available. This was a good opportunity to review the data with an open mind, verify and in some cases correct previously recorded facts. I also made an effort to ensure my records were properly sourced.

“In the last two years I have taken a break from extensive research and focused on what I am calling the Portraits of a Life Project. I acquired a large collection of family photographs that previously belonged to my great-grandmother, Frances Philomena Selker. The goal of the Portraits of a Life Project is to digitize, archive, restore and share the large collection of family photographs that are in my care.”

What has been your most exciting discovery through research?

“One of the most exciting was finding the original spelling of Murosky. My paternal grandfather had told me the original surname was Murauskas. Many variations of our surname have been recorded over the years but there was no Murauskas. In 2015 Ancestry released the Pennsylvania Birth Certificates. Included in the collection was the birth record for my 2nd great uncle, Frank Murauskas. The birth record included the original Lithuanian spelling of the surname and provided clues to the region where the family was from. Records for the family located prior to WWI traditionally pointed to Russia and records after WWI traditionally pointed to Lithuania. The birth certificate indicated the family was from the region previously known as the Suwałki Governorate.

“A second discovery was unraveling the mystery of civil war veteran Pvt. John McDonald, my 4th great uncle. He enlisted in the Union Army with his two brothers James and Andrew. He was one of those ancestors that you search and search for but can never find. In 2015 I connected with another researcher who helped me determine that John died on October 16, 1864 in a military hospital. He is buried in Beverly National Cemetery in Beverly, Burlington County, New Jersey.”

Where do you get your ideas for your blog posts?

“My posts have always been a reflection of what I was working on at the time. My post types have included writing about a specific person, sharing a historical record or discussing a research visit. More recently my posts have focused on sharing old family photos.

“Historical events and milestones are great prompts. For example, around the 70th Anniversary of D-Day I wrote a post about my cousin Philip Selker who participated in the D-Day invasion.

“For National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day I compiled a list of deceased infants recorded in the family tree.”

What are your favorite posts on your blog and why?

“One of my favorite posts is the WWI Centennial: Where were they? The Vincinety Frank Bukowski Family. As a history enthusiast the WWI Centennial made me pause and reflect. Where were my family members? How were they impacted? Would they be reflecting on their brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and cousins living in Europe? The WWI Centennial series explores the impact the outbreak of the war may have had on my 2nd great grandparents.

“Another of my favorite posts is St. Mary’s Cemetery: Crown, PA – Find A Grave Updates. In July of 2012 I visited St. Mary’s Cemetery in Crown, Pennsylvania with my father and my aunt. This was a visit about going home to find our roots. Our McDonald family moved to the Crown area from Ireland in the 1830’s. Many of our ancestors are laid to rest at St. Mary’s Cemetery. During our visit I attempted to photograph as much of the old section of the cemetery as I could. In time the photographs were included into Find A Grave Memorials. Using my photographs I was able to help a cousin fill in some gaps in his family tree. Like many researchers I have benefited from the content at Find A Grave. It was nice to give back to the genealogical community.”

Michelle, what is your favorite family story or heirloom?

“In 1906 my 2nd great grandfather Joseph William Selker returned to Germany. It was his first and only trip to his birth country after departing 21 years prior. He traveled with his 9 year old son Frederick William Selker. The two traveled to three different cities to visit their relatives. Two of Joseph William Selker’s nieces, Johanna Anna Selker and Philomena Selker, returned to Pennsylvania with him. The girls remained in Pennsylvania for the rest of their lives.

“One of our cherished family heirlooms is a copy of an original letter written in German that Joseph William wrote to his brother Karl Friedrich Selker. Joseph William penned the letter after returning from the trip. The letter shares details of their trip and is filled with emotion. A copy of this letter is highlighted in JW Selker: A Letter to Germany.

“We are very fortunate that our family has original tin type photographs. Some of these are well over 100 years old now. I commissioned Gary Clark at phototree.com to assist me dating the photographs and providing identifying details.”

Besides major websites like Ancestry and FamilySearch, what research tool or source has been helpful in researching your family history?

PolishOrigins has a great forum for folks with Polish ancestors. The forum contains a wealth of knowledge and users can assist with translations.

PhotoTree has an extensive collection of dated old photographs. The case studies section provides examples on how to date old photographs.

“I have I commissioned Ute Brandenburg with German Script Experts to research my paternal ancestors in Germany. The initial research I had was shared with me by others, but I did not have any sources to validate the records. Ute has located many German records which have validated and enhanced the original research. If you are looking for someone who can navigate old German records and read old German script, Ute is highly recommended.”

What other genealogy blogs inspire you?

“There are two blogs that have great examples of research and analysis:

  • The author of Genealogy Adventures has done extensive research and has utilized DNA testing to document his family tree.
  • DNAeXplained provides a lot of helpful information on genetic genealogy. The site also has great examples of detailed traditional research.”

Michelle, you have a companion page on Facebook for your blog. What are the benefits of having a Facebook page?

“The Facebook page was originally launched to connect with my close and extended family members who are Facebook users. Several distant cousins have found my Facebook site and are now followers. Facebook has been a great platform to share content and collaborate with family. It is easy for a Facebook user to leave a comment, post on my page or send a private message.”

Do you have any tips for new genealogy bloggers?

“If you’re considering starting a blog, I would encourage you to do it. Over the years I have had the opportunity to connect with distant cousins who found me through my blog. If I had to guess, these cousin connections most likely would have never happened. These cousins have provided a wealth of knowledge.

“I have found tags to be a great way to organize content so readers can browse by topic. In fact I use them all the time when quickly looking for an older post. My tag types include post types, dates, locations, surnames, photo collections and the names of featured individuals. Grouping these tags allows for multiple navigation options.”

Finally Michelle, what is on your genealogy bucket list?

“This is a list that never seems to get any shorter! I am always coming up with new ideas.

  • “My Polish family has always been a bit of a mystery. A rainy day project will be to determine if a city of origin for these families can be located.
  • “In time I would also like to expand the Our Ancestors family history series to feature volumes on my maternal grandmother’s family.
  • “I would love to visit Europe and visit the cities where my ancestors are from.”

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Please take a moment to visit Michelle at The Murosky-McDonald Ancestral Lines and leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. Thank-you, Michelle, for letting us inside your blogging world.

© 2017, copyright Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

Wendy Mathias is a retired teacher who divides her time between her home in Chesapeake, Virginia and Smith Mountain Lake.  She enjoys researching her family and digging for the story behind old family photos for her blog Jollett Etc. Are you a genealogy blogger who would like to be interviewed for the “May I Introduce To You . . .” series? If so, contact Wendy via email wendymath@cox.net.


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