Saturday, January 21, 2012

Learning Genealogy via the Internet

I have always loved learning. The first time I stepped across the kindergarten room threshold at John Palmer Elementary School in Chicago, IL, I knew I had found paradise.

And of course you know the old saying about teachers. Genealogy offers so much opportunity for learning.
But sometimes we all get frustrated by the dead ends and brick walls we face.

We wish we could have a helping hand, maybe in the form of Mr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. , the renowned Harvard scholar and genealogist.

I was reading Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter for January 4, 2012. Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s new series Finding Your Roots was showcased. I have thoroughly enjoyed Gates’ previous series, “Who Do You Think You Are?” on PBS, and learned about different sources that genealogists used on the show to trace the ancestry of several famous people.

I have also wished that I could afford to hire a team of genealogists to help me in my search for my ancestors. Some people have complained that the show makes it look too easy to find family history records. A Mr. Carl H. Bloss posted this comment on the Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter:

“It is hoped this new series will portray genealogy differently than WDYTYA. It's nice ... (to) use more famous people to investigate. But things become unrealistic ... not showing the true skills needed. Just how much does it cost to get this searching done? Where do I have to go to find the answers? Who can help me if I'm stuck...” Carl

I agree with Mr. Bloss that it would be wonderful if Mr. Gates could have a companion piece to his series that would be just about the actual research methods, that would walk us through the entire process each researcher followed to find the answers that often shocked but always pleased the people whose families were the subject of the study.

But we don’t have to wait for outside help in our genealogical pursuits. There are so many avenues offered today, many available on the internet, that can assist us in sharpening our research skills.

In this post, I am going to concentrate on one format of online learning that is tailor-made to help us increase our genealogy skills. This is the webinar which the wiki site describes as “…a Web-based Seminar, a presentation, lecture, workshop or seminar that is transmitted over the Web.”  A great feature of the webinar is that you can watch in real time or tune in at a later time that is more convenient for you. Many of these webinars are free but some are available only for a fee. Where can you find these events?

I use Legacy Family Tree software to organize my family history. I became aware of Legacy webinars through a newsletter, Legacy News, that Legacy sends its customers. One of the upcoming webinars on the Legacy schedule is one you won’t want to miss. Thomas MacEntree, creator of, will be presenting  “Are you Ready for the 1940 U.S. Census Images?” on Wednesday, February 29, 2012.

DearMyrtle, one of the premier genealogy blogs written by Pat (Player) Richley-Erickson under her pen name "Myrtle",  has a specialized blog which functions as a webinar clearinghouse where she summarizes current offerings from many sites.

Another great resource for genealogy webinars is Family Tree Magazine whose offerings are a mixture of free and fee-based. I definitely want to look at this recorded webinar by Maureen A. Taylor, Photo Detective who “has been solving family historians' photo mysteries for years. In celebration of National Photo Month, she offers advice for identifying family photos in this free webinar.”

The Learning Center at FamilySearch offers free short courses, although not technically “webinars” but videos, on many different countries, in different languages, and on different genealogical skill levels. One intriguing title is: “5 Minute Genealogy Episode 1: Find a Record in Five Minutes” .

With this cornucopia of knowledge just waiting on the internet, we can all increase our skills and advance our research at our leisure.

Categories: genealogy education

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Two Brothers, Two Ice Cream/Candy Stores

I want to state at the beginning of this post that I have put this information together on two of the Flesouras/Fleseras/Flesor (the three spellings show the progression of the Americanization of the Greek name) brothers and the two businesses that they started, based on documents, newspaper articles and my own analysis. I have only been able to talk with one living Flesor to get a few pieces of information. I hope that the present Flesor owners of each of the Ice Cream/Candy Stores will correct any errors.

Ellis Island From Library of Congress website

A hillside in Greece

In the early 1900s, two brothers emigrated from Pigadakia, TripoliArcadiaPeloponnesus, Greece to America. They came through Ellis Island, New York. These two men were part of a large family that included five or six other brothers and many cousins. It is interesting to note that my Flesouras/Fleseras/Flesor line followed what was documented in history books and on the web that tell the story of Greek immigration. In the words of Jane Jurgens,Beginning in the 1890s, Greeks began arriving from other parts of Greece, principally from Arcadia, another province in the Peloponnesus. The largest numbers arrived during 1900-1910 (686) and 1911-1920 (385). Most were young single males who came to the United States to seek their fortunes and wished to return to Greece as soon as possible.”

My two ancestors, Athanasios (Tom) and Constantin (Gus) Flesouras/Fleseras/Flesor  also followed a common path from peddler and sidewalk vendor to store owner that Greeks were known to do in early nineteenth century Chicago as described by Irving Cutler. Tom and Gus Flesouras were examples of their fellow Greek immigrants to America who came from very small villages and had very little money when they arrived. They often came in family groups – in this case Tom and Gus came with three other brothers. In the 1900 Chicago Federal Census, Tom, Gus, George, and Peter Fleseras (my great grandfather) were all living in the same household. At least two of them, Gus and Tom, were on their way to becoming small business owners in the specialty area of confection.

Gus (scroll down to p. 119 on Tuscola Businesses webpage) started his ice cream shop and candy store, the Flesor Candy Kitchen, in Tuscola, IL  in 1901. He built the business into a mainstay of downtown Tuscola. Many people today have fond memories of childhood visits to the Candy Kitchen. When Gus decided it was time to step down in 1969, his son, Paul Flesor, took over the business and managed it until he retired in the 1970s.  Sadly, the Flesor Candy Kitchen became a memory and the building became run-down. But luckily for all the candy and ice cream lovers of the world, Gus’s two granddaughters, Ann Flesor Beck and Devon Flesor Nau, bought the building in 2003 and ressurrected Flesor Candy Kitchen in all its glory.
While Gus chose to move out of Chicago to start his business, brother Tom remained in Chicago. It took him a little longer to start his business, but by 1915 he owned Gayety’s Chocolates and Ice Cream Company  (see the history tab) in South Chicago. Tom's WWI draft registration card and his naturalization record show his business status.

Tom managed this Chicago landmark confectionary  until he retired in the 1930s and his son, Elias/Leo/Lee Flesor took over. In 1987, Lee decided it was time to move the Gayety outside of Chicago. He chose Lansing, IL as the new home of the historic Chicago company. In 2012, Lee is still coming into the business everyday but his son, Jim Flesor and Jim’s wife Beth, now run Gayety’s.

Before I started learning about my family history, I used to lament that we had no business owners in our family. How wonderful now to find the Flesor Dynasty of ice cream and candy makers. It’s all in the genes!

Categories: document types