The importance of exploring other repositories…

We all know how important it is to use resources other than the big four sites (Ancestry, FindMyPast, FamilySearch, MyHeritage). It’s so easy to get into a research rut and just keep plugging names and dates into the search forms or checking out hints (rather than just blindly accepting them!) First, we have to remember than only a fraction of the world’s documents have actually been digitized, and second, despite what Ancestry (and the others) might have you believe, it does NOT have access to all those that have been scanned and uploaded to online genealogical databases.

Consider the case of the Allied Expeditionary Force Displaced Persons Registration Cards collection that is now available to search and view for free at the Arolsen Archives website. While I wish I could say I found it by diligently checking the Archives website at least monthly, I cannot – instead I read about it on Vera Miller‘s blog, Find Lost Russian & Ukrainian Genealogy, likely a link from one of Linda Stufflebean‘s Friday History Finds columns at her Empty Branches on the Family Tree site.

For those who don’t know, the Arolsen Archives collects documents related to Nazi persecution and has the most records on this topic. Now, given that my direct line was subject instead to Soviet persecution, I wasn’t certain if I should even bother checking this collection. However, the Genealogical Proof Standard calls for reasonably exhaustive research, so I went ahead and searched. And struck gold.

Why, you may ask, would I have found the victims of Soviet persecution in a database devoted to documenting those who suffered at Hitler’s hands? Because after the war there were many, many “displaced persons” and the Allies were all involved in managing different groups (see Further Resources below). My father and his family came under the British, having ended up in Palestine under the British Army’s protection as the Polish government in exile was based in London.

Here’s what I learned from taking another piece of advice I frequently see and reading ABOUT the collection:

The so-called Postwar Card File is the oldest collection of the ITS (see Archival History). More recently, a large number of other card types have been added in addition to copies of DP 2 cards. They originate from various DP camps and from different organisations that took care of the Displaced Persons (DPs) after the end of the Second World War. The documents contained, including DP identification papers, are the result of registrations of DPs by, among others, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), the International Refugee Organization (IRO), DP camps, other relief organizations or authorities.1

However, that information did show up in my search results for my grandmother, after that for my grandfather (who had died during the war), gave me only a possible hit. The search for my grandmother, however, resulted in an absolute match as it included her parents names, date and place of birth, the place from where she was forcibly removed, and her occupation (teacher), along with her signature (which I recognized). From the Head of the Archives, Dr. Christian Groh, I received permission to reproduce the image of the card here on my blog (click image to enlarge):2

This collection also contains the cards for my dad and my aunt, however, I found nothing related to my two uncles. I believe this was because they were serving elsewhere and not in Palestine at this point. The family wasn’t reunited (minus my grandfather) until 1947, when they all arrived in England by various routes. It’s likely their paperwork was different and related to their military service.

You will note that Maria’s “Desired Destination” (Box 12) was “Polska” – sadly, she didn’t get her wish, as evidenced above. Instead, she was sent to England with my dad and aunt, where they were enrolled in school and where Maria herself taught at one of the schools set up for Polish girls – hers was in Cheltenham, Gloucester. As I understand it, some of those who did manage to return to Poland found it very different and life there wasn’t easy under the Communist regime.

I also found it interesting that they asked the languages spoken by the registrant. Perhaps this was to help determine where to send them? Though, I already knew that Maria was multi-lingual and added English to her list after she arrived in England, it was cool to see the list there on her card. Her Russian served her well while the family was in Siberia as she was able to communicate with the guards.

When I decided to search for the one relative I know know who was definitely a victim of Nazi persecution, I found only one document with so little information,3 I can’t determine if it refers to him or not. He was my great-uncle, Stefan, brother to my grandfather, Antoni, and spent some time during the war in Oflag VI-B, as a prisoner of war (click image to enlarge).


The age of this Stefan is pretty close to that of my great-uncle who was born in 1897,4 however, the occupation doesn’t quite match what I know of him. The only Stefan Basinski listed in the 1938 Warsaw telephone directory is a police commissioner5 which lines up with the information on the Red Cross post card I have for him, though one could argue that he directed the police training school if one wanted to make it fit. The card also seems to indicate that he had one child under the age of sixteen, and I’m assuming that child is with him, which also seems odd, and as I don’t know if he was married, there’s no way to verify if the child’s mother was also there.

So, for now, this particular document remains only a possible link to Stefan. Despite the lack of direct correlation, I still have one more piece of evidence to add to my collection. Whether it’s relative evidence remains to be seen, but having more than once in my earlier years of genealogy work rejected a record out of hand, only to try to find it again later when I had other documents to use for comparison, and failed, I am now more careful to gather every possible piece of information and re-evaluate it in the light of new discoveries.

The search function at the Arolsen Archives is very powerful, yet easy to navigate. If you have any ancestors who suffered any form of imprisonment or forced removal during World War II, it might be worth a visit (click image to enlarge).


I hope my experience with this particular repository inspires you to a) take a second look at research sources you might have dismissed in the past and b) take note of the work of bloggers who specialize in those areas with which you’re not so familiar.

What genealogical gems have you discovered in unexpected places?

Further Resources

“A.E.F D.P. Registration Record.” Arolsen Archives – International Center on Nazi Persecution. Last modified February 2, 1945 ( : accessed April 25, 2020)

“Arolsen Archives – International Center on Nazi Persecution.” Arolsen Archives ( : accessed August 1, 2020)

Biegus, Zosia. “Lists of Known Polish Civilian Family Camps 1947-1969.” Polish Resettlement Camps in the UK 1946-1969. Last modified 2020 2009 ( : accessed August 1, 2020)

“Displaced Persons Camps in Post-World War II Europe.” Wikipedia, July 13, 2020. ( : accessed August 1, 2020)

“Displaced Persons Camps.” Yad Vashem – The World Holocaust Remembrance Center. Last modified 2020. ( : accessed August 1, 2020)

Miller, Vera. “Arolsen Archives Quietly Adds 13 Million More WWII Records….” Find Lost Russian & Ukrainian Family, April 19, 2020 ( : accessed July 29, 2020)

Russell, J. “Ethics and Standards.” Board for Certification of Genealogists, n.d. ( : accessed June 12, 2019)

1. “Postwar Card File; Reference Code: DE ITS” Arolsen Archives – International Center on Nazi Persecution. Last modified 2019. ( : accessed 01 August 1, 2020)

2. Groh, Christian. 2020. Your message to Arolsen Archives. E-mail to Teresa Basińska Eckford, 28 Apr 2020, 03:19. [sender’s email redacted for privacy]

3. Identity Card. Germany. n.d. Basiński, Stefan. Collection: Postwar Card File (A-Z), image # 6065455 ; Document ID #: 66521261. Arolsen Archives ( : accessed 25 April 2020)

4. Baptisms (PR). Poland. Kobiele Wielkie. 1897. Basiński, Stefan Stanisław (son of Władysław Basiński and Felicja née Masłowska) Akt# 85 ; image 384 of 931. Archiwum Archidiecezji Częstochowskiej (Czestochowa Archdiocese Archives, Czestochowa.) Collection: Poland, Częstochowa Roman Catholic Church Books, 1226-1950 ; Births (Akta urodzeń) 1889-1909 Image. FamilySearch. ( : accessed 8 Oct 2018) Note: This record was reached via Geneteka, the genealogical research index based in Poland.

5. Directory entries. Poland. Warsaw. Basiński, Stefan (komisarz P. P.). 1938; citing: Polska Akcyjna Spółka Telefoniczna, and Polska Poczta, Telegraf i Telefon (Firm), eds. Spis abonentów warszawskiej sieci telefonów Polskiej Akcyjnej Spółki Telefonicznej i rza̦dowej warsz. sieci okre̦gowej. Warszawa: Zakł. Graf. “Dom Prasy”. Page: 20. Image # 70 of 596. Library of Congress ( : accessed 23 July 2017)

find the cost of your paper

Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

The post A Plague of Giants appeared first on Elitist Book Reviews.

The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.