Family Feud

It all started around 700 years ago in Scotland. It is reported that Sir Andrew Leslie, 3rd Baron of Balquhain, a man with limited sexual control, had over 70 illegitimate children who took his surname. One of these was Red Sir Andrew of Pitscurry. In 1400, he absconded with and took as wife the “Fair Maid of Kenmay,” the daughter of Thomas Bisset of Balhagarty. Unfortunately she was already betrothed to Sir John “of the Black Lip” Forbes of Druminnor.

This did not sit well with the Forbes, a highly influential Scottish clan. They, in retaliation, attacked the ancestral home of the Leslies, Balquhain Castle, which was burnt down in the skirmish (later to be rebuilt). The Leslies, in revenge, destroyed Castle Forbes (aka Druminnor Castle) and devastated much of their lands.

The feud continued on and off for over a century, resulting in deaths and injuries on both sides. It finally culminated in 1617 when John Forbes of Enzean bought the debts of the Leslies who later defaulted. Forbes was then granted the charter and the Barony of Leslie from King James VI. John Forbes of Enzean thus became Baron of Leslie, merging the family lines and putting an end to the feud once and for all.

Personally, I had no dog in the fight. Or more accurately put, I had both dogs. William Leslie of Balquhain was my 14th great-grandfather and Jean (Janet) Forbes was my 14th great-grandmother so I am connected to both families. All I know is that there are probably a couple of abandoned castle ruins out there in Scotland to which I should be able to claim some kind of birthright.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories by the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Prisoner of War

“As we entered the place, a spectacle met our eyes that almost froze our blood with horror, and made our hearts fail within us. ‘Can this be hell?’”

This was the recorded impression of a Union soldier upon entering the infamous Andersonville Prison, a Confederate prisoner of war camp for captured Union soldiers. Of the 45,000 men held there, over 13,000 died, mainly from scurvy, diarrhea, and dysentery. A member of our family was one who survived.

John W. Ward enlisted in the Twenty-First Illinois Volunteer Infantry in 1861 and fought in a number of battles. In September of 1863 at Chickamauga, the second bloodiest battle of the Civil War (behind Gettysburg), he was captured by the Confederates. He was then force marched and spent time in a number of camps: the Libby prison at Richmond Va; then at Danville; at Andersonville; at Charleston; and at Goldsboro. 

In February of 1865, Ward became part of a prisoner exchange, effecting his release. It could have been sooner but the prisoner exchange agreement that had been a standard practice since 1862 was suspended by Abraham Lincoln in July of 1863 (two months before Ward’s capture). It was suspended because Confederate forces were refusing to release black prisoners, classifying them as slaves to be returned to their owners instead of soldiers to be released back north. The exchange program didn’t officially resume until January of 1865. Ward was released a month later.

Ward went on to marry Lucinda Larimore in 1866, started farming in the Crooked Creek township in Illinois, and raised five children. He was the step-son of the 3rd great-grand aunt of my niece’s husband. He died in 1933 at the age of 91.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotape, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Genealogy Jumble

It has been said that “everyone with a European connection ends up being related to Charlemagne.” My oldest son sent me that quote after reading my blog where I announced that I, for a day, thought I was of royal lineage. It turns out, maybe I wasn’t so off the mark.

Mathematicians have long concluded that anyone alive 1,000 years ago and who has left descendants is an ancestor of every single European living today. Interesting information, especially in light of a recent discovery made regarding our family tree.

You may remember that I traced my wife’s lineage back to Plymouth Rock. Experience Mitchell married Jane Cooke, daughter of Frances Cooke. His lineage has been traced through the generations until it reached my wife and, of course, through her, our two sons. 

This is where it gets weird. Frances Cooke had other children. And when I began tracing the lineage of Jane’s younger brother Jacob, I discovered that, as we move through the generations, his lineage, which was also passed down from Frances Cooke, ended up at the woman who married my youngest son.

That’s right. My son married a wonderful girl who, as it turns out, was made just for him… by his 14th great-grandfather. Or to put it another way, he married his 13th cousin, once removed. That is not so unusual. The same thing can most likely be said about any couple. If we go back far enough, everyone is related.

It does make me think of a song I heard Ronnie Prophet once sing.  A song dating back to the 1940s that has been covered by many artists including Ray Stevens who you can hear by clicking on the link below.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Baa Baa Black Sheep?

Some family history can be unpleasant. Or, at the very least, unsettling. Such is the case surrounding my wife’s great grandfather, Francesco Saccente.

Saccente was born in Italy in 1883 and, like many others, emigrated to the US in the early 1900s. He settled in Patchogue, New York. Over the next couple of decades he married three times, had fifteen children and made his living as a peddler of ice and coal.

One day, in 1933, he, with seven of his children in tow, paid a visit to the Miramar Beach Hotel in East Patchogue. While his kids were playing on the beach, he entered the hotel. Moments later, he was dead. Killed by a shotgun blast through the heart. James Stephani, the hotel’s proprietor, was charged with murder. Saccente was fifty years of age at the time.

After a well publicized trial that stretched over four months, Stephani was acquitted by the jury and the incident was reclassified as an “accidental shooting.” We may never know what really happened… even the main witness at the trial reversed his earlier testimony and said that he now couldn’t remember what took place at the time.

It so happens that, as I was poring over the newspaper articles about this event, I discovered another newsworthy story involving this family member. Five years earlier, Francesco and his son Louis were arrested for the assault of their neighbors, Raymond Anderson and his wife, who suffered two broken ribs and facial lacerations at their hands. According to the newspaper accounts, the Andersons were accusing the Saccentes of killing their dog and when Mrs. Anderson went to demand satisfaction, she was chased off by a shotgun wielding Saccente. Early the next morning, the Saccentes allegedly assaulted the pair as they were walking home. While the Saccentes were eventually acquitted in that case, Francesco found himself again charged with assault nine months later after beating up a man during a brawl in connection with an Italian celebration in West Patchogue.

In keeping with the “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” philosophy, I chose long ago to avoid arguing with my wife. I’m not saying she inherited any traits from her great grandfather but it seems to me to be prudent to err on the side of caution and defuse any potential conflict that may arise. Just in case.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Coming to America

Rose Family Crest

I’ve often said, “Everyone has a story.” After spending months of genealogical research, I’ve discovered a lot of hidden stories belonging to people who are somehow attached to various branches of my family tree. I look forward to sharing these stories with you in this and future blogs.

Stories like the one belonging to Tormut Rose, the 9th great grandfather of the husband of the niece of my wife. Born in 1632 at Kilravock Castle in Inverness Scotland, he eventually became an officer in the Scottish Covenanter army and fought in the Third English Civil war which was waged in an attempt to retain the independence of the Scottish church and restore Charles II to the throne of Scotland and England.

During the Battle of Dunbar, the Scottish army discovered the whereabouts of Lord Cromwell’s forces but were advised not to attack by preachers due to it being a Sunday. This gave Cromwell an opportunity to launch a surprise attack and vanquish the Scottish defenders. Tormut Rose and others were captured. In order to prevent any attempt at a rescue, the prisoners were forced to march towards England under severe conditions. Most died of illness, starvation or exhaustion.

As a survivor, Tormut Rose was sold as an indentured servant to the Robert Ricks Iron Works in Braintree, Massachusetts and was shipped off to the colonies along with 271 fellow prisoners. There, he spent the next 7 to 10 years working off his “debt.”

In 1660 he, along with 15 others, made the decision to purchase Block Island, RI from the Massachusetts Bay Colony who had claimed the land won by conquest of the natives who lived there.  It was there that he settled, married and re-began his life as a freeman. And that is the story of how this particular branch of the family came to America.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

With A Song In My Heart

I used to think that my company produces the best emotionally charged gifts available. I still do. And if you want to give your family a present that will live long into the future, there’s nothing like giving them a gift containing the memories of the past. That’s what we do at Home Video Studio.

But, the next best thing would be to take the emotions of your heart and set them to music. And that is exactly what songfinch.com does. Once you answer a few questions and provide a couple of details, they will produce a professionally mixed original song specifically for you that will melt the heart of your significant other. I should know… I had one produced for my lovely wife for her birthday. And outside of the videos that I produce, it was the best gift I ever gave.

It was a random Facebook ad I responded to so I realized that it was a roll of the dice that could have gone badly south. But songfinch.com exceeded my every expectation and allowed me to give my wife an experience she will never forget.  Fortunately, I had my phone out and was able to record her reaction the first time she heard it.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Voices of Yesteryear

June 11, 2020

Three vinyl records came into my studio the other day. These weren’t the commercially made rock or pop albums most of us grew up with. These were homemade disks recorded at 78 rpm that were made over 75 years ago. I know this because it was written on the label.

In the 1940s, there were dozens of “Voice-O-Graph” machines sprinkled up and down the Coney Island boardwalk. They looked like telephone booths and by inserting 25 cents, you could actually record your voice and have it scratched into the grooves of your own personal record for all of posterity.

The three records I received and transferred to digital audio files for their preservation had my client’s father crooning familiar standards and pop favorites in the style of Bing Crosby. What a wonderful treasure for the family to have. Sure, there are scratches and pops throughout the recording but that only adds to the charm of being able to hear voices from the past, recorded as they lived through what for them was their present. All three records were dated June, 1944… shortly after the D-Day invasion. The songs were upbeat, filled with hope and promise, with just a tinge of melancholy. I’d say it was a perfect capsulation of the mood of that time. I am honored to have been a part of preserving this personally impactful and historic moment.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Cover Fire

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2020 has to be the weirdest year ever. As one TV pundit put it, “It’s like we’re living through the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, the 1929 Great Depression, and the 1968 social unrest… all at the same time.”

Yesterday, in our quaint little community of Mount Dora, we were placed under curfew in response to the rioting taking place across the country. The word curfew is of French origin, derived from an Old French phrase “couvre-feu” which literally means “cover fire.” It was in reference to a 11th century law enacted by William the Conqueror which instructed people to cover or put out lights and fires at 8pm to help prevent the threat of spreading flames within and between the wooden buildings of their communities.

The flames that are currently burning in the hearts of so many; flames that are resulting in the wanton destruction of property and the putting of innocents in harms way – it is hard to imagine they would ever spread to my little town but I suppose stranger things have happened.

I understand the anger and the distrust so many feel. I don’t understand the violence and destruction taking place. I simply don’t see how that helps anybody’s case. True change, if that’s what people are seeking, will never come from external forces or pressure. It can only start from within. We must change ourselves first. Change the way we act; change the way we react; change the way we view people. We look in the mirror and make the deliberate choice to become the person we want others to be. If enough of us do that and, by leading from example, encourage others to follow, perhaps we’d be on the way to building a world that doesn’t provide us with so many cringe-worthy or heartbreaking moments.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

You Say Football, I Call It Soccer

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As we continue our semi-isolation, we are ever vigilant for some new, engaging television shows on which to binge.  My wife and I just recently finished the six episode mini-series from Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes. It’s called The English Game and it is currently streaming on Netflix.  It is an excellent depiction of the early years of the game the English call football. For some reason we, in the United States, call it soccer.

Based very loosely on historical events, the series follows the lives of its two main characters: Arthur Kinnard, an upper class gentleman and founding member of the Football Association (FA) which sought to provide rules and structure to a fledgling sport; and Fergus Suter, a working-class man who made his living as a stone mason who dared dream of a life playing the game he grew to love. These two individuals, who actually existed, did more than most to build the game of football/soccer into a global obsession.

Excellent character development, interesting historical elements, and dramatic pacing and flow make this a must-see show for those of us starved for entertainment diversions.  I heartily recommend it.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Memorial Day

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In observance of Memorial Day, we’re taking a few days off to reflect upon those who served and those we’ve lost.  We’ll be back in the studio on Tuesday. Until then, here’s a repost of a blog from last year about some of the military men in my family:

From left to right:

My father, Edward J. Ondrasik, who, with the Eighth Air Force, flew 24 missions over Germany as a bombardier during WWII. We learned afterwards that he flew each of those 24 missions without a parachute as he could not fit into the bombardier compartment with it on. He died in 2009.

My uncle, Charles C. Parish, served as Lt. Commander in the US Navy. Was a pilot of a #2 F-4J (Phantom) during the Vietnam War. He was shot down over North Vietnam and declared Missing in Action in 1968. His status was changed to Killed in Action in 1973. His name is among the tens of thousands engraved on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington DC.

My maternal grandfather, Herman O. Parish, who, as captain and commanding officer received the Navy Cross and the Legion of Merit for services rendered during WWII. He retired as a US Navy Rear Admiral. He died in 1989.

We honor their memory and thank them for their service and sacrifice. As we do all who have given service to our country.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.