Tuesday, 21 July 2015

The Church of our Saviour on the Spilled Blood, St Petersburg

The Church of our Saviour on the Spilled Blood, St Petersburg is a spectacular building and is a must see for anyone visiting the city. Both the interior and exterior of the church is decorated with incredibly detailed mosaics.

It has an interesting history as it was built by Alexander III to be dedicated as a memorial to his father Alexander II who was mortally wounded by a bomb on the spot where the Church was to be built. Construction was begun in 1883 and not concluded until 1907 and it was funded by the royal family and private donations. It was not used as a public place of worship but more of a place for memorial services.

It is very different to the other architecture seen in the city as it is in an earlier medieval Russian architecture style and was also meant to resemble the famous St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.

The church has suffered during the 1917 Revolution when it was looted and damaged. It was closed as a church in early 1930's and used as a morgue during the Siege of Leningrad and was further damaged. In 1970 restoration began with proceeds from St Isaac's Cathedral and the restoration was completed in 1997. The church has not been reconsecrated.

We did not get to go inside so no pictures from there. Further information can be found here and you can do a virtual tour of the inside here.

Even the lamp posts have gold on them
The bridge near the church
Marriage locks on the bridge close to the Church
We are still on our way to the Hermitage but that is going to be another post.

St Petersburg, here we are!

Apart from the learning opportunities a major point for this cruise was the fact that the ship would be visiting St Petersburg.

St Petersburg the home of the Russian Royal family, the place of many history books I have read, the Hermitage Museum, Catherine's Palace, the many other Royal Buildings, the 1917 Revolution, the Siege of Leningrad and the Soviet Era.

Over the years it has taken on an air of mystique. The fact travel in was restricted for so long also added to this. Even today it isn't that easy to visit and being on a cruise ship was easier as you did not need a visa but you were not allowed to leave the ship unless you were on an escorted tour.

Buses all in a way!
I signed up for the two day St Petersburg tour and a full two days it was with us docking at 7am on day one and leaving 6pm the following day.

So we headed off through the Russian passport control where we were given an entry permit and a passport stamp, not sure why it had to be on the last page of my passport! So far the first seven pages of my passport are clear with intermittent stamps from various countries scattered throughout and most countries there is no evidence you were ever there! When I think of all the colourful stamps in my grandmother's passport it seems a little unfair.

We assembled at the bus and met our guide Svetlana and we were off. The sound system in use off the bus was very good as each person had a receiver and Svetlana was able to speak normally and we could all hear and if you got more than around 40 metres away it faded out so you could always find her. A bit like the old childrens game of "Hotter, Colder"

Opposite the port were banks of apartment buildings all looking drab, grey and utilitarian.

When I asked about these I was told they were built in the 1970s and were part of the "Soviet Era" and you could hear the capitals.

Apparently some of these were not built with kitchens as you were fed all meals at the factories in which you worked and they were more a place to sleep rather than to live and some even now do not have kitchens.

There were quite the variation in buildings particularly in closer to the centre. Many of the historic buildings showed evidence of need of repair although there were quite a number of buildings encased in a shade-cloth style of material that were undergoing "reconstruction" in Svetlana's words.  I am sure this is at a great cost but with so many still to do to retain their heritage it must be a concern.

There were quite a few flower boxes and gardens in public spaces which did make it look pretty.

St Petersburg was founded by Tsar Peter the Great 27 May 1703 on the Neva River in the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea. It  was the imperial capital of Russia during this time and is still considered the cultural capital. It was renamed Petrograd in 1918, then Leningrad in 1924 then back to St Petersburg in 1991. Moscow became the capital in 1918.

Many of the original buildings were constructed of timber so very few of these survive today. Many of the buildings were rebuilt in stone and as these were the Royal residences and are the beautiful buildings we admire today. There is a strong European influence and in fact the Royal family did not speak Russian but instead spoke French as a language of culture.

Academy of Fine Arts

Gold Straw Anyone?
Rostral Column

Gold Statue on top of the Academy of Arts
Admiralty and St Isaacs Cathedral
Lots of photos on the way to the Hermitage which was our point of call this morning. The sun hid from us and we had grey skies but no rain at this time.

Even with this limited amount of sun the gold domes are quite visible.

There were so many things to see on every side and so much history.
Eric and Rosemary Kopittke beside the Sphinx

Sphinx on the bank of the Neva

There were two sphinxes facing each other on the bank of the Neva River. The sphinxes were collected by the Royal family.

Taken from the bus, unknown church
Burger King
He looks a fairly hungry lion, seen near the Burger King

We stopped next at the Church of the Spilled Blood but I am going to put that in a new post.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Goodbye to my Shannon

Today I had to say goodbye to my beloved Shannon. I am on the other side of the world when she left me, but thankfully two dear friends were there so she was not alone.

What is this little thing then?
Shannon joined the household in December 2004 as an eight week old puppy. Tami my older German Shepherd was not impressed as can be seen here.

You can see Tami wondering what on earth this little invader was all about.

Shannon settled in, much to Tami's disgust.

Shannon loved her car rides!

After ten and a half years today I said goodbye. As you go over the Rainbow Bridge to a place of no thunder or noisy plover birds and as many Smacko treats and lots of pats, know I will miss you so much.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Writing Directed Queries

When requesting any sort of information it is extremely important to write a directed query. You need to provide all relevant information. No, that does not mean reciting your entire family history!

Many archives will do a  very limited search and if you ask for "Everything you have on my Smith family" there is nothing they can do to help you. Don't laugh I have heard it being asked!

However if you have a specific question you have a much better chance of getting a positive response, particularly in these times of staff cutbacks.

For example, this is a recent query I did to determine if an archive held staff files relating to my father:

Dear Sir

I am interested in determining if you hold the service records for the Brisbane City council tramways and also for the Mt Crosby Water Treatment plant. And if you do if I am able to access the service record/s of my father, David who died in 2003. I am happy to pay any required fee.

David Smith born 16 February 1940 address at time 109 Duke Street Annerley was a conductor, then tram driver then bus driver at Ipswich road depot from around 1966 to 1974.

Previously he had worked on the Mt Crosby water supply from around 1963 to 1966, address at that time Mt Crosby

As can be seen from this the first question was: Did they hold these files? If they did not then there was no need for them to read the detailed information about David.

If they did hold the files my query was could I access them and that I was happy to pay any required fee. If at this point there is a time closure period then again they could stop at that point. Then they needed to know that David was dead and there would be no breach of his privacy.

Then the detailed information can begin as this is when the archivist needs to have this information. I also provided detailed contact information if there was a need to contact me for further information.

I am pleased to say that this enquiry bore positive fruit and I received copies of the two staff cards relating to his service at the Mount Crosby pumping station and his service as a tram conductor then driver then bus driver with the Brisbane City Council.

David Smith driving a tram 13 April 1969, the last day of trams in Brisbane

The Faces of Southampton

We are here prior to boarding the Celebrity Eclipse for the 8th Unlock the Past cruise and I had some time to look around Southampton. I like looking at old buildings as I have stonemasons in my family and England is a joy for this!

This building is being converted into a number of one and two bedroom flats. This reuse of buildings is important as you are then able to retain the character of an area.

It is an elegant building with its columns and stonework.

It is when you look closer at it you see the stonemasons' work with these stone faces, each with its own face and personality.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Global Name Translation: new from MyHeritage

 The below press release is from MyHeritage 

MyHeritage Launches Breakthrough Global Name Translation™ Technology to Power Family History Discoveries

New technology eliminates language barriers to enhance family history research and preservation

TEL AVIV, Israel & LEHI, Utah – July 8, 2015: MyHeritage, the leading destination for discovering, preserving and sharing family history, today announced the launch of Global Name Translation™, a new technology to help families break through language barriers in the quest to uncover their past. The technology automatically translates names found in historical records and family trees from one language into another, in very high accuracy, generating all the plausible translations, to facilitate matches between names in different languages. In addition, a manual search in one language will also provide results in other languages, translated back to the user's language for convenience. This is a unique innovation not offered elsewhere, useful for anyone interested in discovering their global roots.

There are many immediate benefits for users. For example, people living in the USA with Russian roots previously had to search for their ancestors in Russian to maximize their chances of finding pertinent information. The new technology will now accept searches in English, automatically increase their scope to cover Russian and Ukrainian as well, and conveniently translate all results back to English.

The new technology also enhances the acclaimed MyHeritage matching technologies to bridge across language gaps. For example, If a user from Greece with a family tree in Greek, is related to a user from Israel with a family tree entered in Hebrew, MyHeritage will be able to connect them, automatically matching between names in the ancient languages of Greek and Hebrew, and show the two users how their family trees overlap, leading to exciting family reunions like never before.

"Global Name Translation™ helps overcome the Tower of Babel syndrome", said Gilad Japhet, Founder and CEO of MyHeritage. “The world is getting smaller and more connected, yet information from other countries is still mostly hidden from those who don’t speak the language. It’s our mission to develop the best technologies for facilitating family history discoveries for everyone, everywhere. Therefore we set an ambitious goal of taking down one of the most formidable walls that hampers research and discovery - the difficulty of translating names from one language to another. We’re proud to have pioneered this solution and thrilled with the value that it will provide to users around the world.”

MyHeritage has developed this technology using original research, advanced algorithms and based on its massive multilingual and international database of 6 billion family tree profiles and historical records. The technology covers first names and last names and is able to tackle not only names encountered in the past but also new names it has never encountered before. The technology is generic but also utilizes extensive dictionaries built by MyHeritage to cover synonyms and nicknames. Therefore a search for Alessandro (Alexander in Italian) will also find "Саша" which is the Russian form of Sasha, a popular nickname of Alexander in Russia.

The first version successfully translates names in between English, German, Dutch, French, Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Greek, Hebrew, Polish, Czech, Russian and Ukrainian. The next version currently in development will add Chinese and Japanese, and additional languages will follow.

To take advantage of Global Name Translation™ technology, create a new family tree for free on MyHeritage and enjoy the automatic matches or use MyHeritage's SuperSearch search engine for historical records.
About MyHeritage
MyHeritage is the leading destination for discovering, preserving and sharing family history. As technology thought leaders, MyHeritage is transforming family history into an activity that’s accessible and instantly rewarding. Its global user community enjoys access to a massive library of historical records, the most internationally diverse collection of family trees and ground-breaking search and matching technologies. Trusted by millions of families, MyHeritage provides an easy way to share family stories, past and present, and treasure them for generations to come. MyHeritage is available in 42 languages. www.myheritage.com