Fred's Notebook | About Fred | Notebook Items
If, for some unaccountable reason, you want to know the details of my life...
I was born in 1951 in Paola, a small town in northeastern Kansas. We lived in Kansas until 1963, at which time we moved to the Dallas-Ft. Worth area of Texas. There I attended the University of Dallas, graduating in 1973 with a B.A. in Foreign Languages, with German as my major and Russian as my second language. I received a Master of Arts degree in Foreign Languages from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1976. Since then my wife, daughter, and I have lived in Kansas, Connecticut, Texas, and Illinois; I'm self-employed and can work anywhere there's electricity and phone lines, but my wife works for Praxair, Inc., so we go wherever they want her -- thus the frequent moves.
In my reckless youth I studied (briefly) for the priesthood, and began learning Latin. This awoke my interest in languages, and since then I have devoted considerable time to studying Latin, German, Russian, and Polish, with occasional brief forays into Czech, Ukrainian, and Lithuanian. I can only claim to read German, Latin, Polish and Russian with any great fluency. I don't speak them as well as I'd like because I don't often have opportunities to practice (especially Latin!); but I can usually make myself understood.
I first got interested in Polish genealogy because my wife's ancestors on her father's side were ethnic Poles living in the Warsaw area and in the Alytus/Olita area of Lithuania. Her cousin Thomas L. Hollowak (who runs Historyk Press and is very knowledgeable in the history of Baltimore's Polish community) asked if I could translate some letters in Polish, so I gave it a try and found I could. He recommended me to Edward A. Peckwas, founder of the Polish Genealogical Society of America, who was looking for translators. Ed asked me to translate several items for the Society, was pleased with my work, and gradually relied on me more and more to help him with the Society's newsletters. This caused me to become more and more familiar with desktop publishing. In 1992, when illness forced Ed to retire, I became the Society's publications editor. Since then I have worked on numerous other societies' newsletters as editor, typesetter, layout artist, or some similar capacity.
My main claim to fame is as the author of Polish Surnames: Origins & Meanings, and the co-author, with Jonathan D. Shea, of Following the Paper Trail: A Multilingual Translation Guide, and now the In Their Words series.
On the rare occasions when I'm not sitting at the computer, I spend my time playing various kinds of music on the guitar -- I've had a nice Spanish classical for 30 years, and my pride and joy is my Roger McGuinn Limited Edition 12-string Electric Rickenbacker.
Our household consists of my wife, Jane; our daughter, Jynnie; her twin daughters and our granddaughters, Michaela and Veronica. As the sole male in a house full of females, I spend much of my time in a state of bewilderment. In my rare moments of lucidity I work on the various publications mentioned above and on various books, or I get on the Internet and answer questions about the meanings of Polish surnames.