Grade 8A, Kingsford, Michigan including Mary Jane (Corrigan) Zalewski - 1939

Remembering Grandpa

Richard & Mary Jane ZalewskiToday marks 15 years since my paternal grandfather, Richard Zalewski, passed away. His death was the first major death in my immediate family, so I remember taking it pretty hard even though he had been sick for awhile.

I actually remember, pretty well, the last time I saw him and talked to him. My girlfriend, at the time, and I were going to Milwaukee for some reason and we stopped by to see how he was doing. Even though the pancreatic cancer was taking its toll on him, he was cheerful and in good spirits, like I usually remembered him (unless we were misbehaving, naturally.) I’m glad that I still have that vivid memory of him 15 years later.

Another moment I vividly remember from that time was when I was attending his funeral. I was sitting in my dad’s truck waiting to follow the procession to the cemetery and one of my favorite songs came on the radio, Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters.” The timing of the heartfelt song and what was happening around me caused me to break down into tears which, at the time, I had not done in many years. To this day, that song reminds me of my grandfather and that moment in the car and truthfully makes me feel happy.

Though, his death, and a subsequent newspaper article related to FamilySearch, sent me on a deep dive into the ocean we all know as genealogy. I have yet to come to the surface of that ocean and probably never will. Like most of us, I pan to grow gills and live in that ocean like a genealogical merman.

I know that he would be proud of the information I’ve gathered on his family tree and, unfortunately, he would’ve probably been a great help in tracking down some of the information I am still looking for. If anything, kids, this is a notice to visit your grandparents and allow them to tell you their stories. Even if you think the stories are boring and never plan to go into genealogy, it will definitely make you feel like you know them better and that will bring you comfort for many, many years.

The William Thompson

The ninth ancestor in my 52 week challenge is my 4th-great-grandfather, William Henry THOMPSON.  With a name like William Thompson, how hard can it be to pinpoint him?

This has been my trouble with William. I have records of him starting in 1850 once his family settled in Wisconsin, but before that is a mystery. If I do a search based on his information, I get thousands of results.

William ThompsonAccording to the sources I do have, William was born sometime between 1810 and 1816 in either England, Ireland, or Scotland. His headstone says he was 77 years of age when he died in 1890, so I usually use 1813 as his birth year. There is a Wisconsin death record over at FamilySearch that I’m pretty sure is this William Thompson that lists his parents as William THOMPSON and Fasmie RUINNET. Though, a lot of other user’s information lists his parents as Edward & Isabella THOMPSON, but no solid sources so far.

According to my records, in 1839, he married Claude-Françoise “Francis” QUINET in Syracuse, New York. I have yet to find solid evidence of this marriage, but the Quinet family was recorded to have been in that area during that time. They must have left not long after the marriage, as their first child was born in Wisconsin in 1841. They settled in in Granville, Milwaukee Co., Wisconsin, which is now no longer around, but part of multiple towns in the area. Sometime between 1854 and 1857, they relocated north to the Morrison and Wrightstown area in Brown County, Wisconsin.

On 4 February 1890, William passed away and is buried next to his wife at St. Paul’s Cemetery in Wrightstown. I wrote a post about our trip to that area and the finding of William’s resting place.

This post is 9 of 52 in the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” Challenge” begun by Amy Johnson Crow.

One-Armed Mystery

The eight ancestor is my 52 week challenge is my wife’s paternal great-grandmother, Anna (HUIZEL) COLLINS. I’m not completely sure of the pronunciation of that surname, but I’ve heard both Oot-zuhl and Ooh-zuhl.

Anna (Huizel) Collins - unknown year

Anna (Huizel) Collins – unknown year

Anna was born around July 1881 in what is today, Netolice in the Prachatice District, South Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic. In 1881, I think this was just considered Bohemia. Her parents are John HUIZEL and Barbara REINDL. There is no birth record that we have found, yet, but I did find records of her parent’s marriage and the births of some of her other siblings in the area.

I basically tripped into the Czech records one day while browsing FamilySearch. I found a lot of info on her family at the online records available at the State Regional Archives Trebon. I got a lot of help from a very well-done blog about Czech Genealogy. You can read more about what I found on a post I wrote about it.

Anna immigrated from Bohemia around 1885-1888 with her parents. On Valentine’s Day 1899, she married Albert COLLINS in Cerro Gordo County, Iowa, where her parents resided. Albert and Anna had four children, including my wife’s grandmother, Barbara.

One of Anna’s siblings, a brother named Jacob, gave us one of the first humorous family mysteries. We had some photos from her grandmother and one of them was a photo of a gentleman and all it said on the back was “Uncle. One arm.” We ended up finding out that this was Anna’s brother, Jacob, whom we all refer to now as “Uncle One-Arm.”

Albert passed away around 1945 and Anna lived on in Madison, Wisconsin until she passed away in 1945. She is buried with her husband in Boscobel, Grant County, Wisconsin, where they lived for many years.

This post is 8 of 52 in the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” Challenge” begun by Amy Johnson Crow.

Tragedy on Bremen Street

The seventh ancestor in my 52 Week Challenge is my paternal great-great-grandfather, Joseph TROKA (pronounced like Truck-a).

Joseph Troka and his wife, Clara.

Joseph Troka and his wife, Clara in 1944.

Joseph was born on 17 November 1871 in the town of Lipusz located in modern day Kościerzyna County, Pomeranian Voivodeship, Poland. His parents are listed as Michael & Joslyna (GRABOWSKA) TROKA. He is listed as immigrating to the Milwaukee, Wisconsin are in about 1889. It is not yet known if he traveled alone, or with family, as there are other Troka families in Milwaukee that are more than likely related to Joseph.

On 29 January 1894, Joseph married the daughter of Ignatz & Nepomuncena SZULTA named Clara. Ignatz was the 5th ancestor that I posted about. They were married at St. Hedwig’s Church on the east side of Milwaukee, which at the time was the go-to Polish church in the area.

He started working as a tanner in the tannery industry in Milwaukee as a lot of the Polish immigrants did. By 1905, Joseph is listed as a Tavern Owner at a tavern on 28 Lee Street in Milwaukee, which was also his residence. Today, 28 Lee Street is now about 900 E. Meinecke Avenue and his tavern was probably located somewhere in this vicinity near the intersection with North Bremen St. He ran the tavern until somewhere around 1930. After that point he was listed as being a Treasurer for the Pulaski Building and Loan Association, a position he was said to hold until about 1960.

From the Milwaukee Journal, 1962.

From the Milwaukee Journal, 1962.

Joseph and Clara had 4 living children (4 died during or not long after birth) including my great-grandmother, Emily. In 1959, Clara passed away. Tragedy struck in 1962 when Joseph was walking from his home on Bremen Street  a few blocks to St. Casimir’s church on the morning of Januray 1st. He was struck and killed by a man named Frank Merz , who was later only fined $200 for failure to yield the right of way to a pedestrian. Rumor has it that he was also drinking and driving. Joseph was 92. He was buried next to his wife at Holy Cross Cemetery in Milwaukee.

This post is 7 of 52 in the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” Challenge” begun by Amy Johnson Crow.

Great-Grandpa King Niall?

moranRobert-possible

The sixth ancestor in my 52 Week Ancestor challenge is Robert MORAN. Robert is my wife’s 3rd-great-grandfather on her paternal side. Robert is listed as being born about 1820-21 somewhere in Ireland to Robert & Mary Ann (KNOTT) MORAN, though a few naturalization indexes list this as England, United Kingdom. By 1845, he has traveled […]

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Genealogy of the States: Hawaii

Richard Zalewski, Waikiki Beach, October 1944

Hawaii (or Hawai’i) is the next state on my Genealogy of the States series. I have no direct ancestors that were born in the state, but my connection to it is that my grandfather, Richard Zalewski, was stationed there for many years during World War II. He spent most of his time in Hilo, on […]

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Iggy & Nep

Nepomuncena (Syldatk) & Ignatz Szulta

My ancestor post is a little late this week as we were on vacation this weekend. It was nice to escape the clutches of a winter that is hanging on a bit too long this year. The fifth ancestor on my 52 Week Ancestor challenge is Ignatz Peter SZULTA, pronounced like Schulta. Ignatz is my 3rd-great-grandfather […]

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Marching with Sherman

Burning of McPhersonville 1865

The fourth ancestor on the 52 Week Ancestor challenge was picked using my patented ancestor-o-matic. It’s really just a random number generator and then using that number on my daughter’s ahnentafel chart. This week is William J DAKINS. William is my wife’s 3rd-great-grandfather on her maternal side. His obituary in the Stevens Point Daily Journal […]

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