Year: 2007

Ah…winter is here. Actually..technically, it’s not here, yet. But, from the looks of things up here in Wisconsin, winter is in full force. Thank goodness for neighbors with snowblowers. (Oooh, that’s a good band name – “Neighbors with Snowblowers”) Here are some photos from yesterdays ice/snow/rain storm. Fortunately, it wasn’t nearly as bad as Oklahoma received on Monday.

Snow on Cars

Click more for some other snow photos..


Milwaukee was the birthplace and home to a few famous individuals. People who have shaped our world with their entertainment and their creations. Here are some of the people from the Milwaukee area. There are comedians, brewers, socialist mayors and even a Prime Minister.

Take a trip back with some of these famous individuals as I find them in the local census reports. It is neat to actually see these people listed in a census report, which I usually match up with normal citizens like myself and my ancestors.


In the spirit of the holidays, I like to sometimes give the gift of genealogy to some of my family members. My grandparents, especially, love getting family history gifts. For a couple of years I’ve given my grandparents a nice, printed out copy of their family tree. My maternal grandmother loves to just sit and read it (usually correcting a few mistakes.) Though, I feel sort of boring giving them basically the same thing every year, even though it’s updated. I thought about making a really nice one using the Ancestry Press, but I doubt I’ll have the time to design it and get it printed and sent in time.

My paternal grandmother loves her Irish culture and history, so that one is usually somewhat easy. My maternal grandparents are German and then a mixed bag. What I need from them is photos. I have almost no photos from my maternal side. I have tons of photos from my paternal side, thanks to my grandmother’s collection. If I had photos, I could merge them nicely with a family tree to give them something that they can keep and cherish and possibly even hand down to more generations.

I know a lot of you out there are into genealogy and probably are more creative than I am. Are there any clever ideas out there for genealogy-related gifts, or even a creative spin on the old “Family Tree”?

I’m it! I was tagged for the 161 Meme by Chery at Nordic Blue. You caught me right between books, but I’ll grab page 161 from the last book I read, which is “Cell” by Stephen King. It’s a good book, but a little weak on the ending, but don’t let that stop you from reading it.

The rule is: pick up the book you are reading, turn to page 161, and divulge the contents of the sixth sentence on that page.

 “Put it this way: the info strip would say something like 2 percent in use, 98 percent available.”

Not really too exciting, but it’s a good part of the book. I guess you’ll have to read it to find out. I’d tag someone, but mostly everyone I know that blogs already did this. Darn for me.

I am a video game player. I enjoy my games. It gives me something to do that lets me escape the real world and relax after a stressful day at work. I am currently playing a unique game called Assassin’s Creed. You play Altaïr , a member of the Hashshashin sect (the original “assassins”), whose objective is to remove nine historical figures who are propagating the Crusades. As the player finds and kills these targets, a conspiracy is unveiled. The player is able to travel through three cities: Jerusalem, Acre and Damascus.

All gameplay and backstory aside, the interesting thing about the story in this game and what is has to do with genealogy/genetics. In the game you technically play the role of a descendant of Altaïr named Desmond. Desmond is taken hostage by a company who created a system called Animus that allows you to play back and live out your ancestors memories. They explain this by saying that your genes not only hold your traits, but also you ancestor’s memories. They use Desmond to do their bidding. What is their bidding? I’m not sure yet since I haven’t made it that far.

This got me thinking. What memories of my ancestors would I like to play out? Would it be their first view of America? Would it be taking a walk around their original homeland? There are a thousand things that I’d love to see in the time of my ancestors. So many places and people that it’s tough to choose. Are there any memories from your ancestors that really interest you?

I had ordered some vital records from the Wisconsin Vital Records site last week. I always forget about that option, but sometimes it is a bit much at $15 each. I had some extra money, so I ordered three records that I found.

I ordered Agnes (Braatz) Corrigan (my great-grandmother’s) birth certificate, Charlotte (Strassman) Last (my ggg-grandmother’s) death certificate and my gg-granparent’s marriage certificate (Joseph Troka and Clara Schulta.)

The birth certificate and death certificate didn’t really give me much more new information, except helping to solidify a few facts. The jackpot was hit with the marriage certificate. I didn’t have any information on Joseph Troka’s parents. I did have a sister listed, but that was it. On the certificate it lists his parents as Mich Troka (which I assume is something similar to Michael) and Joslyna(?) Grabowska. It also lists a Martin Troka as a witness to the marriage. I don’t see a Martin Troka in my family tree from there on down, so I am assuming that this is his brother. I penciled him in until I find more information.

It’s always funny how I find some of this new information after years of looking and it turns out it’s right in one of the most obvious places. I need to find some more vital records.

My grandmother, who’s maiden name is Corrigan, always used to tell us about some distant cousin that they called “Wrong Way” Corrigan. She talked about how he flew a plane from New York to Ireland. When I was young, I thought this was some made-up, grandma-style folk tale the old people liked to tell their grandchildren. It turns out that he is real and that he really did that. Now, is he related to us and our Corrigan surname? That is another question.

Douglas “Wrong Way” Corrigan was born in 1907 in Galveston, Texas as Clyde Groce Corrigan, after his father. He legally changed his name to Douglas as an adult.

In 1938, after a transcontinental flight from Long Beach, California, to New York, he flew from Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, New York, to Ireland, even though he was supposed to be returning to Long Beach. He claimed that his unauthorized flight was due to a navigational error, caused by heavy cloud cover that obscured landmarks and low-light conditions, causing him to misread his compass. Corrigan, however, was a skilled aircraft mechanic (he was one of the builders of Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis) and a habitual risk-taking maverick; he had made several modifications to his own plane, preparing it for transatlantic flight. Between 1935 and 1937, he applied several times, unsuccessfully, for permission to make a nonstop flight from New York to Ireland, and it is likely that his “navigational error” was a protest against government “red tape”; however, he never publicly acknowledged having flown to Ireland intentionally. – Wikipedia

Wrong Way CorriganI decided to do what I could to find out if there is a connection somewhere down the Corrigan line, at least as far back as I could go. I started by finding Clyde G Corrigan in his first census report, the 1910 US Census. Fortunately, my first search brought up a Clyde G Carrigan (or Corrigan) living in San Patricio, Texas at three years old. His father’s name is also Clyde S Corrigan. We’re two for two. He also lives with his mother, Evelyn, and his younger brother, Harry. Clyde and Harry are also listed in the Texas Birth Index, 1903-1997.

Well, as I jump through the Corrigan line, fortunately made easier by less popular names like Clyde and not Michael, I find evidence that will not help my cause. I find Douglas’ grandfather, John Corrigan, living in California in 1900 with his son Clyde S. It says that John’s parents were both born in Ireland and that he was born in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, my Corrigan line came to North America in about 1820 and entered into the southern area of Ontario, Canada and stayed there a long time before dropping into Wisconsin. I don’t have much beyond that, so I won’t be able to connect his family with mine too quickly.

I did pinpoint two John Corrigans in Pennsylvania in the 1850 census and only one had parents that were born in Ireland. Hugh and Jane Corrigan living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I can find one Hugh Corrigan of that age that immigrated to New York from Ireland in 1841, but no other information to confirm this is him. It also doesn’t tell me which county in Ireland that Hugh came from. This would help me connect our families, since my Corrigan family came from County Tyrone. Unfortunately, I don’t have any Hugh Corrigans listed in my tree that were born around 1805 in Ireland. I can only imagine that somewhere back in Ireland, Wrong Way’s family connects to mine. How far back? We’ll never really know, I guess.

This was a fun little escape from the normal genealogy grind. It’s amazing what you can find about almost anyone that was alive before 1930 with all the data available today on the Internet. You escaped me this time, “Wrong Way” Corrigan! One day. I will find you! (Please…for my grandmother.)


The last major ethnic group that has affected my Ancestry (and a bit of Wisconsin) is the Irish. It’s probably the 3rd largest ethnicity in my family tree, behind German and Polish.

All of the Irish in my family tree comes from my paternal grandmother’s line. She herself was born a Corrigan, which is obviously an Irish name. It takes a few jumps back before you find more Irish names since Corrigan seemed like it lasted more generations than the others.

My Irish immigrated over from County Tyrone in Northern Ireland and into Canada (making a stop in New York, I think.) The Michael Corrigan family came along with most of their children. They settled in the town on Mara in Ontario. There is actually a book called, “They Came to Mara,” that has some information on my family. They seemed to have lived there for a few generations before my great-great grandfather, Thomas Corrigan, traveled to and settled in the Ashland/Sanborn area of northern Wisconsin. Ashland is up near Superior; way up in the cold part (The cold-er part to be more specific.)

My Irish family didn’t really expand out of the Ashland area. My great uncle Edwin Corrigan wrote a letter to another family member talking about life in the Ashland area in the early 1900s. I wrote about it in an earlier post and I have transcribed most of it. And, as with most ethnic groups in Milwaukee, the Irish have their own cleverly-named, annual festival: Irish Fest.

German Beer

The largest group that has affected my ancestry, and also the state as a whole, is the German culture. Every part of my family tree is somehow touched by this ethnicity. My maternal grandfather is almost 100% German and my maternal grandmother (who lives and breathes Irish culture) is closer to German than Irish even though her maiden name is Corrigan.

The are in which I live has examples of German culture everywhere. Cities with names such as Grafton, Hamburg, Germantown, Cedarburg, Fredonia all have German-sounding names and history. Walk into any cemetery in this area and they’ll be overrun with German surnames. Some of the surnames in my family tree with deep German heritage include Last, Thielke, Braatz, Rathke, Luedtke, and Firmenich.

Milwaukee itself was a German melting pot. Germans made up the largest percentage of immigrants in the city itself.

A great number of German immigrants had helped increase the city’s population during the 1840s and continued to migrate to the area during the following decades. Milwaukee has even been called “Deutsches Athen” (German Athens), and into the twentieth century, there were more German speakers and German-language newspapers than there were English speakers and English-language newspapers in the city. (To this day, the Milwaukee phonebook includes more than forty pages of Schmitts or Schmidts, far more than the pages of Smiths.) – Wikipedia

I always consider myself Polish and since I was a child I’ve always sided with the Polish heritage. Though, as it turns out I’m probably much more German than I am anything else. Polish only comes in on my paternal side due to my surname, Zalewski (and who knows if that’s German-Polish.)

While not a big fan of German cuisine, I plan on making it down to Milwaukee’s famous annual Germanfest celebration. As with most of Milwaukee’s ethnic festivals, I assume there will be a large genealogy-related area. Are there any ethnic fesitvals/celebrations in your area?

Photo © fensterbme

Dutch Clogs

Another culture that helped shape Wisconsin into what it is today is the Dutch culture. I may throw in some Belgian stuff, also, since my family crosses into both and the history also crosses into both. My maternal grandmother’s ancestors were mostly Dutch and Belgian (though she’s the “mixed bag” in my tree, bringing in French, French-Canadian, Belgian, Dutch, German, and some others.)

This group seemed to congregate in the east central part of the state, up near Green Bay and Appleton, Wisconsin, which we call the Fox River Valley. You can tell this by the city, place, and family names in that area. Names like Holland and Vandenbroek and a lot of family names that start with “Van.”

Between 1840 and 1890, Wisconsin was a major center of Dutch immigration. Father Theodore Johannes Van den Brock was an early promoter of Dutch Catholic immigration to Wisconsin and beginning in 1848, he helped to bring 40,000 Catholic Dutch to Wisconsin. Most Dutch immigrants to the Fox River Valley followed the Erie Canal-Great Lakes route, landing in Green Bay where many chose to remain. Later Dutch settlements in Wisconsin were generally small agricultural communities. –

One of my families that came into that area was the Van Parijs family. Somewhere along the line, they changed their name to Van Price (which caused me some trouble, as I posted about earlier.) They settled in the Shawano County area (pronounced like Shaw-no.)

My maternal grandmother’s maiden name is DeBroux (Dah-broo), which is, from my research, from Belgium. They liked to hack the spelling of this surname up in the census. I found it listed by such spellings as DeBrue and Gebroux (but some of these are probably based on the transcriptions.)

The DeBroux family came from Belgium in the late 1800s and settled in Langlade County, which was a popular area for these two cultures. An interesting fact about my DeBroux ancestors that came to Wisconsin is that their names are somewhat unique and I thought that this might help me find information on them. His name is Desire DeBroux and her name was Desiree (unknown surname.) Unfortunately, this is not the case, but it was worth a shot.

Here are some good Dutch/Belgian links for Wisconsin and elsehwhere:

Photo © Jenny Rollo

Yes, Pete, it is. In fact , it’s pronounced “mill-e-wah-que” which is Algonquin for “the good land.” – Alice Cooper, Wayne’s World

Most of the paternal side of my family tree, more specifically my paternal grandfather’s side, came to and lived in Milwaukee’s Polish Community. They all came about the same time, the late 1800s or early 1900s. By that time, Milwaukee was getting established as a major hub in Wisconsin.

The first immigrants to Milwaukee were French traders and trappers. During the 1830s, settlement occurred rapidly, and in earnest. Families established themselves here, bringing the population to several hundred by 1837. That year, under a mandate from the Wisconsin Territorial Legislature to incorporate, Milwaukee and other settlements in the state became villages. A City Charter was adopted in 1846, and Solomon Juneau was elected the first mayor. Juneau was a French trader who had settled his family in Milwaukee. – City of Milwaukee website

The polish immigrants came to Milwaukee starting in the mid nineteenth century and mostly settled in Milwaukee’s south side, though my family lived on what is considered the “east side” today. In 1906, almost one-quarter of Milwaukee’s total population was Polish. Milwaukee had one of the nation’s largest Polish communities up to 1980, getting near 200,000. Today, Milwaukee even has an annual Polish Fest to celebrate their Polish heritage.

Polish families tended to settle in one area, usually just outside of the city area. I imagine this was very helpful due to the fact that most immigrants knew little English and this would obviously help them communicate better. Even though the large Polish community was usually overshadowed by Milwaukee’s larger German community, there is no doubt that this city has been shaped and changed forever by them.

Some great Polish-related Milwaukee links: