Year: 2007

Firmenich 4 Generations

I received my mail from the Wisconsin Historical Society today and it included some nice information. I ordered the marriage certificates for two of my family members from northern Wisconsin and also a death certificate for a possible relative. The society also found an obituary for my 3rd great grandfather, Mathias B. Firmenich. The copy they sent was in really good shape and also included a photo of Mathias (still not as cool as the above one, though.) The obit contained a lot of information that I didn’t really know and also some new leads, including this one.

Born in Cologne, Germany, February 11, 1840, Mr. Firmenich came to Milwaukee in May 1847 and settled with his parents on a farm located in the wilderness 25 miles from that city.

I have some names for his parents, but I was never 100% sure on them. His marriage certificate also confirms this. But, now I can look around the Milwaukee area in the census and also the cemeteries for them. It also helps that I live in the Milwaukee area. Here is some more from the obit.

Coming in contact with Indians who the inhabited the region, he learned to weave baskets from ash wood, a hobby which he enjoyed until the time of his death. His marriage to Miss Pauline Thompson took place at Green Bay, February 11, 1867. Mrs. Firmenich preceeded him in death by 21 years.
Mr. Firmenich first worked in Ashland as a millright for the Miller and Ritchie company. He was employed there for four years. and later became connected with D.W. Mowatt firm where he was employed until 1905. He also lived on a farm near Sanborn until 1916. For the past few years he has been making his home with his daughter. Mrs. Andrew Anderson on Ninth avenue west.

I’ll have to check with the society to see if they have any more obituaries.

Joseph Zalewski

Though, I was alive for more than a year before my great-grandfather, Joseph Zalewski, passed away, I really don’t remember much of him or have any photos of him and I. He seemed like a nice guy. If he was anything like my grandfather (his son) he was probably strict, yet loving. He was probably pretty stern since he was a Milwaukee Police Officer and fought in World War I.

He served in the US Army Infantry during World War I (1917-1918). Research has said he fought with the Allied Expeditionary Forces in France during several major battles. Unfortunately, his military records were destroyed in a fire in 1973 at the National Personnel Records Center – St Louis, Missouri (according to a reply to a 1994 inquiry submitted by another family researcher.) After the war, he returned to Milwaukee where he served with distinction on that city’s municipal police force for 33 years until his retirement.

Joseph’s parents immigrated from Poland in 1890 and out of all of their children, only two of them were sons. Joseph was the only Zalewski boy to have children, making him the only Zalewski line from Poland in the area that I can prove relation. So, even though there are many Zalewski’s in the Milwaukee area, I don’t know how, or if, I’m even related to them. This is one reason for this website along with the Zalewski Family Tree Project and the Zalewski Surname DNA Study.

Charlotte Last

For the longest time, I thought that I had no ancestors that fought in the Civil War. I was surprised when I ran across a Civil War record for my third-great grandfather, John Last. I ran across this by finding a document calling his wife, Charlotte (Stramm) a Civil War widow. As shown above in the 1880 Census for Grafton, Ozaukee Co., Wisconsin, his wife Charlotte is widowed and living with her son and daughter.

I did find a bit more information on what John did in the Civil War, but not much beyond his Infantry division, etc. I plan to dig into more Civil War research to see if I can find more. I’m still not sure if he died in battle, due to disease, or just after the war. It just calls her a Civil War widow.

This is what I found about his regiment so far:

Regimental History Fiftieth Infantry WISCONSIN (1 YEAR)

Fiftieth Infantry. — Col., John G. Clark; Lieut.-Col., Edwin E. Bryant; Maj. Hugh McDermott.

This regiment was organized at Camp Randall and left the state by companies in the latter part of March and beginning of April, 1865. It was sent to Benton barracks, St. Louis; thence to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and in October to Fort Rice, Dak., where it remained until the spring of 1866.

Co. E was mustered out April 19 at Madison. The remainder of the regiment returned in June and was mustered out on June 14.

Its original strength was 942. Gain by recruits, 16; total, 958. Loss by death, 28; desertion, 141; discharge, 127; mustered out, 562.

Source: The Union Army, vol. 4, p. 72
Battles Fought: Fought on 16 September 1865 at Yankton Reservation, DT.

Hopefully, I can find more information on this regiment or this battle. I’d like to see what happened to John. Anyone have any good sources for Civil War information, other than

Remains of four people that were found about a decade ago in my home town, while adding on to a local church, were finally laid to rest this week. According to the news article about this, they are believed to be over 100 years old. Over the last decade, they’ve been trying to figure out who these remains belonged to, even going as far as contacting a forensic pathologist to conduct a bone analysis. All he could say was the they were probably of European descent.

Eisenberg told the crowd gathered Tuesday that it’s not even clear whether all four were originally buried together. What’s known is that one of the four was a male and another was a female. The child was buried with one of the adults – whose gender couldn’t be determined – in a brick crypt.

Unfortunately, they couldn’t find out who these remains belonged to, but it’s good to see them finally laid to rest again.

Read one of the articles here at

St. Paul’s Cemetery

Yesterday, my wife and I made a trip up north to the Wrightstown, Wisconsin area to search for a few headstones for my family tree. It was a nice day and we decided to spend most of it outside.I wasn’t exactly sure which cemetery they were buried in, if any, but we checked the first one we ran across, St. John’s Lutheran Cemetery. We didn’t find them in that one, so we planned on checking for a St. Paul’s Cemetery, since I’ve seen that listed before. We spent a good 30-minutes trying to find it before I had to stop and ask for directions. It turns out that we turned around right before we came to it when we were checking some of the main roads.

We search for about 10 minutes. I ended up finding them on my second scan, since they were old stones and also replanted laying face-up in the ground.

Frances (Quinet) Thompson and her husband William H Thompson.

It was actually a worthwhile trip, besides getting photos of the headstones and finding their final resting place, I now have William’s death date and better approximate birth year. Before yesterday, I had his death listed as “Between 1880 – 1900” since he was listed in the 1880 census, but not the 1900 census (and we know that the 1890 census is missing.) Hopefully, this will help me trace his line much easier. Previously, searching blindly for a “William Thompson” usually returned more records than I could really do much with.

We didn’t find any other family members, but I plan to take a trip to Fredonia (which is actually in the same county) later this spring to find some of the Quinet family. They’re last residence is Fredonia. I did a small run-through last year, but didn’t find anything. Hopefully, I’ll have more luck today.

I did a bunch of updates to my Flickr account. I had signed up for it awhile ago, but never used it. I still plan to use my own website for most of my genealogy pictures, but some will go there for all to see. Above is a selection of some of the cemetery photos I took while doing research. For some reason cemeteries always interested me. Maybe it’s because they’re usually very peaceful, yet kinda dark and gloomy at the same time. Whatever it is, I really enjoyed taking photographs while I was in them.

I also created a “Zalewski Genealogy” Flickr group for all of you Zalewski researchers to post your photos. Let’s see if all of the Zalewskis look the same.

Feel free to view my photos or even add me as a contact. I’d be more than happy to add you!

Today’s Links

  • Family Link -It’s like Facebook mixed with Genealogy. It’s a social-networking type site that allows you to share/connect/communicate with other genealogists researching in your area, in your family, etc. It’s brand-new, but it looks to have a lot of potential. Help it out by signing up, I did. My profile.
  • Genealogy Guys Podcast – The first Genealogy-based podcast that I actually enjoy listening to. They talk about current Genealogy information in an easy-to-digest way. I’ve found a few helpful sites and information already and have only listened to two podcasts.
  • Ancestry Press – A new venture by that allows you to print out wonderful books based on your family tree or individuals in your tree. I guess it’s open to anyone with an Ancestry subscription or even just an account.

I’ve been working this week on my family line. I’ve been hitting a few of the brick walls to see if anymore information is available using a couple of resources. I usually first use Ancestry’s “My Ancestry” family tree section, since I can browse right to the individual I want to use. All of their information is already entered on the site, so their site automatically browses for any new documents. I usually check those out and “attach” them if they are correct. After that, I usually search for any documents that may match that person. This way I can look through all of the documents that may match, but aren’t that close. A lot of the time I’ll find a document with a misspelling or date error.

If that doesn’t help much, I’ll usually visit the USGenWeb site to find the county website to see if they have any other information, or even another researcher looking for that surname. For locations outside oft the US, I usually check out the WorldGenWeb sites, but these are usually pretty difficult since most are in their native language. Google Translate can only help so much.

My last resort is usually message boards or mailing lists. Sometimes I find that just emailing a few people with a question on the family line can bring out a huge gold mine of information. This is what happened with my Van Parijs line.

When I’m stuck, sometimes I’ll just do a Google search on some key words and run across something. This happened just last night when I just searched for “Schwabendorf,” which is a German location in my maternal line.  Even though the search was missing the surname surname associated with this location, “MUHM,” I found a page called “Muhm” that had information that may be tied to my family line. So, give it a shot, who knows what you’ll find.

What do you do when researching brick walls?


I saw a show on the National Geographic channel a few years ago about Genetic Genealogy, or Genetealogy as the cool kids call it. It really interested me. I’ve recently become more interested in world history, especially in the areas of my ancestors and how they lived (This would’ve been helpful in college, when I needed to know it.) This show was telling me that I could order a test and find out exactly where my ancestors came from, at least, my paternal ancestors. Sign me up! I ordered the kit and sent it back. I waited a few months and received my results. They tell me that my DNA data falls into the “R1a1 haplogroup.” That makes complete sense, doesn’t it? For more on haplogroups and genetic genealogy, visit the Wikipedia article.

This what the National Geographic’s Genographic project, who ran my tests, says about the R1a1 haplogroup.

Today a large concentration of — around 40 percent — of the men living in the Czech Republic across the steppes of Siberia, and south throughout Central Asia are members of haplogroup R1a1. In India, around 35 percent of the men in Hindi-speaking populations belong to this group. The M17 marker is found in only five to ten percent of Middle Eastern men. The marker is also found in relatively high frequency — around 35 percent — among men living on the eastern side of present-day Iran.

This only applies to my direct male line, which is my Zalewski line. I only have that back a few generations, so it’s not too much help, yet. If I find a perfect match to someone else with the Zalewski surname, it means that we more-than-likely have a common ancestors in the recent past. Unfortunately, I’ve not run across this, even though I do have perfect matches with a few individuals. Since they’re different surnames, it probably means we share an ancestor prior to the use of surnames. This is why I set up the Zalewski Surname DNA Study group on the Family Tree DNA site. Hopefully, more Zalewskis will join the study and we’ll find some connections. Nothing yet, but we only have a few members. So, all you Zalewski men out there, get testing!

I came across a very interesting letter in my genealogy collection. I’m not really sure how I got it, but I assume it’s from my grandmother. It’s a letter written by my great-great Uncle Edwin Corrigan that he wrote to another relative. In the letter, he describes his life growing up in rural Ashland, Wisconsin and beyond. It’s a great first-person view into life in the country in the early 1900s. Unfortunately, Edwin passed away a few years ago as the longest living descendant of Thomas Corrigan, who came to Wisconsin from Ontario, Canada.

The letter copy I have is written on a typewriter, but a few months ago I transcribed it for my website and also for the Ashland County USGenWeb site as a donation. Here is an excerpt from it where Edwin describes his father’s passing and his older brother’s (my great grandfather) many jobs.

My dad, your great grandfather, died on July 25, 1915 at Ashland. Mother was in the hospital expecting the birth of Sadie – she was brought out to the house to the funeral. Funerals were from the homes in those days. I was 6, but can remember the casket and funeral, although I can’t remember going to the cemetery, which was just kitty-corner from our house – across the line into the city of Ashland.

At that time Maurice was 16 – he did some of the selling of the sand for that summer, then got a job with the Kellogg grocery store, delivering groceries, those were the horse and buggy days – he later got a job working in a saw mill at Odanah, 12 miles east of Ashland, later got a job as a night clerk in the Menard Hotel downtown Ashland. As each of our family members got old enough to work they did so. I recall that when I was 11 I got a job driving horse on a farm when they hauled in the hay – also had to help with the milking and chores. Henry was two years older than I and he got a job when about 14 working at Gingles farm, that is after he finished the eighth grade.

Later on I worked on the same farm for board and room while going to high school – in my senior year I got a job for the Molls where they had 125 colonies of bees, a five-acre orchard and a little garden, I stayed there the next two years while attending the Ashland County Normal to become an elementary teacher. Molls also raised about 300 turkeys each year.

We grew up with very little, but appreciated the fact that Mother was able to keep the family together. I recall that many night when we were about the heater stove, she would shed tears, as she didn’t know what was in store for her and the 9 children.

Very interesting stuff. I have put the complete letter online in my wiki. Read the whole Edwin Corrigan letter.

Joseph Zalewski & friends

The way that I got started doing genealogy research happened in 1999. I had always been somewhat interested in my ancestors, especially related to my surname, but most people are. My grandfather, Richard Zalewski, had passed away that year of cancer. Around that time, I had also run across some hand-written family trees and also an article in our local newspaper about It had mentioned that the website was getting hammered by visitors since it went live and that they were working on fixing it.

When I got home I was able to get onto the site and did a general search on “Zalewski” and was amazed at all of the entries I received. From there I collected information from family sources, free resources on the Internet, and other sources. I can say that I would never be as far in my research as I am now without the power of the Internet. It just snowballed from there, as all genealogists know, “Once it hits your lips, it’s so good.

I seem to be one of the minority of genealogy researchers that is of the “young” variety. I usually get weird looks when I’m scouring local cemeteries for headstone, since I can only be there to vandalize, I guess. Though, with the Internet, I am seeing a lot more younger genealogists and I think that’s great.

How did you get started in your genealogy research?