Month: March 2008


This has always been one of my favorite photos that I scanned from my grandmother’s collection. This is Mathias Firmenich, my great-great-great grandfather on my father’s side. From what I gathered from research and from obituaries, Mathias was born in Cologne, Germany, February 11, 1840. He 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 yet to find this information even though I’m still in this area.) He later moved north and married his wife, Pauline, in the Green Bay area. They then moved on to the Ashland, Wisconsin area where he lived the rest of his days, which was a long time since he died at 91.

I like the photo since it’s such a great head shot and I love his big beard. He just looks like he spent a lot of time working outside in the wilderness, which Ashland was and still is in a way. I wish I could have met him, though my grandma may have some small memories since she was 5 or 6 when he passed away.

See: Wisconsin Pioneer posting

Well, I was going to write an article asking for some help, but I think I found my answer. When I was a kid, we used to visit my great grandmother (or who I thought was my great grandmother at the time.) As far as I can remember, we always called her “Tanta.” I always thought this was her name, but was told later on that this meant “Grandma” in German. My dad also used to call her this.

It turns out that Tanta was not my actual great grandmother, but my step-great grandmother. My real great grandmother had passed away in the early 1940s and my great grandfather remarried later on. Tanta was Agnes (Pulchinski) Zalewski.I was going to ask if anyone could verify that Tanta meant “Grandma.” I did a Google search a bit ago and found nothing of interest, but right before writing this post I had an idea. I did a search for “Tanta” on the German Google, The first few entries were for a city called “Tanta,” but then I found a few entries using Tanta to describe a family member. It looks like Tanta is also used for Aunt along with Grandma. I also found entries for the male version, Tante.

Now, is there anyone out there that has better verification than a few people using it on their websites? I’d like to know, since I was using it for most of my childhood. Thanks.

Tom Corrigan Family

Today’s photo comes from my Irish roots, just in time for St. Patrick’s day. The original photo is my grandmother’s collection.

This photo was taken in Ashland, Wisconsin, year unknown, but I’d guess around 1892 or so looking at the ages of the children. Based of the number of children in this photo, I assume that this is Thomas Corrigan with the children from his first marriage along with his new wife, my great-great-grandmother. Thomas J. Corrigan was my great-great-grandfather and is pictured with his wife, Emma Jane (Firmenich.)

If that is true, than the children’s names are Joseph, William, Mary Ellen, Agnes and Thomas. At first, I had thought that this was photo of my great grandfather, Maurice Corrigan, but looking at all the details, I think these are his half-siblings.

I’ve been doing a little research on my wife’s family tree. Back into her paternal line, she is connected to the Toney family through her great-great grandmother, Idona Toney. This line is traced back a few generations through Wisconsin, Ohio, and finally Virginia. Fortunately, this family seems pretty popular in the genealogy circle. It looks like the Toney family spread pretty far from this area.

While searching for some type of link from Virginia back to Europe, I found some interesting information via Google. It looks like the Toney family in America can be traced back to a Toney family in England and then back much further to the “first” Toney (at least the first one to use the surname.)

Now, obviously, there are some missing connections from my wife back to the first Toney, but it’s interesting to look over. The connection from her back to the Virginia Toney’s is pretty solid based on Census and other records, but from there it’s a bit fuzzy.

Here is some of the information I found:

The first known Toney ancestor ever was Ralph the son of Hugh De Calvacamp. Hugh’s father was Malahulic/(Malahule)who came to the Normandy area of France from Norway on a Viking ship. He came with Rollo, or Rolph the Ganger. Hugh De Calvacamp’s father Malahulic was uncle to Rollo. Rollo was the leader of the group that our ancestors came with. He and his followers( taunted/annoyed/stalked or worse) the coastlines of France until the King gave him the area that is now Normandy.

Hugh De Calvacamp also had a son Hugh De Calvacamp Jr. He was given the Archbishopship of Rouen by the Duke of Normandy, he being cousin to the Duke. There were certain lands that came with this title. Hugh gave his brother Ralph a piece of land called Tosni/Toeni, it was situated just across the River Seine from Les Andelys. The “s” in Tosni is silent therefore sounding like Toney. Ralph then became known as Raph de Toney. Our first ancestor was Standard Bearer to the Duke of Normandy, and became a hereditary position to Ralph’s descendants.

From The Toney Family (be warned there is music…for some reason. Ugh.) 

I looked through my Family Forest CD (an older one) and even found Ralph de Tonei and also Rolph the Ganger. One of the Ralphs even has a Wikipedia page. Even though this line isn’t officially connected, it still brings a little excitement to the research. Any type of excitement only helps to do more research.

Has there been a find that has brought much needed excitement to your research?

I’d thought I would try a weekly photo post since I have a good collection of photos and it may help spur a research idea. I got the idea from Miriam over at AnceStories.


Zalewski and Others


This week’s photo is from my Zalewski collection. The original photo is my grandmother’s collection. I’m not 100% sure who everyone in the photo is exactly, though I do know a few. The tall man on the right side is my great-grandfather, Joseph Zalewski and  I think that is his wife Emelia (Troka) Zalewski next to him. The man on the left with the cigar is my great-great-grandfather, Joseph Troka and his wife Clara (Szulta) behind him. I don’t know the others, but some of them look familiar. I assume this photo was taken before of after church, which means it was probably at St. Casimir’s church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


I saw a post over at The Genetic Genealogist about this and I thought it’d be interesting to check my information.Though, it’s kind of a downer since I don’t really know exactly where my Y-DNA or my mtDNA was in 1808. I can only trace my Zalewski line back to about 1858 with Frank J. Zalewski, in what I think is Prussia (which could be many things.) I’d guess it was in the same general area, so it turns out to be about 4487 miles away traveling at about 22.5 miles per year.

My mtDNA line only goes back to about 1852 with the birth of Ida Schwinte, also in Prussia. I’m guessing the German part of Prussia on this one compared to the Russian/Polish part for my Y-DNA. I can really only assume it’s about the same distance, give or take a few hundred miles.

Well, this didn’t turn out to be as exciting as I though, but it’s still interesting to think about. I have many other lines traced back much further, but just not these two. Maybe it will help spark me to work more on these lines (though I’ve always had an urge to research my Zalewski line more.)

So, how about you? Where was your Y-DNA and mtDNA in 1808?