Month: August 2011


I had some time at lunch today, so I headed over to the BYUtv site to watch an episode of “The Generations Project.” For people unfamiliar with it, think of it as a “Who Do You Think You Are?” for regular people. The episode I watched was titled, “Do Your Own Generations Project.” I assume most of your are already interested in genealogy, but I think this would be a good video to show to someone who might think genealogy is boring or it’s just all names and dates. It may even spark someone to visit their family history and, in turn, spark someone else. Who knows?

I can’t embed the video here, so go watch it at the BYUtv website. It’s a great episode regardless of your views on genealogy. Don’t forget to check out all of the other episodes.

Anyone following the latest research into my ZALEWSKI line knows that I’ve run across the GWIAZDOWSKI surname on a few occasions. They have something to do with my ZALEWSKI family, but I’m still not 100% sure what it is. Research points to many conflicting options: These are Frank ZALEWSKI’s parents, these are Frank’s aunt and uncle, or maybe they’re just good friends. I have more research to do with the Polish/German church records I recently found at the FHL.

Above: More evidence that they’re related to me somehow is that (among other things) they’re buried with members of the Jacob ZALEWSKI family (the brother of Frank) at Holy Cross Cemetery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Their plot is located at the back part of the GORALSKI stone (another family somehow related to me.)

[Find-A-Grave link]

Amanuensis Monday – An Amanuensis is a person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another. Amanuensis Monday is a daily blogging theme which encourages the family historian to transcribe family letters, journals, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin – some we never met – others we see a time in their life before we knew them. A fuller explanation can be found here.

I’ve posted about this letter in the past, but I thought I’d talk about it again. I have possession of some typewritten letters that my great granduncle, Edwin Corrigan, wrote to another relative. My grandmother must have had them in her possession since I have a lot of her old family documents. Edwin was born in 1909 and grew up in rural northern Wisconsin in the Ashland area. He was a well-traveled and bright man and he had seen a lot of things. The letter is a great insight both into life in the early 20th century (in rural Wisconsin and other similar places) and also other aspects of his life. Read on for some excerpts:

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Grudziądz, Poland

Grudziądz, PolandI had a Thursday off this past week, so I decided to visit one of the local Family History Libraries in the area. The last time I went I ordered some microfilm from the area that I had hoped my ZALEWSKI family originated. I was confused since they told me that it takes about six weeks for the microfilm to arrive and then they will send me my self-addressed postcard to let me know, but I never received anything. Six weeks from my last visit would’ve been sometime in May and it still didn’t arrive by August.

When I first arrived, I just double-checked some of the local Milwaukee church records for some more information and also to try to find Frank ZALEWSKI’s brother’s marriage record (Jacob to Pauline WONDKOWSKI.) Still no luck in finding that record. I had thought that maybe they got married at another church, but there were no other churches in the area with records back to 1891-92. Only St. Hedwig’s church had records that old from that area. Jacob and Pauline baptised most of their children there, but I could not find a marriage record. I’m hoping they didn’t get married before they came to Milwaukee since that would be tough to track down.

After lunch I got back and I asked the volunteer on site about my order. She was somewhat new, but she tried looking through all of the orders from the past to see if maybe it didn’t get sent out, etc. She then asked me to get the film number from the Family Search website and she’d look it up that way. Before I could sit and check, she found my order. In big letters written over the card it said, “Film already here. Needs refund.” I guess the film was already on-site when I ordered it, though the volunteer that day obviously didn’t help me check. Either way the news is great. (more…)

I was put in charge of creating the memorial video that was to be played at my Grandmother’s funeral today, so that everyone could remember her through the years. I assume this is due to the fact that I seemed to have inherited the title of “Family Historian” which I have no problem with. I love seeing all of these old documents and photos. I ran across this photo of my grandmother from 1938 and I really like it. She looks like she’s saying, “Hurry up and get that picture taken!” I also notice on a lot of the older photos of my grandmother that she had prominent freckles. I don’t remember seeing them on her when she was older. It must be her Irish heritage shining through.

Mary Jane Corrigan – 1938

After the break, I have embedded the memorial video that I created. Even though you may not know her, I hope you enjoy the video. (more…)

Richard & Mary Jane Zalewski

Mary Jane (Corrigan) Zalewski
April 27, 1926 – August 10, 2011

Today we lost my grandmother, Mary Jane Zalewski, one of the world’s biggest fans of Irish heritage. Born in Ashland, Wisconsin on April 27, 1926 along with her twin brother, Tommy, to Maurice & Agnes (Braatz) Corrigan. Story has it that they were born so small that my great-grandmother would bundle them up and put them on the stove door to keep them warm. While in Milwaukee visiting her aunt Ethel Corrigan, who ended up marrying my grandfather’s cousin, Edy Strelka, she met my grandfather, Richard Zalewski. They tied the knot on October 11, 1947 and had their first child, my uncle, in 1948. My dad soon followed in 1951 and then my aunt in 1960.

Throughout my life, they always lived in the little house in Cedarburg, Wisconsin that we used to visit for Christmas Eve and many other times throughout the year. My paternal grandparents were very loving, as most grandparents, but they were also stern. Grandpa would scold us for sneaking into the basement or jumping into the window wells, but Grandpa and Grandma also used to have the greatest toys to play with including the matchbox car track and the puzzles. She was always a big fan of Ireland and anything Irish. Even though she was probably just as much German (and some French) than she was Irish, no one dared to correct her on it. She was a CORRIGAN and she was full-blooded Irish and that’s that!

When I was in my first year of college, my grandfather got sick and passed away on April 18, 1999. It was very sad to me since this was the first major death in my family and the first loss of a grandparent. I didn’t know how my grandmother would handle it. It turns out she did very well with herself. She drove (albeit slowly) where she needed to go, met with friends, knitted like she always did, and was usually in good spirits. Sadly, she fell while living alone and had to move to an assisted living center, but she still made the best of it. I ended up buying my grandparent’s old house from my grandmother and we currently still live here. It’s comforting at times. Unfortunately, during the last few years, Grandma started to forget things and had trouble getting around, but she was her normal self a lot of the time. Even at 85, she still loved her pizza and beer. I’m told that she passed away peacefully in her sleep and now she is in a better place, probably catching up with my Grandpa. He’s probably got the “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” vinyl record already playing on the record player.

You can view the memorial video I made for her funeral.

We’ll miss you, Grandma. Thanks for everything. Ireland has one less fan today.

How do I live without the ones I love?
Time still turns the pages of the book it’s burned
Place in time always on my mind
And the light you left remains but it’s so hard to stay
When I have so much to say and you’re so far away

I love you, you were ready
The pain is strong and urges rise
But I’ll see you when it let’s me
Your pain is gone, your hands untied

Avenged Sevenfold, “So Far Away”

NOTE: This post is from 2011. Some of these videos may or may not be available to stream as of today.

I’ve been a customer of Netflix for many years now. Back when I first signed up, it was only DVDs by mail. Now you get instantly streaming shows and movies into your living room through a PC or an XBox or a Wii console and it’s glorious.

I’ve run across a bunch of different history and genealogy related instant streaming options and I thought I’d share them with you. Though, these are not all specifically genealogy-related, some may be about the areas your ancestors once lived. Also, these videos are obviously more related to my ancestry than just general ancestry. If you have a Netflix account, these links should link you right to the video info page. If you don’t have a Netflix account, I will try to find another informational page for you to view. These are only Netflix Instant versions, not DVD by mail versions. There are a lot more if you also count DVD versions, though you’ll need to wait for those. Instant ones you can watch right now. Let’s see the list I can up with. (more…)

With the change in the way I built my “Everything I Know” sites, I added a new one.

This one is about my maternal great-great grandfather, Johann THIELKE. This is the first one I’ve done on my maternal line. It’s also actually the first one I’ve done with not a lot of information. The first two I did, for Frank ZALEWSKI and Mathias FIRMENICH actually had a good deal of information. After doing this one for Johann, I started to notice how much info I didn’t have. I’m hoping the site will help me find more information or more avenues to research.

Take a look at the Johann THIELKE site or even browse the other sites I’ve done.

It seems I’ve been away for almost two months. Sorry about that. I just haven’t had the time I’d like to do any genealogy research. Though, I’ve been able to do some stuff recently.

I  ran across more information and was also able to add more generations to my paternal line. Thanks to FamilySearch’s German records, including their Germany Births and Baptisms, 1558-1898, I was able to find ancestors of my great-great grandmother, Barbara Margaretha Magdalena (Maggie) STEARNS. So, I was able to add surnames like KELLER, HEINZ, and BAUER.

I was also able to find more information on an unknown line on my wife’s tree. Following her maternal line, I was able to add a surname to her 3rd-great grandmother, Nancy (WHIPPLE) CLEVELAND. From there I’ve been able to trace her via more records and also some WHIPPLE researchers.

To prepare for the future, I’ve also merged my “Everything I Know” sites into one place (currently just one for Frank ZALEWSKI and one for Mathias FIRMENICH.) The reason is more technical than anything else, but it will pave the way for easier “Everything I Know” sites. I really enjoy putting those sites together. They not only allow me to do some web work, which I enjoy, but they also require me to go through an individual’s information with a fine-toothed comb. I sometimes find new information or new leads doing this. Plus, it may help someone else in the future.

We also have a mini-reunion coming up in the middle of August with some of the CORRIGAN descendants. When I was a kid, we used to go up north to the upper peninsula of Michigan or to Wausau, Wisconsin for a family reuinion for the descendants of Thomas CORRIGAN. They were pretty large. But, now since a lot of the elders are no longer with us, we haven’t done that in many years. So, they put together a small one with mainly descendants of Thomas’ son, and my great-grandfather, Maurice CORRIGAN.