Year: 2011

itchys @ FlickrAfter running out of gas on trying to find more online records about my great-great-grandfather, Frank Zalewski, and his brother, Jacob, I decided to work the other way. I’ve read about people making awesome discoveries by connecting with distant cousins and finding out that they have some amazing record or photo that breaks down a wall. That sounded like something good to shoot for.

I was going to try to work my way down their trees, from Frank & Anna and then Jacob & Pauline’s families, and see what I could find using tools from early 20th century newspapers all the way to Facebook. With a few tools at my disposal, I was actually able to get much more information than I thought I would in only a few days.


SS Weser Ad

The last few days I’ve been doing a lot of searching through old newspapers for hints of information, obituaries, articles, etc. On a whim, since my ZALEWSKI ancestors arrived in Baltimore, I decided to see which newspapers Google had from Baltimore. On a side note, as amazing as Google is at organizing data, their historical newspapers are not very well organized. I simply love the fact that I can browse these old papers, so that’s awesome. It’s just that you can easily search everything all at once, but not specific papers. The Milwaukee papers I mentioned in my recent post were different because JSOnline did some of their own code to search all 3 papers at once. Also, the papers are listed alphabetically, but not by location. It’s tough to find all papers from one location, except if the paper was named for the city. To find the location of, say, “The Daily Republican,” you need to open one and look at an image. A lot of work.

Anyway, I found that Google had images from the Baltimore American from 1857 to 1902. I had originally gone in to see if they possibly had any information on one infant ZALEWSKI daughter, Elsa, who was on the passenger list but never seen again. I had assumed she died not long after arriving and thought there may be a mention of it. Instead, I ended up seeing that every day the paper would list the comings and goings at the Port of Baltimore. The first paper I browsed was Saturday, November 23, 1889, the day my family arrived. Nothing listed in there. Then I checked the next day, Sunday, November 24, 1889 and found this:

Baltimore American, 24 Nov 1889

The first line on the “Arrived Yesterday” list is the ship the ZALEWSKI family arrived on, the S.S. Weser.

Stmr Weser (Ger). Bruns, from Bremen Nov 6 — 426 passengers and mdse to A. Schumacher & Co.

From what I can find, I think “mdse” stands for “Merchandise.” I’m also pretty sure “Bruns” is the name of the captain as the other entires have similar mentions. There is also a bit about the pilot of the Weser seeing some other ships and giving descriptions of them at the bottom. Though, there is no “new” information from this article, except the exact date the ship left Bremen, it’s very cool to see the actual article from when they arrived in America. It almost makes it more real, if that makes sense.

The only thing I did find in the November 23rd edition of the paper was an ad for the S.S. Weser from their shipping company, Nord Deutscher Lloyd.

SS Weser Ad
Baltimore American, 23 Nov 1889

I think my immigrant ancestors may (or may not) argue that the ships had “splendid Cabin accommodations,” but maybe I’m wrong. I might just have to do some research on “A. SCHUMACHER & CO.” to see what I can find.

This week’s surname is from my paternal Polish ancestors. I’ve heard it pronounced both Troh-kuh and Truck-uh. The TROKA surname first shows up in my family tree with my great-grandmother, Emily (TROKA) ZALEWSKI. She was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1896. Her father, Joseph TROKA, was born in 1871. I have traced his birth to the Lipusz area of what was then West Prussia. It is now located in Kościerzyna County, Pomeranian Voivodeship, in northern Poland. He immigrated in about 1888 or 1889, either by himself or with his family. I have not tracked down his parents in the US, but have seen note of his brothers and sisters here. His parents are listed as Michael & Joslyna (GRABOWSKA) TROKA on his marriage certificate. Joseph married Clara SZULTA at St. Hedwig’s Church in Milwaukee in 1894.

According to the map below, courtesy of World Family Names, the surname is most popular in the Polish county mentioned above, Kościerzyna.

Troka Surname
Public Profiler Worldnames. (2010). Surname Troka Polish Map.Retrieved March 18, 2011


I thought I’d take an Irish theme on the latest entry into my “Single View” post series since today is St. Patrick’s Day. Though, there is some confusion to where this ancestor originally came from.

William Henry THOMPSON was born sometime between 1810 and 1816 in either Ireland, England, or Scotland, depending on which record you look at. In the 1870 Census of Morrison, Brown Co., Wisconsin, he is listed as being born in 1810 in England. On his headstone, the listing of his daughter in the 1905 Wisconsin State Census, and the Wisconsin Deaths and Burials, 1835-1968 entry, he was born in 1813 in Ireland. In the 1880 and 1860 Morrison, Brown Co., Wisconsin census records, he was born in 1816 in Ireland. Finally, in the 1850 Census of Granville, Milwaukee Co., Wisconsin and listed as his birthplace in entries for his daughter, Pauline (THOMPSON) FIRMENICH, he was born in 1816 in Scotland. Adding to the fact that the name William THOMPSON covered about 15 billion people back then, he has been a tough one to find.


For years I had lost track of my 3rd-great-grandfather, Peter MUHM. He and his wife, Ida (SCHAVANDIE) MUHM, lived in Wisconsin for many years. I tracked Ida to Langlade County, Wisconsin in 1934 where she finally rests at Elmwood Cemetery in Antigo. Where was Peter? Good question. I also couldn’t find them in the 1900 Census records.

After some deep searching, I ran across an newspaper article in the Antigo (Wisconsin) Daily Journal from May 1933 about Mr. and Mrs. MUHM. It says:

For five years Mr. and Mrs. Muhm farmed with only a grub hoe, pitchfork, and hoe. Grain and hay were carried from the field to the barn on the pitchfork. Sometime after beginning their clearing, a cow and a few chickens were bought, and with other additions, little by little, they soon had a prosperous little farm. At the beginning fish, wild game, and deer afforded the only meat the family had. Mr. Muhm had shot 99 deer before he sold his farm in 1902 and went to Portland, Oregon. As a pioneer he built many of the first houses and barns in the county, and also made coffins for the dead.

Three years after moving to Portland, Mr. Muhm died as the result of a fall he suffered when a scaffold collapsed. Mrs. Muhm continued to live there for sixteen years, then returned here to make her home with her daughters, Mrs. Joe Narlow, and Mrs. Fred Van Atter. Another daughter, Mrs. Peter Van Price lives in Port Washington; a son Edward in San Francisco, and an older son, George, in Portland, Oregon.

(Full Transcribed Article Text on my wiki)

Tada! There is the information I needed. Peter and his wife moved to Portland, Oregon (reasons still unknown) and he died after falling from a scaffold in 1905. I also had found an “Ida MUHM” in the 1910 Census in Oregon that now made sense. Then, on a whim, I ran “MUHM” through the Find-A-Grave search system in Oregon and what do you know, I found his headstone located in Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery in Portland. A nice volunteer by the name of VDR had photographed it sometime in late 2010. Aren’t volunteers wonderful? She was very nice and transferred ownership of the memorial to me so I can now update it and add it to my list.

Peter Muhm
Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery, Portland, Oregon

I found a link to this over at Randy Seaver’s Genea-Musings website. It’s a link a survey about people’s genealogy habits, attitudes and origins. According to the survey page, they plan to share the results with libraries, family history organizations or societies at no cost.

I took the survey earlier and it was well-done. I agree with Randy when he says that it’s one of the best he has seen. It should take no longer than 15-20 minutes.

Use this link to visit the survey: Family History Survey

(After posting this I ran across some new info. Listed at the bottom.)

I thought I would revisit the GWIAZDOWSKI connection in my family tree. As I mentioned in a previous post, Brick Wall Coming Down?, I ran across the GWIAZDOWSKI surname by searching for information I found in a short  paragraph in a letter I received. You can read that process in detail in the post I mentioned. Go on, I won’t go anywhere.

So, I use all of those names and did some searching and found the GORALSKI family and GWIAZDOWSKI family in a passenger list with this note written next to them.

"Visitors nephew Franz Zaleski 902 Pulaski St." Click for larger image

Frank and his family lived at 902 Pulaski Street until about 1900, when they moved to Fratney St. This information all put together makes either August or Anna GWIAZDOWSKI Frank’s uncle or aunt, respectively, as he is listed as their nephew. It would all depend on if they are related to Frank via his father or his mother. If I get lucky, maybe I can find where the GWIAZDOWSKI’s came from, which may give me information on where my ZALEWSKI family originally came from as I’ve had no luck, yet. Frank and his family traveled from Bremen, Germany to Baltimore, Maryland. It turns out the most of Bremen’s records (at least from 1889) were destroyed either in the war or to make room for new records, so I can’t search those.

Sometimes you find the most important information in a place where you wouldn’t normally look. So, check those extended families!

UPDATE #1: From the last 30 minutes of researching. It turns out that in the beginning of the passenger list document, someone wrote out all of the names alphabetically and where they came from, etc. Listed next to the GWIAZDOWSKI’s (and GORALSKI’s, though written as KORALSKI) is the name “Gottschalk” for Place of Origin. I can’t find a place named that, yet, just people with that surname. Any ideas? Gottschalt, maybe?

UPDATE #2: After some searching around without any luck, I tried an old trusty bookmark: Kartenmeister. It returned a result for “Gottschalk” which looks to now be called “Goczałki” in present-day Poland (Google Map link.) This opens up some new research paths that I’m excited to go down.

This is a video from San Francisco supposedly taken only a few days before the 1906 earthquake and fire. It has been seen before, as it noted in the post over at BoingBoing, where I saw it, though this version is of much better quality. Also, the original video can be downloaded in high-quality since it’s in the public domain. If you want that, you can go on over to and get it.

I think it’s amazing to see how life was back in 1906. Note the almost-chaotic driving, the people hitching rides on seemingly random vehicles, the mix of horses, people, and cars. (Sorry, it’s a bit cut off, but you can see most of it.)

There is also an updated version from 2005 up on YouTube where the videographer takes the same trip. Or, even better, there is one with side-by-side comparison.

Troka Family

Troka FamilyThis is a photo from my paternal Milwaukee line. I don’t know the names of everyone in the photo, but there are a few I know. My great-grandmother, Emily (TROKA) ZALEWSKI, is at the top-left. Her mother, Clara (SZULTA) TROKA, is right below her. Clara’s mother (and my 3rd-great-grandmother), Nepomuncena (SYLDAKT) SZULTA, is to the right of her. The only other name I know is that of Nepomuncena’s son, John SZULTA, in the middle of the back row. The remaining people are either part of the SZULTA family or TROKA family. I have other photos from this day that include other family members. Click photo to enlarge.

It’s the bane of any genealogy research. Finding out you have incorrect information long after you’ve added it to your family tree. In the worst cases, this could have ended up with you researching the wrong line for years. Fortunately, I’ve never (at least not yet) had that issue.

While I love with their user-submitted family trees and I have used it constantly in my research, it’s a double-edged sword, especially for newer researchers. I sigh and roll my eyes every time I see their television commercial that shows a woman who notices the “shaky leaf” on some of the names in her family tree. When she clicks on them, she is able to add whole new families to her tree. Unfortunately, it seems most people think it’s that easy. Just click and boom, all your work is done.

I admit that in the beginning of my research over ten years ago, I usually just went for quantity over quality. It was so exciting to find new people and information that you just added it. I’ve paid the price for that now, but fortunately not in any major way. I’ve just had to go back, change a few pieces, and re-find all of the sources. That has actually indirectly helped me find new information, since now I look closer at every source I find.

I can use my great-great-grandfather’s profile to prove my point.