Author: Brian Zalewski

I started genealogy research about mid-1999. My grandfather had passed away in April of that year. Since then I’ve done a lot of research not only for myself, but for friends and other relatives. In 2006, I married the love of my life, Darcy, and welcomed the birth of our daughter, Aerissa Jean, in 2010 and our son, Xander Lee, in 2012. I can’t wait to tell them stories about all of their ancestors.

I’m not sure how I fell into it this past week, but I decided to jump head first into trying to find and record all of the Zalewski lines in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area. My main reasoning is to try to figure out where my great-great-grandfather, Frank Zalewski, was born (or possibly his brother Jacob.) Another reason is to try to connect some or all of them together. That is doubtful as a lot of them come from completely different parts of Poland or Russia and Zalewski is actually somewhat common over there.

This is also somewhat part of The Zalewski Project that I started. I did end up using a lot of the info over there to help figure out where to start.

Currently, in my RootsMagic database that I made specifically for this project, there are 586 individuals in 227 families. I have color-coded some of the main lines to help me better separate them and so far I have 8 major lines, with 2 of them (Frank and Jacob) technically from the same line, though we don’t know their parent’s names. One line also comes from the Stevens Point area in central Wisconsin, but they do come to Milwaukee and also connect to the Jacob Zalewski line at one point, so I included them.

Maybe someday I can add “Zalewski Expert, Milwaukee Area” to my genealogy resume. I’ve learned a whole bunch about the Zalewski families in the area already. I also started a subscription over at GenealogyBank to better search Milwaukee newspapers, which was very helpful. There is so much information in obituaries, wedding announcements and other random articles.

I’d love to see if any Zalewski descendants in the area have purchased DNA tests. If so, hopefully they can transfer their info over to GedMatch to see if we can determine where the Zalewski DNA is hiding.

If you have Zalewski connections in the Milwaukee area, give me a shout. I might have some information on it.

The fourth ancestor in my 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks project this year is my maternal great-grandfather, Leon Joseph DeBROUX. I’m related to Leon via my mother → her mother (Marjorie DeBROUX) → her father (Leon DeBROUX).

Leon was born on 2 November 1901 in the small town of Phlox, Langlade County, Wisconsin, which is very much the near center of the state. His parents were Joseph & Mary Philomene (LAURENT) DeBROUX. He had 5 brothers all with the middle name of Joseph and 2 sisters all with the middle name of Margaret.

Leon’s father passed away in 1918 in Phlox. Sometime between then and 1920, the family moved to DePere near Green Bay in Brown County to live with Leon’s aunt and uncle. About a year later, Leon was back in Phlox, this time marrying a local girl, Mildred Vida VAN PRICE. At the time, he was listed as being a “cheese maker” which is a standard Wisconsin job that every boy must do*. It may have been a rushed wedding, who knows, but the couple did have a child in September 1921. Sadly, the child did not make it. Two years later in 1923, their first son, Norbert, was born. He was better know later as “Dee Bee.” In 1927, my grandmother, Marjorie, was born after the family had moved south to Port Washington in Ozaukee County, where they would stay.

*May or may not be true.

Union Organizer

In 1940, Leon was listed as a laborer at the local chair factory, the Wisconsin Chair Company. By the 1950s, Leon was making a living as an AFL-CIO union organizer. I see his name mentioned many times in local stories about helping workers around the area. In an article from the Sheboygan (Wisconsin) Press in June 1953, it mentions Leon:

PORT WASHINGTON — Employees of the Harnischfeger Corporation, houses division, N. Spring St., Port Washington, voted recently to become affiliated with the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (AFL). Their vote was 92 for joining, 16 against, according to Leon DeBroux of Port Washington, union organizer who started on this project in May.

Hospital

One big thing that Leon was part of in Ozaukee County was getting the local hospital built. At the time, in 1938, there was no local hospital. Discussions were started after an accident in the area that cost the lives of five people because they had to go to outside hospitals. A few people, including Leon, met at his house in 1938 to figure out how to get a hospital built. In 1939, all of the planning came together and the building of a hospital was approved with the cornerstone being laid on November 3rd, 1940. St. Alphonsus Hosptial opened on May 1, 1941.

I find it quite interesting that this hospital weaves its way through my maternal family. My great-grandfather helped get it built. My mother worked there for many, many years. I was born there, as was my younger brother. Once the hospital moved to a larger facility to the south in 1990s (I think) they converted it into assisted living apartments and a nursing home. My grandmother, Leon’s daughter, would end up living there. She also sadly passed away there in 2015. I had no idea how connected our family was until I found the article about how Leon helped get it built.

Faint Memories

I was alive while Leon was alive, until I was almost three years old. I have this strange memory of him. Sometimes you think you have memories of someone you barely knew, but it was just from a family photo or something similar. I remember being on the ground by my great-grandfather’s feet at his house in Port Washington and he was using them to play around with me. I can see it pretty clearly in my mind, the chair, his feet, the living room, everything. There is no photo of a moment like this. It may be one of those early childhood memories that sneaks its way into adulthood, instead of getting forgotten like most of them. I do cherish it.

On 15 September 1982, Leon had a heart attack and passed away in Port Washington at the same hospital he helped build. He is buried in Port Washington at St. Mary’s Cemetery overlooking the rural fields of Ozaukee County.

In terms of DNA, I still definitely have DNA passed down from Leon. His mother, a LAURENT, connects me to my French-Canadian ancestry and is my connection to large family lines like the Cloutier line. I have a lot of matches on Ancestry, 23andMe, and GedMatch that I can tell are from that line.

For no specific reason this week, I decided to do some more research of my paternal French lines. I decided to start with my gateway French ancestor, Claude-Françoise QUINET, or as she is mostly known, Frances (Quinet) THOMPSON. She is my 4th-great-grandmother and probably the most distant ancestor that I have a photo.

I started at the FamilySearch wiki, which is always a good place to start when researching a new location. It has great articles on the best resources and where to find them. Much to my surprise, France has digitized and made available all of the civil and church records, at least from the Department I needed, Haute-Saône. The website was very easy to use once I was able to determine the locations I needed, even if it was in French.

I had a lot of the information for Frances and many generations back, but just the information, no sources or proof. This was probably entered back when I just found info and entered it like a rabid accountant. Fortunately, finding the actual records was made a bit easier as I had dates to work from. Most of them lined up perfectly and I was able to confirm and source dozens of baptisms, marriages, and deaths. I was even able to add one new generation back. I started my search in the early 1800s, but I was able to find records back to the late 1600s available on the site. Those were more hit-and-miss as I wasn’t able to find any of my ancestors in them.

Entry for the marriage of my 8th-great-grandparents, Claude Barbut (Claudius Barbu) & Jeanne Laurence Mignard (Joanna Laurentia Mignard) on 15 Jun 1716 in Contréglise.

Early on in my research, the records were in French, so just memorizing important genealogical words (i.e., baptism, marriage) and numbers was very helpful. At some point in the 1700s, everything switch over to Latin, which is a bit different to read (see the record above.)

I’m not completely finished digging through for the missing records and I have yet to see if any of my other possible French ancestors can be found in these digitized records. If you have French ancestors, make sure to look at the FamilySearch wiki.

The third “ancestor” in my 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks project this year is (in one direction) my first cousin, twice removed, Edward John “Edy” STRELKA. I say, “in one direction” because that is how I’m related to him through my paternal grandfather. If I go through my maternal grandmother, he is my great-great-grandaunt’s husband. I ran a relationship report on Edy for myself and found the 1C2R relationship through my grandfather. I ran it again on one of his children, and I am also a first cousin, twice removed to them, though through my grandmother’s line. Genealogy can be weird sometimes when people cross the streams.

My first connection to Edy is through my father → his father (Richard ZALEWSKI) → his father (Joseph ZALEWSKI) → his sister (Martha ZALEWSKI) → her son (Edy STRELKA). The second connection is through my father → his mother (Mary Jane CORRIGAN) → her father (Maurice CORRIGAN) → his sister (Ethel CORRIGAN) → her husband (Edy STRELKA).

Milwaukee

Edy was born 19 September 1909 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to John & Martha (ZALEWSKI) STRELKA. Martha is my paternal great-grandfather’s older sister. Martha passed away in 1930 at the age of 45 when Edy was 21. In July 1933, Edy married Ethel CORRIGAN, my maternal great-grandfather’s sister. It is actually due to this marriage that my grandmother meets my grandfather, so in turn, partly why I exist today. Ethel was living in Milwaukee in 1930 with her mother and a few other siblings. Her mother had re-married after my great-great-grandfather died in 1915. I’m told my grandmother was down in Milwaukee working when she met my grandfather.

I do actually have video of Edy, along with many of the other Corrigan family. I put it on YouTube a few years back. There is no sound, but I did put some quiet music over it. Edy was found and bookmarked in a few places, thanks to my first cousin twice removed, Jackie. You can view the video here. To view Edy’s clips, just browse to the description and click on the timestamps. It will take you there automatically.

The Grocery Business

Edy ran a grocery store in Milwaukee in 1940s/1950s called “Edy’s Food Market.” I found it listed in the 1950 Milwaukee City Directory. It was the earliest year I could find it. The directories they had from the 1940s were missing a lot of pages. It was located at 2900 N 7th St. Today that location is still a food store called 7th Street Foods, though the area may be a bit different. It’s also shown a bit in the video I mentioned above and linked in the video description. Before that, in 1937, it looks like Edy worked for the Chicago and Northwestern Railway Company as a Yard Clerk according to railroad employment records. According to his obituary, he also ran a place called “Edy’s Recreation” on E. Clarke St.

Edy and Ethel had two daughters. I don’t have a lot of information on the family after the 1940s, but at some point I think they moved north to Random Lake in Sheboygan County. Edy passed away on 2 May 1990 in Milwaukee at the age of 80. They are now buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Random Lake. They were originally interred at Holy Cross Cemetery in Milwaukee. I know this because of the information I had and when I went to take photos a few years ago, I could not find them. The person working there told me they were moved to Random Lake. I’m not sure why.

DNA

In terms of DNA, I probably share some with Edy. Though, I do not have any known connections that descend from him. Since we both came from the Zalewski family, it’s very possible. We don’t share Y-DNA, since his connection to Frank & Anna Zalewski is through his mother. His mtDNA would be up through Anna’s line and then through her mother, Eva Sonefeld. I do have at least one known connection with the Zalewski line, though it matches one generation back before my great-great-grandparents.

Doing this post does give me a few things to do. I’m going to try to contact Edy & Ethel’s daughters, or grandchildren, to see if they may have any photos of Edy’s mother Martha and beyond.

The second ancestor in my 52 Ancestors project this year is my maternal great-great-grandfather, Carl Friedrich Herman LAST, also known as Charles. I’m related to Charles via my mother → her father (LeRoy THIELKE) → his mother (Madora LAST) → her father (Carl LAST).

Germany

From the information we have, Charles was born in the small town of Döringshagen, Naugard, Pommern, Germany on 26 September 1851. This area is now known as Wołowiec, Zachodniopomorskie, Poland. He was the second child, and first son, of Johann & Charlotte (STRASSMAN) LAST. Even though I’ve found the baptism and marriage records for both of his parents, I have yet to find his baptismal record in the Germany/Prussia/Pomerania church records available online.

When Charles was 5 years old, his family left Germany and traveled to the United States from Hamburg to New York, arriving on 14 September 1857. From there they made there way to southeastern Wisconsin, settling in the town of Grafton in Ozaukee County.

Wisconsin

Plat Map of Grafton, Wisconsin, 1892 – Charles Last land is yellow box at right.

Charles and his family lived in the Grafton area from 1860 through the 1880 census records. On February 25, 1883, Charles marries another German girl, Augusta LUEDTKE in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I have yet to figure out why they were married 25 miles south in Milwaukee. It is possible that Charles was temporarily living there. I think Augusta lived there at the time, but I have no proof of that as she immigrated in 1881, just after the census record.

I think Charles and his family ended up taking over his parent’s farm as it seems they were in the same area in the 1900, 1910 and 1920 census records.

On June 5, 1926, Charles passed away at the age of 74, of what they labeled as “Apoplexy.” Today, they would probably call that a stroke. It is said to have been caused partly by senile dementia. He is buried nearby at Union Cemetery in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

DNA

I do actually have some info on the DNA I possibly received from Carl and his wife. I have a DNA match that is related to me through Carl and his wife Augusta, through one of their daughters (my great-grandmother’s sister.) I actually received a few photos of Carl and his family from them.

  • Chromosome 15: 50 – 60
  • Chromosome 23: 118 – 134 & 146 – 155

There are a few other matches that overlap this area, but I have yet to confirm anything with them.

Firmenich Family 1895

I decided to start up the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks project again. I last did it in 2014, even though I didn’t make it all the way through. Even if I don’t again this year, it still allows me to dig deeper into specific ancestors. As always, you can view all of the 52 ancestors here, updated as I post.

The first ancestor of 2017 is my paternal 3rd-great-grandmother, Pauline Henrietta (THOMPSON) FIRMENICH, also known as Polly. I’m related to her via my father → his mother (Mary Jane CORRIGAN) → her father (Maurice CORRIGAN) → his mother (Emma Jane FIRMENICH) → her mother (Polly THOMPSON).

Granville

Polly Thompson was born on 5 May 1849 in the town of Granville, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. She first shows up in the 1850 Census for Granville at one year old with her parents William and Frances THOMPSON and siblings. Granville is still mentioned today, though more of as an area of Milwaukee than an incorporated location. It is on the north side of Milwaukee County near today’s Brown Deer and Menomonee Falls.

By the time the 1860 Census rolls around, Polly and her family have moved north on to the town of Morrison, Brown County, Wisconsin presumably with the Firmenich family who also lived in Granville. On February 11th, 1867, Polly marries one of the Firmenich men by the name of Mathias FIRMENICH. According to the Wisconsin Marriage Certificate, the marriage took place in the nearby town of Holland and the witnesses were Chas F Cross and Polly’s sister, Emilia Thompson.

Their first child, Albert, is born in nearby Wrightstown in March 1868. Two more followed before the birth of my great-great-grandmother, Emma Jane, in June 1873. When all was said and done, they had a total of 13 children. According to the obituary of Emma Jane in 1941, the Firmenich family moved from Wrightstown in 1882, finally settling way in the north of Wisconsin into the forests of Ashland County.

Outbreak

Tragedy struck in early September 1885 when an outbreak of Diphtheria plagued the family. Within only a few days, the disease took the lives of at least three of their children, though probably four, including Hattie (6), Edmond (4), Sarah (2), and possibly Anna (8). Adding to the chaos was the fact that Polly was pregnant during this time as their daughter Rose was born there on September 20th, 1885.

Polly shows up again in the 1900 Census and 1905 Wisconsin State Census in Ashland. In 1910, Polly passes away. I have no exact date, just the date from her headstone at Saint Agnes Cemetery in Ashland where she is buried near the children she lost in 1885. She is not listed in the 1910 Census, Mathias being listed a “Widowed.” The Census for their home was taken on April 30th, 1910, so we can assume she passed away sometime before then.

I have only one photo of Polly, which is the from the family photo on this post. I estimate the photo was taken sometime around 1895 based on the ages of the children and (not joking) Mathias’ beard length.

Something new I’d like to add to these posts this year is determining if and how DNA may play a role in my relationship. I have yet to find any proven DNA that I share directly with Polly. I do have matches from that side of the tree that share Polly as an ancestor with me, but we don’t yet know where those chromosomes or positions may be.

I recently got back into doing some genealogical research on my family. For awhile I’ve felt stuck on most lines since I’ve gone as far as the most common records go. A lot of my research now requires even more research into finding the records themselves. I need to make a lot of Family History Center stops and browse through microfilm, or hopefully do it from my home when FamilySearch digitizes it.

Imagine my surprise when doing some basic record updating on some of my great-great-grandmother, Anna (Lindner) Zalewski’s siblings. I know her younger brother John was also found in Milwaukee and I had sources from the census records. I also found his naturalization record, which not only included his date of arrival and port (29 Mar 1908, New York), but also included the witnesses. They were my great-grandfather, Joseph Zalewski, and his brother-in-law, John Strelka (husband of Martha Zalewski.)  So, I knew I had the right John Lindner.

No one on Ancestry had a passenger list attached to their John Lindner entries. I mean, he came into New York in 1908, the record had to be there. That was when Ellis Island was being used. So, I plugged in different combinations of options into the search through the “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957” database. I went through each one and almost gave up when I spotted the name “Yohann Lendner” at the bottom of the results. The arrival date was a month off from the naturalization record (29 Feb 1908), but the birth was very close. I clicked on it to confirm it was wrong when I spotted his immediate family that matched, two siblings that matched, and then the jackpot, his mother (my 3rd-great-grandmother) that matched.

lindner

I had no idea that my 3rd-great-grandmother, Eva (Sońefeld) Lindner, ever came to the United States. It seems her husband, Johann, had passed away as she was listed as “Widowed.” Fortunately for me, this passenger list also had more details like where they last resided and a relative of their’s in the “old world.” The weird thing is that for everyone in the Lindner family, including the relative, they listed Gelsenkirchen, Rheinland as their last residence. This place still exists, now located in the North Rhine-Westphalia area of western Germany. This is a pretty good distance from the place I found them last, which was then called Schwenten in today’s north-central Poland. It’s not out of the realm of possibility, but it adds so many more questions.

One other big question is where did Eva go? She’s not listed in the 1910 Census with any of the Lindner children or by herself (as far as I’ve found so far.) I also have yet to find any death record for her. All I know now is that she made it to New York in 1908, but I don’t know if she ever made it to Milwaukee. I mean, she was 68 years old and at that time that was pretty old. I also find it funny that I found her record of arrival in 1908 on that same day the Chicago Cubs won their first World Series since 1908.

As always, more questions than answers, but that’s what we love, isn’t it?

MJSUnfortunately, due to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel removing their archives from Google News and “moving to a new vendor”, my Milwaukee Death Index will probably no longer be updated. Unless I can find another, preferably free, source of data, it will be difficult to do this in my spare time. The information that is already transcribed will always stay online and active.

Full disclosure, I currently work for the company that owns the MJS, which is why I’m a bit torn on how I feel, though I have no control over this aspect. A bit of a back story, which follows the story of many old newspapers, may help. When I started working for this company, it was called Journal Communications and the only daily newspaper it owned, basically from the beginning, was the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, along with a few dozen radio and TV stations. In 2015, the company shed it’s broadcast properties and picked up 13 more newspapers during a split/merge with another large media company. After that, it became Journal Media Group. At the end of 2015, Gannett Co., Inc purchased JMG. MJS is now under Gannett, which owns a lot of other newspapers. It seems they use another contractor for their newspaper archives, so they removed them from Google News. I know nothing more about that process and I found out like everyone else, when I tried to access it. Let’s hope it comes back, it was an immense collection of historical data for this whole area going back to about 1889.

RedditThere is a site out there that a lot of you may not be using for genealogy and/or history, reddit.com. Reddit usually does lean a bit toward the younger audience and I think it may sometimes get a bad rap in the mainstream media due to some of it’s more shady users, but it has a lot of helpful potential if you know what to look for.

This post isn’t for explaining the basics of Reddit or as a beginner’s guide, other people do a better job of that. Reddit is sometimes described as the “front page of the Internet.” Down to its core, Reddit is “a message board wherein users submit links. What differentiates it from a real-time information network like Twitter is that the stream of content is curated by the community” according to the article I linked previously.

Reddit itself is nothing without what they call subreddits. These are basically forums split up by category, but they are much more than that. More than likely, if you’re looking mostly for genealogy and history, the “main” subreddits you see by default won’t interest you as much. The power of Reddit comes in when you find that one subreddit for that one specific topic that you’re passionate about. Here you will find many other passionate users who you can interact with and share knowledge. And believe me, they probably have a subreddit for every niche you can think of.

Here are some of the most interesting subreddits (in no particular order) that I subscribe to for genealogy and/or history.
FYI: You do not need an account on Reddit to view content (in most cases) but you need one to subscribe to subreddits, comment, upvote, or save things.

  • /r/genealogy – this one is self-explanatory. A lot of helpful people here sometimes doing lookups, doing transcriptions, asking interesting questions, sharing brick wall stories, etc. A good place to start.
  • /r/100yearsago – a subreddit for interesting things that happened 100 years ago to the day, every day.
  • /r/VictorianEra – Images, video, and articles from the Victorian Era.
  • /r/earlyphotography – A place to post images from the early days of photography.
  • /r/1920s – Images, video, and articles from and about the 1920s.
  • /r/1950s – Images, video, and articles from and about the 1950s.
  • /r/CemeteryPorn – I know that it has that word in the title, but don’t worry. They use it to mean exciting images from that specific topic. In this case, cemeteries. I’ve always loved photos from old, beautiful cemeteries.
  • /r/ColorizedHistory – Old, historic photos that have been manually colorized by very talented people. Changes the way you see certain historical events and people.
  • /r/23andme – Posts about testing at 23andme.com. Questions, comments, finding matches, etc.
  • /r/AncientMigrations – If you’re interested in your deep, deep ancestry, this subreddit involves ancient human migration, genetic genealogy and DNA ancestry.
  • /r/history – Everything and anything about historical events or people. It has some really interesting posts and conversation.
  • /r/AskHistorians – A place where users ask questions about history and historical events and get answers from experts in that area. Sometimes fascinating.
  • /r/historynetwork – This subreddit is sort of a aggregation of many different history related subreddits.
  • /r/TheWayWeWere – Described as “What was normal everyday life like for people living 50, 100, or more years ago?” Neat pictures of normal things in the past.
  • /r/TheWayWeWereOnVideo – A sister subreddit to the one above, but specializing in videos rather than photos.

I hope you find something interesting and amazing in those subreddits. Be aware, you may get lost in one and never return due to all of the neat things in it.

This little pedigree looks like it has been sweeping Facebook recently, so I thought I’d put one together on my family. I first saw it on my feed from Miriam at AnceStories.

Click for larger
Click for larger

If it’s hard for you to view that whole image, you can also view it via Google Sheets here.

It was neat to see all of the birth locations of my ancestors back to my 3rd great-grandparents all in once place. Only 2 “Unknown” entries, which is pretty good (on my surname line, of all places.) I also always assumed my maternal line has been in Wisconsin the longest since they arrived in the early 1850s. It actually looks like one of my paternal ancestors, Pauline (THOMPSON) Firmenich was born in Wisconsin in 1849, only one year after it became an official state.

Back to my great-grandparents, all of my ancestors were born in Wisconsin, with the exception of my grandfather. He was born in Chicago when my great-grandparents lived there for a few years in the 1920s. My earliest US ancestor is my 3rd great-grandfather, William CORRIGAN, who was born somewhere in the US in 1823. It is assumed probably New York, but we’re not sure. They stopped in that area before continuing on to Canada.

One of the things I received from my grandparent’s house within the last few years is an album full of very old, but unlabeled photos. While on one hand, it’s awesome. The photos are in great condition and there are dozens of them. On the other hand, I have no idea who these people are. Most people I could talk to about it are no longer with us. Fortunately, my grandfather’s older sister, my great aunt Eleanore, is still alive at 94. UPDATE (10/26/16): I did get to visit with my great aunt, though she has no idea who is in any of the photos. So, no luck there.

old-photo-album
Front cover of the album

The album is in pretty good shape overall for being very old. Most of the photos are of the Cabinet Card variety, but there are a few Tintypes included. The Cabinet Cards are from photography studios mainly in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but also from Connecticut and Port Washington in Wisconsin and as far away as Chemnitz and Rostock in Germany.

I’ve been able to scan all of the photos, back and front, so I shouldn’t need to keep moving them around. A lot of the pages are pretty fragile and some of the photo holders are ripping and breaking. There are both large and small photos.

An example of one of the pages.
An example of one of the pages.

I”m going to try my best to determine what I can about the photos. I hope to take you on the journey with me as I post my findings here. It may be as simple as visiting my great aunt and her telling me who everyone is (wouldn’t that be nice?) At the very least, I will get each of the photos posted online with as much info as I can. Maybe someone, somewhere will know more about it.