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.

The nineteenth ancestor in my 52 week challenge is my 3rd-great-grandfather, Herman RATHKE.

According to vital records and his headstone, Herman was born 22 February 1831. Though, the place of birth is somewhat more of a mystery as I have only been able to track it to “Germany” which could mean almost anywhere in central Europe at the time. Herman’s parents are unknown to me at this time, also.

At some point, he married Fredericke C HENKE. On 1 September 1857, my ancestor, and their first child (as far as I can tell) Wilomene “Minnie” RATHKE was born. Her birthplace has been documented as “Pommerania, Prussia” which could also mean many different locations. According to other records, including census records, Herman and Fredericke had 3 more sons, Fred, Math, and Carl.

In February 1887, the Rathke family, along with Minnie and her first husband, Frederick Holz, emigrated to the United States. They settled in Grafton, Ozaukee County, Wisconsin.

Herman is never actually listed in any of the census records as he passed away in February 1898. He is buried at Union Cemetery in Port Washington, Wisconsin, which is quite near Grafton.

This post is 19 of 52 in the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” Challenge” begun by Amy Johnson Crow.

The eighteenth ancestor in my 52 week challenge is my wife’s paternal 4th-great-grandfather, Peyton H WEY.

Peyton was probably born on 31 October 1805 in Fauquier County, Virginia. His parents are documented as Henry & Molly (CRUPPER) WEY.

On 12 November 1829, he married Rachel MINK in Lovettsville, Loudoun County, Virginia, which is adjacent to Farquier County. All of their children are noted to have been born in Virginia. Sometime after these children were born, the family moved to Preble County, Ohio. They lived there for a few years. Their daughter, and my wife’s ancestor, Mary married there in 1851.

Not long after that marriage, the families traveled from Ohio to Wisconsin, as they are in the 1860 Census for Crawford County, Wisconsin. There is a note for Peyton in my database, though I seem to have not noted where it came from that says:

The family came in covered wagons from Ohio to Wisconsin.  Mary (daughter) was married in Ohio and drove one of the wagons.  Peyton Wey was a basket maker and also a school teacher.  He also had a “sugar camp”.  Alfred Johnson, quoting his grandmother Margaret, said Peyton had a very bad temper.  The oldest son (Thomas) ran away before they moved to Wisconsin.

Peyton’s wife Rachel passed away in December 1870, and he married again in 1874 to a Mary Dawson. He passed away not long after this on 4 May 1882. He is buried in West Fork Cemetery in the small township of Richwood in Richland County, Wisconsin.

This post is 18 of 52 in the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” Challenge” begun by Amy Johnson Crow.

Not William Corrigan, but his brother, Patrick. I have no photo of William, but I assume he looked similar.
Not William Corrigan, but his brother, Patrick. I have no photo of William, but I assume he looked similar.

The seventeenth ancestor in my 52 week challenge is my paternal 3rd-great-grandfather, William “Curly Bill” CORRIGAN.

I don’t know exactly how he got the nickname Curly Bill, though I can only assume it was hair-related, but here’s hoping it was some other crazy reason.

There is some uncertain information on the birthplace of William. All of the information says he was born in 1823, but it is tough to pinpoint him. Many different records mention many different places, though most are in the same general vicinity. William was born not long after his parents, Michael John & Rose (NUGENT) CORRIGAN immigrated from Northern Ireland in about 1821. He is listed as having been born in New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and just the general United States. There is also some info that says that William was born during their voyage to North America. If he was born after the trip, my money is on either New York or Pennsylvania as history points to the Corrigan family possibly working on the Erie Canal as it was being built during this time and they used a lot of Irish workers. According to Wikipedia, “many of the laborers working on the canal were Scots Irish, who had recently come to the United States as a group of about 5,000 from Northern Ireland.” Sometime after William was born his family settled in the small town of Mara in Ontario, Canada.

William married Mary McCANN in November 1848 in Ontario. It is documented that they had about 12 children, their 3rd child being my great-great-grandfather, Thomas J CORRIGAN. Canadian census records indicate that William was mainly a farmer and lived in a 1-story, log home in 1861. The family was also Roman Catholic.

William passed away on 13 July 1876 in the Mara township. I am assuming he is buried in same cemetery in Uptergrove in that area along with a lot of the other Corrigan family members, but I have yet to find his headstone.

This post is 17 of 52 in the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” Challenge” begun by Amy Johnson Crow.

The sixteenth ancestor in my 52 week challenge is Emma Lucretia (DOUGLAS) LANT. She is my wife’s maternal 3rd-great-grandmother.

She is said to be born 16 October 1845 in New York City according to census records and her entry at Find-A-Grave. Her parents are Randolph & Sarah Emma (MOORE) DOUGLAS. New York City is known to have pretty good records, so I should be able to do some more deep research of Emma and her family.

At some point she ended up in Wisconsin. I’m not sure if her whole family came with because I don’t have a lot more information on her parents. In about 1865 she married George William LANT somewhere in Wisconsin. They settled in Almond, Portage County, Wisconsin as their first 6 children (out of 8) were born there, including my wife’s ancestor, Nettie Adalin LANT, in 1873.

I always thought her middle name of Lucretia was interesting. It’s a name that isn’t seen all too often. A quick search indicates that the name is best known as “the name of a Roman matron who committed suicide in public protest against dishonor.” She may have been named after her maternal grandmother, who we have documented as Lucretia RYON. I don’t remember doing a lot of research of that family line, so I don’t know much more.

Emma passed away on 9 September 1909 in Waupaca, Waupaca County, Wisconsin. She is buried back in Almond at the Almond Village Cemetery.

This post is 16 of 52 in the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” Challenge” begun by Amy Johnson Crow.

The fifteenth ancestor is my 52 week challenge is my maternal 3rd-great-grandfather, Jean Joseph Desire DeBROUX.

When I originally received the information on this family, it was only listed as Desire & Desiree DeBroux. That was the info I had for the longest time. They always caught my eye since it was such an interesting set of names.

Later on, I found out that Desire was born Jean Joseph Desire DeBROUX on 16 February 1830 to Jean Joseph & Anne Catherine (LANGELE) DeBROUX. He was born in the small village of Piétrebais in the Walloon Brabant Province of Belgium.

The next fact I have documented for Desire was his marriage to Desiree, also known as Marie Desiree LOOD, on 30 November 1854 in Piétrebais. They had their first child, Victorie Marie, in Piétrebais in 1855 before setting out for America in around 1857, settling in the center of the state of Wisconsin, mainly in the Outagamie County and Langlade County areas.

My great-great grandfather Joseph Wilbert DeBROUX was born in Outagamie County in May 1865.

Desire and Desiree passed away not too far apart from each other. Desire passed away on 6 April 1912 and Desiree on 19 November 1912 in the small Norwood Township in Langlade County, Wisconsin. They are both buried at St. Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery in that township.

This post is 15 of 52 in the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” Challenge” begun by Amy Johnson Crow.

James Collins headstoneThe fourteenth ancestor in my 52 week challenge is my wife’s great-great-grandfather, James A COLLINS. James is a bit of a mystery. He had ancestors and now he doesn’t.

The information I originally had for James Collins listed his parents as Daniel and Elizabeth Collins. This information is everywhere on other trees posted online, so it made sense. All of the information included in census records matched up pretty well. Then, when researching his wife, I tracked down her parents in an 1860 census record. His wife is Elizabeth ENYART and her parents were Nelson and Margarent ENYART. The reason it took a bit to finally track them down is that the Enyart surname is prone to being butchered in the records. In this 1860 census, it was written as Inard. I also ended up finding the marriage record for James and Elizabeth in that same county, which is what originally drove me to look there in the first place.

I found the family living in Miller, Scotland County, Missouri. In this census record, there is a James Collins living with the family as a farmhand. In November of 1860, I found the marriage record of James and Elizabeth. My original information had James living in Iowa with Daniel Collins. The James living in Missouri made a lot more sense since he was married there and his wife’s family lived there. This removes the Daniel Collins line from my wife’s tree, though the problem still exists on almost every version of James’ tree I still find online.

The family then relocated to Wisconsin as James joined the 6th Wisconsin Regiment, Company K in late 1864. In the 1870 census, James and his wife are living in Richwood Township in Richland County in southwestern Wisconsin. They would live out the rest of their lives in this area of the state.

On March 14, 1903, James passed away. He is buried with his wife at Tavera Cemetery in Richwood.

This post is 14 of 52 in the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” Challenge” begun by Amy Johnson Crow.

Braatz FamilyThe thirteenth ancestor in my 52 week challenge is my paternal 3rd-great-grandmother, Maria (KLEGIN) BRAATZ.

The only documented evidence that I have seen of Maria’s birth was from her death certificate which states that she was born 15 Februrary 1842 in Schoenwalde, Germany. Trouble is that there is no modern city with that name and multiple historical cities with that name. Some basic research from other experts suggests that it may be somewhere in the northern area of Germany, as Klegin is a somewhat rare surname. Though, I also don’t know how solid the evidence is that her surname is actually Klegin as that is also from her death certificate, so it was given by a third party.

A glimmer of  hope, though, is that her son, my great-great-grandfather, Frank Braatz is listed as having been born in Bavaria, Germany. I did a search for Schoenwalde and Bavaria and it turns out that there is a municipality in Bavaria named Schönwald. I may be on to something.

She married Wilhelm BRAATZ at some point, probably the mid 1860s, and gave birth to their first child (and my ancestor) Frank. Shortly after, they decided to leave Germany and head to Wisconsin. On 15 June 1868, they arrived in New York aboard the Ship Auguste traveling from Bremen, Germany. They first settled in New London in Waupaca County, Wisconsin where their next child, William, was born. Next, their third and final child, Ida, was born.

They seemed to have stayed in Waupaca County as Maria passed away there in March 1890 and is buried there at Little Wolf Cemetery. Mysteriously, I lose Wilhelm after 1880. I’m assuming he passed away and is also buried there, but I have yet to find documentation on that.

I think the photo at the right is a photo of Wilhelm, Maria, and Frank as the photo was in a frame that my grandmother had. It was also labeled something like “Grandma and Grandpa Braatz” assuming it was originally in the possession of my great-grandmother as they look nothing like my grandmother’s Braatz grandparents. It’s also labeled as being taken in a studio in the New London/Oshkosh area of Wisconsin, where the Braatz family lived for quite awhile.

This post is 13 of 52 in the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” Challenge” begun by Amy Johnson Crow.

The twelfth ancestor on my 52 week challenge is my wife’s great-great-grandfather on her maternal side, Alexander Felix BANACH (or sometimes BANNACH.)

He was born on 26 August 1869 in, what is today, Śliwice, Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship in north-central Poland. His baptism is listed on the wonderful Pomeranian Genealogical Association’s PomGenBase website. In April 1891, he left his home in Poland and set out on a ship from Hamburg, Germany as mentioned in the Hamburger Passagierlisten database. We’re not exactly sure when or where he arrived, but in 1894, he married Mary WOYAK (or sometimes WOJAK) in Polonia, Portage County, Wisconsin. Portage County, along with Milwaukee, was a major hub for Polish immigrants in Wisconsin.

According to census and other documentation, Felix, as he was usually called, and Mary had 12 children altogether from 1895 to 1921. The second child born was my wife’s great-grandfather, Julius, in 1897. Sometime between 1920 and 1930, the family moved to Waukegan, Lake County, Illinois, possibly due to Felix’s jobs, as he was a papermaker. Paper companies were a big industry in central Wisconsin along the Wisconsin River.

On Halloween 1943, Felix passed away. He is buried with his family at Ascension Cemetery in Libertyville, Illinois.

This post is 12 of 52 in the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” Challenge” begun by Amy Johnson Crow.

The eleventh person in my 52 week challenge is actually not an ancestor this week. During research on my THIELKE line, I decided to do some research on my great-great-grandfather Johann’s siblings. I had a lot of luck with his sister, Minnie THIELKE.

I originally ran across her name in the 1860 Census for Grafton, Ozaukee, Wisconsin as a sister to Johann. She is again listed with the family in 1870. In 1880, she is living in downtown Milwaukee as a servant for the Jos A Cochrane family. Using some clever searches with her parent’s names on FamilySearch, I ran across her Wisconsin marriage record in 1882.

She married Thomas R Evans on 1 May 1882. Using their names as search entries, I found that they had two children, Florence and Walter. It seems the marriage ended sometime before 1894, as Minnie is married again on 13 Oct 1894 to a Ernest H Reif in Milwaukee. She had two more children from this marriage, Ernest and Violet.

I can mostly trace her through the census records during this time, also. She is living in Milwaukee in the 1900 Census. I can’t find the family in the 1910 Census, even though I tried many different searches. In the 1920 Census, she is living in Chicago at 2638 W Adams St. She passed away on 30 Jan 1920 and is buried at Forest Home Cemetery in that city. Thanks to a helpful Find-A-Grave member, her headstone has also been located.

The Adams St location is also helpful since based on my great aunt’s Cook County, Illinois birth record, her parents (my great-grandparents) were living at that same address in 1921. That was another piece of information that helped me solidify the connection from Minnie to my Thielke family. Also in Minnie’s household in 1920 is her brother Fred (aka Fritz) Thielke, whom I assume was still living there in 1921. My great-grandfather may have moved down to Chicago to find work and ended up living with his aunt’s family and uncle. They were there during most of the 1920s, but back to Grafton in the 1930 Census.

I did a bit of digging down the tree from Minnie to hopefully find living cousins and it was tough. Though, I think I did find a living relative, though if he is still alive he would be 96. I went out on a limb and sent a letter through the mail based on an address I found. Here’s to hoping he has info (or even a photo) of his grandmother, Minnie.

This post is 11 of 52 in the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” Challenge” begun by Amy Johnson Crow.

Now that FamilySearch Family Tree is live and they also allow other programs to access that data on your behalf, we’re able to do cool things with it. RootsMagic allows you to connect members of your local family tree database to FamilySearch Family Tree where you can copy data and sources back and forth.

But, there are also other cool things that some websites are doing with your data. Puzzilla.org is one of those sites. They allow you to view a descendant or ancestor tree visually using the data on FamilySearch. Here is my ancestor tree out to 14-generations.

Brian Zalewski Ancestor Tree
Click for larger

I am the small blue, circled square at the bottom. As you can tell, my maternal side is much more filled out inside of FamilySearch. I have cleaned up back about 4-5 generations, but beyond that, it’s all based on what other people have added. Remember, this is just what info FamilySearch has in their Family Tree. For example, the little orange squares mean that the individual died before the age of 16, which seems odd to have for ancestors that had children.

The cool feature that I love to use with this site is choosing a distant ancestor and viewing their descendant tree. It allows you to see distant cousins you never knew you had. Plus, it looks really neat when you do it for a “super” ancestor like Zacharie Cloutier who “had 10,850 French-Canadian descendants, the most of any Quebec colonist” and is my 11th-great-grandfather. Here is his descendant view only down 4 generations.

Zacharie Cloutier Descendant Tree
Click for larger

How cool looking is that? If you look hard enough, you can see the yellow lines that lead to my family lines. Again, lots and lots of “died before 16” marks, which may be due to bad/wrong data inside the Family Tree. This is also a good way to see bad/wrong data and go in and fix it.

I love being able to use data for non-standard purposes like this and I hope a lot of other creative people plug into the FamilySearch API and make more of these.

Richard & Mary Jane Zalewski

I am slowly entering the realm of using video for genealogy. I literally just started my genealogy YouTube channel yesterday. I have two videos up there now, but they are just an old home movie and a slideshow I made awhile back. In most browsers, the following links to my videos should pop open a video player right on the site without requiring you to leave.

The old home movie is a collection of clips from the 1940s of my Corrigan family. It’s probably not super exciting to non-family members, but it is a neat look into that time period in video format. Though, there is no audio except for some music. I did try to do some stabilization to the original video as it gets hard to watch sometimes. Those 1940s video cameras didn’t really have stabilization technology.

The slideshow video is the same one I have posted of this site before that I made for my grandmother’s funeral in 2011. Though, since some of the music I used is copyright, it had some issues on YouTube. I had to remove the flagged songs from that version, so it just wasn’t the same. I have since re-uploaded the video with some royalty-free music. You can still view the un-edited original here on this site using my local video player.

My long-term plan is to do some more videos about my family, how-tos, etc. I have some ideas, but I need to figure out the logistics of getting them done, especially with two small children at home and not a very good recording setup. I get inspiration from channels like Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems channel.

I do feel that YouTube and video are going to be the next leap in terms of genealogy. There is a lot that can be done with video that is tough to do with text or pictures only. Wish me luck.