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 tenth ancestor in my 52 week challenge is my wife’s great-great-grandfather, George Washington SHANNON.

George was born on September 11th, 1859 in the small town of Stockton in Portage County, Wisconsin. His parents were Nathaniel SHANNON & Rosina Winslow ARNOLD. He was the eighth child of ten and according to the data I have, the first born in Wisconsin.

On October 3rd, 1899, he married Mary DAKINS, the daughter of William DAKINS and Helen WARNER in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. About a year later, the couple’s one, and only, daughter was born, Marie SHANNON. Tragedy struck in 1904, when Mary died of peritonitis, which can be caused by things such as abdominal trauma or even appendicitis.

Not much is known about George after Mary’s death. His daughter, Marie, is found in the 1910 Census living with Mary’s parents. There is no matching George Shannon in the 1910 Census. Though, in the 1920 Census, there is a widowed “G W Shanon”, born in Wisconsin in 1860, living in Winan, Rice, Kansas, though that lists his parents as having both been born in Ireland, which is very false.

There is also an inmate at the Albany County Penitentiary in New York in 1905, born in the United States in 1858. Though, not sure why he would be in Albany, New York only a year after his wife’s death, but it’s not an impossibility. More than likely, though, he is the widowed Geo Shanon living in Plover, Portage, Wisconsin working for the Geo D Warner family (his mother-in-law’s maiden name was Warner) in the 1905 Wisconsin Census.

He is listed, in my database, as having died in February 1930 in Limon, Lincoln, Colorado. There is no source on the information and I really don’t know where it came from, but I leave it in there just in case there is something to it. Maybe one day we’ll track him down.

This post is 10 of 52 in the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” Challenge” begun by Amy Johnson Crow.

Richard & Mary Jane ZalewskiToday marks 15 years since my paternal grandfather, Richard Zalewski, passed away. His death was the first major death in my immediate family, so I remember taking it pretty hard even though he had been sick for awhile.

I actually remember, pretty well, the last time I saw him and talked to him. My girlfriend, at the time, and I were going to Milwaukee for some reason and we stopped by to see how he was doing. Even though the pancreatic cancer was taking its toll on him, he was cheerful and in good spirits, like I usually remembered him (unless we were misbehaving, naturally.) I’m glad that I still have that vivid memory of him 15 years later.

Another moment I vividly remember from that time was when I was attending his funeral. I was sitting in my dad’s truck waiting to follow the procession to the cemetery and one of my favorite songs came on the radio, Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters.” The timing of the heartfelt song and what was happening around me caused me to break down into tears which, at the time, I had not done in many years. To this day, that song reminds me of my grandfather and that moment in the car and truthfully makes me feel happy.

Though, his death, and a subsequent newspaper article related to FamilySearch, sent me on a deep dive into the ocean we all know as genealogy. I have yet to come to the surface of that ocean and probably never will. Like most of us, I plan to grow gills and live in that ocean like a genealogical merman.

I know that he would be proud of the information I’ve gathered on his family tree and, unfortunately, he would’ve probably been a great help in tracking down some of the information I am still looking for. If anything, kids, this is a notice to visit your grandparents and allow them to tell you their stories. Even if you think the stories are boring and never plan to go into genealogy, it will definitely make you feel like you know them better and that will bring you comfort for many, many years.

The ninth ancestor in my 52 week challenge is my 4th-great-grandfather, William Henry THOMPSON.  With a name like William Thompson, how hard can it be to pinpoint him?

This has been my trouble with William. I have records of him starting in 1850 once his family settled in Wisconsin, but before that is a mystery. If I do a search based on his information, I get thousands of results.

William ThompsonAccording to the sources I do have, William was born sometime between 1810 and 1816 in either England, Ireland, or Scotland. His headstone says he was 77 years of age when he died in 1890, so I usually use 1813 as his birth year. There is a Wisconsin death record over at FamilySearch that I’m pretty sure is this William Thompson that lists his parents as William THOMPSON and Fasmie RUINNET. Though, a lot of other user’s information lists his parents as Edward & Isabella THOMPSON, but no solid sources so far.

According to my records, in 1839, he married Claude-Françoise “Francis” QUINET in Syracuse, New York. I have yet to find solid evidence of this marriage, but the Quinet family was recorded to have been in that area during that time. They must have left not long after the marriage, as their first child was born in Wisconsin in 1841. They settled in in Granville, Milwaukee Co., Wisconsin, which is now no longer around, but part of multiple towns in the area. Sometime between 1854 and 1857, they relocated north to the Morrison and Wrightstown area in Brown County, Wisconsin.

On 4 February 1890, William passed away and is buried next to his wife at St. Paul’s Cemetery in Wrightstown. I wrote a post about our trip to that area and the finding of William’s resting place.

This post is 9 of 52 in the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” Challenge” begun by Amy Johnson Crow.

The eight ancestor is my 52 week challenge is my wife’s paternal great-grandmother, Anna (HUIZEL) COLLINS. I’m not completely sure of the pronunciation of that surname, but I’ve heard both Oot-zuhl and Ooh-zuhl.

Anna (Huizel) Collins - unknown year
Anna (Huizel) Collins – unknown year

Anna was born around July 1881 in what is today, Netolice in the Prachatice District, South Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic. In 1881, I think this was just considered Bohemia. Her parents are John HUIZEL and Barbara REINDL. There is no birth record that we have found, yet, but I did find records of her parent’s marriage and the births of some of her other siblings in the area.

I basically tripped into the Czech records one day while browsing FamilySearch. I found a lot of info on her family at the online records available at the State Regional Archives Trebon. I got a lot of help from a very well-done blog about Czech Genealogy. You can read more about what I found on a post I wrote about it.

Anna immigrated from Bohemia around 1885-1888 with her parents. On Valentine’s Day 1899, she married Albert COLLINS in Cerro Gordo County, Iowa, where her parents resided. Albert and Anna had four children, including my wife’s grandmother, Barbara.

One of Anna’s siblings, a brother named Jacob, gave us one of the first humorous family mysteries. We had some photos from her grandmother and one of them was a photo of a gentleman and all it said on the back was “Uncle. One arm.” We ended up finding out that this was Anna’s brother, Jacob, whom we all refer to now as “Uncle One-Arm.”

Albert passed away around 1945 and Anna lived on in Madison, Wisconsin until she passed away in 1945. She is buried with her husband in Boscobel, Grant County, Wisconsin, where they lived for many years.

This post is 8 of 52 in the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” Challenge” begun by Amy Johnson Crow.

The seventh ancestor in my 52 Week Challenge is my paternal great-great-grandfather, Joseph TROKA (pronounced like Truck-a).

Joseph Troka and his wife, Clara.
Joseph Troka and his wife, Clara in 1944.

Joseph was born on 17 November 1871 in the town of Lipusz located in modern day Kościerzyna County, Pomeranian Voivodeship, Poland. His parents are listed as Michael & Joslyna (GRABOWSKA) TROKA. He is listed as immigrating to the Milwaukee, Wisconsin are in about 1889. It is not yet known if he traveled alone, or with family, as there are other Troka families in Milwaukee that are more than likely related to Joseph.

On 29 January 1894, Joseph married the daughter of Ignatz & Nepomuncena SZULTA named Clara. Ignatz was the 5th ancestor that I posted about. They were married at St. Hedwig’s Church on the east side of Milwaukee, which at the time was the go-to Polish church in the area.

He started working as a tanner in the tannery industry in Milwaukee as a lot of the Polish immigrants did. By 1905, Joseph is listed as a Tavern Owner at a tavern on 28 Lee Street in Milwaukee, which was also his residence. Today, 28 Lee Street is now about 900 E. Meinecke Avenue and his tavern was probably located somewhere in this vicinity near the intersection with North Bremen St. He ran the tavern until somewhere around 1930. After that point he was listed as being a Treasurer for the Pulaski Building and Loan Association, a position he was said to hold until about 1960.

From the Milwaukee Journal, 1962.
From the Milwaukee Journal, 1962.

Joseph and Clara had 4 living children (4 died during or not long after birth) including my great-grandmother, Emily. In 1959, Clara passed away. Tragedy struck in 1962 when Joseph was walking from his home on Bremen Street  a few blocks to St. Casimir’s church on the morning of Januray 1st. He was struck and killed by a man named Frank Merz , who was later only fined $200 for failure to yield the right of way to a pedestrian. Rumor has it that he was also drinking and driving. Joseph was 92. He was buried next to his wife at Holy Cross Cemetery in Milwaukee.

This post is 7 of 52 in the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” Challenge” begun by Amy Johnson Crow.

The sixth ancestor in my 52 Week Ancestor challenge is Robert MORAN. Robert is my wife’s 3rd-great-grandfather on her paternal side.

moranRobert-possible
Possibly the same Robert Moran as it is labeled “Grandpa Moran” in the same album as “Uncle Chas and Uncle Gurley”, who are Robert Moran’s sons. – Monfort, Wisconsin library

Robert is listed as being born about 1820-21 somewhere in Ireland to Robert & Mary Ann (KNOTT) MORAN, though a few naturalization indexes list this as England, United Kingdom. By 1845, he has traveled from Ireland and settled in Granby, Shefford, Quebec, Canada. Here he marries Dorothea COOK on 5 August 1845. Robert and Dorothea’s first three children are born in Quebec. After that, they travel around a bit, having a child in Illinois, then, Iowa, and finally settling in southwestern Wisconsin where my wife’s ancestor, Charles MORAN, is born in 1864.

Dorothea passes away in 1872 and Robert remarries to a Margaret (KEARNS) ENYART. Margaret happens to be another one of my wife’s 3rd-great-grandmothers. Though, they have no children together, so the branches of the tree stay pretty straight.

Robert is also part of my wife’s father’s Y-DNA line and he has taken a DNA test with 23andMe. The Y-DNA haplogroup for him, and so also Robert, is R1b1b2a1a2f*. The interesting thing about that haplogroup is that it is part of study of one of the ancient kings of Ireland:

R1b1b2a1a2f2 reaches its peak in Ireland, where the vast majority of men carry Y-chromosomes belonging to the haplogroup. Researchers have recently discovered that a large subset of men assigned to the haplogroup may be direct male descendants of an Irish king who ruled during the 4th and early 5th centuries. According to Irish history, a king named Niall of the Nine Hostages established the Ui Neill dynasty that ruled the island country for the next millennium.

Northwestern Ireland is said to have been the core of Niall’s kingdom; and that is exactly where men bearing the genetic signature associated with him are most common. Genetic analysis suggests that all these men share a common ancestor who lived about 1,700 years ago. Among men living in northwestern Ireland today that date is closer to 1,000 years ago. Those dates neatly bracket the era when Niall is supposed to have reigned.

Most of the men who carry this haplogroup congregate mostly in part of County Tyrone in Northern Ireland and a few more in County Mayo to the west. This may help with future research of this MORAN line.

This post is 6 of 52 in the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” Challenge” begun by Amy Johnson Crow.

Hawaii (or Hawai’i) is the next state on my Genealogy of the States series. I have no direct ancestors that were born in the state, but my connection to it is that my grandfather, Richard Zalewski, was stationed there for many years during World War II.

Richard Zalewski, Waikiki Beach, October 1944
Richard Zalewski, Waikiki Beach, October 1944

He spent most of his time in Hilo, on the island of Hawai’i stationed there with the US Navy. From the looks of it, he did a lot of mechanical stuff with the Navy’s airplanes. He also did a bit of work with the US Coast Guard and he was at Hilo during the 1946 Hilo Tsunami caused by an earthquake in the Aleutian Islands. I have a copy of an article from April 2, 1946 talking about the US Navy rescuing some men who were lost out at sea due to the Tsunami.

Along with the stories, I have a collection of dozens of photos he took during his time in Hilo. Most of them are even labeled with the names of the men in the photos. I have put them up on Flickr, among other places, hoping to possibly get copies of the photos to the families of the men in the photos. Not a lot of luck, yet.

My ancestor post is a little late this week as we were on vacation this weekend. It was nice to escape the clutches of a winter that is hanging on a bit too long this year.

Nepomuncena (Syldatk) & Ignatz Szulta
Nepomuncena (Syldatk) & Ignatz Szulta

The fifth ancestor on my 52 Week Ancestor challenge is Ignatz Peter SZULTA, pronounced like Schulta. Ignatz is my 3rd-great-grandfather on my father’s side. Ignatz was born on 30 January 1849 in a little town called Bukowa Góra in the what is today, Sulęczyno Parish, Kartuzy County, Pomorskie, Poland. According to his baptism, which was sent to me by another local Polish researcher, his parents were Anton & Marianna (MALSZYSKA) SZULTA.

On 3 February 1875, he married Nepomuncena SYLDATK in the nearby Sulęczyno Parish. Their first child was my great-great-grandmother, Clara, born in 1876. They had two more children in Sulęczyno Parish before Ignatz emigrated to Milwaukee. He lived here a few years before Nepomuncena and the children traveled over, which was gleaned from the Milwaukee City directories at the time and the second passenger list that does not include Ignatz. When I was attending a local Polish researchers group, it turned out that Ignatz rented a house from one of the other researcher’s ancestors while he was living here on his own.

Ignatz and Nepomuncena had 6 more children while living in Milwaukee. The photo at the top is the only photo I have of Ignatz and I need to find it again in my grandmother’s collection to rescan it. That is the highest quality I have. The photo seems normal, but I just don’t know why his wife looks to be carrying a rolled up newspaper.

The only first-hand information I heard about Ignatz was from my grandmother, who never met him. She also wouldn’t have heard it from my grandfather, as he was only a year old when Ignatz died in 1922. I’m guessing maybe it was from my great-grandfather. She told me Ignatz was a mean, strict man, so I guess I can take that for what it’s worth.

Ignatz passed away 25 May 1922 and is buried near most of my Polish ancestors in Holy Cross Cemetery in Milwaukee.

This post is 5 of 52 in the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” Challenge” begun by Amy Johnson Crow.

The fourth ancestor on the 52 Week Ancestor challenge was picked using my patented ancestor-o-matic. It’s really just a random number generator and then using that number on my daughter’s ahnentafel chart. This week is William J DAKINS.

William is my wife’s 3rd-great-grandfather on her maternal side. His obituary in the Stevens Point Daily Journal from Stevens Point, Wisconsin says that he was born 29 April 1846 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. This matches up with his census records that indicate he was born in Canada. It looks like his family, including father Amos DAKINS and mother Phoeba C (RILEY) DAKINS, moved from Canada to Wisconsin early in his life as they are found in the Fond du Lac, Wisconsin area in the 1850 US Census. In 1860, the family is found further north in Waupaca County, Wisconsin, though close to where William would settle later in life, in Weyauwega.

On 14 December 1864, William did what a lot of other young men in the country did that year, he enlisted to join the Civil War. He was stationed with Company I in the 17th Wisconsin Infantry. At the time of William’s enlistment, the 17th Infantry was involved in the Carolinas Campaign.

In January 1865, Union Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman advanced north from Savannah, Georgia, through the Carolinas, with the intention of linking up with Union forces in Virginia. The defeat of Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s army at the Battle of Bentonville in March, and its surrender in April, represented the loss of the final major army of the Confederacy.

Burning of McPhersonville 1865
Sherman’s March Through South Carolina – Burning of McPhersonville, February 1, 1865

The obituary also states that he was involved in the famous Sherman’s March to the Sea, but that looks to have taken place right when William was enlisting, so I’m not sure if he was.

After William returned from war, he married Helen Marion WARNER on 4 October 1871 and they settled on a farm in Plover, Portage, Wisconsin. Together, they had 6 children, including my wife’s ancestor, Mary DAKINS. They lived in Plover until William’s death on 18 April 1916. The obituary says he was ill with heart and stomach problems. He is buried nearby in the Plover Cemetery.

This post is 4 of 52 in the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” Challenge” begun by Amy Johnson Crow.

Public domain photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

The third ancestor I chose on my 52 Ancestors challenge is my maternal great-great-grandmother, August (LUEDTKE) LAST. She holds a unique position in my ancestry as the only ancestor that I know of to have lived to at least 100 years of age. Though, she passed away 11 days (0.03 years) after her 100th birthday, but it still counts.

Augusta (Luedtke) Last
Augusta (Luedtke) Last in 1948.

As the information I found notes, Augusta Johanna Wilhelmine Luedtke was born around 3 July 1863 in Storkow, Pomerania. Her parents are listed as Carl LUEDTKE and Friederike FRITZ on her marriage record. Funny thing about Storkow is that there are many villages with this name in old Pomerania, which is around modern-day northwestern Poland. There are at least 3 according to Kartenmeister. Fortunately, a lot of the church records for Pomerania are available digitally on FamilySearch. I’ve looked through a lot of them record-by-record in the vicinity of these towns with no luck, so the search continues. It’s one of those nagging brick walls that I always come back to since I feel that I’m very close.

According to census records, she emigrated to the US sometime around 1881-1882. This would make her about 18-19, so it’s hard to say if she came with her family or on her own, but I have found information on a sister living in Wisconsin, so that’s another avenue of research. This is also in that fuzzy area since the 1890 census is missing and by the time I find her in the 1900 Census, she is married and has had 11 children. Some of my next steps are to dig into Milwaukee records from this time as she was married there.

On 25 February 1883, she married Charles Carl LAST in Milwaukee. They soon settled in Grafton, Ozaukee, Wisconsin and, according to an 1892 Plat Map, they lived on a farm close to the town of Port Washington. Charles and Augusta were experts in the field of creating children as over the course of 25 years, they had 16 of them. My great-grandmother, Madora, was born in 1898. A few of them did not make it through childhood, but a lot of them went on to have full lives and create many, many cousins for me to connect with. I actually met a 3rd cousin from this family line through a match over on 23andMe and we’ve shared some information, including the first family photo I saw of this family.

Augusta’s husband died in 1926 soon after they moved out of the rural area and into a house in the City of Port Washington, right near the high school. After she had trouble getting around she moved in with some of her children, including my great-grandmother, where she was when she passed away. She lived long enough that my mom can remember things about her. Augusta passed away 11 days after her 100th birthday on 14 July 1863 and is buried with many of her family at Union Cemetery in Port Washington.

This post is 3 of 52 in the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” Challenge” begun by Amy Johnson Crow.

Welcome to ConnecticutConnecticut is another state that is mainly from my wife’s line, specifically her maternal line which dabbles a bit in Colonial America.

The most recent ancestor to appear in Connecticut is her 4th-great-grandmother, Susan (SKINNER) WARNER, who is noted to have been born in the state in about 1813. There isn’t much more info about Susan that I have on file. This is also where her documented mtDNA line stops as Susan is a direct maternal (mother’s mother’s mother, etc) ancestor of my wife.

Many of the other Connecticut ancestors are actually ancestors of Susan’s husband, Seth WARNER. Seth’s grandfather, and my wife’s 6th-great-grandfather, Phineas RIPLEY, was born in Windham, Connecticut on 20 March 1746. This information was taken both from a Sons of the American Revolution Membership Application and a Find-a-Grave entry, so there is more solid research to be done. Phineas Ripley was also involved in the Revolutionary War with Herrick’s Regiment Vermont Militia according to his service record from Fold3.

The RIPLEY line stays in Connecticut as it goes back a few generations. Phineas’ parents, Nathan & Ann RIPLEY, were both born in Windham. Nathan’s parents, Joshua & Mary (BACKUS) also lived their lives in Windham. The RIPLEYs stop there, but Mary’s parents John & Mary (BINGHAM) BACKUS were born in Norwich, Connecticut before moving to Windham. Mary BINGHAM’s father, Thomas BINGHAM, died in Connecticut but is said to be the first BINGHAM ancestor to settle in the North American colonies. He was born in Sheffield, England. There is a nice write-up on Thomas on the Bingham Association’s Official Website:

All research to the present time indicates that Thomas Bingham of Connecticut and his mother, Anne Fenton Bingham, were the earliest Binghams to settle in the North American colonies. They migrated to Saybrook, Connecticut Colony from Sheffield, Yorkshire, England between 1652 and 1659 when Thomas, who was born in 1642, was ten to seventeen years old.

Another surname that makes some stops in Connecticut on my wife’s line is her WHIPPLE line. The most recent one being Thomas WHIPPLE, Sr. who was born in Somers, Toland, Connecticut on 23 October 1760 and is listed in the Connecticut Town Birth Records from the Barbour Collection. It continues on to Thomas’ father, Nathan WHIPPLE who was born and married in Somers. Nathan’s parents, Thomas & Mary (GARY) WHIPPLE both married and died in Connecticut and his mother was born in Woodstock, Windham, Connecticut in 1699. Our currently documented line stops there for us on the Whipples.

So far, those are the only connections to Connecticut.

Public domain photo from Wikimedia.