CategoriesBig NewsFamily TreeFeaturedPolishZalewski

Across the Pond

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 neverreceivedanything. 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. Continue reading

CategoriesBig NewsCorriganFamily TreeFeaturedIrishPersonalZalewski

Ireland Loses a Daughter

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 oven 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 (albeitslowly) 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”

CategoriesBig NewsPolishTechnologyTips & Tricks

Gottschalk!

I’ve been on a roll this week finding information in unexpected places. Earlier it was the cemetery website and newspaper archives.

Tonight, I went to the FamilySearch website to see what records they may have onGocza?ki or Gottschalk, the area of Poland that I’m targeting in my latest research according to a recent post. I actually never got to finding the records since I was sidetracked by a link they had labeled “Free Classes.” I assumed these were classes at the local Family History Library and thought that they may be interesting. It would both get me to one of the libraries and also maybe learn more about how to use them. Instead, these are online classes. The one I picked was Introduction to Polish Research, which was about 53 minutes long. I paid attention for about 23 minutes when she was talking about ship manifests and origin locations. She recommended searching the passenger lists by origin location instead of by name. This way you could find other families that came from the same area. She also mentioned the amazing genealogy search website setup by Steve Morse at stevemorse.org.

I’ve used his site previously to find updated streets and addresses for Milwaukee and also converting the 1930 Census occupation codes. It’s not the prettiest site, but neither is Google. I never really got into the other search tools that he created, so I just started going down each of his passenger list tools pasting Gottschalk into the “Place of Origin” box. Not much luck. I did find Orlowski and Sobieski families, but I don’t have those names in my family tree. Then I got towards the bottom, beyond the Ancestry.com tools, and into a very basic looking one calledGermans to America (1850-1897). It sounded too broad, but let’s try it. It came back with four people from Gottschalk, but one caught my eye, Jakob Salewski. The information didn’t give a port of arrival, but it did give an arrival date of 17 Sep 1891 and a ship name, the Rhynland. 1891 was the year of immigration listed on most of Jacob ZALEWSKI’s records. His age is also listed as 28, which calculates to about 1863, which also matches my Jacob.

I searched Ancestry’s immigration database for the keyword “Rhynland” and found one arriving in New York on 17 Sep 1891. Fortunately for me, Ancestry has a lot of New York passenger lists. What is interesting is that I’ve searched over and over for Zalewski, Salewski, and all other variations. I also tried all forms of Jacob and 1891 trying to find him. So, next, I browsed the New York records manually, picking 1891, then September, and then 17. As I had hoped, there was a “Rhynland” entry. I started browsing it manually page-by-page and found Jakob Salewski on page 16 of 19 and it did say he was from Gottschalk. This matches all of the other information I’ve been leaning towards. Interestingly, he is also traveling with two other men from Gottschalk, but they don’t ring a bell and who knows if they went to Milwaukee, also.

Jakob Salewski
17 Sep 1891, Rhynland - Click for larger.

So, my next step (out of many other steps) is to see what records I can get forGocza?ki and start digging. What a week.

CategoriesBig NewsFamily TreeZalewski

Discombobulated, But in a Good Way

I made some great discoveries this weekend and late last night. I’m going to try to spell it all out here, so excuse me if I ramble a bit. While the information I found paints a better picture of the family of my ancestor, it also throws a wrench into the whole thing, but when doesn’t genealogy do that?

Let’s start from the beginning, though instead of writing it all out again, I will point you to an older post and one recent post. Though, you should just be able to skim over the newer one. Long story short, this has to do with the GWIAZDOWSKI – GORALSKI – ZALEWSKI connection I have been researching recently.

After finding the passenger list and 1910-1920 Census records for the GWIAZDOWSKI – GORALSKI families, this is how it was all laid out in my head (Thanks to Google Draw for this easy to make figure):

Gwiazdowski - 1
Gwiazdowski Connection - Exhibit AClick for larger

That makes sense to me. Either August or Anna is Frank’s uncle or aunt, respectively. I can deal with that. It helps me a little bit.

Fast forward to last night. I “run across” the website for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Catholic Cemeteries. I use quotes there because I’ve been to this site before, it’s been there for years. I just never knew they had such a wonderful genealogy/burial record search. Not only does it have up-to-date burial records for eight prominent cemeteries in Milwaukee, it includes death date, burial date, last know address, marital status at death, and burial location. That’s not even the best part. It also includes a link to “Search for nearby graves or crypts.” With this feature, I can see which graves are nearby to this one. I was able to make (pretty confident) connections between people. More than likely people were buried near family.

So, with this I not only found the death date of Jacob ZALEWSKI (on the figure above) that I’ve been trying to find, but I also found the burial information on a Mrs. Mary GORALSKA (as it’s listed on the site.) She is buried near her husband Joseph and Mr. and Mrs. August GWIAZDOWSKI. On a related note (har har), also buried in the same location is a Jacob George ZALEWSKI (the above Jacob’s son) and his wife Alice. Now that doesn’t prove that Jacob is related to them (which also includes Frank, his brother) but it gives hope.

Now, this information is very helpful on it’s own, but when I use it along with the century of archives of The Milwaukee Journal, it gets even more powerful. Unfortunately, before about 1930 or so, they didn’t list much in the death notices. I found both August and Anna GWIAZDOWSKI, listed in the paper, but it’s just their name, address, death date, and cemetery. What I did find was Mary’s obituary from April 2, 1940.

Mary Goralska

You see it, don’t you? “…also survived by 1 brother, Frank Zalewski…I was elated at this point. I thought to myself, “I found Frank’s parents!” Then, I started doing the math.. How can Mary be Frank’s brother if there is no way, under normal circumstances, that she would ever have the last name of ZALEWSKI? She was a GORALSKI when she was married and according to the other documents, her parent’s last name was GWIAZDOWSKI. How does that work? Then I thought, maybe it’s not my Frank Zalewski, but another Frank. So, Mary would be my Frank’s cousin. That makes sense logically and follows the info in the passenger list, but again doesn’t solve the name issue. Here, again I visualized it, which helped a bit.

Gwiazdowski - A
Gwiazdowski Connect - Exhibit BClick for larger

So, after all of that running through my head I decided the only outcome that made sense is that Mary is my Frank’s cousin (the brother is another Frank), which is safe with the “nephew” info from the passenger list. The only way I was able to solve the surname issue was assuming that Anna is Mary’s real mother and August is her step-dad. Maybe Anna’s first husband (Mary’s father) passed away and she re-married before travelling to the US. Now, this is only true if all of the information is correct, which is another possibility.

I’m still no further in my research, though I now have things I can do. Unfortunately, it seems Joseph & Mary had no children, so I probably need to order Mary’s death certificate from the Wisconsin Vital Records office to find her maiden name.Hopefully, she also lists her parent’s names on it.I should maybe even order Jacob’s or Anna’s. I’ll have $20 riding on that hope.

Did that all make sense? Can you follow it and come up with another conclusion?

CategoriesBig NewsSite

Everything I Know (Again)

Since I had so much fun setting up my single ancestor site,Everything I Know About Frank Zalewski, I thought I would set up another one for another individual in my tree. Once again, it’s an individual from my paternal line, my 3rd-great-grandfather Mathias Balthazar Firmenich.

I already had a lot of information on Mathias, which is one reason I decided on him. There is always missing information, which is one reason that these projects are helpful. It requires me to comb through all of the information I have and put it in order. I usually end up finding some detail that I had missed earlier. The sites also get to put the visitor into the life of someone who lived in the past and to see what they went through.

Mathias’ life was pretty full. From immigrating to America at a young age to traveling hundreds of miles to a new home to dealing with the loss of children during a disease outbreak, he had been through a lot.

Take a journey and learn more about Mathias on my new site, Everything I Know About Mathias Firmenich.

CategoriesBig NewsPersonal

It’s A Girl!

Baby
The first furniture

That’s what the banners and balloons should read in November when our baby arrives. According to the Ultrasound technician, we’re having a girl and she sounded pretty confident. Finding out now is exciting to us. People always seem like we should wait until it’s born to find out, but we’d rather find out now. It gives us a fun surprise early and from what I’ve heard, you sometimes don’t get to enjoy the surprise during the delivery since there is so much other stuff going on.

As for having a girl, I’m very excited. I’d be just as excited either way, but I was secretly hoping for a girl (maybe 60/40 girl/boy.) I grew up a boy (surprise!) and I had two brothers, so a baby boy didn’t seem that crazy to me. I know how to handle a boy. Having a girl is another story. I have very little experience with little girls. Thankfully, my wife is a girl (no way!) so I’ll have help there. When you find out the gender a lot of things go through your mind. Now you can get a clearer picture of the future. Beforehand, it was somewhat blurry. All thoughts had the baby replaced with “generic child” in my brain, now I can put a face, or at least gender, on it. Obvious thoughts of “Daddy’s Little Girl” and all that stuff float on through sometimes. It’ll sure be an experience and I’m ready for it.

As for a genealogy point-of-view, we’ll be able to give her a pretty clear picture of where she gets certain traits. Obviously, as a girl, she won’t get my Y-DNA passed down to her, but she will get her mother’s mtDNA. We just need to get her mother an mtDNA test at some point to pinpoint her maternal genetic genealogy. The way it looks, it’s possibly English or at least from somewhere in the UK, but we don’t have enough info, yet.

My wife, who is much better with the written word than I am, has been blogging about the new baby experience on our website. Feel free to pop on over there.

Now on to paint the nursery this weekend.

CategoriesBig NewsFamily TreePersonal

The Next Generation Begins

I am forgoing the normal “Weekly History” post this week for a special announcement. It’s now been 12 weeks into the 36 weeks of the pregnancy of our first child. A big announcement that was hard to keep a secret until this point. 12 weeks is usually the point when most couples make the large announcement. Obviously, we told family and some others previous to this point. Our parents are very excited and everything is coming at us so fast, but it’s also extremely wonderful.

As a genealogist, this has another layer of joy for me. Now, officially, my tree and my wife’s tree are merged into one. Now when I do research on her tree, I’m actually doing it for my own child. They will come into this world with a pretty solid family tree already made for them. I’ve now ruined any fun and mystery they may find looking into their family history (haha.)

6 Weeks

From my wife’s description: I know, it’s hard to decipher this thing. Heck, it’s tough for me and it’s my baby’s first screenshot! (Well, it is a screenshot”) The big round part is NOT the baby, it’s the yolk sac. The tiny little blur between the arrows is the baby at 6 weeks. We’re 6 more beyond that and it has grown, but we haven’t had a new ultrasound yet. We did hear the heartbeat for the first time this week though!

Well, we’re taking this one day at a time and the mother is doing great. Completely prepared and also scared out of my mind of things to come, but in a good way.

CategoriesBig NewsFamily Tree

A Little Help From My Friends and Family

Richard Zalewski
Richard Zalewski, Miami, Florida, Sept 1941

This weekend I picked up the mother lode of photos, documents, and information on my grandparent’s families. My aunt and uncle were holding on to my grandmother’s heirlooms, which included my grandfather’s stuff after he passed away. I knew my grandmother had a few photo albums since I previously borrowed them and scanned some photos. I was pretty surprised at all of the other items in the boxes. There were old documents, death certificates, baptism records, funeral cards, old Navy photos, and even film/video from the 30s and 40s (fortunately, on VHS.)

I only scanned a few things so far, but I have a lot of work ahead of me. I’d like to get everything scanned just as a way to digitally back it all up. I also happen to have a VHS-to-DVD machine that I bought to transfer my parent’s home videos to DVD as a Christmas gift one year, so that makes backing up the video pretty easy. One problem there, I can’t find the remote control for it and it has a lot of little important buttons on it. One of the cats probably stole it and made a bed out of it or something.

That does bring me to a question for somebody out there. My paternal grandfather served in the Navy during World War II. He didn’t see combat overseas, but he was stationed “overseas” in Hilo, Hawai’i. From what it sounds like from stories, photos, and some news articles is that he was there for the 1946 Hilo Tsunami and helped rescue people. Along with his Navy stuff, he has dozens of photos of fellow Navy men, including their last names and which group they served in. What would be the best way to go about possibly scanning these photos in and getting them to family members? Is there a “Navy Veterans” message board or something similar? I think it’d be very nice to get copies of the photos to some of these people’s families.

Along with that, a very helpful fellow Polish researcher sent me some copies of the baptism record of my 3rd-great-grandfather, Ignatz Szulta, from 1849 and also his marriage record with Nepomuncena Syldakt in 1875 that he happened to run across. Ignatz’s parent’s names are listed on his baptism record, which is new to me. I now just need to try to transcribe it. Those were extremely helpful and very interesting to read. Thanks, Al.

CategoriesBig NewsMilwaukeeZalewski

Tracking the Zalewski

I know it sounds like a show on National Geographic, but it’s not. I’m not sure why I didn’t this earlier, but it’s never too late to try. After finding my ZALEWSKI family’s passenger record, I originally decided to see if I could find them in Baltimore city directories since it seems like they spent a few years there. This finally took me back to the Milwaukee City Directories since there are no online versions for Baltimore from 1889-1892.

Ancestry has a lot of Milwaukee City Directories online scattered from like 1880 to 1939 with most of 1880-1900 available. I started with 1889 to see if the ZALEWSKI family made it there yet, but they did not. I first found Frank ZALEWSKI in the 1892 (well, two actually, go figure.)

Continue reading

CategoriesBig NewsZalewski

I’m on a Boat: Passenger List Found!

One of those documents that I had my sights set on for the last 10 years of genealogy research is the passenger list containing the ZALEWSKI family when they left home and came to America. According to notes I had from a previous researcher, “…[Frank and Anna] left Poland from the Baltic port of Danzig and entered the United States through the port of Baltimore, Maryland…in 1890.” I’ve searched everything I could find online for this since I’ve been researching. I’ve tried every possible spelling of Frank’s name (Franz, Francizek, etc) and don’t even get me started on the different ways to spell ZALEWSKI (add in the many different ways to pronounce it.)

I decided to give it another try by locking down certain items using Ancestry.com’s search box. I tried locking in “Frank” and then locking in “1888-1892” then I tried locking down “Baltimore” and so on. I dare not lock in “Zalewski” since it never works. I then tried his wife, but nothing. Next I tried their first child “Martha” since her name is more than likely the same. Their next child Angeline has been written many different ways from Amelia to Angel. No hits on “Martha Zalewski.” Next, I thought I’d give “Salewski” a shot since I’m pretty sure ZALEWSKI and SALEWSKI don’t have the same soundex code. Guess what my first hit was? “Martha Zalewski, Baltimore, November 1889, age 3.” Dead on.

I’ve conditioned myself not to get too excited until I can strongly prove it’s the correct document. As soon as I saw the list of family members: Franz, Anna, Martha, Amela, I knew it was the right family. Everything matches up from ages to names. Plus, there was one more name: Elsa Salewski, aged 6 months. According to later census records, Anna is listed to have has 9 children with only 8 living. Also, looking at the order of children, there is a larger gap from Angeline in 1887 to Marianna in 1891. Frank and Anna seemed to be working off of the one child every two-years plan throughout their lives. Elsa must not have lived much longer since she is never listed with the family outside of this listing.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t get me much more information except much tougher evidence for their arrival and departure. The list just has them come from “Germany” and go to the “U.S.A.” and Germany could mean anything back then.

The ship was the “S.S. Weser” which departed from Bremen, Germany. This looks to be the ship here with a photo. Here is their snippet:

Zalewski Family - 23 Nov 1889
Zalewski Family - 23 Nov 1889

So, I guess the moral of this story is that it does pay to go back over everything you’ve searched. Try looking at it from another angle.