CategoriesBig NewsFamily TreeFeatured

Czech’ing Out the Records

I hit up FamilySearchthis weekend to do some miscellaneous research. I happened to see their collection of records for the Czech Republic (or Czechoslovakia) and since my wife’s great-grandmother, Anna (HUIZEL) COLLINS, was born there, I thought I’d browse them. Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything useful.

Though, while looking through their wiki pages on the records, I did happen to somehow find my way over to the Digital Archives: State Regional Archives Trebon. According to their site, “users can research digitalized materials of State Regional Archives Trebon and State District Archives of South Bohemia.” That sounded promising since our records indicate the family was from the Netolice region of South Bohemia in the Czech Republic. I jumped right into their “Parish Registers” section and then into “Roman Catholic Church.” Fortunately, they had a map of all of the parishes, so I was able to see which parish Netolice was in. It happens to be its own parish, so that’s good.

It’s a pretty amazing website, if you have Czech ancestors from this region. Dozens and dozens of digitized parish records from as far back as the 14th and 15th centuries. Some are in the process of being indexed. Their system even allows you to bookmark pages, etc. While the viewer and website and slightly clunky, I wouldn’t say they’re any worse than Ancestry or FamilySearch, just different.

I opened the list of registers. Netolice seems like a big area.

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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

CategoriesCorriganFeaturedWay Back WednesdayZalewski

Way Back Wednesday: Remembering Grandma

I was put in charge of creating the memorial video that was to be played at my Grandmother’s funeral today, so that everyone could remember her through the years. I assume this is due to the fact that I seemed to have inherited the title of “Family Historian” which I have no problem with. I love seeing all of these old documents and photos. I ran across this photo of my grandmother from 1938 and I really like it. She looks like she’s saying, “Hurry up and get that picture taken!” I also notice on a lot of the older photos of my grandmother that she had prominent freckles. I don’t remember seeing them on her when she was older. It must be her Irish heritage shining through.

Mary Jane Corrigan – 1938

After the break, I have embedded the memorial video that I created. Even though you may not know her, I hope you enjoy the video. 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”

CategoriesFeaturedMilitaryZalewski

US Navy Muster Rolls

Ancestry just recently add a massive collection of U.S. Navy Muster Rolls from 1938-1949. My grandfather, Richard Zalewski, served with the Navy from about 1940 to 1946. Here is their description:

This database contains U.S. Navy muster rolls and associated reports of changes for U.S. Navy enlisted personnel who served on U.S. Navy ships or in other naval activities between 31 January 1938 and 31 December 1949. Over 33 million records are contained in this database.

I ran a search on my grandfather and found many records. Most of them don’t contain any surprising information, but they can be used to track his movement through the Navy during WWII.

First Navy Sighting

He is first found on 31 Jan 1941 at the U.S.S. Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida. It says he enlisted in 23 Oct 1940 in Chicago, which is close to his hometown of Milwaukee. His “rating” at this time is listed as “AS,” which in naval terms stands for Aviation Support Equipment Technician. It also notes on the page that he transferred from US NTS (probably Naval Training Station) Great Lakes, Illinois.

The next listing is from 28 Feb 1941, where he is still located at Pensacola. This listing mentions that he has a change in rating (CR). It specifically says, “Rating changed from AS, to Sea2c in accordance with Art. D-5108(1) BuNav Manual.” “Sea2C” is listed as Seaman 2nd Class. He is listed again in Pensacola in 31 Mar 1941, still rated as S2c (Seaman 2nd Class.)

The next listing on 31 May 1941 has two entries. The first entry is from Pensacola which mentions that he was transferred to the NAS (Naval Air Station) in Miami, Florida on 23 May 1941. The next entry is from Miami stating that he was received from Pensacola on 28 May 1941. He is again listed in Miami on 30 Jun 1941, though no changes were made, still a Seaman 2nd Class.

Promoted

His next change in rating came on 1 Jul 1941 at Miami, written as “to Sea1c. AUTH: BuNav Cir.Ltr. No. 27-41 corrected by BuNav Cir.Ltr. No. 66-41.” Not sure what all of that means, but he did get a promotion somewhere in there. He is still a Seaman 1st Class on 30 Sep 1941. According to Wikipedia, Sea1c is now called Petty Officer Third Class.

On 1 Dec 1941, Richard gets his next promotion from Sea1c to AMM3c, which during WWII stood for Aviation Machinist’s Mate, 3rd Class in his case. They were responsible for “maintaining aircraft engines and their related systems, including the induction, cooling, fuel, oil, compression, combustion, turbine, gas turbine compressor, exhaust and propeller systems” and many other things.The last muster roll entry for Miami is on 31 Mar 1942 where he is still listed as an AMM3c.

Ships

There are two entries I also found on ships that are more than likely my grandfather. The “Service Numbers” on the entries match up from the earlier entries. I know the earlier entries were him due to records and photos I have.Though, he never saw combat, he may have been on a ship while it was docked in America. The first entry was on the USS Orizaba on 10 Jul 1944. Though, the ship is listed as travelling from San Francisco to “FRAY.” I’m not sure what “FRAY” is. This matches up with the history of the Orizaba as it says, “Back at San Francisco in June [1944], she underwent repairs; completed a run to the Marshalls and Marianas; and then sailed north to the Aleutians.”He is now listed as AMM1c, so he has been promoted to 1st Class since 1942.

The next and final entry I have found was for the USS Shangri-La on 1 October 1946. Again, the “Service Number” matches and this record matches up with the historical record of the ship, “she made a brief training cruise to Pearl Harbor, then wintered at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.”He is still rated as an AMM1c. This entry contains some information that I can’t quite figure out at the moment. I’ve browsed through the whole muster roll and can’t find explanation of the abbreviations and acronyms they’re using or what the columns mean.

US Navy Muster Roll Snippet
USS Shangri-La, 10 Oct 1946. Ancestry.com. U.S. World War II Navy Muster Rolls, 1938-1949 (database on-line).

His entry says:

Zalewski, Richard J — AMM1 — 2FFT WC DISCH — 28 — 30022228
Zalewski, Richard J — AMM1 — 1PEARL HARBOR — 20 — 30022228

The first entry may mean something like “For Further Transfer (FFT) Work Completed (WC) Discharge (DISCH)” I know he finished his naval work in 1946. Maybe this was the ship he took from Pearl Harbor back to the contiguous 50 states after serving in Hawaii.

While I was aware of a lot of my grandfather’s navy duties during WWII, it’s neat to see them written in government documents. Though, there is no information from his time spent in Hilo, Hawaii from which most of the photos I scanned a put online were from.

CategoriesFamily TreeFeaturedMilwaukeeZalewski

Family History Library Success!

Well, after over a decade of doing genealogy research, I finally made a trip to one of the “local” Family History Libraries. I put local in quotes, because it was still a good 30 miles away, but not too far. I’m not exactly sure why I never visited one. I like knowing how things work before I go since I hate being somewhere and not knowing how to act. For example, I had my iPhone with me, but hidden in my pocket since I wasn’t sure the rules on electronics/cameras. I wasn’t even sure if I could use a pen and paper. Some places are strict in that regard. Later on in the day I saw a man using a laptop right next to a microfilm reader, so now I know.

I just wanted to make a quick trip and look over the records they had on “perpetual” loan. The lady who showed me around seemed confused when I said that, though all of the records I used said that they were on “indefinite” loan, so I’m sure it’s the same thing. They have all of the Milwaukee church records and vital records on-hand. I really wanted to look through the church records for both St. Hedwig’s and St. Casimir’s churches on the east side of Milwaukee since those two are where most of my Polish family attended. My main ZALEWSKI ancestors first went to Hedwig’s and then Casimir’s when they moved.

I was also really hoping to find the marriage record of Frank ZALEWSKI’s brother, Jacob to his wife Pauline WONDKOWSKI. I am somewhat lucky in the fact that Jacob was unmarried when he immigrated. This should hopefully allow me to find his marriage record and maybe his parent’s names (which would also be Frank’s parents, my 3rd-great-grandparents.) As luck would (not) have it, I couldn’t find the record. Jacob and Pauline baptised all of their children at St. Hedwig’s, but I could not find their marriage record. I looked countless times going back and forward a few years, too. It is possible that they may have been married at another church in the area, which I will pursue or there is a very rare possibility that they married elsewhere before coming to Milwaukee, which would not be fun to track down. Plus, I also found many spellings of Pauline’s last name, from WADKOWSKI to LUTKOWSKI.

I did, again, solidify the relationship between the ZALEWSKI, GWIAZDOWSKI, and GORALSKI families. A lot of both Frank’s and Jacob’s children were sponsored by one or more of the families. Frank and Anna ZALEWSKI’s last child, Agnes, was sponsored by both August and Anna GWIAZDOWSKI. It also seems that in some of the earlier baptism records, they listed the female sponsors with their maiden names as I found Pauline listed as Pauline LANDKOWSKA on my great-grandfather Joseph’s baptism record (which I posted about earlier this week.) Also, on their next child, Frances Dorothy ZALEWSKI, I found the female sponsor listed as Maria GWIAZDOWSKI, better known as Mary GORALSKI, which now (somewhat) proves that she is the daughter of both August & Anna, though it still messes up the fact that she is listed as Frank ZALEWSKI’s sister.

I also found some other possible family connections that I need to pursue, mainly on the LINDNER side, though some on the TROKA side, too. I ordered the records from what I hope is the original location of my ZALEWSKI and LINDNER ancestors, Gocza?ki (or more specifically, the parish of Święte.) We’ll see how that turns out once the records arrive, usually in about 6 weeks.

Image from crowderb@flickr

CategoriesFeaturedTechnologyZalewski

Arriving By Ship

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

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

Baltimore
Baltimore American, 24 Nov 1889

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

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

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

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

SS Weser Ad
Baltimore American, 23 Nov 1889

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

CategoriesFamily TreeFeaturedTechnologyTips & Tricks

The Problem with Ancestry’s Trees

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

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

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

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

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CategoriesFeaturedPersonalSaturday Genealogy Fun

Who’s To Blame?

Randy Seaver of GeneaMusings has posted this week’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun. The prompt for this week is as follows:

1) Read Brenda Joyce Jerome’s post Who or What Do You Blame? on the Western Kentucky Genealogy blog. She asks these questions:

* Can you identify person or event that started you on this search for family information?

* Did you pick up researching where a relative had left off?

* Did your interest stem from your child’s school project on genealogy?

* If you have been researching many years, it may be hard to pinpoint one reason for this journey.

2) Write your responses on your own blog, in a comment to this blog post, or in a note or comment on Facebook.

I can’t exactly identify one person who started my interest in genealogy. I remember going to family reunions for my paternal grandmother’s family, the descendants of Thomas J CORRIGAN, and meeting all kinds of people who were supposedly related to me. I never really took interest in the family tree stuff there, but I was pretty young at the time. Problem solving, for some reason, has always been somewhat easy for me and depending on what problem I’m solving it can also be fun. This is probably the main reason I enjoy genealogy so much. It’s a very personal problem to solve and it involves lots of information and logic.To be honest, I don’t remember a genealogy project in school. If I did do one, I guess I didn’t save it. When looking through some of the files my mother gave me, I also don’t see any trees my brothers did. Maybe our school district didn’t do it.

I became interested specifically in genealogy in about 1999. Two different events prompted me to look more into my personal history. First, my grandfather, Richard ZALEWSKI, passed away in April 1999 and then a few weeks later I read an article in our local paper about FamilySearch.org. It was about how much traffic the site received when it first opened, which took the site offline. This event is also mentioned on the FamilySearch Wikipedia entry, “May 1999: Website first opened to the public. It almost immediately went off-line, overloaded because of extreme popularity.”

Those two events happening pretty close to each other made me think of my personal history and how I should probably at least do some basic digging before I lose my other grandparents. Thankfully, all three of my other grandparents are still with us. As with most genealogists, this basic digging just wasn’t enough. I opened Pandora’s Box, so to speak.

On my paternal grandmother’s CORRIGAN side of the tree, I did receive a lot of research that was already done by my great-granduncle, Edwin CORRIGAN, and other family members for the family reunions we had. My paternal ZALEWSKI line was barely touched as was my maternal side of the tree, so I did have a lot of work cut out for me. Many thanks to my parents and grandparents for giving me the information I needed. It turns out a lot of it was around, just not organized like it is now.

Now, it’s my job to plant the seed into my daughter’s life (and possibly other children if that happens) and let them run with it. Maybe in 20 years she’ll do a blog post, or whatever crazy thing is around then, about me.

CategoriesFeaturedTips & TricksWisconsin Research

How to Find Purchased Land

I thought I would write a post on how to convert one of your ancestor’s Land Records into an actual physical location. Right now, I only have the information on how to do this in Wisconsin with the resources that they have available. Other states may have these items available too. Your mileage may vary.

I have Wisconsin Land Records for two of my ancestors, Mathias FIRMENICH and Jean Baptiste LAURENT. I will use Mathias’ Land Record for this example. You can view his Land Record on my Mathias site’s “Land Purchase” entry.

Step One

Find the spot on the record that lists the exact location that your ancestor purchased from the US Government. On Mathias’ record, in the first paragraph, it reads

..the claim of Mathias B. Firmenich has has been established and duly consummated in conformity to law for the southeast quarter of Section 18 in Township 46 north of Range 4 west of the 4th Principal Meridian in Wisconsin containing 160 acres.

To most people, this just looks like gibberish. It did to me at first. I knew what it meant, but I had no idea where to even start to look for it.
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CategoriesDutchFeatured

Returning Home

My grandmother told me a story about her great-grandfather. I posted about it almost three years ago, but I just stumbled upon some more evidence for it. Here is the story from my grandmother about Charles Ludovicus VAN PARIJS (who changed his name to Charles Van Price in America.)

Charles Van Price was born in the early 1800s and came to U.S. in 1874. He traveled to Dousman, Wisconsin in Waukesha County. He worked for Mr. Dousman, later moved to Little Chute, Wisconsin, then to Phlox, Wisconsin in 1887. While staying with his daughter, Effie, in Waukesha, Wisconsin in 1922, he went grocery shopping for her and was never seen again. After investigating, it was assumed that he returned to Holland from Milwaukee. He sold his land earlier, and was now one of the wealthiest men in that part of the state. His daughter found he had withdrawn all his savings (a very sizeable amount) and probably left for Europe. They traced him to Antwerp, Belgium — then all trace was gone. He was never heard from again.

I tried to find any sort of trace of him in Belgium. Maybe he’s listed on a death record or a cemetery listing, but I never found anything. I was re-adding all of Charles’ census record information into my family tree, since I never actually put in the exact source info in the past, when I ran across a listing for a “Charles O. Price”in the Applications for US Passports database that closely matched him on Ancestry.

There were actually two applications listed which looked to be a year apart, but they match pretty closely. The first one says that he was born on June 6th, 1844 in Isendick, Holland. The information I have is July 6th, 1846 in IJzendijke, Netherlands (Holland) which is almost a match. It also says he lived most of his life in Phlox, Langlade Co., Wisconsin which is the area where Charles and his family did live. He mentions in the application that he is planning to go to the Netherlands to “visit my brothers” and that he will return in 3 months traveling on the boat, Finland, from New York on August 5th, 1922.

What is odd is that there is a second application right after the first one for a Charles O. Price born on June 6th, 1844 in Izendag, Holland. This one lists Charles’ father as Jacob Price. That matches with me as I have his father as (his original name) Jacobus Bernardus VAN PARIJS. This one also notes that he lived in the Little Schute[sic] & Antigo, Wisconsin area which is also near Phlox. It also notes that he owns a previous passport which was obtained on July 24th, 1922 (the previously mentioned application.) Now, this application says that he intends to “visit my brother” in the Netherlands and stay for one year leaving from the port of New York. This one does not list a ship or a date. It almost seems like he didn’t actually go in 1922, or maybe that he went for 3 months and then went back in 1923 when this second application was made. Obviously, according to stories, never came back after that one.

There are a few notable and even oddly humorous things on these applications. The first thing is that when describing Charles’ physical appearance, under “Nose” it says “Quite Large.” Also, how on both documents the birth places are completely different (at least in spelling), the immigration dates don’t match, and the living locations aren’t exactly the same. On both documents he uses a witness that has known Charles for awhile. H.A. Friedman swears that Charles is a good dude and that he should get a passport. In the first document in 1922, H.A. says that he, a “native” American, has known Charles for 15 years. In the second application in 1923, H.A. says that he, now a “naturalized” American, says that he has known Charles for 20 years. Great Scott! Has Charles invented the flux capacitor?

Though, one wonderful thing about this document is that the applicant is required to attach a photo of themselves. The first document’s photo is not very good, but the second one is much clearer and it is the first time that I’ve seen Charles. I’m not sure if my grandmother has ever seen a photo of her great-grandfather, so I’d love to show this to her.

I still don’t know what happened to Charles after he arrived in Belgium or the Netherlands, but at least this does prove that he planned to go back. Maybe it makes more work. Oh well, isn’t that how Genealogy works? The two documents are shown below. Click for larger copies. The first half of the first page and last half of the end page are from other individuals, so please ignore them.