CategoriesCorriganFamily TreeWay Back Wednesday

Weekly Photo: Maurice Corrigan

Maurice Corrigan

Photo: Maurice Corrigan – Original owned by Mary Jane Zalewski (daughter of subject)

This is a photo of my great-grandfather, Maurice Corrigan. At least, that’s what it’s noted as. I’ve been told unofficially that they used to dress up boys in dress-type  clothing in the early 1900s for photographs. I have no reason to not believe this. I assume it was just a custom back then. Does anyone have more information on this custom?

CategoriesEnglishFamily TreePersonal

The Royal Line

Westminster Abbey

Hello again! Been doing a bit more research lately, so I’ve stepped up my postings (which isn’t too hard to do I guess.) Just remember that even if I’m not posting regularly, I am always available for comments, emails, research questions, etc. I just may not be actively searching at the time, but I will respond.

I was in the process of cleaning up my wife’s family tree yesterday so that I could print out some information to give to her parents as sort of a secondary gift. She had two names in her tree that were missing information. Those were her great-great grandparents on her maternal grandmother’s side. She said she had issues finding any information. So, since it’s been awhile since either of us had done any research on that line, I thought I’d log into Ancestry and just do a basic search. This “basic search” lasted me over 3 hours and gave us some amazing information.

I started by searching for Julius BANNACH, who is my wife’s great-grandfather, and then I’d work from there. My first search brought up Julius in another user’s family tree, named “Shannon Family Tree.” Julius’ wife was named Marie SHANNON, so this was good. I clicked on this link and it brought me to the tree and then I hopped on over to Marie’s information. Right away I saw that it had her parent’s names listed as George SHANNON and Mary DAKINS, so this is good information already. I am always aware that a lot of these trees do not list many sources, so I did enter this info with that in mind and a note to double-check what I can.

I entered the info and then went off to George SHANNON’s information. Sweet! This also lists his father and mother as Nathaniel SHANNON and Rosina Winslow ARNOLD. This is getting good. I keep doing this with the SHANNON line over and over. One odd thing I noticed is that she comes from a line of Nathaniel SHANNON’s that goes for like 7-8 in a row. What are the odds of that? (I guess creativity doesn’t run in the family. I kid.)

The SHANNON line finally runs it’s course in the year 1655 in Londonderry, Ireland. Ok, so I started this, I was going to finish it and enter what I can. So I started by going back and running each line until it ends.

Long story short, I don’t think I’ll ever get all of this info entered into our tree since I’ve now connected my wife (obviously tentatively, need to check the sources) to multiple Dukes, Barons, Counts and Kings of England. Basically, once you break that seal you have access to so much information and connections since millions of people can trace their lines back here and thousands of people have done the research already. Fortunately, I have a  copy of one of the Family Forest CDs, so I can see just how far back this line can go….very far. Sadly, my wife has cooler relatives than me, all I could connect myself to was Robert Goulet.

So, as I work my way through her line to double-check the sources and connections, it does give me some more interest in the Peerage and Royalty of England and also sparks my research bug again.

Has anyone else connected themselves to Royalty or other famous people?

CategoriesFamily TreePersonalTips & Tricks



I am hoping to spend some time interviewing my living grandparents. Obviously, I guess, though I would love to be able to talk to my late Grandpa Zalewski again. I have tons and tons of factual data; dates, times, places, etc. What I don’t have a lot of are stories and first-hand accounts.

My grandparents are getting old. They are all in their 80s now and you can tell that they have some issues getting around. I know my Grandma (Corrigan) Zalewski asks me the same questions about my house everytime I see her (I bought her house when she moved to assisted living) but she can rattle off stories and names like there is no tomorrow and she loves to do that. I can only assume it’s the same way with my maternal grandparents.

I picked myself up an Olympus audio recorder just for this purpose. It seems to do exactly what I need and nothing more. In my tests, it recorded great audio. I’d like to sit down with them and just start asking small questions and maybe bring up some names just to spark their memory. I picture talking to my Grandma about this like chipping the glass on a large aquarium and just seeing it crack open further before you’re hit with a deluge of water. This is why I want the recorder. I won’t be able to write, or even type for that matter, as fast as she can tell stories.

I know people have done this type of thing before. Does anyone have any tips or good interview questions to ask? Obviously, I know her, so I don’t need any sort of introductory-type questions.

CategoriesCarnival of GenealogyFamily TreeThielke

Been Around Awhile

I assume my great-great grandmother (whom also wins the award for the longest name in my family tree) Augusta Johanna Wilhelmina LUEDTKE has seen many things in her life. She was born in Prussia in July 1863, right smack in the middle of the American Civil War. A war which would shape the country she would someday grow old in. She was also born just weeks before automobile maker Henry Ford.

She married my great-great grandfather Charles Carl LAST in 1883 in Wisconsin and had a total of 16 children. Sixteen! (as far as I know) I know it gets cold here in the winter, but they must’ve had some really cold ones in the late 1800s.

She lost her husband in 1926, yet she lived on for another 40 years and sadly passed away just shy of two weeks after her 100th birthday on July 14th.

Cedarburg (Wisconsin) News — Wed 26 June 1963

Mrs. LAST, 100 Years Young

There will be an “open house” for immediate friends and relatives of the family at Columbia Hall, on Thursday afternoon, July 4 from 2 to 5 for Mrs. Augusta LAST who will 100 years young on the 3rd of July. Given by her children, they will later meet from 7 to 9 in the evening at the home of Mr & Mrs Arthur THIELKE, 1320 – 13th ave., Grafton, where she is now making her home.

So far, she is the only centenarian in my family tree. I have yet to interview my grandmother and even my mother about her. I imagine, due to everything that she lived through, that she was probably a tough, old woman. I can respect that. One-hundred years is a very long time. Rest in Peace, Augusta.

CategoriesFamily TreeWay Back Wednesday

Sunday Photo: Mr. Firmenich


This has always been one of my favorite photos that I scanned from my grandmother’s collection. This is Mathias Firmenich, my great-great-great grandfather on my father’s side. From what I gathered from research and from obituaries, Mathias was born in Cologne, Germany, February 11, 1840. He came to Milwaukee in May 1847 and settled with his parents on a farm located in the wilderness 25 miles from that city. (I have yet to find this information even though I’m still in this area.) He later moved north and married his wife, Pauline, in the Green Bay area. They then moved on to the Ashland, Wisconsin area where he lived the rest of his days, which was a long time since he died at 91.

I like the photo since it’s such a great head shot and I love his big beard. He just looks like he spent a lot of time working outside in the wilderness, which Ashland was and still is in a way. I wish I could have met him, though my grandma may have some small memories since she was 5 or 6 when he passed away.

See: Wisconsin Pioneer posting

CategoriesFamily Tree

The Toney Family

I’ve been doing a little research on my wife’s family tree. Back into her paternal line, she is connected to the Toney family through her great-great grandmother, Idona Toney. This line is traced back a few generations through Wisconsin, Ohio, and finally Virginia. Fortunately, this family seems pretty popular in the genealogy circle. It looks like the Toney family spread pretty far from this area.

While searching for some type of link from Virginia back to Europe, I found some interesting information via Google. It looks like the Toney family in America can be traced back to a Toney family in England and then back much further to the “first” Toney (at least the first one to use the surname.)

Now, obviously, there are some missing connections from my wife back to the first Toney, but it’s interesting to look over. The connection from her back to the Virginia Toney’s is pretty solid based on Census and other records, but from there it’s a bit fuzzy.

Here is some of the information I found:

The first known Toney ancestor ever was Ralph the son of Hugh De Calvacamp. Hugh’s father was Malahulic/(Malahule)who came to the Normandy area of France from Norway on a Viking ship. He came with Rollo, or Rolph the Ganger. Hugh De Calvacamp’s father Malahulic was uncle to Rollo. Rollo was the leader of the group that our ancestors came with. He and his followers( taunted/annoyed/stalked or worse) the coastlines of France until the King gave him the area that is now Normandy.

Hugh De Calvacamp also had a son Hugh De Calvacamp Jr. He was given the Archbishopship of Rouen by the Duke of Normandy, he being cousin to the Duke. There were certain lands that came with this title. Hugh gave his brother Ralph a piece of land called Tosni/Toeni, it was situated just across the River Seine from Les Andelys. The “s” in Tosni is silent therefore sounding like Toney. Ralph then became known as Raph de Toney. Our first ancestor was Standard Bearer to the Duke of Normandy, and became a hereditary position to Ralph’s descendants.

From The Toney Family (be warned there is music…for some reason. Ugh.) 

I looked through my Family Forest CD (an older one) and even found Ralph de Tonei and also Rolph the Ganger. One of the Ralphs even has a Wikipedia page. Even though this line isn’t officially connected, it still brings a little excitement to the research. Any type of excitement only helps to do more research.

Has there been a find that has brought much needed excitement to your research?

CategoriesFamily Tree

A new line

I had ordered some vital records from the Wisconsin Vital Records site last week. I always forget about that option, but sometimes it is a bit much at $15 each. I had some extra money, so I ordered three records that I found.

I ordered Agnes (Braatz) Corrigan (my great-grandmother’s) birth certificate, Charlotte (Strassman) Last (my ggg-grandmother’s) death certificate and my gg-granparent’s marriage certificate (Joseph Troka and Clara Schulta.)

The birth certificate and death certificate didn’t really give me much more new information, except helping to solidify a few facts. The jackpot was hit with the marriage certificate. I didn’t have any information on Joseph Troka’s parents. I did have a sister listed, but that was it. On the certificate it lists his parents as Mich Troka (which I assume is something similar to Michael) and Joslyna(?) Grabowska. It also lists a Martin Troka as a witness to the marriage. I don’t see a Martin Troka in my family tree from there on down, so I am assuming that this is his brother. I penciled him in until I find more information.

It’s always funny how I find some of this new information after years of looking and it turns out it’s right in one of the most obvious places. I need to find some more vital records.

CategoriesDutchFamily TreeWisconsin Research

Where did I put my clogs?

Dutch Clogs

Another culture that helped shape Wisconsin into what it is today is the Dutch culture. I may throw in some Belgian stuff, also, since my family crosses into both and the history also crosses into both. My maternal grandmother’s ancestors were mostly Dutch and Belgian (though she’s the “mixed bag” in my tree, bringing in French, French-Canadian, Belgian, Dutch, German, and some others.)

This group seemed to congregate in the east central part of the state, up near Green Bay and Appleton, Wisconsin, which we call the Fox River Valley. You can tell this by the city, place, and family names in that area. Names like Holland and Vandenbroek and a lot of family names that start with “Van.”

Between 1840 and 1890, Wisconsin was a major center of Dutch immigration. Father Theodore Johannes Van den Brock was an early promoter of Dutch Catholic immigration to Wisconsin and beginning in 1848, he helped to bring 40,000 Catholic Dutch to Wisconsin. Most Dutch immigrants to the Fox River Valley followed the Erie Canal-Great Lakes route, landing in Green Bay where many chose to remain. Later Dutch settlements in Wisconsin were generally small agricultural communities. –

One of my families that came into that area was the Van Parijs family. Somewhere along the line, they changed their name to Van Price (which caused me some trouble, as I posted about earlier.) They settled in the Shawano County area (pronounced like Shaw-no.)

My maternal grandmother’s maiden name is DeBroux (Dah-broo), which is, from my research, from Belgium. They liked to hack the spelling of this surname up in the census. I found it listed by such spellings as DeBrue and Gebroux (but some of these are probably based on the transcriptions.)

The DeBroux family came from Belgium in the late 1800s and settled in Langlade County, which was a popular area for these two cultures. An interesting fact about my DeBroux ancestors that came to Wisconsin is that their names are somewhat unique and I thought that this might help me find information on them. His name is Desire DeBroux and her name was Desiree (unknown surname.) Unfortunately, this is not the case, but it was worth a shot.

Here are some good Dutch/Belgian links for Wisconsin and elsehwhere:

Photo © Jenny Rollo

CategoriesFamily Tree

Mr. Goulet, I presume?

Celebrity genealogy connections are a fun thing to unearth. I don’t put this into my research as a priority, but sometimes it’s fun to run across.

It makes sense that the farther you go back in generations, the more people you are “related” to, including celebrities. There are a few sites that list this and even can now do a bit of searching within your tree for you.

The only celebrity connection that I’ve run across in my genealogy is a slim connection to actor Robert Goulet. He’s something like my 8th cousin-3 times removed. I connect to him through my French-Canadian line on my maternal grandmother’s side.

Have any of you run across a celebrity connections in your genealogy research?

Update: Sad news came right after I wrote this article, but before I published it. It seems that Mr. Goulet passed away today. RIP.

CategoriesFamily TreeFeaturedGerman

Wisconsin Pioneer

I received my mail from the Wisconsin Historical Society today and it included some nice information. I ordered the marriage certificates for two of my family members from northern Wisconsin and also a death certificate for a possible relative. The society also found an obituary for my 3rd great grandfather, Mathias B. Firmenich. The copy they sent was in really good shape and also included a photo of Mathias (still not as cool as the above one, though.) The obit contained a lot of information that I didn’t really know and also some new leads, including this one.

Born in Cologne, Germany, February 11, 1840, Mr. Firmenich came to Milwaukee in May 1847 and settled with his parents on a farm located in the wilderness 25 miles from that city.

I have some names for his parents, but I was never 100% sure on them. His marriage certificate also confirms this. But, now I can look around the Milwaukee area in the census and also the cemeteries for them. It also helps that I live in the Milwaukee area. Here is some more from the obit.

Coming in contact with Indians who the inhabited the region, he learned to weave baskets from ash wood, a hobby which he enjoyed until the time of his death. His marriage to Miss Pauline Thompson took place at Green Bay, February 11, 1867. Mrs. Firmenich preceeded him in death by 21 years.
Mr. Firmenich first worked in Ashland as a millright for the Miller and Ritchie company. He was employed there for four years. and later became connected with D.W. Mowatt firm where he was employed until 1905. He also lived on a farm near Sanborn until 1916. For the past few years he has been making his home with his daughter. Mrs. Andrew Anderson on Ninth avenue west.

I’ll have to check with the society to see if they have any more obituaries.

CategoriesFamily TreeMilitaryZalewski

Grandpa Joe

Joseph Zalewski

Though, I was alive for more than a year before my great-grandfather, Joseph Zalewski, passed away, I really don’t remember much of him or have any photos of him and I. He seemed like a nice guy. If he was anything like my grandfather (his son) he was probably strict, yet loving. He was probably pretty stern since he was a Milwaukee Police Officer and fought in World War I.

He served in the US Army Infantry during World War I (1917-1918). Research has said he fought with the Allied Expeditionary Forces in France during several major battles. Unfortunately, his military records were destroyed in a fire in 1973 at the National Personnel Records Center – St Louis, Missouri (according to a reply to a 1994 inquiry submitted by another family researcher.) After the war, he returned to Milwaukee where he served with distinction on that city’s municipal police force for 33 years until his retirement.

Joseph’s parents immigrated from Poland in 1890 and out of all of their children, only two of them were sons. Joseph was the only Zalewski boy to have children, making him the only Zalewski line from Poland in the area that I can prove relation. So, even though there are many Zalewski’s in the Milwaukee area, I don’t know how, or if, I’m even related to them. This is one reason for this website along with the Zalewski Family Tree Project and the Zalewski Surname DNA Study.