Saturday, April 6, 2013

More cousins to look for.

I finally found the set of photos I’d asked my Mom to identify for me – and I finally really looked at them. While I knew there were distant cousins named Jankowski in Chicago, I hadn’t paid attention to another family of cousins named Polcyn.

On his arriving New York passenger list, my great grandfather Schipp indicated his destination to be Chicago. Probably to the Jankowski relatives there.  I don’t know how long he stayed in Chicago before settling in St. Paul, MN.

But who are the Polcyns??? 

Of course I went straight to census records to look for clues. That lasted one afternoon because I decided that it would be better to put this search off for a while.   I’ll get back to them when I get stuck again on my current searches. 

What's Next?

I’ve recovered from the worst cold I’ve had in ages.  It really took its toll for a few weeks; sapping all energy and motivation. So now I’m picking up where I left off on my research but I’m not sure where that is.

I’ve found my ancestral villages – at least the places where my great grandparents married and began their families. It was exciting finding their records on LDS microfilm.  But these were church sacramental records because civil records were not kept at that time.  With rare exception, they’re not indexed which means that you must know where to look and that can be a problem. So I feel that I’ve arrived at another brick wall. 

Do I try chipping away at the bricks trying to trace ancestors back into the early 1800’s? Looking for a needle in a haystack?  Just how far back can you trace Polish peseants?

Or do I take a break from that aspect, and focus on the family after they arrived in the US?

Or do I tackle another family line? 

Think I’ll take a few more days to plot my next move.,

Monday, February 25, 2013

Trendy Names

Trendy names have been with us for a long time. In recent times we’ve had thousands of Jennifers, Jasons, and Jeremys, among other cool names.  It was once fashionable to name boys after illustrious US presidents. In my husband’s ancestry are several George Washingtons and Thomas Jeffersons.

As I look for ancestors in Polish church records from the mid 19th century, I wonder what was influencing the trends in names. Were the name fads local or were they inspired by people they read about?

Reading the LDS microfilms, I find a year when it seems that almost half of the girls born in one area are named Josepha and many of the boys are Joseph. The next year will be loaded with Catherine or boys named Martin.  Each year seems to produce a new favorite name for each gender

My Roman Catholic ancestors were all named after saints, so I don’t find the Polish equivalent of Dweezil or Moon Unit.  Too bad.  Might make them easier to find.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Fuzzy Memories Miss the Mark

Turns out my memory is fuzzier than I knew.  In my earlier post about Big Grandma’s House  I mentioned her coal burning cook stove.  A cousin who spent more time at Grandma’s than I ever did, corrected my mental picture.  As soon as I was reminded that it had porcelain knobs and a big shiny metal shield on the front, a better mental image clicked into place.  It was a gas stove!  But it did have a wood firebox on one side.

This certainly proves the value of having family members review what we write.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Big Grandma's House

Big Grandma, my mother’s mother, wasn’t really very big, not much more than 5 feet tall; but she was bigger than Little Grandma, my father’s mother, who was a tiny woman.

After we moved to the Chicago area, when we’d visit St. Paul, we’d stay with Big Grandma.  To a little girl who visited only once a year, her house was full of places I longed to explore but I wasn’t allowed to investigate - places that must surely contain all manner fascinating things.

The house was one of the earliest built in that part of St. Paul. Additions had been made by the time my grandparents bought it in 1920.  It still sits on Goodhue Street on the limestone bluff at the lower end of  the old High Bridge.  The basement had been carved or blasted out of the limestone.  There was a coal fired furnace down there; and probably storage for meat and vegetables.  I’m sure that the limestone kept the temperature more or less constant summer or winter.

Early photo – before my time

 The High Bridge connected the high bluffs of the wide gorge carved from the stone by the Mississippi river.  At the river’s level were still some homes, some industry, and a railroad yard.

The house itself was quite unremarkable.  It was green painted stucco. There were large shade trees in the front yard.  Around the side was a pretty plot of lily of the valley.  I loved those tiny fragrant white flowers. The back yard included a chicken coop that was empty by the time I saw it.  When her family was at home, Grandma raised chickens and ducks.  She used duck eggs in her baking because they were richer than chicken eggs.  Also in the backyard was Grandpa’s shed!

How I longed to investigate all the wonderful things stashed away in that shed! Grandpa died before I was born so I never knew him.  He’d been a teamster with his own team of horses; and the shed had housed the horses, his wagon, and all his tack and tools.  I was actually inside the shed a few times but never let loose to explore.  There were horse collars and other tack hanging on one wall. There was a grinding wheel for sharpening tools. I loved its smell of old wood and old leather.

The interior of the house was plain, functional, and felt very comfortable to me.  Nothing fancy, but I sure wish I had photos of its old fashioned furnishings.  There was a player piano with at least a dozen music rolls. I couldn’t play the rolls, but I was allowed to occasionally play the piano.  I learned decades later that one of my cousins resented me because Grandma let me sometimes play it. 

Hanging on the wall above the piano were portraits of two beautiful young women – 1920’s glamour portraits of two of my aunts.  I found that hard to believe because by the time I knew them, they were already in their 40’s which meant “old” in my young eyes.

There was a small room that had a toilet but it had no other plumbing. It also had a box of newspapers for bathroom reading.  Bathing was done in the kitchen in a big, round galvanized tub that was brought out for baths and for laundry.

The kitchen had a sink with a drainboard and single faucet for cold water.  Hot water for dishwashing, bathing and laundry was heated on the cook stove.  It was a huge black coal fired iron stove.  Grandma had cooked and baked for her family and taught her seven daughters to cook on that stove.  To the right of the stove there was a large pantry that excited my curiosity because the upper shelves held lots of interesting looking things. I never got to explore it. A room to the left of the stove held a large ice box among other things.

The long wide dining room held a sturdy table that would seat the whole family: parents and their 11 kids.  By the time I arrived, the only kids around were grandchildren and even some of them were already adults. On one wall was a big old clock with a brass pendulum and a pretty loud tick. It’s chime struck every quarter hour and tolled the hour. Off to one side was a nook with a small table and a chair.  On the table was a candlestick phone.

The rail yard at the base of the bluff was probably always pretty busy but I only noticed the trains at night.  I’d fall asleep to the ticking of the dining room clock and then, in the darkness, the whole house would begin to vibrate as a train pulled by a chugging steam engine would resonate through the limestone.  I can still feel it.

I remember being upstairs at Grandma’s house only once.  As usual, I wasn’t allowed to explore. There were chests full of things that Grandma had kept and that aunts and uncles had left behind.  Imagine what treasures were tucked away just waiting for a little girl to find them.

Our annual visits stopped in 1953 after my first brother was born; and when Grandma died in 1954, the house was emptied and sold.  To this day I still wonder what amazing things I might have found in the forbidden (to a little girl) spaces of Big Grandma’s house.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Wish I could remember

I’m feeling a little sad today because I have so few cohesive memories of my early childhood.  Much as I’d like to be able to construct a story from my early years, my mind seems to hold only snapshots.  I’m hoping that as I write things, I’ll begin to remember more.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Family History Writing Challenge

I’ve joined the Family History Writing Challenge in hopes that it will get me to actually begin writing.

The challenge covers the month of February. Each person joining the challenge pledges to write a certain number of words per day for the 28 day span. My goal is very modest: only 250 words a day. I hope I’ll do more than that.

Where to begin????  I’m thinking of starting with history; explaining the social and economic conditions that led my great grandparents and so many others to leave their homeland. 

It is far too easy to get stuck in research mode.  It’s a great excuse to use for not writing:  “I haven’t got enough information yet”.  Well, I don’t have enough information, but by beginning to write I’m hoping to more clearly see the gaps in my research.

I don’t have to show anyone what I’ve written so why do I feel so much trepidation about starting???

Monday, January 21, 2013

Madness Monday

What ailments were included in the definition of madness in the early 1900’s?  These days it seems that we define madness in terms of mental illnesses that are not controllable by medications, or in terms of individuals who refuse to be medicated. But I suspect that the definition was very broad in those days and was applied to anyone who had difficulty coping with life as well as those who had severe mental illness.

A 2nd great uncle on my mother’s side died in 1925 in a state mental hospital.  Of course I only discovered this by finding him in that institution in census records.  It was certainly not a topic that was ever mentioned in the family, but it makes me wonder. Clinical depression has been a recurring thread in my mother’s family and I am one of its victims.  Was that his problem?
Can I or should I find out?  Hmmmm……..

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Put it in writing

Like most family historians my intention is to write it all down. How will I approach that?

I’ve become a fan of Marlis Humphrey’s approach: “Next Generation Family History Publishing”.  She reminds us of something that should be a prime focus: our audience.

Who are we writing for?  What will make them want to read what we write?

If we’re writing for other family historians, we’ll want to make sure that every i is dotted and t crossed when it comes to documents and source citations. They’ll appreciate our diligence and thoroughness.  But if we’re writing for future generations, such a comprehensive and scholarly tome will just sit on bookshelves for a while before it is stored in the attic or basement.

My goal is to produce a two tier family story: a different version for each of two kinds of readers. The foundation document will include the details and photos and tree diagrams and documents with citations. From that I will derive a short version that will be as compelling and interactive as I can make it.

 My first priority is to engage my children and grandchildren and those who come after them.  These are people who’ve grown up in the information age; who have been bombarded with snippets and recaps, audio and video clips, sound bites, Facebook, texting and tweets.  I want to be able to grab their attention in such a way that they’ll want to delve deeper in their own history; and provide a place for them to go to when they do. Ms. Humphrey provides examples in her presentations including her own interactive family history book and the wonderfully creative Ology books as seen at Today’s technology tools give us so much more opportunity to make something that will be appealing to people of all ages.

Wow!  What an ambitious project.  I’d better get started.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Thankful Thursday

I’m thankful to all of my great-grandparents for their decisions to come to the United States.  They all were Polish, but when they came over, Poland existed only in the hearts and minds of her people. The nation had been partitioned yet again and Poles were ruled by Prussia, Russia and Austria.  The future there was to be World War I, (“The Great War"), World War II including Nazi concentrations camps, and years behind the Iron Curtain as part of the USSR.

How incredibly lucky are we, the descendents of immigrants!  They had the courage to start over in a new land.  For that, I am grateful.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Everything's Coming Up Roses

While again waiting for LDS films to arrive, I took a short break from family history.  But it’s always lurking in the back of my mind.  After a few days of gen-inactivity, I thought I’d see what I could find on another line on the Family Search site.

I’ve been stuck on John Rose born in New York state in 1812, but moved to Wisconsin where he died in 1891.  There seem to have been hundreds of John Roses born in New York around that date. (OK so I exaggerate; but there were several.)  I had only the birth year and location as shown in census records.

On the family search site, I keyed in his name, birth year and death years and locations.  He popped right up. Data from Wisconsin Deaths and Burials gave me his correct date of birth PLUS the names of his parents, Solomon and Polly Rose. 

It only got better from there, because when I searched on Solomon giving a range of possible birth years I found him and his father who was also Solomon.


Now I’m surprised to find just how many men named Solomon Rose lived in New England in the late 1700s.  So the search continues but this was a huge piece of the Rose puzzle.

Thanks, LDS