Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Inaccuracy? Confusion? or Perhaps a Little White Lie?

 I suspect that Lucia Raczynska lied about the ages of her children.

It has been a struggle to find information about my paternal grandmother’s family. A scribbled name on the 1900 census had me on a wild goose chase for quite a while.

My grandmother was Tekla (Thecla) Raczynska, born September 21, 1873 in Breckerfeld, Westphalia, Prussia.  Her parents, Lucas Raczynski and Lucia Juskowiak were married on 24 Nov 1867 at Cerekwica, Wielkopolskie, Prussian Poland.  There were no civil records in Germany/Prussia until 1874, so church sacramental records are my only sources.

The 1900 US Federal census shows Tekla with her husband, Stanley Dachtera, and 3 children plus Lucia, listed as “mother” and Lucia’s sons Frank and John. But – scribbled in for Lucy’s surname is: Matykewich (sic).

So even though I know better than to make assumptions, I assumed that Lucia had been widowed and remarried to Mr. Matykiewicz.  I’m too embarrassed to tell how much time and effort I wasted on that.  Adding to my confusion was that one of Tekla’s sisters-in-law, Stella Dachtera, married Frank Raczynski.  Because he proved difficult to find in any records I had access to, I was not able to make a connection. I was never able to find Tekla on any passenger list. After beating on that brick wall for a while, I gave it a rest and moved on to something else. 


Fast forward to last Saturday.

Scanning photographs of my Dachtera ancestors got me back to my research.  I chased a couple of BSOs (Bright Shiny Objects), but finally found a passenger list record at FamilySearch.  Of course the surname was badly misspelled but it was worth a look at the document.  The transcriber did his/her best, but when I saw the record, I knew it was Raczynski.

It made sense.  There was my grandma with her mother, a sister, and two brothers.  YAY!!!
I did another search on Raczynski looking at city directories – and there she was in the St. Paul city directory:  Lucy Raczynski (widow of Lucas) and her son John at the appropriate address.  NO mention of Matykewich!
But then I went back to the 1900 census and it didn’t make sense.  The ages and immigration years were different from the passenger list.  How many women named Lucia Raczynska came to the US with children named Tekla, Veronica, Frank (Franz) and John (Jan)????  It is likely that the census taker spoke with Tekla who should have had accurate knowledge of birth dates – but she also may have had enough of an accent to confuse the census taker. I’ll never know for certain.
I created a small spreadsheet to try to clarify things, but that only made it clear that at least one data source had wrong information.

I have not reconciled the differences, and perhaps never will, but here’s my current thinking.
While it would be difficult to falsify the age of the infant Jan, the older children may have been presented as younger than they were in order to keep the cost of passage as low as possible.
Tekla was a very short woman.  If she was tiny as a child, it could have been possible to pass her off as a younger child to avoid paying an adult fare.  The same would hold for Veronica and Franz.
So at present, I am assuming that the Tekla Raczinska of the passenger list is my grandmother traveling with her mother and siblings.
Sure would be nice to find real proof.
If you have a different theory, please let me know. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

DPLA - Digital Public Library of America

Note that this is an unusual web address.

The goal of the Digital Public Library of America is to bring together the riches of America’s libraries, archives, museums, and cultural heritage sites, and make them freely available to students, teachers, researchers, and the general public. It is an ongoing project, constantly adding more material.

The great value of this project is that historical documents have been scattered far and wide over the years. Images and documents from your home town in Ohio may show up in libraries or museums anywhere from California to Virginia . 

A search for St. Paul, Minnesota, returned more than 78,000 items. Results showed documents and images located in several places including Wisconsin, Michigan, and Virginia and in 14 different languages..  They are located in places I would never think to look.  Nor would I have thought to search for the very useful documents I found. . DPLA allows you to search by subject, place or date. 

I am seeking to understand how my ancestors lived – what their everyday lives may have been. 

A study of Minnesota incomes in the years 1938 – 1939 gives me clues about life during the Great Depression.

Items include everything from state statutes, to geology, to proceedings of the state horticultural society, to maps, photos, history, memoirs, and promotional materials designed to lure both settlers and tourists.

Drawing of Union Depot from The Grand Opening of the Northern Pacific Railroad - 1883

Wonderful information can be found where you’d least expect it.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Family History in Perspective – Inflation

Old-timers may talk about way back when bread was 5 cents a loaf. I actually remember when
gasoline was $0.30 per gallon. Sounds pretty cheap.  BUT. I got my first part time job in 1958 making minimum wage: $1.00/hour.  My mother spoke about working in the late 1930’s for $0.39/hour.  Ahhh! The good old days!

When we look at our parents and grandparents in the 1930 US Federal census records, we see the value of their homes, or what they paid monthly in rent. The numbers look pretty small. Likewise, when we find information on wages and salaries, those numbers look pretty small. So, I’ve spent a little time comparing then and now.

Using the CPI (Consumer Price Index) Inflation Calculator from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, I see that things may not have changed that much. It is also important to realize that the world of finance was much different in the past.  It was more difficult to get a mortgage or other kind of credit.  Savings were often kept at home rather than in banks. Only the well-to-do had checking accounts.  By contrast, creditors, today are often more than willing to extend credit to almost anyone who is breathing.

A home valued at $10,000.00 in 1930 is valued in 1916 dollars at just over $144.500.00. 

In 1938 in St. Paul, Minnesota, the average annual income was $600.00 for an individual and $1700.00 per household (multiple wage earners)[i]

1938                           2016
$600                           $10,200
$1708                         $29,200

That still doesn’t look like much in today’s dollars, but this was the Great Depression when very many were unemployed.

My 1958 $1.00 minimum wage would equal $8.35 today. 

Certainly there are many more factors to consider when trying to compare yesterday’s economics to today’s; but even this simplistic comparison is interesting.