22 December 2018

Holiday Memories

It has been quite a while since I last posted. Research into my family tree and that of friends has continued but there is something about the Holidays and the many memories shared with my family which is helping me to get back to writing.

Love of family and love of Holidays seem to go hand in hand. The memories help carry us through times, both good and bad. As an only child, my cousins were surrogate siblings in my heart. We share many fond memories of growing up in the Chicago area. I was born in raised in what is called the “Little Warsaw” area of Chicago. It was in the northwestern area of the city, consisting of Bucktown, Logan Square, Albany Park and many other surrounding neighborhoods.

My immigrant ancestors originally settled in the Bucktown area which received its name from the goats owned by the Polish families of the neighborhood (a male goat is called a buck). It is the descendants of these immigrants, my aunts, uncles, cousins and me who moved our families to other areas but the “Little Warsaw” area remains predominately Polish. As late as 1994, when I attended my Aunt and Uncle Mitchell Wegrzyn’s 50th Anniversary, some store clerk only spoke Polish. I remember shopping in a local delicatessen (wędlinę which stands for meat in Polish) and the cashier having to call all around the store to find someone to translate the cost of my purchase from Polish to English. Alas, I never learned my ancestors mother tongue, a regret I have to this day.
My paternal grandparents died well before my parents married. My maternal grandfather died when I was 5 years old. I still remember his joy and excitement when the Holidays approached. I will carry his love for family and Holidays in my heart forever. My maternal grandmother died when I was 26. When this happened our families no longer celebrated the Holidays together, but the memories will always be with all my cousins and with me. 
Szostek & Kolodzinski Family Gathering
My only regret is not having their stories to share with future generations. Oh, sure I remember some of them, but time has passed and the sharpness of memories fade. I wish I  would have recorded some of what my grandparents and parents shared, either by writing them down or recording their voices as they reminisced about their parents and life in Poland.

This Holiday Season, along with creating new memories be sure to share family memories of days past. Treasure the stories of those in your family who have enjoyed more Holiday memories than you have. Write down or record (with their permission, of course) the stories for those too young or not yet born. In this way their love will never be forgotten. Don’t forget to share your memories, too, you are an important part of the Holidays!

29 December 2014

The First Inda Immigrants - Settling in Arkansas and Oklahoma

Ten branches of the Inda families have been identified emigrating from Poland to the United States.  All had lived within 40 miles of each other while living in Poland.  All seemed to have left family, parents, siblings and cousins, behind in the old country.  They had lived in an area of Poland that was part of Prussian Empire. 

The first to group to immigrate did so in 1868.  They were Peter, Frances (Peter’s wife), and Josepha (Peter’s sister).  Peter was about 29 years old.  He had married his wife in Grylewo, Poland in 1866.   Their marriage record shows Peter was living in Golancz and Frances in Rybowo.  Frances was about 5 years younger than Peter.  The following is a copy of their marriage register (top of page).

Sailing across the vast Atlantic Ocean on the S.S. Marco Polo, they arrived at the Castle Garden Immigration Center in New York City on the 1st of June in 1868.
  What brave souls they were, arriving in a new country, not believed to know anyone there.  They came to find a better life, to find freedom, freedom for themselves, freedom for their children and freedom for their grandchildren. The USA ended the Civil War three years previously.  President Johnson had been impeached and Ulysses S. Grant was new President. 

Peter and Frances first settled in Michigan.  The couple had five children born to them there, sons Joseph Stanley in 1870, Michael Lawrence in 1872, John Andrew in 1873 and Valentine in 1878  Their first daughter, Johanna, was also born in Michigan but her birth is recorded in Wyandotte in 1876.  The next record found on the family is in Arkansas in 1880, it is the birth of their son, Casmier Nickolas who was later known as Jasper.  The couple also had a daughter, Pauline, born about 1884.  It is possible there were more children but no records have been found at this time.  Peter believed in his new county and became a US citizen in 1872.
It is with their daughter Pauline’s family, that Peter and Frances spent the rest of their lives.  They are buried in the Immaculate Heart of Mary Cemetery in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Joseph would marry Catherine Ang Blockowiak in 1899.  They would give birth to two daughters, Frances and Louise.  They raised their children and grew old together in Pulaski County, Arkansas. 

Michael would marry Bridget M. Masham about 1909.  Mihael would be found living in Colorado before 1918 but by 1930 the couple would be living in Grant, Custer, Oklahoma.  Here they would settle.  Both are buried in the Anthon Cemetery in Custer County, Oklahoma.

John would marry Agnes Victoria Makowski in 1900. They would live with Agnes’ parents for a short time prior to moving to Oklahoma.  In 1910 they live in Bales but by 1920 they would have placed roots in Guthrie.  This is where the couple raised their three children, Frank, Floyd and Margaret.  John and Agnes are buried in Saint Theresa's Catholic Cemetery in Harrah, Oklahoma.

Johanna would marry John J. Yanniger in 1893.  They would continue to live and raise their three children, Joseph, George and Louise, in Little Rock, Arkansas.  Johanna, who also went by Jane, and her husband are buried there.

Valentine or Vall, died at age 28.  It is believed he had not married.

Jasper would be living in Oklahoma by 1905.  It is here we find his marriage to Louise C. Drew.  The couple have five children, Theodore, Louis, Cecelia, Constance and Josephine before Louise died in 1942.  In 1944, Jasper married Katie B. Whittington in Arkansas.  It was here he would live until his death in 1965.  Jasper was well loved by both of his wives.  He is buried next to Katie in the Memorial Park Cemetery in Pine Bluff, Arkansas but he also has a headstone next to Louise in Calvary Cemetery in Shawnee, Oklahoma.

Pauline married Michael Peter Wilkiewicz.  The couple stayed in Arkansas and had five children, Thaddeus, Frances, Louise, Constance and Sylvester.  Pauline and Michael are buried in Calvary Cemetery in Little Rock. 

So far, no further record has been found of Peter’s sister, Josepha Inda.  She was born about 1847.

22 December 2014

Tales of Christmas Past

Prior to my grandfather’s death in 1955, my family would gather at my grandparents, Stanley and Mary Szostek (nee Inda), home at Springfield in Chicago.  It was here we would celebrate Christmas. The tree would have been lovingly trimmed by my dziadek (grandfather in Polish).   The picture below was taken on my first Christmas at dziadek and grandma's home.
The wonderful smells of Holiday cooking and baking would fill the air.  All of my maternal uncles, aunts and cousins would arrive, bundled up on this cold Chicago day.  The atmosphere would be warm with the joy of another joyous Holiday together.  After some talk, we would all sit down at the table and share the opłatki.  

Opłatki is the first food of the Christmas vigil.  It is a wafer normally rectangular in shape.  The wafer is similar in texture, thickness and taste to a Communion Wafer.  They are about 4” by 6”.  Each has an different embossed picture on it, such as the Nativity or the Three Kings.  The opłatki is normally blessed by a Priest prior to bringing it home.
At the Christmas dinner, the eldest person offers the opłatki to the next oldest, wishing them good health and the fulfillment of their heart’s desires.  If there is any strain between these two people, forgiveness is also asked for now.  At the conclusion of the eldest person’s wishes, the next oldest person expresses their thanks and breaks off a corner of the opłatki. The eldest person then repeats this offering with each individual at the table in the same manner.  After the eldest has shared the opłatki and wished with the youngest person, the second eldest repeats the process starting with the eldest and ending with the youngest.  This continues, each having their turn, until the youngest has offered wishes and shares the opłatki with everyone present in the same manner.  Everyone has an opportunity to say a few words and share wishes since each person in turn offers the opłatki to the others present.   
After everyone shares the opłatki, the dinner begins.  Wine was served, usually a sweet one by Mogen David.  The first course was homemade chicken soup with kluski noodles.  After that was finished the rest of the meal would be placed one the table.  Food was shared family style.  It was passed on huge platters or in large bowls.  Included would be chicken, beef, polish sausage with sauerkraut, mashed potatoes and gravy, browned potatoes, at least two vegetables a selection of breads. We would eat and eat and then eat some more!  Seconds, thirds and sometimes fourths!  Do not forget the dessert!  Pies, cookies and ice cream would be following soon.  It was a wonder anyone could rise from the table!
After the wonderful dinner was finished, everyone moved into the living room where the Christmas tree was shining brightly.  Of course, this was the time my cousins and I were waiting for, time to open the presents!  They were all so beautifully wrapped!  My Aunt Phyllis always had the prettiest bows on the packages her family gave to others.  She would use yards and yards of curling ribbon that was done in a big poof of curls!  Someone was usually chosen as the "mailman", the one who pulled the present out from under the tree and delivered it to the proper person.

Afterwards my dziadek would bring play his concertina and we would sing Christmas carols.  (Below is a picture of my dziadek's concertina)
We would visit with each other for a time then head home with bellies stuffed with food, arms laden with gifts and memories to carry with us throughout our lives.

15 December 2014

My Paternal Grandfather

Michael Kolodzinski was my paternal grandfather.  Everything I know about him came from stories told by my dad and aunts.  I never met him.  He died in Chicago, Illinois on 21 Dec 1940, many years before I was born, years before my parents were even married.  
For many years, this was the only picture I had of Michael.

It was taken in 1938 at the wedding of his daughter, Mary, to Theodore Porebski.  His look is stern for this day.  Maybe I am a romantic but I believe he missed sharing this day with his wife, my grandmother Mary, who died two years before.

Stories, so many stories, inter-sprinkled with facts I have proved through research.  My dad's side of the family is a brick wall for me.  Hopefully over time I will be able to scale that wall through genealogical DNA.

Michael was born in an November 1877.  He claimed to have been born in Lithuania but was Polish.  Both were true since the area where he was born had been part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.  When he was born the area was part of the Russian Partition.  Is it any wonder he spoke 7 different languages, none of which were English.  The area he was born is now part of Belarus.

Michael told he served with the Cossacks.  No doubt he was in the Russian military since all men were expected to serve when they came of age.  In all probability he took care of the Cossack horses since he had a wonderful way with animals.

He arrived in the USA on 18 January 1908 at Ellis Island in New York.  According to the passenger list his residence was Dykshuy, Russia.  He had paid for his own ticket and had $10.00 in his pocket.  He was traveling to Chicago to his brother Nikodum, who lived on Avery Avenue.  No brother has been found.

He adopted my grandmother's two children, they would have four more of their own.  Two of the four died in infancy, one of the adopted children died in her 20's.  This left my father, Edward and his two sisters, Anna and Mary.  To support his family Michael worked as a laborer for many different employers.  He also worked for himself as a junk man, driving a horse and wagon through the streets of "Buck Town" in Chicago.
This is a picture of my grandparents taken in Buck Town.  My grandparents moved many times and owned their own home several times.  As a matter of fact, my maternal grandparents rented and apartment from them in the 1920's.  Everything changed during the depression.  They lost their home and even the children looked to find work just so the family could survive.  Michael had a pet rabbit who followed him around like a dog.  The family had no food and the decision was made to kill the rabbit so they could eat.  It was done and the family had food to eat that day, well, all except Michael.  He could not eat.  

My grandfather was a strict man with his children.  He was also a hard drinking man, an alcoholic.  It is for this reason my dad never drank.  After my grandmother died, Michael lost himself in the bottle.  He died of a cerebral hemorrhage on 21 Dec 1940 and is buried in Saint Adalberts Cemetery in Niles, Illinois.

06 November 2014

My Dziazek, Stanley Szostek

My grandpa, dziadek in Polish, was Stanley Szostek.  I never remember calling him grandpa, he was always dziadgie to me.  He was not in my life for very long, dying when I was only 5, but his love and warmth has stayed with me my entire life.  He was the only grandfather I would know.
Stanislaus Szostek was born 10 Oct 1884 in Gromiec, Poland.  At the time of his birth, Gromiec was part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and located in Austrian Partition of Poland.  Poland would not exist again as a country until 1918.  Stanislaus was the second of six children born to Wawrzyniec and Maria Bronislawa Szostek.  The family’s life in Poland was not easy, as soon as he was old enough, Stanislaus went to work in the nearby coal mines.

Gromiec, Poland   (courtesy Google Maps)
When he and his older brother, Frank, saved enough money they immigated to America.  They arrived at Ellis Island on 27 Apr 1907 having sailed from Bremen, Germany on the S.S.Main.  Both were surprised at finding the streets were not paved with the gold they had been told they would find.  Franc had $12.00 in his pocket, Stash had $20.00.  According to the ship manifest found, Franc was married.  The brothers were traveling to Chicago, Illinois to stay with Franc’s brother-in-law, Stash Rebek.  Frank was 5”4” tall and Stash 5’6”, both were stated to be blond with blue eyes although in 1918 Stash is said to have brown hair and grey eyes. 

Stash or Stanley, would stay in Chicago working as a Box maker in 1910 and a moulder for Illinois Mallabel Iron Works in 1918.  During the time he worked at Illinois Mallabel Iron Works, he befriended John Bochyniak.   John and Stash would sometimes get together at John’s home.  It was here Stash met John’s wife, Mary, and his son, Eddie.   Stash became close to the whole family.  Mary became a widow in January of 1917.  She was left alone to raise her small son and moved back to Franklin Park with her parents.  Stash kept in touch and when Mary’s mourning period was over he asked her to marry him telling her how much he loved Eddie and that he would take care of both of them for the rest of their lives.  The couple married in Franklin Park at Saint Gertrude’s Catholic Church on 24 Sep 1918.  Over the next 10 years they would add 3 daughters to their family, Phyllis, Loretta and Helen.  
Stanley, holding Loretta, and Mary Szostek with Phyllis and Eddie right front c1922
Stanley worked hard in a foundry over the years, money was not abundant but the  family was a happy one.  It was expensive but Stanley became a US citizen in 1936.  Stanley loved to cook and made most of the meals teaching his daughters how to make wonderful pies along with other great Polish foods.  It was not all work and no play, Stanley would bring out his concertina  and sing the songs he learned in Poland.  Christmas was his favorite time of the year as he would decorate the house and while the delicious smell of his baked goods filled the air.  

Loretta Szostek, Leroy and Mary Porebski, Helen, Mary, and Stanley Szostek, Mitchell and Phyllis Wegrzyn, Emily, Holding Diane, and Edward Szostek c1946

Most of what I have written was told to me by my mom, Loretta, and my aunts but I remember so much....  
My dziadgie would pull me up into his arms and hug me whenever we went to visit.  Even though he would never learn to speak English and I did not know Polish, we understood what the other was saying...  
Every time we visited he would bring out the cards for a game of Canasta with my dad.  I would sit on dziadgie's lap as he play and talked to me, asking me which of the pretty cards he should play next...
He rolled his own cigarettes and I remember tiny pieces of tobacco falling out and settling on his chest.   The Bull Durham bags the tobacco came in were precious gifts he would give to me....
I remember the sound of his concertina and his singing kolędy (Polish carols)...

Stanley Szostek (1984-1955)
I cry as I write this, still missing his warmth and love all these years since.