Friday, June 20, 2014

Genealogy Mysteries: Finding Fred Koshuba

Fred Koshuba's Grave in Forest Lawn Cemetery, Maplewood, MN


One of the first genealogy projects I worked on is a family tree for the Koshuba Family  I have been interested in  putting together Fred Koshuba’s story, since my mother and uncle told me that he was a favorite cousin.   Since my mother’s family was estranged from Joseph Koshuba’s (Fred's father) family, finding information about them has not been easy. 


When doing genealogy research, you have to consider what do you know, what  you think may be correct and what may or may not be correct.  These are big questions when studying a person’s history. Remember, your information is only as good as your sources.


First of all, the facts in the list below are backed up by the 1920, 1930 and 1940 US Census and Fred’s Death Certificate.

·       Fredrick Koshuba was the son of Joseph Koshuba and Florence Florence Holmberg

·       He had two sisters, Katherine Florence and Marie Olga.

·       He was born on January 18, 1914 in St Paul Minnesota

·       He was living in Detroit, Michigan in 1941.

·       He died on December 8, 1941 in Dolton, Illinois, at the age of 27, and was buried in St Paul, Minnesota


Fred Koshuba, about 10 years old.

Fred Koshuba , 1934-5

The 1920 and 1930 US Census

The first place that I found solid information about Joseph Koshuba’s family was in the 1920 and 1930 United States Census.  Since Joseph died on January 1919, on the 1920 US Census, Florence is the head of the house, living at 886 Central, in St Paul, and is listed as the owner of the house. Her mother, Ida Holmberg and her brother, Julian lived with the family.  Fred was attending school.


In the 1930 US Census, The family had moved an apartment at 177 St Albans St, Saint Paul. Fred is working as a helper in a print shop, as well as going to school.  According to family information, Fred always worked, and the Census corroborates this. 

St Paul City Directories


From the years 1930-1940, the information about Fred  comes from St Paul City Directories, which list addresses and occupation information for residents of the city.  They are good sources, but not great ones, since I haven’t found a directory for every year, and sometimes the information doesn’t agree with what I already found.

Fred graduated high school in 1932. I assume that it was Central High School in St Paul, since Fred's sister graduated in 1934.  In the 1940 Census, his education is listed as 4 years of high school.  In the years following high school, Fred worked at various jobs including apprentice at the St Paul Dispatch-Pioneer Press newspaper.  In 1935, he worked as an assembler at the Ford Motor Company in St Paul.  In 1937, he is listed as working as a printer, but I’m not sure that this is accurate, since on the 1940 US Census, he is listed as living in Detroit in 1935.


The 1940 US Census


In the 1940 Census, Fred is living in Detroit, Michigan at 6436 Jonathan St.  All the information appears to be correct about Fred, his age, state of birth, but his name is spelled Kashuba.  However, the Koshuba name is spelled incorrectly more often than it is spelled correctly. Fred was boarding with a family, and had been living there for five years. His occupation is listed as line hand in an auto factory, which is consistent with his last occupation in St Paul.  The dates fit what is already known about Fred, except for two dates in the St Paul Directory for 1935 and 1937, so it is possible that the Census record may be for a different Fred Koshuba.  Both my mother and my Uncle Walter told me that Fred was working as a reporter for the Detroit Free Press, but I can find no sources to back this up.  This may just be one of those "facts" that were muddled by time.

The Report in the Dolton Pointer


The next information I have about Fred is his death.  My mother told me that Fred died in a car accident and that a Koshuba uncle was driving.  Family members from the Holmberg side of Fred’s family said that a Holmberg relative was driving.  This is when I searched for some additional sources.  I found a copy of his death certificate and an article about the accident in an Illinois newspaper. 

According to the Dolton, Illinois newspaper, The Pointer, Fred was killed and another man was seriously injured on Monday, December 8, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese.

The accident occurred at Stoney Island Ave and Main Street in Dolton, IL, when a car, driven by C. Akerman (or Ankerman), was traveling west at a high speed on Main Street when he struck a culvert and his car overturned.  There is no mention of how Fred’s car was hit, but from the description, I am guessing that Fred was driving south on Stoney Island, and was hit at the intersection of Stoney Island and Main St.  When I checked Google Maps and Google Earth, I  found this intersection no longer exists; today, Main Street ends at the Bishop Ford Expressway. Fred suffered internal injuries and a crushed chest and was pronounced dead at Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey, Illinois.  The other driver, Akerman, survived with serious injuries; several broken ribs, an injured spine and a possible skull fracture.  In my search, I contacted the Dolton Police and was told that accident reports are destroyed after 10 years.

Unanswered Question: Why was Fred in Dolton?


Why was Fred in Dolton, Illinois, when he lived in Detroit?  One of his nieces suggested that he may have been visiting her mother who was living at the time in Evanston, Illinois. He would have to travel south in order to get around the southern tip of Lake Michigan.  Stoney Island Ave, still a main thoroughfare on Chicago’s south side, now runs next to The Bishop Ford Expressway (Interstate 94).  Route 41, runs near the shore of Lake Michigan, and I94 follows the route of old Route 41.  It is possible that Fred was driving south on highway 41 on his way back to Michigan when he was hit.   

Unanswered Question: Was Fred Driving Alone? 

Since this was a serious accident, it is hard to imagine that a second person in Fred’s car could survive it with no injuries.  The article in The Pointer does not mention any other person in either car. I can find no sources to back up the family story that there was another person with Fred in his car. However, since it was mentioned by both the Holmberg and Koshuba families, there is a possibility that someone was with him and was not seriously injured in the accident.

Unanswered Question: Fred's Marriage


When and where did Fred get married?.  My mother never mentioned that Fred was married, and his nieces did not know this either. According to the death certificate, Fred was living at 1761 Seward Ave in Detroit, working at the Ford Motor Company as a payroll clerk. He was married to Charlotte. The address differs that the address shown on the 1940 US Census.  At the time of the Census, usually taken in the month of April, Fred was single.  He must have married sometime between April 1940 and December 1941.  However, I have found no other source for Fred’s marriage besides the Death Certificate.  I have found no evidence of Charlotte’s maiden name or of the date and place of the marriage.

So, I do not have all of Fred's story.  I will continue to work on it, because solving mysteries is one of the pleasures of genealogy.