Friday, July 25, 2014

Visiting the Grandparents at Jewish Waldheim

Jewish Waldheim Cemetery

Last Sunday, we made a trip to the cemetery to visit my husband’s grandparents.  I had never been there, and he hadn’t been there for years.  It was an interesting trip.

Gate at a section of Jewish Waldheim
Jewish Waldheim is a collection of cemeteries, developed by Jewish organizations beginning in the 1870’s. It is located in Forest Park, Illinois, nine miles west of Chicago. Various groups organized, purchased a group of cemetery lots and sold them to members.  These groups included synagogues, landsmanshaften, which were groups of people from the same European town or village, and fraternal organizations.  Many sections were fenced, some had elaborate gateposts or arched gateways.  Many had their own caretakers.  As time passed, interest in these groups dwindled and members died. Eventually most of the cemetery was consolidated under one owner.  Today some of the cemetery is in disrepair, and other sections are well maintained. 

My husband’s paternal grandparents, Sarah and Morris Gerstein are buried in the Odessa section.  They immigrated from Odessa to Chicago in the early 1900’s. 

Morris Gerstein

 Most of the gravestones in Jewish Waldheim include pictures of the persons buried there.  Many have bronze covers, similar to those on the Gerstein gravestone.  Sarah died in 1929, but her picture was taken many years earlier.  Morris's picture appears to be taken later in his life.

Sarah Gerstein

Stuchin Monument in Jewish Waldheim Cemetery

The maternal grandparents, Abraham and Rose Krause, are buried in the Stuchiner section, which was organized by the Stuchin Social Society. In this section, there is a monument to the Jews of Stuchin, killed by the Nazis in World War 2, erected by the Stuchiner Society. There is also a Lomzer section in Waldhiem, organized by Jews from the town of Lomza, near Stuchin.
Unfortunately the picture of my husband's maternal grandfather is gone, and the cover was taken from his grandmother's picture.

Rose Krause's sister, Fannie  Center and her husband, Abraham are buried nearby.

In Chicago, a law forbid any cemeteries to be built within the city limits.  Since there are quite a few older cemeteries in Chicago, how did this come to be?  Most of these cemeteries were built just outside the city limits, directly across the street from Chicago, and as the city grew, the area was annexed by the city of Chicago. Today, several older cemeteries line Crawford Ave, the western city limits of Chicago.  There are many other cemeteries in addition to Jewish Waldheim, in Forest Park, which was far enough outside the city limits, so it was unlikely to be annexed by Chicago.

Rosehill Cemetery station in Chicago, accessed by train.

Traveling from Chicago's West side, where many Jewish people lived, to Forest Park took most of the day when Waldheim was organized in the early 1870’s.  To remedy this, the Metropolitan Elevated Company started funeral service to Forest Park in 1914 and ended 20 years later.  Special cars were designed to transport the family and the casket to the cemetery.  Eventually funeral service was expanded to serve many Chicago area cemeteries, elaborate entrances were built adjacent to the railroad tracks just outside the cemetery. The remnants of the old stop can be seen at Rosehill Cemetery on the Metra North line.

Funeral cars on the Chicago Elevated Line

Friday, July 18, 2014

Landmines and Dead Ends: John and Michalina Nyznyk's Story.

King Jan Sobieski's Castle in Pororyany, Ukraine

When a person begins to research their family tree, all the information found is like finding a treasure. But, what if that treasure is a little bit tarnished?  What is it is not a treasure at all?

Studying the Nyznyk/Noznick family has been a treasure hunt, but sometimes it is like exploring a minefield.  First of all, it was fairly easy to find information about John Nyznyk, my paternal grandfather. Using, I found quite a bit about him.  When I added that to what I already had, I thought that I had a fairly good idea of his life.  Then, I started to step on the landmines.
John Nyznyk in 1914.  Two wedding pictures are the only pictures I have of him.

Unlike my mother’s family, there were not many family stories about John.   From what I was told, he and my grandmother split up shortly after my father was born.  When this happened is unknown.  According to the information I had from my mother, he was an alcoholic who wasn’t interested in working, as well as a wife-beater.  My mother said that my grandmother left him when my father, Peter Noznick was about two years old.  He never had any contact with his father again.  My mother told me that my father heard so many horrible things about John from his mother, that he never had any interest in meeting him.  I don’t recall ever hearing my father speaking about his father very much,  almost everything I know was second hand information, told to me by my mother.  I don't remember asking my grandmother much about her past, probably because her English was poor.  I did enjoy looking at her box of old pictures, but didn't asked her any questions about them.  There were some old wedding pictures, but I don’t think that I saw them until after my grandmother passed away in 1969.

Marya Klak, my paternal grandmother sometime between 1911and 1914.  She married John Nyznyk in 1914.

A few years earlier, my father was planning a trip overseas, actually, a trip around the world, and he needed a passport.  It was then that he found most of the information I had about his father, which came from his parent’s marriage license and  his birth certificate.  This is when I stepped on the first landmine, Noznick wasn’t his surname, it was Nyznyk.The name on the marriage licsence was Nyznyk, on the birth certificate it was Nausneck.  My father had had to get an affidavit to prove that he had been using Noznick since he was in school. I have no idea how Nyznyk became Noznick.

The second land-mine was finding out that my father had a half-brother and a half-sister.  I found this  information searching on when I came across John Nyznyk’s naturalization information. On his  Petition for Citizenship, filed in 1930, he listed two children, Paul and Michalina, living in Pomoryany, Poland (today it is in Ukraine).  He did not list my father.   
The third landmine was the information about my grandmother that John gave during the process of becoming a U.S. citizen. He listed my grandmother, Mary as his wife and said that he had not seen her since 1915, the year my father was born. This contradicted the information he gave when he filed the  Declaration of Intent, (a document stating his desire to become a naturalized citizen) in 1926, when he stated that he was living with my grandmother. I do not think that my father and mother knew about his half-siblings, my brothers and my brothers and I had no idea of their existence. 
The fourth landmine, also found when I was searching on, was the immigration of  John's daughter, Michalina to the United States in 1931.  According to the ship’s manifest, Michalina sailed from Gydnia, Poland, on April 15, 1931 and arrived in New York on April 27.  Her birthplace was Pomoryany, the village where her father was born. Her brother, Paul Nyznyk, was listed as her relative living in her native country.  Her home was listed as Nisczuki, Zborow, Poland. She had less than $50.00 with her, and was planning to become a permanent resident of the United States. She was able to read and write Polish, her occupation was listed as farmer.  She was 5 feet, 4 inches tall, with a fair complexion, brown hair and gray eyes.  Her final destination was 52 Columbia Ave, Belleville, New Jersey.  She was planning to join her father, John Nyznyk at that address.  This is all the information I have about her.  It is interesting, that on the 1940  United States Census, Michalina’s father, John Nyznyk, was living in New York City, and there is no mention of her.

I have run into a dead end.  The only information I have found about Michalina is what I have from the Ship’s Manifest.  Did she stay in the United States, did she marry and have children? I have no idea.  I have also reached a dead end on John Nyznyk as well, the 1940 Census is the last information I found about him.  I heard from family stories that he died, probably sometime in the 1950’s or early 1960’s, but after searching several genealogy databases, I found no more information about either John or Michalina.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Family Stories, Assumptions and Genealogical Mistakes: Fred Koshuba's Story

I know that the little boy in this picture is Fred Koshuba, since it was taken at my grandmother's wedding in 1916. This people in this picture are also in the group wedding picture.  Joseph Koshuba, Florence Holmberg Koshuba, Catherine Florence Koshuba, and Peter Wons are also pictured.  The second gentleman in the picture is not Peter Wons, which was confirmed by other family pictures and his grandson.  He is now known as "Mr Moustache."

A few weeks ago I wrote about my cousin Fred Koshuba.  He was the son of Joseph Koshuba and Florence Holmberg, born in St Paul Minnesota in 1914.  He died tragically at the age of 27 in a car accident in 1941.
The family story, told to me by my mother was that Fred was a passenger in a car driven by Stephen Koshuba, his and my mother's uncle.  I assumed that the accident occurred in St Paul or Minneapolis, since that was where most of the Koshuba family lived.  She also told me that Fred lived in Detroit, Michigan and was a reporter for the Detroit Free Press.

A little bit of research poked a lot of holes in this story.  First of all, after I found Fred's death certificate, I discovered that he died in Dolton, Illinois.  This led to some more questions--why were Fred and Uncle Steve in Dolton, Illinois?  Again, I made another assumption, Fred and Uncle Steve were on their way from St Paul to Detroit, and were driving through Illinois. 

Later, I found a newspaper story about the accident in a Dolton, IL, newspaper.  It said that the accident happened when Clarence Akerman flipped his car, seriously injuring himself and killing Fred.  What about Uncle Steve?  Was he injured as well?  There was no mention in the story about anybody else being involved in the accident.

Last month, I met some Koshuba cousins and the subject of Fred's death came up.  The story they heard was that Fred was killed in an accident and a Holmberg relative was driving.  None of us could figure out what Fred was doing in Dolton.  Since one of Fred's sisters lived in Evanston, IL, perhaps he was driving through Dolton on his way to see his sister in Evanston.  This was possible, although the cousins said that their mother never said anything about Fred planning to come to see her.

After looking at the 1940 United States census, several questions were answered. Fred was living in the Detroit area, actually in Dearborn, Michigan, and had lived there since 1935.  This was confirmed by the fact that I no longer found Fred  living in St Paul (in the St Paul directories) after 1935.  I also knew that most of Fred's immediate family had left Minnesota in the late 1930's.  It was unlikely that he was traveling through Dolton on his way to or from St Paul, and unlikely that he was with Uncle Steve.

I recently learned that one of Fred's cousin's, Geraldine Holmberg, married a man named Akerman.  I searched  for Geraldine Holmberg in, and found in the 1940 United States Census, that she had married a man named Clarence Akerman, and was living in Chicago in 1940.  Now all the pieces of information started to make sense.  Fred was in Chicago visiting Geraldine and Clarence Akerman.  Fred and Clarence were driving in Dolton when the car flipped over.  Since the newspaper article never mentioned another car or driver, or any other injured people, it appears that this was a single car accident.  Clarence was driving at a high speed when he lost control of the car, hit a culvert and the car overturned.

Fred's death certificate and the 1940  United States Census disproved one of the other family stories--Fred was a newspaper reporter. Fred worked for the Ford Motor Company, first as a line hand, and later as a payroll clerk.  There was one more surprise--according to his death certificate, Fred was married to Charlotte.  He was not married in 1940.  Who was Charlotte, and whatever happened to her?

What have I learned from this--first of all, don't accept family stories as fact.   There may be grains of truth in them, but don't be surprised if you find out that they are just stories.  Second, always look for sources for any names, dates or photographs you find that may apply to the family member you are researching.  Do not assume that what you may see in a family tree you find on the Internet is accurate.  Some people are lazy genealogists, they copy any information they find on-line, and assume it is correct.  Sometimes that information has a source, but always check the source,  since you may find that it refers to another person with the same name.
So, I know that family stories and assumptions led me to make some major genealogical mistakes.

This may be Fred Koshuba, as an adult, but I have not been able to prove it, since it may be another cousin, Paul Popko. It was taken at Stephen Koshuba's marriage to Sally Popko.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The 100th Anniversary of Pauline Rychly’s Arrival in the United States.

The Train Station in Ternopil', the beginning of my Grandmother's journey to the United States.

Tomorrow, the 4th of July, 2014 is the 100th anniversary of my grandmother, Pauline Rychly Koshuba Haykak’s arrival in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  She left her home in the village of Bila, just outside of the city of Ternopil’ (aka Tarnopol), in June 1914.  I am not sure of the exact date, but I do know that she left on the ship, The Kronprinz Wilhem, from Bremen Germany, on June 23, 1914, bound for New York City.   
The Kronprinz Wilhem, built in 1901, shortly after my Grandmother arrived in the US in 1914 it became a German warship.

According to the ship’s manifest, she was 14 years old.  She traveled with her Uncle and Aunt, Constantine and Maria Bilan Rychly and their young daughter, Anna.  All of her belongings were in a trunk, which for some reason, she kept for her entire life.  One of her grandsons has the trunk now.
The voyage was difficult for Pauline, since she was seasick for most of the time.  She was traveling on 3rd class tickets, commonly known as steerage, and was processed at Castle Garden, the old immigrant processing center, reopened because Ellis Island could not handle of the large number of ships arriving in New York.  Castle Garden is located near Battery Park and the terminal for the Staten Island Ferry in lower Manhattan. 
Photo by Alfred Stieglitz, Steerage class on a ship bound for Bremen, Germany is 1907

Castle Garden, where my Grandmother first stepped on American soil.

Passengers who had first or second class tickets were processed on board, and left from a dock near where the Verrazano Narrows Bridge is today.  Third class passengers were taken by ferry to Ellis Island, or Castle Garden for immigration processing.  If there were no problems, the immigrants took another ferry to the railroad station in New Jersey, where they continued the journey to their final destination.  Third class tickets for the trip from Europe to the United States big money makers for the shipping lines and railroads, and were often offered as package deals, costing about $25.  I have to mention that although the price of a trans-Atlantic ticket appears to be low, it took an average immigrant working in the United States at that time, about a year to save the money to buy a ticket for a relative in Europe. The shipping lines made no money on first or second class tickets, the profit was made on the third class tickets. 
Four bunks in a steerage class cabin.

Third Class Dining Room on a Trans-Atlantic passenger ship

Accommodations on the voyage in third class were Spartan. The steerage section was in the front of the ship, which felt all the pitching and rolling.  Meals were included in the fare, but the food served was unfamiliar to many of the immigrants, so they didn’t eat it.  My great-aunt, Katherine remembers that she was served liverwurst sandwiches and ripe bananas, which she had never seen before.   The accommodations were basic, on the lower decks, travelers slept in bunk beds, which were sometimes in large rooms, sometimes in cabins. There were portholes in some of the cabins, but they didn’t open. Passengers spent the day walking on the deck.   There were no lounges or entertainment offered to immigrants. 

Ellis Island Train Station--after being processed, many immigrants boarded a train here for the trip to the West.
Inside a car on an immigrant train
Pauline’s sea voyage from Germany to New York took about nine days. My grandmother must have been on a slow train, because it took four days to go from New Jersey to Minneapolis. Often all the passengers on a train were immigrants, so the facilities on the trains were meager, especially if the train and ship were a package deal.

Milwaukee Station, Minneapolis MN.

On July 4th, Pauline, Constantine, Maria and Anna arrived in Minneapolis, and were met their family members.  Pauline’s father, Sylvester had been in the United States since 1908, and her sister Anna, since 1913.  Fourth of July fireworks made a big impression on Pauline, since she had never seen such a display.  Within a few days, she was working in the laundry at the Nicollet Hotel in downtown Minneapolis.

Gateway Park and the Nicollet Hotel where my Grandmother worked when she first came to Minneapolis

Pauline and Anna Rychly in 1915.  This is the oldest picture I have of my Grandmother.