Friday, September 25, 2015

War Memorials on Chicago's North Shore: Highland Park Illinois

The World War One Memorial in Highland Park Illinois. Source:

Located in Memorial Park in Highland Park Illinois, a suburb north of Chicago, this memorial is a combination of a bronze sculpture mounted on a granite background. It was dedicated on November 14, 1926.  The funds to build the monument were raised by residents of Highland Park.
The sculpture, designed by James Cady Ewell, a Highland Park  artist and resident, depicts a female figure  representing World War One.  On either side of the figure, mounted bronze tablets list the names of  278 Highland Park men and women who served in the War.  On the arch behind the figure, "Peace Victorious" is inscribed. The back of the memorial is inscribed "For your tomorrow, They gave their today ."
The list of is long, surprising since the town of Highland Park is not large today, and was even smaller during World War One.

Memorial Park is near downtown Highland Park between Laurel, Prospect and Linden Avenues.

I came across this World War I memorial on my way to a local rummage sale.  I tried to take a picture of it with my phone, but the lighting was poor, so I decided to use the snowy picture above instead.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Paul Niznik and Anastasia Justina Romanowicz:Family Genealogy

Paul Niznik married Anastasia Justina Romanowicz in June 1864.  They are my paternal great-grandparents.

Marriage record for Paulus  Niznik and (Anastasia) Justina Romanowicz, June 1864. Their rrecord is the second one on the page. Source: Metrical Books 1837-1882, Greek Catholic Church, Pomorzany (Zborow).  Original manuscripts of the Central State Historical Archives of Ukraine in Lviv. Filmed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Vol. 201-4A/4642.

Paul was 29 years old when he married, and is listed with two occupations: pelleo (person who works with skins and hides) and artilleryman in the service of Duc Leopold of Bavaria. He may have been involved in the the Second War for Italian Independence in 1859. His parents, Ivan Niznik and Maria Gudziak were deceased at the time of the marriage.  Both the Niznik and Gudziak families were in  the skin and hide trade.

The victorious French watch the Austrian Armies retreat after being defeated in the Battle of Magenta, June 1859. The Austrians are on the bottom right of the painting by Ernest Meissonier. One group of Austrian artillery are pulling a cannon as they retreat.
Anastasia Justina Romanowicz was 19 when she married Paul Niznik.  Both her parents, Ivan Romanowicz and Agatha Pauluk,  had passed away.  The Romanowicz family were also pelleony.  From what I have found in the Metrical Records, marriages were common between families in the same trade.  Paul and Anastasia were also distant cousins. Permission to marry was given by Andreas Nisnik and Andreas Romanowicz.

After their marriage, Anastasia and Paul went to live in his father's family home, number 287 in Pomorazany. Although Paul's parents were deceased, his stepmother, Maria Materko Niznik was still living in the house.  This home belonged to the Niznik family since 1837, according to the earliest records in the Metrical Records, and probably longer that that. 

Village house, similar to the house in Pomorany where Paul and Anastasia lived when they married.

Since the Metrical Records include only deaths after 1865, I know only one of Paul and Anastasia's surviving children, my grandfather, John Nyznyk, born in 1878. Three of Paul and Anastasia's children died in childhood: Peter,  was born and died on July 15, 1867; Anna, born in 1871, lived for six months; and Varvara, born in 1873, lived one year.  There were most likely more children, but there are no records of their births available at this time.

When I first looked at the marriage record, I wasn't sure that Paul's bride was the same woman listed on my grandparent's marriage license, since her name was Justina, not Anastasia.  A volunteer at the Family History Center told me that when I found a birth record for a child of Anastasia and Paul, her correct first name would be listed.  After searching death records, I discovered that Anastasia used one or both of her given names.  She is listed as Justina on the marriage record; on the death record of son Peter, she is listed as Anastasia, and on the death record of daughter Anna, she is listed as Anastasia Justina.
According to the Metrical Records, the Niznik family name changed spelling three times.  In the oldest records, it is Nisnik.  In the 1850's it is spelled Niznik,  with an umlaut over the z.  In 1867, it is spelled Nyznyk.  In the Metrical Records, the first name was written in Polish, the last name in Latin.  But by the late 1860's the priests were recording names with Ukrainian spellings.

I have a few more Metrical Records for Pomorzany to study.  The records for Ozerna have arrived at the Family History Center, so soon I will begin to research the Kociuba (Koshuba) family.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Pomorzany, Pomorany Ukraine: Looking into the Past


When I was growing up, I assumed that finding my family history in Eastern Europe was impossible.  I believed that because of the wars, many records were destroyed and when Ukraine became a part of the Soviet Union in 1939, all remaining records were either destroyed or were impossible to access.  Believing this made discovering my family history impossible.

I did have some basic information, my maternal grandmother gave me the names of her grandparents and aunts and uncles, and some information about her childhood.  Her sister wrote a wonderful memoir about growing up in a  Ukrainian village.  Since I had that, I was able to piece together a basic history of the Rychly family in Ukraine.  My maternal grandmother, Pauline Rychly Koshuba Haydak gave me some information about my maternal grandfather's family, the Koshubas.
I had very little information about my father's family, the Klak and Nyznyk families but when my father had to find information in order to get a US passport, he found the names of both his paternal and maternal grandparents. Now I had something to look for.

The Nyznyk family of Pomorzany or Pomorany, is the family about which I know the least.  I have researched my grandfather,  John Nyznyk in New York, but the search information about him goes cold after 1940.  I decided to go back in time and find out about two of my grandparent's families, the Nyznyk and Romanowicz families.  I was lucky that the Family History Center has the Metrical Records from the Greek Catholic Church of Pomorzany from 1837 to 1862 on film.   I have found  have found a lot of ancestors on these films , but I still can't  fit the puzzle pieces together yet.  What I can do is tell about life in this village during the twenty five years between 1837 and 1862.

The Metrical Records are easy to read, since they are written in Latin and arranged in columns.   In 1793, after the First Partition of Poland, the Austrian government required that vital statistics be kept in all areas acquired in the partition. Local Roman and Greek Catholic churches served as recorders of all vital statistics and that two copies of every record be made, one to stay in the church, the other to be kept in another place, in this instance in the city of Lviv.  All birth, death and marriage records were kept by the Greek Catholic and Roman Catholic Churches at first, eventually Jewish synagogues and other Christian denominations were also able to  record and kept vital statistics.  The LDS Church has filmed vital records in many Ukrainian villages and towns  which are kept in Salt Lake City and  are accessible  at  Family History Centers all over the world.
The birth record in Latin and English

Every record includes names, dates and places where the life event occurred.  Sometimes parent's names are included and occupations are noted as well.  Since local clergymen wrote all the information with pen and ink,  they give a look into the past when beautiful penmanship was necessary and appreciated.  First names were recorded in Latin and surnames were listed in Polish.  "Conditio" which means occupation in Latin is noted on all records.  Agricola was the Latin word for farmer, and the most common occupation.  Nyznyk and Romanowicz family members were listed as pelleo, or persons who worked with skins and hides.  Other common occupations were sutor or sudor, shoemaker, and fabrile, a person who works with metal.  In the 1850's laborers began to appear, and mendicane, or beggar was also listed.

Marriage records contained the most information; the names of the persons to be married were listed along with their ages and occupation for the groom. His  parent's names and occupations followed, sometimes the grandparents were also listed with their occupations.  The bride's information was listed in a separate column. The information was similar, but women did not have occupations.     Both the bride's and groom's house numbers were listed.

A example of a marriage record. Source Stumbleblock.wordpress
When a birth was recorded,  the name of the father was listed first, the mother's first name was listed, followed by "daughter of" and her father's first and last name and occupation. The date of birth was listed, followed by the dates of baptism and confirmation. The house number listed where the birth occurred, which was not always in the home of the parents.  Married couples went to live with the husband's parents, so the first child was usually born in their house. A different house number might be listed for the birth of a second child, because the couple now had their own house. In an illegitimate birth, only the mother's name was mentioned. Second marriages were also recorded, but not as much information was included. A death record included the person's age, date of death and burial, and cause of death.

Example of a birth record from 1907, column headings are in Latin and Ukrainian.

In the 1830's, most causes of death were listed as  "ordinario" or ordinary; later,  specific diseases were listed.  In a death entry, a man's name stood alone, but a woman was listed either as "daughter of" followed by her father's name if she was not married,  or "wife or/widow of" followed by her husband's name.  The house number was always included.  From information in the Metrical Records, many more children died than adults.   Very few people lived to a great age, most died in their fifties or sixties.  Common causes of death were convulsions, epilepsy, consumption (tuberculosis), pleurisy, fibrio gastris and cholera. In 1850, eleven people died of fibrio gastris between  the beginning of September and the end of October, mostly adults.  1855 saw a cholera epidemic between July and September.  59 villagers died, mostly children at first, adults later.  In the Gudziak (cousin of the Nyznyk and Romanowicz families) home, four family members died within days of each other, first two daughters, then the father and grandmother.

Death record from 1838.  Source: Kowalfamily.wordpress

Pomorzany grew; in 1837, there were a little over 300 houses, by 1859 there were over 700 houses in the town. Most people stayed in the town, and I saw the same surnames repeated over the 25 years. Cousins often married cousins. Sons followed their father's occupation. Most people married people with the same occupation. The Nyznik  and Romanowicz families worked with leather, and their sons and daughters married children of other leather workers.  When a young married couple could afford their own house, they often moved, and this shows up in a new house number. One change in the records during the 25 years I studied was in 1855 when the column headings were in both Latin and Ukrainian.  The next year, the Ukrainian heading disappeared. In the birth record example above  from 1907, the heading were in both languages.  In  the earliest records, the family surname was spelled Nisnik. In 1856, the spelling changed and it was spelled Niznik.  There were trends in first names: John was always popular for boys, Maria for girls.  Anastasia and Tecla were also popular for girls.  Rarer first names were Erasmus and Procopious and Parascevia and Michalina.
There is more to be learned about Pomorzany, and there are still hundreds of records to be reviewed.

Wooden Church in Pomorzany. Source: