Monday, February 23, 2015

Cascade Effect

I have made a cascade of small breakthroughs these last two months.

I needed to find out much more about my 3rd great grand-parents John and Dora Bickel. I looked back through the records to reconfirm names and such or find anything I had missed. I verified names and relationships for Elizabeth Bickel's parents.  They are her parents only by deduction. I do know she had a brother Gus. Living cousins confirm this. I do know where she lived. But, oddly, I cannot find this woman's death certificate. I am still working on that, but it is bugging me I cannot find that. I wrote to the cemetery to see if they had any records. No reply. I'll try again with a phone call. But, in lieu of that route I was combing what I had to see if I confirm their identities another way. In my scrutiny, I discovered there was in in indeed something I had missed. 

On John C. Bickel's headstone there was a symbol of some sort. Even when I zoomed in I couldn't be sure of what it said. I searched for grave markers symbol websites- there were several that told me I was looking at the the symbol of the Grand Army of the Republic on his side of the tombstone. It was a fraternal organization for men who fought and were honorably discharged from the Union Army during the Civil War.  I don't know why, but I had never considered that this particular immigrant would have been been in the war.

Although my subscription at fold3 has run out, was I was about to scout around enough to find that although there was more than one John Bickel (its its variations) that had served in the Union Army, there was only one who had a widow of Johanna. Now, I knew from death records that are referenced on her find a grave entry (that I only know about 3rd hand-- have to get the originals someday), that even though she was called Dorothea after marriage, her name was in Johanna Dorothea. Maybe Johann didn't like calling his wife the feminine variant of his name, Johanna. I don't know. But armed with the pension number Infantry Regiment, I could keep going.

John C. Bickel card from General Index of Pension Files

On (while in bed on my iPhone, I must admit) I found a large, beautiful record from the Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. The highlights of this record are that he was Lutheran, had a son in Frontenac, Kansas, and joined in Ohio etc.  Well, Frontenac is a good sign, the rest pretty good. Only problem is other than this record, I cannot find a record of him having a son Christoph. Maybe a son in law? Maybe a grandson? Maybe one of his son's middle names? In any case, I have to admit the discrepancy.

John Christopher Bickel, 1901; citing p. 11859, U. S. National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers
And a hernia, poor guy.
With that pension number in hand and the details in two forms of handwriting, I ordered his pension record from the National Records and Records Administration ($80!!) even though I was not 100% positive this was my guy. It arrived so quickly (which was not the case when I got the record of Wojciech Witkowski aka George Wolff). I have not combed through it all yet, but I have learned the nature of his wound in the Civil War. He took a musket ball in the left calf during the Battle of Cold Harbor in Virginia.

In this pension record, I got to see a murky maiden name. At first blush it looked like Bairr, but looking at his two styles of  letter E, I went to bed that night thinking Baier. With the her name and the date of the marriage and now the exact town of marriage, I felt like I was cooking with gas.

Extract of John Christoph Bickel Pension Record
Luckily, I get another shot at it in another part of the pension record.
Widow's Pension of Johanna Dorothea Baier Bickel

I can't recall how I searched first, but I was flopping around looking for Lutheran churches and just generally not being smart (maybe because it was before 5 a.m on a weekday). I set it aside and started fresh with a better technique and found what I needed right away. First off the knowledge that the "German United Evangelical Church of Etna in 1852" was the same church as the modern day First Congregational Church (Etna, Pa.). From there, found their archives of marriage, burials, and
baptisms taken from a microfiche and made into pdf files on the University of Pittsburgh Library website.  Right where it should be, was the record of the marriage in German. Now I got my IB (International Baccalaureate) sticker on my high school diploma for German and I am not bad with the old style script; however, this text is so very faint. I had my guesses but I brought it to a friend who is a master German linguist and familiar with Pennsylvania area to boot. She did do better than I and I felt good to get confirmation on my guesses. We think the places names are Lengenfeld (but which one we don't know) and Magdeburg. Someday maybe I will make my way to the church for the original and hope it is not as faded. It's a gamble.

Extract from First Congregational Churches Kirchenbuch
And of course I am now on to finding the families in Magdeburg and Lengenfeld. Look at this lovely panorama of Magdeburg.
"Blick von der Johanniskirche 11" by Diwan - Own work, Magdeburg: Blick von der Johanniskirche. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

  • National Archives and Records Administration. U.S., Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2000.
  • "United States National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938," index and images, FamilySearch( : accessed 23 January 2015), John Christopher Bickel, 1901; citing p. 11859, Leavenworth, Kansas, United States, NARA microfilm publication M1749 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 260; FHL microfilm 1,579,075.
  • U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.
  • NARA citation for the pension will go gosh its another multi page document on how to cite...
  • First Congregational Church, Etna, Pa. Records, AIS.1989.11, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Art serves as inspiration

Like many of us, I am on a budget. It is with judicious care that I purchase and use  credits on Scotland's People website. If I had more money I might merely get the wrong answer faster. I have much to learn about Scotland's records and geography, but I think I have done fairly well so far. I was so excited when I found the name of my my fourth great grandfather in Scotish marriage records but was surprised to learned he came from Ireland. With a name like John Bright and the gross region of Ireland wasn't going to be enough to trace him. Despite already having one marriage record, I circled back and re-grouped- which gave me his full name, John McCammon Bright.  That was the key I would later come to understand but I wasn't inspired to try again in Ireland records until two things happened. One- I joined an online genealogical community, Dear Myrtle on Google+.This group shares interesting tips and resources and recently linked to an article about new Irish resources that had gone online. Two- My husband and I began watching old seasons of a BBC show- Balleykissangel. With all the shots of dark stout, the parish politics, the fairly thick accents to this naive American's ears I of course thought of my ancestors and how it was time to give it another go. I used some of the links provided in the group and paid my credits for one birth record for John McCammon Bright, son of John Bright and Eliza McCammon- baptized in Seapatrick Church of Ireland, Ballyvarly, County Down, Ireland. If I would have tried to push the process earlier, prematurely, I think I'd be writing about about being stumped by a brick wall. :)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

It's all Polish to me

Can you help transcribe and interpret this marriage record?

Here is what I got out of it but I am really struggling:

Family Names WOJC. WITKOWSKI  {maybe Witkowzki but looks clearer as an "s" next time} MARYANNA RYCHLICKA 

I, the undersigned, joined in marriage Wojeich Witkowski son of Jozef? and Maryann? of [the] fam[ily] SZUBERKOWOKICH??? [from] Haczów W. Kr. [West of Krakow?] Pol.[and] G?b. Brzozówka.  and Maryanna Rychlicka  [daughter of] Woprscha and Juliann? Rychlickiski{or RYCHLICKISH}{do those sound like Rylewska?} this Fourth-teenth {haha} day of November 1899 
Witnesses ?ow Poshovicz??  Teodor Ryshlicki Rev J Kruszyuski??  Priest

Citation:"Illinois, Chicago, Catholic Church Records, 1833-1925," images, FamilySearch 

(,40650501 : accessed 26 May 2014), St John Cantius Parish (Chicago: Carpenter St) > M

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Where in Poland? -What I know so far...

As part of the inspiration for the title of this blog, the changing boundary lines of entire countries in Europe means you have to do your research and align times with locations. The birthplace of George Wolff is proving to be difficult nut to crack. I am sure I am missing something here, so I will lay out what I know in hopes I can refocus.

I already know I am missing:

  • His location in 1900 (guessing Chicago, IL)
  • His passenger log

I believe that George was born on April 26 (or 23rd) 1872 in Poland. I do not know his mother or father's name. I believe he immigrated to the United States when he was 16 years old in 1892 by way of rotterdam, Holland in New York. In August of 1898 he joined the Troop L (a supply troop), 8th Regiment of U.S. Cavalry. George worked as some sort of tailor. George was honorably discharged in May of 1899.

George married Mary Rylichicka in 1900. George applied for naturalization before 1904. George was granted a soldiers naturalization in October of 1904. The couple began having children right away. Their eldest, Konrad, was born in 1902. And then ... On George's x number child, Alicia, Alicya 's birth certificate, her father is is listed is as Wojciech Wolf. And they live at 22 Ayers Court. On George's naturalization paperwork, one year previous George lists 22 Aris Court. But, George's birth location is listed as Russia.

I learned that Wojciech, although not necessarily accurate Anglicization, is often transformed to Albert.  Later in life, George went by George Albert Wolff.

On his x number son in 1913, Edmund, the birth certificate also stated his name was Wojciech Wolf.  Sadly, George lost his son Edmund aka "Eddie"from a ruptured appendix when Eddie was only 22 years old. On Eddie's death certificate in 1935, George is recorded as being from Germany. And, Wojciech Wolf has been replaced with George Wolff.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Long Wait

UPS notification service told me I had a package from VA VBA EAO 05 313 SUP SVCS24. Totally obvious what that is, right? Not me either. I hadn't ordered anything. The package arrived -not large but on the heavy side. Full of paper. 

Oh. My. Gosh. It's the veterans file of George Wolff- the Spanish American war vet- the rough rider. The tailor. 

I had done a FOIA request after the service record was not found in those archives where they normally are. I had submitted the request in June if 2013. And now it was finally here. 

I now have:
His village of birth in Poland. 
His wife's maiden name, her exact birthdate, her parents names. 
I also have the church where they got married and the exact date of their marriage.
The birthdates of all their children.
Two affidavits from people they " knew all their lives" that attended their wedding. 
Eye color, height, weight, ( he was only 5'4") 
I also know now that he suffered a stroke while gardening. 

Things I expected to find in there but did not:
His parents names.
More info on his actual time in service. The one paper that relates to that is entirely illegible- the orginal dark or shiny somehow - the photocopy I can pull out the words "faithful" and "Cuba". 

Overall I'm thrilled! 

Made me giggle:
Is there an official or church record of your marriage: yes

If yes, where: in the church

It's as if my husband filled out the form.  

Friday, November 29, 2013

Family Traditions: Galaretka Wieprzowa AKA Pig Jelly

We began talking about holiday traditions when were working in the kitchen while preparing Thanksgiving meal. My husband recounted how his Grandmother Wolff (Delores Spanheimer) was such a  wonderful cook. He remembered that during the holidays she would make three different kinds of cookies- familiar to us all- Pffeffernuesse, Almond Crescents, and Ice Box Cookies. My husbands father also loved to eat one of Grandma Wolff's more savory treats Siltz. He described it as pork in clear gelatin. My husband smiled as he remember how his father would eagerly await a new batch (molded in loaf pans) and slice up the loaves into rectangles to fit on on a Saltine cracker. Then, he would bring some fresh pepper on top and gobble it up. 

Maybe I would try to make this for the family? It sounded intriguing. I began looking looking for a recipe to approximate the dish. I first had to try a variety of spellings. On of my first results was from Google Books, called Mneme's Place:Book One by Glenn P. Wolfe. I giggle at the last name and went on to read the passage in question on page 233:

Siltz, for sure. Whatever else the contents, mason jar up to the lid with shimmering gelatin studded with cubes of fatty pink pork. And, to go with the silts, slices of pumpernickel or a heel a rye bread. 

This seemed pretty close to what my husband had described. And I could completely understand poring hot pork gelatin into mason jars since they'd be fine under the initial heat. And, even more promising, I now had at least one spelling to work with. 

I looked for recipes all over the web that would match, but nothing under that name or variation of that name. Just looking for a pork gelatin dish, I found a likely candidate from a recipe site I wasn't familiar with. The contributor thankfully included his or her source material, a local publication called What's Cooking in Niles. When I went back to Google books to investigate this book found that it was published by a Greek Orthodox church in Niles, IL. The book, which I have not seen or held, was published in 1989 by the Holy Taxiarchai and Saint Haralambos Church, likely as a fundraising effort. 

Of course I couldn't resist and I looked up the church right back into the search engine. When the little map automagically plotted to the right of the search results, it was I've never been but have poured over so many census records in that area that all the place names seemed all too familiar- outside Chicago. I plotted it on the full Google map and then turned on my Google Saved Places called Wolff genealogy.  Right there in front of me were the 1930 homes of several members of the family, including Grandma Delores Wolff,  within 10 miles of the church. I have no way of knowing if this was her recipe included, but I'd like to think that because they lived in that community, I might now have a recipe that may be a fair approximation of what she might of made.

By this time  I don't know if this was originally a Greek dish pick dup by the Poles, or a Polish dish picked up by the Greeks or neither of the above scenarios.  But I did find some commercial products listed here - looks like Polish to me. I didn't know how to pronounce Galaretka Wieprzowa, but I clicked listen to it on at the left window of Google Translate. With a new name, I found images that looked right on and a better(?) recipe under the Eastern European subheading. 
Arkadiusz Scichocki
So, after this research, I think its a lot like headcheese with yet missing the cooking the pigs head part, just the hooves and other meaty chunks. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sunday's Obituary: Edmund F. Wolff

Provided by Jean Weber, Archivist, Lombard Historical Society

Young Man's Untimely Death Grieves Friends

Many friends and relatives gathered in St. Alexander's Church of Vila Park last Friday morning for the last tribute to Edmund F. Wolff of 202 South Third avenue who passed away on Tuesday, November 12, at Elmhurst hospital from infection resulting from a [r]uptured appendix. Requiem mass was celebrated by the Rev Father Kennedy, burial taking place in the family plot in St. Michael's cemetery at Wheaton

Edmond Wolff was born in Chicago, October 29, 1913, one of eight children born to George and Mary Wolff and had just passed his 22nd birthday when death came last week after but a few days illness. The family came to make their home in Lombard during his early infancy and he received his education at Sacred Heart and St. Alexander parochial schools- being a member of the first class graduated from the latter - and at York High school. He was employed at the Austin Laundry in Chicago. 

He was especially devoted to his parents and other members of the family and his sudden passing came as a distinct shock to them. Of the immediate family surviving besides his parents are three brothers - Conrad of 1107 East Maple. Joseph of Villa Park, and Theodore at home. Also four sisters, Mrs. Alice Fleck of Villa Park, Mrs. Emily Abrms of Chicago, Adele and Beatrice at home. 


Are you a novice like me and wondering how I got this? Between Find a Grave and Illinois Death and Birth Indexes I was able to get his birth and death date. Death dates often didn't match across sources. Then I found that a wonderful soul had, at one time, made an index of all the deaths reported in the Lombard Spectator. That paper had been bought and bought and I tracked the current owners down on Facebook.They reported that their very own archives didn't go back this far and to try a historical society or library. I pursued two tracks- I got an out-of-state library card to the Helen Plum Memorial Library and I contacted the Lombard Historical Society. While the Helen Plum Library didn't have online access to the Lombard Spectator, they did offer a span of years of the Chicago Tribune that I didn't previously have access to.  It was an incredible boon! Meanwhile, the gracious archivist and I corresponded and she found this in the trays and snapped a photo for me. She actually recovered two obituaries- but I 'll save that one for another post.