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Archive for June, 2009

While footnoteMaven is off to California for the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree, I’m blog-sitting today over at Shades of the Departed with my monthly “Weekend with Shades” column, The Humor of It.  In keeping with the season, today’s article is “Vacation Lampoonery” with some tips on taking photographs that help you remember the humorous side of your summer vacations!

1985: Lou and Donna in front of St. Peter's, Rome, Italy.  My first real vacation - with lots of lampoonery!

1985: Lou and Donna in front of St. Peter's, Rome, Italy. My first real vacation - with lots of lampoonery!

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This month’s theme for A Festival of Postcards is “Main Street”.  My entry is connected to my family history in a different way than last month’s entry, which featured a card from a grand-uncle sent to my great-grandparents.

München, Germany – Karlstor-Rondell

München, Germany – Karlstor-Rondell

This postcard is from the mid 1990’s, but it shows a vintage photograph of a main street in Munich, Germany.  Unfortunately, the card does not indicate the date of this old photograph.  Judging by the automobiles in the photo, I’d estimate that it was taken between 1900-1920.  This main street is the square known as the Karlsplatz.  Although that has been the square’s official name since 1797, it is often referred to as Stachus after a pub that was torn down due to the construction of the square.  The gate-like structure in the center-rear of the photo is the Karlstor, the gate that remains of the city’s medieval fortification.  If you walk through that gate, you are on a pedestrian-only street that leads directly to the famous Marienplatz, Munich’s central square.  The twin steeples you see in the rear of the photo belong to the Frauenkirche , the Cathedral of Our Blessed Lady.

A friend seeks out my family history while studying in Bavaria.

A friend seeks out my family history while studying in Bavaria.

The postcard reads as follows:

7/2/96

Donna-

Misson accomplished!  I think I’ll send 2 though.  Guess what!  The Goethe Institut isn’t as backward as I thought!  I have e-mail capabilities, so you’ll prob. have heard from me before you receive this postcard!  Gene Kelly is HUGE here; in every music store!  Take care, Rachel   P.S. Goethe Ins. attracts MANY HOT GUYS.  More later…

Rachel was an e-friend; we bonded over our mutual love for Gene Kelly.  She was attending the Goethe Institute to study German, and I told her about my Bergmeister family.  In her free time,  she took the time to  visit my great-grandparents’ home town of Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, about a half hour north of Munich.  She sent me photographs of the town, which I had just “discovered” as their place of origin, two years before I was able to travel there myself.  But her mission in Munich was to visit the Karlsplatz that is pictured in this postcard – it was the one place in Munich that I knew my great-grandfather Joseph Bergmeister had probably visited.  I knew this from his military photograph (featured in this post).  The photographer was F.X. Ostermayr with an address on the Karlsplatz.  I knew it was likely that Joseph spent his two years of military service in Munich itself, and he and his family possibly lived there immediately prior to immigrating to the U.S.  However, I had no proof – except that one day back in 1893 he strolled into a photographer’s studio right on Munich’s main street.  There, with his classmates, he had his official military portrait taken.  It is the only surviving photo of him that I have discovered.

As I searched through my boxes of “memories” for this new monthly postcard festival, I knew that this was a winner for the “Main Street” category.  Not only is it a vintage portrait of a main street – one that looks remarkably the same when I finally saw it, but it is also a street on which my ancestor walked.  Perhaps he also stood before the Karlstor and was amazed at how long it had been there and all of the history it had seen.  I wonder if, while he was in Munich, he sent a postcard to his family in Puch and Pfaffenhofen? (Lieber freund, the Infanterie Leib Regiment isn’t as backward as I thought… I doubt he would write about the MANY HOT MÄDCHEN he found there though!)

But this postcard was also special because it reminded me of what postcards are all about – friends connecting and keeping in touch while sharing their travel experiences.  I had never met Rachel before she took this trip to Germany, but we were friends all the same and she took photos of places that she knew meant something to my history.  I did get to meet her when she returned, and it was nice to thank her in person.  I can’t remember when we lost touch, but it would be nice to find her again and catch up.

As a side note, in trying to date the above photograph I found two old public domain photos  (one is actually a postcard) of the same square.  This view is in nearly the same direction as the above postcard:

Karlsplatz in a 1902 photograph.  Reprinted in Hans Dollinger's Die Münchner Straßennamen, München, Ludwig-Verlag, 2004

Karlsplatz in a 1902 photograph. Reprinted in Hans Dollinger's Die Münchner Straßennamen, München, Ludwig-Verlag, 2004

Perhaps my attempt to date the postcard photograph was incorrect – in 1902 only horse carts are parked on the square!  Here is a view in the opposite direction – what you would see as you walked through the Karlstor into the square:

A late 19th Century postcard showing the Karlsplatz facing west.  Estimated date is 1890-1905.

A late 19th Century postcard showing the Karlsplatz facing west. Estimated date is 1890-1905.

This would have been a postcard for sale at the time my great-grandfather was in Munich!  I did make a visit to Munich myself in 1998 and 2006.  While fashions and transportation have changed since that time, many of the buildings remain (or, as in the case of the Frauenkirche, were re-built exactly as before they were destroyed in World War II).  What does the Karlsplatz look like today?  Take a look at this 360° view!

Postcard logofestivalwishyou


[Written for the 2nd edition of A Festival of Postcards: Main Street]

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My Favorite Finds

I just spent more time than I want to admit working on Bill West’s Genea-bloggers’ Just Make Up Some Lyrics Challenge!  I’m used to making up lyrics to songs on the radio – yes, people think I’m strange.  So I was lucky that Bill had such an excellent idea.  I’m still strange, but now I have company!  Oddly enough, I had seen the original post of the challenge as well as some of the great contributions so far.  I even commented on footnoteMaven’s post today that I had better post mine before someone “steals” my song.  Imagine my surprise when I saw Bill’s response to his own challenge.  It was posted almost two weeks ago, but I somehow missed it.  Ooops!  It seems as though Bill is singing MY song!  But our surnames are different, and so are our rhymes, so I am going to post my lyrics anyway.  Great minds think alike, so I’m sure Bill won’t mind (I could use a flutaphone accompaniment though).  I knew I should have chosen “Disturbia” or “Superfreak” or something more original…oh well, there is still time to submit another song to the challenge!

My Favorite Finds (to the tune of “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music)

Finding Pfaffenhofen, as Echerer’s birth place,
Lots of Bergmeister’s to meet and embrace,
The census online; genea-blogs of all kinds,
These are a few of my favorite finds!

Piontkowski grandfather, changing his name,
Finding his arrival was just like a game,
Finally found it, nearly losing my mind.
One more example of a wonderful find!

Zawodny’s in records, but Miller’s a mystery,
Pater’s from Poland, all part of my history,
Slesinski photos showing family tree binds,
These are a few of my family tree finds!

I can’t find them!
What’s the spelling?
Handwriting’s really bad!
I simply remember my favorite finds,
And then I don’t feel so mad.

[Submitted for the first-ever Just Make Up the Lyrics Challenge: Family Names – see the rules here.]

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Class of 1948, St. Peter's Grade School, Philadelphia PA

Class of 1948, St. Peter's Grade School, Philadelphia PA

This is the time of year for graduations!  My niece will graduate 8th grade this week, so in honor of the event I’ve posted this photograph of her grandfather graduating 8th grade in 1948.  James Pointkouski is in the second row from the top, first person on the left.  Also in that row at seventh from the left is Rita Bergmeister, his first cousin. Happy Graduation to all  graduates from the Class of 2009!

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Welcome to the second annual post for the Carnival of Genealogy Swimsuit Edition.  I do confess that if I had known last year that this was an annual event, I would have saved some of the great beach photos of my Dad’s family from my post Genealogy Illustrated: Swimsuit Edition.  So this year I will turn the spotlight on my mother instead.  Here is my Mom as a young teenager with a friend – both dressed in their best swimwear!

My mother and her girlfriend, circa 1950, enjoying the sun.

My mother and her girlfriend, circa 1950, enjoying the sun.

The best thing about the photo is that they are not at the beach (or, as we say in my hometown Philly-speak, down the shore), but taking advantage of a beautiful day to catch some sun anyway.

[Submitted for the 74th Carnival of Genealogy: Swimsuit Edition]

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09 March 2010 – Correction!  This couple was mis-identified.  It is not the Tiernan-Zawodny wedding.  It is the wedding of Joseph Bergmeister and Helen Pardus.  For more info on why the identification was wrong, see Why Photographs Should Come with ID Tags.

Wedding Belles

This month’s Smile for the Camera carnival theme is “Wedding Belles”!  Last June for the “Belles and Beaus” theme I submitted a family wedding photo that featured the marriage of my grandmother’s sister – and included my grandmother as the maid of honor.  For this year’s wedding theme,  I have another great wedding photo that features their sister and her husband!

John Tiernan and Helen Zawodna, 1923

John Tiernan and Helen Zawodna, 1923

Helen, the second oldest of the Zawodny children, was the first to get married in 1923.  The wedding took place in Philadelphia, PA, most likely at St. Adalbert’s Church.  Helen was 17 years old and her husband, John Tiernan, was 22.   They would only have one child together, a son they named Thomas after John’s father.  Sadly, young Tommy died as a child.

I would like to continue to post photographs of the weddings of all six children of Joseph and Laura Zawodny, but this and the previously posted photo are the only ones I have (I do not even have my own grandparents’ wedding photo).  One that I am trying to get from cousins would make an interesting companion to the above photo.  In 1934, another Tiernan-Zawodny wedding took place.  This time it was Stanley Zawodny, Helen’s younger brother, and Elizabeth Tiernan, John’s younger sister.  Stay tuned to see if I can get a copy!

[Written for the 14th Edition of Smile for the Camera: Wedding Belles]

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Photo Mystery Solved

galecki-marriageA mystery involving one of the family photos I have posted on this site has been solved!  Oddly enough, it was not one of my Photo Mystery posts, but it can still be considered a mystery of sorts.  Last June I posted the 1925 wedding photo shown to the left for the Smile for the Camera Carnival.  I could identify the bride and groom as my grandmother’s sister, Jane Zawodna, and her husband, Sigmund Galecki.  The maid of honor is my grandmother, Mae Zawodna.  But I didn’t have a clue who the the best man was.  I could have discovered his identity if I had I checked the marriage record itself, but I had no real need for genealogical purposes so he remained a smiling mystery.

Last month, another researcher found my site – the cousins of my Galecki cousins.  Rich and Alice informed me that the best man was Rich’s Uncle Louie!  Louis Galecki was the brother of the groom, Sigmund (Rich’s Uncle Ziggy).  According to census and draft registration records, Louis was born in 1900 and Sigmund in 1903.  It’s nice to know that the attractive couples in the photograph are a pair of sisters and a pair of brothers (little did I know I could have submitted it for the “Brothers and Sisters” theme instead of the “Belles and Beaus” theme)!

I previously posted another photo of my grandmother from this wedding here.  She also saved one other photo from the wedding that includes Louis as well.  She is 18 years old and would not capture the eye of my grandfather, who was five years her junior, for a few more years (they would marry in 1930).  But looking at her expression here I can just imagine why he later gave her the nickname Killer.

Louis Galecki and Mae Zawodna serve as best man and maid of honor at the wedding of their siblings, 1925

Louis Galecki and Mae Zawodna serve as best man and maid of honor at the wedding of their siblings, 1925

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Poster designed by www.footnotemaven.com

Poster designed by http://www.footnotemaven.com

The topic for this edition of the Carnival of Genealogy is The Good Earth, and we are invited to tell about our ancestors’ ties to the land.  When I first saw the topic, I doubted I’d have much to say.  My immediate ancestors – and myself – are from a very large city, so there are no farmers among us.  Even some of my immigrant ancestors came from large cities like Warsaw or Munich, or from industrialized towns like Żyrardów.  Even those from smaller towns seemed to have occupations that dealt more with crafts, building, or mercantile goods rather than “the earth”.  But, I soon realized that unless you are descended from royalty, you don’t have to go back many generations to find an ancestor who was truly tied to the land in some way.  As I looked through my records, I found farmers on all sides of my family.  Here is their brief story.

In Poland, the cycles and seasons of family life were deeply rooted in the seasons of the earth and the harvest.  Because Poland was a Catholic nation, the harvest and all of the work required for it to happen were also deeply connected to the Church.  Harvesting almost always began on July 25, the feast of St. Jacob and would begin with the celebration of the Mass and special prayers.  Following tradition, the first stalks of grain that were cut were placed in the sign of the cross, and those first stalks were often cut by the farmer’s daughter.

The days of a farmer were long – from first light to sundown.  The day would end with another prayer.  After the harvest was over, the final stalks harvested were also of great importance with one area always left unharvested no matter how small the plot of land.  Great celebrations were held after the harvest was over in thanksgiving, often involving the entire community. Most of the harvesters were not land-owners, but peasants who worked for them.  It is difficult to tell from vital records if the term “farmer” implies that the man owned land or merely worked on another’s. but many farmers worked as day laborers on other’s lands.

Among my Polish ancestors, I have found several farmers or day laborers including my 3rd great-grandfather Józef Ślesiński (c.1821 – 30 Nov 1866), my 2nd great-grandfather Wawrzyniec Zawodny (c.1853 – 13 Dec 1917), and my 4th great-grandfather Karol Zakrzewski (c.1800 – c.1858).

The Bavarian countryside near Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria, Germany.  Photo taken by the author, 1998.

The Bavarian countryside near Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria, Germany. Photo taken by the author, 1998.

The agricultural life in Bavaria, Germany, was very similar to Poland in both the religious connection as well as the fact that there were different classes of farmers.  Even after the Protestant Reformation swept through Germany, Bavaria remained devoutly Catholic.  The religious customs related to the harvest are remarkably similar to Poland’s customs and included prayers and festivals.  The harvest was a community event even in large towns where the majority of residents were not involved in agricultural labor.  After all, the farmer’s successful harvest meant that the shoemaker could buy food at the market to feed his family.  Even today Germans take special pride in their farmers.  The photo below is not from Bavaria, but the Tirol section of Austria.  Both regions have similar traditions and celebrate the harvest with parades and traditional costumes.

Even the cows in Tirol (and Bavaria) take farming seriously! This is a farmer's parade in Innsbruck, Austria.  Photo taken by the author, 1998.

Even the cows in Tirol (and Bavaria) take farming seriously! This is a farmer's parade in Innsbruck, Austria. Photo taken by the author, 1998.

Bavaria had more class distinctions for farmers than in Poland where you were either a land-owner or you worked for someone else.  In Bavaria, the different designations were mainly for tax purposes.  A bauer owned a whole farm, a halbbauer owned half, and a viertelbauer owned a quarter.  Then there was the söldner, who owned either 1/8, 1/16, or 1/32 of a farm.  That may sound small, but there is even a lower designation – a poor häusler owned a house, but not the land on which it sat.

I first came across these farmer names when I discovered my 4th great-grandfather, Wolfgang Fischer (1775 – 1820) from the small town of Agelsberg.  In the birth record for his son Franz Xaver, who was born in 1813, Wolfgang’s occupation was listed as söldner.  It was an unfamiliar term, and according to my German dictionary it meant mercenary.  Mercenary?  As in a soldier of fortune, perhaps hired out to neighboring countries?  I quickly discovered the Bavarian meaning of the word in addition to its other definition.  A sölde is a small house with a garden, and as I indicated above a söldner owned either 1/8, 1/16, or 1/32 of a farm.  My mercenary was a poor farmer!

Wolfgang is the only farmer I have found in my Bavarian ancestry so far, but there is another family that made a living off of the “good earth” – the Bergmeister family of millers.  As owners of a mill in the town of Puch, the family would have had a higher economic and social standing than the poor famer; however, his entire operation was dependent upon the success of the farmers’ harvest.  The earliest record of the family’s ownership of the mill is around 1700.  Ownership was passed to the oldest son for many generations.  I lost track of who owned the mill in the mid-1800’s because I am  descended from that generation’s second son, but the second and third sons continued in related businesses – one was a flour merchant, the other a baker.

Farming is back-breaking work – work that is often taken for granted today.  In my ancestors’ times it was likely even harder work without the assistance of machinery and motorized tools.  The closest I come to such labor of the earth is mowing my lawn – and though I do use machinery to assist me, I still complain about the manual labor.  Next time, I’ll try to remember all of my farmer and miller ancestors who worked long days tilling the earth and growing food for their lords, families, and neighbors.

 

 

Sources used in this article:

 

Dieter Joos, “A Brief Description of a Typical Southern German Village in Past Centuries”, (Ueberlingen, Germany, 1999).  Available online at http://geisheimer.org/info/germ/village.htm

 

Sophie Hodorowicz Knab, Polish Customs, Traditions, & Folklore, (New York, Hippocrene Books, 1993), 145-157.

John Pinkerton, A General Collection of the Best and Most Interesting Voyages and Travels in All Parts of the World, (London, 1809), 30-33.  Google Book Search.  Retrieved on May 27, 2009.

[Written for the 73rd Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: The Good Earth]

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