Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for April, 2010

One of the highlights of reading the Sunday edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer is the “Chick Wit” column by Lisa Scottoline. Lisa is best known as an author of mysteries and thrillers, but I adore her humor writing. In fact, if I wrote my humorous articles only half as good as hers, they’d be great.

Lisa’s “Chick Wit” usually makes me laugh out loud. Recently her column on April 11, 2010 ventured into genealogical territory on the subject of obituaries. While it was still humorous, the column was more poignant than “LOL” funny. She talks about reading obituaries:

I never saw them as being about deaths. I saw them as being about people, and I love people.

In other words, it’s not a death story. It’s a life story.

Read her entire column “Obits Make a Reader Feel Grateful” – you won’t be disappointed.

Read Full Post »

Recently I was organizing some research related to my great-grandmother’s sisters (see some photos in my 3-part series on the Slesinski Sisters that begins here).  Three of her four sisters came to the United States on the same ship in 1920.  I found their passenger arrival records many years ago early in my research.  I probably found the record in the early 1990’s, which was long before:

How did we ever find anything?  Back in those ancient days, there were only two options for finding passenger list records: 1) view indexes and arrival records at the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) branches or a LDS Family History Library, or 2) send in a search request – by mail – to NARA.  Oh, and if you did visit a NARA branch in person to research, the only branches that had New York City arrival records – and therefore Ellis Island arrivals – were New York City (then located in Bayonne, NJ) or Pittsfield, MA.

I requested the sisters’ records by mail using the appropriate government form and providing what little information I knew.  Luckily, they found them and sent me the records.  What you received back then were full size images – 17 x 22 inches.  The arrival records in 1920 had two pages of information (including relative in the home country, birthplace, and physical description), and since the three sisters were separated on two different pages, in total I received four very large sheets – well worth the money! (Read more about The Way It Was with regard to passenger lists!)

But coming back to the present…I realized I did not have a digital copy of the record.  Since it is not easy to scan such a large document, I figured I would just look it up.  Since I have a subscription to Ancestry, I went to the site and entered one of the sisters’ names.  Result: nothing.  Hmm…  I remembered the surname was misspelled on the list, so I tried Sleszynska.  Result: nothing (Actually, while writing this post I tried again, and one sister is entered with the name spelled that way; however, I must have tried her sister’s first names or misspelled her first name, because I could not find the correct entry with a name search.)

Wait a minute, I know when they came and what ship they came on – how hard can this be?  Once again, I was not able to find their records.  Finally I removed the name from the search field and looked at all the Polish women who arrived on the SS Adriatic on 15 October 1920.  By this point, I was really curious as to how their names were entered into the database.  Since I had the pertinent data, I eventually did find them…but would I have known it was them if I was searching for the very first time and wasn’t sure when they actually arrived?

Let’s look at the sisters’ names: Janina, Zofia, and Marianna Slesinska, possible spelling Sleszinska.  This is how they are indexed on the various online sites:

Ellis Island’s site lists

  • Sleszyaska, Janma
  • Sloskynska, Zonia
  • Slexzynska, Maryanna

Ancestry’s site lists

  • Sleszyuska, Jama
  • Sloszyaska, Zo??A
  • Sleszynska, Maryanna
  • There is also an entry that reads Sister in 17/18 Janna Sloszyaska

Keep in mind, if you will, that the first two sisters appear one below the other on the list…

Now, as far as Polish surnames go, this one is not too difficult.  Based on the principles of the Soundex system, only one of these listings would actually be found using a search for either Slesinska or Sleszinska, and that would be Ancestry’s entry for Maryanna Sleszynska.  For Soundex to work, you at least need right-sounding consonants in the right places! Of course, even to find that one entry you would have to either wade through all of the entries or search for the first name “Maryanna” in lieu of “Marianna”.

Even Steve Morse’s site wouldn’t find these ladies if I didn’t already know where to look!

But there is an irony to this search that made it all the more amusing.  Of all the immigrant relatives I have, and all of the passenger arrival records I have copied, this list – the one with the surname-spelling-challenged-sisters – is typewritten.  It’s not even handwriting!  But, just because it’s typewritten doesn’t mean it’s legible…let’s finally take a look at these hard-to-find ladies:

Entry on the passenger list for Maryanna Sleszynska - although some white-out would have been helpful.

Passenger list entry for "Janma" and "Zo ia" - well, at least they knew they were sisters!

All I know is that in the original NARA indexes, Zofia really is listed as “Zofia Sleszynska” – for that is how I found these ladies in the first place!  The old adage is true…computers are only as good as what goes into them.  The moral of the story is…if you can’t find someone in an online index, it doesn’t mean they are not there – it just means they are hard to find!

By the way, you can still order passenger arrival list copies from NARA using the form via mail or online.  I wonder if you still get the 17″ x 22″ images?

Read Full Post »

Ancestor Approved

The “Ancestor Approved” award was created by Leslie Ann Ballou of Ancestors Live Here as a way to show appreciation to other genealogy bloggers.  It has since spread its goodwill throughout the blogosphere.  I’m honored to have received the award from two different bloggers: Karen at Ancestor Soup and Jean at Hoffman Family News.  Thank you!

Awardees of this honor are supposed to list ten things they have learned about any of their ancestors that surprised, humbled, or enlightened.  It has been fun reading all of these lists on everyone’s blogs.  You are also supposed to pass the award on to ten other bloggers who you feel are doing their ancestors proud, but I doubt there are ten genea-bloggers left that have not yet received this!  Here is my list of things that have surprised, humbled, and enlightened me:

  1. I was surprised to discover that I had a set of 2nd great-grandparents and one 3rd great-grandmother that immigrated to the U.S.   I believed that all four sets of great-grandparents arrived here as married couples, but one great-grandfather arrived as a young teenager and lived with his parents and grandmother.
  2. I was surprised to learn that my great-grandmother who came as an unmarried teenager was from the same town in Poland as her eventual husband who had been in the U.S. for two years.  For years I assumed she was from another country based on family stories that were not correct.
  3. I was surprised to learn that two of my great-grandfathers had brothers who also immigrated to the U.S.  No one in the family knew about these uncles.
  4. I was humbled by the courage of  most of my female immigrant ancestors who traveled to the U.S. either alone or alone with young toddlers and babies.
  5. I was humbled and saddened to learn that my great-grandfather’s first cousin, a Catholic Pole named Jozef Pater, was imprisoned at Auschwitz and died there.
  6. I was humbled to find out that some of my great-grandmothers had to bury more than one infant or toddler.
  7. I was humbled to discover my great-grandmother’s mental illness and wondered how she survived as long as she did in a hospital not known for its kindness.
  8. I was enlightened to learn the names of the towns that my immigrant ancestors came from and their long histories.
  9. I am enlightened by the community of genea-bloggers who are willing to help, befriend, and humor me without ever having met me.
  10. I am enlightened by my two beautiful nieces and my two handsome nephews that give me love, hope, laughter, and someone to eventually inherit, learn, and honor our family history.

Read Full Post »

In 1944’s movie musical Meet Me in St. Louis, Judy Garland’s character is in love with the boy next door.  She sings about him in the appropriately titled “The Boy Next Door”, written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane:

The moment I saw him smile,
I knew he was just my style,
My only regret is we’ve never met,
Though I dream of him all the while.

But he doesn’t know I exist,
No matter how I may persist,
So it’s clear to see there’s no hope for me,
Though I live at 5135 Kensington Avenue
And he lives at 5133.

How can I ignore
The boy next door?
I love him more than I can say.
Doesn’t try to please me, doesn’t even tease me,
And he never sees me glance his way.

And though I’m heart-sore
The boy next door affection for me won’t display,
I just adore him, so I can’t ignore him,
The boy next door.

I just adore him, so I can’t ignore him,
The boy next door.

Fred and Dottie Kelly with their daughter Colleen.

The song is one of several Martin-Blane hits from the movie.  But did you know that it was based on a true story of a girl who fell in love with the boy next door?  Fortunately in her case, the boy did glance her way and married her or else they would have never inspired Martin and Blane to write the song!  The boy next door was Fred Kelly from Pittsburgh, PA.  Fred had an older brother that you may have heard of by the name of Eugene – otherwise known to the world as Gene Kelly who sang and danced to through the most beloved movie musicals of the 1940s and 50s.  Fred’s girl next door was Dorothy (Dottie) Greenwalt.

Fred and Dottie really did grow up on Kensington Street in Pittsburgh, but their actual addresses didn’t fit the music as well as 5133 and 5135.  Based on the 1930 census, 13-year-old Frederick Kelly lived at 7514 Kensington Street, and 8-year-old Dorothy Greenwalt lived at 7530.  It wasn’t exactly “next door”, but it was close enough for the youngsters to meet and fall in love.

Kelly household at 7514 Kensington St. in the 1930 Federal Census for Pittsburgh, PA.

Greenwalt household at 7530 Kensington St on the same page.

Fred and Dottie married during Broadway rehearsals for the Irving Berlin show “This is the Army” in which Fred was performing.  Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane were also involved with the production, and they asked the newlyweds how they met.  Dottie replied, “I just adored the boy next door.”  Then the couple showed the writers their driver’s licenses to prove it!  Martin and Blane wrote “The Boy Next Door” with Fred and Dottie in mind.  The song went on to be a huge hit and was recorded by many other artists besides Judy Garland.

In my own family, I also discovered an instance of a girl marrying the boy next door – my grandparents.  In the 1930 census, we see 18-year-old Henry Pater living at 2506 Indiana Avenue in Philadelphia, and 22-year old May (Mae) Zawodny living at 2512.  While it is true that the couple lived at those addresses, the “facts” as shown on the census are a bit confusing.  First, both Henry and Mae were already married but are shown as living with their parents.  That they were living in separate addresses despite their marriage is likely true, because at the time of the marriage on 01 Feb 1930, Henry was only 17 years old.  The couple didn’t quite tell their parents right away, and it wasn’t until they were married in a church ceremony in June that they were able to live together.

The Zawodny and Pater households in the 1930 Federal Census for Philadelphia, PA.

Mae and Henry Pater with daughter Anita (1937).

In the Pater household, Henry is listed as single.  But the enumeration record for the Zawodny household is not correct at all.  The father, Joseph, is listed as a widow.  However, his actual living wife, Laura, is listed as a sister.  Mae is shown as married for two months, which is true, but she is listed as a “daughter-in-law” to Joseph, not as his daughter.  Also, her presumed husband is listed as Charles, who was in fact her brother and still single at 19 years old.  If only I could see film or video of the visit of the census-taker to their household…I am sure my grandmother was behind the mis-information!

While Henry and Mae didn’t have a song written about them like Fred and Dottie, they are yet another tale of a girl falling in love with “the boy next door” – or on the same street, anyway.  Have you looked closely at the census records in your family?  Did anyone fall in love with the boy (or girl) next door?

Source Information:

  • Kelly-Greenwalt Census Image:  1930 U.S. Federal Census, Pittsburgh, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll  1977; Page: 27B; Enumeration District: 229.
  • Pater-Zawodny Census Image:  1930 U.S. Federal Census, Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll  2110; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 914.
  • Photo of Fred, Dottie and Colleen Kelly used with permission from Colleen Kelly Beaman.   Please see her web site, Dance Kelly Style, for more information on Fred Kelly and the Kelly family’s legacy of dance.
  • For more even more information on Fred Kelly, see his biography on my Gene Kelly site.  To see a photo of his childhood home on Kensington Street, see the biography on Marc Baron’s site.
  • For more information on the Pater and Zawodny families, continue to read this blog or click on the surnames in the side bar!

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 124 other followers