1908: Where was your family?

The idea for a second post came easily enough after reading Lisa’s recent post at 100 Years in America. Inspired after reading a Smithsonian magazine article on the year 1908, she writes about what her ancestors were doing in that year and challenges others to do the same. What a great idea, and a nice way to get my feet wet with this blog. Plus, in order to write about it I’m actually forced to organize my research (or rather, a mess of paper) to answer the question! [Photo of St. Peter’s RC Church, Philadelphia, where my Bergmeister family worshiped.] St. Peter's Church, Philadelphia

For my Bergmeister family, 1908 was probably a very busy year since the household consisted of four children under the age of ten. My grandmother was not among them though – she would not be born for another five years! Thirty-five year-old Joseph had been in the US for ten years by this time, and wife Maria and daughter Maria for eight. By 1908, he was working as a baker in Philadelphia. How different that was from working as a baker in his native Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm is anyone’s guess. Although his father was deceased and his mother was far away in Germany, Joseph wasn’t far from his immediate family because his sister Hillarie emigrated to Philadelphia first. Besides Hillarie, brother Ignatz was living in New Jersey, and half-brother Julius Goetz had just arrived in Philadelphia.

With the Piontkowski’s, my grandfather was a couple of years away from birth, and since his parents John and Rose were in their late 30s he probably wasn’t even a thought for the future. They had their hands full with a 5-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl, both of whom were born in Poland. John and Rose were probably still getting used to America because they had only arrived 2-3 years earlier. It was probably quite a challenge to learn a new language, but I’m sure that Philadelphia was as bustling as their old home town, Warsaw, Poland.

The Zawodny family had been in the US for about six years. Their family was growing and would eventually include six children. But in 1908, my great-grandparents Joseph and Wacława had three young girls at home – all under the age of four. This includes my grandmother Marianna, who was only born the previous August. Even though she was an infant, I’d like to think she was already bossing her big sisters around. Marianna Zawodna is my only grandparent that was alive in the year 1908.

The Pater family was just getting settled in the US. Joseph and Antonina arrived with their six children in various stages from 1905 through 1907. Their son Ludwig, or Louis, is one of my youngest great-grandparents and was only 15 years old that year. He was already hard at work in one of the textile mills in Philadelphia, not far removed from the family’s recent past in the textile town of Żyrardów, Poland. He may have even been awaiting the arrival of his future wife, Elżbieta Miller, since she came from the same town. Since the facts show that he arrived as a young teenager in 1907, she arrived in 1909, and they were married in 1910, it’s plausible that they already knew each other. But in 1908, 17-year-old Elżbieta was still living in Żyrardów with her parents. Her brother Emil, however, was already in Philadelphia for three years, and one can only wonder if they exchanged letters across the Atlantic.

One hundred years…a lot can happen in a century. The world has certainly changed a great deal in that time. And in just that short amount of time, four immigrant families came to a new world, had children of their own, worked, laughed, cried, lived, and died. Their legacies include hundreds of descendants, and I count myself lucky to be among them.

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11 thoughts on “1908: Where was your family?

  1. Thanks, Steve! I hope I can keep it going, but I have a few ideas up my sleeves. And I certainly have much inspiration all these months as I’ve looked at your blog!

  2. Welcome! Is a Bergmeister a person who can marry you
    legally in Germany? Just wondering if the surname breaks
    down into an occupation?

  3. Welcome, Donna, to “Gen-Bloggers of the World.”
    Very interesting and liked the 1908 post, as well as your personal intro.

  4. Donna, Welcome. I’m linking you in my H.O.G.S. Blogs section as I believe you are going beyond Genea-Blogging into the HOGS-Blogging zone! WELCOME.
    Terry Thornton
    Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi

  5. Thanks to everyone who has stopped by! I will be linking to all of you just as soon as I can, and since some of you are “new” to me I can’t wait to see your blogs, too.

    Jewelgirl, to answer your question re: the meaning of Bergmeister…it technically translates as “Master of the Mountain”. I guess I came from mountain-folk. 😉 But, you may be thinking of Bürgermeister, which was possibly a surname but also the name (in German) of a town’s mayor. Not sure on the part about being allowed to marry legally or where that would come from. Nonetheless, I hope to have future posts on the meanings of several of my family’s surnames.

    Thanks for all your comments! I’ve been blogging about Gene Kelly for months now (see My Other Blog in the sidebar), but despite many hits there are few comments. This is a great community!

  6. Hi, Donna,

    Great blog and welcome to the blog-o-sphere. Looking forward to your posts as I also have Polish ancestry.

    Cheryl

  7. I’m so glad that you took the time to organize your paperwork and share the story of your own family back in 1908. (Genealogy seems to encourage “messes of paper”, doesn’t it?)

    I look forward to reading more posts on your new blog, since these first few are only a “prologue” of what is to come…

    Happy writing!

  8. Thanks for answering my question, I wasn’t sure
    how Burgermeister was spelled….. My mother was
    born in Bavaria, my grandparents were from Altenmarkt,
    and Tittmoning. Thanks jewelgirl

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