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The theme for Week 13 of the 2015 edition of the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge is “Different” and my ancestor is my 3rd great-grandmoter, Teofila Zakrzewska Pater .  The theme of “Different” could have allowed me to choose any of my ancestors, for I am different from all of them in one respect: I will never be anyone’s ancestor. I chose to highlight one of my female ancestors in Poland who led a life very different from mine.

Teofila’s Story

Teofila Zakrzewska was born on 27 December 1840 in a small town called Mariampol near Grodzisk Mazowiecki, Poland. Her father, Karol Zakrzewski, was a farmer. Teofila was his first child with his wife Rozalia Kowalska. Karol was married before and had at least three children already. Rozalia was also a widow.

Teofila had two brothers: Wincenty and Józef. Sadly, their father died at the age of 55 in 1854. At the time of his death, Teofila was only 13 years old. Their mother did not remarry and lived until the age of 67.

Teofila meets the definition of different as she is the only ancestor in my family tree with the beautiful name Teofila! The name is the feminine version of Teofil, which means “friend of God”. Her parents practiced the Polish custom of naming their children based on the saint’s feast day on the day of their birth or closest to it: the feast of St. Teofila is 28 December and she was born on the 27th. The family name of Zakrzewski may look different to American eyes, but it was a very common surname, especially in the area where she was born.

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 7.44.01 PM.pngTeofila’s life was a lot different than mine. The biggest difference is that she got married at the age of 18. She and her husband, Jan Pater, went on to have ten children in the next twenty-four years! My 2nd great-grandfather, Józef Pater, was their third child.

Teofila would live long enough to know many of her grandchildren. In 1905, she said good-bye to her son Józef when he left for America. His wife and six children would follow in the next two years. I have not followed up on all of Teofila’s children since the records switch to the Russian language in 1868 (which is more difficult to translate), but I do know that at least three other children lived to adulthood: Marcin, Paulina, and Stanisław.

Teofila died on 15 November 1907 in Żyrardów just a month before her 67th birthday. Her husband Jan lived for another ten months before he also passed away.

Like many of my Polish ancestors, Teofila lived her entire life in a very small area in central Poland, but the country of Poland did not exist during her lifetime. It was under Russian occupation. Her grandchildren who did not emigrate to America would live to see Poland re-emerge on the map of Europe in 1918. Teofila’s grandson, Józef Pater, was one of the men who fought for Poland’s freedom.

Teofila’s life was quite different from mine and I don’t know much about her other than what I’ve discovered in birth, marriage, and death records. But I am very grateful for her life and the love she had for her family.

Just the Facts

  • Name: Teofila Zakrzewska Pater
  • Ahnentafel: #49 (my 3rd great-grandmother)
  • Parents: Karol Zakrzewski (1799-1854) and Rozalia Kowalska (1808-1875)
  • Born: 27 December 1840 in Mariampol, Jaktorów, Grodzisk Mazowiecki, Poland
  • Siblings: Wincenty (b. 1846), Józef (b. 1853); Half-siblings: Jana Elżbieta (b. 1825), Wojciech (b. 1827), Magdalena (b. 1829)
  • Married: Jan Pater (1834-1908) on 10 October 1859 in Wiskitki, Poland
  • Children: Marcin (b. 1860), Ewa (b. 1862), Józef (1864-1945), Antonina (b. 1867), Paulina (b. 1874), Paweł (b. 1876), Bronisława (b. 1877), Bronisław (b. 1879), Władysław (b. 1882), Stanisław (b. 1884)
  • Died: 15 November 1907 in Żyrardów, Poland
  • My Line of Descent: Teofila Zakrzewska Pater-> Józef Pater-> Ludwik Pater-> Henry Pater-> mother-> me

52ancestors-2015

Written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 2015 Edition– Week 13: Different

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The theme for Week 12 of the 2015 edition of the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge is “Same” and my ancestor is my 3rd great-grandfather, Ignaz Echerer. In modern times, Ignaz might be called “Junior” – for he had a lot of the same details of his life in common with his father.

Ignaz’s Story

Ignaz Echerer was born on 21 Dec 1803 in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria. A lot of the facts of Ignaz’s life are remarkably the same as his father, and the similarities begin at birth. First, they have the same name – both are named Ignaz Echerer. Next, they were both born in the same house in Pfaffenhofen. Today that address is called Löwenstraße 14. From 1810 to 1861, house numbers were used in lieu of numbered street addresses, so it was house #55. Prior to the official mapping of the town in 1810, the same house was known as house #67 in the 2nd quarter. But, no matter what you call it, the house was the same structure. The street (formerly called Judengasse), is located a block away from the main hauptplatz – or the town square. Ignaz (the younger) would later move in 1847 to a different house.

Portion of an 1810 map of Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm - the house of Ignaz Echerer is marked with the red arrow

Portion of an 1810 map of Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm – the house of Ignaz Echerer is marked with the red arrow. The town’s church is in the lower left marked with the cross.

As most sons in 17th through early 19th century Bavaria, young Ignaz followed in the footsteps of his father – no pun intended by that phrase, for his occupation was shoemaker! It was common to run the business for the craft in the bottom floor of the house in which the family lived, so Ignaz would have grown up learning the trade – just as his father learned from his father and grandfather.

Ignaz (the younger) got married to Magdalena Nigg on 19 Feb 1844; he was 40 years old and the bride was 36. This was a common age for men to marry in that time and place, although the bride is slightly older than usual and explains why the couple did not have as many children as most couples, including Ignaz’s parents. This is one fact that is not the same as his father, for Ignaz the elder was about 31 when he got married. However, there is another marriage fact that is the same between the two men: both married a woman who was not only also from Pfaffenhofen, but both were the daughters of a different kind of craftsman. In my Bavarian research I’ve found that brides were often daughters of the same craft but from a different town. In other words, both men might have married a shoemaker’s daughter from a neighboring town. Instead, Ignaz the elder married the daughter of a glassmaker in town, and their son Ignaz married the daughter of a carpenter in town (profiled in Week #10).

The entry in the marriage index for Ignaz Echerer and Magdalena Nigg. Note the look of the name "Echerer" in German  Sütterlin script.

The entry in the marriage index for Ignaz Echerer and Magdalena Nigg. Note the look of the name “Echerer” in German Sütterlin script.

Ignaz and Magdalena had at least three children. Unlike his father, he didn’t give his son the same name, but instead named him Karl, quite possibly after his father-in-law.

Ignaz died on 01 Feb 1874 at the age of 70. His wife lived another four years. I can’t say if Ignaz had the same life span has his father, because I haven’t found his parents’ death records. One great thing about this 52 Ancestors challenge is that I’m finding out where my research could use some additional re-search! The Echerer line in Pfaffenhofen was the very first ancestral line I “found” – but as a beginner I didn’t document my facts as well as I should have. Not to mention that those were the days before you could make a digital copy of the records you found.

Ignaz Echerer and his father has a lot of things about their lives that were the same: same name, born in the same house, born and likely died in the same town where they lived their entire lives. They were both shoemakers, and likely worked side by side in the same shop. And they both married women in the same town who were daughters of non-shoemakers. They also had many things that were different though – the elder Ignaz lost his own father when he was only 13. He also got married younger and had more children, and quite likely died in that same house in which he was born.

I wonder if their personalities were the same or if they were polar opposites?

Just the Facts

  • Name: Ignaz Echerer
  • Ahnentafel: #44 (my 3rd great-grandfather)
  • Parents: Ignaz Echerer (1765-?) and Maria Anna Kaillinger (1768-?)
  • Born: 21 Dec 1803 in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria
  • Siblings: Rosalia Echerer (1796-1880); Xaver Echerer (*1799); Johann Evangelist Echerer (*1802); Johann Nepomuk Echerer (*1806-aft 1842); Anton Echerer (*1808); Elizabeth Echerer (*1810); Xaver Echerer (*1812)
  • Married: Magdalena Nigg (1807-1878)
  • Children: Therese Echerer (*1845); Karl Echerer (*1846-aft 1882); Barbara Echerer Dichtl (*1849-aft 1894)
  • Died: 01 Feb 1874 in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria
  • My Line of Descent: Ignaz Echerer-> Karl Echerer-> Maria Echerer Bergmeister-> Margaret Bergmeister Pointkouski-> father-> me

52ancestors-2015

Written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 2015 Edition– Week 12: Same

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See all of my 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks stories on the 52 Ancestors page!

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The theme for Week 11 of the 2015 edition of the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge is “Luck of the Irish” and my ancestor is my 5th great-grandfather, Jakob Zinsmeister. As you can probably guess by Jakob’s name, he wasn’t Irish. My challenge for this week was the fact that I have zero Irish ancestry. I realize that these weekly themes are “optional” but for me, they aren’t – that is what makes it a personal creative challenge. I’ve been writing about more than 52 ancestors here for the last seven years; finding a story that fits makes it fun.

The English major in me wondered what the phrase “Luck of the Irish” means and where it came from. According to that super-reliable source, the internet, half of the sites say the phrase came about due to the luck of Irish immigrants in surviving tough mining work. But just as many sites insist the phrase is meant in a more sarcastic or even derogatory tone meaning that the Irish are the unluckiest people in the world.

My Bavarian ancestor, Jakob Zinsmeister, had what I would call a rather unlucky demise. So, depending upon your personal view of the phrase, he either had the luck of the Irish or could have used some!

Jakob’s Story

Jakob Zinsmeister was born around the year 1741, probably in the small town in which he spent his life, Puch, near Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm in Bavaria, Germany. Although some church records date back to 1612 for the town, the birth records from 1690 to 1764 are not available. Therefore, I do not know Jakob’s birth date or his parents names.

Jakob married Josepha Mair and they had at least four children that lived to adulthood: sons Konrad and Andreas, and daughters Kreszens (my 4th great-grandmother) and Franziska. Jakob was a farmer in Puch – the town is so small that it was either a very small farm or he was one of the only farmers in the town.

Death of Jakob Zinsmeister from the Catholic Church records of Puch, Pfaffenhofen, Bayern, Germany.

Death of Jakob Zinsmeister from the Catholic Church records of Puch, Pfaffenhofen, Bayern, Germany.

I don’t know if Jakob was either lucky or unlucky in his life, but he was surely unlucky in death. On 09 May 1796, Jakob was killed suddenly at the age of 56. The Latin death record shown above is translated as: “On May 9, by a tree suddenly dropped from a cart in the forest of the Puch community, was killed and here buried the honest Jacob Zinsmeister, farmer, aged 56.”

Just the Facts

  • Name: Jakob Zinsmeister
  • Ahnentafel: #162 (my 5th great-grandfather)
  • Parents: unknown
  • Born: about 1741, presumably in Puch, Bavaria
  • Siblings: unknown
  • Married: Josepha Mair (1750-1832)
  • Children: Konrad Zinsmeister, Andreas Zinsmeister (1775-?), Kreszens Zinsmeister Bergmeister (1776-1852), Franziska Zinsmeister Kölbl (1784-1845)
  • Died09 May 1797 in Puch, Bavaria
  • My Line of Descent: Jacob Zinsmeister-> Kreszens Zinsmeister Bergmeister-> Jakob Bergmeister-> Josef Bergmeister->Josef Bergmeister->Margaret Bergmeister Pointkouski-> father-> me

52ancestors-2015

Written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 2015 Edition– Week 11: Luck of the Irish

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The theme for Week 10 of the 2015 edition of the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge is “Stormy Weather” and my ancestor is my 4th great-grandfather, Karl Nigg. He survived some very stormy weather back in 1813 and I managed to find a newspaper account of the storm, its effects, and Karl’s role in the event. I previously told this story in a post from 2011 entitled It was a Dark and Stormy Night, but it fits perfectly with the “Stormy Weather” theme.

Karl’s Story

Karl Leonard Nigg was born on 04 Nov 1767 in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria to Phillip Nigg and Anna Maria Cramer. Phillip was Pfaffenhofen’s Stadtmaurermeister – the city’s “master mason”. During this time period it was inevitable that sons followed in their father’s footsteps regarding their occupation, so it was rather unusual that Karl did not become a mason. Instead, he chose another construction trade – carpentry. But in looking more closely at the genealogical records, the reason may very well be that Karl’s father died in 1774 when Karl was only six years old. Although his mother re-married (twice) and his step-fathers were also masons, he did not choose this path.

On 10 May 1794, Karl married Maria Theresia Höck, the daughter of the city’s “master carpenter” – perhaps Karl was influenced by his future father-in-law at a young age and chose his profession that way. At the time of their marriage, Karl was 26 years old and Maria Theresia was 25. They had at least ten children – not all survived infancy as was typical for that time and place, but at least three daughters (Theres, Magdalena, and Rosalia) and possibly one son (Josef) lived to adulthood since references were found to their marriages.

By 1794, Karl was already the Stadtzimmermeister or the city of Pfaffenhofen’s master carpenter. Bavarian trade guilds usually required a man to go through various stages to learn his craft. As a teenager, he would become an apprentice to learn the craft for several years. The next stage was journeyman, when he was expected to journey to other towns to learn from other masters. Once he passed an exam for the master level, he would be allowed to hire other journeyman or apprentices to work in his shop. It appears that the Stadtzimmermeister would be a master carpenter who is the city’s “official” carpenter in charge of city structures.

I have found a few references to Karl in some newspapers that were digitized. One indicates that, as Stadtzimmermeister, he went to Scheyern Abbey in 1803 to measure out the entire abbey in order to determine its worth under the “secularization” of Bavaria. There are a few references to his service in the military or militia in the early 1800’s, including promotions. But the most interesting reference I found tells a story about stormy weather. It also gives some interesting insight into the type of man that Karl was.

Münchener politische Zeitung Issue 162, July 1813. It was a dark and stormy night...

Münchener politische Zeitung Issue 162, July 1813. It was a dark and stormy night…

In 1813, a violent thunderstorm took place in the city of Pfaffenhofen. The storm had so many lightening strikes that a barn caught on fire. It was filled with hay, so the fire quickly spread to other buildings. Here is the rather dramatic newspaper account¹ of the storm and resultant fire:

Bavaria. Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, 3 July 1813.  The big storm that occurred in our town on 30 June caused a great havoc, since the lightning that accompanied him seems to have uniquely discharged only here. The clouds stood so low that one flash of lightning followed another, and almost every flash fell down on earth but mainly fell on the high-pointed tower of the town’s church. A lightning flash hit a barn filled with straw in a side alley, which immediately ignited nine other hay and straw-filled barns that were mostly very old already and not well built.

Despite very nearly all the possible obstacles of nature united so that even the most determined men gave up all hope of rescuing even one single house throughout the city, every attempt was made with the greatest consternation to stop the fire line that was spreading with enormous speed during the continuing storm, which turned in all directions in rapid alternations, and with the rain pouring down where you could barely see what was in front of you.

Miraculously, after the toughest six-hour battle against the violent storm wind, the flames were pushed down on the floor and prevented from spreading further; the fire itself could only be put off today.  The courage in the apparent dangers,  the skill and presence of mind of Master Carpenter Nigg and Master Mason Pickl, which both have distinguished themselves so often in similar cases, could not be praised enough.

The fire would not have burned down so many buildings if these old buildings were not built so badly and if they had been equipped with proper fire walls. As lucky as the town was with this great misfortune, the damage that was suffered on the buildings and the carriages can be estimated at approximately 80,000 fl., not considering the fire insurance sum of 14,000 fl. for a total of 5 houses, 4 stables and 9 barns.  Several smaller building nearby were enflamed which included the buildings of three farmers, that of Franzbräuer, Kreitmaierbräuers and Zuhammers. However, no one was seriously injured during their work.

According to news received from the state court, this terrible thunderstorm was spread over many miles and caused great devastation in the forests and woods. The lightning hit very often, but nothing else was set on fire. Highly remarkable is the strange fact that two years ago on 01 July, a similar thunderstorm along with a tornado-like storm caused great devastation when a lightning strike hit the church tower of Pfaffenhofen, set a farm in the area on fire, and caused a damage of at least 50,000 fl. due to a severe rainstorm and hail.

Based on this article, it seems that Karl Nigg was well regarded in the town for his courage, skill, and “presence of mind” and it seems that it’s not the first time he distinguished himself in that manner. The storm must have been frightening for his family. His daughter Magdalena, my 3rd great-grandmother, was only six years old, and her sisters Theres and Rosalia were 8 and 2.

I haven’t uncovered much more about Karl Nigg – definitely nothing as interesting as the story of the storm! He died on 01 August 1844 in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm at the age of 76.

Just the Facts

  • Name: Karl Leonard Nigg
  • Ahnentafel: #90 (my 4th great-grandfather)
  • Parents: Phillip Nigg (unknown-14 Mar 1774) and Anna Maria Cramer (b&d unknown)
  • Born: 04 Nov 1767 in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria
  • Siblings: Franz (22 Jan 1760- 31 Jan 1760), Sebastian (Jan 1761-?), Maria Ursula Euphemia (26 Sep 1762-?), Maria Antonia (28 May 1764-17 Jul 1774), Josef Anton (01 Apr 1766-?), Maria Anna (17 Aug 1769-?), Georg Michael (29 Sep 1770-1770), Maria Franziska (18 Jan 1773-05 Apr 1774)
  • Married: Maria Theresia Höck (27 Apr 1769-unknown) on 10 May 1794 in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria
  • Children: Josef Nigg (28 Feb 1795-?), Maria Anna Nigg (24 May 1796-?), Theres Nigg (20 Aug 1797-?), Johann Nigg (28 Feb 1800-?), Maria Anna Nigg (08 Apr 1802-?), Theres Nigg Kainz (26 May 1805-?), Magdalena Nigg Echerer (1807-1878), Barbara Nigg (23 Apr 1809-?), Rosalia Nigg Aicher (1811-?), Elizabeth Nigg (27 Aug 1814-?)
  • Died: 01 August 1844 (age 76) in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria
  • My Line of Descent: Karl Nigg-> Magdalena Nigg Echerer-> Karl Echerer-> Maria Echerer Bergmeister-> Margaret Bergmeister Pointkouski-> father-> me

Sources

¹ Münchener politische Zeitung: mit allerhöchstem Privilegium. Page 757, Issue 162, July 1813.  Publisher: Wolf, 1813. Original from the Bavarian State Library, digitized Sep 17, 2010.  Accessed via Google Books:http://books.google.com/books?id=DidEAAAAcAAJ. The full text does not appear to be available as of March 6, 2015.

52ancestors-2015

Written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 2015 Edition– Week 10: Stormy Weather

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The theme for Week 9 of the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge is “Close to Home” and my ancestor is my grandmother, Mae Zawodna Pater. But to me she was just called Nan! The reason I chose her for this theme is because we lived together in the same house for sixteen years. Other than my parents, I’d be hard pressed to find an ancestor closer to home than that.

Mae’s Story

Mae was born on 02 August 1907 in Philadelphia, PA, the third child of Polish immigrants Joseph (Józef) Zawodny and Laura (Wacława) Ślesińska. Mae’s baptismal name was “Marianna” but she always used Mae (at least in adulthood). She also always celebrated her birthday on August 3rd, but both her baptismal record and social security application confirmed the date of the 2nd.

Nan as a teenager with her mother and two sisters. Left to right: Dorothy, mother Laura, Mae, and another sister (Helen or Jane). I love this photo because it is the one I have of my grandmother at the youngest age and her expression shows her humor.

Nan as a teenager with her mother and two sisters. Left to right: Dorothy, mother Laura, Mae, and another sister (Helen or Jane). I love this photo because it is the one I have of my grandmother at the youngest age and her expression shows her humor.

The Zawodny family (in Polish, the name ends in -na for females and, despite being born in the U.S., this practice was generally followed by the next generation) lived in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia, which was, and still is today, a community of Polish immigrants. Her father was a boilermaker and her mother stayed home to care for their large family. There were eight children in all, but two boys died as infants.

Nan_siswedding

Mae in 1925 as Maid of Honor for her sister Jane’s wedding

On 01 February 1930, 23-year-old Mae married 17-year-old Henry Pater – the two lived three doors apart on Indiana Avenue. However, they didn’t tell their families at first – perhaps because Henry, as a minor, didn’t get parental permission and lied about his age on the marriage license. For the 1930 census enumeration, they are listed as living with their respective families. Eventually, they told their parents. Mae’s father was not happy, mostly because they didn’t get married in the church. So in June the couple got married for a second time at St. Adalbert’s and moved in together.

Mae had a personality that could be difficult at times as evidenced by the nickname her husband gave her – “Killer”. But she also had a fun sense of humor and a great laugh. The couple welcomed their first child, Joan, in 1932. Daughter Anita was born in 1935.

Mae, Anita, Henry, and Joan, 1938

Mae, Anita, Henry, and Joan, 1938

On December 6, 1938, Mae’s mother Laura was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was admitted to Philadelphia State Hospital (later called Byberry). Mae and family moved in with her father, Joseph, in his house on Mercer Street. They all lived together until Joseph’s death in 1944. Laura would remain in Byberry until her death in 1956.

In the early 1950’s, Mae and Henry separated and lived in different residences for the rest of their lives although they never divorced. Mae moved in with her daughter Anita (my mother) from the time my parents got married. It wasn’t always a peaceful cohabitation, but it lasted for many years. It was only the last three years of Mae’s life that she did not live with us and moved to live with my Aunt Joan instead.

Mae

Mae standing close to home – the house in which I grew up and we both lived. This photo was taken before I was born, circa 1961-4.

I’ve written short biographies of many of my ancestors not just for the “52 Ancestors” challenge but also for other posts here on this blog. But I was surprised by how difficult it was to write Nan’s story, the ancestor with whom I spent my entire childhood. My favorite memories are of her cooking – she was a wonderful cook! Fortunately my mother inherited that gene and I think it’s partially rubbed off on me, too. But some things can never be replicated like her chicken soup with homemade noodles. Or her dumplings that she called “bullets”. I also remember sitting in her bedroom for hours watching television – she was a heavy smoker at the time and I cringe now to think that I was surrounded by all of that smoke!  Most of all I remember her humor and her big laugh. Plus, her personality made me laugh because she practically had an entire language of her own from Polish words like dupa, zupa, and dudek to other words like plut and gazeutch that mean something only to my family and some close friends.

All of my life, my grandmother wouldn't let me take her photo - she'd stick out her tongue or make a face. As a result, despite living together for my first 16 years, I have not one photo of us together - except for this one. Not the best, but the only. As for missing part of her head in the photo, that's a family tradition (see https://pastprologue.wordpress.com/2010/08/22/off-with-their-heads/)

All of my life, my grandmother wouldn’t let me take her photo – she’d stick out her tongue or make a face. As a result, despite living together for my first 16 years, I have not one photo of us together – except for this one. Not the best, but the only. As for missing part of her head in the photo, that’s a family tradition (see https://pastprologue.wordpress.com/2010/08/22/off-with-their-heads/)

She had a difficult relationship with my parents, but she loved my brother and me and that is what I remember. Looking back on her story with adult eyes, I sense that she spent a lot of her life in fear – not of a person or of any one thing, just in general. She was afraid of everything from the weather to strangers to driving in a car to all of the unknowns in life. Looking back, she made herself “old” before she really was because it was easier to be taken care of by her daughter than to try to take care of herself. Her love for me even came with fear – she was afraid that I would get hurt. I was a very late walker because Nan would pick me up and carry me so I wouldn’t try to walk and get hurt while falling down trying. In the photo above she appears ready to leap to my rescue if I took a tumble.

But despite that sense of fear she had, and which she attempted to compensate for by being abrasive, irreverent, and downright rude to everyone except my brother and me, the greatest story from her life involves overcoming fear. It is important that I tell it because this fact about her won’t be found recorded in any official document or vital record. It happened in early 1980 – I was 13 years old and Nan was 72. She developed an infection in her big toe that became gangrenous. The doctors told her that the infection was serious and wouldn’t heal, so they had to amputate her leg below the knee. I was too young to understand what she might have been going through with that diagnosis. But I do remember that after it happened, and after a long rehabilitation stay, she came home with a cane and a prosthetic leg. Even though I didn’t fully comprehend the complexity of what she’d experienced, I remember being impressed that she was able to get through it and walk again. It finally dawned on me as an adult when I experienced my own fear while awaiting a lesser operation – I realized that my diagnosis wasn’t anything like hers and if she could get through that operation as an old woman then surely I had the strength to get through mine. And I did.

Mae died on 30 April 1986 – I was 19 years old, she was 78. Her death was the first significant loss in my life. But that’s to be expected, because it hit close to home. I’m glad I got to spend so many years living under the same roof eating her cooking, listening to her tall tales, laughing as she cursed the cat for walking between her legs (one good, one artificial) as she walked down the steps, and hearing her big, loud laugh.

Just the Facts

  • Name: Mae (Marianna) Zawodna Pater
  • Ahnentafel: #7 (my grandmother)
  • Parents: Joseph (Józef) Zawodny (1880-1944) and Laura (Wacława) Ślesińska (1880-1956)
  • Born: 02 August 1907 in Philadelphia, PA
  • Siblings: Jane Zawodna Galecki (1904-1976), Helen Zawodna Tiernan (1905-1977), Stanley Zowney (1909-1980), Cazimer (Charley) Zawodny (1911-1969),Bolesław (William) (1912-1913),Władisław (Walter) (1914-1915), Zofia (Dorothy) Zawodna Rozet Mohan (1916-2010)
  • Married: Henry Pater (1912-1972)
  • Children: Joan Delores Pater Silvers (1932-2004) and Anita Pater Pointkouski
  • Died: 30 Apr 1986 in Philadelphia, PA

52ancestors-2015

Written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 2015 Edition– Week 9: Close to Home

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The theme for Week 8 of the 2015 edition of the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge is “Good Deeds” and my ancestor is my 5th great-grandfather, Jan Poláček (Czech spelling – alternate in Polish is Polaćek or Polaczek). Jan’s name was on the document for the purchase of property in 1802. That deed turned out to be a very good deed, indeed, for generations of Czech exiles in Poland.

Jan’s Story

Jan was born in 1759 in Groß Friedrichstabor, Prussia (Tabor Wielki, Kępno, Poland today). He was the son of Prokop Poláček and Kateřina Tomešová. Prokop was born in Labská Stráň in Děčín district in the Ústí nad Labem region of the Czech Republic. It was right on the border of what was then Prussia, and Prokop was part of the wave of Protestant (Czech Brethren) immigrants from Bohemia that left because they were under persecution for their faith. By 1754 Prokop was married and starting a family in Groß Friedrichstabor (his wife is also a Czech immigrant, but her birthplace is not yet known).

The community of Czech immigrants to Prussia was not similar to the American immigrant “melting pot”. In America, immigrants tended to form communities with other immigrants from the same country. The American-born children of my Polish and German immigrant ancestors grew up surrounded by immigrant families and understood their parents’ native languages and cultures, but they or their children married outside of their ethnic group and thus became truly “American” within a generation or two. In the late 18th Century in Prussian Poland, the Czechs stayed together as a close-knit community – the immigrants’ children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren all maintained the Czech language and their religion.

Jan grew up in Groß Friedrichstabor and worked as both a farmer and a weaver. He married Kateřina Kupcová on June 5, 1782. They had four children together: Josef born in 1783, Marie (my 4th great-grandmother) in 1785, Jan in 1790, and Anna in 1793.

The Czech exiles settled in several towns throughout the area. The larger towns were Husinec (Gęsinec), Groß Friedrichstabor (Tabor Wielki), and Friedrichsgrätz (Grodziec) and the smaller villages included Czermin, Sacken, Sophienthal, and Erdmannsdorf. (Read more about one of my other Czech exile ancestors, Václav Jirsak, from Week 2 of my “52 Ancestors” – his son and grandson were part of the new town with Jan Poláček.)

Some residents of these towns hoped for a larger area where they could all live together and have one pastor for their church. In November, 1802, some of the town leaders in Groß Friedrichstabor, including my ancestor Jan, learned that there was some land available for purchase that was close by – only a 5- day walk. They sent some men to look at the proposed land and it was found to be agreeable. On 20 November, an agreement was written up and signed by the leaders, and it was forwarded from town to town to get more people who were willing to move to the new settlement. In total, 54 men agreed to contribute to the purchase and become landowners, and an additional 65 agreed to make the move.

In November 1802 a contract was signed by the "Founding Fathers" to buy the town of Zelów for the community of Czech exiles.

In November 1802 a contract was signed by the “Founding Fathers” to buy the town of Zelów for the community of Czech exiles.

The seller was the Polish landlord Józef Świdziński who owned a vast amount of land – his “subjects” living on that land were moved to another area. He sold the land to the Czech colonists for the sum of 25,666 Prussian thalers or 154,000 Polish złoty. The sale was final by 21 December 1802. The first settlers arrived in February 1803 and the first child was born in the new town, Zelów, on 23 March. Most colonists arrived in May and June of that year, and in June the final payment was made to Świdziński and elders of the town were chosen as leaders.

The property was divided among the 54 settlers, with some families sharing the financial burden with additional families. There were acres set aside – both forest and meadows – for community use, and more set aside for a church and cemetery.

Jan Poláček was one of the men who signed the contract for the town, and his entire family made the move. At the time, he and his wife were about 44 years old. Their children were 10, 13, 18, and 20. Son Josef got married in Zelów on 30 Sep 1804 and daughter Marie on 21 July 1805.

The early work of clearing the land and building houses was difficult, and even some of the young men died. But, the community prospered and more colonists moved to the town. By 1813 there were 106 landowners in the town.

Jan’s wife Kateřina died on 13 November 1809 at the age of 50. Jan would live long enough to see his other two children get married: Anna (in Buczek, Poland) on 21 October 1810 and Jan in Zelów on 07 May 1811.

Jan died on 12 October 1812 at the age of 53 – almost ten years after signing the deed that created the community.

Jan's name on the deed is on the lower left.

Jan’s name on the deed is on the lower left.

The best part about this week’s ancestor is that I didn’t know he existed until a few weeks ago. After my post for Week 2 of the challenge, a cousin-I-didn’t-know-yet left a comment. We compared notes, and as it turns out we’re simultaneously 4th, 6th, and 7th cousins from various lines of the Czech exiles to Poland. I had documentation on two of those lines, but our closest connection was my mysterious Miller line. Thanks to participating in 52 Ancestors, and thanks to my new cousin, I now go back several generations on that line after being “stuck” for so long. Jan Poláček is one of our ancestors from that line through his daughter Marie.

Just the Facts

  • Name: Jan Poláček
  • Ahnentafel: #210 (my 5th great-grandfather)
  • Parents: Prokop Poláček (1727-1786) and Kateřina Tomešová (1732-1803)
  • Born: 1759 in Groß Friedrichstabor, Prussia (called Velký Fridrichův Tábor in Czech) – today, Tabor Wielki, Poland
  • Siblings: Marianna Poláčková (1754-1766), Anna Poláčková Matisová (1757-1791), Johana Poláčková Neverčeřalová (1762-1829). Half-siblings: Kateřina Poláčková (1765-1766), Štĕpán Poláček (1767-), Josef Poláček (1769-1769), Marie Poláčková Šrajberová (1771-1806), Kateřina Poláčková Tucková (1780-1831)
  • Married: Kateřina Kupcová (1759-1809) on June 5, 1782 in Tabor Wielki
  • Children: Josef Poláček (1783-), Marie Poláčková Šulitka Millerová (1785-), Jan Poláček (1790-1842), Anna Poláčková (1793-)
  • Died: 12 October 1812 in Zelów, Poland
  • My Line of Descent: Jan Poláček->Marie Poláčková Šulitka Miller->, Matej Miller-> Jan Miller-> Elżbieta Miller Pater-> Henry Pater-> mother-> me

52ancestors-2015

Written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 2015 Edition– Week 8: Good Deeds

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Hilaury - left approx. age 9 in Regensburg, middle approx. age 20-23 in Amberg, right approx. age 25-30 in Philadelphia

Hilaury – left approx. age 9 in Regensburg, middle approx. age 20-23 in Amberg, right approx. age 25-30 in Philadelphia

The theme for Week 7 of the 2015 edition of the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge is “Love” and my choice is a relative, but not an ancestor – my great-aunt, Hilaury Bergmeister Thumann. Baptized Hilaria, she was called Hilaury, or Lari for short, and Laura once she moved to America. I had to depart from the direct line of ancestors for this one, because the theme asked “Which ancestor do you love to research? Which ancestor do you feel especially close to? Which ancestor seemed to have a lot of love?” The answer to all three of those questions is great-aunt Laura because she continues to surprise me, I’ve found ancestors and relatives directly as a result of researching her (as opposed to her brother, my direct ancestor), and I feel like we share some things in common.

Laura’s Story

Much of Laura’s story might be familiar if you’re following along with these weekly posts – her brother, my great-grandfather Joseph Bergmeister, was profiled in Week 5. I’ve also written about Laura on the blog before, but since then I’ve discovered a few more things about my favorite great-aunt.

Laura Bergmeister was born on 10 January 1870 in Asbach, Bavaria, Germany to Joseph Bergmeister and Ursula Dallmaier. She was born illegitimate, but her father was named in the baptismal document and the couple married the following year on 11 April 1871 in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm.  Joseph was a flour merchant, the son of a long line of millers in the town of Puch. Since Joseph was not the oldest son who would inherit the mill, he was a merchant of the mill’s goods. His children are born in various towns throughout Bavaria, so I assume he traveled from town to town selling flour. Ursula was the daughter of an innkeeper in the town of Asbach, and that is where Laura was born. In 1871 the family was living in Vohburg a.d. Donau when a daughter named Marie was born on 17 November, but the baby did not survive. In 1873, Joseph was born in Vohburg. In 1873, Ignatz was born in Abensberg.

By 1879, the family appears to be living in Regensburg based on a photograph of Laura, her brothers, and their mother. Laura made her First Communion at the Dom St. Peter, the cathedral of Regensburg, in May, 1880.

At some point during Laura’s childhood, her father died. I have yet to find out when, but it was sometime after the youngest son’s birth 1876 and 1884, because in May of 1885 his widow is remarried and having another child. By 1884, mother Ursula is married to Herman Goetz (Götz). The Bergmeister siblings gained half-brothers Herman in 1885 and Julius in 1886 as well as a half-sister Elsa (birth date not yet known).

Often in discovering information about our ancestors and relatives through genealogical documents, we only uncover bare facts such as names or dates or places. However, I was given a couple of unique family heirlooms/ephemera that belonged to Laura that actually gave me some insight into her personality.

One is an “autograph” book, also called a stammbuch or poesiealbum (poetry album). The concept began in Germany among university students – almost like a yearbook by today’s standards, minus photographs – in which students would have friends and professors write a page, usually a poem, to the owner. By the late 19th Century – when Laura was a girl – the books were popular among teenage girls.

The very first entry in her book is signed by “father” on 24 October 1883 – I just can’t be certain (yet) that it is her father Joseph or instead her step-father Herman. The next page is signed by her mother, but not until 01 April 1884 and there are some entries later in the book that are dated in between those two. The book itself will result in a series of posts here once I get all of the entries translated, but in the ones I have so far it seems, based on the poems, that Laura had a cheerful spirit and spread that good cheer among others.

She started this book when she was 13 years old and entries include her parents, brother(s), cousins, and girlfriends. She collects a few entries each year all the way until she’s almost 26 years old for a total of 35 pages of poems or notes. Incredibly, she even has a few entries from people she met on the ship to America!

In July, 1893, 23-year-old Laura made her way to Antwerp, Belgium and boarded the SS Friesland. It arrived in New York on July 25th. It always intrigued me that she came, presumably alone, to America at a relatively young age for a woman to be traveling alone. She had no family in this country except for some rather distant cousins in Philadelphia – so distant that it’s unlikely they knew they were related. After seeing the autograph book, however, I realized Laura didn’t make the journey all alone – she had at least one girlfriend with her. One of the entries is in perfect English and reads:

In fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. In eighteen hundred and ninety three, together we sailed you and me. From your loving friend, Wally Kuchenreuter

Wally Kuchenreuter's entry in Hilaury's autograph book circa July 1893

Wally Kuchenreuter’s entry in Hilaury’s autograph book circa July 1893

Sure enough, Wally, presumably short for Walburga, is listed on the passenger list immediately above Laura. She is 18 and listed as a servant. I found her in the 1900 census working as a maid in the household of a prominent Philadelphia lawyer. When I looked over the passenger list more closely, I noticed that there are several single woman aged 18 to 24 that are listed as “servant” – in Laura’s case, she is listed as “housekeeper”. Did they all come together for work? A couple of these young girls signed Laura’s autograph book on the way over, and there was even an entry from Louis Lester Rosenbaum who apparently was an engineer for Edison Electric Light. This tells me that young Laura wasn’t a shy girl if she has men signing her autograph book on board the ship!

Laura (and Wally, for that matter) settled in Philadelphia. I don’t know anything about Laura’s life until three years later. On 15 June 1896, she married Max Thumann, a cabinetmaker originally from Regensburg, who was 13 years her senior. They come from the same city, but Max had been in the United States since 1883. If they knew each other in Germany, Laura would have only been 13 years old when he left!

Max and Laura at their home, September 1910

Max and Laura at their home, September 1910

At the time of Laura and Max’s marriage, she lived at 2827 Reese Street in Philadelphia. By 1900, the couple was living at 1033 Jefferson Street and Hilaire’s occupation is listed as “retail grocery”. Interestingly, one of the witnesses to Max and Hilaire’s marriage, Michael Hoffbauer, is a grocer at Hilaire’s old Reese Street address, so it is presumed that she continued to work there. Max and Hilaire bought a house at 6078 Kingsessing Avenue in 1907, and they lived there until their deaths.

Beginning in 1900, Max and Laura welcomed the arrival of the first of Laura’s brothers from Bavaria. When she left Germany, her Bergmeister brothers were 20 and 17, and her Goetz brothers were still children aged 8 and 7. I only recently found out about sister Elsa, presumable a half-sister, but I don’t know where she falls into the family. Despite their ages and the distance between them, communication must have continued through letters across the ocean. Because when each brother arrived in the US, their passenger list shows they were going to Hilaire and Max’s house and that the passage was paid for by their brother-in-law Max Thuman.

Joseph was the first brother to join Laura in America, arriving in New York City in May, 1900. Max paid for his passage, and his sister is listed on the passenger list as the relative who would meet him. Joseph stayed with the Thumann’s until he could find work and rent a house, and he is enumerated with them on the 1900 Census.

Next to arrive was 16-year-old half-brother, Julius Goetz, in September 1902. He is recorded as a locksmith from Regensburg going to his brother-in-law Max Thumann. Julius also lived with the Thumann’s until he found work in a factory and a place to live. He later returns to live with them after his 1919 marriage for a brief time.

In 1904, Ignatz Bergmeister arrives in New York City in June. His passage was also paid for by Max, and the list annotates that he was “met by sister at the landing”. It is not certain if Ignatz lived in Philadelphia for a time or if he stayed in New York City. He marries in New York in 1907 and is living there in 1910, but since Hilaire met him in New York it is possible that he also came to stay with the Thumann’s in Philadelphia for a short time.

The last brother, Herman Goetz, came to America in 1911 (after the death of their mother) at the age of 26. His passenger arrival record lists his brother Julius as his next of kin in America, but he lived with the Thumann’s for several years, including at the time of his marriage in 1913.

The Thumann’s were definitely involved with Joseph Bergmeister’s family. Joseph’s first son and first American-born child was also named Joseph, born in 1902. For his baptism, Uncle Max and Aunt Laura were his godparents. In 1905, Max was born, and the couple was once again godparents. In 1907, Julius had Aunt Laura as his godmother and his namesake Uncle Julius as his godfather. Two babies died shortly after birth in 1909 and 1911, including a daughter named Laura after her aunt. Joseph’s youngest child was Margaret, my grandmother, born in 1913. Aunt Laura again takes her place as godmother, and her godfather was Uncle Herman which explains Margaret’s unusual middle name, Hermina.

Laura was also involved as an aunt with her brother Ignatz’s children even though they lived farther away in Elizabeth, NJ. Ten-year-old niece Teresa wrote to her aunt in 1919 thanking her for the “beautiful things” she sent.

Laura (center) having some fun with family. The woman on the right is sister-in-law Teresa. The boy is Charles, son of Teresa and Ignatz and Laura's nephew. The girl may be his sister Teresa but appears too young. The woman on the left is unidentified but looks strikingly like my grandmother, which leads me to believe it is my great-grandmother Marie, Laura's sister-in-law. Approximate date:  1915-1917. Approximate place: Elizabeth, NJ

Laura (center) having some fun with family. The woman on the right is sister-in-law Teresa. The boy is Charles, son of Teresa and Ignatz (Laura’s nephew). The girl may be his sister Teresa but appears too young. The woman on the left is unidentified but looks strikingly like my grandmother, which leads me to believe it is my great-grandmother Marie, Laura’s sister-in-law. Approximate date: 1915-1917. Approximate place: Elizabeth, NJ

When my grandmother died, I found a “calling card” of Laura’s which tells me she was a sociable woman with a lot of friends. In addition to the wonderful autograph book, my cousin gave me Laura’s scrapbook containing a lot of postcards from family and friends (an entire series of cards from her husband’s friend Ferdinand is featured in an ongoing series of posts here). Some of the postcards were from her brother Herman before he immigrated, at least one is from the previously unknown sister Elsa, and some appear to be from a niece that is either the daughter of Elsa or a niece of husband Max. All of these things point out to me that Laura cared about friends and family and made the effort to keep in touch. Many of the cards thank her for either a letter, card, or package that she sent them.

In my post about Joseph Bergmeister, I highlighted the tragic events that befell Laura’s family members so I will merely summarize here:

  • 1914 Herman’s wife dies during childbirth
  • 11 October 1918, Herman Goetz died of pneumonia at the age of 32
  • 05 February 1919, Joseph’s wife Maria died from heart disease just weeks weeks away from her 44th birthday
  • 19 November 1919, Ignatz died of cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 43
  • 30 May 1927, Joseph died of nephritis at the age of 54
  • 16 November 1939, Ignatz’s wife Teresa died at the age of 59

Fortunately for Laura, her youngest brother Julius lived a long life so she was able to keep the family connection to him as well as her nieces and nephews for the rest of her life.

Max Thuman died on 26 November 1941 at the age of 84 from pneumonia. Laura only lived for another fourteen months, dying on 6 February 1943 from cancer. She was 73 years old. They are buried together at Mount Moriah Cemetery, which is located just across the street from their home on Kingsessing Avenue.

On the surface, what would I possibly find in common with this woman? I didn’t leave home at a young age to move to a new country. Nor did I marry. I’m probably not as outgoing as Laura seems to be (at least until you get to know me or vice versa). But there is something about her that makes me feel a kinship. Even though she didn’t travel (that I know of) once she moved here, Laura’s trip to this country reminds me of my own love of travel.  I didn’t get married (yet) like she did, but I’ve dated older men with an age difference like she had with Max. I try to keep relationships with friends and family over distance. I have a collection of postcards from friends and family. And the most significant commonality – I love my nieces and nephews as she did hers.

The theme this week asks “Which ancestor do you love to research? Which ancestor do you feel especially close to? Which ancestor seemed to have a lot of love?” I love researching Laura because she continues to surprise me with facts about her and her family that I didn’t know. I feel especially close to her – she had no direct descendants and neither do I, so if I don’t remember her amazing life, who will? Finally, she seemed to have a lot of love for her family and friends. I hope that I can be as fun-loving, caring, and thoughtful as she was!

Just the Facts

  • Name: Hilaury (Laura) Bergmeister Thumann
  • Ahnentafel: N/A – great-aunt, sister of #10 my great-grandfather
  • Parents: Joseph Bergmeister (1843-?) and Ursula Dallmaier (1846-1911)
  • Born: 10 January 1870 in Asbach, Bavaria, Germany
  • Siblings: Maria (1871-1871), Joseph Bergmeister (1873-1927), Ignatz Bergmeister (1876-1919), Herman Goetz (1885-1918), Julius Goetz (1886-1971), Elsa ?
  • Married: Max Thumann (1867-1941) on 15 June 1896 in Philadelphia, PA, USA
  • Immigrated: departed Antwerp aboard the SS Friesland; arrived in New York City on 25 July 1893
  • Children: None. At least 4 nephews and 5 nieces
  • Died: 06 February 1943 in Philadelphia, PA
  • Buried: Mount Moriah Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

52ancestors-2015

Written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 2015 Edition– Week 7: Love

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The theme for Week 6 of the 2015 edition of the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge is “So Far Away”. This theme asked “Which ancestor is farthest away from you either in distance or time/generations?” My answer would have to be my 14th great-grandfather, Six Welshofer. I found it quite appropriate that a man with the first name of Six would be fit the theme for Week 6! At sixteen generations back, he is definitely the ancestor who is farthest away from me. I find the concept of sixteen generations mind-blowing since my goal when I started researching my family history was to discover where my eight great-grandparents were born in Europe.

Six’s Story

This is the part of the weekly post where I regale my readers with the story of my ancestor’s life and explain why I chose them for this week’s theme. However, I have one problem in telling Six’s story – there aren’t enough facts to fashion a life story. I am not even certain of his birth or death dates. What is known, however, based on the house histories for the town of Armetshofen in Bavaria, is that a man named Six Welshofer, a farmer, existed and lived in the town. He is assumed to have been born approximately in 1487 based on when he appears in the town’s history. I don’t have evidence of his death date, but the name of his son and the next several generations were recorded in the house-owner history of the town.

While I don’t know anything about the man who was Six Welshofer and the dates are mostly unknown until the 1600’s, I know that names that make up his line of descent lead down to me. Five generations of Welshofer men after Six lead to a female descendent. From there, another five generations of females lead to my 3rd great-grandfather. The final six generations from him to me are three pairs of fathers and daughters. So, in the absence of a story about the man named Six, I’d like to present his line of descent ~

Line of Descent

  1. Six Welshofer, b. circa 1487, born & died in Armetshofen
  2. Georg Welshofer, b. circa 1515, born & died in Armetshofen
  3. Johann Welshofer, b. circa 1555, born & died in Armetshofen
  4. Georg Welshofer, b. circa 1600 in Armetshofen, d. Dachau
  5. Johann Welshofer, b. circa 1620 in Armetshofen, d. 16.04.1662 in Viehhausen
  6. Ursula Welshofer, b. circa 1640s in Viehhausen, d. 22.10.1688 Webling, m. Wolf Hintermayr in 1661
  7. Maria Hintermayer, b. circa 1660s in Webling, d. 11.07.1735 in Breitenau, m. Martin Jaiß in 1694
  8. Katharina Jaiß, b. 06.07.1696 in Breitenau, d. 29.11.1739 in Breitenau, m. Johann Märkl in 1724
  9. Rosina Märkl, b. 28.02.1734 in Breitenau, d. 05.04.1808 in Röhrmoos, m. Andreas Baumgartner in 1751
  10. Anna Baumgartner, b. circa 1755 in Röhrmoos, d. 07.12.1793 in Schönbrunn, m. Jakob Sedlmair in 1780
  11. Katharina Sedlmair, b. 22.04.1781 in Schönbrunn, d. ? in Prittlbach, m. Josef Dallmayr in 1818
  12. Josef Dallmayr, b. 02.03.1819 in Prittlbach, d. ? in Asbach
  13. Ursula Dallmayr, b. 21.09.1846 in Asbach, d. 21.01.1911 in Regensburg, m. Josef Bergmeister in 1871
  14. Josef Bergmeister, b. 12.02.1873 in Vohburg a.d. Donau, d. 30.05.1927 in Philadelphia, PA, United States
  15. Margaret Bergmeister, b. 11.04.1913 in Philadelphia, PA, d. 14.01.1998 in Philadelphia, PA, m. James Pointkouski in 1934
  16. James Pointkouski (my father)
  17. Donna Pointkouski 
Area of Bavaria of the line of descent from Six Welshofer - gray line is distance from Armetshofen to Viehhausen, the move of Six's great-great grandson Johann.

Area of Bavaria of the line of descent from Six Welshofer – gray line is distance from Armetshofen to Viehhausen, the move of Six’s great-great grandson Johann.

Looking at the names and town names for Six Welshofer’s descendants offers a great history lesson on what life was like in Bavaria from the 16th through the 19th centuries. In fact, these lessons match my research on another family line in the Bavarian town of Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm in which I used church records to get back to the 1600’s (research on Six’s line has been primarily through town histories). Comparing the information I found in both places leads me to make a few generalizations about what life was like during that time and in that place:

  • Men usually lived and died in the town of their birth – but they did move, and when they did it was usually for their profession or if they were not the eldest son inheriting the land from their father.
  • Occasionally a man “married up” and moved to a different town to marry a wife of a higher social status
  • Women generally moved from the town of their birth to a nearby town in order to marry someone. After marriage, they would have a lot of children (by today’s standards)!
  • Infant mortality was very high.
  • When either spouse died young, they remarried – quickly!

In my ancestral line back to Six, it was his great-great grandson Johann Welshofer that apparently moved from the ancestral town of Armetshofen. He moved to Viehhausen, about 85 miles northwest of his birthplace, and got married there. My line after Johann switches to six generations of females, and all but one move to a different town to get married (and live the rest of their lives there). Only Johann’s great-granddaughter marries and dies in the town of her birth (Breitenau). Her story illustrates several of my generalizations listed above. She gave birth to 9 children in 10 years, but only five survived past infancy. She died at the age of 44 (leaving children aged 4, 5, 12, 14, and one who’s age is unknown). Her widower remarries seven weeks later! But her daughter from that marriage (the 5-year-old), lives to the age of 74 and outlives her own daughter.

After that first move up north to Viehhausen, the family moved back down towards Dachau (Armetshofen) in the next generation. All of the town names in the following generations are all in this general area – until generation #13 when my great-great grandmother moved to Regensburg – near Viehhausen. The biggest move of all comes from her son, my immigrant to Philadelphia.

It’s certainly hard to fathom sixteen generations. And humbling to realize that someone who lived and died so long ago made it somehow possibly for my own life in my time and place five hundred years later.

52ancestors-2015

Written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 2015 Edition– Week 6: So Far Away

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The theme for Week 5 of the 2015 edition of the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge is “Plowing Through” and my ancestor is my great-grandfather, Joseph Bergmeister. One might assume he was a farmer since the theme is “plowing through” but he was a baker. He did, however, have to plow through one particularly tragic year in his life.

Joseph’s Story

Josef (Joseph) Bergmeister was born on 12 February 1873 in Vohburg a.d. Donau, Bavaria, Germany to Joseph Bergmeister and Ursula Dallmaier. His father was a flour merchant, and based on the fact that the children were born in different towns throughout Bavaria (Asbach, Vohburg, Abensberg) I assume that he was a traveling merchant. Joseph had a big sister, Hilarie (called Hilaury, Lari, or Laura for short) who was three years older. Another sister was born in between but she did not survive. Joseph became the middle child when his brother Ignatz was born in 1876.

At some point during Joseph’s childhood, his father died. I have yet to find out when, but it was sometime after the youngest son’s birth 1876 and 1884, because in May of 1885 his widow is remarried and having another child. I know that the family – with or without their father Joseph – was settled in the city of Regensburg by 1879. By 1884, Joseph’s mother Ursula is married to Herman Goetz (Götz). The Bergmeister siblings gained half-brothers Herman in 1885 and Julius in 1886 as well as a half-sister Elsa (birth date not yet known).

Joseph Bergmeister, circa 1893-95

Joseph Bergmeister, circa 1893-95

From 1893-95, Joseph served in the Bavarian Leib Regiment, or the Königlich Bayerisches Infanterie Leib Regiment. They were headquartered in Munich at that time.

By 1897, Joseph is in the town of Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm. It’s just an assumption, but given that his uncle lived there I presume he went there to work for his uncle. Uncle Castulus Bergmeister owned the bakery in Pfafenhofen (still in operation and run by my Bergmeister cousins) and Joseph was also a baker. In Pfaffenhofen, he met and married Maria Echerer, the daughter of a bricklayer whose family had been shoemakers in Pfaffenhofen for centuries. The couple married on November 2, 1897…just in time, for the following February – in fact on Maria’s 23rd birthday – they had their first child, a girl named Maria after her mother.

In May 1900, Joseph left Pfaffenhofen for Antwerp, Belgium where he boarded a steamship for the United States. His big sister Lari had immigrated in 1893. By 1900, she had married another German immigrant named Max Thumann. When Joseph arrived at the port of Philadelphia, Lari was there to meet him. Joseph lived with the Thumann’s for a while, but by the following year he had moved to a home of his own. In June 1901, his wife and 3-year-old daughter arrived in the U.S.

Joseph’s family started to grow considerably after that. Just nine months and two weeks after the happy couple reunited, they welcomed a son, Joseph. Two more sons followed: Max in 1905 and Julius in 1907. During these years Joseph’s family enlarged in another way as well – his brother Julius arrived in the U.S. in 1902 and Ignatz in 1904.

Unfortunately, Joseph and Maria lost two children who were born premature: a son, Charles, in 1909, and a daughter, Laura, in 1911. Earlier in 1911, Joseph’s mother died in Regensburg, and afterwards his brother Herman immigrated to Philadelphia.

One final child was born to Joseph and Marie – a daughter, Margaret, in 1913 – my grandmother! Despite the 15-year age gap between the oldest and youngest (and the 5-year age gap between the second youngest and my grandmother), the five siblings were close.

So far I’ve mentioned a few sad events in Joseph’s life such as losing his father when he was a boy and the deaths of two infant children. In addition, the year after Margaret was born, Joseph’s sister-in-law – the wife of brother Herman – died during childbirth due to a ruptured uterus. However, these tragedies are not why I chose Joseph’s story for the theme of “plowing through”. I realized that during one particular time period – from October, 1918 through November, 1919 – he had to plow through and struggle through some very sad events.

First, on 11 October 1918, Herman Goetz died of pneumonia at the age of 32. At the time, brother Julius was serving in the U.S. Army and his siblings were likely concerned about his welfare since the world was at war (he survived unscathed and died many, many years later at the age of 84).

Then, not quite four months later, on 05 February 1919, Joseph’s wife Maria died from heart disease. She was just weeks weeks away from her 44th birthday. Joseph and Maria’s oldest daughter was weeks away from turning 21 years old. Their sons were 16, 14, and 11, and my grandmother was not quite 6 years old.

The final event in the tragic year was the death of Joseph’s brother Ignatz. He died on 19 November 1919 at the age of 43 leaving behind a wife, an 11-year-old daughter, and a 10-year-old son.

Joseph had a very difficult time after his wife died, and according to his children he did not take good care of himself. He passed away from nephritis  on 30 May 1927 at the age of 54. At the time of his death, he had three granddaughters, Marie (age 7) and Mabel (age 3) from his oldest daughter and Helen (age 1) from his oldest son. He would eventually have a total of 14 grandchildren (as well as 30 great-grandchildren, 48 great-great grandchildren, and…I lost count of how many in the youngest generation at the moment!).

I wish I knew more about Joseph, and my grandmother wished she knew him a little longer. But I’m glad he had the strength and grace to plow through his struggles. He leaves a legacy of “plowing through” whatever life throws at you to inspire his numerous descendants.

Part of Joseph's entry in his sister's autograph book signed in the town of Plattling on 12 October 1890: Zur Erinnerung an Deinen Bruder Josef (in memory of your brother Josef)

Part of Joseph’s entry in his sister’s autograph book signed in the town of Plattling on 12 October 1890: Zur Erinnerung an Deinen Bruder Josef (in memory of your brother Josef)

Just the Facts

  • Name: Josef (Joseph) Bergmeister
  • Ahnentafel: #10 (my great-grandfather)
  • Parents: Joseph Bergmeister (1843-?) and Ursula Dallmaier (1846-1911)
  • Born: 12 February 1873 in Vohburg a.d. Donau, Bavaria, Germany
  • Siblings: Hilarie Bergmeister Thumann (1870-1943), Maria (1871-1871), Ignatz Bergmeister (1876-1919), Herman Goetz (1885-1918), Julius Goetz (1886-1971), Elsa ?
  • Married: Maria Echerer (1875-1919) on 02 Nov 1897 in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria, Germany
  • Immigrated: departed Antwerp on 03 May 1900 aboard the SS Aragonia; arrived in Philadelphia on 18 May 1900
  • Children: Maria Bergmeister Eckert (1898-1990), Joseph Bergmeister (1902-1986), Max Bergmeister (1905-1974), Julius Bergmeister (1907-1963), Charles Bergmeister (1909-1909), Laura Bergmeister (1911-1911), Margaret Bergmeister Pointkouski (1913-1998)
  • Died: 30 May 1927 in Philadelphia, PA
  • Buried: 02 Jun 1927 in Holy Redeemer Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

52ancestors-2015

Written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 2015 Edition– Week 5: Plowing Through

#52Ancestors

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Many times old photos come with mysteries…have I solved this one? I recently acquired a number of photographs from a kind cousin. Many of the photos were either labeled or we knew who the people were from having other photos of them. Most of the photos were of Julius Goetz, my cousin’s grandfather, who was the half-brother of my great-grandfather, Joseph Bergmeister. I still only have one photograph of Joseph, but I have many of Julius who was a very photogenic young man. In one photo, Julius is standing with another man – could this be his brother Herman? I’ve written about Herman before – because he died so young, no one in the family even knew who he was much less had any photographs of him. But, my cousin had two First Communion photographs of boys, and we knew which one was Julius. By assuming the other photo is brother Herman, and by using other available information, I’ve deduced that this is indeed a photograph of the Goetz brothers.

The Photograph

Julius Goetz is on the right - is the man on the left his brother Herman?

Julius Goetz is on the right – is the man on the left his brother Herman?

The Facts

Herman was born on 14 May 1885 and Julius was born on 09 November 1886. While the two men may not resemble each other very much, I know a lot of siblings that don’t look much like each other because each favors a different parent. From Herman’s passenger arrival record in 1911, we know that Herman was 5’9″. On Herman’s WW1 draft registration card, filled out shortly before his death, he describes himself as tall and stout with grey eyes and red hair. Julius was not as tall as his brother. On both his Declaration of Intent in 1908 and his 1919 U.S. Army discharge papers, he is listed as 5’5″. Also on both his is listed as having blue eyes, brown hair, and a medium build.

If the above photo does show the Goetz brothers, it would have been taken between April 1911 (when Herman arrives in the United States) and October 1918 (when Herman dies). The brothers would have been between 25-26 and 32-33 though I’d guess it was taken shortly after Herman’s arrival when they were reunited. Julius had been in the United States since age 16 in 1902, so nine years had gone by since the two had seen each other. One can easily assume they would want to commemorate the reunion with a photograph!

The Brothers as Boys

These are the two First Communion photos. Both were taken at the same photographer in Regensburg, Germany: Gustav Wild on weisse Lilienstrasse G. 93. It even looks like the same exact pedestal, crucifix, and background!

Herman on the left, Julius on the right. Julius' photo had the year 1897 on the back, so he'd have been 10 years old. This is consistent with a First Communion certificate for his half-sister who was also 10 when she received hers in 1890.

Herman on the left, Julius on the right. Julius’ photo had the year 1897 on the back, so he’d have been 10 years old. This is consistent with a First Communion certificate for his half-sister who was also 10 when she received hers in 1890.

Comparing the Boys to Men

Do you think the man on the left is Herman?

Do you think the man on the left is Herman?

In comparing the photos, the shape of the ears, noses, and mouths appear to be the same from the children to the adults. This, as well as the confirmed height difference of the two men as shown above, makes me believe that it is Herman with Julius. What do you think, readers?

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Niederscheyern in the Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm district of Bavaria, Germany

Niederscheyern in the Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm district of Bavaria, Germany

The theme for Week 4 of the 2015 edition of the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge is “Closest to Your Birthday” and my ancestor that holds that dubious distinction is my 4th great-grandfather, Dionys Daniel. Truth be told, I never noticed that Dionys’ birthday was close to mine until I looked in my database for this week’s challenge. But I have always admired Dionys because he has one of the coolest names of all my ancestors! Dionys is the German form of the name Dionysius, the Greed god of wine, revelry, and debauchery. I wonder if young Dionys was a rabble-rouser that lived up to the name or the complete opposite? Of course, the name shouldn’t only be associated with the infamous Greek god – it is also the name of several saints, and there are monasteries and churches dedicated to St. Dionys throughout Bavaria where my Dionys, status of saint or sinner unknown to his descendants, was born.

Dionys’ Story

Dionys Daniel was born on 07 March 1784 in the small town of Niederscheyern in Bavaria. He was the son of Anton Daniel and Anna Maria Olfinger.

The statue of Mary and Jesus in the Church of the Annunciation dates back to 1500! The church itself is unchanged since 1752, so it is the church in which Dionys was baptized, married, and died.

The statue of Mary and Jesus in the Church of the Annunciation dates back to 1500! The church itself is unchanged since 1752, so it is the church in which Dionys was baptized, married, and died.

I don’t know much about Dionys’ life, so I investigated the town in which he lived. Niederscheyern, or “Lower” Scheyern, lies in the shadow of the larger town of Scheyern. For centuries, Niederscheyern was a popular pilgrimage site itself. In the early 16th Century, miraculous powers were attributed to a statue of Mary in the Church of the Annunciation (Kirche Maria Verkündigung). The miracles and answered prayers attributed to Mary’s intercession were recorded in “miracle books” – from 1635 to 1804 there are over 16,000 entries of thanksgiving. The books still exist today in the library of the Benedictine abbey of Scheyern. The abbey also had a relic of the Holy Cross from Jerusalem – since 1180 – and many pilgrims came from all over Bavaria to pray there. The abbey was also the Wittelsbach family monastery (the Wittelsbach dynasty ruled over Bavaria for over 700 years into the Twentieth Century).

My Dionys wasn’t part of the royal family, however. He was merely a farmer living in Niederscheyern. I have no evidence of what his crops were or how much land he owned, but when I visited the area the primary crop is hops. In fact, hops growing is so prevalent that it is known as “green gold”.

The Catholic faith seemed to govern all aspects of Bavarian life at the time, and I wonder how closely his farming life revolved around the seasons of of the liturgical year as closely as the calendar year. One thing is certain – he lived during an interesting time. On 21 March 1803, a big change came to the Scheyern Abbey – the abbey was dissolved under the “secularization” of Bavaria. Dionys was 19 years old and grew up with the Abbey as the center of life in the area – how did its closure affect him? Or his livelihood as a farmer?  Or the surrounding towns? All I know is that the monastery came to life again during his lifetime – in 1838, Ludwig I of Bavaria re-established the monastery, and the monks returned.

On 11 September 1809 he married Walburga Schober – he was 25 years old and his wife was 31. In 1812 they had a daughter, Anna Maria, who is my 3rd great-grandmother. They also had a daughter named Rosalie, but I’m not certain of her birth year.

I don’t know much more about Dionys’ life other than his death date, which was 25 May 1873. He was actually alive when my great-grandfather, Joseph Bergmeister, who is Dionys’ great-grandson, is born. I hope he got to meet him.

Dionys lived to be 89 years old, and what is amazing about this fact is that he outlives all of my direct ancestors in his line. One of his descendants, his great-great-granddaugther who is my grandmother’s sister, finally beats his age when she died at the age of 92 in 1990, more than two hundred years and four generations after his death. While 89 is an admirable age at death, life as a farmer in the 19th century had to be difficult and physically demanding, so making it to that age is rather impressive. Maybe Dionys didn’t live up to his Greek god namesake with a life of revelry (or maybe he did and that was his secret to good health)!

Just the Facts

  • Name: Dionys Daniel
  • Ahnentafel: #82 (my 4th great-grandfather)
  • Parents: Anton Daniel and Anna Maria Olfinger
  • Born: 07 March 1784 in Niederscheyern, Bavaria (Germany)
  • Siblings: unknown
  • Married: Walburga Schober (1778-1856)
  • Children: Anna Maria Daniel Bergmeister (24 Jun 1812-02 Feb 1871); Rosalie Daniel Fottner
  • Died: 25 May 1873 in Niederscheyern
  • My Line of Descent: Dionys Daniel-> Anna Maria Daniel Bergmeister-> Joseph Bergmeister-> Joseph Bergmeister-> Margaret Bergmeister Pointkouski-> father-> me

52ancestors-2015

Written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 2015 Edition– Week 4: Closest to Your Birthday

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On January 12, 2009, I wrote a post entitled Research Plan: Finding Death Dates for Joseph Bergmeister and Ursula Goetz, my great-great-grandparents. I knew their birth dates, but hadn’t yet found their death dates. I could go backwards several generations on Joseph’s side to include birth, marriage, and death dates, but I was still perplexed as to when he died. So, I developed a solid plan based on what I knew. Plans are great, but in order for them to work you actually have to put it into action. I didn’t. However, luck was on my side…without trying, I found the death date of Ursula!

Corrections!

I had some errors in my original post. I wrote:

Ursula Dallmeier was born in Aichach on 17 Mar 1847, the daughter of innkeeper Joseph Dallmeier from Aichach and Ursula née Eulinger.

The bold items were incorrect. The correct information is as follows:

Ursula Dallmeier was born in Prittlbach on 21 Sep 1846, the daughter of innkeeper Joseph Dallmeier  (or Dallmayr) of Asbach and Ursula née Eichinger.

The Plan

Based on the dates of the births of her children, I made some assumptions on the death date of Ursula Dallmeier Bergmeister Goetz. Based on the fact that she was alive at the time of her son Joseph Bergmeister’s marriage and she was not by the time of her younger son Julius Goetz’s marriage, I assumed she died between 1897 and 1919. The place was assumed to be Regensburg.

The Find

Funeral card of Ursula Götz

Funeral card of Ursula Götz

As I said, I never actually put the research plan into action, but I continued to research the family by tracking down some cousins. When I found her son Julius’ grandson, he shared a treasure trove of documents and photos with me. Among the pile were some funeral cards…and suddenly, I knew when Ursula died – 21 January 1911.

I still don’t know when her husband, my ancestor Joseph Bergmeister, died, and I don’t know when she married her second husband, Herman Goetz. But I now think that both events happened in Regensburg based on some of the information my cousin gave me. But there was something even better than filling in that piece of information about Ursula’s life. Some of the photos were labeled, and some were actually of Ursula. This is one of Ursula, approximately from the late 1870’s, taken at the Photographie von Martin Kraus, Ostengasse H 163, Regensburg:

Ursula Dallmayr Bergmeister Götz (1846-1911)

Ursula Dallmayr Bergmeister Götz (1846-1911)

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Road side for Mała Wieś, photographed by Zenon Znamirowski on January 18, 2010.

Road sign for Mała Wieś, photographed by Zenon Znamirowski on January 18, 2010.

The theme for Week 3 of the 2015 edition of the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge is “Tough Woman” and my ancestor is my great-grandmother, Rozalia Kizeweter Piątkowska. Rozalia, or Rose as she was called in the United States, is my only great-grandmother of whom I do not have a photograph. In fact, I know very little about my paternal grandfather’s mother except what I have learned through my research. Based on what I’ve found, though, I have no doubt that Rose was a tough woman!

Rose’s story

Rose was born Rozalia Kizeweter on 08 August 1866 in a small village called Mała Wieś, which literally translates to “small village”. The town is in the parish of Przybyszew, gmina Promna, powiat Białobrzeski, województwo Mazowieckie, Poland.

Rozalia's name in her 1866 birth record from the parish records of św.Apostołów Piotra i Pawła church in Przybyszew

Rozalia’s name in her 1866 birth record from the parish records of św.Apostołów Piotra i Pawła church in Przybyszew

She was the sixth of at least ten children of Jan and Marianna Kizeweter. As a blacksmith, Rose’s father moved throughout the countryside among various small towns just southwest of Warsaw. Her parents were married in a town named Piaseczno in 1855 when her father was a 21-year-old journeyman blacksmith and her mother was 22 years old. The couple’s first child was born in Warsaw the following year, but then other children were born in four different towns over the years. By 1879, however, the family appears to be back in Warsaw and, beginning in that year, Rose’s siblings all get married in Warsaw.

In 1900, Rose married Jan Piątkowski on 14 May in the parish of św. Stanisława i Wawrzyńca, or Sts. Stanisław and Lawrence. According to the marriage record, her husband Jan was 28 years old and lived on Wolska Street while Rozalia was 34 and lived on Młynarska Street. Rose’s brother Władysław was one of the witnesses. At the time of the wedding, Rose’s father was deceased but her mother was still living.

Jan worked as a tanner, and the couple lived in the Wola section of Warsaw. A son, Józef, was born on 03 November 1903 and a daughter, Janina, was born on 29 December 1905. However, from the U.S. Federal Census I know that Rose also bore four other children before 1910 that did not survive.

On February 17, 1906, Jan left Poland for America with his brother-in-law, Ludwik Czarkowski. After arriving in New York City, they soon settled in Philadelphia. Each of their families would immigrate in the following year.  Rose sailed on the SS Armenia from Hamburg, Germany on 23 October 1906 with her son and daughter. They arrived in New York on 10 November. The physical description for Rose on the passenger list tells me that she had brown hair, blue eyes, and was 5’3″. She was 41 years old, her son turned 3 on the passage across the Atlantic, and her daughter was only ten months old.

The passenger list had X’s next to their names, which usually means they were detained at Ellis Island for some reason. At the end of the passenger list, I found their names and the reason for detention – they had to wire her husband, Jan, for money since she did not have enough to cover their transportation to Philadelphia. It is difficult to read, but she only had either $1 – or none – with her. Rose had to stay at Ellis Island with her children for two days and they were finally discharged on 12 November.

After settling in Philadelphia, Jan – now known as John – worked as a leather worker in a factory. The family had a surprise a few years later – Rose was pregnant with my grandfather, the only Piątkowski sibling to be born in the U.S. He arrived on 06 July 1910 and was named James. At the time of his birth, his mother was just weeks away from turning 44 years old. Today that would not seem unusual, but in 1910, women rarely gave birth at that age.

Little else is known about Rose’s life other than the simple facts found in records.  Her son Joseph (who eventually began to use the surname “Perk” in lieu of Piontkowski) got married in 1927 and had daughters Josephine in 1928 and Jean in 1930. I assume that John and Rose got to know their granddaughters as babies, but in 1931 their mother, Kathryn, died suddenly. The girls were put into a home because their father worked as a truck driver and was not at home to care for them. He remarried and had another daughter, Geraldine, in 1936, so Rose may have gotten to see her third granddaughter as well.

Daughter Jean was married by 1930 to William Rose Hynes and living in New York City, then Florida. She may not have ever seen her parents again after her marriage.  Research continues on the fate of Jean.

Son James got married in 1934 and had his first child, my father, later that year. My father has no memory of his grandmother but she likely got to know him briefly when he was a baby.

Rose died on 10 February 1937 from “chronic myocarditis.”  She was buried in Odd Fellows Cemetery on 13 February. John lived alone, rather unhappily, until August 1942 when he took his own life.

Although I know very little about her, Rose is my choice for a “tough woman” based on some simple facts:

  • At least four of her children as infants or toddlers.
  • After husband departed for America, she had to care for two children, a toddler and an infant, presumably by herself, for nine months.
  • She immigrated to America alone with a 3-year-old and a baby, spending two weeks on a journey that was likely uncomfortable, lonely, and, quite frankly, frightening. She didn’t speak the language in this new home, and she would never see her siblings (or her mother, if she was still alive at the time) again. Then after arrival she had to spend two days waiting for money to travel to Philadelphia.
  • She had a child at the age of 44. When this occurred, in 1910, she was at the age that other women would be a grandmother. I don’t care who you are or what century you live in, but I’m just slightly older right now and I can’t imagine having enough energy for an infant!

For these reasons, I salute my great-grandmother as a strong, tough woman. My grandfather once said that his mother was a tiny woman (as evidenced by her height listed as 5’3″ on the passenger list). But, despite her size and being dwarfed by her husband, she ruled the house and often told his father “how it was”. I wish I had a photograph of this amazing, strong woman!

A note on name spellings: Rose’s surname is spelled many ways in records of her siblings and parents. Kizeweter is the most common, but variations include Kizieweter, Kizewetter, Kieswetter, and similar variations beginning with a G, as in Gizeweter. The name Piątkowski (female version Piątkowska), translates into Piontkowski in English due to the absence of the letter “ą” which has an “on” sound. However, my grandfather changed some letters around…and now that’s my name.

Just the Facts

  • Name: Rozalia (Rose) Kizeweter
  • Ahnentafel: #9 – my great-grandmother
  • Parents: Jan Marcin Leopold Kizeweter (1837-?) and Marianna Ostał (1833-?)
  • Born: 08 August 1866, Mała Wieś, Przybyszew, Poland
  • Siblings:  Feliks Mateusz (1856-?), Katarzyna Marianna Slanina (1859-?), Józef (1860-?), Kazmierz (1861-?), Jan (1863-1863), Jan Józef (1868-?), Aleksander Józef (1871-?), Władysław (1873-?), Marianna Antonina Owczarek (?-?)
  • Immigrated: from Hamburg, Germany aboard the SS Armenia with Józef and Janina, arriving in New York City on November 9, 1906
  • Married: Jan (John) Bolesław Piątkowski (Piontkowski) on 14 May 1900 in Warszawa, Mazowieckie, Poland
  • Children: Józef (Joseph) Perk (1903-1953), Janina (Jean) Hynes (1905-?), James Pointkouski (1910-1980)
  • Died: 10 February 1937 in Philadelphia, PA
  • Buried: 13 February 1937 in Odd Fellows Cemetery in Philadelphia, PA

52ancestors-2015

Written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 2015 Edition – Week 3: Tough Woman

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'The Slav Epic' cycle No.15: The Printing of the Bible of Kralice in Ivančice (1914) by Alfons Maria Mucha which commemorates the first printing of the New Testament in the Czech language.

‘The Slav Epic’ cycle No.15: The Printing of the Bible of Kralice in Ivančice (1914) by Alfons Maria Mucha which commemorates the first printing of the New Testament in the Czech language.

The theme for Week 2 of the 2015 edition of the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge is “King” and my ancestor is my 7th great-grandfather, Václav Jirsak (also spelled Jirsák). He was not a king, but his story is connected with kingship in various ways. First, the town of his birth is Králova Lhota in southern Bohemia (modern-day Czech Republic) – the very name of his birthplace, Králova, means “king”, and is so named because the land apparently was once owned by the Bohemian kings. But his personal story also involves leaving his Bohemian homeland due to the policies of its kings (and queen) against religious tolerance. Finally, his exile to a new country takes place because of another king’s invitation for persecuted Bohemians to settle a new land.

My ancestor’s story begins in Bohemia. The traditional land called “Bohemia” makes up about two-thirds of what is the Czech Republic today. But it was once a kingdom in the Holy Roman Empire. From 1526, the kingdom was ruled by the Habsburg monarchy. The Peace of Augsburg in 1555 was meant to solve religious disputes – princes were allowed to determine the religion of their subjects. The Hapsburg kings did not initially force their Catholic religion on Bohemia, which was mostly Protestant. But struggles over which religion would rule the land, so to speak, continued. The Thirty Years war was not only political, but also religious, and it was the battle between the Catholics and Protestants that influenced my ancestor’s personal story.

Queen Maria Theresa desired that her subjects share her Catholic faith as did Charles VII Albert, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia.  It became a crime against the state to be Protestant. Many Bohemians, my ancestors included, subscribed to the Protestant reforms of Jan Hus who believed that the Scriptures should be available in the language of the people, communion should be available under both forms, and the clergy should not have political power. But under Hapsburg rule, these teachings were forbidden. Although it was a crime, the faith continued to be passed down in private.

Václav’s Story

Birth Record of Vaclav Jirsak

Birth Record of Vaclav Jirsak

Václav Jirsak was born in 1715 to Jan Jirsak and Alžbĕta Chmelařová in Králova Lhota. The family was Protestant, and two years before Václav’s birth Jan was found to possess banned books of a religious nature and he was forced to confess to the Catholic faith.  In order to gain freedom of religion, widower Jan and his adult sons, Václav and Jan, decided to leave their homeland at the earliest opportunity. That opportunity came thanks to another king, Frederick II, King of Prussia.

In 1742 Frederick offered Czech refugees the chance to move to Silesia, now under Prussian rule. The Czechs were offered land and monetary support. That year the three Jirsak men emigrated to several colonies near what is Bralin, Poland today. Due to father Jan’s age, life in the new land was too difficult, and eventually he returned to Bohemia to live with his daughter, Dorota, and her husband, Jiří Zounar. Jan died there in 1751, but his sons remained in the new land.

Václav took on a leadership role in these new colonies. In 1749, at the age of 34, he helped to found the colony of Groß Friedrichstabor (today this town is Tabor Wielki in Poland), and by 1759, he was an “elder” at Klein Friedrichstabor in Groß Wartenberg (today this town is Tabor Mały in Poland). Václav was a farmer in this new community, and with his wife Kateřina had four daughters (Anna Marie, Marie, Alžbĕta and Anna) and three sons (Jan, Václav and Jiří).

The families that settled in these colonies are collectively known as the Česká exulantská – the Czech exulanti or exiles. They were able to maintain their religious beliefs (the evangelical church of the Czech Brethren) free of persecution. They also maintained their Czech language despite living under the rule of Prussia and later Russia.

Václav died in 1793 at the age of 77. His son and grandson, both named Jan Jirsak like Václav’s father, would continue the family’s migration through Prussia to Russian-ruled Poland in search of better opportunities for their families. In 1802, both men were among the founders of a new Czech settlement in Zelów, Poland. After another two generations, my ancestors would continue the migration farther east to the town of Żyrardów, and the next generation came to the United States. Other descendents of Václav Jirsak eventually made it back to Bohemia in the Czech Republic after World War II – nearly two hundred years after one brave man and his sons decided to move in search of religious freedom.

Note on name spellings: Václav is Czech but the name can also be listed as Wenceslaus, Wacław (Polish), or Wentzel (German). The surname Jirsak is also spelled Jirsák, Jersak, or Girsak. The feminine ending for Jirsak is Jirsaková.

Migration trail of my Bohemian exile Family Jirsak

Migration trail of my Bohemian exile Family Jirsak

Just the Facts

  • Name: Václav Jirsak
  • Ahnentafel: #888 (my 7th great-grandfather)
  • Parents: Jan Jirsak (1681-1751) and Alžbĕta Chmelařová (1694-1725)
  • Born: 04 Sep 1715 in Králova Lhota, Bohemia (Czech Republic)
  • Siblings: Anna (1711-?),Dorota (1712-?), Václav (1714-1714), Jiřík (1718-1719), Alžběta (1720-?), Jan (1722-1796), Lukáš (1724-1725)
  • Married: Kateřina (1723-1785)
  • Children: Jan (1746-1821), Anna Marie (1747-1780), Václav (1751-1788), Jiří (1753-?), Marie (1754-?), Alžběta (1758-1787), Anna (1760-1792)
  • Died: 03 May 1793 in Czermin (Poland)
  • My Line of Descent: Václav Jirsak-> Jan Jirsak-> Jan Jirsak->Anna Jirsaková Jelineková->Anna Karolina Jelinková Smetana-> Alžbĕta/Elżbieta Smetana Miller-> Elżbieta/Elizabeth Miller Pater-> Henry Pater-> mother-> me

Sources

52ancestors-2015

 

  Written for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 2015 Edition – Week 2: King

 

 

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52ancestors-2015

This year I am participating in the 2015 edition of the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge. The theme for Week 1 is “Fresh Start” and my ancestor is my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Miller Pater. She was so confusing to research over the years that I needed a fresh start!

I first began researching my family history in 1989. While research methods, family group sheets, and pedigree charts have been the staples of genealogy for a very long time, looking back at when I began my search only twenty-five years ago seems like the dark ages. The first available federal census to research was 1910. No census records were online. No passenger records were online. No vital records were available online. There’s a theme here: nothing was available online, the paper records were difficult to come by, and even the microfilmed records did not cover the vast amount of years or locations that they do today.

After duly interviewing my parents about everything they knew about their immigrant grandparents (which was not much), I began my search. Considering the lack of easily accessible records, I actually did really well – of course, if I began today, I would find exactly the same information, plus a lot more, in a fraction of the time. But in the case of Elizabeth Miller Pater, I did not do very well. In fact, I made the biggest rookie mistake a genealogist can make – I made an assumption, lacked evidence of the genealogical “proof”, and continued researching. If the assumption had been correct, no harm done except for making professional genealogists cringe in horror. But – I was wrong! So for a certain period of time – a few years – I was actually researching the wrong Elizabeth Miller.

I based my research on a few facts from my mother. We assumed my great-grandparents married in Poland, but when I found my great-grandfather coming to the U.S. at the age of 14 – quite single – I realized that she did not come over under her married name. Therein lay the problem – pick a country and I can find you several dozen women named Elizabeth Miller. Whether it was Ireland, England, Germany, Poland, Russia, Autria, Hungary, Slovakia, or anywhere else, there were women named Elizabeth Miller. I limited my search to Polish (or Russian, given that Poland was under Russian rule, but my mother claimed that Elizabeth herself claimed she was Bohemian. Since my grandfather was born in 1912, I knew she immigrated before then, so “Bohemia” would have been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

I don’t remember my rationale at the time, but for some reason I found a teenaged girl with my great-grandmother’s name and thought I found her. The uncle she traveled with was not a name familiar to my family. But I persisted down the wrong research path. If I only knew more about the genealogical proof standard back then! Fortunately, I started fresh and began the research again. This time, things made more sense, names matched, and documents verified my mother’s stories (yes, she was technically Bohemian – she was descended from Bohemian immigrants to Poland). It wasn’t easy, but I finally “found” the only great-grandmother I actually met.

Lesson Learned: Don’t assume! Verify information with sources until you’re reasonbly sure you have the correct person – especially when dealing with a common surname. And if you’re stuck, sometimes it pays to put all of your research aside and get a fresh start!

Elizabeth’s Story

Elizabeth Miller Pater

Elizabeth Miller Pater: Left, approximately 23-27 years old. Right, approximately 64 years old.

Elizabeth was born Elżbieta Miller in 1890 in or near the town of Żyrardów in the Mazovia province of Poland (województwo mazowieckie). Although her parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents were born in Poland, they were all of Czech descent. Her parents, Jan Miller and Elizabeth Smetana, were born in Zelów in the Łódź province but moved to Żyrardów as children with their parents. Żyrardów had a large Czech community, and most residents worked in the linen and textile factory that the town was built around in 1833.

Elizabeth was one of at least seven children (research on the family continues). Her family spoke Czech at home, but also knew Polish and Russian. They, and the other Czech families, were all of the Protestant faith – the Czech Brethren or Evangelical Reformed church. Despite the fact that Poland was predominantly Catholic, Żyrardów was a large town with groups of Germans and Czechs and had an Evangelical Reformed Church, a Lutheran church, and a Jewish synagogue in addition to the Roman Catholic church.

Elizabeth’s brother Emil immigrated to the U.S. in 1905; his wife and daughter followed later that year. They settled in Philadelphia, PA, where there was a community of other immigrants from Żyrardów. Emil had two more children in Philadelphia by the time his sister Elizabeth immigrated alone in 1909 at the age of 18. The passenger arrival record provides a physical description: light brown hair, gray eyes, and a height of 4’11”. In 1910, she is living on the same street as her brother and is listed as a border in the household of another family named Miller. Although they are also from Żyrardów, I have not yet found a family connection.

Living just blocks away was another family from Żyrardów, the Pater’s. I can only wonder if Elizabeth Miller and Louis Pater had known each other as children in Żyrardów. Louis had been in the country since 1907. But just sixteen months after Elizabeth arrived, the couple got married. They married in Camden, NJ, rather than Philadelphia – perhaps because Louis had just turned 17 and may have required parental permission in Pennsylvania. Elizabeth was older by almost three years. Her brother Emil and her fellow border, Olga Olczak, served as witnesses. Olga was also from Żyrardów and would eventually become a relative of sorts to the Miller family through marriage.

Despite being from the same town, the couple were of two different religions. Louis Pater came from a Polish Catholic family. Elizabeth remained Protestant. It is just an assumption, but since Louis’ parents were also living in Philadelphia, I think it may have been a source of contention. My only proof of this is finding a baptismal record for my grandfather, Louis and Elizabeth’s oldest child, in the Catholic church near the Pater family’s home in Langhorne, PA. But years later when my grandfather went to marry in the Catholic church, he received a dispensation because he himself was not aware that he was baptized Catholic.

Louis and Elizabeth had five boys: Henry (my grandfather), Walter, Louis, Victor, and Eugene. Unfortunately, two of her sons died rather young, both from tuberculosis. Louis was only 24 when he died in 1940. His brother Victor was 31 and died just a few years after the same disease took his 22-year-old wife.

Both Louis and Elizabeth worked in the textile factories in Philadelphia. Elizabeth worked as a hosiery topper from the 1930’s through the 1950’s at Gotham Hosiery, which was located on Erie Avenue. The family lived on Hope Street, then N. Hancock Street, then N. Waterloo Street – all in the same Philadelphia neighborhood.

Elizabeth and siblings

From left to right: Alfred “Fred” Miller, his wife Mary, possibly Fred’s granddaughter, Elizabeth, unknown woman, Eddie Schultz, Mary Miller Schultz, Henry Schultz, and unknown man (possibly Walter Schultz)

Elizabeth seemed to be close to her siblings. Her brother Emil went back to Żyrardów sometime around 1910. He was apparently one of the exiles to Siberia around 1915 and died in Russia. His wife and son would later return to the U.S. and were close with Elizabeth. Their sister Mary immigrated in 1912 with her husband, Ludwig Schultz, and they lived in New York City. In 1913, brother Alfred immigrated with his five nieces and nephews, the children of Mary and Ludwig. Alfred lived in New York City and both of his brothers-in-law, Louis Pater and Ludwig Schultz, were witnesses for his marriage in 1921. The Schultz family eventually settled in Metuchen, NJ. In 1920, Elizabeth’s youngest sister, Sophie, immigrated to the U.S. accompanied by their mother, Elizabeth Smetana Miller. Sophie moved to Philadelphia but their mother lived with both Alfred and Mary. Mother Elizabeth died in Metuchen, NJ, in 1944. Elizabeth’s brother Ludwik remained in Żyrardów his entire life and owned a shoestore. The remaining known siblings, Paweł and Karolina, apparently died in exile to Siberia or in Russian prison. More research is being conducted to fill in these blanks on the family tree.

Elizabeth’s husband, Louis, passed away in 1957 at the age of 64. Elizabeth lived on Waterloo Street a few doors away from her sister-in-law, Victoria Pater Koruba. Elizabeth died from congestive heart failure on 28 July 1972 and was buried in Greenmount Cemetery. At the time of her death, she left behind three sons, seven grandchildren, and at least two great-grandchildren (including me). As much information as I’ve been able to gather on Elizabeth’s relatives, I’ve had a problem finding out information about the children of her sons Eugene and Walter (Walter decided that the surname Pater was unlucky and used his mother’s maiden name of Miller instead). Maybe it’s time for a fresh start with that research as well.

Just the Facts

  • Name: Elżbieta (Elizabeth) Miller
  • Ahnentafel: #13 – my great-grandmother
  • Parents: Jan Miller (c.1851-c.1913) and Elżbieta Smetana (1858-1944)
  • Born: 21 November 1890, Żyrardów, Poland
  • Siblings: Paweł (unk-bef.1919), Emil (c.1881-bef.1919), Mary (1884-1969), Karolina (1885-19??), Ludwik (1894-aft.1977), Ferdinand Alfred “Fred”(1896-aft.1969), Zofia “Sophie” (1903-bef.1969)
  • Immigrated: from Hamburg, Germany aboard the SS President Grant, arriving in New York City on April 16, 1909
  • Married: Ludwik (Louis) Pater on 27 August 1910 in Camden, NJ, USA
  • Children: Henry (1912-1972), Walter (1913-1975), Louis (1916-1940), Victor (1919-1951), Eugene (1920-1979)
  • Naturalized: 13 December 1954
  • Died: 28 July 1972 in Philadelphia, PA
  • Buried: 31 July 1972, Greenmount Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Written for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 2015 Edition – Week 1: Fresh Start 

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On April 17, 2009, I wrote a post that asked “Do you have a photo of my great-grandmother?” I only had one photograph of my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Miller Pater, but I wondered if others existed. I’ve had trouble tracking down my mother’s first cousins because they were born in the 1940’s and some used the rather common surname of Miller instead of Pater.

Here’s the one photo that I posted back in 2009 – Elizabeth is the woman seated in the middle:

Elizabeth Miller Pater and unidentified friends/family at a picnic in 1947.

Elizabeth Miller Pater and unidentified friends/family at a picnic in 1947.

On August 30, 2012, I wrote about “A Great Discovery” – finding a photograph of Elizabeth on her 1954 naturalization certificate. Here’s a copy of that photo:

My great-grandmother!

My great-grandmother!

I was thrilled to receive it, and it came as a surprise since none of my other ancestors’ naturalization records had photographs. I didn’t want to be greedy, but I still wondered if anyone had more photographs of my great-grandmother.

Update!

Well, someone did…all this time, a photograph of Elizabeth Miller sat in a box in a basement three thousand miles away from where Elizabeth lived, owned by someone whose surname I never heard of when I began my research many years ago. The naturalization document led to a search for the original bearer of the name “Elizabeth Miller” – her mother – since the alien registration document indicated a parent lived in the United States. I tried the mother’s name first and found a possible match. A death certificate confirmed some information, and led to more questions with the name of the informant. That in turn led to more research on that name…and suddenly a missing piece of the family puzzle was found.

My great-grandmother Elizabeth Miller Pater had a sister named Mary Miller Schultz who lived in Metuchen, New Jersey. My mother always said she had relatives in Metuchen, but she assumed it was on the Pater side. Mary had some photographs of her sister (as well as another sister and two brothers…more on that in a future post!), and she passed those on to her youngest daughter, Julia. Julia married a gentleman of Italian descent in 1935 and the couple moved out to California.

Following the trail led me to Julia’s daughter – my second cousin once removed! We had the opportunity to meet last June, and my “new” cousin graciously pulled out a box of photographs and family documents that had belonged to her mother. Actually, the word “box” doesn’t adequately describe it – to me, it was a treasure trove! I was able to fill in many missing details about my great-grandmother’s siblings. With a name like Miller, it was difficult to pinpoint the correct people, but now I know more about them as well as their spouses and children. As for photographs, not only did my cousin actually have a photo of my great-grandmother – but she had THREE! And two of the three included my great-grandfather as well. As if that wasn’t enough to cause a genealogy happy dance (and tears of joy), I am also now the proud owner of three photographs of my great-GREAT-grandmother – Elizabeth’s mother. And one of her father! And some of two of her sisters and two of her brothers!

But all of those photos and their stories will be told in future posts. For now, here is my newest prized possession. Fortunately, the photograph was labeled with my great-grandparents’ names – I’m not sure I would have recognized them given that the only photos of her are shown above and the sole photo of my great-grandfather is from 1947 when he was 53 years old. The amazing photograph below shows the couple on (or near) their wedding day, August 27, 1910, in Camden, New Jersey. My great-grandfather, Louis (Ludwik) Pater, had just turned 17 years old days before. He immigrated to the U.S. from Żyrardów, Poland, in August, 1907 with his siblings to join their parents. The bride, Elizabeth (Elżbieta) Miller, was 19 years old and immigrated from the same town in April, 1909.

Elizabeth Miller and Louis Pater

Elizabeth Miller and Louis Pater, August 1910

It may sound dramatic, but the gift of this photograph was a dream come true. The moral of this story: don’t give up searching for family photographs! Because you never know which photos were shared with siblings and which descendants inherited and saved all the goodies!

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If my grandmother Margaret Pointkouski was still alive, today would be her 100th birthday.   This post is in her honor:

Various photos from throughout Margaret Bergmeister Pointkouski's life. Top Row: First Communion Day (circa 1919-1920), with her first born - my dad (circa winter 1934-35), with husband James  (1957), portrait (1972). Center: Bergmeister siblings in 1959. Bottom Row: portrait (circa early 1930's), with husband James (1962), and with children (winter 1942-3).

Various photos from throughout Margaret Bergmeister Pointkouski’s life. Top Row: First Communion Day (circa 1919-1920), with her first born – my dad (circa winter 1934-35), with husband James (1957), portrait (1972). Center: Bergmeister siblings in 1959. Bottom Row: portrait (circa early 1930’s), with husband James (1962), and with children (winter 1942-3).

Just the Facts:

  • Parents: Joseph Bergmeister (1873-1927) and Marie Echerer (1875-1919)
  • Born: 11 April 1913, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania
  • Baptized: 13 April 1912, St. Peter’s RC Church, Philadelphia, PA
  • Siblings: Marie (1898-1990), Joseph (1902-1986), Max (1905-1974), Julius 1908-19??), Charles (1909), Laura (1911)
  • Married: James Pointkouski on 13 January 1934 in Media, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. The civil marriage was later blessed at St. Peter’s RC Church, Philadelphia, PA.
  • Children: James and Jean
  • Died: 14 January 1998
  • Buried: 17 January 1998, Holy Redeemer Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA
From left to right: Mabel, Carol, Marie, Helen holding Robert with Suzanne below, and Margaret holding Drew. Marie and Margaret are sisters & Helen is their sister-in-law. Marie is holding her granddaughter Carol, Mabel's daughter. Helen is holding her grandchildren, and Margaret is holding her grandson (my brother). Photo date - around spring of 1960.

Grandchildren & Second Cousins: From left to right: Mabel, Carol, Marie, Helen holding Robert with Suzanne below, and Margaret holding Drew. Marie and Margaret are sisters & Helen is their sister-in-law. Marie is holding her granddaughter Carol, Mabel’s daughter. Helen is holding her grandchildren, and Margaret is holding her grandson (my brother). Photo date – around spring of 1960.

Five Things I Learned About My Grandmother from Genealogical Records:

  • Grandmom’s middle name, according to her baptismal record, was Hermina. No one knew where the name came from until I found Uncle Herman Goetz in my research, her father’s half-brother who was also her godfather. The reason why no one in the family remembered Uncle Herman is because he died in 1918 and she likely didn’t remember him at all.
  • She was probably named after her maternal grandmother, Margarethe Fischer Echerer (1845-1895).
  • Grandmom barely knew her parents. Her mother died in 1919 about six weeks before Grandmom’s 6th birthday. Then in 1927 when she was not quite 14, her father died.
  • Although she was born in 1913, she is completely missing from the 1920 and 1930 census!
  • Her first child, my father, was born less than seven months after the wedding.
The Pointkouski family circa 1960

The Pointkouski family circa 1960

Five Things I Learned About My Grandmother from My Dad and Aunt:

  • According to my Aunt Jean, when Grandmom was born she was so tiny that she could fit into a shoebox. Her parents weren’t sure she’d survive – they had two children in between her brother Julius and her that only lived for one day. 
  • My grandmother always said that her Aunt Laura was very good to her. Laura was Hilaury Bergmeister Thuman, her father’s sister. After her parents died, Aunt Laura and her husband, Uncle Max, were the closest thing to parents she’d have. Uncle Max died in 1941 and Aunt Laura in 1943 – while I’m sure Grandmom would have liked their support for much longer in her life, at least by then she had a husband and children of her own.
  • A description of her parents was passed down, but I’m not sure if the memory came from my grandmother or her older siblings – likely the siblings since she was so young when her mother died. But, her mother was remembered as a very short, fiesty woman who ruled the household – and ruled her husband, Joseph, whom she called “Sepp” for short.  Although he was taller than his wife, he but obedient to everything she said.
  • Grandmom met my Grandpop at her brother Max’s store. Grandpop worked as a truck driver delivering ice cream, and Max’s soda fountain was on his route. He spotted Margaret one day, and excitedly asked Max, “Who’s that?” Max looked around, “Her? Aw, she’s just my sister.”
  • My Grandmom was called “Aunt Margie” by her nieces and nephews. She seemed to be very close to them, especially her nieces Marie and Mabel who were only 7 and 11 years younger than her (her sister Marie’s daughters). After Grandmom died, I found some correspondence in her house that she had saved over the years from her niece Helen and nephews Bob and Carl, all children of her brother Joseph.
Grandmom and me, 1977

Grandmom and me, 1977

Five Things I Learned About My Grandmother From Knowing Her:

  • She always called my grandfather “Pop”
  • She made ceramics as a hobby. Two that have survived over the years are a Christmas tree (with lights) and a candy dish shaped like a sleigh that says “The Pointkouski Family”.  I remember from my childhood that she made my brother a hockey player figurine (or was it a lamp?) with a Flyers jersey, and a Tin Man lamp for my father when he played the Tin Man in a show.
  • She was a knitter and made afghans. I still have one she made for our family.
  • She was blind in one eye for the last 20+ years of her life. I think it was due to glaucoma.
  • She always signed her cards “Grandmom, Love” instead of the other way around

Happy Birthday, Grandmom!

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Surname Saturday

Surname - BERGMEISTER

Meaning/Origin – The Bergmeister surname is not listed in the Dictionary of German Names, Second Edition by Hans Bahlow, which is the reference book I usually use for my German surnames. However, in German berg means “mountain” and meister means “master”. According to Wikipedia, a Bergmeister was a mine manager or foreman in German-speaking Europe who, along with the Bergvogt, was one of the officials serving on a mining court (Berggericht). 

Countries of Origin – The surname Bergmeister is German. According to the World Names Profiler, the countries with the highest frequency per million residents are Austria with 21.83 individuals per million, Germany with 5.55, and Italy with 2.64.  The next highest countries (and their respective frequency per million) are Norway (0.28) and the United States (0.24).

Spelling Variations - Variations include PERGMEISTER or PERMEISTER. The name was originally spelled with a “P” but evolved into the “B” spelling by the 18th century. Other spelling variations may include similar names beginning with “BURG” or ending with -MASTER, -MEIER, -MAIER, -MEYER.

Surname Maps – The following maps illustrate the frequency of the BERGMEISTER surname in Austria and Germany.

Distribution of the BERGMEISTER surname in Austria.

Distribution of the BERGMEISTER surname in Austria.

SOURCE: Dynastree Surname Mapping database, http://www.verwandt.at/karten/detail/bergmeister.html, accessed January 26, 2013.
Distribution of the BERGMEISTER surname in Germany.

Distribution of the BERGMEISTER surname in Germany.

SOURCE: Dynastree Surname Mapping database, http://www.verwandt.de/karten/absolut/bergmeister.html, accessed January 26, 2013.

Famous Individuals with the Surname – Jörg Bergmeister (b. 13 Feb 1976) is a race car driver from Germany. There was also a rather famous (and really cool-looking) motorcycle built in Bavaria in the 1950’s called the Victoria Bergmeister V 35.

My Family – My BERGMEISTER family comes from a small town in Bavaria, Germany called Puch which is located near Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm. My Bergmeister ancestors arrived in this town in April 1688 and apparently originated from Tyrol in the Pflersch valley near Gossensaß. Today this area is in the Bolzano province of the Trentino-Alto Adige region of northern Italy. For many years I wished I had Italian heritage only to find out that my Bavarian-Tyrolean ancestors come from what is actually Italy today.

My earliest documented ancestor so far with this name is Jakob PERMEISTER, a miller born in Tyrol who immigrated north to Puch by 1688 and purchased a mill. My line of descent is as follows (all were born and died in Puch and worked as millers until my great-great-grandfather): Martin (1689-1752) > Johann Paul (1721-1784) > Joseph (1763-1840) > Jakob (1805-1870) > Joseph (1843- before 1885) > Joseph (1873 in Vohburg a.d. Donau – 1927 in Philadelphia, PA, USA) > Margaret (1913-1998). This last Joseph was my great-grandfather who immigrated to the U.S. While the earlier generations of his family are well documented, I have yet to find the death date for his father Joseph, who worked as a flour merchant for the family’s mill.  More information on their children can be found on the Bergmeister Family Page. Today I am in contact with not only second cousins who descend from the same immigrant great-grandfather, but also with cousins in Germany who descend from other lines from both Joseph born in 1763 and Jakob born in 1805.

My Research Challenges – The challenge is finding records to connect the Tirol Bergmeister family with my ancestral line living in Puch in the late 1600’s. My fifth cousin once removed is diligently working this back in Germany. We would like to connect our Puch line with another family of Bergmeisters originating in Hördt in the Rhineland-Palatinate area of Germany (whose descendants immigrated to Philadelphia, PA, USA thirty years before my great-grandfather did). My challenges are 1) to continue with the research until the records end, 2) attempt to “connect” the various Bergmeister families to one common ancestor, 3) find the death record for my great-great grandfather some time before 1885 in or around Munich, and 4) contact descendants of my great-grandfather’s brother, Ignaz.

Other Bergmeister Families – As noted above, there is a branch of the family from Hördt that likely connects to our Puch branch back in the mid 1600’s. The name is uncommon enough for us to reasonably assume that all Bergmeister’s are related if you go back far enough!

Surname Message Boards – None that I have found.

Links to all posts about my Bergmeister family can be found here.

This post is #12 of an ongoing series about my family’s surnames. To see all posts in the series, click here.

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St. Francis Xavier, missionary, saint, and eponym!

Continuing the Family History Through the Alphabet series… X is for Xavier. While Xavier as a first name has gained popularity in the last decade or two, for centuries it was used as a middle name combined with Francis. Why? The first-middle name combination of “Francis Xavier” comes from the man first known to use it, St. Francis Xavier.

Francis Xavier was a Catholic missionary priest and co-founder of the Jesuits who lived from 1506 to 1552. Although he was born Francisco de Jasso y Azpilicueta in Navarre (present-day Spain), he came to be called Francisco Xavier because of his family castle named Xavier (or Javier, or Xabier). The name is derived from the Basque word etxaberri, which means “new house.” While studying in Paris, Francis met Ignatius Loyola – they and five others founded the Society of Jesus, more commonly known as “Jesuits,” in 1534. He was ordained a priest three years later. He is remembered for his years as a missionary in India, Indonesia, and Japan where he brought Christianity to thousands.

It is not uncommon for a surname to become a given name, but what I find amazing is the widespread use of “Francis Xavier” together. The name “Francis” was always popular, and many men (or women) named Francis (or Frances) might be named after another popular Catholic saint, St. Francis Assisi. As popular as St. Francis of Assisi is, however, I’ve never seen “Assisi” – another place-name “surname” – used as a middle name. Likewise, I have many men named “Ignatius” in my family tree in either the German form of Ignaz or the Polish form of Ignacy – but none of these use “Loyola” as a middle name which would imply they were named after St. Ignatius Loyola.

St. Francis Xavier, however, seems to have something rather unique about him in that both of his names are often used together. This would make more sense if perhaps the names were popular in either his home country, present day Spain, or in the countries where he ministered like India. Many names gain popularity in certain areas due to a local saint with the name.  But the names “Francis Xavier” seem to be popular worldwide. The name combination appears as Francisco Javier in Spanish-speaking countries, Francesco Saverio in Italy, Francisco Xavier in Portugal, François Xavier in France, Franciszek Ksawery in Poland, and Franz Xaver in Germany.

A little over two hundred years after St. Francis Xavier lived, his names were used in my family in Bavaria. Franz Xaver Gürtner, my 4th great-grandfather, was born on 04 September 1781 in Reichertshofen, Bavaria. His daughter, Barbara, would grow up to marry Franz Xaver Fischer (born 06 October 1813 in Agelsberg, Bavaria) in 1841. Both men are found in records listed by both “Franz Xaver” or “Fr. Xaver” as well as by just “Xaver.” In German, the name is pronounced as Ksaber.

Another Bavarian 4th great-grandfather, Ignaz Echerer (born 26 July 1765 in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria), had a brother named Franz Xaver Echerer. Although St. Francis Xavier traveled around the world, as far as I can tell he never visited Germany – yet his name is very popular throughout the country centuries later.

St. Francis Xavier had a big impact on the world, especially in the countries he worked like India. However, his name had an even bigger impact in my opinion. I even have a distant cousin living today with the name Francis Xavier. Xavier is one of the only English names beginning with “X” so it stands out as unique despite the centuries of other men named F.X. How many Francis Xaviers (or just plain Xavier) are in your family tree?

[Written for the weekly Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge]

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Ulica Piwna (Beer Street) in Old Town Warsaw. Yes, my great-grandfather lived on Beer Street!

Continuing the Family History through the Alphabet series… W is for Warsaw! When I officially began my family history research and my father told me his grandfather, Jan Piątkowski (John Piontkowski) was from Warsaw, Poland, I thought: Yeah, right! Being a native-born Philadelphian, I am familiar with people “borrowing” my city as their place of birth because no one ever heard of the tiny suburban town they were born in. The fakers exclaim: “Well, it’s near Philadelphia!” So when I heard my great-grandfather was from Warsaw, I wondered exactly where he was born. My other great-grandfather said he was from Warsaw sometimes too, but he was from a town 27 miles away. Close doesn’t count when you’re searching for birth records.

But then a funny thing happened…I discovered he really was from Warsaw! Thanks to numerous Warsaw church records that are available online, I found my great-grandfather’s baptismal record that confirmed his birth as he reported on his Declaration of Intention. My Piątkowski family was from Warsaw!

Prior to this discovery, I visited the city in 2001. I unknowingly visited some of the family’s sights such as the Archcathedral of St. John (Archikatedra św. Jana). At the time, I had no idea my great-grandfather was baptized there. Technically, of course, it is not the same church – most of Warsaw was completely demolished in 1944-5. It is estimated that 80% of the old buildings were destroyed, including most of the Old Town area and the churches. Eventually the buildings were rebuilt – some are exact replicas of what once stood, others are not.

There is still a lot of research to do (or more accurately, there is a lot of deciphering Russian to do), but so far I have discovered that my great-grandfather’s father, Stanisław Piątkowski, was in Warsaw by 1863. It was then he married Apolonia Konopka in Holy Cross Church (Kościół św. Krzyża). Neither was originally from the city: Stanisław was from Mogilev (Belarus) and Apolonia was born in Konopki in the Augustów province.

Stanisław was listed in records as a “private official” and a valet. I have yet to determine for whom he worked, but there is one characteristic of Stanisław that sets him apart from EVERY SINGLE OTHER POLISH ANCESTOR – he could write his name. My factory workers and craftsmen – even some merchants – could not. I continue to wonder what a private official did in late nineteenth century Warsaw. At that time, Warsaw was undergoing a population boom – the city’s population more than doubled in twenty years.

Not all church records are available yet, but so far I’ve discovered two other sons of Stanisław and Apolonia, Jan’s marriage record and two children’s baptisms, and several records for the family of the brother of Jan’s wife, Rozalia Kizoweter (aka Kizeweter or Gizeweter). Since the addresses are provided in the church record, on my next visit to Warsaw I can re-visit some of the streets where they lived!

[Written for the weekly Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge]

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