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Archive for the ‘Photographs’ Category

Here are two photographs of World War I veterans.  Both gentlemen married my great-grandmother’s sisters (surname: Slesinski).  The photos contained no identifying information; however, I have identified these men based on labeled photographs taken around 1930 which were featured in a previous post, The Slesinski Sisters: Part 3 – Research Confirmed.

Adolph Majewski

Adolph Majewski

John Smilovicz

John Smilovicz

I thank them for their service to this country, as well as all veterans and military members currently serving in harm’s way.  Thank you!

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The word prompt for the 18th edition of the Smile for the Camera carnival is Travel: show us your family and how they traveled.  Well, that’s a hard one…other than my immigrant ancestors arriving in the U.S. by ship, I don’t know of any other travelers in the family – and I certainly don’t have any photos of them.  I seem to be the first bitten by the travel bug.  Until I remembered that my father did travel – courtesy of the United States Navy!  Here is a photo of him (on the right) and his buddy on their ship, the USS Cadmus.

Dad_Cadmus

Aboard the USS Cadmus, circa 1956-58

The expression the Navy used for recruiting for many years was “Join the Navy and See the World” – in my father’s case, this was true.  He was only in the Navy for two years, but he managed to travel quite a bit.  The USS Cadmus, AR-14, was a repair ship.  She made her first transatlantic crossing in 1957 to Scotland, France, and Spain.  The following year the ship had exercises in the Mediterranean.  My father has very fond memories of his time in the Navy, and he still remembers those ports of call.  It would be the only time my father ever traveled outside of the United States.  Here is a photo of the USS Cadmus:

AR-14

USS Cadmus, AR-14

[Written for the 18th Edition of Smile for the Camera Carnival: Travel]

Related Post: Even and Ocean Can’t Separate a Son’s Love for Mom

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The theme to this month’s Festival of Postcards is “quadrupeds”.  Once again I have managed to find a unique example that meets the theme and also has a connection to my family history.  Here’s a great card that shows a couple of quadrupeds all decked out to celebrate the dog days of summer!

Dogs with ShadesDogs2The text of the postcard reads:

Dear Donna, As you can see from the picture, we’re not the only brother-sister team that can party Hawaiian-style!  Even if the other sisters are cool – they’re not as nice (and kind & intelligent & loving) as you!  Thanks for the CCD material – it really came in handy.  You’re in my thoughts and prayers.  I love you, Drew

As if you could not figure it out, the postcard is from my brother to me.  But the postmark didn’t quite make the card itself, and I couldn’t remember exactly when he sent it to me.  To determine the date of the card, I used the investigative techniques I’ve learned from my genealogical work as well as skills I’ve learned from others about how to date photographs and postcards.  I focused on three distinct areas to estimate the “age” of the card – clues provided by the sender/recipient, the writing or message content, the card itself, and the postage.

First, the sender and recipient – my brother and me.  There were two different times in our lives that my brother sent me letters and postcards because he was living away from home.  The first was a five-year period in the early 1980’s when he was in the United States Marine Corps.  The second was about a five-year period beginning in the late 1980’s when he was serving in a very different type of “corps” – two different seminaries.

Next, I looked at the subject of the text.  At first glance, I assumed the card was sent while he was in the seminary for two reasons – he’s rather, uh, nice and complimentary.  I’m not saying he was rude when he was a Marine, but I remember the seminarian as a kindler, gentler brother!  Also, he mentions me sending CCD material.  CCD stands for “Confraternity of Christian Doctrine” which is a Catholic religious education program for students attending public schools.  On the one hand, I figured my seminarian brother would have more of a need for CCD material than the Marine brother.  But, I was teaching CCD classes during the time my brother was in the Marines.

The next clue came from the postcard itself with a copyright of 1984.  In 1984, my brother was in the USMC and I was teaching CCD classes, so this clearly tipped the scale in favor of that time period.

Finally, the card has a 20-cent stamp.  I looked at The History of Postage Rates in the United States.  This site shows a 20-cent postcard rate beginning in 1995.  By then, my brother was married and not sending me mail, so this was not possible.  I know that when I send a postcard, I sometimes use a “regular” stamp if I don’t have time to go to the post office for a postcard stamp.  Looking at the normal postage rates, the 20-cent stamp was in use from November 1, 1981 to February 17, 1985.

Conclusion: The postcard has a copyright of 1984, the stamp was in issue from then until 1985 (the denomination, anyway – I could have done further research on the design of the stamp itself), I was teaching CCD during that same time period and my brother was in the USMC during that same period, therefore, the postcard was likely sent during 1984.

Even though this was a “recent” postcard and sent directly to me, I gave this example of trying to determine its date not only because I myself didn’t remember, but because it is a good example of how to proceed with following a postcard’s clues to estimate the time period in which it was sent.

More importantly, once again in finding an entry to meet the “challenge” of the Festival, I am reminded of what postcards are all about…keeping in touch with family and friends.  I was in high school when my brother was in the Marines, and it was always a special treat to get a postcard or a letter from him.  I didn’t save all of them, but I did save a few that were special.  I am sure this one made my “save” pile not only because of his loving message, but because of the humor of the card.  In fact, I think he had a Hawaiian shirt just like that one they have on!  I was about to enter my Hawaiian shirt & shades stage (I haven’t left it yet, by the way), so it was particularly fun to receive this one.

[Submitted for the 5th Festival of Postcards: Quadrupeds]

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SchoolDaysI recently had the pleasure of posting all of my old grade school class pictures on Facebook for my classmates to see. Many said, “You still have those?”  The others decided it was because I was a genealogist, which is better than being called a pack rat.  I never dreamed I’d find any school photos from my grandparents’ days, but my aunt presented me with this gem – my grandfather’s 8th grade class photo in 1923.  It is the Horatio B. Hackett public school in Philadelphia, which is still educating youngsters today.

Graduating Class of Horatio B. Hackett School, Philadelphia, PA, 1923

Graduating Class of Horatio B. Hackett School, Philadelphia, PA, 1923

My grandfather, James Pointkouski, is in the second row from the top, the second boy to the right.  Here is a close-up:

Pop_age13In this photo he is about a month shy of 13 years old – the  youngest age of any of his photographs.  From what his children said, he loved going to school and did very well.  He would have loved to continue through high school and college, but like many kids in those days he was not able to finish high school because he had to work to help support his parents.

In June I posted the class photo from his son’s 8th grade graduation in 1948.  If I could find a class photo for my brother’s class in 1973 it would make a nice collection of the patrilineal line at the same age.

[Submitted for the 16th edition of Smile for the Camera: School Days.]

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The theme for this month’s Festival of Postcards is Water.  Here’s a fine example of a watery scene from a 1950s French postcard (click on the image for a close-up view, then hit the “back” button to return here):

A postcard showing a map of the French Riviera and the Mediterranean

A postcard showing a map of the French Riviera and the Mediterranean

Water PC 2

The text reads:  “Dear Mother, I could not get a birthday card for you.  I hope this will due.  Happy Birthday.  Jimmy” The postcard was mailed on 07 April 1958 from Nice, France with a lovely 20 franc stamp depicting the shrine at Lourdes.  The text on the card reads (in French): A bird’s eye view from Cannes to Italy.  The card shows a lovely view of the Côte d’Azur.

Jimmy is my father, who was serving in the Navy on a Mediterranean cruise aboard the USS Cadmus (AR-14) during the spring of 1958.  His mother’s birthday was 11 April – I wonder if she got it in time?  It was her 45th birthday – since I am nearing that age it seems too young to have a married son!  I also couldn’t help but wonder if he also remembered to send my mother some wishes via postcard as well.  The date he mailed my grandmother her birthday greeting was the date of my parents’ second wedding anniversary!

[Submitted for the 4th Festival of Postcards: Water]

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We were either too poor to take a pony ride or there were no ponies in the city, because there are no “pony pictures” in my family.  But who needs a pony?  Even living in a big city like Philadelphia, we still had some tough cowboys to defend us!  Here’s my favorite photo of my brother:

Gunslinger Drew, 1961

Drew in 1961 - If he could talk, I'm sure he'd quote John Wayne: "Out here a man settles his own problems."

With a gun in one hand, and a bottle in the other, he’s off to save the world.  Or at least prevent his pacifier from being stolen.

[Submitted for the 78th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: Pony Pictures]

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BlingEach month footnoteMaven hosts a wonderful carnival of old photos called Smile for the Camera.  Despite the fact that I do not own a plethora of ancestor photos, I have participated every month except for one topic that completely stumped me.  And it looked like I was about to be stumped again this month when I saw the topic for the 16th edition: Bling, Ancestor Bling!  Maven wrote:

I am always drawn to the beautiful jewelry worn by our ancestors in old photographs. The locket that was your Great Grandmother’s treasure, the pocket watch proudly displayed by a male ancestor, the beautiful crosses of old, and the children with their tiny bracelets. While not many of our ancestors were wealthy enough to own multiple pieces of jewelry, there was the one good piece that held sentimental value. Some of us have been fortunate enough to inherit those treasures. Show us a photograph of your ancestor wearing their “Bling,” or photographs of the pieces you have inherited.

I have shown some photos of my great-aunt showing off some bling, but I wanted to use a new photo, never before seen in public.  There’s just one problem with that…my ancestors really weren’t “bling” kind of people.  Or, they were too poor to own any bling!  My mother and I were never really interested in jewelry, and she did not inherit any from her own mother or grandmothers.  So, this carnival will highlight many serious photographs with other’s ancestors displaying wonderful old-fashioned sparkling jewelry.  And then there’s me…  May I present a different kind of bling -

Now that's some serious bling!

Now that's some serious bling!

Ten carnivals ago I showed a photo of my father and his friend, Frank, all dressed up as ballerinas and explained that they participated in parents’ shows at my brother’s high school when I was a child.  This photo shows, from left to right, my mother and father and their friends Lil and Frank.  They are in costume for two numbers in the Archbishop Ryan High School (for Boys) Mothers Association show, Happy Holidays, which took place on November 19-20, 1976.  The show followed the calendar year with skits and dances revolving around the various holidays.

The ladies are dressed for the show’s opening chorus line number to the tune of Happy Holidays and Winter Wonderland.  The fur hats and matching muff look chic extraordinaire and fooled all but the ladies who made them – and myself, who helped.  The hats were made of the bottom of plastic milk cartons covered with cotton!  But doesn’t it look great?  Speaking of great, look how wonderful my Mom looks in her miniskirt – she is 40 years old in this picture!

Displaying far more bling than the ladies are the guys – er, well, the one guy and the guy-playing-the-lady.  They were the hit of the “February” sequence as they transformed into Elton John and Kiki Dee.  The pair lip-synced and danced to Don’t Go Breaking My Heart for Valentine’s Day.  My Dad, as Sir Elton, the king of bling, sports huge heart glasses, some neck-bling, and lots of sequins.  Not to be outdone, Frank gets in touch with his inner comedienne as Kiki – check out those heart earings and the feather boa!  What isn’t revealed in this photo is his plunging neckline and the dress slit “up to here”!  Even in comedy routines, the very masculine Frank always managed to look classier dressed as a woman than some of the women did!

[Written for the 16th edition of Smile for the Camera: Bling, Ancestor Bling!]

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Smile-Work-LGThe word prompt for the 15th edition of the Smile for the Camera carnival is “they WORKED hard for the family.” I rarely post “repeats” here at What’s Past is Prologue.  However, I have to make an exception this time because I have only one photo that is perfect for this carnival, and it is one I have already posted. Other than a photograph at my father at a desk (he was an accountant), this is the only photograph I own of an ancestor at work.  Since it’s such a great photo, I have to show it again:

Grandpop and Truck, 1937

July 18, 1937 - James Pointkouski delivering dairy products to the Silver Lake Inn.

This is my grandfather, James Pointkouski, hard at work as a truck driver/delivery man for Aristocrat Dairy in Philadelphia. For more about his occupation and the truck itself, see the original post from March, 2008, entitled “Got Milk?”

According to his children, Grandpop was a really smart guy who excelled in school.  His dream was to be a draftsman.  That occupation would have required some specialized training and education, but there was not enough money to realize that dream.  Jimmy was the youngest of three children, and his parents were rather old at the time of his birth – his father was 41 years old and his mother was nearly 44!  In 1910, it was very unusual to have a child at those “advanced” ages.  By the time Jimmy was ready to go to high school, his parents needed him to get a job to help the family.  Although both of his parents were deceased by the time my grandfather was 32 years old, it was too late for him to embark on a major career change – especially since he had a family of his own to care for by then.  So it was that Jimmy became a truck driver.  It may not have been his career of choice, but he grew to enjoy it and he took great pride in what he did.

I have another reason for showing off my grandfather’s photo today – today, July 6th, was his birthday!  If he were still alive, he’d be 99 years old.  Unfortunately, he died in February, 1980 at the age of 69.  Happy Birthday, Grandpop, and thanks for working hard for the family!

[Written for the 15th Edition of the Smile for the Camera Carnival: They worked hard for the family!]

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

München, Germany – Karlstor-Rondell

München, Germany – Karlstor-Rondell

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

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

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

The postcard reads as follows:

7/2/96

Donna-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Postcard logofestivalwishyou


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wedding Belles

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

John Tiernan and Helen Zawodna, 1923

John Tiernan and Helen Zawodna, 1923

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

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

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

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Photo Mystery Solved

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

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

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

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

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

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There’s a new carnival in town – A Festival of Postcards.  This carnival will be a bit more challenging than the others I participate in, because I do not have a large collection of postcards – and very few related to genealogy!  But half the fun is the challenge itself, and I was delighted to find one for the inaugural edition of the festival.  The theme is Wheels.  Here’s a postcard I must have received with some photographs from my great-aunt:

Wallace's Garage in Salem, IL circa 1932; photo by Benke

Wallace's Garage in Salem, IL circa 1932; photo by Benke

This is a nice “vintage” shot of a gas station (was it called “filling station” back then?) called the Wallace Garage in Salem, IL.  If you click on the photo for a close-up view, you will see that the garage is a Texaco station that does general repairs.  They’re an official AAA station, they use Havoline engine oil, and – best of all – a sign in front advertises “modern sleeping rooms.”  It may look a little different than today’s gas stations, especially the cars to the right in the photo.  But, some things never change – just notice the woman trying to get the hose to reach to the other side of her car while the attendant seems to just be standing there watching her fumble with it.

The photographer is noted as “Benke” – apparently this was a Fred A. Benke.  He was called “Salem’s well-known photographer” by this Salem historical site, but I wish he was just a bit more well-known so I could find out more about him!

The reverse of the postcard:

Stanley dropping a line to his parents

Stanley dropping a line to his parents

It is not postmarked in Salem, Illinois but in Odessa, Texas at 7 PM on August 24, 1932.  It was mailed using a 1 cent stamp to Mr. J. Zawodny, 2512 E. Indiana Ave, Phila. Pa.  (same address as the 1930 census).  The note reads: “Well folks were making good time going to Mexico tomorrow.  Stan.”

The recipients of the postcard are my great-grandparents, Joseph and Laura Zawodny (although it’s addressed to Joseph, the note does say “folks”).  My logical assumption is that the  sender is their son, Stanley, who would have been 23 years old at the time.  My first thought was that perhaps this was a road-trip honeymoon; however, Stanley did not get married until 1934 (to Elizabeth Tiernan of Philadelphia, PA, the sister of his brother-in-law John).  I have no idea why Stan was traveling to Mexico in 1923, but hopefully he had a good time!  At least he was a thoughtful son to drop a line to his parents on the journey.

[Written for A Festival of Postcards: Wheels]

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Mom and Me, 1968

Mom and Me, 1968

I’ve been wanting to write a tribute to my mother now for quite some time, so when it was announced that the topic of this edition of the Carnival of Genealogy was mothers, I was thrilled.  But then “something” came up, as usual. Blogging, and life in general, has been non-existent for the last two weeks because I’ve been sick.  As in feeling-awful, missing-work, doctors-don’t-have-a-clue, everyone-please-stay-away-from-me sick.  But I also had what you might call writer’s block caused by the subject matter, not my clogged brain – what do I write about that sums up my mother and how much she means to me?

Mom and Me, 1975

Mom and Me, 1975

It’s not that there’s a lack of material – there’s so much to say!  Do I write about how I almost lost her (that is, she almost died) three times in my life – including the day I was born?  Or how she taught me everything I know about my faith in God?  Or how her beliefs and illnesses shaped my views on health?  Or how she’s without a doubt the World’s Greatest Cook?  Or about her extreme generosity? Or her talents as a dancer?  Or her unfulfilled dreams that could have used her other talents?  Do I talk about how she met my dad?  Or how hard it was for her to simply become a mother and the sicknesses she endured after giving birth?

I simply have too much to say about my mother, but I felt too sick these past two weeks to say any of it.  I even missed Mother’s Day itself last week.  But the  COG deadline is today, and I am finally feeling better.  I realized I can fully introduce my readers to my wonderful mother with one simple story.  While I was home sick, she brought me chicken soup.  Twice.  I’m not talking about that stuff they call “soup” that comes in a can – no, this is the real deal as only my mother (and deceased grandmother) could make it.  Oh. So. Good.  I’ve tried to duplicate this magic; I’ve failed.  To put this act of charity in perspective, I’m not a child sick in my room upstairs.  She’s 73 years old, but she drove twenty minutes to come to my house (dragging along my dad, also recovering from a bad cold).  She came because she knew it was the only thing that would help me get better.  And it did.

But I have a theory on that…I don’t think my cure came 100% from that delicious chicken soup.  No, not entirely.  I have no doubt it came from my mom’s love.  You see, she’s my chicken soup for my soul.  Who could ask for anything more?

Mom and Me, 1997

Mom and Me, 1997

[Written for the 72nd edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: Mothers]

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In the Roman Catholic tradition, the month of May is usually the time of “First Communion.”  On Saturdays and Sundays in early May, you can still see processions of children dressed in white as they enter church to receive Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time.  The age for this event varies, but it usually occurs in the second or third grade.  In the past, as you will see in the “vintage” photos below, First Communion occurred in first grade.  In celebration of May and First Communions everywhere, here are some photos of my father’s First Communion Day – May 11, 1941.  Today boys don’t usually wear shorts and knee socks!

James A. Pointkouski's First Communion Day, May 11, 1941

James A. Pointkouski's First Communion Day, May 11, 1941

There are several photos of the procession of children into the church, St. Peter’s, located at 5th & Girard Avenues (today the church is also the national shrine of St. John Neumann).  In the first photo below, you can see my father as the fourth child from the left in the row closest to the nun.  He appears to have noticed the photographer!  The photo that follows shows him walking out of the photo’s range.  The final photo shows the girls in the procession – and since I’m sure that the rules did not change by the time I made my communion in 1975, the children are likely lined up in alphabetical order.  Therefore, one of those gals is likely my dad’s first cousin, Rita Bergmeister.

Procession of First Communicants, St. Peter's Church, Philadelphia, PA

Procession of First Communicants, St. Peter's Church, Philadelphia, PA

Dad_1stComm3

Dad_1stComm4

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It snowed last year too:  I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea. ~Dylan Thomas

My father James was the first-born son of James and Margaret Pointkouski.  Just before his eighth birthday, a new addition arrived to the household – a baby sister, Jean.  As my grandmother recuperated in the hospital, her son sent a note:

Dear mother, How are you and how is baby sister.  I am doing find. I am a good little boy.  I forgot to tell the Ladys in school that baby sister just looks like me.  I am having a good time playing after school.  I will be seeing you.  Kisses for you and baby sister. xxxxxxxxxX  P.S. By your son Jimmy

James and Jean Pointkouski, 1949
James and Jean Pointkouski, 1949

Little did Jimmy know then that history would repeat itself.  Jimmy grew up and got married.  His wife was surprised at the large age difference between brother and sister – surely they wouldn’t have children that far apart.  Their first child was a stillborn baby girl.  But a son was born the following year, James Drew.  Despite efforts to provide brothers and sisters to only-child Drew, none came.  None, that is, until shortly before Drew’s eighth birthday when a new addition arrived to the household – a baby sister, Donna.

Drew was happy at first, but quickly became dismayed and suggested that perhaps our parents ought to “return” me to the hospital as if I was broken.  When asked why, he replied, “She can’t talk and she can’t walk – she can’t do anything!”  Fortunately I got a repreive from my parents, and eventually I learned how to talk, walk, and do everything.

Drew and Donna Pointkouski, 1973
Drew and Donna Pointkouski, 1973

Having an 8-year gap between brother and sister has its ups and downs. My aunt and I had a big brother to look up to; my father and brother had a little sister to protect.  But by the time my aunt and I were old enough to really “get along” with our brothers, they were out of the house on their own.  Because of that, both brother and sister experienced life as an “only child” while also knowing the joys and sorrows of being a sibling.  One thing is for sure – no matter how old we all get, no matter if we see eye to eye or not, or have anything in common, as my mother always says, “Blood is thicker than water” – which means we’ll always be there for each other no matter what.  That’s what brothers and sisters are for!

brosista


[Written for the 11th edition of the Smile for the Camera Carnival: Brothers & Sisters.]

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The topic for the premier edition of the Graveyard Rabbits Carnival is “exceptional finds” – share those rare and unique cemeteries, gravestones, monuments, memorials, and inscriptions.

I am one of those genealogists that likes to explore old cemeteries even while I am on vacation.  When I visited Paris, France in 2007,  Père Lachaise Cemetery (Cimetière du Père-Lachaise) was on the list of sights to see along with the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, and Notre Dame.  I would consider it an exceptional find for several reasons.  First, you will see many graves that are 200 years old – for Europe, where grave recycling is the norm, so it was refreshing to see “old” graves.  Many think it is exceptional because of its size – 118 acres – or because so many famous celebrities are buried there.  What was more fascinating  to me were the larger number of non-celebrities, everyday folks like you and me, that are laid to rest beside the rich and famous – truly a reminder that we are all equal in death.  As I walked around the cemetery, I was also struck by its universality.  Although it is a Parisian cemetery, its occupants’ names spanned the globe.  In addition to French surnames, I saw American, Polish, German, and many other nationalities.

Here’s a look at some of the unique gravestones and monuments I photographed (click on thumbnail to see a larger view):

For more information about Père Lachaise, visit the following sites:

  • Père Lachaise Wikipedia entry – more photos and a list of the more famous “residents”
  • A Brief History of Pere-Lachaise Cemetery
  • The cemetery’s own site – take a virtual tour

[Written for the 1st Edition of The Graveyard Rabbits Carnival: Exceptional Finds.]

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Last month, I shared photos of my great-grandmother’s sisters.  I have several more unidentified photos; I know they are of the sisters, but which one?  The three photos below are perfect for the latest edition of  the Smile for the Camera Carnival, for they certainly offer the distinctive style of dress of the 1920s.  These all appear to be photos of the same sister…is it Jane or Mary?  See my previous posts on the Slesinski sisters for other photos (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3).  If you enjoy identifying persons in photos, let me know which sister you think it is in the comments!  She was certainly into fashion and “costume” – the 1920s version of a “Project Runway” or Glamour fan!

photo-2photo-3photo-1

[Submitted for the 10th Edition of the Smile for the Camera Carnival: Costume.]

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Part 1 of this series presented the photographs that led me to investigate the lives of my great-grandmother and her four sisters.  In Part 2, I detailed my genealogical research.  Years after I had completed this research, I received a happy confirmation in a rather unusual way.  My mother reconnected with her elderly aunt – the last surviving child of my great-grandmother, Laura Slesinska Zawodny.  When I met this aunt for the first time in many years, I naturally asked, “Do you have any photos?”  I hoped for more photos of her parents or of the siblings as young children.  To my surprise, she gave me a pile of photos – and nearly all were of her aunts – the Slesinski sisters.  Even more surprising?  The photos that she gave me were new to me, but they were from the same “photo session” in front of the house in McKeesport that originally prompted my research!  As a bonus, some of the photos were labeled in such a way that they actually confirmed my research.  Now I had even more faces to put to my collection of family names.

The first was labeld in a non-photo-friendly way – but there’s no doubt as to who’s who.  Here is my great-grandmother (Mom) with her sister Jane, Jane’s husband John Smilowicz, and their son Henry.  Since the 1930 census listed Henry’s age very specifically as “3 11/12″, it even provides me with an estimated time that the photos were taken – probably right around 1930 or 1931.  The back of the photo also listed thier addres – the same as the house in the 1930 census.  [I love the shadow – is that the photographer?  By the look on Henry’s face, you can certainly tell where the sun was even without the prominent shadow!]

The Smilowicz Family
The Smilowicz Family with “Laura” Zawodny

Next, sister Josephine makes another appearance, this time with her husband, Vincent Sierdzki, as well as my great-grandmother.  The caption is the same as what is written on the back of the photo – in the same handwriting, and humor, as the rest of the series.

Mr. Sierdzki Incorporated
“Mr. Sierdzki Incorporated”

Jane and John Smilowicz appear in another photo, captioned “Still in Love”:

Jane and John Smilowicz
Jane and John Smilowicz

In a photo captioned “Enjoying the fun”, three children appear.  Henry Smilowicz is identified in the photo above.  In my original photo featured in Part 1, Irene Goreski was also identified.  Based on the 1930 census research, it would appear that the third child is their cousin, Boleslaw Majewski.  In 1930, he was six, Irene was five, and Henry was nearly four, so this photo is further confirmation dating the photo close to 1930.

Irene Goreski, Henry Smilowicz, and Boleslaw Majewski
Three cousins: Irene Goreski, Henry Smilowicz, and Boleslaw Majewski

Next there is a photo of the husbands.  Well, the four husbands that lived in McKeesport, anyway. I wasn’t sure based on the photos I originally had, but it appears that my great-grandfather was not present for his wife’s visit to her sisters.  Or, if he was present, he opted not to appear in the photos!  I was able to identify them based on the other photos, with the fourth man identified by default as Sophie’s husband, Joseph Goreski.  The humorous caption is again from the back of the photo.

"The Four Horsemen"
“The Four Horsemen”  from top to bottom: John Smilowicz, Vincent Sierdzki, Adolph Majewski, and Joseph Goreski – the husbands of 4 of the 5 Slesinski Sisters

Finally, the last photo from the series shows my great-grandmother, Laura Zawodny, with her brothers-in-law.

Laura and her brothers-in-law
Laura and her brothers-in-law

The above photo had the best caption of all on the back.  Based on the humorous way it is worded, I’d bet that Sophie is the writer and her husband Joseph is the photographer of the other photos!

Caption on the back of the "Laura and her brothers-in-law" photo
Caption on the back of the “Laura and her brothers-in-law” photo

I also obtained some other photos of both the sisters and their husbands that were unlabeled and not from this same photo-party.  I feel confident that I can identify who’s who in the unlabeled photos based on the job that was done to identify everyone in these photos!

Now they tell me…I did all that research to obtain the sisters’ married names when the answers were sitting in a box in my grand-aunt’s house!  Some questions still remain, however, like how my great-grandmother traveled to McKeesport to visit her sisters, if she went alone, and how long she stayed.  In any event, I am grateful to my great-aunts for not only taking these photographs during her visit, but also mailing them back to her in Philadelphia as a remembrance.  Even though I wasn’t there, I can join in their fun!

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