Here is her high school diploma and final report card:
My paternal grandmother, Veronica Bodziony Kowalski, graduated from Cleveland's John Hay High School in 1936. I was recently able to find her yearbook online through the Cleveland Public Library Digital Gallery. There she is in the second column, third from the top.
The 1940 U.S. Census asks respondents their 'highest grade of school completed.' Using this information, I've deduced that Veronica was the first high school graduate in her family. Her parents were Polish immigrants, and, according to the census, her father completed the 8th grade and her mother only made it to the equivalent of 2nd grade. She had two older siblings, but neither finished high school. She also had two younger sisters, both of whom did graduate from high school also.
Here is her high school diploma and final report card:
Over the past couple of weeks, I have had the opportunity to do something I have not done in awhile: research a branch of my husband's family tree almost from scratch. I have been able to trace most of my husband's branches back to the point at which they came to America in the 19th century - some lines even further back, but until recently, I had not earnestly tried researching the family of my husband's great-great-grandmother, Mary Wilkens Drees (1857-1942). Why didn't I? Part of the reason lies in the fact that she married into the Drees family - a large, influential family in the area - so I had always been preoccupied with collecting information and documents pertaining to THAT branch of the family, and she sort of got placed on the back burner. Another reason is because, when I did try to dig further back in time, I now know that I was going off of false parentage information that was listed in her obituary and on her death certificate, so even when I did a quick search, nothing relevant seemed to come up.
For awhile now, I've had Mary's obituary and death certificate. She married J.M. "Mike" Drees sometime around 1880-1881, after Mike's first wife passed away. In her obituary, her parents are listed as 'Theodore Wilkens' and 'Mary Fortman,' and in her death certificate, they are 'Theodore Wilkens' and 'Catherine Fortman.' While searching through documents, I found that there was no Theodore Wilkens anywhere in the area old enough to be her father, BUT in the 1880 Census, I do find a Theodore Wilkens living with his parents, J.H. and Elizabeth Wilkens AND a sibling named Mary Wilkens. The family lives just over the county line, very close to where her future husband is living. Mary's age is a couple of years off from the 1857 birth date listed on her death certificate, but this is as good of a lead as I've had, so I just go with it.
Along with Theodore and Mary, there are six other children in the household, so I begin to research these siblings of Mary Wilkens. Almost right away, I find Theodore's death certificate on FamilySearch.org and his obituary in The Minster Post newspaper archives, both of which list his parents as Henry Wilkens and Elizabeth Fortman. I use these websites to look up the same documents for a couple other of Mary's siblings. The parents' names agree with those of Theodore, AND Mary is actually listed as a sibling in a couple of the obits. Now, I know I have the right family in the 1880 census.
Theodore's 1916 obituary states that his father, Henry, died in 1908. One of my favorite pieces of information to search for with regard to a deceased person is his/her will, and luckily, FamilySearch,org has an extensive collection of probate records from Shelby County, Ohio during this time period. I almost-too-easily find the will of John Henry (J.H.!) Wilkens, and in it, he listed all of his children, including the married names of his daughters. Golden. AND based on the date of the will, I went back to the old issues of The Minster Post and found John Henry's (Johann Heinrich's) obituary, too:
Not only does this obituary list John Henry's children, but it also lists his age at death, where he was born in Germany (Twistringen, Hanover), his year of marriage, the year of his wife's death, where he lived prior to Shelby County, Ohio, and that his parents also made the trip over from Germany. In the 1900 U.S. Census, John Henry is living with his son, Theodore. That census form states that he immigrated to America around 1830, so I know he has spent most of his life in America. I then am able to find him, his wife, Elizabeth, and their children in the 1860 and 1870 census forms, living with John Henry's parents, John Henry and Catherine Wilkens. Quite serendipitous, really, and it helped that the family stayed in the same county and township for so many decades. It appears that the elder John Henry passed away sometime between 1870 and 1880, because Catherine is listed as a widow living with her son and grandchildren in the 1880 census.
Just a couple of days ago, I was looking through another of my favorite collections on FamilySearch: Ohio, County Naturalization Records, 1800-1977. I was able to find the elder John Henry's Declaration of Intention to become a citizen from 1844. But what is interesting about this document, is that it is actually a replacement of the original document, and it recounts an important event in this family's life that I probably would have never known about otherwise (see my transcription below:)
"John Henry Wilkins of the county aforesaid makes solemn oath that he made his declaration of intention to become a citizen of the United States seven years ago, in the Court of Common Pleas of Miami County Ohio, that he received at that time a certificate of the clerk of said court of that fact: But that six years ago last spring his house was consumed by fire, and said certificate was consumed in it."
So, the fire would have occurred around 1838, and they probably would have been living in Miami County, Ohio, which is one county south of Shelby County. By the 1840 Census, he is living in Shelby County. Would he ever have picked up and moved to Shelby County if not for the fire? I'll probably never know for sure, but it has really made me think about how a family's future (and not just the immediate future, I'm talking generations down the line, as well) can be changed by events such as these.
In Summer 2012, I took an Ancestry.com DNA test to analyze where geographically my DNA comes from. I blogged about my results here. Here is a brief summary of my original DNA breakdown:
Eastern European 71%
Central European 23%
The first two categories made sense to me; my Dad's whole side of the family were Polish and my mom's paternal grandparents were Croatian. My mom's other grandmother was northern Italian, so I figured that would account for some Central European. The Persian part was a surprise, and the region of Italy was completely left out of my results, which was unexpected because two of my great-grandparents were Italian. My Italian great-grandfather was Sicilian, and I chalked up that 6% to Sicily's period of Arabic rule.
Ancestry.com recently reanalyzed their clients' DNA samples, based on a new, more extensive database of "control' samples that they have recently collected from around the world. I got my new results about a month ago:
Europe East 52%
Great Britain 31%
Trace Regions 2%
Finland/NW Russia <1%
European Jewish <1%
West Asia 4%
Near East 3%
Aha! My Italian component shows up this time; however, I am thoroughly confused by the sizable Great Britain signature that didn't show up at all last time. It's almost as if the Great Britain signature has replaced the 'Central European' chunk from my original results. I have no known ancestors in the family tree from Great Britain or really anywhere that close to Great Britain, so the only thing I can think of is that at least several of my Italian, Croatian, and/or Polish great-grandparents have 'British' blood in them from some migration or intermarriage a LONG time ago. It's just that 31% is such a largish chunk, it seems like the genetic influence would be have to be in a more recent generation...
Much to my sister's delight, it looks as if we do have some Persian still showing up in the DNA signature, which she was excited about last time. For those of you who have received Ancestry.com's updated DNA results, do you think they made more sense or less sense to you than the original ones? I still do expect that our results will continue to change over time as they do more research and collect a large sampling for their control groups.
Way back in April, I wrote a blog post detailing a 'vision' I had for decorating one large wall in our home. I wanted to use maps, books, postcards, and other small pieces of artwork to tell the visual and geographic story of my and my husband's families, from their origins in Europe all the way up to the places where I and my husband grew up. It took several months, but my vision is more or less complete, and I'm so happy with the results that I wanted to share it with everyone, in the hopes that you may be inspired to do something similar in your home.
As I mentioned in my April post, I started buying maps and postcards off of websites like as eBay and Etsy. I also found a couple of books and small pieces of artwork that help to tell our family's story. (Tip: Don't limit yourself to U.S. sellers only; I found many unique postcards and maps through international sellers.) Once I felt that I had a good representation of the various branches of our family tree, I looked into ways in which I could frame these items. I visited a local custom framing shop in town. Let's just say that their prices were WAY out of my budget. My heart sank; I thought my project was over. I started looking around online and found an Ohio-based company called American Frame. Their easy-to-use website takes you step-by-step through the process of measuring and ordering custom mats and frames. Oh, and did I mention that their frames and mats were affordable? My project was back on track!
Here are some of the custom frames I ordered from American Frame. The photos do not do them justice, and there is some glare from the camera and nearby window. When choosing frames for each individual piece, I decided to go with a frame/mat that matched that ONE piece of artwork. In other words, I didn't try to "match" frames with each other, which the 'designer' at the custom framing shop was pushing me to do. I love the variety that resulted, and, as you'll see later, I think it gives the display as a whole a lot of personality. (Click on image for larger view.)
Not all of my frames were custom-ordered at American Frame; I bought a lot of the postcard frames at Wal-mart. I used self-adhesive photo corners to mount the postcards on scrapbook paper.
I knew that I wanted to display the framed maps and artwork on ledges, instead of hanging each frame individually. I wanted 4-6 larger shelves which I would arrange in two rows. The ledges HAD to have a forward 'lip' on them so that I could rest the frames on the shelf and not worry about them sliding off. I started looking around in some of the major home decorating chain stores and again I found that these shelves could possibly break my budget. And again, I took to the Internet and found a website called Exposures. The have a great selection of wooden and metal shelves and ledges in popular colors/finishes, and, if you sign up for their email list, they send you lots of coupons. Because I didn't want the shelves to be the focal point of the display, I purchased them in the white finish, which would blend in with our neutral walls and white molding. In hindsight, I probably should have purchased their 'extra-deep' shelves, because that would have given me a little more room on which to rest the frames - luckily, I didn't order any frames that were too deep, so the normal depth shelves ended up working fine for me.
Here is a photo of the entire display. Many thanks to my husband for hanging the shelves. I did not originally intend for the old sewing machine to become part of the display, but it works, especially since two of my great-grandmothers were pretty good seamstresses. I actually think it would be cool to add a few smaller items to represent some of the occupations of some of our ancestors - maybe a plumbing pipe/valve for my grandpa, and a small blacksmith tool and toy tractor for my husband's ancestors.
Here are a few close-ups of some of the other items on the ledges:
Originally, I had thought that I might like to paint the words 'Our Family's Journey' on the wall somewhere at the top of the display. Now, I'm not sure if I still want to try that, or if I will just leave it alone and let the maps speak for themselves. Either way, the whole thing makes me smile when I pass it by, and I can't wait until my kids are old enough to wonder "Why is that map there?" or "What is that book about?" And now I can show friends and family members what I've learned through my genealogy research WITHOUT pulling out a binder full of death certificates and census records, which would undoubtedly put most of them to sleep.
Feel free to ask me any questions about the process of creating a genealogy history wall. I'd be happy to talk about it!
In 1930, my great-grandfather lived with his family at 3110 E. 65th Street in Cleveland, Ohio where he owned and operated a hardware store. Dominik is living with his second wife, Lucy, who he married in 1921. After Lucy, we see Stanley, Joseph, and Kasimir (Casimer), who are Dominik's sons from his first marriage. The last two people listed are John and Anna, who are Lucy's children from her first marriage. John and Anna should be listed as step-children, and should not be listed under the surname of 'Kowalski.' They should instead have the name of Demitrus, which was their father's name. Mistakes like this are quite common in census forms where blended families are involved. The census enumerator simply assumes that all of the children in the household have the same surname as the head of household, which is, of course, not always the case. (Click on image for larger view.)
Dominik's eldest son, John, got married in 1929 and was living with his wife, Julia, just a half a mile away on Maurice Avenue.
Here is a photo of me and my brother (Minnie and Mickey Mouse) and two of our cousins from Halloween 1985. We are standing in our grandfather's TV room.
My son brought home his Kindergarten photos today, so, of course, I had to find mine in my box of old photos. His came out all right. I can tell that this isn't his 'natural' smile, but he looks happy and he's not making some weird face or anything. My Kindergarten photo, on the other hand, wasn't very good. Ok, so I was shy - really shy - and I'm five years old and this complete stranger is trying to make me laugh and smile? I wasn't buying it. (I remember I did LOVE that dress - purple was my favorite color.)
This week, my census post is about the family of Theodor Tumbusch, one of my husband's great-great-grandfathers. Theodor arrived in the U.S. in June 1861. He came over on the same ship as Anna Rasing, who he married in Mercer County, Ohio in August 1861. It is most likely that they emigrated from Germany together, with the intention of marrying in the States, but, who knows, maybe it was a 'ship romance,' instead. The first U.S. census in which they appear the 1870 census (click for larger image):
By 1870, Theodor and Anna have five children: Elizabeth (Lizzie), Henry, Mary, Bernard (Barney), and Herman. They live in Butler Township in Mercer County. Because Theodor is a farmer, I also tried to find him in the 1870 U.S. Agriculture Census, but, unfortunately, individual farms are not listed for Mercer County - just a summary for each township. So, I don't really have any more information on what was produced on the farm. The 'value of real estate' listed on this form is only $200. Compared with some of the other real estate values for farmers in this township, it appears as if the Tumbusch farm was likely quite small.
Unfortunately, Theodor would not live to see 1871. He passed away on December 10, 1870 at the age of 36. I have not been able to find his death record, but I imagine the death was a sudden one. His will is not located in the microfilmed probate records of Mercer County, and, in fact, the index states that no papers have been located for the probate file number. In the end, Anna was left to run the farm alone with five young children to care for.
This is one of those times in which I had more information about a person and family. Anna never remarried. How did she run a farm, especially in the years immediately following Theodor's death? I'm sure she had help from her church and community, but there is no doubt that her children must have had to 'grow up' quickly and help with the chores and farming. In the 1880 census, she is listed as head of household living with her four children, Henry, Mary, Bernard, and Herman. (I am unsure as to whether Elizabeth had died or simply got married; she would have been about 18 in 1880, so it's possible.) The family is also no longer living in Butler Township, but have instead relocated to Marion Township.
Next to Bernard and Herman's name, who are ages 12 and 10 respectively, there is a check for 'Attended school within the census year.' Being a widow with no other live-in farmhands, Anna could have very easily justified keeping her two youngest sons home from school at this age. But she didn't, and I think it's admirable that she allowed them to get an education, especially when it may have made her life a bit harder.
Fortunately, I WAS able to find Anna and her farm in the 1880 U.S. Agriculture Census. As suspected, they have a very small 30-acre farm with only a few cows and a handful of pigs. It was probably very much just a subsistence farm and the family was probably quite poor.