Wednesday, August 13, 2014

journey to Aurora, Illinois

Hey Friends!

Took a ride out to Aurora, Illinois today to photograph some headstones of relatives I've just recently discovered had lived out that direction.  I've been working a little bit more on the mystery that is the family tree of my 3x great-grandmother Ruth Hodgetts.  Mostly I've been working on trying to expand on her brother Samuel's side of the tree which lead me to his daughter Annie, her husband William Rollins, and their whole clan.  Turns out the whole family lived in Aurora, where my great-grandmother grew up.  Still working out some kinks there because the family is a bit confusing but Annie & William, as well as their daughter Edna, son Ernest & his wife Julia are all buried at Spring Lake Cemetery so I decided to pay a visit.  I'd been to the cemetery once before because my grandmother's namesake is buried there; so I'm mildly familiar with the place.  I went into the office and the same women I talked to last time was there as well as a gentleman, maybe her husband, who also works at the cemetery.  When I asked if they could assist me in finding some headstones, they said sure & asked for the name.  The man, who's name I never caught, wasn't paying much attention until I said Rollins.  He looked up at me and said "which ones?", I replied with "all of them?" and laughed a little.  He asked for first names so I rattled them all off "Annie, Ernest, Julie & William"; he looked me dead in the face & goes "I know the Rollins family". So that launched into a 15 minute long conversation.  Ernest had once been his boss and this very cemetery, he knew the family well.  He informed me that Julie & Ernest couldn't have kids so their eldest child (after the still-born baby) was actually adopted, and once they had adopted him they conceived a boy.  He also let me know that Edna was also buried next to her parents so I'd be able to locate them all.  I was a little leery to ask him any personal details about the family he didn't seem like he wanted to give too much away.  He pulled out a map and showed me the 2 locations for the family members and away I went.

After the cemetery I drove around Aurora a bit and took some photos of the houses my family members had lived in, the church my great-grandparents got married in, & Edna M Rollins school.

1st home of Beatrice & John Moseley
(grandma panfil's parents)

Herbert & Hannah Smith's house
(grandma panfil's grandparents)

former home of William & Annie Rollins

Trinity Episcopal Church

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Larson family mystery

Hey friends!  As of late I have been working to try to decode this mystery for my grandmother.  Now my grandma, Ellen Meeks nee Larson, doesn't know much about her father Edwin's family.  For those of you who are not family who read this and don't know the story I'll give you a brief rundown.  What I started out with was Edwin Larson and his mother Emma nee Lunstrom and his father John Larson.  Now we also knew that Emma got remarried at some point to a man named Herman Palka and they had one daughter, Hazel.  All I ever had on Edwin's father John was the information I got off of Edwin's delayed birth certificate.  Now for those of you who don't know what a delayed birth certificate is, it basically means that child was more than likely not born in a hospital and a birth certificate was not filed until 1 year after the birth.  Now here comes the fun part.  There has always been some speculation, especially as of late, that Herman Palka is actually my great-grandfather Edwin's father.  I think that research I have done so far may not prove that point, but it seems to prove the point that John Larson isn't a real person.  The scary/interesting thing about looking into this matter is that it leads to a loss of identification for my grandmother & her family members with the Larson family name.  If John Larson isn't in fact a real person, then what's the real surname?

Here's what I've found on this matter so far:
  • delayed birth certificate from 1894
    • lists father as John Larson, age 25, born in Chicago, occupation Wood Turner
    • lists mother as Emma Lunstrom, age 24, born in Stockholm
  • 1900 census record
    • Emma's last name is now Larson & suddenly 6 years later she's now 35
    • Herman Palka is a lodger, age 29, German born, occupation Wood Turner
    • Edwin's name is Gustave A Larson, & lists his father's birth country as Germany
  • 1910 census record
    • Emma & Herman are married & daughter Hazel has be born
    • Edwin is not listed as having a different name from the rest of the family
      • father still listed as German
  • 1920 census record
    • Edwin is now married, last name is back to Larson
    • lists both parents as Illinois births
  • Emma Palka death certificate
    • her birth place is listed as Sweden
    • Father's name: Carl Larsen - born in Sweden
      • something to note: this info was given by the informant who is listed as Edwin Palka

All of this has obviously left me with some questions. Where did the last name Lunstrom come from? Is John Larson a real person? Who is my great-grandfather's REAL father? and lastly, what does all this mean for my grandmother?

Hopefully I'll be able to find some more information soon, but I know I can't possibly ever really know the truth.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

new finds

Hey all!

Sorry it's been a while again! I've been slowly trying to plug away on some genealogy work and it's just been taking me a little longer than usual.  About 3 weeks ago my grandmother's younger sister, Margaret Lev, passed away.  With her passing it has given me a bit of a boost to work on my grandmother's tree with a little more gusto.  But before I get to that I do want to share one funny little anecdote about my great-aunt Peg.  The last time I saw her, which was about a year & 1/2 ago, I had taken my grandmother to visit her so I could pick her brain about the family tree.  She was 3 years younger than my grandmother so I figured I'd see if she had anything new and exciting to tell me.  Turns out she remembered this great little story about how their parents (my great-grandparents) got together.  Their mother Beatrice & father John were both born in England, Beatrice immigrated here with her family and John came alone.  Beatrice's family moved to rural (at the time) Aurora, IL and John lived in the city and worked as a bricklayer.  A friend of John's told him there was more work to be had out in Aurora, so he moved out there.  Beatrice  happened to be engaged at the time to a mailman.  When John & Beatrice met it must have been love at first site because she promptly broke off her engagement and married my great-grandfather 4 weeks later.  To this day my grandmother still doesn't remember this story, but because of my great-aunt Peg I will always have it.

I've been having a rough time with this particular tree because of the surnames involved.  Unfortunately this is one of those trees that is a lot of work.  My grandmother's maiden name was Moseley; which is EXTREMELY common in England.  Not to mention it's got a handful of spelling variations which are all pretty much interchangeable depends on what kind of document you're looking at.  As if that's not bad enough, her mother's maiden name is the dreaded . . .  Smith.  Ugh, this is like an genealogical nightmare.  Also these names may not sound common to you but I also have Bastable & Hodgetts; both of which are more common than I care for them to be.

My frustration reached an all time high this week when I realized that when I was inputting all my ancestral information into I conveniently forgot to add most of the Bastable & Hodgetts line.  After spending about 45 minutes inputting everything I had on them I had about 125 more hint leaves than I did before.  Yippee!!  Slowly, but surely I narrowed most of them down, but I am still stuck on some hints that pertain to my great-great-great-grandmother Ruth Hodgetts & her brother Samuel.  There are unfortunately a few families with similar names and birth dates and I have no information on Ruth & Sam's parents so I can discern which is mine and which isn't.  I'm hoping I'll turn over some leaf soon that gives me the hint I need to sort it all out.  In the mean time I've discovered many of the people I left out (oops lol) didn't leave to far from me so I'll be able to visit some cemeteries and hopefully get some great pictures.

That being said I will move on to another brief topic.  My paternal great-grandfather, Victor Panfil, was a glass blower most of his life.  I knew he made glass ornaments for our christmas trees and he had fashioned these glass bells that we hang in the window ever year.  I had also heard some family stories about him doing some work with the Manhattan Project here in Chicago, but never really knew much more.  Unfortunately I don't have many details besides that he was blowing glass into beakers? or something that was of use to the Manhattan Project.  Also what I do have are 2 really great photos.

This is a photo of a pin given to my great-grandfather to commemorate his work on the Manhattan Project.  My Dad's cousin, Dayle, has the pin.

This is a photo of the certificate given to my great-grandfather by the USA War Department in August of 1945 commemorating his work on the Manhattan Project.  It also states that he "has participated in work essential to the production of the Atomic Bomb, thereby contributing to the successful conclusion of World War II"

Talk about your kick-ass great-grandparent stories!

Well that's all I have for now friends.  Hopefully soon I'll have some new exciting family finds to share with you!  Happy hunting fellow genealogists!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Sometimes "hording" can be a good thing

So I know that it has been a very long time since I updated my blog and I do apologize for my absence.  My grandmother had hip surgery earlier last year (2013) and it has been a long road to recovery for her since she is 91.  We just recently moved her from her retirement community apartment to a very nice assisted living apartment so the family has spent a lot of time boxing up her belongs and finding places to store it all and selling old furniture.  In that time span I have unfortunately not been able to spend as much time on my genealogy as I would like to be.  That being said, all of this kind of ties together in an interesting way.  The apartment my grandmother lived in had a storage locker in the basement garage and we decided this past weekend to clear that out & bring the contents upstairs so everything was in one central location.

My Dad had mentioned there was a box the in storage locker of things that had belonged to my grandfather, but I have never really made the effort to look for it.  For those of you who may be new to my life/this blog you may or not be aware that my grandfather passed away when I was 9.5 in 1997.  That being said I am always searching for ways to feel close to him and the idea of this "memorabilia" box sounded great to me.  I couldn't wait to get the box home and open it up to see what was inside.
Memorabilia box
As can be expected the box smelled like old paperwork haha.  Sometimes you just never know what your grandparents might deem worthy to save and I'm pretty grateful none of the stuff in this box was tossed out.  There were documents related to my great-grandmother's estate from when she passed away in 1978, documents related to the sale of my grandparents' house in Glenview in 1989, my grandfather's personnel file from the Bell Telephone company and all this old school stuff from Northwestern.  Also in this box of mystery were all 4 of my grandmother's high school yearbooks from Austin High School in Chicago as well as my grandfather's last 2 high school yearbooks from Steinmetz, also in Chicago.
Steinmetz High School Yearbooks
Something else interesting that I found was my grandfather's diary.
Dated from around the year 1937/1938 when he was just a 15 year old boy. What I also came across was a file folder that had no indication of what was inside.  When I opened it I first discovered the Death Certificates of both my great-grandparents (whom died in Florida) as well as their Marriage Certificate, my great-grandmother's Delayed Birth Record and my great-grandfather's Birth Certificate.  The death certificates I had already obtained over a year ago from the state of Florida, but the other documents I was unable to find ANYWHERE.  So just for that alone I am grateful that for whatever reason my grandfather saved these things.  Also in that folder was the bill of sale for the house my great-grandparents lived in in Pompano Beach, Florida, as well as all the paperwork for both of their funerals & burials.

Then I hit the money load.  Behind all the random paperwork was a sizable stack of different pieces of paper, which at a quick glance had all been hand written on.  Turns out that even though everyone in my family had telephones in their homes, my great-grandparents made a habit of writing letters to my grandparents from their house in Florida.  As my luck would have it, it looks like my grandfather saved the majority of those letters.
Old family letters
I spent the rest of the afternoon just reading those letters; 20 in all.  Most of them were from either my great-grandmother or great-grandfather, but there were a few from my Dad's cousin to my grandfather.  Now I never got to meet either one of my great-grandparents, but I always have heard the stories.  They were both full-blooded Polish and both seemed to know how to enjoy themselves.  My great-grandfather loved himself a cigar and my great-grandmother was always full of life.  I'll spare the details as I would say the contents of these letters are probably best kept as family secrets.  What I can say is that by reading them I got an amazing look at what life was like between 1962 & 1975; I got to hear in my great-grandparents' own words the struggles they went through and the happiness they had in their lives.  Unfortunately the letters end after the death of my great-grandfather in 1975.  I decided that in order to make sure they stay preserved for another 30-40 years I would put them in sheet protectors in a binder.

 With that all being said I will leave you with this bit of wisdom I learned; it may seem like trivial junk to you now, but you just never know who it might mean the world to in 30 years.