Friday, March 25, 2011

back to the old country

So it's been a while since I wrote & I figured I should get everyone updated on what I've been up to.  I ordered some microfilm records from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Salt Lake City and they showed up last week at the my local library.  Now if you've never viewed microfilms before, let me just start off by telling you it's a pain.  It's not like modern day searches where you type in whatever it may be you're looking for.  You literally have to go page by page to find what you need, so if you have no dates to reference you're in for one hell of a ride.  Now through some previous records I've found from my great-great-grandfather Andrew Panfil, I know that he was born in Gniewkowo, Poland.  His United States Naturalization Petition paperwork states he was born October 18th, 1867.  About a month ago I ordered his death certificate from Cook County and it lists his father's name as Valentine & the mother to be unknown.  Now with records that were not filled out by the person who they're about, which obviously you can't fill out your own death certificate, I'm always a little cautious of the validity of the information.  I kept the name in the back of my mind & decided not to completely rule it out.

I arrived at the library hoping I could find any indication of Andrew, his wife Elizabeth & their 3 Polish born children Stanley, Pearl & Joseph.  What I left with was no information on Elizabeth or the 3 kids, but information on Andrew, his parents & at least 2 siblings.  I never expected to be so excited & moved by something as simple as Polish baptismal records from the 1860's written in Latin.  Luckily I knew Andrew's birth date so finding him was a simpler task than I had at first imagined.

This may not be the easiest to read but this basically shows Andrew being born on October 18, 1867 and baptized on the 27th.  His parents are Valentine Panfil & Victoria Wiensiewska.  What I decided to do from there is look back a little before Andrew and see if there were any other baptismal listings with Valentine & Victoria listed as the parents.  To my surprise I found 2 (at least at the moment).  A Josephus born February 18, 1862 & a Josepha born July 4, 1863.  I was so excited to find some relatives of Andrew because up until now I had no idea who came before him & how many siblings he had.  Right now I know he has two, and I'm excited to go back to the library & try to find more baptismal records for siblings, and maybe, if I dig far enough, some baptismal records for his parents too.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

getting a personal view of the past

This past weekend I decided to go on a little excursion into my family's past. While working on the Panfil family tree I have come up with birth certificates (found on of most of my great-grandfather's brothers and sisters.  There are three different addresses listed as the children progress from oldest to youngest.  I decided it would be kind of fun to see what those neighborhoods look like now & see if the houses my family once occupied seemed to be still there.  Now the tricky part is that those birth certificates were from anywhere between 1903 and 1915 (1922 if you include my grandfather's which i found too).  Chicago has since then changed the name of many streets in the city and I wasn't sure I was going to be able to figure out where these houses were.  I did some searching on Google and first came across Chicago Street Name Changes which is a web-hosted PDF, it came be a little rough to navigate, as there isn't much explanation just street names prior to the change, and after the change.  The second website I found was Searching the Chicago Streets Database.  All you have to do is type in the street name, hit search, and voila! you have your new street.

After all that I did some quick mapping and luckily all the places I was visiting were with in a few city blocks of each other, and pretty easy to find.  I figured while I was there I'd also stop by the church where it was pretty obvious they attended because all of their obituaries listed it as the location of the funerals.  The first house is in the neighborhood of the Near West Side of Chicago while the others are in the Wicker Park/Pulaski Park neighborhoods.  While these areas are now home to mostly Hispanic and African American populations, it was once known as the Polish Downtown.
This is the first location I visited in the Near West Side neighborhood.  I had some doubts as to whether or not this is a "new" construction or the original building.  Unfortunately, it's not exactly easy to tell.  This is a nice neighborhood, right off of Madison and only about 4 blocks from the United Center, there are a lot of little shops near by.
This was stop number two.  Unfortunately, theses are the houses across the street.  The address I was looking for turned out to be a parking spot in the 5th/3rd Bank parking lot. But at least I got to see the neighborhood right?
Now this by far was the house I was most looking forward to finding.  Not only is it the house my great-great-grandfather lived in for the 25 years before he died here, but it is also the house listed on his Naturalization and Citizenship documents, as well as the house my grandfather was born in because my great-grandparents couldn't afford to move out yet as they were only 21 years old.  I didn't think it would be the same house, but after looking at the old photos of my grandfather as a baby outside this house & comparing them, I can say I'm 99% sure this is the same house.  The only changes would be the addition of the third floor, making the bottom floor into a separate apartment, and adding a porch to the front of the house.  I was so excited to see it still standing, the only thing better would have been to be able to see the inside, although that's obviously 1) not the same as it was in 1922 or 1943 when my great-great-grandfather died, and 2) slightly a strange thing to ask someone.  I'm not the kind of person who knocks on a door and says "hey you don't know me but my great-great grandparents used to live here almost 70 years ago, can I come inside?"
The final stop was St. Stanislaus Kostka church.  This church was completed in 1881 and if it's as beautiful inside as it is outside I wouldn't be surprised.  You can see the church from I-90 as you're headed into the city as the highway was built less than two feet from the side of the building.  It's situated across the street from what is now Pulaski Park, in the Pulaski Park/Wicker Park neighborhood.  I was tempted to venture inside but there seemed to be a service of sorts going on & I didn't want to disturb anyone while I was there.  I figure some time I will come back & check out the inside of the church.

That's all for today, as I've probably rambled enough to drive anyone who reads this crazy.  =)