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 familysearch.org) 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.  =)

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