Family History Research

Family of Frantisek and Anna Holik

Frantisek and Anna Holik lived in Senetin, Bohemia before 1900. Senetin is located east of Prague. Frantisek lived from 1845 to 1910. Anna lived from 1860 to 1934. Frank and Anna had 11 children, many of whom came to America.

For each of the children, I stumble across a new piece of information every few months. I am still searching for pieces of information here and there and my son has developed interesting theories for some of my missing pieces. It is good to return to this family once in a while and see what new things can be found and in the process, a mystery solved.

Bozena was born April 3, 1879. She died September 13, 1935 in Senetin, Bohemia.

Jan was born February 11, 1883. Jan immigrated in 1903 or 1904 according to the Declaration of Intent he filed to become a citizen and 1910 and 1920 census records. His Declaration contains a ship name, the Barbarossa, and date of immigration, but I cannot locate him on a ship log. I’m now going through page by page of every ship log the Barbarossa had in 1903 and 1904 in the hopes that his name was transcribed incorrectly and I will find him. Jan married Marie Ratay June 11, 1905 in Chicago. I have found a ship log entry for Marie that I am fairly certain is correct. Jan died April 8, 1930, before he was Naturalized. Jan and Marie are my great grandparents.

Katerina was born June 7, 1887. She immigrated and arrived in New York on March 18, 1903 on the Kronprinz Wilhelm. She married Jan Koluvek May 14, 1905. Interestingly, Jan was on the same ship as Katerina. They were listed one page apart on the ship log. Jan lived in Snet, Bohemia and Katerina in Senetin. These towns were 40 km apart. I am not sure if they met on the ship or in Chicago. There is no indication prior to living in Chicago that they knew each other. My nine year old son has a theory they met on the ship. I believe they met in Chicago. It is a nice debate for us and a way for him to look at the evidence available to create a theory and try to prove, disprove, or rule it a possibility.  We will never know exactly where and how Katerina and Jan met but it is a nice debate. Katerina died in Florida on December 15, 1980. Her husband Jan died in Florida in 1950.

Frantiska was born March 8, 1885. No other information is known on her.

Anna was born November 6, 1889 and died a few years later in 1896.

Frank was born November 25, 1890. He immigrated to the U.S. on March 16, 1910 on the Rijndam. Frank married Agnes Vadlejch on March 13, 1911 in Chicago. Frank died before 1963.

Marie was born January 31, 1894. She immigrated in 1909 on the Kaiser Wilhelm II. According to the 1910 Census, Marie was working at the Chicago Municipal Isolation Hospital (for smallpox) at 3400 S. Lawndale. This hospital was run by German nuns, the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ. Marie was only 17 or 18 years old when she worked as a nurse there. I think she might have married in 1911 but need to research this more. She was not working there in1920.

Josef was born April 2, 1896 and immigrated on November 3, 1921 on the Orbita. Josef married Anna, maiden name unknown on May 12, 1923, in Berwyn, Illinois. Josef died September 1979 in Elmhurst, Illinois.

Alois Josef was born March 10, 1899 and died soon after.

Gabriela was born January 29, 1900. No other information is known on her.

Anna was born September 13, 1902. She immigrated the year before Josef and arrived in the U.S. on August 30, 1920 on the Noordam. At this time I have no information about her after she arrived in Chicago.

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Be sure to check the entire document

I am writing the life story of my great grand uncle, Michael Kokoska. In the opening paragraphs I added the fact his parents were immigrants, on what ship they sailed in 1880, and what class of passenger they were. His parents were listed as Cabin Class. That fact came as a shock and kind of unbelievable to me because my side of the family is all Bohemian, and immigrated as poorer people, traveling in Steerage. I stumbled upon the Cabin Class while looking at their ship log in greater detail.

Because this fact shocked me, I did a little research on their ship, the Frisia. This further research indicated the capacity for 1st class passengers was 90 passengers, 2nd class was 130 passengers, and 3rd class was 600 passengers. According to the ship log, there were 190 passengers classified as Steerage Passengers. The remaining 610 passengers were classified as Cabin Passengers. With the above numbers in mind, the log should have read Cabin Passengers for the first 190 passengers recorded and Steerage Passengers for the last 610 passengers recorded

What did I learn from this unbelievable fact? If a fact stands out as a bit shocking and unbelievable, it is worth the effort to research more details about it to ensure what you are seeing is either correct or incorrect.

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Connecting Families Online, a lesson learned

Several months ago I received a message from a woman on Ancestry.com named Jean who was working on her Hammer family and we found a connection. Her Catherine Hammer was the sister of my Dorothy Hammer from Bohemia. While we were making this connection, another woman connected with us. This woman thought her John Hammer was a possible sibling to our Catherine and Dorothy. Their parents were Vaclav and Rosie Hammer.

Now Jean and I had documents to prove the relationship between our siblings and parents. This woman had no idea who John’s parents were, but thought the birth year fit and the fact he lived in Chicago fit. She basically wanted me to prove whether or not her John was the same as my John. Not a lot to go on when trying to prove or say “yes I believe this could be the same person.” I love a good mystery and helping people who are stuck, but you have to provide information to get me going.

Many emails were exchanged between this woman and myself and she provided one or two new clues in each email such as when he was married, who he married, where he lived, what spellings of the last name she had encountered (Hammer, Hamer, Hemr, Hamr). She had a naturalization document for him as a Minor and the date of naturalization. She found him on the 1892 Chicago Voter Registration. I became very frustrated because the more I searched based on what information she was giving me, when I contacted her again she would tell me she already had that information. It was a frustrating for me.

More information was provided via email but still not enough to say yes or no to John. At this time I was also tracing each child of Vaclav and Rosie, and their spouses through census and knew who the nieces and nephews were for my Dorothy Hammer. Jean and I were updating our trees on Ancestry.com and would notify each other if we found something exciting. It was at this point that this woman brought up a letter written to John by a cousin. When she gave me the name of the cousin and address of the letter I was immediately able to connect John to the family. The cousin was a niece of Dorothy. Tracking the families addresses made making the connection easier too.

I learned a big lesson in this connection and that is if you are asking for help, you should provide the person helping you with as much information as you can. This will result in less backtracking for the helper and less confusion. A connection, or lack thereof, may occur much more quickly if more information is given up front. I love helping people who are stuck facing a brick wall. It is a challenge for me to see if I can get over it because I am looking at it with new eyes. Because I love and need the challenge, I will continue to help people when asked, but I think I will ask for as much information as they have up front before I start the search.

Have you had a similar frustrating experience helping someone online? What did you learn? Please post in the comments so we can all learn new ways to help others.

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Check your data and fill in gaps

As I think about things to write for my blog, it reminds me to go back to my research and recheck data, see where I am on my goals, what letters I need to write to obtain new information, and find out what is still missing that I want to discover.

My latest project idea came about after I wrote about Naturalization and Women last week. I thought it would be a good idea to make an Excel file with the names of the people in my main lines (to start), their date of birth, date of immigration, date of Declaration, date of Naturalization, and occupation.

As I look at the data, I have 24 people in my main lines who immigrated. Of those I have dates of immigration for 22. Of those, I have iffy dates, meaning I put Abt. 1880 as a date, for two. Looking more at the data I see I have very few Declaration and Naturalization dates recorded. Why is that? Did I not enter them in my database? Did I only have a Naturalization date and no Declaration date? I think I need to go back through my paper files and try to answer some of these questions. If I do not have a record, it is time to search for one or see if I have a letter from IRAD (Illinois Regional Archives Depository) stating no record was found.

I listed occupation in my file because I would like to expand this and add children to the immigrants and trace the occupations of those children. Did most of the male children follow in the footsteps of their father, or choose a different trade? Did the women follow in their mother’s footsteps and become wives and mothers?

I love Excel sheets, can you tell since this is my second post about them and I am using them for several purposes? I have another file specifically for Burial listings. I created a Burial report in my Family Tree Maker software and exported it to Excel. The file contains the person’s first and last names, date of death, cemetery name, location of grave. This of course is an ongoing project to find as many grave sites as I can to fill in the gaps. I have 2,336 people in my database so far and grave sites for only about 95 of them. Time to start researching more death certificates and obituaries and asking the family about some of the more recent people who have died.

What is your latest project for your research? Are you filling in gaps with different data than I am looking at? Have you created other types of reports and spreadsheets to capture missing data? I would love to hear about it. I’m always looking for new ways to add information to the lives of my ancestors.

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