Family History Research

Naturalization Records

Saturday I attended the DuPage County Genealogical Society Conference in St. Charles, IL. I heard John Philip Colletta talk about Naturalization Records and Advanced Problem Solving. It was fantastic.

One thing he mentioned was that those declaring their intentions to become citizens were not given a copy of their declaration. It was only in some cases where a person was maybe moving to a new area before final naturalization or wanted the record for a reason that a certified copy was provided.

After Colletta said this, I thought wow, really? This was strange because I have an original certified copy of my husband’s great grandfather’s Declaration of Intention. So now I’m making notes in my conference syllabus to investigate this. The great grandfather died before he was naturalized. Why he would want a copy of his Declaration? Was he planning on leaving Chicago? Did he need it for a specific reason?

Then I did a little research on the topic. I wonder if I mis-heard Colletta when he stated the people did not receive a copy. Maybe he meant before 1906? After 1906, those declaring were given a copy as the paperwork changed. It also raises the question, if the courts were not giving out copies of the Declaration, how could you just walk into another court and apply for final papers? Colletta made it clear several times you could declare and apply for final papers in any court and it did not have to be the same court. What was the process by which they verified you declared your intention?

I will have to look more into that. I did not find that answer in my brief research yesterday. If you have experience with this, please comment.

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Maritime Monday – The ship Berlin

My great great grandfather, Jan Zajicek arrived in this country via the port of Baltimore on the ship Berlin.

The Ships List website reports the following information on the ship.

BERLIN 1867
This was the 2,333 gross ton ship BERLIN built in 1867 by Caird & Co, Greenock for North German Lloyd. Her details were – length 285ft x beam 39ft, clipper stem, one funnel, two masts (rigged for sail), iron construction, single screw and a speed of 10 knots. There was passenger accommodation for 84-1st and 600-3rd class. Launched on 1st Oct.1867, she made her maiden voyage in Apr.1868 from Bremen to Southampton and Baltimore. Her first Bremen – South America voyage started in 1879. In 1882 her engines were compounded and she made her last voyage for the company in March 1894 between Bremen and South America. In 1894 she was sold to M.Bruzzo, Italy and was scrapped the following year. [North Atlantic Seaway by N.R.P.Bonsor, vol.2,p.546] [South Atlantic Seaway by N.R.P.Bonsor]

I was hoping to find a photo of this ship but have been unable. The book, Ships of our Ancestors,by Michael J. Anuta does not have a photograph. It has photos of two other ships with the name of Berlin.

To view information on Joseph Kokoska and Majdalena Priban’s ship Frisia check out my Chicago Family History Blog post.

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Sorting Saturday – The Immigrant and the Manifest

I was going through a notebook on the train Thursday jotting down blog ideas so I would have a slightly easier time writing posts this next week when I came across a page of “To Explore” notes. This page has ideas on topics to look at when writing my family history like gathering more information on the ships on which my ancestors traveled; pulling as many Sanborn Maps as I can; looking at Census records to see if they owned or rented their homes; and investigating places they worked.

Another topic that I plan to start work on now is on the immigrant and their passenger manifest. I want to create an Excel Sheet listing all of my immigrants and all the personal information about them I can find on a manifest. I want to document date of arrival; ship; height; eye color; how much money they were carrying; did they have luggage; were they steerage or cabin passengers; where they were headed; and who was their contact in the old country and the United States.

I think exploring this topic in spreadsheet form will give me a wonderful picture of exactly who came, when they came, what they looked like, and more. Once finished I can sort by year, by name, by ship name, anything to change the picture at which I am looking.

Looking at my data in a new way will also allow me to add more depth to each of my ancestors’ stories.

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Assimilation of Immigrants

America was once described as a melting pot where people of all ethnicities gathered to escape various types of persecution or to improve their life. A great metamorphosis occurred in the melting pot as these ethnic peoples altered their language, dress, religion, and customs and became Americans.

Historians use a model to describe the stages an immigrant’s family went through when they reached America. The first stage describes the immigrant family clinging tightly to their culture and reluctantly learning English to adapt to American society. The second describes the first generation born in America which constantly strove to break away from that culture. The final stage describes the third or later generations, seeking to recover the culture in order to discover who they are and where they came form.

Using this model to analyze the stages families went through can answer many questions researchers might have. For example, why did the children of immigrants not learn the language of their parents? Why did so many of the children of immigrants live in the parents home well into their 20′s?  Why did great grandpa have the same occupation as his father? How did the second generation live as compared to their parents? Why did the cultural aspect of the family resurface after three generations? Asking these types of questions may trigger new questions which will lead to new research avenues.  Comparing the lives of our immigrant ancestors and their children to our lives can raise interesting parallels and new questions. All of these questions and answers will contribute to the rich story we tell about our families.  We must remember though, in comparing and contrasting, to keep in mind the historical time period in which they lived. The time period may also contribute to their assimilation process and roles.

To give an example, I did an assimilation study on the paternal side of my family. The factors studied were transference of language, culture, occupation and women’s roles. The results of the study showed these lines did not exactly follow the model. I found that the parent immigrants did teach their American born children some of their language but the children were not fluent in the parent’s language.  The culture, for some of my families, remained important, but for others, it seemed to be lost until future generations. Where occupations were concerned, the second and third generations seemed to take on new jobs and did not follow in the father’s footsteps. The women in these lines seemed to follow in their mother’s footsteps and become home makers until the third generation when the women began working outside the home in addition to raising their families.

As I look at my life, my roles as mother, wife, housekeeper, cook, volunteer, career woman, friend, etc., I wonder what my immigrant great grandmothers would think of me. Did they have some hidden aspirations to be more than just a mother, wife, housekeeper, cook? Were they active in their communities or were their lives all consumed in the home? Were they allowed to express themselves and be more than the roles determined by the time period? I do not live in the same house as my parents, in fact, I live a state away from them. My children are not being raised to “run across the alley to grandma’s house to visit.”  I worked outside the home and raised children. What would my immigrant great grandmothers think of that? What similarities do I see between those women and myself? I see that as they were, I am a teacher for my children, housekeeper, and cook.

As I look at my brother’s life as career man, bachelor, friend, etc., I wonder what my immigrant great grandfathers would think of him. He did not follow the same career path as his father. He chose to proceed farther in his education. He does not live in the same house or “across the alley” from his parents. What would immigrant great grandfathers think of that?  Compared to those men, I think my brother’s life is vastly different.

I encourage you to look at the lives of your immigrant ancestors and their children, and compare their lives to your own. What similarities do you find? What differences? Are there any parallels between the historical time period in which they lived compared to the current events in your life today? After examining the assimilation patterns of your families, you should have a better understanding of what your ancestors went through to become Americans, and what a great story that will make.

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