The Rose Blogger Award!

(Copyright (c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette) My wonderful week continues!

Today am incredibly honored to receive the "Rose Blogger Award" from Lucie LeBlanc Consentino of Acadian & French-Canadian Ancestral Home. Lucie created the Rose Blogger Award to present to "...bloggers who keep the memory of their ancestors alive." The award is named for Lucie's mother Rosanna Levesque LeBlanc. I have admired Lucie's work for quite some time now and am thrilled to receive this award from her. Lucie has two wonderful blogs,
Lucie's Legacy and Acadian & French-Canadian Ancestral Home. Please check them out if you haven't already.

Thank you Lucie!


Other Posts You might Like:

Votes, Awards, and Powerball, Oh My!
Tombstone Tuesday: Francois Chenette, Civil War Soldier
Postcards from the Edge: Genealogy Road Trippin'
A Matter of Habit: Solving a Mystery

Not So Wordless Wednesday: Me, Our Tree, and Another Doll

(Original Images and Text, Copyright (c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette) I was probably in third grade when these photos were taken. Even with an attempt at retouching the images haven't held up particularly well, but I still love them. What can I tell you about these photos? Well, I know my mom made my dress, because she made almost all of my clothes.

You can see that my doll from Poland which appeared in last week's Wordless Wednesday post has, literally, taken a back seat on the chair behind me. I'm now holding my new doll. My mom made the Polish costume on the new doll, including the little ribboned wreath of flowers on her head. I still have the table and chair shown in the photo. The table is in my basement. I use it for crafts and organizing stuff (or not organizing stuff, as the case may be). The chair is in my front foyer. Unfortunately all the tree ornaments are gone. We lost them in a flood in my mother's basement probably 25 years ago.


Other Posts You Might Like:

Amanuensis Monday: Where My Doll Came From
Advent Calendar, Food: What The Dickens, Or How to Blow Up A Duck
Advent Calendar: Christmas Cards from Poland and Germany
Votes, Awards, and Powerball, Oh My!

Votes, Awards, and Powerball, Oh My!

(Copyright (c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette) Yesterday was a REALLY good day. Heritage Zen was listed with the all of the wonderful blogs nominated for Family Tree Magazine's 40 Best Genealogy Blogs! I was, and still am, thrilled and excited beyond belief. My day is brighter! My skin is clearer! My house is cleaner! I even think I lost a couple of pounds! All since yesterday! (I know I've used too many exclamation marks in one paragraph, but I don't care!!!)

What a difference a week can make. Last Monday my husband was sick and my son had just recovered from a horrible 24 hour bug. They didn't get it at the same time of course so the 24 hour bug turned into a 48 hour bug by the time they were both done with it. Thankfully I didn't get sick, but I will admit to feeling a wee bit sorry for myself after several days of worrying about and attending to them. By mid week, when everyone was on the mend, I put down my can of Lysol and took a couple of minutes to check out what was going on in the blogosphere. I brightened considerably when I found out I had won a copy of
Roots Magic from Amy's give-away at The We Tree Genealogy Blog. Wow! Later that same day I discovered Susan at Nolichucky Roots had honored me with my first Ancestor Approved award. Another wow! As if that wasn't enough, on Friday Greta at Greta's Genealogy Bog gave me a nice shout out AND awarded me with Genea-Angel in her Friday newsletter!

Last night Susan from Nolichucky Roots, who is also nominated in the same "New Blog" category as I am, dropped me a lovely message congratulating me on my nomination. When I told her about my week, she suggested this might be a good time to play lotto. I heartily agree. The only way things could possibly get better is if I read about my Family Tree win while I'm sunning myself on the beach at Waikiki after I win Powerball!

Anyway, if you are so inclined, I encourage you to vote for Heritage Zen, which you can do
here. There are so many wonderful geneablogs out there, honestly, it is a privilege to be listed with them. Thank you everyone!

Now, I'm off to play Powerball.
Aloha friends!


Other Posts You Might Like:

Meditation: The Strength of Ordinary Women
The Stories My Grandmother Told Me
Where They Lived: Every Address Tells a Story
COG 97: Researching the "Coldbrook Tragedy" (Part 1 of 4)

Amanuensis Monday: Where My Doll Came From

(Copyright (c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette)

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

Thanks to John Newmark at
Transylvanian Dutch for providing the idea for Amanuensis Monday.

Last week for Wordless Wednesday I posted a
photo of me and a doll in a Polish costume. I got the doll when I was very little. I knew it came from someone in Poland, but I never knew who. When I cleaned out my mother's house a few years ago, I found a couple of boxes of old letters from Poland. I don't read Polish, but I saved the letters hoping I could find someone to help me translate them some day. Back in January, my cousin Marek and I "found" each other through online genealogy channels. Marek's grandfather and my grandfather were brothers. He has kindly been translating the box of letters for me over the last year. The letter below is one of the letters he translated last spring.

Dear Antosia,

I received the letter and aspirin and money from you but I couldn't respond right away. I was sick since first day of Christmas. I spent all that time in bed. And that was the reason I didn't even write a few words. I'm still not feeling well but well enough so I can hold a pen and write now. I'm really happy that you got the package from us and wasn't damaged. I was worrying that maybe we didn't pack properly and that the doll may break. I wanted so much for you to receive that doll undamaged and that's happened and I'm very happy. I'm so happy that the youngest American girl, little Cendusia, will have a toy from Poland. I'm sure you have over there in America dolls and maybe even nicer. This doll is from Poland where little Cendusia's grandpa and grandma coming from. Dear Antosia, than you for money and aspirin and more important remembering about us. I'm moved with your cordiality. Thanks again.

I'm sending warm wishes, much health and all the best in everyday life. The wishes are for Mrs. Helena and for you dear Antosia and all your family. And for little Cendusia lots of kisses from old great-uncle.

Heniek, Rozia and family


My doll was sent from my grandfather's brother Henryk Szerejko and his wife Rozalia who lived in Warsaw. I don't have the doll any longer, but I do still have a few pieces of her clothing. I hope someday to find another doll about the same size, repair the clothing I have, and try to create a similar look.

Special Thanks To: My cousin Marek for translating the Polish to English


Other Posts You Might Like:

Where They Lived: Every Address Tells a Story
Wordless Wednesday: Warsaw Wedding
The Stories My Grandmother Told Me
(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Polka Time!

Advent Calendar, Gifts: You Bought Me What?

(Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette) A while back my son told me I needed a Snuggie. I am always cold, so when my son saw Snuggies advertised on television he decided that was exactly what I needed. What we all needed. Well, except for the dog. I had to draw the line somewhere, and frankly I didn't think they had one in her size. I bought a purple one for myself, a camouflage one for my husband, and a SpongeBob one for the son. Is it just me or do you not see your "average Joe" hanging out in a duck blind or one of those little ice fishing huts, kicking back a few brews with his buddies in a camo Snuggie?

Against my better judgement, or some might say total lack there of, I have fallen victim to HOLIDAY MARKETING. HOLIDAY MARKETING is why rational people, myself included, buy stuff at Christmas time that they would never consider purchasing at any other time of the year. You know what I'm talking about--Snuggies, soap on a rope, fruitcake, the Pocket Fisherman, fruitcake. You get the idea. And not only do we buy these things for ourselves, but then we give them to other people.

I once remember hearing someone refer to the 1970s as "the decade that taste forgot." As someone who spent her teen years in the 1970s, I have to agree. There were some pretty ridiculous Christmas gifts back then. The 70s brought us the mood ring (got that), the pet rock (got that), the bead curtain (yup, got that), and the lava lamp (didn't get that, but really, really wanted one). Do you remember the Buttoneer? It was a little gizmo that popped buttons onto clothing without a needle and thread. Mom, who was a wonderful seamstress and a sewing perfectionist, wanted and got one for Christmas one year. The Buttoneer was going to make her life easier. No more fussing over buttons. Let's just say the product didn't live up to her expectations. It was about a refined as putting buttons on your disco dress with a staple gun. We gave, and got, our share of fruitcake too.

And what is with all of the clothes and stuff for pets? Christmas hats and antlers for the dog? Even rather staid, conservative L.L. Bean gets into the act. Notice how every year they feature all of those pet products at Christmas time in their catalog? Of course I too have been a victim of L.L. Bean's HOLIDAY MARKETING. Three years ago we got our dog from a rescue society in Arkansas that specializes in placing animals in the New England area. I was concerned that our new dog, a southern girl, would be cold in the winter after being use to the warmer climate in Arkansas. To ward off the chill of our harsh New England winters I bought her a
doggie coat for Christmas from Bean's. It's a cute little coat made out of the same sturdy canvas as their barn coats for people. My husband thought I was being ridiculous. I think he was annoyed because the dog got the same coat that he did.

But as far as I'm concerned, that Twelve Days of Christmas thing is the biggest HOLIDAY MARKETING ploy ever. Even bigger than fruitcake. Every year at Christmas someone on a TV news or chat show adds up the cost of all that stuff and figures out would it would cost in today's dollars. Other than the five golden rings, even if you could afford to buy all of that stuff, what's the point? For one thing, who in their right mind would even want all of those birds? Seven swans, six geese, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and don't forget the partridge who started all the trouble. Twenty three birds. After those six geese get done a-laying, what do you get? Either way too many eggs, or worse yet, more birds. Then you've got the drummer's drumming and the piper's piping, and the ladies dancing. No one is working here except for the eight maids a milking, and those lords leaping all over the place are probably distracting the maids from their milking duties anyway. And what the heck are you going to feed all of those people? Dairy products?

On Christmas morn, after all our gifts are open, my family and I will put on our Snuggies and join the
"cult of the Snuggie people." As for antlers for the dog, that's just silly. Now, does anyone know where I can get a good deal on a Chia Pet?



Other Posts You Might Like:

Advent Calendar, Food: What the Dickens, Or How to Blow Up a Duck
(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Me and My Doll

The Stories My Grandmother Told Me
Advent Calendar: Christmas Cards from Poland and Germany

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Me and My Doll

(Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette) I was probably about six when this photo was taken. The doll was sent to my grandmother to give to me from family in Poland. I never knew who sent it until this year. Check back next week on Amanuensis Monday to find out what I learned about the doll.


Other Posts You Might Like:

Advent Calendar, Food: What the Dickens, Or How to Blow Up a Duck
Advent Calendar: Christmas Cards From Poland and Germany
Not Wordless Wednesday: It's Costume Month at Heritage Zen!
(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Polka Time!

Remembering Pearl Harbor

(Images and Text, Copyright(c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette) I took these photos on my first trip to Hawaii in 1997. I knew one of the places I had to visit while I was there was Pearl Harbor. My dad, Henry Shenette, spent almost five years in the U.S. Army, from 1936 to 1941. He finished his time in the army and separated from the service on 19 Nov 1941 in California. He barely had time to make it home to Massachusetts. Pearl Harbor was attacked on 07 Dec 1941, 18 days later. He reenlisted into the U.S. Navy on 12 Feb 1942. He served on the USS Indiana in the Pacific Theatre during World War II, and finally retired from the navy in 1957.


The Pearl Harbor Visitor's Center.


The Pearl Harbor Memorial.


The site of the USS Arizona.


The wall of names inside the memorial.




Other Posts You Might Like:

Wordless Wednesday: Dad, Somewhere Cold
Veteran's Day: The Life of a Doughboy, 1918
Tombstone Tuesday: Francois Chenette, Civil War Soldier
Tuesday's Tip: Consider Adding Links to Your Blog

Advent Calendar: Christmas Cards from Poland and Germany










(Copyright (c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette) Here is a sampling of my vintage Christmas cards. The top four cards are from Poland. The last card with the fountain and Christmas tree was sent from post World War II Germany.


Other Posts You Might Like:

Advent Calendar, Food: What the Dickens, Or How to Blow Up a Duck
Reflecting on My American Experience This Thanksgiving
The Stories My Grandmother Told Me
Amanuensis Monday: Clairvoyants and Distractions

Advent Calendar, Food: What the Dickens, Or How to Blow Up a Duck


(Copyright (c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette) "God Bless Us Everyone," so says Tiny Tim in Charles Dickens' famous tale, A Christmas Carol. A fitting wrap up to a heart-warming story. Feast and food play an important part in the tale--the giant turkey, the plum pudding, the roast goose. I get the warm tingles just thinking about it. But not in a good way...

 I read A Christmas Carol for the very first time in eighth grade English class. Oh, that story made such an impression on me. One of the other English classes, not mine of course, actually got to stage a Dickens-style feast, complete with costumes, in our junior high cafeteria. Why couldn't my class do that? No Salisbury steak, instant mashed potatoes, and gray green beans in the cafeteria that day, but a real honest to goodness Dickens-style feast. I was so jealous.


I must have mentioned my disappointment to my mom. She came up with a brilliant idea. Why couldn't we stage our own Dickens feast right at home? She would make a goose and a couple of the other traditional English dishes for our celebration. Sounds good on paper right?


Well off mom went to the grocery store, but apparently back in the mid-1970s goose was hard to come by in Worcester, MA. No luck on the goose front. She did find a duck though. Mom figured that would be acceptable. I agreed. Mr. Dickens would most heartily approve. So home we went with our duck ready and willing to prepare our feast.


Mom, not knowing anything about duck, decided to prepare the duck the way she usually prepared turkey. This was back in the day when those turkey cooking bags were new to the grocery market. Mom was all for making things easier in the kitchen, so in went the duck, into a cooking bag. Mom also had heard that ducks can be kind of greasy, so she decided to put a trivet underneath the duck, inside the cooking bag so the grease could drip off into the bottom of the pan. Mom tied up the bag, and put the entire bag and it's contents into a pan, and faster than you can say Bleak House, the duck was in the oven. Our Dickens of a feast would be on the table in no time.


There was one fatal flaw in this plan. You knew there had to be one, right? Mom forgot to cut holes in the cooking bag to let steam out. Oops. While the duck was cooking away in the oven I was in the kitchen helping mom to prepare the rest of the meal. All of a sudden boom! An explosion! I looked over to the stove. Through the glass oven door I saw the duck, bag, trivet and all, blow up, hit the top of the oven, and plop back down in the pan! Being the nervous type I went for the kitchen fire extinguisher. Mom, not being the nervous type, told me to put away the fire extinguisher. The duck was fine. I wasn't doing so well.

Later on that evening, we did have our feast. Duck and all. Even after it blew up it turned out fine. I know this may come as a surprise, but we never had duck again. Lesson learned. NEVER forget to cut holes in the cooking bag.


Aah, those warm holiday memories of Christmas Past. Now let me tell you about the time my mom set fire to the turkey...

God Bless Us, Everyone.

Not So Wordless Wednesday: View from "Grandmother's House"

(Original Images and Text, Copyright (c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette) Thanks to our GPS (For insight into our previous travails regarding our Thanksgiving trek, see here.) we managed to successfully navigate our way over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house in upstate New York. My in-laws are located in the heart of the beautiful, bucolic Mohawk River Valley.

Here are a few photos taken at grandmother's house.

The barn on my in-laws' family homestead. The family has lived in the same place for over 200 years.

The "girls" grazing across the street. I got a little nervous when they all came running over to me while I was trying to take their picture. I wondered if they somehow thought I was involved in the milking process. The Mohawk River is between the tree line and the hill in the distance.

My son's first snowman of the season. There wasn't much snow, but he and my husband managed to put this wee snowman together. Mr. Snow is a rather forlorn looking little fellow. He kind of has the same look on his face that I did when I found out the pumpkin pie was gone...


Other Posts You Might Like:

Wordless Wednesday: A San Francisco Treat
Wordless Wednesday: Big Sur, California
Follow Friday: Walking Pictures, Ancestry, and Free Stuff
Wordless Wednesday: Fall Weekends in New England

Tombstone Tuesday: Frank L. Naramore, The End of a "Tragedy"

(Original Images and Text, Copyright (c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette)

A Lonely End To A Tragic Tale...


For those of you who have been following my series on the
Naramore family and "The Coldbrook Tragedy" which I began for the 97th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy, here is the unmarked grave of family father Frank L. Naramore. Frank died on 04 Mar 1936 and was buried in Hope Cemetery in Worcester, MA on 07 Mar 1936. Frank's grave is a single grave to the right of the memorial plaque with the small metal marker sticking out of the ground. There is no headstone.


Here is another photo of the grave from the opposite direction. This time the grave is to the left of the grave plaque with the metal marker.


Here is another photo, and again Frank's unmarked grave is to the left of the plaque with the metal marker.

This seems to be the classic sad ending to a tragic tale. In 1901 Frank had a wife and six children. In death he was alone. His
obituary says he leaves no known relatives. His last address, given in his obituary, is listed as 44 Exchange St. in Worcester which was a rooming house at the time he lived there. My guess is no one knew or cared where he was buried, or has visited his grave since he died in 1936. Perhaps it's an appropriate conclusion to a life poorly led.


Other Posts You Might Like:

Tombstone Tuesday: The Naramore Children, Riverside Cemetery
Tombstone Tuesday: Jacob Riis, Riverside Cemetery, Barre, MA
Tombstone Tuesday: Francois Chenette, Civil War Soldier
Madness Monday: The Stuff We Throw Away, and...

The Stories My Grandmother Told Me

(Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette)

Congratulations and a BIG thank you to Jasia at Creative Gene for hosting and organizing 100 editions of the Carnival of Genealogy. All I can say is WOW. Frankly I don't think capital letters are big enough for this WOW, but they will just have to do. As a newbie to COG--my first post was only in April of this year--I have found it so enjoyable that I consider participating a priority each month. COG offers a wonderful opportunity for all of us, newbies and established geneabloggers alike, to write on topics we might not write about otherwise. Jasia, you are awesome!

There's One In Every Family

Initially I had trouble trying to decide who to write about for this topic. After considering the options, I finally decided to write about my grandmother, Antonina (Bulak) Szerejko. My grandmother is the person responsible for sparking my interest in family history and genealogy. When I was little my grandmother would tell me stories about her parents, about the grandfather I never knew, about life in the Polish community on Vernon Hill in Worcester, MA, and about Poland.

A Very Brief Biography

My grandmother was born in a village in the former Lomza province of Poland in 1896. She was the second and last child of Antoni Bulak and Ewa (Kowalewska) Bulak. She came to the United States in 1897 with her mother and sister Helen. They met Antoni, who was already working in the states, and settled in the Chicago area. In 1900 the family moved to Worcester, MA where my grandmother spent the next 90 years of her life. She married my grandfather Adolf on February 11, 1920. My mother, their first child, was born at home in July of 1921. Two more children followed. In 1940 my grandparents moved from their Polish neighborhood on Vernon Hill to the rural outskirts of the city. Tragically my grandparents' middle child died in 1955 leaving three young children behind, and my grandfather died at the age of 64 four years later. My grandmother lived for another 31 years after the death of her husband and died at the age of 94 in 1990. At the time of her death she left two children, six grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren.

These are the facts, the important "when and where" bits of information we genealogists collect to piece together the details of a person's life. Pretty dry reading, at least to me. While the dates provide basic information they don't tell you anything about who she was as a person. They don't adequately describe the grandmother I knew--the vibrant, funny woman who loved
gardening, was a superb seamstress, had a beautiful contralto singing voice, and was totally devoted to her family. Even though she died in 1990 I still miss her and think about her almost every day. My grandmother Antonina, or Anna as everyone called her, lived two houses away from where I grew up in Worcester. I spent a significant amount of time at her house throughout my childhood and teen years. During our time together, my grandmother would talk about her parents, about coming to America, about her youth, and about her life with my grandfather and their three children.

Family Stories Provide Clues to the Past
So much of what I've been able to figure out about our family history is thanks to her. The bits and pieces of information she included in her family stories have been important to me and to my research. Even when she was in her nineties she remembered life events in great detail. She didn't embellish. She pretty much told things how she remembered them.

One of her often repeated stories was how my great-grandparents, Ewa and Antoni, met while they worked on an estate owned by the Glinka family in the Ostroleka area of Poland. According to my grandmother, Ewa was chosen to live and work at the local manor house as a seamstress because of her talent for sewing. (For examples of her work see
here and here.) The Countess Glinka liked my great-grandmother and taught her how to read and write which was unusual for a peasant girl in late nineteenth-century rural Poland. My great-grandfather Antoni worked in the stables on the estate. Ewa and Antoni met and eventually married. According to my grandmother the countess was godmother to their first child, my grandmother's sister Helen.

A couple of years ago, after several years of trying, I finally discovered the name and location of the estate where my great-grandparents met. I found an entry in my Aunt Helen's travel diary from her
trip to Poland in 1937 that mentions the village of Govorovo. The name of the village, combined with the details of my grandmother's stories, led me to the Palac w Szczawinie in Szczawin, Poland. Szczawin is located south of Ostroleka and neighbors the village of Goworowo.

I initially looked up Govorovo on the Internet without luck. I eventually remembered that w sounds like v in Polish, so I tried Goworowo. I found a website which mentioned Goworowo, northeast of Warsaw. One of the nearby attractions listed on the website was the Palac w Szczawinie, the former estate of the Glinka family. I clicked, and there it was. I cried. I couldn't believe it. I actually found the estate my grandmother told me about all those years ago. One hundred years, two world wars, a Soviet occupation, and it is still there. Apparently the the manor house was taken from the Glinka family by the Germans during World War II. After the war the house fell into disrepair but has recently been restored and now serves as a bed and breakfast.

My grandmother's story about the Palac w Szczawine is just one example of how her stories gave me the information I needed to puzzle together the pieces of our family's history. I wish I thought to formally interview her before she died, but I didn't. My grandmother's stories are her legacy to me, to my son, and to our family. When I think about who I am today, I know a large part of my personality, interests, and joys in life come from her. My grandmother's stories keep not only her memory alive, but the memory of those who came before her alive as well.

So thanks Gram. Thanks for sharing your memories, your love, and your stories. Your legacy lives on...

Named Persons:

~ Bulak, Antoni (1868-19 Feb 1940)
~ Bulak, Ewa (Kowalewska) (1873-20 Mar 1924)
~ Bulak, Helen (21 Oct 1894-09 Feb 1985)
~ Szerejko, Adolf (11 Apr 1895-19 Dec 1959)
~ Szerejko, Antonina (Bulak) (30 May 1896-22 Sep 1990)

Photograph: Antonina (Bulak) Szerejko at age 21 (taken about 1917)


Other Posts You Might Like:
A Matter of Habit: Solving a Mystery
Where They Lived: Every Address Tells a Story
COG 97: Researching "The Coldbrook Tragedy" (Part 1 of 4)
Meditation: The Strength of Ordinary Women

Thanksgiving Before We Got the GPS...

(Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette)

"Um, Honey...THIS isn't grandmother's house. I said over the river and through the woods. THROUGH the woods."

How DID our ancestors manage?

For a more thoughtful post on Thanksgiving read my post,
Reflecting on My American Experience This Thanksgiving.

Now go have that second piece of pumpkin pie. You know you want to...

Happy Thanksgiving from Cynthia at Heritage Zen!


Other Posts You Might Like:

Meditation: The Strength of Ordinary Women
(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: WWI Red Cross Volunteers
COG 97: Researching the "Coldbrook Tragedy" (Part 1 of 4)
Tombstone Tuesday: Wladyslaw Kowalewski, The Mystery Continues

(Not So) Wordless Wednesday: The Kowalewski Family

(Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette) Genetics are an interesting thing. I have a number of photos in my collection with no information on them, but I can tell they are ancestors just by who they look like in my family. I know nothing for sure about the people in this photo, but I know we are related. Several people in the photo clearly resemble the Kowalewski side of the family.

I've always wondered how I ended up with a very blond little boy. I have dark brown hair. My parents had dark brown hair, my grand-parents had dark brown hair, and my great-grandparents had dark brown hair. The first time I saw this photograph I thought, wow. Look at the little boy in the center and the girl to the left. Unfortunately there is no information written on the photograph itself.

Given the resemblance I figured out they are part of the Kowalewski family. I know the Kowalewski family came from the former Lomza province in the Goworowo, Szczawin area near Ostrolenka (also spelled Ostroleka). My guess is the photo dates from some time in the early nineteen hundreds given the clothing style. The photo was taken in the old country. I know because the young man in the back row is wearing a Polish/Russian military uniform.

Have you been able to identify old photographs just by looking at the family resemblance?


Other Posts You Might Like:

Reflecting on My American Experience This Thanksgiving

Tuesday's Tip: A Tale of Two Indexers
Books of Interest - Landowners in Poland, 1913-1939
Books of Interest - St. Denis: A French Canadian Parish

Reflecting on My American Experience this Thanksgiving

(Copyright (c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette) I've been thinking about how my son's collective ancestry typifies a large part of what I think of as the American experience, as defined by many of the major events in history since the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts in 1620. As a genealogist and family historian, sometimes I think it's easy to look at individuals rather than our ancestry as a sum of many parts.

While my son's ancestors didn't come to America on the Mayflower, they did arrive in Rhode Island in 1633. They survived cold New England winters, disease, and deprivation. They later fought in the American Revolution and as the old saying goes saw the whites of the Red Coat's eyes at Bunker Hill, and after the colonies won their independence, settled along the Mohawk River Valley in New York where they farmed the land for the next two hundred years. As time progressed they watched Scots Irish immigrants come into the area to help construct the the Erie Canal with mule teams and watched factories spring up in the towns and cities that dotted the length of the Mohawk River.

Other ancestors populated Acadia, or Nova Scotia, during the seventeenth century until they were forcibly removed by the British during the Seven Years War or what Americans call the French and Indian War. Some of the ancestors expelled from Acadia eventually ended up in Louisiana, others managed to find their way back to French speaking Canada to resettle in Quebec. During the mid-nineteenth century some made their way to California to seek their fortune during the Gold Rush. Ancestors fought, were wounded, or died of disease during the Civil War. They participated in the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor. After the Civil War ancestors joined the great migration of immigrants from Canada to New England to work in the lumber camps of the Green Mountains and the mills of Massachusetts.

At the end of the nineteenth century another set of ancestors left their homeland in Europe. They left their families--mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters--behind and set off in search of a better life in America. They endured difficult conditions on ship and arrived at Ellis Island with the rest of the "yearning masses" also hoping for a better life in their new land. Immigrant ancestors found their way to the Midwest, to Chicago to work in low wage jobs in the steel industry. When they lost their home due to fire they made their way to Massachusetts to join other family members, also immigrants, in the steel mills. They worked long hours in difficult conditions to pursue the American dream.

During the twentieth century ancestors fought in World War I, World War II, and Korea. When both parents in one family died within two days of one another during the great flu pandemic of 1918, their children were adopted by family to become part of an extended family. Ancestors were affected by the crash of the stock market in 1929 and struggled with varying levels of success through the Great Depression. They participated in the Civilian Conservation Corps and joined the military.

One ancestor served his time in the military in the late 1930s and early 1940s, only to be discharged in November of 1941, eighteen days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. He reenlisted in February of 1942, served in the Pacific theatre, and participated in the battles of Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, the Marshall Islands, and Okinawa. He survived. Another family member fought with Patton's army in the European theatre. He witnessed the liberation of Buchenwald. After World War II family displaced by the chaos of the war in Europe, lingered in a DP camp for years until they were finally able to make their way to a new life in the United States.

Our ancestors survived war, deprivation, and hardship. They survived childbirth when health care was rudimentary or nonexistent, and during times when mothers knew death from childbirth was an ever-present possibility. They suffered from small pox, rheumatic fever, whooping cough, flu, measles, mumps, and a host of diseases our children, thankfully, will never know. There were bad times, but there were of good times as well. They lived life the best they could given their circumstances. That's four hundred years of history in my son's ancestry. He IS my American experience. That's a lot of weight to carry on those little shoulders.

When you sit down to dinner with your family this Thanksgiving, think about the people that came before you. It doesn't matter if they were French, Irish, Polish, Italian, or African American. It's doesn't matter if they came on the Mayflower or not. They were the ultimate survivors. We are here because of them, and our lives are better because of them. I know I have a lot to be thankful for.

What's your American experience? Take some time to write about it over the next week, and then share it with your family over Thanksgiving dinner. Almost four hundred years of history should give you something to talk about. Now, please pass the gravy...


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(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: The Play, Elizabeth

(Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette) I know from another photo I have in my collection that my grandmother Antonina (Bulak) Szerejko wore this costume for the play Elizabeth in 1918.  My guess is this photo is also from Elizabeth.  My grandmother is standing in the center, and her sister, my aunt Helen Bulak is on the right.  I'm not sure of the identity of the woman on the left, though I think her first name may be Kasi.


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Amanuensis Monday: Clairvoyants and Distractions

(Copyright (c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette)

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

Thanks to John Newmark at Transylvanian Dutch for providing the idea for Amanuensis Monday.

Articles like this one are what distract me from my appointed task of reviewing microfilm for obits at the library. How can you not love this one? Read on...

Worcester Daily Telegram. Friday, September 10, 1915, page 9.

SPIRITUAL MEDIUMS AND CLAIRVOYANTS

They Organize the Liberal Thinkers Educational Society to Meet on Every Sunday


Spiritual mediums and clairvoyants of Worcester have organized a new society which will be called the Liberal thinkers educational society.

The society will meet every Sunday at 2 o'clock and 7, in Malta hall, 306 Main street. The meetings will be open to the public, and the men who have organized the association are arranging a program of seances which promise to be better than any ever seen in Worcester. Table-lifting mediums, message carriers, and all other kinds of spiritual experts will take part in the seances every Sunday, starting Sunday.

The society was started by M.B. Magoon, 21 Clinton street, and so far the membership is large enough to warrant meetings in public. Mr. Magoon is president of the association, and A.A. Kimball is vice president. Other officers have not been chosen. Directors are Drighton H. Dow, Frank Ellis and C.H. Stewart.

Mr. Magoon said, last night: "We have been at work a long time to bring about the organization of such a society or association, and at last our plans have materialized. The society will be non-sectarian, and the meetings will be open to the public. No admission fee will be charged, but we will have a silver collection at every meeting. The guests may give if they please, but we do not force them.

"We will stage some of the best seances ever seen in Worcester, and we are busy engaging mediums and trance experts from all parts of New England. We will also have some speakers at our meetings, and they will choose their topics from spiritual, socialistic and general topics. I mean socialistic, because we will have some socialists here to speak.

"The founders of the society are practically all what is called spiritual healers. This is a new science, but it is prospering in Worcester."

Gottcha! See, this one sucked you in too. Now get back to work!

There are hundreds of stories in the city and this is just one of them...


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Veteran's Day: The Life of a Doughboy, 1918

(Original Images and Text, Copyright (c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette. Keep the Home Fires Burning, by Lena Gilbert Ford, Available Under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License)

These photos were sent from my grandfather Adolf Szerejko to his then girlfriend, my grandmother Antonina (Bulak) Szerejko. My grandfather served in France during World War I.


On the back of the photo: "Augusta, GA 7-2-18"


Written on the train: "Going to GET the Kaiser, Scranton, Pa, US Aviation Section Regulars, Going to Germany to Berlin via France"

On the back of the photo: "Taken at Rocky Mountain South Carolina Adolf"


"Camp Greene, Charlotte, NC."



On the back of the photo: "Those are my friends, front row from left to right J. Coyle (best) J. Erns. Percons. Szerejko At the back Anctile. Moore. Sanders. Four Irish, one French and the last man I don't know his nationality Adolf" The spelling may be off as the handwriting is very difficult to read.



" I'm next."

"Camp Greene, Charlotte N.C."

"Kolacja na "hike" (Dinner on the "hike")"

Written on the back: "What we got ourselves into"

"Camp Greene, Charlotte, NC."


Keep the Home Fires Burning ('Til the Boys Come Home)

Keep the home fires burning,
While your hearts are yearning.
Though your lads are far away,
They dream of home.
There’s a silver lining,
Through the dark cloud shining,
Turn the dark clouds inside out
Till the boys come home.

Thank you veterans for your service. Happy Veteran's Day!


Special Thanks To: Marek for his translation of the Polish into English.


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(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Alsatian Girls

(Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette)I found this photo in with my grandfather Adolf Szerejko's World War I photos. He was stationed in France. My guess is the photo dates from about 1918. This looks like a posed photo to be sold to soldiers and tourists.


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Amanuensis Monday: Fail to Find Mother of Abandoned Child

(Copyright (c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette)

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

Thanks to John Newmark at
Transylvanian Dutch for providing the idea for Amanuensis Monday.

I will admit I am something of a newspaper junkie. Back in my working days B.C. (Before Child), I use to read three newspapers a day. For several years when I worked in the serials department of a university library, I read many of the magazines, journals, and newspapers that came in each week while I was on my lunch hour. I was very well read and could converse on a variety of topics, not in great depth of course, but just enough to be popular at cocktail parties. I read anything that looked interesting, from the news of the day to Time magazine's cover story to the report of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission. If you want to rivet cocktail party goers just start chatting about the latest findings in Scientific American or Nature or Sex Roles or Psychology Today. If you really want to wow 'em chat up your tuna knowledge. You WILL be the life of the party. Trust me. Now I'm lucky to have time to glance at the headlines and obits online on a daily basis. Such is the life of the busy stay-at-home suburban mom.

That said, I love old newspapers. I love the news, what's perceived as the news, the editorials, the letters to the editor, the social news, the gossip, the advertisements, and the classifieds. I go to the library to look up one obit on microfilm, and I am sucked into a newsy vortex. Last week as I was preparing my nun post for the 99th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy, I was hoping to find some information on the opening of St. Mary's School in Worcester, MA in 1915. I didn't find a word about the school opening, but I did find some fascinating reading. On one page alone the headlines shouted out, "Fail to Find Mother of Abandoned Baby" and "German Alien Women to Register June 17" and "Man Kills Woman and Kills Self" and my favorite, "Sewer Committee Hosts at Luncheon Yesterday." I can't find an article about a school opening, but I can find out the Worcester Sewer Committee entertained 40 members of the sanitary section of the Boston Society of Civil Engineers. Apparently lunch was followed by a tour of the sewer plant and system. Oh boy, lunch and a show. Digest on that.

Given my fascination with old newspapers I've decided to post occasional transcriptions of local stories, well, periodically.


Worcester Daily Telegram. June 5, 1918.

Fail to Find Mother of Abandoned Child

All the efforts of the police department to find the mother of the three-hours-old girl discovered in the woods in the rear of 390 Lovell street, yesterday forenoon had failed up to an early hour, this morning. From the time the police were notified they worked on the case without result.

The baby was found by August Andrew, 18 Southbridge street: Joseph Menchette, Shrewsbury, and Francis Rawson, 574 Pleasant street, yesterday forenoon.

The cries of the infant attracted the attention of three men who were working in their gardens close by. They found the baby resting on a pillow of leaves and moss, and partially covered with leaves.

The men notified police headquarters, and the ambulance with Police surgeon Robert J. Northridge, was sent to the scene. Dr. Northridge said the baby was only a few hours old and would have died of exposure in a short time. The baby was wrapped in blankets and taken to city hospital.

A whisky bottle, freshly emptied, was found near the spot.

This story really touches me on so many levels. What happened to the baby? Who was the mother, and what happened to her? What were the circumstances of the mother's life that made her think this act was her only option? Sadly, I'm guessing the bottle of whiskey was the desperate mother's choice of anesthesia. Or maybe she just had a drinking problem. We'll never know.

There are hundreds of stories in the city and this is just one of them...


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(Images and Text, Copyright (c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette )

Why I love New England...



Longfellow's Wayside Inn, Sudbury, MA, September 2010


Rockport, MA, October, 2010


Wedding Cake House, Kennebunk, ME, October 2010


Marble House, Newport, RI, October 2010


Chinese Tea House at Marble House, Newport, RI, October 2010

A Matter of Habit: Solving a Mystery

(Original Images and Text, Copyright (c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette) One of the things I love about COG is writing and researching topics that are relevant to my family history research but are not always something I would write about without a gentle nudge from Jasia to try something new and different. Well this month's COG offers that opportunity once again. At the beginning of October I started thinking about our current assignment for the 99th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy. I considered writing about weddings, first communions, and christenings but had trouble trying to decide. No one topic jumped out at me. On the spur of the moment (or maybe out of desperation) I decided to dig through my rather large collection of mystery photos. As I was looking through the box one thing stuck out in my mind. I have a lot of pictures of nuns.

Who are all of these nuns, and why did my grandmother keep their photos all of these years? Interestingly, my mother and her siblings went to public school not Catholic school. My grandmother Antonina (Bulak) Szerejko and her sister Helen Bulak went to the Ascension School in Worcester, MA which pre-dated St. Mary's School, the parish school for St. Mary's Church (now Our Lady of Czestochowa) also in Worcester. My guess was the nuns served as teachers at either the Ascension School or at St. Mary's School. St. Mary's was, and still is, an overwhelmingly Polish parish.
My first thought was to consult The Polish Community of Worcester by Barbara Proko, John Kraska Jr. and Janice Baniukiewicz Stickles. The book is part of the Images of America series of books by Arcadia Publishing, and my "go to" guide for information on Worcester Poles. I scanned the book and found a photo on page 70 of the graduating class of St. Mary's School from 1923. The photograph showed three sisters in habits similar to the habits in my photos. The photograph also showed a photo of one of the nuns in my collection. Unfortunately the specific sisters names are not given. They are simply listed as "unidentified." The sisters' order is listed however, the nuns are the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Page 69 of the book showed an image of St. Mary's School and convent. The convent was located at 119 Endicott St. in Worcester. I also learned that St. Mary's School opened in September of 1915.
Since I guessed my photos dated from the 1920s, I next decided to check the 1920 U.S. Census to see if I could find the names of the sisters. This in itself presented an interesting problem. How does one look up nuns in the census? There's no last name, just Sister Mary Whoever. Now what? I tried a couple searches on Heritage Quest. Interestingly, I discovered that I was able to use "Sister" as a last name. I typed in "Sister" and limited my search to 1920, Massachusetts, and female. My search resulted in 193 hits. When I looked at the results, I knew which census ward the convent was located in (Ward 5) and narrowed down the possibilities from there. I learned there were 18 sisters living at the convent on Endicott St. in 1920, and Sister Mary Hilary was the superior. The sisters ranged in age from 20 to 40. The mother superior was the eldest at 40. Seven sisters were in their thirties, and ten were in their twenties. Six of the sisters in their twenties were age 25 or younger. Overall a fairly young group of women to be responsible for educating Worcester's young Polish minds. A side note, I also found a list of mother superiors for the various Worcester convents listed in the Worcester City Directories. The superiors were listed using "Sister" as their last name.I did a bit more research on my last visit to the Worcester Public Library. I checked the paper volumes of Charles Nutt's History of Worcester and It's People. The history, published in 1919, said St. Mary's School contained eight classrooms, two library rooms, and an assembly hall. In 1918 there were 12 teachers and 786 pupils. According to the 1920 census the number of teachers (nuns) increased to 18. I found an article in the Worcester Sunday Telegram which mentions the school had 1,400 students by 1920. By my calculations, in 1918 the teacher to student ratio was 1 to 65.5, and in 1920 the student to teacher ratio was 1 to 78. The numbers are daunting considering the teacher to student ratios of today. According to my research it was not unusual for one sister to have anywhere from 75 to 100 students in a class! The students at St. Mary's School were taught the Polish language, traditions, religion, and history as well as the usual academic subjects.

Who are the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth today? According to their website:


"The Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth (CSFN) are an international congregation of vowed religious women dedicated to spreading the Kingdom of God’s love, particularly within families.

They do this by serving families through active ministry in schools, hospitals, parishes, prisons and social service agencies. The sisters also spread the Kingdom through their daily living in a community of prayer and commitment to God and the Holy Family."
Catholic nuns did and still do take three vows--to poverty, chastity, and obedience. The Congregation of Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth was founded as an international congregation in Rome in 1875 by Polish noble woman Blessed Franciszka Siedliska, later the Blessed Mary of Jesus the Good Shepherd. The congregation arrived in the United States in 1885, traveled to Chicago, Illinois to minister to the Polish immigrant population. From Chicago their ministries grew and expanded into other states and eventually made their way to New England. The Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth are still active throughout the world. For some contemporary insight into the sisters' acceptance of vows and lives click on the highlighted links. In Worcester, the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth educated generations of students from St. Mary's School from 1915 until 2004, when St. Mary's School made the decision to end their association with the order. The convent building at 119 Endicott St. no longer serves as a convent, and is currently home to Visitation House, a home for women facing crisis pregnancies.
For genealogists, why would we be interested in researching nuns? Obviously, at least for the most part, they didn't leave descendants. Maybe one of your descendants spent some time in a Catholic run orphanage. Or maybe a descendant had a nun or two or three in the family. For large families with numerous daughters, entering a convent was a way to remove the burden of an unmarried daughter or daughters from the family. What does that say about our ancestors' lives? Some young women certainly answered the call to God. For others entering a convent may have been an attempt at an escape from, or offer a solution to, a problem.

One thing I learned is information on individual sisters can be elusive. Not always impossible, but sometimes difficult. Sisters may have changed their baptismal names, or their names were changed according to the tradition of their particular order. Looking for an obituary or other information for a Sister Mary Barbara or Sister Mary Borromea and finding your Sister Mary Barbara or Sister Mary Borromea may prove difficult. Discovering clues to a woman's life may be difficult once she entered religious life.

I now know the names of some of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth teaching at St. Mary's School around 1920 which is about when my photographs were taken. Except for Sister Mary Hilary I can't put a specific name to a specific face. Unfortunately I still don't know why my grandmother kept photos of the sisters all those years. I can only speculate. What I do know is who the sisters are, a little bit about the order, and their important relationship to the Polish community of Worcester.

Special Thanks To: Barbara Proko of Basia's Polish Family: From Wilno to Worcester for finding the postcard of St. Mary's School and Convent on eBay and giving me the opportunity to use the image.

Photographs Top to Bottom: Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth (Sister Mary Hilary, bottom left); St. Mary's School and Convent; Sister Mary Hilary; Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth (Sister Mary Hilary, second row center); Unidentified Nun.

References:

~ Kuhns, Elizabeth. The Habit: A History of the Clothing of Catholic Nuns. New York: Doubleday, 2003.
~ Nutt, Charles. History of Worcester and It's People. Vol. 1. New York: Lewis Publishing Company, 1919. 4 vols.
~ "Polish Parish Has a Big Week." Sunday Telegram. 22 Oct 1978.
~ Proko, Barbara et al. The Polish Community of Worcester. Charlestown, SC: Arcadia, 2003.
~ Walch, Timothy. Parish School: American Catholic Parochial Education from Colonial Times to the Present. New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1996.







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