I hope to share research, information, tips, and a little of my family history with others following the path to greater genealogical awareness. Let the search for enlightenment continue...

Saturday, April 30, 2011

My Favorite Current Technology: I ♥ My iPhone

(Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette) Let's just say I'm not exactly a cutting edge kind of gal, though I do like to think I was cutting edge once back in 2008.  It's not that I don't love all the shiny new techie stuff.  I do, but at this point in my life I feel like I've got so many plates already spinning, I don't really have the time to fully invest in many of the popular gizmos and gadgets on the market.  I'm perfectly happy with a few favorites--a basic laptop, a laser printer, a scanner, my Kindle, and my iPhone 3G.  Oh, how I love my iPhone.  My heart beats faster just thinking about it.  I've had the same one for the last two and a half years (Like I said, I was cutting edge in 2008.) and don't want to contemplate life without it.  Okay, so maybe I exaggerate a wee bit, but last summer when a good friend was in the market for a new phone I told her she just HAD to get an iPhone.  I said, "Once you get an iPhone you'll never go back." 

Why Is It So Special?

Let me just say, that I like the iPhone because it works for me.  I think that's pretty important for any technology.  Sometimes newer is better, but sometimes newer is just...ah...well...newer.  That said, I would love to upgrade to a newer iPhone at some point, but frankly this one still works just fine so for now I'll make due with what I've got.  The iPhone, at least mine, is durable within reason.  I've dropped it on more that one occasion, most recently on the pavement in my driveway.  I don't recommend dropping it on a regular basis, but accidents, no matter how careful we are, happen to the best of us.

What features do I use all the time?  I use it to check my e-mail.  The notepad is great for writing down a few quick notes, library call numbers, tombstone inscriptions, or database search strategies when I think of them for use at a later time.  Oh yeah, it's great for writing down your grocery list too!  I'm not a big texter, but did you know some library OPACs (online public access catalogs) allow you to send yourself book call numbers as text messages?  Now how cool is that!  The camera is great in a pinch for taking photos of tombstones or historic sites or your cute kid if you have one or two or three.  You can then upload your photos to post via your facebook app.  The iPod is great for listening to podcasts, walking/museum tours, or to your hopelessly dated recordings of Petula Clark singing Downtown or Meatloaf singing Bat Out of Hell. 

I love the GPS for finding and navigating in and around cemeteries.  I've noticed that the GPS picks up named city streets within cemeteries pretty well.  It also picks up smaller, even dirt, roads leading to remote cemeteries.  Last year when I was out looking for the Riverside Cemetery in Barre, MA the GPS was great.  Riverside Cemetery is now adjacent or part of land taken by the state of Massachusetts for the Barre Dam.  The GPS helped to get me back on track when I thought I was hopelessly lost.  Three weeks ago it helped me to find my way to NERGS when I got lost in Springfield, MA and ended up at the Basketball Hall of Fame instead of the conference hotel.  I've also used the GPS walking feature to figure out where I was when I was lost in San Francisco.  Don't ask...

What apps do I use on a regular basis?  I use the app for World Cat on occasion.  I've downloaded a voice recorder app which I use for singing, but you could use for voice memos or recording interviews.  I've also recently downloaded a scanner/PDF app which I use for scanning library items too fragile to photocopy.  I love the Kindle app, which opens right to where you left off with your book in your regular Kindle.  

Then there is Safari, the iPhone's web browser.  I don't know what I'd do without it.  Have you gone to a park, playground, or museum recently and seen all the parents of small children sitting on what I refer to as the Bored Parent Bench?  Last summer when we were in California and my son went to the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley nine (Did I mention nine?) times, I sat on the BPB and caught up with my blog reading while my son played.  I can log into my blog and post comments.  I can even access some databases in a pinch if I have to.  I read the local paper online when we travel and review the Legacy obits as well.

I'm sure there's more that can be done with the iPhone.  I doubt I've scratched the surface.  I haven't even mentioned any specific genealogy or history apps.  If you have any great uses for your iPhone feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this post.  Oh, and there's one more thing you can do with your iPhone.  You can even make phone calls...


Other Posts You Might Like:

Fascinating Ladies
COG 97: Researching "The Coldbrook Tragedy" (Part 1 of 4)
The Stories My Grandmother Told Me
Meditation: The Strength of Ordinary Women

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Brothers in America - Wordless Wednesday


(Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia ShenetteThis is a photo of my grandfather Adolf Szerejko and his brother Aleksander Szarejko.  Note the different spellings of the last names. The brothers left Poland together.  I don't know the history of this photo.  My guess is it may have been taken to send to their parents back in Warsaw to let them know that they arrived safely in America.


Other Posts You Might Like:

A Polish Magician and Dating a Clipping - Amanuensis Monday
(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: A Couple of Swells
Meditation: The Strength of Ordinary Women
Veteran's Day: The Life of a Dough-Boy, 1918

Monday, April 25, 2011

Post World War II "Care" Packages - Amanuensis Monday

(Copyright (c) 2011 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 found the lists I have transcribed below along with letters sent from family in Warsaw during the mid to late 1940s.  Basic food and personal items that we take for granted were in short supply in Soviet occupied post World War II Poland.  I have a card from CARE which indicates that a blanket was sent on August 7, 1947.  Several letters ask for aspirin.  Letters from other family members in a DP camp in Germany mention items like cigarettes were sold on the black market to provide money for other needed goods.  Lists include things like socks, underwear, children's clothes, aprons, hose, and ribbon. 

Sometimes I think it's all too easy to get caught up in everyday annoyances and trivialities.  When I read the items on these lists and think about the recipients of the packages and their experiences with deprivation and hardship, I think about how lucky I really am.  I have a lot to be grateful for.

4 pkg. cheese  .80
1 lb. coffee  .29
1" peas  .13
1 can bacon  38
1 " sardines  .15
1 " spam  34
1 " tuna  .30
1 " evap. milk  .10
2 soaps  .10
1 pkg. tea  .15
1 can malted milk  .27
Hershey chocolat
Hershey Chocolate  .50
                       $    3.48


Henick
Apr. 6 - 46





1 peas  15
1 prunes  23
1 coffee  40
1 tea  25
1 cocoa  24
1 noodle  10
2 cookies  38
2 cereals  40
1 rice  23
deviled ham  13
spam  39
1 beef + gravy  59
1 lg. fig bars  59
1 beans + franks  18
1 tuna  35
6 sou.[?] soup  60
2 1/2 lb salamis
chocolate bars
3 kipper snacks 30
$5.00 in cash
2 face cloths
bullion
1 aspirin

Henick
Feb. 5-47
received
Helen


Other Posts You Might Like:

Flu 1918 (Part 1 of 3) - Amanuensis Monday
Meditation: The Strength of Ordinary Women
Wordless Wednesday: Warsaw Wedding
Where They Lived: Every Address Tells a Story

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Little Kid, Big Bunny - Wordless Wednesday


(Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette Well, at least I look slightly happier than in my birthday photo.  My guess is I'm about two years old in this picture.  I think this photo was taken at the now defunct Denholms department store in downtown Worcester, MA.  We always went to Denholms for pictures with the Easter Bunny and Santa.  I loved Denholms, because they had a revolving door which I thought was the coolest thing ever.  My mom would get so mad at me.  I'd run around and around inside the door, and she couldn't catch up with me.  In this photo I kind of look like I want to bolt off the bunny's lap.  I'm not sure if it's because I'm a little weirded out by the big bunny or I just want to get into that revolving door...
Interestingly, someone has started a blog about Denholms.  Check out the link at here.
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Monday, April 18, 2011

First Communion - Mystery Monday

(Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette) My son just received his First Communion last Sunday.  It was a big day for our family.  My son's First Communion made me think about all of the First Communion photos I have.  Sadly, I have a number of lovely ones in my mystery collection.  I've decided to take a break from posting my mystery wedding photos and post a mystery First Communion photo instead. 

Isn't this one beautiful?  I love the girls faces, the flowers, the veils, and the dresses.  I wish I knew who they were.  My best guess is the girls and their families were members of Worcester's Polish Community.  I suspect, but I don't know for sure, the photo was probably taken some time in the 1920s.  The First Communion itself probably took place at St. Mary's Church (Our Lady of Czestochowa) in Worcester, MA.  Why did the girls have their photos taken together?  Are they sisters?  Twins?  Cousins?  There definitely seems to be a resemblance between the two girls. 

If you recognize either of these lovely young ladies, please leave a comment at the end of this post.  I'd love to be able to put a name to a face.


Other Posts You Might Like:

A Matter of Habit: Solving a Mystery
Mystery Wedding #9 - Mystery Monday
Flu 1918 (Part 1 of 3) - Amanuensis Monday
Does Your Public Library Have a Vertical File? - Tuesday's Tip

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Reflecting on NERGC One Week Later

(Copyright (c) 2011, Cynthia Shenette) Wow.  All I can say is, wow.  By the time I finished up at the conference on Saturday I was exhausted, inspired, and overwhelmed.  All at the same time but in a good kind of way.  NERGC was all I hoped for and more.  I attended the opening session with D. Joshua Taylor, plus thirteen hour-long sessions on a variety of topics. Now that's a lot of genealogy!

I attended three sessions on Polish genealogy, a session on French-Canadian genealogy, and one on Native American genealogy. I also had the distinct pleasure of sitting and chatting with Lucie LeBlanc Consentino during one session on Thursday and hearing her speak on Acadian genealogy and history on Saturday. I met Lucie briefly at the "Ancestors Roadshow" at the Massachusetts Society of Genealogists Conference last November when she helped me with my Acadian research. She is lovely to talk with in person and an incredibly knowledgeable speaker. Let's just say after listening to Lucie, I feel like I could write a book about what I don't know about Acadian genealogy and history.

I also connected with one of the Native American researchers and received an offer of assistance regarding some Native American research that I've been interested in but have had difficulty pursuing for some time now.  A Polish researcher helped me out by offering a solid lead.  He suggested I write to the Polish military museum in Warsaw about identifying some Polish or Russian military medals in a photo of my grandfather's brother Wincenty Szerejko.  If we can identify the medals it might lead to additional information on Wincenty.

I attended sessions on genealogy information in school records, poverty records, and records from the Civilian Conservation Corps.  My dad spent some time in the CCCs before going into the military.  I'm now interested to try to do a bit of research on my dad's time working on a dam back in the 1930s.  The talk on the CCCs reminded me that I have my dad's scrapbook from the CCCs, so I may do a blog post with photos from my dad's scrapbook in the upcoming weeks.  The sessions on school records and poverty records were insightful and valuable for assisting me with my ongoing research on the Naramore family.  I also attended a talk on researching collateral lines as a way of gaining information on a direct line ancestor.  This is something I already do, but it was interesting to hear the speaker's success story and relate her experience to my own.

John Philip Colletta spoke about the Erie Canal and the peopling of upstate New York.  My husband's family still live on the old family homestead in the Mohawk River Valley where his ancestors settled in the late 1700s.  I see remnants of the Erie Canal all along the roadways whenever we visit the area.  It was interesting to hear how the construction and life along the Erie Canal may have impacted my husband's and in turn my son's ancestors living along the canal during the golden age of canal transportation.  Maybe this year we will finally take that Erie Canal cruise that keep talking about.

Colleen Fitzpatrick's talk, "Genealogy and the Six Degrees of Separation: How to Find Anyone in the World," was an inspiration.  Her talk was fascinating as she explained how she fearlessly goes about finding people and solving mysteries all over the world.  I had a few minutes to chat with Colleen between sessions which was truly an honor.  She inspired me to take action on a volunteer project she mentioned during her talk.  I may or may not have luck with the project, but one way or another I will report back at some point on the success or lack there of on my search.

It was a pleasure meeting some of the other geneabloggers for the first time in person.  I met Heather Rojo and her husband, Lucie LeBlanc Consentino of course, and Midge Frazel and her husband.  It was also pleasure to finally run in to Marian Pierre-Louis at the very end of the conference.  Marian was on the planning committee for the conference.  Everything seemed to run so smoothly.  I can only imagine the amount of work Marian and all of the other folks on the committee put into the conference to make it a success for the 800 people who attended.

My conference experience would not have been complete without a shopping trip to the exhibit hall.  Yep.  I dropped a bundle.  Don't tell my husband.  I purchased the following books written by speakers whose sessions I attended: The Journey Takers, by Leslie Albrecht Huber; Going Home: A Guide to Polish American Family History Research, by Jonathan D. Shea; and Forensic Genealogy and The Dead Horse Investigation: Forensic Photo Analysis for Everyone, by Colleen Fitzpatrick. I also purchased a copy of New England Court Records: A Research Guide for Genealogists and Historians, by Diane Rapaport.  My final purchase was a very pretty fan chart which will look lovely in my den...once I clean my den.  I was tempted, but did NOT buy the seriously cute tree earrings or the bumper-stickers that read, "I Break for Cemeteries" and "Genealogists Don't Grow Old, They Just Lose Their Census."  I really didn't need yet another pair of earrings, and the bumper stickers would have set my husband over the edge.

I'd like to offer one tip of my own to future conference-goers.  When I registered for the conference I initially did not intend to stay over at the conference hotel.  I live within a reasonable commuting distance, however as the conference approached I thought it might be nice to stay at least one night.  Of course I decided to do this four days before the start of the conference.  In the pre-conference buzz somewhere, I had heard that all of the rooms at both hotels had been filled up for a while.  On the Sunday before the conference I was lucky and managed to find a room at one of the conference hotels on Priceline for $40.00 less than the conference rate!  While this was great, I would not recommend waiting until the last minute if you need to guarantee yourself a room for the entire length of a conference. You take a chance that you might not get a room.  In my particular case I was able to take the risk, because I planned on commuting anyway.  I had a back-up plan.  I stayed only one night, Thursday, to avoid the worst of the weekday commute and so I could be at Colleen's 8:30 session on Friday bright and early.

Overall, it was a great conference and an inspiring three days.  It was also nice to know that I was missed at home.  My family was very happy to see me again after it was over.  They all missed me--my husband, my son, and the dog.   Not necessarily in that order.  Right now, I have a lot to think about, review, digest, and follow up on.  I learned so much, but given the collective knowledge of everyone at the conference it also makes me think about all that I still don't know.  Let's just say, I'd call it a good start.  Anyway, I'm already thinking ahead to the next NERGC in 2013, and I can't wait...


Other Posts You Might Like:

Presenter Interview: Colleen Fitzpatrick, Forensic Genealogist
The Stories My Grandmother Told Me
Tombstone Tuesday: Francois Chenette, Civil War Soldier
Books of Interest: The Life of Billy Yank

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"Frisky" - Wordless Wednesday

(Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette)

This is one of our three kitties.  We adopted all three cats from a shelter three-and-a-half years ago.  They came from the same family but were surrendered to the shelter when the family had to move out of the country.  Frisky's name says it all.  She is...um...well...Frisky.

Here's my public service announcement: Adopt a shelter cat or rescue dog.  You'll be glad you did!


Other Posts You Might Like:

Wordless Wednesday: Fall Weekends in New England
Where I Grew Up - Wordless Wednesday
(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Here Come the (Mystery) Brides...
Grandma and Grandpa's Barn - Wordless Wednesday

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Polish Magician and Dating a Clipping - Amanuensis Monday

(Original Text, Copyright (c) 2011 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.

My grandfather Adolf Szerejko died in 1959 and my grandmother Antonina (Bulak) Szerejko died 31 years later in 1990. My grandmother kept this newspaper clipping in her wallet for as long as I could remember.  I pulled it out of her wallet after she died when we were going through her things.  She tried to preserve it--by laminating it.  Thankfully she wrote the date on it. 1923.

The photo and the clipping are pretty well faded.  I keep thinking I'll go down to the public library and review newspaper microfilm to see if I can get a better copy and the complete article.  How would I do that since all I have is a year?  Note the back of the clipping (See below.).  There are court records listed on the back with dates--September 28, 1923 and October case numbers.  The next time I go to the Worcester Public Library I'll take a look and see what I can find and report back.

As for this clipping, from what my grandmother told me my grandfather use to perform as a local magician for church functions and out and around Worcester.  She also told me he played the musical saw.  This clipping mentions one of his performances.

For the record, I'm going to transcribe the court/legal note on the back of the clipping in case it might prove of use to another family history researcher.  I'm not sure what paper this appeared in--the Worcester Telegram, Worcester Evening Gazette, or the Worcester Evening Post.  My guess is the Telegram, but we will have to wait and see...

(Front of Clipping)

...d in Aid of Fund for Build-...I Schoolhouse--Vincent S...the Actors.

...artists were Adolph Szerejko, Pol[ish] magician  of Worcester, who has volunteered his services.  With the assistance of Chester aJnowski, he ha[s] coached actors for the plays of th[e] St. Cecilia society for the last fiv[e] years.  Mr. Janowski will give selections on the accordion...

(Back of Clipping)

COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
WORCESTER. SS     PROBATE COURT

NOTICE OF LIBEL FOR DIVORCE.

Whereas Shirley C. Peters of Worcester, Massachusetts has filed a libel for divorce in this court praying that a divorce from the bond of matrimony between herself and Charles F. Peters, whose last known residence was Syracuse in the state [of] New York, be decreed, for the cause...adultery, with custody of minor children and alimony, Said Charles F. Peters may appear at said Probate court at Worcester, within one month from the thirtieth day of October, A. D. 1923, and show cause why the prayer of said libel should not be granted.

LEON E. FELTON, Ass't Register. Worcester, Mass., September 28, 1923.
Oct. 2-8-15.


Other Posts You Might Like:

Circus Girls are "Normal" - Amanuensis Monday
Mystery Monday: Another Polish Wedding
Tuesday's Tip: Consider Adding Links to Your Blog
(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: A Couple of Swells

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Comedy of Errors: My Family in the Census (Part 3 of 3)

(Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette)

THE QUIZ

You saw this coming, didn't you?  Alright students, are your No. 2 pencils at the ready?  You have two minutes to complete the quiz.  No peeking over your neighbor's shoulder.  Eyes on your own work. No referring back to parts one and two of this post or your notes. Do your best.

You may begin...

Choose the best answer.

1. According to the 1900 U.S. Census Cynthia's great-grandfather, Antoni Bulak, and family lived in what American  city:
A. Chicago, IL
B. Worcester, MA
C. Joliet, IL
D. All of the above

2. According to the U.S. Census Antoni Bulak can be found as:
A. Tony Bolak
B. Anthony Bullock
C. Athony Bulak
D. All of the above

3. According to the U.S. Census Antoni Bulak immigrated to the United States in:
A. 1895 and 1897
B. 1896 and 1899
C. 1895 and 1896
D. All of the above

4. According to the U.S. Census Cynthia's grandmother's first name is given as:
A. Antoinette
B. Anthony
C. Anna
D. All of the above

5. According to the U.S. Census Antoni Bulak lived in the following city and/or town at one point in time or another:
A. Joliet, IL
B. Oxford, MA
C. Worcester, MA
D. All of the above, and frankly I'm exhausted by it all.

True or False

6. It is impossible to be counted in the U.S. Census more than once: True or False

7. The U.S. Census NEVER enumerates dead people: True or False

8. All of the information found in the U.S. Census is correct: True or False

9. It's best to verify census information in more than one source if at all possible: True or False

10. I am really glad I am not related to Cynthia or any of those Bulak people: True or False

Time.


Let's see how you did.  The correct answers are as follows: 1. (C) 2. (D) 3. (C) 4. (D) 5. (D) 6. (False) 7. (False) 8. (False) 9. (True) 10. (True),  and if you did answer True to "10. I am really glad I am not related to Cynthia or any of those Bulak people" I can understand your frustration, but I will admit to being just a wee bit hurt.

This concludes our reading of "A Comedy of Errors: My Family in the Census."  Be sure to check back for next week's A.P. (Advanced Placement) challenge: "Much Ado About Nothing, Or Finding Szerejkos, Radziewiczs, Kowalewskis, and Choronzaks in the U.S. Census."

A Smith, a Smith, my kingdom for a Smith!

Class dismissed.


A Comedy of Errors: My Family in the Census (Part 1 of 3)
A Comedy of Errors: My Family in the Census (Part 2 of 3)


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And The Award Goes To...
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Meditation: Family History

A Comedy of Errors: My Family in the Census (Part 2 of 3)

(Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette)

~ ENTR'ACTE ~

~ Act III: 1920 Worcester, Massachusetts ~

Now pay close attention to the 1920 census, because this is where things start to get complicated. Antoni Bulak/Tony Bolak/Anthony Bolack has now become Anthony Bullock for the 1920 census, enumerated on 12 Jan 1920. Anthony (52) is listed as living with his wife Ella (47), daughter Rose (12), son S[t]ephan (8), daughter Helen (25), and daughter Antoinette (22). Eva, whose name back in the old country would be spelled Ewa, is now Ella. Daughters Helena-Helen and Antonina-Anthony-Antoinette are still living with the family. Where did Rose and Stephan come from? I know Rose for sure, and I believe Stephan as well were adopted by my great-grandparents after their parents died during the 1918 influenza pandemic (For the back story on this please see my three part series, Flu 1918 (Part 1 of 3) - Amanuensis Monday.). The dates of immigration have changed yet again. Now Antoni-Tony-Anthony is listed at immigrating in 1896 and Ewa-Eva-Ella is listed as immigrating in 1899. What complicates matters even more is Helena-Helen and Antonina-Anthony-Antoinette are listed as immigrating in 1904.

If all was right with the world and the planets were in perfect alignment we would be done with the 1920 census right here. Unfortunately that's not the case. Somehow, my grandmother's sister Helena-Helen is listed in the census twice. She was enumerated as Helen Bullock living at home with her parents on 12 Jan 1920 AND was also enumerated on January 2nd and 3rd as Helen Bulak living as a boarder at the St. Agnes Guild in Worcester. Her age is still listed as 25, however her year of immigration is 1897. She is not listed as having an occupation in the Bullock family listing, however she is listed as the proprietor of a millinery store in the St. Agnes Guild census record.  For the record, she did have a millinery store at this time on Millbury St. in Worcester.

~ Act IV: 1930 Oxford and Worcester, Massachusetts ~

On 25 Apr 1930 Antoni Bulak/Tony Bolak/Anthony Bolack/Anthony Bullock was enumerated as Athony Bulak (62) living in Oxford, Massachusetts. He is living with his wife Eva (51), son Edward (18), and daughter Helen Pawloski (15). After spending years in the city of Worcester, my great-grandfather moved to Oxford, MA about 1921. My grandmother told me he longed to have a farm, so he moved to the town of Oxford about 10 miles south of Worcester to start up farming. He is listed as a dairyman in the census. I honestly have no idea who Edward and Helen Pawloski are. My guess is Edward could be another child adopted after the 1918 flu pandemic or Edward and/or Helen could have been hired to help my great-grandfather around the farm. Clearly more research is needed.  Antoni-Tony-Anthony-Athony is 62 which would make him the right age. My great-grandmother Ewa-Eva-Ella is listed as 51. She was 47 in 1920 so there's no way she would be 51 in 1930. Here's the kicker--my great-grandmother Ewa-Eva-Ella died in 1924.

Why do I still think this is the right record? Eva was 51 when she died. Is there a possibility this might not be my family? You bet, but I haven't been able to find another census record for them up to this point. I still need to verify the information in another source to be sure. My best guess is my great-grandfather was asked if he was married, and he said yes leaving out the details about his wife dying or simply not understanding or hearing correctly what was asked of him.

What about Helena-Helen and Antonina-Anthony-Antoinette? Where are they? By 1930 my Aunt Helen was living in Worcester as a boarder with Rose and her new husband, and my grandmother, now Anna Szerejko, was married and living with her husband and young children, also in Worcester.

A Comedy of Errors: My Family in the Census (Part 1 of 3)

Antoni Bulak, August 1938
(Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette)

My Apologies to Shakespeare

I love the U.S. Census. I love other sources too, but whenever I look at a census record I feel like I'm looking through a window back in time, one that offers a glimpse of life on one particular day in my ancestors' lives. You know what's really cool? I even know which day! The census tells me. I can see who was living in my ancestors' home, who their neighbors were, where they were living, where they worked, how many children were still at home, and so on. I'm also amazed at how much information is, for lack of a better word, wrong.

My Bulak family is a perfect case study on errors in the census. My grandmother and her family lived together as a family unit in the U.S. by 1897. I have found them in all of the census records in which they should appear--1900, 1910, 1920, and 1930. I also know the basics of my grandmother's family so I can discriminate what's right, what's wrong, and speculate as to why some of the information was recorded incorrectly. I pity the researcher who finds a census record without knowing, "the rest of the story" as veteran newsman Paul Harvey use to say. Context is everything. So with apologies to William Shakespeare, I'd like to present my version of...

"A Comedy of Errors: A Play in Four Acts"

 ~ Act I: 1900 Joliet, Illinois ~

Overall, the 1900 census was the most difficult census in which to locate my Bulak family. It took me a couple of years of searching on and off before I finally found them. Why? Nineteen hundred was a transitional year for my family. The Bulak family was supposedly living in Chicago in 1900 but moved to Worcester, MA the same year after being displaced by a fire. The family could have been enumerated in Chicago or Worcester, or missed the census altogether if they were in transit and somewhere in between. Another reason, my great-grandfather's name, Antoni Bulak, was seriously misspelled by the census taker. I found him listed as Tony Bolak. I also discovered the family was living in Joliet, IL not Chicago.

The 1900 census lists Tony Bolak (33), his wife Eva (27) and daughters Helena (5), and Antonina (4). Antonina was my grandmother. The family had two boarders living with them--Adam Bolak (Adam Bulak), my great-grandfather's brother and another boarder. The census was enumerated on 05 Jun 1900. Despite the spelling of the name, the rest of the information seems accurate. How did Antoni Bulak end up as Tony Bolak? My great-grandfather was never called Tony. My best guess is when the census taker asked his name, he no doubt responded in a heavy Polish accent with an emphasis on the second syllable.

~ Act II: 1910 Worcester, Massachusetts ~

Let's fast-forward in time. Antoni Bulak, who was Tony Bolak in 1900 Joliet, has now become Anthony Bolack in 1910 Worcester, MA. Are you still with me? You might want to take notes as there will be a quiz at the end. According to the census enumerator on 11 May 1910, Anthony Bolack (43) was living in Worcester with his wife Eva (38), daughter Helen (15), son Anthony (14), and four boarders. You noticed it too, didn't you? My grandmother Antonina has now become a son, Anthony. The years of immigration have changed for the family as well. In the 1900 census my great-grandfather is listed as immigrating in 1895 and my great-grandmother and her two daughters as immigrating in 1897. In 1910 Antoni-Tony-Anthony is listed as immigrating in 1896 and the women in 1898.

~ INTERMISSION ~


A Comedy of Errors: My Family in the Census (Part 2 of 3)