Climbing Over Rocky Mountain - Wordless Wednesday

(Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2012 Cynthia Shenette)  Gilbert and Sullivan reference aside, I have no idea where this photograph was taken.  My guess is that it was probably taken somewhere accessible via a trolley line from Worcester, Massachusetts.  I'm not sure who all the ladies in the photograph are, but I believe the woman in the white dress to the far left is my great-aunt, Helen Bulak.  My grandmother, Antonina (Bulak) Szerejko, was such a nervous person I can't imagine she was part of the group.  Maybe she was the one taking the photo from a safe spot across the way. The lady sitting looks as if she is about ready to slip off the cliff into the crevice below...

Update 4/25/12, 10:16 a.m.: I discovered the location of the photo!  The photograph was taken at Purgatory Chasm in Middletown, RI! I initially ruled out Purgatory Chasm in Massachusetts because the photo looked as if it was taken near the ocean, but I decided to search on Purgatory Chasm anyway.  I didn't realize there was a place with the same name near Newport, RI!  This is a great discovery, because I have other photos that may have been taken near the same spot!

Other Posts You Might Like:

The Rope Pull - Wordless Wednesday
Feeding the Chickens - Wordless Wednesday
Flower Girls - Wordless Wednesday
Niagara Honeymoon - Wordless Wednesday

Spring Cleaning

(Copyright (c) 2012 Cynthia Shenette) I've been feeling a bit disorganized and discombobulated as of late, so I think a little spring cleaning is in order. I'll be working on tidying up my blog over the next two or three weeks. I'm planning to check and update my links, better organize my labels, check content for inconsistencies, and reorganize my page elements and widgets. If you see things come and go at random, please bear with me during this time.  Also, while I'm in an organizing mood, I'm planning to work on organizing my den which is where I physically store my geneacrap family history archive.  It's time to move my files out of the dollar laundry baskets from Target and tackle the piles of paper that are one cracked pot short of an archaeological dig.  Hopefully I'll feel a little better, a little more organized, and more motivated to produce something of substance once the process is complete.  Thank you for your ongoing patience.

Other Posts You Might Like:

Faces of Worcester Polonia - Follow Friday
Heritage Zen Dives In: NaBloPoMo!
Tuesday's Tip: Consider Adding Links to Your Blog
2011 Favorites In Review: And The iGene Goes To...

Send Up A Flare, Again! More Mystery People Identified!

(Digital Image. Privately Held By Cynthia Shenette; Text Copyright (c) 2012 Cynthia Shenette)  Will wonders never cease?  A reader identified three more people in one of my mystery photos!  According to their great-granddaughter, Joseph Choronzak is the man seated on the left and his wife Antonina (Walat) Choronzak is the woman in the back row, second to the right. Joseph and Antonina's oldest daughter, Mary (Choronzak) Bialecki, is the little girl standing in front of Antonina.  Joseph and Antonina are the couple I wrote about in my series of posts on the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. Sadly, both husband and wife died on the same day of complications from the flu leaving seven young children orphans.  If you'd like to read more about this family please see my posts listed below:

Flu 1918 (Part 1 of 3) - Amanuensis Monday
Flu 1918 (Part 2 of 3)
Flu 1918 (Part 3 of 3)
Send Up A Flare, Mystery Bride Identified! - Mystery Monday
Choronzak - Tombstone Tuesday

I'd like to say a huge thank you to Joseph and Antonina's great-granddaughter (a.k.a. Sophie's grand-daughter) for (again) taking the time to look through my photos and helping to identify three of the people in this wedding photo.

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Catechists, Our Lady of Czestochowa - Wordless Wednesday
(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: WWI Red Cross Volunteers
Got Dissertations? - Tuesday's Tip
Meditation: The Strength of Ordinary Women

Grandma - Wordless Wednesday

(Digital Image. Photograph Privately Held By Cynthia Shenette; Text Copyright (c) 2012 Cynthia Shenette) This photo of my grandmother, Antonina (Bulak) Szerejko (1896-1990), was probably taken before her marriage, perhaps sometime around 1918 or 1919.  She was a talented seamstress so my guess is she made the dress she is wearing.  My grandmother wasn't a classic beauty, but I think she is beautiful in this photograph.

Other Posts You Might Like:

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun...
My Grandmother - Wordless Wednesday
A Comedy of Errors: My Family in the Census (Part 1 of 3)
The Rope Pull - Wordless Wednesday

Walter Chamberlain Porter, Titanic Victim - Tombstone Tuesday

(Original Images and Text, Copyright (c) 2012 Cynthia Shenette) Walter Chamberlain Porter (13 May 1865-15 Apr 1912) was a prosperous Worcester businessman who perished in the sinking of the Titanic.  He is buried at Hope Cemetery in Worcester, MA with his parents, first wife, and infant sister.

Walter C. Porter / 1865-1912

Louise D. Phillips / Wife of  / Walter C. Porter / 1865-1905

Ada L. Porter / 1859-1959

Sarah C. Chamberlain / Wife of / Samuel Porter / 1834-1865

Samuel  Porter / 1833-1904

If you would like to read about the life and death of Walter Chamberlain Porter there are three fascinating websites for you to check out here, here, and here.  The last link is particularly interesting...

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Tombstone Tuesday: Jacob Riis, Riverside Cemetery, Barre, MA
Harvey Ball and World Smile Day - Tombstone Tuesday
Cobh (Queensland), Ireland - Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Tombstone Tuesday: Frank L. Naramore, The End of a "Tragedy"

Picture Day, Circa 1927 - Wordless Wednesday

(Digital Image. Privately Held By Cynthia Shenette; Text Copyright (c) 2012 Cynthia Shenette) Class pictures have been a "rite of spring" for decades.  My mom is the first little girl on the left in the second row.  I don't know how old she is in this photo, but my guess is about six which would make her in first grade. I believe the photo was taken at the Malvern Road School in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Look at the size of the class.  Thirty-three pupils!  Wow!  I bet that teacher had her hands full!  I love the expressions on the children's faces and especially love the ties on some of the little boys.  As the mother of a boy I know the challenges of getting a boy dressed and out the door looking tidy. I swear he steps out the door and looks like a disheveled mess before he hits the stairs.  I suspect moms for decades have been saying, "Couldn't you straighten your tie and tuck in your shirt before they took the picture?"

Other Posts You Might Like:

First Communion - Mystery Monday
Mom, At the Ballet - Wordless Wednesday
Catechists, Our Lady of Czestochowa - Wordless Wednesday
Post World War II "Care" Packages - Amanuensis Monday

The Opal Ring

Auntie Helen wearing the opal ring in 1920
(Digital Image. Privately Held by Cynthia Shenette; Text Copyright (c) 2012 Cynthia Shenette)

Sometimes it's hard to think of our ancestors in terms of being people, or at least people different in any way from the way that we knew them. My great-aunt Helen Bulak was one of those people.  Aunt Helen always seemed like a fussy old lady to me, or as my mom said, "Sometimes Auntie can be a real noodge..."  It's hard to think that she might have ever been different.

My grandmother said when they were little, my Aunt Helen was the "pretty one." Helen was prettier and chubbier which was high praise back in the day when chubbiness was indicative of a healthy constitution. Helen was also popular.  According to my grandmother Helen was "...a bridesmaid for all the weddings."  I have dozens photos of Aunt Helen dressed as a bridesmaid.  Sometimes she's pictured with a young man (always a different young man) and sometimes as part of a larger wedding party.  As they saying goes, "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride."

While Aunt Helen never married she did become an astute business woman, operating what began as a millinery and dry goods shop, for decades on Millbury St. in Worcester.  She was never rich but definitely was well-to-do, traveling to Poland in 1937 when most people, my grandparents included, were struggling through the Great Depression.  Helen became a leader in the Worcester Polish business community and later worked to assist Polish DPs in coming to the States after the war.  When Auntie Helen retired in 1973 she had been in business for 55 years.

Besides being a fussy, old lady (at least in my young eyes) the other thing I remember about Auntie Helen was that she always wore a large opal ring on one hand.  Always.  Opal was her birthstone.  It is a pretty gold ring with a large opal in the center and two tiny diamonds on either side.  My mom told me that a young man gave the ring to her when she was young.  Apparently she fell in love with this young man when she was fifteen.  Unfortunately for her he was twenty-five.  The young man asked her to marry him, but her mother was against it.  He was ten years older, and he wanted her to go back to Poland with him after they were married.  The relationship ended. He returned to Poland, and Helen never saw him again.  Before he left he gave her the opal ring.  When I asked my mother what happened to the young man she told me, "He died in one of the wars."  My mom told me Helen never forgave her mother for ending the relationship.

Over the last two years I've been working through a box of some 70 or 80 letters and postcards sent from family in Poland.  I scan the letters or postcards and send them to my cousin Marek who translates them from Polish into English and returns the translation to me via e-mail.  Last year I scanned and sent a postcard.  Imagine my surprise when I received the following translation:

[Date stamped 1913]

Dear Helenko,

I wonder very presently how much is your health miss, myself even though everything is good here I continue to think about you and my future [?]

The business I'm currently working at [?] came back to [?] because

I'm not happy here, yours Wacek.

Farewell and please answer me at least a few words.

Please greet the parents.

A poem was also written on the card:

Yes, there are names that are not forgotten
still above the tearful heart will circulate

still continue to open healed wound
until the crystal tears sit in it.

I also have another postcard from Wacek with similar sentiments which was sent in 1912.  The postal stamp indicates the postcard was sent from Lublin, so I know Wacek left America at least by the end of 1912.  Helen would have been eighteen in October of 1912.

How would both of their lives been different if they had married?  Would they have been happy?  Would they both have been killed in a war?  

It's so easy to forget our ancestors were living, breathing people with hopes and dreams for the future.  What were Helen and Wacek's  dreams? When I look at Helen's bridesmaid photos and see a young man standing with Helen I wonder, was he the one?  Is that Wacek?  Would Helen have turned out a different person if she had taken a different path in life?  I'll never know.  One thing I do know.  She wore the opal ring for the rest of her life...

Special Thanks: To my cousin Marek for his translation of the postcard.

Submitted for the 116th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy.

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Chopin Rising
Photo Story: Auntie Helen's 1937 Trip to Poland
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Flu 1918 (Part 1 of 3) - Amanuensis Monday