The Life of a Laundress: Steam Laundry Work in 1908

(Copyright (c) 2015 Cynthia Shenette) One of my tasks at my library job is to put away closed stack material.  I love it, because I often find interesting stuff that I would never come across otherwise.  Last week I was putting away some closed stack material and came across a volume of the journal Charities, published by The Charity Organization Society, 105 East 22nd St., New York, NY.  Charities was published from 1897-1952 with several name changes over the course of its publication. 

The volume that I looked at had sections on a number of different topics I think might be of interest to genealogists and family historians.  Topics included articles on the following: civic improvement; child labor; communications and conferences; "defectives" and dependents; delinquents; housing; immigration; industrial education; juvenile courts and probation; milk; organized charity; play, playgrounds, and parks; saloons and prohibition; schools; schools of philanthropy; settlements; social forces; tuberculosis; and unemployment. 

While there were a number of articles that I found interesting one in particular caught my eye. "Pittsburgh's Steam Laundry Workers" by Elizabeth Beardsley Butler.  My grandfather's sister, Lena (Chenette / Shenette) Potvin (1882-1961) spent time working in a steam laundry in Worcester, MA from 1909 to 1913.  While the article I read in Charities was specific to Pittsburgh, I'm sure many things about the Pittsburgh article also applied to the way steam laundries were run outside of Pittsburgh as well.

"The modern steam laundry is the latest instance of the routing of a home industry."

Laundry was, as it still is, a constant of everyday life.  Commercial laundries processed laundry from hotels and factories, from railroads and from private homes, with the majority of laundry workers being women. Most laundry workers were young and unskilled and the ones who flourished in the laundry business, if one could possibly flourish in such an environment, had a knack for speed within their assigned task.

Steam laundries had several departments--checking and sorting, washing, mangling, starching, and ironing.  The working conditions varied from department to department, and differences in mental and physical demands called for differences in personnel.

Checkers received a batch of linens and marked each article with the owner's name and sorted into baskets items to be washed separately--colored goods, flat work, shirts, collars, fancy articles, etc. Checkers were the lucky ones in a commercial steam laundry environment.  The job was easier, and they were able to dress better because they didn't need to slave over hot, steamy laundry all day.  A checker was considered to be an "aristocrat" among laundry workers.

"At the preliminary processes of washing, mangling, and starching, place is found for the beginners and the girls of the lowest grade."

The washroom was generally the men's part of the laundry.  Strong men were needed to operate the washing machines which were huge cylinders full of hot water and steaming clothes, though some women were used in the washing room for pieces better done by hand, such as flannel.  Laundry was put in extractors which twisted the clothes and flung the water out of the wet material by centrifugal force, then garments were moved into trucks and wheeled to metal wringers.

Before laundry could be fed into the mangle "shakers-out" untwisted and unknotted the laundry to be fed into the mangle.  Shakers-out tended to be new female workers, young girls, and older women not physically capable of other jobs.  Once the laundry was shaken out, feeders stood at one end of the mangle and pushed the flat goods over the metal apron until the rolls caught them.  Steam heat heated the metal mangle rolls.  

Feeders had the most dangerous job.  By 1908 the mangle had a "guard," small rolls that were hot at the beginning of the mangle to catch the feeder's attention before the feeder's hand was caught in the mangle.  In the past hands and arms were caught, crushed, and maimed in the mangle. Sometimes several girls were needed to feed larger pieces of cloth into the mangle.  Mangle girls were the youngest as the work required the least amount of training.  As a result the pay rates for mangle girls were the lowest.

In the starching room trays of boiling starch were ready for collars, cuffs, and anything else that needed to be starched.  There were three groups of machines--a collar starcher, a shirt bosom starcher, and a band starcher.  The collar girl fed collars or cuffs into the machine that carried the linen by a conyeyor to make contact with rolls immersed in hot starch.  Wipers wiped in starch with their hands.  The starch room machines were largely automatic, with little skill or experience needed.

"No American can stand this.  We have to use Hungarians or other foreigners."

In the ironing room there were long rows of machines.  Each girl was a specialist at her own machine.  She did not iron a whole article, instead she ironed a sleeve or a cuff or a yoke, or perhaps one side of a collar.  There were two different kinds of machines--steam presses and rolls.  A "body ironer" was so difficult one man said he would not hire a girl for the body ironer unless she weighed 180lbs because of the strength and size needed to operate the machine.  With the cuff press machine the whole body of the girl shook with the force she needed to use the machine.  Cuff pressers ironed at the rate of three cuffs a minute which meant twelve of the violent motions each minute for a total of 7,200 treadle pressures a day.  Fancy ironer's worked almost exclusively in women's wear.

"The work's too hard, and you simply can't stand the heat."

Most workers didn't last in a commercial laundry too long.  The emphasis was on speed.  Washroom floors were wet.  Gutters ran under the washing machines to carry off waste, but water still could stand in pools where the floor had sunk in places. There were clouds of steam, inadequate ventilation, and the heat was intolerable, with steam rising from the boilers ten hours a day.  Windows were small, ceilings were low, and fans were few.  In Pittsburgh women made a dollar a day for a ten hour work day.  Laundry owners preferred hiring women, because they could hire two women for the same money they would spend on one man.  Laundry workers had a tendency to get tuberculosis.  All in all, workers generally didn't last long in the industry, four years on average though many didn't make it to two.

So tonight when you go home and decide to toss a load of laundry in before bed, don't complain about having to haul your laundry up and down from the basement or wherever your washer and dryer are located.  Think about how easy you have it compared to your ancestors.  Thankfully, for my dad's Aunt Lena she didn't work in the laundry business all that long.  Eventually, Lena married Joseph Potvin and moved to St. Albans, VT where she operated a beauty shop.  While it probably wasn't exactly picnic cutting ladies' hair and giving perms all day every day, I bet it was still a lot easier than her time working as a "laundress."

Source: Butler, Elizabeth Beardsly. "Pittsburgh's Steam Laundry Workers,"  Charities, 20 (1908): 549-63.

Other Posts You Might Like:

Business Profile: Helen's, 39/41 Millbury St., Worcester, MA
Four Wives and 24 Children: A Demographic Study
Reflecting on My American Experience this Thanksgiving
PhotoStory: Dad and a Mystery Solved

Tumbleweed Guest Ranch, 1945

"The one + only snap
Film shortage"
Helene (Szerejko) Dingle, second on the right; Christine (Szerejko) Shenette, far right
Mason Halstead?, fourth from the right

(Digital Images. Photographs Privately Held by Cynthia Shenette; Photographs and Text, Copyright (c) 2015 Cynthia Shenette)  Well, Dear Reader, it's the time of year when the hot days of late summer end in cool nights, and a chorus of crickets sing their nightly song of summer's end.  And once again it's time for our annual visit to the Tumbleweed Guest Ranch.

Two years ago I wrote about finding my mother's vacation album from the 1940s.  A large part of my mom's album was devoted to summer vacations spent at the Tumbleweed Guest Ranch in Westkill, New York.  Mom and her sister, Helene, vacationed at Tumbleweed during the war years of 1943, 1944, and 1945.  I'm grateful my mom and her sister took the time to write captions to all of the photos in the album, and unlike 1943 and 1944 when she and her sister took dozens of photos, 1945 only yielded one snap due to a wartime film shortage. Still, one photo is better than none.

Why did Mom and Helene stop going to Tumbleweed?  Who knows.  I suspect that after World War II other vacation opportunities simply presented themselves.  Rationing was lifted; gas and tires were no longer in short supply. In general, Americans were ready for a change and vacationers were now able to travel farther afield by car or bus or train, or even plane.  For the post World War II traveler the world was a smaller place.

While dude or guest ranches existed before and after, their popularity peaked between the 1920s and the 1950s.  Dude ranch started out west, but the idea caught on back east, and dude ranches started popping up in the Catskills, Adirondacks, the Poconos, and the Berkshires.  There is a great website on the evolution of the eastern dude ranch, Eastward, Ho!  by Emily Zimmerman, and Emily's website has a great "works consulted" page if you are looking for more sources of information on dude ranches in the east.

Mom, dressing the part
(Tumbleweed, 1944)
I also found dozens of articles on dude or guest ranches, as they were sometimes called, indexed in the Reader's Guide Retrospective database which indexes popular general interest periodicals, 1890-1982.  I found articles in Ladies Home Journal, Travel, Independent Woman, Better Homes and Gardens, and even the Catholic Digest.  The New York Times Historical Archive, 1851-2009, the Old Fulton Postcards database, and GenealogyBank were also great sources for newspaper articles and advertisements about dude ranches in general, and Tumbleweed in particular.

My favorite article, "Dressing the Dude," from the May 1, 1936 issue of Vogue, encourages dudettes, as the lady dudes were often called, not to dress like a "Madison Square trick-roper, nor like a Long Island horsewoman."  When packing for a visit to a dude ranch dudettes should consider packing the following as part of their wardrobe: blue jeans, boy's or men's type cotton and lightweight flannel or woolen shirts, a leather jacket, practical underwear, lisle or wool socks high enough to come above boot tops, silk neckerchiefs, riding gloves, and most importantly Western boots and a Stetson hat "both of which should certainly be purchased out West." Evening clothes were appropriate depending on the ranch visited, a "simple evening gown" should suffice.

I ordered several articles through interlibrary loan from The Dude Rancher, the journal of the Dude Ranchers Association, which was published from 1932 to 1965.  One article from 1954 discussed the important traits for a "Model Dude Rancher."  He "...must be a man of charm, warmth and agility. He must be terrific with his feminine guests but not quite so terrific as to get dirty looks from his own wife."  He must also, " a ladies' man, a man's man, a prince of a good fellow; a Democrat, a Republican, a new dealer, an old dealer, a fast dealer; an authority on women, the weather, wildlife, game fish and fowl; an expert on horses, cows, cats, dogs, sheep, brunettes, blondes, redheads and wild flowers."  His wife on the other hand "...must be at all times be tolerant and sweet.  Every week is 'Be Kind to Visitors Week' on a dude ranch, so she must have the tact of Pricilla, the patience of Ghandi, the tranquility of Socrates and the endurance of Eleanor."  Sounds like a tall order for both the Mr. and the Mrs.

Jack Franks, owner of Tumbleweed (1943)
According to a 1941 article with the title "Dude Ranch Horses" in The Cattleman, dude ranch horses are "...horses of all sizes and types suitable for 'dudes' to ride in range or mountain country...When I say safe, I mean safe, not for just a good rider but a dude ranch horse has to be as safe as it is possible to make one for all kinds of riders under a wide variety of circumstances."  The author also comments on seeing "everything imaginable" tied to saddle horses, "...from  large bundlesome cameras to portable radios, elk antlers...and shovels, axes, etc..."

An article from a 1959 issue of Travel magazine all about "New York's Dude Ranches" declare's "Reasonable prices, informality and accessibility from all points by any mode of travel are key selling points of ranches in this region, and most of the reported full or near-full capacities last year during July and August." Daily rates for one resort were $10.00 per person a day for a comfortable room and three meals served ranch style, horseback riding, swimming, boating, and free use of all recreational facilities."  The article also points out that horseback riding is a tremendous bonus as some regular resorts "...charge upward from $2.00 per hour for use of horses" which probably made Tumbleweed's motto "No time clock on our horses tails" so appealing.  Many ranches also entertained guests with rodeos and square dances, and pack trips were the norm.

I'm one of those people who always wants to know more about whatever I am researching, and if you are too I strongly suggest that you not overlook magazine articles.  While the articles will most likely not be specific to your ancestor, they are still a great source for fleshing out a topic and putting your ancestor's life in context.  I love the Reader's Guide Retrospective, because I can search for articles that are specific or within a few years of the time period I am researching, like articles about dude ranches published in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s.  Many libraries offer access to Reader's Guide, so be sure to inquire at your library.  Locally, the Boston Public Library offers remote access to Reader's Guide, and you can apply for an e-card if you live or go to school in Massachusetts.

I'm amazed that my Tumbleweed posts have generated such interest from my readers over the years. My Tumbleweed posts have been among my most heavy hitters.  I've been contacted by people who remember Tumbleweed, who lived and worked at Tumbleweed, and members of the families that owned Tumbleweed.  If you have memories to share about Tumbleweed I'd love to hear from you.

Well, it's time to settle in for one last campfire.  My nose is twitching from the wood smoke, and those crickets are at it again. Twilight is upon us; the sky is awash in pink and purple as the sun sinks slowly into the West.  It's time to say our goodbyes.

Happy trails, friends.  Until we meet again.

Other Posts You Might Like:

Tumbleweed Guest Ranch, 1944
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun...
The Rope Pull - Wordless Wednesday
Chopin Rising

Extra! Extra! Finding Info in Unindexed Newspapers - Tuesday's Tip

Paper Boy clip art
(Copyright (c) 2015 Cynthia Shenette) One of my ongoing frustrations and difficulties is in finding family history and genealogy information in unindexed newspapers.  Thank goodness for existing newspaper databases like GenealogyBank, Old Fulton Postcards, and Chronicling America that provide searchable access to newspapers.  Unfortunately, many newspapers still do not have sufficient electronic access which is the case with my local newspaper, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.  While the Telegram is indexed online indexing doesn't start until 1989 leaving a major gap in coverage from the beginning of publication (1884 for the Sunday edition and 1886 for the daily) until 1989.

My grandmother was a saver and clipped every newspaper article that came her way--marriages, graduations, performances, retirements--but I'm sure there is plenty of stuff that she missed.  I'm also sure there were plenty of things that didn't occur to her to clip.  I am convinced there is a treasure trove of family history information in the Telegram in the years prior to 1989.  But how to find it?  I've come up with a few techniques that sometimes help in locating information.

Start with the Date of an Event, and Look at the Newspapers Before and After the Event

I think most genealogists are familiar with scrolling through microfilm looking for family obits.  I use the same technique when for looking for information about performances and events.  Last year I wrote a post about a program I have from a 1926 dance recital.  After my post I decided to try to see if I could find some information about Miss Mae Gleeson's dance recital in the newspaper.  I used the date on the program, May 12, 1926 and scrolled through the microfilm of the Telegram for the days around the date of the recital.  Clearly, May was recital month in Worcester in 1926.  I found numerous articles on recitals.  I scrolled through the microfilm for the days before the recital and the day after.  The day after the recital I found a short article about the event!

Learn the History of an Event, and Place Your Family In Context Within the Bigger Picture

According to a family story my grandmother adopted sister's parents both died the same day during the 1918 flu pandemic, leaving my grandmother's adopted sister, my "Aunt Rose" and several siblings orphaned.  I did a little research online and discovered that the majority of flu deaths in Massachusetts occurred during the fall of 1918.  Armed with that knowledge I decided to use the October 1, 1918 issue of the Telegram as a starting place for my research.  I could go back to the September issues or forward to the November issues from there if need be.  I figured if two parents died on the same day and left several children orphaned that might be newsworthy.  I started scrolling through the October issues of the newspaper--I didn't have to scroll long.  On page six of the Telegram for October 1, 1918 I found the story I was looking for.

Check to See if Your Public Library Has a Vertical File or a Clipping File

I am fortunate in that the Worcester Public Library has incredible clipping files.  Does your public library have a vertical file?  While the more recent issues of the Worcester Telegram are the only ones indexed online the clipping files provide some newspaper coverage prior to 1989.  A while back I was trying to find out when St. Mary's School opened, and there was a file on Our Lady of Czestochowa (St. Mary's) in the church section of the Worcester files which led me to an approximate date in the Telegram. From there I was able to scroll through the microfilm for additional information. I also discovered there was a file on my Aunt Rose's business, Cadet Industries.  You never know what you might find, so it behooves you to take a look.

A Database Might Lead You Back to Your Unindexed Hometown Newspaper

I have access to the Boston Globe Historical Archive (1872-1982) through work.  A few weeks ago I decided to do a search on a person involved in a crime in Worcester.  I didn't know exactly when the crime or the court case took place, other than it probably took place sometime in the 1920s.  To my surprise the criminal's name came up in the Globe archive.  I used the date given in the Globe article to find an article in the microfilm around the same date in the Telegram.  I discovered the person was sentenced to seven to 10 years in state prison.  Now I can do further research into criminal records related to the case.  

Don't Assume Your Family Didn't Make News in Other Parts of the Country

We all know what happens when we assume....  

I have GenealogyBank which I love.  When I first started subscribing I searched on Szerejko which is a fairly unique name.  I was surprised to discover my grandmother was mentioned in the Boston Daily Record, the Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), and the Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield, Illinois).  My grandmother witnessed a plane crash in our neighborhood in 1957, and newspapers across the country carried the story. I had completely forgotten about my grandmother's plane crash story until I saw the articles in GenealogyBank.  I was able to get the date from the GenealogyBank articles and search the microfilm of the Telegram for the same date.

Use a Database from a Neighboring Geographic Area

I was looking for information on the Tumbleweed Guest Ranch in West Kill, New York for background info for my post, Tumbleweed Guest Ranch, August 1943.  Since the ranch was in New York, I decided to search Old Fulton Postcards, a newspaper database, to see if I could find info on the ranch.  I found the info I was looking for, and I also found advertisements for the ranch.  I decided to use some of the wording that appeared in the advertisements to see if I could find the same advertisement in other newspaper databases, and voila, I did!  The same advertisement appeared in other newspapers along the East Coast--in Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey.  I wondered how my mom found out about Tumbleweed, given it was located in the Catskills.  Now that I know the dates the advertisement ran in other papers I bet I could go to my local paper, check the same dates, and find a Tumbleweed advertisement in the Worcester Telegram.

Know Which Way Your Local Newspaper Leans

Is there more than one newspaper in town?  If yes, which way does each paper lean? Right or left?  Blue collar or white collar?  Worcester currently only has one daily paper, but it use to have more than one. Back in the day the Worcester Telegram was more the white collar workers' paper (i.e. the paper for the people who owned or ran the factories).  The Worcester Post which is no longer published was the blue collar workers' paper (i.e. the paper for the people who worked in the factories).  I was looking for information on when my grandfather left for camp to be shipped overseas during World War I.  I looked in the Worcester Telegram, and there were general articles talking about young men leaving for war.  When I looked in the Post there were multiple lists of the names of young men heading off to war!  It's important to know what newspaper your ancestors were reading at the time they were alive.

If you haven't tried some of these newspaper search techniques already I hope you do.  While newspaper databases are a great source of information, don't forget or neglect to check those unindexed newspapers as well. Searching them takes a little more time and effort, but the rewards are great and may provide that one tidbit of information that you can't find anywhere else.  

If you have any special techniques for searching unindexed newspapers I'd love to hear from you. Or if  you've written your own blog post about how a particular technique has worked for you feel free to link to your post in the comments section below.

Happy searching!

Other Posts You Might Like:

Reading the Classifieds - Amanuensis Monday
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun...
Visiting the Tenement Museum in NYC - Follow Friday
Picnic! - Wordless Wednesday

James Lea, Cracker Barrel, and Me - Mystery Monday

(Photographs and Text, Copyright (c) 2015 Cynthia Shenette) A couple of weeks ago my family and I had a late breakfast at the Cracker Barrel restaurant in Sturbridge, MA.  My son had a soccer game in Brimfield, so we figured we'd stop to eat on our way home.  After our meals were getting ready to leave, and I noticed a framed diploma on the wall.  

The name on the diploma was for a James Lea who graduated from Warren High School in Warren, Ohio on 7 June 1928.  How did James Lea's diploma end up on a wall in a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Massachusetts, some 550 plus miles and 87 years later? 

I did a quick search, and according to a James D. Lea was born on 27 or 28 October 1910 in Warren, Trumbull County, Ohio and died on 2 July 2002 in Columbiana, Mahoning County, Ohio.  A James Lea is listed as part of the 1926 sophomore class in a yearbook photo from the Warren G. Harding High School in Warren, Ohio.  The diploma is signed by H. B. Turner, Superintendent of Schools, J.W. Davis, Principal, as well as R. G. Ingersoll, H. S. McKibben, Lynn B. Dana, and A.L. Button, of the Board of Education.

If you knew James Lea I'd  love to hear from you.  I'd love to know how his diploma ended up as wall decor in a Cracker Barrel in Sturbridge, MA.  Or as radio broadcaster Paul Harvey use to say, I want to know "the rest of the story."

Other Posts You Might Like:

The Worcester Tornado, June 9, 1953 - Those Places Thursday
A Picnic and a Surprise - Wordless Wednesday
Leokadia (Szymanska) and Feliks Szerejko - Wordless Wednesday
Wordless Wednesday: Warsaw Wedding

St. Mary's School (Worcester, MA) Fundraiser - Treasure Chest Thursday

Dochod Szkoly
11 Kwientnia 1926 roku
Prosimy o poparcice wszystkie firmy oglaszajace sie w programie.

Benefit of the School
11 April 1926
Please support all businesses advertising in this program.

(Copyright (c) 2015 Cynthia Shenette) I know my grandparents, Antonina (Bulak) Szerejko and Adolf Szerejko, were involved with amateur theatricals at their church.  Here is a program from one that appears to have been a fundraiser for the St. Mary's School, the parish school for St. Mary's Church (now Our Lady of Czestochowa), in Worcester.  The fundraiser was held 11 April 1926.  I recognize some of the names of the performers on the program, obviously those of my grandparents Adolf and Antonina Szerejko, my grandmother's cousin Sophie (Kowalewski) Konopka, and my grandfather's best friend Chester W. Janowski.  I also recognize some of the other last names on the program from the old Vernon Hill neighborhood.  

According to a newspaper clipping from a 1923 performance, my grandfather use to perform as a magician, and his magic act was first in the program on this particular April night in 1926.  My grandmother, who had a lovely singing voice, sang and is listed as performing in a couple of the skits, no doubt playing the comic roles she so enjoyed.  The 1923 newspaper article mentions Chester Janowski was a musician and played the accordion.  On this program he plays the harmonica after my grandfather's magic act.

One of the things I love about researching my family history is it's like putting the pieces of a puzzle together.  I like finding something like this program and consider it as one small piece in a bigger puzzle.  How does this piece relate to the other pieces in my collection?

The ads in this program are interesting in and of themselves.  If you look closely you can see handwritten notes on the program with what appear to be dollar amounts.  My guess is someone was recording the dollar amounts for the ads in the program.  There is an ad for my aunt Helen Bulak's dry goods business, Bulak and Pomianowska on Millbury Street, in the program.  The pencil notation looks as if she paid $2.00 to place her ad in the program.

I like looking at the individual ads and am in the process of trying to translate the text which will be the focus of another blog post.  I also like what the ads say as a whole.  The program kind of gives me a little peek into the Millbury St. business community. In a related project I am working on mapping the Millbury St. business community as it existed in 1926. While that might initially seem a bit unrelated to my specific family, it does provide some insight on what daily life was like in their little world at the time.

Please be kind regarding my translations.  I used a combination of Google Translate and Polish / English dictionaries, plus I tried to figure out what seemed to make the most sense.  If you recognize any of the names in the program I'd love to hear from you.  My plan is to do another post at some point about the ads and the 1926 Millbury St. mapping project I've been working on.  I also hope to post a translation of the script I have for the "Ostatnie dwa Ruble" or "The Last Two Rubles."

Enjoy the show!


PROGRAM [Left page]

Sztuki magiczne - A. Szerejko
Harmonija Solo - C.W. Janowski

PROGRAM [Left page]

Magical Arts - A[dolf]. Szerejko
Harmonica Solo - C[hester]. W. Janowski

PROGRAM [Right page]
Edward Nowozenski - A. Popko
Mary, jego zona - A. Kulesza
Rateklusia, panna sluzaca - Z. Kowalewska
4) Spiew Solo - L. Slotwinski

PROGRAM [Right page]
Edward Nowozenski - A. Popko
Mary, his wife - A. Kulesza
Rateklusia, maid - Z[ofia]. Kowalewska
4) Singing Solo - L. Slotwinski

PROGRAM [Right page]
8) dwa spiewy i muzyka ?
Akompanjament do spiewu A. Kiernozek

PROGRAM [Right page]
8) two songs and music ?
Accompanist to singing A. Kiernozek

PROGRAM [Left page]
5) "Goscie z Ogloszenia"

Lewicki, kupiec - H. Butkiewicz
Anna, jego zona - A. Kiernozek
Irena, icn corka - Z. Kowalewska
Piotr Bomba, wiesniak - C.W. Janowski
Barbara, jego zona - A. Szerejko
Waclaw Molski, buchalter - L. Slotwinski
Jan, sluzacy Lewickiego - A. Popko

PROGRAM [Left page]
5) " Guest of the Announcement"

Lewicki, merchant - H. Butkiewicz
Anna, his wife - A. Kiernozek
Irena, daughter - Z[ofia]. Kowalewska
Piotr Bomba, a villager - C[hester]. W. Janowski
Barbara, his wife - A[ntonina]. Szerejko
Waclaw Molski, bookeeper - L. Slotwinski
Jan, the servant of Lewicki - A. Popko

PROGRAM [Right page]
6) Spiew, Solo - Z. Kowalewska
Golnicki, student - A. Szerejko
Zdziebko, jego sluzacy - C. W. Janowski
Mama sluzaca wl. domu - A. Szerejko

PROGRAM [Right page]
6) Singing, Solo - Z[ofia]. Kowalewska
Golnicki, student - A[dolf]. Szerejko
Zdziebko, his servant - C[hester].W. Janowski
Mama maidservant at home - A[ntonina]. Szerejko

PROGRAM [Left page]
Udzial w spiewie

Z. Kowalewska         C. Janowski
  A. Kulesza                L. Slotwinski
    A. Szerejko               H. Budkiewicz
                              A. Popko 
                                A. Szerejko

PROGRAM [Left page]
Group singing

Z[ofia]. Kowalewska           C[hester]. Janowski
A. Kulesza                   L. Slotwinski 
A[ntonina]. Szerejko     H. Budkiewicz
                              A. Popko
                                           A[dolf]. Szerejko

Other Posts You Might Like:

A Matter of Habit: Solving a Mystery
Celebrating Spring - Wordless Wednesday
A Window in Time, April 11, 1940
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun...

Presenter Interview: Lisa Louise Cooke, Genealogy Gems

(Copyright (c) 2015 Cynthia Shenette) I had the opportunity to interview Lisa Louise Cooke, the owner of the Genealogy Gems genealogy and family history multimedia company.  She is the producer and host of the Genealogy Gems Podcast, a frequent speaker and the author of four books--Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy Powerhouse, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers, The Genealogist's Google Toolbox, and Genealogy Gems: Ultimate Research Strategies.  

Lisa will present "How to Use Evernote for Genealogy," "Mastering Using Google for Common Surname Searches," and "The Google Earth Genealogy Game Show" at the New England Regional Genealogy Conference.  NEGRC will be held at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence, RI on April 15-18, 2015.

Why and when did you become interested in genealogy?

I was an early bloomer, catching the bug when I was about 8 years old. I stumbled across some old photo albums at my Grandmother’s house that contained old black and white photos of people I didn’t recognize. I asked her about it, and we were off and running. I was the only kid in my class using her allowance to buy death certificates!

What do you do to prepare for a Genealogy Gems podcast?

Podcasting is about 10% recording and 90% preparation and post production. Every day I scour the web for anything I think will help my listeners have greater success in their family history journey. I’m also constantly networking and interviewing experts, and most importantly spending time on my listener emails so I can keep my finger on the pulse of what’s important to them. And I LOVE sharing their ideas and comments on the show.

What is your favorite "traditional" genealogy source?

I would have to say the census, simply because it is the backbone of going back in time. It’s such a rich source and is particularly exciting for folks new to genealogy because they can make quick progress with it. I especially enjoy the British census records which were often and written by our ancestor!

Do you have a special tip or trick for finding family history information in newspapers?

One of my favorite strategies that has been paying off big lately is searching for addresses. I talked about this in depth recently in Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode #174. After hitting a goldmine of articles in the British Newspaper Archive on my husband’s family, I switched gears from names and focused on addresses. Two of my most exciting finds: Great Grandfather Cooke’s home listed for sale in the classifieds just before they bought it featuring a thorough description of the property (the house, the gardens, the neighborhood), and an auction, also listed in the classifieds, several years later stating that the owner was “going abroad” and listing all of their household possessions! The newspaper clippings provided a look into their personal world that I could have not obtained any other way.

What is your favorite tech tool for genealogy/family history research?

That’s a hard one to answer. The overarching answer is the tech tool that fits the question at hand. But if I had to pick, I think it would be Google Earth because it combines location with time frame. And it supports our work from a variety of angles: search, research analysis, and storytelling. I could talk about it for hours. How much time do you have?

What one tool do you think every genealogist should have in his or her technology toolbox?

If we are talking hardware, then I would have to say a smartphone and/or tablet. These little computers in our pockets make it a breeze to snap photos, shoot video, capture document images, record interviews with relatives, translate and magnify documents, organize and carry all our research notes, and the list goes on and on. It’s all about mobile these days. The key is to invest a bit of time getting to know your device and how it works and then adding on the apps that get jobs done. I’ll be covering that in depth in my class ["How to Turn your iPad or Tablet into a Genealogy Powerhouse"] at the conference on Wednesday morning.

Is there a technology tool you would like to explore more in depth in the near future?

My passion these days is data visualization. Technology is making it possible to see our data and research in new and exciting ways, opening up opportunities for analysis we’ve never done before. I think I need to give up sleeping to invest the time I would like to in this field!

Who is your favorite ancestor and why?

It’s a hard question to answer because it depends how we define favorite. There are those I find likable and affable. There are those who I admire for their sheer grit and determination. And then there are those who have guided me, sometimes with a hand I swear I can feel on my shoulder or whisper in my ear, that I thank every day for leading me to exciting breakthroughs and the opportunity to reintroduce them to this current generation of our family. My Great Grandmother Lenora Herring is one of those ancestors. You can hear her story and how she guided me in Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode #39.

Have you experienced frustration in researching a particular "brick-wall" ancestor in your personal genealogy?

Yes, just like everyone else I have brick-walls. Probably the one that weighs on me the most is my Great Grandfather Sporowski’s family. He was born in Kotten, East Prussia in 1881 according to his naturalization papers. His wife was born not terribly far away, and I have found all the church records for her family several generations back. But I have come up with nothing for Kotten. I believe it was a small village and that it was located in what was Kreis Johannisburg, but so far dead ends for records from that time period. Just talking about it makes me want to jump back into the search! It’s been a few years since I really sat down and devoted hours to it. Genealogy Gems and traveling keeps me pretty busy these days.

What do you do in your spare time?  Do you have any hobbies?

It might be shorter to list what is not one of my hobbies. I enjoy playing music (piano, guitar and ukulele), swimming, shooting, sewing, decorating, decorative painting, old movies, canning, gardening, cake decorating, knitting…but most of all spending time with family, particularly my grandkids.

Do you have any upcoming projects or books you would like to talk about?

I always have irons in the fire. Some are too early to talk about publicly, but I can say that we have created a new small sound studio where we’ll be filming new content very soon for the Genealogy Gems YouTube Channel, and for Genealogy Gems Premium Members on our website. I’m very excited about that! You will also see a new book from me by the end of the year. Our free weekly newsletter is the best way to stay abreast of what’s coming up. You can sign up on our website’s homepage. I would love to stay in touch with all the genealogists from NERGC 2015.

If you would like more information on Lisa Louise Cooke check out her website, Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems, or listen to her Genealogy Gems Podcast for "nuggets of inspiration and innovation."

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Meditation: The Strength of Ordinary Women
A Comedy of Errors: My Family in the Census (Part 1 of 3)
More than Meets the Eye - Tuesday's Tip
Analyzing A Photo: The Holiday Party

My Fifth Blogiversary (Yes, I'm Still Here)

(Copyright (c) 2015 Cynthia Shenette) Wow.  Five years.  Where has the time gone?  My, how blogging has changed.  How I've changed. How my blogging has changed.  The blogosphere is a different place than it was five years ago. I started blogging a couple of years after my mom died as a way of keeping the flame alive, remembering those I've lost.  Five years ago I had time.  Now I have everything but.

Last July I went back to work full-time as an academic librarian.  I LOVE my new job, buts sometimes it's very demanding and some days downright exhausting.  I volunteer at my church, and I'm a docent for a local historic preservation society.  I'm an obsessive gardener in the summer and crochet and read in the winter.  I have too many animals to care for, and I've started taking piano lessons.  I help with homework and tote my son back and forth from soccer.  One of my co-workers said there is a rumor at the library that I don't sleep.  And I do genealogy in my spare time. Spare time?  What's that?

But I blog on.  Why?  Because the rewards are too great.  I make connections with other people all the time.  People read a blog post I've written where I mention the name of someone in my family, an ancestor, or someone they knew.  And they contact me.  It's amazing really.  Blogging forces me to delve into one small piece of my research.  I have so much.  It keeps me focused.

Last year my goal was to blog once a month, or write 12 blog posts a year. I almost made it.  But not quite.  Ten, not 12.  C'est la vie.  I need to let it go and move on.  But it still bugs me none the less.  I managed to write ten. Why couldn't I manage 12?  My goal is the same this year.  Twelve posts. That shouldn't be so hard.  Should it?

Thank you, friends, for reading.  For sticking with me.  I know my blog is pretty narrow in focus and not everyone's cup of tea, but if you've taken the time to read my posts, leave a comment, or contact me sometime over the last five years I appreciate it.

So here we are.  Blog on, my friends.  Blog on.

Other Posts You Might Like:

Oh, The Places I'll Go! Or My Fourth Blogiversary
Meditation: The Strength of Ordinary Women
Presenter Interview: Colleen Fitzpatrick, Forensic Genealogist
Tumbleweed Guest Ranch, 1944

Ninety Five Years Ago Today - Wedding Wednesday

Standing, Left to Right: Chester Janowski, Adolf Szerejko, Antonina (Bulak) Szerejko
Sitting: Helen Bulak

(Digital Image. Photograph Privately Held by by Cynthia Shenette. Text Copyright (c) 2015 Cynthia Shenette)  My grandparents, Antonina (Bulak) Szerejko and Adolf Szerejko, were married 95 years ago today on 11 February 1920 at Our Lady of Czestochowa (St. Mary's) in Worcester, Massachusetts.  I've written previous posts about their wedding here and here and here.

My cousin sent this photo to me last year.  While I have wedding photos of my grandparents only my grandmother and my grandfather are in them not any members of the wedding party.  I guessed that my great Aunt Helen Bulak, my grandmother's sister and only sibling, was probably her maid of honor, but I didn't know for sure. This photo confirms what I suspected, that Aunt Helen was indeed my grandmother's and provides a bit more information.

Writing on the back of the photo says:

 "Chester Janowski Dad's best friend
Auntie Helen
Mom & Dad"

I had no idea who my grandfather's best friend was.  Now I do!  It's amazing how one seemingly small piece of information can add significantly to your knowledge base.

Chester Janowski is mentioned in a few other pieces of paper in my collection of family history stuff, so now I can start putting pieces of a new puzzle together.  I also now know what he looks like so I can see if I can identify him in any of the photos in my collection.

I am currently working on a blog post for April and will write more about Chester in that post.

Happy Anniversary, Grandma and Grandpa!

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