Chicago Family History is moving  

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Hello! I have moved my blog to a Wordpress site Chicago Family History. You can now view it here. I'll be moving posts over as time permits but all new postings will be there.

I'm working on a post for my Family History Research Tips blog by using a paper I wrote for my Chicago Women's History grad class 11 years ago. I adapted the paper to become a presentation with handouts for the Chicago Genealogy Society shortly thereafter. I thought this paper would be a great addition to my blog about researching women and their stories.

As I begin to retype the paper I realize a lot of the information I provided on my family such as dates and places of events in their lives is not exactly the same information I have today. What a difference 11 years can make on a person's life story as we locate new records and solve mysteries we could not in the past.

I had to laugh a little at the "errors" in this paper but also felt great pride in all that I have accomplished in my research since that time. I guess this is a good reminder for me to go back through any old articles and stories I have written and see how many "errors" exist.


Last week, Melissa from Pawprints Guiding Me To the Past, posted a comment on one of my posts on my blog. After taking a look at her blog I discovered she lives “right down the road” from me. Small world isn’t it?

If you haven’t seen her blog, check it out. Her latest entries include a three part story about her great grandfather Eugene Gardos who had a very interesting past. Melissa describes how she connected with another family member through Ancestry.com and the two were able to share stories, fascinating information, and find answers to some of their questions. Check it out when you have time!

Melissa follows an interesting blog called Italian Surname DatabaseUpon first look, I am hoping this blog will be very helpful with my husband’s Italian side. 

Last month I drove from Chicago, IL to Rolla, MO to spend the weekend with my best friend. I made a stop in Springfield, IL on my way down to pick up some death certificates at the Illinois State Archives and some newspaper articles at the Abraham Lincoln Library. It was a successful two hour stop on my drive down.

First let me say, I only visit the Illinois State Archives once or twice a year when I get together with my best friend. I arrive in Springfield by 8 a.m. so I can be at the Archives when they open. There has never been anyone else there to research but me. Kind of nice and super quiet. I am able to get in and out in about an hour and come home with several new death certificates. The staff is very helpful and I really enjoy going there.

After my death certificate search, I headed to the Abe Lincoln Library to look at newspaper microfilm. I'm writing a book about my cousin Robert Brouk, who was a Flying Tiger in 1941-1942. I needed to get some articles from the Herald-American newspaper. Again, I was the only person in the newspaper room. The woman working there was very kind and helpful and I had no issues with the machines. I found what I needed and was in and out within an hour.

If you have Illinois research to conduct do check out the State Archives and Lincoln Library. There are so many resources available there and they seem to be very underused.


When someone passes from our life, their Wake or Visitation and Funeral, do not need to be completely sad. I believe when someone passes, their life should be celebrated and remembered. One way I have helped do this in the last 11 years is to create scrapbooks for the Wake.

When my grandmother, Rose Kokoska Tregler, died in 2002, my aunt and I quickly put together a scrapbook of photos of her life to have at the Wake. It was a very emotional task, but also healing. The album included photos of Rose as a baby, high school graduate, married woman, family woman, elderly woman. Photos of her children and grandchildren and special moments. And of course, grandma's album wouldn't have been complete without copies of some of her recipes, written by her. Dumplings and Sauerkraut. YUM! The end of the album included pages for mourners to write a memory about Rose. After the funeral we made copies of the album and now I have one, my aunt has one, and my cousin has one. Something beautiful to pass down to our children.

In 2003, almost a year after Rose died, my husband's Nana, Frances Murabito Fratto, died. We had just returned from a vacation the day she passed and my mother in-law wanted a board made of photos of her. No scrapbook was created, but a beautiful board of photos of her life. At the Wake, all the Italian cousins came to pay their respects. There were tears and laughter and children running around among the adults which livened the mood. There were so many family members I had never met because I had only been in the family four years, that we took a lot of family photos that day. Never fail to bring your camera to a Wake or Funeral. You might capture moments or photos of family members you might never see again.

I continue to scrapbook and make albums for my children. When my uncle, Richard Holik, passed away in 2007, I brought five of our large scrapbooks to his Wake. Family members we had not seen in years stopped to pay their respects and spent a lot of time looking through the scrapbooks. The Wake had some tears, but a lot more smiles and laughter, as memories were shared about my uncle and the family.Of course the coffee and kolacky we had while sharing stories helped too. I know our Czech families spent many hours drinking coffee and eating Czech bakery at the kitchen table through the years while reminiscing. I think it is the little things that help us heal when someone we love passes away.

We must remember that as someone passes from our life, we can use their past history to create current history in a scrapbook. A valuable item to pass down through the generations.

Do you have relatives buried overseas in an American Military Cemetery? If you do, this is a website you will want to check out. It is the American Battle Monuments Commission. Through their website you can search World War I, World War II, Korean and other burial listings in a database. If you find a relative, the information will state their name, Rank, Serial Number, Date of Death and Cemetery. If you click GO next to their name it will take you to the cemetery page where the relative is buried.

I sent an email to the ABMC asking for a photo of my cousin, James Privoznik’s grave. He died January 11, 1945 in Luxembourg. Family story said he wanted to be buried where he fell. He is buried in the Luxembourg American Cemetery. The ABMC said if I provided my snail mail address, they would mail a photo of his grave. It took a while, but I received it and was shocked. The ABMC sent me two poster size photographs of the cemetery and in the top left corner, a 4x6 photo attached of James’ grave. You can also ask for a photograph to be emailed, which is what I ended up doing after not receiving the photograph in the mail after a couple months.

The main page has links and videos on current projects and information you should know. It also contains links to their Cemeteries, Memorials, Services Available, Commemorative Events and more.

This is a beautiful website that honors our fallen service men and women. Please take some time to explore it and remember those who served our country.

I was a child born in the early 1970's. I lived the first five years of my life in Downers Grove, a suburb of Chicago, until my parents decided a move to the country would be good for the family and we moved to southwest Missouri. My parents were born in Chicago and as their families gradually moved into the burbs, became Cicero, Berwyn, Stickney area residents. The neighborhood of the Bohemians. 22nd Street. The Czech Bakeries, Butchers, stores. They lived in a time when grandma and grandpa lived across the alley. When children were allowed to play in the street and the parents didn't need to worry about them. A time when the families would get together often for meals, music, laughter. A time when the grandmas were always baking yummy kolacky, houska, and other goodies for the family. Where dumplings, roast pork and sauerkraut were common meals in the Czech house. No, I didn't live in this neighborhood as a child, but I was fortunate enough to experience some of it because my grandmother's lived in this neighborhood. And, I had my parents, aunts, and uncles, to tell me lots of stories about growing up in the neighborhood.

Neighborhood is about Cicero, Berwyn, Stickney in the 1940's to the late 1980's. In Blei's book you will read about the old 22nd Street/Cermak Road. You will read about games the children used to play; learn about the Sokol; the Houby Hunt; and playing the horses. You will meet people like Shorty the Locksmith; Doc Cermak; and the Polka King: Frankie Yankovic. If you lived in this neighborhood or visited often enough, you just might recognize many of the people, places and things, Blei describes in his book.


My favorite childhood memories of Cicero are from our visits back home. We would visit Chicago two or three times a year after we moved to Missouri. My grandma Libbie and Uncle Rich lived in Cicero on 61st Avenue, just off Cermak Road. Before we got to my grandma's house, we would pick up bakery so the adults could sit around the kitchen table, drink their coffee and talk while the kids explored the big bungalow. My siblings and I had great times in the attic and basement of that house. Many times, my grandma or uncle would play the organ, and as we grew older, we would bring our instruments along and play for them. The Brouk and Holik sides of the family have musical genes and most everyone played an instrument.

I moved back to the Chicago area in 1999 and lived in Riverside for a year. One of the first things I did upon my return was to go to Home Run Inn Pizza on 31st for my favorite sausage and mushroom pizza, and of course, bring bakery home from Vesecky's. Salty horns, rye bread, and kolacky. Delicious. Just thinking about the bakery now, I can almost taste it. If you read Neighborhood by Norbert Blei and the chapter called The Bakery, you will be able to smell and taste the bakery as you read. I smiled and felt so full of life and fortunate to be living where I was, as I read that chapter, sitting outside the library in Riverside, eating my kolacky the first week I was back. Happy times.

Many of the places Blei describes in his book are long gone, but the memories remain for those who lived there and those who were fortunate enough to visit and experience the Czech Neighborhood. If you want a taste of what this neighborhood was like between the 1940's and 1980's, please read Neighborhood

Neighborhood

Surnames I am researching  

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The following is a list of my Chicago Ancestors broken out by country of origin.

Bohemia/Czechoslovakia
Brouk
Hammer/Hamer
Holik
Kocka
Kokoska/Kokaska
Nedoma
Priban
Rataj/Ratay
Schubert/Subrt
Svihlik
Tregler
Zajicek

Italy
Fratto
La Mantia/LaMantia/Mantia
Lazio
Murabito
Ursetta

Lithuania
Kaminsky/Kaminski
Norkus
Urban
Yasulis


As I continue to not only look backwards and record the history of my ancestors, I also try to stay in the present time and record my family's history as it is happening.  This is a photo of my husband, an almost eight year Testicular Cancer Survivor walking the Survivor Lap at our local Relay For Life in June 11, with one of our twins.

Brian began his battle with cancer September 2002 when our oldest child was just a year and a half old. He fought through two surgeries and chemo and began recovery mid-January 2003. In 2004 we began the long, emotional, horrible process of IVF to try to give our son a sibling. After a lot of heartache, we finally conceived twins just before Christmas 2004. Brian had another surgery to remove a spot on his lung in April 2005 and in August our twins were born.

While this is the very brief story of Brian's cancer and our IVF experience, the entire thing is documented in scrapbooks complete with photos of Brian going through cancer, going bald, recovering, his story as a survivor written out in the book, mine as a caregiver written out in the book, ultrasounds of babies we conceived during IVF that we later lost, the entire story I wrote going through it, and finally our twins.

Life isn't always pretty, happy, and clean. It gets nasty, messy, and very emotional. I think it is important to not only document those happy times in life, but also the ones that really test us. These are the stories that give our life more color and will illustrate for our descendants the kind of person we were and the life we lived.

I just stumbled upon a mind boggler and I'm hoping someone can help me understand what is going on here. I was on Ancestry.com looking at my tree and pulled up Rose La Mantia Murabito. She had a hint for a historical record. The record is a Naturalization document index card. Stamped on the card it says REPATRIATED.

Here is the puzzling thing, Rose was born in Chicago on March 3, 1892. I have a copy of her birth certificate. Yet in 1939 she was repatriated and granted citizenship. She wasn't born in Italy. Her father became a U.S. citizen in 1899 and applied for a passport in 1906. Why was she repatriated? What caused her to lose her U.S. citizenship?

If you have run across this in your research and can shed some light on this, I would appreciate it.

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