The family story goes like this. Jan Zajicek, my great grandfather, lived in Chicago during 1871 when the Great Chicago Fire broke out. Apparently Jan saved the family's dining room table rather than the family during the fire.

I spent a few years thinking about this and hearing it a few times from my grandmother. I thought he was a grown man, married with a family by the way she told the story. And to me it sounded crazy that a man would save his table rather than his family.  If, in fact, this story is true.

When I started digging into the research I discovered a few things.  First, based on the 1880 Census, Jan was 25 years old. In 1871 that would have made him 16. Further census research supports this age as I have no birth certificate for Jan. He was born in Bohemia and immigrated in 1868.  Second, at age 16, on the 1880 Census, it states his occupation is Tailor.

With this information, I know that he could have saved the table because perhaps that was where he did some of his work as a tailor. Is it possible that his father Albert was trying to load the family's belongings in a cart to move out of the burn area and Jan's job was to transport the table?

But one big question remains - did the family actually live in the burn district of the fire? That is yet to be determined. I know where they lived starting in 1878, moving forward, based on city directories, census records, and birth records of siblings. But I have yet to locate an address for anyone in the family prior to that.

An answer will never be known as to what Jan did or did not do during the Fire, but it is fun to think about when adding the history of Chicago to the story and his life.

This entry was posted on Saturday, August 22, 2009 at Saturday, August 22, 2009 and is filed under , , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

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