Friday, November 3, 2017


Today would have been Little Grannie's (also known as Lillian Braciszewski Stachowiak) 114th Birthday.  Lillian is the one in the middle in the above photo.  I am guessing the other two ladies were her friends.

I thought about her a lot recently.  She was a big Los Angeles Dodgers fan and would have loved to watch them in the World Series.  Obviously, she would have loved to see them win it!  She had a little transistor radio that she would take to bed and listen to the games. 

I inherited a bunch of photos of Lillian after my Mom's death this past May.  I am still trying to figure out who some of the people are in the photos.  I really wish my ancestors would have written names on the back of photos. 

I think Lillian's brother Stanley and his wife Frances are the unknown couple in this photo. 

4'9" and weighing only 70 pounds -- she really was our Little Grannie! 

Happy 114th Birthday, Grannie!!

Monday, July 31, 2017


July 31, 1967 -- It was a Monday night in the hot San Fernando Valley and my siblings and I were watching one of our favorite shows "The Monkees" when my Mom received a phone call. I think the call came from law enforcement but I can't say for sure.  The person was telling my Mother that her father Leonard Stachowiak had died at the age of 61.  We all knew that Grandpa had emphysema due to his many years of smoking, but as kids you think people are invincible.

Our Mother was devastated!  How could she not be?  She idolized her Father.

Leonard Stachowiak was born on March 10, 1906 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  His parents were Charles Stachowiak and Anna Szukalski.  He was the 6th child (a sister died at 3 months of age in 1904) of 9 children. Leonard and his family attended Mass at the Polish Catholic Church of St. Cyril and Methody in Milwaukee.

His father Charles Stachowiak was the first Polish tinner to own his own business in Milwaukee. Even though, he his business was doing well, after taking a vacation to Southern California, he decided that is where and he and his family should live.  Packing two railroad cars full of their personal belongings and business machinery and supplies, Charles and Anna moved with their children to Van Nuys, California in 1926.

Now, when Leonard actually moved to Van Nuys or if he moved and just visited Milwaukee on occasion is up for debate. Leonard is not listed as living with his parents and siblings in Van Nuys in the 1930 US Census.  Whether he was still in Milwaukee, somewhere else in Southern California, in transit or his name was just spelled so incorrectly that it is hard to find him, is still a mystery and hopefully one day will be discovered.

What I do know is that Leonard married Lillian Helena Braciszewski on October 5, 1931 at St. Elizabeth's Catholic Church in Van Nuys, California. (Lillian was widowed and living with her sister's family in Milwaukee in 1930).  Their daughter Joan was born in July of 1933.

Leonard worked as a sheet metal worker for most of his adult life.  He worked with his father and brothers in the family owned business after moving to California.  Their shop was located behind Charles and Anna's home.  In 1949, he started working at Lockheed where he continued to work for 12 years until his death.

Grandpa Leonard loved to bowl!  He bowled a perfect game -- 3 times in his life.  He also loved golfing.  At least once a week, after work he would go golfing. On July 31, 1967, Leonard went to the golf course at Griffith Park for his weekly game of golf.  While waiting to start at the first hole, he had a massive heart attack.  A physician was nearby and tried to revive him  with CPR but nothing could be done to save him.  He had died immediately.

July 31, 2017 -- Today we remember the 50th anniversary of Grandpa Leonard's death.  We remember while he was a fairly quiet man, how he liked to tell jokes.  We remember how we felt cheated that he was taken from us way too soon!  We wonder how our lives have would have been different if he had been a part of it for even 10 years more.  We are very grateful for even the short time we had with this very special man.

Thursday, July 27, 2017



Joan Stachowiak was born on 27 July 1933 at her family home in Van Nuys, California to her parents Leonard Stachowiak and Lillian Braciszewski Stachowiak.  Joan attended St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Elementary School.  She then attended Van Nuys High School (where she played field hockey) and graduated from that school in January of 1951.  A few months later, while working in an office in Sherman Oaks, Joan met the local mail man, Donald Sherlock, and they started dating, with their 1st date being a trip to the movies.
Joan and Donald got married on 8 October 1951 at St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church in Van Nuys.  They took a honeymoon to Ensenada (Baja California) and Lake Wohlford (in San Diego County).  Don’s older brother Chuck joined them on the “fishing trip” part of the honeymoon.

Within a month of being married, Don was drafted into the US Army.  He did basic training in Fort Ord and was stationed there for a year. Most of that time Joan (who was pregnant) lived in Van Nuys but did move up to Fort Ord for a month in 1952 before he was deployed to Korea.  Joan gave birth to her 1st child in August of 1952.  Donald served with the US Army as a medic in Korea for a year – Oct 1952-Oct 1953.

In the summer of 1958, being the mother of 4 children and the oldest one ready to begin 1st grade, Joan finally learned to drive a car.  She was always a hesitant driver, never driving on the freeway and avoiding left turns as much as possible (even if it required driving blocks out of her way). At the age of 50, she decided she had done enough driving and gave it up permanently.  Of course, her mother had never learned to drive!

Being the mother of 6 children kept Joan very busy during their childhoods, although she did manage to volunteer as a librarian at St. Genevieve’s Elementary School.  Joan loved the beach, playing the piano and See’s candy!

After divorcing Donald in 1975, Joan married Edward Pybas on 31 Oct 1976 in Las Vegas. Joan and Edward lived in Tujunga for many years, where for a brief period of time Joan owned a pet shop.  Joan loved pets and for years had 2 beautiful large parrots, in an addition to caring for Don’s dog Mackenzie after Don’s death.

Joan suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for the past 9 years. She finally found peace on 9 May 2017 when she died in Sun Valley, California.  Her 6 children said their final goodbyes to her at a funeral Mass at the Mortuary at San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Mission Hills and internment at the same cemetery.

Joan was preceded in death by both of her husbands – Don and Ed – and great granddaughter Harmony.  She is survived by her brother Ralph Roberts, her 6 children (Danny, Colleen, Michael, Kathleen, Maureen and Patrick) and their spouses, 20 grandchildren, 24 great grandchildren and 11 nephews and nieces.

Happy 84th Birthday, Mom!  We love you and miss you!!

Monday, November 3, 2014


My mother's entire ancestry is Polish, yet it is also the side of my family that I know the least about.  My mother only has one brother but her mother was one of 10 children and her father was one of 9 children.  You would think that would give me some contacts.

Of course, I was thinking of none of this when I received a friend's request on Facebook at the end of July.  I did my typical thought process -- Does the last name sound familiar?  Did I go to high school with this person?  Is she a fellow UCLA Bruin fan?  Well, all those answers came up "no".  I am happy to report that she was persistent and the next day I learned that we were relatives.  How come there are so many relatives that I don't know about?

It seems that Sally and I share great grandparents -- Charles Stachowiak and Anna Szukalski.  Yes, that is them in the above photo.  Thank you, Sally, for that photo!  My maternal grandfather Leonard Stachowiak was the younger brother of her paternal grandfather Eugene Stachowiak.   An added bonus, was that I got to meet her sister Chris online.  Okay, that has never happened before and I can tell you meeting 2 cousins at once is even better than only meeting one!

So, now are not only Sally, Chris and I friends on Facebook but we have also shared photos and stories.  I don't think I had ever seen a photo of my great grandparents until Sally and Chris shared several with me.  

I have done a ton of genealogical research these past 15 years but the highlights have definitely been finding or more typical in my case "being found" by new cousins, either through Facebook or one of my blogs.

Thursday, March 6, 2014


My great uncle Eugene Stachowiak was married to a woman named Kinga.  This was Eugene's second marriage.  I really don't remember Eugene at all since he died when I was just 6 years old.  Now, I do remember Kinga a little and especially remember her funeral in 1971.

Kinga's funeral was held at Our Lady of the Bright Mount Polish Catholic Church in Los Angeles.  (I devoted a post on my blog to this church in April of 2013).  Since this is a Polish parish, the funeral Mass was recited in Polish.

Well, while I was researching, I decided that I wanted to learn more about Kinga.  I found her listed in the California Death Index.  Her birth date was 6 Jun 1906 and her death date was 9 Mar 1971.  Of course, I also have a funeral card which lists her middle name as Jeanine.  How do I find out more about her without having her maiden name?

On a hunch, I decided to look for her in the Wisconsin Births and Christenings Index with just her first name and birth date.  After all, how many Kinga's could there be born in Wisconsin on that date?  Well, I hit the jackpot -- I found her -- Kinga J. Czerwinski, as well as, the names of her parents -- Albert Czerwinski and Wanda Wozmskiewicz.

Saturday, March 1, 2014


I love taking genealogy classes, especially in a classroom setting.  It allows me to not only learn more about a subject that is important to me but also gives me the opportunity to exchange ideas with others interested in genealogy.  So I was delighted to see that the Poway Adult School was offering a class on Internet Research for Family History.  Too many times, in the past, however, their genealogy classes would be cancelled due to low enrollment.

Imagine my surprise and delight when I walked into the class (okay, a few minutes late) to find twelve other eager students already present.  Twelve might not seem like a lot to you, however, typically there are 6 students in these classes.  As we went around the class introducing ourselves, not only were there students of various ages -- 30's to mid to late 70's, but a majority of them had done a little research but desired some training on how to do it properly.

I am looking forward to learning more about research methods and to discussing  tips and findings with my fellow classmates.

Friday, February 14, 2014


My 2nd great grandfather was Walenty or Valentine Stachowiak.  Until I started researching my family tree, I never knew that any of my ancestors had "Valentine" for their first name.  According to a Polish dictionary, the Polish word for "valentine" is walentynka.   Since I know no Polish words at all, I will have to take their word for it. I am currently learning German and perhaps some day can also learn to speak some Polish words.

Walenty Stachowiak was born on 4 Feb 1833 (fairly close to February 14th) in Poland and died on 11 April 1904 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Walenty was married to Josephine Kowalczyk and they had nine children together -- Mary Anne, Petronella, Lawrence, Albert, Agnes, Joseph, Charles, Casimir and Stanislaus. Charles Stachowiak was my great grandfather.

There was also another Polish "Valentine" in my ancestry -- Valentin Reszel, who was my 2nd cousin once removed.  Valentin Reszel was born on 10 Feb 1915 in Wisconsin and died on 26 Jan 1995 in Milwaukee. Valentin was the son of Walter and Magdaln Reszel. He was from the Braciszewski branch of my family tree.

Officially, there is one more Polish "Valentine" in my family tree.  Joseph William Stachowiak and Martha Ulezelski had a son named Valentine William Stachowiak, who lived from 1907 to 1969.  However, according to records it seems like for most of his adult life he went by the name William instead of Valentine.  Since today is Valentine's Day, we will count him as one of my Polish Valentine -- well, at least for today!