Monday, September 23, 2013


I found this lovely tidbit in the Van Nuys News archives.  It was printed in the September 5, 1949 edition of the newspaper.  Clara Stachowiak Christy was one of my maternal great aunts.  Clara married Ivan Wohlk Christy (Christiansen) in 1934.  Ivan was born in Frederikshavn, Nordjylland, Denmark.  Ivan died in May of 1949 in Burbank.

A month after his death, Clara went to visit her husband's relative.  It doesn't say in this story whether or not she stayed the entire time in Denmark.  It does say that she did stay with her brother-in-law in Denmark.  The part of this story that I love (besides having a 3 month trip to Europe) is that her brother-in-law owns an oleomargarine factory.  Do they even make oleomargarine anymore?  I am thinking this must have been some sort of status symbol.  I am guessing with all those Danish pastries, one should also have some "margarine".

It was very nice of her brother-in-law to host Clara during her grief after her husband's death.  I wonder if this was Clara's first trip to her husband's homeland.  The more information I find, the more questions I have ...

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Continuing on with my "Genealogical Bucket List", my #2 place is Srebrna Gora in Dolnoslaskie, Poland. My third great grandfather Joannes Gruszka married his wife (my 3rd great grandmother) Marianna Pubylowska in this town in 1824.  Joannes was 40 years old when he got married while Marianna was 28.  I don't know whose hometown this was -- whether it was Marianna's, or Joannes' or possibly they both lived here.

My knowledge of Poland is very limited but I do know that Srebrna Gora is located in the south west corner of Poland.  It is just north of the Czech Republic border.  It is just east of a town named Nowa Ruda.

When my Grandmother Lillian's parents and older brothers immigrated to the US from Poland before Lillian's birth, they listed Ruda as their last residence.  I wonder if this is the same Ruda.  I better get back to my research ....

Thursday, September 12, 2013


For the past two weeks, I have been writing about my Genealogical Bucket List -- places that I would like to travel to experience my ancestors' history -- on my other blog  Since today I will be writing about Poland (and sorry for the delay in my regular posting) it had to be posted on this blog.  So, to start off my Polish Genealogical Bucket List is Wielkopolskie, Poland.

My 2nd great grandfather Valentin Stachowiak (on my maternal grandfather side) was married to my 2nd great grandmother Josephine Kowalczyk in Grodziszczko, Wielkopolskie, Poland in 1853.  Grodziszczko is located in Western Germany and is known for its beer and mineral water.  This town is located west of Poznan on A2 (I'm assuming this is some sort of freeway).  The above photo shows a downtown street in Grodziszczko.

My 2nd great grandfather Jacob Gruszka (on my maternal grandmother side) was married to my 2nd great grandmother Antonina Zuchowska in Lechlin, Wielkopolskie, Poland in 1847.  Antonina's parents Thomas Zuchowska and Marianna Koslakowiczowna were married in the same town in 1820.

I would love to visit this area of Poland.  I know very little about it and since the only information that I have about my 2nd great grandparents is either from my Family Bible or the Poznan Project, I probably would do some research in this area. I would love to find information on their births and deaths, siblings, occupations, etc.  I guess I need to do a lot more research on my Polish ancestry!

Monday, July 29, 2013


Sometimes when I am researching in genealogy, my head just wants to spin!  For example, I am working on my family tree and I come across "Leonard S. Stachowiak".  Now my grandfather was named Leonard Stachowiak and was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Well, this other Leonard Stachowiak was born in Poland and was married in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Personally, I don't think "Stachowiak" is a common name, but then again I didn't grow up in Milwaukee.

So, according to, this other Leonard Stachowiak is the brother in law of  the brother in law of a 1st cousin 2 times removed.  What does that even mean?  When the phrase starts repeating the same words, I get a bit lost.

Of course, my hope is that if I research enough I will find that the two Stachowiak trees joined together and I can get rid of the "in law x 2" portion.   Well, time and a lot of research will tell.  Time to get back to the research ...

Monday, July 1, 2013



Mrs. Constancia Szukalski, for many years a resident of the town of Newton died at the home of a son in Milwaukee Sunday. Mrs. Szukalski was born in West Prussia 89 years ago and came with her husband to America and to Newton 45 years ago. For the past few years she has been with her son at Milwaukee. She is survived by two sons, Thomas and Marion, both prominent business men in the Mitchell street district and two daughters, Mrs. Stackowiak and Mrs. Kaminske, all of Milwaukee. Mrs. Szukalski was a woman of Christian graces and in her generation had a wide circle of (words missing) to Nordheim and the funeral will be held Thursday morning.

Manitowoc Herald News, Tuesday, January 21, 1919 Page 1

In a previous post, I wrote about Constance's husband Paul (my 2nd great grandfather) who was killed when his horses fell into a ravine on the way home from church in 1900.  My 2nd great grandmother Constance Budzbanowski Szukalski lived for 19 more years. 

Constance was the daughter of John and Catherine Budzbanowski.  She married Paul Szukalski on 16 Mar 1862 in Swiekatowo, Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Poland.  She immigrated to the US in 1869.  Her obituary mentions that she has 2 surviving sons and 2 surviving daughters.  Constance had 3 additional sons and one daughter that preceded her in death.  One of her surviving daughters, Anna Szukalski Stachowiak, was my great grandmother. 

Monday, June 24, 2013


How often these days do we read in the newspaper about someone hosting a bridge party at their house?  Now, maybe they still do in some small town newspapers.  It got me thinking about how times have changed and not just about playing bridge.  Today, Rose would have posted her status on Facebook -- "bridge party at my house", probably included a photo or two and then "tagged" her guests.  Rose probably would also be on Twitter and would send out a tweet with #Stachowiak Sisters.

Will our descendants be researching the archives of social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google +) to see what we were doing, to collect photos and dates of our activities and to find the relationships between relatives?  What will they find and how accurate of a portrayal will it be?

I probably met Great Aunt Rose one time during my childhood (most likely at a family funeral) but from her newspaper articles, it seems like she was very talented, knew how to grow a great party and how to enjoy life.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


My great aunts (Rose, Teresa, Clementine, Helen and Clara) moved to Van Nuys in the late 1920's and immediately made a name for themselves.  In this article found in the Van Nuys News June 6, 1931 edition, they were busy hosting a pyjama breakfast.  Ordinarily, I don't think pjyama parties are big news but this obviously was no typical pyjama breakfast.  The garden pajama breakfast was hosted by these ladies and their mother at the family house on Van Nuys Boulevard.

Besides eating a "delightful" breakfast at tables on their spacious lawns, they played croquet and other outdoor games and also got to tour the immense bird aviary. Of course, since it was hosted by the Stachowiak Sisters, musical entertainment was also provided.  Helen's son Harry Schultz, who according to this article was a child prodigy of the Hollywood Conservatory, recited readings.

I am thinking that my great aunts sure knew how to throw a party and were very creative and entertaining when they did!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


My 2nd great grandfather Pawel "Paul" Szukalski died at the age of 63 after suffering a fall over an embankment on 11 Mar 1900.   Paul and his wife Constance (Budzbanowski) were on their way home from church at St. Casimer's and were on a bridge that goes over Pine Creek. They were in a cutter (which is I guess some sort of sleigh) that was pulled by horses.  There was no snow on the ground which understandably made it harder for the horses to pull the cutter with the Szukalski s   The bridge had no rails and for some reason the horses went over the embankment into the 20 feet ravine.

Paul Szukalski broke his neck as a result of the fall. Constance was unhurt in the accident, as were the horses.  Paul was taken to a neighboring farm house and a doctor was summoned.  According to the Manitowoc Daily Herald (March 12, 1900 edition), "A doctor ... did all in his power to alleviate the sufferings of the patient; but the spark of life soon left the body and the uncertainty of human existence had again been sadly and forcibly illustrated".

The newspaper also said that Paul Szukalski was "one of the most prosperous farmers of the community and enjoyed a wide acquaintance in the county.  He had many friends in the city to whom the news of his death will come as a shock."  I am sure that it was heartbreaking for his wife Constance and their 7 children.

Monday, May 20, 2013


The Stachowiak Sisters (Rose, Helen and Clementine) had only been in Van Nuys (Los Angeles City) for a few months and they were already in demand for their entertainment talent at meetings, banquets and other gatherings.  On this occasion, they were performing readings and songs for the Van Nuys Realty Board banquet.

This article was posted in the Van Nuys News -- 25 January 1928 edition.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


It's amazing what you can find!  So, I am researching on yesterday and after awhile I get bored with the "historical records" section so I decide to research the "newspaper" section.  After finding some leads on my Sherlock side (yes, I am getting to how this relates to my Polish roots), I think perhaps that I can find some information  on my Polish "Stachowiak" line even though this is an Irish site.

Lo and behold, I find a lot of news articles on Stachowiaks.  Who knew it was such a popular name?  My Stachowiaks are from Milwaukee so I did save the articles on Stachowiaks from Racine and Stevens Point, Wisconsin although I haven't yet figured out if they are truly related to my Stachowiaks and where the link is. Another project for another day!

But I did find some information on my Grandpa Leonard's sisters.  That is the great thing about newspaper articles -- yes, sometimes it will give you exact dates of events (like birth and death) but often times they talk about the person's hobbies, passions or every day events.  I just love those types of details.

I never knew exactly when my Great Grandparents (Charles Stachowiak and Anna Szukalski Stachowiak) moved to Los Angeles (Van Nuys to be exact) from Milwaukee, but knew it was after 1920 and before 1930.  Thanks to the above article and another article I found, I think that they probably moved in the year 1927.

I was curious when I read that the Stachowiak ladies "came from Milwaukee with their mother".  What about their father?  I know that he moved to Van Nuys too, but perhaps he had to stay behind to sell his tin business before moving out west.  The article does mention that the Stachowiak misses "are talented in dramatics and have appeared in a good many productions".  Who knew we had dramatic talent on both sides of my family tree?  There will be more about those Stachowiak sisters in future posts ...

**  Article is from the Van Nuys News, August 24, 1928 edition

Wednesday, May 8, 2013



Sunday, May 5, 2013


My second great grandfather Pawel "Paul" Szukalski was born 2 Feb 1837 in Swiekatowo  Kuyawsko-Pomorskie, Poland  (a village in north central Poland).  His parents were Michael Szukalski and Elizabeth Kielpikowska.  According to the Poznan Project documents, his father Michael was 70 at the time of his birth while his mother Elizabeth was 35.  I definitely need to send for their marriage certificate to check this out!

Pawel married Constantia Budzbanowski on 16 Mar 1862 in the same town as Pawel's birth.  Pawel and Constantia had 3 children -- John, Theophilus and Thomas (in 1863, 1864 and 1868) and then immigrated to the US in 1869.  They brought Constantia's widowed father John Budzbanowski with them to the US.  They settled in Newton, Manitowoc, Wisconsin.  In the 1870 census, Pawel's occupation was listed as "laborer" and then in the 1880 census, it was listed as "farmer".

Constantia had 4 more children in the US -- Damazy, my great grandmother Anna and her twin sister Katherine and the baby of the family Marian.

Monday, April 29, 2013


In researching my ancestors, I just don't want to find out their birth date and death date, but I want to find out about the dash (the life they lived between their birth and death).  While knowing their occupation is nice, I really want to know what were their hobbies, their interests and their passions.  Yes, I know this might be a pipe dream (what exactly does that mean?) but I won't give up trying.

Sometimes it may be easier than you think.  If you have an ancestor who was newspaper "friendly", you may be in luck.  As I peruse the Van Nuys News, the same names pop up from time to time.  Now, I don't know if this means they know the editor or they are someone that the newspaper deems "newsworthy" but when it is one of your relatives, who really cares why?

Chester Stachowiak, referred to in this article (16 Jul 1943 of the Van Nuys News) and others as "Chet", was my grandpa Leonard Stachowiak's baby brother.  So besides his birth and death date, what do I know about him?  All I can recall is that he never married and lived for a long time with his parents' home on Van Nuys Boulevard.  But as I am reading the Van Nuys News from 1943, I learn that he is a talented singer, whether or not that was his occupation.  Chet singing is mentioned in various Van Nuys News articles.

In another article from 1943, I learned that his sister Theresa Stachowiak Schultz was a former opera singer.  Wow, we have the singing gene in our family!  I don't ever remember hearing my Grandpa Leonard, their brother, singing, although his wife, Little Grannie (Lillian Braciszewski) did love to sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Park".

Sunday, April 21, 2013


        When I was in the 8th grade, we were given an assignment to write a report about one of the countries of our ancestry.  It seemed to me that Ireland or Germany would be popular choices and rather easy, so I chose Poland. I wrote off to some place in the US (can't remember where 40 some years later) but they sent me three booklets.  I wrote a 50 page report (yes, in those days there were no computers and in fact I hand wrote the report) and was very proud to receive an "A" for my efforts.  For some reason (maybe it was that budding genealogist in me), I kept those 3 booklets and still have them to this day.

       One of the booklets was about Our Lady of Czestochowa.  I was always fascinated by this picture and the story behind it. According to the legend, the picture of Our Blessed Mother was painted by St. Luke on a piece of wood that a part of a table used by the Holy Family.  This picture was lost in 72 AD but then found by the mother of Roman Emperor Constantine in 326.  The mother, St. Helen, gave it to her son (Constantine) and he put it in a church in Constantinople, where it stayed for almost 500 years.

      In 803 it was given to a Greek princess who carried it to Kiev, where it remained for 500 some years.  In 1382 it was transported to Silesia for safety purposes, however, the horses carrying the painting stopped near the town of Czestochowa and refused to go any further.  The Prince transporting the photo took this as a sign that the painting belonged in Czestochowa, so he built a monastery on a hill to house it.

      The hill gleamed in the sunlight and so the Prince named it "Jasna Gora" or "Mount of Light".  In 1430, Czech Hussites tried to steal the painting and  take it away, but again "the horses wouldn't move".  Outraged, they decided to burn the painting but the painting just remained a "charred version of itself".  One of the soldiers struck the painting with its sword, causing two slash marks on the cheek of Our Lady.  On the soldier's third try of slashing the painting, the soldier died.

To read a more in-depth history of Our Lady of Czestochowa, visit htm.

Friday, April 19, 2013


       In my last post, I talked about my 2nd great grandparents' parish of St. Casimir's in Newton,
Wisconsin.  Today I will talk about their eldest son, John Szukalski.  John was born to Paul Szukalski and Constance Budzbanowski Szukalski on 8 Mar 1863 in Swiekatowo, West Prussia (which would later become Poland).  When John was only a few years old, he immigrated to the US with his parents and brother Theophilus.  They settled on a farm in Newton, Wisconsin.

       As I mentioned in my last post, St. Casimir's had a parochial school and so it is very likely that John attended  that parish school for at least a part of his education.  According to his obituary (in the Milwaukee Journal on Wednesday, April 7, 1915, page 2), he attended St. Francis seminary and was ordained as a priest by Archbishop Katzer on 24 Jun 1888.  It was very fitting that Fr. John should say his first Mass at his hometown parish of St. Casimir's.  Fr. Szukalski was then assigned to St. Michael's Church in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin as his first parish assignment.  He stayed there for 5 years.

       Reverend John Szukalski's next assignment was to oversee the building of the new parish of Saints Cyril and Methodius Church in Milwaukee.  He was pastor there for over twenty years until his death at the age of 53 on 7 April 1915.  Reverend Szukalski was buried at Saint Adalbert's Cemetery in Milwaukee on 13 Apr 1915.

Monday, April 15, 2013


     My 2nd great grandparents Pawel "Paul" Szukalski and Constance Budzbanowski Szukalski were parishioners of St. Casimir's Catholic Church in Newton, Wisconsin.  I like to research the churches of my ancestors.  I find that not only does it give me a place to potentially find records but also helps me to "picture" their lives -- to see how their lives entwined with the history of that local church. I was very happy to find a lot of information on the history of St. Casimir's Church on the website.  The exact address for the information is The 28 page history tells not only of the history of the buildings but also the various pastors of that church.

       According to its history, St. Casimir's is the 4th oldest Catholic church in the state of Wisconsin.  The congregation was formed in 1868.  My 2nd great grandfather Paul Szukalski was listed as a charter member of the parish.  Okay. how exciting is that?  On 21 July 1880, the church was destroyed by fire.  That must have been devastating to the congregation.  Masses were then held in the parish school house. However, the congregation was determined to build a new church.  According to the history, the majority of the families of the parish donated either $50 or $100 (which was a lot of money in those days) to build a new church.  The new church was completed in July of 1881.

        I thought this was very interesting.  "In about the year 1895, there were forty-eight families on the Church Records, thirty-eight of whom were Polish and the rest German.  This incident also explains why priests, attending this parish, had to know these two languages sufficiently in order to accommodate all the people."  Supposedly the parish (between the years of 1875 and 1890) actually consisted of double the amount of families as those in 1895, but more of the settlers sold their farms and moved to larger cities.

       The parish also converted an old priest' house into a parish school house which educated children from 1876 to 1900.  I wonder if my great grandmother Anna Szukalski and her siblings attended school there?  There were 8 grades and both boys and girls were educated at the school.

        The history of the parish lists all the pastors from the inaugural pastor to when the history was written in 1943.  After the listing of the pastors, it named one prominent priest who was raised in that parish. Yes, it was my great grand uncle Reverend John Szukalski.  I will talk about him in my next post.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


       I don't know much about my great grandmother Anna Szukalski Stachowiak.  Most of what I know I have gleaned from documents or other sources.  I do know that she was born on 18 Aug 1871 in Newton, Manitowoc, Wisconsin to Paul Szukalski and Constance Budzbanowski Szukalski.  I never realized until I did some more research for this blog post that she was a twin.  Her twin sister was Catherine.  Okay, how strange is that -- two of my great grandmothers were twins and both had twin sisters?   Anna also had three older brothers -- John (who became a priest), Theophil and Thomas.  There was also a brother Damazy who died when he was about 4 years old.  The baby of the family was Mary, who was born in 1874.

      In the 1880 census, 8 year old Anna was living with her parents and siblings in Newton, Wisconsin.  Her father Paul was a farmer.  Her maternal grandfather John Budzbanowski was also living with them.  John started living with the family before the birth of the twins Anna and Catherine. He was with the family in the 1870 census.

      Anna married Charles Stachowiak on 3 Jul 1894 in Manitowoc County.  In the 1900 census, Anna and Charles were living with their 3 children (Eugene [Leon], Theresa and Clara) in Milwaukee.  In the 1905 Wisconsin State census, another child had been born  (Clementine) and so there was 4 children in the home. By the 1910 census, there were two more children -- Leonard born in 1906 and Rosie, who was born in 1909.  Another daughter Helen was born in 1912, followed by another son Chester in 1913.

        What doesn't show up in any census is the birth and death of Anna and Charles' daughter, Lucy.  Lucy Konstancya Stachowiak was born on 24 Mar 1904 and died less than 3 months later on 19 Jun 1904.  Anna and Charles moved to Van Nuys, California just before 1930 and their kids followed them out west.  Clara, Rose, Helen and Chester were living with Anna and Charles in Van Nuys according to the 1930 census.  Their daughter Theresa, who was a widower, was also living with them with her son Harry. Daughter Clementine was married and living in Los Angeles.

          I can't find two of the sons -- Eugene and Leonard -- in the 1930 census.  Eugene was divorced from his wife Victoria and she was living with their 3 children in Milwaukee. So Eugene may have either stayed in Milwaukee or was living separately from his family in California.  I have a feeling Leonard was still living in Milwaukee since he met my grandmother in Milwaukee.  Both Eugene and Leonard would soon join their family in Southern California in the early 1930's.

         Well perhaps, I know more about Great Grandma Anna Szukalski than I thought before writing this post.

Sunday, April 7, 2013


          One of my maternal great grandfathers was Charles Stachowiak.  He was the son of Valentine (discussed in a previous post) and Josephine Kowalski (Kowalczyk) Stachowiak.  Charles was born in Posen, Poland on 20 Jul 1872.  Valentine and Josephine immigrated to the US with their children in 1882.  Charles married Anna Szukalski (whose parents were Paul Szukalski and Constance Budzbanowski Szukalski) on 3 Jul 1894 in Manitowoc County in Wisconsin.  It was probably in Anna's hometown of Newton, Wisconsin.

          According to the "Memoir's of Milwaukee County" edited by Jerome Anthony Watrous, Charles became first an apprentice and then served as a tinner journeyman. He started a business in his own name as a tinner in 1898, which was a good thing since he had 2 small children by then and another on the way.  [Another post will be devoted to both Anna and their children.]  In the 1900 census, his occupation was listed as tinner.  In the 1910 census, his occupation was listed as retail merchant for hardware and proprietor of a hardware store in the 1920 census.  According to this book, Charles was the "first Polish tinner to engage in business for himself" and at the time (1909), the only one in Milwaukee.  So, my big question is "why did he move to Van Nuys, California in the late 1920's with most of his children"?  He was the only one of Valentine and Josephine's children to move away from Wisconsin.   All of Charles and Anna's children followed them to California.

           Charles bought a house on 6939 Van Nuys Boulevard and opened a tinsmith shop next door. I am not sure if he moved before or after the stock market crash in 1929.  He definitely was living in Van Nuys for the 1930 Census.  He listed his occupation as sheet metal worker and owned his store.  In the 1940 census, he listed his occupation as "sheet metal for building construction".  He worked 52 weeks and earned $1200 at the age of 68.

For more details about Charles Stachowiak and other Polish Americans who lived in Milwaukee, visit

Thursday, April 4, 2013


         I remember attending my great aunt Kinga Stachowiak's funeral in March of 1971. I was still in high school at the time so I don't remember most of the details, but there was one detail that I have never forgotten.  The mass was recited in Polish.  Now, having grown up in the '50's and '60's, I remember masses being recited in Latin.  I was used to that but having one said in Polish was something new.  I remember my mother telling me  that this was a Polish parish.

         Flash forward to yesterday --- I was in the Carlsbad Library in San Diego, researching in the genealogy section. For someone who has done most of her research online, I was feeling very adventurous!   Of course, I should have done more research on their holdings before my visit, but that is another lesson learned.  I did find a reference book titled "Polish Americans in California 1827-1977".  While perusing the  book, I ran across a section about a Polish church in California.  Guess what?  Yes, there was a section in the book about the church that I had visited for the funeral in 1971.

        According to the book, the parish of Our Lady of the Bright Mount Polish Catholic Church started in 1908 but then it moved to a new location at 5134 Towne Avenue in 1926. It moved again in 1944 to its current location on 3424 West Adams Boulevard (I do seem to recall someone saying the church was in West LA).  The first Mass at the new place was said on 3 March 1944.  A new church opened on 15 May 1950.  It is the only Polish Catholic Church in California.

        Bishop Thaddeus Shubsda, who was the first Polish American Auxiliary Bishop in Los Angeles, said his first Mass at Our Lady of the Bright Mount, which was very fitting.  Bishop Shubsda later became the Bishop of Monterrey.  On 29 Aug 1976, Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla (who would later become Pope John Paul II) offered a mass to celebrate its golden jubilee.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


                                    Lillian Braciszewski Stachowiak & Lou Sooey

Monday, April 1, 2013


     I am researching my Polish relatives and finding out various facts about them -- dates of their births, marriages and deaths -- but what about their traditions and how they celebrated holidays.  I am hoping that if I learn about some Polish holiday traditions that might give me a better understanding of how they might have celebrated special days.  Since yesterday was Easter, I might as well start there.

     With a little research, I learned that since there are no palm trees in Poland, they used "pussy willows" instead.  I have been receiving palms on Palm Sunday since I was a tiny child and never really thought about what people, who live in countries without palm trees, do for Palm Sunday. Pussy willows are called "bazie" or "kotki" in Poland.

     Food, which will be served on Easter Sunday, is placed in a basket and taken to Mass for a blessing.  We have a similar tradition at my Catholic church on Thanksgiving morning.  After Mass, is the tradition of "Swiecone" or the Easter Breakfast, which consists of predominately cold dishes -- ham, kielbasa, hard boiled eggs, beets and horseradish, followed by a holiday cake (babka).

     I love the idea of the lamb cake, which commemorates Jesus as the "Paschal lamb".  The cake is made of pound cake batter and put in a metal "lamb" shaped mold.  It is frosted with white cream cheese frosting and raisins are used for the eyes. I showed a picture of a lamb cake to my daughter and she thought we should make one.

     There are other Polish Easter traditions, like the "pisanki" ("written" decorated eggs), but I will leave that for another post.  In the meantime, if you would like to read more about Polish Easter traditions, visit or  

      In closing, let me close with the Polish Easter greeting -- "Wesolych Swiat"

Thursday, March 28, 2013


       My maternal grandparents (Leonard and Lillian Braciszewski Stachowiak) lived in Van Nuys from 1931 to 1967 (my grandfather's death) and then my grandmother continued to live in Van Nuys until the early 1990's. They moved into this house on Cedros Avenue in 1944.  They were the first owners.  I have many fond childhood memories of visiting my Grandparents in this house. A very special treat was sleeping over at their house.

         The house is located on Cedros Avenue just a few houses north of Vanowen.  I remember that the Pacific Bell Telephone Company was located across the street at the corner of Cedros and Vanowen.  If you continued south on Cedros, Saint Elizabeth's Catholic Church was located at the next large intersection of Cedros and Kittridge.  South of that on Cedros was Van Nuys High School.

        Just for fun yesterday, I looked up their address on Google Maps.  The house doesn't look that much different than when they lived there.  It is the same color of yellow, but it does have a ramp up to the front door now.  It also has a lot more plants and trees when they lived there.  Little Grannie was a stickler for neatness and didn't like things looking messy.  Our joke used to be that if she saw a leaf fall, she would immediately go outside and rake it up.

        The above photo is of my Dad on his wedding day.   Mom and Dad got married at Saint Elizabeth's, which was just down the street.  Mom had attended elementary school at the parish elementary school and then attended high school at Van Nuys High School.

Monday, March 25, 2013


       The farthest back I can trace  my "Stachowiak" side is Valentine Stachowiak and Josephine Kowalczyk Stachowiak (my 2nd great grandparents).  Valentine "Walenty" Stachowiak was born on 3 Feb 1833 in Posen, Poland.  He married Josephine Kowalczyk (Kowalski) in 1853 in Grodziszczko, Poland.  According to the Poznan Marriage Project ( a great source of information), Valentine was 24 years old and Josephine (born on 8 Mar 1835) was 17 at the time of their marriage.

     Valentine and Josephine had 9 children -- Mary Ann (born in 1853), Petronella (born in 1856), Lawrence (born in 1861), Albert (born in 1865), Agnes (born in 1868), Joseph (born in 1870), Charles (my great grandfather who was born in 1871), Casimir (born in 1876) and Stanislaus (born in 1879).  Valentine, Josephine and at least 7 of their children immigrated to the US in 1880.  Their two oldest daughters -- Mary Ann and Petronella -- were already married and they immigrated in 1879 and 1880, respectively.  I haven't found the immigration papers on any of them yet.

       In 1882, Valentine and his family were living in Milwaukee.  According to the city directory, it lists Valentine's occupation as "lab".  I am not quite sure what that means.  In 1885, his occupation is listed as "carpenter".  Valentine died on 11 April 1904 in Milwaukee.  So, if you go by the age from Poznan Marriage Project, he was 75 when he died but if you go with the birth date (according to he was 71 years old.  Either way, Valentine had a very long life.  His wife Josephine died 10 Nov 1914 at the age of 79 and lived an even longer life.  Both Valentine and Josephine are buried in St. Adalbert's Cemetery in Milwaukee.

Friday, March 22, 2013


       Did you hear the story about the judge who fined himself and gave himself a lecture about doing wrong?  Well, I have been reading old issues (from 1933) of the Van Nuys News these past few days and ran across this funny story.  According to the story, the Judge wasn't paying attention and didn't stop at a stop sign.  He was stopped by the police and given a ticket.  Since, I guess, the judge would be the one to determine the fine on such a traffic violation, he fined himself $2 (probably the going rate at the time) and then an additional $1 (because he as a judge should be a better example). On top of that, he "gave himself a lecture and warned himself never to do that again".  One of his friends verified that indeed he did give himself a lecture and it was a good one.  It was said that by paying his fine, he balanced the books but threw the lecture in "for good measure".

        I am enjoying reading these 1933 issues of the Van Nuys News (courtesy of The Van News (and at some points called The Valley News) was the local paper for Van Nuys and the surrounding San Fernando Valley. I remember as a kid reading this paper but it as been a lot of fun reading about life in 1933, the year my mother was born in Van Nuys.

I want to share a few more tidbits from the 1933 Van Nuys News --

1. They weren't big on patient confidentiality -- names were given of the patients in Valley Hospital (not only those giving birth, but those for medical reasons and those having major surgery).  Wonder what the patients thought about this?

2. When people died, the words "summoned", "called" or "answers summons" were used instead of "died" or "death".

3. It was in 1933, that sales tax was introduced in California.  Sales tax was  2 1/2% and part of the economic recovery after the Depression.

4. Reading an article about a new method of vaccinating against chicken pox, I almost fell out of my chair when I read that it was for use on "chickens" not humans"!

Friday, March 15, 2013


         This is the funeral card for my Grandpa Leonard Stachowiak. He was married to Little Grannie (Lillian Braciszewski).  Today I am honoring both of my Grandpas by posting their funeral cards on my blogs.  Grandpa Charlie Sherlock's card is posted on my HomeoftheSherlocks blog.

          I remember the death of my Grandpa Leonard.  He died on the 1st hole of the golf course at Griffith Park.  He loved golfing and did so on July 31st after working all day.  Leonard had a massive heart attack and even though there was a doctor in attendance, he couldn't be saved.  I am sure that his emphysema contributed in some large way to his demise.  Through all the sadness, though, what has always made me happy is knowing that he died doing the thing he loved.  We should all be as lucky!!

Monday, March 11, 2013


            In one of my latter posts, I was discussing the birth and "miraculous" survival through infancy of Lillian Braciszewski (better known as Little Grannie).  After Little Grannie's birth, her sister Cecilia was born in 1906.   So by now, John and Josephine (Gruszka) Braciszewski are probably thinking that the worst is behind them -- they immigrated to the US with three little boys, had another son after arriving in the US, and then the tragedy of their daughter Helena's death at 5 months old followed by the premature birth of Leokadia less than 3 months later.

         Well tragedy would continue to follow them.  Josephine gave birth to a son John on 5 April 1907 but he died  two months later in June.  Then baby Boleslaus was born on 15 Feb 1908, only to die 5 months later on 27 Jul 1908.  The final baby, another son named John was born on 4 Jan 1910 but he died the same day he was born. How absolutely horrible for both Josephine and John!  By 1910, Lillian is 6 years old and is aware of what is going on.   But of course, that wasn't the last tragedy to hit Little Grannie in her childhood.

        On 14 Dec 1914, her father John Braciszewski would die at the age of 49.  Lillian had just turned 11 years old. She would drop out of school after 8th grade to work in a candy factory to help support her family.  Tragedy would strike Lillian more times in her lifetime (a topic for another post) but she always dealt with it and stayed strong.  Little Grannie, you were an amazing woman!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


                               Virginia Houk and Lillian Braciszewski Stachowiak

Monday, March 4, 2013


     It is very exciting to find a photo and a story about your grandparents in an old newspaper, especially when it is a story you haven't heard before. Imagine my happiness when I located this photo and story of my grandparents Lillian Braciszewski Stachowiak (yes, that famous Little Grannie) and Leonard Stachowiak in the Van Nuys News in a December 1949 issue. It is not hard to pick out Little Grannie in the photo.  She is the tiny woman holding the baby and Grandpa Leonard is the man to the left.

     What was the story about you ask?  Well, Saint Elizabeth Catholic Church parish in Van Nuys, California built a new church in 1949.  The parish was established in 1920 and Lillian and Leonard had been parishioners at St. Elizabeth's for over 16 years.  My  mother was baptized in the old church. and two years later (after this story) my parents would be married in this new church.
     On the occasion of this story, Saint Elizabeth's was holding its first Baptism at the new church, which is a cause for celebration.  According to the story, "First baby to be baptized in the handsome new structure now housing St. Elizabeth's Catholic Church was John William Smiley, son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Smiley.  ... Rev. Patrick Francis O'Dwyer [the priest that married my parents] and Rev. Earl Walker officiated at the 11:30 o'clock ceremony.  [Okay, I have never heard the half hour called "o'clock"!]

     "Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Stachowiak served as godparents and later attended a family party at the Smiley home which celebrated both the christening and the 59th birthday of the infant's maternal grandmother Mrs. Mary Bauer".

     Well, I have never heard of the Smileys but obviously they considered my grandparents good role models and entrusted them with the special role of godparents.

Saturday, March 2, 2013


           Little Grannie's (Lillian Braciszewski Stachowiak) siblings included from left to right -- Francis, then her father John, Lillian (love the hair and her dress), big brother Stanley, little sister (only in age) Cecilia, mother Josephine Gruszka, Edward and Michael.

          While the photo shows a happy family  (okay, relatively happy), much heartbreak was in store for them. That will the topic of my next post.

Friday, March 1, 2013


         I remember the stories that Little Grannie (Lillian Braciszewski) would tell us grand kids -- that she weighed only 3 pounds at birth ... that she was born in 1903 (Nov. 3rd) but her parents (John and Josephine Braciszewski) didn't register her birth until 1905  ... and that she had 4 older brothers (Stanley, Michael, Edward and Francis) and a younger sister Cecilia (who I had met several times when she would come to visit from Milwaukee).

        When I started researching Lillian and her parents, I found some puzzling news.  I thought either there was a mistake or Little Grannie had been wrong about her birth date.  Who tells people that they are older than they are except for kids wanting to drink before their 21st birthday?

        I found a birth record that showed a daughter Helena was born to John and Josephine Braciszewski on 6 Mar 1903 in Milwaukee.  Is this really Lillian's birth record since her middle name was Helena? I could swear that we always celebrated her birthday on Nov 3rd.  Then I found a death record for Helena, dated 21 Aug 1903.  Okay, this is definitely not Lillian's birth record but how did her mother give birth to 2 babies in the same year, not born on the same day or month?  Then I got to thinking, if Josephine had gotten pregnant a month after giving birth to Helena, she could have given birth to Lillian 7 months later.  That would explain the low birth rate of 3 pounds.  It would also explain why Lillian's parents waited for 2 years to register the birth.  After all, they just had a full term baby die at 8 months, what could they possibly hope for with a tiny premature baby back in 1903?   I think they would be very surprised to know that the tiny Little Grannie lived a long life, dying at age 94.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


            John Braciszewski and Josephine Gruszka are my Great Grandparents.  They are one of two sets of Polish great grandparents. John Braciszewski was born in Poland on 16 October 1865.  According to our family bible, he was born in Warsaw, Poland (but not too sure how accurate that is).  Josephine "Jozefa" Gruszka was born in Poland on 17 Nov 1870.  The family bible lists her birthplace as Krakow, Poland.

          According to the Poznan Marriage Project, John and Josephine were married in 1892 in Kuszewo, Poland. Now, if I were to believe all these locations given, it would mean that Warsaw is in Eastern Poland, Krakow in the south and Poznan in the West.  It seems like a lot of traveling to me!  I do know that the information seems to be correct in the Poznan Marriage Project, so I will go with that.  John's (or Johann or even some times referred to as Jan) parents are Franz B Braciszewski and Michalina Jakubowska.  Josephine's parents are Antonina Zuchowska and Jacob Gruszka.

        John and Josephine are Little Grannie's parents (just to give a reference point).  In fact, the above photo is of Little Grannie when she was a little girl with her father John and older brother Michael.  John and Josephine's three oldest sons were all born in Poland.  Stanislaus (or Stanley) was born on 9 Apr 1894, Michael on 6 Sept 1895 and Francis in Sept 1897.

       John and Josephine immigrated to the US in 1900 with their 3 small boys on a ship called the Nederland.  I can't imagine traveling with 3 little ones (ages 2, 3, and 4 years old) from Poland to the US on a ship.  According to the Philadelphia Passenger List (April 20, 1900), their last residence was Ruda (which according to Wikipedia could be almost anywhere in Poland!) and their final destination was Milwaukee.  The ticket price for John (Jan) was $6 and an additional $7 for the rest of the family.  They obviously traveled in the steerage section.  His reference for the trip was Ignatz Reszel, who was already living in the US and was married to Josephine's sister Marianna.  This was the 3rd time that John has been to the US and according to this travel document it had been 4 years since his last trip.  John had heard from Ignatz 2 months ago and Ignatz had promised John work in the US.  Well, at least that is the story he told the immigration people.

       A year after they arrived in the US, John and Josephine welcomed a new baby boy Edward, who was born on 6 Oct 1901 in Milwaukee.  Then the story gets really interesting ...


              Yesterday I posted some information on Antonina Zuchowska Gruszka.  I thought about it last night and realized that I had made a mistake -- she is my 2nd great grandmother not my 3rd.  I double checked the dates today because Antonina had given birth to my great grandmother Josephine when Antonina was 45 years old.  I also posed the question whether or not Antonina had any other children besides Josephine and Marianna.  Well, clarity must have come to me today because I remembered that on the 1900 US Census they asked the questions of "how many children did you give birth to" and "how many are still living".  I love these questions and wished that they had asked these questions on every census but especially on the older censuses when childhood and infant mortality was so high.  So, I looked on the 1900 Census and found that Antonina had given birth to 11 children (all I am assuming in Poland) and that 4 were currently living.  I see I have my work cut out for me!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


         I guess I will begin with Little Grannie's (Lillian Braciszewski -- the lady on the far right in the photo) family tree.  Her maternal grandmother (and my 2nd great grandmother) was Antonina Zuchowska..  She is the oldest relative that I have information on (other than a name) of Lillian's ancestors.  Antonina was born in Poland in 1825.
        Thanks to the wonderful Poznan Marriage Project (at, I found information on Antonina's marriage to my 2nd great grandfather Jacob Gruszka.  Antonina was 22 years old at the time of the wedding while her spouse Jacob was 26.  They were married in 1847 in Lechlin, Wielkopolskie, Poland.  Jacob's parents are listed as Joannes and Marianna Gruszka while Antonina's parents are Thomas and Marianna Zuchowska.  The Poznan Marriage Project is a great resource because you can get a lot of information, however, the parent names aren't always given.
        I can't find any more information on Jacob Gruszka.  He must have died in Poland before 1896 because Antonina immigrated to the US in that year to live with her daughter Marianna. In the 1900 census, Antonina is living at 1129 3rd Avenue in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her married daughter Marianna, her son-in-law Ignatz Reszel and 5 great grandchildren.  Antonina's marital status is listed as widowed.  I can't find Antonina in the 1910 census -- not with Marianna's family nor with her other daughter Josephine's family.  I did find a Marjanna Gruszka that died on 26 March 1903 in Milwaukee (according to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Catholic Cemeteries at site). I wonder if that could be her.
According to my research, I only found two children from the marriage of Antonina and Jacob -- Marianna and Josephine.  So, there could be more siblings out there  -- I have located more Gruszka's in the US.  Time (and more research) will tell if we are related or not.

Friday, February 15, 2013


                Kinga Jeanine Stachowiak was married to my Great Uncle Eugene Stachowiak.  I don't ever remember meeting my great uncle who died in 1961 but I do know that I met Kinga.  While I don't remember much about her (except for her unusual name), I do remember attending her funeral in 1971.  It was held at a Polish Catholic Church in Los Angeles and the Mass was said in Polish.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


               This week when I heard that Pope Benedict had announced his retirement, I immediately thought of my Little Grannie (Lillian Braciszewski) and one of my favorite stories about her. I'm the one in the 1st Communion dress and she is behind me.  Yes, by the beginning of 4th grade I was definitely taller than her!  Okay, back to my story ...
               Until 1978 all of the Popes (or at least all that we were familiar with) were of Italian descent.  Then in 1978, a miraculous thing happened -- someone of Polish descent or at least from Poland was elected Pope.  Little Grannie was thrilled to say the very least.  By this time, she was a widow (Grandpa Leonard died in 1967) and never learned to drive so I would take her on errands -- grocery shopping (I could reach the highest shelf), to the bank and of course out to lunch.  I was in college, had free time and you couldn't ask for a grandma that made you feel more special.
             At first I thought she just felt a kinship to Pope John Paul II due to their shared nationality.  Little Grannie told me that her grandparents and the Pope's parents were buried in the same cemetery in Poland.  So, in her eyes they were almost relatives!  Pope John Paul II visited the United States on a trip where he toured several cities.  Little Grannie was a big Dodger fan (well, as big as you can be at 4'9") and used to listen to the games on her transistor radio.  Well, she was as big a "Pope" fan as she was a Dodger fan and during that visit, I happened to be at her house (waiting for my car to get repaired) and there she was listening on her transistor radio to the commentary of where the Pope was visiting at that moment.  I think she listened to the radio for his entire trip to the US.
           Not until this week did I realize that the Pope's mother Emilia had died in 1929 when she was in childbirth and young Karol was only 8 years old.  Lillian also suffered the loss of a parent, her father John  Braciszewski died when she was 11 years old. So, there was more in common than I had originally anticipated.
             Jozef Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II's father, is buried in Rakowicki Cemetery in Malopolskie, Poland. I don't know why I didn't think to research my ancestors based on this information that I have known for years.  Maybe that is another purpose of remembering all these wonderful stories -- hidden clues that I hadn't previously thought of. Well, I would love to say that I researched the cemetery and found some of my ancestors but the only listing I could find so far, only has American soldiers who were buried there in a special section of the cemetery.  The good news is that I have more information than I started with and will continue my quest to discover more about my Polish roots.

Monday, February 11, 2013


             I am done procrastinating, well at least about this blog!  I have thought about blogging about my Polish ancestors for the past year or so.  My poor Polish ancestors have been ignored while I blogged about my Irish and German ancestors on my HomeoftheSherlocks blog.  In my mind, I didn't have enough stories to blog about.  What happens if I run out of things to say?  Well, I have decided to put caution to the wind and dive headfirst into the Polish genealogical pool!  So, here goes ...

            Both of my maternal grandparents are 100% Polish even though they were both born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My grandma Lillian (Leokadia) Braciszewski or as we affectionately called her "Little Grannie" was 4'9" and 70 pounds soaking wet.  For her entire life, she shopped in the "little girls section" of the store for her clothing.  Lillian's parents were John Braciszewski and Josephine Gruszka.

            My grandpa Leonard Stachowiak was probably 5'11" in height but always seemed so much taller, probably because he was standing next to the diminutive Lillian.  Leonard's parents Charles Stachowiak and Anna Szukalski moved to the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles in the late 1920's after residing in Milwaukee.  Soon all their children followed suit, moving to Southern California.

             The above photo is of Little Grannie.  I am not sure when this was taken or what the occasion was. I will just call it my "Rose Queen" photo of Lillian.