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"