The Brief Life of John Kurpiel

My Aunt Bronisława was the second of three infants to be buried in an unmarked grave in Notre Dame Cemetery, Worcester.  The first to be buried was John Kurpiel who died when he was only a month old.  Like Bronisława, he was from a Polish family and he died of broncho pneumonia.  Finding his birth and death records was relatively easy, especially since Barb Poole looked up the volume and page numbers in the vital record indexes at the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) in Boston.  I didn’t have a chance to visit the NEHGS in my recent trip to Boston (although I did have dinner on Newbury Street, just a few blocks from the NEHGS on Saturday night).

The Birth Record of John Kurpiel is shown below.  Like Bronisława’s birth record, John’s record is included in a ledger and was recorded in January of the year following his birth.  In John’s case, his birth was actually recorded after his death.  As with Bronisława’s birth record, I cropped the ledger page just below John Kurpiel’s entry, so John’s name appears to be at the bottom of the page.  The original page contained many more entries below John’s.

Birth Record of John Kurpiel - 1912

Birth Record of John Kurpiel – 1912

The entry states that:

  • John Kurpiel was listed as entry number 224 in Massachusetts Births, volume 611, page 514
  • He was a male child, born in the City of Worcester, Massachusetts on October 30, 1912
  • His father was Mateus Kurpiel and his mother was Katarzyna Novak, both of whom resided in Worcester
  • His father’s occupation was not listed
  • Both of his parents were born in Austria
  • His birth was registered in the City of Worcester in January 1913

The correct Polish spelling of the names of John’s parents should be Mateusz Kurpiel and Katarzyna Nowak.

The Death Record of John Kurpiel is recorded on the standard form, just as Bronisława’s was.

Death Record of John Kurpiel - 1912

Death Record of John Kurpiel – 1912

The Death Record states that:

  • John Kurpiel’s death was recorded in Massachusetts Deaths volume 111, number 303
  • He was a single, white male, born in Worcester on October 30, 1912 and was 1 month, 20 days old at the time of death
  • His father was Mateus Kurpiel who was born in Austria
  • His mother was Katarzina Novak and she was born in Austria
  • Peter O’Shea. M.D. attended him from December 17, 1912 until December 20, 1912
  • He died at 6 PM on January 13, 1913 at the family home at 161 Millbury in Worcester after suffering for 4 days with broncho pneumonia
  • Mateus Kurpiel of Worcester was the informant
  • The statement of death by Peter O’Shea. M.D. was made on December 21, 1912
  • He was buried in Worcester on December 21, 1912by the undertaker Lucian Karolkewicz of Worcester
  • The Death Certificate was filed by the registrar on December 23, 1912

Tomorrow:  Adventures finding the birth and death records of the third infant.

Copyright © 2006 by Stephen J. Danko

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The Birth and Death of Aunt Bronisława

My Aunt Bronisława Dańko died when she was one year old and was buried with two other infants in an unmarked grave in Notre Dame Cemetery in Worcester, Massachusetts.  In order to erect on monument on the grave, the cemetery requires that the names of all three infants be included on the monument.  The cemetery provided the following information on the three infants:

Notre Dame Cemetery No. 01 – Owner: Owner, unknown
Lot – Sec-3 Lot-1464 Grv-1A-1C
3                                         3
3                                         3
3                   1C                  3
3                   1B                  3
3                   1A                  3
3                                         3
3                                         3
Space Deceased/Reserved  Burial Date     Age  Container
1A       Kurpiel, John            12/21/1912    1Month
1B       Danka, Bronislawa    01/15/1913   1
1C       Stonia, Franciszek    08/30/1914    8Months

AAAEnd of ListAAA  Perpetual Care Unpaid — No Activity Allowed Until Full Payment

Since the cemetery had misspelled my aunt’s surname and did not have the dates of birth or death for any of the three infants, I set out to find the birth and death records for the children.  In the blog entry Aunt Bronislawa Has Been Misplaced, I described my efforts to find the vital records for the trio.

During my recent trip to the Massachusetts Archives, I found the records for all three children.  The birth record of Bronisława Dańko was recorded in a ledger in January 1913, although she had been born almost a year earlier.

The Birth Record of Bronisława Dańko - 1912

The Birth Record of Bronisława Dańko – 1912

In the image above, I cropped the ledger just under the entry for Bronisława, so it appears that she is the last entry on the page, but the original image included quite a few more entries below her name.

The entry states that:

  • Bronislawa Danko was listed as entry number 961 in Massachusetts Births, volume 608, page 486
  • She was a female child, born in the City of Worcester, Massachusetts on January 3, 1912
  • Her father was Mike Danko and her mother was Mary Ginsky who resided in Worcester
  • Her father was a laborer
  • Both her parents were born in Austria
  • Her birth was registered in the City of Worcester in January 1913

Note that her mother’s maiden name was actually Dziurzyńska, not Ginsky.  This error was likely due to difficulties of hearing and spelling the polish surname or to transcription errors.  The entry were made a year after the event and the family was probably not present at the time the birth was recorded in the ledger.

The death record of Bronisława Dańko was recorded on a standard form which was completed at the time of death.

The Death Record of Bronisława Dańko - 1913

The Death Record of Bronisława Dańko – 1913

The Death Record states that:

  • Bronislawa Danko’s death was recorded in Massachusetts Deaths volume 107, number 290
  • She was a single, white female, born in Worcester on January 2, 1912 and was 1 year, 11 days old at the time of death
  • Her father was Michal Danko who was born in Austria
  • Her mother was named Mary and was born in Austria
  • P. H. Nichol, M.D. attended her from January 7, 1913 until January 13, 1913
  • She died at 2:30 PM on January 13, 1913 at the family home at 3 Moran Court in Worcester after suffering for 6 days with broncho pneumonia
  • Michal Danko of Worcester was the informant
  • The statement of death by P. H. Nichol, M.D. was made on January 14, 1913
  • She was buried in Worcester on January 15, 1913 by the undertaker Lucian Karolkewicz of Worcester
  • The Death Certificate was filed by the registrar on January 20, 1913

Note that the date of birth on the birth record is January 3, 1912, while that on the death certificate is January 2, 1912.

Tomorrow:  The birth and death of John Kurpiel.

Copyright © 2006 by Stephen J. Danko

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A Brief Summary of My Trip to Boston

I’m back home now.  I’m really bushed so I think I’ll try to get to bed early tonight.  My body clock is now 3 hours ahead of Pacific Time, so I suspect I’ll be up extra early for work tomorrow!

At the end of my vacation, I drove to Dorchester and checked into the DoubleTree Club Hotel.  I spent most of Friday and Saturday researching my family’s history at the Massachusetts Vital Records Office and the Massachusetts State Archives, both of which were within walking distance of the hotel.

I spent all day Friday at the Massachusetts Vital Records Office in Dorchester.  Fortunately, Massachusetts allows researchers to work onsite at the Vital Records Office, so I was easily able to find many records I couldn’t find otherwise.  The Vital Records Office charges $9 per hour do conduct research and $18 for a certified copy of a vital record, making research at the Vital Records Office rather expensive.

I purchased 47 birth, death, and marriage records.  The cost for copies of vital records onsite is $10 less than the cost to order the records by mail, so I saved quite a bit of money by ordering onsite.  The staff at the Vital Records Office tried to give me computer printouts of some of the recent births, but I asked if they could give me photocopies of the actual certificates and they graciously did so.  The actual certificates contain a lot more information than the computer printouts, so I’m happy that I insisted on the photocopies.  With recent efforts by some members of the Massachusetts Legislature to restrict access to Vital Records, I decided it was time to get as many records as I can as soon as possible.

On Saturday, I went to the Massachusetts State Archives and made copies of 7 birth records, 3 death records, and 12 naturalization records.  The Archives doesn’t charge for research onsite and charges only 50 cents a page for copies, so my research at the Archives was a lot less expensive than my previous day’s research at the Vital Records Office.

The information I found at the Massachusetts State Archives included the birth and death records for all three infants buried in the grave in Notre Dame Cemetery that I discussed in Aunt Bronisława Has Been Misplaced!  It turns out that the surnames of two of the three infants were misspelled in the cemetery records.  The data I complied from three birth records, three death records, and one cemetery record are:

  • John Kurpiel, born October 30, 1912, died December 20, 1912, buried December 21, 1912, age 1 month
  • Bronisława Dańko, born January 3, 1912, died January 13, 1913, buried January 15, 1913, age 1 year
  • Franciszek Stoma, born December 3, 1913, died August 29, 1914, buried August 30, 1914, age 8 months

I also ordered a monument for the grave, and the stone will be put into place sometime later this year.  Notre Dame Cemetery pours foundations only twice a year – in May and September – so the stone can’t be put into place until September at the earliest.  Tomorrow, I’ll call the monument company to provide them with the correct names and dates, and then I’ll wait to receive the proofs of the inscription.  I’m looking forward to getting monument set in place on this grave that has been unmarked for 94 years!

There’s a lot more to report on my vacation and research trip to the east coast.  I’ll post some of the more interesting records as soon as I get the photocopies scanned.

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Spelunking with My Nephew

I spent a day with my nephew Lukas and we went exploring two caves that are accessible to the public in upstate New York:  Howe Caverns and Secret Caverns.  Here are some pictures from our trip.  Howe Caverns is much more developed than Secret Caverns.  Howe Caverns has a brick path on the cave floor, while Secret Caverns has a much rougher floor.  In the pictures, most of the color comes from strategically placed colored lights.  The natural colors of the formations range from white to tan to black with rose hues in some places.

Howe Caverns 2 

 The Tour Guide with my Nephew Lukas

Howe Caverns 1

 Stalagmites and Stalactites in Howe Caverns
Stalagmites grow from the ground;  stalactites grow from the ceiling.

Howe Caverns 6 

 The Pipe Organ in Howe Caverns
The tour guide hummed into a formation on the cave wall opposite this formation and it sounded like a pipe organ playing!

Howe Caverns 14 

The Bridal Altar in Howe Caverns
The heart is a piece of calcite cut in the shape of a heart and lit from below.
Quite a few couples have been married here.

 Howe Caverns 17

 The Old Witch in Howe Caverns
See if you can see the face of a Witch in this rock.
The tour guide pointed out three different ways to see the witch.

Secret Caverns 002 

Flowstone and Stalactites in Secret Caverns 

Secret Caverns 08 

 The Elephant’s Foot in Secret Caverns
Lukas has just passed the Elephant’s Foot.

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More from the Uncles

After telling me of their war experience, my uncles Ray and Henry talked about a few other details of their family life when they were young.  Everyone in the family, including children and grandchildren, called my maternal grandparents “Ma” and “Pa”.

Ma worked for the Bancroft Hotel in Worcester.  The Bancroft is now the Sheraton.  She would take the bus to work in the morning.  There was a cop in a “cop box” in Lincoln Square who would jump out to help her cross the street.  The family was familiar with the beat cops in their neighborhood.  Once, when one of the local cops died, Pa took Ray to the wake.  That was the first corpse that Ray ever saw.

The family lived in a triple-decker house on Huntington Avenue owned by Pa’s uncle Frank Niedzialkoski.  At the time they lived there, a trolley ran up and down the street and cost 5 cents a trip.  Often, Ray would walk to save the 5 cents.  In addition to the house on Huntington Avenue, Pa’s uncle Frank owned a farm called Sky Farm in Sterling, Massachusetts.  Ray, Henry, and their brothers and sisters would work on the farm during the summer.  Ray remembered being very well fed.

Pa owned a number of cars during his lifetime.  Even though the family didn’t consider themselves wealthy, they must have been better off than many of the other families in the neighborhood since they were one of the few families to own a car.  Pa owned a Model T Ford.  He later purchased a 1924 Hupmobile with the option of solid wheels rather than wire wheels.   The Hupmobile had windows that had to be buttoned in and windshield wipers you turned by hand.

The 1924 Hupmobile

The 1924 Hupmobile

Ma and Pa owned a three decker building on Prescott Street and operated a grocery store out of the first floor in a neighborhood that included a mix of all nationalities.  Their building is the only building left standing on Prescott Street today.  The building was located close to the American Steel and Wire factory where the people would work from 6 AM to 6 PM.  The whistle would blow at 6 PM and a stream of people would come out and walk down Byron Street and past their house.

The family found ways to save money.  When the children were young, Saturday was bath day.  Ma would heat water on the stove and everybody would take a bath in the same water.  Pa would resole their shoes himself and would make moonshine in the kitchen which he would barter with others in exchange for haircuts for the boys.  The boys would go to the dump and find copper, brass, lead, and aluminum that they could sell.  They would pick through the dump with 5-10 other kids and earn about $5 a week for their efforts.  In hindsight, Ray marveled at the fact that they never caught serious diseases picking through the dump.

Later, Pa worked for Worcester Pressed Steel.  The company owned land behind the factory and the employees were given a plot for a garden.  Pa had one of those plots.  At the time he worked for Worcester Pressed Steel, Pa owned a Hudson.  In the winter, Pa would come home at night and drain the radiator so the water wouldn’t freeze.  At the time, antifreeze didn’t exist and so people either had to use alcohol in the radiator to prevent freezing.  To save money, Pa just drained the radiator at night and refilled it in the morning.  He had preferred employee parking as a machinist at Worcester Pressed Steel and so he was able to park in the company garage during the day so the radiator wouldn’t freeze at work.

John Woodman Higgins, the owner of Worcester Pressed Steel, opened a steel museum known today as Higgins Armory.  Although Worcester Pressed Steel is no longer in business, the Armory still exists.  Pa worked at Higgins Armory for a while, and Pa gave my mother a cigarette lighter in the shape of a suit of armor.  I plan to visit Higgins Armory during my visit to Worcester later this week.

Copyright © 2006 by Stephen J. Danko

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The Uncles’ Military Service

I arrived at Logan Airport, picked up a rental car and drove to Worcester, Massachusetts to visit my uncles Ray and Henry.  Ray and I went to get a bite to eat and Ray started to tell me about his time in the military service.  At this point, I realized that I didn’t have a pen or paper with me and I particularly thought a digital audio recorder would have been useful.  A little late to think of these things, I guess.

When we returned to Henry’s house, I grabbed a notebook and a pen and started taking notes.  Ray and Henry talked mostly about World War II, but spoke about a few other things as well.

Ray volunteered to join the Coast Guard.  On the same day he entered the Coast Guard, the cops arrived at his house to announce he had been drafted.  Ray volunteered to take training as a signalman, and was one of two men to earn a grade of 4.0.  As a Signalman First Class, Ray was assigned to the Destroyer-Escort DE-325, the USS Lowe in an Atlantic convoy to the Mediterranean.  It took 22 days to cross the ocean.  He was later assigned to the Landing Ship Tank LST-795 and traveled to Okinawa and Iwo-Jima.  At the end of the war, his ship picked up POWs in Japan.  Most of the POWs were Australians who were malnourished.

Henry was drafted into the Army.  In the year he became eligible for the draft, he turned 18 years old in May, took his physical in June, and was drafted in July.  His first assignment was to Fort Knox as a tank destroyer, and later was assigned to a troop ship in the South Pacific.  It took 30 days to cross the Pacific.  Still later he was assigned to the Philippines and finally he was assigned to the military police in Osaka and Kyoto, Japan.

Ray and Henry’s brother Fred (now deceased) entered the US Naval Armed Guard and was assigned to the Murmansk Run, delivering war supplies to the Eastern Front.

All three survived the war.

Tomorrow, more of what the uncles told me.

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The Works Progress Administration

Most genealogists are familiar with the Soundex indexes to the US Census and indexes to vital records in several states, but may not realize that the Works Progress Administration (WPA) was responsible for those accomplishments.  In the later years of its existence, the Works Progress Administration was known as the Work Projects Administration.

The WPA was established in 1935 by order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt as part of his “New Deal for every American”.  As part of the relief efforts during the Great Depression, the WPA was designed to provide jobs for the unemployed.  Some of the better known projects of the WPA include Camp David, Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood in Oregon, and the Houston City Hall.

In addition to these construction projects, the WPA also conducted the Historical Records Survey, an effort to survey and index historically significant documents.  Some of the works of particular interest to genealogists are:

  • The Soundex Indexes to the 1880, 1900, 1910, and 1920 U.S. Census
  • The Soundex Index to Naturalization Petitions for the United States District and Circuit Courts, Northern District of Illinois and Immigration and Naturalization Service District #9, 1840-1950
  • The Soundex Name Index to New England Naturalization Petitions, 1790-1906
  • Index to Naturalization Petitions of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, 1865-1957
  • Index to Marriage Record, Morgan County, Indiana, 1850-1941, inclusive
  • Index to Birth Records, Orange County, Indiana, 1882-1938, inclusive
  • The Salem Witchcraft papers: compiled transcripts of the legal documents of the Salem witchcraft outbreak of 1692
  • Dyer County, Tennessee wills
  • General index to records of births, marriages, and deaths, town of Berlin, Connecticut
  • Tyler County, West Virginia, marriages and deaths, 1853-1899
  • Grave stone records of Wayne County, Iowa
  • Record of the Greenhill Presbyterian Church, 3108 Pennsylvania Ave., Wilmington, Delaware, 1851-1917
  • Inscriptions of Jewish Cemetery and small Jewish burial ground, Savannah, Georgia

The Family History Library Catalog has 992 matching titles for the keywords “Works Progress Administration”, and 1003 matching titles for the keywords “Work Projects Administration”.

The Historical Records Survey was shut down on February 1, 1943.  At that time, nearly everyone was employed because of the Second World War.

My first direct experience with the fruits of the WPA’s labor was in searching the Soundex cards for the 1920 US Census.  The card for my great great uncle, Frank Niedzialkoski is shown below.  Even though his surname is misspelled as Naedzialkosky on the card, the soundex code for Niedzialkoski and Naedzialkosky is the same!

Soundex Card for Frank Niedzialkoski 1920

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Top Ten Reasons to Suspect Jasia and I Were Separated at Birth

One of the genealogy-themed blogs that I read on a regular basis is Creative Gene written by Jasia.  After reading her blog for a while, I realized that we are a lot alike and am now convinced that we must have been separated at birth.  Here are the top ten reasons why:

10.  We are both of Polish descent and we are almost the same age.  I won’t be so unkind as to tell you how old we are 😉 ,though.

9.  We both enjoy writing.  Jasia completed a historical novel about her family history through Na No Wri Mo last November.  I’m planning to write a historical novel about my family, and have been thinking about trying Na No Wri Mo this November, but I’m hoping somebody will stop me before I do something I may regret!

8.  We both spend a day taking pictures and find that we’ve taken way too many photos of gravestones.

7.  Jasia’s first SLR camera was a Canon ME Super.  Mine was a Canon ME.  I was on a budget.  Jasia received a Canon Digital Rebel XT for Christmas.  I want a Canon Digital Rebel XT for Christmas.

6.  Jasia enjoys reading mystery novels by Janet Evanovich, who has just released her 12th novel in the Stephanie Plum series.  I enjoy reading mystery novels by Sister Carol Anne O’Marie, who has just released her 11th novel in the Sister Mary Helen series.  Both Janet Evanovich and Sister Carol Anne O’Marie are published by St. Martin’s Press.

5.  Jasia has 17 first cousins on her father’s side of the family and she is one of the youngest.  I have 18 living first cousins on my father’s side and I am one of the youngest.

4.  Jasia’s paternal grandfather died 5 years before she was born.  My paternal grandfather died 2 years before I was born.

3.  Jasia lives about 60 miles from Hell (Michigan).  I have friends who live about 90 miles from Purgatory (Maine).  I live about 190 miles from Heavenly (California).

2.  We both have blonde hair (OK, my hair has been getting darker the older I get).  Jasia has blue eyes (at least I think she has blue eyes from her picture).  I would have blue eyes if it weren’t for that pesky dominant gene for brown eyes I inherited from my maternal grandmother.

1.  Jasia and I have both never met each other.

Take a moment and visit Jasia’s blog.  On July 3, she’s hosting a Carnival of Genealogy on her blog.

…And I stole the idea for a top ten list from the Genealogue, who I suspect may have stolen the idea from someone else.

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Preparing for a Trip to the Northeast

The entries on this blog may get a little bit shorter and a little less frequent over the next couple of weeks as I prepare for my trip to the northeastern US to visit family and a little genealogy research.

The plan is to visit family in Massachusetts and New York.  We’ll be celebrating my birthday (about a month late), and taking a few day trips.

The first of the day trips will be to Howe’s Caverns and Secret Caverns in New York with my nephew, Lukas.  I don’t get to spend time with Lukas very often, so I’m looking forward to a whole day of exploring caves with him.

My cousin Chris from Florida is visiting Albany, New York, and I’ll meet up with him and my cousin Helen for a trip to Worcester, Massachusetts.  We plan to visit some relatives, stop in at a few cemeteries, and visit the Higgins Armory where my grandfather, Kostanty Niedzialkowski, once worked.

At the end of my trip, I’ll spend a day at the Massachusetts Department of Vital Records and Statistics looking up vital records for my ancestors, and finally I’ll spend a day at the Massachusetts Archives in an effort to find the birth and death records for the two (unrelated) infants who share a grave with my Aunt Bronisława.

So, now, I’m getting ready for my trip, making lists of relatives buried in cemeteries in New York and Massachusetts and lists of the vital records I already have so I don’t duplicate my previous efforts.  No matter how much time I spend getting ready for these research trips, it seems like I’m never quite ready!

I’ll try to makes some entries in the blog from time to time to review what genealogy discoveries I’ve made on this trip, but I’m not sure how often I’ll have access to the internet.  In any case, I hope to have some interesting experiences to relate once I return home!

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More on Podcasts

Purists might define podcasts very narrowly as audio files that can be captured and played on a digital audio player.  Podcatchers such as iTunes and Juice can be used to automatically download podcasts and transfer those files to a digital audio player such as an iPod or the MobiBLU DAH-1500i (“the cube”).

Personally, I don’t own a digital audio player.  I manually download podcasts, use Roxio CD Creator to create a music CD and burn the podcast onto a CD.  After that, I just play the audio CD on my car stereo to help make it through the long commute.

Since Barb Poole wrote about podcasts the other day, I thought I’d throw in my 2-cents worth and list three podcasts in addition to the ones she mentioned.  New episodes appear fairly regularly on these sites.

A recent addition to the podcast scene is the Genealogy Tech Podcast, concentrating on the technology side of genealogy.  Bill Puller posted his first episode on June 10, 2006 and has posted four episodes so far on 1- Choosing a Web Browser, 2-  Protopage, 3-, and 4- Map Builder.  His voice reminds me of Stephen Hill from public radio’s Music from the Hearts of Space, and if you’ve heard Hearts of Space, you know that can’t be bad.

Dick Eastman occasionally throws a podcast into Eastman’s Online Genealogical Newsletter; the most recent podcast entitled Excavating Grandma’s Privy for Family History Data was posted on June 15, 2006.  Wow!  What a title to get your attention!  Earlier this month, Dick’s podcasts covered an interview with Liz Kerstens about Clooz 2.0 and an interview with Christine Rose about her book Courthouse Research for Family Historians.

DearMyrtle publishes a podcast, but deal old Myrt has been busy with some family issues the last few months and we’ve been anxiously waiting for word from her.  The wait is over.  She published her most recent podcast on June 20, 2006 including interviews with Kathy Meade on Swedish Church Records and with Denise Olsen on creating folders in Microsoft Outlook and Uninterruptible Power Supplies.  DearMyrtle has posted over 30 episodes so far.

I’ve found several other genealogy podcasts on the web, but most of them appear to have been one-time or short-lived podcasts.  That doesn’t mean the content is uninteresting or non-informative.  Further discussion of these “orphan” podcasts will have to wait for another day.

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