stories: familyseach-Rootstech


Welcome to my Polish blog! My Polish great grandpa was orphaned during the Chicago flu epidemic of 1918 & spent his life looking for all of his siblings. Some family stayed in Chicago & some returned to Poland. Some family was Catholic, & some are believed to be Jewish. I post the things I learn in efforts it may help someone else in their research. I also hope this blog helps me connect with others that know about the people I'm learning about. Digital images of records or links are put inside most postings so you can view records full screen. I encourage comments. Feel free to sign the guestbook, stating who you're looking for. Maybe we can all help each other out this way, because there are many challenges with Polish research. I hope you enjoy learning with me. And I hope to be taught more about my Polish heritage.
I have added a few languages to this blog through Google translate. I hope that it may be accurate enough with the communication of ideas.
Thanks! -Julie

Witam! (Polish translation of Welcome)

Witam w moim polskim blogu! Mój pradziadek został osierocony w czasie epidemii grypy w 1918 roku i spędził wiele lat poszukując swojego rodzeństwa. Część rodziny pozostała w Chicago a część wróciła do Polski. Część rodziny była katolikami a część, jak przypuszczam, wyznania mojżeszowego. Piszę w moim blogu o rzeczach które odkrywam i o których dowiaduję się mając nadzieję, że pomogą one wszystkim zainteresowanym w ich własnych poszukiwaniach. Wierzę, że ten blog pomoże mi w skontaktowaniu się z ludźmi którzy wiedzą coś na temat osób ktorych poszukuję. Zdjęcia cyfrowe lub linki umieszczone są w większości moich komentarzy i artykułów, można więc otworzyć je na cały ekran. Gorąco zachęcam do komentarzy. Proszę wpisać się do księgi gości i podać kogo Państwo szukacie. Może będziemy mogli pomóc sobie nawzajem, ponieważ nie jest łatwo znaleźć dane których szukamy. Mam nadzieję, że zainteresuje Państwa odkrywanie ze mną tajemnic przeszłości. Mam rówież nadzieję poznać lepiej moje polskie dziedzictwo.

Dodałam do mojego blogu automatyczne tłumaczenia poprzez Google. Ufam, że będą wystarczające w zrozumieniu o czym jest mowa w artykułach i komentarzach.

Dziękuję! - Julie

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19 May 2014

Stories video clip

I just added a little video clip into my blog. It was created for the 2014 Rootstech Conference. I couldn't get it into a post, so I put it just above the welcome message. I really liked this video, because to me, this is what family history is all about. It shows what I feel, that everyone has a story. I read recently that genealogy is names and dates, family history is the stories and pictures. So check out the little video clip, about two minutes. How many of those things do you think your family did? If you don't know, who can you ask to understand better?

I like to encourage people to upload stories and pictures to their online trees, for the benefit of other family members. Family they know, and relatives they haven't met yet. I've been working at my tree on and familysearch for about 10 years. I have a lot of pictures and stories I'm trying to share with my family just a little at a time. It takes too long to thing about digitizing an entire bookshelf. But an hour each Sunday is manageable and very doable. Enjoy the video. I wish you the best at discovering your family stories!

20 April 2014

Easter Sunday and thinking about the church your ancestors attended

Today is Easter Sunday. A special Sunday when many people of the Christian faiths around the world attend church. So I thought I'd like to mention thinking about the importance of religion and family history.

What ceremonies or religious things were important to your ancestors? Most likely, because it was important, it was recorded. Either by the church, or in a family Bible or diary. Does that record still exist? If so, it would probably be a great help to you. Ask your relatives. Most religious records list parents names and/or a spouse. Religious records can really help prove the links in our tree a little better. Various rites in religions such as: Sacraments, Holy Communion, Marriage, the various terms for naming a baby.

Different religions and ethnicities have ways of doing things. Patterns. Do you know the pattern for your family? For the religion and ethnicity of your ancestors? I've spoken with several historians that work with Catholic archives in Chicago and Minneapolis. The typical pattern for a Polish Catholic family about 1900-1920 was to settle near the Great Lakes, (similar land and weather to their old home), settle in a Polish neighborhood, pick a Catholic church, then stick with it. Even if that family moved from Chicago to Gary, Indiana,.... if there was a wedding, tradition and the family pattern would say they go back to the church the bride was baptized in. Even if it is a 3-4 hour drive, the whole wedding party would drive that distance. It keeps all the records in one church. Like in Europe. I hear about my husband's Italians, that if you know the Catholic church (which we do), then you can follow the records back for hundreds of years.

One of the historians in Chicago called me, wanting to discuss my letter and to tell me exactly how much Adam Sanetra broke typical patterns. She was curious and asked if I knew why. I told her I had no idea, until she explained all this to me. We didn't even know they spoke German. Adam Sanetra, a Polish Catholic, moved to a German speaking town, his first two children were baptized in a church that only did German mass until that had to change with WWI. Then each child was baptized in a different church. Two of which I still haven't seen, and Jozef was baptized in an Irish church with mass in Gaelic. All of the churches were just a few miles apart too.

Religion can affect where you are buried. In rural America, people were often buried on their family farms. Catholic historians have explained to me there's some pretty specific things about their burial. A Catholic priest-historian explained to me that there are Jewish women buried in their cemeteries during WWII time. If the husband claimed his wife was Catholic for her safety, then, things just happened. Other times, the church allowed them to have the ceremony at the church with family but they were buried somewhere else.  There were many mixed religion marriages during WWII.  Also, many religions used to be very against cremation, but are no longer against it today.

The majority of the marriage records for my ancestors, before WWII, were performed at a church, (of many different denominations.) Unless there were conflicts with different religions, then they may have chosen justice of the peace. There are two main type of marriage records. A ledger: a book listing one after the other who was married, in the courthouse. And a certificate. I was married at a church, and there is a certificate for the church, and it is also recorded on the ledger at the courthouse. The same is true for relatives I have found a hundred years ago. Usually the pastor or priest's name and sometimes the name of the church are also on the certificate. Often the same records you have today for yourself, also existed 100 years ago.(click on images to view full screen)
Here is Karol Janik, marrying Julia. Adam Sanetra said on Ellis Island this was his brother in law. Not sure how yet. This says Holy Trinity Church, which is a Catholic church in Chicago. So there should also be a courthouse record too, from the ledger books.Example of one from Virginia:
Ledger marriage books at courthouses

right half of marriage ledger


Also for fun wanted to add in two Easter cards that Paul Sanetra (son of Adam) got from his nephew Adam (grandson of Adam) about the early 1980's


30 March 2014

Rosalie Wandzel and the flu epidemic 1918-some Pandemic notes

Rosalie Wandzel Sanetra death certificate
31 Mar 2014-correction to this post. I made a mistake and just double checked with my grandparents. Rosalie did not have a funeral, her children were not with her. They were kept away from her to not catch the flu. And then she was just buried without a funeral.  None of the other children or their father Adam got the flu. Paul thought his mother was buried in a Catholic cemetery because they went to a Catholic orphanage and they were baptized Catholic.

Rosalie Wandzel died in the big flu pandemic of 1918. As you can see from this certificate, she died in St. Elizabeth's hospital. She was buried in the Bohemian Cemetery, several miles north and rather out of the way from where the family ever lived with their many addresses. Interesting thing was, Paul was so sure his mother's burial was in a Catholic cemetery, and he spent the rest of his life looking in all the Catholic cemeteries in Chicago for his mother's burial place. He would have loved to have given her a tombstone. (Now it is too late for the cemetery.) Rosalie was buried in the Bohemian cemetery which was for many nationalities/ethnicities: German, Polish, Jewish, ...all were welcome. A Catholic priest told me this was often done back then when people had no money. Rosalie was buried in a paupers/term grave (also common then), and they had 7-10 years to pay. When paid in full, she'd be moved to a family plot. But by then, Adam had died, was back in Poland, the children were half in the United States and half in Poland, and the children didn't know. So she, along with many others, are still in paupers graves, and no one knows who's in which plot, so you can't put a tombstone up.

The hospital Rosalie went to still exists. Here is a link to a history page about hospitals in Chicago, especially Jewish and Catholic hospitals. The one Rosalie died in was Catholic. St. Elizabeth's was founded in 1887. Here is the current address today to look up on Google maps:
1431 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

I was told by lots of people the reason we couldn't find Rosalie's death certificate was because so many people died, that death records just weren't kept. People were quarantined so they couldn't keep records. I now know, that it was much more orderly than I was told. It was a very scary time, and the numbers are quite awful! But reporting might just be delayed a few days or so. The way I found Rosalie's death certificate was a burial permit, and her name was spelled wrong.

I have recently read 3 interesting historical fiction books. I learned from them that this flu had some unique things. People had purple spots (not like measles, but actual spots), and turned ashen gray right before they died. I'm looking for some good proof and explanations for these things.  I've found some really interesting sites that I'll blog about next week. About the statistics for Chicago, the country etc. I also learned things like that the military was hit very hard, as well as American Indians.

To close today's post, I found this article, the day Rosalie Wandzel Sanetra died, a great grandmother of mine. It was in the Chicago Tribune, about the flu epidemic, statistics that week, etc. It was the entire right column, so I split it to make it more visible. Here is a link to the actual page, if you have fold3 accessibility: 
(Click images to view full screen)
Source: Chicago Tribune, 13 Oct 1918, pg 1. 

flu part 1

flu part 2

09 March 2014

First Catholic Church in America and religious freedom

I saw a familysearch indexing project of interest to me. I wanted to post about it on my blog for others with Polish Catholic relatives who settled in Chicago. It's called : Illinois Chicago Catholic Church records from 1833-1910. The project is 39% complete. Here is direct infomation about that project specifically:

This weekend, I went to Old Saint Mary's City, Maryland. This was the Capital before Annapolis, and the 4th United States colony settlement. For those of you who don't know, Maryland was created as a colony to be a haven for the Catholics. But even though it was a haven, it was still under British rule, which wasn't very tolerant of religion back then. Catholics could not own land and I've read they were even sometimes taxed higher than Protestants. I saw the oldest Catholic church in America. The very first built, was wooden, and burned down during political unrest. The second was built on the same site, this church, in 1667. The amazing thing was, during political unrest, they were ordered to take down the church and not practice Catholicism, because Church of England/Episcopalian was the official religion then. The church was buried. This was before the separation of church and state, which started with the United States new government. Archeological digs and a lot of work happened to restore the church.  I saw pictures of the church being unearthed and rebuilt about 300 years later. By the time Catholics and Jews immigrated in large numbers about the year 1900, religious freedom was much better established in the United States. (And England as well.) I think this particular Catholic church has a fascinating history! Three lead coffins were discovered and studied! Part of the founding Calvert family. I am thankful for so many founding fathers (men and women) who paved the way for religious freedom in our country today. And for military today that help keep our freedoms. Hope you enjoy these pictures. Check out the church's history here. It shows step by step pictures of reconstruction:
You can also read more about the city on the web site. This city was Catholic. The other settlements near the same time like Jamestown and Plymouth were Protestant.

Here's some of my pictures (click on pictures to view full screen):

01 March 2014

Fairs, announcements and great new things coming soon with digitizing projects!

Note: I live in Virginia, and my focus today was on Virginia records. This is a post I did on my Virginia blog. But I felt most the info would be relevant to this blog as well. I believe these partnerships will do amazing things and help make many records accessible. I love spending time in the Library of Virginia. They are so amazing about record preservation and accessibility. The staff is so knowledgeable, friendly and helpful.  It was great to see the cooperation of various groups to learn about genealogy, and try to get some new ideas to try. Here is a recent email I got about Polish records, so it isn't all VA records. I look forward to much more like this, with cooperation:

I missed my goal last weekend of doing weekly posts. I was busy preparing for today's local family history fair, practicing my presentation, and a trip to Library of Virginia. Today was a wonderful day! Next time, I'll post on here ahead of time about it. It was a huge success, so another will be done next year. Enormous amounts of preparation went into this. The committee was amazing! I was happy to be a speaker, and enjoyed sitting in the lunch room with the guests from LVA, UVA and locals like me, with varying subject interests. The thought for the fair, was that not everyone could travel to Utah for the Rootstech conferences. This was to make similar types of info available locally. Here is the link to the page for the Fredericksburg, VA fair we had today:

Another thing that I have gotten emails and seen presentations about, is joint partnerships with familysearch and Whenever familysearch signs a contract, they say the index must always remain free. Indexers before familysearch, did the 1880 Census index and Ellis Island manifest. Those records are of course still free, years later, as the original agreement was made. The numbers of indexers and the rate projects are being digitized and accessible online is really mind boggling. But the familysearch team has bigger, higher goals than even I can fully comprehend. Check out this goal to digitize 70 billion records worldwide! Even with all the amazing volunteer work, at the rate projects are going now, it would take 250-300 years to index. With the new partnership of familysearch, heritage quest,, Find my past,etc...all the collaborative effort, the records will be accessible in 25-30 years as opposed to 250-300 years. How amazing! Here is the infographic: Here is more detailed description, about the partnerships and picture:

I wanted to find some official statements, not emails and presentations I've seen. There were announcements in Sep 2013 and at Rootstech in Feb 2014. Here is a link to about the partnership in Sep, making 1 billion records available in 5 years:
Here is the familysearch Feb info discussed at Rootstech:
Here is the Sep announcement from's page:
Eastman also wrote about this too, (back in Sept) on his blog.