I don’t usually get much online research done in the summer months because I prefer to be walking cemeteries or traveling to libraries and other research centers. However since I’m not feeling well and ancestry had a free three day search of the 1930 census I have found myself digging online.
I spent most of my time on John’s lines. He has no interest in it at all and I already have most of the basics to pass down to the family. For me it is the thrill of completing a giant puzzle that will forever have pieces missing.
I started with this obituary that I found in the online archives of the Syracuse, NY newspapers:
The Syracuse Herald, Monday, March 22, 1920, pg 18
Mrs Andrew Grabowske, 83, died Sunday at her home 936 North Salina street, after an illness of one week. She leaves two sons, Andrew and August Grabowske; three daughters, Mrs Mary Nelipowitz, Mrs Tina Schwahn (sic) and Mrs Anna Schaknowske; 54 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren. She was born in Germany and had been a resident of the North Side for 35 years.
Frank H Wenz took the body to the home of Mrs Nelipowitz, 104 Lawrence street, where the funeral will take place Tuesday at 9:30 A.M. and a half hour later in the Church of the Assumption. Burial will be in Assumption cemetery.
Her first name was Helena, her maiden name a puzzle piece yet to be discovered. She was John’s 2nd great-grandmother. I tried to see how much I could find out about her and how many of her descendants I could locate. The German names in the older newspapers were spelled however the person at the paper thought they ought to be spelled, which added to my challenge. Searching for the two addresses listed gave me more information and more addresses to search for.
I learned that she was born near Millborg, Germany (which so far I have been unable to locate on any map) and that she married Andrew Grabowski there in November 1858.
The Syracuse Herald, Thurs, Nov 12, 1908
At 9 o’clock this morning Mr and Mrs Andrew Grabowski were remarried at the Church of the Assumption in celebration of their fiftieth wedding anniversary. The ceremony was performed by Rev. Fredolin Stauble, of Trenton, N.J., the step-son of Andrew Grabowski, Jr., at whose house at No. 1208 Park street a reception was held after the wedding. Mr and Mrs Grabowski were born near Millborg, Germany, and came to this city 26 years ago.
From various census records I learned that she had had 12 children (in 1910, five were still living) and at least six of them emigrated with them to the US between 1882 and 1885. (The notice in the paper would indicate 1882, census records 1885. Some of the children’s records show 1884 or 1886 but I believe they traveled together. I have not yet found there immigration records. Ellis Island did not open until 1892.) So what happened to the other six children? Did they die in infancy or early childhood? Another puzzle piece.
German immigrants settled mostly on the north side of Syracuse and this is where the family made their home. It appears that Helena was a house wife and her husband a laborer. Life certainly wouldn’t have been easy but certainly it wasn’t a bad life either. She saw the marriages of all six of her children and they settled around her on the north side. Beginning in the late 1880’s the grandchildren started coming. More than the 54 listed in her obituary would be born, funerals would take place too. Marriages, births and deaths – the Church of the Assumption would have been a central figure in the family’s life. Several descendants would become priests and at least one would join a convent.
On January 14, 1902 her son, John, died.
The Post Standard, Wednesday, January 15, 1902, pg 6
BLOW CRUSHES SKULL OF SYRACUSE MAN
John Grabowski is killed while at work on Cazenovia Lake
John Grabowski of North State street, employed by the People’s Ice Company in harvesting ice on Cazenovia Lake, was struck in the head by the handle of a windless and instantly killed at 2 o’clock yesterday afternoon.
Grabowski was operating the windlass when he met death. He drew out a block which held it in place, but failed to catch the handle firmly and the weight caused it to fly around and strike him upon the head. The force of the blow caused instant death. Coroner Knapp of Cazenovia will make an investigation.
Grabowski was 28 years old and leaves a wife and two children. He was born in Germany and had lived here about fifteen years.
World War I was doubly hard on the German immigrants as they knew soldiers on both side. I’m not sure how many Helena knew in Germany but in 1914 there was an article in the paper about her daughter-in-law, Rosa Schmidt, widow of her son John, about word she had received about her two brothers being drafted into the German Army. Helena lost at least two grandsons to the war.
Syracuse Herald, Nov 21, 1918, pg 3, col 2
Corp. Fred Grabowski, Company D, Eighth Machine Gun battalion, was killed in action Sept. 27. He is the second son of Mr. and Mrs. August Grabowski, no 122 Culbert street, to make the supreme sacrifice. His brother, John A Grabowski, Company A, Seventh infantry, was killed in action June 23d. Another brother is at Camp Dix.
It would be nice to have a more personal account of her life written by someone who knew her but for now the records from various census and newspapers are all that we have. I have traced many of her descendants in some cases to seven generations and the outline tree generated fills 10 pages. There are still many, many pieces left in the puzzle that I will revisit on another day.