Friday, January 27, 2012

You're what? From where?

I got to thinking about nationality and ethnicity, and how they don't always mean the same thing. They sometimes do - my Irish ancestors are from Ireland, my Norwegian ancestors are from Norway, my English ancestors are (as far as I know) from England. But my German ancestors, they're from all over:

My Wagner line seems to come from Mecklenberg, now in northern Germany.

My Sitzman/Zitzmann line comes from Bohemia, now in the Czech Republic.

My Joseph line comes from Ulanowka, near Zhitomir in Ukraine, and from Kepa Kikolska, Poland

My Beilstein line comes from the Grand Duchy of Hesse (now the state of Hesse in central Germany).

My Waechter line comes from Alsace-Lorraine (now part of France).

My Kruger ancestors gave their country of origin as Prussia and Mecklenberg. Not sure about the distinction (if there is any) between the two, or where exactly they were from.

Anyways, I think you get the point. Maybe other ethnic groups are just as complex, I don't know. But it seems to me that you can't just say your ancestry is "German" when there are so many different places those Germans seem to come from!

And in case you were wondering, yes I am more German than anything. As far as I know so far, at least. :)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday - When it rains, it REALLY rains

Obituary for Augusta (Joseph) Gibson
I have had a crazy week in genealogy research, and it's only Wednesday! Here's a quick summary of what's come my way since Sunday:

1. My sister was contacted by a relative named Delores on our Bergstad side, and passed her name and number on to me. I called Delores last Sunday and talked to her for over an hour, and found out she is my first cousin twice removed, and she has a lot of info on the Bergstads I didn't, including pictures!! I still need to sit down and really sift through the notes I took while talking to her.

2. While going through my Joseph family files, I noticed I was missing obituaries from a lot of people. I got the feeling I might be able to find some of these on my own, so I went to Newspaper Archive, and looked for the edition of the local paper for their localities (Butte, Anaconda, and Helena) that came out the day after they died. Instead of relying on the indexes, I actually read through the paper quickly (first time that I've done it this way). In just an hour or two, I had obituaries for my 2nd-great-grandaunt Tina (Joseph) Leistiko, my great-grandmother Augusta (Joseph) Gibson, and my great-great-grandmother Catherine (Cain) Gibson. The one for Catherine was really hard to see, but I was able to read most of it. But it just amazed me how quickly I found these, and the details and info about each person were priceless.
Obituary for
Christine (Joseph) Leistiko

3. My grandmother made a huge breakthrough on our mysterious American Indian ancestor Lisette Rainier, by finding out a relative (son or brother are the most likely relationships) of Lisette's named Joseph Rainier bought some land in Montana in 1904. His last name is spelled Reynier in the land record. I'm still trying to find him in the 1900 and 1910 censuses, but no luck so far. The only other records I have on him are a mention in the journal of Lisette's husband Thomas W. Harris, and the 1860 census where he and Charles Rainier are listed as living with Thomas and Lisette. Nothing else is known about him, so the land record is huge!

4. Upon hearing about Joseph Rainier's land purchase, I went to the BLM GLO website (which I admittedly haven't used much at all till now) and starting poking around, searching for ancestors in different parts of the country. In just a few minutes, I had copies of patents from several ancestors! So far I've found patents and other records for Alexander B. Shute, Thomas W. Harris, James E. Craddock, Knut J. Bergstad, Turby (Bergstad) Cornell, and the previously-mentioned Joseph Rainier. And that was just the ones I found on random searches. Can't wait to see what a thorough search will reveal!

5. Last night, I came across a link for Black Sea German Research group. These wonderful people have gone through German Lutheran church records for the Trinity German Lutheran Church in Winnipeg, Manitoba, indexed them, and linked the people together in family groups. Trinity church was associated with Christ Lutheran Church, also in Manitoba, where many of my Joseph relatives lived. I did a search for the surname Joseph, and came back with 43 hits, many of whom I recognized as my relatives right off. I sent away for those church records last night, and am waiting anxiously to hear back on them.

Land patent for Alexander Blood Shute
6. Found out that RootsTech 2012 (which takes place next weekend) has an official app for smartphones. It has a photo gallery, speaker bios, conference documents, videos, a link to Twitter that pulls up all entries marked with the #rootstech hashtag, and more. This year I'm hoping to follow RootsTech much more closely, even though I can't attend in person, and this app looks like it will let me do just that.

The only downside to all of this genealogical goodness is that I have a ProGen assignment due next week, and I'm trying to finish that, and keep up with all the stuff I keep finding. I mean, once I find a little something on one of my lines, I can't help but dig and keep digging until I find everything I can. But I have literally been overwhelmed with everything that has come my way this week. I almost wish I had an assistant or something just to help with the filing and organizing. :) But it's a happy problem, one I will never seriously complain about. Just hope I can document everything before I lose track of where I found it.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Celebrating Sylvester?

Sylvester the Cat, courtesy of

After finishing my last blog post, I started reviewing a newspaper article that I thought might contain a reference to John Adolph Leistiko, a German immigrant from eastern Europe and first husband of my great-great-grandaunt Christine/Justine "Tina" Joseph, but wasn't sure if the Adolph Leistiko it mentioned was him. The article (more like a paragraph in the "Society Notes of the Week" section) was about a fraternity I'd never heard of called the Sons of Hermann, celebrating something called "Sylvester abend". The only Sylvester I know is a cat who says "thufferin' thuccotash." After a little internet research, I found that Sylvester is the German name for New Year's Eve, because that's the night of the feast of Saint Sylvester, a Catholic Pope who died on December 31, 335. Abend turned out to be German for 'evening', so Sylvester abend would be New Year's Eve night. That made sense, as the issue of the paper was dated 5 January 1902. So a German New Year's celebration sounded like a pretty good connection for Adolph Leistiko.
Tina Joseph and Adolph Leistiko
on their wedding day
Then I wanted to know more about the Sons of Hermann. A little internet searching led me to a great newsletter put out by the Indiana German Heritage Society that gives a whole history of the Sons of Hermann, with a detailed background on Hermann himself, a German hero from 2000 years ago who kept the Roman armies out of Europe (or something like that, I haven't finished reading the whole story yet). The Sons of Hermann, according to the IGHS newsletter, was started by some German immigrants in New York as a mutual support group, who chose Hermann as a symbol to unite them. They grew to be a nation-wide fraternity (hence the presence of a lodge in Montana), up until World War I, when membership started declining. Like a lot of other fraternities I've read about, they got into offering insurance, mostly life insurance, to their members.  But it was the German connection that really stood out to me. A German holiday, celebrated by a German fraternity, made up of German immigrants sounded like a really good fit. Not only that, they had a Mannerchoir (or männerchor, as it probably should have been spelled, meaning a male choir) that sang at the party. Could they get any more German?

Tina and Adolph Leistiko,
with their son Alfred
The only part that still kind of seemed out of place was the actual reference to Adolph. I have two pictures of him - one is from the day of his wedding to Tina, and the other is of the two of them years later with one of their children. In both of them Adolph looks very serious and somber. Contrast these images with the article, which says Adolph and another fraternity member named Charles Burg "sang comic songs." I guess the photographs may not represent his total personality, but I have a hard time picturing someone who can look so serious singing comic songs at a New Year's party. I guess even old Adolph could let his hair down (so to speak).

Sentimental Sunday - Shot in the back, and you're to blame

Montana Standard article -
3 Jun 1938
Now that I'm back to going through my own family records after going through everything I have on my wife's ancestry, I'm happily back in familiar territory - the Joseph family. A quick glance at how many records I have on these guys told me this is not going to be a quick job. But I'm ok with that; I'm actually very interested to see what I've collected on them, and seeing what I have that I don't know that I have.

I came across one very interesting person on the first day I started doing the Joseph records - Adolph William "Bus" Leistiko. He's my first cousin three times removed (he was my great-grandmother Augusta Joseph's cousin), and had a short but eventful life. He was born in 1915 in Anaconda, Deer Lodge, Montana to John Adolph Leistiko and Justine/Christine Joseph. Bus was the youngest of the seven children born to his parents, though Tina, as his mom was often known, later had a daughter with her second husband, John Levick. He and his half-sister Mary Levick married their respective spouses, Lucille Bailey and Michael Frankovich, on the same day, 18 June 1934, both in Anaconda, Montana, by the same Justice of the Peace, William Lorenz. Mary's mother-in-law, Helen Frankovich, was a witness to both weddings. Sadly, Bus's marriage to Lucille was short-lived, as he married Rose Richards less than three years later, on 18 May 1937, and gave his marital status as divorced.

Shortly after his marriage to Rose, Bus was traveling with two friends (one of whom was a brother-in-law of his half-sister Mary), driving near Anaconda. Bus was at the wheel and his friends were in the back seat, examining a .22 pistol, when the pistol went off. The bullet went through the front seat and hit Bus in the back. Apparently they avoided crashing somehow, as Bus was taken to a hospital to receive emergency  treatment for the wound, and was released the same day and allowed to go home to recover.
Montana Standard article -
19 Nov 1950
Bus did recover, and went on to have five children and a career in the garage and surface department of the Anaconda Reduction Works, according to the Montana Standard newspaper. He even ran for the position of constable of East Anaconda Township in July, 1950. Just a few months after the election, he started complaining of pains in his left arm and side. On 18 November 1950, a week after the pains started, he got up from the dinner table to walk into the living room, when he suffered a heart attack and died. He was only 35, and while I don't know how old most of his kids were, I do know that one of his daughters would have been about 10. Given that he'd only been married for 13 years, the rest of the kids would have probably been close to that in age. I can't imagine what a shock that would have been, to have just finished dinner, when someone just...dies, right there, and possibly right in front of the family too.

So that was the life of Adolph "Bus" Leistiko (or what I've found of it in a few vital records and newspaper articles). Short, kind of rough, and a pretty sad end. But I'm glad I was able to piece together this much of his life, and retell the story. It makes what genealogy research so much more meaningful when I can find some of the stories behind the names, dates, and places. It's one of the reasons I do this research - all of our ancestors had stories like this, some longer, some shorter. But finding these stories makes me feel connected to these people, and hopefully I'll be able to pass that connection on to my descendants and relatives before my story ends.