Geneablogy: An occasional Journal about our experiences exploring our heritage

Monday, August 28, 2000

Well, you would think by postings here that things have been quiet lately, but nothing could be farther from the truth. I just spent a week in Michigan and a couple of days in Pennsylvania doing research. I had hoped to keep the site updated while I was away, but there was so much stuff to do that I didn't have time. And now I've got a ton of stuff to post that's going to take quite a while to digest and put into a form that can be posted here.

So let's start with the beginning (more-or-less). I had a radio thing to go to in the Columbus, Ohio area, so I left home on Wednesday evening, August 9. Columbus is a ten-hour drive, so I figured I would drive until I got tired, find a hotel room, and finish the drive to Ohio the following day. Well, when I woke up on Thursday morning, I found myself in Bedford, Pennsylvania, a 25 mile drive up I-99 from Altoona, the city where my great-grandparents were married and my grandfather born. Columbus was only going to be about a five hour drive, so I took the opportunity to go to Altoona (something I had actually planned to do on the way back from the trip).

First thing to do in Altoona was find the church where Great-Grandpa and Busia Horbal got married. The records said they had been married at Sts. Peter & Paul R.C. Church, but I couldn't find such a thing in current-day phone directories. But in the Altoona city directories from the 1910s and 1920s, they gave the address of the residence attached to the church as 1906 19th St. When I got there, I found that the church's name had been changed to the Our Lady of Fatima Chapel. The sign on the church said "Formerly Sts. Peter &Paul", and the cornerstone of the church said "Sts. Peter & Paul Polish Catholic Church". It also said that the church had been built in 1911, so it was brand new when Great-Grandpa and Busia got married in 1913. I took pictures of the church, which was pretty small, and of the cornerstone, but I haven't gotten them developed yet. I'll post them when I do. The church wasn't open, so I couldn't go in, but it looked like a nice church. I also took some pictures of the neighborhood, figuring they must have lived relatively close by. I also found the nearby Ukrainian Catholic Church on 20th St and took some pictures of it. Its cornerstone said it had been built in 1920. That may have something to do with why they got married in the Roman Catholic Church rather than the Greek (Ukrainian) Catholic Church. The neighborhood is on the edge of town, as you can see on the map; Altoona doesn't stretch much further than this.

After that, I went to the Altoona Public Library, figuring that would probably be a good source of information, newspapers, and the like. I found a very helpful (but somewhat sad) librarian there who informed me that the library was somewhat starved for funds, and therefore didn't even have a complete set of microfilmed copies of Altoona's own newspapers. She did tell me, however, that the Blair County Genealogical Society had a well-stocked library in nearby Hollidaysburg, the result of a generous bequest from a wealthy patron. She even gave me a map and drew the directions there, and also told me that they happened to be open that day. I felt bad that Altoona's own library had apparently been neglected, but grateful to the librarian for pointing me toward this other source.

So I drove down to Hollidaysburg and found the society's library. One of the volunteers came over to help me when she found it was my first time there. I started by asking if they had the Soundex index for the 1910 Census on microfilm, because my great-grandfather had supposedly come to the area around 1909-10, but she apparently misunderstood me and started looking at a book index of the 1850 Census. Okay, let's try another tack. I mentioned that my great-grandparents were married at Sts. Peter & Paul Church in Altoona. "Oh, we have their records," came the reply. You could have knocked me over with a feather. She brought me over a book that had their records from 1916-1925 or thereabouts. Wrong years, but worth a look anyway. There were baptismal records for a number of Horbals in that book. All were children of a Michael Horbal and Catherine Stec. I made copies of the four records in that book. The librarian was bringing me city directories, despite the fact that I had told her that no Horbals appeared in the Altoona city directories until 1923 for whatever reason (and then it was Michael Horbal, as my great-grandparents were long gone by then).

I went over to the pile of records on the shelf to see if there were any earlier records for Sts. Peter & Paul, and sure enough, I came across a book for 1911-1915, their earliest years. I found a record of Józef and Wiktorja's marriage, and of the baptism of my grandfather and his brother Ray. Best of all, all of the records gave Józef's place of birth as Stara Bircza, Galicia! Finally, readable proof of where he came from. "Stara" means "old", so Great-Grandpa was from Old Bircza, which is right next to the current town of Bircza. Lipa, where Busia was from, is of course, quite close.

The marriage record gives incorrect birthdates for both Józef and Wiktorja. He was made two years older, and she was made two years younger. The record also gives the names of their parents, Paulus Horbal and Justina Wozna for Józef and Joseph Mazur and Catharina Podgórska for Wiktorja. (The records, being from a Catholic church, are in Latin.) The witnesses were Joannes (John) Baran and Michel (Michelle?) Franiec.

Grandpa's baptism record gives his name as Teophilus Horbal of Aleghina Fornas, Altoona, Pa (there's that pesky Latin again). He was born on 14 April 1914 and baptised on 19 April 1914. His Godparents were Michael Mielnik and Anna Walezewska (the name Mielnik shows up again later). Uncle Ray's baptism record gives his name as Roman Vladislaus Horbal of South Altoona, Pa. He was born on 16 September 1915 and baptised on 26 September 1915. His Godparents were Michael Mielnik and Opolonia Heyn. There's also a note here in the space below his name about his marriage. It says that he was married to Margarita Veronica Roth on November 24, 1945 at Sts. Cyril & Methodius Church in Detroit. That would be Aunt Pat! What is it about this family that causes people to use names other than the ones they were given at birth? Both of the baptism records give the birthplaces of the parents, Bircza and Lipa.

The aforementioned baptism records of the children of Michael Horbal were very interesting, too. There were four children in the records:

The Godfather of all of these children was Joannes (John) Mielnik (there's that name again!). John's Godmother was Anna Bednarczyk; Frances' was Rozalia (Rose?) Mielnik; and Edward and Michael's was Anna Mielnik (maybe formerly Anna Bednarczyk?). Their father, Michael Horbal, is listed as being from Stara Bircza, Galicia, Poland or sometimes just Bircza, and their mother, Catharina (Katarzyna?) Stec is listed as being from Lipa, Galicia, Poland, the same town as Wiktoria (Mazur) Horbal.

After finding those records, I looked through the card catalog they had in the library. These served as an index to big binders of newspaper obituaries. I found an obituary from December, 1969, for Catherine Horbal, formerly of Hollidaysburg and the widow of Michael Horbal. It gives her birthdate as 1 June 1895 and says she married Michael in New York City in 1912. Michael died in 1948. Survivors included six children. Frances' name was now Dugan, and she and her sister, Genevieve Gava, both lived in Matawan, New Jersey, a few short miles from where I write this. Edward lived in Colonial Heights, Virginia. Michael and another brother, Robert, are listed as living in Woodridge, New Jersey. And a final brother, Peter, is shown as resident in Elizabeth, New Jersey. No mention of John, so presumably he died before 1969.

That was quite a bit of information for two short hours, but I had to hit the road so I could go to Columbus. But that half-hour up the road and half-hour back was well worth the detour!

When I got to Detroit, one of the people I wanted to see was my mom's cousin Paul, who sent me a bunch of documents earlier this year that had been so helpful. I wanted to show him what I had come up with as a result (mainly Józef's naturalization applications) and the stuff I had found in Altoona. I spent a very pleasant evening with Paul and his wife Eileen, along with my Uncle Vince and Aunt Nancy, who I stayed with in Michigan and who came along to Paul and Eileen's. Paul had contacted me back in April, I think, asking if I had any information about Józef, as he had gotten a letter from an Emil Horbal in Poland asking for information. Actually, Emil's letter, as I realized well after leaving Altoona, had asked for information about Józef and Michal Horbal. When I remembered that, I realized that the records I had found of Michal's family in Altoona were almost certainly of relatives.

Well, it turned out that Paul had gotten a second letter from Emil just a week earlier. I got copies of the two letters from Paul. In the first one, he says he's looking for information about Józef Horbal, son of Pawel (Paul) and his wife, maiden name Stec, and Michal Horbal, son of Pawel, and his wife, maiden name Mazur. He had the spouses backward (Mazur being Wiktorja's maiden name, and Stec being Katarzyna's maiden name), but otherwise the information checks out. In the second letter, he charmingly (and mistakenly) addresses Paul as his "brother-in-law" and gives his Uncle Michal's old address as "Sylvan Hills, Box 77, Holidaysburg, Penna". That matches the few instances of Horbals appearing in the Altoona/Hollidaysburg city directories. It turns out that Michal and Józef had a brother who stayed behind in Poland, Jakub, and that Emil, who is 65, is Jakub's son. That makes him my grandfather's first cousin, my cousin Paul's first cousin once removed, and my first cousin twice removed. Emil even invited Paul to come to Poland.

I brought my laptop computer and scanner so I could show Paul the scans of some of the documents I had found, and had made him copies of the documents I found in Hollidaysburg. I scanned a number of documents that he had sent me photocopies of, including Busia's birth certificate, Great-Grandpa's naturalization certificate, and their wedding certificate. So now I've got much better copies. And interesting, by scanning at high resolution and zooming in, plus with the benefit of a look at the actual church and particularly its headstone, I was able to decipher the unknown letters after "R.C." on their wedding certificate as "Pol", short for "Polish".

R.C. Pol. Church

The best story that Paul told about his grandparents was about pierogies. He really really liked Busia's pierogies. So he was always asking her to teach him how to make them. Not that he really wanted to make them, mind you, but if Busia was going to teach Paul how to make pierogies, she would, of course, have to actually make some, which Paul looked forward to eating. He never learned how to make pierogies, but had a lot of good meals.

A week or so later, on my way back to New Jersey, I decided to stop again in Altoona and spend a couple of hours at the library in Hollidaysburg. (Unfortunately, I got into an accident on the way there in the tiny town of Phillipsburg, but nobody was hurt, so it wasn't the end of the world. I wasn't happy about the damage to my brand new Toyota Camry, but it seemed to be all cosmetic. A semi backed into me at low speed in a left turn lane and ripped up my bumper and grill, knocked one of my headlights cockeyed, and dented my hood. All on a car that was seven weeks old.... At least the investigating State Trooper said that his report would say that the accident was the semi driver's fault....) After that minor and unhappy delay, I went back to the library. I looked through some later city directories that the NYC Public Library won't have on microfilm. The 1936 directory lists Michl Horbal working as a watchman with a home in Sylvan Hills with his wife Cath, as well as John P Horbal, resident in Sylvan Hills, and Francis A Horbal, resident with one Martin A Greer. Then they disappeard from the directories again until the 1948-49 directory, when Genevieve D. Horbal shows up as a stenographer for Westfall Co, resident at RD 2 Box 77 in Hollidaysburg.

Another item I found was a cemetery listing for New St. Mary's Cemetery in Hollidaysburg. Given that Catherine's obit listed her as a former member of St. Mary's, I figured that was a good place to look for them, and it was. They misspelled the name as "Horbol", but it gives listings for four Horbals:

It said they were all buried in section A, and there was a map of the cemetery. It mentioned that the cemetery bordered on Green Lawn Cemetery.

The last thing I did was another trawl through the obituaries catalog for Mazurs and Woznys. The index includes a section that indexes by maiden name, and it was there that I found Rose (Mazur) Melnick. All the other Mazurs seemed to be Jewish, but Rose was Catholic. More than that, she was born in Wies Lipa, Poland. The obituary says that she was the daughter of John and Katherine Mazur. Now, Wiktorja's parents were Józef and Katarzyna Mazur. So if the father's name was wrong in the obit, Rose could possibly have been Wiktorja's sister. At the very least, she might have been a cousin. And the name Melnick? One of the obits (there are two) gives the original spelling of the name as "Melnyk". Knowing that vowels in that area of the world often have accents, it's not much of a stretch to see "Melnyk" and "Mielnik" as the same name. Perhaps one was the Polish spelling and the other the Ukrainian? Note also that one Rozalia (Rose?) Mielnik was listed as the Godmother for Frances Horbal, the daughter of Michael Horbal. And the plot thickens....

The following morning, before driving back to New Jersey, I decided to have a go at finding New St. Mary's Cemetery. Hollidaysburg is a pretty small town, after all. I found the church. The presiding pastor or whatever at St. Mary's was named on their sign as Father John Palko. He just happens to be listed in Rose's obituary as her grandson. I think a letter to the good Father might be in order. I drove around town, found Old St. Mary's, drove a little further, and found Green Lawn Cemetery out by the edge of town. This was the cemetery that bordered on New St. Mary's, but where was not immediately apparent. Then I noticed a cemetery on a hill behind Green Lawn. There was no road to it from where I was, but now I knew roughly where to look. I drove around a bit more and eventually found myself at the corner of N. Juniata and Cemetery Lane. I thought that was a pretty good indicator.

The list at the library had said the Horbals were buried in section A, so I walked all of section A with no luck. Fortunately, there were three cemetery employees doing some surveying for some reason. After I had walked the entire section, one of them asked me if I was looking for someone in particular. I told him, and he pointed me toward the Horbals' graves, in section B. Go figure. Sure enough, all four of them were buried next to each other. I think the date given for Edward in the book was wrong. I took pictures, but again, haven't gotten them developed yet. The Horbals were nestled in between two other people of another surname. I don't remember what the name was, but it was the same one on either side of them. I'll know what that is when I get the pictures developed.

And so I'm left with a better picture of the Horbal family, but I don't know how or why they all lost touch. Emil knew Michal's address, but apparently not Józef's, which I guess would fit with the fact that Józef didn't talk much about the old country.

Józef and Wiktorja Horbal



City Directories

Posted at 12:09:37 AM Link to this entry


Sunday, August 6, 2000

[ John Pantano, real estate and insurance ]

More catch-up: Laura's Aunt Ginny sent copies of the birth certificates issued by the city of Paterson for her parents, Laura's grandparents, Giovanni (John) Pantano and Adelina Sarracco (sic). The information is pretty much the same as on the state-issued certificates. They give Adelina's mother's name a misspelling I hadn't seen before, Menoce for Minnocci. Aunt Ginny also sent along a copy of John Pantano's business card from his summer and after-hours job selling real estate and insurance, which you can see here.

Also, we got Felicia Minnocci Pantano's (Grandma-on-the-hill) Social Security application. It mentions her birthplace, Alatri, near Rome. We didn't know that, although when Laura mentioned it to her mom, she replied that she knew that. How much more information is she keeping from us? :-)

Posted at 11:03:39 PM Link to this entry


Some other documents have come in the mail in the past week or so:

Grandma Horbal's application for a Social Security number gives her full name given at birth as "Josepha Zurbyk", and her parents' names as Maria Sobol and Antony Zurbyk. She applied for the number on March 13, 1975.

I got the state-issued death certificate for the missing Ralph Brandi. It also list his mother's name as "Anna Washnaski", gives his birthdate as January 31, 1912 and date of death as May 30, 1912. The place of death was 227 No. 6th; the Saginaw city directory for 1912 puts their residence at 627 No. Franklin, so I"m not sure what the story there is. Young Ralph was buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery on June 1, 1912, not in the Brandi plot in Calvary, oddly enough. Philip, who died in 1898, and Vincent, who died in 1913, are buried there, but not Ralph. Weird. Maybe there's another cemetery to visit while I'm in Saginaw. The cause of death was Infantile Convulsions, according to the coroner. The informant on the death certificate was someone named Fred Frazer of Saginaw. I have no idea who that is; the name hasn't shown up before, and I don't know what the significance is.

The state of New Jersey only took two months to cough up the birth certificates of Laura's Grandma and Grandpa Pantano and the death certificate of her great-great-grandfather, Vittorio Minnocci. Grandpa Pantano's given name at birth was Giovanni, and he was born on January 3rd, 1908 at 144 Oliver St., Paterson, NJ. Grandma Pantano was born Adelina Sarracco (that's how it's spelled on the certificate) on March 20, 1908, at 22 Camden St., Paterson, NJ. Interestingly, they were both delivered by the same midwife, Filomena di Lorenzo of 45 Mill Street in Paterson. I think we actually had most if not all of this information from copies of their birth certificates issued by the city of Paterson that Laura got from her Aunt Ginny (and that I haven't scanned in yet, shame on me).

Vittorio Minnocci's death certificate says that he was born on September 3rd, 1863, and died on December 15, 1934. Vittorio is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Paterson, which I think is the same one the Saraccos and Pantanos are buried in. I don't remember seeing their graves when we were there a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, the state of New Jersey seems to be one of those that blocks out the cause of death, because there's a big blank in that section of the certificate. The certificate gives his wife's name as Anna Maloretta. Interestingly, Grandma-on-the-hill's (Laura's great-grandmother, Felicia (Minnocci) Pantano) Social Security application gives her name as Anna Magliocchetti (whoops, guess I didn't scan that one yet). The informant on the death certificate was Felicia's brother Arthur Minnocci, so I can't really say which is correct. If I could find something that Vittorio or Anna filled out which said, then I could be more sure. Vittorio's profession is listed as a retired "Dyer Helper", so I guess he did that after he stopped making macaroni and being a grocer. And the certificate lists his parents' names as Carlo Minnocci and Angela Sciardi, both born in Italy (no more specific than that, but presumably they're also of Alatria, where Felicia was from). Those are names we didn't have before. Records from Alatri seem to be pretty sketchy in the Mormon Church's holdings; they've only got civil registrations between 1877 and 1898, and even then only for a few years. Bummer.

Posted at 11:25:15 AM Link to this entry


Saturday, August 5, 2000

Well, the Catholic Cemetery Commission came through with a very interesting list. Page 11 of the Calvary Cemetery Burial List has a number of Brandis buried in the same location, including my great grandfather. The portion of the page dealing with Brandis reads as follows:

Name Age Date Location
Brandi, Anthonia 41 11/14/1926 Sec N Lot 130
Brandi, Maria 78 05/24/???? Sec N Lot 130
Brandi, Philip A. 6 1/2 04/21/1898 Sec N Lot 130
Brandi, Vincent   09/04/1913 Sec N Lot 130
Brandi, Vincenzo 70 06/12/1917 Sec N Lot 130
Brandi, Ralph Albert Sr. 88 12/26/1959 Sec N Lot 130

This is, of course, a wealth of information. Now I can send away for death certificates for Vincenzo, Anthonia (Antonina), and Maria, and maybe for the others eventually. It's not clear if the dates given are burial dates or death dates. For Ralph Sr., I know that the date is his death date, but for Philip, the date is probably his burial date, as his death record gives the date of his death as April 18, 1898. Anyway, given that I now have a rough idea of when everyone died, it shouldn't be hard for the state of Michigan to find the appropriate certificates.

The commission also sent the following note about the cemetery:

Calvary Cemetery

Calvary Cemetery, the first Catholic cemetery in the Saginaw area, was established by Father van der Bom in 1868 with a burial tract of four acres located east of Hoyt Park. In 1881 an additional three and a half acres were added. With the eventual sale of all its lots and the impossibility of acquiring more land, it became necessary to acquire the present Mt. Olivet Cemetery property.

With its ancient monuments and ten-foot wide "horse and buggy" roads, Calvary remains a peaceful and picturesque place secluded from the din and stir of modern life.

In this cemetery are buried some of the early prominent names relating to Saginaw. Burials, from tombstones, date from 1861.

Posted at 11:44:50 PM Link to this entry


Friday, August 4, 2000

I got mail from the Department of Immigration and Naturalization Services today with my Great-Grandpa Horbal's naturalization papers, including his Declaration of Intention and his Petition for Naturalization. Cool! I've been waiting for this for months, as I figured it would have the answer to the question of where he was from. Unfortunately, the INS's copies were pretty awful. There are three mentions of his birthplace, one on his Petition and two on his Declaration, and they're all three unreadable. The first appearance on the Declaration of Intention is the blank for "I was born in":

[ Stara something-or-other ]

Following the town, it says "Galicia Aust Poland". The second appearance on the Declaration is for the blank that says "my last foreign residence was:"

[ Stara something-or-other, Austria Poland ]

The appearance on the Petition for Naturalization is for the Third item, "I was born on the 24th day of Sept, anno domini 1891, at":

[ Stara something-or-other, Poland ]

<sigh>.... I waited three months to find out that my great-grandfather was born in Stara <mumble>, Poland.

Other interesting information that I can decipher from the copies (and which will lead me to other records, like ship's passenger lists, which will hopefully be more readable) say that he came to America on the ship Kaiserin Aug. Victoria, leaving Hamburg on 11 Dec 1909 and arriving in New York on 20 Dec 1909. He filed his Declaration of Intent on 18 Jun 1919, I think, in Cleveland. And he was in Cleveland longer than I thought; Uncle Paul was born there in January, 1917, as was Aunt Della later on. Uncle Ray was born in Pennsylvania in September, 1915, so they moved to Cleveland sometime between September 1915 and January 1917. His Declaration was number 26790. His witnesses on the Petition were Edward R. Birkholz, a boilermaker living at 663 East 70th in Cleveland, and Samuel E. Machasek, who was in real estate and lived at 1129 East 147th in Cleveland, near as I can tell. They both said that they had known Great-Grandpa since 1 Feb 1917 and that he had lived in the US continuously since then.

Great Grandpa is described as being white, of fair complexion, 5' 4", 155 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes and no distinguishing marks. When he filed the Declaration of Intention, they lived at 14421 Darley Ave. in Cleveland, but by the time he filed the Petition, they were at 1929 Columbus, which is where they were at when he got his citizenship on July 5th, 1922.

In the cover letter, the INS says that they are "providing you with the best reproducible copy available. You may want to contact the Clerk of the US District Court in Cleveland, Ohio, for a more legible copy." Indeed I might.

Jozef Horbal

Posted at 6:30:58 PM Link to this entry


I was looking through these pages for references to "Karyshyn" and realized I had forgotten to post this. When I was at the New York Public Library a couple of weeks ago, I found the ship's passenger record for Daniel Karyshyn, the husband of my Grandma's Aunt Mary (Zurbyk). All the photocopying machines were occupied, so I couldn't get a copy of the record, but I did abstract the information. He came to America on the S.S. Finland, sailing from Antwerp, arriving in New York on 7 Sep 1907. His name was spelled in the Polish fashion rather than Ukrainian, that is, Karyszyn. He was 24 years old and single, which I thought was interesting, given that he was from Lychkivtsi (Liczkowce), the same town as my grandmother and presumably as her aunt. So I wonder if he went home to find a bride, sent home for one, or if he came to America having already been engaged to Mary. He worked as a laborer, was able to read and write, was a citizen of Austria, and his race was given as Polish (although he was certainly Ukrainian). For his nearest relative he listed his father, Teodor Karyszyn, in Lickowce, as it's spelled on the record. His final destination was listed as the state of Rhode Island, the city as Novno Ocket and later as Wovno Ocket. That would have to be Woonsocket. He was joining his brother Johann Karyszyn there, who lived at Sosial Str 42. He didn't have a ticket there, though, nor $50. He had paid for his passage himself, and had not been in the U.S. before. He had never been in prison, wasn't a polygamist or anarchist, and had no job offer. His health was good, and he wasn't deformed or crippled. He was 5' 6" tall, of fair complexion, with light hair and blue eyes.

The reason I was looking for Karyshyns here? I got e-mail last week from someone named Karyshyn who had found this page and who thought that Mary Karyshyn was her great-grandmother. Given that she knows she's descended from Teodor Karyshyn, that her grandfather is Stanley Karyshyn of Hilton Head, South Carolina (who my grandmother mentioned as one of her aunt's children) and a few other details, I figured out that we were third cousins.

Posted at 5:47:15 PM Link to this entry


Wednesday, August 2, 2000

I called the Catholic Cemetery Commission in Saginaw last Friday to see if I could find out where my great-grandfather was buried. The obituary in the Saginaw newspapers said Calvary Cemetery, which is downtown, but his death certificate said Mt. Olivet, which is out on the edge of town. There wasn't anyone there then, so I left a message. I got messages on my answering machine on Monday and Tuesday telling me that they had found the information. I forgot to call back yesterday, but I did call this morning, and they tell me he's in Calvary. The woman I spoke with was very nice, and mentioned that they had a few other Brandis listed, and offered to send me their records, so I gave her my address, and she promised to get them in the mail today. Hopefully they'll be here by the weekend, or early next week at the latest, as I leave for Ohio and Michigan next Wednesday evening.

Posted at 9:34:25 AM Link to this entry