Geneablogy: An occasional Journal about our experiences exploring our heritage

Tuesday, October 31, 2000

Digging through Sobol's stuff that I got from Grandma's house, I found an address for Grandma's sister, Katarzyna Kacamarska. At least in 1984, she lived in Lemierzyce in the province of Gorzów Wielkopolski. This map from Expedia shows where Lemierzyce is, quite close to the German border. Katarzyna is the sister who married the Polish lawyer after her father died in order to provide a home for her brothers and sisters. Given that Katarzyna was probably six or seven years older than Grandma, she would have to be about 94 years old now if she were still alive, something that's not likely. And given that Uncle Vince and Aunt Nancy only mentioned wanting to contact Grandma's brother, maybe they already know that Katarzyna's not alive.

Speaking of Grandma's brother, I think I may have found an address for him, too. I've posted something to the InfoUkes genealogy mailing list asking for someone who knows Ukrainian to double check for me. If you want to see the address, I've got a page up with scans of the envelope as Sobol wrote the address out.

Posted at 10:32:57 PM Link to this entry


Sunday, October 22, 2000

The Brandis of Grand Rapids

Pretty early on, when I was looking through the Census Soundexes, I found an entry for Joseph Brandi and family out in Grand Rapids. I didn't know at that point that Ralph Sr. had a brother, but I figured there might be a connection, so I wrote down the information on the off chance that I might need it later. As my research progressed, of course, I found that Joseph was indeed Ralph's brother.

I sent away to the Western Michigan Genealogical Society in Grand Rapids to get obituaries for the Brandis who were listed in their online obit database. In the meantime, when I was in Michigan I decided to go to the Library of Michigan and State Archives in Lansing, since they were the most likely location to find much of the stuff I had hoped to find at the Detroit Public Library's Burton Historical Collection, which was closed due to a flood, and in fact appears to still be closed (they were saying in August that they would reopen October 15, but I guess that didn't happen).

Anyway, the Library of Michigan and State Archives has quite an extensive collection of materials for genealogists, including a huge collection of Michigan newspapers on microfilm. So while I was there, one of the things I did was to look up the obits from Grand Rapids. They didn't have the Grand Rapids Herald, which is where two of the four obits that the WMGS had listed were from, but they did have the Grand Rapids Press, which turned out to be suitable enough. I found obituaries for all four Brandis listed in the WMGS database.

Joseph's first wife, Amelia Goodboo, died on Tuesday evening, January 26, 1937, at the family home outside Marne, Michigan. Her obit says she was survived by one daughter, Mrs. Marie Zukor. I haven't found any other records for Marie yet; it appears that she was perhaps born after Joseph, Amelia, and their first son Raymond left Saginaw around the turn of the century (Raymond appears in the 1900 Census in Saginaw as a three year old living with his grandmother, Zoa Goodboo). The WMGS database of school records lists a Marie Brandi at the Huff School in Grand Rapids in 1925; that may be worth searching out. Amelia also had a sister, Mrs. J. McCarthy of Dearborn, and a brother, George Goodboo of Saginaw. An obituary found in the Saginaw News shows her daughter's name as Mrs. Albert Zuckor. So now we know who Marie married, Albert Zukor (there's a third spelling of the name below). Amelia's sister in Dearborn is listed as Mrs. James McCary. The Saginaw obit goes on to say that Amelia was born in Saginaw on June 16, 1878, and was married to Joseph in 1896. I didn't find that record, but the Saginaw microfilms are still at the local Family History Center, so I'll have to go look through them again and see if I can find this. It also says that the Brandis moved to Marne "25 years ago", so that probably happened some time in 1921.

Joseph himself passed away on Tuesday, December 10, 1946, at Blodgett Memorial Hospital in Saginaw. He left a widow, Clara, and his daughter is listed as Mrs. Albert Zuker. Also surviving his was his brother, Ralph Brandi of Detroit, who is, of course, li'l Grandpa.

Clara T. (Applebach) Brandi, Joseph's second wife, died Tuesday, August 27, 1963, at the age on 90 in Grand Rapids.

[ Lieutenant Raymond J. Brandi ]

And the most interesting of the four obits was for Raymond, Joseph and Amelia's son. An article about his death appeared on page 1 of the Grand Rapids Press of Thursday, January 6, 1921. It was headlined "Aviator Brandi Killed in South -- Local Flyer Meets Death in accident in Floriday Thursday -- Will Be Buried Here". The article goes on to say:

Arcadia, Fla., Jan 6 -- Lieut. Raymond Brandi of Grand Rapids, Mich., and Cadet A. C. Pool of Richmond Center, Wis., were instantly killed at Carlstrom aviation field here this morning when an airplane in which they were doing "stunt" flying crashed to the ground and burned.

The article goes on to mention that Joseph and Amelia live at R.F.D. #4 in Grand Rapids Township, and that Raymond started flying when he was in the Army during World War I, although he was never stationed overseas.

He later was stationed at the Indianapolis speedway as aviation instructor. While stationed there Lieut. Brandi made a spectacular flight to Grand Rapids. He thrilled downtown crowds by descending dangerously low over Munroe av., narrowly missing street wires. He also gave flying exhibitions at Ramona. The trip here was made for recruiting in the air service.

So it seems that young Mr. Brandi was something of a daredevil, and it's not surprising that he died the way he did.

Further details in the obit include the fact that he graduated from Central High School in Grand Rapids in 1914, and was employed as a car salesman before the war. The article also includes a photograph of the young Lieutenant. The obit doesn't say how old he was when he died, but given that I've found his birth record in Saginaw on April 17, 1897, simple math shows that he was 23 years old when he died.

One other item I found about the Brandis of Grand Rapids was their Census listing for 1920. It shows Joseph and Amelia living with Amelia's mother Zoa Goodboo out on a farm, with Joseph working as a farmer. That's a bit of a change from some of the early Saginaw city directories I saw that had him listed as a street-car conductor.

Posted at 12:59:08 PM Link to this entry


Monday, October 9, 2000

Searching the web for Pyritz, I found a picture of a tower in the town. Genealogy Unlimited has 1:25,000 maps of that area available, and the map grid to pick out the appropriate map shows that grid area 53 contains Pyritz. Interestingly, right next to Pyritz, number 2855 on the area 53 map, is Prillwitz, number 2856 on the same map. The Federation of East European Family History Societies has a nice map from 1882 showing Pomerania, the area of Prussia that Pyritz was located in. And this map from Expedia gives a pretty good idea of how close to the current day German border the now-Polish town of Pyrzyce is.

Posted at 12:17:13 AM Link to this entry


Sunday, October 8, 2000

After all these long posts, here's a relatively short one. About a month ago, I got e-mail from Carol saying she had been back to the Hoyt library in Saginaw and gone through the Germans to America books, and had found a listing for Emil Prillwitz, although not for Helen or her mother. Also, the listing in the book had his village as "unknown". I told her that it would be a good idea to get a copy of the original ship's record, because the people who did the books didn't always do a good job, particularly on villages, and they might have just missed Helen. She asked about the Mormons, so I e-mailed her about what to expect when she went to a Family History Center. In the meantime, Laura and I went into the city a couple of weeks ago to meet friends of hers from college for a day in Central Park. Unfortunately, her friend got sick, and they just missed us when they tried to phone, so we wound up going into the city and meeting the husband, who had been sent in to let us know that the day was blown. Anyway, after having lunch with him, Laura and I went over to the NYC Public Library on 5th Avenue and 42nd Street. I had entered the details Carol had sent into my Palm Pilot, so it was pretty quick work to find the actual film that had Emil's passenger list on it. He came over on the ship "Slavonia" from Stettin (today Szeczin, Poland), arriving in New York on March 16, 1888, aged 35. All that was in the Germans to America books. What they had missed was that his home town was listed. Emil, and presumably Helen, were from Pyritz, Prussia, which is known today as Pyrzice, Poland, about 30 miles or so south of Szeczin. That's a fact that Carol has been looking for for a long time, and she was pretty happy to find it out. I looked through the rest of the list, but there was no evidence that Helen came over on the same ship, something I thought was pretty strange, since she was in Saginaw by 1889 and married to Ralph Sr. in 1890. I would have expected that they came over on the same ship, but I guess not.

Looking for information about Pyritz, I came across the sad story of the town's obliteration in World War II (search for "Pyritz"), complete with the claim that no genealogical records survived. However, the Family History Center catalog records for Pyritz shows church records from 1796 to 1873 in their holdings. Helen was 17 when she married Ralph in August, 1890, which means she was born between August, 1872 and August, 1873, and her birth might be recorded in the church records. 1872 appears to be missing from the microfilms. There's civil registration records, but they run only from 1874 to 1877, too late for Helen, although they might have information about Anna or one of the other sisters.

Posted at 11:57:57 PM Link to this entry


One of the most fun days of my trip to Michigan in August was the day I spent in Saginaw with my cousin Carol, whose post to a genealogy query board about her great-grandmother Helen Prillwitz got me started on this whole thing in the first place. Carol and I had agreed to meet in Saginaw, but had trouble connecting to finalize the details. I tried calling the day before, but I think all I got was her answering machine. I tried calling her again from a rest area on the way up to Saginaw in the morning, but her phone was busy. I had mentioned that I was going to the Hoyt Public Library, so as I was sitting there in the morning looking at microfilms, one of the librarians came in asking if there was a Ralph Brandi there, saying that there was a young lady on the telephone wanting to know if I was there and saying that she would be there within an hour. I'm glad she did that, because we had a lot of fun together.

When Carol arrived, I had been looking at naturalization records from the Saginaw County Courts. I found a bunch of records, but since they were all from before 1906, they didn't give me any new information. Still, it was interesting to see them. One interesting thing I found was that when I looked at Michael Brandi's Petition for Naturalization, right on the opposite page was a petition for someone else, Vincenzo Damiano, and that petition had been witnessed by and Mr. Damiano vouched for by my great-grandfather, Ralph Brandi. So that was a neat find.

Vincenzo Brandi declared his intention to become a citizen in August, 1890 (the actual date is kind of obscured). Carlo Rapa, who Vincenzo worked for for a while and who I figure was related somehow to Maria, although I haven't figure out how yet, declared on March 29, 1892. Emil Prillwitz, Ralph's father-in-law, declared his intention on August 30, 1902. And Michael Brandi, who still signed his name "Michele", declared his intention on May 31, 1904, witnessed by Alf Malmberg, who either was at the time or had been at some point Michael's employer. There's not much information beyond that in these, so they're mainly interesting for showing the signatures of the people involved.

I had also looked at some Census records. One thing I found was that in 1920, Helen (Prillwitz) Brandi was living in Detroit with her daughter Melvina, her husband Warren Hooten, and their daughter Gwyneth. Helen was working as a domestic, which seems to have been her life-long occupation. She shows up doing that in the 1889 Saginaw city directory, in the 1920 Census, and later, in the Detroit city directory in the early 1930s.

When Carol arrived, I showed her some of the stuff I had found and how I found it. We talked for a little while, then went out to get some lunch and to try and find the houses where our family had lived. I had a number of addresses. Vincenzo and Maria lived at 235 Dwight from 1889 to 1909. Ralph had boarded there until 1891, then in the 1893 city directory is listed as living at 235 Dwight, where he lived until roughly 1900-1901, when he moved to 627 N. Franklin St. He lived there until 1912, then in a variety of other places, including 2020 N. Fayette, where my grandfather was born, until moving back to 627 N. Franklin in 1921. We thought we found the lot on N. Franklin, but in retrospect I'm not so sure. It became clear that Saginaw had at some point renumbered all the addresses in the city. Dwight St. is a very short street, only a block or two long, but there were no addresses in the 200s there; all the houses were in the 1300s as I recall. And N. Fayette St. ends in the 1500s, with 1600 N. Fayette being the address of a park. There is no 2020 N. Fayette. So I think we'll have to do some more research to find out what the addresses have become, maybe find some plat maps of Saginaw or something. Maybe the librarians at the beautiful Hoyt Public Library could be of assistance here, either to Carol if she has time to go there or to me next time I come back.

We stopped and had lunch at a fast food joint on the west side of the river, which is apparently the nicer side of Saginaw (and where Fayette St. is, so perhaps Ralph Sr. was making a nice living as a tailor by the late teens), and talked on Carol's cell phone with her sister Sharon, who would like everyone to know that she does in fact remember much more about her great-grandmother Helen than just sitting on her knee. Sharon also insisted that Ralph came from San Marino, the world's smallest republic, but given that I've found the birth records, marriage records, and death records for family members in San Potito, I think it's time to put that theory to rest. Unfortunately, I didn't get to meet Sharon face-to-face, since she was pretty busy with her job that day, but hopefully I'll get to next time I'm in town.

Carol and I figured it was time to visit the cemetery where Ralph Sr., Antonina, Vincenzo and Maria, and Philip and Vincent were buried. I had received from the Catholic Cemetery Commission the page from the Calvary burial list that showed which Brandis were buried there, and they were all in the same plot, Lot 130 in Section N. But the cemetery itself wasn't that easy to find. I knew roughly were it was, but the roads were under construction in the area, which didn't make things any easier. We found the main cemetery in the area, but there wasn't any way to get to Calvary from it. So we drove around a little more and ultimately found the cemetery in a park! There was an amusement park in the park, which we were able to go into for free because we needed to get some film for our foray into the cemetery. When we got to the cemetery itself, we found that the gates were locked, and there was a sign that said that people should go to the commission offices to get the key. I guess that they keep it locked because it's not really an active cemetery any more. But that would waste time. Carol suggested we just hop the fence. So we did, something that I suspect Carol found a little easier to do than I did. :-) We wandered around for a while, looking for the grave, but the cemetery wasn't particularly well marked, and we didn't find it. So we hopped the fence again, and decided to do things the right way and stop by the commission offices and see if maybe they had a map. Sure enough, they did, they gave us the keys, and we went back and were able to find the marker with no difficulty.

The monument was quite impressive, not huge, but big enough, about 8-10 feet tall I would guess, with a statue of some sort at the top. I took pictures, and Carol and I dragooned someone else who was in the cemetery at the time to take pictures of the two of us in front of the monument, but I haven't gotten the pictures developed yet. I'll post them here when I do.

One thing that I found interesting was that there were only two names on the monument, despite the fact that I knew that there were six people buried there. We checked to see if any of the nearby markers were family, but they didn't seem to be. There was plenty of room for the other four people, but they just weren't listed. Maybe we can rectify that at some point.

We returned the keys to the commission office, and I asked if they had any other records. All they really have for Calvary, apparently, is a file of 3x5 index cards listing who is buried there. They made copies of the six Brandi 3x5s on two pages, but there really wasn't much information there.

We were thirsty after wandering around the cemetery, so we decided to stop at a party store and get some sodas. We passed on one because it looked too grubby. We stopped at another one, but before we could even get out of the car, there was an incident where someone was being forcefully bounced out of the store. When they threw him out, he almost hit my car, actually. We didn't stick around to see what happened next.

After that, we went back to the library for a few hours. We spent some time looking up obituaries from the list I had made up by looking at the Saginaw Public Library online obituary database. That was a goldmine of information. I think I'm going to hold off on everything we found there for another post, but one thing that we discovered was that Helen had two sisters who had come to Saginaw as well. Helen's obit said that she was survived by two sisters, Mrs. George Reiger, Saginaw, and Mrs. John Rellox, Detroit, plus two other sisters in Germany. So Carol looked at the obit database and found an obit for Mrs. Anna H. Rieger, who died in 1968 at the age of 91. Anna's obit also mentioned a surviving sister, Mrs. Martha Hyden of Germany. Unfortunately, none of this said where in Germany, but no matter.

When we went back upstairs to the genealogy collection, we looked for marriage records and found one for Anne Prillwitz and George Reiger. We also found one for Ralph Brandi and Helena M. Wendt from 1890. It appears that in Germany, daughters used their mother's last name, because Helen's mother is listed as "Wendt". Her first name was indecipherable, lost in the shadow of the binding when it was microfilmed. Helen's father is listed as "Emil", which is the first proof we've found that Emil was Helen's father. Anne and George's marriage record give a little more detail, but not much; her mother is shown as "ha Wendt", with the rest being lost in the shadow. (I eventually discovered what her full name was.) I also found a marriage record for Michael Brandi and Mary Zito, dated February 5, 1902, which I mentioned in my previous entry. The interesting thing here is that it shows Michael's father's name as "Daniel" and his mother's name as "C. Fredericke". As I noted below, that fits nicely with the marriage record I found for Daniele Brandi and Maria Chiara Federico in San Potito Sannitico.

There was a bunch of other stuff at the library. They had a nice card catalog that listed businesses and stuff. I don't remember what else it listed; that's what I get for taking two months to write all this stuff down. :-P I remember looking through it, but I don't remember finding anything in it. Carol and I also looked through the book room next to the microfilm room. I found a few city directories. Carlo Rapa is listed as Charles Rappa with his wife Martha, working as a grocer in 1922. Ralph Sr. is residing at 2020 N. Fayette in 1919, which is the year and place my grandfather was born, and his mother Mary is listed as living at 627 N. Franklin as the widow of Vincent. By 1922, Ralph and Anthonia (sic) have moved back to 627 N. Franklin, and Mary is still there. One thing that was interesting that we found there was that they've got the Germans to America series of books. I showed Carol how to use them, but we didn't have much time left at that point, so we didn't find any Prillwitzes or Wendts.

By then, Carol needed to get home for her kids. She invited me to crash at her place that night, but I figured I needed to get back to Detroit for the next day. Hopefully next year. :-) We took some pictures of the two of us in front of the library, but again, I don't have those developed yet. I'll post them when I do. Carol wasn't sure how to get to the highway, so we drove out to the exit together, and she went west to Mt. Pleasant, and I went east (and then south) to Detroit. All in all, it was a lot of fun, and Carol was a blast to spend the day with. :-)


Census Records

Cemetery Records

Marriage Records


City Directories

Posted at 11:19:55 PM Link to this entry


Saturday, October 7, 2000

I've been a real slacker on keeping this website up-to-date lately, but I haven't been exactly inactive. I got a couple of films from San Potito Sannitico at the Family History Center, and I've been spending some time looking at them. I found the marriage record for my great-great-grandparents, Vincenzo Brandi and Maria Domenica Rapa, married on August 6, 1870 (page 1 and page 2). I've found my greatgrandfather Raffaele (Ralph) Brandi's birth certificate from September 6, 1871. Unfortunately, at that time the records were completely handwritten, rather than being in pre-printed books, which makes them a little tough to read at times, but scanning the photocopies into the computer so I could zoom in on the writing helped a lot. The interesting thing about these documents is that you can get information on up to three generations in a single one. Because so many people had the same names in some of these towns, you'll usually see someone referred to as the child of their parents, so, for example, in Raffaele's birth record, his father is named as "Vincenzo Brandi di Filippo", and his mother as "Maria Domenica Rapa di Domenico". So Vincenzo's father was Filippo Brandi, and Maria's was Domenico Rapa. One other thing you can tell from that is whether or not the parents referred to in the name are still alive or not. If the father is named using "di", then they are, but if they're referred to as "fu", that would mean that they're dead at the time the record was created.

Other things that I found from the 1870s were a couple of birth certificates and a death certificate. Raffaele's brother Giuseppe (Joseph) Brandi was born April 11, 1875. One really interesting thing on this record (which was on a printed form, and is therefore easier to read) is that it gives the address they were living at, 38 via Albero in San Potito Sannitico.

The 1910 Census said that Mary Brandi had had three children, two of whom survived. Only two children crossed the ocean with her, so I figured that the third child probably died in Italy. Sure enough, I found a birth certificate for another Giuseppe Brandi, born on November 10, 1872 ("il giorno dici"). Unfortunately, he didn't even live for a year, dying on August 30, 1873. I haven't figured out yet if the certificate says what he died of; between my lack of Italian language skills and Domenico Izzo's lack of penmenship I haven't figured it out yet, but I'm working on it.

So Vincenzo and Maria had three sons, Raffaele, Giuseppe, and Giuseppe. I understand that it was quite common in Italian families if a child died to name the next child of that sex with the same name.

Going back to the records from the 1840s, I also found a birth certificate for Vincenzo (page 1 and page 2). Turns out his full name was Vincenzo Daniele Brandi. He was born August 17, 1846 ("dicissetta del mese di Agosto"). His father was Filippo Brandi, 28 years old at the time, and his mother was Maria Navarro, 21 years old. Maria Domenica Rapa was born on May 23, 1845 (page 1 and page 2), which means she had the same birthday as my brother Steve. Maria's father, as mentioned, was Domenico Rapa, 24 years old at the time, and her mother was Maria Pietrosimone, also 24 years old.

Looking further at the records, I found a birth record for Vincenzo's brother, Daniele Brandi, born March 21, 1848 (page 1 and page 2) to Filippo Brandi and Maria Galbina Navarro. This is something I haven't covered here yet, but in the records I found in Michigan in August, the marriage record for Michael Brandi and Mary Zito shows Michael's father as Daniel Brandi and his mother as C Fredericke. Well, Daniele's birth certificate has a notation at the end that he married Maria Chiara Federico, and if you're an English-speaking clerk in Saginaw in the 1890s and not used to Italian, I can certainly imagine that the name Federico would be recorded as Fredericke. Also, I found the marriage record for Daniele Brandi and Maria Chiara Federico from December 2, 1871 (page 1 and page 2). Maria probably died before 1890, because there's also a notation on Daniele's birth certificate that he married Clementina Palmiero on February 11, 1890. So Michael Brandi, who moved to Saginaw in about 1895, and Salvatore (Sam) Brandi, who moved to Saginaw in 1911, who were brothers, were both children of Vincenzo's brother Daniele, which basically means that I'm related to everyone I've found with the last name Brandi in the state of Michigan. When Michael came to Saginaw, he lived with his uncle Vincenzo for a year or two until he moved out on his own.

So to summarize, Filippo Brandi, born sometime around 1820, and his wife Maria Galbina Navarro, born around 1824, had at least two children, Vincenzo Daniele Brandi and Daniele Brandi. Vincenzo married Maria Domenica Rapa, the daughter of Domenico Rapa and Maria Pietrosimone, and they had three children, Raffaele, Giuseppe, who died very young, and (again) Giuseppe. Daniele married Maria Chiara Federico, and they had at least two children, Michele (Michael) and Salvatore (Sam).

Posted at 3:09:27 PM Link to this entry