"A family tree can wither if nobody tends its roots."

Mar28th2016

A Chance To Hear Auntie Phyllis Laugh Again

by  Phyllis Zeck

Phyllis Vincent

Phyllis, Gilbert, & Corinne

Gilbert Del Principe and Bertha Reher married in Chicago on 27 Nov 1926. Phyllis Elvira was born in 1927 and my mother Corinne was born in 1931. I now realize that Auntie Phyllis was named after my 2nd great grandmother Filomena Ursitti.  

Mom and Auntie suffered some traumatic events early in life. They were both with their grandmother Elvira at Christmas Eve Mass when Elvira passed away in 1939. And they were both with their mother Bertha when she passed away at home in 1947. Auntie Phyllis was 19 and mom was 16.  Auntie Phyllis would soon marry Richard and leave Chicago to settle in Connecticut. Auntie had 5 children and mom had 8 children. This equaled plenty of grandchildren for Grandpa to spoil.

Mom and Auntie tried to see each other often and I have such fond memories of vacations with my cousins. Calling each other on the phone was a luxury for mom and Auntie that our children would not be able to comprehend. Long distance calls were very expensive and once the sisters started chatting there was no stopping them. When my aunt and mother got together those two ladies laughed and talked non stop.  I can still hear them as if it was yesterday. 

Phyllis Vincent Corinne Winike

Sisters

In 2011 my brother Rob and I recorded an interview with Auntie Phyllis. I had just begun my genealogy research and knew Auntie Phyl had some great stories to tell. I recently played those files and found myself laughing out loud and smiling. What a great idea we had and why hadn’t we thought of it earlier so we could have recorded our mother!? Click the link below to listen to part of the interview. This is the 1st audio clip in our series. To listen to the other interviews, click on the box titled “Vincent Family” in the categories box to the right.

Click below to listen to Auntie talk about how her older cousin Elvira (Snookie) gave Auntie Phyllis a bike she had outgrown. She tells us how grandpa taught her to ride it. We also discuss childhood illnesses (my mother had scarlet fever) and a lesson auntie and mom learned about washing the dishes in a timely manner.

 

 
 

Mar3rd2016

A Pizza Party

by  Ashley

01_152It is common knowledge that some of Abby’s favorite foods are pizza and pasta. Her Italian heritage is very strong! I enjoy cooking, and Abby has a developed a love for preparing meals as well. Recently, Abby and I cooked a pizza from scratch and she had so much fun playing such a big role in the preparation of our meal. She was also eager to eat some of her least favorite foods (mushrooms in particular). pizza

Possibly the best part for me was carrying on a tradition that I practiced with my mom when I was a kid. I have such vivid memories of making the dough and setting it to rise in the oven before

Abby, Ashley & Phyllis

Abby, Ashley & Phyllis

getting to prepare my very own mini pizza for dinner. As a full-time working mom, I often feel like I miss out on certain opportunities with Abby to build memories; so it is times like this that I am so grateful for these experiences with Abby, even if it is just making dinner 😉 Maybe in 30 years, she’ll be making pizza with her toddler. I know Great-great-great-grandma Elvira would appreciate it! 

 
 

Jun27th2015

Blown Up In Beer Tank

by  Phyllis Zeck

Beer Winkofsky

Postcard courtesy of J. Chuckman

That was the headline for a newspaper article published in the Chicago Tribune dated 28 Dec 1897. Three men were in the accident including Theodore Winkofske. Theodore was my 2nd great uncle and the brother of my paternal great grandfather Charles Peter Winkofske. Theodore was a contractor working with two of his employees cleaning five 1,200 gallon beer vats for the Independent Brewing Assoc. on North Halsted St in Chicago. 

The men were putting a coat of varnish on the interior of the beer vats. Theodore accidentally struck his incandescent light against the iron. The bulb was shattered and the enamel exploded. Theodore was thrown through a manhole and was killed instantly.  His two employees, Louis Imme and Leonard Schaller, were badly burned and could not be rescued until the fire subsided. Click here for the article from the Chicago Tribune Archive (which was found at Newspapers.com) and read the story in depth.

Theodore was only 24 years old when he died. He was married to Louise Scheel and they had two sons, Edward Ludwig Michael and Gustave.

 
 

May14th2015

The Sound Of Guns

by  Phyllis Zeck

Union Field Artillery

Union Field Artillery abt 1862. Lib. of Congress. Click to enlarge.

I have been contemplating what a brave man my 2nd great grandfather, Charles (Carl) Frey was. My paternal grandmother was Grace Norder. Grace’s grandfather was Charles Frey. How is it that I never knew Charles’ story? Why didn’t Grandma Grace share the amazing journey of this man with her 8 grandchildren?

Charles volunteered for two tours of duty during the Civil War, enlisting with the 2nd Battery Wisconsin Light Artillery. We’ve all read about the brutal conditions our hero ancestors endured during the Civil War. Lack of food, shelter, ammunition and clothing haunted the soldiers. I’m so proud that one of my ancestors survived the trauma of this passionate war. What a fighter he must have been!

I wrote a blog post about the fact that Charles served at the Battle At Deserted House in Suffolk, VA in 1863 which you can read by clicking here. Confederate forces under Brig Gen Roger Pryor crossed the Blackwater River into Virginia on a foraging expedition. Maj Gen John Peck commanded the Union garrison at Suffolk.  Peck organized a force to drive Pryor out of the area and assigned Brig. Gen. Michael Corcoran to its command. Anticipating an attack from the Union garrison, Pryor prepared his forces for battle near Kelly’s Store (AKA Deserted House), located 8 miles west of Suffolk. Corcoran’s cavalry engaged Pryor’s forces nearby. 

Last month Wes posted a comment on my blog post about the battle.  He told me that he is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Suffolk, VA and he was going to visit the area where the Battle At Deserted House was fought in 1863.  You can visit Wes’ Facebook page by typing Mid Atlantic Relic & Coin Hunters where you can see items from past relic hunts. Wes was curious – if he was able to obtain any artillery fire residue from the Union guns would I like to have some?  Would I ever!!  “Just think,” Wes said. “Your ancestor could have been the one that pulled the cord that had some of these case shot in them”.  

Wes sent me the photos above. They are from the 1st phase of the battle (see the map from Baylor University below). Wes explained that the picture looking over the green wheat grass is looking at the confederate lines where their artillery was posted. The other two pictures are where the union guns where placed and the union infantry staged.  The center photo is the middle of the battlefield. In front of the house and across the street is where the Deserted House, AKA Kelly’s Store, stood (which is gone now). Charles’ company saw action on 30 Jan 1863 at Deserted House or Kelly’s Store. 

Deserted House Battle 1863

Courtesy of Baylor University

The map above is reprinted with permission from the War of the Rebellion Atlas digital collection. It was produced by the US Government. You can click on the image to enlarge it.  

This next photo gallery are photos of relics Wes found on the battlefield.  Wes explained that the items are a US collar pin and a piece of the grape shot that didn’t break apart upon explosion.  Usually these pieces break apart into separate lead balls and rain down on the soldiers. 

While Wes shared his photos with me the day after his trip, I was once again at the mercy of the US Postal Service to delivery Wes’ package.  We all know how terrible I am about waiting patiently for mail to arrive. Wes emailed me that it was on it’s way and he said, “I hope your family will be thrilled to have a piece of your ancestors heritage where he fought to preserve his beliefs.”  

Civil War Ammo IMG_1065
The package from Wes arrived yesterday.  Wes enclosed four case shots (which are also called grape shot).  These four pieces were found on the actual battlefield in 1999. They were found on the Confederate side so they were fired by Union guns. The grape shot traveled 50 – 80 yards. He also sent two Civil War .58 caliber minie balls (3 ringers) which traveled a couple hundred yards.  Wes wrote, “I hope you and your family enjoy these artifacts from our nation’s greatest conflict.  I am honored to be sharing these with you.” I am thrilled and very grateful to Wes for his generosity!

 
 

Apr12th2015

Solved – The Riddle Of My Paternal Grandfather

by  Phyllis Zeck

Robert Winike / Winkofske

My father Robert T Winike 1949

During the last few months I’ve mentioned my frustration at knowing almost nothing about my father’s father. His name, listed on my father’s death certificate, was Frank Winike.  My father died in May of 1970 when I was only 13 years old. My passion for family history had not yet been ignited so I never asked dad any questions about his family. My efforts to find records for my father, Robert Thomas Winike, and his father have been met with brick walls.

I wrote to the state of Illinois and Wisconsin to find dad’s birth record. No luck. I wrote to the social security administration to find an application for dad and was told no record was found. Why couldn’t I find any documents for Frank Winike? No census records, no birth or death records, no military records were ever found.  

Several days ago I was working away on my computer and out of the blue an email popped into my account titled Robert Thomas Winike Ancestors.  I love when that happens.  Jennifer is a genealogist and started her email with:  “Hello Phyllis, I came across your blog today and saw that you are looking for information on your father Robert Thomas Winike, born 30 Dec 1928 and his paternal ancestors. I love a good puzzle. Here is what I’ve been able to discover.” Jennifer went on to site 15 sources.  When I asked Jennifer how she got her first clue she responded “Once I saw your brickwall, I did a search on FamilySearch for first name robert t*, last name w*n*k* in Chicago. I tend to use wildcards when searching, especially replacing the vowels with *. He appears on the first page of results with parents Frank and Grace M. I then followed the trail from there.”  Thank you Jennifer. I always forget about using my wildcards. I’ll be using them from now on!  Within 20 minutes of receiving Jennifer’s email I would find the record stating that my father’s birth name was not Robert Thomas Winike, it was Frank Winkofske Jr! 

Robert Winike Winkofske

My father on the right

I spent the rest of the day sharing the news with my sisters and we looked up records.  Now I was in a quandary. The amateur genealogist in me wanted to share this information with my family.  But I had to slow down and really think about this.  In 1928 dad’s name on his birth certificate was Frank Winkofske Jr. In 1937 dad’s mother Grace is referred to in her mother’s obituary as Mrs Grace Winike. In the 1940’s census my father’s name was listed as Robert T Winkofske.  In 1949 Grace remarried and her name on her marriage application is Miss Grace Norder (her maiden name). When dad married in 1949 he went by the name Robert Thomas Winike.  Why did Grace and Frank change dad’s first name? What had happened in the 9 years before my father’s marriage to make him change his last name and disown his father Frank?

The only story I remember hearing about dad’s father was that he showed up at mom and dad’s wedding and dad asked him to leave.  Obviously dad went to great lengths to keep this man and his identity from his children.  Now I have uncovered dad’s secret.  Should I write about it, or let it rest as dad wanted it to?  I’m afraid the story teller in me just could not let these records stay hidden.  So now I share with you the journey that I have been on as I learned my paternal ancestry. The following is how I pieced together my father’s family. 

Robert T Winike / WinkofskeRecord #1: My father’s name on his birth certificate is Frank Winkofske Jr 
The first item on Jennifer’s list was her reference to a birth record at the Cook County Genealogy website dated 30 Dec 1928 indexing the name Frank Winkofske, file number 6057883. I had that record purchased lickety split and was stunned. I finally had my father’s birth certificate! The baby’s name was Frank Winkoffski Jr, male, legitimate, born 30 Dec 1928 at 11:40 PM.  Father is Frank Winkoffski age 29 birth place Chicago IL and he is employed as a factory worker.  Mother is Grace Norder age 20 birth place Monroe WI.  They lived at 2448 W Taylor St in Chicago. Dad was born at Cook County Hospital. Everything recorded about my grandmother Grace lined up and so did my father’s birthday. Click the photo above and to the right to enlarge them. Winkofske

Page 2 of the document was a certificate of correction filed 08 Jan 1929 by Grace Winkofske. Grace changed the spelling of her son and her husband’s last name from Winkoffski to the correct spelling of Winkofske. No wonder I couldn’t find his birth certificate.  

Mary Matilda Frey Norder ObituaryRecord #2: The 1937 Obituary of Grace’s Mother Matilda (Tillie) Frey Norder
In 1937 Grace was still going by her married name. This obituary was placed in the Monroe Times newspaper on 08 Feb 1937 for Grace’s mother. “Survivors are Mrs. Grace Winike of Chicago”. 1937 is the earliest reference I find that the family refers to themselves as Winike. Three years later in the 1940 census they tell the enumerator that the family’s last name is Winkofske.   

Record #3:  The 1940’s census
To see a summary of the census click here 1940 Census Robert T Winike. My father’s last name was recorded by the enumerator as “Winkofoke” and his first name is recorded as Robert with a middle initial of T.  Dad is 11 years old and in the 4th grade in 1940. The family is living at 4240 Adams St in Chicago.  This happens to be 3 1/2 miles from the home that my mother was raised in. I’ll need to search through records to see if Grace legally changed dad’s first name from Frank to Robert and added a middle name of Thomas.  

Record #4: The death record for Frank Winkoske
Click here to see a copy of the death record for Frank Winkofske 1959. He passed away on 15 Sep 1959 in Chicago.  He was living at 3839 W Adams St, was divorced, was 59 years old and his occupation was an enamel finisher. This record included Frank’s parents names. His father was Charles Winkofske and his mother was Catherine Gannon.

Record #5: The record requesting a military headstone for Frank Winkoske
Click here to see the application for Frank’s headstone. The record states that Frank was in the Army enlisting on 16 Aug 1917 and was discharged on 10 Jul 1919 as a private.  This record confirms his birth date as 22 Dec 1899 and his death date of 15 Sep 1959.  The application was filled out by Mrs Jane Becker. That name rings a bell to me, perhaps she was Frank’s sister.  Frank is buried at St Mary’s Cemetery at 87th & Hamlin St in Evergreen Park, Illinois.

Working backward I now focused my search on Frank’s parents. Charles Peter Winkofske was born 09 Apr 1874 in Germany. He married Catherine Gaunor (born 29 Oct 1879 in Illinois) on 01 Jan 1895. Click here for a summary of 1900 Census for Charles Winkofkie. Note the spelling of the last name. Charles and Catherine had the following children: Jesse 1896, Anna 1898, Charles 1898, Frank 1899, Jennie 1903, Thomas 1904, Edward 1906, Katherine 1908 and Patricia 1912. Catherine died on 24 Feb 1915 at the age of 35 and her death record lists her parents as Peter Gaunor and Jennie Dinnor. On 14 Jun 1916 Charles married Anna Wantan and they lived at 5926 Honore St in Chicago.  Charles died on 13 Sep 1960 and his death record states he was a mechanic, he is buried at St Mary’s Cemetery and that his parents are Louis and Mary Witt.

My mother, father and brother Bob

My mother, father and brother Bob

I was able to trace back one more generation to Charles’ parents.  Louis G. Winkofske was born on 12 Aug 1841 in West Posen, Germany.  Louis married Mary (Wilhamina) Witte who was born in 1846 in Germany. They had the following children: Edward 1872, Theadore 1873, Charles 1874, Frederick 1880, Paul 1884, Clara 1886, and Rosie 1890. Mary passed away in 1891 at the age of 45.  Louis married Margaretha Gross and they had 2 children Louis George 1893 and Harry 1895. Louis died 17 Oct 1912. His death record states his address was 2959 Quinn St in Chicago, he was 67, his occupation was a milkman and both of his parents were born in Germany.  

Now, just like the TV series Who Do You Think You Are?, if I want to go back further in my paternal ancestry tree I will have to go to Germany. I’m quite happy for now. Except… if any of my new cousins out there happen to have a photo of Frank Winkofske, will you please share?!