by Phyllis Zeck
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!
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.
Record #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.
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.
Record #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.
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?!