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


Counting down to the release of the 1940 U.S. Census

by  Phyllis Zeck

Those of us who are genealogy fanatics are tapping our toes waiting for April 2nd which is the release date of the 1940 U.S. Census.  The census information is released to the public 72 years after it is taken.  For the first time the census will be available in a digital format.

The 1940 census contains 49 questions ranging from the standard questions such as address, names of people in the household, ages, and occupation to questions aimed at people 14 years and older requesting in depth information about employment and wages.  These questions, in part, were to determine how households were affected by the great depression.  Below is a short video about the 1940’s census.

In the 1940’s:

  • The US population was 132 million.
  • The national debt was $43 billion.
  • The average salary was $1,725.00 a year.
  • Minimum wage was 30 cents an hour.
  • A new car cost $850.00, a gallon of gas was 11 cents.
  • A first class stamp was 3 cents.
  • A gallon of milk cost 54 cents.
  • Fifty five percent of US homes had indoor plumbing.
  • Life expectancy at birth was 65.9 years for females and 61.6 years for males.

You will not be able to search the 1940 census with a person’s last name.  You can search the records with an address or with the Enumeration District number.  You will be able to obtain the Enumeration District number using this link http://stevemorse.org/census/unified.html.

Click on the following link to see detailed questions the census taker asked https://www.familysearch.org/1940census/enum_instructions

For more information about the census click this link http://www.archives.gov/research/census/1940/

Happy searching!




Devastation in Cinque Terre, Italy

by  Phyllis Zeck

In 2000 my husband Don, daughter Ashley (then age 16),  sister Lori and I traveled to Italy.  On our list of things to do was to visit the towns of Cinque Terre.  Cinque Terre (five lands) consists of five towns tucked away in a series of inlets along the Mediterranean Sea.  Multi colored homes are nested among jagged rocks.

The northern most town is Monterosso al Mare and is rumored to have been established as far back as 1056. The next town to the south is Vernazza, then Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.

The towns are accessible by train.  Some small cars will be seen in the towns but it is very hard to maneuver around the crooked streets.  You can hike from one town to the next. We rode the train from Florence through Pisa and then to Monterosso. We were on the last leg of the journey chatting away as the train went into a tunnel.  We rounded the bend and cleared the tunnel and our mouths dropped; the glorious blue sparkling Mediterranean Sea was glistening in the sunlight to our left.  I will never forget that incredible sight!

Our hotel was in Monterosso so we got off at the last town and headed for the Hotel La Spiaggia.  First things first, we needed a bathroom.  Now the bathrooms in Italy could be a whole blog in itself but we had reached a new low with this rest stop.  The facilities were literally a hole in the floor!


We checked into our hotel, had lunch and got our guidebook out to decide which hike to take.  We decided to try Monterosso to Vernazza, a one and a half hour hike the guidebook advised us. We stocked up on sun block and lots of water and took off.   We had learned that the Italians do things differently from us Americans but it seemed very odd that the women hiking in the opposite direction were in dresses and high heels and both men and women were not carrying any water.  We thought this must be a shorter hike than the guidebook said.

Well into our second hour of the hike we began asking the hikers traveling in the opposite direction “how much further to Vernazza?”.   They all replied the same “it’s just around the corner!”.     After three hours of hiking we reached our destination.   

The scenery was incredible.  We saw lemon trees and passed vineyards and olive groves. The sea sparkled and the boats bobbed up and down with the gentle waves.  We stumbled upon a concrete machine gun bunker from WWII.  We arrived in Vernazza hungry and tired but exuberant from one of the most amazing hikes of our life.

Lemon trees and olive groves

The next morning we went for an early morning stroll along the beach and visited with the fishermen who were bringing in their morning catches.  Don tried to talk me into fish for breakfast, but I was sticking with pizza.

Today your prayers are needed for the people in northern Italy. Devastating rains during October and November have made passage in the towns of Cinque Terre impossible.

People were evacuated via the sea.  The flooding and mud slides have brought down bridges and houses. The villages in Cinque Terre lost electricity and the roads and railroads are blocked.  The most severely destroyed towns are Monterosso and Vernazza.  The mayor of Monterosso said the fishing village had been all but wiped out.

Our family was very fortunate that we were able to hike these glorious towns and enjoy their beauty 12 years ago.  I hope that Cinque Terre is quickly restored and the residents are able to return to life as they knew it before the devastating rain and mud slides interrupted their peaceful way of living.

Jan 5, 2012 Update.  Copy and past the link below to read an updated post from Jan 3, 2012 about Vernazza.






by  Phyllis Zeck


Antonio was Pietro and Elvira’s first child. He was born in 1888 in Pescasseroli, Italy. He married Margaret Heenan (pictured left) and they had two daughters: Elvira Antionett (Snookie) and Eileen (Turk).

Elvira married Roy Edwin Weber. They may have had a daughter named Margaret. Eileen may have had one son. If anyone knows of any relatives of Elvira or Eileen please send me any information you have.

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Elvira (Snookie) played the accordion


Eileen (Turk) was a ventriloquist
Eileen’s son Ron still has “Allen”

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Margaret, Snookie, and Turk Snookie and Turk


Janice Christine Winike 1958 – 2011

by  Rob Winike

“You’re in the arms of an Angel; may you find some comfort here.” – Sarah McLachlan

Janice’s grade school picture from Villa Middle

Janice Christine Winike, (May 6, 1958 – November 21, 2011) was the fifth child of Robert and Corinne Winike. She is survived by seven siblings: Robert, Steven, Thomas, Phyllis, Holly, Anthony, and Lori; as well as nephews Robin, Dominick, Jared and Robert, nieces Lindsay and Ashley; grand nieces Gracie and Ava, and grand nephew, Tyler.

Since our sister’s passing my siblings and I have been sharing many memories about our family. In particular, I want to thank Phyllis for helping to edit and compose this blog; without her, publishing the blog would not be possible. Holly, Tony, and Lori all contributed suggestions and ideas through emails and phone calls to me – in addition to helping with funeral arrangements and a service at Janice’s gravesite with Fr. Joseph Mills from Westchester Community Church on Dec 5, 2011. My brother Steve and I spent hours on the phone the past couple of weeks, recalling and verifying details that I incorporated into the blog. It’s a fitting labor of love that I hope will convey our family’s respect and reverence for Janice’s memory. (more…)



Carmino (Charles) J. Ciolli

by  Phyllis Zeck

This fall I received email from two of Charles Ciolli’s descendants, Barbara and Jamila.  I just love it when that happens!  Charles and my great grandmother Elvira were brother and sister.

Charles was born in Pescasseroli, Italy on March 20, 1875.  He died on April 12, 1941 in Chicago and is buried at Mt Carmel.  Charles and his brother Oreste Emilio Fortunato arrived in New York on May 1, 1890 aboard the ship The Britannia.  Charles married Anna D’Aquila in 1908 in Chicago at Holy Guardian Angel’s Church.

Charles and Anna had two children.  Their daughter Filomena died at 3 months old in April 1909.  Robert P. Amabile Ciolli was born on March 9, 1910, and he passed away in 2000.  Robert married Emily (Carmella) Picerno on September 18, 1937.

Robert and Emily had two daughters.  Annette was their first born.  Annette married Michael Davey and they had two children (Maureen and Robert).  Robert is married to Jamila.

Robert and Emily’s younger daughter is Barbara.  Barbara married William Kucera and they had two children (Lauren and William).

Charles & Anna with Annette 1940

So now I am able to trace my relationship to my two new email friends; Jamila and Barbara.  They both share my passion for geneaology so the three of us quickly became email buddies. Jamila sent me the photo on the left.  This is Charles and Anna D’Aquila with their first granddaughter Annette (Jamila’s mother in law), taken in 1940.

The photo below was sent to me from Barbara and is Charles and his son Robert (Barbara’s father) in front of the bar Charles owned on Loomis Street in Chicago.  It was taken about 1913-1915.  Charles is in the middle, the man on the left is unknown.  The child is Robert, age 3.


Barbara writes “Charles and Anna owned a two-flat on Lexington Street in Chicago and that is where my father was raised. When my father married Emily they lived in one flat and Charles & Anna lived in the other. That is where they lived when my sister Annette was born in June of 1940. Charles died the following April 1941.  Shortly after that the building was sold and my parents, along with Anna and my sister moved into a two-flat with my maternal grandparents (Frank & Justine Picerno) at 1034 South Hoyne in Chicago. I was born in 1946 and we all lived there until 1950.”

Charles Ciolli’s Bar

Barbara remembers Frank & Otto Del Principe and the Leones, and of course she took accordion lessons at the music store.  Barbara recalls “I guess I saw Frank and his family the most and remember going to his home with all the gorgeous Dresden figures and lamps.  I knew Frank’s children Muriel and Luke and remember eating at the beef stand”.

I’m very excited to know a little about the male side of the Ciolli family.

We’ve grown this tree so much in the last year.  I posted my first blog in October of 2010 and I am astounded by how much I’ve found out about my ancestors.  I hope that anyone who reads my blogs will help spread the word about our growing family.  I welcome any stories and photos you are willing to share with me.  Together we can  connect with family and learn about our ancestors.