Sunday, June 29, 2014

Portraits of a Life

Old family photos are a treasure – the images have the ability to transport us to the moment in time when the photos were taken. We can learn so much - what our ancestors looked like, what they wore and how our families lived. Sometimes the emotions shine through – joy and sadness.  Sometimes we recognize similarities that pass down through several generations.

My family is very fortunate that we have a large collection of formal family portraits and snapshots.  When I was in college my grandfather entrusted his mother’s photo collection to me. My great grandmother Helen Tillie Bukowski was the original family historian. She took many photos of her children, her parents, her husband’s parents, her siblings, her husbands, her nieces and her nephews. There are hundreds of photos ranging from the early 1900’s through the 1950’s.  She also recorded the names and dates on many of the images. Her record keeping was impeccable and has assisted with identifying individuals in the unlabeled photos. In addition to several large albums there were also many loose photos, newspaper clippings and post cards.  She left so many clues – a roadmap to assembling our family history. An amazing perspective of their lifetime.
Michelle M. Murosky: The Bukowski Collection &emdash; Helen Tillie Bukowski
My Great Grandmother - Helen Tillie Bukowski - the original family historian
In 2011 I worked digitized the images.  A portion of these photos were published in Our Ancestors The Book: Volume I: The Murosky and Bukowski Family HistoryThe book dedicated to my paternal grandfather, who was 92 at the time,is a 276 hard backed book featuring collection of family tree research, historical records and family photographs for the ancestral lines on the paternal side of the Murosky family. The Bukowski and Murosky families are featured. The book also features a collection of family recipes. A few samples from the book are shown below. To browse the book please view this 
MB Boutiques: Portraits of a Life &emdash; Our Ancestors The Book: Volume I: The Murosky & Bukowski Family

MB Boutiques: Portraits of a Life &emdash; Our Ancestors The Book: Volume I: The Murosky & Bukowski Family

MB Boutiques: Portraits of a Life &emdash; Our Ancestors The Book: Volume I: The Murosky & Bukowski Family

MB Boutiques: Portraits of a Life &emdash; Our Ancestors The Book: Volume I: The Murosky & Bukowski Family

Earlier this spring I acquired another large collection of family photos. These include additional previously unknown photos from my great grandmother Helen Tillie Bukowski’s collection. My great grandmother Frances Philomena Selker’s photo collection was also included. Frances Philomena Selker was my paternal grandmother's mother. It was previously thought that almost no photos existed from this side of the family. Included are photos of her ancestors – the Selker, Guth and Loll families. There are also photos of her children – my grandmother’s generation and my father’s generation. This collection also includes several hundred photos.
I am starting a project called “Portraits of a Life."  The goal of this project is to digitize, archive, restore and share the large collection family photos. This will include the remaining photos from my great Grandmother Helen Bukowski's collection. This will also include the Frances Philomena Selker photo collection.
Family photos belong to all of the descendants - history is meant to be shared. To keep family updated on this project I will be providing regular blog updates with the leading title “Portraits of a Life”. Working to digitize the images is one of the most ambitious and complex projects I have undertaken.
As the caretaker my role is to preserve and share our family history for future generations.  Preserving our family history and allowing the legacy of my great grandmothers to live on is one of the more important things I have ever done in my life. I feel honored to have this role.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Philip Selker - Battle of Normandy Veteran

Special thanks to Leo Selker for contributions to this blog post. 

Philip Selker was born April 25, 1907 in Montabauer, Westerwald, Germany.  He was the son of Karl Friedrich Selker.  Philip became a tailor by trade.  The custom in Germany was for the oldest son to carry on the trade of the father.  Philip had to take on the trade of tailor when his older brother died. 

Philip was old enough to vote for German President Paul von Hindenburg in the 1925 election.  At age 21 Philip made the decision to leave Germany and immigrate to the United States. Philip explained that he made the decision to come to the United States because it offered a better life and opportunities than Germany had to offer at the time. On February 8, 1929 the vessel S.S. Hamburg set sail from Hamburg, Germany.

The S.S. Hamburg was a German Ocean liner built by the Blohm & Voss Shipbuilders and owned by the Hamburg America Line. The ocean liner was 21,132 gross register tons and 635 feet long. The ship had space for 222 first class passengers, 471 second class passengers and 456 third class passengers. 

S.S. Hamburg 

On February 19, 1929 Philip arrived at Ellis Island in New York aboard the ship Hamburg.  He said the ocean voyage was terrible.  He shared a cabin for four.  He was terribly seasick and the weather was quite stormy.  The ships manifest recorded Philip as age 21, occupation of tailor. His birth location and last residence are recorded as Montabaur, Germany.  A brochure advertising the ships service in 1938 is available at this link

After being processed at Ellis Island Philip Stopped in Clarion, Pennsylvania where he had family. His uncle Joseph William Selker was living in Clarion with his family. He was the owner of J.W. Selker & Cigar.  On July 5, 1906 Joseph returned to his home town of Fuersteanau, Germany. He took his son Frederick William Selker with him. On his return he brought two of his nieces back with him. One was Philomena Selker, daughter of  Gerhardt Selker and Mary Agnes Rakers, the other was Johanna Anna Selker, daughter of Karl Friedrich Selker and Margarita Wolf.

The meeting in Clarion was the first between brother and sister. Johanna arrived  July 5, 1906  before Philip was born.  After spending some time in Clarion Philip went on to Chicago, IL

 In Chicago he lived with a cousin who had immigrated in 1923.  Philip worked as a tailor for Marshall Fields for several years and eventually rising to the status of master tailor.  Philip became a naturalized citizen on March 4, 1936 at the U.S. District Court in Chicago, IL.

On January 25, 1944 Philip enlisted in the United States Army. He was assigned to the Infantry. He landed at Omaha Beach on June 7, 1944 on the second day of the invasion of the Allied Forces.  The following reading is recommend to provide perspective on what it must have been like to arrive on June 7.  Omaha Beach was still in a critical state. The men arriving in the second wave were faced with the causalities of the day before.

“At Omaha Beach, the situation of the 1st and 29th American divisions, having landed at dawn of the previous day, is more critical. By June 7th, these divisions control only a small amount of territory; as such, the risk of being pushed off the beaches from German counter attack remains high. To the east, at Sword, Juno and Gold, the British and Canadians, while their landings were also difficult, are having an easier time of things. The Canadians remain in control of Anisy and Cainet, having fought off a major counter attack by the 21st Pz Division the day before. By end of day, the 6th Airborne Division have managed to take bridges on the Orne river and have linked up with elements of the British 3rd Infantry Division at Sword Beach.”

At Omaha, too, reinforcements began coming in to the beach before the sun rose above the horizon. Twenty-year-old Lt. Charles Stockell, a forward observer in the 1st Division, was one of the first to go ashore that day. Stockell kept a diary. He recorded that he came in below Vierville, that the skipper of the LCI (Landing Craft Infantry) feared the underwater beach obstacles and mines and thus forced him to get off in chest-deep water, that he saw equipment littering the beach, and then "The first dead Americans I see are two GIs, one with both feet blown off, arms wrapped about each other in a comradely death embrace." He was struck by the thought that "dead men everywhere look pathetic and lonely. You feel as if you would like them to be alive and the war over."

Stockell didn't get very far inland that morning. The front line, in fact, was less than a quarter of a mile from the edge of the bluff, running along a series of hedgerows outside Colleville. That was as far inland as Capt. Joseph Dawson, CO of G Company, 16th Regiment, 1st Division, had gotten on D-Day -- and Dawson had been the first American to reach the top of the bluff at Omaha. On June 7, he was fighting to secure his position outside Colleville, discovering in the process that he had a whole lot to learn about hedgerows.

The 175th Regiment of the 29th Division came in on schedule at 0630, June 7. But it landed two kilometers east of its intended target, the Vierville exit. Orders came to march to the exit. In a loose formation, the regiment began to march, through the debris of the previous day's battle. To Capt. Robert Miller, the beach "looked like something out of Dante's Inferno."

Sniper fire continued to zing down. "But even worse," according to Lt. J. Milnor Roberts, an aide to the corps commander, "they were stepping over the bodies of the guys who had been killed the day before and these guys were wearing that 29th Division patch; the other fellows, brand-new, were walking over the dead bodies. By the time they got down where they were to go inland, they were really spooked."

Philip saw action in France, Belgium, and Germany.  He was injured during the Bulge when his troop train was hit with artillery or rockets. Philip jumped clear of the train but the concussion from the blast blew out his ear drums. He lost all hearing on one side and suffered partial hearing loss in the other ear. Many men from his unit did not make it of the train. After recovering he later served in the Pacific Theater.

If another American soldier questioned Philip’s loyalty he was ready to fist fight with them.  One challenge for Philip during the war was his proximity to his hometown of Montabauer. He did not know the status of his German family. Were they safe? Were they injured?  He was also not permitted to have contact with them. Philip also had cousins who were fighting for the German Army. 

On December 7, 1945 Philip was released from his service.  He returned to Chicago, IL. In 1947 he opened his own tailor shop in northeast Chicago. He operated his shop until 1987. At age 83 he was still working in his shop 11 hours a day 6 days a week. Philip was a founding member of the Rheinischer Gesangverein Chicago (RGV).  The society was founded in 1933.  He has received the Deutscher Sangerbund Award and the Gold Pin in recognition of his continuous attendance and valued participation for 60 years of service.  He was known by the RGV as a loyal and vigorous member. He is remembered as one of the liveliest and most active singers.

Philip passed away on September 25, 2006 at age 99.  
  1. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Year: 1929; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 4433; Line: 4; Page Number: 209.
  2. Passenger Ships and Images [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007.
  3. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Soundex Index to Naturalization Petitions for the United States District and Circuit Courts, Northern District of Illinois and Immigration and Naturalization Service District 9, 1840-1950 (M1285); Microfilm Serial: M1285; Microfilm Roll: 158.
  4. Cook County, Illinois Marriage Index, 1930-1960 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008.
  5. U.S. Public Records Index, Volume 1 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.
  6. U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.
  7. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2011.
  8. Individual - Sr. Janet Staub
  9. Individual - Leo Selker

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Bridge to the Past - DNA Testing Our Oldest Living Family Member

This spring my paternal grandfather had a milestone birthday – 95 years old. All four of his grandparents were immigrants who arrived in the United States in the 1890s.  His paternal grandparents, Anthony Murosky, Sr. and Eva Zielinski, arrived separately from Lithuania. The couple met in Forest City, Pennsylvania and were married.

His maternal grandparents, Vincent Bukowski and Franciska Kwiatkowski, came from Poland with three young children. These four individuals are currently the oldest known ancestors on his side of the family. These families unfortunately did not leave many clues behind. At this time there are no definitive information on what cities they were living in before departing for the United States.

The Test

In attempt to learn more about these families I tested my grandfather with the AncestryDNA kit. This DNA test looks at an individuals’ autosomal DNA. The autosomal DNA provides an understanding of the individual’s inheritance as it will show DNA inherited from their mother and father. 

My grandfather is the oldest living person in the family on his paternal and maternal sides. He is the closest link to the oldest known ancestors. When evaluating his results there are only four starting variables - making it plausible to learn more about each of the four lines he descends from.

The AncestryDNA test kit arrived shortly after ordering by mail. The instructions are easy to follow. The kit arrives with a bar code, which needs to be activated online. A saliva sample is collected from the test individual. The sample is then placed in the pre-paid mailer provided in the kit. Simply place the sample in the mailer and take it to the post office to send it in. The test lab uses the activated bar code and never knows the name of the individual tested .  The bar code system is one of the methods AncestryDNA uses to protect the identity of individuals tested.  To learn more about the AncestryDNA privacy policies please visit this link. Once the sample is received at the laboratory for processing (Ancestry) will send you a notification.

The Process

Ancestry has developed 26 ethnicity regions.  Each of these regions has a DNA reference panel. Ancestry sequences the DNA sample and runs numerous separate analyses to compare the sample to reference panels for each of the 26 regions. The goal of the analysis is to identify how the sample compares to the typical person living in the regions. The results determine which combination of the ethnicity regions makes up the DNA of the test individual.

The Results

The results indicate that my grandfather is 100% Eastern European. A 100% match to one region is rare but occasionally occurs. The results suggest that his ancestors lived in the same location for several generations.

The countries in the Ancestry Eastern European Group include:  Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Austria, Russia, Hungary, Slovenia, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Lithuania, Latvia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia.

Linking Family

After DNA for an individual is tested, AncestryDNA begins to search the DNA database (which grows each day) to identify other individuals with similar genetic markers. These individuals may be parents, grandparents or cousins. The process used will attempt to predict the relationship between the individual tested and the DNA match.

It is highly recommended that the DNA sample be linked to an individual in a family tree. Using data from the family trees it is possible to identify the common ancestor between the individual tested and the match. In some cases the common ancestor may be unknown. Working together the researcher and match may be able to identify the ancestral line and/or the common ancestor that links the two individuals together.

Making Connections

After reviewing the results the next step is to begin to review the AncestryDNA matches to determine if it is possible to identify the ancestral line and/or the common ancestor between the tested individual and the match. What is very exciting is my grandfather has several matches – meaning he shares a common ancestor with other individuals that have been tested.

2nd cousins

In my grandfather's results the first grouping of matches identifies 2nd cousins. The current results have identified two second cousin's with my grandfather. In this example Vincent Bukowski and Franciska Kwiatkowski are the common ancestors. The two cousins are descendants of Catherine Bukowski - my grandfather's aunt.

4th cousins

The next grouping of matches in my grandfather's results identifies potential 4th cousins. This grouping is very interesting as it identifies a relationship between one of my grandfather's unknown ancestors and the individual with the match.  The common ancestor could be my grandfather's 3rd great grandparent or 4th great grandparents who was most likely in Lithuania or Poland (but could also have been living in one of the other countries in the Eastern European group).

This example of a 4th cousin match is best illustrated by the graphic below. The green boxes represent known information:  my grandfather, his parents and his grandparents. The white boxes represent my grandfather’s unknown ancestor’s line. The red box represents the ancestor that is the link between the test individual and the match.  The grey boxes represent the connections between the common ancestor and the match. The blue box represents the match. In some cases the match may know the names of the individual who populate the grey boxes and possibly the red box. In other cases they may not.

Michelle M. Murosky: Blog Images &emdash; 4th Cousin Chart

I am currently working with some of these 4th cousin matches in attempt determine which of the four lines the match occurs on. These matches may provide some insight into what regions the families may be from. In time these matches could also uncover additional ancestors.

It should also be noted that the match could be another variation which places the test individual and the match the same number of degrees away from each other. Fourth cousins are 10 degrees apart. What do the degrees mean? The degrees compared to the graphic above are listed below.
  • Individual Tested - 0 degrees
  • Parent - 1 degree
  • Grandparent - 2 degrees
  • Great-grandparent - 3 degrees
  • Great-great grandparent - 4 degrees
  • Great-great-great-grandparent - 5 degrees [The common ancestor]
  • Great-great grand (Aunt or Uncle) - 6 degrees
  • 1st cousin (3x removed) - 7 degrees
  • 2nd cousin (2x removed) - 8 degrees
  • 3rd cousin (1x removed) - 9 degrees
  • The Match - 10 degrees.

Other relationship types that are 10 degrees apart include: 3rd cousin (2x removed) and 2nd cousin (4x removed). The match could also be to a 5th cousin. To lean more about cousin relationships view the blog post First Cousin 2x Removed, Second Cousin - What does it mean?

Distant cousins

The third grouping is for matches that may be 5th cousins or greater. For individuals with tree details for several generations it might be possible to identify the common ancestor. In my grandfather's case, with limited knowledge, it may be difficult to understand the common ancestor or line.

To learn more about the DNA test works please visit this link.