Category Archives: Czechs

Motivation Monday – Gather the Family Together

Yesterday several descendants of Jan and Marie Holik met at my house. A few people I had seen before and some I had never met. The same can be said for everyone who attended. We had Holik, Privoznik and Hokr’s here.

Many photos were shared, stories were told, questions were asked and of course, we ate. There was apple pie, kolacky, houska, poppyseed cake, veggies and dip and crackers and hummus. Lots of coffee and tea was drunk as the afternoon progressed.

I realized I was playing hostess and did not get to sit and actually talk very much with a few of my guests, but they were all having a good time pouring over four large albums of photos I had. I pulled out a copy of my book when my cousin Dennis mentioned he bought it (thank you!) and my other cousin LeRoy was telling us about Robert Brouk. I pulled out all my Holik and Privoznik and Brouk files. LeRoy read through his older brother’s WWII Individual Deceased Personnel File. In it were handwritten letters by his mom. I think he was very touched as he read it.

You know I did not enter one thing into the family tree. I took a few notes and need to give a few people some information on where they can locate records for their parents. I need to scan some pictures for a cousin. But the day was fantastic. Next time I’ll add and update information in the database.

It was a very successful meeting and I plan to host a gathering again soon! Hopefully my cousins who are my age will be able to come with their kids. But my twins had a fun fun time playing with their cousin Kathy! She loves Star Wars, big dogs, riding bikes and playing basketball (even with little boys who take her points).

So what are you waiting for? Gather your relatives together. I’ll be doing this again in a few weeks with the Kokoska/Kokaska side of the family. Stay tuned for more on that!

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Tuesday’s Tip – Attend the Next CSAGSI Meeting

On Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 1:30 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of LaGrange, Illinois, is the next Czechoslovak American Genealogy Society of Illinois meeting.

The topic is a book talk on History of Czechs of Chicago. This is a translation of a book published in 1935 that will be for sale through the CSAGSI soon. After the book talk, a short trailer for the film Czechs in Chicago will be shown by Susan Marcincus. This will become a full-length documentary for Chicago PBS Television Channel 11.

Want to know more? Attend the meeting or visit the CSAGSI website or visit Czechs in Chicago.

I’ll be at the meeting and will blog about it next week. Be sure to check back.

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Analyzing a Neighborhood

I recently finished Lesson 11 of the NGS HSC on migration and census analysis. I decided to use what I created from the census portion of the assignment to write an article for the Koreny journal for the Czech and Slovak American Genealogical Society of Illinois.

Let me explain the assignment. I had to choose two censuses in which an ancestor appeared. Transcribe that census for the ancestor and his family plus 100 people surrounding the ancestor. Then analyze the data and write a narrative report. I chose my great-great grandfather Joseph Kokoska and roughly 100 of his neighbors for 1900. By 1910 that number increased to over 100 because so many more people moved into the neighborhood.

Now I am debating whether or not I have the time to transcribe the 1920 and 1930 censuses for the same addresses to write a deeper review of the neighborhood. I’m not sure. Maybe my article for the journal will be enough with two censuses and questions to leave the reader wanting more. Then they can perform their own census analysis.

What do you think? Have you looked at the Chicago neighborhood in which your ancestor lived? Have you explored it in-depth? What did you find?

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Surname Saturday – Vesely

Happy Saturday! This post is less of a surname post and more of a book review post. Last night I finished reading, Journey A Novel of America by James M. Vesely. As I read parts of this book I smiled, I laughed, I cried, and thought a lot about my family.

Vesely takes the reader on a journey with the Novak family, Janicka, Valentyn, Josef, and Ondrej, from Trebon, Bohemia, to Chicago and Montana. The family leaves their small home in Trebon and makes their way to Hamburg via train. They sail on the Graf Waldersee to America. Josef meets a young woman named Lia on the ship and the two become good friends. She is “taken” into the family at Ellis Island so she will not be denied entrance as a single young woman.

Once the family and Lia pass through Ellis Island, they take another train to Chicago. Lia meets her Aunt Emilka and the Novak family meets Janicka’s brother Matek. Lia is later saved from a whorehouse by Josef when he discovers her aunt sold her off. Lia and Josef marry and stay in Chicago. Ondrej had a dream of becoming a farmer. Their tiny plot in Trebon, which the family would never own, was not enough for him. Ondrej wanted to be his own master and farm his own land.

Vesely takes the reader through the years and a few generations of the Novak family. The story eventually splits into a Chicago story and Montana story going on at the same time after seven years after the family immigrates. Ondrej makes his way to Montana and begins a homestead. Josef remains in Chicago and eventually runs and owns his own saloon, then restaurant when prohibition starts, then a saloon again.

I am familiar with many major Czech events in Chicago and Vesely makes the Novak family experience many of those. The family enjoys picnics in Pilsen Park, they were on the Eastland when the boat tipped and Janicka and Valentyn lose their lives and then are buried in Bohemian National Cemetery, then World War I hits. What is interesting is Josef and Lia have a son named Michael. Michael was drafted and sent to fight in France. He was killed and buried there. In my family, our Michael Kokoska died in France, was buried there but later his remains were brought to Bohemian National Cemetery.  The family experiences the stock market crash, prohibition, the depression, the movement of Czech families from Pilsen out toward the suburbs. The children and grandchildren growing, going to college, becoming very modern. And of course Vesely sprinkles in a great deal of discussion on Czech food which makes your mouth water and makes you hungry for kolacky, roast pork and dumplings and sauerkraut. Yum!

Josef and Ondrej both grow old and experience many of life’s hardships. Through it all they have family and neighbors to rely on.

As I read this book I started to think a lot about my Czech families who came across and settled in Chicago. Now I need to write down these major themes and certain things about the book and start to analyze my families and try to discover more of their story.

What stories will you discover today? Do you know of any other books like this that talk about the Czechs and Chicago? Please post the title and author in the comments. I’d love to read more!

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Tombstone Tuesday – Bohemian National Cemetery

The Friends of Bohemian National Cemetery will be hosting a walking tour on September 24, 2011. Cost is $10 for members and $15 for non-members. Pre-registration is not required, just show up at the Gatehouse for the 10:00 a.m. or 1:00 p.m. tour.

The Tour of the Tombstones will be led by Albert Walavich.

Hear the story of BNC’s founding and why it is one of only two Chicago cemeteries on the National Register of Historic Places. Learn about our impressive war monuments and beautiful artistic buildings. Discover the history of changes in monument artistry and monument materials. Be amazed at the variety of artistic angels, tree trunks and “littering lady” monuments.

For more information visit the Friends of Bohemian National Cemetery website.

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Wednesday’s Child – Ana Kokoska

If you have followed my blog for a while you know the story of my missing Kokoska child. Initially her birth certificate said Emilie Kokoska. A death certificate shows her name as Ana Kokoska. I discovered she is buried in Row 18 No. 1 at Bohemian National Cemetery. I knew she died at 699 May Street although there was a discrepancy between that address and the address on her brother’s birth certificate. But I determined the birth certificate address never existed according to old Chicago street maps and other sources.

I feel this child is the one I am looking for based on evidence I explained in prior posts. And I found out where her grave is this weekend.

I asked at Bohemian National Cemetery where to locate Ana’s grave and who owned the plot. Turns out Ana had a term grave. This means her parents bought it and when the time limit was up, someone else was buried over her. She was never disinterred and moved into the Kokoska plot. There was no stone allowed because it was a term grave. So Ana is buried in Bohemian National Cemetery and someone else is buried over her. No one even knows she’s there. Very sad.

This post serves as one of the testaments to her very short life. She was only over a year old when she died. She lived, was loved, died, and has been found, not to be forgotten by me. She is remembered.

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Treasure Chest Thursday – Czech Records

Last night I attended the Fountaindale Public Library’s Genealogy Group meeting. You can read about it here.  Steve Szabados presented some great resources. The best I found are of the Czech Archives.

Steve said the Czech Republic has been digitizing their records for several years. Trebon’s archives are the most complete and usable. The other archives are continuously updating records. I knew this but had not really looked into it as the areas where my ancestors lived had not been done yet. Now I need to go look again!

Links for the Czech State Regional Digital Archives are:

Enjoy the research! I know I will!

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