Sunday, February 1, 2009

Helena Grabowski

Helena was John's 2nd great-grandmother. What little I have discovered about her comes mostly from newspaper articles and census records. As is too often the case I started with an obituary.

The Syracuse Herald, Monday, March 22, 1920, pg 18

Mrs Andrew
Grabowske, 83, died Sunday at her home 936 North Salina street, after an illness
of one week. She leaves two sons, Andrew and August Grabowske; three daughters,
Mrs Mary Nelipowitz, Mrs Tina Schwahn (sic) and Mrs Anna Schaknowske; 54
grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren. She was born in Germany and had been a
resident of the North Side for 35 years.

Frank H Wenz took the body to the home of Mrs Nelipowitz, 104 Lawrence
street, where the funeral will take place Tuesday at 9:30 A.M. and a half hour
later in the Church of the Assumption. Burial will be in Assumption cemetery.

Her maiden name a puzzle piece yet to be discovered. I tried to see how much I could find out about her and how many of her descendants I could locate. The German names in the older newspapers were spelled however the person at the paper thought they ought to be spelled, which added to my challenge. Searching for the two addresses listed gave me more information and more addresses to search for.

I learned that she was born near Millborg, Germany (which so far I have been unable to locate on any map) and that she married Andrew Grabowski there in November 1858.

The Syracuse Herald, Thurs, Nov 12, 1908

At 9 o’clock this morning Mr
and Mrs Andrew Grabowski were remarried at the Church of the Assumption in
celebration of their fiftieth wedding anniversary. The ceremony was performed by
Rev. Fredolin Stauble, of Trenton, N.J., the step-son of Andrew Grabowski, Jr.,
at whose house at No. 1208 Park street a reception was held after the wedding.
Mr and Mrs Grabowski were born near Millborg, Germany, and came to this city 26
years ago.

From various census records I learned that she had had 12 children (in 1910, five were still living) and at least six of them emigrated with them to the US between 1882 and 1885. (The notice in the paper would indicate 1882, census records 1885. Some of the children’s records show 1884 or 1886 but I believe they traveled together. I have not yet found there immigration records. Ellis Island did not open until 1892.) So what happened to the other six children? Did they die in infancy or early childhood? Another puzzle piece.

German immigrants settled mostly on the north side of Syracuse and this is where the family made their home. It appears that Helena was a housewife and her husband a laborer. Life certainly wouldn’t have been easy but certainly it wasn’t a bad life either. She saw the marriages of all six of her children and they settled around her on the north side. Beginning in the late 1880’s the grandchildren started coming. More than the 54 listed in her obituary would be born, funerals would take place too. Marriages, births and deaths – the Church of the Assumption would have been a central figure in the family’s life. Several descendants would become priests and at least one would join a convent.

On January 14, 1902 her son, John, died.

The Post Standard, Wednesday, January 15, 1902, pg 6


John Grabowski is killed while at work on Cazenovia Lake

John Grabowski of North State street, employed by the People’s Ice
Company in harvesting ice on Cazenovia Lake, was struck in the head by the
handle of a windless and instantly killed at 2 o’clock yesterday afternoon.

Grabowski was operating the windlass when he met death. He drew out a block
which held it in place, but failed to catch the handle firmly and the weight
caused it to fly around and strike him upon the head. The force of the blow
caused instant death. Coroner Knapp of Cazenovia will make an investigation.

Grabowski was 28 years old and leaves a wife and two children. He was born
in Germany and had lived here about fifteen years.

World War I was doubly hard on the German immigrants as they knew soldiers on both side. I’m not sure how many Helena knew in Germany but in 1914 there was an article in the paper about her daughter-in-law, Rosa Schmidt, widow of her son John, about word she had received about her two brothers being drafted into the German Army.

Helena lost at least two grandsons to the war.

Syracuse Herald, Nov 21, 1918, pg 3, col 2

Corp. Fred Grabowski, Company D, Eighth Machine Gun battalion, was killed in action Sept. 27. He is the second son of Mr. and Mrs. August Grabowski, no 122 Culbert street, to make the supreme sacrifice. His brother, John A Grabowski, Company A, Seventh infantry, was killed in action June 23d. Another brother is at Camp Dix.

It would be nice to have a more personal account of her life written by someone who knew her but for now the records from various census and newspapers are all that we have. I have traced many of her descendants in some cases to seven generations and the outline tree generated fills 10 pages. There are still many, many pieces left in the puzzle that I will revisit on another day.

This oriiginaly appeared at The Apple Doesn't Fall Far From the Tree on 1 July 2006. It's is yet another post that I really need to follow up on.


Anonymous said...

We have the similar German research problems, I can't find my g-grandfather's arrival record either. He probably arrived from Germany between 1868 and 1871, and I can't find the family on the 1870 census. Fun, fun.

Tex said...

For someone completely unfamiliar with this family, I got a fairly good "picture" of Helen through these documents.

WWI was hard on German immigrants. Mine came in through Philadelphia in 1874 and were Mennonites--it was interesting to me how many of their sons and grandsons registered in the WWI Draft Registration despite their having immigrated because of the threat of being drafted into the Russian army. They did not believe in military service though they were willing to work in hospitals, etc.,

footnoteMaven said...


I love you idea of going to older posts and bringing them back for further research. Now that's a great idea!


Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

I really need to dig into the immigration and naturalization records for John's family. As he isn't interested my motivation comes and goes.

Sad that your ancestors fled one draft just to get caught up in another.

I wanted to get all of my genealogy posts on one blog and figured there are enough new readers here that there might be some interest. Hopefully I will get the follow up done but in my usual disorganized way I'm chasing several different lines at once and easily distracted!

Unknown said...

In reference to the unknown city of Millborg Prussia, I've poked around a bit and think it could possibly refer to Malbork (Malborg) Prussia in present day Poland; once East Prussia.