The Grinkevich Family

The Grinkevich Family
For years this family with the many varied name spellings has been a source of fascination. I never knew my great grandparents-- we visited when I was very young, but I have no memory of this momentous occasion. Pictures show them as two tiny, wizened people aglow with love for each other. Perhaps therein lies the source of my interest. Though they went through many trials in their lives, from living in poverty in a Russian ruled country with no hope of a happy future, to burying several children in the spring of their young lives. Their tenacity carried them through. That, and their devotion, and faith in God.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Joseph and Sarah York Family

-birth date for Connie York is approximate

Born on December 20, 1887, Joe York was 29 years old when he registered for WWI in 1917. He was still living in Steger and was a cabinetmaker at Steger & Sons Piano Factory.  Joe is described as being of medium height and stout build, with blue eyes and dark hair. At the time he had a wife (Sarah) and two dependent children (John and Anna).

Joseph York was a naturalized citizen as of December 8, 1919.

The 1920 US Census

Joseph, age 31, Sarah, 30, their son John, 10, and daughter Anna York, 6, lived at 3426 Union Ave. , in Crete Township, Will County, Illinois with Sarah’s widowed mother Barbara Svetal, age 60. 

They were renting the home. The three adults listed Russia/Lithuania as their place of birth as well as the place of birth of their parents before them.      John and Anna were both born in Illinois.  

Joseph & Sarah, are naturalized citizens, Barbara Svetal is an alien. Sarah and her mother are both listed as being unable to read and write. Joe is the only member of his household employed. He works as a varnisher at the piano factory. Both children are going to school. Barbara is the only one of the family listed as not speaking English.

The family is enumerated beginning on line 93.
census images from on image to enlarge, right click to save
 The 1930 US Census
In 1930 Joseph and Sarah York resided at 2424 West 45th Street in Chicago with their 20 year old son, John, and 16 year old daughter, Anna.  They owned their home which was valued at $18,000.  Luckily they had several renters that gave them a bit of income since Joseph wasn’t working.  Their son, John was working as a messenger boy for French Line Steam Boat.

Coincidentally the family is enumerated once again beginning on line 93.

Social Security
Notice that Joseph entered Vincent York and Helen Kubilas as the names of his parents.  Other sources show William as the father's name.  This is likely another case of the names "William" and "Vincent" being used interchangeably.--click on the image to enlarge, or right click to save it.
In 1935 people began filling out applications for Social Security.  Joseph York applied for his account number on November 28, 1936 when he was working for the Sherman Klove Company in Chicago.  At this time farmers, housewives, doctors, lawyers, and self employed workers generally did not apply for Social Security. These forms are a great source of information as the person filled in the information himself, unlike a census or death certificate. It also asks for the applicants’ parents names, including the mother’s maiden name.  

Joseph York registers for WWII

~May They Rest In Peace~
From the Chicago Tribune—1974-04-21
Joseph York, April 19, beloved husband of three; great-grandfather of nine. 
Funeral Saturday, April 22, 10 a.m., from the Marquette Funeral Home,
2533 W. 71st St. to Nativity B.V.M. Church Interment St. Casimir. 

Sarah York, Oct. 27, dearest mother of John (Bernice) York and Anna Martinkus; fond grandmother of Stanley Martinkus, Marian (Robert) Brooks, and Connie (Charles) Lisauskas; great-grandmother of nine.  Funeral services Tuesday, 10 a.m. from the from the Marquette Funeral Home,

2533 W. 71st St. to Nativity B.V.M. Church Interment St. Casimir. 

Also interred in St. Casimir Cemetery are Stanley and Anna Martinkus.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Part 3, The Grinkevich and York Families-On to Steger

On to Steger
How much a part the mining accidents played in the decision to move to Illinois, we’ll never know, but for a religious, family oriented people the safer working conditions near the city of Chicago seemed to be the answer.  William Grinkevich, Anthony and Joseph York and families all moved to Steger, but William’s siblings Eva and Joseph stayed behind, each with their families.  The last record in Pennsylvania from William and Magdalena’s family is daughter Agnes Grinkevich’s baptism August 25, 1907.  The next record for them is the 1910 census in Steger. We may never know if this extended family all moved at once, or if someone went ahead and sent word when he found that there were good jobs to be had.  

They joined St. Liborius Catholic Church, a Lithuanian parish, upon their arrival. The first family record found there was the wedding of Joseph York and Sarah Svetal on February 22, 1909.

click on each image to enlarge it-right click to save it
Chicago had a booming Lithuanian population, and the village of Steger, was situated astride the Cook and Will County lines nearby. It was also adjacent to the railroad tracks making it excellent for factories to ship off their goods,   and for the workers since rail was the primary mode of transportation at the time.  The employee housing was newly constructed and affordable as John Valentine Steger, the owner of Steger & Sons Piano Factory that would soon make Steger the “piano capital of the world”, knew that to attract and retain talented craftsmen they needed to be happy.  William Grinkevich and his brother-in-law Anthony York were hired as cabinet makers where they made the bodies of various models including grand pianos.  Joseph York’s job was to varnish them.  

The 1910 U.S Census

This census is unique and very informative as unlike other census forms it asked married couples how long they’d been married to their present spouse.  Two other new as well as informative questions asked women how many children they’d given birth to and how many were still living at the time of census. “Maggie Grencavich” reported giving birth to six children-- only three were still alive. (Francis was among the three children that died.) "Anton" and Helen "Yorkes" reported they had lost a child too.

Another point of interest is that on the one page these three families are enumerated along with their neighbors, all of the people employed with the exception of two teenage girls worked at the Steger & Sons Piano Factory.  The girls worked as seamstresses at a tailor shop.

The three families lived near each other on Wallace Avenue in Steger. Joseph was still an alien as was his brother-in-law William.  (Though William had filed papers to begin attaining citizenship, he never followed through with it and died an alien.)  Anthony was a citizen of the USA. He and Helen had a mortgage on their residence and lived there with Helen’s widowed father Chas. Pultenovich, and her younger sister, Jennie. Joseph and William both rented their residences. William "Grencavic" had a lodger, Peter Madden, a widowed native of Greece at his residence.  William and Maggie’s sons Joseph and Charles were both attending school.  Helen York was the only one of the women who spoke English. All six of the married adults could read and write except Sarah “Yorkes” who could only read.

census images from

Back in Northumberland County, PA, William’s sister Eva, age 28, and her husband for the past 9 years, John Wishneski, age 30 were enumerated on April 19, 1910.  They lived at 1209 Hemlock Avenue in Coal Township with son John, age 8, daughter Anna, 6, Antony, 4, and Stanley who was 16 months old.  England was reported as the birthplace for John, the eldest child, while the younger children were born in Pennsylvania. Eva had giving birth to four children and miraculously for the times, all four were still living.   A boarder, Vincent Shukoski, age 24, resided with the family.  He was a coalminer, as was John.  The adults and John, Jr. reported arriving in the U.S. in 1903.  The adults were all listed as being from Russia of Polish ancestry as were their parents, and speaking Polish in the home. Only the boarder was reported as being able to read and write.

One block away lived Eva’s brother, Joseph “Grencavick” and his family on 1209 Oneida Street in Coal Township.  (See line 32 on the next page.)  He and his family were also enumerated as being Russian of Polish ancestry.  If the enumerator had been Polish or Lithuanian, someone who knew there was a difference, this likely would have been recorded correctly. 

census images courtesy of
This 1910 Census enumerates Joseph & Kastens (Constance Grincavage) Grencavich with three surviving children of the five born to her.  They’d been married for 10 years and have a 21 year old boarder in their house. It appears Joseph was counted twice.
Keep in mind that the above information is what was recorded on the census enumeration and isn't necessarily factual.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dangerous Work

Though to my knowledge the tragedy in the following article involved none of my ancestors it hits awfully close to home.

       Another Attempt at Rescue Failed
Shamokin, PA, May 9 (1904)—The rescuing party at the burning Locust Gap slope who yesterday gave up the five entombed miners for dead made another effort this morning to reach the place where they are supposed to have been buried.  After going part way into the mine the fire drove the rescuing party out.[1]

An Accident That Hits Home

The Luke Fidler mine had two shafts, #1 & #2, but the report did not state in which shaft the explosion occurred. The mine was owned by the Mineral Railroad & Mining Company, who also owned the Cameron mines. In 1905, this mine was in District 14. The superintendents were Robert A. Quinn of Wilkes-Barre and E.A. Rhoades of Shamokin. The Pennsylvania Railroad serviced the mine.

The report states the following regarding “William Grinavitch” and his involvement in the explosion that occurred there on Dec.13, 1905.

He is listed as a Lithuanian Miner, age 28, who was “burned by an explosion of gas”.  Another miner, Anthony Wable, was also burned….neither died of their injuries, but the report goes on with this statement:

“Joseph Mazeski, Benjamin Grego, Frank Mattis and Joseph Grobeck were so severely burned by an explosion of gas that they all died a few days later. The explosion was caused by the outburst of gas from a breast, under great pressure, which drove it to the gangway on top [above] of the men and in some unaccountable manner, the gas ignited. All the men in this colliery worked with locked safety lamps. Later some cigarette papers and tobacco were found on the gangway, and it is supposed that one of the men was in the act of lighting a cigarette at the time {of the explosion}”.


  New Castle News” 13 Dec 1905, page 17

William would have missed some work due to being badly burned in the explosion. He carried the scars on his arm and neck for the rest of his life.  The impact of the explosion even sent a chunk of coal into his neck that was later a marvel to his grandchildren.

There was another mining accident injuring William Grinkevich.[3]  It started when a man William worked with in the mine was setting dynamite in core holes to open up veins of coal.  The coworker lit a fuse and both men shielded themselves behind the relative safety of a coal car. They waited and waited.  No explosion.  The man went to investigate, while William peered from behind the car…AND IT EXPLODED!  After this accident William’s ears were burnt severely and it is believed he rode out in a coal car, injured, but the only survivor.

[1] Courtesy NewspaperArchives.  This transcribed clipping from the Altoona Mirror dated Monday, May 9, 1904 depicts the dangerous reality coal mining could be. 
[2] From the “Report of the Department of Mines”, page 489.  Courtesy of Marianne Fisher whose great great-grandfather worked almost 40 years as an inspector of Pennsylvania mines.
[3] John and William Grinker.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Baptism Records from St. Michael the Archangel

Click on each image to enlarge it.
William and Magdeline's son, Charles Grinker, was baptized Casimir Grinkevicius at St. Michael the Archangel Church not long after the family's arrival in Shamokin.   Keeping in mind that sponsors or godparents are either family members or very close friends, I tried without success to find out about them. Mrs. Catherine Neumaniene (probably Neuman or Newumanas) could be one of Magdeline's sisters I've been unable to locate.

Francis, is one of four of William and Magdeline's children who never lived beyond childhood.  In the above record, Magdeline's younger brother Joseph (who was single in 1905) and sister-in-law Mary are the baby's sponsors.  Mary, would have been her older brother George's wife.  

About four years ago, the kind and able Sister Helen Dirig, took care of the genealogical queries for the consolidated churches of Shamokin/Coal Township, called Mother Cabrini.  I corresponded with her numerous times in my quest for records from the original books, always enclosing a donation with my query. She was unable to locate any record of Francis death, or the baptism or death records of any of the other "unknown" Grinkevich children.  Perhaps they were stillborn and baptized by a family member or midwife. We don't know.  My timing for the queries was excellent, as Sr. Helen retired soon after these searches, and notified me the records would soon be sent to the diocese.

Less than a month after Francis birth, Magdeline's brother Anthony, and his wife Helen had a son, baptized Albin, later called Albert York.  His godparents were William "Vincent" Grinkevich, and an unmarried woman named Catherine(--maybe a York?). 

In 1907 there was a family baby boom of sorts.  It began with Joseph and Contance Grincavage adding a son, Joseph to their family on March 16. Chosen as his godfather was his Uncle John. Mary Melnikaitiene is the wife of Jacob Melnikaitis who was the Grincavage's neighbor when they lived in Scotland as documented by the 1901 Scotland Census.

Anthony and Helen added a daughter, Nellie, to their growing family July1, 1907.  Her sponsor, is her Aunt Mary, Helen's sister.

A month and a half later, Agnes was born, her baptism recorded as "Agatha" .
Agnes godmother was her Aunt Helen York, and godfather Jacob Melnikaitis.

Joseph and Constance, who normally used Grincavage as the spelling of their surname, added William "Vincent" to their family in 1909.  He was their fourth child. Joseph's sister, Eva, was Vincent's godmother.  Later, this child grew up to be known as "William Grinn".  Every William I have found in this extended family also goes by "Vincent", and vice versa. 

The last baptism record for the family from the St. Michael the Archangel Baptismal Registry is for Valeria "Violet" Grincavage. Violet's Uncle George, Constance's brother, is her godfather.