Our Lithuanian Ancestors
The Grinkevich and York Families
Written and compiled in 2011
By Kathy Hodnett
Decades of research have gone into finding out the history of the various branches of my family. All those years of tracking down and sending for civil and church records, and anxiously awaiting the mail carrier’s delivery in hopes of answers to puzzling questions have paid off-- for the most part. While the results often answered a question they often then posed at least another making it an unending cycle. Unfortunately not all of the searches were fruitful and there are some records I had dearly hoped would turn up before I took the time to put together this story of our ancestors. Approximately 90% of the information in this family’s history is what I found on my own. I even purchased the book “An Outline of Lithuanian History” by Stasys Samalaviĉius and subscribed to the magazine “Lithuanian Heritage” to learn more. Though some may find this background information of the times in which our ancestors lived boring, it is important to know the circumstances they found themselves in that drove them to pursue an avenue of escape to better not only their lives, but those of future generations. The internet has been very helpful in locating records and background information. Ancestry.com, a subscription site, and FamilySearch.org and HeritageQuest.com, both free for me, have been the source of numerous records. Since many counties and states have realized the popularity of genealogy one has only to be an accomplished “googler” to learn something of value. For a condensed look at Lithuania and its history go to http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5379.htm. While it would be great to locate records in Lithuanian State Historical Archives of William and Magdeline, as well as their parents and siblings this may never happen. Not only are there the spelling variations, but since the records aren’t indexed at this time, it would be nearly impossible to find them without knowing the parish they belonged to at the time the record was recorded.
You will notice at times that there are discrepancies in records and information. This is the bane of genealogy, but sometimes it’s unusual to not have discrepancies. In this case the fear of the Russians catching up with him and his family may have been the reason for some of what William Grinkevich reported. People afraid of being captured and returned taken to workfarms would understandably fictionalize their date and place of birth as well as their name. It has been said that shots were fired when he and Magdalena exited their homeland. That would be enough to scare a single man, but one with a wife, and eventually a family that obviously meant the world to him, William “Vincent” Grinkevich felt he had much at stake.
Names varied widely in spelling and of course there’s a language barrier in this case. A census enumerator or official who only speaks English could easily misunderstand or be misunderstood when dealing with Eastern European immigrants. Sometimes spellings were intentionally changed by immigrants who wanted to fit in or escape prejudices. Reasons that dates of birth weren’t reliable are illiteracy and the fact they were never recorded immediately after birth. Until they arrived here immigrants probably were never asked for an exact date of birth. They must have been puzzled when confronted with an official in this country asking for a specific date. They would then decide how old they were to find a year of birth, then select a date from that year. Dates are certainly more important in today’s society. Lastly, sources can be incorrect and misleading. It’s all part of the hunt.
What follows is what I believe to be true. If you notice anything you think is an error please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org so it can be corrected in my master copy. Also, if you have any records or interesting bits of information that don’t appear here maybe now is a good time to share them! I truly believe history of a family should be shared and passed down through the generations. It belongs to us all.
A BIG thank you goes to John Grinker for the warm welcome and guided tour of the Town of Little Black and Dorchester. Mom and I enjoyed it immensely. And thanks also to his younger brother Richard who passed on photos and information from Charles and Clara’s branch of the tree and told me about the maps of Lithuanian towns. And to my Pupp aunts and uncles who assisted with bits of info and passed on record copies from Grandma’s stash. Most of all thank you Mom for offering encouragement when I need it and enduring my endless questions without complaint.
I write this history of William and Magdeline Grinkevich and their families with deep admiration and respect for their perseverance, bravery, and hard work. They were a tough and resilient people, devout in their Catholic faith, and always resourceful. Never waiting for handouts or feeling entitled they made their lives with tenacity and sweat. Though I do not remember them, I treasure their memories and their obvious devotion to each other and their family. For without them, none of us would be here.