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.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Part 2: The Grinkevich & York Families in America--updated 11-27-11

America the Beautiful

According to William Grinkevich’s alien file, he left Scotland for Halifax, Nova Scotia, and may have taken a smaller boat to Boston, Massachusetts arriving in Shamokin in 1902[1].  All immigrants entering this country were checked for disease, and asked the following questions before entering:

·      Are you an anarchist?
·      Were you ever in prison, or almshouse, or supported by charity?  If so which?
·      Are you a polygamist?
·      Are you under contract, express or implied, to labor in the U.S.?
·      Are you deformed or crippled?  If so what is the nature or cause?

The immigrant had to be in good health at least to the point they wouldn’t be a burden on society or spread disease.  Immigrants with easily treatable ailments usually received treatment and were isolated until they recovered. 
The questions had to be answered “No” with few exceptions.

Magdalena’s younger brother, later know as Joseph York, made the perilous trip from Lithuania to Antwerp, Belgium where he bought passage on the S.S. Rhynland.  When the ship arrived in Philadelphia on August 19, 1903 he was listed as “Josef Jurkszny”, age 17, male, single, who’s last residence was Lasz?k, a Lithuanian, from the country of Russia, occupation-laborer, who’s destination was Shamokin, Pennsylvania. His ticket, it stated had been purchased by his brother-in-law “Wincas Grinkewicz” of Shamokin, PA—with a street address that is far from legible, that was also Joseph’s final destination.  He had $6 in his possession.

Josef Jurkszny immigration-click to enlarge image

William’s brother, Joseph Grincavage likely made the trip about the same time as he and Magdalena, and at least some of the York family lived in Shamokin too during the early part of the century.  (They actually lived in Coal Township although their mailing address was Shamokin.)  Click on the image to see- “Josef Jurkszny” number 19. 

[1] Reported on William Grinkevich’s Alien File circa 1940 which appears later in this family history. His son, John Grinker’s Naturalization, however, puts his date of immigration at September 16, 1901 with Easthart, Maine as the port of entry. Either source could be correct, and there’s a possibility both are wrong.

Shamokin/Coal Township

Before William could be employed in the mines he was tested for competence and issued this certificate.[1]  

Click for larger view

William Grinkevich was a Certified Coal Miner.  His certificate, dated August 15, 1903, lists his surname “Grincavich” and Ruinia, Poland as place of birth. (There is a Reina, Lithuania and a Rumia, Poland, but no Ruinia.)  Often ethnicities, especially those of Eastern Europeans, were grouped together by those who didn’t know better.  On the other hand, this misinformation could have been William’s thinking he wouldn’t be noticed by any Russians looking to kidnap him if he reported he was from Poland.

William found a job at a local colliery, called the Luke Fidler where he mined anthracite coal.  His brother Joseph Grincavage and brother-in-law John Visneski (his sister Eva’s husband) mined as well—as long as they weren’t out on strike for better working conditions or pay. There were numerous mines around the town of Shamokin and the rest of Northumberland County.  In fact, Shamokin borders the largest manmade mountain in the world known as the Cameron/Glen Burn Colliery Culm Bank.  It is tailings from the mines after most of the coal was extracted.[2]

Shamokin, the home of the first Lithuanian printing press in the Western Hemisphere, was booming at the time William and family arrived.  The census counted 18,202 residents in Shamokin in 1900 and it grew rapidly until 1920.  Mining was a big industry for not only locals, but also the newly arrived men and boys seeking work.  In addition to the numerous anthracite coal mines in the area, the borough had a large silk mill and knitting mills that employed men, women, and children.
[1] Certificate supplied by Tom Grinker.
[2] Residents used to visit the culm and other areas where small amounts of coal were visible, to collect what they could find for the family’s use.

The Freedom to Worship

Since much of this melting pot of immigrants were Roman Catholic, Shamokin and Coal Township, boasted five Catholic churches, so each of the major ethnic groups could worship under the guidance of a priest from their native land.  Saint Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Church[1], founded in 1874, was organized for Poles and Lithuanians. By the time the Grinkevich family arrived, Saint Michael the Archangel[2] opened up to serve the Lithuanians.  Polish families and those Lithuanians who’d grown up worshipping at Saint Stan’s continued there. Saint Edward the Confessor Catholic Church, the choice of the locals born and bred in the USA, also happens to be the first church in the world to have electric lighting.  Saint Mary’s attracted the Slovak, and Saint Anthony of Padua, the Italians.[3]  The Catholic Church was a big part of the Grinkevich and York families lives. It was the place of many happy occasions including baptisms and marriages and a source of comfort in sickness, injury, and death of loved ones. The ethnic Catholic cemeteries are on the side of a hill in Coal Township adjacent to one another. 
Anthony (Jurkŝas, his name “Polonized” in this record—later York) and bride, Helen, were married at St. Stanislaus Catholic Church where Helen grew up worshipping. Anthony’s brother George was one of the witnesses.)
                                        Groom&Bride    Church/date of Marriage
                       Groom's/Bride's Parents  Witnesses      Priest Officiating
                                                  Click on images to enlarge

[1] A Muslim mosque as of this writing.
[2] Founded in 1894, vacant as of 2007.
[3] These five Roman Catholic Churches consolidated under one roof in 1995 at the St. Edward’s location and was renamed Mother Cabrini Catholic Church.

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