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.

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.

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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.
St. Liborius Catholic Church

The York and Grinkevich families in Steger found a new place of worship when they arrived.  St. Liborius drew many Lithuanians to its altar. 

Three year old Nellie York, daughter of Anthony and Helen York died December 16, 1910, was buried in the church cemetery in Steger, IL.

A week later, Helen Grinkevich was born on December 23, 1910. 

She was baptized the following day at St. Liborius.

John Andrew Grinkevich was born on May 31, 1912.

He was baptized July 5, 1912 at Saint Liborius, Steger, Illinois.

First Solemn Communion of Joseph "Grinkevic", June 11, 1911

Saint Liborius Catholic Church, Steger, Illinois.
(first column, just over halfway down)

 Confirmation of Charles & Joseph “Grinkewic”

Agnes Grinkevic Confirmation,(her name near the bottom)
September 28, 1916 at St. Liborius Church, Steger, IL
This is the last record in my collection for the Grinkevich family in Steger, IL.
click image to enlarge
Anna Victoria York, was born May 14, 1913 to Joseph & Sarah York.
She was baptized June 1, 1913 at St. Liborius Catholic Church, Steger, IL.

Some Interesting Civil Records
Florence Helen York, was born January 29, 1913 to Anthony & Helen York.
August 4, 1915- Wincos Grinkewicus of Steger, Illinois, bought 80 acres of land for $2,100 plus one dollar and other good and valuable considerations, from Max and Alice Loeb of Chicago.

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