Before I Go On…

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I haven’t been very good at posting to my blog, but I am determined to change that behavior! However, I feel I need to correct something that I published in a previous post. So, without further ado and before I go on, here is my correcti0n.

In two prior posts, My Grandfather on the 1920 Census and 1920 United States Census for Frank Hossa and Family (Image), I mentioned an individual named Anthony Hossa who was born about 1912. In reality this person was Antonia Hossa a female. Now I know that the 1920 census shows that ‘she’ is a ‘he’ named Anthony, but verbal accounts of this person is a woman. I am told she went by the name of Tola.

I do not know why the census shows a person who, by all family accounts, is a female as a male. But I am assured that this is incorrect. And to compound this strange anomaly, a passenger manifest in July 1920, when Frank moved his wife and children to Poland, also has Tola and almost all her siblings mis-gendered. I’ll have to look into this at a later time and post my findings.

I have a strong feeling that as I continue along my journey here, I will occasionally need to make corrections. As a historian, this is to be expected. And to help punctuate those times, I will title those posts, like this one, “Before I Go On…”. I will also make a notation on the original post of the correction and a link to it’s corresponding “Before I Go On…” page.

1920 United States Census for Frank Hossa and Family (Image)

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1920 census, Chicago Ward 8, State of Illinois, Census Enumeration District 497, Sheet 18 A

This Census shows Joseph Hossa living with his parents (Frank and Josephine) and his siblings (Francis, Virginia, Anthony, Pearl, Walter). Along with detailed information about the entire household.

Click on the image to use your browsers zoom options. Or save this image to your device and use a viewer on your device.

Information contained on this census page includes:

Joseph’s parents were Frank and Josephine Hossa (both born in Poland), that the family lived at 8240 S Burley Ave, Chicago, Illinois in Cook County (which they rented). Joseph was 6 years old. His siblings (and their ages) were: Francis [sister] (12), Virginia (10), Anthony (8)**, Pearl (3), Walter (1). The year that both my great grandmother (Josephine) and my great grandfather (Frank) immigrated to the US; 1903 and 1891 respectively. Frank and Josephine were born in Poland (and spoke Polish) and the children were all born in Illinois. Frank’s occupation was that of a Saloon Keeper. Frank and Josephine’s parents were all born in Poland and spoke Polish. The entire family could speak English.

** NOTE: This individual is a female name Tola – See this blog post regarding the correction made on September 17, 2014

This is a digitized original of the Fourteenth Census of the United States: 1920 – Population. City of Chicago, 8th Ward, State of Illinois, County of Cook, Census Enumeration District 497, Sheet 18 A. Date 9th of January, 1920. Lines 15 – 22 contain the household for Frank and Josephine Hossa. The first two columns show they lived at 8460 S Burley Ave, Chicago, IL. The remaining columns are specific to each member of the household.

My Grandfather on the 1920 Census

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I use ancestry.com quite a bit. This site provides me with information abound about my family. Without it, there is no doubt in my mind that I would not be able to piece together, and consequently document, the history of my family. It is, however, only one of the many tools I have used. But it is here, where I find the first digitized documentation of my grandfather.

Searching on ancestry.com can be an art form all in it’s own. There are tens of thousands of collections of data on the site. And the site has billions of records. For example, collections include, but by no means are limited to; census reports (federal, state, foreign), tax records, wills, obituaries, birth and death indexes, military, immigration, and other members family trees, etc. A basic rule of thumb is that the more data you enter in a single search, the more search fields you fill with data and the fewer collections you search in, the less data you will get back. So for a first search use only a minimal amount data (search fields) and search in all the collections. You can always refine your search parameters to lessen the number of results returned. Other than that most basic guideline I won’t go into how to search on ancestry.com. Instead I will suggest you check out their help page on this topic. There are a lot of nuances that can make searching extremely helpful.

For my grandfather I entered in the most basic of data (first name, last name, birth year, and a location where he lived) and I search all of their US collections. I enter his name as Joseph Hossa, born in 1914 and having lived in Chicago. One of the first Matching Records that is displayed is the 1920 United States Federal Census. If you search for him today, August 31, 2013, a total of 32,383 records are returned. That number increases all the time, as ancestry.com is constantly adding new information. And the number of records is far greater than when I first began using ancestry.com many years ago.

This is an image of the first Matching Record:

Joseph Hossa Basic Search Result

Immediately one can notice that the surname presented is not Hossa, but rather Hassa. This is a common problem in any genealogical database. It is a simple transcription error. When the census report was initially transcribed from the original page to a digital format (in this case on ancestry.com) the transcriber interpreted the surname as Hassa. On ancestry.com when somebody has viewed a transcription and feels that an error has been made, they can very easily submit an alternative. That submission, labeled as an ‘alternative’, is noted in ‘[   ]’ brackets. In this particular case the alternative (correct) spelling is Joseph Hossa and I submitted it on January 13, 2011.

A simple mouse click away and I would be able to tell if this was my grandfather. That particular mouse click pulled up a page with a lot of useful information. The information transcribed, and in a textual format, on ancestry.com for the 1920 census included a person’s age, approximate birth year, place of birth, home in 1920, gender, race, relation to head of household, marital status, father’s name, mother’s name, father’s birthplace, mother’s birthplace and other household members. Along with all that textual information was a link to view an image of the original document. An image that would reveal additional information.

The transcribed text told me that his parents were Frank and Josephine Hassa (both born in Poland), that he lived in ‘Chicago Ward 8 (Cook) Illinois’, was white, was born in Illinois, and was 6 years old. I was also given other members listed on the census report that were in his household. Those names (and their ages) were: Francis (12), Virginia (10), Anthony (8)**, Pearl (3), Walter (1). All of which were transcribed, on ancestry.com, as having a surname of Hassa.

** NOTE: This individual is a female name Tola – See this blog post regarding the correction made on September 17, 2014

Another mouse click away and I was able to see a digitized copy of the original page of the 1920 census with my grandfather and his family’s information. You can view the full document on my blog here. In this article, I will only show you a section which contains the lines of the Frank Hossa household.

This is a portion of the 1920 United States Census (lines 15 to 23) with only the household of Frank Hossa. It does not show all the columns.

This is a portion of the 1920 United States Census (lines 15 to 23) with only the household of Frank Hossa. It does not show all the columns.

Once I was able to view the full page of the original document I could verify that this was my grandfather. And there was further information that I could pull from the document. Specifically that they lived at 8240 Burley Ave, Chicago, Illinois in Cook County. It showed me the year that both my great grandmother (Josephine) and my great grandfather (Frank) immigrated to the US. Frank and Josephine were born in Poland (and spoke Polish) and the children were all born in Illinois. They rented the house they lived in. Not shown on this clip of the census is that Frank’s occupation was that of a Saloon Keeper; Frank and Josephine’s parents were all born in Poland and spoke Polish. The entire family could speak English. You can look at the complete census page here.

This was a great start for me. It provided me with a lot of details that I could work from and I was also able to compare this to oral histories given to me by various family members.

Finally, I want to point out that when it comes to the census reports, the dates given for various items (like immigration dates and birth years, for example) are often approximations or flat out wrong. The information is only as good as the person, that was interviewed by the census taker, was able to provide. Information from one census report to the next can often contradict each other. I will go further into this in another article.

It’s Been Too Long

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Almost a year ago to date, I started this blog. And it was almost a year ago to date that I last posted anything. Essentially, I couldn’t decide what format I wanted to use. Should I write each post in the order of my research or should I post in the order of Joseph’s life events. Ultimately, trying to come up with a solution bogged me down. I have a feeling that other bloggers might have a similar dilemma. So here we are, almost a year later, and I have finally come to the realization that there is no one way to write this blog. I will simply let it flow fluidly. There will be no strict guidelines that I have imposed upon myself.

The amount of data I have gathered about my grandfather prior to this blog is quite abundant. And it grows weekly. Additionally, In my collection, I also have accumulated a great deal of information about other ancestors that have a direct correlation to him. I’m speaking about his mother, father, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren and cousins. So from time to time I will be writing an article that does not put Joseph as the central focus. He might not even be but a footnote.

I’m very excited to share and publish what I already know and what I’m continuing to learn about my grandfather, Joseph Hossa. I hope you find this narrative of his life, and family, and my compilation of it, equally as exciting.

Wedding Photo of Joseph Hossa and Irene Kil

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Wedding Photo of Joseph Boleslaw Hossa and Irene Tekla Kil (April 1945)

This wedding portrait was taken in April 1945. Joseph and Irene were married on April 13th 1945 at St. Michael the Archangel Church on South Shore Drive in Chicago, IL. “Portrait by Urbanowicz – Chicago” is printed in the cardboard folder which contains it. Urbanowicz was located at 8907 S. Commercial Avenue, Chicago, IL.

Background Information

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I began seriously researching my family’s genealogy about seven years ago, roughly 2005. I didn’t have any clear direction, I wasn’t even sure where to begin. However, that being said, I have had an interest in my family’s past as early as the 1990’s. So, from time to time, when I heard anecdotal stories from any number of relatives, I listened with much enthusiasm. Additionally, there was some tangible documentation in the form of a letter from Poland. It was written to my grandmother, Irene (Kil), about her branch of the family. It Included, among other things, information about her family coming from nobility. Attached to the letter was a description and rendering of her family’s Coat of Arms. I was in high school at the time, about 1987, and remember thinking that was pretty neat. I still have those original documents. I suppose that was when I was first bitten by the bug known as history and genealogy. I just didn’t realize it at the time.

Through out my life I only spent time with one grandparent. My maternal grandmother, Irene Tekla Kil, husband to Joseph Boleslaw Hossa. And though she lived a long life, she didn’t share much about her past. She died in 2006, a little less than a month after her 89th birthday. Since she didn’t share, very little information about the Kil family was known to me. Save the letter previously mentioned. She did pass one thing on; that being a strong sense of our Polish roots. She spoke Polish fluently, though English was her native tongue, belonged to many Polish fraternal organizations and lived her life as a deeply religious Polish Roman Catholic. She even worked at a Catholic School, St. Michael’s Church and School on South Shore Drive in Chicago. Which, it so happened, was built to minister to the large number of Polish immigrants on the south side of Chicago.

My fraternal grandfather, John Kenneth Splant, died in 1967 at the age of 54. Until I started doing research into my genealogy, I didn’t know his name. My fraternal grandmother lived until 1982, at the age of 67 about four months before her 68th birthday, and what I knew about her was even less. Her name was Veronica Hough. She was Irish. I do however remember seeing her, but only twice. Once at christmas, I was very young, and then again at her wake. Other than that I don’t remember anything else. I am sure that at some point during my childhood I was told their names and possibly a couple other things, but I can’t remember.

This brings me to the only grandparent I haven’t mentioned. My maternal grandfather, Irene Kil’s husband and my mother’s father, Joseph Boleslaw Hossa. As with my other grandparents, I didn’t know much about Joseph Hossa when I began my research into my family’s past, and what little I already knew came mostly from my mother. I never met him as he died very young, before I was born. It was 1963 and he was 48. He would have turned 49 ten days later. However, I recently unearthed a great deal about my grandfather. I discovered an envelope that contained documents which belonged to him. Some documents dating back to the 1940’s while he lived in Poland. And some of them were unbelievable, like his concentration camp papers. As a whole they held the key that opened up door after door about his life. And once those doors opened, I realized his story was worth dedicating part of my life to learning as much as I could about him and those around him. And I would also be discovering aspects of my family that had been long lost and forgotten.

Having grown up under the roof of only one parent my whole life, my mother, Joanne Irene Hossa, it is natural that I would have heard more about my maternal grandparents and each of their ancestors. And this, indeed, was the case. But it was not the plethora of stories one might want or hope to hear. My grandmother’s family, the Kil’s, were around occasionally; the spattering of second cousins and great aunts and uncles. If anybody did talk about the past, I was too young to care or to process. And as for my grandfather’s family, the Hossa’s, I don’t recall as a child ever having any social gatherings. I am certain there were some, I just don’t recall them. Which makes my new found treasure, of my grandfather’s documents, all the more exciting. However, I did spend a lot of time with my mom’s two brothers and their families and they were, most definitely, Hossa’s. But since their father, my grandfather, died so early in their adolescence, they knew very little about his past and that of his ancestors. What they were able to contribute was, unfortunately, little. My uncle Robert was 12 and my uncle Ed was one month from turning 7 when their father died. Thankfully, though, my mother, being the oldest of the three children, being 17, knew some things about my grandfather and his past. It wasn’t much, but by the the time I began seriously doing my family’s genealogy, it was enough to help me, and encourage me, to dig deeper.

Once I was an adult I started working on the family tree in earnest. In the 1990’s I bought a computer program called “Family Tree Maker”. And I began entering information just as soon as I heard it. I talked to my mom and any family member that wanted to share their stories. I looked in old photo albums. I dissected the letter about my grandmother’s Coat of Arms. It was short, but it was filled with information. Anywhere and everywhere I could find data, I gathered it up and plugged it into my new computer program. Eventually I hit a dead end and my quest to complete the family tree came to an abrupt halt.

Several years passed by and eventually the bug bit me again. I was now a little older and their were new tools available for an amateur genealogist. The Internet had been around for a few years by then and it opened up many doors. A new website called Ancestry.com was launched. Ellis Island also launched a new website. Shipping manifests, census reports and so much more became instantly accessible. There was a treasure trove of information available. But it was new and even by the beginning of the 21st century hadn’t fully matured yet. And once again I hit road blocks. One more time I set aside my quest.

And then around 2005 I began to play in the genealogy pool one more time. I bought a new version of Family Tree Maker, plugged in the data I had acquired over the years. I joined ancestry.com. I started asking questions and interviewing people. My dad, Gerald Michael Splant, had even started to work on his branch of the tree. Periodically, since then, I would log into ancestry.com and sift through the latest batch of documents, census reports, newspaper articles and so much more. Every couple of months I’d find a clue about one branch of my family or another. I kept finding more and more websites which offered various resources. I Switched back and forth between my dad’s side and my mom’s side of the family. But then in 2011, while sorting through some boxes of my maternal grandmother’s, that had been tucked away in my mother’s garage, I found an enveloped labeled “Joe Hossa Discharge Papers”. When I opened it, I couldn’t believe what I found.

In this seemingly nondescript yellow 9×12 mailer envelope were pages and pages of personal letters, ID’s, WWII internment camp documents and, of course, his discharge papers. Nobody had known this was there, or if they did they had forgotten. And the list didn’t stop there. There were so many items for me to review. Well, I did a little digging and, at the time, didn’t find too much on the web to help out, but I did get a little farther in my overall search to complete the family tree. I safely stored away these documents and continued my genealogical quest on other parts of the family.

A few months ago I decided to take a look at those documents again. I’d had time to learn more about the Hossa branch and I figured that another look might prove useful. I was correct. As I scoured over these documents, yet again, I was able to understand how to use them to find out more about my grandfather and the Hossa branch.

And that brings me to now. What I have found out is extraordinary. So much so that I thought others might enjoy what I found. So for family, friends, distant relatives near and far, and any one else with a curious interest in history, I offer this blog to follow me as I unearth the fascinating history of my grandfather, Joseph Boleslaw Hossa. Son of an immigrant, survivor of the holocaust, father of a new generation of Chicago descendants and an extremely fascinating man.

Introduction

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Welcome to my new blog. A simple greeting, that is how I am choosing to begin this blog. I have never written one before, and am not sure how successful this is going to be. However, I think I have a topic that will interest some people.

My grandfather’s story.

From what little I already know about his story, I know it is one worth investigating. One worth sharing. My hope is that you will want to follow me in this quest and follow me in my discoveries. That is what this blog is about after all; my journey to find the past. This is a journal of that journey.

My name is Matthew Joseph Splant. My ancestor I am referring to is my grandfather on my mother’s side. His name is Joseph Bołeslaw Hossa. A man who among other things survived the Holocaust Interment camps. Had his life torn asunder, his properties and possessions in Poland seized, and his body and mind tortured by the Nazis. Yet he endured, found his way back to America and built a new life.

Again, welcome. I already have many notes, anecdotal stories and documents. I will share and post them very soon. And as I find more information about my grandfather, this blog will be the vessel used to share that information.

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