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.