Thursday, August 28, 2008

And then.. there he was.

My Great-Grandfather. On the 1920 Census he was still using his birth name. I am in awe if the skill of experienced genealogists. I know what I want to be when I grow up.

OK, I was finally able to find them in the 1920 Census:

Ward 21, Detroit, Wayne Co., Michigan

Stivic, Zivko, Head, aged 32, married, emigrated 1912, alien, b. Croatia, parents b. same, machinist, auto factory
Stivic, Marianne, Wife, aged 26, married, emigrated 1912, alien, b. Croatia, parents b. same
Stivic, Bozidar, Son, aged 7, b. Michigan
Stivic, Felix, Son, aged 4 years, 0 months, b. Michigan
Stivic, Engelbert, aged 2 years, ? months, b. Michigan
Stivic, Gabriel, Son, aged 5 months, b. Michigan

His WWI draft registration card gives the following info:

Zivko Stivic (Stevens), aged 30, of Maryland Avenue, St. Clair Heights, Michigan, born 17 September 1886 Lipovac (Croatia), Austria-Hungary; has wife and two children as dependents. Dated 5 June 1917 at Wayne County, Michigan

They arrived into New York aboard the Saxonia on 5 June 1912 out of Fiume:

Stivic, Zivko, aged 26, labourer, b. Hungary, German, last of Vodinci(?); gives his mother, Anna Landekic of Vodinci as next of kin; bound for Michigan, born in Lapovac
Stivic, Marianne, aged 19, b. Hungary, German, same info as above

They are joining an acquaintance, Anton Kocianu(?) of 32 Hendrik Steet, Detroit.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Elusive Surname - Stevens

I grew up told the Stevens were German. Turns out they are from Hungary. That adds a little excitement to the family tree I hadn't expected and a long list of new questions. I have mostly done US so far. I want to tackle the Scotland next that was my maternal grandmother's line but I do have a sense of Scotland and growing up with it part of being us so I pretty much know how to tackle that branch. Hungary however is a foreign language and a world that I know enough about in history and what I learned in European history and what reading I have done on my own but I do not "know" about Hungary. This will be a true learning experience. I have had help by other family genealogists with my known family tree. For this branch I am on my own.

I posted to GenForum tonight. I have to say that people there seem very nice so far. That is where I found out about the Stevens line on the Michigan board. I am a novice in so many ways and try to ask questions that sound intelligent and asked with enough detail (I hope) and not sounding like I am asking people to do the work for me however, I do need help with this branch, I know nothing about this side of the world. So, I posted to see mainly see how someone from Hungary would get to the US, I have no idea what country they might travel to and what Port City. Suggestions have come and I am eager to start on some of the suggestions.

My Post:


I have a branch of my family that is very elusive. With a major breakthrough in finding a cousin on the Stevens side of the family, I am faced with genealogy searches in Hungary. (I had been raised on the family story that my great grandfather came from Germany not Hungary)

In trying to figure out where, or even how, to start searching I think my first question is how would they have traveled to the US, through ports of Germany?

The information I do have is his name in Michigan was John Stevens, born 1887 in Yugoslavia but on the 1930 census he said he was born there, but parents were Hungarian. His wife was named Mary and she was from Hungary. They came to the US and arrived in Detroit Michigan in 1912. My mother remembers my grandfather saying the name was Americanized to Stevik (using that spelling having found it on a Radix list).

I feel like I am walking around in the dark. We have no information on him except for that one census and my experience in tracking down an ancestor across the sea is limited.

Any hints or where to starts would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for your time!

The responses:

The first question is easy. They bought a railroad ticket and maybe even a steamship ticket in their hometown, jumped on a train and where at the port of departure in no more than 2 days. The German ports and others were set up with crude but efficient facilities to house and feed travelers till they got on the boat. At Norddeutcher-Lloyd in Bremen the emigrants were on train cars that dropped them off right inside the shipping company's compound.
Next, the Hungary that existed before 1920 was the Kingdom of Hungary. It was about 3-4 times bigger than modern Hungary. That Hungary was a multi-ethnic country where the population was made up of 5-7 different ethnic groups. Over time many people claimed allegience to one ethnic group but their names showed their ancestors were from another. Since the coutry was run by the Magyar part of the population being seen as a Magyar brought certain benefits. The process was called "magyarization" and you can find out about it on the web.
The name you posted looks like the a South Slav name. Probably spelled Stevic. And after 1920 the territory they lived in, then called BACSKA and today called VOIVODINA is now the northernmost part of Serbia. I can't say this for certain but it is highly likely.
Records from their hometown probably exist and probably are available in the US but you have to know the place name. All the old records are indexed by EXACT place name.
The places the hometown would be identified would be the ship manifest, a natrualization file, if not a citizen in 1940 then the Alien Registration card, and finally the SS-5, application for Social Security.
Once you have a place name you can start on the next part of the search.

What language was spoken by this ancestor?
Any draft registration form, naturalization petition, social security numbers, Alien Registration Form, baptismal record?
I am sure you are aware that country of Yugoslavia no longer.

Do you have a placename in "old" Hungary?

it is really big quise.
It is sure, the Stevens is not German and not Hungarian name. The Stevik also quastionable, what could be that name, which was Americanized to it? The English "S" is in Hungarian written as "sz" could it be Sztevics/Sztavics etc?
One thing is sure, only, and that could be a good start.
Yugoslavia existed from 1921, so in 1887 it could not be. In 1930 he knew, that part of Hungary or Croatia have been Yugoslavia, and he said for the census-worker, that is in Yugoslavia. ( and the statistics for got to write the word "now")
It would be good to look your and your family members' "pantry". Maybe you can find an envelope, a postcard, a letter what could be a good start. An other thing to look the documents in the cemetery's office, where he was buried. In those papers usually is written the birthplace more correctly. Same, what about the social insurance?
Let we see....

As you see, I have good information and places to start. Most importantly, my only source on John Stevens is his 1930 census for Detroit Michigan. I have not found him on a 1920 census yet and he did come to the US in 1912 per the census and his first child was born here in 1913. I can't find any information on him either. This family is very elusive!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

John Foster Duncan

In all of my reading in how to do a family tree has been the one key thing... interview your older relatives. I don't have any available to me, our family unit is very small, so I thought I would pick a person and give my perception of this person with the memories I have.

I will start with my maternal grandfather, John Foster Duncan. I am not sure why, I so adored my grandmother (Elizabeth Dewar Spalding Fender) and she many times was my lifeline but I will start with my grandfather. He was not a large part of our lives but we saw him regular enough.

He was 6'7". His entire family was tall, even his sisters were 6' and I remember being afraid of their size when I was little. They were so nice and I adored them even if intimidated by their height. John had large feet and if I remember correctly, he had basketball shoes made specially for him because he didn't fit in regular shoe sizes. I almost want to say he had size 13 feet. He played basketball in college. He was thin and a very good looking man and I think he looked a lot like his father, David Washington Duncan. He was born and raised in Bradley County,Tennessee. John went to College and moved to Akron Ohio (he lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for a short period of time). He was a rubber chemist and loved the country club life. He separated from my grandmother when my mother was about 15. They never divorced but did live apart for over 25 years.

He was a storyteller. Boy was he a storyteller!! We lived in Rochester, NY and when we would go to Akron for visits to my grandmothers apartment, he would come for a visit while he was there. The evenings were usually him visiting with me and my sister then he would take my mother out for a night on the town. He loved the night life. During our visits he would sit in this chair that was round with a round back but left the arms free. Almost like a 60's version of a fabric barrel chair. He would take us up on his lap and tell us these stories about being poor and working the farm, school was so far away and they had no shoes. You know the drill. He would have us in tears over how he suffered as a child. He would kiss us on the nose and put us down and rise, taking my mother out for her well deserved evening with him. We were never close but we seemed to accept him as he was. He loved us but was more a loner.

He called us his "lil pea pickers" in that southern drawl. He always brought us a little box each of the Brach's chocolate samplers for the sweetest girls ever. He was always that southern style, mannered and friendly. I don't remember ever hearing anything mean, or rude being said by him.

He wrote stories. Short stories and I remember my mother said he was a very good writer. He should have been with the stories he could turn. I don't know if anyone ever kept anything he wrote. He loved to read. Westerns were his favorite genre.

He could cook.. goodness could he cook! He was very comfortable in the kitchen and very particular about burning his salt in his cast iron frying pans.

For a lot of years he lived the high life and found that more interesting than family. While it was a sore point for my mother, she was the child not getting his time, still he seemed very hard to hate for it. He was very charming, I knew this even if I was in my single digit years. That high life did end though and he ended up living in a boarding house and I remember him coming to visit in a sling, he had been mugged on the street in his neighborhood. But still he was dignified and took that in stride. I think his shoulder was hurt, not sure if broken. I don't remember.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

And Wow! Family!!!

Contact has been made and the tree builder in is my first cousin. Her mother is my fathers sister so we have started exchanging email and I look very forward to getting to know her. My mother is an only child so I have never had Aunts and Cousins before. I have given them information that I found about my father. It has been 35 years since I have seen him and I would prefer to let that rest. I wish them success in making contact with him. I kind of like being the link to a brother and sister finding each other, it is just a little helping hand I can be. Nothing like my gift from the man in Michigan. Again, I can’t thank you enough.

Today I added to the collection of computer progams, GenSmart ( I am not sure what I had done before without it. Thanks Genealogy Guys! Adding some of what I found on my fathers side combined with all I already have on my mothers side, I only have about 2000 things on my “To Do List”. Thanks GenSmart, I think you gave me so much work to do that “putting in for vacation” will never happen! :) Great program though and thanks to the makers! I will say thinking backwards is not all that easy but I will figure it out. For example, the very top clue is “Tennessee 1880 Census for Tom Cowden”. Then for explanations is the following:

Researching the Tennessee 1880 Census makes sense because his spouse, Nancy Crewse [467], died in 1878 in , Bradley,
Tennessee, USA and he died in 1884 in Bradley County Tennessee. The 1880 census is important because it contains birthplace
information for parents of the people listed, as well as the relationships between people living in the household.

Missing Data
This suggestion is important because his father’s birth place and mother’s birth place have not been recorded, and you could obtain this
information by researching this record.

Some background on Tom Cowden [540]: He was born in 1780 in NC?, and he died in 1884 in Bradley County Tennessee. He married
Nancy Crewse [467] on 1805 in , Person, North Carolina, USA, and had the following child: James [295] (1805).

The confusing part is that the Tom Cowden on the link given me is 26 years old so someone’s son and once I figure out the relationship, perhaps that will be the clue. It will take time to turn my brain to that thinking but this weekend I seem to be in such an excited state about finding the Stevens link that concentrating on anything is just not going to happen!

Tonight for dinner: Fried Chicken, Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Cheese, Glazed Carrots.

By the kindness of strangers..

I have been thinking about a website and blog for myself. I am a graphics geek, what can I say. So I have been thinking and mulling over ideas and deciding, sort of, that I wanted my blog on my own website and so thought to figure that out but today… today the nicest thing was done for me so this seems the perfect day to start my blog no matter where it ends up.

A stranger.. someone who just happened to see a post of mine on a Michigan board, reading my frustration in finding a family that I feel should not be so hard to find and yet finding it impossible.. he found it within a day after I had been searching for the last 6 months! He sent me the following email:

Sharon: Lets start with why I do this genealogy for total strangers, such as yourself. It is a hobby/addiction. I rationalize, I suppose, that my “hobby” costs much less than other hunters and fishermen. Then also I have found my ancestors back to Charlemagne as a result of kind genealogists who helped along the way . . . none of them seeking recompense for same. I have to tell you it was and is a great pleasure to “payback” those people. I won’t go into my career, that being mundane for strangers, but a treasure for me and mine.

So here is the good news. Your sibling Leona did a family tree and you can find it if you have access to ancestry. com. (if not, let me know) in short, your line starts with John Stevens, 1887 Yugoslavia who came to Detroit in 1912,and had among others, Theodore J. Stevens 1913, Felix, 1916, Englebort,1918, Gabriel 1920, Mary were right about the Shufelt connection. Bernadine was a Sheufelt and born, if I remember a Magyar (or Hungarian) and john though born in Yugoslavia was Hungarian also. The tree includes a picture of your grandfather and Bernadine. (kind of unusual, but a gift from Leona eh.)

Let me know whether you have access to ancestry com or not. if not, don’t fret, I will get it for you.
Name withheld, Flint Mi

Today I am on top of the world. A few reasons, the most important, my people are out there. My Aunt and I have something in common by our interest in genealogy. Another, that all the recent months (and years) of frustration are replaced by a hunger and enthusiasm to know more and to find out more. Sending off an email to the owner of this family tree was a bit daunting. I have no idea what sort of relationship my estranged father had with them. I kept it basic, information and asking if she was who I was looking for. Underneath is a lot of excitment.. I have an Aunt who is out there! And there are more. For years I have wondered about this side of my family. My mother says she remembers them being a nice family. I feel a bit emotional since I have seen the names of my grandparents and great grandparents. I have wanted this day so long. This family has not seen me in 45 years or so, when I was 3, maybe a bit younger. Do they even know I have a sister?

I am eager to see where this chapter goes.