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Come out…Come out…Wherever you are?!?!?!

I can’t believe my ancestors would hide from me on purpose….I want to believe they are just shy…after all, most of them have never even met me.  I’ve tried everything.  Internet searching…name changing…even yelling “olly olly oxen free”….but still they remain hidden just out of sight.  OK…so I’m not really playing a game of Hide and Seek with my ancestors…I’m searching for them in US Census reports.  Some days I’d really rather be playing a game of Hide and Seek.  At least with the game, everyone comes out at the end.  But how do I get my ancestors to come out of their hiding places?  The only answer to this one is patience…and lots of time.


I recently went thru my family files and realized that I’m missing quite a few US Census reports on a bunch of my ancestors.  Most of the missing Census reports are from the 1920 Census.  After I looked at my list I actually wondered if I EVER checked the 1920 Census!  There were a LOT of holes in this one….more than a piece of Swiss Cheese!  So…off to the computer I went…I had to fix this problem.

Now you know as well as I do…Indexing of Census Records is not all its cracked up to be.  You put in the name of your ancestor and most of the time you don’t get what you’re looking for.  So what is a genealogist to do?  Keep looking is the only answer.

Now, I know that most of my Italian ancestors, in 1920, would’ve been in the Chicago, IL area…the family didn’t move to Southwest Michigan until the mid-1920’s…at least that I know of.  I really didn’t want to have to check the 1920 census page by page in an area as large as Chicago. So I headed back to my paper files…I needed some connections to look for to try and find those missing ancestors.  My first thought was to gather all the names of the ancestors in 1920 that I HAD found in the census reports.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t many….but it might just be enough.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned about my relatives, its that they all stuck together.  One didn’t move very far from another.  So if I could find a common area among the one’s I did have, I might be able to find some more of them.  NOTE TO SELF:  Remember to ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS check the page before and after the relatives that you find.  You never know who might be lurking down the street, or be their backyard neighbor.

So I knew my Great Grandparents were in Chicago…their names were Elia and Giovanna Giudice…Unusual, Yes!…but not the most difficult names in the world.  However…if you were a census taker in 1920 Chicago, I’m sure you were extremely frustrated with all the immigrants, their unusual accents, and trying to record all these strange names.  I give them a LOT of credit.  I’m not sure it’s a job I would want to take on myself!  Anyway…I try to find Giovanna…I find absolutely NOTHING…so I try her name as Jennie…I know some of the family referred to them as Leo and Jennie, and I’ve seen those names related to them on other documents.  BINGO!  I have a hit for Jennie Giudice.  Now…this is where the fun starts……….

Jennie Giudice, my great grandmother, is living in Chicago…at 2246 Wentworth Avenue to be exact.  She is living with (or at least “in the home” with), her daughter Sarah (actually it was Sadie), son-in-law Tony, and granddaughter Mary.  But where is Elia (or maybe his name is Leo now).  I know both of them are still living…they died within a few months of each other in 1937 and I’ve visited their graves many times….in Michigan.  So…I start checking beyond their address…not a difficult task…right below Jennie is her son, Dominick at a house either next door or across the street.  Looking further on Wentworth Avenue I find Joe Giudice, Jennie’s son, at 2216.  So this is the right neighborhood…

I take a step back and look at the enumeration district…I’m in Chicago Ward 1, District 34…but I’m on page 22 of 44 pages.  So instead of just looking a page ahead and a page behind them I figured what would I lose to look thru all 44 pages of the district.  It’s all in the same neighborhood…so I might find other relatives, too.  Obviously this is either “Little Italy” or at least an Italian neighborhood…there seems to be a LOT of people who were Italian immigrants listed.  So I paged back to Page 1 and started looking at each name.  I can feel it…there has to be other relatives here.

And I find them…on page 4 I find one of Leo and Jennie’s daughters…she and her children are recorded with her husbands sister and brother-in-law.  But, again this ancestor’s husband is missing….That’s now 2 husbands that have gone AWOL on me!  So…back to the computer screen I go…and keep scanning for familiar names.  Page 18 give me another hit…a BIG one this time…My Grand Parents!  Sam and Frances Giudice have been FOUND!  Six months after their marriage in Chicago…and they are found at 230 Alexander Street…obviously an apartment building due to the number of “households” at the same address….and 4 doors down from a Catholic Church!  Gotta love those Italians and their love for being near a church!

The last one I found in this “neighborhood”, was Joe…Leo and Jennie’s son.  So…that accounts for quite a few of the family members but not nearly close enough for me!  I’m still missing a few husbands…some of them are still AWOL.  Now if I was a truly suspicious person…and I started thinking about all the possible scenarios, I might be able to add about an hour to the Godfather movies…Italian fathers and sons missing…wives and children residing with relatives…Sounds like a “Protection” from the movies!  But…this is not the movies…it’s not “The Godfather”…its just a family with a difficult to spell (and pronounce) name in 1920 Chicago.  I still have a ton of pages of the census to look thru.  I’m sure they are here somewhere.  I better give my brain a rest…stop daydreaming about Al Capone, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, and relatives that talk like Marlon Brando.  I have census documents to look thru.

Check back soon…I still have about 350+ pages of the Chicago City portion of the 1920 US Federal Census to check thru.  Keep your fingers crossed that I don’t suffer any permanent eye damage reading thru this one!  I sure hope a few more relatives come out of hiding….I’d really like to know where the wives hid these husbands!

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My Lucky Number 13!


Everyone has a number that they consider their “Lucky Number”.  I’ve bounced this number around many times…sometimes its 17 (my birth day)…sometimes its 5 (my birth month)…but I’ve always been drawn to the number 13.  Even in my search for family records, 13 seems to be my lucky number.

Growing up I remember hearing a story that my great grandfather was one of 13 brothers that were all Sicilian Mounted Police.  I don’t know if that story is true or not because I have not been able to find any generation with 13 male children, but its an intriguing story.  I even have to laugh a bit because my cousins remember a different story with the great grandfather being on a different family line.  Someday, maybe I’ll be able to figure that one out….but it still reminds me that the number 13 is tapping me on the shoulder.

Well…recently, I hit the number 13 again in my research.  I had just returned home from a local Genealogy Society meeting, grabbed a few snacks, and settled down with my computer.  I wanted to run some searches with my “Minelli” surname….again.  Earlier in the day I had received a full translation of my Great Grandfather, Ferdinando’s birth record and the family was on my mind.  Ferdinando had been given up at birth and I finally had, not only the quick translation of the document, but a word for word translation of it.  It was the midwife that stated his name was to be Ferdinando and his surname Minelli.  Maybe this name had something to do with the family after all. There might still be hope of finding out who his parents were.  I wanted to see what other MInelli’s were nearby to the town of Castrovillari, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy.  So…I did like I had done a dozen times in the past year…click, click, click…..nothing…, click, click….nothing…over and over again.  Everything I was finding was the same stuff.  The stuff I already knew and had verified.  Now what?

The kids….lets look for info on the kids!  That would keep me busy for a while and maybe give me something that I didn’t already have.  So…I grabbed my files to see what I already knew and what was already in the files (I hate thinking I found something new, only to find out I had just overlooked it before).  I knew that Ferdinando and his wife, Maria Somma, had 12 kids.  Well…at least I had documented the births of 12.  I also knew that I had one death certificate and one of those children I assumed died before they immigrated to the US, as I have no record of that child coming here.  I also had one…their last child born…that I have no clue what happened to her.  She was born in 1913 (hmmm….is that a “13”?) but was not on the 1920 census…and I have not found a death certificate for her.


So…here I sit, with the files of the “kids” spread out on my bed.  Yes, I love to research while I’m curled up in bed in fuzzy jammies and a nice warm blanket on my bed (I live in Northern Michigan so it gets pretty cold here sometimes).  I start flipping thru the files….Theresina (Theresa)…Michele (Mike)…Pilerio (Lawrence)…Rosina (Rosie)…Natale (Nato)…Francescadina (Frances – my grandmother)…Giuseppina (Josephine)…Frances Rosario Pasquale (Birth in Italy, but not immigrated and no death record yet)….Carmelo (born and died in 1896)…Sam…Annie…and Antonia.  That’s 12 kids…WHEW!!  I knew the least about Carmelo and Frances…They were both born early in Ferdinando and Maria’s marriage.  Carmelo died as an infant.  I had his death registry.  Frances I also assumed has died before the family immigrated to the US because there is no record of him on a ships manifest or in any census records after they arrived here.  So I started with these two children.  Carmelo’s records were BAD copies…so I wondered if I could find them online and at least save them differently (I had found them on microfilm at the Family History Library during my trip to Salt Lake City in 2011).  So I started with Carmelo….

Now, anyone that has ever searched for records online knows the procedure….enter in basic information…wait for the results to pop up…refine your search…find nothing…go back and redo your search…over and over again.  All while hoping for a small hint of a relative.  I entered in  “CARMELO MINELLI” in the search fields…pressed enter….WOW…a lot of hits on this one. So I scanned the list…nope…nope…nope…maybe….click….nope….go back…over and over.  Then I saw a manifest into Ellis Island.  Hmmm…I wonder….who this might be…City says Cosenza, which is the right area.  And I knew that when I found the children’s birth record EVERY Minelli in Cosenza was this family…Fingers crossed.  Then I realized it said CARMELA….not CARMELO.  Female child not male.  Darn it….I was looking for a male child…but I looked anyway.  It said line 11…yep, there was Carmela…Female…age 16 (really?!?!?!)…I don’t have a Carmela…maybe its another family.  So I kept looking….Name and address of nearest relative or friend in country where alien came from….Grandfather Giuseppe Somma!!!!  THAT’S MY GREAT GREAT GRANDFATHER!!!!  I FOUND ANOTHER CHILD!!!  NUMBER 13!!! 


I couldn’t believe what I was reading.  I had just found the answer to another family story!  I had talked with my cousin Sissy about 3 weeks ago.  She told me she remembered her mom talking about a sister that had immigrated with the family to the US (to Chicago, specifically), and had gone back to Italy to get married.  I had heard this story before, but nobody could remember her name.  I think I might have just found her!!!  The best part is….I now added another family member…I had an Aunt Carmela.  She is my new Lucky Number 13!  Now I just have to find out what happened to her…who did she marry?  Did she have children?  Is she related to the Minelli’s that currently live in Cosenza?  Am I related to them too? There are always more questions to answer!  I’m off to find more answers…be back soon!

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Who was Anna??? Part 1

Anni Josefina Lehtonen…..Anna Josephine Lee…Anna Frechette…Anna Drakopulos….Grandma Anna…or just Grandma.  It doesn’t matter what name I use (and she had a bunch of them)…she was, above anything else, my grandma.  I didn’t have enough time with her….but do we ever?  She passed away in 1975 at the age of 73 years old…I was 7 at the time.  I still miss her and think about her often.  Especially now that I’m working so hard on our family history. There are SOOOOO many unanswered questions that maybe she could answer for me.  If I could only have one more day with her….but I can’t….and I’m not sure I really want to.

In my 7 year old eyes, my Grandma was the best thing since ice cold lemonade on a hot summer day.  She was better than puppy kisses, jumping in mud puddles, swinging on an old tire swing, or even old playing cards clothes-pinned to your bicycle spokes.  She was my secret keeper, my ally, my co-conspirator, and one of the best friends a 7 year old could ever have.  She had old dishes and a cast iron stove outside at the farm to play house (and she always let me borrow one of her aprons), she always had hard candies in her apron pocket, and she’d try to sneak dollar bills to us (then tell us to “go ask mom”  if we can have them).   She loved playing with frogs, digging for worms, and I’m sure I got my love of raspberries from her.  I remember her and I walking down the hill at my house to pick raspberries.  We never took a container to put them in…that’s why she had an apron!  Sometimes we even had raspberries left when we got back up the hill…sometimes we just sat on the hill and ate them right out of her apron.

Every Saturday morning my mom and I (and sometimes my brother) would go to “the farm” (the family homestead) to pick up Grandma to go grocery shopping.  This was a ritual for us….it happened EVERY Saturday.  We’d pick her up, go shopping at the local grocery store, and then head to our house and unload everything.  Grandma’s stuff was taken downstairs and sorted…stuff for the downstairs fridge, stuff for the freezer, and a bag of pantry stuff that just sat on the freezer until we took Grandma back home.  Then it was time to have fun, play outside (if it was nice), play rummy, watch TV, and have lunch.  Normally after lunch we’d take Grandma back home.

One of the only pictures of my Grandma. Taken at "The Farm".  She made all her own dresses and aprons.
One of the only pictures of my Grandma.
Taken at “The Farm”. She made all her own dresses and aprons.

That was the Grandma I knew and loved with all my heart.  But I’ve gotten to know a totally different person since I’ve been working on the family genealogy over the last few years.  And I think I love her even more now…if that’s at all possible.

I’ve learned what a hard life she had.  The heartache she suffered.  The strength she showed thru the tragedies in her life.  I understand a little better, why, near the end of her life, she really just wanted to stay home and not go out in public unless she had to….she was content with her life on the farm…her life had gone full circle.

She was born in November 1901, on a remote island off the southwest coast of Finland…in the little town of Lövö, on an island named Vårdö in the Åland Islands.  The family spoke Swedish, not Finnish…and at one time had been under Russian boundaries….which adds to my confusion about this side of my family. She had a brother and a sister, Carl and Hilda.  Carl was 3 years older and Hilda, the baby of the family, was 3 years younger.  They came to the United States with their mother in August 1910 (her father had already arrived here and found work with the railroad in Chicago several years earlier).  It took me a while to find their passage to the US because they entered thru Canada not thru Ellis Island as we always believed.

I can only imagine what life for her was like on that island…how much different it had to be from living in Chicago….and then ultimately moving to Michigan to live on a farm.  She endured so much in her 73 years of life.  More than I ever imagined.

I have gotten to know a totally different side to my Grandma.  I can picture her running around on the Island in Finland.  She was not quite 9 years old when she got on that boat….saying goodbye to her friends, grandparents and other relatives that stayed in Finland.  She traveled across an ocean to live in a strange country, where she didn’t speak the language, didn’t know anybody, reunited with the father she hadn’t seen in a many years….and in a large city instead of a small fishing community.  They never seemed to move from the same neighborhood…when they did move it was only a block or two away.   She would welcome a baby brother, named Leo, in 1914…the first of their family to be born in the United States….and then lose him to Diphtheria in October 1916.  It was a month before her 15th birthday.  How do you say good bye to a sibling so young?

But worse yet, would be the death of her father, 3 months later.  His death certificate states he died of “internal injuries due to external violence while in the employ of the P?? Co. and in the discharge of his duties”.  Unfortunately I can’t read the name of the company he worked for.  Many friends have looked at the document and nobody has figured it out yet.  But he worked for a railroad company in Chicago (possibly the Penn Co.)…most likely on the East Side, as that’s where they lived.  She was 15 years old, her sister Hilda was 12, their brother Carl was 18…but was crippled in a scaffolding accident when he was younger.  Carl had a newspaper stand near their home…he was now the man of the family and most likely the family’s primary income.

Her father's death certificate. January 12, 1917
Her father’s death certificate.
January 12, 1917

I wish I knew the details of what happened next in her life.  I can only speculate from the documents I have found.  She would have a child, my Uncle Dave, on April 9, 1918 in Chicago.  I found 2 birth certificates for him.  One stating his name as Carl Wilbur Lee…and the other, dated almost 18 years later, with the name of David Carl Frechette.  I eventually put the pieces together and realized that my Uncle Dave was born out of wedlock.  She named him Carl (her brother and my great grandfathers original name) Wilbur (after the baby’s father) and the last name of Lee (her maiden name). He was born at home….I’m not sure if his father lived with them at the time.  The 1920 census lists him as David….and the whole family lived in the same house (or apartment) they did when her father was killed.  Three months after Carl/David was born, she would marry her son’s father, Wilbur Frechette, in Crown Point, Indiana (on July 23, 1918).

Going thru my grandma’s possessions (the one’s my mom kept after Grandma died), it didn’t take me long to realize that Wilbur was the love of her life.  She was happy…the few pictures I have of the two of them show her smiling and the two of them hugging or holding hands.  But tragedy would follow her yet again.  Wilbur died May 3, 1920 at 5:45 a.m….less than 2 years after they were married.  His cause of death was listed as Pyaemia with Mastoiditis as a contributing factor…A sepsis infection caused by an inner ear infection.  He was under doctors care for only 3 days prior to his death, but had surgery and was hospitalized April 18-20th.    They had apparently rented a house or apartment sometime between January 3rd (the 1920 Census date) and May 3rd (the day Wilbur died) in 1920.  As many times as I have looked at Wilbur’s death certificate and the other documents in my Grandma’s genealogy folder, I never noticed that Wilbur died at home…their own home.  I always assumed that because of his surgery a few days earlier, he died at a hospital.  I guess I wasn’t looking close enough…or wasn’t supposed to find that detail just yet.

Wilbur was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Hammond, Indiana. The same cemetery where my Grandma’s little brother and her father were buried.  It was across the Illinois-Indiana state line but only a short distance away.  This cemetery would hold many clues for me in the family history…and the more I “dig” (Yeah, it was a BAD pun, but you’ll survive!), the more I find out about my family.

I’m working more and more on my Grandma’s side of the family.  There are a lot of holes I want to fill in.  But where do I start and what are my next steps?  Here’s a few clues I need to work on….

  • Timeline of events and addresses – to better understand the movement of the family and map out what was around them.
  • What do I have and what am I missing – I really need to see what is in my files and see what I’ve overlooked (like where Wilbur died).
  • Who are my living relatives and what can they add to my history story – they are all older than me and I bet they can help fill in the holes.
  • ROADTRIP – to Chicago and to see my cousins – I think this one is LONG OVERDUE!
  • Documents, documents, documents – I need to really understand what I have and what I need.

This weekend holds another research project for me…not into what else I can find on my Grandma’s life, but to discover (or rather, rediscover) what I already have and might have overlooked.  I need to take a brief step back and see what’s in my files and in my boxes and really just get to know her again.  It’s not a labor intensive job….it’s a true labor of love.

I’ll be back later with Part 2 of this story….I can’t wait to share more about “Who was Anna???”.