Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Gritty details....

I had my own internal debate concerning whether or not to post this less than idyllic information that I had stumbled upon.  I didn't go trolling through criminal records and newspapers looking to uncover shocking family scandals- actually the idea never occurred to me.  I was in pursuit of ordinary details, just looking through some old newspapers hoping to find my grandmother's and great grandmother's obituaries when I saw these other articles concerning the Syska family. Genealogists caution, while newspapers can contain important information, they are not primary sources, but the historian in me finds them fascinating as they represent a snapshot in time.  They depict a true slice of life.  I guess it would be nice if all my ancestors were pillars of society, but wouldn't it be boring?

The first article is about my father's arrest for robbery as a 23 y.o. Mount Vernon Cabby.  I hope you don't mind, but I want to share a little about my dad to put this into context.   He was not convicted, but the article says he had a history of arrests for robbery and passing bad checks.  Honestly, I was horrified when I found this.  But my father was not raised in split level home with a white picket fence and roast beef on the dinner table every night.  He is the oldest of 8 children from a very poor family. His mother passed away when he was seventeen and his youngest brother was only two, while his  father worked sporadically and was described as erratic and heavy handed.    My dad didn't like to talk about his childhood, but I know it was not uncommon for him to go hungry and that he dropped out of school quite young- probably in sixth grade- in order to start working and earning money.

As a father, I never doubted he loved his family.  He coached our softball team, helped me build a fab log cabin in 3rd grade and decorated castle birthday cakes.  We called him daddy long legs, although daddy long arms might have been more appropriate because I watched him, time and again, reach his arm through the terrace bars down the block to buy marshmallows for roasting on the bbq.  My parents separated many times over the years. Dad was never happy about it.  When Mom was hospitalized on a respirator, due to emphysema, she refused to let Dad come to visit, so he sent her flowers.... again and again and again.  She never relented, but she had been through so much herself, and it was not in her nature to back down from a fight.
Stan & Margaret (Hennessy) Syska - 1963

Dad worked long hours as a carpenter rarely missing a day.  He never made a lot of money, in part, because he had trouble pressuring people to pay, arriving  home once with a Shihtzu and another time with a slightly used color tv instead of money.  Mom was clearly distressed, but we kept them both and named the former, Munchkin.  Dad could not take a job that required him to punch a time clock and, thus, he had no benefits or stability.  He also had a drinking problem, to be sure, disappearing at times for months even years.  When he was in his 70's, recovering from a fractured hip, I got a call that he had busted loose from the rehab facility.  He came back some 10 hours later, baffled by all the 'hullabaloo', never admitting where he had gone.  I suspect he paid a visit to his friends at the local Bodega. Officials at the facility were doubly concerned because he was in a wheelchair at the time, though I doubt he had trouble finding an accomplice to help him escape. He was in Yonkers, afterall, where he spent the bulk of his life.  Upon his discharge, we moved him into senior housing in a not so great part of Yonkers, but our initial concerns for his safety were assuaged by the realization that he literally knew EVERYONE in a ten block radius.

Sure my father had a checkered past and made some mistakes.   I wish he had an easier life, but I am grateful he was my father, warts and all.   As you read the articles and information about our family, keep in mind they are just snapshots, not the full story.

Add caption

16 y.o. Douglas Syska and 22 y.o. Merlin Scofield (his mother's brother) arrested for malicious mischief in 1946, a year after Beatrice (Scofield) Syska passed away.

William F. Syska Jr.  involved in a fight in 1918 and declaring bankruptcy in 1945

Based on a true Story involving the child of Gladys Syska - daughter of William & Lizzie Syska.

Walter's Hope (Google eBook)
Front Cover
Xulon Press, 2010 - Religion - 250 pages

Was this the end for Walter-death at the hands of His mother? His mother's suffocating hand covers six year old Walter's face as she attempts to throw him overboard. Lured with a promise of fun on the lake, now Walter is locked in a death struggle with the very one who brought him life. Is this the end? Was Walter created simply to die at six years of age?What clues would be found to his early years in that abandoned chest in the basement in Evergreen, Illinois? 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Descendants of immigrants Adolph and Carolina (Petroll) Syska

Children & Grandchildren of Adolph & Caroline:

When I started my geneology research it seemed that every Syska or Szyszka I encountered was a descendant of Adolph and Caroline(Petroll) Szyszka.  Since then I have found other Syskas who came to the US from Germany, Poland, Prussia  and 'Russian Poland'.  The origins of the Szyszka surname is slavik meaning pine cone. I have found one other related spelling variation - Sczyszka.   After coming to America, many immigrants, but not all, changed the name to Syska.  Other similar sounding names - Sisko, Siska, Seska, Cisco- are probably not related and have different origins.
Although.... some of the Syska grandchildren were known to use Cisco as an alias- but that's a different story best left for a later blog entry.  Apologies to those whose legitimate surname is Cisco... 

Syska remains a somewhat uncommon surname in the US.  Adolph and Caroline had 11 children, 8 of whom emigrated to America, producing 28 grandchildren and well over 50 great grandchildren.  Although some of the information below is redundant, I thought it would be worthwhile to follow Adolph and Caroline's children and see how their branches grew.  Many settled  in the NY area, others made their homes in Illinois, Connecticut and Florida,while the grandchildren and great grandchildren spread throughout the country.

1st generation in US- Children of Adolph & Caroline
2nd generation
3rd generation

Adolph & Caroline came to America aboard the Donau passenger ship from Bremen Germany and arriving in New York on June 15, 1885.  Four of their younger children came with them, 16 y.o. Pauline, 10 y.o. August, 7 y.o. Bertha and 21 y.o. Ottilie.  

Their children in order were 

Augusta (1852)
Amalie E. (1854) died in infancy
Anna Wilhelmina (1855) probably died in childhood
Julius (1857) died in infancy
Mary Wanda (1858)
Adolph (1863)
Ottillie (1863)
William (1866)
Pauline (1869)
August (1871)
Bertha (1875)

Wanda (Szyszka) Gerlach (1858-1948) came to america in 1874, at 16 years old, according to the 1900 Census.  Her full birth name is Mary Wanda Caroline Szyszka.  She married Andrew Joseph Gerlach on Dec 15, 1878.  The couple initially resided in Manhattan while Andrew owned a butcher shop on 125th St. They moved to Yorktown in Westchester County, NY, where they owned and operated a Farm, moving again before 1910 to the Bronx.  Wanda had 6 children from 1879 to 1891, two of whom died as infants.  Her husband, Andrew Gerlach Sr. died in 1918. After his death, Wanda moved in with her daughter and son in law, Louise and Henry Von Pein. in Mount Vernon.  Then in 1930 she was living in the the Bronx with her 14 y.o. grandson William.  She passed away in 1948 at 90 yrs. old and is buried with her husband in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.  Their four children: Louise Anna (Gerlach) Von Pein (1879), Clara O. (Gerlach) Hillier (1882-1977), Emma Gerlach (1884) and Andrew W. Gerlach (1891)

  •   Louise Anna (1879-1968) married Henry Von Pein, a lawyer, and resided in NY, but after Henry's death, Louise moved to California with her daughters.  They had 3 children:  Gladys Von Pein (1903-1994), Lily Von Pein (1905-2001) and Mae Von Pein (1911-2001)
  • Clara O. (Gerlach) Hillier (1882-1977), married Fred Hillier and had 2 children:   Wanda & Clare Helen.
  • Andrew W. Gerlach (1891) married Agnes (unknown) and had 4 children:  William, Andrew, Norma & June 

Augusta (Syska) Hoffman Plate (1852-1935)  came to america in May of 1876 at the age of 24.  She is listed as a servant on the passenger list of the ship, Main,  arriving from Bremen.  There is a Wolga Szyszka, age 23, listed 2 lines above her, unknown if they are related.  She first married  Frederick Plate prior to 1880, when her only child, Frederick Plate, Jr., was born in New York, NY.  On October 13, 1886, Augusta married her 2nd husband, Hiram Hoffman.  I have been unable to determine if she was widowed or divorced from Fred Plate at the time.
*Update:   Frederick Plate,died 7 Mar 1883 in the Bronx
 Augusta and Hiram lived in the Bronx with her son from her first marriage, Fred,  and her father, Adolph Szyszka, until Adolph's death in 1912.  Hiram Hoffman passed away in 1925 after which Augusta moved in with her sister Ottillie (Syska) Strassle in 1925 and then  with her niece Carrie (Syska) Searles in 1930.
  • Her son,  Frederick Plate Jr. married Adele (unknown ), moved to Queens and had 2 children - Frederick & Adele Plate.

Adolph Gustav Szyszka (1863-1940)  came to America on Oct. 1, 1879 according to his Naturalization record.  He married Katherine Stapelfield in 1887.  They lived in manhattan and Adolph worked as a Butcher.  Adolph and Katherine had four children:  William A. (1888-1982), Adolph G. Jr.(1890-1961), Louisa (1894-1906) and Hilda (Syska) Holtermann (1897-1975)

  • William A. Syska married Catherine Voss, had 3 children and lived in manhattan until about 1930 when he moved to the Bronx, then to Yorktown in Westchester county and finally to Germantown, NY.  According to census records, he owned his own Butcher shop, location unknown.  A 1979 newspaper article, featured a 91 y.o. William A. Syska, who had suffered 3 strokes and lost the use of his right arm.  His cousin, William F. Syska (1866-1981) had also suffered multiple strokes affecting his speech.  
    • William & Catherine's children were Catharine (Syska) Dalton (1912-), Hilda (Syska) Powers (1914- ) and William Syska Jr. (1917-1945). 
  • Adolph G. Syska Jr. married Elsie Mahler and lived in Bronxville, NY with his wife and two children.  Adolph graduated from Columbia university as a mechanical engineer and, in 1928, he founded the Syska & Hennessy Engineering firm with John R. Hennessy.  He designed the mechanical systems for several notable buildings including the UN Headquarters.  
    • Adolph & Elsie's children were Robert Syska (1925-2009) and Edna (Syska) Peltier (1922-2004) who married Paul Peltier and lived in several places, including New Orleans, La and San Antonio, Tx, but settled in Naples Fl in approximately 1979.
William F. Syska (1866-1956) came to America around 1883 at about 17 years old.   Census and other records give multiple dates from 1882 to 1885.  William was not on the passenger list of the Donau ship that brought his parents and 4 of his siblings in 1885.  He was naturalized on Nov. 5, 1900 in Chicago Illinois, but the record does not give his date of arrival. 
In 1891, William married Dorothea Elizabeth Zimmermann (1871-1954).  They lived first in Chicago, Illinois with Lizzie's parents, but moved several times after that to Missouri, Bronx, Pelham and New Rochelle, NY, Wilton, Norwalk and Westport CT., and Daytona Beach FL.  William worked as a farmer, butcher, owner/operator of a meat market as well as gas stations in Norwalk CT and Daytona Beach FL.  William and Lizzie owned several other properties in NY, CT and FL.

  • William and Lizzie had 8 children-Erna J. (Syska) Braun (1892-), William F. Syska Jr. (1896-1981), Chester E. Syska (1898-1983), Herbert P Syska (1900-1974), Clara E (Syska) Vogt Keller (1903-2001),  Stanley E. Syska (1905-1971), Adele (Syska) Pinkham (1907-1992), Gladys L. (Syska) Ellis Allard (1909-2002)
    • Erna married Andrew Braun and had 2 daughters and one son - Living. 
    • William Jr. married Beatrice Scofield and had 8 children: Stanley M Syska (1928-2005), Douglas Syska (1929-2014), Paul W. Syska (1931-2011), daughter-living (1932), daughter-living (1934), Walter Syska (1935-2010) -moved to Tennessee, Robert Syska (1937-2007), son-living (1938), Russell Syska (1940-1978), son-living (1943)
    • Chester married Helen Joslin in 1921 after a rocky start to their relationship in which Chester was charged with felonious assault for making public comments about Helen.   Chester and Helen lived in Westchester and Putnam counties in NY and Chester worked as a carpenter building homes.  About 1950 they moved to Stamford CT and about 1960 to Jacksonville, FL   Chester and Helen's children are: Arlene June (Syska) Perry (1922-1968),  Chester L. Syska (1925- unk) who operated a camp in Catskill NY,  Louise Syska (1927-1942), Richard Syska (1931-1996) moved to Berkely, CA
    • Herbert Syska married Roseann (unknown) had one son:  Herbert P. Syska Jr. (1929-1993) who served in the US Marines and moved to El Paso, Tx.
    • Clara married Peter Keller and had 2 children- a son and daughter living.  She next married Frederick Vogt but had no children with him.  She passed away in North Carolina at 97 years old. 
    • Stanley E. Syska married Catherine, moved to Astoria, NY and had 3 children Stanley (1929-2009), Joan (1936-unk),  Donald (1939-2005) and Daniel
    • Gladys lived in CT and FL and had 2 sons- living.
    • Adele married Stuart Pinkham in CT and had one son, William Pinkham (1940-1997)
Arriving in NY port on June 15, 1885 aboard the Donau ship:
August W. Szyszka (1871 - ) came to America in 1885 with his parents and 3 sisters.  Each Census records gives a different immigration year for August from 1881 to 1901.  However, he is listed on the passenger list with his parents in 1885, which appears to be the most credible record.   He married his wife, Ella Hoke, in 1894. They had 3 children together, but 2 died in childhood, settled first in the Bronx where August worked as a meat cutter/butcher and also as a carpenter,next moved to Pelham in Westchester county before 1915 and then, before 1920, moved to New Rochelle with their daughter and son-in-law, Grace Carrie & Austin Searles.   Ella, passed away in 1925 and, by 1930, both August and his sister, Augusta Hoffman, a widow herself, were residing with Grace and Austin Searles.  On October 28, 1930, August married his second wife, Anna Kleiner.  They resided in their own apartment in New Rochelle, until August's death in 1955.

  • Children of August and Ella are Grace Caroline (Syska) Searles (1895-1973) and Alma Syska (1898-1904) 

Augusta Ottillie (Szyszka) Strassle (1863-1944) came to America in 1885 at 21 years old with her parents aboard the Donau.  She married  Edward Strassle, a carpenter,  in 1886 and they resided in the Bronx with their 3 children.  Her husband, Edward, passed away between 1930 and 1940.  Ottillie died in Feb. 1944 at the age of 80.  
  • Her children are:  Charles Tybert Strassle (1887-), Bertha Augusta Strassle (1888-) and Elinore B Strassle 1889-)

Pauline B. (Szyszka) Brunotte (1869-1938), 16 y.o,,   also came in 1885 with her parents, marrying Wilhelm Brunotte on April 20, 1893 in NYC.  Pauline's younger sister, Bertha, married Wilhelm's younger Brother, Leonard, 11 years later. Two sisters marrying two brothers - something my own parents did- is actually more common than I thought.  

Pauline and Wilhelm initially settled in the New York city area. Their first child, Wilhemina, was born in Bergen NJ Oct. 1897 and passed away in NYC in Jan. of 1898.  *Update:  Pauline had 10 children all together, but it appears only  3 survived childhood. The 1910 census indicated Pauline was the mother of 8 children, 2 of whom were still living, William and Helen.  After 1910, Pauline had 2 more children, but only 1 survived, Paul.  The family moved to Chicago Illinois prior to 1910.   Wilhelm, a teamster, worked as a sales manager at a brewery along with his brother Leonard.  Wilhelm  died in 1929 at.57 years old due to an accident at work.
His great niece (Bertha & Leonard's granddaughter) shared the following story: 
Wilhelm was on the loading dock when a stack of beer barrels busted loose and rolled over him.  He refused to go to the hospital so his brother took him home and he passed away 3-4 days later.  

Pauline passed away in Daytona Beach Florida in 1938.   She may have been residing with her younger brother William F. Syska who moved to Daytona beach Fl in the early 30's where he owned and operated a gas station, grocery store and orange grove.

  • Their children are: Helen Marie (Brunotte) Holm Dempsey (1899 -1956 )  William Brunotte Jr. (1902-1987 ) Paul R. Brunotte (1911 -1987)
Bertha (Szyszka) Brunotte (1875-1949)  arrived in the USA when she was just 7 years old, on the Donau ship with her parents, two sisters and brother. In 1904 she married Leonard Brunotte, who was her sister Pauline's brother-in-law.  They married in New York, NY and their first child, Martha, was also born in NY, but passed away at 3 years old in 1907.  Their son, Thomas, was born in NY in 1906 and they moved to Chicago prior to 1910.  Their third child, John, was born in 1913.  Leonard worked as a teamster delivering beer for the same brewery where his brother Wilhelm worked.   In 1940, Leonard and Bertha were living on South wood in chicago in the home of their son and daughter in law, John & Theresa Brunotte.  Bertha passed away in 1949 at 74 years old and Leonard lived until 1969.  They are both buried in Mt. Emblem cemetery in Elmhurst IL.
  • Bertha and Leonard's children are: Martha Brunotte (1904-1907), Thomas Brunotte ( 1906-1992 ) and John Brunotte (1913-1973)