Ancestral Journeys

Genealogical research and thoughts

Treasure in Parish Records

Posted by dwsuddarth on 11 October 2014

I recently found the maiden name of my mother’s father’s mother’s mother (got that?).  My mother’s father was Edward Albert Murray, the son of Joseph Murray and Julia Anna Cerny. Julia’s parents were Vojtech and Katerina Cerny.

I have always been intrigued by Vojtech and Katerina. They first appear in the 1880 Chicago, Cook Co., Illinois census. From other records, it has appeared that they both came to the US about 1869 or 1870. I have not been able to find either on the 1870 census. According to voter registration records, Vojtech was naturalized in the County Court of Cook County in 1870. Which means that his naturalization records were lost in the Chicago Fire of 1871. I have found bits and pieces of information here and there, but nothing to really help put together their lives and their story. Until recently.

Vojtech and Katerina were Catholic. I have always thought that looking through Catholic Church records – more specifically, parish records – may provide useful information. But I didn’t know what parish they belonged to. Chicago, even in the late 1800’s was a big place. The Catholic community was (and is) very large. Trying to find the parish they would have belonged to back in 1880 seemed like an almost impossible task. I wasn’t going to look through each parish in the city.

As I was doing some background reading about Czechs and Bohemians in the city of Chicago, I discovered that most of them settled on the Near West side of the city – right where Vojtech and Katerina were in 1880. In addition, I found that most belonged to St. Wenceslous Parish. It just so happens that FamilySearch has the parish records digitized and online, so off to FamilySearch to look through the records I go. And did I find records.

I started by looking through the marriage registers. I read them page by page, but did not find Vojtech and Katerina. Then I went to the baptism registers. And there I found a whole lot. I managed to find records for the baptisms of most of their children, including two who we didn’t know about before and do not appear on the 1880 census. These two children most likely died before the age of 10. But the best part is that the register lists the parent’s names – with the mother’s maiden name.

Some of them were hard to read. Others, though, were as clear as could be. And that’s when I found Katerina’s maiden name of Padrta. To say I was excited at this discovery would be an understatement. I was thrilled. Finding maiden names of women can be challenging. This will hopefully make looking for information on Vojtech and Katerina easier – I have already found who I believe may be a brother of Katerina living in the same building in 1880 (there were three families living in the building – most likely a three flat). It would make sense that someone of the same age with the same last name living in the same building is a relative. So now, I can search immigration and passenger records not only for Katerina, but for her (I hope) brother as well.

Someday I will be able to tell the whole story of Vojtech and Katerina. Until then, I will have a lot of fun looking.

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