Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Preparing for Christmas

It has been a while since I have written a blog post on anything. In the front of my mind I plan on writing a series of blogs on the Dutch colony in New York and most likely a few pieces on religious history in New York and New England.

This is simply a plan as of right now, but I hope that you all will comment here or e-mail me (and vote on the right side ->) about what you would like me to write about over the next month. If there are particular questions you would like answered, let me know. This gives me a chance to write about what you would like to read as well as give me a chance to research and write over my break from college.

As planning begins for the summer bike trip, I will write on that as well. In the meanwhile, here is a small piece on a mural from the old St. Mary's Church in Albion.

Adoration of the Magi

This particular image depicts the focus of January 6th in the liturgical calendar; the Epiphany. The painting by Rzeznik is rooted in traditional, late medieval representations. Though the Bible does not specify the number of Magi, three are represented because of the specific number of gifts which were brought. Other representations of the Adoration might contain upwards of six Magi.

The representation of the Magi as "Kings" was the product of the Christian writer Tertullian, who was the first to refer to them in this manner. In more traditional works, the men were dressed in Mithraic robes and Phrygian caps, symbolic of their roots as astrologers of the Persian court.

Here we see Caspar, the eldest, kneeling with the gift of gold, representing Jesus as King. Balthazar, represented as the Negro brings the gift of myrrh, a foreshadow of Christ's eventual death. Melchior, the youngest, presents his gift of frankincense as a representation of Christ's divinity. The three men are often depicted in a manner which represents the three known parts of the world during the medieval times; Europe, Asia and Africa. This would explain why Balthazar is represented as a Negro but it is difficult to determine which of the two would represent Asia, possibly Melchior considering his style of clothing.

The camel present in the background can be seen as a representation of Asia but is also symbolic of obedience. Mary again wears her traditional blue and red representative of love, however we now see the first representation of Joseph who wears brown and earthen tones represents humility and sometimes poverty.

In the background are other interesting pieces. The pillar is supported by a squared base. The circle (pillar) is often a representation of eternity and divinity as it is seen as perfect and complete. The square is a representation of earth. A square is solid and unmoveable, just as earth is. Here we can discern that divinity is meeting with earth; Christ.

There is also the presence of a ladder and rope. Both of these pieces are traditionally associated with the crucifixion and can be a symbol of what is to come in Christ's future. The pillar is also used in the flagellation of Christ.

Again, as with Gabriel in "The Annunciation," Balthazar is in a position similar to that of the Sign of Heaven and Earth

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Bike Trip That Will Undoubtedly Live in Infamy

Living here in Upstate New York, we seem to take everything we have for granted. The Erie Canal is no different. However, unlike the hundreds of precious buildings that line the streets of Albion and surrounding towns and counties, the Erie Canal is not in imminent danger of having pink paint, neon signs and vinyl windows stuck all over it. Anyways, when a friend suggested that we do a bike trip on the Erie Canal, I was all for it.

I had little doubts about it until Brems said he wanted to go the entire length. The 300+ mile trip (one way) made me question whether or not I really wanted to go. I put some more thought into it and figured that this was going to be one of the (if not THE) most memorable experiences I could have. Being a history nut, I should have no objections to a cross-state trip on bike. So it was set, late May will be the time frame for our 8-14 day bike trip.

After browsing the length of the canal on Google Maps, it's amazing to see how many great towns are along the way, holding so much history within their limits. I am starting to think that 14 days would be too little to explore the length of the canal and everything each town has to offer along the way. We'll make it work I'm sure.

Somewhere along the way, we lost the main concept of the trip as it has now developed into a folk tour and living history trip. Mr. Brems has already purchased a Mountain Dulcimer and I have become proficient on spoons and will be working on the fife and tin whistle. It has also been decided that a simple outfit of 19th century pants and work shirt with straw hats will be the attire for evening festivities. We'll be sure to attract some attention while stealth camping along the canal trail.

It took a few days to realize that I didn't have a bike to travel on said bike tour with. So, I have decided to purchase a custom tadpole trike from Utah Trikes in Payson, Utah. A TerraTrike Rover X5, with some slight modifications to make it go a little faster :)

This baby will only set me back $1,200 but will be a worthwhile investment. Along with some necessary upgrades (panniers, rack, etc) I will be in the $1,500 range. At this point, it will be a great thing to live in a rural area.

So, what to do for the next 7 months. Well, recruit more bikers! If you're interested in going along for the 700+ mile bike tour, let me know. It's going to be a nice, easy paced trip. You just have to be able to carry your own gear (clothes, sleeping equipment, food, repair items, etc.) The more the merrier!

P.S. you might want to learn a folk instrument ;)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Closing of St. Mary's: The End of Important Religious Art?

Most are aware that the final mass was held at St. Mary's Assumption Church on Sunday, October 24th. The casting of lots and division of items both secular and sacred has started, as we have been assured that the building will be sold by mid-November (mind you we were told that the sale had went through already in early October and that we had to have a final mass before Nov. 1st, which wasn't the case, but that's another story). Some of the few items that have not been divided up include the murals and baptismal font. I believe it is safe to say that there is little concern for pieces that constitute a historical connection to St. Mary's Polish history based on the near neglect of these items. So, I figured I would do a short write up on two of the more significant murals and a very short bit on the baptismal font and my opinion on what should be done with it.

First I'll draw your attention to a short notice placed in the Am-Pol Eagle, a Buffalo newspaper serving the greater Polish-American population of Western New York. Here they note the significance of ALL murals in St. Mary's as being extremely significant works contributed by two of Polonia's well known mural artists.

The images below depicting The Binding of Isaac and The Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek may be unique to St. Mary's but they are not unique pictures created by Jozef Mazur. Instead, they are adaptations of two works by another artist.

As you can clearly see, the positions of each character within the mural is depicted in the same position. However, there are some distinct differences. Specifically, the facial features of each character are much softer in those of Mazur's works. In the case of Melchizedek, the great number of Abraham's followers are not depicted in Mazur's mural, instead an altar is present. The above work does not include a chalice, which is present in the Mazur work. Mazur remains in line with the traditional depiction of this scene as The Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek is considered the foreshadow of the Eucharist.

So, if Mazur didn't create these two scenes, who did?

The answer is Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld.

Julius Carolsfeld was born at Leipzig on March 26, 1794, the son of an engraver and painter named Johann Schnorr. Carolsfeld's work is often broken down into three periods, the first two concentrating on secular works while the third focused on biblical subjects. These specific works were woodcarvings, including the two used by Mazur for the murals in the sanctuary at St. Mary's. There is no need to go in depth at this point concerning Carolsfeld, but perhaps a section could be designated to him later describing his other works which cover both Old Testament and New Testament events.

The Binding of Isaac

The Binding of Isaac represents God's testing of Abraham's obedience; to make a burnt offering of his son Isaac. Upon reaching the place where Abraham was to make his sacrifice, Isaac carried the wood to make the altar fire.

This image depicts Abraham drawing his knife to sacrifice Isaac. The angels is moving to stop Abraham, his Biblical line, "Now I know that you are a God-fearing man. You have not withheld from me your son." Traditionally, the ram depicted here is usually stuck in the bush and the angel is pointing to the ram. Instead, this image shows the angel grabbing the ram by the horn, to show Abraham that he is to sacrifice the animal and not his son.

This image is in the likeness of traditional depictions.

The ultimate symbolism shown within this image is Obedience to God. It is not surprising that such an image, reflecting obedience to God would be located in a church. However, this painting is the last remaining mural of this subject painted by Jozef Mazur. Any other murals of a similar subject have been painted over or removed.

The Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek

This mural is of a scene which is not frequently depicted in churches. After Lot and Abraham returned from Egypt, they parted ways and Lot settled in Sodom. When raiders attacked the Cities of the Plain, he was captured. Abraham armed three hundred men, attacked the raiders by night and defeated them. Abraham returned to Salem (Jerusalem) and was greeted by Melchizedek, the high priest and king. Melchizedek offered bread and wine in blessing of Abraham.

The traditional representation is similar to the image in St. Mary's. In the piece by Carolsfeld, there is the absence of the altar and chalice, while numerous men are visible around Abraham and Melchizedek. Here Melchizedek (left) holds his hands up in praise. In this image, his crown is absent but is present in the depiction by Carolsfeld. This most likely is to emphasise his role as the high priest and not so much as king.

The image clearly is a representation of the Eucharist. Medieval depictions of this scene were meant to foreshadow the Eucharist as this was an Old Testament event. However it can be, upon a closer look, a representation of the plight of the Polish Immigrants; welcomed from a long journey, blessed and welcome at the altar.

Baptismal Font: Medina Sandstone 1892

This piece always fascinated me since I was a young child. To me, a pedestal made of sandstone to support such a small statue, especially with a name carved in it, confused me. It was not until I started heavily researching the history of St. Mary's that I realized this was the original baptismal font. The early histories of the church stated that Joseph Cichocki carved a baptismal font out of sandstone.

Just by looking at it, you can see that it is 100% hand carved. It's unevenly carved with apparent, but minor mistakes. However, this piece is a clear representation of Mr. Cichocki's skill in stone carving.

Joseph was a 42 year old Quarry Laborer when he carved this piece. Little is known about his origins in Poland aside from what can be discerned from Census and Burial records here in the United States. A number of Cichocki names appear amongst the records of Wabcz, Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Poland. His wife's surname, Furmanski, also appears frequently in those records. Together, Joseph and his wife Jadwega had 16 children, 4 of whom were still living in 1900. It can be ascertained that a portion of those children died before the family arrived in America. Neither Joseph nor Jadwega have headstones at St. Joseph's Old Cemetery and only one of their children who is buried in the same cemetery has a stone.

That brings me to my next point. As items are divided up and decided where to be placed, it was mentioned that this "monument" would be placed at St. Joseph's Old Cemetery. The exact reason for this is unknown when the object could be placed in any number of places. However, if the piece HAS to go to the old cemetery, perhaps we should consider using it as a monument to the Polish families who could not afford headstones. By examining the church records, it is quite apparent that many families who had loved ones who passed away prior to 1900, could not afford a headstone. For one reason or another, many plots within the cemetery are marked "full, do not bury," "Single Graves," etc. The drawings within the plots that are to show where bodies have been placed within the plots show that several are filled only with the bodies of children, upwards of 30. Couldn't this once sacred piece be used to remember those who came before us but could not afford the simple luxury of a headstone?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The True Reasons Behind The American Civil War

I had a discussion with a friend the other evening about the true reasons behind the Civil War. He raised a few good points that really got me thinking about how most Americans see the Civil War and how it is taught to the younger generations in school.

It has always been said that the victors get to write history while the vanquished have to take a back seat ride on the demoralization bus. For instance, take a look at Germany in both World Wars. Surely you can see that Germany was given the raw deal as a result of their loss in 1918. Not only was Germany doomed to accept full responsibility for starting a conflict which brought about the deaths of millions of Europeans and thousands of Americans and also the millions in damages caused across the front lines of France and Belgium, but with that stipulation came the never ending barrage of slanted histories of the deadly 4 year war and the events leading up to it. Clearly the public education system has found it too difficult to correct these false accounts of the war, hiding behind claims that the history leading up to WWI is too complicated for young children. It's easier to make idiots out of our young generation.

When we look to Germany in WWII....well they get the shaft for a reason. The point is, there are numerous opportunities to write history from the other side. I'm not even talking about writing neutral accounts (if there is such a thing). However, if someone were to attempt a history of WWII through the eyes of Nazis and Germany offering justifications or explanations as to why things happened the way they did, that action would be seen as heinous, disgusting and downright deplorable; the historian chastised forever, an act of career suicide for sure. HOW DARE YOU SUPPORT THE NAZIS! YOU MUST BE A RACIST SKINHEAD! Thank you PC society...

Anyhow, back to the topic at hand: The Civil War. So, for the past 140 years, it's been shoved in our faces and down our throats that the North engaged the South for the purpose of destroying slavery. Oh yeah, and that States' Rights thing, but don't worry about that kids, it's not important. Surely a liberal agenda, however they won't admit to it (*cough*even though PC stems from that*cough*). Being a 12 year old kid in school, told and expected to believe everything and anything the teacher throws at them, they swallow it without much question. I'll try not to hold it against teachers seeing how they put more work towards education during the college years in New York than they do in the subject they will be teaching. That's still not an excuse though.

If we look to the facts, New York and Pennsylvania were still offering up Slave Schedules on their 1840 Census and there were still cases of Slaves in New Jersey up until 1860. However, looking back at history, we should expect nothing less of the Great White North with their Puritan background. It's in their blood to hold double standards, correct? We can ask the Native Americans if you want to dispute that. Anyways, with this evidence and while retaining the old idea that slavery was the main focus, we have to believe that the North was acting as the great moral voice for the entire western world in calling for an end to slavery while still retaining traces of the dirty deed themselves.

What strikes me as interesting is that so many people would be capable of believing that so many men joined the Union Army to bring about an end to Slavery. My 4th Great Grandfather stepped up to volunteer with the 76th New York Volunteer Infantry in 1863. At this time his older brother had already been killed at Fredericksburg and his father contracted numerous illnesses while evading capture at Antietam which eventually contributed to his death, it is hard for me to believe that one man would be so eager and willing to lay their life on the line for people who were seen as a lesser kind after all of this. Yes I did just say that and it wasn't only the South who held bad feelings towards blacks after the war. The accounts of conditions during the war are vivid and you can bet your ass, a whole lot more vivid for those who were standing right there as it happened. There is nothing pretty about seeing a fellow soldier torn to literal shreds by grapeshot, or having their leg shattered by a miniball, only to be amputated. The stories of limb piles, wounded men being eaten alive by wild hogs, they go on and on. People were aware of these stories, I find it very hard to believe that men would be so willing to face this. If you were a widow, told your husband fought to free slaves, would you hate the Southerners who shot him or the people who allegedly were the cause for the war in the first place?

A Malnourished Soldier from Andersonville

If we take a closer look at States' Rights, it is possible to ascertain that slavery WAS a part of the war cause but NOT because the North wanted to abolish it. What if slavery fell in as a State Right that the South was trying to retain. If the North is entering the war for the purpose of preserving the Union, there is no real way to say that the Civil War was fought for the purpose of stopping slavery. Instead, it was a bloody conflict fought over the political ideas of  State vs. Federal Rights.

I am also intrigued by the idea that abolitionists could state that the Declaration of Independence declared all people as equal, however the same document stated that the people had the right to "alter or abolish"  a government when it destroys the unalienable rights of its people. This in no way shape or form is to say that I condone slavery, but if some Southerners right to life and happiness stemmed from using slaves to grow crops on plantations, wouldn't the abolition of slavery destroy those rights? We also have to remember that a small, very small percentage of Southern Whites actually owned slaves. It was not something that was affordable for all southerners to engage in. Southern Plantation owners were such a small minority, despite what we have been told in school or despite how pre-Civil War Southerners are depicted in texts and images. How many of these rich plantation owners do you think took up arms on the front lines to engage Union soldiers? Sure, many of the Confederate Officers were from the aristocratic gentry class, but it was the poor farmer who rented his lands and had no slaves who held the rifle and charged the bayonet.

So, are we to believe that the governing bodies of both the North and South used the poor lower classes as pawns in war? Are we to believe that the large number of lower class citizens allowed the governing bodies to exploit them in war games? Or was there something going on, far more complex and meaningful to the entire country, something other than slavery?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Historic Preservation is at a Crossroads in Albion

I have wrote on this subject numerous times in the past, more frequently as I began to feel the greater weight of politics and perceived public dissatisfaction (as claimed by a small group). Preservation has yet again made it into the the newspapers, with a neutral spin to the actual preservation situation in Albion, but a negative spin towards Albion's Mayor. This really should be no surprise considering elections are coming up; the writer a Democrat and the Mayor a Republican. The writer would claim that the editorial has nothing to do with politics, however the issue he discusses is one that has been on the front burner for months now; coincidental that it would appear a month before election day, I doubt it.

Preservation is something that is perceived as taboo, something that people don't want to discuss because, "It's living in the past, we need to move forward and look to the future." So many people take preservation at face value, as a method for throwing thousands of dollars (perhaps hundreds of thousands) at something old to save it for the future. In their minds, these "old things" have no meaning to them, which truly reveals something about their mindset. It's shallow to say the least.

Preservation is not something new to this country and definitely is not something new to this world.  John Ruskin made an argument that people do not have the right to preserve or restore the craftsmanship of structures from a bygone era. Well Mr. Ruskin, I feel the same way. Having worked with two different masons, I have seen the "proper" and "improper" ways of working with stone masonry. However, the "proper" way may not be proper at all in regards to the methods used 200 years ago since many masons worked in secrecy. What we can do, is work as closely to those means as possible. Yet, close only counts with hand grenades, so in theory, we can never replicate those methods used 200 years ago. However, restoration and preservation in the proper sense may be, and most likely is, the ONLY means for combating negligent and abusive owners in the past. A homeowner who applies a cement based mortar to their cobblestone house to made the mortar flush with the stone face is flat out abusive. A property owner who allows their building's roof to collapse, leaving the interior exposed for years and years is negligent. At some point, someone needs to step in and take care of significant buildings to ensure their longevity. Undoubtedly these buildings were constructed to last, but not to take extra abuse from humans.

Preservation in the United States has been around since the city of Philadelphia stepped in to purchase and save Independence Hall from demolition. People clearly understood the historical significance of such a property to this nation's history. In the 1850s, the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association stepped in to preserve the home of George and Martha Washington. Again, another influential piece in U.S. History. Citizens have stepped in and saved countless historic structures within the United States, so that future generations might have something to physically look at and touch instead of simply reading history in a textbook.

Preservation has far suppased the argument of preserving our nation's history. It has developed into dollar signs; strictly money in nature. People, specifically owners of potential future landmarks, argue that preservation is nothing more than a hardship and financial burden. Initial landmark designation is not a financial burden, which many people fail to understand. However, the alterations upon a designated landmark are what may create a financial burden.

A friend directed my attention towards the current situation with the U.S.S. Olympia, a cruiser which saw service under Admiral Dewey during the Spanish-American War in Manila Bay as well as service during WWI. In fact, it was the ship that transported the remains of the first Unknown Soldier from France during WWI. With that being said, the ship is in danger of being scrapped or scuttled; to become an artificial reef. To allow such a significant piece of United States history to end up as scrap or at the bottom of the ocean (after being involved in conflict where it surely could have met the same fate) would be a disgrace to all of those who served as navymen on her decks. The monetary argument has been made, which is no surprise. Perhaps it could be drydocked or funds could be provided by the federal government? God forbid the government would do anything to protect or promote our nation's history. War of 1812 Bicentennial funding in New York from the State has been almost non-existent, but that's another story.

Anyways, I have strayed far from my original point; about preservation in Albion. I have to make sure that I am careful of what I write because I have been accosted in the past and forced to jump through hoops to apologize in order to avoid "possible lawsuits." I made my amends with one of the persons after I was essentially scared/threatened into doing. However, others continue to extend similar talk of that person. I suppose as long as you don't write it down, it's OK. But I digress yet again.

Little ol' Albion has failed to incorporate Historic Preservation into a long term economic planning strategy. As most residents live for the day, or two years down the road, preservation offers no benefit to them because they can not see the long term benefits of using real materials vs. synthetics. For example: A brick building constructed in 1829, still retains some of its original wood windows. The glass has been replaced for obvious reasons, but the wood is original (this is what is meant by built to last). So, 180 years later, the wood needs to be worked on. I mean, come on, this stuff will last a long long time but not forever. So the current owner wants to use vinyl windows, which have a life of 5-10 years if you're lucky. The reason for using these windows is the fact that they are about $250 a piece. Now, there IS another option out there, pay $800 a piece for single pane wood windows with wood storm windows (creating the double pane). Lets say there are 8 windows that need replacing. Lets crunch some numbers.

8 windows x $200 = $1600
8 windows x $800 = $6400

Well jeez, I guess that does look pretty bad. Lets take into consideration the durability of the windows in figuring the cost. We'll use the same materials in the wood windows that were used in the original, so let's plan for 100 years out of the wood windows.

Total cost for wood windows; 100 years = $6400

100 years / 5 year durability of vinyl = 20 replacements (this is if you can't live with failed windows)
20 replacements x $1600 = $32,000

But lets say you get lucky and the windows last 10 years so they only have to be replaced 10 times.
10 x $1600 = $16,000

But who is going to be in a house for 100 years? No one, so lets say they have to be replaced 5 times while you are living there.
5 x $1600 = $8000

Jeez, the numbers are still in favor of wood. It's all about the long term planing. Of course, it is also becoming clear that people would rather not have another government entity telling them what they can and can't do with their property. However, the way the law is established, the preservation law is placed within the current code and is an extension of the current property code. Preservation Commissions would then be a body that aids the Codes Enforcement Officer in enforcing the code.

I could spend all day discussing the benefits of preservation methods, but it would do just that; take all day. I would suggest for anyone who is serious about becoming educated on Historic Preservation, that you read:

The Economics of Historic Preservation by Donovan D. Rypkema (National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1994. ISBN: 978-0-89133-388-3).

Educate yourself

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Discovery of the Homeland: Part II

162 years ago on Thursday, March 9, 1848, Mateusz Kaniecki married his wife, Hedwig Sadowska at the altar of Sts. Bartholomew and Anne Roman Catholic Church in Wabcz, Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Poland. At that time, Wabcz and the rest of the outlaying areas were controlled by Prussia, the name of the region called West Prussia. Mateusz and Hedwig's cultural and religious backgrounds screamed Polish even though there were to remain in Prussian lands for the next 33 years.

For the last 10 years, I have spent countless hours attempting to attain this little speck of information. After the death of my Grandmother, it was a dream of mine to discover where my family originated in Poland; to read their names in the sacramental registers of some far away church where the language would undoubtedly be Polish. Over those 10 years I had many reality checks, many obstacles to jump over and numerous brick walls to break down. However, determination proved to be victorious as I was able to make that dream come true. Not only was I able to find this little blip of marriage information on Mateusz and Hedwig, but I was also able to find the baptismal record that proved Mateusz and Hedwig as the parents of my Great Great Grandfather Antoni Kaniecki.

The ladies at the LDS Family History Center must have enjoyed the elated look on my face as I not only found my Great Great Grandfather Antoni Kaniecki and his sister Barbara's baptismal records, but also as I uncovered six other Kaniecki children; their parents recorded as Mateusz and Hedwig. Six children thought to have died at childbirth, disappeared or never heard from again; never to find or read these names. They were there, clear as day, as if the priest recording the information took extra care in writing out Kaniecki as neatly as possible.

Any genealogical researcher would have labeled that day as a great reseach experience. I have considered it much more than that. For something that I spent 10 years on to finally pay off means something much more. The research for my other lines have proved to be much easier but I always met them with less interest. For something with such little physical or visible connection to, my Polish roots have been and seem to always be, the closest to me.

Perhaps it is the fact that I have been fortunate to understand the trials and tribulations that my ancestors faced before leaving home and after arriving in America. I can imagine Antoni, 27 years old, and his wife Maryanna walking out of steerage and off the boat with little three year old Franz in tow, baby Pawel in Maryanna's arms. Their only security waiting in a small remote village in Western New York; Antoni's parents, sister and brother await them in Albion.

For many, it can be difficult to appreciate the sacrifices made by previous generations or ancestors. I greatly admire the courage my ancestors had when they were forced from their homes, to journey into the unknown with little money in their pockets and heads full of prayers. Of course the sacrifices they made here in America can be reserved for another blog posting.

I suppose the purpose of this posting is to share the information that I was able to find on the Kaniecki family. However, I was also fortunate to discover my Great Grandmother's parents, John Romanski and Anna Szybanski's birth records. Growing up, I always imagined that my Great Grandparents' families knew eachother well before they immigrated and married. In a village with a population (now) of less than 600 people, my imagination was correct.

So here are the eight Kaniecki siblings:

Alexander Kaniecki
Born: June 7, 1849
Baptized: June 7, 1849
Parents: Mathew Kaniecki and Hedvigis Sadowska
from Wabcz
Godparents: Alexander Marwaski? And Catharina Ruzyska

Franz Kaniecki
Born: October 3, 1851
Baptized: October 5, 1851
Parents: Matheas Kaniecki and Hedwigis Sadowska
From Obory
Godparents: Bartholomeus Zielenski and Marianna Nogowska

Sylvester Kaniecki
Born: December 30, 1852
Baptized: January 1, 1853
Parents: Matheas Kaniecki and Hedwigis Sadowska
From Obory
Godparents: Simon Gminski and Anna Lipecka

Maryanna Kaniecki
Born: February 3, 1856
Baptized: February 5, 1856
Parents: Matheas Kaniecki and Hedwig Sadowska
From Obory
Godparents: Jacob Kaniecki and Maryanna Bzielska
Paul Kaniecki
Born: June 21, 1858
Baptized: June 29, 1858
Parents: Matheus Kaniecki and Jadwiga Sadowska
From Obory
Godparents: Pawel Ronowski and Marianna Lewandowska

Barbara Kaniecki
Born: December 24, 1860
Baptized: December 30, 1860
Parents: Mathew Kaniecki and Hedwig Sadowska
From Obory
Godparents: Illegible

Antoni Kaniecki
Born: November 19, 1864
Baptized: November 19, 1864
Parents: Matuesz Kaniecki and Jadwiga Sadowska
From Obory
Godparents: Jan Sadowska and Jadviga Ruchinski

Prawiska? Kaniecki
Born: January 13, 1868
Baptized: January 19, 1868
Parents: Mateusz Kaniecki and Jadwiga Sadowska
From Obory
Godparents: Illegible

Barbara married Ignatius Reis and immigrated once in 1881 and again in 1887 after a return trip home, clearly to bring with them the Danielewski and Romanski families (just to name a few) whose names also appear in the sacramental registers of Sts. Bartholomew and Anne Church in Wabcz. Antoni immigrated with his family in 1891; he was the last of the known Kaniecki immigrants. Their older brother Paul immigrated prior to the arrival of the other Kanieckis in 1887. Their brother Sylvester appears on the ship log in 1881 ahead of his parents with his wife and two children, but no other information exists about what happened to him or where the family went.
There is an unknown brother, or a brother who went by another name who immigrated to Albion. Wladyslaw Kaniecki's death certificate states that his father's name was Mathew, his mother Mary. Mary can be found in the census records with Wladyslaw and other children but no husband. Did he die before immigrating? Did he die shortly after immigrating? What was his real name?
The other siblings seem to disappear. It is very possible that the girls married and immigrated with their husbands. Those records haven't been found yet. But what about the other brothers Alexander and Franz? Maybe they died as children? Maybe they stayed in Poland? We may never know.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Backdoor Deal: A Political Nightmare

I've grown up in a society where loyalty, chivalry, gentlemanship and other words relating to honor and truth have been practically non-existant. A society where morals and scruples have been thrown out of the window in favor of gossip, rumors and backstabbing. I am far from the higest example of righteousness, but I retain moral values and acceptable social practices.

I offer up my sincerest apologies if I sound as though political unjust is something new to American life, because it is not. However, I feel a duty, as any red-blooded American should, to point out political injustice and bad morals held by our public officials. Now, one could make it their sole duty to go about with such activity and find that there are not enough hours in the day, nor enough days in a lifetime to accomplish the purging of moral defilement by public officials. So, all we can do it duly note these occurances and pray to God that the tides will change.

When becoming involved with "politics" whether a real or perceived involvment, it becomes ever more frustrating. You quickly realize that you hold the sole connection to moral right out of all those in the room. What is it they say, "Tangle with a skunk and you'll smell like one." George Washington once said, "Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company." These are true quotes of politics. Often, it is easier to stay far away; run from the skunk. Unfortunately for Mr. Washington, if I held my reputation to the highest esteem, I would probably end up as a hermit.

The Revolution of 1776 provided a far different time and a drastic difference in Patriotic fervor. Today's Patriotism is far different from the Patriotism of 1776. Nationalism and feelings of pride and love for one's country have become synonymous with terms such as racism and xenophobia. Today's Patriotism involves looking out for everyone's feelings. It is amazing how those who have no morals or scruples, can consider themselves as the highest moral example in the world. This would explain why our society has changed so drastically.

The point I wish to address is the current situation with Historic Preservation in Albion, yet again. As the commission nears closer to the end goal of reestablishing a preservation district in the Village, a limited number of opponents surface with attempts to slowly dismantle the commission and preservation efforts in Albion. As informational letters made their way to the homes of potential future landmarks, a small group met behind close doors in a perceived effort to cease, or at least stall, efforts to establish a district. This small group consisting of less than five people, claim to represent the entire Village body. However, a recent survey revealed that nearly 80% of residents were favorable of historic preservation in Albion. Perhaps that 80% are lying?

In the 1960s and 1970s, a large number of mansions were destroyed in Albion in favor of the urban sprawl movement. The hope was that Albion's economy would be revitalized by strip malls. Apparently the addition of some chain restaurants and vacant buildings haven't done much for economic betterment. The Village Board saw Historic Preservation as a way to revitalize Albion, officials who were elected by the residents. Almost 11 years later and the law is still in place. Clearly the Village sees preservation as a way to better the situation. However, there are still efforts by a few who feel that they represent the best interests of the Village. Albion is finally on the rise, community involvement and connection is increasing. One might think that preservation efforts have helped to do this. 40 years ago, the lack of interest in preservation efforts and Albion's history placed the community in the position it was when preservation was introduced. Instead, those few prefer to focus on the past and negative happenings, thinking that the way to move forward is to live in the past. This is to retain status quo.

Though one might say, "Isn't historic preservation living in the past?" No. It is an process for economic betterment that utilizes the local buildings that set Albion aside from all other communities as a way to increase property values, create investment options and interest and promote the beauty of Albion's history.

To end this post, why do we waste time beating around the bush? Wouldn't it be easier to say what you mean and mean what you say?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Blended Family: Not a New Phenomenon

I was intrigued by a piece on Good Morning America that aired today (August 15, 2010). GMA's Weekend Co-Anchor Bianna Golodryga covered the subject.

This particular segment covered the "ins and outs" of entering into and living with a blended family. To my understanding, there is a great deal of tensions and problems associated with living in a family comprised of a step-parent, step-children or half-siblings. As should be no surprise, many adult men and women are still attempting to fall into the Cleaver family mould; a scenario that has driven many parents to the edge of insanity trying to hold true to. However, this particular "news story" (I call it a waste of time) covered the idea of "blended families" as a new occurance amd a problem for non-biological, soon-to-be parents.

There are plenty of people in the world who love to be hated, but there are many who want to try their hardest to be loved by everyone. "New" parents constantly fear that they won't be the best parents to their step-children, or will be accused of trying to take the parental position away from a biological parent. This is where the segment originates. "What are the dos and don'ts of creating a 'blended family'?"

This is what sparked my interest. The concept of blended families is one rooted deep in American history. Death was a much more common occurance 350 years ago then it is now. In fact, it was a more common occurance 80 years ago. Divorce was not uncommon either, in the mid-17th Century, the American colonies held the higest divorce rate in the world. All of this isn't new stuff.

If we look to the Chesapeake Bay region in colonial America, there is a high percentage of death from disease. Today, these are accepted facts. Older men were marrying much younger women not only because the female population was small to begin with, but disease ravaged the southern colonies. It wasn't uncommon for families to consist of children, step-children, half-children and even unrelated children. Take for example the following scenario that I put together:

John Smith = Mary Joseph
___________|             |              |___________
|                                   |                                    |
John Jr.                         Daniel                          Joseph

On a sad occurance, Mary dies from ague (malaria fever), young Joseph is just 6 months old. So what happens to the family, does John take care of them himself? No. In many cases a neighbor would care for the young children who were still nursing, caring for them just like a mother. As the common practice for the time, families were large and women were to have as many children as physically possible. John marries Mary's younger sister Jane:

John Smith = Jane Joseph
___________|             |            |___________
|                                   |                                  |
Tabitha                         Robert                          Cary

So now you have three more children who are half-siblings to John Jr., Daniel and Joseph and Jane is their step-mother. Lets make the scenario more confusing, because this did occur on many occasion.

Sadly, John is killed in an Indian raid on the village they are living in. He was about 45 years old, Jane is only 22 (first child at 16) and could have 18 more years of child birth before she physically cannot have anymore offspring (8-9 children). So she remarries:

James Corrigan = Jane Joseph Smith
_____________|               |                     |                |_____________
|                                         |                     |                                          |
Margaret                               George          Duncan                               David

So now there are a total of 10 children living in the household. Jane is the mother of 7 of the children and step-mother to 3. James is the step-father of Jane's 3 children from her first marriage and the father of the last 4 children.,Hhowever he has no connection at all to the first three children from John and Mary Smith's marriage, yet he was still to care for them and NOT as a special scenario. The children would have been cared for just as if they were his own children.

My family has had a long history of blended families as a result of death and divorce.

Take my Great Great Grandparents, Martin Spink and Bertha McColl.

Bertha McColl = James Andrews
__________|                                      |___________
|                                                                                 |
James Wallace                                                                 Bessie
James Andrews dies:

Bertha McColl Andrews = Martin Scott Spink
Winfield Scott

Martin and Bertha divorce:

Bertha McColl Andrews Spink = George Ward

My Grandmother's family was a similar scenario:

Francis Kaniecki = Veronica Sterczynski
|                   |              |             |                  |
Mary              Marion       Wanda     Rose          Anthony

Rose Romanski = John Daniels
|                 |                |             |               |
Mary       John Jr.       Frank    Stanley     Helen

Veronica and John both died of consumption:

Frank Kaniecki = Rose Romanski Daniels
|                      |
Irene             Lorraine

My Grandfather Robert Ballard's mother died from Breast Cancer in 1944, he was only 14 years old. His father, George, remarried and Robert's step-mother cared for him and his father just as if Robert was of her own blood.

Today, people treat the blended family like it is something new and special; as if it is something to be truly worried about. Perhaps it's just one of those things that people, starving for attention, build up to be some amazing thing; that they are taking such great care of children who aren't their own and should be commended for it. Here is where I see the problems:

1.) Parents who are unsure or insecure about entering into a blended family because of worries about not being able to be a good parent to their step-children are probably not going to be good parents to children that are related by blood.

2.) Children who are concerned that "new" parents are trying to replace biological parents: well, hate to say it but they are replacing them. If little Johnny's mother and father get divorced and Johnny's daddy finds a hot, young girl to marry, he is clearly replacing his wife and subsiquently the mother of his children. Cold hard facts and shouldn't be treated as "Oh, I'm not trying to replace your (insert insignificant spouse who is no-good because he/she is a gold-digger and doesn't give me any)."

Parenting step-children shouldn't be a matter of special dos and don'ts, good parenting is good parenting...look at history...

Monday, July 5, 2010

Tips and Advice for Up and Coming History Majors (Part 3)

Ok, so in this last part of my three part post on being a history major, I want to address the subject of finding a job.

Being an history major has become synonymous with no job. This usually is because the student is stuck in the mindset that a history major can do two things; be a teacher, or a historian.

Truth is, any one with a history degree is considered a historian whether you are employed as one for a specific location or not. However, teaching is not the only other occupation for one who has studied history. For this reason it becomes important that a students chooses a minor or second major that gels with history. There are a number of options out there for dual majors or minors and almost anything will fit. Here are some examples of minors or dual majors:

Political-Science (classic)
Business (often overlooked)
Computer Science
English (always helpful for the career historian)

The list is almost endless. I haven't heard of too many historians dual majoring or minoring in science but I don't see why it couldn't work. Of course any study of these subjects could be used as a specialization of the history major. So here are some breakdowns of those above mentioned options for minors and dual majors:

Poli-Sci: Anyone who wants to engage in Politics, Law or perhaps you want to be an historian who specializes in Political history.

Business: If you want to be a museum curator or librarian, business skills can be key for running or operating an institution, advertising, etc. Since running an institution is largely business based, many museums look for curators who have background in financial management and advertising. It's just as important as having the degree in history.

Music: If you want to be a librarian, there are options at the Grad. School level to work in a music library.

Computer Science: With the digital age at its height, the ability to use and operate computers is becoming a must for many historical organizations. As the older librarians and curators retire, libraries are looking to digitize and use computers for data organization and advertisement.

English: Helps your writings, what else can I say :D

Art: Art Historians are always a hot commodity. I have a few works that I would like to have appraised, can't find an art historian to do it though...

So what jobs should an history major consider when working through school? Well you have plenty of options and they don't stop at what school you are going to work at. As an history major you could be a:

Museum Curator
College Professor

That list goes on and on forever. I have had plenty of discussions with employers and professors who will stick to their guns when they say that history majors are one of the most sought out peoples for almost any job available. The reason for this is the background an history major receives in critical thinking and problem solving. The skills students learn through research and writing help to develop those skills as well as the ability to communicate and work well with others.

I hope this helps you out as you further move towards becoming a history major. I am always available to give more information to anyone who is interested so don't hesitate to contact me,


Tips and Advice for Up and Coming History Majors (Part 2)

So, here are some tips and suggestions that I can offer to up and coming history majors:

1.) Do your homework, and I don't mean schoolwork...well you do need to complete school work as well...anyhow:

What I do mean is closely look at the history departments of the colleges you are interested in. I never examined the history department before I entered SUNY Brockport mainly because I wasn't 100% sure if I wanted to be a history major. I got lucky. The faculty is one of the key factors of how the department operates. Examine their field of study, what did they write their dissertation on? Find out what classes they teach. This will run parallel to another point I will make below, but if you want to study American History, don't go to a college where most of the professors have written dissertations and books on European subjects. Most professors have a wide range of interests but if they clearly won't be as knowledgeable about a subject they haven't written on as they would be about one they have.

2.) You better like reading and writing.

I say this with the gentlest intentions. Studying history isn't a gravy major by any means, so don't study it looking for an easy way through college. Plus at that rate you will not only have a hard time finding a job afterwards but you will ruin it for someone who really has a passion for history.

Anyhow, as a student at Brockport I was expected to read approximately 100 pages total on average for the next class. This usually meant if I had 100 pages from classes on Monday, they would be due for class on Wednesday. These readings were not optional, they were used for class discussions, writing assignments and exams. Now note that I said on average. The amount of reading depended on what classes I was taking. A typical 300 level course which would be considered and average history course at Brockport typically included 30-40 pages per class of reading. I have taken my fair share of 300 level courses that had me reading 50-60 pages per class. When you enter into upper division courses you may find yourself enrolled in a reading intensive class which could place you at 120-150 pages per class. This could mean that you will have 200+ pages of reading due for the next class.

Again, the amount varies per class and per professor. You should also be prepared to write. I have admitted to many of my professors that I gained much more experience as a writer in my history classes than I ever had in an English class. I have taken courses where a two page writing assignment was scheduled on that class's readings. So 30-40 pages of reading and a 2 page review. Probably one of the easiest assignments to have. I have taken courses where a 200 page book is assigned, one week to read it and a 2 page paper on it. The most difficult aspect of those is writing within the length requirements.

There will also be classes that are writing intensive, where you learn to do what an historian does best; write. What I mean by this is the courses are geared towards proper research methods and paper writing. We were required to take one class designated to the writing process to which we developed a 20 page research paper. That's all the course was for. As part of major requirements we had to take several upper division, 400 level, courses. These courses included the traditional lecture aspect of class along side of an independent research projects which typically involved a 15-20 page research paper. This meant that we were required to not only read for class lecture and discussion but to go to the libraries, archives and any other place with resources to read for our research papers.

*Horror Story* For one particular class we were given a book to read each week, a book review on each of those books along side of a 15-20 page research paper. That was for one class, I was also taking another upper division class which included 40-50 pages of reading each night and a 15-20 page research paper. I suppose no one ever said college was easy.

3.) Focus on what you enjoy the most.

History is about passion and enjoying what you do. No one wants to be stuck reading, writing and lecturing on 5th Century drum music in sub-Sahara Africa unless they are genuinly interested in the subject. If you have a particular interest in Civil War, take as many courses as you can that deal with that subject. Not only do you get more from it, you'll do better in the class and can prepare yourself for further education. For example, I have been interested in local history, immigration and architecture (a wide range of topics). I took a course on the United States 1870-1940, for my research paper I wrote a 30 page paper on Polish immigration to the U.S. That paper was submitted for a writing award. I took a course on New York State History, so I wrote a 30 page paper on the economic and social connections with Cobblestone Masonry. For a Colonial North America class, I chose to write a paper on Puritans and King Philip's War. I have always been interested in Religions of Early America and several ancestors of mine participated in King Philip's War, I combined the two interests and wrote a paper which was submitted for a writing award and presented at "Scholar's Day" at Brockport.

My greatest papers came from subjects I am interested in.

4.) Engage in History outside of school.

I say this for several reasons. The most important reason is that with the sheer number of history majors out there, you can have all of the A grades you want, come out of college with a 4.0 GPA and have 0 experience. Because of that 0 experience you will have a hard time finding a job. I don't say this because I was a B student but because I have talked to employers who feel that way.

If you are interested in museum work, try to intern or volunteer with a museum that is local to your college or home. If you are interested in archives or library work, try to find a library, archives or local historical society that you can volunteer or intern with.

Working with various historical groups will ensure that you gain workplace experience that employers will be looking for. This will also help getting into Graduate School if your grades aren't the best. Over the past two years I have sat on the Board of Directors for a local museum, been an officer for a local genealogical society, been a commissioner for my village's preservation commission as well as an active participant in other historical associations and museums. This shows that I have a wide range of experience from communication and people skills to financial management.

These are not the only tips that I could offer but for the sake of time and space I will limit the list to these four major points.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Tips and Advice for Up and Coming History Majors (Part 1)

The first question I received was asked by a friend who has just graduated from High School and is making his move on towards college. His major....history. Smart man in my opinion. However, the field of history is not for the faint of heart. I'm going to give you a breakdown in some misconceptions regarding the history major, a little bit of what to expect and some tips that I learned going through college whether the easy way or the hard way. So here goes nothing.

We all go through grade school learning our watered down versions of historical events. In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue, the Civil War was fought over slavery and the age old classic; the Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand started the First World War. Though these "facts" have some truth to them, they are far from what a college history student will deal with.

I will use New York's public education system as an example mainly because I am unaware of how testing works in other states. New York State requires students to take regents exams. The U.S. History and Global regents exams are cut and dry, mostly fact based multiple choice with a confounded DBQ and essays. Though there are essays in the exam, for the most part the test is focused on the 100 multiple choice questions covering from the founding of Jamestown to the end of the Cold War. Even when taking AP courses which claim to be college based, they still focus on this format for a test. Just the topics are more detailed than in the regents exam.

In this aspect, for students who come out of high school thinking they want to major in history will most likely see the field as nothing but the memorization of facts with some slight moments of writing. Nothing all that fancy, just a broader range of topics and perhaps a little more detailed. I was partially of this mindset when I completed my Junior year of High School. It slowly died off as I progressed into Community College but fully disappeared by the time I entered my four year institution. I had taken any and all possible history courses that were considered college level in High School including AP classes and by the time I had completed C.C. I had completed almost all of the available history courses that they offered.

After all of that, one thing remains true; your college history class WILL be about historical events from the past. That's about the only part of any preconceived notion that is true. So if history classes aren't about memorizing dates and names, taking multiple choice tests and watching the history channel, what IS it about?

Well the college history major is about the whys and hows not the whos and whens. This doesn't mean that remembering dates, names and places isn't important or is useless, it just means that those aren't as important as understanding WHY something happened.

Lets use the example of WWI. Traditionally students are taught in high school that the war was caused by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo (and yes I do know that date off the top of my head). Perhaps this WAS the catalyst that threw the Western World into a gruesome five year conflict, however few students could tell you the 43 year history of mini-European conflicts, alliance build-ups, treaties and social clamour that occurred prior to 1914.

This is what historians try to understand, a changing environment in order to fully comprehend why events happened the way they did and why people act the way they do. Unlike Anthropology, History is not static but looks to engage the student in active learning and critical thinking to develop new ideas and theories on old events and people.

I am going to break this post down into several parts, otherwise it would be very long. In the next part I will include some tips and hints for choosing schools, areas of study, what to expect and then some job ideas so when you are going through college you can think about what you would like to do when you graduate and plan accordingly. There are more jobs for history majors than just teaching.

Friday, July 2, 2010

New Blog Postings

Hello everyone. I figured I would give a new spin to my blog postings this month. I hope that you, the readers will respond to my request on this one.

For the next month I want you to ask me questions. I will take those questions and develop them into blog posts for the next month...or until you stop sending me questions! I will take questions on just about anything; Genealogy, American History, Local History (Orleans/Monroe). If you are curious about it, need help with family history research or just want to test my knowledge of history, toss me an e-mail.


I look forward to your questions, comments and ideas.

Matt Ballard

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Preservation is an Endangered Effort

(MB) - It seems nowadays that the art of Historic Preservation has gone downhill. Almost 35 years ago, the United States was scrambling to protect our Nation's Landmarks in preparation for the celebration of the Bicentennial. However, the realm of preservation seems to be following the greater scheme of economic and social trends. Just as many other aspects of everyday life, we have again fallen victim to laziness and selfish behavior.

So you probably are asking, "How is the lack of preservation a selfish act?" I assume that you could come up with your own conclusions regarding the laziness aspect of the above comment.

I have been a member of a Historic Preservation Commission in my hometown of Albion, NY. Over the past year and a half I have attended training sessions, read excessive amounts of articles, booklets and brochures about every possible preservation method, grant and tax credit available. However, that will never add up to what I have gained from first hand experience and observation.

That first hand experience and observation has allowed me to see the true motives and desires of a small percentage of the population. A percentage of the population driven by greed, selfishness and hidden motives. Though the larger portion of the population supports the preservation of our local, state and national treasures, the small portion outweighs the larger group with boisterous activity and threats of lawsuits and bullying. There is no need to mention names because those who engage in such behavior are well aware that they do so. Off of the same point, those who would complain about such things being put in writing should realize that I am just as much entitled to my opinion as anyone else regardless of my position.

To those who are not local to me, I apologize because I know that you do not have an interest in my local matters. However, I am aware that my hometown is not the only place facing these issues. You should also take careful note that any local issue at any time can easily spill onto the state or national scene, effecting preservation efforts across the country. I use this time not only to bring attention to a local problem which has grown out of hand but also to expel something that causes me a great deal of grief.

So, what exactly is causing all of my dissatisfaction with preservation efforts in my area? Two particular buildings and a lack of support from local politicians.

The two properties are well past their prime, as clearly visible in these pictures. However, both buildings share a common bond; they are set to become parking lots. At the last Village Board meeting, the Mayor vowed that the first building was not set to be demolished for parking, though the intent of the $10,500 purchase offer was for that reason.

In my 22 year existence on this planet, with all 22 in the Village of Albion in what I deem as a historic area, I only recall two buildings falling to the wrecking ball. One was actually a "sister" building to the first property, having been torn down and turned into a park. The other property was the old Orleans Hotel. I recall my father taking me to the corner of Bank St. and Platt St. to watch that building burn, as firemen attempted to control the fire. It has since provided parking for the local VFW Post and Village Offices.

As things are set, I will watch two buildings come down in the course of a year. Years of neglect and abuse from the elements have led to this point. Even though they can only exist as a shell of what their former glory, they still have endless possibilities if the right person were to come along. In respect to the owners, I understand that it is impossible to retain these properties forever with no foreseeable gain in the future, but shouldn't we make every last effort to save those pieces of history which are most valuable to our society?

Lets take Mt. Vernon for example. This beautiful home of George Washington was not always in the pristine condition that it is in today.

This photograph is of Mt. Vernon around 1860, just before the Mt. Vernon Ladies Association took control of the property. Numerous changes and additions were made to the home after it left the hands of Washington. Those changes have since been reversed to this:

I'm not here to say that these two buildings in little old Albion are as significant as Mt. Vernon. What I am saying is that just like these two Albion buildings, Mt. Vernon was neglected and altered yet rose from the ashes into a beautiful landmark, preserved for the future.

Although I am not 100% sure of the history behind the first building, I do know that the second served as a carriage factory as well as a factory for diner cars during the 20th Century. It also served as a Machine and Woodworking Shop under the ownership of E. K. Hart, one of the more influential members of Albion society, who was engaged in State politics and past owner of Heart Island in the Thousand Islands (Boldt Castle fame).

A recent study by the Main Street Alliance has shown that during peak hours on the busiest days of the week, parking usage tops out at around 50%. At the same time, certain business owners are on the rampage, declaring that parking is not plentiful enough. How can this be if 50% of parking spaces are still open?

Simple, most people are too lazy to walk further than 25 feet to a store front. When there are 2-3 parking spaces available directly in front of a business, there is no way to address that issue by creating more spaces. The new spaces will be located away from the building and defeat the purpose of the complaint. Of other concerns raised, private business owners want the Village to purchase derelict buildings and install more parking for their business to use. However, if the business located within a building is taking up not only the owners full stash of private spaces but municipal spots as well, this becomes unfair to other residents, out of town visitors and village tax payers. If the PRIVATE spots available to the business in your building ONLY are full, you should consider purchasing extra land/buildings and developing them yourself.
In the end, Albion has the potential to become just as beautiful as the Town of Pittsford or the Village of Medina. It takes time, energy, cooperation and most importantly, money. However, to rely on others to pay for that to happen is not only irresponsible to the Village today but irresponsible to future generations who will not have a historic downtown to admire.

Economic betterment takes initiative and drive, not words. Sitting back, talking the good talk does nothing but raise hopes and results only in hurt feelings and a failed local economy. It's time to walk the walk, put your money where your mouth is and most importantly, work together to make Albion and all of the other historically significant towns and villages across the nation thriving areas, proud of the historic treasures they posses.

So are both properties destined to become parking lots? Time will tell.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Murals and a Website

I am sure this has been long overdue, but after nearly 10 years of personal genealogical and historical research about St. Mary's Assumption Church, I will be establishing a website dedicated for just that subject. The plan is for the website to be comprehensive, covering everything from church design and architecture to art and statuary, 115 years of history including the church, the parish, the community and the people as well as access to primary source documents and photographs. For those on dial-up, I apologize, but this one is going to take a while to load up for you.

The site will not be up until I have the majority of the material placed on it, saves me money while I make sure that the site that is up is worthwhile to the viewers. The cost for the website will be a donation to the church and community, from myself. For those who enjoy what is placed on there, contributions both monetary and information based will always be welcomed but not required.

Below I will include a short sample of what will appear on the website. This particular portion describes Marion Rzeznik's The Annunciation located on the south ceiling of the interior.

The Annunciation

The Annunciation marks the beginning of Jesus' life and is the First Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. Conveniently, this particular mural is located almost directly above the stained glass window which depicts the same event, however the mural is a different interpretation of the event.

As depicted here, the Angel Gabriel descends from heaven to give word to Mary that she is to bear a child. The dove atop represents the Holy Spirit and a ray of light shines upon Mary to signify that she has been chosen.

This particular image is contrary to traditional depictions for several reasons. Typically, Gabriel is standing or kneeling infront of Mary. In the stained glass window, Gabriel is kneeling infront of Mary. Traditionally the interior of Mary's personal quarters is not shown, instead The Annunciation takes place in an open garden or another section of the house.

You will also notice the presence of two plants; the fern on the left and the lily on the right. The fern is often a symbol of fascination, confidence and a secret bond of love. The lily is the traditional symbol of Mary, often symbolizing virginity, purity and chastity as well as majesty. It is difficult to discern what type of tree grows outside of the window.

You can also see the presence of clouds surrounding Gabriel. These clouds symbolizes that the message comes from heaven and often is present to show a connection between heaven and earth.

It also may appear as though Gabriel is holding something in his right hand. In fact it appears to just be a smudge in the paint. Gabriel's stance with his right hand pointed upward and bent at the elbow while the left hand moving into a positon directed downward is similar to the "Sign of Heaven and Earth," again connecting the message he brings to heaven and earth.

Mary's arms are crossed to represent what is known as the "Sign of Resignation," as a symbol of her obedience to God in receiving His message. Mary kneels infront of an open book to which she is said to have read the prophecy of Isaiah which says that a virgin shall bear a son.

Mary is wearing clothing of red and blue color. Blue traditionally is a representation of heavenly love and red, though used as a representation of the passion, is also used to depict love. Gabriel's red and white clothing show both love and spiritual transcendence. Everything else remains in neutral earth tones, making the two figures standout.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Discovery of the Homeland

After years of searching for the exact villages where my family and most of Albion and Medina's Polish Communities came from, everything fell into place at one moment. I was astounded that after years of looking at the same records that I finally had a revelation in reading old handwriting. Regardless, the presence of village names numbering somewhere around 5 to 8 along with the presence of one distinct region name allowed me to locate the true homeland by finding the region where all of these villages existed, most within 2 miles of each other.

I know that others before me have tried, through their own lineage search, to pinpoint exact locations to where their families were from. Most have suggested that their families originated in Pomerania, this is not to discount those suggestions. It is possible that many families, including mine and those of others in Albion, relocated to Pomerania prior to their immigration to America. I cannot, however, fail to note the place names recorded amongst the books at St. Mary's Assumption Church. Perhaps the names recorded by Rev. Castaldi at St. Joseph's Church would prove to be unreliable, but those recorded by Rev. Swinko and Rev. Dyminski, both Polish immigrants themselves.

So what village names DO appear in the record books of St. Mary's Assumption Church? Of course figuring in my unrefined ability to read old handwriting, my lack of knowledge regarding the Polish language and place names along with misspellings and abbreviations on behalf of the Priests, I can discern a list of villages recorded with my ancestors names including:
Haber or Waber

If you click on the above map, it will blow it up and you will notice Chelmno, Obory, Zyglad and Papowo.

The reason I can be so sure of this location as being the origin of my Polish families is the presence of Culm. Culm is a distinct region, specifically the English spelling for Kulm, now known as Chelmno. From Kulm meaning hill, the area was most commonly refered to as Kulm throughout its history, especially during the Nazi Occupation. Chelmno was used to exterminate 150,000 Poles, Jews, Gypsies and Soviet POWs between 1941 and 1943. Upon the initial occupation in 1939, many of the Poles within the surrounding villages were killed. Those who survived hid in the woods located in the countryside.

Poland's history is rather interesting and one might not even consider it Polish History, but the history of Russia, Germany and Austria. Years of land divisions between the three countries, starting in the late 18th Century rid Europe of the Kingdom of Poland, as depicted in the painting below.

When looking at the history of Poland in the late 18th Century and through the 19th Century, it becomes difficult to understand how a person could ever consider themselves Polish. Poland had ceased to exist for nearly 100 years by the time my Great Grandfather Francis Kaniecki was born in the Kulm region of what is now Poland. At the time of his birth, Prussia or the newly unified Germany would have been in control of the region. Perhaps it was the presence of the Polish language which helped to retain some sort of national pride throughout those 100+ years. Perhaps the culture and will of each passing generation helped to hold on to the sense of Poland.

I have to admit though in all honesty, the most difficult thing to wrap my mind around is that not only was my Great Grandfather Francis Kaniecki born under the reign of Germany's Iron Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, but my 2nd Great Grandfather Anthony Kaniecki was only two years old when Bismarck became Chancellor and lived most of his childhood and early adult life in a culturally and religiously oppressive environment. Besides all of this, my 3rd Great Grandfather Mathias Kaniecki was born amongst the turmoil of the Napoleonic Wars. Through my research, I have felt the most connected to my Kaniecki family simply because the traditions and family that I was the closest with growing up was my Polish family and traditions. Its amazing to feel so close to that, it's something most people don't think about on a regular basis.

Chelmno shows up in this map, north of Torun within the Prussian division of Poland. This map represents the early divisions of Poland in the late 18th Century.

So, in examining the records at St. Mary's Assumption Church, the majority, if not all of the Polish immigrants are listed as being from the German Sector either Borussia (Latin for Prussia) or Posen. Posen is now refered to as Poznan in Wielkopolskie or the Greater Poland voivodeship.

The Greater Poland - Wielkopolskie Coat of Arms
The Kujawsko-Pomorskie Coat of Arms

Regardless of whether or not the Albion Polish Community and my particular family is strictly Pomeranian isn't important. In fact, Chelmno and Swiecie Counties are located just to the south of Pomorskie, which is the Pomeranian Voivodship. Interestingly enough, the coat of arms for each region seems to tell a story about the cultural background. The presence of the Griffin seems to be distinctly German in background whereas the Falcon has become the mainstay for Poland, as often is paired with the flag. We see the presence of the Falcon in Wielkopolskie's coat of arms and the presence of the Griffin in the coat of arms for Pomorskie and Zachodnipomorskie. However, in Kujawsko-Pomorskie the coat of arms is half Griffin and half Falcon...interesting?

The Pomorskie Coat of Arms
The Zachodniopomorskie Coat of Arms

The following map will show the current voivodships. Kujawsko-Pomorskie is the green colored region in the north. To the north of that is Pomorskie and to the west of Kujawsko-Pomorskie is Wielkopolskie. Most of Albion's Polish population is from Wielkopolskie and Kujawsko-Pomorskie, both which were under German/Prussian control for the 19th Century and a good portion of the 20th Century. Below the map is the coat of arms for the old Province of Pomerania as it was under Prussian control. You'll notice that the flags contain both the Eagle which is traditionally associated with Prussia and the Griffin. The Griffin symbolizes fortitude and wisdom.

The next step is to send away to Chelmno County, most likely the Roman Catholic Churches, one being named Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (same as Albion) and request the marriage certificate of my Great Great Grandparents Anthony Kaniecki and Marianna Tkaczyk to confirm that they are infact from that region.

So here are some of the surnames I found, in Albion, as being from Chelmno/Swiecie Counties:
Zwiewka (Zwifka)
Rajs - Rais - Reis - Rice
The Chelmno County Coat of Arms