Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A New "Color" to Genealogy

I thought I would post this before I hit the hay for the night.

I have researched my Grandpa Traub's lines quite in-depth considering most of his family had strong ties to Orleans and Monroe Counties. This evening, I had stumbled across some records online from Cornwall, England that allowed me to trace the LASKEY line back to the 1760s.

As my 4th Great Grandfather, Malachi Laskey was from Gerrans, Cornwall, England and likely a descendant of Poles who relocated to England in the 1500s, I knew little of his wife, Huldah Johnson who was apparently born in Vermont.

As Malachi immigrated with his family to Essex County, New York in 1843, Malachi and Huldah were married in Ticonderoga, NY where the two lived before coming to Orleans County. Huldah is listed with her mother and father and one sister, Mary, in the 1850 census. Her parents, Thomas and Lucinda Johnson, appear in the 1860 and 1870 Federal Census records for Ticonderoga, NY. Although these records were found a while back, I paid particular notice to a new piece of information that I had previously missed:

1870 Federal Census: Ticonderoga, NY

1860 Federal Census: Ticonderoga, NY
You'll have to click on the images to see the writing more clearly. Thomas Johnson is listed in the 1850 Census (not pictured) as a Mulatto (marked M under "color"). In the 1860 Census, Thomas is listed as Black (marked B under "color") and again, in 1870, he is listed as Mulatto. His wife, Lucinda, is listed in all of the census records as White. Although this find is fairly recent, it is wrong to jump to conclusions and assume that Thomas is 1.) The son of one white parent and one black parent, or 2.) That Thomas had any recent mixed-race ancestry. As Thomas and Lucinda were my 5th Great Grandparents, if any discernable traits relating to skin color were passed down, they have since disappeared, that is if Thomas himself was visibly discernable in regards to skin color. Either way, further research is a must in this case.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Operation: Save a Headstone

For work, today's tasks included trimming and blowing grass off the headstones at the Holy Cross Cemetery (Old St. Joseph's Cemetery) on Brown Rd. just north of the Village. When I finished that task, I set to work on trimming hedges and grass at the New Cemetery on the Avenue. Let me remind you that this is no small task, so I had plenty of time to think about things.

The other gents took on the task of re-setting over 12 flat headstones in the A Section of the New St. Joseph's Cemetery. This not only involved pulling them out of their position, but also required that the exposed hole be swept of dirt, roots be chopped out and a new, thin bed of concrete be placed to conform to the abnormal shapes of the stone's underside. Although walking the cemetery with a weedeater for 7 hours in the sun was no easy task, neither was this.

I had the chance to work on two of the stones, which were heaved up by roots, dirt and in one case, an ant colony. It was back breaking labor, but when the stones were set and finished off with dirt around the edges and some grass seed, it looked extremely nice. The only problem to arise was the exceedingly large number of footstones that need this "special" touch.

There are only a small number of stones that need to be removed from their setting to be reset; ensuring the stone is level and does not rock back and forth. This type of unstable stone has created and issue for lawnmowers, which seems to enjoy the flipping of these stones up into the deck; potentially chipping the stones or stopping the mower dead in its tracks. Thank God for that...

However, mowing and trimming for the last 4 weeks has given me the chance to learn that cemetery, to know where every headstone sits and who is buried where. It has also given me the chance to see the countless number of flat headstones that line the rows throughout the cemetery. The existing policy has been one row of upright stones, followed by a row of flat stones, followed by a row of upright stones and so on. This allows for ease of maintenance on the grass.

What I came to notice from these past weeks was the overwhelming need to "edge" the majority of the flat stones within the cemetery. In many cases, the only hint of a flat stone is a small circle of exposed stone, surrounded by grass and sod growth. In other cases, a yellowed rectangle or circle of grass hints to a spot where the soil is not deep enough to support tall and lush grass growth. Blame for such issues cannot and should not be placed on cemetery workers from the last 5 years, nor the last 10 years as it is a problem that has been developing for many years. In its current state, the sheer number of stones needing special attention is far too many to merit the denotion of a paid hard days work to it. Such a task would take months of work.

Instead, I offer up a suggestion to the passer-by. Next time you visit this cemetery, to water the flowers on the grave of a loved one, bring a small trowel to help carve away some of the green growth from a neighboring flat stone.

The true purpose of this post is to highlight a "project" that I am going to attempt to undertake (in my spare time of course). I will try, every day, to clean up 2-3 flat stones; pulling away the grass and sweeping away the dirt. I'll post my progress as often as I remember to, maybe doing some genealogy and personal histories of the people whose stones I am cleaning up.

A couple things to remember. Work/garden gloves will be your best friend. Since the root structures that cover these stones cannot penetrate deep into soil, instead growing to the sides, the grass will pull off in sheets. Bring a trowel to cut away the grass and roots from the soil around the stone.

Please don't dig "trenches" around the stone. These stones were meant to have the dirt level with the stone. Carving away the stiff dirt from the edges and sides will compromise the integrity of the hole and foundation. People have done this in the past and the stone becomes loose within its hole, causing the stone to rock which has led to damage to the lawnmower decks. It could potentially cause injury to workers and cemetery visitors. The simple edging of a stone, with a rectangular "hole" in the grass make for a sharp appearance and will help contribute to the beauty and care of the cemetery.

If you clean up a headstone, send me pictures and a story and I'll post it here! mballard@rochester.rr.com

Here's a sample of what I will be doing:

Stone after it was wetted and the left half lightly scrubbed.

Partially cleaned, mud has been removed from the outer border. Additional scrubbing needed.

The final result, free of mud, dirt, tree sap and algae/mold.
 This is the stone of my Great Grandparents, Francis and Rose Romanski Kaniecki. Also buried here is Rose's first husband, John S. Daniels. Frank and Rose were both immigrants to the United States from Poland, arriving in 1891 and 1887 respectively with their parents. Frank was three years old and Rose, just several months.

Francis S. Kaniecki
b: 3 Oct 1886 in Obory, Kujawsko-Pomorskie/West Prussia
d: 18 Apr 1957 in Albion, Orleans, New York, U.S.
m: 19 Mar 1919 at St. Mary's Assumption Church in Albion, Orleans, New York, U.S.
Parents: Anthony & Mary Tkaczyk Kaniecki

Rose Romanski
b: 1887 in Papowo Biskupie, Kujawsko-Pomorskie/West Prussia
d: 28 Sept 1959 in Albion, Orleans, New York, U.S.
Parents: John & Anna Szybanski Romanski

John S. Daniels
b: 10 May 1885 in Albion, Orleans, New York, U.S.
d: 22 Mar 1918 in Albion, Orleans, New York, U.S. from Consumption
Parents: Stephen & Frances Golowski Danielewski

Frank Kaniecki was engaged in a number of occuptions including quarry labor, canning factory laborer, plumber, grocery store owner/restaurant owner. He had married Rose Romanski in March of 1919, almost one year after the death of her first husband John Daniels. Frank was a widower, the husband of Veronica Sterczynski who had passed away in 1917. Her burial location is unknown, but likely in the Old St. Joseph's Cemetery.