I hope to share research, information, tips, and a little of my family history with others following the path to greater genealogical awareness. Let the search for enlightenment continue...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Photo Story: The End, For Now

Antonina (Bulak) Szerejko and Cynthia Shenette
(Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette) This is where my story ends, at least for now.  It's been an interesting journey, and I've learned a lot.  History isn't simple and can't be defined only by the famous.  More often than not history is made up of ordinary people doing ordinary things, though sometimes life circumstances result in ordinary people being called upon to do extraordinary things.  We are all unique, and thank goodness for that.

You've read my story.  What's yours?


Other Posts You Might Like:

Heritage Zen Dives In: NaBloPoMo!
Meditation: The Strength of Ordinary Women
The Stories My Grandmother Told Me
Reflecting on My American Experience this Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Photo Story: A New Career for Dad

Henry A. Shenette, 1960 Yearbook Photo 
(Stockbridge School of Agriculture Yearbook Privately Held by Cynthia Shenette; Text Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette) Dad fought in 11 major battles during World War II and managed to come out unscathed.  After all he had been through during the war, ironically he was severely injured in a training accident while teaching at the Naval School in Newport.  While working with a new recruit Dad got his hand almost completely torn off in a piece of gun machinery on ship.  Thankfully, there was a doctor at the Newport Naval hospital who my mom praised as one of the pioneers of reconstructive surgery.  The doctor managed to reattach the torn part of my dad's hand, and despite a infection and long hospitalization Dad recovered use of his hand.  Unfortunately, he did not recover enough to be able continue as a gunner with the Navy.

Dad retired from the military in 1957 after six years in the U.S. Army and 15 years in the Navy.  Mom said Dad was somewhat at a loss as to do with the rest of his life.  While he was in the Navy my mom had encourage him to complete his high school equivalency.  Dad decided to continue his education at the Stockbridge School of Agriculture where he majored in floriculture.  He graduated in 1960 and became the first person in his family to obtain a college degree.  He eventually operated his own successful landscaping business.  He was still actively working as a landscaper when he died in 1985 at the age of 69.


Other Posts You Might Like:

U. S. Naval School, Newport, RI - Military Monday
Where I Grew Up - Wordless Wednesday
Thinking of Dad On Father's Day
Wordless Wednesday: A Good Catch

Photo Story: Passages

My Grandparents, Antonina (Bulak) Szerejko and Adolf Szerejko
(Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette) The 1950s was a decade of joy and sorrow in the extreme for my family.  My mother and her siblings were married and my grandparents were enjoying their new role as grandparents.  My grandfather was soon due to retire at 65.  He and my grandmother had purchase a property in 1940 with three acres of land in a still rural part of Worcester.  Their intention was to start a plant and flower business for their retirement years.  Gardening was one of their joys in life. You can see one of my favorite photos of my grandparents and their flowers here.

Their plans were disrupted and their joy turned to grief with the sudden, tragic death of one of my mother's siblings in 1955.  I truly believe it was a loss neither my grandmother nor my mother for that matter, recovered from.  Grief also took it's toll on my grandfather.  My mother said she always believed the stress of that loss contributed to my grandfather's death at the age of 64 in 1959 just before his retirement.  In addition to the losses on my mother's side of the family, my Dad's mother, Marie (Comeau) Shenette LeMay also died in 1959.


Other Posts You Might Like:

The Stories My Grandmother Told Me
My Grandmother - Wordless Wednesday
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun...
Wordless Wednesday: June is Wedding Month at Heritage Zen

Monday, November 28, 2011

Photo Story: Mom and Dad Get Married

Left to Right: Antonina (Bulak) Szerejko, Christine (Szerejko) Shenette, Henry Shenette, Marie (Comeau) Shenette
(Original Images and Text, Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette)  My parents met through mutual friends while my mom was working for the United States Department of Agriculture in Worcester.  The other secretary in the USDA office, Shirley Johnson, was a good friend of my mother, and her husband Wallace was a childhood friend of my dad.

Left to Right: Unidentified, Margaret Chenette, Unidentified, Rosalie (Wagner) Massey, Edward Chenette, Christine (Szerejko) Shenette, Henry Shenette, Wallace Johnson?
Mom and Dad were married on June 13, 1953 at Our Lady of Czestochowa in Worcester, MA.  A reception followed at the Sterling Inn in Sterling, MA. There was some question as to whether the reception would go on as scheduled, because a massive tornado blew through town four days before my parents wedding, devastating the northern end of the city.  Guests managed to find a route around the destruction, and the reception went on as scheduled.  After the wedding my parents took a honeymoon to Montreal and visited relatives on their trip home.

Left to Right: Unidentified, Helen Bulak, Christine (Szerejko) Shenette, Henry Shenette
My mom moved from Worcester to Newport where Dad was stationed with the Navy.  Mom said they were lucky, because they didn't have to move every two years like most Navy families.  Dad was an instructor at the Naval School in Newport, so they stayed in Newport until he retired from the Navy in 1957.


Other Posts You Might Like:

The Worcester Tornado, June 9, 1953 - Those Places Thursday
Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad! - Wordless Wednesday
U.S. Naval School, Newport RI - Military Monday
Wordless Wednesday: A June Wedding

Photo Story: Seeing the World

USS Charles R. Ware in Port, Rouen, France
(Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette) I am certain my love of travel comes from my parents.  I was always fascinated by my dad's stories about his travels with the Navy.  He traveled everywhere--Australia, the Far East, Africa, Europe, Cuba, South America.  Everywhere.  After World War II Dad served on the destroyer, USS Charles R. Ware (DD-865) which traveled to the Arctic circle, Europe, and the Mediterranean.  For a photo of my dad on ship in the Arctic, see here.

My mom also loved to travel, though her travels were less exotic than my dad's.  Mom would save up her vacation until she accrued a total of three or four weeks time and take a trip somewhere in the United States.  One time she traveled by train in a sleeper car to New Orleans with my aunt Helen Bulak, but most of the time she went by bus by herself.  She took a bus across country stopping in Chicago and Salt Lake City.  Mom slept on the bus which made a rest stop each morning for people to freshen up. Apparently travelers could rent a pillow on the bus to make sleeping more comfortable.  From Salt Lake she continued on to California where stayed with friends of my grandparents and visited Yosemite National Park. On the way home she stopped in Arizona at the Grand Canyon.  You can see a photo of her riding to the bottom of the canyon with a mule train here.


Other Posts You Might Like:

Trip to Poland, 1937 (An Ongoing) Series: Bon Voyage
California, Here I Come - Wordless Wednesday
Memories of the M/S Pilsudski? An Author Wants You!
Trip to Poland, 1937 (An Ongoing Series): News on Ship

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Photo Story: Peace and Changes

My Mother's Cousin Celina (Szerejko) Gzell and Son, Warsaw, Poland, Late 1940s 
(Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) Cynthia ShenetteFor the family in Poland post World War II was a time of change and upheaval.  My grandfather Adolf's brother Feliks and his wife were civilian casualties of the war.   Their children survived however.  One son served in the Polish Army and was captured by the Germans.  He eventually ended up in a DP camp in Germany after the war and stayed there until he was allowed to immigrate to the United States.

My grandfather's brothers Henryk and Jan survived the war.  Jan lost one son to Soviet violence shortly after the war.  The Soviets were not friends of the Polish people.  A letter from one of  my grandfather's relatives said that to remain in Soviet occupied Poland would be "a slow starvation." Given the family letters that I've read I've always felt that post traumatic stress disorder was probably epidemic within the civilian population after World War II and not just a problem for those in the military.

My Dad and his three brothers who served overseas returned to the United States.  Their father Frank Shenette died in June of 1945 just before the end of the war.  My mom told me that my dad participated in one of the ticker tape parades in New York City.  Apparently he was qualified to operate a tank from his training in the Army and was chosen to drive a tank during the parade.  After the war Dad reenlisted into the Navy where he served until he retired from the military in 1957.

Mom's job at the Ration Board ended with the conclusion of the war.  She found work at the local office of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the Federal Building in downtown Worcester where she worked until she married my dad in 1953.


Other Posts You Might Like:

Chopin Rising
Post World War II "Care" Packages - Amanuensis Monday
Where They Lived: Every Address Tells a Story
Leokadia (Szymanska) and Feliks Szerejko - Wordless Wednesday

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Photo Story: The Occupation of Tokyo Bay

Henry A. Shenette
Certificate Awarded to Third Fleet Landing Force, Task Force 31
(Certificate Privately Held by Cynthia Shenette; Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette) At the end of World War II my dad was attached to the United States Marines and served with the United States Third Fleet's Task Force 31 which was involved in the occupation of Tokyo Bay.  He was part of the Yokosuka landing force which was deployed on August 30, 1945. My dad was a gunnery expert and his role was to dismantle the guns the Japanese had hidden in the caves in and around the Yokosuka Naval Base.  

The Indiana was part of the occupation force of  Tokyo Bay after the formal Japanese surrender on the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945. The USS Indiana sailed for the States on September 9, 1945.  She arrived in San Francisco Bay on September 29, 1945 and was the first ship to return to the States from Tokyo Bay.


Other Posts You Might Like:

Post World War II "Care" Packages - Amanuensis Monday
Where They Lived: Every Address Tells a Story
The Haircut - Wordless Wednesday
(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Valley Forge is Back Again

Friday, November 25, 2011

Photo Story: Dad, the Navy, and the USS Indiana

The USS Indiana Bombarding Kamaishi, Japan, July 14, 1945
Plank Owner's Certificate for the USS Indiana
(Photo of the USS Indiana is available at Wikipedia and is in the public domain. Plank Owner's Certificate Privately Held by Cynthia Shenette; Text, Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette) Dad joined the Navy in February of 1942.  He was assigned to the battleship the USS Indiana and served in the Pacific Theatre.  It may sound naive to say I knew a battleship was big, but I had no idea how big until I started researching the Indiana to learn more about my dad.  Five thousand, six hundred, fifty-three (5, 653) men served on the Indiana.  To put it into perspective the total number of sailors on the Indiana was one third the entire population of the town I currently live in.  For more information about the USS Indiana check out the USS Indiana BB-58 Homeport website which has wonderful photos and information, including the ship's log, about the ship.  You can also see a photo of my dad with other members of the Gunnery Department here.

My dad received the plank owner's certificate above on April 30, 1942 as one of the 2,109 men on board when the ship was put into commission.   Plank owners didn't actually "own" a plank of the deck.  It was an honorary title and part of a tradition which dates back to the time of wooden sailing vessels.  The Homeport website has a list of the plank owners.  My dad's name appears here.

My dad participated in 11 major battles in the Pacific Theatre.  He spoke very little about the actual battles, but I do remember him talking about a major fire on the ship.  When I started researching the Indiana I learned that the fire was caused by a collision between the Indiana and another ship, the USS Washington, which you can read about here.

My dad received two silver stars and two bronze stars for his service. Again, he never talked about what he did to receive his honors.  While he was proud of his service he never bragged about what he had done. He didn't "trot out his glory bars" as he use to say.  He was just doing his job. I did learn from someone years ago that he received one of his silver stars for throwing a live shell that had misfired off the deck and into the ocean. He was just doing his job.


Other Posts You Might Like:

Shore Leave - Wordless Wednesday
Happy Memorial Day!
Remembering Pearl Harbor
The Neatest Private on Guard - Treasure Chest Thursday

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Photo Story: Changes and World War II Begins

Mom's 1940 Yearbook Photo
(Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette)  The end of the 1930s and the early 1940s was a time of change for my family.  In 1939 my grandfather's brother Feliks was killed in the bombing of Warsaw on the first day of World War II, and my great-grandfather Antoni died during the winter of 1940.  Mom graduated from high school in the spring of 1940 and went on to continue her education at a two year business college.  

After college Mom worked at the Worcester War Price and Rationing Board for the duration of the war.  She enjoyed working at the Ration Board and said it was the best job she ever had.  She must have done a pretty good job, because she was eventually put in charge of the food and shoe departments.  

Dad returned from the Philippines and was separated from the service in California on November 19, 1941.  Pearl Harbor was bombed eighteen days later on December 7, 1941.  Dad knew it was a matter of time before he was drafted, so he reenlisted in February of 1942.  This time around he chose to serve in the Navy.  He figured if he reenlisted he would get to choose which branch of the military to serve in.  If he waited for the draft he would be assigned to a branch.  He always said if worse came to worse he'd rather go down with the ship than die in a foxhole.  He was in the Navy for 15 years and never learned how to swim...  


Other Posts You Might Like:

Remembering Pearl Harbor
Reflecting on My American Experience This Thanksgiving
Not So Wordless Wednesday: It's Costume Month at Heritage Zen!
Where They Lived: Every Address Tells a Story

Reflecting on My American Experience this Thanksgiving

(This is a re post of a piece written for Thanksgiving 2010.  Warm wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers, family, and friends.)

(Copyright (c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette) I've been thinking about how my son's collective ancestry typifies a large part of what I think of as the American experience as defined by many of the major events in history since the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts in 1620. As a genealogist and family historian sometimes I think it's easy to look at individuals rather than our ancestry as a sum of many parts.

While my son's ancestors didn't come to America on the Mayflower, they did arrive in Rhode Island in 1633. They survived cold New England winters, disease, and deprivation. They later fought in the American Revolution and as the old saying goes saw the whites of the Red Coat's eyes at Bunker Hill, and after the colonies won their independence, settled along the Mohawk River Valley in New York where they farmed the land for the next two hundred years. As time progressed they watched Scots Irish immigrants come into the area to help construct the the Erie Canal with mule teams and watched factories spring up in the towns and cities that dotted the length of the Mohawk River.

Other ancestors populated Acadia, or Nova Scotia, during the seventeenth century until they were forcibly removed by the British during the Seven Years War or what Americans call the French and Indian War. Some of the ancestors expelled from Acadia eventually ended up in Louisiana, others managed to find their way back to French speaking Canada to resettle in Quebec. During the mid-nineteenth century some made their way to California to seek their fortune during the Gold Rush. Ancestors fought, were wounded, or died of disease during the Civil War. They participated in the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor. After the Civil War ancestors joined the great migration of immigrants from Canada to New England to work in the lumber camps of the Green Mountains and the mills of Massachusetts.

At the end of the nineteenth century another set of ancestors left their homeland in Europe. They left their families--mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters--behind and set off in search of a better life in America. They endured difficult conditions on ship and arrived at Ellis Island with the rest of the "yearning masses" also hoping for a better life in their new land. Immigrant ancestors found their way to the Midwest, to Chicago to work in low wage jobs in the steel industry. When they lost their home due to fire they made their way to Massachusetts to join other family members, also immigrants, in the steel mills. They worked long hours in difficult conditions to pursue the American dream.

During the twentieth century ancestors fought in World War I, World War II, and Korea. When both parents in one family died within two days of one another during the great flu pandemic of 1918, their children were adopted by family to become part of an extended family. Ancestors were affected by the crash of the stock market in 1929 and struggled with varying levels of success through the Great Depression. They participated in the Civilian Conservation Corps and joined the military.

One ancestor served his time in the military in the late 1930s and early 1940s, only to be discharged in November of 1941, eighteen days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. He reenlisted in February of 1942, served in the Pacific theatre, and participated in the battles of Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, the Marshall Islands, and Okinawa. He survived. Another family member fought with Patton's army in the European theatre. He witnessed the liberation of Buchenwald. After World War II family displaced by the chaos of the war in Europe, lingered in a DP camp for years until they were finally able to make their way to a new life in the United States.

Our ancestors survived war, deprivation, and hardship. They survived childbirth when health care was rudimentary or nonexistent, and during times when mothers knew death from childbirth was an ever-present possibility. They suffered from small pox, rheumatic fever, whooping cough, flu, measles, mumps, and a host of diseases our children, thankfully, will never know. There were bad times, but there were of good times as well. They lived life the best they could given their circumstances. That's four hundred years of history in my son's ancestry. He IS my American experience. That's a lot of weight to carry on those little shoulders.

When you sit down to dinner with your family this Thanksgiving, think about the people that came before you. It doesn't matter if they were French, Irish, Polish, Italian, or African American. It's doesn't matter if they came on the Mayflower or not. They were the ultimate survivors. We are here because of them, and our lives are better because of them. I know I have a lot to be thankful for.

What's your American experience? Take some time to write about it, and then share it with your family over Thanksgiving dinner. Almost four hundred years of history should give you something to talk about. Now, please pass the gravy...


Other Posts You Might Like:

Meditation: The Strength of Ordinary Women
The Stories My Grandmother Told Me
Not So Wordless Wednesday: The View from Grandmother's House
Heritage Zen Dives In: NaBloPoMo

Monday, November 21, 2011

Photo Story: 1939 World's Fair

The Trylon and Perisphere
(Original Images and Text, Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette) My mom and her family visited the 1939 World's Fair in New York.  Even sixty years later she commented on how amazed they all were by it.  Mom said it was the first place she ever saw a television.  Can you figure out which day in 1939 my mom and her family visited the fair?  There are clues in the images.  Leave a comment at the end.  Also check out this really cool vintage film footage of the Polish Pavilion.  Enjoy the fair!

The Electric Utilities Pavilion

The Italian Pavilion

The Polish Pavilion

Menu from the Polish Restaurant at the Polish Pavilion

Menu from the Polish Restaurant at the Polish Pavilion

Daily Specials: Should I have the calf's brains or the boiled tongue? Decisions, decisions... 


Other Posts You Might Like:

Meditation: The Strength of Ordinary Women
Reflecting on My American Experience this Thanksgiving
The Stories My Grandmother Told Me
A Matter of Habit: Solving a Mystery

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Photo Story: Auntie Helen's 1937 Trip to Poland

Left to Right: Feliks Szerejko, Leokadia (Szymanska) Szerejko, and their son Aleksander Szerejko
(Original Images and Text, Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette)  My grandmother's sister Helen never married but became a successful business woman.  She ran a what began as a millinery shop in 1918 and retired, closing her shop Helen's on Milbury St. in Worcester, some 55 years later.

Even in the 1930s when times were tough Auntie Helen had enough money to take a two and a half month trip to Poland.  While she was there she toured the country and visited with my grandfather's family in Warsaw. She kept a travel diary during her visit.  Here is an excerpt from her diary. The diary is written in quick note form.  I've included slashes to indicate line breaks to make it more readable.  The spelling is a direct transcription.

Lazienki Palace
Date  July 4, 1937 Sunday
Place  Warsaw, Feliks Home

Up at 8 A.M. went to Mass for / 9 with Oles' [Aleksander] home for breakfast / Went to Lazienki Park havent seen anything so beautifull / Park recieved its name from the / Lazienski make them. The Palace / of Zymont 2 Poniatowski who / lived their not very large but / beautifull.

Leokadia and Helen Bulak in front of the Chopin Statue 
In the park are beautifull Statues of the great / Music Composer Chopin also /

Helen, Feliks, and Leokadia in front of the Statue of Jan Sobieski
Jan Sobieski fighting Turks / The streets and alleys are something / unusual such tall trees and weeping / willows, blue spruce.  The / Palace decorated with white petunias / and red geraniums the colors of / Poland. Took snapshots / Mr. + Mrs Oles and myself. / Orchestra Playing in the Park / surrounded by Garden of Tables / where lunch can be served. /

My grandfather's aunt, Julia Bielska (Abt. 1879-Aft. 1947)
Drove home through Aleje Ujazdowskie / had dinner rested a few minutes / and went visiting to Pani Julia / Bielska. found her a very / pleasant person and very lively / for 58 yrs of age. Had lunch / their after 7. P.M. Mrs. Szerejko came / had lunch also. then we all / talked and made merry until / 9.30 left for home and bed / @ 11.30 P.M.


Other Posts You Might Like:

Chopin Rising
Where They Lived: Every Address Has a Story
Memories of the M/S Pilsudski? An Author Wants You!
Leokadia (Szymanska) and Feliks Szerejko - Wordless Wednesday

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Photo Story: Two Years in the Philippines


(Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette) These two images are from my dad's collection of photos from the Philippines.  Dad was stationed in the Philippines for two years in the late 1930s.  He didn't seem to be unhappy with his time  there, but it didn't sound like a garden spot to me.  I can only imagine how difficult it was in camp with the heat, the humidity, and the bugs.  He use to talk about having to turn his boots upside down every morning before putting them on to make sure there weren't scorpions or other critters inside them.


Dad said he was on the last ship out of the Philippines before the Japanese invasion at the beginning of World War II.  According to his records he separated from the service in California on November 19, 1941.  Less than a month later the Japanese invaded the Philippines ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  I've always wondered how the other guys that dad served with in the 31st Infantry made out.  The 31st was involved in the defense of the Philippines.  The end result--the Bataan Death March four months later in April of 1942.  I wonder if Dad had one of those, "There but the grace of God go I" moments...

Please check out some of my other links regarding my dad's time in the Philippines below.


Other Post You Might Like:

The Haircut - Wordless Wednesday
The Neatest Private on Guard - Treasure Chest Thursday
Company M, Thirty-First U.S. Infantry - Military Monday
Remembering Pearl Harbor

Friday, November 18, 2011

Photo Story: Dad, He's In the Army Now...

(Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette) Dad spent 21 years in the military and served in the United States Army from 1936 to 1941.  He was with  Company "H" 66th Infantry (Light Tanks) when this photo was taken in 1937.  By the time he parted from the army in 1941 he had achieved the rank of corporal.


Other Posts You Might Like:

Thinking of Dad on Father's Day
Books of Interest: The Life of Billy Yank
(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Valley Forge is Back Again
Letters and Photos and Stuff, Oh My!: Sorting Through a Loved One's Estate (Part 1 of 3)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Photo Story: The Great Depression, Dad, and the CCCs

Henry Shenette (age 18) Left, Unidentified Friend Right, 1934
(Original Images and Text, Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette) My mom's family managed to get by during the Great Depression with my grandfather working three jobs and my grandmother taking in sewing to help support the family.  My mom said they never went hungry, because my great-grandfather Antoni Bulak had moved from Worcester to a farm in Oxford, MA.  My mom's family always had food from the farm.  Life was harder for my dad.  He left school as soon as he was legally able and found work to help support his family.

Civilian Conservation Corps Camp, Campton, NH
Dad joined the Civilian Conservation Corps in April of 1934.  He enrolled at Fort Devens, MA and was sent to work on a dam project in Campton, NH. These photos are from my dad's scrapbook from his time in the CCCs. The scrapbook contains quite a few photos, many of them probably taken to give to the young men as a remembrance of their time in the CCCs.  I was rather surprised to discover very few photos of this particular CCC camp online.  I've decided to devote some time, probably in January, to posting photos from my dad's scrapbook for other researchers interested in the camp.

Breaking and Gathering Rocks for the Dam
According to my dad's Certificate of Discharge he served as a laborer with the CCCs from April 17, 1934 until June 25, 1935, and as a cook from June 25, 1935 until September 30, 1935.  He was honorably discharged at the end of September in 1935.  He didn't have much time off after his discharge.  He joined the United States Army in January of 1936.

Construction of the Campton Dam by the Civilian Conservation Corps
Campton Dam, Campton, NH


Other Posts You Might Like:

Reflecting on My American Experience This Thanksgiving
Wordless Wednesday: A Good Catch
Shore Leave - Wordless Wednesday
A Comedy of Errors: My Family in the Census (Part 1 of 3)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Photo Story: Dad and A Mystery Solved

(Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette) My mom grew up in the Vernon Hill section of Worcester.  My dad also grew up in Worcester.  

This is the only photo I have of my dad, Henry Albert Shenette (1916-1985), and his siblings as children and young adults.  This photo was taken in 1929 and includes six of my dad's seven siblings.  Sibling number seven hadn't been born yet when the picture was taken.

While I have hundreds of photos of my mom's family I have very few of my dad's family. Why is this?  I believe there are a number of reasons.  Money was tight for Dad's family.  My grandfather Frank Shenette (1873-1945) is listed in the census and the Worcester city directories as a painter or a house painter.  If you compare the economic downturn of today in relation to the Great Depression, painting is something that you can often do without when money is short.  My grandmother, Marie Louise (Comeau) Shenette (1890-1959), was busy with the children, giving birth approximately every two to three years between 1907 and 1929.  The family moved around a great deal, probably due to work and the cost of rent.  From the time my dad was born in 1916, until he left home for the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1934, the family lived in eight different places in Worcester. My dad also spent many years traveling in the military.  Finally, there were eight children to divide up the existing photos.

I posted this photo back in February of this year.  At the time I listed the names of all of the siblings, but I didn't know the identity of the older woman in the group.  I remember asking my dad years ago who she was and all he said was that she was an aunt. I speculated that the woman might have been Frank's sister Josephine (1876-1952) who I mention in my post, The Death and Funeral of Charles Senecal - Amanuensis Monday.  The woman resembles members of the Chenette family.  Josephine lived in Worcester, and would have been about the age of the woman in the photo.  I am happy to report  that I have discovered the identity of the woman in the photograph.  The mysterious "aunt" is Lena (Chenette) Potvin (1882-1961) Frank's youngest sister.  I initially discounted Lena as she lived in St. Albans, VT at the time the photo was taken. I had the right side of the family, but the wrong sister.  Special thanks goes to my cousin Roger LaFerriere who found my blog online, took the time to contact me, and solved the mystery!

The siblings in the photo are Leo A. (1907-1973), Edward F. (1911-1991), Margaret M. (1913-2004), Richard R. (1922-1980), Dad, Bertha L. (1910-1991), and Raymond F. (1925-1990) sitting in Lena's lap.  You may notice that throughout this post I use both the Chenette spelling and the Shenette spelling.  The spelling varies between records and even between siblings.


Other Posts You Might Like:

What's In A Name? (An Ongoing Series): Chenette
Tombstone Tuesday: Francois Chenette, Civil War Soldier
Wordless Wednesday: Dad, Somewhere Cold
Postcards From the Edge: Genealogy Road Trippin'

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Photo Story: Joy and Sadness

(Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette) Who's the little baldy? My mom, Christine (Szerejko) Shenette (1921-2008).  Apparently people often mistook Mom for a boy when she was a baby.   Mom told me that my grandmother would dress her in ruffles and ribbons to try to make her look more girly.  My grandmother would get so mad when people would say, "Oh what a cute little boy!"  Mom was born at home, not at a hospital, in the heat of July.  I can only imagine how difficult that was for my grandmother.  Mom was my grandparents oldest child.  Two more children soon followed.

While the 1920s was a decade of great joy for my grandparents, it was also a time of sadness.  My great-grandmother Ewa died at the relatively young age of 51 from cancer.  My grandmother took care of Ewa throughout her illness.  I remember how she use to talk about the difficulties of tending to her dying mother at home while taking care of two babies under the age of three.

Back in Poland my grandfather's mother Jozefa also died.  She too was a relatively young woman, only 53.  Jozefa never saw my grandfather Adolf or his brother Aleksander again after sending them to America in 1913.


Other Posts You Might Like:

Ewa (Kowalewska) Bulak - Wordless Wednesday
Meditation: The Strength of Ordinary Women
The Stories My Grandmother Told Me
Meditation: Family History

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Photo Story: Grandma and Grandpa Get Married

Adolf Szerejko and Antonina (Bulak) Szerejko
(Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia ShenetteMy grandparents were married on February 11, 1920 at Our Lady of Czestochowa, in Worcester, Massachusetts. My grandmother and her mother Ewa (Kowalewska) Bulak, both seamstresses, made the dress. Her flowers are freesias--one of my grandmother's favorite flowers.  After the wedding the couple took a train trip to Niagara Falls for their honeymoon.


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Wordless Wednesday: Warsaw Wedding
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Send Up A Flare, Mystery Bride Identified! - Mystery Monday
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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Photo Story: Helping the Red Cross During World War I

(Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette) While the men were off to the war in Europe the women helped out at home.  This is a photo of my grandmother's cousin Sophie (Kowalewski) Konopka (1898-1987). For another photo of Red Cross volunteers check out my post (Almost) Wordless Wednesday: WWI Red Cross Volunteers.  According to the Red Cross website there were 107 local chapters of the Red Cross in 1914 but that number grew to 3,864 by 1918.


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Flu 1918 (Part 1 of 3) - Amanuensis Monday
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Friday, November 11, 2011

Photo Story: The Life of a Doughboy, 1918 - Veterans Day

(This post was originally written for Veteran's Day 2010.  Original Images and Text, Copyright (c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette. Keep the Home Fires Burning, by Lena Gilbert Ford, Available Under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.)

These photos were sent from my grandfather Adolf Szerejko to his then girlfriend, my grandmother Antonina (Bulak) Szerejko. My grandfather served in France during World War I.

On the back of the photo: "Augusta, GA 7-2-18"


Written on the train: "Going to GET the Kaiser, Scranton, Pa, US Aviation Section Regulars, Going to Germany to Berlin via France"

On the back of the photo: "Taken at Rocky Mountain South Carolina Adolf"

"Camp Greene Charlotte, NC."

On the back of the photo: "Those are my friends, front row from left to right J. Coyle (best) J. Erns. Percons. Szerejko At the back Anctile. Moore. Sanders. Four Irish, one French and the last man I don't know his nationality Adolf" The spelling may be off as the handwriting is very difficult to read.

" I'm next."

"Camp Greene, Charlotte N.C."

"Kolacja na "hike" (Dinner on the "hike")"

Written on the back: "What we got ourselves into"

"Camp Greene, Charlotte, NC."

Keep the Home Fires Burning ('Til the Boys Come Home)

Keep the home fires burning,
While your hearts are yearning.
Though your lads are far away,
They dream of home.
There’s a silver lining,
Through the dark cloud shining,
Turn the dark clouds inside out
Till the boys come home.

Thank you veterans for your service. Happy Veteran's Day!


Special Thanks To: Marek for his translation of the Polish into English.


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(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: WWI Red Cross Volunteers
Tombstone Tuesday: Francois Chenette, Civil War Soldier
Wordless Wednesday: Dad, Somewhere Cold
Tuesday's Tip: "Ask a Librarian" Service at Your Public Library

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Photo Story: Three Brothers Stay in Poland (Part 3 of 3) - Wordless Wednesday

Jan Alojzy Szerejko (1902-1974)
(Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette)

Jan Szerejko

Have you ever had a breakthrough that was so amazing that you can't believe it when it happens? Back in 2004 I posted a message on a genealogy discussion board looking for information about my grandfather's family. For years I wondered what happened to the family in Poland.  Imagine my surprise when I received an answer to my discussion board query in 2010, six years after I posted my initial message.  To say I was surprised to be contacted by a grandchild of my grandfather's brother is an understatement.  It was also interesting to learn that while we in the States were wondering what happened to the family in Poland, they were wondering what happened to us.

Jan Szerejko was the youngest of the six brothers and was only 11 when my grandfather Adolf and his brother Aleksander immigrated to the United States.  I learned that Jan remained in the greater Warsaw area where he married, raised a family, and operated a grocery store.

It's amazing to think that it's been almost a hundred years since my grandfather left Poland and our families are still in touch.  My cousin tells me that his parents and family read my blog.  For a genealogist it just doesn't get better than that.


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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Photo Story: Three Brothers Stay in Poland (Part 2 of 3)

(Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette)

Henryk Szerejko

Years ago, before I started doing genealogy, I came across this photo in a big box of photos at my mom's house.  I was intrigued by this young man, a boy really, in a military uniform.  I had no idea who he was.  The only clue to his identification was "Henick" or "Heniek" written on the back of the photo.  I eventually discovered Henick was my grandfather's brother Henryk Szerejko (1898-1968).  Henryk was only fifteen when my grandfather Adolf and his brother Aleksander were sent to America.  Henryk and Adolf must have remained close despite the distance between them.  They wrote letters to one another on a fairly regular basis for almost fifty years, and their wives continued to correspond even after the deaths of the men.  The last letter I have from Henryk's wife Rozalia to my grandmother was written in 1980.  The two family's stayed in touch for almost 70 years.  It's amazing when you think about it...


Other Posts you Might Like:

Post World War II "Care" Packages - Amanuensis Monday
(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Me and My Doll
Amanuensis Monday: Where My Doll Came From
Treasure Chest Thursday: Travel Diary, Poland 1937