Roll Out the Barrel. We'll Have a Barrel of Fun!
Our purposes are to explore our common Milwaukee heritage, link together our family trees, maybe learn a little of Milwaukee history, and above all, have fun doing it.
For over 150 years, Milwaukee has been home to a large community of people of Polish descent. Some believe that this Polish-American community differed in several significant ways from the Polish communities in other American cities.
First, the immigration of Poles to Milwaukee occurred earlier than than the immigration to other major American cities. Poles, in fact, were coming to Milwaukee by the early 1860's, just a short time after Wisconsin had obtained statehood. This gave the community more time to develop and to establish a social structure.
Second, a large number of the Poles in Milwaukee originated from the areas of Poland that were, at that time, controlled by Germany. This had two effects. First, it meant that the Poles that arrived in Milwaukee often had a common social background and history. Second, the immigrants' area of origin was more concentrated which, in turn, increased the probability that new immigrants arriving would already have friends and family established in Milwaukee. Indeed, in some cases brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins, all of the same family, made their way from their Polish village to the streets of Milwaukee. Thus, even though the time that Poles have been in Milwaukee is limited to a few generations, the family ties are much older.
Because of these factors, Milwaukee Polonia developed as a stable and complete community that existed until the flight to the suburbs after the Second World War. For a large part, during that era the Milwaukee Polish-Americans worked at the same factories, attended the same churches, went to the same schools, shopped at the same groceries, and inter-married among themselves.
This project hopes to chart the interweaving, intertwining family trees that resulted in this community. It is hoped that, eventually, all the families can be connected. Although this is an ambitious goal, it is no more ambitious than Geni, itself. So, pour yourself a cold brewski (or beverage of your choice) and let's do it.
What You Can Do to Help
For Your Inspiration: our own Liberace playing The Beer Barrel Polka
So you want to contribute to the Project. That's the spirit! Here are some suggestions:
1. Join Geni and enter your family tree. Try to connect to an existing profile that is already part of the Project. (Even if you can't connect right away, we may eventually run into each other.)
2. If you are entering your family on Geni, or if you have already entered your family on Geni, please make "public" any appropriate profile. Our rule of thumb is that a profile should be public if the person is deceased and they have no living immediate family members (spouse, parents, children, siblings) shown on Geni.
3. Become an official "Collaborator" of the this Project. This will allow you to go to any of the featured profiles that are part of the Project and extend the tree from there. (Of course, you can always suggest an individual to become a featured profile of the Project.)
4. Contact us at Milwaukee.Polonia@gmail.com and send us your family tree, or an interesting story or newspaper article about a deceased family member. (Unfortunately, we are extremely back-logged with information, so you can't expect it to show up on the blog right away.) If you send us a family tree, we generally will try to keep "private" any individual who is presumed to be still living.
5. Contact us at Milwaukee.Polonia@gmail.com and offer to do look-ups at the Milwaukee Public Library or Vital Records at the Milwaukee County Register of Deeds.
6. We are looking for a copy of We, the Milwaukee Poles, by Thaddeus Borun (Milwaukee, 1946). If you have a copy, or have access to a copy, and would be willing to do look-ups, please let us know.
Under the Double Eagle (Milwaukee Polonia Profiles)
The profiles listed were leaders or individuals of note in Milwaukee Polonia. The emphasis is on the time period before 1950, but this is not exclusive. The individuals listed were generally politicians, religious leaders, or officers of community organizations, but this is only because they are the individuals noted in available sources. Also, hopefully to be included are just simple business owners, people that your ancestors may have exchanged pleasantries with as they bought their groceries. This is meant to be a neighborhood, not a Hall of Fame. (Although we will have some famous individuals among us.)
The names have been drawn, in large part, from the resources named below. However, these sources are not intended to be exclusive. If you have someone that you believe should be added, please suggest them. As a general rule of thumb, anyone that earned a separate obituary (rather than just a death notice) in the Milwaukee Journal or Sentinel could be included.
These profiles may also serve as useful connecting points between our family trees. Examine their trees. See any last names that also appear on your tree? If so, let's see if we can connect them.
Wanted: The Czernina Kids (Community Leaders to be Added)
If you don't catch the allusion, then you haven't heard The Czernina Kid by Mad Man Michaels, reportedly not Polish (but should have been.)
The following is the list of names of individuals who have yet to be added to this project:
- Francis Borchardt – first Pole to represent a Milwaukee District in Wisconsin Assembly - 1882
- Edmund Choinski - Alderman
- August Gawin – Milwaukee Comptroller – 1908-1910
- Martin Gorecki – Alderman 1910 – helped found Polish language socialist weekly paper, Naprzod (Forward)
- John Kalupa –Alderman during the 1930's and 40's, City Comptroller
- Michael Katzban – Assemblyman 1911-1913
- Casimir Kowalski – Socialist party organizer – Alderman 1918-1922
- Louis Kotecki - Milwaukee Comptroller and “Polish Mayor” 1911-1933. See Bio in History, Vol. 2, p. 137.
- Mary Kryszak – Assemblywoman (PR&C, p. 19-20)
- Leo Krzycki -Alderman (PR&C p. 16)
- Clemens Michalski – longtime Democratic party politician and elected official
- Peter Pawinski – Milwaukee Comptroller – 1902-1906
- John Polakowski – Wisconsin Assemblyman 1922-1924
- Walter Polakowski – (PR&C, p. 17)
- Louis Rutkowski - County Treasurer - (PR&C, p. 17)
- August Rutzinski – elected to Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors – 1878
- Theordore Rutzinski – first Polish Alderman in City of Milwaukee - 1882
- Rev. Felix Baran - founding Pastor of St. Josaphat Basilica. (PR&C p. 5, n. 70
- Rev. Bronislaus Celichowski - (PR&C p. 5, n. 7)
- Rt. Rev. Boleslaus Goral - (PR&C, p. 20)
- Rt. Rev. Hyacinth Gulski – pastor of St. Stanislaus Church (1876-1883). Built St. Hyacinth Church and became first pastor in 1883. 1909-1911 – Pastor of St. Hedwig's Church.
- Rev. Louis Juraszinski - Pastor of St. Stanislaus Church , founder of St. John Kanty parish. See Bio in History, p. 316.
- Rev. Rudolf Kielpinski – Pastor at St. Casimir's. See Bio in History, p.430
- Rt. Rev. Edward Kozlowski – First Polish (auxiliary) Bishop (PR&C, p. 26)
- Rev. Waclaw Kruszka – Pastor at several Milwaukee-area churches. Strong advocate for Polish nationalism. See Bio in History, p. 439. ( first name is given as “Wenseslaus” in PR&C, p. 25)
- Peter Kolinski – lawyer – See Bio in History Vol. 3, p. 421.
- Thaddeus Pruss – reserve court judge
- Francis X. Swietlik - Polish ethnic leader and circuit court judge
- John Wesolowski – Police Captain (PR&C, p. 33)
- Martin Cyborowski -editor of Glos Ludu (Voice of the People)
- Anthony Lukaszewski - Manager of Nowiny Polskie. See Bio in History, Vol. 2, p. 439.
- Michael Kruszka – founder and editor of Kruyer Polski (PR&C, p. 20)
- John Kulzick - President of the Milwaukee Glove Co. See Bio in History, Vol. 2, p. 548.
- Frank Nakielski – owner Wisconsin Tunnel & Construction Co. (PR&C, p. 30)
- Edward A Nowack - Bank History, Vol.2, p. 579
- Anthony Szczerbinski - President of Lincoln State Bank. See Bio in History Vol. 3, p.190.
- S.J. Zwierzchowski (aka Zowski) - President of Kuryer Publishing Company, also a manufacturer and president of city council. See Bio in History, Vol. 3, p. 335.
- Sylvester Koszewski - Pharmacist and member of Civil Service Commission, See Bio in History, Vol. 2, p. 605.
- Albin A. Krygier, M.D., see bio in History, Vol. 3, p. 834
- August Budzisz - early settler of Jones Island, he was the lead plaintiff in the extensive litigation over whether the settlers there would be able to keep their houses.
- Anthony Kochaneck – first Polish settler in Milwaukee (Memoirs, p. 613)
- Captain Frank Zawodny - served in Spanish American War, Mexican Conflict and World War I. See Bio in History, Vol. 3, p. 303.
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Join the discussion
For Names of Community Leaders and General Information
History of Milwaukee City and County (cited as History) by William George Bruce and Josiah Seymour Currey, The S. J. Clark Publishing Co., 1922. In three volumes. Available through Google books:
Memoirs of Milwaukee County (cited as "Memoirs") edited by Jerome Anthony Watrous, Western Historical Assoc. 1909. Available through Google books here.
"Polish Pioneers, Lovers of Freedom, Laid Firm Foundations," Milwaukee Journal, February 8, 1941, p. 29 (on Google News)
Who's Who in Polish America edited by Rev. Francis Bolek, Harbinger House, 1943. A list of the Wisconsinites in the book can be found here.
Faith Cast in Stone: The Polish Churches of Milwaukee 1866 - 2000 (cited as "Faith") by John M. Smallshaw and published privately. His website, containing some nice pictures of the old churches, is here.
Politics, Religion and Change in Polish Milwaukee, 1900-1930 (cited as PR&C) by Donald Pienkos, published in the Wisconsin Magazine of History vol. 61, no. 3, Spring, 1978, pp. 178-209
Polish Pioneers, Lovers of Freedoms, Laid Firm Foundations, by Edward Kerstein, Milwaukee Journal, February 8, 1941, and available here.
For Researching Your Milwaukee Polish Heritage:
Milwaukee Catholic Cemeteries. A good place to find the date of death of the person you're researching. Also, it let's you search for near-by graves which may disclose (or confirm) family members. It is also a useful tool if you're ever not quite sure of the spelling of a name.
Back issues of The Milwaukee Journal. If you know the date of death of your subject, you may be able to find a death notice here. It would usually appear one to three days after the death. You could also try The Milwaukee Sentinel.
Prior to 1940, or so, Polish families were more likely to have published a death notice in one of the Milwaukee Polish-language papers. Unfortunately, neither one is on-line. The Kruyer Polski has been indexed here and is searchable here. If you don't have easy access to the microfilm, you can order copies made and sent to you. If you don't know Polish, you might find this translation guide helpful.
If your family comes from the Poznan area, then check out the Poznan Project.
If you're of the Pomeranian persuasion, visit the website of the Pomeranian Genealogical Association.
Contributions of other Resources welcome.
The Geni Master Profile
- See Naming Conventions for notes on historical periods that may be within scope but not covered below.
In general, make sure the name fields of the Master Profiles include first name, middle name, last name, maiden name if known, otherwise blank, suffix for Sr., Jr., etc. In the display name field only add titles such as Gov. or Dr. preceding.
We face a difficult task in standardizing the names of our Polish and Polish-American ancestors. Some Polish last names are gender-specific (or were in Poland) and can even vary by whether a woman is married or unmarried. In addition, Polish baptismal records were kept in Latin. In many cases, the person making the entries would convert the Polish first names to their Latin equivalents. Also, official records kept by non-Polish-speaking clerks often contain last names that are spelled phonetically rather than actual. (Eg., "Stanchick" rather than "Stanczyk") The Polish language contains diacriticals not found in English or available on US typewriters (or keyboards!). Finally, even individuals born in the US and given Polish first names often adopted the American equivalents.
Nelson, Jim, Polonia In Turn of Century Milwaukee. Found here.