starting point

In my quest for knowledge about my family history, I have been hoping to find a way to figure out where exactly in Poland and Lithuania my relatives were from. The Polish part is proving to be very difficult. 

My Lithuanian relatives were a little bit easier thanks to my great-grand uncle Mike. He was born in Lithuania and came over with his parents. While his parents did not become citizens, Mike did. Because he served in the Navy for the U.S. in WWI, he had an easier path to citizenship. Still, it wasn’t until 1951 that he became naturalized. It was not the easiest process to figure out, but once I determined who to write (NARA of the mid-Atlantic), I was able to get a copy of his naturalization records. They came today. I was a bit pessimistic because of the length of time that had passed between his birth in 1896, and his naturalization, and because his Social Security application lists Maryland as his birthplace; however, there was a town listed as his last foreign address.

Takniskiai, Lithuania. It’s certainly rural. But it’s a place. 

happy discovery

Thanks to an email from my uncle with a photo of my grandparents on their wedding day, I realized that my favorite shots I scanned way back in 2008 were also from that day. Still, there’s a little discrepancy as to who it is with my grandmother. Is it her best friend, as I had written down, or was it her younger sister as my uncle said? I’m inclined to think it’s her sister.

I think it’s time to buckle down and get myself to the archives again.

some more

Since we got a brand spanking new iMac with a crazy big screen (TWENTY SEVEN INCHES!) I’ve been going through our zillions of photos and enjoying browsing through them without them being obscured by seven tiny one pixel wide lines. I am particularly enjoying the old Antoszewski/Graham photos that I scanned a few years ago. Some of the ones I like the most I really don’t know too much about.


This woman, for example, looks awesome. Clearly, a baby has just been Baptized in Baltimore City.  [UPDATE: This is my Great Aunt Dolores (and now that I know that, I can see that it is her) and the baby is my dad!]
Next up, my Great Uncle Mike (on the right) looking quite dashing left). An interesting character, that guy.
Some people (a few of them Great Aunts, I think) posing with a giant bottle of Old Forester Bourbon. There are several other photos in this alley, so it’s someone’s house — my great grandparents’ maybe.
Finally, some delightfully chubby babies.



I was hoping that once I finally decided to whip up a batch of viryta (vitatis), I’d get some flashback memory of my grandmother, or even my great-grandmother. Alas, nothing of the sort. At least I will have vitatis.

These pictures are the closest you will get to the family recipe:



And the finished product




I went to my aunt’s house today and scanned some of my grandparent’s old photographs. Now, I just need to organize them.

 There were several of these small, two images to a print, photographs. The images were probably 2×2 making the whole print about 4×2. Apart, the images are just pictures, but together they seem much more interesting. I believe all of the following are from the same day.

My grandfather and a flag:

my Grandmother and her best friend a little off-center:

and my favorite:


In my genealogical research, I’ve found that I am 7th cousin, 4 times removed (that is hardly related at all) of Emily Dickenson. Just gives me an excuse to pull out my book, and try and recall some favorites.


Long Years apart — can make no
Breach a second cannot fill —
The absence of the Witch does not
Invalidate the spell —

The embers of a Thousand Years
Uncovered by the Hand
That fondled them when they were Fire
Will stir and understand —



Best Witchcraft is Geometry
To the magician’s mind —
His ordinary acts are feats
To thinking of mankind.


At least, these were some I had marked back in college. Who knows what would catch my eye these days. 


My Grandfather’s party has inspired me to take up my genealogy again. My mother’s side of the family is so much easier. Most of it has been done to certain extent. The Morrisons were researched back when I was in middle school — I have a hand-typed (as in, on a typewriter) document that goes back to when they immigrated from Northern Ireland. The McMinns have also been well researched. I can pin-point them on an 1821 Irish census (which is amazing because most of those records went up in flames) and know exactly where their little village  is in County Fermanagh. Of course, that all of these various records are in English, and these lines were from Ireland and settled in a small town in Pennsylvania (which has a wealth of records available) makes my life pretty easy.  Every once in a while I think about up and moving to Maple Grove farm.

My father’s side of the family is much more complicated. The Antoszewskis came from Poland at the turn of the century. Not a lot of English-speaking early on. My father’s grandmother was Lithuanian and they also immigrated at the turn of the century. Additionally, they Anglicized their last name Biruta to Barrett — but only sometimes. There wasn’t a lot of literacy either, so there is a lot of phonetics. For example, on one particular census, “Barrett” is spelled “Behrot”. Once in Baltimore City, I can follow the families pretty well on the census; before then, forget about it. The story goes that the Antoszewskis were in Biloxi, Mississippi at the beginning and my great-grandfather, Adam, was perhaps born there, but I cannot find much to substantiate that fact. You’d think that with a surname like “Antoszewski”, it’d be really easy to find records, but there’s no telling if the spelling is anywhere near correct to whatever the original was and even that is suspect. The suffix -ski indicates nobility in Poland, so a lot of people added it when they immigrated. I’m pretty doubtful that it was originally as it exists today. 

And then there’s Lithuanian.  Surnames have different forms depending on if the person is male or female, married, single, widowed. It’s interesting, but makes a search for “Biruta” alone quite incomplete. There are actually many records in Lithuanian in Baltimore from the church that my grandfather attended and his brother, my late Uncle-Uncle Joe, served as priest for a time. Being handwritten and only on microfilm and only for my grandfather and great-uncle makes them interesting, but they don’t shed as much light as one would hope. It did help verify some names that were only vaguely recollected by my grandfather. I have since slightly changed my tack on the whole situation and am approaching it by looking at records for my great-grandmother’s siblings. Most notably, Uncle Mike. Merchant Marine, taxi-cab driving and most importantly Lithuanian-born, Marcus Barrett. As fate would have it, Uncle Mike didn’t marry so that particular portion of the line stops right there, but I think my grandfather might have some postcards tucked away somewhere. Must get those.

I certainly hope that the history is not completely lost.

My father’s mother’s side should in theory be easy to find. She had three sisters (only one surviving at this time), and her surname was Graham. Nice an easy, but maybe just a little too common. And her mother’s maiden name was Eleanor Chilcote. The Chilcotes are a huge line — especially in Maryland — and so I was hoping just to link in easily, but alas, it was not meant to be. Complicating matters even further is my grandmother’s father, one Harry Graham: convict [EDIT: Well, maybe. Perhaps that was just a story] . So at a point he just disappears from records. In a way, it does make them easier to track. But again, that’s all pretty recent history. I think I’ve found both Eleanor and Harry as children in the census, but I can really only be so sure about that. It’s based on best guesses. I think another few trips to the Maryland archives is in order. In addition, more efforts are needed to get information from my great-aunt, grandfather, plus any other items that are hanging around in the family somewhere (not just ancestry information, but recipies (for Vitatis!) as well). 

I enjoy the hunt. The logic, algorithmic side of me (which is a big part) loves strategizing different angles to take. And pulling back, it’s a pretty amazing set of relatives that I’ve got: Protestant Irish immigrants, German-American Civil War veterans, linen weavers, housekeeping, Johnny Unitas football uniform sewing, iron working, Polish, Lithuanian, and Catholic all mixed together.


Brendan joined the party on January 2, 2004. He's cool now.

Jessica has never been cool. She is OK with that.

And just so everyone is clear, what we say here is not endorsed by either of our employers.