For over 150 years, Milwaukee has been home to a large community of people of Polish descent. The Milwaukee Polonia Project hopes to show the interweaving, intertwining family trees that resulted in this community. It is hoped that, eventually, all the families can be connected to one another. The Milwaukee Polonia Project is also a means to explore our common history and celebrate our shared heritage.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Polonia Christmas Traditions

The following article appeared in the Milwaukee Journal on December 22, 1935 (page 9 on Google News)

 And now for Milwaukee Polonia's favorite rendition of the "Night before Christmas" as interpreted by Mad Man Michaels (a.k.a. "Gwiazdor"):

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Featured Profile #21 - Roman B. J. Kwasniewski

Roman B. J. Kwasniewski (1886 -1980)
 (Click here to see a copyrighted photo of Roman Kwasniewski)

Roman Kwasniewski was one of those individuals whose true worth was not generally recognized until he had passed away.

Roman was the only child of Joseph Kwasniewski and Wanda (Dyniewicz) Kwasniewski, and if there was anyone famous in the family it was his mother.  Wanda was born in Chicago in 1870 to Wladyslaw and Albertyna Dyniewicz. They were the publishers of the Gazeta Polska w Chicago, the first weekly Polish-language newspaper in America.  As a child, Wanda helped her parents set the type for the paper.  She became so proficient at this that at one point she hand set all the type for a textbook in Polish on Bible history.  The quality of her work is indicated by the fact that this textbook was used for many years in the Polish parochial schools of Chicago.

It is not known how or when Wanda met Joseph Kwasniewski, a Polish immigrant from Jaroslaw, Galicia, who was eleven years her senior. What is known is that by the time she was 17, Wanda had married Joseph and given birth to Roman.  The family moved to Milwaukee in 1893, when Roman was just seven.  Joseph ran a lithography and printing business on Becher Street which he supplemented by selling his own oil paintings and portraits along with miscellaneous books, religious items, statuary, etc.  Wanda ran an art shop and taught classes in paper flower making.  Joseph would eventually become the agricultural editor for the Kuryer Polski.  (Roman would eventually take over both the editorship held by his father, and the paper flower business ran by his mother.)

Young Roman attended public schools until he was about ten, and then moved to St. Hyacinth's School.  He went on to South Division High School from which he graduated in 1904.

Upon graduation, Roman worked in his father's business.  However, he eventually took up a relatively new career that advances in technology had only just recently made available: photography.  By 1913, he had opened his own photographic studio, Park Studio, at 554 Lincoln Ave. (now 1010 W. Lincoln Ave.)  Three years later, he built a new studio at 568 Lincoln Ave. (now 1024 W. Lincoln Ave.)  There he spent the remaining majority of his working career, quietly taking photographs. These pictures were mainly of individuals:  family pictures, portraits for citizenship papers, and holy communion pictures like the one he took of my cousin Harry Ruskiewicz (1918 - 1960), probably around 1928.

Harry Ruskiewicz, taken at Park Studio
Roman also ventured outside of his studio to take photos of businesses, social groups, fraternal organizations, and the occasional auto accident to document an insurance claim.  Every so often, he would take random photos:  St. Josaphat's through a quiet snowfall, two girls stolling in Kosciuszko Park, a street car making its way down Lincoln Ave.  All these photographs were almost exclusively of the South Side and her Polish-Americans. Even though they may not have been many on any particular day, they added up, day by day, week by week, year by year, for decades until he closed his studio in 1947.

In the meantime, Roman had married Mary J. L. Drozniakiewicz and started a family.  He had three children: Edward, who became a chemist, and moved to Buffalo, NY; Roman, Jr., an industrial engineer who died early at the age of 37; and Adele, who married John Joseph Kaczmarowski. (A picture of the young family can be found here.)

In 1974, Donald Pienkos, Political Science Professor at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, was searching for photographs of the Milwaukee Polish community to illustrate one of his scholarly articles.  He discovered that such photos were rare.  Those that did exist were in private collections.  Most of the photo studios that had served the South Side community had destroyed their "unwanted" inventories of old pictures.  Professor Pienkos may not even have thought of Roman Kwasniewski and his Park Studio but for the suggestion of Janet Dziadulewicz Branden. Even then, Professor Pienkos's phone calls to Roman's house went unanswered.  As a last attempt, Professor Pienkos wrote Roman a short note, but that, too, went seemingly ignored ...

 ... until December, 1978 when Professor Pienkos received a short missive:  "The building is being sold next week.  If you want to look at the photographs, let me know."  It was signed by John Kaczmarowski.  Professor Pienkos acted quickly and within a matter of days, he was at the old studio with several staff members from the UWM library.  What they found there that day was probably the closest Milwaukee has ever come to a horde of buried treasure: thousands of plate glass negatives and prints  (The final total collection now consists of over 25,000 plate glass negatives and 5,000 prints) depicting almost every aspect of Milwaukee Polonia during its peak years.

Through a generous grant from Polanki (the Polish Women's Cultural Club of Milwaukee) and Professor Pienkos, UWM was able to buy the collection.  But that was only the first step.  Next, the archivist librarians had to catalog each individual picture.  Luckily, Roman had made many notes on the glass negatives which in many cases recorded the particulars about each picture.  All that information was meticulously placed in a database.   As a result of all that hard work, researchers can now search for photographs by name, address, topic or date.  It is truly an amazing resource about the history of life in Polish Milwaukee!

If you can't make it to UWM to view the collection, some of the pictures are available on-line at
"A Community Portrait" by Christel T. Maass and John Gurda, Wisconsin Magazine of History, Spring, 2004, "Polish Community Photographer:  Roman B.J. Kwasniewski", Chapter Three in Milwaukee: Wisconsin by Richard Klatte Prestor, and Historical photographs of the Near South Side at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee Digital Collections.
It is now also possible to buy a book of the some of the Kwasniewski photographs.  (See "Gift Ideas" below.)

However, the photographs of the Kwasniewski collection are in danger.  The inherent properties of the plate photographs made them susceptible to deterioration.  UWM is trying to save the collection by scanning them all.  To learn how you can help in this important project, click here.

Relation to Nearest Featured Profile (Michael Domachowski and Joseph Domachowski, Featured Profile #3 and Featured Profile #4):  No close relationship.

Path From Nearest Featured Profile:  Domachowski brothers  > sister, Frances (Domachowski) [Grosz] Jagodzinski > daughter, Rose (Jagodzinski) [Ruszkiewicz] Ruswick > husband, Frank [Ruszkiewicz] Ruswick > brother, Albert Ruszkiewicz > wife, Mary (Jankowski) Ruszkiewicz > sister, Angeline (Jankowski) Drozniakiewicz > husband, Casper Drozniakiewicz > sister, Mary (Drozniakiewicz) Kwasniewski > husband, Roman Kwasniewski 


Maass, Christel T., Illuminating the Particular:  Photographs of Milwaukee's Polish South Side, Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2003.

"Polish Woman Leader Dead,"  Milwaukee Journal,  August 23, 1937, page 5 on Google News.

Summary Information on the Roman B.J. Kwasniewski Papers at the Wisconsin Historical Society

Gift Ideas:

If you have someone on your Holiday List that might enjoy reading about the Milwaukee Polish community (or just looking at photographs of the neighborhood in which they grew up) there are two books from the Wisconsin Historical Society Press you should consider as gifts.

The first is Illuminating the Particular:  Photographs of Milwaukee's Polish South Side, which contains a good sampling of the photographs of Roman Kwasniewski which is discussed above.

The other is Poles in Wisconsin by Susan Gibson Mikos.  This book gives the general history of Polish settlement thoughout the state, but the highlight of the book for me was the extensive memoir of Majcie Wojda, an earlier settler of Milwaukee.  Both his personality and life in those early times really shine through his words and the author's translation.

Both these books are available from multiple vendors.

Notethere is a little genealogical mystery linking these two books.   The wife of Roman Kwasniewski was Mary Drozniakiewicz.  The son-in-law of Majcie Wojda was Frank Drozniakiewicz (who will be the subject of a forth-coming Featured Profile.)  Were these two individuals related?  The answer is: it appears so, but exactly how is uncertain.  

The father of Frank Drozniakiewicz was also named Frank Drozniakiewicz (born about 1848) and his mother was Cecelia Grymczynski.  The father of Mary Drozniakiewicz was Mathew, born about 1860So, it is clear that Frank, Jr. and Mary were not siblings.  However, the 1900 census discloses that Frank, Sr. was living at 841 8th Ave., while Mathew was living just a few doors down at 833 8th Ave.  Coincidence, or it could be relations tending to live close to one another?

Now, this is where it starts to get real interesting.  A search of the records of the Poznan Project reveals a marriage between Franciscus Drozniakiewicz and Caecilia Gremczynska (which appear to be Frank Jr.'s parents) in 1873.  F'rank, Sr.'s parents are listed in that record as Franciscus Drozniakiewicz and Marianna Florkowska.

 Mathew, however, was married in WisconsinThe transcription of his marriage record which is available on lists his parents as Thomas Drozniakiewicz and Marie Florkowska.  In other words, in both cases, the mother appears to be Marie or Marianna Florkowska, but in one case, the father appears to be Franciscus (Frank) Drozniakiewicz, and in the other the father appears to be Thomas Drozniakeiwicz.

So, what are we to make of this?  Are these, in fact, two different mothers but with similar names?  Are Thomas and Franciscus the same individual and there was just an error in transcription?  Or, is it the same mother in both cases, but with different fathers? For what its worth, the Poznan Project records disclose a marriage of Thomas Drozniakiewicz to Marianna Florkowska in 1845, but they do not show any other marriage to a Frank Drozniakiewicz.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Status Update - December, 2012

Family Names Added Since Last Update:


Number of Profiles Added Since Last Update:  216

New Intra-Connections (Lucht to Fons):

 98)  .... Valentine Martynski > daughter, Phyllis (Martynski) Michalski > husband, Alois Michalski > father, Stephen Michalski ....

99)  .... Valentine Martynski > daughter, Joanna (or Jean) (Martynski) Maternowski > husband, Frank Maternowski > mother, Frances (Markowski) Maternowski ....

100)  ...Andrew Stanny > son, PRIVATE Stanny > wife, PRIVATE (Geske) Stanny > father, Roman Geske > mother, Stella (Martynski) Gesicki > brother, Valentine Martynski ...

101)  .... Stella (Martynski) Gesicki > daughter, Irene (Gesicki) Kornacki > husband, John Kornacki > sister, Helen (Kornacki) Polewczynski > husband, Henry Polewczynski .... 

102)  ...Clarice Eve (Baranowski) Komassa > brother, Joseph [Baranowski] Baren > wife, Eleanor (Kolterman) Baren > brother, John Kolterman > wife, Stella (Jankowski) Kolterman > sister, Mary (Jankowski) Zablocki > son, Harry Zablocki > wife, Anne (Adamski) Zablocki > mother, Josephine (Ciezki) Adamski, brother, Alexander Ciezki, daughter, PRIVATE (Ciezki) Kulwicki > husband, Arthur Kulwicki > father, Theodore Kulwicki > mother, Anna (Brozda) [Kulwicki] Kitzke ....

103)  .... John Domachowski (I) > son, Frank Domachowski > daughter, Mary (Domachowski) Peksa > husband, Andrew Peksa > sister, Antoinette (Peksa) Litzow > John Litzow > wife, Florence (Wabiszewski) Litzow > brother, Frank Wabiszewski > daughter, Colette (Wabiszewski) Kornacki > husband, Frank Kornacki > sister, Helen (Kornacki) Polewczynski .... 

104)  .... Antoinette (Peksa) Litzow > husband, Albert P. Litzow > brother, August Litzau > son, Joseph A. Litzau > wife, Lottie (Kuligowski) Litzau > sister, Pearl (Kuligowski) Bessa ....

PCN:  3.29

December, 2012: 3.29
November, 2012: 6.0
October, 2012:  12.25
September, 2012:  6.4
August, 2012: 3.89
July, 2012:  4.57
June, 2012:  7.75
May, 2012:  9.33
April, 2012:  16.67
March, 2012:  16
February, 2012:  12.8
January, 2012:  19

Newly-Discovered Changed Names:

Budzisz to Budish
Gesicki to Geske
Wenderski to Wenders

Newly-Discovered Alternate Spellings:

Krauska Kramska
Litzow Litzau
Sytkowski Syltkowski Pytkowski

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Featured Profile #20 - Leonne (Jankowski) Wozinski and Thanksgivng

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Before I give my thanks, I would first like to discuss the next Featured Profile.

Leone (Jankowski) Wozinski (1900 - 1991) -

(As published in the Milwaukee Journal)
 Stephen M. Leahy, the biographer of Clement Zablocki, credits Leone  (spelled "Leonne on her death notice) with affecting the start his political career.  Leone was the younger sister of Clement's mother.  Even though a generation ahead of Clement, she was only twelve years his senior.  By the late 1930's, when Clement was a young man considering a run in politics, Leonne was already a leader in many of the community organizations.  Through Leone's connections, Clement was able to socialize with many diverse members of the community in small settings.  It was these types of gatherings in which Clement was at his best, and many voters left those meetings with a favorable impression of the young Clement.  After his election to Congress, Clement made Leone his Milwaukee secretary.  It is not clear whether this was a reward to her help in the election, or because he recognized her talents.

However, it is not for her connection to Clement Zablocki that Leone is recognized here.  Rather, it is for her voluntary service in many of the community organizations.  Her death noticed listed the various groups in which she was involved.  They included:

St. Francis Hospital, Board of Trustees, St. Francis Hospital Foundation and St. Francis Hospital Guild, Catholic Social Services Board of Directors, Past President and Treasurer of the former St. Joseph's Home for Children, Alverno College President's Committee, International Institute and Holiday Folk Fair, national Director and Secretary of the Polish Roman Catholic Union, Wisconsin Poland's  Millennium Committee, Xaverian Father's Lay Advisors Board, Polish National Alliance Council No. 8 and Womens Division of Circuit XIV, Polish Veteran of WWII, Polish American Congress, Milwaukee Society Group 2159 PNA Ladies Auxiliary, Polish Womens Cultural Club-Polanki, Pierre Marquette Auxiliary No. 524 KC, Ethnic Advisory Council, Democratic Party of Wisconsin, and St. Cecilia Society of St. Vincent DePaul Church.

For all this work, Leone was recognized as a Polish American of the Year by the Milwaukee Society of the Polish National Alliance.  She was the first woman to receive that award.  From the Polish government, she received the Order of Polonia Restituta, 1976 Honorary.

Leone was born in the province of Poznan in German-controlled Poland in about 1900. (This is based on the 1910 and 1920 census records.  The source cited below states she was born in Milwaukee.)  She was the youngest child of John and Josephine Jankowski. Her parents brought her, and most of the rest of the family, including Josephine's mother, Suzanna Haddak, to Milwaukee when Leone was nine years old.  She attended St. Vincent de Paul grade school and graduated from Our Lady of Mercy Academy (later known as Mercy High School).  She married Leon Wozinski on June 20, 1923.  She died in Milwaukee on October, 16, 1991.

Relation to Nearest Featured Profile (Clement J. Zablocki, Featured Profile #19):  Aunt

Path From Nearest Featured Profile:  Clement J. Zablocki  > mother, Mary (Jankowski) Zablocki > sister, Leonne (Jankowski) Wozinski


See also, "Polish Alliance to Hail Aide to Zablocki," Milwaukee Journal, October 13, 1976, p.73 (on Google News.)

I would also like to take this opportunity to express my thanks to all those individuals who have helped the Milwaukee Poloinia Project since it official start:

Eugene Bielinski – for his research on the Descendants of John Klafka

Joachim Cyran - for providing baptism, marriage and death records for Gromadno, Blugowo and Wirsitz, and to his daughter for indexing some of those records

Sharyl Fischback - for her information and photographs of the Kowalkowski family

Chuck Hardt – for his information and photos of the Joseph Domachowski family 

Holly Kobza - for her information on the Kobza family

David Komassa – for his information on the Komassa family

Mary Krier – for her information on the Orlikowski family and the picture of the Polish Falcons, #725 in 1934 (which can be found on the Project Facebook page.)

Diane Olson – for her information on the Orlikowski, Kitzke and Wojciechowski families and her memories of  growing up on the South Side

Pat Kuhar - for her information on the Jagodzinski family and all her time spent in the LDS library poring over photos of old Polish church records

Julie Machnik - for her information on the Machnik and Wenta families

Mary Schlem - for her information on the Jagodzinski and Ratajski families

Cindy Schultz – for her photograph of the 1942 graduating class of St. Hedwig's School (also posted on the Project Facebook page)

John M. Smallshaw -  for allowing a republication of portions of his book, Faith Cast in Stone: The Polish Churches of Milwaukee 1866 - 2000

Brian Struzik – for his photos of the tombstone of Katherine Wenta, for which he had to make a special trip

Lynn Szudrowitz – for retrieving requested pages from We, the Milwaukee Poles, and for her information on the Maternowski family

Lynn Thrasher –  for a copy of Poles in Wisconsin, her Sikora family tree, and for retrieving requested copies of death notices from Kuryer Polski

Paul Wasilewski – for providing photos and information on the descendants of Frank Wasilewski

Bill Weisrock – for his extensive research into the Descendants of Joseph Budzisz

Finally, I would like to say that I have gotten many more contacts and offers of information.  I have always tried to follow up on these offers and I sent responsive e-mail within several days.  However,  in many cases, I never hear from the individuals again.  I don't know why this is the case.  It may be that the people making the offers have forgotten, or lost interest.  However, if it was because my initial response was never received, then to those individuals I say,  PLEASE TRY AGAIN!  I would love to get the information that you are offering.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Honoring Our Heroes

In observance of Veteran's Day, I would like to honor some members of our community who gave their lives in service of their country.  Included with their names, are whatever facts I have been able to discover regarding the circumstance of their death:

Arthur Beckman (1913 - 1944) - Husband of Eleanor (Waszak) Beckman - died in Normandy, France, on December 8, 1944.

Joseph Kapczynski (1917 - 1945) - Son of Joseph Kapczynski and Anna (Domachowski) Kapczynski - died in the European Theater of Operations on April 4, 1945.

LeRoy Kitzke
LeRoy Kitzke (1925 - 1944) - Son of Bernard Kitzke and Irene (Jagodzinski) Kitzke - a Marine, he was killed in action on Saipan, June 28, 1944.

Ronald Kitzke (1947 - 1967) - Son of Ralph Kitzke and PRIVATE (Pichotte) Kitzke - a lance corporal in the Marines, he was killed in action in Vietnam, December 27, 1967.

John Machnik  (1920 - 1944) -  Son of Peter Machnik and Martha (Sniegowski) Machnik. 

John was a member of a unit designated to clear mines. On July 20, 1944, John,  his friend, Ben Kaiser, and fellow soldiers Kenneth Helseth and Roy Franze, were clearing a beach one-half mile south of Vada, Italy. One of them accidentally triggered an S-mine (known to the Americans as a Bouncing Betty because it would "jump" up to the height of a man's crotch before exploding.) It was one of the most feared weapons of World War II. John and Ben were killed. Kenneth and Roy survived, but were wounded.  (Source:  Blog of the 109th Combat Engineers)

Reginald Riviere (1930 - 1951) - Son of  Frank Riviere and Victoria (Kowalkowski) Riviere

Died of wounds received in combat on April 12, 1951. Before his death, he wrote to his parents that his squad had been attacked on a hill in North Korea. He had been hit by fragments from an exploding mortar shell which had torn through his stomach.
Source: Milwaukee Journal, June 20, 1951

George F. Rogalska (???? - 1918) - Son of Fred Rogalska and Lydia (Lemmons) Rogalska.  A PFC in the Headquarters Company, 128th Infantry Division.  He was killed in action in France on August 2, 1918.

Robert Tutaj (1926 - 1945) - Son of Joseph Tutaj and Clara (Fennig) Tutaj - a Marine, he was killed in action on Okinawa on May 10, 1945, two days after the war in Europe had ended. 

John Wask (1914 - 1945) - Son of Andrew Wask and Marianna (Smolterowicz) Wask - John was a Sergeant in 28th Infantry Division. He was killed in action in the European Theater of Operations on February 5, 1945.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Status Update - November, 2012

Family Names Added Since Last Update:


Number of Profiles Added Since Last Update:  252

New Intra-Connections (Lucht to Fons):

  93)  .... Anton Grosz > brother, Bernhard Grosz > daughter, Sylvia (Grosz) Szymek > husband, Ralph Szymek > mother, Angeline (Ureda) [Szymek] Przybyl > brother, Casper [Casimir] Ureda > wife, Martha (Skonieczny) Ureda > brother, John Skonieczny > wife, Tekla (Wloszczynski) Skonieczny > sister, Rose (Wloszczynski) [Rechlicz] Mazurkiewicz > husband, Michael Mazurkiewicz > son, Henry [Harry] Mazurkiewicz ....

94)  ....Angeline (Ureda) [Szymek] Przybyl > brother, Paul Ureda > wife, Alice (Michalski) Ureda > half-brother, John L. Michalski > wife, Hattie (Rosinski) Michalski > mother, Hedwig (Ruszkiewicz) Rosinski > brother, Frank Ruszkiewicz (I) .... 

95)  .... Arthur Michalski > father, Joseph Michalski > mother, Anastazja (Brzezinska) Michalski ....

96)  ....Frances (Domachowski) [Grosz] Jagodzinski > brother, Frank Domachowski > wife, Agnes (Nowakowski) (Gorski) Domachowski > sister, Mary (Nowakowski) Martynski > husband, Anton Martynski > sister, Apolonia (Martynski) Polewczynski > son, Henry Polewczynski ....

97)  ....Frances (Domachowski) [Grosz] Jagodzinski > brother, Frank Domachowski > wife, Agnes (Nowakowski) (Gorski) Domachowski > sister, Stella (Nowakowski) Martynski > husband, Valentine Martynski > sister, Apolonia (Martynski) Polewczynski > son, Henry Polewczynski ....

PCN:  6.0

November, 2012: 6.0
October, 2012:  12.25
September, 2012:  6.4
August, 2012: 3.89
July, 2012:  4.57
June, 2012:  7.75
May, 2012:  9.33
April, 2012:  16.67
March, 2012:  16
February, 2012:  12.8
January, 2012:  19

Newly-Discovered Alternate Spellings:

Bulski Baluski
Ruszkiewicz Roskiewicz Puskiewicz
Skonieczny Skomeczny
Wienert Wajner
Walsh Walsch
Wenta Went Wendt

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


The general scene of the wreckage after the explosion on November 3, 1935. (Originally published in Milwaukee Journal.)

Autumn, 1935 was a tense time on the South side of Milwaukee.  The Great Depression was entering its sixth year.  The initial stock market avalanche had wiped out the family savings of both millionaires and mill workers.  Since then, the constant pressure of no work - no money had slowly ground away people's confidence, self-esteem and even hope.  It is no wonder that individuals snapped, causing sporadic outbreaks of violence in varied and unlikely places.  One of those places was the strike at the A.J. Lindemann and Hoverson Co.  (See Featured Profile #1) where striking workers and replacements exchanged insults, as well as paint and rocks.  While this was occurring, another more lethal flash point was festering in the heart of the Milwaukee's South side.

Hugh "Idzi" Rutkowski was a somewhat clever individual with some manual skills.  He had attended St. Vincent's Academy and Boy's Technical High School where he learned the auto mechanic's trade.  Unfortunately, he had not been able to find consistent employment.  In  the Fall of 1935, he was 20, unemployed, living with his parents, and frustrated.  He was also a bully with an inflated sense of his abilities and a total lack of respect for the law and the rights of others.  Unfortunately for him, and his innocent victims, those are the qualities he drew upon to formulate his plan to get rich quick.

(as published in the Milwaukee Sentinel)
On October 2, 1935 he took the first step in this plan when he stole 150 sticks of dynamite, blasting caps and fuses from the Estabrook park CCC camp.  He had tried to get a job there earlier in the year, but had been rejected because of his bad teeth.

On October 22, 1935, Idzi stole a West Milwaukee police squad car from two unsuspecting officers who were in the police station at 4755 W. Beloit Road.  He stripped it of its siren, radio, red spotlight and license plates.  He placed these items on a Ford V-8 coupe (which he had probably also stolen) to make it look like a police car and then hid the coupe in a garage at 2960 S. Thirteenth Street. This garage had been rented for him by Paul Chovanec, a small, 16-year-old neighborhood boy whom Idzi dominated.  It is not known to what extent Paul Chovanec would assist in the ensuing crimes, but he undoubtedly was involved.

On Saturday, October 26th, the main event began when at 7:32 p.m. an explosion erupted under a 5-inch sewer outside the Shorewood City Hall at 3930 N. Murray Ave.  It tore a hole through the cellar, splintered one of the large columns supporting the roof and shattered every window in the structure.  Because of the smell of dynamite in the air, and the effects of the explosion, the police suspected that the explosion was the work of human hands, but no one had any idea who might want to attack Shorewood.

The next bombings occurred less than twenty-four hours later when two banks were targeted.   At 6:10 p.m. on October 27th, another bomb went off against the rear wall of the Citizens branch of the First Wisconsin National Bank located at 3602 W. Villard Ave.  It weakened the building's foundation and sprayed glass over the surrounding homes.  Using his stolen car that was made up to look like a police vehicle, Idzi then sped away to the site of his next target.  Less than 30 minutes later, another bomb exploded, this time at the East Side branch of the First Wisconsin National Bank at the corner of N. Farwell and E. North Avenue.  The dynamite had been placed on the ground at the rear of the building, so much of the force of the explosion went outward, wrecking near-by parked cars. 

Now the city knew that the explosions were the work of one or more individuals bent on terror.  The mood of the city darkened even more. Everyone was cautious and worried, not knowing when the next bomb might explode. For four days, the police searched frantically for clues, rounding up large numbers of random "suspects" in the desperate attempt to find the bomber through shear luck. The rest of the city waited, suspended in fear.  Then on Thursday, the next two bombs exploded in quick succession.  This time, the police stations were targeted.  At 6:47 p.m. a bomb that had been left on a window ledge of the Fifth Precinct Police Station at Third and Hadley went off.  Although the damage to the building and surrounding houses was severe, the occupants of the police building luckily escaped injury.  The same was true less than 11 minutes later when the second bomb went off, this time at the Third Precinct Police Station at Twelfth and West Vine Streets.

At this point, the police began to suspect how the bombers were eluding capture.  About the time of the first bomb exploded, three false alarms had been called in.  The confusion caused by the response to these false alarms and to the real bombing had let the bombers make their escape.  The police also suspected that the bombers were using the equipment stolen from the police car to disguise their own auto as a police vehicle.

Thursday was also the day that a "ransom" note of sorts and a blasting cap were discovered on a desk in the Palmer Street School.  The note apparently had been typed on a typewriter stolen from the school the Monday before.  The letter was so long, rambling, and filled with misspelled words and ungrammatical sentences that it was difficult to read.  It demanded $125,000 in set specified denominations and then went on:

plan mus be got or up go sity                           [My plan must be accepted or up goes
                                                                             the city
i gif far wrnig i do it to 125,000                       I give fair warning.  I do it, too.  $125,000
is leetl                                                                is little]

if no tak ofer wtmj by fri, it wel betoob         [If you don't take the offer on WTMJ by
bad dis is de las chance....                                   Friday, it will become bad. 
                                                                         This is the last chance.]

The note rambled on, taunting the police with their incompetence, bragging about how clever the bomber had been so that the police could not identify him, warning that if the offer to trade peace for money was not accepted three bombs would go off, at least one at a theater, and many people would be killed.

It ended, somewhat ironically and prophetically:

i no afrad to di so i no kar i e x con                 [I'm not afraid to die, so I don't care.  I'm 
an vet i handle dy. over there                               an ex-con
                                                                          and vet.  I handled dynamite over there.
i expert boms kin be timed elek caps i             I'm an expert.  Bombs can be timed
                                                                              with electric caps. I
mean not d e fuzes they b in to fast                   mean, not the fuses.  They burn
                                                                               too fast.]

The last reference about using electric caps and not fuses was probably a response to an article that had appeared in the newspapers.  All the bombs that had gone off so far had been set with simple burning fuses.  This, the article had explained, indicated that the bombings were the work of an amateur.  Professionals did not use simple fuses because they were too risky.  Real professionals used electric detonators.  Being called an amateur must have rankled Idzi.  He decided he would show them.  His next bomb would use a timed electric detonator, and it would be a super bomb.  The previous explosions had been caused by about five sticks of dynamite each.  His next bomb would use 35.

Again the city waited anxiously.  Friday and Saturday passed with no explosions, but several false alarms.  Sunday, November 3, started the same, but at 2:40 p.m. the tension in the atmosphere was released with a terrific explosion that was heard up to eight miles away.  The source  was a sheet metal garage in the rear of 2121 W. Mitchell Street where Idzi and Paul had been trying to set an elector detonator to their super bomb.  Whether the early detonation was caused by an electrical short in the wiring, a slip of the hand or some other error, we'll never know.

(Published in Milwaukee Sentinel)
The force of the explosion was so great that a large section of the garage roof  was blown over the alley and two whole houses before landing in Mitchell Street.  Windows in St. Vincent de Paul were shattered.  Nearby homes also sustained heavy damage.   Unfortunately, one of those was the upstairs bedroom across the alley at 2117-B Mitchell Street where nine-year-old Patricia Mylnarek was killed by the impact of the explosion.  Her mother Clara and brother Conrad were also injured.  Fortunately, there was a driving rain at the time which probably kept damage down by preventing fires and the sympathetic explosion of other dynamite stored nearby.  Still, the damage to person and property was significant.   Also sent to the hospital:

Lydia Tarnowski, 29, 1727 S. 21st Street
Albert Raddatz, 57, 2127 W. Mitchell Street, his wife, Mary, and their daughter, Edna Grebe, 34, 2618 W. Lincoln Ave.
Joseph Kowalski, 36, 1803 S. 39th Street
Gladys Pietrzak, 18, 2143 W. Maple Street
Lucille Gustafson, 34, 1721 S. 21st Street
Hilda Budnik, 37, 2121 W. Mitchell Street
Rose (Antoniak) Kleczka, 49, 2117 W. Mitchell Street

(Rose Kleczka was the wife of Ed Klezka, the owner of the house in which Patricia Mylnarek was killed.  Ed Kleczka was the brother of John C. Kleczka, see Featured Profile #8.)

Others escaped with their lives only through pure chance.  Joseph Doligalski, uncle of Idzi, had taken his car out of another section of the garage where the bomb exploded just before.  Earl Tarnowski, son of the injured Lydia, was in the basement of their house on an errand.  The explosion blew two basement doors off their hinges.  Earl just missed being seriously injured when one of the doors flew by, just grazing his head.

(As published in the Milwaukee Sentinel)
Idzi and Paul were obliterated instantly.  Tiny bits of their bodies were spread out over the Mitchell Street neighborhood.  [On a personal note, on this fateful afternoon, my mother was playing in her yard a few blocks away with her cousins, Dan and Leo Kitzke.  When they heard the terrific explosion, they ran toward its source out of curiosity.  They had not gone very far when they ran into their uncle Roman Kitzke who turned them back.  However, even by that time, they had seen human limbs and flesh hanging from the trees.]  The bits and pieces of Idzi and Paul that could be collected had to be buried in the same coffin because there was no way to tell them apart.

The reign of terror by Milwaukee's Mad Bomber had ended.

Sources: (references to page numbers in newspapers are to the page on Google News)

Balousek, Marv and J. Allen Kirsch, 50 Wisconsin Crimes of the Century, "Idzi's Reign of Terror", beginning p. 136.

"Bomber Blows Self to Bits, Child Killed,"  Milwaukee Sentinel, November 4, 1935, p. 1

"Hope May Be in Vain, But Parents of Rutkowski's Pal Await His Return," Milwaukee Sentinel, November 4, 1935, p. 1

"Police Find Four Deadly Missiles Hidden in Garage,"  Milwaukee Sentinel, December 6, 1935, p. 1

"Shorewood Blast Began Bombings,"  Milwaukee Sentinel, November 4, 1935, p.2.

"Two Killed in New Blast, Believe Bomber a Victim," Milwaukee Journal, November 4, 1935, p. 1

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Featured Profile #19 - Clement J. Zablocki

Clement John Zablocki (1912 - 1983)

Clement Zablocki was born in Milwaukee in November, 1912.  His parents were Mathew and Mary (Jankowski) Zablocki.  Like many Milwaukee Poles, they had come to Milwaukee from the Poznan area of German Poland sometime before the turn of the century.  The Zablocki family ran a small grocery store.  Mathew also worked as a laborer at various factories. Clement was the fourth out of the eight known children born into this family.  He attended grade school at St. Vincent de Paul where Fr. Michael Domachowski (Featured Profile #3) was Pastor, and then went on to Marquette High School.  In order to pay for his tuition at Marquette University, he worked as a store clerk and as an organist and choir director for various local churches.  (He had been learning to play the organ since he was 10.)  He graduated from Marquette in 1936 with a Bachelor of Philosophy degree.  Upon graduation, he worked full time as church organist and choir director.  He also continued his studies by doing graduate work in education at Marquette and of the organ at School Sisters of St. Francis.  In 1937, he married his grade school sweetheart, Blanche Janic. (They would eventually adopt two children.)  He seemed to have settled down into the lifestyle of many musicians: getting paying gigs when he could and supplementing his income with other (non-musical) fill-ins.  In Zablocki's case, his "fill-ins" were teaching high school and citizenship classes for people wishing to be naturalized.

According to Zablocki Legend, that is when an event happened that altered not only Zablocki's life, but ultimately, American politics.  Zablocki was teaching a class when a student ("Mrs. Geniusz"), after listening to Zablocki's fervent lecture on the need for citizens to participate in politics, asked him why he didn't run himself.  So he did.  He threw his hat into the primary ring for a State Senate seat in 1938.  He lost, but he was a close second.  Zablocki was not a photogenic candidate.  His looks were average, at best.  Neal Pease of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has described him as "a short, likeable, regular guy from Milwaukee who wore a map of Poland for his face..."   He was undeniably, short, only about five foot, five.  Once, when he was campaigning, a woman to whom he had been introduced exclaimed,  "Oh, but you're such a short man!"  To which Zablocki  replied, "Lady, I just want you to vote for me, not marry me."  The story illustrates Zablocki's wit and sense of humor, traits that served him well in politics.  He was also outgoing and the life of the party. His social and family connections gave him many opportunities to shine in the Polish community and other forums.  It was later said that he was equally at home with both the caviar and the kielbassa cowds.  When that State Senate seat opened up in 1942, he ran again, and this time he won.  He was to never leave public office.  

 He was re-elected to the State Senate in 1946.  Then came the 1948 Congressional elections.  The Fourth Wisconsin Congressional District, which encompassed the south side of Milwaukee, has often been held by a person of Polish descent.  John Kleczka (Featured Profile #8) had held the seat from 1918 to 1922.  Thaddeus Wasielewski (Featured Profile #16) had held it from 1940 but was unseated in what can only be described as the freak election of 1946 in which a split Democratic vote allowed a Republican to capture the seat.  When Wasielewski decided not to run again in 1948, Zablocki jumped in.  He was elected that year, and every other year thereafter, for the rest of his life.

This article is too short to discuss the long career of Clement Zablocki:  his friendship with John Kennedy, his distance from Lyndon Johnson, his sketchy record on civil rights.  However, what must be at least mentioned about Zablocki's Congressional career was his involvement in foreign relations.  After his initial election to Congress, he was appointed to the Committee on Foreign Affairs in January, 1949.  He would stay on that committee, gradually working his way up through the ranks of seniority, until he was elected Chairman of the House Committee on International Relations/Foreign Affairs in 1977, a position which he held until his death.  Of course, the most prominent event in American foreign affairs during that time was the Vietnam War.  Like many Americans, that conflict changed his attitude about the role of the presidency in foreign relations.  As an early supporter of the war, he was a co-sponsor of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and as Chair of the House Far East Subcommittee, which had oversight over the conflict, he blocked any House investigation into the conduct of the war.  However, after the 1968 election, he began to distance himself from hawkish sentiments.  He began to be an advocate for nuclear arms reduction.  After Nixon's decision to invade Cambodia in 1970, he also began to believe that the power of the president in foreign relations must be balanced by Congressional oversight.  His work, both in committee, and behind closed doors, helped insure the passage of the War Powers Resolution over Nixon's veto, and he, along with Senator Jacob Javits, are generally credited with being the driving forces behind that historic legislation.

Zablocki was perhaps at the height of his power in 1983, when he suffered a heart attach in his office, just prior to a scheduled meeting with Israeli Premier Yitzhak Shamir. He went into a coma and died three days later, never having regained consciousness.  His wife had died of cancer in 1977, but his children were at his side.

Perhaps an indication of the respect in which Zablocki was held are the local landmarks that have been named after him.  They include a Greenfield park, a grade school, a library and the VA medical center. These accolades are not limited to Milwaukee.  In 1984, a $10 million out-patient wing of the American's Children's Hospital in Krakow, Poland was also named in his honor.

Relation to Nearest Featured Profile (Alan Kulwicki, Featured Profile #18):  No near relation.

Path From Nearest Featured Profile:  Alan Kulwicki > father, Gerald Kulwicki > father, John Kulwicki > brother, Theodore Ignatz Kulwicki > son, Arthur Kulwicki > wife, PRIVATE (Ciezki) Kulwicki > father, Alexander Ciezki > sister, Josephine (Ciezki) Adamski > daughter, Anne (Adamski) Zablocki > husband, Harry Zablocki > brother, Clement J. Zablocki 


"Clement J. Zablocki" on the website for the National Soldiers' Home Historic District

"Clement J. Zablocki Papers Now Available," - Marquette University Raynor Library

"House Speaker to Attend Zablocki Funeral Thursday," Milwaukee Sentinel, December 5, 1983, p. 1

Leahy, Stephen M., "Clement J. Zablocki: The Politics of Personality and Presidential Power," in The Human Tradition in American Since 1945, edited by David L. Anderson, starting at page 113.

Leahy, Stephen Michael, "Polonia's child: The public life of Clement J. Zablocki" (January 1, 1994). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. Paper AAI9433781., Abstract

Pease, Neal, Review of Stephen M. Leahy's The Life of Milwaukee's Most Popular Politician, Clement J. Zablocki:  Milwaukee Politics and Congressional Foreign Policy, in Polish American Studies, Vol. 60, No. 2, (Autumn, 2003), pp 99-101.

"Zablocki, Clement John,"  Biographical Directory of the United States Congress

"Zablocki, Clement John," Wisconsin Biological Dictionary, edited by Caryn Hannan

"Zablocki Remains Unconscious,"   Lewiston (Maine) Journal, p. 15 on Google News

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Status Update - October, 2012

Family Names Added Since Last Update:


Number of Profiles Added Since Last Update:  438

New Intra-Connections (Lucht to Fons):

89)   .... Norbert Grosz > sister, Esther (Grosz) Stocki > husband, Leo Stocki > brother, Harry Stocki > wife, Eleanor (Maciejewski) [Jagodzinski] Stocki > her first husband, Raymond Jagodzinski > sister, Irene (Jagodzinski) Kitzke > husband, Bernard Kitzke > father, Walter Kitzke ....

90)   .... Roman Mogilka > son, David Mogilka > wife, Genevieve (Bartnicki) Mogilka > sister, Alice (Bartnicki) Fons to [PRIVATE] Fons > Edward H. Fons > brother, Louis A. Fons

91)  .... Gerald Kulwicki > sister, Irene (Kulwicki) Perlberg > husband, Florian Perlberg > brother, Alvin Perlberg > wife, Florence (Kulwicki) Perlberg > father, John Kulwicki ....

 92) .... Bennedick Michalski > wife, Balbina (Tutaj) Michalski > sister, Anna (Tutaj) Jeka > Joseph A. Jeka > Estelle (Kaluzny) Jeka > brother, George Kaluzny > wife Lucille (Michalski) Kaluzny > sister, Wanda (Michalski) Fons ....

PCN: 12.25

October, 2012:  12.25
September, 2012:  6.4
August, 2012: 3.89
July, 2012:  4.57
June, 2012:  7.75
May, 2012:  9.33
April, 2012:  16.67
March, 2012:  16
February, 2012:  12.8
January, 2012:  19

Newly-Discovered Changed Names:

Ciezki to Cheske
Szedziewski to Stevens

Newly-Discovered Alternate Spellings:

Jazdzewski Jazdziewski
JereczekJerechek Zereizuk
Klajbor Klaybor
Nowakowski Nowikowski
Rozewicz Rosewicz Rozewitz
Serocki Swocki
Sikora Sykora Sykuva
Szerbot Szierbat Szerbat Szerlat Scherbart
Zacherjacz Zacharyasz Zacharyiasz Zachariasz


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

An Emerald Wedding Anniversary

The following picture appeared in the Milwaukee Journal on April 25, 1937:

This family is connected to the Milwaukee Polonia Project Tree through the daughter Eva (Tarkowski) Sikora.  Eva's husband, Anton, had a sister Frances, who was married to Anton Pluta.  Anton Pluta's sister Agnes was married to Joseph Domachowski (Featured Profile #5)

A little follow-up to this story.  From birth records available on, I was able to determine that the mother in this family was Anna Szerbat (or some variation of that spelling.)  I then found the following on the Poznan Project:

Other than the spelling of the wife's last name, everything else, including the date of the marriage, matches the couple in the picture.

The one thing I haven't been able to match up are the number of children.  From the records that I have found, it appears that the couple had at least ten children unless some of them go by different names.  For example, the birth record I found for Anna Tarkowski may match the wedding record I found for a Joanna Tarkowski. However, the 1910 census records state that Anna had had 18 children, but only seven were still surviving.  So, it could be that the seven children mentioned in  the picture caption were only the ones who survived into adulthood.

To end this story, Anna passed away just later that year.  Frank lived until July, 1940.  They are both buried in Holy Trinity Cemetery along with other family members.

Connected Individuals:

Frank Tarkowski
Anna (Szerbot) Tarkowski
Pearl (Tarkowski) Grzybowski
Eva (Tarkowski) Sikora
Josephine (Tarkowski) Wiza
John Tarkowski

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Featured Profile #18 - Alan Kulwicki

 Alan Kulwicki (1954 - 1993)

 Perhaps the most unlikely of all NASCAR Winston Cup Champions. He was a Polish-American kid from Milwaukee in a sport dominated by Southern drivers. He may also have been the first NASCAR Champion to hold a college degree and probably the first to carry a brief case to work. It is indicative of his career that when he won his first NASCAR Winston Cup race (1987 Phoenix International Raceway) he turned his car around and went the wrong way around the track. (This put the driver's side of the car facing the outside of the track and allowed him to wave to the fans.) He promptly dubbed this move the "Polish Victory Lap."

Alan was born in Greenfield in 1954, the oldest son of Gerry Kulwicki and Margaret Matula.  His early childhood was colored by the death of loved ones.  His mother died when Alan was only seven, and his paternal grandmother, Anna (Stasiewski) Kulwicki, less than two years later.  After his mother died, the family went to live with Alan's maternal grandmother, Helen (Karpinski) [Jusiel] [Mautal] McDonnell.  However, she died just three year's later in 1967.  Moreover, this death was just four month's after the death of Alan's only sibling, Kenneth Kulwicki, of hemophilia-related illness.

Alan persevered through these challenges.  He graduated from Pius XI High School and earned a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  Along the way, he had developed a keen interest in racing.  It ran in the family:  his father had been a crew chief for auto racers. Alan had started racing in short tracks in Wisconsin.  Finding success there, he moved up to the bigger stage of national short track racing, where in a short time he also achieved success.   By 1985, he had decided to make his leap to NASCAR, and to do it his own way, with his own team.  Along the way, he put his UWM engineering degree to work in order to design faster cars.  When he moved to NASCAR,  he hit the ground running and by the end of  the 1986 season, he had been named NASCAR Rookie of the year.  The next several years brought continued improvement, and by 1992 he was the Winston Cup Driver's and Owner's Champion.

Sadly, his reign as Champion lasted only five months. He was killed in a plane crash outside Blountvllle, Kentucky on April 1, 1993 while returning from a promotional visit.

Among his many accomplishments:

1992 Winston Cup Driver's and Owner's Champion.

1986 NASCAR Rookie of the Year.

Named one of NASCAR'S 50 Greatest Drivers of All Time in 1998.

Much more information regarding his accomplishments, awards and honors can be found at the Wikipedia article for Alan Kulwicki and Alan Kulwicki, A Champion's Story.  Also, a more in-depth look into his personal side can be found on the webpage for Alan Kulwicki at the UNC Charlotte Foundation.  Finally, here are some videos regarding his life and career:

Outside the Lines - Alan Kulwicki

And for a more in-depth treatment:

Winners - Alan Kulwicki
      Part 1:

Part 2:

Relation to Nearest Featured Profile (Louis A. Fons, Featured Profile #7):  No near relation.

Path From Nearest Featured Profile:  Louis A. Fons > father, Frank Fons > half-brother, Anton Fons > daughter, Pauline (Fons) Jetke > husband, August Jetke > sister, Josephine (Jetke) Kitzke > husband, Stanley Kitzke > father, Frank Kitzke (sometimes Kitzki) > third wife, Anna (Brozda) [Kulwicki] Kitzke > son, John Kulwicki  > son, Gerald Kulwicki > son, Alan Kulwicki