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.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Featured Profile #27 - Edward J. Dams

The news this past week has been largely about the destruction and suffering in Moore, Oklahoma.  My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected, and especially to those who lost family members in that tragedy - may you find peace in whatever way possible.

However, watching the multiple videos of the funnel cloud as shot by amateurs with their cell phones (and that I could access anytime, at my leisure, on my computer) I couldn't help but wonder at the almost instantaneous access to the news which we enjoy nowadays.  It was not so long ago when the stories of events were not so available.  One could watch the evening news, but it usually did not have live, on-the-scene reporting, at least not until fairly recently.  What you saw was a person reading the news.  If you wanted to "see" the news, you had to turn to your newspaper and the photographs that it published.

So it was on June 20, 1957 when a massive tornado struck the town of Fargo, North Dakota.  The tornado leveled more than 200 homes and tore the roof from a newly-built brick church.  The swath of destruction was five blocks wide and twenty blocks long.  Ten people lost their lives, including six children all from the same family.  Eighty-five people were injured, some critically, and others were missing.  Another family narrowly escaped tragedy when a baby was torn from a mother's arms and carried away by the wind.  The infant was found later, relatively unhurt.  Five hundred houses were destroyed, another 750 to 1000 damaged.  Streets were clogged with the rubble from houses and fallen trees.  Builders with heavy equipment were put to work to clear paths.  Two thousand people were homeless. It was a disaster of massive proportions, and most people could just stare numbly at the destruction, but for one member of our community, he did not have that opportunity.  It was his job to record the destruction in a way that would convey the essence of it to the outside world.  His response to that challenge, along with the other members on his team, would earn him a spot in history.

Edward J. Dams (1931 - 2009)

Edward Dams (formerly Domachowski) was born in Milwaukee in 1931, the son of Edward Domachowski and Helene (Pekrul) Domachowski, and the grandson of Joseph Domachowski (Featured Profile #5).  By the time he was seven, he had shown an interest in photography.  His skill and proficiency was such that even at that young age, and during the height of the Depression, he was able to earn more than grown men by making contact prints for a local studio.   This experience allowed him to open his own studio upon his graduation from high school, but his desire to learn more pushed him on.  He soon left Milwaukee to work for another photographer in Detroit. After a tour of duty in the army, he ended up working for the Fargo, North Dakota Forum.  He was there when the massive funnel cloud formed just ten miles away.

After the tornado had worked its quick destruction, Edward and other journalists were sent out to cover the story.  They did so not only thoroughly and effectively, but quickly.  So quickly, in fact, that the paper was able to put out a special edition with the story and photographs that very evening.  For this remarkable feat (in 1957) terms, Edward and the other members of the Forum team earned a Pulitzer Prize in the category of "Local Reporting, Edition Time." The Pulitzer was given to the paper:

"For its swift, vivid and detailed news and picture coverage of a tornado which struck Fargo on June
20. Proceeding under considerable difficulty and overcoming many handicaps, a small but skilled
staff put out a complete tornado edition within five hours after the disaster."

(Note:  the Milwaukee Journal carried pictures of the destruction in its edition for June 21, 1957.   However, the photos are given only the Associated Press credit, so it is not known whether these are the photos of Edward Dams.  As an interesting note, next to the photos of the tornado's destruction are photos of some Wisconsin women running for the title of Miss Universe.  Among those pictured is a cousin of Edward Dams: Darlene (Lucht) Brimmer, Featured Profile #6)

Edward eventually left the Forum and moved to Chicago to become a fashion photographer and pursue his interest in fine-arts photography.  He was hired by Digest Books in 1965 as an associate editor.  He left that job six years later after he married Jeanne Martin and they moved to South Bend.  There he eventually opened and ran his own print shop until a stroke in 1994 forced his retirement.

Relation to Nearest Featured Profile (Joseph Domachowski, Featured Profile #5)Grandson
Path From Nearest Featured ProfileJoseph Domachowski, > Edward Domachowski > his son, Edward Dams 

Path from Alternate Featured Profile:  Edmund T. Czaskos, (Featured Profile #14) > brother, Joseph Czaskos > wife, Alice (Polewczynski) Czaskos > brother, Henry Polewczynski > wife, Winifred (Domachowski) Polewczynski > nephew, Edward Dams.


Edward J. Dams obituary

The Pulitzer Prizes - 1958 Winners

"Tornado Ruins Sifted for Dead," Milwaukee Sentinel, June 22, 1957, p. 2

"Tornado Strikes Fargo, Devastates Many Blocks," Milwaukee Journal, June 21, 1957, p. 14

Monday, May 20, 2013

Featured Profile #26 - John W. Polcyn

John W. Polcyn (1892 - 1959)

The early life of John W. Polcyn is probably not what you would expect for someone who would become Chief of Police for the City of Milwaukee.  He was born in Lemont, Illinois on November 22, 1892 to Joseph Polcyn and his wife Helen* (also known as Lena.)  Joseph and Helen would have at least two other sons in Illinois before they moved the family to a farm in Sobieski, Wisconsin sometime between 1896 and 1899.  There, John grew to a tall (six foot) young man, but farm life must not have been for him.  Showing a complete lack of respect for authority and the law, John fled the farm in 1910 and ran away to Chicago where he promptly lied about his age (he was only 17 at the time) and enlisted in the Marines.  At the time, the Marines were still serving their traditional role as armed soldiers aboard ships and John spent two years assigned to the battleship U.S.S. Vermont.   When he left that post, it was just in time to serve as part of the U.S. Expeditionary Force sent to Mexico in 1912. 

John left the Marines after serving four years and  rising to the rank of sergeant.  He then settled in Milwaukee where he got a job as a street car conductor.  That job lasted no more than four years, because on April 1, 1916, at the age of 23, John enlisted in the Milwaukee Police force and was appointed as a patrolman.  Early on, he put his experience as a Marine sergeant to good use by training new recruits in discipline and neatness, but his talents were not confined to that position.  He gradually worked his way up the ranks.  On October 9, 1923 he was promoted to Sergeant.  In 1925, while a Sergeant on the traffic squad, he devised double lane traffic on Wisconsin Avenue and other downtown streets to reduce congestion, a solution which was widely lauded by the citizenry.  He was promoted to Lieutenant on September 5, 1928.  In 1934, he was put in charge of the central station, the largest of the Milwaukee police force.  Because of that position, he was in charge of many police details at parades and festivals and he became one of the most widely known members of the Milwaukee police.   In 1945,  he was selected to be the next Chief of Police after the resignation of Joseph T. Kluchesky. 

John Polcyn at home, shortly after being sworn in as Chief of Police, with his wife, Helen (Fons), daughter Naomi Just (left) and daughter-in-law, Rita Polcyn.  Originally published in the Milwaukee Journal, 8/1/1945.

As Chief, John Polcyn was known as being a friend of the patrolman.  He made sure that politics played no part in the appointment or promotion of police officers, and that any officer could succeed on merit along.  He made frequent trips to Madison and with hard lobbying was finally able to convince the government to change the law and reduce the police work week from 48-hours to 40-hours, just like the work week of anyone else.  He awarded citations for police service beyond the call of duty, and made them meaningful by tying them to extra days off or preferential vacation time.  He regarded the beat cop as the best public relations agent available to the force.  He regretted that economics had forced patrolmen off the streets and into cars so that they could cover more territory. He tried to keep the good relations with the public alive by awarding miniature police badges and citations to citizens who had given tips that resulted in the apprehension of criminals.

Polcyn is credited for increasing the pace of modernization in the Milwaukee police force with "groundbreaking and radical changes".  Among those changes were the creation of the Youth Aid Bureau where a select number of police officers are trained and specialized to help young people in trouble with the law, or leaning in that direction.   The Milwaukee bureau, created by John Polcyn in 1946, was one of the first in the country.  However, they proved such a success that by 1956, there were 19 just in Wisconsin alone.  He created a Personnel Bureau in the Department to better help the regular cop and streamlined other functions of the department.  Other innovations that he instigated were one-man squad patrols and combination squad/ambulances.  He created the night parking fee system, the first in the nation.  Last but not least, he also started the Police Aid Program in 1952 in conjunction with a program to create better race - relations.

All his efforts to keep Milwaukee crime free did not go unrecognized.  His standing in the community earned him the 1954 award of the outstanding Milwaukean of  Polish Descent given by the Milwaukee Society of the Polish National Alliance.  Other lauds including recognitions from then FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and U.S. Attorney General (and later Supreme Court Justice) Tom C. Clark.  Mayor Frank Zeidler stated that Polcyn had "brought as much fame to Milwaukee as any citizen in the city's history."

John retired from the police force in 1957 because of treatment for heart problems.  He spent the few remaining years of his life by reverting to his agricultural roots and tending to 20 acres of cherry trees in Door County.  He was there when he died in his sleep of a heart attack on November 14, 1959.  He was survived by his wife, Helen Fons, (a half first cousin of Louis A. Fons, Featured Profile #7), a daughter, Naomi (Polcyn) Just, and a son, Richard Polcyn.

*The transcription of the Wisconsin birth record for her daughter Anna gives her maiden name as Nisz.  The transcription of the Wisconsin birth record for her son Bernard gives her maiden name as Glos.

NOTE ON FAMILY LINES:  Just as with Joseph Martynski, I have now marked a family line on the Milwaukee Polonia Project Tree for John Polcyn.  However, instead of just marking the person in the Featured Profile with the family line, I thought it would be more informative to mark one or more of ancestors of the Featured Profile with the family line designation.  In that way, blood relations other than direct ancestors or descendants would also be shown.  Therefore, the descendants of Joseph Polcyn (John's father) are now marked with a RED family line designation. 

 Relation to Nearest Featured Profile: (Joseph Martynski, Featured Profile #25):  Brother of brother-in-law of son-in-law

Path From Nearest Featured Profile:  Joseph Martynski > daughter, Cecelia (Martynski) Schultz  > husband, Frank Schultz (Person of Note) > sister, Hattie (Schultz) Polcyn > husband, Charles Polcyn > brother, John W. Polcyn

Alternate Path From Another Featured Profile:  Louis A. Fons (Featured Profile #7) > father, Frank Fons  > father, Stephan Fons > son, Joseph Fons > daughter, Helen (Fons) Polcyn > husband, John W. Polcyn

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

"500 Poles Pay Tribute to Polcyn,"  Milwaukee Sentinel, October 3, 1954, p. 7.

John Polcyn (1945 - 1957)

"Polcyn is Sworn in as Chief of Police," Milwaukee Journal, August 1, 1945, p. 1.

"Polcyn, Retired Chief of Police, Dies at 66," Milwaukee Journal, November 14, 1959, p. 1  

Wellauer-lenius, Maralyn A., Milwaukee Police Department, p. 12, 80.

"Youth Aid Bureaus Do Good Job Here and in the State," Milwaukee Journal, August 2, 1956, p 1.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

In honor of Mother's Day, I give you the Edmund and Clara (Bruso) family:

As published in the Milwaukee Journal, February 20, 1944

One must assume that Edmund Darga knew what he was getting himself into with this large family because he had been raised in one.  It appears that he was the son of Theodore and Mary Darga.  (Mary's maiden name is spelled variously as Wasielewski, Wasinski, Waszynski, Waszczynski,  and Wischinski.  Of these, my bet would be on "Waszczynski.")  Theodore and Mary appear to have emigrated from Gdansk to America in 1894.  They would eventually have had at least 11 children (one of whom died in infancy.)

Although Edmund's families (that of his children and that of his siblings) were both large, they were not exceptionally large.  Families with eight or nine children were not at all uncommon in this time period.  This leads me to wonder, how much of the growth of the ethnic population in Milwaukee was due to new immigration, and how much to the growth of families that were already here?

In any event, one has to admire the mothers of these large families.  Giving birth to all these children was probably easy compared to all the work required to raise them.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Status Update - May, 2013

First, an update on a previous tidbit.  Back in February, I had posted an newspaper article about Judge Shaughnessy giving Stanley Janis his freedom so that he could marry his sweetheart, Clara Jasniewski.  At that point, I had stated that I was unable to tell whether this couple had stayed together because I was unable to locate them in any subsequent census.  Well, hats off to reader Teresa Stricklen who is obviously a better researcher than I am.  She located this couple in the 1940 census, still living together, and now also with their 14-year-old daughter, and Clara's mother and brother.  She also found their burial records, and they are buried side-by-side in St. Adalbert's.  So, that story does have a happy ending.

Now, for the boring stuff:

Family Names Added Since Last Update:

Profiles Added Since Last Update:  256

New Intra-Connections  (Lucht to Fons):

132)  ....Catherine (Andraszczyk) Samolinski > daughter, Frances (Samolinski) Placzek > husband > Casimir Placzek > brother, Joseph Placzek > son, Steven Placzek > son, Harry T. Placzek > Private (Mascari) Placzek > sister, Josephine (Mascari) Bierdzycki > husband, Alexander Bierdzycki > brother, Edward Bierdzycki.... 

133)  ...Edward Gigowski > father, Frank Gigowski > sister, Rosalia (Gigowski) Tulikowski > daughter > Valeria (Tulikowsk) Philipp > husband, August Philipp > father, Frank Philipp > brother, August Filip > wife, Mary (Klinkosz) [Filip] Kitzke > second husband, Frank Kitzke .....

134)  ....Henry Polewczynski > mother, Apolonia (Martynski) Polewcznyski > sister, Mary (Martynski) Fons > husband, August M. Fons > father, Joseph Fons > father, Stephen Fons (1)....

135)  .... Apolonia (Martynski) Polewcznyski > Cecelia (Martynski) Schultz > husband, Frank J. Schultz > sister, Hattie (Schultz) Polcyn > husband, Charles Polcyn > brother, John Polcyn > wife, Helen (Fons) Polcyn > father, Joseph Fons (2) > half-brother, Frank Fons ....

136)  ....Apolonia (Martynski) Polewcznyski > Helen (Martynski) Schultz > husband, Bernard Schultz > sister, Hattie (Schultz) Polcyn....

137)  ....Anna Paulina (Domachowski) Myszkowski > son, Leon Myszkowski > wife, Stella (Jarecki) Myszkowski > sister, Catherine (Jarecki) Tomczyk > daughter, Anita (Tomczyk) Kurudza > husband, Norbert Kurudza > mother, Anna (Martynski) Kurudza > brother, Joseph Martynski > wife, Sophie (Klapkowski) Martynski > sister, Gertrude Klapkowski > first husband, Stanley Markowski > sister, Elizabeth (Markowski) Kitzki ....

PCN:  6.33
(For an explanation of the PCN - "Project Completeness Number") see Status Update - February, 2012 and Status Update - March, 2012)
Historical Numbers:   
May, 2013: 6.33
April, 2013: 3.33
March, 2013:  8.2
February, 2013: 2.1
January, 2013:  8.0
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:

Kwasinski to Brandt

New Alternate Spellings:

Borzych Borzuch
Breza Broza
Gazinski Garniski Gazynski
Giersch Girsch
Gola Golla Dolla
Grim Grimm
Kurudza Kukusyzda
Oblinski Olbrinski
Schultz Schulz
Spirewka Spierewka Spirefka Spicewska