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.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Paradowski People Of Note

Because we have been highlighting the Paradowski family recently, there are two other people associated with that family who deserve special mention.

Milwaukee Sentinel 11.21.1969
The first is Helen (Gieniusz) Paradowski (abt. 1914 - 1969), the first wife of Gerard Paradowski  (Featured Profile #42).  She set an example for all of us in her volunteer activities.  As some point in her life she held the following positions:  President of Woman's Court and Civic conference of Milwaukee, national president of the auxiliary of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, and an officer in the Milwaukee auxiliary, president of the American Legion Auxiliary, FDR unit # 444, first president of the local Eagles Auxiliary and president of the auxiliary of the Milwaukee society.  At the time of her death, she was the only woman member of the Memorial Center board of trustees and a corporation member of the Child Care Centers, Inc.  She was a leader in fund drives for the Mother's March on Polio, the Red Cross and the United Community Fund.  Not forgetting to foster the arts, she had also been a board member of the Fred Miller Theater (now known as the Milwaukee Repertory Theater and worked with the Milwaukee Symphony's Woman's League.

Source:  "Mrs. Paradowski Dies, 55," Milwaukee Sentinel, November 21, 1969, pg. 13

The other individual who deserves special mention comes from an Italian family but he married into the Paradowski clan.  His name is probably familiar to anyone who lived in Milwaukee in the late 1960's:  James Groppi.  He was another individual who set an example by his actions, although many of us did not see it at the time.

Father James Groppi started his career as a regular parish priest at St. Veronica's parish in 1959.  (I was actually attending church there at that time, but I was way too young to remember him).  In 1963, he was transferred to St. Boniface, an inner-city parish.  It was there that he saw first hand the detrimental affects of poverty and social injustice.  He decided he must do what he could to correct the situation. 

It is way beyond the scope of this note to try to tell the story of his work.  (Those interested can read the sources listed below, and many others, that can be found about his career.)  Suffice it to say that his activities garnered national attention, and quite a lot of local animosity.  Much of that animosity arose from the historically Polish neighborhoods on the South and East Sides.  One of the things that Father Groppi strove for was the basic principal that anyone should be able to live in the neighborhood of their choosing.  However, that's not the way many in the Polish neighborhoods saw it.  By the 1960's, those neighborhoods were already loosing much of their ethnic identity and cohesiveness as young families choose to move to the suburbs.  This flight meant there was room for non-Poles to move in, but many in those neighborhoods wanted to shut out any non-whites.  The perceived differences of the new-comers generated fear: fear of increasing crime and decreasing property values, among others.  As a leader of the civil rights movement, and one who kept pushing, and pushing and pushing even harder for fair housing, Father Groppi became a lightning rod for this fear and the hatred it generated.

There was one especially regrettable incident in August, 1967.  In what was undoubtedly intended as a provocation, Groppi held a picnic for 250 of his mostly-black parishioners in Kosciusko Park.  An angry crowd of 2,000 whites gathered and jeered at them for the audacity of coming into "their" neighborhood.  The mob threw rocks and bottles at the picnickers.  Police wearing riot gear had to come to restore order.  It was not one of the bright spots in the history of our community.  Now, we recognize that James Groppi was right, and those who opposed him were wrong.  A person should not be denied a house because of the color of his or her skin.  It was sad to see the once vibrant, close-knit Polish neighborhoods decline, but that was caused by many socio-economic factors and not by the individuals who wanted to move into the community.

Without trying to downplay the error of our community, it is also safe to say that the prejudices of the Polish community were probably shared by most of the whites in Milwaukee at the time.  If our reactions to Father Groppi were more violent than others, it may be because it was our neighborhoods that were most "on the front line."  Father Groppi was definitely ahead of his time in his views on civil rights and it was our fault not to recognize more quickly the justice in his actions.

Another belief held by Father Groppi that was not shared by most at the time (and which is still anathema to many, including the Church hierarchy) was the conviction that Roman Catholic priests should be allowed to marry.  James Groppi carried out that conviction in April, 1976, when he married the woman he loved, Margaret Rozga.  (She is the daughter of Jeanette (Paradowski) Rozga, and a first cousin, 2x removed to Roman J. Paradowski (Featured Profile #39)).  The two had met during a voting rights trip to Alabama in 1965 which only goes to show that the Milwaukee Polish community also had civil rights advocates. The marriage meant that he could no longer function as a Roman Catholic priest.  He thought briefly of converting to the Episcopal faith and the Episcopal Bishop in Detroit offered him a position.  However, Groppi could neither give up his Roman Catholic faith, nor live apart from his city.  Instead, he returned Milwaukee and drove a cab.

He died in 1985 at the age of 54 from a brain tumor.  He left his wife and three children surviving.  His funeral mass was said in St. Leo's Church and he is buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery. 


Balousek, Marv, "James Groppi: Radical Priest and Unpopular Hero," in Wisconsin Heroes, excerpted at

Folkart, Burt A., "James Groppi, Ex-Priest, Civil Rights Activist, Dies," L.A. Times, November 5, 1985

Fr. James Edmund Groppi at Find a Grave.

Gurda, John, The Making of Milwaukee, Milwaukee County Historical Society (1999, 2006, 2008)pgs. 365-76.

Heise, Kenan "Milwaukee Activist James Groppi, 54Chicago Tribune, November 5, 1985

Ivey, Mike, "Father Groppi's Legacy Demanded Stinging Speech, says Rozga," from The Capital Times

"James E. Groppi, Dead at 54; Ex-Priest Led Rights Fight," New York Times, November 5, 1985

James Groppi on Wikipedia

Stotts, Stuart, Father Groppi:  Marching for Civil Rights, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 2013

Monday, September 15, 2014

Violence in the Family - An On-Going Problem

As the recent high profile cases of NFL stars Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice proves, domestic abuse continues to be a problem in our society.  It is a problem now, and it was a problem in 1902 when the following article ran in the Milwaukee Journal:

Originally published in the Milwaukee Journal on May 28, 1902

As stated in the article, domestic violence had become so prevalent back then (three cases in one week), that the judge had decided that all violators would receive the maximum sentence.  However, the "full sentence" back then was only six months.

The family mentioned in this article appears to be the family of Thomas Brefka and Mary (Bolman) [Damazyn] Brefka and her daughter, Rosalia (Domazin) Proszkiewicz.  A look at the records concerning their family offers a little more insight into this situation.  For one thing, it appears that Mary Bolman was pregnant at the time of this incident.  The beating occurred on May 27, 1902 and Mary gave birth to her next child on October 5, 1902.  Second, although the current cases in the news concern wealthy individuals, the above article appears to be a family in dire straights.  That is surmised from the fact that six of Mary's children died in infancy.  Once again showing the domestic violence cuts across all classes.

It is not known what ultimately happened to this family.  It appears that Mary was pregnant again within a couple months after Thomas' release.  However, by the 1910 census, Mary and Thomas are not living together.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Status Update - September, 2014

New Family Names Added Since Last Update:


Profiles Added Since Last Update:  210

New Intra-Connections  (Lucht to Fons):

267)  ….Albert Paradowski > daughter, Mary (Paradowski) Rudzinski > husband, Andrew Rudzinski > sister, Frances (Rudzinski) Antoniak > daughter, Rose (Antoniak) Kleczka > husband, Edmund Kleczka > mother, Agnes (Wiza) Kleczka > sister, Anthony JohnWiza....

268)  ….Albert Paradowski > son, John Paradowski > daughter, Jeanette (Paradowski) Rozga > husband, Charles A. Rozga > father, Stanley J. Rozga > brother, Francis [Frank] Rozga > daughter, Hattie (Rozga) Latus > husband, Harry F. Latus > mother, Catherine (Myk or Mick) Latus > sister, Francisca (Myk or Mick) Komorowski > husband, Frank Komorowski > father, Jacob Komorowski....

269)  ….Francis [Frank] Rozga > son Joseph Rozga > wife, Mary (Jozwiakowski) Rozga > brother, Frank Jozwiakowski > wife, Clara (Rozga) Jozwiakowski > sister, Hattie (Rozga) Latus....

270)  ....Joseph Rozga > son, Eugene Rozga > wife, Marcella (Borzymowski) Rozga > mother, Maryanna (Meller) Borzymowski > father, John Meller....

271)  ….Joseph Rozga > daughter, Cecelia (Rozga) Larkin > husband, Edward [Laskowski] Larkin > sister, Catherine (Laskowski) Piszczek > husband, Joseph Warren Piszczek....

272)  ….Clara (Michalek) Konieczka > husband, Bernard J. Konieczka > sister, Barbara Bronislawa (Konieczka) Miller > daughter, Betty Jane (Miller) Michalek > husband, Frank Michalek > mother, Mary (Sikora) Michalek....

273)  ….Leona (Grosz) Lucht > brother, Edward Grosz > wife, Irene (Konieczka) Gross > sister, Stella (Konieczka) Podlaszewski > husband, Casimir Podlaszewski > father, Frank Podlaszewski > half-brother, Vincent Podlaszewski > son, Alex Podlaszewski > first wife, Clementine (Wodkowski) Podlaszewski > brother, Alvin Podlaszewski > wife, Gladys (Gapinski) Podlaszewski > sister, Casper [Casimer] Gapinski....

274)  ….Josephine (Kaczmarowski) Piszczek > sister, Rosalie (Kaczmarowski) Brzezinski > husband, Frank Brzezinski > sister, Blanche (Brzezinski) Baranczyk....

PCN:  3.00
(For an explanation of the PCN - "Project Completeness Number") see Status Update - February, 2012 and Status Update - March, 2012)
Historical PCN Data:
September, 2014: 3.00
August. 2014:  2.29
July, 2014:  3.00
June, 2014:  2.44
May, 2014: 4.5
April, 2014:  4.67
March, 2014:  3.0
February, 2014:  10.5
January, 2014:  2.9
December, 2013:  4.11
November, 2013:  3.89
October, 2013:  2.14
September 2013:  2.9
August, 2013: 2.71           
July, 2013: 4.28
June, 2013:  3.01
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
New Alternate Spellings:
Branski Ranski
Brzezinski Breszinsky Brzezinske
Cukierski Cukier
Jarentowski Jaranowski
Jędrzejak Jendrzejek Jedrzejek Jedrsejek Jeudrzyek Judrzejek
Jozwiakowski Gozewiakowski
Krajenka Krafenka
Luczac Luczak
Maciejewski Marciejewski
Majerowicz Majrowicz
Miller Muller Milkes
Sokol Sokul
Ulatowski Matowski
Zolecki Żołecki Zalechi Zalecki