Fearless Females Blog Post: March 11 — Tragic or Unexpected Deaths

March 11 — Did you have any female ancestors who died young or from tragic or unexpected circumstances?  Describe and how did this affect the family.
My grand (great) Aunt Mary Fencsak Ceyba died in June of 1929 from tuberculosis. She was 38 years old and left behind five children John, Anna, George, Margaret and Helen.  Right after her death her husband remarried a widowed neighbor woman who had five children of her own.  Mary’s son, George, told me that life after his mother’s death was difficult.
I wrote about Mary in a case study for the January 2008 issue of Internet Genealogy.

Fearless Females Blog Post: March 10— Religion

March 10 — What role did religion play in your family? How did your female ancestors practice their faith? If they did not, why didn’t they? Did you have any female ancestors who served their churches in some capacity?

Both of my grandmothers had a deep faith in God.  Both were baptized in the Greek Catholic rite.  After coming to America, my dad’s mother married in the Greek Catholic church but then followed her husband to the Roman Catholic church.  My maternal grandmother attending the Greek Catholic church in America but then switched to Russian Orthodox so that she could continue to observe Christmas on January 7th.  

My dad’s sister (my “Auntie”–who kept the scrapbook I wrote about in my March 8th post) was a Roman Catholic nun–she spent most of her adult life in a convent in Victoria, Texas. Our family always looked forward to her visits–usually at Christmas and for a few weeks in the summer.  Here is a photograph of Sr. Camilla.

and a newspaper article describing her order of The Incarnate Word and the Blessed Sacrament.

Copyright 2010 Lisa A. Alzo


Fearless Females Blog Post: March 9— Documents

March 9 — Take a family document (baptismal certificate, passenger list, naturalization petition, etc.) and write a brief narrative using the information.

This is my grandmother’s baptismal certificate (1899, Lutina, Slovakia)

and the passenger list showing her arrival at Ellis Island in New York in 1922.

Verona Straka was born on November 11, 1899 in Milpos, (Hungrary, later Slovakia) to Maria Verbovsky and Andrej Straka.  She was the youngest of 13 children.  On July 26, 1922, Verona, along with countless other immigrants, boarded the S.S. Orduna, which left the port of Hamburg, Germany for the United States.  When she arrived at Ellis Island, NY on August 7, 1922, she was listed on the ship’s manifest as a “laborer” with $25 in pocket her pocket en route to her final destination—her sister’s house, in Duquesne, Pennsylvania.

Copyright 2010 Lisa A. Alzo


Fearless Females Blog Post: March 8 — Diaries, Journals, Letters

[I finished this post a bit early…]

I don’t have any diaries or journals from any of my ancestors. However, one of my aunts—my father’s sister, Anna who was a Roman Catholic nun (her name changed to Sr. Mary Camilla) and lived in Victoria, Texas, always wrote our family letters. I have stacks of them. Many were handwritten, while some were typed. This same aunt also compiled a one-page typed family narrative back in the 70s that I was able to use to trace many of my paternal ancestors. Auntie also kept a scrapbook and she wrote dates and caption, (see sample page below).

I thought it was interesting how there was a story or insight shared with each photograph. For example, she would identify my father as “brother” and not “Johnny” (“Dad and brother making our coal bin,” “Brother in the Navy,” “Mother and Brother”). My father said she always referred to him this way.

Copyright 2010 Lisa Alzo


Fearless Females Blog Post: March 7 — Recipes

March 7 – Share a favorite recipe from your mother or grandmother’s kitchen.  Why is this dish your favorite?  If you don’t have one that’s been passed down, describe a favorite holiday or other meal you shared with your family.

My favorite meal was Palancinka (palacinky) – A Slovak crepe.  I have this recipe in my book: Baba’s Kitchen: Slovak & Rusyn Family Recipes and Traditions. My grandmother used to make them for me for lunch – they were and remain one of my favorites!

1 c. flour
1-½ c. milk
2 eggs
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. oil
⅛ tsp. salt 

Combine all ingredients beat until smooth.

Heat a small amount of Crisco in a skillet (an omelet pan works nicely).  Pour a small amount of batter into skillet and spread around in the skillet (like making a crepe).  Cook until brown, then flip over and brown other side.  Turn onto a plate.  Repeat until all batter is used. 

Fill with cottage cheese and jelly (any flavor)*.  Roll.  Then drizzle some melted browned butter on top.

*You can use a variety of fillings for these “pancakes,” and even top with sour cream instead of melted butter

Copyright 2010 Lisa A. Alzo


Fearless Females Blog Post: March 6 — Heirlooms

March 6 – Describe an heirloom you may have inherited from a female ancestor (wedding ring or other jewelry, china, clothing, etc.)  If you don’t have any, then write about a specific object you remember from your mother or grandmother, or aunt (a scarf, a hat, cooking utensil, furniture, etc.) 

I am fortunate to have several items that belonged to my maternal grandmother, Verona, including several of the pots and pans she used for cooking, a vase, one of her housecoats, and a piece of furniture that was in her house.  But my favorite item is her babushka (scarf) she used to wear to church and other places.  It was tradition for married Slovak women to always cover their hair when out in public. It’s special to have this item of clothing knowing that my grandmother wore it.

Copyright 2010 Lisa A. Alzo


Fearless Females Blog Post: March 5 — How They Met

March 5 — How did they meet?  You’ve documented marriages, now, go back a bit.  Do you know the story of how your parents met?  Your grandparents?

My parents met when my father returned home from serving in the Navy during World War II.  My mother’s family had moved next door to his family and my mother was friends with his sister, Betty.  Betty and her husband John would take their son Jackie to the park or zoo and my mother would go along.  When my father came home from the service he went on the outings too and then the two started dating.  My parents fell short of celebrating 53 years of marriage—my mother passed away a month before their anniversary.  My mother’s parents had an arranged marriage.  As the story goes, my grandfather was working in the coal mines of Fairpoint, Ohio and was friends with my grandmother’s brother-in-law.  My grandfather was looking for a bride who was literally just “getting off the boat” and his friend John said his wife’s sister was soon coming to America and set the two up.  My dad’s parents met at the boarding house my grandmother’s sister, Mary, ran in Duquesne, PA,, when he was working in the steel mill there.

Copyright 2010 Lisa A. Alzo

Fearless Females Blog Post: March 4 — Marriage Records

March 4 — Do you have marriage records for your grandparents or great-grandparents?  Write a post about where they were married and when.  Any family stories about the wedding day?  Post a photo too if you have one.

I have marriage records for both sets of grandparents.  My father’s parents, John & Elizabeth (below) were married in Duquesne, (Allegheny County) PA in January 1915 in SS. Peter & Paul Byzantine Catholic Church.  He was 21 and she was 18.  I don’t have any stories but do have a photo (see below).

My mother’s parents, John & Veronica, were married on November 1,1924 in St. Nicholas Church in Barton, OH.  Their wedding and reception lasted for three days.  I wrote about their marriage in my book Three Slovak Women.  

Copyright 2010 Lisa A. Alzo

Wordless Wednesday 03/03/10: Oh, Deer!

It’s not a genealogy-related image, but I could not resist snapping this photo of some deer visiting our yard in search of food. 
Copyright Lisa A. Alzo, 2010

 Digital image. Privately held by Lisa Alzo [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] New York, 2010