Fearless Females Blog Post: March 21: Tender Moments

March 21 — Describe a tender moment one of your female ancestors shared with you or another family member.

[Note: Portions of this post originally ran during the Fearless Females series in March 2010]


When I think of tender I think of my Grandma Verona. While Grandma shared kisses and hugs with us, she didn’t overdo it on the affection. But, she had this quiet way of letting you know how much she loved you. Things like letting me have the last slice of lemon pie, baking me my own small paska bread for my Easter basket, or slipping a few dollar bills into my pocket when my mom wasn’t watching when she knew there was a toy or treat I wanted. Whenever we would all gather at her house on Friday evenings, or on holidays, sometimes she would sit quietly in her chair and just watch all of us. We were a large, noisy bunch, but she was always delighted to have her children and grandchildren around. When you walked in that door you just knew you were welcome and that Grandma was truly happy to see you.


My grandmother has been gone for nearly 28 years and I still miss her very much.

Copyright, 2013, Lisa A. Alzo
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Fearless Females Blog Post: March 20: Elusive or Brick Wall Ancestor

March 20 — Is there a female ancestor who is your brick wall? Why? List possible sources for finding more information.

I’ve actually been pretty fortunate that my female ancestors have been fairly easy to trace. This is in part due to the excellent collection of microfilmed records available from the Family History Library –church and census records from my ancestral villages in Slovakia. I would like to learn a bit more about my great-grandmothers if possible. In particular, I’m hoping to learn more about my paternal grandfather’s mother, Borbala (see my post from March 1).

Copyright, 2013, LIsa A. Alzo
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Fearless Females Blog Post: March 19: Surprising Fact

March 19 — Have you discovered a surprising fact about one of your female ancestors? What was it and how did you learn it? How did you feel when you found out? 

[Note: Portions of this post originally ran during the Fearless Females series in March 2010]

One of the more interesting facts I uncovered was my grandmother’s hospital stay upon arrival at Ellis Island in August 1922. I first learned about this from the story my mother told me over 20 years ago,when I first began researching my family’s history–that my grandmother was suspected to have tuberculosis (she did not–she suffered from asthma most of her life). I then saw a notation “hospital discharged” on the passenger list. Then, I found her listed on a “Record of Detained Aliens.”

Of course it’s a relief to know that my grandmother was eventually released. I can’t imagine how she handled that situation, or how she did not catch TB from being in the hospital ward!



Copyright, 2013, Lisa A. Alzo
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Fearless Females Blog Post: March 18: Shining Star

March 18 — Shining star: Did you have a female ancestor who had a special talent? Artist, singer, actress, athlete, seamstress, or other? Describe.

[Note: This post originally ran during the Fearless Females series in March 2010]

Anna Alzo (right) with her cousin Mary, baking cookies for a family wedding.

I always said that my mother should have opened her own bakery. She was a great cook, but she had a real talent for making cakes, cookies, and other desserts. Her specialty: Lady Locks–dainty puffed pastry with creme filling. She made them for every wedding, baptism, graduation, and other special event in our family and they would disappear from the cookie table in a flash! Making these cookies requires patience and precision and I remember watching my mother labor for hours–working to get the dough just right before wrapping it around the special pins, and then after they came out of the oven would carefully fill each one using a pastry bag, and then delicately coat them with powdered sugar from her “magical”powdered sugar can.

They weren’t just cookies–they were works of art!








Copyright, 2013, Lisa A. Alzo
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Fearless Females Blog Post: March 17: Social Butterfly?

March 17 — Social Butterfly? What social organizations or groups did your mother or grandmother belong to? Sewing circle, church group, fraternal benefit society or lodge? Describe her role in the group.


[Note: This post originally ran during the Fearless Females series in March 2010]

My mother and grandmothers socialized mostly with their neighbors or friends they knew from church. My mother belonged to the Ladies Penna. Slovak Catholic Union and the Roman Catholic Parochial Beneficial Society of Rosary of the Blessed Virgin.



When our immigrant ancestors arrived in the New World, they often settled in enclaves within cities and towns and tended to cluster in specific regions in the United States. It was common for immigrants, particularly those who did not speak English, to travel together and put down roots among relatives, friends, or neighbors from their native land. These so-called “cluster communities” offered a place where the immigrants could transplant and preserve their culture, lifestyle and traditions as best they could in their new surroundings. Seeking to keep their culture as it existed in the homeland, immigrant groups frequently founded their own churches, schools, boarding houses, and other institutions, as well as forming their own academic, athletic, or charitable groups, and fraternal, occupational, and social organizations. Many also established their own ethnic presses that published newspapers and histories to highlight specific communities. In the late 1800s, fraternal organizations became very popular. Employed largely in difficult and often dangerous industrial occupations, immigrants sought financial protection for themselves and their families. As a result, they established their own fraternal/benevolent organizations to provide mutual insurance and to foster camaraderie and social interaction, and some even as a way to keep ties to traditions or ways of the old country. Today, we have the Internet. For my parents and grandparents, these fraternal benefit societies and lodges provided the “social networking” opportunities.



Copyright, 2013, Lisa A. Alzo
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Fearless Females Blog Post: March 16: Let’s Do Lunch!

March 16 — If you could have lunch (or another meal) with any female family member (living or dead) or any famous female who would it be and why? Where would you go? What would you eat?

[Note: This post originally ran during the Fearless Females series in March 2010]


I would like to spend the day with my mother Anna, my grandmothers, Elizabeth and Verona, and my great-grandmothers–Ilona, Borbala (Barbara), Maria, and Anna—all together in one place. I imagine we are in Slovakia – in one of my ancestral homes. Of course we would have Slovak food! I picture us sharing a traditional Easter meal: paska, hrutka/syrek (Easter cheese), hrin (beets & horseradish), klobassy, ham, hard-boiled egg–each food symbolic.   I would understand and speak the Slovak language so I could listen to their stories and their wisdom and help them prepare all the delicious foods. My family dream team!


Recipes and information on Slovak Easter traditions are included in my book, Baba’s Kitchen: Slovak & Rusyn Family Recipes and Traditions.



Copyright, 2013, Lisa A. Alzo
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Fearless Females Blog Post: March 15: Six-Word Memoir Tribute

March 15 — Write a six-word memoir tribute to one of your female ancestors.

Here is mine:

Elizabeth Fencsak Alzo (paternal grandmother): Fine hair. Tough as nails. Enigma.




Copyright, 2013, Lisa A. Alzo
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Fearless Females Blog Post: March 14: In the News

March 14 — Newsmakers? Did you have a female ancestor who made the news? Why? Was she famous or notorious? Did she appear in the social column?

[Note: This post originally ran during the Fearless Females series in March 2010]

My ancestors were working class immigrants so there wasn’t much of a chance for them to appear in the social columns of the local newspapers. I have mounted copy of my paternal grandmother’s obituary from 1966 that appeared in the Daily News in McKeesport, PA. The funeral home provided it to the family.


Copyright, 2013, Lisa A. Alzo
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Fearless Females Blog Post: March 13: Moment of Strength

March 13 – Moment of Strength: Share a story where a female ancestor showed courage or strength in a difficult situation.

[Note: This post originally ran during the Fearless Females series in March 2010]

For this post, I am remembering my mother, Anna, and the grace and dignity she showed during the final years of her life. In 1997, my mother had triple bypass heart surgery, and simultaneously was diagnosed with renal failure, resulting in her having to endure a three-year regimen of kidney dialysis. During this time I served as her primary caregiver and watched her suffer through all of the side effects associated with the procedure. She showed tremendous courage and strength through it all. My mother passed away in 2000, but she fought until the very end.


The above photo of my mother was taken on the deck in my backyard not long before she passed away. She loved to sit on the deck and feel the warm sunshine and listen to the birds (especially the cardinals–her favorite bird). There is not a day that goes by when I don’t think of my mother.

Copyright, 2013, Lisa A. Alzo
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Fearless Females Blog Post: March 12: Working Girl

March 12 — Working girl: Did your mother or grandmother work outside the home? What did she do? Describe her occupation.

[Note: This post originally ran during the Fearless Females series in March 2010]

My mother worked part-time as a receptionist in an optometrist’s office. She likely did not have to because my father had a steady job as a carpenter on the railroad and did other carpentry jobs on the side, but my mother worked to save money to help pay for my high school and college education. I am so grateful.



Both of my grandmothers also worked outside the home–my paternal grandmother at Kennywood Amusement Park and my maternal grandmother worked cleaning houses for families in the Squirrel Hill area of Pittsburgh and for a school superintendent. I’m not ashamed to say that they worked hard and how I admire them for handling their jobs and raising their children. Neither had an easy life, but they didn’t complain. They taught by example, and I’m pleased to honor them, and my mother, with this Blog post.

Copyright, 2013, Lisa A. Alzo
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