Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Family Tree - When the leaves fall and all that's left is a song

One of my oldest proven ancestors on my maternal grandfather's side was a man by the name of Stefan Nicolaides (which means 'sons of the victory people' in Greek). He was born in 1743, possibly in Hungary and moved to Kameral Ellgoth, Austria in 1782. There, he became the first Lutheran pastor and founded a chapel - which was later enlarged to a church - and wrote the church's parish history. He also built a parsonage (in essence, his home), a house for the sexton and a school. After serving as pastor for twenty-six years, he died at the age of sixty-five in 1808.

Stefan's eldest child, a son, Karl Josef (born in 1780) married a (polish?) girl, Sophia Kordiak and they had three children: Rosa (November 10, 1808), Henry (June 13, 1813) and Alexander (October 22, 1815).

Many letters were written by Sophia to (her son) Henry and by Rosa to (her brother) Henry. They were kept by Henry, preserved by his son, William, then translated from Gothic German to English around 1967.

The following is a letter that was written by Rosa (Mrs. Thomas Wodiczkal) to Henry on October 17 in 184? (Due to historical time lines the year was probably sometime between 1852 -1855). Rosa had received word that Henry left the army (due to illness) and emigrated to America with his new wife, Maria Josepha Tacchini (whom he met while stationed in Milan, Italy).

(The original letter)

Dear good brother,

I feared you were dead! I can only expect death, which seems to follow me. I am so lost, with my poor children.

You know we were in Pest (Budapest) during the Revolution (Began early 1848-1849 - Russia joined with Austria to crush the Hungarians). My dear unforgettable husband described the whole Revolution to you. After that we were transferred back to Gross Karuly. My husband became an official then we were happy, knowing life would be better for us. But suddenly my husband got an acute inflammation of the bowels. After a day and a half he passed away despite all the efforts made to save his life. I buried him four years ago, in July.

I wrote you three letters but never received an answer. After that I wrote to Mr. Killia. He wrote that I should write to you and send it to him; he would try to forward it to you. He also wrote that you are well off and also healthy.

I've had a very hard time with my poor children. Winter will soon be here and I don't have suitable clothing for them. I, alone, cannot make enough money for all of us. Everything is very expensive here; a loaf of bread costs four gulden, a basket of fruit - thirty florins, corn - twenty florins, one egg - four xr (coins), one pound of butter - twenty-four grapfin.

You can well imagine my position after the death of my dear husband. No money and no bread. I was very ill and too weak to walk. I wrote to Trempfin, to Wagner and Langa asking for help, and also my husband's mother and brothers. No one answered.

If only I could send my Emerich (Rosa's son Henry) to you. He could help you on the farm, and he would love to come. I want to send him now to learn a trade. Ludwig and Karl (Rosa's other sons) are still in school. They will have a hard time this winter because they have no winter clothing.

Day before yesterday my employer called for me, saying he had very pleasant news for me, and he gave me a letter from Wagner in Pest (Budapest).

Dear brother, if we could walk over the wide ocean to you, we would do so. I feel I could die easier if only I could see you again. We haven't seen each other for such a very long time; it hurts me for us to be so very far apart. I would love to talk with you and also to complain about my problems. are you truly happy in America, dear brother? Wagner writes that you are homesick for your homeland. Farewell, dear brother, and many greetings to you all. We kiss you many times. Truly yours,


I await your answer with great longing.
I send many kisses, write soon.

I don't know what happened to Rosa after that . . . Henry and his wife landed in New York (in 1846). Their first child, a daughter, Sophia Eugenia died in New York in 1847. They moved to New Jersey, then to Pennsylvania where William (1848), then Henry (1849) were born. They left Pittsburgh, traveled down the Ohio River to Mississippi, then down the Arkansas River to Little Rock where they settled in Pulaski County, Arkansas. They remained there during the Civil War - while Arkansas was under martial law. All of Little Rock became a military base camp; with a huge hospital and a prison for captured Confederate soldiers. The territory was swept by raiders, supply scouts, guerrilla forces and troops of both sides. Banks became unsafe, stagecoaches ceased and private transportation did not exist. Ex-guerrillas became bandits and Indians reverted to savagery. The southern people were starving - Living in Little Rock became very expensive. Sometimes supper was a corn pone, carefully divided to give each a share. Life in the America suddenly became very difficult.

The Nicolaides family eventually settled down on farm in Caney Creek, Union County, Illinois where Henry (pitured below) died on December 28, 1879.

And just when I thought my life had become difficult!


Jon said...

I must say frankly that I envy you for the family history that you hold. That knowledge is your right and your base, just as it is now from the children of the children of slaves. You all have roots, traced in a clear line from the now back to the scantest paper scrap you might uncover. You can leave, for a while, this space of earth you call home and walk on the streets they called home. I envy that.
For me it is not only impossible, it is illegal. We who were adopted may have had happy lives (as I have) and may have wonderful families (as I have)but we can never know even our birth parent's names.
I was lucky. I knew early. But then with my brown eyes and hair, my blue eyed, blond parents needed to prepare me. And it worked well.
But still there are times when I see a nose like mine or a face in whole that might be a cousin...or a brother...that I wonder at the history I will never know.
Please...appreciate this, the truest of all birthrights.

Erik Donald France said...

Love this family tracing, including gaps that you have to imagine filling out.

I'm intrigued by the DNA testing one can do now -- do you know anything about that? I think it costs about $100.

The family letters are precious glimpses. . .

Pythia3 said...

Jon, I don't know how I really feel about family roots . . . I think because some people put too much emphasis on their bloodline and not enough on the footprints they themselves are leaving.
On the other hand, I love finding out about my family and my ancestry - the struggles, sacrifices, tribulations, etc. But I value it for the historical value almost more than the ancestral value. I love the personal accounts - for they describe a more intimate story about past events that we call 'history.'
Also, I think of how many people live a lie (of their parents making?) because they are led to believe things that are not true - 'family secrets.'
How much of what we know is true? And what is really important?
I'm just not sure.
I don't know much about (at least) 3/4 of my family except what I know from my parents conversations. I really feel in my heart that when my maternal grandmother died a few BIG secrets were buried with her. . . my mother is gone and I am basically the elder of the family - and I don't know *%&#@!

Erik, I have heard about that DNA testing - something that tells one how far removed his or her bloodline is from the earliest DNA findings. I'm not sure of any facts, though.
I also know that one can search the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (on-line)library as they have an extensive ancestral data base.
I have not done this yet.

Kate S said...

I read about your loss on Susan's blog and came over to say my heart goes out to you and your family.

This post was great. A wonderful story, all the more poignant for its truth.

eric1313 said...

This was so nice. I love history. Nothing brings history alive like our correspondence. The letter was so beautiful and made the whole post into something extremely riveting.

It's nice to know more about you, new friend. Talk to you soon.

eric1313 said...

You could write more like this, couldn't you? It goes a long way toward discovering the I and the am. We are our own best subjects, and family is the main cast of characters in this whole big messy production of life.

Deb said...

The history you wrote is from my family roots also. I also come from the Nicolaides line. Are you also related to Floyd Leach? Let me know

Deb said...

Hi Lindy,
The genealogy piece you put on your blog is the same info I have. I also come from Henry Nicolaides line. If you get this let me know. Are you related to Floyd Leach also?