Grave Digging Halloween

Autumn backdrop at my grandparents' graves in Western Pennsylvania (c) 2016 Patricia J. Angus
Autumn backdrop at my grandparents’ graves in Western Pennsylvania in October 2011 (c) 2016 Patricia J. Angus

Halloween would not be complete without pumpkins, candy, little ghosts and ghouls, and sore feet.  If you are the family historian, this list should also include the adrenaline rush of tromping through a graveyard!  A few years ago my mother navigated a few of us to the cemetery where her parents are buried.  It was a lovely October day, and we visited the graves and reminisced against a backdrop of nature’s colorful handiwork.  It was a day of remembrance, family bonding and refection.  Whether you are physically searching for deceased family members in familiar cemeteries or perusing burial records and memorials online, it is a great weekend to dig up some data pertaining to deceased relatives!

Despite the sadness of funerals, cemeteries have always been a place of contentment for me.  While growing up in western Pennsylvania, we often played in one of the several cemeteries that graced the hilltop surrounding our neighborhood.  In the summer we frolicked amid the grassy fields and practiced riding our bikes along the pavement. During the winter we squealed in delight as we glided sleds down our favorite slope. In more recent years, my strolls amid the headstones have provided opportunities to connect with departed loved ones and to find peace and tranquility during life’s many challenges.

At times I have cherished the privilege of locating headstones for other people by filling requests on Find A Grave.  While searching for my own family interments, I have also photographed and contributed information to not only Find A Grave, but also to the Cemetery Tombstone Inscriptions and/or Contributed Records Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.   With so many cemeteries deteriorating, digital preservation is one way to preserve burial records along with local history.  If you are interested in volunteering to preserve cemeteries either physically or digitally, please contact the historical society, churches, or city offices in your hometown or current place of residence.  It is a wonderful way to contribute to your community and bless the lives of other family historians who are unable to travel long distances in search of deceased family members.  Whether you are able to romp through your family cemetery and enjoy the fall colors in person or visit the tombstone memorials online, this is a great weekend to treat someone with the gift of information from your favorite graveyard!

(c) 2016 Patricia J. Angus

Grandma’s Chicken – Comforting Generations

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There’s a form of human radar that detects the connection between nippy nights, shortened days, creeping spiders, and a tremendous craving for comfort food – the way Mom used to make it.  Breaded chicken has been our family’s comfort food of choice for generations beginning well before my birth when Grandma Salopek served it to her family for Sunday dinner.  I’m sure she also served it to special guests, extended family, and to the boarders she housed for so many years below the tracks in Duquesne.    She loved to cook and would often begin the much anticipated meal with homemade chicken soup and dumplings followed by: salata with vinegar and oil, mashed potatoes smothered in butter, fresh corn, and breaded chicken baked to perfection.  Without fail, dessert was always some sort of strudel.

For some reason the strudel-making gene was not passed on, to me at least, but I have done my best to profusely spread the love of breaded chicken to future generations.  Interestingly each family adapts the recipe with their own modern twist.  Whether it’s made with lean chicken breasts, savory chicken thighs or bite-sized chicken nuggets is up to the taste buds of each family. One daughter crushes milk-free croutons in the food processor to make her own bread crumbs.  This is reminiscent of my mother making her own bread crumbs back in the 1960s and 70s.  Mom would race over to Duquesne Village Shopping Center whenever white bread was on sale for 10 cents a loaf and grab as many loaves as she could.  She cubed all those loaves of bread and laid them out to dry on a cookie sheet.   When it was time to make crumbs from the dried bread, she would use a hand meat grinder that attached to the kitchen table.  She cranked out enough bread crumbs for a year’s worth of Sunday dinners!

Grandma’s BREADED CHICKEN RECIPE

Grandma, of course, didn’t use a recipe, but here are the basic steps to cook up a little comfort for your family. Amounts of ingredients are approximate, but there should be enough of each ingredient to make a cookie sheet sized baking pan with one layer of chicken pieces.  You may need to adjust the amounts to accommodate your taste and the size of chicken pieces used.

Flour Mixture:  

2-cup flour

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

2 tsp. sugar

Egg Mixture: 

4 beaten eggs

1/2 cup milk

Bread Crumbs:

2 cups

Rinse chicken pieces. Put a thin layer of oil across the bottom of a baking pan.

Prepare chicken, one piece at a time in the following order:

  1. Completely cover chicken piece with the flour mixture.
  2. Completely cover floured piece of chicken with the egg mixture.
  3. Completely cover floured/egged piece of chicken with breadcrumbs.

Place each breaded chicken part onto the oiled pan as it is prepared.

Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, turning once.  If making smaller chicken nuggets, decrease the time to approximately 40 minutes, turning once half way through baking.

Reminder: Always use food safety guidelines when handling and cooking chicken — https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/types/chicken/

 

Lighted Paper Lanterns Lead the Way

ighted Paper Lanterns illuminate the water during the Obon Festival in Sasebo, Japan in 2016.
Lighted Paper Lanterns illuminate the water during Obon Festival in Sasebo, Japan in 2016.

A single candle flickered within the paper lantern, glowing warmly as it floated upon the rippling water.  Other lanterns followed, one by one, as the current carried the collective downstream illuminating the river. I sat on the water’s edge contemplating what the lighted river represented – guiding lights that lead spirits of deceased loved ones back to their homes.  Interesting that I should have an opportunity to visit Japan, especially to experience the Obon festival, near the second anniversary of my father and husband’s passing.  Surprisingly, participation in the festival brought intense emotional release and awakened an inner desire to move forward.  I felt a definitive end to debilitating grief coupled with increased strength to walk onward in my own human experience.

While charting my course into new waters, I thought about the future of this website.  The website began as a hub to centralize all my personal family history projects – stories, research, and personal history blog.  My intention was to make life easier on myself and simplify the sharing of information with family and friends.  I didn’t even give it a fancy name. Four years later the website still remains.  Not a day goes by that it does not get at least a handful of hits, and although the site has been nearly dormant for the past two years, it has led to many offline discoveries that were priceless to me and others.  Incidentally the most popular posts statistically, by far, are those pertaining to Duquesne Croatians.

The Japanese lantern experience took place a month ago.  This week Japanese people gather to view the Harvest Moon, but last night we decided to view an American movie instead.  The film was the recently released story of Kubo and the Two Strings, the adventures of a young, paper-folding, story-telling Japanese boy who ultimately learns about the enormous strength and power of family.  The story takes place in Japan of long ago with a super-sized Harvest moon, animated origami characters, plenty of Asian magic and mysticism — and paper lanterns accompanied by ancestors’ souls.  The moment the lanterns appeared on the screen, I promptly received a message from the Universe.  Something stirred within me, and I knew it was now time to resurrect this blog and resume my family history endeavors.  The objective and tone of my posts and pages may vary slightly from what you have seen in the past, but it is time to get back to the business of family and ancestors. Hopefully, my memories of the paper lanterns will symbolically remind me of the guiding light of my ancestors’ love, beckoning me to follow the stories of their lives. My plan is to chart a course and follow them wherever they may lead.  I invite you to follow along with me.

 

 

Destiny Does Deliver

bookstack with shadow webIt has been a few years since I read Destiny’s Dowry, so I decide to download the other Destiny books by Rosemary Gard and read them in succession. A few pages into my reading, I recall the thoughts and feelings I had my first time through book one – insights and inspiration regarding my great-grandmothers and the lives they endured in the “Old Country” of rural Croatia.  The author lays a solid foundation for captivating characters along with a good story line in this historical fiction series.  I sense I have known some of these Croatian immigrants in my own lifetime!

Immigrant Katya’s story evolves throughout the first three books, and I feel like I am walking in her shoes along the twists and turns and obstacle of her life’s path. I notice Katya changes as she matures from one life stage to the next, just as my grandmothers did and just as I am changing now.  Similarly, the author’s writing style becomes more seasoned as Katya’s life develops, and by book three and four Gard’s words feel increasingly fluid and natural.  I want to read more to discover what destiny may bring…….in book five!

I have added the Destiny books to the suggested reading list under “My Heritage” tab on this website.  In addition, here is the link for more information http://rosemarygard.com/.

Books about Croatians of Anacortes Washington

Scenic View at Causland Memorial Park, Anacortes, Washington.
Scenic View at Causland Memorial Park, Anacortes, Washington.

Last month I visited Washington state, and we took an impromptu family drive to the quaint city of Anacortes.  I heard about this place quite some time ago, because it has a dance group named after my Baba’s hometown of Vela Luka, so I wanted to check it out.  We explored the Museum, Causland Memorial Park, the Maritime Heritage Center, and the W.T. Preston .  It is a very pleasant community, and we experienced an enjoyable day together concluding with yummy ice cream from the Mad Hatter! The take away for this trip was the addition of two books on My Heritage page. Croatian Fishing Families of Anacortes by Bret Lunsford tells the stories of early Croatian fishing families who immigrated to the Anacortes area — many of whom arrived from the sister city of Vela Luka, Croatia — Suryan, Franulovich, Oreb, Barchot, Padovan, Milat, Separovich — surnames of distant cousins on my personal family tree!  This hardback book contains many family stories and a lot of large black and white photographs about each family and their life’s work — I purchased my copy via mail from the Croatian Club of Anacortes, but it is also for sale at the Maritime Heritage Center.  

I appreciated all these families so much more after reading Lost at Sea by Patrick Dillon, an intriguing book I picked up at the museum.  This true story opened my eyes to the dangers experienced by Anacortes fishermen who ventured off to Alaskan waters.  The names of several Croatian fishermen were sprinkled throughout the book which made me feel connected to them, Anacortes, and my new Alaskan home. This was a great read if you are interested in history and details about the big crabbing industry in the North! Available a the Anacortes Museum and on Amazon.com.  Hoping to explore Anacortes more in the future!  ~ Enjoy!

Thinking about My Dad’s Old Haunt

Yours Truly sipping soda at Green Gables with owners Pete and Mary Loncaric. Circa 1965
Yours Truly sipping soda at Green Gables with owners Pete and Mary Loncaric. Circa 1965

Feeling nostalgic today.  Maybe it is a combination of Kennywood’s annual Croatian Day and thinking about Duquesne, my Dad’s birthplace and childhood home.  He passed away last year over the Labor Day weekend which probably stirs all three memories into one big whirlwind. Whatever the motivation, I realize a blog about Duquesne Croatians would not be complete without recognizing Green Gables and the Loncaric family as major contributors to Duquesne past.  Read about it here….

Franjo Salopek’s Face Identified

Franjo and Bara Salopek of Duquesne, PA are seated next to the bride and groom in this photo.
Franjo and Bara Salopek of Duquesne, PA are seated next to the bride and groom in this photo.

I am always excited when someone identifies a face in one of the Croatian Marriage photos posted on this site!  Recently Mary Ann was able to identify her grandfather, Franjo Salopek, as the man with a mustache seated next to the bride in the photo above.  I am quite certain that his wife Bara is the woman seated on the right, next to the groom.  This is especially exciting to me, because the bride and groom happen to be my grandparents!

Franjo was born 15 June 1878 in Ogulin, Croatia.  He was previously married to a woman named Anna until her death in 1917.  The couple had five children: Tomo, Mijo, Anton, Josip, and Mate.  A photo of their son Tom’s marriage to Cecelia Machek is also included on the Croatian Marriages page.

Franjo and his second wife Bara had four children: Mary, Manda, Agnes and John.  According to the 1930 and 1940 United States Census records, the couple resided below the tracks at 28 Superior Street, Duquesne.  After the steel mill expansion in 1941 they resided at 218 North 1st Street, Duquesne – next door to my grandparents! Thank you, Mary Ann!