Thursday, June 21, 2018

Father's Day Homily at St Catherine of Siena Catholic Church

This is a guest post from my cousin Pat Connery Koko as delivered in a homily at the Masses on Father's Day at St Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in Chicago, Illinois. Published with her permission.

Photo courtesy of Paul Koko

Happy Father’s Day to all Fathers – Biological or related such as uncles, grandfathers, elder brothers, family friends, teachers, priests and others.

Today I would like to reflect on some special folks.

Michael Joseph Connery was born in Ireland on June 5, 1861, the  5th son in an Irish Catholic family of 7 boys and 3girls. In 1893 he married an Irish lass whom he met and courted on a return trip to the old sod. She followed him to the States and they began a family on the West Side of Chicago.

Thomas Joseph Connery was born in Chicago, August 21, 1903.  He was a middle child in this strong and loving Catholic family of 11 children. He grew up in St. Mel Parish, just east of here, served as an altar boy, completed his sacraments and finished 8th grade there before trying Quigley He soon found being a priest was not his vocation. He completed High School at Campion Jesuit HS in Prarie du Chien WI (bording schools were a family tradition) and eventually went to work in his Father’s business also just east of here.

Paul Gregory Koko was also born in Chicago on August 8 1940.  He was the oldest child of three born to a family on the South East Side of the City.

What do these three men have in common besides playing a critical role in my life? --- being great Fathers.

When I was asked to do the Father’s Day reflection, I planned to share about my Father who was such a strong influence in my life, and because of circumstances in the lives of many cousins.

After reading the scriptures for today I realized that my Grandfather and husband, like my own Father shared similar traits.  Their patience, ethical standards and willingness to allow their children to grow, make mistakes and to help them to learn from these to move on are all shared characteristics: Characteristics of a good Father.  

In other words, and mirroring the readings, they seemed to know how to plant the seeds and watch them sprout. Helping when/if necessary but allowing their children to flourish.

My Grandfather affectionately known by many as “Papa Dear” imparted his Faith and ethics to his children – 2 daughters became Adrian Dominican nuns while 5 other children gave him and my Grandmother 23 Grandchildren.  He died when I was only 9 so most of my cousins did not get to know him but were raised by a parent whom he influenced (as Ezekiel wrote…making trees bloom). I retain a lasting impression of a loving, caring man.

When my parents married, my Father was 39 years old and Mom was a younger 29.  For the pre-WWII Era, that was late to become parents but I was born in 1942.  Although Dad had come from a large family and Mom was one of 8 girls, neither had much experience being parents.  One of the “experts” in those days was a medical doctor, Dr. Spock. So Dad bought his book and started to learn intellectually how to be a Father.

At one point, early on, I must have done something naughty and he seemed at a loss. He said, “Patricia what am I going to do with you”? Being a somewhat precocious child, I replied, “what does Dr. Spock say?”  He started to laugh and we sat together, read the chapter, he sent me to my room for a few minutes and he put the book away and never consulted it again.  He had the instinct to be a good Father and with his strong Faith and gentle nature (and a great wife to help) I grew up in a loving home.

They made sure I went to a Catholic Grammar School (the same one Dad had attended), received all the sacraments and grew up knowing right from wrong. I attended a Catholic High School, Mt. St. Mary Academy (another family tradition)  and Rosary College. Through all this, my Father was the calm anchor to whom I could turn.

I met Paul and though we became engaged after a week and scheduled our wedding here at St. Catherine’s less than 10 months later, my Dad (perhaps typical of a Father for whose only daughter no man was good enough) came to accept this new person in my life and I feel his gentle ways and deep Faith nurtured what was already in Paul to become the wonderful Father he is today. My Dad adored his only Grandchild, our daughter, Marie.

Again, seeds sprout and grow and flourish.

We only had my Father in our lives for a short time. There is a story to that which can be shared at another time but God blessed me with a person who set me on the right path, welcomed and appreciated my choice of husband and was a fine Grandfather to our daughter who got to know and learn from him until she, too, was 9 years old.

This special man made such an impression on all of us so that now, 40 years after his death, we all remember him fondly. He shared his firm Faith and trust in God which resonates within me and so many other cousins. And will, I hope, continue in stories and memories to influence future generations of our expanding family clan.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 24 Father’s Day

Since I have previously written about my Dad and both of my Grandfathers as well as my Father-in-law, this post will be about my children’s father, my husband.

Dave Peterson was a man of love, character, religion, discipline, loyalty and honor.
He was the kind of man who sent his daughter roses upon her birth. He was the father who went to the kindergarten class as Santa Claus to the delight of the five-year-olds. Too bad our daughter recognized his boots.

He was the dad who kept balloons in his desk drawer so he could “fix” a broken one.

When a scout leader was needed, he was the one who stepped up so the boys could have a troop. He started with the 7-year-old Cub Scouts and stayed with them until they finished and earned their Eagle Scout rank. He went to Jamborees and the Boy Scout Ranch as well as white water rafting with his scouts.

He was the dad who umped summer softball at the grade school field. He stood on the side lines cheering the cross-country team on wet cold Saturday mornings.

Dave was someone who ran for election to the village board and accepted the responsibility of police commissioner and also served on the water and sewer committee for the village, showing his belief in community service.

As a faithful member of his church, Dave not only participated on a weekly basis, he volunteered there too by assuming the duties of both a lector and Eucharistic Minister.

Dave didn’t lecture our children, he taught by example. He showed them how to be good citizens of the world by showing them how. He listened to them with respect, never belittling their viewpoint or ideas. He didn't talk down to them.

Both of our children have learned well from their father’s example and are teaching others by example. These values are being passed on to his grandchildren and Dave couldn’t have left a more valuable legacy.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 20 Language

Doing genealogy has taught me to be creative doing my research. Since my ancestors are recent immigrants, I have been using European Church records from almost the beginning.

I feel very lucky now that I took Latin in high school, since it’s really getting a work out as I use church records in pursuit of my ancestors. Norway, Sweden, Hungary, Germany, and other European countries had state religions which were very strict about recording the vital events in the lives of their citizens. These records were usually kept by clergy members who had been well educated and were written in a mix of Latin and the native language of the country.

As I looked at the records, I realized that the names were usually written in Latin, so they were easily read. Finding the meanings of the column headings was a task for Google Translate.


In the case of my paternal grandmother’s family who lived in Milwaukee after they immigrated, I needed to use some of the German language newspapers to completely understand the details of a drowning death. Fortunately, I made the acquaintance of a gentleman in Milwaukee who has indexed the German language news papers and he was able to provide me with obituaries and their translations as well as other news articles about the family I was researching. For this family I have all their death notices in both English and German.

 There was a book written about my Norwegian great-grandfather in commemoration of his 150th birthday which I have a copy of but it is in Norwegian, so I can’t read it. I do have the author’s permission to translate it but that’s a project for another year.

There are similarities in the Scandinavian languages which helped me with tracing my husband’s Swedish ancestors.

To help me with entering data into my program, I have a chart giving a numeric code for typing foreign letters, so I can enter names and places with the correct diacritical’s.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Mothers - Betty part 2

(part 1 ended with Betty and Donald's marriage)

Donald’s work would require them to live in Atlanta for the first year of their marriage, but then they would return to Chicago where they would live with her parents since Donald and his parents often traveled for the company. Many of the company’s jobs took the Hansens to Wisconsin and Michigan where Donald wrote almost nightly to Betty especially while she was expecting their first child.

After Donna was born, the little family moved to the apartment building, four blocks away, that was owned by Betty’s brother Tom. They stayed there for several years until they were able to purchase a two flat about two miles further west. The house was across the street from the public school where Donna and Tom would attend kindergarten and about two blocks from St Thomas Aquinas Church and School. Betty’s family would grow to number four children while they remained in the City. By now Donald had left the dangerous work in steel construction and taken a job working for Betty’s father handling the Real Estate portion of the business. Donald was a good salesman and enjoyed the work.

As part of his job Donald often went out to look at the new listings of homes for sale. In the fall of 1948 he traveled to Elmhurst to see a 4-bedroom house listed for sale. Inspired, he took a picture of the large house to show Betty. The location of the house was perfect for the growing family. It was one block from both the Catholic and Public schools as well as a park and library. The church was located on the same property as the Catholic school and there was shopping within walking distance. Being close to the train station was also an encouraging factor since Betty did not drive and this would make it easy for her to go to the city to visit family. The family moved into this perfect house in Dec 1948. When it was time for a large grocery shopping trip, Betty would walk to the store and make her purchased timing it so she would be finished when Donald got home from work and he would meet her at the store, load the groceries into the car and take her home.

Life continued in this manner during the 1950’s as the family grew until it numbered eleven with the birth of Donald Joseph in 1957. Betty and Donald hosted family parties from the beginning of their marriage and continued to do so in Elmhurst. Thanksgiving was huge with both families represented by parents and cousins. It was many years later that I finally determined what the relationships really were!

At different times during our childhood Betty had help with housework and childcare. I remember Mary Williams who came to help with the house cleaning on a weekly basis and I remember Emma, a German lady who lived with us to help mom. And I remember Ruth who lived with us one summer to babysit. This help was needed since Betty had suffered with rheumatic fever I think three times, the most recently following the birth of Peggy. Peggy was born before Christmas and we didn’t see mom again until Easter. After her release from the hospital after Peggy’s birth, mother and baby went to Milton, WI where a long-time family friend would nurse her back to health.

In addition to raising her nine children, Betty was a true contributor to society. She was a Camp Fire Leader, in the evenings she would sit and do bead embroidery on cashmere sweaters for the Catholic charity her sister-in-law supported. 

In the summer the family made a trip to the Indiana cottage owned by her sister Kathleen for a vacation on the shores of Lake Michigan. It was no “day at the beach” for Betty as there were none of the conveniences of home. Lacking a dishwasher, Betty stood at the sink doing dishes after each meal of the day while the children were out the door for their adventures. Since the cottage did not have laundry facilities once a week the family would travel to Michigan City and Betty would go to the laundromat to do laundry while the rest of the family would enjoy milkshakes at Scholl’s Dairy or go the movies or the zoo. Since Betty was not yet a driver, Donald was the chauffer on those occasions. Donald also worked while at the cottage, doing painting and other minor construction as needed for it’s upkeep. Evenings at the cottage were meant for playing board and card games and often there was popcorn!

Labor Day meant the return to Elmhurst, school, and work for Donald. For Betty it was a return to her regular routine, so much so that she was featured in the local newspaper as the “Local Mother of Nine” who was asked how she managed her large family. 

Sometime during the late 1950’s Donald and Betty took the only vacation since their honeymoon. They took a driving trip around Lake Michigan with a stop at Mackinac Island. I remember she brought home a cocoa brown dirndl skirt with a boarder of white embroidery just above the hem. About that time also Betty and Donald considered buying a new house that was slightly bigger, but by then the older children were in high school and would soon be leaving home. To increase their income, Donald left the Real Estate business and went back to construction. That did not work out well since his first job was counting the number of times the jackhammer needed to strike to complete the job! When Donald went back to the Real Estate business, he returned to his habit of bringing Betty the “Saturday Evening Post” when he worked late on Thursdays. Sometimes he included a pint of her favorite ice cream which varied between Butter Pecan and Peppermint Candy. And so life continued until Dec 28, 1959.
                                            (to be concluded)

Monday, May 14, 2018

52 Ancestors - Week 19 Mothers - Betty Connery Hansen Part 1

25 September 1917, the world was a war. The headlines of the day in the Chicago Tribune read “2 Air Raids on England – 6 Dead” and “Steel Prices cut in half by President”.[i] This was the world that Elizabeth Mary Connery was born into. She was the tenth child born to Michael and Alice Fleming Connery. Her next oldest sister was eight years older than Betty and Betty was the very pampered youngest child. 
l-r Eleanor, Betty, Kathy, Tom, Jack.

By the time Betty was five years old her sister Eleanor left for boarding school and Betty was alone except for her sisters Kathleen and Pauline who had finished High School and returned home to work for their father.  In fact, the family was so unused to having a small child that when there was a small kitchen fire and the house was evacuated, Betty was left napping in her crib in a room just off the kitchen. Fortunately, all turned out well and there were no injuries.

In 1927 Betty returned from visiting relatives in Ireland, as she traveled with her parents and sisters Mary and Alice. She had traveled on a family passport with her parents. They returned on August 27, 1927 completing a seven-day crossing of the Atlantic from Liverpool to Quebec. The ship manifest shows Betty’s age to be 8 years. [ii] 

Passport for Connery Family Trip to Ireland

When she was about twelve years old Betty was enrolled in boarding school following the tradition of her sisters. This time there was no need to travel all the way to Michigan, since a new school run by the Adrian Dominican Sisters had opened in St Charles, IL. Her sister Alice, also known as Sister Marie Camilla, was one of the teachers. Betty enjoyed life at Mount St Mary Academy and made several life-long friends while there. She did tell tales of mischief while there. A favorite trick was to go in the bakery and walk out with a coffee cake under her uniform jacket! At some point in her stay in St Charles, Betty developed a case of diphtheria and her father flew a doctor from Chicago to St Charles to care for her. The school was also closed for a time.

After graduating in 1935, Betty attended Mundelein College for two years before deciding to attend Art School at the Art Institute of Chicago. Betty’s dreams of being a designer of women’s fashion were dashed when she discovered that she would be expected to design clothing that would fit all sizes with the same design. After she left school she went to work at the Chicago Metropolitan Sanitary District.

During the 1930’s Betty’s parents began traveling to Miami for the winter every year. While in Miami, they would stay with their daughter and her family. One of the things they did for entertainment was to go to the horse races. One night they met another Chicagoan who suggested that his nephew would be a good escort for Betty. When Betty visited her parents in Miami, she was introduced to her parents friend who asked Betty if his nephew could visit her when she was home in Chicago. With her permission he would give his nephew her phone number and address. 

When Donald Hansen first went to visit Betty, she was out on another date and Donald decided to wait for her return. Things went well and soon they were officially dating. Their courtship was filled with flowers, telegrams, and adventures dancing, and horseback riding, dinners out and nightclub visits.

flower girls Mary Alice Hardie and Maueen Murray

They were married in a nuptial Mass at St Mel Catholic Church on June 28, 1940. This is the very church where Betty was baptized and received her other sacraments. The wedding party included the couple’s cousins and best friends. They also each had a niece as a flower girl. The reception was held at the Edgewater Beach Hotel on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. After the reception, the bride changed into a lavender gaberdine suit for their honeymoon trip to Atlanta via Chattanooga.

[i]; Chicago Tribune; Sep 25, 1917; page 1; online; accessed 13 May 2018
[ii] The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Manifests of Passengers Arriving at St. Albans, VT, District through Canadian Pacific and Atlantic Ports, 1895-1954; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787 - 2004; Record Group Number: 85; Series Number: M1464; Roll Number: 534

Sunday, May 6, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Maiden Aunt, part 3

The third maiden aunt to be considered is Alice Josephine Connery. Alice, named after her mother, was the fourth child and third daughter of Michael and Alice Fleming Connery. She was born on March 29, 1899.

Like her older sisters, Mary and Kathy, Alice attended boarding school in Adrian, Michigan. Although the 1910 census shows that for some time she was living in Victor, Colorado with her Aunt and Uncle Mary and Gus Heisen.[i] Uncle Gus was a miner in a gold mine. On Friday nights Uncle Gus, a Lutheran, would drill her on her catechism lessons before her Saturday classes.  Years later Alice would reminisce about running down the hill to meet Uncle Gus on his way home from work. It is possible that Alice was in Colorado for allergies, since in later years she went to the North Woods during the “hay fever season” in the Midwest.

Alice graduated from St Joseph Academy on June 16, 1918 and then worked for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad until February 14, 1919 when she entered the novitiate of the Sisters of St Dominic in Adrian, Michigan. During her postulate she taught elementary grades at St Joseph Academy. After receiving the habit on August 22, 1919 along with the name Sister Marie Camilla, she was sent to teach junior high for a year at Our Lady of Sorrows in Detroit, MI. Her canonical year was difficult due to a succession of five novice mistresses but she made her first profession of vows on August 10, 1921.

Now her teaching career would begin in earnest. Her first appointment was to teach middle grades and freshman year of high school at Visitation School in Detroit for five years, then it was on to Queen of Angels School in Chicago as a junior high teacher. In the 1930’s she taught high school at Mount St Mary Academy in St Charles, IL. During her tenure at Mt St Mary’s her youngest sister Betty was one of her students. The story is told that she was known as “Sister Mary Pussyfoot” because she always caught her rosary on something, breaking it, and wore rubber heels on her shoes, so nobody could hear her coming!

Mixed with her teaching career, Sister Marie Camilla studied during the summers at Detroit Teachers College, De Paul University in Chicago and St John University in Toledo, Ohio. In 1929, she received her BS degree from St John.

She accepted an appointment to St Killian in Chicago as principal/superior but found that the position was not for her, so she returned to Mt St Mary, where she helped in the library as well as taught. During the summers, she continued her education earning a M Ed from De Paul University in 1942, and a BA in Library Science from Rosary College in River Forest, IL. She also took a summer class in theology taught by Dominican Fathers, adding a certificate to her collection of degrees.

In 1950 and again in 1956 she made a pilgrimage to Rome with her Mother and sisters. They had a private audience with the Pope and visited family in Ireland.

The late 1960s and early 1970s brought change to the Church and religious life. It was a time when nuns could choose whether to wear the traditional habit or not, a time when they could choose to return to their original names and a time when many were encouraged to accept employment outside of their order. Sister Marie Camilla retained her habit, although a modified one, and the religious name but she did accept the librarianship at John Carroll High School in Fort Pierce, Fl a coed school. After 40 years in all-girls schools it was quite a change. She spent 2 years there.

In 1974, at 75 years old, she “retired” to St Helen in Vero Beach, FL where she spent her time doing volunteer work. She even took a behind the counter position at the St Vincent de Paul Store, which she declared “one of the most interesting experiences of my life.”

In 1985 Sister Marie Camilla moved into Maria Hall at the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse where she would remain until her death April 16, 1995 having served 74 years as a religious sister. She is buried in the congregation cemetery in Adrian.[ii]

She is remembered as a graceful always happy woman who was a lover of nature. She was a gentle artistic woman who loved fine and delicate things.  I am very glad that she was my aunt.

[i] 1910 US Federal Census; Census Place: Victor Ward 3, Teller, Colorado; Roll: T624_125; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 0187; FHL microfilm: 1374138
[ii] Most biographical material taken from her autobiography written in 1978 and on file in the Adrian Dominican Archives

Sunday, April 29, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Cemetery

We all end up there at the end of our lives. It may be a large metropolitan cemetery with multiple gates or a family cemetery on the family farm, or even the cemetery that is part of a churchyard. All of these are represented in my extended family.

My mother’s family has a large plot in Mount Carmel Cemetery in the Chicago suburbs. The plot holds 12 graves and was first used in 1905 for the burial of Leo Connery, my mother’s brother who died at the age of 7.  I believe that there are currently three vacant graves left in the plot. Other than Connery’s there are two Hogans buried there, Louise who died in 1919 and Margaret who died in 1909. They are the daughters of my grandmother Alice Fleming Connery’s sister Eliza who married John Hogan in Ireland. Because of the wide acceptance of cremation, my parents share one of the graves. Since the graves are 32 inches wide and presumably 6 feet long, the family plot can be estimated to be 15 feet by 12 feet. There is a central monument facing east to the graves.[i]

Burbach family plot in Calvary Cemetery,, Milwaukee, WI.
My paternal grandmother’s family also has a family plot in Calvary Cemetery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. According to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, there are 64 people with the last name of Burbach In Calvary Cemetery. The earliest burial that could belong to our known family is of a George who was born and died on 9 October 1857.  This fits with the fact that my great-grandfather Georg and his young family settled in Milwaukee in 1856. I plan to contact the cemetery to see who paid for this burial since there were two unrelated Burbach families in Milwaukee at this time.

Sr Antonius Church Cemetery Oberselters, Hesse-Nassau, Germany.
In 2004, my husband and I traveled to Germany and were able to visit the village where the Burbach family lived for over one hundred years. At the cemetery attached to the church in the village, we were lucky to find that the family name is still represented in the Cemetery. This was a surprise since in Europe it is common that a grave is only there for about 25 years before it is replaced by another grave. [ii] 

We also traveled to Villmar, Germany where George Burbach married Catharina Caspari and found the family name on a memorial dedicated to the soldiers of WWI at the cemetery of the Church of Saints Peter and Paul.

My husband’s families were farmers in a small town in southern Illinois. Both sides of his family used the same cemetery in Jasper County. This was convenient when we went to visit the graves of his grandparents since his great and great-great-grandparents are all in the same cemetery. His third and fourth great-grandparents are in the same county but a different cemetery.

Folk singer Burl Ives (Holly Jolly Christmas) is also buried there. But primarily it is the final resting place for the Ferguson and Sempsrott families. This small rural cemetery is very well cared for.

Small private family cemeteries are still in use in more rural areas but unfortunately, they often are lost to view and those buried there are soon forgotten. Such is the story of Phoebe Hill Barrow Ferguson who died sometime between 1810 and 1825 probably in Kentucky. There is no known date of death or place of burial for her. She was probably buried near the land her husband worked as the family traveled from South Carolina to Indiana. 

These small family cemeteries are still allowed in some areas today. My sister and her husband recently created one on their ranch in Colorado. All that is needed is a fenced piece of land. Their cemetery has a beautiful view of the mountains and Aspens.

[i] Cemetery information received from cousin Alice Sterling in the form of a sketch of the plot with the graves labeled and identified. This sketch is in possession of the author.
[ii] Photo of Anna Burbach’s grave taken in 2004 by the author.
[iii] Photos of Mound Cemetery taken in 2003 by the author.