Czech Genealogy: The Story of Jan Kříž. The First English Translation from the 1920 edition of the Czech-American journal Amerikán Národní Kalendář
It is not often we get to read first person accounts of the life of early Bohemian immigrants to the United States, but thanks to the annual journal Amerikán Národní Kalendář we can. Onward To Our Past® with the assistance of our partner, Martin Pytr, has completed the first translation of the Czech language article on early Bohemian immigrant, Jan Kříž.
This story is related by the daughter of Jan Kříž, Josefa (nee Kříž) Bradáč and includes some wonderful detail about life in Bohemia, especially Austro-Hungarian military conscription at that time.
We trust you will enjoy this story as part of our ongoing commitment to translate articles of interest form the wonderful genealogy resource, Amerikán Národní Kalendář.
The following is the translation of the story of Jan Kříž:
“Jan Kříž, – We would not be mistaken saying that the oldest Czech in America, or at least one of the very oldest ones, is Mr. Jan Kříž from Cleveland, who recently celebrated his 91st year, and is still healthy and active. For this detailed information about him, we have to thank to his daughter, Mrs. Josefa Bradáč, living at number 2026 West 18th Place in Chicago, who fulfilled our wishes and sent us biographical information on her elderly father.
Mr. Jan Kříž was born on 24 June 1828 in Jezviny, Milevsko okres (district) Tabor kraj (county or region), to his parents Josef, a farmer there, and Marie nee Blaha from Drazkov, as one of their seven children. His youth was hard. His father passed away soon after he was born and his mother remarried. At the age of only 9 years Jan started to work, as a shepherd. In the country of Bohemian this was the usual fortune of children whose parents were in difficult situations. He served as a shepherd and at the same time, he trained to be a tailor.
In the dramatic year of 1848 he was drafted by the army and served there for the whole 12 years. (Editor’s note: This was the normal duration of a ‘hitch’ in the Austro-Hungarian Army at that time.) Austrian soldiers of this era travelled a lot. This was also the case for Jan Kříž. He served in garrisons at various German towns, and fought in Italy. During his service he learned several languages, especially Italian. He often recalled his military years, but you can imagine his feelings about them.
Later when he married and started a family he was afraid that his sons would also end up wearing military uniform. He went to America, with a hope that his sons will never serve in the military. – He had been an artillerist and often remember his service at Venice, Italy. He served under the command of Field Marshal Radetzky.
When he came back home in 1860, he married Miss Marie Smetana, whose father was a tailor in Brezi near Kovarov. The young couple started began their life together in Koubalova Lhota. Some years later when the family became larger, Mr. Kříž dreamed about owning a larger farm for his family. Finally he bought a farmstead located in Mladotova Zahradka, situated by the county road between Predborice and Petrovice. They lived there until 1878.
He decided to move to America and with his family, which then consisted of his wife and four children to Cleveland, where he settled and lives until today. He had 3 sons and 1 daughter – as Mrs. Bradáč previously mentioned. When they arrived in Cleveland he worked in various jobs.
Later he realized that as a tailor he would find a better future so he started own business. As family members grew older sons Josef and Alois started their own shop in Ashtabula, Ohio.
In 1884 his daughter married Mr. Stepan Bradáč. Only one son, Edward, remained at home with his parents. Mr. Jan Kříž later worked as a paver until 1900 when his faithful wife Marie passed away. Son, Edward, married Miss Anna Jingling, the daughter of an old settler in Cleveland and a well-known Freethinker. He lives at number 4327 Martin Ave., and Mr. Jan Kříž lives with them.
Mrs. Bradáč told to us, that her father was very happy that his sons were free from military “delights” in America. However she pointed out with a smile that now he has watched his grandsons fight for the freedom of mankind during the World War. The oldest son Josef had one son who was a soldier and son Edward had two.
She said that her father enjoyed talking about comparing the differences between the time when he arrived in Cleveland and started his tailor workshop on Trumbull Street, with today’s times.
He is still healthy and so active that he can to walk well and even eats more than his grandsons. He is also able to read newspapers and swag thread to a needle, without wearing any glasses.”
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