Chapter Four, Part Four of “The Genealogy & History of the Original Bohemians (Czechs) in Cleveland, Ohio, USA” The Novák/Nowak Family Continued.
Where did we leave off?
When we ended Chapter Four, Part Four of The Genealogy & History of the Original Bohemians (Czechs) of Cleveland, Ohio, USA we were thick into the genealogy and ancestry of T. S. (sometimes Tony and sometimes Anthony) Deisner. However before we continue with our journey following the Deisner family, we are going to return to the life of Anna Zíka and her descendants, as we left you at the end of Chapter Four, Part Two.
Living descendant questionnaire received
As we explained earlier, one of our key goals of this project is to discover any living descendants of “The Originals” we could. After making a discovery of a potential living descendant of “An Original” we begin working to make a connection and follow up with the short and simple questionnaire we developed and you can see below.
As you can see, our questionnaire is short and simple. As we developed this personalized questionnaire we had two goals in mind. First we wanted to make the questionnaire simple, easy to answer, and one that would not take the recipient a lot of time to complete. Second our aim was to make it a nonthreatening connection with the descendant in the hopes of using it as an entrée to a more robust communication stream with us into the future.
Our first goal is to make initial contact with a descendant, which is usually by telephone, we send out the questionnaire. We do this either as an email attachment or via the postal services (always with an SASE enclosed) depending on the preference of the recipient. Responses were slow in arriving, but as we all know it is important to remember that not everyone in the world works at our pace when it comes to genealogy, ancestry, and family history. I know that it is hard to remember, but while we may be working, or trying to work, at warp-speed, others simply do not, may not have the interest, or may have a multitude of things in life interfering. So as my Nana always would say to me: “Remember, patience is a virtue”. While we can always send or call with a gentle reminder, we must be ever mindful that these folks are doing us a favor so we need to be patient and remain hopeful.
In the case of Anna Nowak Zíka’s descendants, we had spoken on the telephone with one individual, but was a bit dismayed when he informed us that while he was aware he had Czech roots in Cleveland all that information had ‘died with my mother a few years ago’. I was buoyed by his agreement to accept our questionnaire and then the rollercoaster took a dip down again when he said he was very busy and would ‘get to it when I can get to it’. But hope springs eternal and off went the questionnaire along with a few tidbits we had found along the way that we thought might be of interest such as the very complete obituary of Anna Nowak Zíka.
It took only a couple of weeks when one of our staff members noticed one of our return envelopes in the mailbox and we couldn’t help but notice that it was a bit too fat to just be our questionnaire inside. We took a poll. Did it hold all our materials being returned to us or perhaps something of far deeper interest? We were deadlocked with a 50/50 vote when we opened the envelope and were treated not only to our completed questionnaire, but also several pages of materials all about the Zíka family!
Questionnaire responses from our Zíka descendant
It would seem, from the wonderful enclosures that accompanied the questionnaire that our descendant may just have visited some old family scrapbooks. But before we get into these additional materials, let’s look at the responses we received to our questionnaire.
Yes, our descendant was aware, before we spoke, that he was related to Anna Novák Zíka, his member of “The Originals”. This was certainly good news to start and it is nice to see the linkage to his Bohemian roots is there.
In response to question number two, we learn that prior to our visit, this descendant was also aware that his roots are Bohemian.
Surprisingly, at least to us, based on the two earlier positive responses, was that his response to our third question was a negative one. It was disheartening to read that no, he did not any have Bohemian traditions, etc. handed down.
On question number four, our descendant again responded in the negative that he had no recollection of any family member speaking Czech nor does anyone in the family now speak Czech.
In finishing up our questionnaire, our descendant responded with positive answers to the last two questions. He does still have connections to the Cleveland area and fortunately his wife is interested in genealogy, ancestry, and family history.
What did we learn from our Zíka questionnaire responses?
Let’s review the questionnaire as a whole and see what we learned from our descendant’s responses.
First we have to say we were very pleased that the vast majority of the responses by our Zíka descendant were positive. There is something very gratifying to see that the connection to Bohemian roots and an awareness of the cadre of “The Originals” still exists today, which is 150+ years ago.
However, as genealogists and family historians we have to say that there was one item that really stuck out and that of course was the lack of any currently held “Bohemian (Czech) traditions, heirlooms, recipes, favorite foods, or legacies”. This is a significant chasm between having an active awareness of one’s roots, but not having it be anything more than an historical footnote. Awareness is crucial, no doubt about it. It is simply that we would have been much happier if it was an active part of this descendants’ life. Continuing to hand down traditions, etc. is far easier than it is to reintroduce them at a later time. We also believe that if they are an active segment of your life it is far easier to connect the younger generations to the marvels and wonders of family history. I think we can all remember when we were youngsters in school that the last thing we wanted to do was feel like we were in school having to learn something when we weren’t. So it is with family history. If we want our younger family members to embrace and be enchanted by their ancestry and roots, we at Onward To Our Past® believe that should make it part and parcel of our everyday lives, at least in some small ways.
Again, as genealogists and family historians, we were dismayed at the message this telegraphed to us. If nothing is handed down it easily could mean the beginning of the end of connections with one’s past, history, culture, ancestors, and more. We will be sure to keep this matter in the forefront of our minds as we lay our plans on how we will plan our future plans for the descendants of “The Originals”.
What else was in that envelope?
It was hard to pull ourselves away from our discussions about what we were learning from our first questionnaire, but the additional materials in the envelope were far too intriguing to just let sit unseen. We moved on to see what they were.
First we cataloged that we received a personal note and six additional items. Aside from the current date of the note, these items were dated 1909, 1911 (2), 1917, 1941, and 1951. Especially for our purposes we were thrilled that these items spanned such wide range of dates.
The first item we opened was from 1941 and was an alternate copy of the obituary titled “Mrs. Anna Zika, 96, Taken by Death in Lakewood Home. Was One of City’s Oldest Bohemian Pioneers; Requiem Mass Friday.” Unfortunately, while the date was penciled in the margin, the name of the newspaper it came from was not noted. However, the opening line of this obituary holds a marvelous portion of the story of Anna’s life. It reads:
“Only half of the original passengers were aboard when a battered sailing vessel put into New York Harbor on a bitter cold day late in January, 1853. The others, mostly immigrants headed for the opportunities afforded by America, had died and were buried at sea in the 10 harrowing weeks the little ship was buffeted around the Atlantic after leaving Bremen, Germany.”
The more we thought about this opening paragraph the more we realized what a gold mine it was. First the recounting of what must have been a truly horrific Atlantic crossing for these people is quite a find all by itself. In this era of luxury cruise ships it is almost hard to fathom what conditions must have been like on that ship! After this we learn that perhaps half of those who embarked on the ship died en route and were buried at sea. There was an almost universal ‘ah-ha’ uttered by everyone in the office as this was put on our screen in the office as everyone nodded their heads in the realization that it is no wonder we cannot always find the final resting place for all those immigrants we trace. Then, of course, there is the statement that the Novák’s embarked from Bremen and docked in New York, which then matches our finding in Leo Baca’s book (see Chapter Four, Part Two).
Then our elation changed to consternation as we read the third paragraph. As the recounting of the Atlantic crossing continued we read:
“One of the survivors was an ?-year-old girl, Anna Novak, who a ?ew years after settling in Cleveland ?ecame the wife of Joseph Zika, a ?ooper.”
Ah yes, as you can see from a portion of the clipping below, while someone lovingly clipped this article from a 1941 newspaper, they cut just a bit too close to the margin and trimmed off a few letters, including the age of Anna!
Actually there was a good hearty laugh when we all realized the age had been clipped off this copy. Someone said this could actually make an excellent advertisement for someone like GenealogyBank.com to illustrate the value of scanning versus old style clipping and saving. Then we started to try and figure out what the missing age might be. You will see that in the other words above and below the age only have one letter missing. Also that the age is nicely preceded by ‘an’ rather than ‘a’. We agreed that the age would most likely be either 8 or 11. Someone then quickly opened up a blank Word document and typed two lines: “8 year-old” and “11 year-old”. The eleven did not line up, so it seems that the missing digit is an 8, which happily matches with the age we see in our other records for Anna Nowak Zika.
It was also interesting to note that the informant, perhaps her daughter, Anna Teslik, used the surname of Novak, listed Mr. Zíka as a cooper with his date of death as 1877.
Next in our packet was a clipping from The Cleveland News dated March 8, 1917 and featuring Joe Zíka and his work as a foreman at Diamond Glass Company. You can read more about the 19th century glass industry in NE Ohio and the Diamond Glass Company by clicking here. It was enjoyable to read about Joe Zíka being a ‘champion foreman’, a ‘pretty good scout’, and ‘a good boss and square’. We all agreed that we enjoy much of the wording used in days gone by. We were also treated to a photo of Joe, which was a huge treat, as any genealogist will agree!
What else was in our packet from this descendant of one of “The Originals”? What might we learn? What might we see? All will be revealed in our coming Chapter of “The Genealogy & History of the Original Bohemians (Czechs) of Cleveland, Ohio, USA”!