My big thing these days is reminiscing about my recent trip to Poland. Since returning to Rochester I have busied myself posting photos and videos of the trip, mostly for the benefit of my family and friends -- but of course anyone can view them. I'm pretty much done with that now.
Last Sunday and Monday were interesting days. I decided to drive to Erie, PA for the annual Zabawa at sponsored by Holy Trinity Parish. I attended their zabawa several years ago and very much enjoyed it. The main attraction for me is the performance put on by the Wiwaty Polish Folk Dancers (of Erie and Cleveland. Ray Vargas is the director and choreographer of the troupe). Along the way I attended Mass at St. Hyacinth's in Dunkirk, NY. The parish was founded in 1875, eighteen years after my great grandfather settled in the area.
While I was at it, I visited my grandfather's sister's grave in Corry, PA and checked out two places where she lived: French Creek, NY and Wetmore, PA. I also camped out in Pennsylvania's Allegheny National Forest for the night. That was quite an adventure in itself.
Camping in Pennsylvania's Allegheny National Forest
August 27 - Opening reception of RODZINA art exhibit (7-9 p.m.) at St. John Fisher College's Joseph S. Skalny Welcome Center in Rochester, NY
August 28 - Brittany Mruczek will be making her professional debut in Rochester. I'll be able to walk to that.
September 3 - Polish Happy Hour - Thursday, September 3 at 5:00pm - 11:00pm @ Millenium Airport Hotel Buffalo, 2040 Walden Ave, Buffalo, New York 14225, Free Polish food, Free Admission, Polish Beer, Polish Liqueurs, Polish Give Aways,Hundreds of Beautiful Polish people, and for this Polish Happy Hour Buffalo event we are helping the International Polka Association kickoff their Big 3 day weekend, with a Polish Happy Hour Buffalo IPA Kickoff Party on September 3rd at the Millenium Hotel on Walden Ave in Cheektowaga, NY. John Gora will be leading the way djing and performing, TheNew DirectionBand will be performing with guest musicians playing throughout the evening. We encourage Buffalo Polonia to come out and show your Polish Pride as people from all over the United States will be in attendance. If you have not yet been to a Polish Happy Hour Buffalo event, we are the largest, most attended monthly event in WNY and the largest Polish event of it's kind in the United States. Tell your friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors share this experience with them.
August 29, 2015
.I attended Brittany Mruczek's professional debut last night at the Lyric Theater on East Avenue in Rochester, New York. The entire performance was sensational. Brittany played the part of Mlle Silberklang in Mozart's The Impresario, a short comedy about two prima donas competing for the principle role in a new production. The performance was very well attended; close to a full house in fact. I hope to see Brittany sing again sometime.
Brittany Mruczek as
October 21, 2015
No blog activity during September. Actually I was very busy biking, working on my online music store, https://login.bigcommerce.com/login and creating videos to showcase Teton guitars and concercertinas.
September is my favorite month of the year for cycling; the weather is ideal and the kids are in school and I seem to have more energy for longer rides. Again this year I biked along the Niagara River, starting out at Niawanda Park, then south to the Peace Bridge crossing into Canada, then north along the river to the Falls and Rainbow Bridge, then back into the USA and Niawanda Park. The video is over on the right.
I see that this video has four thumbs up and one thumbs down (Oct. 21). Who gave me a thumbs down? I mean, what's not to like about a bike ride along the Niagara River! Too funny.
2015 Niagara River Bike RIde
Here are my most recent musical recordings:
The French-Canadian folk song, Un Canadien errant, has always been a favorite of mine written in 1842 by Antoine Gérin-Lajoie after the Lower Canada Rebellion of 1837–38. Some of the rebels were condemned to death, others forced into exile to the United States and as far as Australia,
The photos toward the end of the video were taken during my frequent visits to St-Pie, Québec south of Montréal. The river is called La Rivière noire, the Black River. Unfortunately, my return trip to Poland this summer conflicted with my plans to visit La Belle Province this year. Hopefully, I will be able to go next year. In the meantime, I can only sing about it.
So what next? Here are a few things on my calendar:
Zupapalooza Polish Soup Festival: Sunday, October 25th from 1 pm - 5 pm at the K of C Father Justin Hall, 2735 Union Rd. Cheektowaga, NY.(You bet your zupa I'm going!) DETAILS
Dziady "Feast of Souls" October 31 - 7:00 PM upstairs at Adam Mickiewicz Library & Dramatic Circle, Inc. Dzien Zaduszny/Halloween Celebration. Potluck supper to honor our ancestors. Dress up in costume, bring a dish and a memento or picture of a loved one and honor the old Slavic tradition of dining with the Ancestors for the Feast of All Souls Day. Drink specials and Disco Polo music (once the separate production by Torn Space ends in the theater) DETAILS
Nov. 1 Mass for All Souls & Polish Ancestors' Day - Sunday at 3:00pm - 5:00pmSt. Stanislaus Cemetery700 Pine Ridge Heritage Blvd, Buffalo, New York 14225 Join us in the age-old Polish tradition of visiting the graves of our dearly departed, our ancestors, and friends, on Nov. 1, following a 3 p.m. Mass celebrated by Fr. Czesław Krysa in English, and Polish, in the Resurrection Mausoleum. Mass will include "Wypominki", the reading of names of our dearly departed. Beginning at 2 p.m... Special memorial candles imported from Poland will be available, and The Polish Genealogical Society will be on hand to help answer questions about finding your Polish ancestors.There will also be an opportunity to find where some of your long-lost relatives may be buried at St. Stan's.To reserve candles, or more info. please call 510-7562 or 892-5975. Proceeds go to the Polish Legacy Project. Cemetery Entrance at 700 Pine Ridge, between Genesee and Rt. 33 in Cheektowaga, New York
Rochester Polish Film Festival:November 1& 4-9, 2015, DETAILS
Skalny Concert: Masterpieces of Chamber Music by Oriana Masternak, violin, and Kristina Raczyńska, piano Sunday, December 13, 7:00 pm Strong Auditorium, UR River Campus. DETAILS
October 25 - I had a fun time in Cheektowaga today. First I visited by buddy Eddie Zawadzki and his mom at St. John Gualbert Church. Eddie was doing a book signing, so I dropped in to see him on my way to Zupapalooza. The event was a blast: Polish food, music, dancing, and friends all in one place. (BTW,the photo is of my friend, Nancy, and nephew, Jim.)
November 4, 2015 - POLANDERS
If you have been following my blog or know me personally, you are certainly aware of my interest in learning more about my family tree. Tracing my family's roots has led me to each of the Polish villages where my ancestors lived before coming to America, something that as a younger man I never imagined would ever happen. The internet and contacts with the PGSWNY have been instrumental in helping me make such a dream come true. Locating and visiting these villages has been of special importance to me, but I am equally dedicated in learning more my family's history upon their arrival in the New World.
My grandparents, the Adamskis, Skrobaczes and Stopinskis, all have compelling stories, but I am most intrigued by the Johnsons (Jasieks) who were among the first Polish immigrants to settle in Western New York. I am making this entry because I just found another reference to my great grandfather, Abrose Johnson (Ambroży Jasiek) in "HISTORY OF CHAUTAUQUA COUNTY NEW YORK AND ITS PEOPLE" (1921). Here is the entry:
Next after the Swedes came the Polanders.
They settled in Dunkirk. The first to come
were Abrose Johnson, Anthony Pogorzelski,
Joseph Fleming, and John Winkler and their
families. In 1855 there were 21 Polanders in
Chautauqua county. Later they began to come
in greater numbers; and in 1875 there were
eighty-five Polish families in Dunkirk, and that
year St. Hyacinth's Roman Catholic Church
was erected at a cost of $10,000. The Poles
principally reside in Dunkirk and the country
roundabout. They are educating their chil-
dren and making rapid progress. They are
among the best farmers in the county; through
their energy and industry they are securing
good homes. In 1900 there were 1,027 natives
Although I have not been able to confirm it, I believe the Johnsons were among the founders of St. Hyacinth's Parish in Dunkirk, New York, established in 1875. Ambrose, his wife and many of his children are buried in St. Hyacinth's Cemetery, which I visit regularly to pay my respects. This year marks the 140 year anniversary of the parish, but I don't believe it is being formally celebrated. (I held my own personal celebration when I attended Mass at St. Hyacinth's en route to visiting my grandfather's sister's grave in Corry, PA in late August.)
Two years prior to the founding of St. Hyacinth's in Dunkirk, the first Polish church in WNY, St. Stanislaus B&M Parish, was established in Buffalo, (1873). Ambrose Johnson's eldest son, Jacob was one of its founders. My grandfather, Jacob (Jasiek) Johnson, was also one of the first teachers at St. Stanislaus Parochial School, a co-founder of the Polish Democratic Club (Klub Polsko-Demokratyczny), the first Pole to have the honor of being elected alderman of the city of Buffalo, and - among many other "firsts" - most likely the first Polish-American to attend Cornell University.
of Poland residing in Chautauqua county, and
many more descendants.
... By the census taken in 1855, a still greater
change appears to have taken place in these
respects. By this census fourteen per cent, of
the whole population were foreign born. Of
these, 2,483 were born in Ireland; 1,455 m Eng-
land; 1,207 m Germany; 453 in Sweden; 334 in
Canada; 289 in Holland; 128 in Scotland; 93
in France; 45 in Switzerland; 27 in Wales; 25
in Prussia; 21 in Poland; 5 in Denmark; 2 in
Asia; 1 in Russia, and none from Norway,
Italy, Spain or Portugal. Of these 3,223 were
born in Continental Europe against 4,345 born
in the British Dominions.
Another big find! This is HUGE!!! I have been searching for this since my freshman year at SUNY FREDONIA in 1966!
Before I left for college, my father had told me about my grandfather, Jacob; but very little about my great grandfather, Ambrose Johnson. I knew the Jasieks settled in Dunkirk, but they were penniless and it was therefore necessary for young Jacob to go to work. I don't know exactly when my dad said his father was sent to work for a certain "wealthy Irish farmer living in Fredonia", but eleven years of age rings a bell in my mind.
Life must have been hard for the Jasieks when they came to America in the mid 1850's: Ambrose's first wife had died in Poland, leaving him with a son and a little girl. (Ewa was four years old when they emigrated.) Ambrose had remarried before emigrating, but baby Theophile died en route to their new home in Dunkirk. Ambrose could not readily find employment, so Jacob had to leave his family and move in with Duane L. Guernsey and his family. At least it was one less mouth to feed. Fortunately for the Johnsons (as they were called by the Americans), Mr. Guernsey, who treated my grandfather like a son, was very wealthy and although it must have broken his heart to be told he would have to leave home, in the long run it was a blessing from which he befitted greatly the rest of his life. Also, Dunkirk was within a reasonable walking distance, so he could visit his Polish family whenever he wished.
Here's something I learned about the Rochester Guernseys:
When the canal was completed in 1825, General Lafayette made a visit to Rochester. There was no equipment fine enough to bear that famous visitor and so the carriage of James Guernsey was called into service. Also when Daniel Webster visited, he rode in that same grand coach. This gives one some idea of how important and wealthy was James K.Guernsey*.
* I believe the aforementioned James K.Guernsey was an uncle of Duane Guerney.
The Guernsey's left Fredonia and returned to the Rochester area in the early 1870's. When my grandfather attended Cornell, he gave the Guernseys' Pittsford, N.Y. address as his residence. I
sometimes bike past it when riding along the Erie Canal. He did not live there for long, however. In 1874 he met Fr. Pitass of St. Stanislaus Parish in Buffalo who talked my grandfather into abandoning his studies and a career as manager of the Guernsey estates to teach math and English at the newly established parish school. Fr. Pitass must have been one slick talker!
Before attending Cornell University, my grandfather graduated from Fredonia Academy, which was just down the street. The opportunity to receive a quality education and learning to speak fluent English were two of the fringe benefits of living and working for the Guernsey's. My father used to say that Jacob Johnson could even speak English with an Irish brogue if he wished. This is of great importance, in my opinion, because it meant that his immigrant students at St. Stanislaus had a uniquely qualified teacher whose language skills they could emulate. Jacob Johnson's language fluency must have also contributed to his success in business and as a representative of the immigrant Polish community.
This is all fine, but I never knew where my grandfather lived in Fredonia. In fact I thought he lived out in the sticks somewhere and never realized he actually lived right on Central Avenue in a house I walked past hundreds of times as a student. In fact it was one of those old houses everyone said was haunted. Hmm, now I know by whom...
Although the Guernseys owned a number of properties in the Fredonia area, I only today discovered the location one of the homes where they actually lived. (I know they also owned a large farm on what is now East Main Street, and where they probably lived before moving to the Central Avenue home.) Although my grandfather is not listed as a member of the Guernsey family, the 1870 Federal Census records show Jacob Johnson and a domestic lived in the same house. The above photos and the following information are what I discovered today:
57 Central Avenue, Fredonia, NY
By Douglas H. Shepard
This home was built for William H. Green in the Summer of 1867. According to The Fredonia Censor of 25 November 1868, the architect was Enoch A. Curtis. The Censor of 28 October 1868 reported that Green was selling the new home to Mrs. Lydia Vinton of Pittsford NY. The property, in fact, was occupied by the Duane L. Guernsey family in 1869. (Mrs. Guernsey was Mrs. Vinton's daughter.) In the 1870 Census, Guernsey, then 41, described himself as a retired farmer. His household consisted of his wife Abbie, 36; sons Fred W., 11; and Ernest B., 2; and Duane Guernsey's mother, Tamma Guernsey, 67.
A Q & A session followed last night's screening of "Warsaw 44" with the film's director, Jan Kamasa (center), and Michal Oleszczyk artistic, director of 39.Gdynia Film Festival (right) at Rochester's The Little Theater. Skalny Center director, Randall Stone, was the moderator. Despite vacant seats in the first few roads, the screening was VERY well attended. Despite its nightmarish subject matter and numerous scenes graphically depicting extreme violence, the film is a must see for mature audiences.
November 10, 2015 - Duane L. Guernsey Family Gravesite, Pittsford, New York
I just returned from the Pittsford Cemetery where the man who took my grandfather under his wing is buried;
the cemetery is located just a few miles from my house.
I was able to learn more about Duane L. Guernsey's family online last night including the names of his parents, siblings, spouses, children, and grandchildren. My hope is that ultimately I will be able to track down a family member who has photos of my grandfather when he was a boy. I see that the most recent interment at the Guernsey site was of an ancestor named Duane L. Guernsey who died in 2011. Hopefully I will be able to track down one of his children. Wish me luck. (If anyone from the Guernsey family is reading this, please get in touch with me: email@example.com.)
Ten minutes later: It didn't long to track down the Duane L. Guernsey who passed away in 2011.
Guernsey, Duane Livingston - On August 19, 2011. DR. DUANE L. GUERNSEY of Halifax, age 65 peacefully passed away. He was the son of the late Duane Livingston Guernsey, Jr. of Rochester, New York and the late Harriett Gould (nee) Davenport Guernsey of Scranton, Pennsylvania. He is survived by his son, Read Frederick Guernsey of Ottawa, his wife, Dr. Judith Read Guernsey, of Halifax, his sister Sarah Guernsey Carr of Lewes, Delaware, nephews Garry Carr of Los Angeles, California and Stephen Carr of Tokyo, Japan, and his partner Susan Evans of Halifax. Before beginning his medical career, Dr. Guernsey served with distinction for six years in the United States Navy, the first three years as a Lieutenant aboard a Liberty Ship in Vietnam. He grew up in Lutherville Maryland, then studied and worked at Lehigh University (B.A. in Biology, 1968), The University of Bridgeport (M.S in Biology 1974) and The University of Hawaii (Ph.D in Medical Physiology 1978) and completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in NYC. He spent the last 23 years of his distinguished career at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia as a professor in Pathology, Physiology, Biophysics, Ophthalmology, Visual Science, and Surgery. He was also the Division Director of Molecular Pathology and Molecular Genetics. During his lifelong career in medical research he won numerous awards including the National Research Service Award and the Pfizer Prize for Neurosciences and Diseases of the Nervous System. At Dalhousie he served on six academic committees where he also served as an external reviewer for numerous professional journals and grant reviews. He is credited, along with collaborative colleagues, for publishing over 71 peer reviewed published papers, 3 submitted manuscripts, and 78 abstract presentations at international meetings. He lectured and taught graduate and undergraduate medical courses throughout his career, many who appreciated his breadth of knowledge of science as well as his great sense of humour and, in the early days, his ugly tie collection. Often seen with the latest novel in hand, he was well loved by many of his colleagues and students with whom he became very dear friends. He will be missed by all who experienced his quiet dignity, wry sense of humour, kind demeanor, and passion for science and cooking. A gathering of family, friends and colleagues will be held on Thursday October 6th from 2-4 PM at the Saraguay Club, Purcell's Cove Road, in Halifax. Online condolences may be sent or viewed through www.cruikshankhalifaxfuneralhome.com and donations may be made to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation or the Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation in his memory. Photos
The following entry I found in a book entitled "Landmarks of Monroe County, New York Containing an Historical Sketch of Monroe County and the City of Rochester", by WIlliam F. Peck (1895):
GEURNSEY, Duane L., son of the late Ezekiel B. Guernsey of Chautauqua county, N.Y., a prominent citizen of that county for a long term of years. Duane L. located in Pittsford, Monroe County, in the spring of 1872, purchasing at that time most of the real estate adjoining Pittsford village, on which is located the home residence now occupied by himself family. Mrs. Guernsey was Addie A. Wilmarth, whose ancestors were early settlers here. She died in 1884, leaving two children, Fed W. and Everett B., the latter a resident of Rochester and one of the firm known as the Beech, Birch and Maple Flooring Co. of that city, and the former a resident of Pittsford and associated with his father, Duane L. in business. Mr. Guernsey married in 1886 Mrs. Helen Person of Tuscumbia, Ala. (SOURCE - p.91)