20 January 2018
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Fleeing from domestic famine in the late 1800's:
Hordes of Lithuanians
came to Pennsylvania
to work in coal mines

Large numbers of Lithuanians first came to the United States in 1867-1868 after a famine in Lithuania, at that time a part of the Russian Empire after Saint Petersburg had annexed the Lithuanian lands piece by piece between 1772 and 1795 in the partitions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth between Prussia, (later part of Germany), the Austrian-based Habsburg Monarchy and Czarist Russia, which ceased to exist in 1917-1918.

The beginnings of industrialization and commercial agriculture in the Russian Empire as well as a population boom that exhausted available land transformed Lithuanian peasant-farmers, once considered an immovable fixture of the land, into migrant-labourers. The pressures of industrialization drove numerous Lithuanian peasants to emigrate to the United States continuing until the outbreak of the First World War. This first wave of Lithuanian immigrants to the United States ceased when the US Congress passed the Emergency Quota Act in 1921, followed by the Immigration Act of 1924 driven by xenophobic anti-immigrant attitudes against the newcomers from Eastern Europe. The Immigration Act of 1924 was aimed at restricting the Eastern and Southern Europeans who had begun to enter the country in large numbers beginning in the 1890s.

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, an estimated 300,000 Lithuanians journeyed to America. This number is hard to document fully because census records did not officially recognize Lithuanians as a separate nationality until the twentieth century, and the country's people may have been reported as Russian, Polish, or Jewish.

Lithuanians differed from most immigrant groups in the United States in several ways. First, they did not plan to remain permanently and become "Americanized." Instead their intent was to live in the US temporarily to earn money, invest in property, and wait for the right opportunity to return to Lithuania. Official estimates were that 30% of the emigrants from the Russian provinces of Poland-Lithuania returned home. When adjusted to include only non-Jews the number is closer to 50-60%. Lithuanian immigrants who mostly came to the United States from Imperial Russia lived in a social environment akin to early European feudal society, where classless Jews performed the essential middle roles of artisans, merchants and moneylenders.

American employers considered Lithuanian immigrants, like the Poles as better suited for arduous manual labour in coal-mines, slaughterhouses, and steel mills, particularly in the primary stages of steel manufacture. Consequently, Lithuanian migrants were recruited for work in the coal mines of Pennsylvania and the heavy industries (steel mills, iron foundries, slaughterhouses, oil and sugar refineries) of the North-eastern United States as well the Great Lakes cities of Chicago, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Buffalo, Milwaukee, and Cleveland.

It is said about Pennsylvania that it was like a Western Lithuania at one point.

The Lithuanian Citizens Society of Western Pennsylvania is a Social Welfare Organization. It was founded on July 19, 1912 and is the only surviving Lithuanian club in the immediate Pittsburgh area. The organization's main building and meeting location is located at 1721 Jane St. on the South Side of Pittsburgh

Why Pennsylvania?

By Jay Zane
Copyright © 1998 by Jay Zane, Attorney at Law, and the Lithuanian Global Genealogical Society, All Rights Reserved.

Coal was discovered in the eastern part of Pennsylvania well before the American Civil War. In fact, the legendary Necho Allen accidentally ignited a vein of anthracite coal in 1790 while traveling in what would later be Schuykill County. In 1822, the Anthracite coal industry began in earnest when fortune hunters journeyed into the coal fields of Schuykill, Carbon, Luzerne and Lackawanna counties in northwestern Pennsylvania.

Large fortunes were discovered by a select few. Stephen Girard of Philadelphia amassed millions from the Anthracite area after purchasing more than 29,000 acres of coal land in 1830 for $30,000. The profits he and his successors reaped in the 1800's continue into the millions today.

The history of Schuykill and other anthracite coal counties is filled with "Robber Barons", individuals who selfishly exploited both the lush mountainous topography and the immigrant mines workers. As wealth was extracted from earth's womb into the pockets of mine owners, the coal waste devastated the mountains and the pure streams and rivers.
In 1820, coal output in Schuykill County was 357 tons, by 1880, 23 1/2 million tons. The mining explosion created employment for illiterate, unskilled immigrants with sparse economic alternatives. At first, the Irish filled the jobs. Eastern Europeans followed. Both groups dreaded working on farms. 

Past horrors of crop failures, famines, ruinous taxes and the degrading misery of serfdom were fresh in their collective memories. The Irish suffered under the iron grip of the English Crown, Eastern Europeans under the Russian Czar.

When Lithuanian immigrants began to arrive in the early 1880's, safety nets like unemployment compensation, welfare checks, food stamps, and medical assistance were non-existent. Survival meant work, hard work. Coal mining, with ten hours of grueling back-breaking labor, six days a week, was considered a privilege to newcomers, grateful to be away from the serf existence and Russian military conscription.

Since there was no telephone, Internet service, or television in the late 1880's, how did word of plentiful employment opportunities spread? Agents from the Pennsylvania's Coal and Railroad Companies traveled throughout eastern and southern Europe, seeking cheap labor. Word spread quickly about the streets of America being "paved with gold." These stories hastened the Lithuanians to head towards the ports of Bremen and Hamburg, creating a labor shortage in their own land and prompting the Russian government to prohibit lawful immigration.

Before arriving at German ports, a risky trip had to be made to avoid the Russian army and police. Immigrants would have to sail in steerage, rather than first or second class, due to the meager savings they had with them. Their unventilated passengers room had double-decker, wide shelves for beds underscored by a permanent stench. Several persons were forced to share the inadequate accommodations. Although the United States Congress had enacted the "Passenger Act of 1882", improvements on the passenger ships came gradually.

Lithuanians first set foot on America soil, usually New York, in wooden or leather shoes. Wearing pleasant clothing, they carried what few possessions they owned in several suitcases. Each immigrant had to have a few dollars to prove to US Immigration officials that they were self sufficient. When my maternal grandfather arrived in 1911 from Rudnikia, Suvalkija, the ship's manifest indicated he had:

+ $7.00 
+ A brother waiting for him in the coal town of Shenandoah, Pennsylvania.

When our ancestors arrived in Pennsylvania, newspapers were quick to pass judgement. The press complained the coal mining counties being afflicted by a new, mixed population. As the newcomers passed through town, speaking in their native tongues or broken English, they soon became the blunt of jokes and laughter. Children were tormented, young adults avoided.

Several cities and large towns in the Anthracite coal fields attracted Lithuanians. Shenandoah, in northern Schuykill County was one of the major settlements in the 1880's. It earned itself the nickname, "the Vilnius of North America". While Shenandoah was the county's largest metropolis, it lacked the charm and sophistication of the county's seat, Pottsville, located about 15 miles to the south. Situated in a pocket between rugged mountains which contained the valuable anthracite coal, Shenandoah was confident of its future even in the aftermath of the destructive fire of November 12, 1883 which laid waste to one quarter of its buildings.

By the end of the nineteenth century, there were as many as twenty foreign languages being spoken on the streets of Shenandoah. For awhile, Shenandoah had the distinction of having more people per square foot than any other place on earth. Many unmarried Lithuanian male immigrants were forced by economics to live in small huts or shacks made from scrap, lumber, and tin built on the hillsides near the mines. Others would crowd into cheap living quarters, including barns converted into dormitories.

Sometimes over a dozen men would rent an abandoned store. For a few dollars per month, they sleep on bunks or mattresses arranged along the walls. The owner's wife would wash the men's laundry, perform household chores, and cook her tenants a basic meal each day: bread, meat and coffee. This became known as the "boardinghouse system" and continued for decades.

The 1900 United States census files for Shenandoah reflect the prevalence of this system within the Lithuanian community. Supposedly 70% of Lithuanians took in boarders. To make ends meet, families picked huckleberries on the mountains and grew cabbage and potatoes. If financially able, they kept some livestock. Because it was difficult, if not impossible, to save enough money to purchase an stove, rye bread was baked communally in a large outdoor oven.

Even with limited earnings, miners were able to raise their families and educate their children so that the next generation would not have to follow their footsteps into the bowels of the earth. It cannot be emphasized enough: Mining was one of the most, if not the most, dangerous occupation.

Death in the mines was a regular occurrence. Fine coal dust was always in the damp air of the coal mines causing untold misery for thousands and "black lung disease." But, the biggest fear was explosions caused by methane gas build-ups in the crevices of the mines. Whistles would blow whenever a mine explosion occurred, wives and children would wait in fear until the names of the victims were circulated. Then, there was silence. Life was difficult, death tragic.

Besides Shenandoah, there are several other well known Lithuanian settlements in eastern Pennsylvania including:

SHAMOKIN, the site of the first Lithuanian printing press in the Western Hemisphere. Settlers arrived here in 1869. 
HAZLETON had arrivals in 1870. By 1887 it had forty Lithuanian families. 
NEW PHILADELPHIA elected Lithuanian public officials in the 1890's. 
MAHANOY CITY, where Saule," a Lithuanian newspaper, was printed from 1888 to 1959. 
MINERSVILLE, where Lithuanian socialists and freethinkers congregated. 

For further reading I recommend "Lithuanians In America," by Dr. Antanas Kucas or "Where the Sun Never Shines," by Priscilla Long (Paragon House), 1989.
Used copies of LITHUANIANS IN AMERICA and WHERE THE SUN NEVER SHINES are available through 
Lithuanian Global Resources .

Commercial use strictly prohibited. Printing of this file for non-commercial purposes and by libraries is encouraged, providing all notices and submitter information is included. Any other use, including uploading files to other sites requires permission from Lithuanian Global Genealogical Society. We encourage links.

The American coal mining industry


The coal barons controlled politics and the press and had their own police force and company-owned towns. And they smashed every attempt by the workers, going back half a century, to form a labor union. The American Constitution wasn't a fact of life in the coal towns of northeastern Pennsylvania.

Here, coal was king. A single industry, hard coal, anthracite, dominated the region, and here the industrializing process assumed its most nakedly brutal form. In less than a generation, an unspoiled wilderness was made over into a wasteland of acid-polluted streams and smoke-scarred towns.

Description: [picture of a coal miner]Description: were treated even worse than the land. Deep in the coal seams, men and boys worked in total darkness, at the most dangerous job of the day. Accidents were almost a way of life, and few miners past the age of 40 failed to contract "black lung" from inhaling the dust of the mines. Black lung was -- still is -- incurable and slowly kills its victims.

No other American industry inflicted more destruction on man and the environment than anthracite mining. Yet clean-burning anthracite was indispensable to the industrializing process. It was used to make iron, to power factories, to run locomotives; and it was the Northeast's chief domestic heating fuel. And almost all of this coal, almost all this anthracite, was located in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Description: [picture of a coal plant]Description: of anthracite, entire areas of the country would be paralyzed or thrown into chaos, particularly in wintertime. Maybe the miners had more power than they thought? The anthracite industry had evolved in the classic capitalist pattern, from small firms operated by individual entrepreneurs, through big family-owned companies, to giant conglomerates. After the Civil War, the owners of the major coal hauling railroads began buying up huge amounts of coal lands merging into industry-wide combinations under Morgan's guidance and Morgan's money.

By 1900, Morgan's railroad cartel controlled almost the entire region. Meanwhile, mining went on much the way it had for almost a century. There's never been a more perilous occupation.

The miners were sometimes a thousand feet and more underground; and there were deadly gases there that could kill in a minute or set off tremendous explosions and fires. There were rats all over the place. The timber that helped hold up the roofs of the tunnels was creaking constantly under the tremendous weight -- a thousand feet of earth and rock right above the miners. And every day these miners were dynamiting underneath that mountain of rock.

Sometimes, that mountain collapsed and trapped men underground, or flattened them into the ground like pancakes, so that their bodies had to be scraped up with shovels. On average, three anthracite miners were killed every two days. When a miner was killed, his broken body was deposited, by the company, unceremoniously on the front porch of his house. The remains of men annihilated in mine blasts were brought home in coffee cans.

Description: [picture of coal miners]Description: was unlike other industrial work, and miners considered themselves a special breed, distinct from factory workers. Anthracite mining was a craft or cottage industry, requiring hand labor and skilled workers. Miners worked in crews of two or four men, and these crews worked on their own. Close supervision was impossible because of the tight underground passages and tunnels.

This kind of work bred what's called the "miner's freedom." Miners were fiercely independent. They were their own bosses and they didn't take orders well. Yet their independence was balanced by a strong sense of worker solidarity, because underground they had to depend on one another.

Because anthracite seams are sharply pitched, men usually had to climb to their work through narrow, 90 degree passages, carrying caps and powder, picks and shovels, axes and lumber for shoring up the roof. As they inched ahead, they checked for deadly gases with their safety lamps, and by the time they reached the coal face, they were often on the downside of their shift. At the face, they drilled holes in the wall of coal, filled them with blasting power, ran a fuse to a fire box, and blew the coal away from the seam. Then they loaded it on cars, and mules would pull the cars to the surface.

The average miner made about $400 a year; not enough to support a family. So his wife had to take in boarders, and his sons had to leave school at the age of eight or nine to work in a place called a "breaker," a huge factory for processing coal. The boys would work, sitting down, in step-like chutes. The coal would come roaring down and they'd pick out the slate and rock with their bare hands, for 45 cents a day.

The noise was earsplitting, and the whole building would shake with the movement of the coal. The dust was so thick the boys could hardly breathe; and they'd wear handkerchiefs over their noses and mouths and chewed tobacco to keep from choking. Behind them, supervising the work, were foremen with clubs and leather whips.

Description: [picture of child coal laborers]Description: age ten or eleven, the breaker boys graduated from the breaker and went into the earth with their fathers. There they worked until they died a natural death, were injured or killed, or contracted Black Lung. When their lungs filled up with coal dirt, they went back to where they'd started, to the breaker. As the miners used to say: "Twice a boy and once a man is a poor miner's lot."

A Melting Pot Prompts Intolerance

The only hope for change was a union. In the fall of 1899, John Mitchell, the new 29-year-old president of the United Mine Workers, entered anthracite country with a group of organizers. Mitchell's union was preparing for an all-out labor war, a struggle that would set the country's largest labor union against the mightiest financial combination of American capitalism.

The core issue was the right of miners to organize. Mitchell knew what he was in for. In the past, one union drive after the other had failed because of company opposition, but also because workers themselves were bitterly divided along ethnic lines.

Earlier in the century, it was the Irish against the Welsh and the English. Now it was English-speaking miners, mostly Irish, Welsh, and Germans, against new immigrants, some of them Italian, but most of them Slavs, an all-embracing term used by other miners to include Poles, Slovaks, Lithuanians, Croatians, Serbs, and other Easter European Catholics. The English-speaking miners believed that these new immigrants had been brought by the companies to depress wages. And some of Mitchell's organizers believed they wouldn't join a union because they were so docile and easily led.

So when trainloads of Slavs arrived in the region, they were given a great American welcome. They were stoned by Irish miners. To protect themselves, Slavs developed an intense communalism, banding together for mutual protection and comfort.

They organized mutual aid societies to bury their dead in dignity, youth organizations to instill ethnic pride in their kids, and savings and loans societies to help one anther purchase property. And on Sundays they gathered together as a community at ethnic feasts and picnics, letting off steam with a wild drink they called polinki, that's beer laced with whiskey and hot peppers. Catholic priests in the anthracite region said mass in the national languages of their parishioners. And church organizations helped preserve Slavic culture, getting these people to act and think together as a group, the only way to break down paternalism.

When they were strong together, these miners were ready to take on the bosses. An incident in 1897 at a town called Lattimer showed what they were made of. The Slavs in that part of the region took the lead in a small strike against coal owners. Three hundred striking workers marching from mine to mine shut them down.

They walked peacefully, behind a miner carrying an American flag. But when they got to Lattimer, they were met by the local sheriff and 150 deputies armed with Winchesters, with steel-piercing bullets. We'll never know who gave the order to fire. But it was a massacre.

At least l9 miners were killed and 32 wounded. Deputies were heard shouting, "Shoot the sons of bitches." Then these deputies boarded trolleys laughing and bragging about how many so-called Hunkies they'd taken down. In a highly prejudiced trial, a jury declared all the deputies innocent.

The Lattimer Massacre sparked a new level of militancy, among the women, especially. One Slavic woman, Big Mary Septak, organized a band of 150 women and tried to keep the strike going after the men started back to work. Armed with rolling pins and fire pokers, and carrying their children in their arms, Big Mary's "army of amazons," as they were called by the press, battled coal police and sheriff's deputies before they were broken up by the state militia.

These people, the men as well as the women, were conservatives, but it was their conservatism that fueled their insurgency, ironically, their desire to hold onto what they had. Slavic militancy gave Mitchell hope. His organizers also noticed that mining itself was bringing the men together.

A Coal Strike and an Election

If there was a melting pot in America, it was at the bottom of a thousand-foot mine shaft, where 26 nationalities worked in what was a democracy of misery. Mitchell skillfully built on this. As his men went through the region, they had one message: If you're Irish, you don't have to drink with Slovaks, but you work with them.

And to get any improvements at the mine site, you've got to bury your hatred and join with these people in a common effort. Otherwise, you're just cannon fodder for the capitalists. Everywhere Mitchell went he had the same message. "The coal you mine isn't Slovak coal. It's not Irish coal. It's not Italian coal. It's coal."

Mitchell wore a jeweled ring and a Prince Albert suit, but the miners liked him and trusted him. He was one of them, a former miner from Illinois. To Catholic miners, Mitchell looked like a priest with his long frock coat, buttoned up to the top, and his high white collar. Johnny d'Mitch, they called him affectionately.

Mitchell's organizers started to make progress, but the owners refused to deal with him or his union. So he rolled the dice and called for a strike on September 17, 1900. At that time, only 9,000 of more than 140,000 anthracite miners had joined the union.

On the morning of the strike, when the work whistle blew, no one knew what the miners would do. Then, amazingly, workers began to drift from their homes, not in their miner's boots but in their Sunday best. 90,000 men stayed out of the mines that first day. Within a week only 9,000 were still working.

By the middle of October, factories and homes across the country began running low of coal, and prices shot up. With the election and cold winter coming, the strike became a national issue. McKinley and his running mate, the New York governor, Theodore Roosevelt, were running on the theme of American prosperity. Their slogan was "A Full Dinner Pail" for the American worker.

This strike could trigger a depression and swing the election to Bryan. Bryan began hitting on the underlying issue of the strike: Who owns America? The people or the plutocrats? Then, when the press started to report the strike sympathetically, McKinley had to do something.

So he sent his friend and political manager, Mark Hanna, to meet with the mine owners. When they refused to budge, he went over their heads to J.P. Morgan, and Morgan got them to agree to a 10% wage increase. But they would not accept union recognition. That's about all Mitchell thought he could get however, for the miners were starving and soon would be forced to return to work.

The strike was over. McKinley won the election. Morgan was pleased. Mitchell knew that a bigger battle was ahead, as the company began stockpiling coal in preparation for the coming fight over union recognition.

But as he left anthracite country that fall, he was a hero. His union had won what he described as "the most remarkable contest between labor and capital in the industrial history of our nation." As he rode out of the town of Hazelton, his carriage was accompanied by thousands of cheering breaker boys.

Description: [picture of McKinley's assassination]Description: than a year later, President McKinley was dead, shot by a demented anarchist. McKinley had offered no opposition to the consolidation of American capital. But his successor, Theodore Roosevelt, had his own ideas about this. And he'd be tested by both capital and labor in one of the first crises of his presidency, another and even more bitterly fought anthracite strike.




Looking for PA-LT relatives?



Schuylkill County
For those whose ancestors went to Schuylkill County, PA, the 
Marriage License Search on the county website may be very helpful. You can search by partial names (good for those messed up spellings) or even search just by first name. The search will give you the docket number, and from there, you can order a copy of the record for little money.
Schuylkill County Genealogy message board at RootsWeb.

Library in Pottsville has a whole host of genealogy resources and will look up obituaries for a very nominal fee.
Index of Obituaries in the Pottsville Republican.
Frackville Library website.
Schuylkill County Historical Society.
Greater Shenandoah Area Historical Society.
Schuylkill County Genealogy Ties on Rootsweb.

Diocese of Allentown
Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 7 South Broad Mountain Avenue
Frackville, PA 17931-1800             (570) 874-0842      . No website.

St. Vincent de Paul Lithuanian Catholic Church, Girardville. Merged. See 
St. Joseph's, Girardville.
St. Joseph's Lithuanian Catholic Church, Mahanoy City
Our Lady of Siluva (formerly St. Louis), Maizeville. Closed.
St. Francis of Assisi, Minersville
Sacred Heart, New Philadelphia

St. George's Lithuanian Catholic Church, Shenandoah CLOSED.  Per the Diocese, the records are at:  Annunciation BVM, 218 W. Cherry St., Shenandoah, PA 17976   phone:             570-462-1916      

Saints Peter & Paul Lithuanian Catholic Church, 
Tamaqua.  307 Pine Street, Tamaqua, PA 18252

Rev. William J. Linkchorst             570-668-1150      

Allegheny County
website of the county.
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh website.
Website for the 
Lithuanian Citizens' Society of Pittsburgh.
Allegheny County page of PAGenWeb project.
Diocese of Pittsburgh Parish records are located at the Archives & Record
Center located at Synod Hall, Pittsburgh Diocese
125 North Craig Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Phone:             (412) 621-6217      

St. Casimir's Parish (founded 1891)
2114 Sarah Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15203
            (412) 431-1212      
            (412) 881-2983      
cemetery inscriptions from St. Casimir's cemetery, Whitehall, PA.

St. Vincent Lithuanian Catholic Church, Pittsburgh. Closed. See 
St. John of God, McKees Rocks.

SS. Peter & Paul, Homestead
St. Isadore's, Braddock
St. Anthony's, Bridgeville
Ascension Church, Manchester
St. Valentine's, Bethel Park
St. Joseph's, Donora
St. Luke's, Bentleyville
St. Francis Academy, Whitehall (1929-1991) had a Lithuanian Library.  If it survives, it might be with the Sisters of St. Francis:website 

Luzerne County
Homepage for Luzerne County.

Back Mountain Memorial Library, Dallas
Hazleton Area Library
(Four branches, including Freeland)
The library has the Hazleton Standard Speaker newspaper online, from 1999-present.  However, you need to enter a library card #.
Hoyt Library, Kingston
Kirby Library, Mountaintop
Mill Library, Nanticoke
Osterhout Public Library, Wilkesbarre
Pittston Memorial Library, Pittston
Plymouth Public Library, Plymouth
W. Pittston Library, W. Pittston
Wyoming Free Library, Wyoming

Diocese of Scranton

St. Casimir (Polish & Lithuanian), Freeland. Closed. All four Catholic churches in Freeland are being merged into one new church to be housed at St. Ann's, to be known as 
Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.  Brief histories of the component churches is given here.  I've read that getting records from any Freeland churches is hopeless;  you'll be told the records are 'lost', or to contact the diocese.  The Diocese, in turn, is said to respond tersely, if at all, saying that they 'don't have time' for such things, or that the church should have the records.  St. Ann's,  
898 Centre Street, Freeland PA 18224  Tel             570 - 636 - 3035      , Fax 570 - 636 - 1743

Saints Peter & Paul Lithuanian Catholic Church, Hazleton. Merged. Records at 
Transfiguration Church, W. Hazleton.  213 Green Street, West Hazelton PA

Tel             570 - 454 - 3933      , Fax 570 - 454 - 8326

Holy Trinity, Wilkes Barre

Other Luzerne Links:
Luzerne County Historical Society
Luzerne County GenWeb page

Northumberland County
Homepage for Northumberland County

Mt. Carmel Public Library
Shamokin-Coal Township Public Library

Diocese of Harrisburg
Holy Cross, Mt. Carmel. Closed. See:  Divine Redeemer, 
438 West. Avenue, Mount Carmel PA 17851    Tel            570 - 339 - 4350      , Fax 570 - 339 - 5759
St. Stanislaus Kosta (Polish-Lithuanian), Shamokin.  CLOSED.  Records at: Mother Cabrini, 
214 North Shamokin Street, Shamokin PA 17872   Tel             717 - 648 - 4512      , Fax 717 - 648 - 1209

Other Northumberland links:
PA GenWeb page for Northumberland County

Philadelphia County
Pre-1920 Roman Catholic Church Records are archived at the 
Philadelphia Archdiocesan Historical Research Center.  From the main page of the site, click the Genealogy tab to find what records they have/do not have, and how to order them.  If only all dioceses were this well-organized.  The early Archdiocese of Philadelphia also included Bucks, Chester, Delaware & Montgomery Counties.

Views: 309

Replies to This Discussion

Description:*jbLHXPa7wxyGbWocU-PdWLTyue2scZHULFNl4RzPq8cSHGn6dZDnf61VJKU3VTHjnAxaGBBsmZILTpu/P4080003.JPG?width=48&height=48&crop=1%3A1Permalink Reply by Jaclyn Glemza on December 25, 2009 at 10:34pm

My great-grandfather was a Lithuanian who went to Pennsylvania. His name was Alex Glemza. He lived in Ritcheyville/Centerville. He was a coal miner at the Vesta Coal Mines. I'm having trouble finding any information about his parents. I even requested his death certificate, but his daughter gave the information, and she did not know his parents names either. Also strange is that I keep finding documents for him, and they all have different birth years. I'm not sure he actually knew what year he was born, either that or no one else did. Any advice?


Description: Reply by Linda Johnson on December 26, 2009 at 10:55am

Jaclyn, Was he married in PA? If so, the marriage records from the church may help. Also, have you sent for his social security application? You don't indicate the approximate date of his birth (it is not uncommon to find different birth dates on documents) or death, so I am not sure if the SS application would apply to him. Maybe we could help if you gave us more information.


Description:*UlJ12JQ-yhDVlJkjyLDHAFHBGmtWgtPgmwSIHDIaPQUHXinFcgqaVSU*AZymukJF59tWcqUKvymcSsWgwSPcM16f/118903862.bin?width=48&height=48&crop=1%3A1Permalink Reply by Richie C. on December 26, 2009 at 11:52am

Various birthdates/birthyears seem to be par for the course, even (in my experience) for those born in the country. Birthyears were fudged in order to get work, etc. Also, some celebrated their Saint's Day instead of a birthday. For your great-grandfather, the only way you'll nail it down will be to get his baptism certificate from Lithuania. It looks like Alex's birthyear is anywhere from 1882-1892, but most likely 1888 or 1892. There could be an error(s) made at any point.

Death certificates are not always useful because the information they contain is limited to what the reporting person knew, as you discovered.

The best thing is to collect as many sources as you can, and then see if they tell you anything. Linda's suggestion to get his SS Application is a very good one. And you *might* get parents names from that. Or not. Also, if you could find his immigration record, and see how old he was, it might help pinpoint a year. The other thing, if you don't already have it, is to get his naturalization papers, if any. Depending on when they might have been filed, they might tell you a lot...or very little.

At least, from his WW II Draft card, you know he was born in Treshkonia, which almost certainly must be Triškoniai, Lithuania. You hit paydirt where so many others are stumped: you know his village! That'll be essential in ordering a baptism certificate from the Archives in Lithuania.



Description:*jbLHXPa7wxyGbWocU-PdWLTyue2scZHULFNl4RzPq8cSHGn6dZDnf61VJKU3VTHjnAxaGBBsmZILTpu/P4080003.JPG?width=48&height=48&crop=1%3A1Permalink Reply by Jaclyn Glemza on December 26, 2009 at 8:43pm

Thanks. You seem to have found all the information I have. Did you look him up on

I'm not sure how to get his baptism record. I spoke with a girl in Lithuania, and she told me the archives are all based on the church he attended. I do not know the church, but my grandma says that he was roman catholic, and his wife was greek-orthodox catholic. She said that she thinks they got married in the old country before they moved to PA.

I'll try to find his SS app. I'm not sure how to find his immigration record. I'm not sure which port he came in. I checked the ellis island site and found a Glemza, but it was Anton not Alex. I asked my family if they thought it could have been him, but they didn't think so. I'm also not sure how to get his naturalization papers. Where do I apply for those?


Description:*UlJ12JQ-yhDVlJkjyLDHAFHBGmtWgtPgmwSIHDIaPQUHXinFcgqaVSU*AZymukJF59tWcqUKvymcSsWgwSPcM16f/118903862.bin?width=48&height=48&crop=1%3A1Permalink Reply by Richie C. on December 27, 2009 at 12:05pm

Yes, I found what little I found for Alex on It's curious I didn't see a census for him. Have you found a census for him? That would tell you year of immigration, naturalization status and date, etc. The years reported for these actions are somewhat unreliable in my experience, but it's a place to start.

1. SS App- I posted the link to request the SS-5 (Application) for an ancestor on the main page of the group.

2. Naturalization- If Alex filed papers, they'd be found in one of several places, depending on when he filed. Your two best bets are:
 Washington County Courthouse
 The National Archives
I also put a new link on the group's main page that discusses Naturalization, where to look, timeframes, etc.

3. Baptism/Marriage in Lithuania. You'll have to do one of two things: hire a private researcher, or contact the Archives in Vilnius. Church records that have survived the (1) ravages of time (2) the Russians (3) the Germans, have all pretty much made it to the Archives in Vilnius. From the group main page, under "Discussions", you'll see a topic "Contacting the Archives in Vilnius". Once upon a time, they'd search a whole family for you. You'd wait about 3 years before they got to your request. Now, they really only go 'document by document'. So you could request a baptism cert for Alex, but you should have a better estimate of his birthyear and hopefully his parents names before you go down that road. We can help you with that after you hear back from the Social Security Administration which we hope will at least give a surname for Alex's mother. But you have one critical thing going for you, you know his village of birth now. You have no idea how jealous that will make other researchers!

4. Immigration- this is frustrating, I know. You just have to search everywhere (see main page), under every possible spelling you can think of...switching out vowels...and thinking, that possibly, Alex's first name was not Alex (or Aleksas), but something else.


Description:*jbLHXPa7wxyGbWocU-PdWLTyue2scZHULFNl4RzPq8cSHGn6dZDnf61VJKU3VTHjnAxaGBBsmZILTpu/P4080003.JPG?width=48&height=48&crop=1%3A1Permalink Reply by Jaclyn Glemza on December 28, 2009 at 7:21pm

I haven't been able to find any census records for them.
Thanks for all the info! You've been a great help.
I'll keep you posted.


Description:*jbLHXPa7wxyGbWocU-PdWLTyue2scZHULFNl4RzPq8cSHGn6dZDnf61VJKU3VTHjnAxaGBBsmZILTpu/P4080003.JPG?width=48&height=48&crop=1%3A1Permalink Reply by Jaclyn Glemza on January 22, 2010 at 9:22pm

I got Alex's Social Security application is the mail today!
It says his birthday is August 15, 1888 and he was born in Russia Europe
His father's name: John Glemza
His mothers's name: Mary Kloga

I'm very happy with this find. Thanks so much for your suggestion!


Description:*UlJ12JQ-yhDVlJkjyLDHAFHBGmtWgtPgmwSIHDIaPQUHXinFcgqaVSU*AZymukJF59tWcqUKvymcSsWgwSPcM16f/118903862.bin?width=48&height=48&crop=1%3A1Permalink Reply by Richie C. on January 23, 2010 at 12:31am

Great news Jaclyn!

I think you have enough info to request his birth/baptism certificate from the Archives in Vilnius now. You have your best guess for a birthdate. His WW II Draft card gives his birthplaces as Treshkonia, which would be Troškūnai, and you have his parents' names. The only glitch is there there are two places called Troškūnai, one in the Vilnius region and one in the Utena region, near Anykščiai. Check the group main page on how to email the Archives with your request.

On the subject of Mary Kloga's name, I checked the phone directory...didn't find anything starting with Klog-, Klaug-, Klag-. There were two Klugas and a Klugiene, with Russian first names.


Description: Reply by Tanya Breese on December 31, 2009 at 7:42am

My Great Grandmother is Lena Mischkus born 1877 in Lithuania. She married my Great Grandfather August Dombrowski (from Russia) in Allegheny County, 1897. I can't trace her line back or my Great Grandfather's.


Description: Reply by Tanya Breese on December 31, 2009 at 8:01am

ok, not true,lol, I was just going through my notes, it's been a while since I've worked on this line. Lena was born Helena Myszkus abt 1877 Pavistytis and her parents are Georg Myszkus and Anna Reichkok. I *think* that's as far back as I go...


Description:*UlJ12JQ-yhDVlJkjyLDHAFHBGmtWgtPgmwSIHDIaPQUHXinFcgqaVSU*AZymukJF59tWcqUKvymcSsWgwSPcM16f/118903862.bin?width=48&height=48&crop=1%3A1Permalink Reply by Richie C. on December 31, 2009 at 8:51am

I looked Pavistytis up on a map....interesting! You could throw a rock into either Poland or Kaliningrad from there!

What religion were your great-grandparents? Have you found a marriage record for them? Have you found immigration records?


Description: Reply by Tanya Breese on December 31, 2009 at 10:53am

They were Lutheran, German speaking. I've got August's papers, but not Lena's. I have notes taken from a cousin that says August was from Prussia and Lena from Germany? Was that area considered Germany then? I have a "Return of a Marriage" copy for August and Lena, which states Lena's birthplace in Russia, so confusing! August worked for J & L Steel Corp and Semmelrock Undertaking, he took care of the horses that pulled the hearses.
They were married, all the children baptized and are buried at St. Paul's German Lutheran Church.

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