I have been searching for clues to my Lithuanian ancestry for a few years, but had essentially given up. My grandfather a first generation American of Lithuanian parents was the only child of four who had married and had children. My mother, knew very little of her father as she had been taken from her parents at the age of five and placed in foster care. My Lithuanian g-grandparents had never naturalized and there didn’t seem to be any records that named the Lithuanian village.
I had deduced that my g-grandmother Salomeja’s maiden name was Markiswiez. Salomeja’s maiden name is reported on many records as “Morris” and what I presumed to be my g-grandfather’s ship manifest reads as follows:
Departure 7 April 1900 from Antwerp Belgium, Arrival 18 April 1900, ship Kensington: Jozef Baltrunas, age 25 male, married, unable to read or write, Russian, Village Prezvi (?) , destination Boston MA, passage paid by brother-in-law. US contact is a brother-in-law Kaz (or Raz?) Markiswiez, Boston, MA.
I had searched for Kaz and my g-grandfather in the 1900 census and Boston city directories previously without any success.
A few months ago, I had posted the following in this blog:
My Lithuanian relatives (who lived in Pittsfield and Athol, MA) changed their surname from Baltrunas to Billings/Billie/Barton. Children were: Anthony, Charles (my grandfather), Ralph and Connie.
I found a draft registration card at Ancestry.com dated 12 Sep 1918 for an Anthony George Baltrunas born 20 Apr 1900 listed as living on 289 First Street in Pittsfield, MA. Birth place is listed as Russia. Nearest relative is listed as Anthony Gaston also of 289 First Street.
I had sort of dismissed this record as being my Lithuanian great uncle. The ship manifest of “Anton” and his mom, dated April 1902, listed him as being 36 months of age, thus born in 1899. The family disappeared from the Pittsfield city directories in 1918 and began to appear in Athol, MA directories – I assumed that he moved with the family. I didn’t have the Gaston’s as a related surname. Not to mention that Anthony’s father arrived at Ellis Island on 7 April 1900, meaning he would have left behind a wife who delivered their first child 13 days later!! This couldn’t be my great uncle Anthony! Could it?
But… The 1930 Pittsfield census has a Charles Billings, single, age 25, born in MA, both parents born in Lithuania, listed as a boarder at 387 Draper Avenue at the home of Anthony Gaston, age 52, born in Lithuania and wife Ann, age 46, born in Lithuania.
I had saved this census record, but wasn’t all that sure that this was my grandfather (since in 1930, according to my mother he was living in Athol, MA).
It wasn’t until I began to transcribe records and look at neighbors that I realized both men were living with an Anthony Gaston… With a bit of research I confirmed that this was the same Anthony Gaston and thus concluded that the draft registration and 1930 census record were that of my ancestors!
At that time, I forwarded this new revelation to my 75-year-old mother and asked if she had even heard of a Gaston family. My mother who previously swore that she had no other information on the family, said that she didn’t know of a Gaston family, but she suddenly recalled that she had a letter from a cousin:
Mrs. Blanche McKeever, 23 Williamsburg, Pittsfield Ma. 01201
Sept. 8. 1974
I’m awfully sorry I didn’t write sooner but I guess it’s better late than never. What I wanted to tell you how sad I am about your aunt Connie passing away so suddenly. She was a very dear friend and cousin of mine and I miss her very much. I often think of her and I miss her letters.
The last letter I got from her was a week before she died. Betty I never found out what she died of.
I know she had terrible headaches but otherwise I guess she was all right. She was very closed mouth and never complained. She hated to see doctors.
I was very sorry that no one could get in touch with you at the time of her death. Mrs. Martin (her landlord) found my address on Connie’s table that’s why she called me. Connie never told me where you lived or I would have got a hold of you. It was awful. I didn’t know what to do. Well any way it’s all over. I hope that everything is settled. I understand she had a brother in Boston, that was news to me.
Betty if you have the time would you please write and let me know how everything was settled and about her brother. I hope that you come in on the settlement.
I know Connie always said that the only one she cared for was her niece Betty that’s all she said. as far as your sister and brother she never mentioned them. I hope Betty that you and I can keep in touch once in a while so please write.
A bit of research using Ancestry.com, MA vital records and online copies of the “The Berkshire Eagle”, revealed that Daisy was the daughter of Anthony and Anna Gaston. The same family with whom my g-uncle and grandfather resided!
I reconstructed the family using these sources and discovered a number of living people – some using the surname Gaston, others using Gasson. I began to write letters.
I did a quick search on Facebook which revealed a Mitt Gasson living in Pittsfield, MA, I couldn’t figure out how or if he fit into my tree, but it was worth a shot, so I wrote to him as well.
The next morning, I rose to the following Facebook response:
- LINDA…I’M DAISY’S SON…CONNIE WAS MY MOTHER’S COUSIN…MY GRAND FATHER WAS ANTHONY GASSON…IBELIEVE MY GRANDMOTHER WAS RELATED TO YOUR GRANDFATHER CHARLES…SHE PAST ON IN 1935… I NEVER KNEW HER…THESE RELATIVES YOU ARE ASKING ABOUT ARE PAST ON…MY TEL. IS xxx-xxx-xxxx. I’M 75 YEARS OLD…I HAVE A LOT OF STORIES …MILTON S. GASSON
Turns out that Daisy had a child out-of-wedlock!! (which is why Mitt has the Gasson surname).
My husband and I had already planned a research/hiking trip in the Berkshires. According to Mapquest, we would be staying 8 miles from Mitt’s home!
Mitt invited us for dinner. It was a wonderful evening! I had homemade Lithuanian food for the first time in my life and although Mitt couldn’t remember many of the names, he recalled sleeping on Aunt Connie’s floor in Athol, MA., as a child, when they went to visit the Lithuanian relatives (who all loved Lithuanian homemade beer). He shared stories of his mother and grandfather and of his own life, he passed on some old photos. We stayed for hours. Unfortunately, he wasn’t sure how Daisy and Connie were related. He thought that it was through his grandmother Anna.
I discovered that Mitt’s grandparents were married in Pittsfield, and not in Lithuania. A quick search on the NEHGS site reveal a marriage record:
October 29, 1906, Pittsfield
Antanas Gasiunos (age 26) married Anna Wishnewski (age 19)
The groom’s father is Andors Gariunos, his mother is Regina Kiarshauski
The bride’s father is Dominikas Wishnewski, her mother is Elizbista Morkiewich (pretty close to my g-grandmother’s maiden name).
Antanas is listed as a Machinest Helper living at 87 Madison Ave and Anna is listed as Housework living at 29 Alder Street.
My Lithuanian family was also living on 87 Madison Ave that particular year. So perhaps my ancestor’s “fixed up” the couple, or we are related to both Anna and Anthony or the town clerk mixed up the addresses and Anna was really the one living at 87 Madison (which might be what occurred, since Anthony Gaston’s ship manifest refers to a brother on Alder Street).
Long story short, the next day I stopped by the Pittsfield library and collected naturalization records for several Gasson’s. Anna is listed on her husband Anthony’s records as being born in Pumpenai, Pasvalys, Lithuania.
I hadn’t searched for Kaz (listed as my g-grandfather’s brother-in-law on the manifest) in some time, so I tried again. Someone had recently posted a gravestone photo of Kazimeras and Magdalena Morkevicius in an Athol, MA cemetery!!! I found the couple in the Athol census records and located birth records for their children. Kazimeras was also called Charles in some of the documents.
I then found a single Kazimeras (under the name Charles) Morris living in South Boston with a brother Raphael Morris. In the next census year, I find Kazimeras to be married and residing in Athol, MA. I have yet to find a marriage records for Kazimeras (which I am hoping once found, will name his parents, thus giving me the names of my g-g-grandparents….)
A few days later I discover a naturalization record on Footnote.com for Raphael Morris’ son. Place of birth – Pumpenai, Pasvalys, Lithuania. We have a match!!
So it appears that I FINALLY have a town for one of my g-grandparents!!
The lessons? There are lots. But to name a few:
1. Always go back and review records that you collected long ago, as you might have missed a clue.
2. Create a time line and plot on a map where each of your relatives were living and with whom they were living each year. I should have discovered Kaz in Athol a long time ago, since that is where my g-grandmother resided after she left her abusive husband – where else would a single woman with four kids go? Near her relatives for support!! (plotting them on a map although on different streets, they lived very close – almost like their backyards could be touching one another!)!!
Look at siblings, neighbor’s, cousins and roommates.
3. Keep asking your relatives if they are sure that they told you everything (interestingly after I shared Mitt’s photos with my mother, she suddenly remembered that she had taken a stack of photos from my aunt Connie’s apartment when she cleaned it out after her death – most were unmarked, but a few have given me more clues and one was of my g-grandmother Salomeja!!)
4. Join Facebook?!?!? 🙂
Just in case “cousins” out there comes across this post, here is a summary of information related to my g-grandmother and three others who I believe to be her siblings:
SEEKING MORKIEWICH/ MARKISVICH/MORRIS:
Morkiewich is either Markevic^ius or Morkevic^ius in Lithuanian. The Polish ending “-wicz” (often rendered in English as “-vitz”, “-wich”, “-vich”, “-vage”, etc.) is “-vic^ius” in Lithuanian. The ending “-ski” becomes “-skas” in Lithuanian, which does not use the letter “w” but “v” instead.
- Salomeja /Seleomije (Sally): b. about 1869, arrived Ellis Island 22 April 1902, resided Pittsfield and Athol, Massachusetts, d. 5 March 1938, married Joseph BALTRUNAS/BILLIE/BILLINGS;
- Kazimieras/Kazys (Charles) b. Mar 1871, immigrated about 1895, resided South Boston and Athol, Massachusetts, d. 1924, married Magdelena/Maggie BLANDENZA/BINDINSKO.
- Rapolas or Rafaelas or even Ralfas (Raphael/Ralph): b. 15 Dec 1873, immigrated about 1900, resided South Boston, Massachusetts d. about 1954, married Anastasia MACKAY;
- Elizbista: married Dominykas WISHNEWSKI (birth/death , immigration information unknown);
Linda Hall-Little, PO Box 132, Jackson, NH 03846; e-mail:LindaHaLLittle@gmail.com
BRICK WALL BROKEN – read the update here!!!!! https://passagetothepast.wordpress.com/2012/11/12/update-brickwall-broken/