I was working on a bit of filing today, as I am making a strong attempt to keep my computer desktop clutter free, but it is an ongoing process. A couple of weeks ago when I asked my mother if she knew where dad had been baptized, she went on a digging spree for me. And came up with a puzzle.
In 1971, my grandmother Anola Josephine Cook Sternitzky, needed a copy of her birth certificate. She would have headed to Wausau, the county seat of Marathon County, Wisconsin, the city and county in which she was born, to get a copy. Grandma was born in 1910, three years after it became mandatory for all births, deaths and marriages to be reported to the register of deeds, so a copy should have been on file. But apparently not, as she had to apply for an “Original Birth Record–Delayed.”
In order for her to receive the document, she needed to prove who she was, and when and where she was born. Her older brother, Russell, provided an affidavit of her name and birth, stating that “I was living in the same household at the time of her birth,” and she provided a copy of the birth records of her sons, along with a copy of a life insurance policy that had been taken out in 1941.
Now to the puzzle. Reviewing the May 1971 copy of my dad’s birth certificate, a couple things stand out, and to be honest, I am not sure that the people in the Register of Deeds office will even confirm or deny my question. On this newly typed document, clearly labeled a copy, my dad’s surname is spelled incorrectly throughout the document as “Sternetzky.” Is this a typo on this document, or is this the actual spelling as recorded with the register of deeds?
My theory? It was an innocent typing error made by Robert G. Gernetzky on that day in May 1971. His fingers followed the familiar path, rather than the correct path. Proving it would seem like a simple process, but there is the roadblock that they may not let me view the original, as it is still in the eyes of the law, a recent birth. My plan? Hand them a copy of the document, ask them to look at the original, and either confirm or deny the spelling.
Now, why did grandma need a copy of her birth certificate in 1971?
This past Friday and Saturday, I had the wonderful opportunity to network with other genealogists, and learn from Judy G. Russell (!) at the Wisconsin Genealogical Society’s Gene-A-Rama. This year the Gene-A-Rama was held in Wausau, Marathon Co., Wisconsin, the birthplace of my father, Robert Sternitzky. I knew that I would have no time to do any research, but I did think I would have time to search out the church that my father and his family attended while living in Wausau. Thinking this would be an easy process, I asked my mom if she knew what church they were attending when dad was baptized. Not finding his baptismal certificate, she did find his Solemn Holy Communion card, dated May 14, 1944, and from St. James Catholic Church. BINGO! A quick Google search showed that St. James church no longer existed in Wausau. What happened to it?
It took a bit of digging, and a lot of disappointment in the lack of information available on the parish website, and also the diocesan website, but I figured it out. They had simply changed the name of the parish. Now in the world of consolidation of parishes, I am used to seeing parishes being re-named. An example is St. Katherine Drexel in Kaukauna, Outagamie Co., Wisconsin. St. Katherine Drexel is the consolidation of three parishes, but they still retain their individual identity by being called: St. Katherine Drexel, St. Mary Site; St. Katherine Drexel, St. Al Site; and St. Katherine Drexel, St. Francis Site, which is the parish located in Hollandtown, Brown Co., Wisconsin. In Wausau, the Eastside Parishes consist of St. Michael Parish, and Church of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ (formerly known as St. James).
While I have not yet determined when and why the parish was re-named, I have learned that the present building was constructed in 1911-12, as the congregation had outgrown its present building. St. James had been organized in 1905 as the first English speaking Catholic parish in Wausau.
Checking the Mass schedule, I was disappointed to learn that it was a 6:00 p.m. Saturday Mass, while St. Michaels had the 4:00 p.m. Knowing that churches are usually open 45 minutes to an hour before mass time, I made the decision to attend St. Michaels for Mass, and then head over to Resurrection, hoping to get in. I had no problems navigating to the address: 621 North 2nd Street, and getting out of the car, I shot a couple of photos of the exterior:
Testing the door, I found it unlocked, and so went in. The lights were still dimmed, and there was a woman praying near the front of the church, who I did not want to disturb. I quickly snapped a few shots, knelt and said a few prayers, and vowed to return at a time closer to Mass time so I could have better light. But until that point in time, I did find this website discussing the restoration of the interior of the church by Conrad Schmitt, and this flickr album showing the windows.
Directly across the street from the front entrance of the church, is the school. Dad would tell the story of how he would take the bus to school, and after school, or at lunch time, would head over to visit his Grandma Sternitzky (Christine Goerling Sternitzky) at her house on Steuben Street.
The Baptismal Font is still there, and appears to be original. Now I just need to be able to get close to it for a good photograph. Another item to add to the growing to-do list. Photo of the Baptismal Font in the Church of the Resurrection aka, St. James. NOTE: This is NOT the original baptismal font.
An Addition: Laziness set in yesterday, and so I didn’t go in search of my great-aunt and uncle’s address in Wausau, even though I knew my father would visit with them also; sometimes for a quick lunch during the school year. And it should be shame on me, as I never knew my great-grandparents, Robert R., and Christine Sternitzky, I did know my grandmother’s older brother, Great-Uncle Russell Cook, and his wife Hattie (Dietzler). Aunt Hattie even attended my wedding! Here is the route dad might have taken to their home from school, and then back down to the Sternitzkys:
Family lore states that when the Cooks left Stockbridge, Calumet, Wisconsin in the late 1870s they took clippings of the peonies that were growing on the property. We know that they did like peonies, as they can be seen in later Cook photos taken in Unity, Marathon, Wisconsin.
As far back as my memory goes, my paternal grandmother lived in one side of a duplex that she owned in Neenah, Winnebago, Wisconsin. As with most homes where the driveway marches closely to the house leading to a detached garage, there was a strip garden next to the house. Included in this small garden was an enormous red peony plant. Again, family lore tells the tale that this was an actual clipping of the peony that grew on the Cook property in Stockbridge. While I cannot speak to that, as we would have to analyze what variety of peony grew in Wisconsin during that time period, and was this that variety of peony, I can state that when my mother and I left the duplex for the last time that May day in 1986 following my grandmother’s death, we made the decision to dig up the peony, the Cook Peony.
I may never know if this peony can be dated back to the 1800s, but I can attest to the fact that this peony, which was included in every garden during my grandparents years in Wausau, Marathon, Wisconsin during the 1930s, moved with them to Nicolet Blvd. in Menasha, Winnebago, Wisconsin, and then on to my grandmother’s 1960s duplex, has now lived in a garden at my parents home since 1986. And in addition, a transplant has been happily multiplying here in my own garden since the late 1990s. That is still an old peony.