Diversity in the Family Tree and Its Importance Today


Last month I took part in an activity at a workshop in New York City on Cultural Competence that’s been haunting me ever since. The presenter, Vivian V. Lee, Ed.D. from Johns Hopkins University provided an adapted handout from M. Loden & J. Rosner’s book, Workforce America (McGraw-Hill, 1991) that opened my eyes to my family’s core values in ways that I had never experienced before.
The worksheet consisted of a Diversity Wheel – a circle within a circle that listed 12 category descriptions of an individual, such as your level of education, geographic location and gender. Participants were asked to identify and record a word that described their personal category descriptions. For myself, it would be master’s degrees, USA, female.

Next, participants were asked to record the complete opposite of their personal description. So mine would be no degrees earned, anywhere but North America, male, etc. A few minutes was provided to reflect on the recorded responses by thinking about:

how would the opposite from yourself identity be perceived and treated by society and by the individual
how different would your present life be compared to that of the opposite individual
how would you adapt in society as the opposite individual
I was shocked to discover that my polar opposite in most categories would be my maternal grandfather, Ivan “John” Kos[s] and great grandfather, Josef Kos[s]. Although they both had the same surname, these men were distant relatives. Josef was my grandmother’s father and John was her husband of an arranged marriage. So, my grandmother’s maiden name was the same as her married name (now that’s convenient!). But back to the exercise…

Both John and Josef emigrated separately from then Austria-Hungary, now Croatia, to the U.S. for reasons that so many emigrants continue to come – economic opportunity, freedom, a new start. Manual laborers with little to no education, limited English and no citizenship rights, these men, along with others like them, were the backbone of the United States’ economy for generations as continue to be so today. I never met Josef who died young; he caught the flu and passed away in 1919. Of John, I never heard one complaint from him about his status in society. Even after residing here for over 60 years, though, he knew he continued to be identified by a slur – I heard a shopkeeper once call him a D.P., aka a displaced person. Although he took a citizenship oath, would never be fully accepted and remained subject to distrust by those who fate allowed to be born here. Although I’ve become the opposite of my grandparents, I know they would have been very proud of my children and my role in society. They would not begrudge that I am not treated as they had been.

I reaped the fruits of Josef and John’s difficult lives. If you take a moment to think about your own roots, you most likely have an immigrant story in your family. It may have been as long ago as 1600 or just in the last decade. Your ancestors may have come of their own volition or not. It matters not when or how they arrived. What matters is that the hardship they endured afforded you comfort and security that was lacking from their point of origin. Perhaps it’s due to my childhood interactions with and knowledge of my grandparents’ life experiences that make me thankful for their risk in immigrating and I will always have a place in my heart for those who are so courageous that they would begin again in a new land.

A New Way to Identify Name Variations

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 18 Sep 2016.

I was reading the article Guild of One-Name Studies Is Now Available at FamilySearch.org  in The Genealogy News recently and thought I’d  check out the database on Familysearch.  On a few lines, I trace everyone who has that name in the US in an attempt to make a connection across the pond.  Stop and read the article and then come back to my blog.

If you followed the articles link to Familysearch, (added here in case you didn’t), and you enter a surname in the search field, you probably were disappointed.  I know I was!  I first added HARBAUGH and got links to everything but Guild Of One-Name Studies.  I know family historians, some quite renown, have traced the name back to a HARBO who was a court scribe in the 1200’s in Denmark.  I expected to find that and more but all I got were records of Harbaughs.

I then typed in LEININGER and got lots of IGI records but nothing for the Guild of One-Name Studies.

Then it hit me!  On the left hand side, I should have scrolled down and filtered out everything but Guild of One-Name Studies.

I still got nothing for Harbaugh and Leininger but when I entered KOS I got Cass and Coss,

Next I tried KABLE and that’s when it occurred to me – duh – this could be an innovative way to come up with surname variations!  My Kables were listed as Cable, Cabel, Kabel, Cobbold and Cabot.  I would have never come up with Cobbold and Cabot.

Next I tried DUER and got Dewhurst.  Now that was very interesting to me as I’ve been heavy into deeds and wills of my John Duer in Trumbull/Mahoning Counties, Ohio who died in 1831 after his son, Thomas, and I keep seeing Dewhurst in the records.  I pronounce Dewhurst as doo’ herst but I guess it could be pronounced doo’ ers.  Hmm.

We’ve all seen creatively spelled names, likely recorded from pronunciations, in records but I’ve never been really good at coming up with more than obvious variations.  I’m adding this tool to my genealogy tool box!

Another FAN Consideration

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 13 Jul 2016

I definitely enjoyed the following article, Letter of Recommendation, written by David Rees, that was published in the New York Times Magazine recently.  He identified with his grandmother, who he never knew, based on reading excerpts from her diary.  I have experienced similar emotions after reading the diary of a 2 x great aunt of my husband.  I think the major message here is that the more things change the more they stay the same. Although technology and societal changes continue to occur, people really don’t.  Rees’ read a diary written about 100 years ago and I read a diary that was written 130 years ago – both individuals had experiences and reactions that were basic to humanity today.

Rees’ article saddened me as he had no connection with his ancestors before coming across the manuscript.  I have a very small family, too, but the connection with my past was strong.  In hindsight, I guess I can attribute that to my grandmother, Mary Koss, who as the family matriarch, insured that the extended family kept in touch.  After her passing, the family contact ended.  I had to stop and calculate the following number, which shows how long it’s been since the family got together – I have 10 maternal cousins and 5 great cousins of which 2 are deceased.  Since my grandmother’s death, I have only seen 1 cousin in person and that was 5 years ago when I initiated the visit.  I have emailed with one of the great cousins but it ended rather abruptly as our theories of how the family name was changed don’t agree.  One simple little letter – an added “s” – at the end of the name created a gulf.  Silly?  Definitely.   It would have made my grandmother distressed.

For the majority of my cousins, though, we had no disagreements.  There was no wars, famines or other adverse situations that arose to part us.  Rather, we just led our lives in different places and with different circumstances, and along with the passage of time, we became disconnected.  I know my family is not alone.

This month, my grandmother would have celebrated her 116th birthday.  As I get ready to head out on a research trip combined with a business trip I’m thinking I’ll try to make an attempt at reconnecting when I return.  I know it’s time.

Playing With Names – Wildcard Searching and Other Methods to Discover Your Family

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 13 Dec 2015

Just read a helpful blog about how to use wildcards when researching online.  You can read it here. I have to admit that I’m not very good at using wildcards or identifying the many, varied and unusual ways my ancestors spelled their names.  I think that many of my brick walls could could tumbling down if I took the time to use the wildcard search approach.

Another method I’ve used was just plain dumb luck but it taught me a very simple way that I’ve used since. I once had a dead end on my paternal grandmother’s line.  A distant family member thought my 2nd great grandmother’s name was Maria Dure.  I searched and searched for years and found nada!  It never dawned on me that I had two of the letters reversed in the last name. Duh, DURE should have been DUER.  I would love to take credit for that discovery but alas, wasn’t me who figured this out. I’m not sure how the gentleman found me but I received an email asking me about by DUER connection. I responded I didn’t see any Duer’s in my tree.  The writer than let me know he suspected my Maria Dure was a long lost line he was pursuing.  He knew his missing Maria had married an immigrant named Kuhn and sure enough, once I began looking for Maria under Duer the whole line fell into place!  He was kind enough to send me his years of Duer research and they are just a fun family to learn about.  (Well, probably getting kicked out of England wasn’t exactly fun, nor later being shunned or having to payoff an indenture in the Caribbean but you understand what I mean)

Last technique I’ve used is adding or removing an ending.  My Koss’ are really Kos.  Have found documents with both names so it pays to play with the last name.

Sorry this is so short but I’m recuperating from jet lag! Once my head clears I’m going to take my own advice and play with my Bird or is it Byrd?! or Berd or Burd line.  Happy Hunting!

Picnics

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 26 Jul 2015.

I have fond memories of picnics – beginning in childhood all the way to last weekend! Picnics today are a relaxed affair, it’s a wear something comfortable, de-stress and enjoy family, friends and nature.  I don’t know about you but I definitely don’t try to make a fashion statement when going on a picnic.  That wasn’t the case, however, back in the day.  I love the picture below showing my grandmother, Non, with the family’s first car in 1923. Nice touch with the American flag on the front since it was Independence Day.  They were on their way to the Croatian Picnic Grounds located between Glen Park and Hobart, Indiana.  A dress, heals and Sunday’s best hat for spending the day in the sticks.

July 4, 1923-on the way to a picnic, L-R Boarder, Mary Koss, Joseph Koss Jr.

Non wasn’t alone in her wearing apparel.  You’d think the family was going to church instead of spending the day in the woods.

Croatian Picnic Grounds 1923 L-R George Kos, Anne Marie Koss, Anna Grdenic Kos, Ivan “John” Koss, Dorothy Koss, Mary Koss and Barbara Kos
Must have been a chore to get the kids’ clothes clean!  The area was heavily wooded with a small clearing that was mostly dirt.  No wonder Non loved her Fels Naptha laundry soap. We had an old Maytag ringer washer in the basement that had to be filled up by hand with hot water.  I can still picture my Gramps hooking up the laundry line around our backyard and adding poles with slits to insure that the line didn’t sag.  Monday was wash day and the picnic sure must have been a distant memory the following day spent cleaning all those dirty garments.

The Croatian picnic grounds were used for at least 50 years.  The picnic grounds were open on Sundays from Memorial Day through Labor Day.  Every Sunday, one of the men would rise early to attend 6 AM Mass and then set off for the grounds to prepare the spit that would roast the lamb.  Families took turns selling plates of food and drinks.  Our shift was usually 1-2 PM once a month.  I wish I had a picture of the building which was just a wooden shack.  The north end was enclosed to hold supplies.  That was attached to a covered bar area.  Since the bar rail was too high for kids, a child who was helping would stand on an overturned wooden “pop” or soda carton or two.  Customers would order plates of roasted lamb, Vienna style bread, Croatian style potato salad or a lettuce salad with oil and vinegar dressing.  Drinks were always Budweiser beer in a bottle or whatever pop was on sale that week – Coke, Pepsi, Fanta, Sprite.  Funny we never had water though there was a spigot that we all used to wash our hands after eating.  Someone would put a bar of soap in a mesh bag on a string around the spigot.  Nature dried our hands. I have no memory of the bathroom facilities, if they even existed.

Some of the ladies brought desserts to sell – pita which is like a fruit filled bar cookie and not the bread sold today, apple or cheese strudel, and cookies.

Both lunch and dinner was served.  Sometimes the menu changed and pork was included, along with hamburgers and hot dogs.  We always got lamb, though, which was heavenly. My father-in-law disliked lamb as he believed it was tough and tasteless.  My last visit to the Croatian picnic grounds was in 1985 when my husband and I returned to visit his family. We brought a takeout container to my in-laws and after one bite, my father-in-law groaned that he had spent his entire life in the area and never knew what he had been missing. The following Sunday he went back for more.

After lunch, as kids, we’d cut through the woods on a well worn trail or crossed the street to visit our school friends and neighbors of other nationalities.  My next door neighbor, Carol Leon, would be at the Spanish picnic grounds right across the street.  There was also Polish, Serbian, Greek, and Italian grounds.  Possibly there was more but I wasn’t allowed to walk that far!  Sometimes we’d play baseball or badminton with our friends but our favorite was cigarette tag – Someone was “it” and “it” chased everyone around.  If you were tagged you had to sing a cigarette jingle (like, Winston, tastes good like a cigarette should or I’d walk a mile for a Camel) or you became “it.”  Funny but none of us grew up to be smokers.  The adults spent the afternoon playing horseshoes or cards.  The women loved to gossip.  There was also singing and dancing (after a couple of beers) as the musically inclined always brought their native instruments.

By the mid 1960’s female children began wearing shorts.  The ladies continued to dress up through the early 1970’s.

pradevic
Prerodevic Picnic L-R Barbara Kos Milosevich, Family Friend Violet Harminsic, Anna Kos, Unknown Friend, Mary Koss Circa 1950

I wish I had the secret lamb recipe, I know it was infused with garlic, probably patted down with salt and pepper but what else I have no idea.  I do make the Croatian potato salad often which is similar to German potato salad. Besides lamb, it’s wonderful with ham, too. Try it and let me know what you think:

Croatian Style Potato Salad

Peel and cube potatoes to bite size (I use red but any kind will do) about 2 potatoes per person.

Add water and cook on stove til tender.

Meanwhile, cut a small sweet onion coarsely.

When potatoes are done, drain and place into a large serving bowl.  Liberally sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper.  With a serving spoon, mix then salt and pepper some more.  Add the onions.  Using a ratio of 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (or regular vinegar) to 2 tablespoons oil (vegetable or light olive) drizzle over the potatoes/onions until the potatoes are well saturated.  Gently stir to make sure that all of the liquid is absorbed.  If you have fresh dill or parsley you can add either.  Put a dinner plate over the serving bowl to maintain the heat and allow the dish to marinate, about 5 minutes.  When ready to serve, stir and enjoy!

The Bank Heist

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 22 Jul 2015.

It was the Great Depression and times were tough as my grandfather, Gramps, had his work hours reduced at the steel mill.  The family took in boarders but as their hours were also cut, money was extremely tight.  One of our family legends takes place in the midst of this difficult period.

Gramps always turned his paycheck over to my grandmother, Non, to cash.  The family had an account at Gary National Bank on Broadway in Gary, Indiana.  The typical routine was Non would cash the check, put a small amount in savings and then on her way home, shop for groceries at a small family run store.  One never knows when a typical day will turn into a major event but that was what was about to happen.

Non stood in line at the bank awaiting her turn with the teller.  Hearing noise, she turned and saw a group of men exiting a car parked at the curb.  What made the scene different was they were waving guns and had their hats pulled down low over their eyes.  Bursting into the bank, the ring leader ordered everyone to get down on the floor.  Non stood still, in shock, clutching Gramps’ check.  Shots were fired at the ceiling. Non continued to stand still.  As one gunman approached the tellers directing them to place money in the bag he carried, another stood guard at the door.  A third man approached Non and again ordered her to get down on the floor.  Non pleaded, “Please, sir, my husband is a cripple and I have 3 small children.  My widowed mother and my sister also live with me.  I need this money. Please don’t take it.”  The gunman replied, “Get down now or I’ll shoot.”  Non got down on the floor. “Put your hands out to the side.” he ordered.  Non complied.

Minutes later the gunman was back and he dropped a stack of bills in Non’s outstretched hand.  She turned her head and saw him wink at her.  The gunmen told the customers to remain on the ground until they counted to 100 aloud. Departing, the robbery was over.

When they got to 75 Non shoved the bills down the top of her dress. Amply endowed, no one would notice.  Non not only could use the money, she feared that the police would think she was an accomplice if she reported what had happened so she said nothing.

After Non got home she hid the money, which amounted to several hundred dollars, fearful that if she used it she would be in trouble.  Years later, after the robbers were convicted, the money was used to partly pay for the  family home being bricked. Non swore that the gunman who gave her the money was John Dillinger, the Indiana farm boy turned bank robber.

Problem is, Dillinger didn’t rob a Gary National Bank.  He robbed a 1st National Bank in East Chicago, Indiana1 but Non would not have gone that far as she would have had to rely on street cars to get there nor was that bank located on Broadway.

Historians dispute some of the bank robberies at the time that were thought to be committed by Dillinger.  A friend of Dillinger’s, John “Red” Hamilton and Baby Face Nelson’s gang has now been credited with some of the robberies initially attributed to Dillinger. Today, 14 robberies are thought to have been the work of Dillinger between 1933-1934.2

Non insisted that Dillinger was the man who gave her the money.  There are many reports of Dillinger’s compassion.    “Dillinger was generous with his ill-gotten gains, leaving $100 bills behind for each member of the family whenever he visited and one time offering to finance Gallagher’s (his niece’s) dream of opening a beauty shop by giving her $5,000. After discussion by the family, it was decided not to accept the money.”3  Another “story told of a farmer who had come to a bank to make a deposit while the gang was robbing the place. Standing at the teller window with his money in front of him, Dillinger asked the farmer if the money was his or the bank’s. The farmer answered it was his and Dillinger told him, “Keep it. We only want the banks’.”4

Was Dillinger involved in the robbery Non remembered or not?  Possibly his role was that of an accomplice and not the leader.  Perhaps Non was mistaken and the robber was not Dillinger.

There were several bank robberies so I can’t pinpoint which robbery Non experienced.  I can understand as an immigrant with a previous arrest (see The KKK Strikes post of  18 July 2015) she would fear further police involvement.  Although I can understand why Non didn’t tell authorities about the money she received it clearly was wrong.  In genealogy, separating our family’s past choices from our present lives can be difficult.  Keeping in mind that we’re all imperfect humans helps.

Mary & Daughter Mary Lou Before Bricking 1943

 

After Bricking. Photo taken Dec 2001

“John Dillinger – List of His Bank Robberies.” AwesomeStories.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 July 2015.

2 Ibid

3 “Dillinger Relatives to Attend New Museum Opening.” Nwitimes.com. N.p., 28 Feb. 2015. Web. 08 July 2015.

4 “John Dillinger.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 08 July 2015.

 

The KKK Strikes – Reasons Behind the Cross Burning in Gary, Indiana

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 18 Jul 2015.

One of my mother’s most frightening memories occurred when she was 6 years old.  It was late autumn and the family had just finished dinner.  Hearing the sounds of cars and voices my grandfather, Gramps, went out to investigate as typically, there was not much traffic at that time of night. Peaking out the window, my mother saw men in white and many cars lining the street.  Gramps soon reappeared and ordered everyone to turn off the lights and to quickly go down into the basement.  My grandmother, Non, asked him what was happening but he just shook his head and grabbed his young son, my Uncle George. The outside noises grew louder – car doors slammed, men spoke loudly and then it became quiet.  The children were told to remain still.  My mother recalled how cold and damp it was in the fruit cellar as the family had not had time to grab a sweater and this part of the house was unheated. My mother didn’t understand what was going on but she knew her parents and grandmother were frightened. Then the sounds of cheering and what sounded like singing, though muffled, was heard. In the dark, mom’s siblings fell asleep but she felt, as the oldest, she needed to remain alert so she pinched herself to stay awake.  After several hours of quiet my grandfather decided to investigate.  He soon returned  and said the Klan had left, the charred cross was not glowing so the fire must be cold. The family could return to their beds for the night.  My mother had a fitful sleep for many nights after as she was sure those bad men were going to return and cause harm.

Why did the Ku Klux Klan choose to burn a cross in front of her home?  Why did they hate her when they didn’t even know her?  Why did they wear hoods and capes?  Where were the police?

My mother went to her grave never knowing for sure why her family was targeted.

I thought I knew the reasons but in researching this family story I discovered I was very, very wrong.

Some background information is necessary to see how my initial reasoning was flawed. I’ll highlight some of the key parts of the saga:

After my grandmother, Non, emigrated to the US in July 1913 with her mother, Granny, and brother, my Great Uncle Joe, the family resided in Glen Park, a suburb of Gary, Indiana, while her father lived in nearby Chicago, Illinois working for the Pullman Company as a laborer.  My great grandfather thought it best if the family lived in a more bucolic setting than the nitty gritty urban environment they weren’t used to.  Non’s first residence was an upstairs apartment on West Ridge Road between Adams and Jefferson Streets.  The building below the apartments held a church and a paint store.  Non and her brother briefly attended school in the neighborhood to perfect their English and she fell in love with the community.  Looking for ways to increase the family income, however, my great grandmother, Granny, decided to apartment hunt in Chicago, locate a larger apartment and then sublease to other immigrants, providing them with room and board.  So off to Chicago the family moved.

In January 1917, my grandparents wed at St. Salomea’s Roman Catholic Church in Chicago and they remained there until after my mom’s birth in April 1918.  The family seriously discussed moving to Bethlehem or Alquippa, Pennsylvania as there was rumors of steady income with the steel mills but they decided to remain in the Chicago area.

Family outside Granny’s Pullman area apartment Left-Right, A neighbor, Great Uncle Joseph Koss, Non, my Mother Dorothy and her Godmother, a friend of Non’s.

My great grandpa did not live long, dying as a result of the Great Flu Epidemic in January 1919. The family unit consisted of widowed Granny, her 3 children – Joseph (who is missing from the 1920 census), Barbara (born in the U.S.) and my Non, Non’s husband, Gramps, and their 2 children, Dorothy, my mom, and Anne Marie with a third, George, on the way.  The only breadwinner became Gramps.  By late 1918, Gramps and my great grandfather were hired as laborers in the steel mill in Gary.  The family rented a house at 2626 Harrison Street, not quite in Glen Park but close.  My mother recalled that the house often flooded from the nearby Calumet River, there was a grape arbor in the back but lots of snakes so the children played on a hill across the street.

Times were tough so Non learned a lot from her neighbors who had moved to Gary from Mexico and Louisiana.  Being a young mother with 3 small children, her Black neighbors, the Gilkeys, taught her the value of Vicks Vaporub and shared a secret family recipe to help the children recover from scarlet fever, sore throats and earaches.  Even though the city had placed the family under quarantine for the scarlet fever, the neighbor woman would sneak in the back door to bring food and the homemade medicine.  Non learned to cook in new ways and corn meal mush, fried chicken, hot sauce and greens became commonplace. The family had a garden with chickens and rabbits.  In the fall, the children would stomp the grapes to a pulp so the family could make vino, a family tradition, which they began to sell locally.

1920-census
1920 Census – Note that one of the “Black” families were of Mexican Hispanic descent

The only problem was that the home was considered so far out from the city limits of Gary that there was no streetcar so my one legged Gramps re-learned how to ride a bike to get to the last stop of the streetcar line on Broadway, about a mile away, to get to work in the mill.Around 1923 another tragedy struck the family.  Breadwinner Gramps had to have his right leg amputated due to a steel mill accident.  With the settlement money they received the family decided to buy a home in Glen Park, 1 block west of the apartment that the family first lived in when they emigrated.  Non wanted her children to attend Glen Park Elementary School that was known for providing a good education and St. Marks, the brand new Roman Catholic Church, was only 1 block away.

The farmhouse was large enough to once again take in boarders for extra cash.  The family continued to raise chickens and rabbits, a vegetable garden and of course, grapes so that they could produce more vino to sell.  My mother recalled that in the fall, her feet were often purple due to the stomping of the grapes.  The fruit cellar where the wine was stored was in the basement, directly under where my mom (Dorothy) was standing:

1926
L-R Anne Marie, Dorothy, Non, Boarder, Friend of Non’s with her son

Shortly before the cross burning, my mother experienced another frightening event.  On Saturday nights, Gramps would play cards with his friends while Non went to the movies with her girlfriends.  Granny remained at home watching the children.  One Saturday night the Gary police arrived at the door inquiring about sales of alcohol.  Granny, with her limited English, had my mother translate.  The officers searched the house, found the vats in the fruit cellar and with backup, removed the wine.  When my grandparents returned home they were questioned and then arrested.  The next morning they appeared before a judge who told them they would be contacted about an upcoming court date.

My grandparents were arrested because of the laws of Prohibition.  “While the manufacture, importation, sale, and transport of alcohol was illegal in the United States, Section 29 of the Volstead Act allowed wine and cider to be made from fruit at home, but not beer. Up to 200 gallons of wine and cider per year could be made, and some vineyards grew grapes for home use.”1  The problem was my grandparents had sold wine.

The court date never occurred as the evidence seemed to have disappeared.  Perhaps the officers lost it, sold it or drank it.  According to the Gary Police Department, there are no records of arrests from that far back.  Searching court records, none could be found since there never was a court date.

Who turned the family in to police?  My mother always thought it was a teacher who had repeatedly questioned her about the purple stains on her hands and feet.  Perhaps it was a card player associate of my Gramps who was disgruntled after a losing game.  Maybe it was a neighbor who witnessed cars coming and going.  Most likely I will never know how the police were tipped off.

In researching this story I also contacted the Gary Health Department for records on the quarantine.  I was informed that there were no records from that time period, however, I did find online that there was a smallpox epidemic in Gary in 1920 but no record of a scarlet fever outbreak.

I also investigated newspapers for records of quarantine, my grandparents’ arrest and cross burning in Glen Park.  Nothing appeared.

For years, I thought the cross burning was because my relatives were the perfect poster family for Klan hatred – as immigrants, these Roman Catholic foreigners who had friends of people of all colors had taken jobs away from the good ole boys and now were living the American Dream by owning a house in the country.  I now believe it is most likely that the cross burning occurred because of the wine arrests.

Recently I learned that “After Prohibition took effect in 1920 until its demise in 1933, it opened up a financial bonanza for criminal activity, especially underground bootlegging and the smuggling of liquor into Chicago, Gary, South Bend, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Evansville and other thirsty cities. Enforcement was haphazard; the Anti-Saloon League was more of a lobbying agency and never rallied community support for enforcement.”2  “The KKK called for punishment of bootleggers and set up the ‘Horse Thief Detective Association’ (HTDA) to make extra-legal raids on speakeasies and gambling joints. It seldom cooperated with law enforcement or the state or federal courts. Instead (it) gave enforcement a bad name. Arthur Gillom, a Republican elected state attorney general over Klan opposition in 1924, did not tolerate its extra-legal operations. Instead, ‘He stressed the dangers of citizens relinquishing their constitutional rights and personal freedoms, and emphasized the importance of representative government (at all levels), states’ rights, and the concept of separation of church and state.’ When Rev. Shumaker proposed that ‘personal liberty had to be sacrificed in order to save people,’ Gilliom replied that surrendering power and individual freedoms was a slippery slope to centralized government and tyranny.”3

The arrest may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back with the Klan – we put up with you and now you’re making wine.  Enough already!  Perhaps because the police didn’t press charges, the Klan used the event to make a point to law enforcement – we know you didn’t pursue the case because you “lost” the evidence.  Who knows what the real reason was.  Unless a diary of an officer or Klansman involved miraculously appears mentioning these occurrences I probably will never know for sure.

This is one reason that I love genealogy, the unexpected discoveries!  I attended 12 years of schooling in Gary and never once did I hear about the Klan going after bootleggers and gamblers in the area. Although as vigilantes they were wrong to take the law into their hands, ironically, they were right in making a point that a crime had been committed and the enforcers of the law ignored it.

I realize my grandparents were the guilty ones in this story – they broke the law by selling wine and should have paid the price for their actions.  They got lucky in getting off – no evidence, no proof of sales, no case.

Unfortunately, it was an innocent victim, my mother, that was most affected.  I do know that the cross burning left an indelible mark on her


  1.  Prohibition in the United States Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 05 July 2015.
  2. Thomas R. Pegram, “Hoodwinked: The Anti-Saloon League and the Ku Klux Klan in 1920s Prohibition Enforcement,” Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era(2008) 7#1 pp 89-119
  3. Ann Gilliom Verbeek, “The League and the Law: Arthur L. Gillom and the Problem of Due Process in Prohibition-Era Indiana,” Indiana Magazine of History(2011) 107#4 pp 289-326, quotes at p 297 online

The Truth About Ellis Island

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 16 Jul 2015.

Like so many immigrant families, I heard the story that our family name was changed at Ellis Island. Our story, however, did not blame the officials.  Supposedly, upon emigrating, my Great Grandfather, Joseph Kos, was told that his last name was awfully short for an American name. No one suggested that a short name was wrong or bad.  It was just a benign comment.  I figure the Ellis Island clerk was probably glad to finally get a short name he could clearly understand to record but it did not sit well with my Great Grandfather.  He wanted to be an American and if the name was too short then he would make it bigger, just like America!  He could do that by simply adding an “s.”  The pronunciation would then change from the long o sound, that rhymed with dose, to the short o sound, that rhymed with Ross. The seed was planted to grow from Kos to Koss.

Last year, a 2nd cousin emailed me to discuss his belief that the Ellis Island story was not correct and that my grandmother, Non, was really the one behind the name change.  His reasoning was that Non’s sister, his mother, Barbara, who was born in the U.S. on the 19 September 1914 has Kos as her name on her birth certificate and the parents’ names are both listed as Kos.  Barbara was born 4 years AFTER our Great Grandfather emigrated so there is no reason why he would have recorded his daughter’s name with the original spelling if he had changed his name upon his arrival in the U.S.  Non assimilated into the American culture the quickest and was the family matriarch so those factors supported my cousin’s reasoning.

Birth Certificate of  Non’s sister, Barbara Kos, born in Chicago.

I looked at the ship manifest for Joseph Kos who arrived in New York City on La Lorraine on 17 Jan 1910:

Ship Manifest from La Lorraine 1

I then looked at the 1910 Census where his name now appears more Americanized as Joseph but his last name remains Kos:On the manifest he is listed as Josip Kos.  An error was made in recording his wife’s name – it was duplicated from the entry above him instead of listing his wife, Anna’s name.

1910 Census for Joseph Kos 2

Joseph was working for the railroad, and at the time of the census, was in Chardon, Ohio. Next I decided to investigate the manifest for Joseph’s wife, daughter and son who did not emigrate until 3 1/2 years after Joseph.  Below is the manifest for Non, listed as Mara, her mother, Jana (Anna), and her brother, Joseph Jr. (Josip), from the President Lincoln that arrived in New York City on the 16 July 1913.  The last name is clearly Kos.

Ship Manifest from the President Lincoln 3

I know that when Non and Gramps were married on the 28 January 1917 in Chicago, Illinois both of their names appeared on the records with the added “s” as “Koss.”  As distant cousins from the old country, both had the last name Kos(s) so Non’s maiden name was the same as her married name.

See the 10th from bottom – John and Mary Koss 4

There are 3 possibilities as to why Kos became Koss between 1914 and 1917:

1) the marriage license was an error, There are 3 possibilities as to why Kos became Koss between 1914 and 1917:

2) my great grandfather or another family member added the “s” after 1914 or

3) maybe the Ellis Island story was told about my Gramps and not my Non’s side.

I checked the ship manifest for Gramps, Ivan “John” Kos who arrived in New York City on the 6 April 1909 with his brother, Janko (Stephen) Kos:

Ship Manifest from La Gascogne 5

The manifest shows Kos.  Next record to check is the 1910 Census.  Gramps is shown as a boarder living in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  His brother, who had left a wife behind in Croatia, had returned to her.  Gramps is still shown as Kos.

1910 Census 6

So the Ellis Island story wasn’t about Gramps, either.  I have no family documentation between my Great Aunt Barbara’s birth in September 1914 and my Grandparents’ wedding in January 1917 so I can’t pinpoint when the last name changed or who changed it.

The family continued to use Koss after the wedding.  My mother and her siblings were born at home so I do not have a birth certificate for them; a delayed certificate was never issued, either.  I do have a Baptism Certificate, however, it was a copy of the lost original made when she was an adult.  Born and baptized in 1918, my mother and her parents’ names are recorded as Koss.

My Mother’s Baptism Certificate – Copy of the Original

The death index for my Great Grandfather in January 1919 has his last name as Koss but since he was dead, he didn’t provide his own name. The informant on the death certificate was Non since she was the eldest of his three children, the most educated, and with a distraught mother, Non would have been the most rational at the time.  Did she use Koss because that was the name she and her husband were using or was it because her father was also using Koss?

Indiana Death Record Index 7

Yet his tombstone in Oak Hill Cemetery in Gary, Indiana is etched as Kos and according to cemetery records, Non and Gramps were the ones who purchased the stone.

See stone on right – 2nd from bottom

Photo by Lori Samuelson December 2001

The inscription is in Croatian so possibly the decision to engrave the original spelling was in keeping with that is how the name was first spelled in his birth language.

In 1920, the family reverts to using the original spelling of Kos:

1920 Census 8

The 1920 census is the last paper record with the original spelling.  I have no idea why they returned to using it in 1920.  Perhaps they never spelled it for the census taker but instead pronounced it in the original way, with a long o sound.  If that was the case, though, I would think the census taker would have spelled it Kose and not Kos.

The record below is a scan of a textbook the family purchased for school use in the 1920’s. It was passed from child to child and they each wrote their own name inside the cover.  All were spelled Koss.

Textbook from 1922

By 1930, the name is Koss:

1930 Census 9

In 1940, the name is Koss but is misspelled as Kolls:

1940 Census 10

You’d think that was the end of the story but the saga continued…Both of my Grandparent’s used Koss when they became naturalized citizens in the 1940’s and that is what was on their Social Security Cards and death certificates.

Note in the textbook above that the top name on the left is George Koss.  When Uncle George served in the Marines during World War II he told his Sargent about the name change at Ellis Island (that we now know didn’t happen).  The Sargent told George that happened in his family, too, but the Sargent had decided it wasn’t right so he went back to using whatever the original family spelling was.  He told George he would have dog tags reissued with the original name if he was interested.  George decided that was the right thing to to do so George Koss became George Kos til his dying day.

WW II Muster Rolls 11

Since George was the only son the original family name was restored and continued down the line.  My Grandparents’ and my Non’s brother are the only ones to use Koss through the rest of their lives. Check out my Grandparents’ gravestone at Oak Hill Cemetery in Gary, Indiana:

Photo by Lori Samuelson December 2001

When my Great Grandmother was to be buried, 3 plots were purchased. Going back to their roots, the original name was engraved.  So much for


1 Year: 1910; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 1400; Line:17; Page Number: 105

2 Year: 1910; Census Place: Chardon, Geauga, Ohio; Roll: T624_1185; Page: 16B; Enumeration District: 0056; FHL microfilm: 1375198

3 Year: 1913; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 2130; Line:24; Page Number: 149

Ancestry.com. Cook County, Illinois Marriage Indexes, 1912-1942 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Private donor.

5 Year: 1909; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 1234; Line:2; Page Number: 178Ancestry.com. Cook County, Illinois Marriage Indexes, 1912-1942 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Private donor.

Year: 1910; Census Place: Pittsburgh Ward 21, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1307; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 0573; FHL microfilm: 1375320

7 Indiana Death Index

8 Year: 1920; Census Place: Gary Ward 5, Lake, Indiana; Roll: T625_446; Page: 24A; Enumeration District:111; Image: 889

Year: 1930; Census Place: Gary, Lake, Indiana; Roll: 600; Page: 4B; Enumeration District: 0058; Image:242.0; FHL microfilm: 2340335

10 Year: 1940; Census Place: Gary, Lake, Indiana; Roll: T627_1121; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 95-83

11 Ancestry.com. U.S. Marine Corps Muster Rolls, 1798-1958 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007.

Our Lady of the Snows – A Maybe Miracle

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 12 Jul 2015.

As I continue exploring family legends, I recall the story my Grandparents told me about the miracle of their village church, Our Lady of the Snow.  The tale goes like this:  The local chapel had grown too small so the villagers decided to build a larger church.  A debate over the location ensued for months and with no agreement reached, no church was built.  After a long time period consensus as to where to build was made.  It took many days to clear the land because the weather had turned unseasonably cold and rainy.  When the site was finally ready, stakes were placed in the ground outlining what would be the church.  The next morning, the stakes were gone.  Baffled at the disappearance, the villagers replaced the stakes.  Again, the next day, the stakes had disappeared.   Bafflement turned to anger and accusation as to who was responsible for the removal.  It was decided to wait until the bricks arrived and then, the stakes would once again be placed so that the bricklayers could quickly lay a foundation which would deter the unknown perpetrator.  Soon the bricks were delivered and the whole village arrived at the site.  After the local priest’s blessing there was food and dancing as the villagers were sure that they were now united in where the needed church would be built.  The stakes were replaced and the bricks added before the townspeople went home for the evening.  When the masons returned to the site the next morning, they were shocked to discover that the bricks had disappeared!  The village decided that the only way to deter any further damage and to move forward with construction was to have local men serve as guards at night.  The work was once again begun and a few men built a fire in preparation for their long night of guard duty that lay ahead.  When the sun rose the next morning the guards discovered that the previous days’ work had vanished again and the pile of supply bricks was now scattered and broken.  They had heard nothing all night. Hurriedly fleeing back to the village, the guards reported their find.  The townspeople were angry and accused the men of sleeping but the guards pointed out that the noise of the destruction would have aroused them from sleep so that proved they had been awake.  The villagers accused the guards of being in a drunken stupor; the guards insisted they had not been inebriated.  The guards could not explain how they had not seen or heard the damage occurring.  A new group of men was selected to watch the site the following evening.  The plan was to a include more men of varying age groups and to have the men walk the perimeter of the site all night long in shifts to insure that no one fell asleep.  When dawn arrived the bricks were found to be destroyed again.  The men were shaken by the discovery as they did not hear or see anyone or anything that could have done such damage so quickly and quietly.  After reporting the find back to the rest of the village the decision was made to halt construction.  Clearly, these events were unexplainable and until an explanation could be found, the church would not be built.   The next day was Sunday so the townspeople crowded into the existing chapel to pray for understanding of what was happening and for a new church to be built.  Although it was summer, that Sunday night it snowed.  The next morning, as the villagers opened the doors of their homes they could see an outline of what appeared to be a church in a cleared field.  The entire field was snow covered except for the area that resembled a church building.  Inside the cleared area, flowers bloomed.  The villagers took this event as a sign that the church should be built at this site and the decision to name the church after Jesus’ mother, Mary, because the flowers must be her work.  Due to the snow falling in August and outlining the church, the church would be named Our Lady of the Snows.  Construction was immediately begun and with no further delays, the church was quickly finished.

I thought this would be an easy story to confirm as miracle sites are usually well documented and typically easy to find.  I wanted to know when the event occurred and I wanted a picture of the church.  I spoke with a 2nd cousin who said, although he had never heard the story, he had heard the name of our ancestor’s church and it was Our Lady of the Snow.  I then confirmed online that the parish church in Dubranec, Croatia is still named Our Lady of the Snow.

I first went to a Roman Catholic site and determined that Our Lady of the Snows, or the Ice Lady, is a feast day celebrated on August 5th.  The “miracle” happened in Rome and the tale goes like this:  “During the pontificate of Liberius, the Roman patrician John and his wife, who were without heirs, made a vow to donate their possessions to Our Lady. They prayed to her that she might make known to them in what manner they were to dispose of their property in her honour. On 5 August, during the night, snow fell on the summit of the Esquiline Hill and, in obedience to a vision which they had the same night, they built a basilica, in honour of Our Lady, on the spot which was covered with snow.”1  The problem with the story is that no mention was made of the miracle until a few hundred years after the event, in the 13th Century.  By 1471, every church in Rome was celebrating the feast day but by 1741, the church renounced the miracle.  There is no mention of a miracle with snow occurring in Dubranac.

250px-masolino_fondazione_di_santa_maria_maggiore
The Blessed Virgin Mary overlooking Pope Liberius as the Pontiff scraped the foundation of the basilica into the snow. By Italian artist Masolino de Panicale circa 15th-century.  Museo de Capdodimonte.

Online I found the parish history but unfortunately, the google translation from Croatian to English is not clear and the records are confusing.2 “The first written mention of the parish of the Annunciation is in the list of parishes of the Zagreb diocese by Archdeacon Ivana Goričko in 1334.  Probably the parish existed before, but it is impossible to confirm.  The recorded parish in Velika Gorica is called “ecclesia beate Virginis de campo Turouo” (The Church of the Blessed Virgin in the field of Mozyr).”3 There is conflict, however, with another source that mentions the church located on “the highest hill between Bukovčak and Dubranac” as the “parish church of St. Catherine.” 4 “This is the church in its original form was made of wood, and it eventually demanded restoration. Its maintenance was not the best, which is confirmed by the fact that the liturgy occasionally (was) held in private homes. The church did not have a permanent parish priest.”5

I’m thinking that the 1334 list of parishes included 2 churches in the area – the older St. Catherine’s, located on the hill between Bukovack and Duranac, and The Church of the Blessed Virgin, built in the field in Velika Gorica.  Notice that the church in the field is not called Our Lady of the Snows.  There is no mention of the miraculous events that my grandparents described which I would think would have been recorded as the Roman Catholic Church investigates reported miracles.  So I dug deeper…

“Archdeacon Benko Vinković, in the canonical visitation in 1622, says that the church is built of old, and that for the time, pretty well covered and clean.  He added that the church was destroyed in 1592 for burglary Hasan – fits in Turopolje, but the parishioners very quickly restored (it).  The church had three stones of the altar, of which only the main was dedicated and equipped with all necessary (items).  In front of the church was a wooden porch where he (sic) was an altar of Our Lady.” 6

I don’t understand the “…in 1592 for burglary Hasan – fits in Turopolje,…” I believe the “fits in Turopolje” means that the style of the church was in the Turopolje custom but I can find no information on a burglary in 1592 occurring.  I’m also not clear on which church– St. Catherine’s or the Blessed Virgins, the record refers.  Perhaps this “burglary” was a part of the family legend of the stolen stakes and bricks.

Regarding the Church of the Blessed Virgin, “A church visitation was again made in 1642 and it was noted that the bell tower, containing a bell, was made of wood and the cemetery was around the church.”7    As the population increased the church became too small, so they began preparations for the construction of a new church, which is what my family legend reported.  “The chapel of Saint Mary in Dubranec was built in 1650, and liturgy was served during winter when access to church (I believe this means to St. Catherine’s) was very difficult.”8  Another source confirms that the “Chapel of the Mother of God, which is at first probably served for worship in the winter when the snow, because of the distance and access to the parish church of St. Catherine, was more difficult.”9  Still no miracle mentioned but the reason for enlargement was due to population increase AND snow is brought into the story.

“In 1686, an agreement was signed to build a new church and construction was started.  All the stone needed for building was brought by parishioners from Okić.  Thus, in 1688, the sanctuary, the sacristy and the part of the boat (sic) was completed.  In large part, the church was completed in 1692, in addition to the ceiling of the nave and the windows.  The church used the old altars.  The title of the church, The Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as the new altar was supposed to be dedicated to the Nativity of Mary.
The new church was completed in 1704, and blessed in 1702 or 1703. A memorial blessing celebrated the Sunday before the Nativity of Mary in 1746. The Turret tower was covered with a sheet and a new organ was added.”10  In my family legend, the land was blessed before the church was built.  This part of the story could be from the blessing in 1702/1703 that occurred before the church was completed.  This church was built of stone that the parishioners brought, however, my story is that the construction material was brick.

“Since 1714 the seat of that same parish was relocated to Dubranec and the patron saint ever since is Majka Bozja Snjezna (Our Lady of Snow).”11  “In 1714, the first chapel in Dubranec was consecrated to Our Lady and was mentioned as a parish church, instead of the previous Church of St. Catharine that was situated further from the town.”12  So it wasn’t until 1714 that name became Our Lady of the Snow. I believe the original buildings were considered chapels and it wasn’t until 1714 that the building was large enough to become known as a church.  There is no mention, though, of why the name change to Our Lady of Snow occurred.

“Early in 1726 the extension of the church was finally completed. There are new altars and a statue of the Virgin Mary dressed in silk and richly adorned with ribbons and braids. In it comes more and more pilgrims not only from Dubranac, but also from surrounding parishes.”13  There is no explanation as to why pilgrims were coming – was it because it was the newest church in the area or because of the story of the miracle was circulating?

“The church was again too small and the 1757, church expansion began.  The side chapels were added to the south and north sides.  The wooden hall was destroyed and burials in the church were forbidden.  The church was consecrated on the Feast of the Assumption, 1781, and dedicated to the bishop of Zagreb, Josip Galjuf.  The title became Church of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary.”14  There’s mention that that parish priest and the “Noble Commune of Turopolje“ were behind the change but there is no mention as to why the name change occurred.  There is no further mention of pilgrims coming so my theory is that the townspeople were warned by the bishop to stop using the legend per the Vatican directive of 1741.  To appease him, the new church name was dedicated to the bishop.

In 1881, some type of new regulations were enacted by the church authorities.  “Opinions were divided as to what to leave” and “the then Culture Minister, Isidore Krsnjavi, led major controversy with Herman Bolle, (architect) warning him of the value of the domestic construction, particularly the valuable painted ceiling in the church.”15  “It owes its present appearance to Herman Bollé, who in 1881 removed the majority of the decorations belonging to the Turopolje style, not recognizing the value and originality of the local architecture and artwork. He designed the present day brick church with the wooden ceiling, and designed the main altar of Our Lady and the two side altars dedicated to St. Joseph and St. Catharine.”16  At this time, the name, Our Lady of the Snows, was restored and the stone church was bricked.  There is still no mention of the legend of the stolen bricks but there is a notation of divided opinions and controversy.  Why the church regained its old name is also not discussed.

In 1889, the church received great damage after an earthquake and major renovation was needed.  In 1892, reconstruction of the church and the tower began, in keeping with the design by Herman Bolle.  The formerly baroque tower was replaced by a slender octagonal pyramidal tower.  The restoration was completed in 1896. The most recent renovations occurred in 1995 to 1997.

st-mary

So my family legend appears to be a mixture of facts and fiction that occurred over hundreds of years, then rearranged into one tale.  The truths are that the church is named Our Lady of the Snow, was built in a field, and it is currently made of brick.  There is some basis in the story for the villagers’ disagreeing but it appears to be about style and not due to site location and perhaps a burglary of some sort occurred, which may have been the stakes and bricks.  There is no basis for the snow in August outlining the site.

One more family mystery remains.  My Aunt Anne Marie and my Great Aunt Barbara went to Croatia in June 1974.  They sent my Non the postcard below:

pilgrimage

The back of the card is written “Where Anna used to walk when she went on pilgrimage.” I didn’t even know Anna, my great grandmother, went on pilgrimages.  I would love to discover the name of the church pictured above and where it is located. If Anna walked there it couldn’t be to far from Dubranac or Velika Gorica.  Hopefully, dear reader, one of you will


  1. “Our Lady of the Snow – Catholic Encyclopedia – Catholic Online.” Our Lady of the Snow – Catholic Encyclopedia – Catholic Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 July 2015.
  2. “Google Translate.” Google Translate. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 July 2015.
  3. Ibid
  4. Google Translate.” Google Translate. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 July 2015.
  5. IBID
  6. “Google Translate.” Google Translate. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 July 2015.
  7. “The Church of Saint Mary of Snow.” The Church of Saint Mary of Snow. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 July 2015.
  8. “Google Translate.” Google Translate. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 July 2015.
  9. IBID

10.”Message Boards.” Localities Europe Croatia General. Ancestry.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 July 2015

  1. Ibid
  2. Google Translate.” Google Translate. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 July 2015.
  3. IBID
  4. Google Translate.” Google Translate. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 July 2015.
  5. “Message Boards.” Localities Europe Croatia General. Ancestry.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 July 2015

16 “Velika Gorica – Neovisni Forum.” Tradicija I Baština. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 July 2015.

A Title Conferred – The Legend of the PL

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 8 Jul 2015.

Every little girl wants to be a princess and I was no different.  My grandmother, Mary Violet Koss, loved to tell the story of how the family was awarded a title of PL by royalty back in the day. The details were sketchy of when the event occurred but the story and the privileges that were a result were a well remembered family legend.

Marauding bands of Turks had been seen throughout the land for some time. As peasant farmers, my family and others like them, were often the first to warn the community of the approaching men on horseback.  With a shout in the fields, tools were flung aside and a fast run to the castle for safety ensued. One day, however, not just a few men on horseback appeared but an entire army. Fighting from the castle became intense and many men had perished on both sides. It appeared that the castle would soon be overtaken and in despair, the women, among them my many times great grandmother, decided to take action.  Using the communal cooking pots, when a rolling boil was reached the vats’ contents of oil or water was poured down upon the enemy.  The fight was soon over as the invaders fled in retreat.

For valor, my grandmother’s husband was awarded the title of PL, an abbreviation of the word plemeniti which is Croatian for “noble.”  This permitted the family to have special privileges, such as hunting in the king’s forest, a lessening of the annual taxed amount and a voice in community affairs.

When did this occur?  Who was the King that granted the title?  Where was the castle located? How can I verify that my family really was awarded this honor? Non did not know but she knew that her father, Joseph Kos, was the last of the line to be able to reap the benefits of the title.  Joseph had been a leader in the Austria-Hungary Calvary when Non was a child and his position afforded the family a comfortable life.  Unfortunately, while holding his horse that was being re-shoed, the horse kicked Joseph in the chest which caused him to become an asthmatic.  He was released from his duties and with no prospects for another career, emigrated in 1910 to America.

As an adult, I wanted to dig further into the family lore and discover what event led to the title.  The only additional information I could recall was that as a practicing Roman Catholic, Non had said the Turks not only wanted more land but wanted to put an end to Catholicism.  Using religion as my first clue I began to investigate when the region became Catholic.

Although there is not agreement on when Croatia became Christianized, it most likely was over several centuries beginning in the 7th with the faith becoming firmly established by 925 when the ruler Tomislav aligned himself with Pope John X.1 Most of the titles Tomislav extended were to noncitizens so it is not probable that the PL title was conferred to my relatives by Tomislav.

Next I decided to research when the Ottoman invasion occurred.  After Coloman united Austria and Croatia in 1102 2, the Ottoman’s began to invade the area. History records that the Great Turkish War occurred between 1667-1698.  I suspect, if the PL designation occurred, it would have been between 1102 and 1698.

My family resided close to the present city of Zagreb; both of my grandparents being born in the tiny village of Dubranec.  In 1900, they were 2 of the 454 residents.3 Today, Dubranec is part of the city of Velika Gorica so I investigated battles that occurred nearby.  “In 1278 noblemen from Turopolje joined into a union called Plemenita opčina turopoljska (“Noble municipality of Turopolje”). Plemenita opčina turopoljska was granted a rule over Turopolje by Croatian monarchs and exists still today with mainly (a) ceremonial and not political role.  Regarding the Turopolje name, among the most common opinions is that the name, meaning “Tur field”, comes from an old Slavic word “tur” which means Aurochs, an ancient type of cattle with long horns, which was a symbol of fertility and the sun god. These cattle died out in the 16th century. The cattle were closely related to agriculture. Plowing had a symbolic meaning, the fertilization of Mother Earth, so these cattle were often assumed to have “sacred” characteristics. Because of its importance in the life of the plowmen, “tur” became the basis for numerous toponyms. However, as recently as the 16th century, Turopolje was called Campus Zagrebiensis, i.e. “Zagreb field”, or just Campus (field). At that time the name was replaced by “Tur field”, i.e. Turopolje”.4  Knowing my family were farmers this most likely was the event my Non described.

Investigating further, I found it was King Ladislas IV of Hungary and Croatia who confirmed “the ‘nobles of Turopolje’.  (They) originally were (but with no doubt at the time when their charter was issued in 1278, castle-warriors of Zagreb (iobagiones castri Zagra-biensis), i.e. they occupied – because of their military duties – the most honourable rank within the population of the castle, but they were definitely subjugated to the jurisdiction held by the comes of Zagreb.”5  I cannot find reference to an Ottoman invasion of Zagreb during this time, however, Osman I, who was the individual the Ottoman/Turkish empire was named for, did begin to expand settlements into the eastern Mediterranean and Balkans during this time.6

Interestingly, King Ladislas IV was more of a Pagan than a Roman Catholic so he may have more in common with the tur plowmen’s sun god and Mother Earth worship than just military exploits.

The only part of the story left to verify is whether my Kos line was one of the Turopoljes.  I was able to find that in the Armorial Book, Duis Dragon Hung, Kos was a name that was granted nobility status.7 That doesn’t necessarily mean that it was my line, however. Alas, even if I can confirm


1 Vladimir Posavec (March 1998).”Historical Maps and Borders in the Age of Tomislav. Radovi Zavoda za hrvatsku povijest (in Croatian) 30 (1): 281–290. ISSN 0353-295X. Retrieved 28 Jun 2015.

2 Ladislav Heka (October 2008). Croatian-Hungarian relations from the Middle Ages to the Compromise of 1868, with a special survey of the Slavonian issue. Scrinia Slavonica (in Croatian) (Hrvatski institut za povijest – Podružnica za povijest Slavonije, Srijema i Baranje) 8 (1): 152–173.ISSN 1332-4853  Retrieved 28 Jun 2015.

3“Google Translate.” Google Translate. N.p.,Web. 29 June 2015.

4“Velika Gorica.” Velika Gorica. N.p., Web. 29 June 2015.

5“Noble Communities in Spiš and Turopolje in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries.” Noble Communities in Spiš and Turopolje in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries. p.224., n.d. Web. 29 June 2015

6 The Sultans: Osman Gazi. The Ottomans.org. Retrieved 13 December 2010.

7“Google Translate.” Google Translate. N.p., Web. 29 June 2015.