Archive for the ‘Brokenicky’ Category

image from Goodreads.com

I recently learned a little about my great-grandmother’s sister, Anastasia (or Anastazie), who came to America from Bohemia with her husband, two children and mother in 1903. The Brokenicky family lived in Chicago for a while and eventually settled in Nebraska by 1910. I wrote about the Brokenickys in these posts:

How I Met My Aunt Anastasia, Part 1

How I Met My Aunt Anastasia, Part 2

Brokenicky Family Graves

Nebraska was a popular place for Bohemians to settle during this time period. The Homestead Act of 1862 made the land available for settlement, attracting people from the eastern part of America as well as Europe.

I recently finished reading the book My Ántonia by Willa Cather, and it had a lot to teach me about the challenges of immigrants (specifically Bohemian) in Nebraska during the time my family was living there. I don’t know enough about the Brokenicky family to know how closely this novel describes their way of life, but I found it interesting to read about what was happening to this group of people who really struggled to find their American dream.

My Ántonia, which was published in 1918, is the story of a young boy named Jim Burden, who was sent to live with his grandparents on their Nebraska farm after he was orphaned. He arrived on the same train as a Bohemian immigrant family, the Shimerdas. The Shimerda family consisted of two parents and four children. One of the children was Ántonia, a girl who was just a couple years older than Jim. The book is a collection of Jim’s memories of Ántonia as they grew up together in the Nebraska prairie.

Jim formed a friendship with Ántonia and witnessed firsthand the difficulties her family experienced as they adjusted to American farm life. Their first challenge was with the language. No one in the Shimerda family knew any English when they arrived in Nebraska. The children picked it up pretty quickly, thanks to Jim, but Ántonia often had to act as a translator for her parents. Not being able to easily communicate made the family feel isolated from the rest of their community.

The Shimerdas encountered many other challenges as well. They were completely unprepared for Nebraska’s weather conditions – the extreme heat in the summer and the bitter cold in the winter. In addition, they had no experience running a farm and were forced to learn from their mistakes and rely on kind neighbors for help. They arranged for the purchase of their land without seeing it, not knowing there was nothing but a house made of sod, basically a cave, for them to live in.

Beyond the physical challenges, the Shimerdas experienced emotional trouble as well. Mr. Shimerda was especially affected by homesickness. Immigrants of all nationalities must have missed their homelands and the family and friends they left behind. The Shimerdas’ story brings to light the sadness and frustration most immigrants must have felt.

The difficulties experienced by immigrants caused the need for many of their children to find work. The older children, especially girls, were usually required to find jobs as housekeepers and cooks in the homes and businesses in nearby towns so that the boys could work on the farm and the younger children could go to school. Ántonia found a job with a nice family in town and was able to help support her family. The Shimerda family was eventually able to develop a successful farm. While they were never wealthy in America, they managed to get by and provide for their children, who could eventually go out and take hold of the opportunities that had brought their parents to America.

My Ántonia is a wonderful book, and I highly recommend it. Cather’s descriptions of the Nebraska prairies make you feel like you are there, and her characters bring the plight of our immigrant ancestors to life.


Read Full Post »

Brokenicky Family Graves

For background, read this post and this one, too.

I did a search on FindAGrave.com, and found the gravestones of Anastasia, John, Frank and Charles Brokenicky.

Anastazie (Kovarik) Brokenicky (1875-1970) was my great-grandmother’s sister:

Photo Credit: Irene Keiper Alexander

John Brokenicky (1867-1942) was her husband:

Photo Credit: Irene Keiper Alexander

Frank Brokenicky (1900-1975) was their son, who was three years old when they immigrated to the US:

Photo Credit: Irene Keiper Alexander

Photo Credit: Irene Keiper Alexander

Charles Brokenicky (1906-1997) was another son, who was born in Nebraska:

Photo Credit: Irene Keiper Alexander

John and Anastasia also had a daughter named Otilia, who would was born around 1899. I have not found a grave stone for her, probably because she married and was not buried as a Brokenicky. I was also not able to find a grave stone for Františka Kovarik, Anastasia’s mother, but I’ll keep looking!

All of these graves are in the Bohemian National Cemetery in Dodge County, Nebraska.

Photo Credit: Wanda Ross

My thanks go to Irene Keiper Alexander and Wanda Ross (two people I do not know) for taking these pictures and posting them on FindAGrave.com!

Read Full Post »

For the background on this post, be sure to read Part 1.

So far, I have found three census records (1910, 1920 and 1930) for a Brokenicky family in Dodge County, Nebraska. I believe the wife, Anna, is my great-grandmother’s sister, Anastasia Kovarik, but I’m trying to make the connection that confirms this.

Going with the immigration date of 1904 from the 1910 census, I decided to look for a passenger list. For this, I went to EllisIsland.org. Well, the 1910 census was off by a year, but I found John and Anna with their first two children, in a passenger list for the Kaiser Wilhelm II, which arrived at Ellis Island on November 10, 1903. Františka Kovarik was also traveling with them.

Click to enlarge; see lines 1-6

This is all interesting information, but how can I be sure this is my family?

After looking at the passenger list a little more closely, I noticed that there was also a 15 year old girl named Marie Bičakova traveling with the Brokenicky/Kovarik family. Her occupation is listed as “servant” and there is a note saying she is the niece of Františka. In the column asking for the name of a relative in the United States, Marie’s record shows, “Uncle, Joe Hromada, Chicago, Trumbull Ave, 1399, near 28th St.”

Well, there’s my confirmation! Joe Hromada would be my great-grandfather and the Trumbull Avenue address matches the address I found in a Chicago city directory for him and his wife in 1901. If Marie Bičakova was really Františka’s niece, as the passenger list says, she wouldn’t be Josef’s niece as well; she would be his wife’s cousin. But, that seems like a minor error. Perhaps because of their age difference, he was more of an uncle to her anyway.

Okay, now I’m convinced this is my family.

So, here is my theory based on what I have found:

  • Anastasia came to the US with her sister, Marie in 1893.
  • At some point between 1893 and 1898 (the year of her marriage), she returned to her home country, got married and had two children. Maybe she decided to go back when her father died, or maybe she just missed her mother. There could be several reasons.
  • In 1904, Anastasia came back to the US with her husband, children and mother. This time, the family eventually settled in Nebraska. Maybe John had family there. I know there were a lot of Czechs immigrating to Nebraska at that time, but they certainly would have stayed in Chicago with Josef and Marie unless there was other family out in Nebraska.

I know a lot more now, but I still have questions:

  • What happened to Marie Bičakova? It’s possible that Josef and Marie found her a job, which would explain her occupation on the passenger list. Or, maybe she moved in with them. According to census records, she was not living with the Hromadas or the Brokenickys in 1910. Maybe she got married, or maybe she was working somewhere as a live-in servant. That could be hard to find out.
  • I’d also like to find John and Anastasia’s three children in later years. Maybe they have some descendants who have information about the Kovarik family. I know very little about them.

Read Full Post »

I know this post is long, but I’m kind of excited to share this news, so try to bear with me.

I’ve always been interested in learning what came of Anastasia Kovarik, the 17-year-old sister who immigrated to the US with my great-grandmother in 1893. I’ve done Ancestry.com searches on her name and never came up with any more than that 1893 passenger list.

from EllisIsland.org

My aunt recently told me that she remembers my grandfather going to Nebraska to visit his aunt and that her married name was Brokenicky. So, I sat down at my computer the other day to see what I could find out about Anastasia Brokenicky in Nebraska. The first thing I found was a 1910 census record for Dodge County, Nebraska.

Click to enlarge; see lines 39-44

The Brokenicky household included:

John Brokenicky, age 41

Anna S. Brokenicky, age 32

Otyllia Brokenicky, age 11

Frank Brokenicky, age 9

Charles Brokenicky, age 3

Anna could easily be short for Anastasia, and the birth places (Austria-Bohemia) are correct. This looks promising.

Then, I looked a little closer and realized there was one more person living with them: Františka Kovarik, a widow aged 63, listed as the head of household’s mother-in-law. I had never heard of Anastasia’s mother coming to America, and I never knew her name, but having a Kovarik in the same house makes me think I have the right Brokenicky family.

But, there are a couple other pieces of information on this census record that don’t match up to what I thought I knew. The immigration date listed next to John is 1904. There is no date listed for anyone else, which I assume means the 1904 is meant for all of them. I know that Anastasia came to America in 1893.

Also, John and Anna’s first two children were born in Austria-Bohemia. If Anastasia came in 1893, she couldn’t have had children in Bohemia in 1899 and 1901. Right? So, is this the right Brokenicky family or not?

Ancestry.com couldn’t come up with any other records based on my search terms, so I tried FamilySearch.org. This time, I got the 1910 census, but I also got census records for 1920 and 1930. The last name is spelled a little differently in the transcription, but it is clear that all three census records show the same family. Here is the 1920 record:

Click to enlarge; see lines 9-12

The names listed in 1920 are:

John Brokenicky, age 52

Anna Brokenicky, age 44

Frank Brokenicky, age 19

Charles Brokenicky, age 13

Františka is no longer listed with them, so I assume she passed away sometime between 1910 and 1920.

This time, the immigration date given is 1893. I’ll have to do some more research to see if John had been to the US before, as well. This record says that John was naturalized, so I will also have to look for his naturalization records for more information.

Here is the 1930 census:

Click to enlarge; see lines 37-38

The names listed in 1930 are:

John Brokenicky, age 63

Anna S. Brokenicky, age 55

Interestingly, this record says the family operated a chicken farm. Anna is listed as the proprietor and John was a carpenter.

Okay, so I’ve followed John and Anna Brokenicky through three census records, but I still can’t say for sure that this is my Anastasia Kovarik. There’s more to this story, but I’ll save it for tomorrow…

Read Full Post »