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February Genealogy Meeting with the North Suburban Genealogical Society

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The North Suburban Genealogical Society invites the public to attend its Saturday, February 8th meeting at the Northbrook History Museum (1776 Walters Avenue, Northbrook, IL).   Guests are welcome and are invited to bring a friend and enjoy refreshments.

The meeting will feature  Tina Beaird

Military Genealogy

Tina will explain the significance behind using original records for tracing your ancestor’s military service. Records from the American Revolution to WWII will be discussed as well as some sources for modern records. Learn what types of documents are available within federal, state and local archives.

The meeting begins at 1:00 PM and is free and open to the public.  Refreshments are served.  The meeting room is handicap accessible.

© 2014, Casa Italia, Stone Park, IL

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Stories Sought for World War II Book

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I received the following email regarding a new World War II project. Please contact the author at the email below.

I am currently working, with another author, on a book to share the experiences of people who were children or teens during the Second World War.

Our book, for middle school and high school readers, strives to cover people from as many of the participating nations as possible since it is the human not chronological war story that is most significant here.  It takes the story out of battlefield and into the home and heart. It is unique in its presentation of stories that have, for the most part, never been published and its international focus lends a view of the war for and from children. Period photographs will be collected for the illustrations.  Maps and timelines will also be part of the stories.

I am hoping to contact some of the people who have participated in your museum’s family history projects.  Can you connect me with any individuals willing to share their stories with us? You can certainly give them our contact information or ask permission for us to contact them directly.

The authors are Denise Perry Donavin and Jean M. Conklin Denise is a journalist  (a former Daily herald columnist), librarian and author, who has most recently edited the two memoir collections for the Lest We Forget veterans’ organization of Southwest Michigan. Jean, a retired reading teacher, also contributed to the Lest We Forget titles as a transcriber and copy editor and is currently writing children’s books with a historical focus.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Denise Perry Donavin

dpdonavin@yahoo.com

Military Monday, Veterans Day 2013

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This was originally posted at Generations 11 Nov 2013. Reprinted with permission.

Joseph Holik, WWII. Photo courtesy Jennifer Holik.

Today is Veterans Day and we honor those who served our country. How will you honor those who fought? Who do you honor? How will I be honoring the day? I’m giving my Finishing the Story lecture at Casa Italia today and will share the stories of Michael Kokoska, WWI; Frankie Winkler, WWII; and Robert Brouk Flying Tiger and WWII Army Air Corps Captain.

Who are some of the veterans I honor today?

Michael Kokoska, Frankie Winkler, Robert Brouk, Ginny Davis, Fred Davis, Harvey Davis, James Privoznik, Emil Ratay, Joseph Holik, Joseph Ratay, Frank Kokoska, “Captain Jack” John Frank Zajicek, Thomas Holik, Richard Holik, Robert Holik, Joseph Holik Jr., William Kokaska, Edward Kokaska, Ralph Windler.

How else am I honoring my veterans? In January I will release two new books. Stories of the Lost and The Tiger’s

Italian American Veterans Museum at Casa Italia. Photo courtesy Italian American Veterans Museum

Italian American Veterans Museum at Casa Italia. Photo courtesy Italian American Veterans Museum

Widow telling the stories of Michael Kokoska, Frankie Winkler, Robert Brouk, and James Privoznik, who died in service. The second book will talk about the life of Robert Brouk’s widow after their short marriage and his death. Both will be released in January 2014 and soon after I will release new lectures and workshops and be available for Book Talks at libraries and societies and more presentations. Stay tuned for more details. You will not want to miss this dual book launch.

Do you need some additional information on Veterans Day or how to preserve our Veteran stories? Check out these links.

Library of Congress Veterans History Project

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs History of Veterans Day

Scroll down the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs page to see Teacher resources.

© 2013, Casa Italia, Stone Park, IL

Military Monday – Finishing the Story on Veterans Day

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The Casa Italia Genealogy Department will present Finishing the Story as part of our monthly genealogy programming.

Tracing the life of a deceased military soldier (Soldier Dead) can be challenging. Through three World War I and World War II case studies, learn about records and resources available to help you write the stories of your Soldier Dead. You will hear Michael’s World War I story and learn what his parents experienced after his death. Listen to Frankie’s story of fighting in France after D-Day. And hear the heartbreaking tale of Flying Tiger Robert Brouk whose life was cut short……but this story has a happy ending.

The meeting will be held in our Veterans Museum at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, November 11. The program is free and open to the public. We hope to see you then!

© 2013, Casa Italia, Stone Park, IL

Military Monday – Stories of the Lost Presentation

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Joseph J. Holik, U.S. Naval Armed Guard, WWII
Photo courtesy: Jennifer Holik

Veterans’ Day is Monday, November 11 from 7:00-9:00 p.m. Join us to hear Casa Italia Genealogy Manager Jennifer Holik talk about Stories of the Lost, which is a continuation of Finishing the Story.

Hear the story of James Privoznik who died during the Battle of the Bulge. Learn about the men who took care of him after death. And glimpse into the lives of those who served and those who remained waiting at home.

Handouts with resources to help trace your family’s genealogy, locate military records, and write the family stories will be provided. After the lecture join us for light refreshments and mix, mingle, and explore the Italian American Veterans Museum.

Please note: We are seeking copies of stories, records, photos, and other items documenting Italian American soldiers and their families in all wars. Please consider bringing copies of these items to the meeting to be added to the Casa Italia Genealogy Collection in conjunction with the records for the Veterans Museum. If you have questions, please contact Jennifer at Jennifer@casaitaliachicago.org.

Fee: $10 per person

Pizza & light refreshments will be served

Location: Italian American Veterans Museum at Casa Italia from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Pre-registration and pre-payment is required.

Help support this event!!  

Gold Sponsorship – $100

Name will be listed on Casa Italia’s website to promote the event.  Four tickets to the presentation. 

Silver Sponsorship – $50

Name will be listed on Casa Italia’s website to promote the event.  Two tickets to the presentation.

© 2013, Casa Italia Stone Park, IL

Stories of the Lost Presentation

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Joseph J. Holik, U.S. Naval Armed Guard, WWII
Photo courtesy: Jennifer Holik

Veterans’ Day is Monday, November 11. Join us to hear Casa Italia Genealogy Manager Jennifer Holik talk about Stories of the Lost, which is a continuation of Finishing the Story. Learn how you can tell the stories of your soldiers who were ‘Lost,’ or those they left behind who ‘Lost’ something. We will talk about the soldier who died in service; the soldier who came home changed in some way; a family who lost a father, son, brother, sister, mother, wife; and those who lost the promise of a life without war. Handouts with resources to help trace your family’s genealogy, locate military records, and write the family stories will be provided. After the lecture join us for light refreshments and mix, mingle, and explore the Italian American Veterans Museum.

Please note: We are seeking copies of stories, records, photos, and other items documenting Italian American soldiers and their families in all wars. Please consider bringing copies of these items to the meeting to be added to the Casa Italia Genealogy Collection in conjunction with the records for the Veterans Museum. If you have questions, please contact Jennifer at Jennifer@casaitaliachicago.org.

Fee: $10 per person

Pizza & light refreshments will be served

Location: Italian American Veterans Museum at Casa Italia

Pre-registration and pre-payment is required.

Help support this event!!  

Gold Sponsorship – $100

Name will be listed on Casa Italia’s website to promote the event.  Four tickets to the presentation. 

Silver Sponsorship – $50

Name will be listed on Casa Italia’s website to promote the event.  Two tickets to the presentation.

© 2013, Casa Italia Stone Park, IL

Save the Date! Stories of the Lost Presentation

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Michael Kokoska, 32nd Infantry Division WWI. Photo copyright Jennifer Holik.

Michael Kokoska, 32nd Infantry Division WWI. Photo copyright Jennifer Holik.

Veterans’ Day is Monday, November 11. Join us to hear Casa Italia Genealogy Manager Jennifer Holik talk about Stories of the Lost, which is a continuation of Finishing the Story. Learn how you can tell the stories of your soldiers who were ‘Lost,’ or those they left behind who ‘Lost’ something. We will talk about the soldier who died in service; the soldier who came home changed in some way; a family who lost a father, son, brother, sister, mother, wife; and those who lost the promise of a life without war. Handouts with resources to help trace your family’s genealogy, locate military records, and write the family stories will be provided. After the lecture join us for light refreshments and mix, mingle, and explore the Italian American Veterans Museum.

Please note: We are seeking copies of stories, records, photos, and other items documenting Italian American soldiers and their families in all wars. Please consider bringing copies of these items to the meeting to be added to the Casa Italia Genealogy Collection in conjunction with the records for the Veterans Museum. If you have questions, please contact Jennifer at Jennifer@casaitaliachicago.org.

Fee: $10 per person

Pizza & light refreshments will be served

Location: Italian American Veterans Museum at Casa Italia

Pre-registration and pre-payment is required.

Help support this event!!  

Gold Sponsorship – $100

Name will be listed on Casa Italia’s website to promote the event.  Four tickets to the presentation. 

Silver Sponsorship – $50

Name will be listed on Casa Italia’s website to promote the event.  Two tickets to the presentation.

© 2013, Casa Italia Stone Park, IL

Descent into Darkness Book Review

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I found a book in the Casa Italia Veterans Museum called Descent into Darkness a Pearl Harbor 1941 Navy Diver’s Memoir written by Commander Edward C. Raymer, USN (Ret.)

If you are interested in World War II history, the real and often grisly story of what our men and women experienced, read this book. I learned once again that the government doesn’t tell us everything. Through history and people’s experiences we learn a great deal about things that were never discussed at the time of the event.

Raymer talks about his dive experience in California after he enlisted in the Navy prior to World War II. Days after the attack on Pearl Harbor he is transferred to Hawaii to help with salvage efforts of the ships that were hit. He describes in great detail the dives the crew took, the problems they encountered due to lack of diving equipment, and the salvage efforts of both men and equipment. The divers dove in blackness as oil surrounded them which had leaked from the ships. They had to navigate their way through debris of all kinds, including human remains. It is a miracle they didn’t lose more men than they did.

I often wondered why the Navy didn’t bring up the remains of the men who died on the USS Arizona. When I read the story I understood why. It is very sad and I will not explain it here. You’ll have to read the book.

Raymer served a brief time in Guadalcanal doing salvage work before returning to Pearl Harbor. His memoir ends in early 1944 when he’s transferred to deep sea diving school in California. He does talk about discrepancies between what historians have reported and what the experiences were. He wrote his memoir 50 years after the experience and consulted various National Archives records from the Navy, various histories, and spoke to others. These things are described in the ending of his book.

One major idea I took away from this is that based on what some historians wrote about things he discussed, shows that we each have a different perspective on things. We each have a different experience even if it is in the same moment in time and event. This applies not only to war but also life in general. This major idea is one we will be exploring more in 2014 through the genealogy department programming. I have already been in discussions with several people regarding some ideas. Will we open some cans of worms? Probably. But sharing ideas, experiences, stories, and ideas is how we learn and grow and write history. One of my goals through this process is to help people tell THEIR stories and donate them to the Casa Italia collection. Through a collection of experiences, I believe a new chapter will be written on many aspects of Italians in Chicago.

© 2013 Casa Italia, Stone Park IL

Saving Italy Book

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Last night I attended a program at the Pritzker Military Library. The program was called “Saving Italy” based on the title of Robert Edsel’s newest book, about the U.S. Army Monuments Men and Women who served during World War II to preserve, repair, locate and retrieve stolen works of art by the Nazis. Edsel spoke for over an hour about his book, what happened in Italy during World War II, his foundation and the honoring of these important men and women.

Edsel founded the Monuments Men Foundation several years ago to help honor those men and women who served and gave their lives to protect cultural heritage all over Europe and North Africa. Another mission of the foundation is to help locate items taken from Europe during the war to help facilitate the return to their rightful owners. He said thousands of works of art, musical scores, church bells, and other items are still missing.  Even today the foundation is helping to locate and return items.

The presentation was very interesting and I cannot wait to read his new book which I bought last night.

The evening was not over when Edsel’s presentation was finished. A World War II veteran and his family were in attendance. This veteran had served in Italy, around Naples specifically at one point in the war. His unit came across over a hundred crates of books taken from the University of Naples. As was common in war, soldiers of all countries, picked up items and took them home. This soldier took home several old books. Last night these were handed over to the custody of Robert Edsel and his Monuments Men Foundation after having confirmation that these books did indeed belong to the University of Naples. The foundation has researchers in the U.S. and Europe who work together to confirm that pieces located or turned into the foundation are authentic and figure out where they belong.It was very exciting to see these old books dating back to the 1300s sitting on a table at the Pritzker. The genealogist and historian in me wished I could have looked through them. I love old books and documents.

Il Console Generale Adriano Monti was in attendance and gave as brief speech after the daughter of the veteran gave a short speech about these items.

If you are in the Chicago area and have an interest in military history, check out the Pritzker Library’s programs and collection. If you are a member, they do participate in inter-library loan all over the country. Their staff is exceptional in both helpfulness and knowledge. It has become one of my favorite places to go in the city. It also doesn’t hurt it sits at the corner of Monroe and Michigan Avenue overlooking the Art Institute and Millennium Park and all the beautiful flowers, trees, and water that is visible from that vantage point.

Book Review – It Happened In Italy

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This review was written by Casa Italia Genealogy Department Manager Jennifer Holik.

A few weeks ago I was watching a movie on Netflix about the Pope in World War II and his actions in regards to saving the Jews in Rome. It was a good movie and the fact that he had done that was something I didn’t know. We learn something new every day right? The next day I went to Casa Italia and was a given a stack of books that I can sell at programs. One was called It Happened in Italy by Elizabeth Bettina. This book was also about the Jews in Italy during World War II. Elizabeth mentions a few villages where camps were located. Campagna, Tossicia, Ferramonti, and Potenza/Tito.

Did you know……

  • Italy interred the Jews during the War and that the camps were the complete opposite of what Hitler had in Germany and elsewhere. This is one of the ‘best kept secrets.’
  • These camps were in villages where the Jews had to report in with the police each morning. After reporting, they were free to go about their business.
  • Most camps allowed Jews to practice their faith.
  • Jews were allowed to make a request to be transferred from one camp to another to be with their families if they were separated.
  • That some residents of these villages today have no idea Jews ever lived in their villages, let alone that they have paperwork to prove it?
  • That many of these survivors returned to Italy to give thanks to the residents of villages where their lives were saved?

The stories the survivors tell are unbelievable when first told – how is it possible so many survived? There is much more to this story but I think you should get the book and read it. You will be shocked at some of the things that happen to the survivors as the story moves in time.

You will cry and laugh with joy as you move through the story and learn about the lives that were saved in Italy and the amazing things that happened when Elizabeth began her work to tell the stories. It is incredible what can be done when you have a dream and make bold moves toward fulfilling that dream. The book moves along at a quick rate as the chapters are short and the writing makes you want to keep reading. The book is also an excellent resource for genealogists because there is a list of names for one camp in the back of the book.

I highly recommend reading It Happened In Italy by Elizabeth Bettina if you want to be filled with joy as you see just how loving we can be to our neighbors. If you have read it please tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

© 2013 Casa Italia, Stone Park, IL

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