In my previous post on the topic of my maternal grandmother’s Lithuanian family, I indicated that my next focus would be on the story of Lithuanian immigrants in Chicago. Well, I fully intend to pick up that thread, but before I do, I must present some late-breaking developments on the immediate family’s story instead. In my original post introducing this story, I laid out a number of questions on which I sought to focus.
I’m pleased to report that I’ve largely put to rest one of them, “Question #2: Why does he [Thomas Jankus / Yench] list his country of birth as Poland rather than Lithuania?” in the earlier referenced previous post. I now will be able to address the sixth, “Question #6: What are Thomas and Helen’s previous marital histories?” You may or may not recall that my grandmother, Nell, grew up the youngest of seven children. She didn’t find out until her mother’s own death that the eldest three boys were her half brothers. Nell’s mother, Helen, was actually Thomas’ second wife. And as far as I knew, no one had recorded the first wife’s name for the family’s posterity.
In an attempt to find answers to this and other questions, I started by writing the Pittsburg, Oklahoma, County Genealogical society. I provided them with a sketch of what I knew about the family, including the two spellings for Thomas’ surname, “Jankus” and “Yench.” I received back a reply that there was no trace of either of those names in any of their county indices. Sigh. I wished that I could teleport myself down to their archives and search, because I fear that no one approached the mission with the terrier like focus that I would have! The woman who returned my letter suggested I try the Hartshorne Public Library.
So I did. I called the library and asked for the reference desk, a query that was met with mild laughter and an explanation that they only have three staff members, what could she help me with? I gave a brief explanation and was told to call back in a half hour when the gal who dealt with “that stuff” was back from lunch. Her name was Amanda.
I felt hopeful, so while waiting for Amanda to return, I thought I’d give Holy Rosary Church one more try. This is the Catholic church in the town, and the site of my grandmother’s baptism as evidenced by a copy of her baptismal certificate. I’d tried to call previously and the phone would ring and ring. I figured that the parish was small and perhaps dying, it having no website or significant presence on the internet save for a mention on the Diocese of Tulsa website. But, hey, what else to do while waiting for Amanda?
And that, dear readers, is what led me to my breakthrough in the form of one Father Bruce Brosnahan. His accented speech when answering the phone caused me to worry that perhaps my request may be lost in cultural and literal translation. When I suggested that I could write him a letter with my request, he rejoined that I’d best “strike while the iron’s hot; that’s what you say, isn’t it?” Over the next hour and a half (no exaggeration) I felt that I was in the parish office with Father Brosnahan, as his lilting New Zealander’s accent, for that is where is from (Irish by way of New Zealand, actually) described the contents of several key parish record books in great detail. In addition to answering some of my questions and finding some nuggets during our “sleuthing” as we came to call it, Father Brosnahan also covered a wide range of topics. I started keeping rough track of these tangents only halfway through our conversation, but even this truncated list will give you a sense. Father Brosnahan covered:
- A brief history of Hartshorne, Oklahoma
- Matthew and Mark’s proviso about the divorce of concubines
- The etymology of his own last name as a “great” clan of Ireland
- A description of fist-bumping as “colliding fists”
- An autistic young man who enjoys coming to parish events that include food
- What round brackets and inverted commas are
- The Rebelling Colonies during the War of 1812
- The 40 miles of records dating from 1100 that are contained under St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome
- The history of marriage as a sacrament in the Roman Catholic Church
- The development of the teenage brain
- The existence of a church notary public
- The etymology of the word “ecclesia”
- Ann vs. Anne in Great Britain
Between all this, we still managed to find a few things related to my query. And let me emphasize the dumb luck that led to the discovery. For Father Brosnahan found neither “Yench” nor “Jankus” in his master index. Shoot. We decided that Thomas’ marriage with his first wife HAD to have occurred in the states, given the time lapse between Thomas’ arrival (1901) and the birth of his first son (1908). Father B. speculated that he likely sent back to the old country for a wife. So he pulled the “Index of Marriages.” No Yench in the “Y” section. No Jankus in the “J” section. But what’s this? A single “I” entry taped in just above the J’s? With the name Thom. Inksh. Could it be he?
I then remembered the one immigration document where his last name is spelled Inzsz, and the fact that his signature always appeared as an “X”. Likely every time his name was written, it was done so by whatever bookkeeper or clerk was on hand. These were all approximations of a name that lay somewhere between all of the guesses. It wasn’t until his children went to school that the family seemed to settle on “Yench” as a commonly-used last name.
So. By dumb luck, we found him in the The Index of Marriages, which led to a record of transcribed, typewritten notes of the original marriage certificates. And therein we found that a marriage occurred at Holy Rosary Church between:
Thom. Inksh & Dorothea Palonis (Inkcz, Thomas & Dorothy Pallones)
Residence of Husband: Hartshorne, Oklahoma
Residence of Wife: Hartshorne, Oklahoma
Date: 18 January, 1904
So that’s it. It’s the name of his first wife and mother of Joseph, Anthony and Peter. WOW! Interestingly, Palonis is the last name of the godparents of my grandmother, Thomas’ youngest child with his second wife, Helen. Father B. speculates that whoever did the typed transcription of the original written records likely added the parenthetical (a.k.a., round bracketed) comments indicated the alternate spelling of Inkcz and Pallones.
Riding high on the wave of our sleuthing success and additional alternate spellings, Father B. then pulled down the “Original” Register of Baptisms. We found three likely ones listed in the Index:
Ann Yench on p. 92
Anthony Jakiz on p. 73
Amilia Inkez on p. 28
I forced him to go first to Ann’s and confirm that, yes, this was my Grandmother’s older sister, all of the information listed matched with what I already knew. But this Amilia Inkez must sure be some other family? We didn’t have a chance to look at Anthony Jakiz, but there’s an older brother Anthony too. But–there is not Amilia–only Veronica, Ann, and Annella. So we turned to p. 28, line 42. After applying a piece of tape to a small tear on the page, Father B. read aloud the following
Name of child: Ammilia Inkez
Date of Birth: 24 November, 1905
Baptised: 25 November, 1905
Residence: Hartshorned, Oklahome
Parents: Thom. Inkez, Dora Palonis
Sponsors: Ign. Paleck & Antonia Sesko
There was a child before the three boys. She must surely have died, having never been mentioned again in the family story as far as I know. And the rapidity with which she was baptized leads me to suspect that she didn’t live long after being born. Similarly, the names of her sponsors aren’t typically Lithuanian. Could they have been the nearest people on hand following her birth to consecrate the baptism of a quickly fading baby?
There’s a lot more questions to answer, but I am confident that the combination of extant records at Holy Rosary Church + my sleuthing partner Father Bruce Brosnahan will lead me to further success.
Lesson: Researching this family necessitates using all versions of the last name, Yench / Jankus / Inksz / Inkcz / Inksh / Inktz / Inkez / Inzsz, until about 1920.
Needless to say, I never got back to Amanda.