In the Census: What Stories we Learn About our Ancestors

This assignment of 52 ancestors in 52 weeks allows me an opportunity to write about finding out more information than what shows up on the census. Here is what happened. In the 1940 census, my mother-in-law, Orpha Broberg, showed up on line 40 making her the person who had additional information that her mother provided. Here’s a look at portions of the census:

1940 header for Shell Creek Precinct Boone County Nebraska

William A. Nelson enumerated the people on this page 18-19 April 1940, so Orpha shows up as a 20-year old bookkeeper for a local oil company who lives at home with her parents and younger sister, Arlene. Her mother provided the information, so I suspect that she was the only one home. Lawrence Broberg, Orpha’s father, was a farmer who was probably in the fields or the barn. Arlene was a high school student, so she would have been gone most of the day.

1940 census Orpha part 1 1940 census Orpha part 2In 2012, when the 1940 census was released, I called Orpha to ask her some questions to amplify the information provided. Since we frequently talked about her background, I thought I knew her work and family history, but didn’t know she worked as a bookkeeper for an oil company. Out flew the questions and the answers were clear and forthcoming. I don’t have a transcription of our conversation, but what I heard were her personal recollections that hadn’t seen the light of day for many years. We laughed together as she shared lighter moments and what a typical day was for her and the 1940 census Orpha part 3family. The days were long and often routine, but Orpha felt good about contributing to the family after a difficult time through the depression years.

In later years, Orpha worked as a bookkeeper and enjoyed the order that came from the work. She also kept the family books until a couple of years ago when macular degeneration prevented her from seeing the details. Now I know where it all started.

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1940 United States Federal Census, Shell Creek, Boone, NE; roll: m-t0627-02236; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 6-19 found on Ancestry.com

Discovering Czech Genealogy Gold

Czechoslovakia simple mapSaturday a week ago, I had the privilege of attending a series of webinars put on by the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International in St. Paul, MN and I did it from the comfort of my home. A friend introduced me to the classes and I eagerly signed up. You see, I have known for many years that I couldn’t make progress on that line of my husband’s family by going across the ocean until I knew the correct surname spelling and where they originated. The American surname spelling does not represent any known spelling currently in the Czech Republic.

The history, as I have uncovered so far, shows that the DUHACHEK family emigrated Tama County Iowa farm landfrom Bohemia in the 1860s to Tama County, Iowa, where they settled down on a farm. The 1870 census shows a father (John/Jan), mother (Sofia), and five children (Mary, Frank, Joseph, Anna, John) born in Bohemia, and two more children  born in Iowa. From 1870 until now, I can find many records to show the family first in Iowa and later in Nebraska. I have found a couple of possible naturalization records, but nothing confirmed. I have not found a ship’s passenger list that includes all of their names, but I don’t know if they all arrived together or came over at separate times.

My mother-in-law shared a couple of booklets made by her cousin that provided all the family knew about their roots. The documents only went back to the immigrant generation.

hopeSo why am I so excited about this series of webinars I attended? I have hope. Hope for discovering more details about the family so well hidden in the fog of the unknown. Hope for unlocking the truth hinted at by family stories passed down for over 150 years. I also have a possible spelling, Ducháček.

Family lore has it that while still in Bohemia, they were followers of Jan Hus, the Protestant reformer who arrived a century before Martin Luther. But almost half of the descendants of Jan Duhachek, the father of this family, are Catholic. Which half changed their faith?

Joseph Duhachek photoSeveral years ago, I uncovered a patent filed by Jan’s son, Joseph, once he and his family had moved to Nebraska. His 1903 filing was for a corn sheller. Many such patents have been filed over the years, but his had a unique feature that allowed for more corn to get cut off the tapering end of the cob. No one in the family carried forward that knowledge, so it was news to the living descendants.

So much to learn and I’m on my way. Are you related to the Duhachek’s? If so, please send me a note at famscribe at gmail dot com.