The Season of Betty – About Betty Part 1

Betty was born Elizabeth Ann Posluszny on April 5, 1922, in New Britain Connecticut where her family – mother, father, 2 brothers, and 2 sisters – lived in the 2-story house of her mother’s Ingram relative. She was five years younger than her next sibling and 13 years removed from her oldest sister Antoinette (Tootsie).

Her family had left Yonkers New York around 1921, lived briefly in East Hampton MA, and then moved on to New Britain where my grandfather worked as a hatter and also owned a hat shop – Conrad Hat Company at 317 Main Street. The family story is, that it burned down and he had no insurance. In 1925, they are all living at 121 Clifton Street in Wallingford which was “brand new” and where someone in the family lived until 1989. Conrad went to work at the steel mill after working in the hat industry his whole adult life.

Betty was a little bit spoiled but most information about her over the years came from her sister Judy who was the baby of the family until Betty came along! When the family moved to Wallingford her oldest sister didn’t move on to high school. She worked for people at Choate cleaning (not verifiable). If Betty wanted something and her mother couldn’t afford it, she would tell Tootsie to buy it for Betty. Both Gram and Tootsie were incredible seamstresses and could look at something in a store window, go home and re-produce it.

In high school, Betty bowled, played basketball, and was a drum major with the marching band. After graduating she went to Laurel School of Business Administration in Meriden and then went to work at one of the International Silver factory offices.

Because she was quite a bit younger than her siblings, they were getting married and having kids when she was still a teenager! Her older brother Lou and his wife Irene, had their first child, Judith, when Betty was 19. This is the same Judy who was such an incredible help to us before her diagnosis, during her illness, and when she died. Judy and Betty had a close relationship because of the time spent together when Judy was growing up. My sisters and I share a close relationship with Judy’s kids that they are both smiling down on.

She traveled quite a bit based on the postcards she wrote and then took them back from family members she sent them to! She and her sister Tootsie took a trip to Texas in 1943 to visit their brother Connie while he was in the army. The following year, she and her friends traveled to California to visit her mother’s sister, Tante Lizzie, and Uncle Ben who lived in Los Angeles. There were also many trips to Atlantic City, Washington DC, and one trip to a ranch in New York to ride horses! Her photos from these trips were all put in albums and labeled with names and dates and are a wonderful look back at her life.

She also had a few boyfriends! She and her girlfriends were always in pictures with different guys, but I’m sure they were just friends! There was one though, Angelo Losi, that her sister Judy says my mom really thought she would marry. Another serious one was a young man in the army from Boone Iowa. Unfortunately, his mother died and he went home, never to return. But, as we know, everything happens for a reason!

While working in an office and bowling in a league, Betty became friendly with Helen Jakiela and Helen’s brother John would give them a ride home. Helen knew something was up when John started bringing her home first! I don’t know what year this was but I do know that they dated for a few years because Betty gave John an ultimatum of “either propose or move on!”. That was the nudge that John needed. They were engaged and got married on November 8, 1952.

Janice came along in September of 1958 and “the twins” Nancy and Gail in April of 1960. They bought the house I now live in on Atkinson Lane in May of 1961 with it’s 4 bedrooms sitting on almost a half acre of land with apple trees, a cherry tree, raspberry bushes and more. A dream house for a family of five!

Betty was a full-time mom until we were in 4th and 6th grade. She was very involved with Mother’s Circle at Holy Trinity Church, Mother of Twins Club, and any bake sales or book clubs happening at school. She was president of both organizations. When the church started their bazaar, she was always involved in running a booth and eventually was chairman of the whole thing!

She went back to work as an office manager for different small companies and helped my dad with the bookkeeping at the paint store. Her last job was working for our neighbor’s construction company. There were 2 brothers who built many of the developments in Wallingford. Her office would move at the start of every development to the first home built. She really enjoyed working for them and with the other employees and talking with their friends who would stop by the office. We remain good friends with them and their children whom we used to babysit!

Her last big adventure before she got sick, I told you about it in my first post was when she won a trip to Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day 1986. She and my dad flew there in August and spent a week on a bus tour and also on their own. They had a wonderful time and she brought us back wonderful gifts. I’m so glad they had that one final adventure to remember before everything happened.

So this was Betty’s life up to her illness. Next time will be about what made Betty – Betty.

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The Season of Betty Part 2

This story is going to take some turns and dips – not unlike any story that comes from the mouths of Jakiela girls! If you missed Part 1 – you can find it here. It’s where it all begins in the fall of 1986.

As days went by in January of 1987, I noticed she was staying up into the middle of the night. I would see the light on downstairs (she was a bit of a night owl anyway). One night I heard my father crying in the bedroom and marched downstairs and asked her “what are you doing? Why are you still up?” and started crying. I climbed into her lap and she held me until I stopped. You know in her mind, she was terrified, but never said what she was thinking. Shortly after that, my father and sister took her to her doctor. He sent them to Meriden-Wallingford Hospital for a CT Scan and MRI on Friday, January 31, 1987.

I remember very clearly I was at the copy machine in the Traffic Department at WTNH when I heard my name being called over the speakers that I had a telephone call. I picked it up and heard my sister Gail say, “Mommy has a brain tumor. She’s at the hospital. Do you want Marty (Gail’s husband) to come and pick you up?” I said no, talked of meeting at the hospital, and hung up. I told my friends in the area and then my boss and left for the hospital. Jan got the same phone call and she headed down from her home as well. At that time the Meriden Hospital was on Cook Avenue. Ironically, the first time I was there was to be born, and the last was to hear my mother was going to die.

Once there, we met with a doctor who told us she had a Glioblastoma Multiforme which is a rapid growth brain tumor and was quickly taking over. Right after she was admitted, we saw an immediate and significant change in her. It was shocking. She must have struggled so hard to hide whatever she was going through! My heart breaks now when I think about it. Jan is a nurse and she helped us to make some sense of what was going on and was able to ask the medical staff questions and be direct until they answered!

I don’t know what was going through my father’s head. Probably “what the hell do we do now?!”. He owned and ran a paint store in Meriden that he had to man every day. We called family members to let them know what was going on. It was a foregone conclusion that mommy was going to die. Not if, but when. They gave her four to six months. My sisters and I sat in the hospital cafeteria and decided that we would bury her in the dress she bought for Gail’s wedding. She bought this dress and would not tell anyone how much she spend on it! We had all quickly accepted the fact that this was happening and we couldn’t change the outcome.

There was no Hospice in 1987 like we know it now. Connecticut Hospice in Branford had just opened in 1980! Immediately, Aunt Tootsie (mom’s oldest sister by 13 years) and Auntie Edna (dad’s sister-in-law/wife of oldest Brother Steve) offered to come and stay with her Monday through Friday so we could continue working. What a relief!

We got through the weekend and I took Monday off to spend time with my mother in the hospital. I thought the brain tumor was definitely taking over when she told me she was going home that day! What the heck?! I went to the nurses’ station and sure enough, she was being discharged. It was just me with my little Dodge Colt getting my mother into the car. I called my father from the hospital payphone or when we finally got home but we were not prepared!

Once home we got her settled in a chair and brought a bed downstairs and set it up in the dining room. She was very unsteady on her feet and it was clear this thing was still growing. I started sleeping on the couch in the living room that night in case she needed anything and we all settled in on our first night of a new existence.

The Season of Betty Part 1

I think I’ve always wanted to put this period of time in writing because it was a huge turning point in my life. It was the end of me and the beginning of me all rolled into one.

My mother, Betty, started acting oddly in the fall of 1986. She and my father took a trip to Ireland that she WON on St. Patrick’s Day that March through WELI radio. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was upstairs after taking a shower, hearing a shout and a crash, and immediately thinking “oh my God, they said her name!”. And yes, they did, and they hung up on her because she was so excited! The trip was great and they had a wonderful time together but shortly after that, she became more forgetful than usual.

By 1986, I was the only daughter living at home and my three-plus-year relationship had ended in October. Which was probably for the best with what lie ahead. December rolled around and I noticed she hadn’t done any Christmas shopping. She always shopped for all of us and would have stacks of presents on Christmas morning (sometimes wrapping until the early hours!). It took her out to the stores in Hamden and we shopped for everyone, including me!

The holiday went well and we all got together again that week because Aunt Judy and Uncle Mal were in town. I went to work in the morning and then headed over in the afternoon and Mom was home and was coming on her own. We waited, and waited. When we called, she said she was coming, she’d be there soon and we waited some more. When she finally came, she fell asleep on the couch head back in the crowd of people.

After the first of the year, things just got stranger. All my life, Sunday mornings we went to church for 9:15 mass. But suddenly, she’d still be sitting reading the paper at 9 am. We’d hustle her up to get ready and we’d barely make it. Another Sunday, it was Auntie Edna’s surprise birthday party at the Knight’s hall and we barely made it before the guest of honor!

I worked at Channel 8 in the Programming Department and I would come in every morning and laugh and say “oh my God you won’t believe what my mother did last night!”. Until one day I came in and said to my boss “I think there’s something wrong with my mother”, and burst into tears. Larry Manne, bless his soul, rolled with it, listened, and gave me a hug.

Shortly after that, Gail and I reached out to our cousin Judy Behme. Judy was our first cousin and my godmother and her kids were our age and she was someone we always knew we could turn to. I was at Judy’s house and we were on the phone with Gail trying to figure out what was going on. I think at one point an actual thought we all agreed on was “I hope it’s a brain tumor and not Alzheimer’s” because, with a tumor, there could be surgery and recovery! Little did we know….

Mystery Solved!

FACEBOOK – March 22, 2014

I’m sucked back into my family search on Ancestry.com

Poor great-uncle Bronislaw Liro and his wife Mary. They became a reality last night when their marriage record popped up – but nothing else.

Then a quick google search of his name gave me two deaths – one for their son at 8 days old of infant cholera, and another for their daughter at 8 months old (4 years later) of Infant Cholera.

And not a trace of them anywhere else going forward. It’s always 1 step forward and 2 steps back.

This post written in 2014 popped up for me the other day on Facebook.  I’d forgotten all about it posting it and want to share what I found out a few years later.

Just some background – I had the names of Louis, Joseph, and Mitchell Liro floating around in my research notebooks because their Massachusetts locations fit with what I knew about Bronislaw.  I might have sent a letter to one of them with no response.

“Joseph Liro” popped up as a DNA match in 2017 and I sent him a message through Ancestry.  Sadly, not many people respond to messages!  But I got lucky this time.

Joseph is the grandson of Bronislaw and Maria!  Here’s a refresher on Bronislaw and Maria:

Bronislaw was born in 1881 and immigrated to the US in 1905, and headed to Three Rivers, Mass his older sister Aniela and her husband Josef Mikula. 

Maria came to the US expecting to be joined by her sweetheart but she never heard from him, met Bronislaw and married him.  Then oops! Turns out the sweetheart had trouble raising the money for his passage and when he finally made it to the U.S. Maria was already married to Bronislaw.

They were married sometime prior to 1908.  They had a son John who died at 6 days old in August of 1908 of Infant Cholera.  Joseph’s father Louis was born in 1909.  A daughter Katy in 1911 was 6 months old in July of 1912 when she died of Infant Cholera.  Following that, Mitchell Stanley was born in 1913.

So right there, Joseph brought together the names that have been circling around each other all these years!

Two to three years later (1915 or 16), Bronislaw and Maria (unlike my grandparents and great aunt and uncle) have a little nest egg from working in the textile mills and decide to GO BACK TO POLAND.

We all know what happened shortly after that – World War I broke out.  Bronislaw fought in the Austrian Army and the “victorious Soviets” took him prisoner and sent him to Siberia.

As the war raged on, Maria was afraid that her sons, Louis and Mitchell would be called up to fight in the Polish Civil War even though they were American citizens, so she sent them back to the United States to live with a friend of hers.

In the late 1920s/early 1930s, Bronislaw escaped Siberia where he tended the horses at the camp.  He appeared at the family farm in the village of Turza in southeastern Poland saying “I escaped and have come home”.  Life went on and they had more children.

What happened to Louis and Mitchell?  It sounds like Louis never saw his father again because he never went back to Poland.  Mitchell fought in Italy during WWII and traveled through Poland but I don’t know if Bronislaw was still alive or if he went to their home.

After WWII, Maria came to the United States for a short visit, lived with Louis and his family but she returned to Poland in 1962 “to die”.  Louis traveled to Poland often in the 80s and 90s and met his Aunt Katarzyna and her children and visited his grandparents’ graves.

Based on their birthdates and the dates of WWI, Louis and Mitchell would have been young when the war broke out!  Louis said, “my father and his brother were so grateful to this woman (who took them in) that they had her buried in our family plot in Indian Orchard, Mass. which is a neighborhood in Springfield.  I think it’s sort of a Yalesville to our Wallingford.

So that’s the story of Bronislaw and Maria.  They all lived years longer than Aniela and Antonia but it was still fraught with heartache.

Who Was Jacob Engram Jr.?

So now that DNA revealed a new paternal biological grandfather for me and my sisters, who was he?! But first, let’s get the Ingram / Engram out of the way. I don’t know what the deal is with that! The 1910 Census lists them as Drumgram because of the census taker’s handwriting. Five years later in the New York State census, they are listed as Engram. I prefer INGRAM but will probably use them both. Without further adieu, here’s what I know –

He was the third born of Jacob Ingram (b. about 1861) and Katherine Duy (b. 8 Aug. 1865). The children were was Theresia (1894), Louis (1894 – died 22 April 1900), Jacob (11 July 1895), Katherine (2 Mar 1998), Elizabeth (abt. 1900), Louise (abt. 1920), and Hannah-who changed her name to Joan (about 1907).

His father was a gardener/farmer. In 1910, he (father), was listed as a gardener on a farm and self-employed. They lived in the Bronx in the area of Wickham Avenue/Astor Estate. Jacob was 14 years old.

In 1915, they are all in the area of Pelham Parkway in the Bronx and Jacob Jr was 19 years old and also farming.

On October 27, 1916, his mother Katherine died at the age of 51. I have not dived into the NY state records to see if I can find an actual death certificate for her but my newly realized half-aunt was told influenza.

Jacob Ingram, Jr., abt. 1918 before going overseas during WWI

Jacob Jr was inducted into the US Army on April 1, 1918 and was overseas from July 18, 1918 until July 13, 1919, and discharged on the 23rd of July 1919. He was with the Company C 312nd infantry and more on that at another time.

We know from census records and city directories that Julianna Ingram and Konrad Posluszny lived in Yonkers NY with their four children. Aunt Judy Bellafronto told me in one of our phone interviews, that she remembers her parents helping out at her “Uncle Jack’s farm” in the Bronx. I think she was referring to the elder Jacob because she also said that her mother kept her Christmas tree up until until “her cousin” came home from the war.

A quick count on my fingers shows that if my mother was born in April of 1922, Julianna and Jacob’s relationship possibly began after he came home from the war. Was it a one time thing? A mad love affair? We’ll never know….

Julianna Ingram, Konrad Posluszny, and Antoinette picture about mid-late 1909

But we know this…. The Poslusznys were still in Yonkers for the 1920 Census (January) and Konrad is listed in the 1921 Yonkers city directory as a hatter, but another Aunt Judy story was they moved to Massachusetts. Aunt Judy said her mother hated it so much she didn’t want to unpack any boxes. Next thing we know, my mother Elizabeth is born on April 5, 1922 in New Britain where they are living at 15 Derby Street in a 2 story home of another Ingram cousin! Konrad is a hatter at 43-45 Broad Street in New Britain during 1923 and owns the Konrad Hat Company at 317 Main Street New Britain in 1924. By 1925 they have “removed to” Wallingford to their brand new home at 121 Clifton Street.

Did the relationship have something to do with the move out of Yonkers? We’ll never know.

Coming up — more information on Jacob Engram Jr, his family, and future family.

Questions Answered?

Back in January (!) I wrote a couple of posts about my mother and grandmother and a previously unknown relative who had a higher DNA match to me than my first cousins. Even as I wrote those posts, I already knew the answer but I guess I just didn’t want to put it out to the universe.

The DNA (and that chart that says “with X amount of DNA this person is this or that”) doesn’t lie – Joanne, the mystery relative is my half-aunt!

While I realize it doesn’t have a significant effect on my life, it’s still a WHOA moment. First of all, after 60 years we are Posluszny in name only?! Second of all, there are two whole new lines of ancestors. Third? Medical history! I have to correct some paperwork in the next few months!

Jacob Engram Jr. in France @1919

So there he is – Jacob Engram Jr (somewhere in the early 1900s the Ingram became Engram) – my (and my sister’s!) biological grandfather. He and my grandmother, Julia Ingram Posluszny (don’t know the exact lineage there yet!) had a relationship which resulted in my mother being born in 1922. The family moved from Yonkers NY in 1920 to Massachusetts, then to New Britain CT in 1921 where they lived in a 2 family house with Ingram relatives.

Did they move because of that relationship? My grandmother was 7 years older than Jacob – and married! Let’s say it took place in 1920 – my grandmother was 32 (and married!), and he was 25 and single.

But if there’s any doubt about it, I received pictures from my Aunt Joanne and here is one with her and her father –

Jacob and his daughter Joanne 1951

And one of my mother –

Elizabeth Posluszny abt. 1930

More to come…

A Glimpse of the Past

My biggest complaint about research family is I don’t want to know just dates and places, I want to know what life was like! I want to know what they were doing and feeling! Alas, aside from what I learn from Michelle, my favorite medium, I will never know.

But! As I was googling around Google, I was led to these!

Images of America – Yonkers
Images of America – Throggs Neck – Pelham Bay

I can’t wait to get them! I love the one we have of Wallingford and I search the pictures for familiar locations and how they looked in the past. Although I won’t have that familiarity with Yonkers and Pelham Bay, I will be looking at places were my family lived and worked. You all know Yonkers is where Julia and Konrad Posluszny as well as a majority of his family lived before they moved northward to Connecticut. The Pelham Bay book is for Joanne and the other Ingram family I mentioned a post or two ago. Her father and grandfather had farms in the Pelham Bay Area and the book description mentioned the farmland in the area. I’m excited to get a glimpse and imagine one or two of the pictures are of their farms.

I may not get their actual memories but I will try to imagine them as I look through the books.

Family Helping Family

Imagine being a teenager and leaving your family with the possibility of never seeing them again. That’s what it was like for my grandmother Julianna Ingram, her sisters, and cousins. This is a story about being there for each other.

Julianna aka Julia aka Grammy, came to the United States in (census says) 1903. She would have been 16. She did not arrive with family to greet her. It wasn’t until 1908 that her sister Mary (Wirth-mother of Pauline and Katherine) joined her and 1912 when Elizabeth (Tante Lizzie) followed. Julia lived on her own, probably worked as a domestic, met Konrad Posluszny and married him in 1906 without family by her side.

Julia’s father, Ludwig, had 8 brothers and sisters. His sister Catherine married Franciszek Kukulska and they had three children. The oldest, Mary, was born in 1892 and came to the United States in 1908 at 16 years old. One year later she was getting married to John Juszczak and immediately became pregnant. Their marriage license shows Julia was a witness to their ceremony. By this time Julia had one child and another on the way and the first cousins lived a few blocks away from each other on Jefferson Street in Yonkers NY.

In May of 1910, Mary died giving birth to her daughter who was given the name Mary. Her husband John was a laborer in a sugar refinery and was unable to take care of the infant. He asked Julia to take the baby in and he would pay her for her care and of course, she did!

Four years later, John died in an accident at the sugar refinery. By this time Julia had 3 children of her own under the age of 5 and money was tight. She had no other option but to give Mary up for adoption. Fortunately, a couple heard of the situation through their church and adopted her. She never had to spend any time at an orphanage.

DNA testing on Ancestry led me to Mary’s daughter, Sandi. She told me that her mother’s adopted parents were lovely people. Their daughter died from diphtheria in 1914. They were good, hardworking German Methodists. Her mother knew she had been adopted but never wanted Sandi to find her family while she was alive. Sandi found the adoption documents while cleaning out her grandmother’s home in Florida after she passed away. Without those papers, we may never have figured out our connection.

I love thinking about how Grammy was by her cousin’s side when she got married and then was there for her daughter after she died. It was unfortunate that she had to give her up but she went from one family who loved her to another who was able to care for her better. The more I learn of Julianna Ingram, the more I love the thought that she runs through our veins.

A Piece of the Puzzle

Elizabeth Ann Posluszny, my mother, was born in April of 1922. Her mother, Juliana Ingram, was 34 and her father, Konrad Posluszny was 36 years old.

Betty, as she was known, was the youngest of five. Aunt Tootsie (Antoinette) was the oldest, born in 1909. Uncle Connie in 1910, Uncle Lou in 1913 and Aunt Judy in 1917.

Everyone was born in Yonkers, New York except Betty. After the 1920 census the family moved to Easthampton Massachusetts. According to Aunt Judy, her mother was so unhappy living there that “she didn’t even encourage my father to find a job” and “she didn’t unpack any boxes”. Next we know, Betty’s born in New Britain Connecticut and the family is living in an apartment owned by an Ingram cousin and by 1925 they bought 121 Clifton Street in Wallingford.

Connie b. 1910 with Betty b. 1922
Aunt Judy and Betty

Betty grew up in Wallingford and had whatever she wanted. If her mother couldn’t afford it, her oldest sister Tootsie who left school after 8th grade would buy it for her. She took dance lessons, played basketball and was a majorette with the high school band. She wasn’t as craft oriented as her sisters – she didn’t knit or crochet or do needlework, or sew; but she had her mother and sisters for that! She loved to read and collected postcards buying blank ones on her trips or keeping ones that arrived at the house.

Betty traveled a lot after high school. She and Tootsie took a train trip to Texas to visit Connie in the army after Betty graduated from high school in 1940. Betty and her cousin Pauline traveled by train to California to visit their Tanta Lizzie and Uncle Ben (Weiss) and see the sights of Los Angeles. Her collection of postcards sent to her family tell of her travels and the fun she had.

My DNA mystery match, Joanne, was born in 1945 and in our earlier emails she said she had been to Wallingford in the past with her parents. She was around 7 years old and went to the wedding of “an older couple”. They missed the ceremony but made it to the reception and she remembered “stepping down into the hall”. It was my parents wedding and the reception was at the old Moose Club on Long Hill Road. How strange I thought that they would be there as we never had any communication with them that I knew of. I wondered what else she would remember of our family or if there had ever been any other trips to Wallingford!

Life (and DNA) is Full of Surprises

Julianna, Konrad and Antoinette Posluszny 1909

I’ve written a few posts about my grandmother Julianna Ingram Posluszny. Her story has always been somewhat mysterious. Family members say she came to the United States at a young age, younger than records stated, and she came alone. I have yet to find a record I can confirm as hers. Her marriage license lists her as 18 in 1906 when they got married and, the 1910 census says she immigrated in 1903 so 15 years old. You’ll see in my past posts I’ve really mulled over it!

In this last year, through DNA matches I uncovered a mystery which brought with it a whole host of new questions. Through my Aunt Tootsie’s Christmas card list came the name and email correspondence with a woman who was an Ingram relative. Cousin Judy Behme corresponded with her and after Judy’s death I inherited her ancestry paperwork and I picked up the correspondence. We knew we would be related through Ingram (obviously!) but how. Then Joanne’s children gave her an Ancestry DNA kit for Christmas 2018.

My first cousins Bob and Mal were DNA matches to me at 507 and 497 cMs approximately. I didn’t question why they were listed as Second Cousins because after all, they were the children of my mother’s sister. Some odd little quirk in the system, no big deal I thought.

I knew Joanne’s maternal family name (Duy) and had seen the name in records from the town my grandmother came from. What I didn’t understand was why I was seeing DNA matches to people associated with this last name. Weird, I thought! There must be some DNA running through the Ingram line as well!

Then, Joanne’s DNA match was processed and posted on the Ancestry website and oh my, we matched with 1,040 cMs!