Sweet Home Chicago

Growing up in southwestern Michigan, Chicago was always the big city my family looked to for shopping, dining, museums, and the overall urban experience. My parents often pointed out certain South Side landmarks to my brother and I in the back seat as we sped (or crawled) by on the Skyway en route to some downtown destination. So, although I certainly recognized that my family had origins in the Windy City, I did not truly appreciate the impact Chicago had on my own life until I really began to explore my family history.

At some point in their lives, all eight of my great-grandparents lived in Chicago, all but two of them during the 1909-1915 time period. Ironically, those two great-grandparents not in the city then were the family I always associated as being “old Chicago,” when in fact, they were the most recent arrivals in the early 1920′s.

Later this year, I’ll be spending an extended research trip in Chicago, exploring libraries, archives, museums, clerks’ offices, churches, cemeteries, and more. Given my deep roots in the city, my research “To-do” list is already substantial, and will only continue to grow in the weeks leading up to my trip.

Here is an image from a previous day-trip into the South Side, St. Michael Church at 83rd and South Shore Drive. One of the more visually striking churches I’ve ever seen, this church was where my great-grandfather Leo Stempkowski married Helena Zdzarska in January 1914.

Over the next few months, some of my blog posts will explore my research preparations, lessons I’ve learned from previous trips (including Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, and western Illinois), what I hope to find on this one, and much more.

One of the things I’m most looking forward to is the time I’ll spend with my brother in the evenings, after all the libraries and research rooms are closed. Since he lives in the area, we’ll have an opportunity to spend quite a bit of time together, more than we’ll we’ve had in years. I expect there will be some outlandish family stories exchanged, many of them starting with “Do you remember when….?” A perfect way to wrap up a day of spending time with the family….